Crawford out after Canucks fail to make playoffs

Updated: April 25, 2006, 11:03 PM ET
Associated Press

VANCOUVER, British Columbia -- Marc Crawford paid the price for failing to meet the high expectations he helped set with the Vancouver Canucks.

Touted as Stanley Cup contenders in September, the Canucks fired Crawford as coach on Tuesday after missing the playoffs for the first time in five seasons.

"We need some new energy, some new juice," general manager Dave Nonis said. "We felt our team needs a kick-start, that we haven't played with the fire we had been known for in the past. A change behind the bench was the first place to start."

Crawford was behind the Vancouver bench for seven seasons, leading it to the Northwest Division title in 2003-04. The Canucks entered this season expected to be one of the top teams in the Western Conference, but that didn't pan out.

The Canucks finished ninth with a 42-32-8 record, losing six of their last eight games to fall three points behind Edmonton for the final playoff spot.

Nonis was quick to point out that not all the blame should fall on Crawford, calling him "a great coach" and hinting player changes may follow.

"I want to make it clear this does not absolve the players for their part in this season," Nonis said. "In no way does this mean there will be no further changes. No way. The fact is there is a lot of blame to be spread around and a lot of it falls on the shoulders of people that were in that locker room."

Crawford, who led the Colorado Avalanche to a Stanley Cup in 1996, finished with a 246-197-70 record in Vancouver but only won one series in four trips to the playoffs. The Canucks twice lost a Game 7 on home ice under his leadership.

With a playoff berth on the line this year, the Canucks struggled defensively, blowing leads in back-to-back games against San Jose to seal their fate. And there were too many nights earlier in the season when they were simply outworked.

"If you want to use the words tuned out or didn't buy in, use whatever phrase you want, the fact is there were too many nights it happened," Nonis said. "It wasn't because the message wasn't correct. It was because in some cases certain players weren't listening to that message."

Crawford, who had one year left on his contract, has 411 career NHL wins and became the third-youngest coach to win 400 career games on Feb. 3 -- 10 days before his 45th birthday. Only Hall of Fame coaches Scotty Bowman and Glen Sather were younger when they hit that mark.

Crawford played every game of his nine-year pro career in the Canucks' organization, finishing with 19 goals and 31 assists in 176 NHL games. He began his NHL coaching career in Quebec in 1994-95, becoming the youngest to win the Jack Adams Award as coach of the year that season.

He took over a Vancouver team midway through the 1998-99 season that had missed the playoffs three straight seasons. They went from 58 to 83 points the following season, just missing the postseason before breaking through in 2000-01, the start of four straight playoff appearances.

"His legacy is one of resurrection," Nonis said. "He gave us credibility when we didn't have any. He'll go down as one of the best coaches who ever coached here."

Crawford was also the head coach of Team Canada in the 1998 Nagano Olympics.


Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press