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 

Through the Plexi-Glass: Can You Pump Tires in a Goalie Graveyard?

As I was coming home from the game and gazed at my twitter feed, I saw of a lot of “Trade Luongo!” and a lot of panicking over a just under .500 record for the first few games of the regular season. Mostly, it was all about how Luongo lost the game for the Canucks and it was entirely his fault. So I’ve taken it upon myself to do some proverbial ‘pumping of tires’. Why you all ask? Simple, I have a good memory of how dreadful goaltending was in this city before the likes of Roberto Luongo.

As I stated in my tweet: @Aviewfromabroad “Problem isn’t #Luongo . Problem is the wanna-be fans that bought into the “2nd coming” hype that was built about him. #Takeaccountability” I never bought into the whole “LuonGod” hype.

He is a good goalie, but at the same time, he was still just a human who will have his bad days like you or I. Unfortunately for Luongo, he is now in a market that actually gives a hoot of how he performs on the ice instead of about 4500 fans in Miami. I also understand the whole “with the position comes the scrutiny” baggage but when the baggage is more like the cargo space of a 747, how is one supposed to ‘carry’ all that without some self-doubt? It’s close to impossible, regardless of talent level. I’m not trying to psycho-babble you all the death, I’m just saying that perhaps instead of jumping on Lu’s case constantly, take a step back and let him breathe.

Luongo Waving to the Vancouver crowd. Will it be goodbye soon?

For me, I want to give Luongo some time to prove himself. It is a new season after all. Although for some, this just a continuation of all the bad games Luongo has played as a Canuck.  I want him to build up some confidence that has seemingly been lost and play like a machine more often than not. So far in this very young season, he’s not been great. To help him out as a fan, I thought it would be a good idea for me to “pump his tires” because despite all the hype and the bashing, I would rather have Roberto Luongo (as is) than Dan Cloutier, Corey Hirsch, Alfie Michaud, Troy Gamble, Petr Skudra, Bob Essensa, Kevin Weekes, Felix Potvin etc. etc. etc. Why, do some of you ask? I’ve seen awful, and it has been far worse than Roberto Luongo.

For those of you that don’t recognize some of those names, it’s because they didn’t last very long in this market. Let’s take Petr Skudra for example. He was one of Dan Cloutier’s backups. Did you know an angry fan actually used his name as an auction item on eBay? The description was to the effect of a Canucks’ back up goaltender, with a big five hole and no glove.  The starting bid was $1 CAD. I’m not sure if anyone ever even made a bid, but it was at the time, quite amusing. Oddly enough, I am waiting for some know-it-all ‘fan’ to put Luongo up for auction on eBay with the description of “Vezina nominated, gold medal winning goalie that can’t please a fan base no matter what he does”. I’d at least start the bidding at $5…out of ‘respect’ of course.

It’s good to know that I am not the only one out there that feels  Luongo is getting too much heat. However, I believe he can and should be better, but I’m not going to go off demanding Mike Gillis and his management and coaching staff try to trade him immediately. The thing is, I have this belief (and statistical history to back it up) that Luongo will pull it together sooner than later. Here are some from the twitterverse that feel the same way after the 4-0 loss to the New York Rangers on Tuesday Night:

  • @lyteforce: If Luongo were to reverse global warming, people would blame him for it being too cold. #Canucks #lousfault
  • @patersonjeff: Can dump on #Canucks goaltending, but how about forwards who have 1 even strength goal in last 10 periods. That don’t cut it
  • @j_carpenter_What difference does it make? if Luongo lets in 1 goal or 4..If the #Canucks dont score any they’re not gonna win..They will pull it together
  • @bobcam27-Luongo sure was terrible on the power play tonight. I don’t remember him getting a single shot on goal. #Canucks

We’re all good at playing ‘arm-chair’ GM from time to time, and I certainly will be the first to admit I do it as well, but how many times do so many of us have to put out virtual trades with the involvement of Roberto Luongo in them? How about we trade those guys that aren’t scoring? How about we trade the whole blue line? I guess because it’s easier to blame the goaltender, and particularly, Roberto Luongo. I’m asking you for a 20 game grace period to stop. Please.  For the next few games that Luongo plays, instead of going “Trade Luongo!”, perhaps a little encouragement might help.  The power of positivity is a pretty cool thing, even though I’m not a big time New Age follower, there is truth in it.

I don’t mind ‘pumping Roberto’s tires’ more often than not, a pumped tire usually gets you further ahead.  Not to mention,  it sucks to run on a flat. Besides, if you leave it deflated too long, it might just damage the rim and you’ll have to replace the whole wheel.

That’s how I see things…through the plexi-glass.

A decent start.

Captain Hankby Jason Kurylo

On the opening night of the 2010-11 season, it would have been pretty hard for the Vancouver Canucks to live up to the pre-season hype. Heck, it would have been pretty hard to live up to the pre-game hype: Las Vegas-style scrims with Canucks stars’ faces projected 10 metres tall, Tom Larscheid’s much-publicized swansong after decades in the broadcast booth, and a dozen-plus members of the original 1970 Canucks on hand to see Orland Kurtenbach hand Henrik Sedin his brand new Captain’s C. Vancouver was positively abuzz with excitement coming up to tonight’s puck drop against the Los Angeles Kings, who to add another wrinkle to the plot, feature ex-Canuck Willie Mitchell as their senior rearguard.

Pundits all over North America have picked VanCity to hoist its first Stanley Cup since the Millionaires had their names engraved inside the bowl of Lord Stanley’s mug in 19-freakin’-15. This iteration of NHL hockey in Vancouver has seen 40 years go by without a Cup, and Mike Gillis has assembled a team that has people in Toronto and New York paying attention? The home team could have won this game 10-0 and some fans would have left unimpressed. It’s a Cup they want, not a win in mid-October.

So what does the 2-1 shootout loss to the Kings mean, exactly?

We saw tonight that the other clubs in the NHL are not just going to hand the Canucks a championship just because Gillis signed Dan Hamhuis in the off-season. Heck, the Kings didn’t even want to hand us these two points just because Roberto Luongo dropped seven pounds, passed the C to Henrik & hugged the blue paint like a good goalie should. Yes, this team has a mobile, trustworthy defense. Yes, Luongo is playing now the way he usually starts playing in November. But this team should not try to win a game 1-0. A solid D does not preclude going for the jugular.

We saw that the league’s second best offense last year will have to work just a little harder if they want to score more than a goal a game. Christian Ehrhoff was the most dangerous Canuck for much of tonight’s game. Ryan Kesler was unlucky not to score tonight – he will have be greasier. Mason Raymond played well, but he will have to go to the net just a little harder. The Sedins showed confidence and patience tonight, but with little of that sandpaper they showed after the All-Star break last year. Raffi Torres made some good plays in his first game for the Canucks, but his linemates didn’t seem to know what to do with those decent feeds.

Quick's retro pads - If you remember these, you're old. *sigh* I'm old.In all, we saw a good team that was unlucky not to win their home opener. Sure, Jonathan Quick played well in his outrageously bad ass retro pads, but the fact is, the Canucks didn’t have enough want to get it done on opening night. Most nights, if the opposition is held to one goal in regulation time, Vancouver is going to be in the W column. This Canucks team, when it gels? It’s going to be a fun time to be a hockey fan in Vancouver.

Anyone jumping off the bandwagon today should be banned from watching in April when it matters most.

[tweetmeme]

Raycroft Looks For Clean Slate

Please join us at Canuckscorner.com and welcome Philip Yoe to our writing team. In his first contribution he looks at the contributions of Andrew Raycroft, and how the goaltender is aiming to get his career back on track with the Canucks.

By Philip Yoe: Canuckscorner.com

When news broke that Roberto Luongo would be out of action due to a hairline rib fracture, Canuck Nation collectively were ready to hit the panic button. But thankfully, Andrew Raycroft has since pulled everyone back from the ledge with his solid play. Raycroft’s performance in the games he has started since Luongo was injured has given Canucks fans all over a newfound confidence. Last year Luongo missed a total of 24 games when he tore a groin muscle in a game against the Pittsburgh Penguins. Over that span the Canucks went 9-12-3 as Curtis Sanford, Jason LaBarbera and Cory Schneider all saw some action. Overall, the Canucks held their own in Roberto’s absence but definitely had a large amount of room for improvement.

raycroft-tn

Andrew Raycroft

This summer Mike Gillis signed Raycroft as a free agent netminder this summer and it raised a lot of eyebrows. Most had considered Raycroft a bust despite winning the Calder trophy in 2004 as the outstanding rookie of the year. That season Raycroft backstopped the Boston Bruins to 29 victories while holding a save percentage of .926 and GAA of 2.05. The next year was the NHL lockout and Andrew Raycroft landed with Tappara Tampere of the Finnish SM-liiga. He appeared in 11 games, winning four of those games. When the NHL resumed in 2005 Raycroft was nowhere the goaltender he was before as he won just 8 games out of 30 with the Boston Bruins with a 3.70 GAA and .878 save percentage.

Raycroft was eventually traded to the Toronto Maple Leafs for the rights to Tuuka Rask. Things did not improve for Raycroft in Toronto despite a decent first season that saw him pick up 37 wins in 72 games. Things got worse in 2007 when Raycroft was relegated to the backup role when the Leafs acquired Vesa Toskala from the San Jose Sharks. Raycroft appeared in only 19 games that season while winning just 2 of them. He was subsequently bought out by the Leafs and promptly signed a 1-year contract with the Colorado Avalanche as a backup to Peter Budaj in hopes of getting a clean slate. But yet again, things did not go well for the 29-year old Belleville native as he won just 12 games in 31 appearances with an .892 save percantage and goals against average of 3.14.

So jump to this past offseason, Jason Labarbera signed a contract with the Phoenix Coyotes while Curtis Sanford left to join the Montreal Canadiens. This left the Canucks with their 2004 first round draft pick, Cory Schneider, as their only option as a backup to Luongo. As a result, on July 6th, Raycroft was offered a contract by GM Mike Gillis and signed the 1-year deal with the Canucks. Reaction around the hockey community was mostly of confusion or mockery, particulary from fanbases of the Maple Leafs and Avalanche who had seen how poorly Raycroft had played on a regular basis. But after five starts, the ones getting the last laugh are Mike Gillis and the Vancouver Canucks.

Andrew Raycroft has compiled a very solid record of 4-1-0 in Luongo’s absence. He also leads the NHL with a 1.60 GAA and is tied for first with a .936 save percentage.

Has Raycroft regained the form that saw him win the Calder trophy 2004? Only time will tell as it is still just five games but he is off to a great start. Raycroft has given Canucks fans the confidence in the backup goaltender that has been missing since Alex Auld was still a Canuck. Auld, of course, was a part of the trade with Florida that involved bringing Luongo to Vancouver. Dany Sabourin, Curtis Sanford, Jason Labarbera and Cory Schneider have all tried and have not been able to perform as well as fans would have liked. Raycroft came in this summer with low expectations and has far surpassed those expectations. What happens from here is left to be seen, but surely should Luongo struggle or once again get injured, Canuck Nation will not need to hold their breath.

Canucks extend Vigneault

Alain Vigneault has a new deal.

Alain Vigneault has a new deal.

Vancouver Canucks General Manager Mike Gillis announced today that Head Coach Alain Vigneault has agreed to terms on a new contract that extends through the 2012.2013 season.

“This is a significant announcement for our hockey club,” said Mike Gillis. “Alain and his staff have done an excellent job leading our team to two Division titles in three years. I believe strongly in the partnership between management, coaches and players and we are all committed to building a championship team here in Vancouver.”

“This is an exciting day for me and my coaching staff,” said Alain Vigneault. “Having the opportunity to work with the Aquilini family, Mike and his staff and our players has been very rewarding. I love working and coaching in this tremendous hockey city and look forward to continuing to build on our previous success.”