The coaching staff of the Portland Winterhawks from year to year have a very good track record for career advancement opportunities. Current head coach and general manager Mike Johnston snagged an assistant coaching position with the Pittsburgh Penguins back in 2013, and was only drawn back to the WHL by a vice presidency within the Winterhawks organization alongside the head coach and GM gigs. Meanwhile his replacement for two seasons in Portland, Jamie Kompon, has since moved back up to the NHL and now resides with the Winnepeg Jets.
Now, for the first time in recent franchise history, Winterhawks players and staff can boast that they worked with the head coach of an NHL team. Travis Green, a one-time interim head coach for the Hawks, is now the man in charge for the Vancouver Canucks. This announcement comes off the heels of a real dog of a season for the pro team, including bottom-of-the-barrel special teams stats and a failure to qualify for the playoffs. Interestingly, Canucks president Trevor Linden was queried about head coach Willie Desjardins at the end of the 2015-2016 season (a similarly ugly year) and emphatically defended his coach and reassured the sports press that Desjardins wasn’t going anywhere.
That same conversation went…rather differently last month, when Vancouver’s playoff hopes were thoroughly dashed. Linden gave a noncommittal answer about Desjardins and his performance, and the coach himself expressed worry soon after. It appears the need for a shake-up behind the bench is real.
Green was drafted into the NHL by the New York Islanders in 1989, in the second round. He ended up playing a storied 14 seasons in the league with various teams and one final season playing with EV Zug in Switzerland. In that time, Green racked up 455 career points in 970 games.
In 2009, he was tapped to be an assistant coach for the Portland Winterhawks. Unexpectedly, Green led the 2012-2013 Hawks to an Ed Chynoweth Cup victory and entry into the Memorial Cup as the interim head coach, after Mike Johnston was suspended for the rest of the season as the result of a misconduct sanction. Green’s stint in charge had a 37-8-2 record, including the playoffs and WHL Championship, and the Memorial Cup finals.
That impressive job performance was met with his first permanent head coach position, when the Utica Comets hired him for the club’s inaugural season. As the AHL affiliate of the Canucks, the Comets organization regularly funnels the best young prospects up to the higher league, and Green was tasked with developing them. During his four seasons in Utica, Green maintained a winning record and brought home a North Division Championship and a shot at the Calder Cup that season.
Canucks supporters should expect a more energetic, two-way approach from Coach Green, with an emphasis on collaborative offense. The last few weeks of Comets games have echoed the sentiment: more assists lead to more goals. With any luck, this might help Vancouver break their extended slump and return to contender status.