blank'/> THE PUCK REPORT: Alain Vigneault Interview - 2011 NHL Awards

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Alain Vigneault Interview - 2011 NHL Awards

Last month we caught up with Vancouver Canucks head coach Alain Vigneault at the 2011 NHL Awards to discuss beating the Blackhawks, losing to the Bruins, and the struggles of Keith Ballard. These are his stories.

Q: Describe the feeling of beating the Chicago Blackhawks in overtime of Game 7 after meeting them in the playoffs for the third year in a row. Was it just a relief? Did you think your job was on the line?

A: Well, I knew I was in my window without a doubt. I do think that when we lost to the Blackhawks in the two years prior they were the better team. Sometimes the better team doesn’t win all the time but they were the better team. This year we were the better team but for whatever reason for in the 4th and 5th games we didn’t play well and they took a little bit of the momentum. In the 6th game we played really well in Chicago and should have won, but we lost in overtime. I was confident going into Game 7 and we got it done in a dramatic way. They’re the defending Stanley Cup champions and they have some great players there. That’s why it was such a tough series.

Q: Knowing what you know now about the Boston Bruins what, if anything, would you change heading into a best-of-seven series with them?
A: Nothing, really. We didn’t know much about the Bruins because we don’t see the teams out East. We knew they were a great team and we knew they were going to play real hard. And that’s what they did. At the end of the day we took them to a 7th game. I think overall, we played real well at home except the last game and they played real well in their building. That’s hockey. Sometimes there’s not a lot separating teams. It’s a play here or a play there. And in the final game they made more plays than we did.

Q: With some distance from the Stanley Cup Final can you appreciate some of the positives from this past season?
A: Yes and no. If you look at the big picture there’s lots to be happy about but our goal was to win the Cup and we didn’t do it. I do think, though, for us it’s a step in the right direction. To get the number of points that we did you have to be the better team on the ice most of the time. So our guys did that. We got through three rounds and came up short in the last one. But with the accountability and type of people we have in our dressing room, we have a lot of confidence that we can get right back to where we were and this time make it a good one.

Q: What impressed you most about the Canucks this season?
A: The whole team effort. The whole group wanting more responsibility and more accountability, and then going out and taking charge. They did a real responsible job. They wanted it, they worked for it, they came close, and I think we’re going to be that much more motivated and focused for next season.

Q: Talk about rehabilitating a player like Keith Ballard, someone that’s signed long term and is not finding a regular spot in the lineup.
A: You know, its unfortunate. When Keith came to us last year he was injured. He didn’t have a full summer of training. He’s got that this summer, he knows the environment, and he knows the expectations within our group. He’s a young man that’s got a tremendous amount of hockey upside and he’s a great person. I’ve never had any issues with Keith Ballard the person. As a player, obviously it took him a little while to find his groove and his comfort zone. I’m very comfortable that we can get both the person and the player together next year and he’ll be a big part of our team.

Q: Talk about how you deal with the media and some of the games they play misquoting a player or coach to create a controversy where perhaps none exists.
A: It’s not hard. Our players aren’t worried about what’s going on externally, it’s what ‘s going on in our dressing room. The media have a job to do and I would say for the most part they are very professional. It doesn’t effect our group at all. For example, this notion that you can’t win in Canada because there’s too much going on is wrong. Are you telling me the New York Yankees can’t win baseball games with all the attention they’re getting over there? You know, being in a Canadian city and a Canadian market with the scrutiny of the fans and the media and the high expectations, I wouldn’t want it any other way. I think our players wouldn’t want it any other way either.

Many thanks to Alain for speaking with us. Best of luck next season.