Vigneault moves up from Moose

KEN WIEBE -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 9:09 AM ET

Alain Vigneault hit the nail on the head.

Upon his arrival as head coach of the Manitoba Moose, Vigneault repeatedly said that if he took care of the present, the future would take care of itself.

Yesterday, the theory was proven as Vigneault was unveiled as the 16th head coach of the Vancouver Canucks after just one season in the American Hockey League.

Vigneault is thrilled about the chance to return to the NHL in a passionate Canadian market.

"This is a great place to be at a great time," Vigneault said yesterday from Vancouver. "This team has a pretty solid foundation here."

Vigneault doesn't plan to re-invent the wheel in his second go-around, but knows he's a better coach today.

"I'm not going to change," said Vigneault, who led the Moose to a record of 44-24-7-5 last season. "Everything that I learned since the Canadiens, whether it be from the Savard family (with the P.E.I. Rocket) or Mark Chipman and Craig Heisinger (with the Moose), I'm going to bring that knowledge here to Vancouver and make this franchise as successful as it can be."

After working his way up the coaching ranks as a head coach in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League and an assistant with the expansion Ottawa Senators, Vigneault got his dream job as head coach of the fabled Montreal Canadiens in 1997.

He knows all about the passion a community can feel toward its team and expects the same in Vancouver.

"I have a memory of last year in training camp," Vigneault, who was fired by the Habs in 2000, told reporters during his press conference in Vancouver. "We were in Whistler. We went out, the staff, the management, the coaches, the trainers, the scouts and the support staff. We walked into this restaurant. Obviously we were a big group and people were staring. By the time we got to our table, people had realized who walked in and all of the sudden throughout the restaurant people started chanting, 'Go Canucks Go, Go Canucks Go.' Right then and there, not wishing any bad things to happen to anybody, I said to myself internally, 'I'd love to coach here. I'd love to coach in a place where hockey means something.' I am getting that opportunity."

That opportunity includes plenty of pressure to produce a winner.

Vigneault, who coached many of the Canucks' top prospects this season, is excited about the roster -- though plenty of questions are left to be answered either through trade or free agency.

"I really believe that all players want to be successful," he said. "If you give them a way to be successful they will follow that path. Some guys say I am a disciplinarian. Some other guys say I am players' coach. I frankly believe I am just a business type coach. There is a job that needs to be done and when you are in charge of the business you need to make sure that it gets done. You have to create the right environment for your personnel to do it."

Canucks general manager Dave Nonis said he interviewed 10 to 12 candidates but ultimately chose the man he hired to replace Randy Carlyle in Manitoba last summer.

"We wanted the team refocused, committed," said Nonis. "We wanted someone that knows the game, that has had some success, that knows how to make players better to get the most out of the group. All of those things that we were looking for we had in our organization. We had a lot of great candidates that would have done a fine job and that will be head coaches in this league in short order. But, they weren't better suited for this team."


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