Even outside the Vancouver market, observers find it hard to fathom how quickly a resilient contender and elite team could disintegrate to nothing so fast. Is it textbook mismanagement destined to become a course called how to kill a franchise step by step? Is it just bad luck, scheduling, injuries, calls and non-calls and bounces or is it that they were never that good?
The root of the fall is that the management of the Canucks don’t understand hockey players or the game. They have no clue what it takes to win and have grossly misinterpreted the value of the different pieces in their organization.
At the top of this failure list is the Sedins. Yes, very skilled players that like to make 5-foot passes in the corner of the rink but are still boring to watch 90% of the time. Yes, able to fill the net against sub .500 opposition when on the man advantage but invisible when it counts.
Yes, they do spend more time on their backsides and collectively hold the record for most times getting knocked to the ice per game in their careers. (Truth is there is no record of this but still, they would have to be up there if such records were kept.)
Their strategy coming over has now become crystal clear; they were happy to be earning big bucks in North America but wanted to end their careers without getting hurt. Given the iron man streak as proof how can any player meaningfully engage in play-off style hockey which is win at all costs? Of course you can’t and they haven’t thus when the play-offs arrive, and the men come out play for keeps, they become invisible.
Even though the Canucks were all but handed the cup against Boston, it still mattered little to them. Despite these facts, Canucks management continues to insist these two are the key pieces to success and have deemed them untouchable. They will never win with the Sedins or they would have; it is not in their DNA, game plan coming over or psyche. They would rather win Olympic Gold.
Tied for the top of the “failure to grasp reality” list is the goal tending. How much of the past success do they attribute to the one two combination of Luongo and Schneider? We were just given the answer last week with Luongo following Schneider out of town in return for nothing substantive, again.
In those very recent days of league dominance, whenever Luongo had a bad game or got hurt, Schneider would step in and often stay in net longer than intended as he ran off a series of games with back to back shut-outs and win streaks. When Luongo finally got back in net the pressure was on and he would play in top form understanding the back up was just as capable and not really a back up at all. The truth is the Canucks enjoyed a luxury that virtually no other NHL team had, they were bullet proof between the pipes and had insurance from goalie injuries all season and in the play-offs. If Vigneault had taken the free pass in game 6 of the cup finals and started Schneider, the Canucks would have won the cup but chances are upper management told him not to even though we may never now what really went down.
Failure number three is a complete inability to see a player's heart, drive and talent. Hodgson, Raymond, Torres, Ehrhoff, Lapierre, Salo and a host of others are long gone and for what but more importantly why? Some of these guys can actually score and of late the Canucks are averaging one goal a game. In fact, the 2013 - 2014 Canucks are on pace for the worst offensive output of any team in franchise history stretching all the way back to 1970.
This year Hodgson, on a brutal Sabres team, has 16 goals while Raymond has notched 18 in Toronto. Kessler is the leader on Vancouver with 21 goals so Raymond would rank second and Hodgson third if they were in the Vancouver line up. At least they kept Burrows and I am sure he will get his first goal of the season very soon although he is running out of time. It’s not his fault though since he was just following the new coaches orders to block shots in a pre-season game when he broke his foot and missed the season start then got hit in the face and missed some more time which leads to failure number four.
The morally gutless management decision not to accept responsibility for bonehead trades. Instead, after getting bounced last season again with the ineffective Sedins leading the way, they made Vigneault the scapegoat which has directly lead to the last wheel falling off.
They now have the fiery Tortorella, passionate yes, smart, um maybe not so much considering he had about 40 minutes to cool down after the Calgary goon start incident but still decided it was a good idea to go and fight the Calgary coach between periods. That incident does indeed mark the point of no return for a hockey club that was very recently the class of the league.
In the Canucks most recent outing on March 8th versus Calgary as they started a home stand with a chance for a fresh start, the team managed just 2 shots on goal in the first period. On November 2nd 2013, still this season, the Canucks hammered Toronto 4-0 in probably their best game of the year. They recorded 18 shots in the first period against Toronto while last night they registered just 14 through 3 periods. Now that’s entertainment.