VANCOUVER – Former Vancouver Canucks coach Alain Vigneault appears to have some interesting opportunities as he pursues a new job.
Given his experience and success with the Canucks, Vigneault should get some consideration for the vacant Dallas Stars job. Dallas has a strong core of young, emerging talent, but missed the playoffs the past two seasons under former first-time NHL coach Glen Gulutzan.
Vigneault guided the Canucks to a berth in the 2010-11 Stanley Cup finals, two Presidents trophies and six Northwest Division titles. But he got the axe after the Canucks were eliminated in the first round of the playoffs for the second straight year.
In addition to the Dallas job, he could get consideration for vacancies that have yet to occur, pending the conclusion of the post-season.
Most of the opportunities appear to be with teams that toiled in the Eastern Conference this season prior to next season’s realignment. Four or five Eastern teams that missed the playoffs — including Winnipeg, Philadelphia, New Jersey, Carolina, and Florida — will likely be evaluating their coaching situations extensively. John Tortorella of the New York Rangers could also be on the hot seat because of the Rangers’ second-round struggles against Boston.
Winnipeg could be a good fit for Vigneault, because he coached Vancouver’s former top farm club for one season before moving up to the Canucks and knows the team’s owners and management.
Most teams who toiled in the Western Conference this season appear to be set. But with Phoenix coach Dave Tippett’s contract due to expire, an opportunity could emerge with the Coyotes.
Accordingly, Canucks general manager Mike Gillis has no shortage of possible candidates as he looks to find Vancouver’s next coach.
Gillis, who has come under heavy criticism since firing Vigneault on Wednesday, must decide whether he wants someone with experience or a fresh young face.
Potential candidates mentioned publicly range from former Buffalo Sabres coach Lindy Ruff to ex-Calgary and New Jersey coach Brent Sutter to former Tampa Bay Lightning coach Guy Boucher.
Scott Arniel, the coach of Vancouver’s AHL farm club in Chicago in 2012-13, appears likely to get an interview based on his lengthy ties to the Canucks. He is in his second stint as the head coach of their top affiliate. He spent four seasons as head coach of the Manitoba Moose and served for two others as an assistant.
But he had limited success in his lone NHL head-coaching assignment, lasting only a season and a half with the Columbus Blue Jackets between 2010-12.
Less experienced possible candidates include AHL coaches Dallas Eakins of the Toronto Marlies coach and Willie Desjardins of the Texas Stars.
Meanwhile, Canucks goaltender Roberto Luongo, who was not traded as expected, expressed irony on Twitter on Thursday in that Vigneault left the club before him.
“Since our 1st year when we arrived together, AV would always tell me that he’d be gone before I would. I guess he was right. Very ironic….,” Luongo tweeted.