Less than three weeks after announcing that Travis Green will be continuing his tenure as head coach, the Vancouver Canucks announced on Wednesday how the rest of the coaching staff will be deployed for the 2021-22 season.
There are two new faces: Brad Shaw has been named an assistant coach and Kyle Gustafson is an assistant/special assignment coach.
There are five returnees:
• Nolan Baumgartner has worked alongside Green since the 2013-14 season in Utica, and will continue to serve as an assistant in charge of the defense and penalty kill.
• Jason King joined the Utica Comets' staff in Green's last year, 2016-17. He remained there until last season, when he was promoted to become the Canucks' 'Eye in the Sky' after Manny Malhotra's departure. According to Thomas Drance at The Athletic
, King will move down to the bench next season, and run the power play.
• Darryl Seward will continue as video coach. He joined the Canucks when Green did, at the beginning of the 2017-18 season.
• Ian Clark will continue to work with the Canucks' goalies, and Drance reports that he adds a new title — now Director of Goaltending as well as Goaltending Coach. As has been well documented, Clark had a run with the Canucks through the first decade of the 2000s, and played a key role in guiding Roberto Luongo's career. He then spent eight years in Columbus, where he helped Sergei Bobrovsky win two Vezina Trophies.
When he returned to Vancouver at the beginning of the 2019-20 season, he helped first Jacob Markstrom and now Thatcher Demko take their games to the next level; goalie-in-waiting Mikey DiPietro also raved about how much he benefited from working with Clark this season.
For months, there has been concern that a highly coveted coach with such an impressive body of work might not be easy to retain. Patrick Johnston of The Province
reports that, while Green's contract extension is for just two years, Clark's new deal is reportedly for five seasons — aligning with Demko's term, rather than that of the coaching staff.
• Chris Higgins will also be back, and return to his role as assistant director of player development, which is what he did when he first joined the club's staff in the 2019-20 season. Last year, he filled in as skills coach and development coach after Glenn Carnegie moved on.
One member of the staff will not be back. According to the Canucks' press release, the team has parted ways with assistant coach Newell Brown. Brown had returned for his second stint with Canucks four years ago, when Green was hired, and was in charge of the power play.
So — the new guys:
Rick Dhaliwal first brought up Shaw's name in association with the Canucks a week or so ago, with Kirk Muller also in the mix as a possible candidate for a coaching gig.
When Muller was on the '31 Thoughts' podcast a month ago, he was openly campaigning for a head-coaching gig after being let go by Montreal when Claude Julien was fired earlier in the year. So I'm not surprised that he didn't land here.
Shaw has been mentioned as a possible candidate for a head-coaching position in the past, but has had just one brief stint as a mid-season replacement so far in his career.
I remember Shaw as a player — a primarily defensive defenseman who was drafted in the fifth round by Detroit in 1982. His rights were traded to the Hartford Whalers in 1984, as he was wrapping up his OHL career with the Ottawa 67's. From there, he had a long apprenticeship with just an occasional cup of coffee in the NHL, and even won a championship in Italy in the 1988-89 season.
After that, he finally made the jump to become a full-time NHLer. He was named to the league's all-rookie team in 1989-90 at age 25, when he played 64 games with the Whalers.
Ray Ferraro was on that team, so you may have heard him talk about what a cerebral group this was. In addition to the sharp and articulate Ferraro, that squad was led by Ron Francis and also included future NHL head coaches Joel Quenneville, Dave Tippett, Dean Evason, Kevin Dineen and Randy Cunneyworth as well as current agent Mike Liut, NHL goaltending supervisor Kay Whitmore and all-round good guy Dave Babych.
In 1992, Shaw was claimed by the Ottawa Senators in their expansion draft. He lasted two seasons before moving to the IHL, then finished out his NHL career in 1998-99, with brief stints in Washington and St. Louis. All told, he played 377 NHL games and put up 159 points and 208 penalty minutes.
In his last three years in the IHL, Shaw served as a player-assistant coach with the Detroit Vipers. After retiring, he spent the 1999-2000 season as an assistant to Steve Ludzik with the Tampa Bay Lightning, then went back to the IHL for another five years.
He returned to the NHL after the 2004-05 lockout as an assistant to Steve Stirling with the New York Islanders. After an 18-22-2-0 start, Stirling was dismissed and Shaw took over as head coach. In 40 games, the Islanders team led by Miroslav Satan and Alexei Yashin went 18-18-4-0 under Shaw, but finished fourth in the Atlantic Division and missed the playoffs.
Shaw was replaced by Ted Nolan on Long Island, and moved on to St. Louis. He spent six years as an assistant coach under Andy Murray, Davis Payne and Ken Hitchcock, then was elevated to associate coach in 2012, in Hitchcock's second year.
After the Blues reached the Western Conference Final in 2016, Shaw was offered a one-year contract extension that would tie him to Hitchcock's term
, but chose to seek more stability elsewhere. Praised for his work in St. Louis, where he helped develop Alex Pietrangelo and Kevin Shattenkirk into top-level blueliners, the Columbus Blue Jackets jumped at the opportunity to add him to John Tortorella's staff — at that time, with Seth Jones and Ryan Murray as their promising young blueliners.
When the Blue Jackets parted ways with Tortorella at the end of this season, assistants Shaw and Brad Larsen were also on expiring contracts. Larsen will get an opportunity to interview for the head-coaching position; Shaw did not.
In Vancouver, his role will be broader than strictly a defense coach.
“The defensive side is something I’ve done for a long time and always had a huge interest in," Shaw told Patrick Johnston. "Your defence has a big role and how they see the game, react and finding solutions intrigues me and always will. It’s always a challenge to get that message across.
"I know how I want players to play with habits and attention to detail. To have my hands in everything and have a little bit of a different job description is exciting. With Baumer, I hope to augment him in different ways by getting my point across and not being offensive.
"We’re all in this together. It’s getting to a comfort level where you can say what’s on your mind and by being totally honest, we’ll get further ahead. For the defence and forwards, certain habits are important across the board."
While Green would have played a bit against Shaw back in the day, the pair do not have a pre-existing relationship.
The opposite is true with Gustafson, now 40. He joins the Canucks from the Portland Winterhawks, where he has worked since 2003, working his way up from assistant to associate coach and adding the assistant general manager's portfolio to his workload in 2018. Green started his coaching and management career with the Winterhawks in 2008 and stayed until 2013, when he delivered a league championship after replacing Mike Johnston behind the bench midway through the season.
"I’ve kept in contact with him, when I talk about fresh voices and new voices, I think there’s something to be said for fresh new voices from outside the NHL, too," Green said to Drance about Gustafson.
"When him and I coached years ago, he was always studying the NHL, breaking down NHL video, even when I turned pro and coached in Utica and Vancouver, we talked a lot about the NHL game. He’s a sharp guy with systems, and I think having a fresh voice from that standpoint is going to help us as well."
All told, Wednesday's announcements seem positive — highlighted by the return of Ian Clark, and delivering the promise of a pair of bright new minds which are added to the mix without throwing the organization into upheaval.
It'll be interesting to see how Shaw's work impacts not just Quinn Hughes, but also Jack Rathbone and Olli Juolevi. And while I still don't think the Canucks are among the top suitors for Seth Jones, his pre-existing relationship with Shaw will have me watching a little more closely now...