Vigneault has winning formula

KEN WIEBE -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 10:41 AM ET

The league may be different, but Alain Vigneault hasn't changed one bit.

Vigneault, whose one-year apprenticeship with the Manitoba Moose helped him return to the National Hockey League with the parent Vancouver Canucks, has his new team off to a 6-4-1 start after Wednesday's 5-0 victory over the Chicago Blackhawks.

Thanks to a renewed commitment to hard work and the outstanding play of new starting goalie Roberto Luongo, the Canucks are one of the surprise teams in the Western Conference.

Sure, the team needs to find more balance when it comes to offensive production -- since Markus Naslund and the Sedin Twins are carrying the load -- but the Canucks should find themselves in the mix for a playoff spot.

COACHING THE SAME

As for being back in the NHL for the first time since the 2000-01 season when he was fired as head coach of the Montreal Canadiens, Vigneault doesn't get overly dramatic.

"To me, coaching is the same, whether it's the junior level, the American Hockey League level or the NHL," said Vigneault, who watched the Moose beat the Chicago Wolves 7-4 on Tuesday night. "You've got a vision for what you want your team to be. You evaluate it and see the potential that you have, you get together with your coaches and core group of players and sell them on what we're going to do. That's what we did last year in Winnipeg and that's what we're doing this year in Vancouver. Our identity is going to be a lot like it was last year. We're going to be a hard-working, smart hockey team. That's how we've played so far."

Starting with a big win over the Detroit Red Wings at Joe Louis Arena in his Canucks debut was a special moment for Vigneault.

"That was a big one," he said.

"For our team it was good way to start and it obviously helped our confidence."

Canucks general manager Dave Nonis knew what he was getting in Vigneault and is encouraged by the team's start.

"He's done a real good job," said Nonis. "It's not like it was his first time. He knew what to expect. I don't think he coaches any different with us than he did with Manitoba, which is good. He's an honest, forthright, hard-working guy. He's got a real solid command of the game and it was very clear with what the expectations were to be with our players."

"It's been 11 years since we worked together and I see the growth," added Canucks assistant coach Rick Bowness, who had Vigneault on his Ottawa Senators staff as an assistant coach for parts of four seasons.

"He's a confident, knowledgeable hockey man. He's where he belongs, coaching in the NHL and he's doing a great job."


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