Moments in Time: Coaching Nightmares
If winning defines the best attributes of a coach, then surely it would be apparent that losing emphasizes the worst qualities of a coach. However, a statement as simple as that must be filtered carefully when referring to the history of the Vancouver Canucks: a franchise that made an art of losing throughout most of the 70s and 80s.
Now, it is true that a coach is often restricted by the depth of potential at his disposal, but when a coach loses despite having talent at hand then it is clearer where the problem lies.
The following choices for worst coach in Canucks team history are not necessarily those who led their teams to the absolute poorest records in the past, but those who squandered what attributes they had and underperformed in the role.
Was a very successful major junior coach who led the Kamloops Blazers to the Memorial Cup in 1984. However, his move up to the NHL was a step too far for a very young (33 years old at the time) coach whose rah rah style that positively motivated young players, failed to engage more experienced NHL veterans.
A misguided preseason promise by LaForge that the Canucks would win 50 games that season also placed a tremendous amount of pressure upon the team. Within 20 games of his inaugural NHL career that totalled a paltry 10 points, LaForge was swiftly cast aside by a management that felt it needed to placate a very disgruntled Canucks squad.
He was not the first coach however who would find it too hard to translate junior success up to the senior league.
Brought a mixed resumeto the 1985-86 edition of the Canucks. He had previously been a Jack Adams award winner with the old Winnipeg Jets in his first season with that team, presiding over a 48 point improvement. However, he went on to drop points over the next two campaigns in the regular season.
He also suffered consecutive first round exits with the Jets, before getting on board with the Canucks. Those two years saw 4th and 5th place finishes with only one playoff run in his inaugural season, that ended unceremoniously after 3 straight losses to the Oilers.
The inability to make significant adjustments and to learn from some poor decision making doomed Watt to failure despite his past accomplishments.
Brought a big name and a big reputation to the Canucks franchise, along with an even bigger ego. He was a talented coach, who has racked up 672 regular season wins for 5th place all-time.
However, the always grating personality had already burned bridges with several teams including the Flyers, Panthers, Bruins, Blues, and even the Rangers, with whom he won the Stanley Cup.
Unsurprisingly, he went on to cultivate an even more antagonizing personality by the time he joined the Canucks. Keenan exploded onto the Canucks organization with little appreciation for the history of the team, its character and relationship with the community.
He forced out loyal players such as Marty Gelinas and Trevor Linden, who had also clashed with Mark Messier, a Keenan ally from their Rangers days.
Frustratingly, ownership was loathe to admit their mistake in hiring Keenan, and the sordid affair dragged on for a couple of seasons, setting the team back considerably.