The Vancouver Canucks defined their future this summer, re-signing the Sedin twins and locking up goaltender Roberto Luongo with a long-term contract extension.
Friday, the team secured its general.
Head coach Alain Vigneault signed a three-year extension that runs through the 2012-13 NHL season. Vigneault, 48, had been entering the final year of a contract, although he and the Canucks have been negotiating most of the summer.
"We're trying to create a cohesive group from top to bottom," Mike Gillis, the Canucks' president and general manager, said Friday, "and Alain has lined up perfectly in that role. He has the ability to lead this team to a Stanley Cup."
Gillis inherited Vigneault from previous general manager Dave Nonis last year. After a summer of bonding, Gillis re-signed Vigneault to the minimum extension of one year, not convinced he had found his man.
"I extended him for one season so that I could watch him work in the trenches," Gillis said. "I spent more time on the road than I really wanted to last year to make sure that they were doing things the way I wanted them done."
When the Canucks lost nine home games in a row last January, Gillis became reassured with the coach. He said he saw a determined group of players and coaches who weren't pointing fingers, which he interpreted as respect for, and confidence in, the boss.
"If I go back to that challenging time within the season, it was probably the time where we, management and coaches, bonded the most and really got to know one another," Vigneault said. "It's when you find those more challenging moments, where you really find out about people. I think during that time, Mike found out a lot of things about me and I found out a lot of things about him."
Gillis, who admitted he has been hesitant to award long-term contracts, said the three-year term reflects the team's confidence in Vigneault, and said the coach had earned it. In what could have otherwise been a lame-duck year, the extension also gives the coach security heading into the season and a hammer over the players.
The coach has had to adapt his style under Gillis, who believes in offence coming from the defence, by allowing rearguards the freedom to jump into the rush more often. Gillis said Vigneault, known as a defensive coach, has done a steady job implementing the organizational shift, and that the Canucks now play with more aggression.
Vigneault is also known for not coddling the players, and speaking honestly about how individuals are performing. It has rubbed some the wrong way, including veteran defenceman Willie Mitchell, who clashed with the coach on that subject just two years ago.
"He just says it the way it is," team captain Luongo said. "Sometimes it's not fun to hear, but sometimes you need to hear it to get going."
Vigneault's staff, including associate head coach Rick Bowness, did not receive similar extensions and Gillis made no promises that such offers were forthcoming.