The Canucks have been an unmitigated disaster since the turn of the calendar year. Is there anything to be done? Is there any hope left? Or is it time for these Canucks to pack it in, and take a nap till the summer comes.
In many professional ice hockey arenas, the ice is concealed on most days beneath a basketball court, which may serve one of the 30 NBA franchises. The ice is quite literally the floor on which the largest and more impressive stadiums in North America stand. It would seem however, in this season, that the ice that lies at the foot of Rogers Arena could not possibly be the lowest possible point in the building. It is as if the 2013-14 Canucks have done everything in their power to dig deeper, more expansive depths for themselves to occupy. Each game it would seem a new level is excavated to hide the heads of these broken, floundering professional athletes.
[Keep FanXchange in mind for your Canucks tickets]
2014: A Year Of Horrors For The Canucks
Since the turn of the calendar year the Canucks are 7-18-3 and have been outscored by a total of 40 goals in those games. They are 3-12-1 in their last 16. Last week, in a herculean accomplishment of mind-bending proportions, the habitually goal-starved Canucks took a three-goal lead into the third period, at home, against the mortally horrific New York Islanders, playing without their offensive MVP. Even against a team like this, one that spends so much time in the cellar you would think they were a gang of sommeliers, the Canucks had to be happy. Three goals in any game for the Canucks is akin to the Blackhawks scoring fifty. They had previously scored three goals in a game only thrice in 21 previous games. And then, as you are no doubt aware, the tiny, talent-devoid Islanders erupted for seven goals in the third period to defeat Vancouver, 7-4. To call the game a choke-job is to insult the Heimlich maneuver.
All teams go through slumps and surges. It is the music of a hockey season. And if there is an orchestra scoring this Vancouver team’s season, they are at present slamming the bass drums with goalie sticks while the trumpets toot out the mournful notes of a funeral hymn. By all accounts, this squad, largely unchanged from a division championship in 2012 (outside of the crease, that is), is dead on arrival. There is no fight in the skates, no finish on the blade. They have traded their second franchise goalie in 11 months. They are now locked in with starter Eddie Lack, who is giving up more than 3 goals a game in March and has a save percentage that resembles an FM radio station that plays church music at 3AM. Their newly minted head coach, brought to BC to fire up players who were appraised as soft and punch-less, has given up trying to instill those values in his team and has refocused his attention on attempting to do the punching on his own.
How Bad Is The Bleeding
To put it simply: things are not looking so good in Vancouver. In this long, dark tunnel, is there a light to be seen twinkling at the end of the path? Yes, they are still a game over .500. Yes, they are still only five points out of a playoff spot. Yes, super-prospect Nicklas Jensen has arrived, if only temporarily, and shown flashes of the brilliance Canucks fans are pining for.
However, much of the team’s lingering statistical relevance must be attributed to a less than horrid fall, and an inspired December. It is only due to those bursts that the Canucks remain a factor in the playoff race. They have been arguably one of the five worst teams in the league since 2014 arrived, and without so much as a timid, fluttering heartbeat to wake up the echoes, it would appear that the team that went 10-1-2 in December is a ghost. That the disastrous actions in Calgary, the blowouts to the Ducks and Stars, and the recent era-defining collapse to the Islanders have broken the will of this team, and left the players no longer skating the surface of the rink they call home, but using their blades to gouge out deeper and deeper holes to hide themselves in.
What, If Anything, Can Be Done?
Is it time to light the fuse and send the Sedin-era Canucks blown to the wind? Has the Tortorella experiment affirmed itself as failure? A mismatch of a raging, blustering lunatic in a room of calm, easy-going figure skaters? Should Mike Gillis go for the absurd hat trick of trading three starting goalies in a single calendar year? Or should he be thrown out with the trash as well? The answers to these questions will play out over the next 13 games. Three of their next four are against teams below them in the standings. They absolutely must show up and handle their business to have any chance. If by the time the fifth game comes, an absolutely critical tilt in St. Paul, they could already be finished. The six following games have two games against Anaheim, and two games against the Avalanche, teams the Canucks couldn’t catch if they were allowed to play 40 extra games. They will have to win the games they should win, and steal a few that they shouldn’t to get in to the playoffs. If there is any hint of fight left in these men, if there is an ounce of belief in their coach, if this team has enough respect for itself to fight against the dying light, then it will show itself now, or submit to the will of an owner who can be nothing but disappointed in every aspect of the 2013-14 Canucks. Now is the time to wake up. That, or stay in the hole, and sleep until summer.
M.A Dillon is a former professor at NYU’s Gallatin School of Individualized Study and a staff writer for The HockeyWriters.com covering the Vancouver Canucks.