Agree with the decision or not, head coach Alain Vigneault has been given three more years to find the missing five per cent he believes is preventing the Vancouver Canucks from winning the Stanley Cup.
Exactly what that five per cent is, Vigneault couldn't say when speaking to reporters last week after the announcement he had signed a two-year extension to go with the one year he had remaining on his current deal with the NHL team.
"We believe that overall, 95 per cent of the process that we are using has enabled us the last two years to be the best team in the NHL," Vigneault said during a telephone conference call. "For us that's the best preparation you have moving forward and getting into the playoffs."
You have to wonder if starting a public feud with a star player is part of the solution.
Vigneault said a shoulder injury shouldn't be blamed for Ryan Kesler's production slipping last season. If the coach wanted to catch his player's attention, he certainly succeeded. It didn't take long for Kesler's agent to say his client was frustrated by the comments.
Vigneault's future in Vancouver had been in doubt ever since the Canucks were unceremoniously dumped from the first round of the playoffs by the L.A. Kings in five games. The speculation increased when Vigneault didn't join general manager Mike Gillis for the season-ending post mortem with the media.
When sorting through the ashes of the Canucks' flame-out, Gillis made it clear he supported Vigneault and wanted him back as coach. When Gillis was given a new contract, Vigneault's job seemed safe. But the length of time it took to finalize an agreement with Vigneault raised questions over whether team owner Francesco Aquilini had the same confidence in the coach.
There's no argument Vigneault has done plenty of things right since becoming Vancouver's head coach in June 2006. He has won more regular season and playoff games than any coach in Canucks history. The team has won back to-back Presidents' Trophies, five Northwest Division titles and had five 100-plus point seasons.
For many fans that's good, but not good enough. Especially when Vancouver collapsed in the final two games of last year's Stanley Cup final against the Boston Bruins. And especially when the Canucks looked like a deer caught in the headlights in their series against the Kings.
All year long Vancouver players, the coaching staff and management knew they would be judged on their performance in the playoffs. The team needed to at least reach the Stanley Cup final to receive a passing grade. The Canucks failed miserably. And most surprising is how both Gillis and Vigneault seem at a loss for an answer.
The Canucks need some changes. They must improve their bottom six forwards. They need to add some size and strength. The goaltending situation must be settled.
Those things can be done in free agency and by trades. Changing the mental attitude of the team might be more difficult.
It's understandable that during the long grind of the NHL season the players sometimes lacked mental focus. What's inexcusable is this malaise extended into the playoffs.
"I don't think the guys were unengaged,'' said Vigneault. "I do believe that come the playoffs there's a mental awareness, a mental state that as a player you have to be able to put yourself into. For whatever reason it was a little bit more challenging for our group to be able to get into that state. We were a little bit off."
The responsibility for building that mental sharpness falls on the coach and his staff. For whatever reason, Vigneault couldn't get the Canucks focused on the most important part of their season. That can't happen again.
"We are trying to find solutions," said Vigneault. "We are trying to see if maybe there is a little bit more scientific approach to different elements so we will be able to get our team in a better situation to have more success."
More success can only mean winning a Stanley Cup. Vigneault was given a mulligan this year. He needs to find that final five per cent and he probably can't wait three years.
Jim Morris is a veteran sports reporter who has covered hockey for 30 years. Reach him at email@example.com.