The following is a guest blog by Wayne O’Brien. You can follow him on Twitter: @Waynesplanet
So this is it. No it was not sudden. This was not a surprise. This was a long, drawn out, painful sickness that began its infection shortly after a wicked shot by former Canucks prodigy Cody Hodgson on January 7, 2012. Hours after that win the Canucks found themselves with a sense of accomplishment. It felt a sense of completion or even closure. After suffering one of the most painful springs in recent memory they were victorious, even if only for a night. Then it happened.
“I think every athlete has their window of opportunity, and you just have to jump on it. You never know when it can end. So I’m just trying to live large while I have the opportunity.”
– Hope Solo
The infection was ingested into the core of this lineup and they have never been the same. Two years later, we have witnessed everything good and inspiring about this team either fall off, wither away, shrivel up or just be simply amputated off this former beast. The goals have gone. The game has gone. Hell, even the goalies are gone.
What we have left is a decaying lump of parts that seemed so cherished and useful in a former time. So sought after and desired, they were the Kate Upton’s of the hockey business. Mobile defencemen and skilled forwards in abundance have become slow unsteady heartbeats of this team. The ‘window’ as we know it is shut. And the faster you get used to it, the better you’ll feel.
“Buy, buy, says the sign in the shop window; Why, why, says the junk in the yard.”
– Paul McCartney
The Canucks in 2012 and 2013 continued to buy and buy even as many could tell you something wasn’t feeling right. The sickness had spread at this point past a general malaise to now infecting individual members of this team. Numbers declined while analysts on panels decided against Vancouver with their playoff predictions. All the while general manager Michael D. Gillis continued to believe and continued to buy. Sammy Pahlsson for a pair of 4th round picks. A burgeoning star centreman (Hodgson) for a brute raw winger (Kassian). A rich 4 year deal for 31 year old Alex Burrows.
The next year saw much of the same regular season success followed by another first round exit. Yet still we continued to buy and buy. A mega six year deal for Alexander Edler. A four year deal for Christopher Higgins who before this had only been given contracts of 2 years, 1 year, 1 year, and 2 years. Of course we have the peculiar case of Derek Roy. A second round pick as well as a young, puck moving, offensive defenseman Kevin Connaughton who still holds WHL junior records with the Vancouver Giants for most goals and most points in a season by a defenseman. With the bounty they paid for Roy at this year’s deadline the Canucks could have possibly landed Thomas Vanek or Matt Moulson. Think about that. Roy at the time had 4 goals and 18 assists when he was traded for the second time in twelve months while Vanek has 21 goals and 53 points and Moulson had registered 18 goals and 40 points. Was this just a case of an overpriced market in this year’s trade deadline or just another indicator of Mike Gillis’ inability to get value for his assets? And let’s just pretend I have time to get into David Booth. If we had discovered the so called ‘junk in the yard’ maybe a season earlier we might be dealing with a realization of a re-tool or rebuild a year earlier and still have a few more morsels in our shallow cupboard.
“Trying to predict the future is like trying to drive down a country road at night with no lights while looking out the back window.”
– Peter Drucker
There are plenty who take great joy in the current state of this franchise. Most often it is the fans of our beautiful neighbours to the east in the province of Alberta. They laugh and gloat at the closing of a long opened window. Many forget the Vancouver teams of the early 2000s were often ‘sexy’ picks to win championships. Even in the mid-late 2000’s the Canucks were often a dark horse team with a prime Roberto Luongo in net. I have been wondering when there was ever a window of more than one year for any team from Alberta since 1990. With the team from Vancouver living in opulent comfort since 2003, having only missed the playoffs once in 11 years, this team is poised to spend a spring on the outside looking in. Neither team from Alberta has been a horse in the race since well before Mayor Ford was a seen in a video with a convicted crack dealer. So I ask why all the glee and giddiness? I doubt what is about to happen to Vancouver’s future will in any way mimic or model what has happened on the other side of the Rockies.
Finally I will leave you with a quote from an American writer on business management practices, best known for his book ‘In Search of Excellence’
“If a window of opportunity appears, don’t pull down the shade.”
– Tom Peters