What a wild and crazy year of change 2014 has been for the Vancouver Canucks.
It really has been a roller coaster ride for Canucks fans this year.
Believe it or not, the year started off with a lot of promise under John Tortorella’s Canucks. The team had just finished off their best month of the season, going 10-1-2 in December of 2013. They were sitting pretty in the Pacific Division.
They missed the playoffs, hired and fired a bunch of people and changed half of their roster. Heck, they even changed the food vendors and in-house DJ at Rogers Arena.
The team appears to have turned it around to some degree before the end of the calendar year and fans feel good about their Canucks again.
From a personal standpoint, this has been a great year, my first full year writing for Vancity Buzz. We covered the Vancouver Canucks like never before on this website and I hope you’ve enjoyed reading it as much as we have enjoyed writing it.
Lets take a look back at the biggest Canucks stories from 2014:
10. The Moral Victory in LA
Image: Harry How/Getty Images
The Canucks prepared to play a January 13th game against the Los Angeles Kings at Staples Center in a bit of an unconventional way. Just nine days after Dustin Brown injured Canucks goaltender Roberto Luongo in a crease collision, head coach John Tortorella let it be known that the Kings would not get away with it.
“’I don’t care about the penalties tonight. We need to stand up for ourselves. Our number one goalie was hurt the last time we played. We’ve been shoved around. At least grab a chunk of flesh here.’”
The Canucks showed a lot of heart and desire, playing blood and guts hockey that we have never seen from this group. The game featured 109 penalty minutes, including fights from Ryan Kesler, Kevin Bieksa and Tom Sestito.
Tom Sestito’s night was probably the most comical. Enacting revenge for careless play from Jordan Nolan of the Kings, Sestito dropped the gloves with Nolan early in the first period. Nolan turtled, but that didn’t stop Sestito from pummeling him. Sestito received 27 minutes in penalties and was ejected from the game after just 1 second of ice time.
The Canucks played the Kings hard, but ultimately lost 1-0. Still, the game was seen as somewhat of a moral victory.
— TSN Radio Vancouver (@TSN1040) January 14, 2014
It later became a punchline, but many were lauding the Canucks for a job well done against one of the best teams in the league, despite the loss.
The Canucks lost the next night in Anaheim 9-1.
9. Torts Storms the Room & the January Collapse
Just three games after gooning it up in LA, the Canucks were back home to play a Saturday night game against the Flames. Noted Tortorella nemesis, Bob Hartley, decided to start his fourth line to start the game.
Torts, infuriated by the move, decided to respond with his fourth line and prepared them for a line brawl. As soon as the puck was dropped, chaos ensued. All ten skaters on the ice were involved in a fight, with eight players being ejected. Kellan Lain, who was playing in his first NHL game, was one of the eight players ejected just two seconds into the game.
Each team played the remainder of the game with just 4 defencemen each. Dan Hamhuis had over 36 minutes of ice time.
John Tortorella was furious with the developments, thinking that the Flames had done this intentionally. When the first period was over, he stormed down the hall, towards the Flames dressing room.
While he didn’t get face-to-face with Hartley, Torts still earned a 15-day suspension.
The Canucks beat Calgary on fight night, but January was the beginning of the end for Vancouver. They went 4-9-2 in the month, which started their tailspin out of the playoffs.
8. Henrik Ironman Over
Henrik Sedin saw his ironman streak come to an end in 2014 when he was unable to play on January 21 due to a rib injury. Henrik played 679 consecutive games (749 including playoffs), all with Vancouver.
Henrik’s injury delayed the playing of his 1000th game, which he eventually got to play upon his return to the lineup.
The streak was a great example of how tough the Sedins are, something they get very little credit for outside of BC.
7. Big Name Free Agent Signings
For the first time in a few years, the Canucks had some cap space to work with entering the offseason. New general manager Jim Benning made a splash on the opening day of free agency, signing goaltender Ryan Miller to a three-year contract worth $6 million per season.
— Strombone (@strombone1) July 1, 2014
Two days later, Benning found a new linemate for the Sedins. The Canucks signed Radim Vrbata to a two-year deal worth $5 million per season.
While the Miller contract was fairly controversial among fans in Vancouver, both contracts signaled that the Canucks were not going to be rebuilding anytime soon. The 2014-15 Canucks were serious about winning.
6. Tank Nation
Fans expected a step back in 2014, but nothing like what we saw at the end of the 2013-14 season. An injury-filled Canucks team tumbled down the standings and missed the playoffs for the first time in 6 seasons. They were out of the playoffs so early, they had their own fans quietly cheering for losses to improve their draft choice.
Calgary wins #tanknation is happy
— Taj (@taj1944) April 10, 2014
The Canucks ended up doing reasonably for Tank Nation, getting the 6th pick in the 2014 draft and selecting BC boy Jake Virtanen.
Understandably, season ticket sales became an issue. In fact, the team’s sellout streak ended in October of this year.
Image: The Canadian Press/Darryl Dyck
Tragedy struck the Canucks family this year.
First, news spread that Gino Odjick had terminal heart disease. Gino had only months left to live.
Fans rallied outside of Vancouver General Hospital to show their support:
Gino’s old coach, Pat Quinn, passed away suddenly this year as well. The news shook the hockey world. Pat Quinn was only 71.
Before falling ill, Quinn was inducted into the team’s ring of honour in April.
4. Trader Jim
Canucks GM Jim Benning didn’t ease into his new job. On draft day, ‘Trader Jim’ was born.
After 10 seasons with the Canucks, Ryan Kesler finally got his trade wish. And because he had a no-trade clause, he essentially hand picked the Ducks while leaving the Canucks hamstrung.
People are surprised the quiet, humble Sedins weren't big fans of the miserable, arrogant Kesler? Really? Really?
— Shane M (@SocialAssassin2) June 28, 2014
The return for Kesler was underwhelming, yet suddenly the Canucks had depth and youth. And peace of mind.
3. Mike Gillis Fired
Image: Associated Press
The roller coaster ride that was the tenure of GM Mike Gillis came to an end in April of this year.
The fans begin a "Fire Gillis" chant. #canucks
— Hosea Cheung (@hoseacheung) April 8, 2014
The day after fans chanted “fire Gillis” at Rogers Arena, Gillis was relieved of his duties. The most successful general manager in team history was remarkably unpopular in the city and ownership had no choice but to fire him.
In 2011 Mike Gillis was named NHL GM of the Year. Rewarded with contract ext in 2012. Today fired. Its a fickle business.
— David Amber (@DavidAmber) April 8, 2014
Gillis was at the helm for the Canucks rise to prominence, but it’s his fall from grace which sticks most vividly in the minds of most Canucks fans. The mishandling of Roberto Luongo, likely the first image that comes to mind.
Gillis was the first domino to fall, with head coach John Tortorella inevitably getting the ax as well. A new management team would be in charge going forward.
2. Trevor Linden is a Canuck Again
A team in need of a personality makeover, the Canucks decided to hire the most popular player in Canucks history to become their new President of Hockey Operations. The move was surprising, but gave the team a lot of credibility in the eyes of many.
— Hockey Central (@SNHockeyCentral) April 9, 2014
Though Linden had no NHL management experience, he appeared to strike all of the right notes early in his tenure. He was able to convince Boston to allow him to hire Jim Benning as his new general manager, before the NHL draft. He was also able to convince Willie Desjardins to forego a chance to coach Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins and choose Vancouver instead.
1. Luongo Traded
Image: Canadian Press
The trade that once seemed inevitable, then looked impossible was finally made a reality on March 4 of this year.
Thank you Vancouver for a great 8 years! Really appreciative of all the support especially the last little while. I will miss the LOOO'ing!!
— Strombone (@strombone1) March 5, 2014
After being benched in the Heritage Classic, the greatest goaltender in Canucks history was traded back to the Florida Panthers in exchange for Shawn Matthias and Jacob Markstrom. It was bitter sweet for Canucks fans. Luongo wanted to go. He had to go. But saying goodbye is never easy, particularly with a Canucks legend.