What’s the best way to land yourself on the front page in Vancouver these days? Well, you could riot, then boast about it on Facebook. You could get elected to City Council, then deny a very large special interest group access to core funding. Or you could be Mike Duco.
by Jason Kurylo
Mike Duco is a left winger whose career has until this week been summed up in one word: bush. He’s spent most of his adult life ankle-deep in obscurity, suiting up for just 12 NHL games since 2008. (Considering the fact that all 12 of those games were with the Florida Panthers, one could argue against the ‘NHL’ label.) He’s had exactly zero goals and zero assists, but sat in the penalty box for 60 solid minutes in those games.
On July 9, Duco was traded from the Panthers to the Presidents’ Trophy-winning, Stanley Cup runner-up Vancouver Canucks for the rights to Sergei Shirokov. The flashy young Russian was so frustrated by trying to crack the loaded Canucks lineup that he balked at another year in the Canucks farm system – Shirokov bolted for the KHL, so Mike Gillis called his old pal Dale Tallon (you know, the guy who took Steve Bernier off the Canucks’ hands, and let the New York Islanders pick up Michael Grabner?). Boom, boom, the Panthers have Shirokov’s rights, and the Canucks have Mike Duco’s knuckles on the payroll.
So what’s the big deal, you ask? Two teams swapped career minor leaguers – who cares, right? Pretty much true, until Mike Duco was outed in the Vancouver Sun for a series of posts he’d made to his Twitter account during the Canucks long playoff run. (Always timely, the free daily Vancouver Metro plastered the story on its front page, pictured above, two days later.) Stepping away from his annual pilgrimmage to local golf courses, Duco dragged his knuckles across his Blackberry keypad: he posted that he was “sick of watching the Sedins dive and lay on the ice”, then followed it up by taunting Vancouver’s #1 goalkeeper: “ha… solid night, Luongo.” Not exactly the kind of material that endears you to your new co-workers…
Mike Gillis is a cagey GM – who also has a Twitter account. Chances are, he knew about these comments before he made the deal for Duco. If so, he’s playing some interesting psychological games with his superstars by bringing in this “role player”. Luongo rose above Ryan Kesler’s comments that he looked shaky during the Olympics to win the gold medal. Then, Luongo merely followed it up with the best statistical year of his career. Maybe Gillis wants Daniel and Henrik to add a mean streak to their Art Ross winning game as well. Maybe Gillis thinks Mike Milbury calling them “Thelma & Louise” was just the kind of motivation the Sedins need, so he brought it right into the dressing room. Or who knows, maybe the big man was as surprised by the social media fracas as anyone else.
Either way, Duco needs to work his tail off if he wants to make this roster – first of all, because the Canucks have one of the deepest organizations in the league, even with the loss of bottom six guys like Tanner Glass, Rick Rypien and Raffi Torres to free agency. Also, Duco’s got a two-way deal this year – how’s an 800% raise for motivation? His AHL salary is $60K, compared with his NHL rate of $550K. If Duco wants to build any kind of rapport with anyone in the Canucks organization, on or off the ice, he’s going to have to be much smarter when he steps into the dressing room at Rogers Arena than he was was on Twitter in June.
Jason Kurylo is the creator and co-host of Pucked in the Head, a hockey podcast with listeners on four continents. He also writes Seven Things, a blog that balances knowledgeable hockey analysis with an admittedly bent sense of humour. When he is not memorizing useless hockey trivia, Jason can be found making googly eyes at his wife Nadia and young daughter Milla. He is almost certainly eating a chewy chocolate treat at the very moment that you read this.
Jason [at] puckedinthehead.com
This post was inspired by discussions on the Pucked in the Head podcast and this Seven Things article about Glen Sather’s multiple failgasms in the Ranger head office.
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