By making a goalie switch in Game 6, the decision indicates Canucks coach Alain Vigneault has lost confidence in Roberto Luongo (pictured). (Darryl Dyck/Canadian Press)
As Roberto Luongo was pulled in Game 5 of Vancouver's unbelievably-tied series with Chicago, I sent an email to four different NHL GMs asking how the process would work in their organizations for selecting a Game 6 starter.
Three replied. (When I start carving a GM for no good reason, you'll know who the fourth was.) Their answers were borderline identical.
All said the final decision belongs to the coach. One wrote, "I would raise the subject if I felt it necessary or appropriate...However, I would never tell him he HAD to make a change."
As for what they'd expect their coach to do in a similar circumstance, the typical answer was, as one replied, "Always go with your top dog unless you lose total confidence in him."
That's where we are with Alain Vigneault. Sunday's stunner -- inserting Cory Schneider for Roberto Luongo -- indicates exactly that: he's lost confidence in his ex-captain. From Vigneault proclaiming Luongo the starter three days beforehand to witnessing what other coaches did with their own beleaguered goalies, well, it's wilder than Randy Carlyle asking both his guys to leave the morning skate at the same time in the 2006 Western Conference final.
I do feel Vigneault's got to be ruthless. The Canucks MUST win this series. The ramifications of a first-round defeat are enormous. And, he isn't wrong about going to the bullpen -- yet. There's one more chance to show this ballsy call was the correct one.
But, look at Boston, San Jose and Los Angeles. All three faced great internal pressure and difficult decisions involving No. 1s with long-term contracts (although nowhere near as onerous as Luongo's). All three stayed the course through Game 6, unless Todd McLellan steals one from Vigneault's playbook and doesn't start Antti Niemi as promised.
Bruins fans were clamoring for Tuukka Rask, Jonathan Bernier's got all-world potential and Niemi's had moments of extreme awfulness. But, the coaches held firm with their original dates for the dance. (Some of you will bring up Philadelphia. The Flyers are not really comparable, because there wasn't a clear-cut No. 1 going in.)
The most important thing a coach must do when his team is on the verge of a monumental collapse is convince them how good it is. He's got a lot of positives to bring up, but none of that will work with Luongo. What happens if Schneider's cramps return?
He knows how his coach truly feels about him.
1) When will Mike Gillis talk about this? Does Vigneault have his support? The answer to that question probably determines Vigneault's future. Terry Murray could have sat Dustin Penner, but not embarrassing his boss was probably a factor.
2) I know Schneider's had cramps before, but here's the question the Canucks must ask both him and themselves: Did the stress of the situation get to him? Honest answer essential.
3) Dave Bolland didn't like it when Dan Hamhuis hit his head into the boards in Game 5. Both men are concussion victims. The crushing check that set up Bryan Bickell's goal Sunday night was sweet, sweet revenge for the Blackhawk.
4) Was emailing someone about the series and he came up with a great line: "The Canucks aren't facing the eighth seed any more. They're facing the Stanley Cup champs."
5) A follow-up to the "Long Change" blog following Boston's Game 4 overtime winner: I think the Canadiens were a lot more annoyed at Travis Moen for not getting it deep than PK Subban for staying out there. Subban's last three shifts that night were all above a minute (one was on the power play), but he adjusted at 49 seconds per on Saturday night and was outstanding.
6) A lot of teammate yelling at teammate on the Montreal bench in that game. Scott Gomez did it when no one supported him on a power-play rush and Subban followed about one period later.
7) One reaction to Andrew Ference's dog-ate-my-homework excuse for the Bell Centre middle finger: "He demanded Daniel Paille show responsibility for his hit, but showed none himself." Another: "He had to come up with something to avoid a suspension." People were calling into a Boston radio station, offering to pay the fine.
8) Equal time: I reported the Bruins had a 20-minute meeting after their Game 2 loss at home. Claude Julien says I'm on crack and it was only six or seven minutes.
9) Why the NHL suspended Bobby Ryan: take a look at Jason Pominville's injury -- and that was an accident. Zdeno Chara was very lucky when he tangled up with David Desharnais last weekend. He got it in the ribs, but his jersey held together.
10) Everyone wants to see Teemu Selanne return. But if that's the way he went out, he earned even more respect. The Predators just brutalized him. (Not a complaint, that's what happens when you're a star in the playoffs.) Selanne scored six times in six games despite it.
11) Ryan Suter may be the most underrated great player in the NHL. His forecheck on the first Nashville goal on Sunday caught the Ducks completely by surprise.
12) A few years ago, Gord Stellick said the Maple Leafs winning the Stanley Cup would be like a "civic orgasm." Maybe it's on a lesser scale, but, today, I remember that quote and think Predator organization.
13) Was talking to Garry Galley and Glenn Healy about the Jason Chimera OT winner in Game 4. My question: was the problem a lack of communication? Should Marian Gaborik have been yelling, "I'm playing it?" or Henrik Lundqvist that he was freezing it? They said no and explained that when a goalie reaches to grab the puck, you get your stick out of the way and box out. That was Gaborik's error.
14) A little obscure, but seeing that play reminded me of Adrian Dantley in the epic 1987 NBA playoff series between the Boston Celtics and Detroit Pistons. Not exactly known for his hustle or defensive interest, Dantley dove for a loose ball in Game 7, cracked heads with teammate Vinnie Johnson and was kayoed. Without him, Detroit lost. Legend has it his wife asked, "Why did you suddenly decide you cared about a loose ball?"
15) Confirm or deny: one of the Rangers growing a playoff mustache burned his face using Just For Men.
16) Steven Stamkos brought his parents to Pittsburgh for dinner the night before Game 5. He had three points and told Cassie Campbell-Pascall he'd consider paying for them to go to Tampa for Game 6. Suggestion 1: do it. Expedia shows you can get a Pittsburgh-to-Tampa return flight (in case of a Game 7) for $446 US. Suggestion 2: worthwhile investment.
17) One team talking trade with the Kings really wanted Kyle Clifford. Very smart to say no.
18) San Jose: outscored 8-1 in the first period, up 3-2 in the series. Shark Schizophrenia: Driving Todd McLellan insane since 2008.
19) During a Fan 960 Calgary radio interview last week, Rhett Warrener wondered how Gordie Howe and Mark Messier would be received if they played now. It's a great question, because part of both men's lore is the "intimidating elbow" they would deliver to soften an opponent's melon. Of course, they weren't using killer elbowpads and didn't care as much about concussions back then.
20) One NHL coach said two months ago he told his players to react exactly as Mike Richards did when Patrick Kaleta charged at him in Game 5 of Buffalo/Philly. "Put your elbow or stick up and take a minor," he said. "Don't kill the guy, but I'd be happy to take a penalty rather than see you get a concussion." Richards got a major.
21) The Buffalo News reported the Flyers were angered Sunday by Patrick Kaleta's taunts about divorces. Players will use anything to motivate themselves, but after spending two games between the bench this season, I've learned divorce is among the mildest stuff thrown out there.
22) The morning after Game 1 of the Phoenix/Detroit series, I was chatting with Montreal backup Alex Auld in Boston. With Detroit down 1-0, Jimmy Howard made a great stop on Ray Whitney to prevent the Coyotes from going up two. The Red Wings came back to win. Auld called that, "The save of the night" and added, "That's the kind of save that can change a series." Obviously, different things can alter momentum, but Auld nailed that one.
23) Do think, if the Coyotes move to Winnipeg, things will be worked out so Shane Doan doesn't go with them. He has a no-move, but they'll find out where he'll want to go.
24) Not a lot of positives for the Coyotes in that Detroit wipeout, but one was the play of Kyle Turris. He was very good and getting better.
25) With rumblings everywhere that he is ready for a GM job, Bruins president Cam Neely said he enjoys it where he is. Peter Chiarelli is signed through 2014. Neely said he's not interested in following Steve Yzerman's route, where an iconic player must leave his organization.
26) As you read this today, Boston is 0-for-the-2011 playoffs on the power play. Entering the offensive zone is one problem, but Tomas Kaberle's unwillingness to shoot is another major issue. It is crucial to have two guys at the point who will fire it. The days of one pure quarterback and one pure shooter are over. Defences are too good at canceling that kind of structure.
27) Sounds like the Minnesota Wild believe Mike Yeo, who coaches their AHL affiliate in Houston, is ready for an NHL job (along with assistant Darryl Sydor). Yeo, who assisted Michel Therrien and Dan Bylsma in Pittsburgh, is really respected. Here's the problem: the Wild just fired Todd Richards, who had a similar pedigree. I've always believed if it's the right guy, you take your initial hits and do it anyway.
28) Interviewed Tom Glavine for our Inside Hockey piece on Donald Fehr this season. He used to own a box and then several season tickets for Thrashers games, but gave them up as his kids got older and he had less time to go. (Two of his sons are good hockey players.) Several times while we were chatting he mentioned how badly he wanted them to succeed.
29) Glavine said one of the Thrashers' biggest problems was football season. Friday night: high school. Saturday: University of Georgia. Sunday: Falcons. Tough to get fans against that.
30) Guy Boucher and Martin Raymond said Mathieu Darche is one of the best players they've ever seen in pressure situations. The Canadiens sure need that Tuesday.
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