The Canucks are officially tied for last in the NHL with 67 points. They’re tied with Toronto and Edmonton – one team that’s actively trying to tank, the other that’s the worst every. single. year.
Before the season I predicted they’d miss the playoffs, but this bad?
Don’t forget management thought they could challenge for place in the post-season two weeks before the trade deadline. Willie was coaching to win.
That’s critical. It’s depressing too.
To be fair, the Canucks aren’t alone. Aside from the Leafs, all Canadian teams fell far short of expectations.
Calgary, Winnipeg, Montreal, Ottawa – all were playoff teams last year, and all are in the bottom-ten this year.
But with a 4-1 loss to the Sharks Tuesday, and a nine-game losing streak going strong, the Canucks are the worst.
— Cory (@nine30shineshop) March 30, 2016
This isn’t meant to be depressing, it’s supposed to be exciting. Any of those top-three draft picks would be electric in Vancouver.
— Jen Allan (@getthepuckuout) March 30, 2016
And the season is almost done too!
1. Discipline coming for Jake?
Virtanen took a major penalty and was tossed from the game in the first period for a hit on Polak.
Before I show you the hit, some overblown reaction from a San Jose news outlet:
— CSN Sharks News (@CSNSharks) March 30, 2016
The exact type of hit the NHL wants out? So it was a headshot, a shot in the numbers from behind, or a flying elbow?
Watch the hit yourself.
Late? Sure. Blindside? Polak didn’t see it coming, so also sure.
But dirty? Dangerous? Headshot?
It was a shoulder to shoulder hit. Don’t believe me? Polak returned to the game, only leaving to be closely examined in the quiet room.
Yet Virtanen was tossed from the game.
Is it a conspiracy?
This is Vancouver. The crazy house prices are a Christy Clark conspiracy. The bike lanes are an environmentalist conspiracy.
So yes, every decision against the Canucks is a conspiracy.
2. The heart of the tank
When Biega the over-acheiving AHLer is playing 18m, Hutton the rookie’s at 20m, and Barkowski the invisible is at 21m, your defence has problems.
But that’s hardly news.
Check out the Canucks’ defence AKA the Sharks’ offence on San Jose’s go ahead goal:
See why I called it San Jose’s offence? Biega and McCann both passed the puck to Sharks players. All three of Biega, Hutton and McCann could’ve stopped the goal.
Growing pains for McCann and Hutton? You live with that. And Biega’s no 2nd pairing defenceman, so that’ll change too.
3. Are Canucks fans ready for a rebuild?
One interesting/strange sentiment that’s been growing in the past couple weeks is members of the media wondering if Canucks fans are ready for a “rebuild”.
Imac was the first to bring it up on the radio last week, and earlier Tuesday, Don Taylor and Farhan Lalji continued, saying Rogers Arena is emptier these days.
Basically, they think Canucks fans don’t have the stomach for it.
I asked my Twitter followers if Canucks fans are ready for a rebuild and got some good answers but one related very closely to what these media guys are saying:
@omarcanuck What frustrates me to no end is fans who want the full rebuild but then spend every game bitching about the team/coach/GM.
— Deedlbug53 (@deedlbug53) March 29, 2016
It seems Deedlebug, Imac, Farhan and Donny are suggesting that fans who accept a rebuild must accept everything the team does during that rebuild. What they’ve missed is protesting losses and protesting other decisions are entirely separate.
Fans of the rebuild are not upset about the Canucks loss to Chicago, or even the team’s current nine-game losing streak. That doesn’t mean they have to be happy Linden Vey was playing 20+ minutes for several games.
Fans of the rebuild aren’t overly concerned about the recent shutout streak. That doesn’t mean they should be happy Jannik Hansen, the team’s best scorer this year, can’t crack the power play.
Deedlebug’s comment highlights the two separate questions up for discussion:
- Are fans ready for a rebuild?
- Do fans think the current management can be the right group to make it happen?
First, to the first one (if you want to skip the tweets, they’re all different ways of saying ‘yes’):
@omarcanuck as long as it’s not a rebuild like the oilers have had 10 years no playoffs
— Kyle Shanks (@shanks1919) March 29, 2016
@omarcanuck as long as they are noticeably getting better.
— Jorge I. Castillo (@jicastillo) March 29, 2016
The second question is where the debate is.
@omarcanuck hundo percent. Do I trust that this mgmt can successfully manage a rebuild in only 2-3 years? we will have to see.
— Nucks Wingman (@NucksWingman) March 29, 2016
I didn’t put the question to Twitter because I know the results. So do you if you pay any attention to this team. What have Canucks fans been upset with in the past two years? Amongst others:
- the Miller/Sbisa/Dorsett contracts
- being told a retool would work when they knew better
- seeing the Sedins/Horvat play limited minutes in last year’s playoffs when they were the team’s best players
- trading draft picks for current players, when the plan is to build through the draft
- the players who were/were not deployed in 3-on-3 overtime earlier this season
- mistakes such as the loss of Corrado and the Tryamkin contract mistake
- Dorsett and Prust playing huge minutes with games expiring earlier this season, despite losing many leads
- the lack of foresight going into this year’s trade deadline, ending up with zero returns for players that could’ve helped a contender
There are many more, obviously. Point is, they’re all coaching/management decisions and accepting a rebuild does not mean accepting decisions that don’t support that rebuild.
It means accepting coaching decisions that push the kids’ development, accepting trades that add draft picks, or trading age for youth (such as trading Miller if the opportunity arose).
Anna laid down the hammer with her response:
@omarcanuck yes if org was upfront about it. Also those years could’ve already started
— Anna Forsyth (@aforsyth03) March 29, 2016
She’s right. Fans should remember Benning and Linden were still hoping to make the playoffs two weeks before the trade deadline.
Rather than looking to the future, they were looking to this spring. Instead of doing their homework on trading assets such as Vrbata and Hamhuis, they were talking about how both were important contributors, and would help in the playoff push.
That’s a lost year, and from where I sit, the Canucks are lucky the fans are still engaged and haven’t resorted to “Fire Benning” chants or tuning the team out completely.
Cory’s response wins:
— Cory (@nine30shineshop) March 29, 2016
4. Thinking about Hamhuis
We all know one of the biggest decisions the Canucks make this summer will be if they’ll re-sign Dan Hamhuis. We’ve been talking about it since December, and you can expect to hear about him even more as July approaches.
Hamhuis spoke after practice Monday, and thanks to some great probing questions from the Province’s Ben Kuzma, he had some thoughtful answers.
One thing that remained clear – Hamhuis really wants to stay in Vancouver regardless of where the team is in it’s development cycle.
“I don’t think the whole picture for me to be here is to win the Stanley Cup. That (mentorship) is something I care about deeply. I think there’s so much more to this game.
“I think God put me here in a position like this to make a difference for other guys on the team, to help them out in any way in the community.”
Kuz probed further, asking if Hamhuis’ desire to stay with the Canucks has changed at all with all the time he’s spent with the kids.
“There’s a lot of young guys here right now and it’s real exciting for them to get their chance to be in the NHL…
“It’s a huge step from the AHL, it’s a huge step from the KHL and junior. I went through those steps. It’s a tough adjustment on the ice, it’s a tough adjustment off the ice.
“I got to do it in Nashville and I think it might be a little more difficult in a market like Vancouver, so (I’ll do) anything to help these guys be confident and make that transition.”
Verdict? Keep him.
5. Give Burr a chance
Even with his time as a Canuck potentially expiring, and with Willie burying him on the fourth line all year long, Burrows continues to be one of the hardest working Canucks.
This shift epitomizes what Burrows is all about, as he falls down twice during the shift, yet keeps fighting and winning puck battles, and eventually gets it to the net.
Against San Jose Tuesday, Burrows was second amongst Canucks forwards in corsi-for percentage and he was tied for the team lead in shots.
This despite playing only 14 minutes.
With six games left in the season, and possibly in his time as a Canuck, is it too much to ask for the team to give the guy some legitimate linemates? A respectable amount of playing time?
Hopefully fans will remember him for being the heart of this team, as he was when he did this.
6. Look forward to Horvat
No one predicted this sophomore slump for Horvat.
He had the game and the work ethic to bypass that issue, they said.
He did too. What he didn’t have was a game developed enough to handle being the Canucks’ second-line and shut down centre for most of the season.
With Brandon Sutter back next year, and with Granlund around for the full season, you have to hope Horvat’s not put in such a tough position again.
I say you have to hope because with Willie you never know. He said just last week he thinks Horvat is better suited to the defensive side of the game.
Against the Sharks, with Granlund back in the lineup after missing seven games, Horvat still only took 40 percent of the o-zone starts. Granlund took 62.5. So don’t be surprised to see Sutter come back and get plum scoring assigments next year.
If Horvat does get some decent looks, though, here’s the kind of stuff he’s capable of.
BONUS: Something to think about
Note: Thanks to Ryan “the (self proclaimed) gif guy” Biech for his help with this post.