Twenty-five years ago, the Manchester United soccer team in England decided to hire a Scottish manager named Alex Ferguson to run a team that had been a historical powerhouse, but had fallen on hard times, and had not won a title for 19 years.
Ferguson was unable to immediately bring the championship demanded by the team’s rabid fanbase and, in line with an impatient local media they called for his head when his reign got off to a slow start.
But Ferguson worked diligently at shaping the team he wanted with the understanding and support of ownership.
He set up a system where facilities were assessed and improved, a reliable and dutiful group of assistants was hired, and players were afforded the time to develop and improve in a team and farm system that was rebuilt from the ground up.
Eventually, he earned the domestic league title everyone demanded six years into his tenure, and has gone on to produce successful teams for the past twenty-five years, demonstrating that patience and stability can work wonders when the chance is provided.
AV & the Vancouver Canucks
Alain Vigneault may not have the same resume with the Vancouver Canucks organization in comparison to the esteemed and knighted Ferguson, but he has helped the team reach the playoffs 5 times in 6 years, and has won the President’s Trophy twice.
AV has won the Jack Adams Award as the coach of the year in the NHL in 2006/07, he was also nominated for the award in 2011.
He is now the Canucks record holder for wins by a coach. (It took him only 427 games, which was 97 fewer than his predecessor Marc Crawford, to set the mark.
Yes, we all are well aware that the regular season title does not equate with the Stanley Cup, but it does signify exceptional achievement, notably when compared to 28 other teams each year who did not win the cup, and it comes on the back of a team that has provided generally excellent play.
In a world where attention spans have been rendered exceedingly short, and some teams such as the LA Clippers have gone through coaches like Coors Light through the body, stability is a severely underrated concept.
That does not mean mediocrity though; it can be a prelude to lasting success.
There are plenty of examples out there of teams in addition to Manchester United under Ferguson that sought consistancy with capable coaches, and built that long term accomplishment into championships.
Along with Alex Ferguson, here are two examples of other coaches who were given free rein to build and manage championship winning teams.
Bill Cowher & the Pittsburgh Steelers
The Pittsburgh Steelers brought in Bill Cowher for the start of the 1992 season and he lead the NFL franchise to 9 playoff appearances in 13 seasons, frequently coming close before winning the Super Bowl in 2005.
Terry Francona & the Boston Red Sox
The Boston Red Sox hired Terry Francona to run their team and in 8 seasons, he brought the team two World Series titles in 2004 and 2007 for an outfit that had not won the big prize since 1918.
They remained competitive in the other years in between, and it is very telling that since Francona’s departure after last season, the Red Sox have currently dropped to the basement of the American League.
There has never been a better or more sustained successful era of time to be a Vancouver Canucks fan.
Mike Gillis and Alain Vigneault deserve this extended period to take the team even further.
I welcome all opinions and comments below and will try to respond.