Top 10: Epic Canuck Fails of the 2013/2014 Season

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.

A dejected Eddie Lack after the Islanders take the lead and didn't look back.

A dejected Eddie Lack after the Islanders take the lead and didn’t look back.

 

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

    John Tortorella has lost the team and the fans. A short-lived experiment needs to be terminated.

    John Tortorella has lost the team and the fans. A short-lived experiment needs to be terminated.

  4. 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.

    How terrible can one year get for one player?

    How terrible can one year get for one player?

  5. 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?
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. 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.

Justine Galo

@Aviewfromabroad 

No success without a dependable fourth line

van-kesler-sedin

In my first article back in October I talked about the Canucks bottom 6 not being good enough. A month and a half into the season, I can say I am content with the part of the bottom 6. The third line has been dependable. The fourth line hasn’t.

John Tortorella doesn’t have faith in his fourth line and is reluctant to put them on the ice. I can’t blame him for that. For the better part of the season, it seems like whenever the fourth line is out on the ice they are getting scored on or can’t get out of their own zone. The Canucks best fourth liner is Dale Weise. He’s hurt. Darren Archibald showed more in his 8 games up with the big club than Tom Sestito, Zac Dalpe and Jeremy Welsh have shown in their games, but the Canucks sent the big forward back down to Utica to room for David Booth.

Injuries have forced the Canucks hand all year. They had not, until Sunday, been able ice the line-up they had envisioned during training camp and arguably still haven’t considering Jordan Schroeder is out for the second time this season. Jannik Hansen’s return and Richardson’s move to the fourth line didn’t make a difference in how much the fourth liners played. Richardson has averaged 13 minutes throughout the season; he played under 8 Sunday night against Dallas. Tom Sestito has played an average of five and a half minutes so far this season, he played 30 seconds Sunday. Jeremy Welsh played just 2 shifts in the game, totalling 18 seconds. It’s not a recipe for success.

Like I mentioned in my previous article, teams that win the cup have dependable fourth lines that can at least go out there to give the top guys a little bit of a break. This year’s Canucks team doesn’t have the luxury. Last year’s team didn’t have that. Amongst forwards, the Sedins and Kesler are in the top 4 for average minutes played a game. It’s not sustainable. I don’t want to beat a dead horse, but until the team upgrades the fourth line, it will be tough to make a deep run come April, May and June.

What’s the proper way to say sorry to the fans?

bwagon

The lockout is over, training camps are open, but there is a debate among hockey fans on what the league and it’s teams should do for the fans to make up for them missing half a season of their beloved sport.

Gary Bettman has said he’s sorry, but what was he supposed to say? And does anyone care? The Pittsburgh Penguins are offering 50% off all merchandise and free concession items, while the Tampa Bay Lightning offered 200 season-ticket packages for their 24 home games for $200 on a first come, first served basis.

For their part the Canucks have opened up Rogers Arena this week for their abbreviated training camp. They will also hold a “Jersey’s off our backs” night for Saturday’s season opener against Anaheim. The team says there will be other giveaways and random prizes given out during the season.

But that’s not good enough for some fans, who feel the team should be a little more generous if they hope to maintain their loyalty. The reality is however, at least in Canada, they don’t have to. There is a waiting list for season tickets that spans years, so the Canucks have that in their back pocket, and know that soon hockey fans will forget. Probably after the first big save by Cory Schneider, or the first tic-tac-toe play by the twins. Canucks fever will be back, it’s already back so if you’re expecting that half price jersey, don’t hold your breath because if you don’t buy a full priced one, ten other people will.

In Winnipeg the MTS centre was sold out for the Jets first practice of the year. The buzz in Edmonton isn’t “what can you do for me”, but is instead one of getting to watch their exciting young team possibly contend for a playoff spot. In Toronto the rink will be packed as they hope for the arrival of a goaltender from the west coast that could help them get to the playoffs in a post Brian Burke era.

Talk of boycotts of this and boycotts of that are noble and understandable stances, and everyone is entitled to their own way of dealing with the return of hockey, but they likely won’t last long with the true hockey fan.

In the end, I would have been happy with the league making their Centre Ice package free for the duration of the season. A quick look at the Shaw Cable website shows the package is mentioned, but not available to order at the moment. Could it be a discount or free offering is in the works? We’ll have to wait and see, but there would be no better way to get fans interested again than to give them maximum exposure to what promises to be some intense hockey once we get going.

What individual teams do is obviously going to depend on the market they are in. Teams in the U.S. will no doubt have to make more of an effort and Canadian fans will  point south and say, “What about us?” In a way it’s a shame that the game’s most passionate fans will likely get the fewest perks when it comes to post-lockout apologies, but let’s face it…Canadian fans already have the biggest prize they could hope for; their game is back.

Caught in the CBA Crossfire

 

As I read and keep up on the “progress” of the NHL and NHLPA collective bargaining agreement talks, I can’t help but become upset, and at times, angry. Why? It’s because we have two sides that are “duking out” some sort of agreement that involves millions and millions of dollars. Figures many of the average NHL hockey fan cannot even begin to conjure up in his/her mind. Figures that many of us fans can only see if we ever won a lottery. It’s not because I am bitter about how much money the owners, the league and the players have in their pockets, or how they live their lifestyles. I’m upset and angry because, the two sides (NHL and NHLPA) aren’t the only ones that are affected by a possible lockout.

My concerns go to the people who have jobs in the arenas, the office of various NHL franchises and those that have ties with the NHL and/or franchises. People like you and I that work for a living to provide for ourselves and our loved ones. What happens to them during all this? As I dropped my 15 year old daughter off to work this morning, I got thinking about all those that will possibly be affected. My daughter works special events for various event companies and also for the catering company I own. It is very similar to many that work at Rogers Arena and many of the other arenas across the league, they make a living working the games and special events that happen.

CBA Talks between the NHL and the NHLPA hold up more than revenue sharing percentage quibbles.

The NHL has 41 regular season games a year, a handful of pre-season games and possibly some playoff games for the arena staff to work. An average salary in Vancouver would be around $14-16 an hour and about a six to eight hour  shift for such events. Let’s ballpark that to $105 a game per employee. Over a the course of the regular season of 41 games that’s $4,305 in wages per employee. Multiply that by about 150 people it becomes a cumulative approximate total of $645,750 of wages for the people to help run the NHL events of the arena.  The NHL league minimum is $525,000. The difference between one NHL player earning the league minimum and 150 NHL arena employees is $120,750. It is not a whole lot of difference is it? The $120,750 is also divided by 149 more people than what the low end of what a players makes in the NHL.

While the NHLPA may be losing wages throughout this whole ordeal, many of the players have hazard pay, strike pay, whatever you want to call it. What about the arena workers? Many are forced to seek other means employment in a day and age where having a job is harder to come by each and every passing day, no matter what education and work experience one may have. There are only so many jobs to go around.

So when the owners and the players decide to put the fate of the average people in their hands to bargain about billions and millions of dollars, “Joe” at the concession stand is going to go and look for a new job to cover the 41 games he will not be getting paid if there is an NHL lockout to cover the $4,305 he will shorted on his salary for the year. NHL Commissioner, Gary Bettman makes a base salary of $5,529,490. I get it, he has a lot of responsibility, more so than a guy that runs a concession stand at your local NHL arena when it comes to the league, but “Joe” has responsibilities as well. “Joe” has bills to pay, put a roof over “Joe’s” head and mouths to feed. I know that $4,305 is just a suit in Gary Bettman’s closet, but that’s 1.5-2.0 months of wages to “Joe”.

NHL Commission Gary Bettman wants a deal done by September 15 or the league will lockout the players…and fans.

As a season ticket holder for the Vancouver Canucks, I’ve gotten to know some of the arena workers over the years, a few of them I consider friends. Although, the ones I do know are very capable of finding other employment in the hospitality and service industry, it bugs to me to think that they have to even do such a thing. It also bothers me to know that fans who have paid their hard-earned money to purchase ticket packages for the Vancouver Canucks and other teams year in and year out are again held hostage to negotiations between the NHL and the NHLPA. That’s three times in Gary Bettman’s tenure as NHL Commissioner. That’s three times too many in this fan’s opinion.

As many fans all around the league hope for a better outcome of these negotiations between the NHL and the NHLPA, many of those could possibly be affected by an impending lockout are now forced to find different avenues to make a living.

So my message to the league and the players’ union is: Keep quibbling over percentages of millions of dollars each side gets, but get it done soon. You are not the only ones affected by this dark cloud looming over the NHL’s upcoming season. Some of us (fans) are getting tired of the constant threat of a lockout or a strike. So while you drive your luxury cars to your meetings, some of us are just wanting to make sure we have money to put gas in our cars or to buy a transit pass to make our way to work…that is, if you allow us.
Justine Galo

twitter: @Aviewfromabroad