John Becanic remembers the 2006 playoffs as if they happened yesterday. And if he could, he’d rewrite history so it’d come out in his favour.
Only thing is, his new employers might not like that.
On Wednesday, the Vancouver Giants announced the hiring Becanic as an assistant coach, a move that should pay short- and long-term dividends. A former assistant and head coach with the Everett Silvertips (2003-09) and assistant coach with the Seattle Thunderbirds (2009-10), Becanic has plenty of experience. Combine that with head coach Don Hay and his long resume, and the Giants now have arguably the best coaching staff in the league.
“I really like the league and, for me, it’s a fun league to coach in,” Becanic said on Friday from his Snohomish, Wash., home, where his family will remain, while he plans on renting in Vancouver and commuting. “I’m really looking forward to being part of the Giants’ organization.”
Prior to joining Vancouver, Becanic spent six seasons in Everett; four as an associate coach, then two as a head coach, 2008-10, compiling a record of 69-66-7-5. After 2008-09, Everett let Becanic go, and Seattle promptly snapped him up in August of 2009 for one season. Then word came out this spring and summer that Vancouver was looking to add a new assistant coach to its staff after former assistant coach Yogi Svejkovsky left to become the director of hockey operations with a minor hockey organization (Seafair) in greater Vancouver.
“I was a typical coach looking for work, and I immediately expressed interest in Vancouver. I also expressed interest in other head-coaching positions within the league, but nothing really evolved,” said Becanic. “But when it came to Vancouver, the thing that was most appealing was working with Don. If you’re going to be an assistant coach, no matter what level you’re at, you want to go where you’re going to learn something. And, obviously, Don’s success is unparalleled in the last couple of decades.
There’s nobody that’s had his success, so that was an important factor.
“I still believe in being a student of the game. When you’re a head coach, you’re learning mostly from other head coaches in the league that you’re coaching against. And the organization as a whole, with (GM Scott Bonner) and Don, all they want to do is win. There’s no such thing as a rebuilding season and they do what it takes to win. Scott gives the coaching staff its every opportunity to win and they don’t still pat on their roster. If they want to be better, they go out and get players.
“There are organizations in this league, like Kelowna, where winning is a priority. And so, any time you’re part of an organization like that, it makes you better because you work harder when the stakes are so high.”
In the 2006 playoffs, the stakes were pretty high when Everett, with Becanic and head coach Kevin Constantine, took on the Giants, with Hay, in the Western Conference final.
On paper, it looked like Everett had the edge, having gone 6-0 against the Giants in the regular season. When push came to shove, though, Vancouver pushed Everett out of the post-season with a 4-0 series sweep.
On Friday, Becanic recalled that surprising series. The scores were 4-2, 2-0, 5-0 and 5-0. Vancouver outshot Everett 115-93.
“We got Gilbert Brule-d in that series,” said Becanic. “In the first game, he knocked out Ondrej Fiala and Karel Hromas, our two Europeans, with some pretty hard hits. Then goalie Leland Irving tore his groin in the warm-ups of the very first game, so he didn’t play that entire series.
“The Giants were just a really darn good team, and I think that was the first time we got to see a Don Hay team play literally as hard as it could play. Now we were 6-0 against them in the regular season, but that was a little misguiding because five of the six were in shootouts, and Don’s team wasn’t very good in shootouts that season.
“I don’t claim to have any expertise in helping them in shootouts,” Becanic continued with a laugh. “All the areas I excel at, they already seem to be really good at!”
As for the future, Becanic, like most B.C. Division media pundits, is predicting a tight race, with no predictable winner, unlike the loaded Portland Winterhawks, who should claim top spot in the U.S. Division and the Western Conference.
“It’s funny because I joked both with Scott and Don about my last four years in the U.S. Division, about how we’d look at Vancouver and say ‘We’ll see how the Giants do this season because they lost so-and-so, or they lost Evander Kane.’ Every season, they lose key players and every season, lo and behold, they’re at the top of the division,” said Becanic. “I’m really hoping I’m on the other side of the fence this season and I get to be part of that success.
“If the Rockets lose defenceman Tyson Barrie (to Colorado), and we’ve seen stranger things happen, that could be a real hit to their team; he’s a hard player to replace with all the minutes he logs. All those types of factors . . . for all we know, we could lose Craig Cunning ham to Boston or Kelowna could lose Geordie Wudrick (to Phoenix), so there’s all different types of scenarios.
“So, all in all, I think (the B.C. Division) is going to be a real battle. And when you throw in a bunch of games against Portland, Everett, Spokane and Tri-City, — our pretty good teams there — I think there’s going to be a lot of tough games to play in this season and wins are going to be hard to come by. And that’s what makes this a challenge. I think Don respects what I bring, and I think we’re hoping to make each other better, and, along with (assistant Chad Scharff), really be a coaching staff that raises the bar, because I think we’re really going to need that.”