Arguably the top prize in this year’s trade deadline was Canucks sniper Ryan Kesler. The Pittsburgh Penguins were all in on Kesler until the team had qualms about whether or not Gillis had permission to trade his own guy. They botched what was the best goaltending team in the NHL and their coach is a hot mess with a very short fuse.
Simply put, records be damned, the Vancouver Canucks are the worst team in the NHL.
Roberto Luongo Trade
Going into this past offseason, the Canucks were worried about which goaltender would be dealt. It was a good problem for the Canucks to have, they had the best tandem in the entire NHL. Both Roberto Luongo and Cory Schneider are capable of being a starting goaltender, but the Canucks couldn’t keep both of them.
Vancouver wanted to keep Cory Schneider, but Luongo had a bloated contract, eight years left, $64 million. No team wanted to take on Luongo’s salary, so, Schneider became the expendable man in the net. On the day of the NHL Draft, the Canucks traded Schneider to the New Jersey Devils and Luongo finally became the undisputed number one goalie in Vancouver.
Fast forward to March of this year, after the Winter Olympics, Canucks coach John Tortorella (more on him later) started backup goalie Eddie Lack due to Luongo’s jet lag. Lack posted a shutout, his third of the season, and as a result, Tortorella rewarded Lack with the start in the Heritage Classic. That snub was the final straw for Luongo. He wanted out. Just before the trade deadline, the Vancouver Canucks traded their disgruntled goalie to the Florida Panthers for goalie Jacob Markstrom and a prospect. So, basically, the Canucks traded Schneider and Luongo for a total of Bo Horvat, Jacob Markstrom, and Shawn Matthias, not exactly a king’s ransom. The jury is still out on Horvat as he is still playing in the OHL, but even if he does turn out to be a star player, the Canucks still come out as losers in this one.
In less than a year, the Canucks went from a goaltending team of Luongo-Schneider to a team consisting of Eddie Lack and Jacob Markstrom, a major downgrade.
John Tortorella’s Short Fuse and Nothing to Back It Up
When the Vancouver Canucks hired JohnTortorella as Alain Vigneault’s replacement, many people thought it would make the Canucks tougher considering Torts’ aggressive and fiery attitude, but, so far, the hiring of Tortorella has become a tremendous bust.
The Canucks sit seven points out from Minnesota for the final playoff spot and it doesn’t seem like they are going to catch up to the Wild. Tortorella has mismanaged the team, most notably the Luongo fiasco that led to his ousting, and his fiery personality has done more harm than good for the Canucks.
Tortorella’s intensity led to what has been their biggest black eye this season. In January, Tortorella tried to confront the Calgary Flames after the Flames started the game using their fourth line that led to a line brawl right off the bat. Tortorella had to be physically restrained as he tried to force his way into the Flames’ locker room.
Now matter if you think the Flames started all of this by starting their fourth line, Tortorella was way out of line and he embarrassed the Canucks franchise with his temper. Tortorella was suspended 15 days for his actions.
He has been a disaster for the Canucks this season. Vancouver still had a very talented team even without Schneider, but under Tortorella they have underachieved. This reminds me of the Boston Red Sox teams of 2012 and 2013. In 2013, the Red Sox hired a similarly hotheaded leader in Bobby Valentine in an attempt to give the Red Sox some discipline. In reality, the Red Sox finished last in their division and as one of the worst teams in baseball. Valentine was fired after that season and replaced by a mild mannered manager in John Farrell and, if you are a baseball fan, the rest is history.
I think the same exact thing will happen in Vancouver, Tortorella will be fired after just one season on the job after this experiment blew up in their faces. Hopefully for Canucks fans, they will continue to mimic the Red Sox.
Mike Gillis: The “General Manager”
Normally management will put their trust in their general manager to make moves to help better the team, I mean it’s why they were hired after all. However, in Vancouver, it might not be the case.
When the Canucks were trying to trade Ryan Kesler, the Pittsburgh Penguins were prepared to make a run for him. That was until the Penguins were concerned about whether or not Gillis even had permission to trade Kesler. ESPN The Magazine’s Senior NHL writer Craig Custance later reported that management eventually gave the OK to deal Kesler, whether or not Gillis or management decided if the offer by Pittsburgh was worthy has yet to be known.
If Canucks get the return they're looking for, they do have the green light from ownership to make a Kesler deal today.
— Craig Custance (@CraigCustance) March 5, 2014
This still shows a lack of trust by management towards Gillis. Gillis was hired to make moves and trade whoever he feels would help the team in the long term, but instead other team’s are questioning whether or not he can even make moves and that is troublesome.
Canucks fans have bashed Gillis and his moves by editing his Wikipedia page, with someone editing it to call him the “worst GM in Canucks history” and the “Fire Mike Gillis” Facebook page has been on fire since the Luongo trade. Again though, is it really Gillis’ fault if he wasn’t allowed to make certain deals or did management just not believe in him anymore?
Gillis, much like Tortorella, appears to be a lame duck general manager and the Canucks don’t really want him to make moves that will affect the future of the team if Gillis isn’t even a part of the long term future. If Gillis is indeed a lame duck GM, then why didn’t the team fire Gillis before the trade deadline? Do the Canucks think they can get a larger ransom for Kesler and Alex Edler? Possibly, but they might have gotten some pretty nice pieces this season as well, the Canucks were looking to acquire Ryan Spooner and Matt Bartkowski for Edler, that’s a nice package for the future of Vancouver, but they needed the Kesler deal to go through and that falls at the feet of management.
They traded Luongo, but they didn’t trade Kesler or Edler? If you’re going to blow up a team, then blow up a team. Don’t just partially tear it down and call it good.
The Buffalo Sabres may have the worst record in the NHL, but at least they have an excuse, this season was a rebuilding one all along. The Canucks have no excuse to be playing this poorly and the Canucks front office is solely to blame for the team’s shortcomings.
Do you believe the Vancouver Canucks are the worst team in the NHL? Comment below or send me a Tweet, @MarkWGraham