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 

Sukh Purewal: Same old same old for Roberto Luongo

After all that has happened to Roberto Luongo the last few years, I didn’t think it could get any worse for the Canucks goalie. I thought there was no way the Canucks organization could disrespect the franchise’s best goalie of all-time again.

Boy was I wrong.

With the news coming out that Eddie Lack would be starting the Heritage Classic for the Canucks, it was just another slap in the face for Luongo, who has given so much to this organization. Roberto is responsible for some of the best years in Canucks history. He backstopped them to two straight Presidents’ Trophies and took them to within one game of a Stanley Cup. Even if it is the teams’ intention is to move forward with Lack as the starter, throw Luongo a bone and give him this start.  It seems harsh to punish Luongo for the team’s recent struggles, especially when you consider the fact that Vancouver has scored 2 or few goals in 15 of their last 17 games. No goalie in the NHL is going to win when the offence in front of him is putting up those types of numbers.

To some the Heritage Classic might seem like just another game. But it’s not for Roberto. He said Saturday that he’s always wanted to play in an outdoor game and considering this Canucks team is probably not going to do much should they make the playoffs, it was likely the biggest game of the year for them. Eddie Lack is a great goalie, but this should have been Luongo’s start. Reward the guy who’s done so much for you. This is quite possibly the only outdoor game Luongo is going to get a chance to play in. New Jersey gave Marty Brodeur the start in their outdoor game even though Cory Schneider had the better numbers and has started the majority of the games since that day.

I’m not sure there is a player in pro sports who has been treated as poorly as Roberto Luongo has. He has had to put up with so much from this organization. He was relegated to backup. He asked to be traded so he could be a starter somewhere. The team agreed and tried to move him, unsuccessfully. He was then asked to come back and be the team’s leader again after he had moved on. He came back and didn’t pout about having to back in Vancouver. He has been the consummate professional the last few years. I think it’s time the organization shows Roberto some respect and trades him somewhere he will respected and can be a starter.

He deserves it.

Top Ten: Canucks make St. Louis Sing the Blues

After an amazing Olympic run by the Canadian men’s and women’s national hockey teams, it’s great to be back watching some NHL hockey. It’s great to be back watching our Vancouver Canucks.

Eddie Lack backstops the Canucks to 1-0 vs the Blues. Lack is also 3-0 vs the Blues this season. Photo Credit: Jeff Vinnick NHL/via Getty Images

Eddie Lack backstops the Canucks to 1-0 vs the Blues. Lack is also 3-0 vs the Blues this season. Photo Credit: Jeff Vinnick NHL/via Getty Images

Last night, the St. Louis Blues came to town and lost to the Canucks 1-0 in regulation. I wouldn’t consider it the most entertaining game, but it’s far from the most boring I’ve seen either. The most important part of last night was, it stopped the bleeding (momentarily). The seven game losing streak was snapped. Here are a few things I had go through my mind last night before, during and after the game with the Blues.

  1. Ryan Kesler Injury: When David Backes gave the injury report to the Vancouver media, it was a little upsetting to hear that Kesler is far more hurt than originally thought. Backes made it sound like Kesler might have suffered a broken hand from the Olympics.
  2. Ryan Kesler Trade Rumour: Still a big topic today, Kesler was rumoured (by Louis Jean @LouisJean_TVA) to have asked to be traded earlier on in the season. The rampant speculation as to why he wants to be traded range from personal family reasons, not liking playing for Tortorella, not wanting to be in Vancouver anymore due to team decline…the list goes on. The one constant for those said by Kesler, his agent were the reports are false and his agent even went as far to call it “BS”. GM Mike Gillis did not confirm or deny any sort of trade talks involving Kesler.
  3.  Kassian, Richardson, Booth: The most noticeable line out for the Canucks vs the Blues last night. Booth and Kassian both had their moments driving to the net, making some fancy plays and had a lot of jump in their game. All of that would not have been possible if not for the solid play along the boards and away from the puck to create space for them by Richardson.
  4. Olympians: So players from both teams were recognized pre-game for their Olympic participation and accomplishments. It was great to hear Bouwmeester and Pietrangelo great a rousing ovation for their contributions for team Canada before the Canucks, Luongo and Hamhuis got theirs. Swedish Canucks players, Edler and Daniel Sedin had solid games. Their Olympic play crept into their play for their club team.
  5. Eddie: Although spectacular when he had to be, Eddie Lack stopped 20 of 20 shots to get his third NHL shutout this season, the best save of the night had to go to another, Eddie, Alex Edler.
  6. One Was Enough, For Now: Jannik Hansen scored the only goal of the game. with a heads up pass from Sestito and a burst of speed from Hansen himself. Here is the GoPro view of it from Halak’s net. 
  7. Sedinery: Although it hasn’t come back to what Canucks fans have been accustomed to, I saw flashes of it last night with Burrows. I have full confidence, as does John Tortorella, this could be a spark to the last stretch of the team’s season. Daniel and Burrows need to score, regularly to get this on the right track.
  8. Diaz is the New Salo: Alex Edler has seemed to have calmed down again. I give a lot of that credit to the work and play of Raffi Diaz and his new found partner in Edler. Hopefully as this continues, we just might see All-Star Edler once again, instead of “All Star” Edler.
  9. Oh Captain, My Captain: Looks like Hank is back closer to 100%  in regards to his rib injury. He looked confident and rested out there. The Olympic break was just what he needed.
  10. Powerplay Tools: …and a Hammer isn’t one of them. I am not quite sure what the coaches are thinking when Dan Hamhuis on the PP with Garrison at the other point. Hamhuis does a lot of things a defenceman should do well, but QB’ing a PP isn’t one of them. I dare say even Bieksa would be a better choice in the matter. Perhaps rethinking the backend of the PP is something that needs to be revisited by the team and the coaching staff. Find something or someone that has more to offer from the blue line than Hammer…like a rifle like shot?
Hansen scores only goal in game on Halak.

Hansen scores only goal in game on Halak.

 

Not a bad way to get back into writing about our Canucks and a win after the Olympic break. Catch you on Friday in an all important game versus the Wild. Boy, when was that ever an issue in the last decade.

Justine Galo

@Aviewfromabroad

The Curse of the Predators

I will not be at the game on Thursday night at Rogers Arena. The Vancouver Canucks will be facing off against the Nashville Predators. In fact, like I wrote in the previous blog, I will probably cross the Fraser River and watch the game in the suburbs. Since the existence of the franchise, I have never seen another team beat them while I am watching a game, in person, that involves the Preds. In short, I’m cursed.
Whenever I tell people about the this ‘curse’, I usually get a chuckle. In fact, I’ve had a few people down right not believe me. However, I have some examples of how this curse is closer to the truth than the myth.
I am either the Predators' good luck charm or I am a curse to any team they play when I am present for the game.

I am either the Predators’ good luck charm or I am a curse to any team they play when I am present for the game.

Dec 22, 2009: The Vancouver Canucks had a home game vs the Nashville Predators. I decided to watch a movie with my then 12 year old daughter that night. The Canucks were up 4-0, as soon as we got out of Scotiabank Theatres downtown and passed by Earl’s Restaurant near the movie theatre and Patrick Hornqvist ruined Luongo’s shutout near the 15 minute mark of the third period. I glanced at the TV, the game was on, the minute I saw the screen, Preds score. We later proceeded to meet up at La Bodega for a birthday party and I told my spouse about the Earl’s incident and he shook his head. Although not at the arena, being in the downtown core was enough to give the Preds a little luck.
March 20, 2011: I was in Toronto on business. I arrived a couple of days early and on the Sunday, a friend and I drove down to Buffalo to watch this game. These were when the 5PM starts started to show up in schedules and I forgot. So we arrived at the (then called)HSBC Arena part-way through the second period. The Sabres were up 3-1. My friend mentioned, I guess we chose a good day, the boys are up! So after a couple of beers and a period after, Blake Geoffrion decided to make a fool out of me and score two third period goals to complete his hattrick, to send the game to OT.  I was shaking my head. I had yet to tell my friend about my “Predator Curse”. As a joke, I said, I betcha Erat will score just to make my day. Guess who scrored? 4-3 in OT, the Sabres lost.  So en route back to Toronto, I told my friend of how the Nashville Predators always win when I am in the arena watching. He threw his hat at me and called me “Nashville’s Good Luck Charm”.
May 7, 2011: It was the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, Game 5. The Vancouver Canucks were up 3-1 in the series and my spouse told me it was time to ‘break the curse’. He told me I was going to this game with him and the Canucks will advance to the next round. I thought about for a few days, and well, I reluctantly accepted and attended the game. Well, let’s just say, Joel Ward was determined to make sure my curse was in tact. Tied 2-2 after the second period, just over a minute into the third, Ward makes it 3-2 for the Predators. I had to close my eyes and shake my head. The first thoughts going through my mind were, “I wish I said no to Chris. Why am I here?”. He killed any sort of hope I had in about four minutes after he scored his last goal and scored to make it 4-2. Kesler made a late attempt to try for a comeback but fell short 4-3.
By that cup run, I have been to about 20 Nashville games in a few different arenas including the ACC, the then-called Gaylord Entertainment, Complex Rogers Arena, the Saddledome, and as well as that woe-ful day in Buffalo.  All the games with me in attendance? The Predators have won. So when it comes to the January 23, 2014 game vs. Nashville for the Canucks, my spouse is taking a very good friend of mine instead. I will not be to blame if the Canucks somehow manage to lose that game. I will as far away from Rogers Arena as I can muster and away from giving any winning vibes to the Nashville Predators.
Justine Galo

Top 10: Torts-less In Oiler Country

In a night where the Vancouver Canucks won’t have head coach, John Tortorella, behind the bench until the end of the Olympic break for game situations, they take on the Edmonton Oilers with their new netminder, Ben Scrivens, between the pipes.  Mike Sullivan makes his Canucks debut as head coach during Torts’ 15 day, 6 game suspension.
Tonight is a night the Vancouver Canucks need to play catch up and make some ground on the teams that are leading the Pacific Division and the Oilers, more often than not, are a sure two points. Here are 10 things I picked up during the game, via twitter, television and whatever other media you can throw my way.
  1. Hashtag of the night #FreeTorts: Many of Canucks Nation not happy with the suspension for head coach, John Tortorella, and have started a hashtag about it. I’m sure it will be kept on until the return of the charged-up leader.

    John Tortorella's suspension has Canuck Nation united in #FreeTorts

    John Tortorella’s suspension has Canuck Nation united in #FreeTorts

  2. Ironman Streak Dies: Henrik Sedin did not start a game for the first time in about 10 years and 679 games. Have a seat Hank, you deserve the rest. The boys got this.
  3. Kellen Lain: If you play him more than two seconds, he shows he can score a goal with some ice time. Lain gets his first NHL goal in the first period.

    Lain scored his 1st NHL and logged a career high in TOI. (photo credit : Vancouver Sun)

    Lain scored his 1st NHL and logged a career high in TOI. (photo credit : Vancouver Sun)

  4. Boom Boom is Back:  Kevin Bieksa continues to show he can still go toe to toe dropping the gloves with Jones. Juice has been fiesty lately and fighting in almost every single game since LA.
  5. Tweet of the Night :  @kb34myhart The last time Burrows scored was before Hank’s ironman streak started– Poor Burr, just can’t buy a goal.

  6. Kassquatch is Beast: Zack Kassian scored a goal, made a few Henrik-like passes and shows just how fast he can skate. At 23, he is still inconsistent, but we can see the flashes of power forward brilliance the kid has. Cody, whaaaa??? Oh yeah, Zack scored the game winner as well.
  7. Shutout Mucked Up: Luongo was brilliant in this game, but Sam Gagner pushed Luongo out of his crease. Lu had to dive back in, over Gagner, had the puck in his net. Now, if there was ever a goal to overturn, that would have been it. Seriously NHL officials, how is that not goalie interference? Despite that, Luongo stopped 28 of 29 shots and looks ready for Sochi.
  8. Scoring Woes Continue: The Canucks as a collective still have only scored 7 goals in their last six games with a 3-3-0 record. Their goalies have been spectacular without much goal support.
  9. Bottom Half Pickings: The Canucks aren’t winning against the top teams in their division yet, but they are collecting the ‘gimme’ points as they should to keep in the hunt. Sometimes, you need to work your way from the bottom up, and with the depleted line-up, as a fan, I will take the two points where I can get them. However, when facing team like Edmonton, more than two goals would be nice to see on the score sheet.
  10. MIA: Torts (suspension) Henrik- (Rib/Finger, DTD) Santorelli (Shoulder, IR) Stanton (Left Ankle, IR) Alberts (Head, IR) Schroeder (Foot/Ankle, IR)
 The Canucks won 2-1, but not without giving the fans a bit of a heartattack in the last few minutes of the third period. It set the twitterverse on edge and the cynicism came out in droves, it felt like a meeting of disgruntled divorcees bitching about how good they used to have it before the struggles came into their lives. However, the two points were the Canucks’ and all was well (sort of) in Canuck Nation once again.
Kevin Bieksa hits Ryan Jones before scrapping with him.  (photo credit: Edmonton Journal)

Kevin Bieksa hits Ryan Jones before scrapping with him. (photo credit: Edmonton Journal)

Up next is home versus Nashville. I will not be attending that game in person. In fact, I am even thinking of cross the Fraser River to the suburbs to keep away. I like this short two game winning streak the Canucks are on right now, so I will stay away. Those nasty Predators always seem to win when I am present in the building they are playing and it doesn’t have to be the Canucks, but I will tell you that story another time.  Tonight, I’m content. The Oilers still suck and the Canucks sucked less for a 2-1 win.
Justine Galo
@Aviewfromabroad