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Colton Davies The Hockey Writers

Published on Sunday, February 21, 2016





Could Marc Crawford Return Behind Canucks Bench?

Marc Crawford has an extensive NHL coaching resume, and there have been rumors for months over whether he’ll return to the league when his contract ends with the Zurich Lions in the Swiss-A League after this season.

There has been fuel to the fire added to that discussion recently, as Crawford stated earlier this week that his intentions are to land an NHL coaching job.

There will without a doubt be coaching opportunities for Crawford to pursue this offseason, but could one of those be in Vancouver? It may not be as far off as one would think.

While there’s not a lot to work with in his current lineup, Canucks Head Coach Willie Desjardins’ may be on thin ice, as Vancouver likely needs some sort of change in their personnel. If the Canucks continue their downward trend and the team doesn’t make any bold moves prior to the Feb. 29 trade deadline, expect a coaching change to become a higher possibility.

Crawford is regarded as one of the better coaches in team history based on the Canucks’ success during his tenure. He’s already spent seven years as the bench boss in Vancouver, and there’s nothing to suggest he wouldn’t be willing to return. Desjardins has a solid resume of winning, including two WHL Championships with the Medicine Hat Tigers and an AHL Calder Cup with the Texas Stars, but the Canucks may be better off with a coach behind the bench who is used to helping teams in transition find success at the NHL level.

Crawford Brings Experience, Ability to Handle Younger Players

Headlined this year by Auston Matthews, Crawford’s Zurich Lions are on top of the league standings as their regular season winds down. He’s coached the Lions to what will be four consecutive playoff seasons, winning the league championship in 2013-14 and losing in the finals last season.

Crawford has also been known as a more offensive-styled coach, which is something Canucks fans may care about as Vancouver is on pace to match the lowest full-season goal total in franchise history. Zurich this year is averaging 3.41 goals-per-game, good for second in the 12-team league, while their 2.45 goals-against-average is by far the league’s lowest.

He’s clearly built up his resume in recent years to be an appealing coaching candidate to teams, but why Vancouver?

Crawford’s tenure with the Canucks was during the dead puck era that occurred in the league prior to the 2004-05 lockout, and often found ways to get the most out of his players. The Canucks were among the league’s highest scoring teams during these years, led by the West Coast Express Line of Markus Naslund, Tood Bertuzzi and Brendan Morrison – a formidable trio that played together for nearly four full seasons under Crawford.

What can’t be forgotten is Crawford inherited the head coaching job in Vancouver when the team was in a dismal state in the late 90’s, worse even than the ship Desjardins currently steers. While Crawford had a number of young, promising players that would hit their primes in Vancouver – including Naslund, Bertuzzi and Morrison, he also already had valuable experience with the Quebec Nordiques and Colorado Avalanche before his time with the Canucks.

Crawford won a Stanley Cup in 1995 with the Avalanche and was the league’s Jack Adams Award winner that same season, which he did at 35 years-old; the oldest player on that first cup-winning Avs team, Dave Hannan, was only nine months younger than Crawford. He’s still the youngest coach in NHL history to win the Jack Adams Award. 

Desjardins, who’s in his second year of coaching in the NHL, may stick with the Canucks and be the beneficiary of a team built to succeed. However, it may not go as planned; many times this season Desjardins has faced criticism for not managing his lineup well, and that may not instill great confidence in the Canucks brass for what’s to come with the number of young players. Crawford, meanwhile, has already been through the process in Vancouver and found success with his teams, and his message certainly hasn’t worn out – as he’s shown in recent years with Zurich.

The Canucks have a lot of pieces to suggest they could be on an upward swing in the near future, and Crawford has shown his ability to coach successful young teams repeatedly in his career. In the long-run, Crawford may just be coach who’s best fit for the job.

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