Just a quick flight north of Climate Pledge Arena, in the largest city in British Columbia, the soon-to-be arch-rivals of the Seattle Kraken were in a bit of a funk recently. The Vancouver Canucks had just been embarrassed by the Toronto Maple Leafs, losing three games in a row and the two before that to the Montreal Canadiens. A slide such as that finally halted at six losses in a row with a victory over the Calgary Flames on Feb. 13 is almost a death sentence for their playoff hopes in the shortened season in which we find ourselves. Naturally, the clamour for the firings of the coach and general manager began, and it resulted in a rare sight, the team’s owner publicly stating on Twitter that neither will be relieved of their jobs.
The intent of a show of support such as this is to reassure the employees in question that they needn’t worry about their careers and can instead focus on improving the team’s results. Historically, however, a statement like this one is often proven to be inaccurate. The fact is, when the owner of the team feels the need to say he has no intention of firing his coaches or management, it’s usually because the team is underperforming. Should that trend continue beyond the next game or two, the situation can spire out of control, and the unavoidable answer becomes change at the top. That could easily be the case in Vancouver, their two recent victories over the Calgary Flames aside.
Green’s Playoff Run Was Notable
Vancouver deserved to be in the Stanley Cup Playoffs last season. They were hovering around seventh place in the Western Conference and would still very likely have qualified if the schedule hadn’t been interrupted by COVID-19. The team’s goaltending and defence looked drastically different (better), and they went all the way to the seventh game of the second round, which required two series wins, counting the prelims. There’s an argument to be made that general manager Jim Benning could have done more to keep his core together, though that’s always a tricky task, complicated further by the 2020-21 season’s flat salary cap. But there can be no question that Green got as much out of his squad as he could in the playoff bubble.
Green took over as head coach of the Canucks in the last year of the Sedin twins’ careers. All who were familiar with the team assumed they’d take a step backward without their longtime offensive stars, and while the team did miss the playoffs the following season, they weren’t a doormat by any stretch of the imagination. It’s a testament to the coach’s ability to get his team rowing in the same direction that they were a playoff team again only two years after losing not one but two franchise players. These things don’t always go in straight lines, though, as the team’s recent results show.
Canucks Coach Knows What It Takes to Succeed in the NHL
Green played for five franchises over a fifteen-year NHL career. A second-round pick in the 1989 Entry Draft, he suited up more than 900 times for various teams. Just missing out on a 2007 Stanley Cup victory with the Anaheim Ducks at the tail end of his career when he was claimed on waivers by the Maple Leafs, his career was certainly longer than average. Promoted in 2017-18 from coaching the American Hockey League affiliate of the Canucks, the Utica Comets, he was familiar with many of the players that he now oversees in the pros, arguably helping them achieve their dream of becoming NHLers.
The Kraken are going to have a younger than average team, likely accelerating the progress of their initial round of Entry Draft picks to make up for the unavoidable lack of depth in a brand new franchise. If Green does get cut loose from the Canucks, general manager Ron Francis will certainly have to consider him as an option. As a former coach of the Portland Winterhawks, he is already familiar with the Pacific Northwest, and there would be none better to prepare the team to face their northern rivals several times a season. So while, at the moment, he looks to be happily employed in spite of his team’s struggles, Kraken fans might hope that changes.