The Vancouver Canucks have hit ‘rock bottom’. I’m not exactly sure how they got there, but they are there. Losing to the Islanders 7-4 after they went into the third period with a 3-0 lead, was nothing short of abysmal. I’ve never seen a team unravel as quickly as they did. The big money blue line, who were great through forty minutes, were nowhere to be found in the third. Even “Big Steady”, aka Chris Tanev looked human. Perfectly inconsistent. The dramedy known as the Vancouver Canucks imploded right before our eyes. If there is one thing they have done one thing consistently this season, it’s when they failed, they failed miserably and colourfully. So colourful in fact, if Canucks fans could paint a picture about their failures, it would be a Jackson Pollack. In no particular order, here are the Top 10 Epic Canuck fail moments of the 2013/2014 season, so far, it’s not even over yet. I might have to make another Top 10 at the end of it.
- From an “Embarrassment of Riches” to a down-right embarrassment: The Canucks goalie situation last June had not one, but TWO legitimate starting goaltenders. In fact, together, they won the Jennings award a couple of years back. Cory Schneider and Roberto Luongo were the media darlings with their battle for the crease, but more so, their ability to be professional and good friends throughout it. You couldn’t have asked for two better guys to battle it out. In the end, Gillis wanted to keep Schneider and trade Luongo, and what remained of his 12 year contract. Roberto waives his NTC and gives Gillis a list of teams he would be willing to head to and Gillis gets on the phone. The hot-wires were either Florida or Toronto. Gillis felt they weren’t offering enough back, so instead of really gunning for what he wanted in keeping Schneider, Gillis doesn’t buckle in the trade asking price and trades away, Schneider to NJD for a first round pick. That pick became Bo Horvat. Luongo stays, but the Heritage Classic dictated another scenario later on. Now, the Canucks have a rookie expected to be a starter, without grooming, without paying his dues, without a mentor. His back up? According to the head coach, he is not ready yet. Well done, Mike Gillis, well done.
- NTC’s Up the Ying Yang: Sure it sounded good to few fans out there. Lock up the assets, have them retire with the team. Let’s make sure they are happy here with their contracts and they are going be Canucks forever! Well played, if you’re a player agent, but a bad move if you’re a GM of a hockey club. Luongo, Hank and Daniel, Bieksa, Edler, Kesler, Garrison and Higgins…did I miss anyone? If I did I apologize, I’ve never seen so many NTCs given to one team in my life. I was speaking with Blackhawks fan, and I said to him that even Jon Toews and Patrick Kane don’t have NTCs in their contracts, but Bieksa and Higgins do? What seemingly looked like a good loyalty idea, turned out to be a terrible for the Canucks as an organization. I think Mike Gillis forgot that loyalty is now to the team, more than the players.
- John Tortorella: With the December the Canucks had, I wasn’t sure if I was right about Torts not being the right fit for this team. In fact, I was ready to swallow that pill and be wrong. I wanted it to work here in Vancouver with Torts, but after the meltdown versus the Flames, things really started to unravel for the team. My friends in New York City, who are Rangers fans, warned me about Torts. They warned me that he has a knack of losing players without even realizing he is losing players. I guess they would know. The lack of goals, the lack of winning, the lack of effort, the lack of confidence, oh hell, the lack of many things, including the lack foresight to start Roberto Luongo in the Heritage Classic left Vancouver with well, Lack. Canucks fans, we’ve been Bobby Valentine’d. If you don’t know what that means, get out of your “Canucks hockey only” sports bubble and look it up.
- Alex Burrows: I am a little torn about this guy and his streak of luck lately. However, if there was ever an epic fail of a season for one of the core players, Burrows wins, hands down. Opening night, Burrows foot is broken blocking a shot. Less than two months later, he has his jaw broken and is out for another two months. He hasn’t scored a goal and whenever seems to get a chance, luck has it, he doesn’t. Last night versus the Islanders, he had an open net with a distracted Nabokov, he fanned on the shot.
- Revolving Door to the Infirmary: Yes, yes, I know, I know. All teams have injuries and the good teams find ways to play through them. The Canucks have had injuries before, but this is ridiculous! How many man games has the team lost to injury issues? In one game alone, one player took out three guys. The game in Phoenix where Hanzal took out Booth, Santorelli and Henrik Sedin. That happened with guys already, day to day and on the injured reserve list. No matter how I don’t want to use this as an ‘excuse’, I don’t think the Canucks have iced a healthy team this year, not once. Oh yeah, Richardson is now the latest victim of injury. When will it all end?
- Most Expensive Blue Line in the League: Well, it if isn’t, it is definitely top five. With the exceptions of Tanev, Weber and Stanton, there isn’t a guy on the Canucks defence that makes less than $4million per. Edler $5million, Bieksa $4.6million, Garrison $4.6million and Hamhuis $4.5million. Alex Edler is a -27 in the +/- category. A MINUS TWENTY SEVEN! Edler is your team’s most expensive Dman and he has the worst +/- rating on the team! He supposedly is allowed to be listed to play defence? I know! Crazy, right? I don’t have the words to describe how I feel about that, all I know it doesn’t sum up to anything good.
- David Booth: When fans and media in your team’s town know more about your hunting abilities than your hockey prowess, there is something wrong. First off, David, why show a picture of a slain bear in a market known for animal rights and that is environmentally conscious? When David Booth does get some time to play, fans have made bets as to when he is going to be out with another injury or how many days he will sit in the press box. Luckily for Booth, there are enough injuries at the moment to warrant him some playing time. $4.25million dollars of cap space wasted. Instead of getting a Ferrari, the Canucks got themselves a fickle Jaguar from the 60’s.
- Third Period Meltdown- Islanders Edition: What should have been a sure two points, and with playing 40 minutes of nearly flawless hockey, only the Vancouver Canucks could fall in such epic fashion. In a game where, Henrik Sedin finally bumps his point slump and lead his team with FOUR hits, that’s right, Henrik lead the team with hits, the third period unravelled like a church garage sale crocheted scarf. The Vancouver Canucks gave up, seven goals in 20 minutes of hockey. Seven goals, a franchise record, was tied. How the hell does a team with the Canucks roster fall apart like that in 20 minutes? Anyone? I’ve got nothing.
- Mike “Player Agent Man” Gillis: This could be an entire blog on its own, but let’s summarize in as part of this Top 10. The team Gillis inherited was mostly put together by Brian Burke and Dave Nonis. Going into his first year in Vancouver, he had a nice start to a masterpiece. However, even before the blunders (that we see now) started to show, Gillis made some strange moves that had me questioning his train of thought or his vision for building a culture in Vancouver. First off, he didn’t re-sign Naslund, not even to one year to retire a Canuck. In fact, he didn’t even throw an offer sheet Markus’ way. Loyalty? That would have been a nice gesture, Gillis, I’m sure Naslund would have taken a discount on his market value to stay in Vancouver. Second, he makes Roberto Luongo, the starting goalie, the Captain. Isn’t being a number one goalie in a market known as a ‘goalie graveyard’ hard enough? More pressure, no worries. Good thing that was rectified and Henrik subsequently wore the “C”. Offering Mats Sundin a $10 million contract, which he didn’t get the player until the second half of the season. Sure it was pro-rated, but what that money could have bought and kept. Twelve year contract to Luongo and then all those NTC’s to players that wouldn’t even get a blink from other GMs for an NTC. Worst move he did, was losing two starting goalies, in less than 8 months, and having the team anchored with two Swedish rookies in the blue ice. Ah, I could go on, but it leads me to the biggest blunder of the year.
- Havoc at the Heritage Classic: What should have been the marquee game for the Vancouver Canucks and Roberto Luongo ended up being an epic failure that cost the team dearly. The Canucks were already struggling but the moment that defined their season was when head coach, John Tortorella did not start Roberto Luongo in the Heritage Classic. A game that Luongo has expressed he has looked forward to since its announcement. Coming home from Sochi, and winning his second gold medal with Team Canada, Lu posted a 6-0 shutout versus Austria in the prelims. It seems, it wasn’t good enough to start the Heritage Classic for the team that deemed him the No. 1. Not according to John Tortorella anyway. Torts, whether he was here for the goalie controversy or not, should have had the sense to start Luongo in net. It was a big pressure game, a marquee event and even at its most basic, Luongo needed to get some playing time. Evidently, this was all over the head of John Tortorella. The season that has been unravelling has pretty much been ripped apart with that one decision. Luongo was traded after his agent talked to Mike Gillis and now he is a Florida Panther. Although, Gillis had enough respect for Torts to not interfere with the decision on a professional level, after all the ass kissing he and Aquilini had to do to get Lu to play here in Vancouver, why didn’t he? It would have been the ONE time he would have had every right to do just that.
There are more failures, I am sure, but those are the 10 that stick in my head. It’s always been tough being a Canucks fan. I’ve seen more losing over the years than winning, but I’ve never seen the Canucks fall so far down the ladder than I have this season. In my 33 years, this has been the hardest pill to swallow. For those players who plan on being here for the long haul, I hope they get a shot of redemption, but for that to be a valid chance, Torts needs to go, and Mike Gillis needs to follow him. I’m sure there are few people here that wouldn’t mind driving both individuals to the airport, but with the price of gas these days, I’d tell them to take a damn cab.