Lost, disorganized and defeated
If you’re thinking of jumping off the Patullo Bridge after the Canucks’ record 7th consecutive home loss, think again; it’s closed after a massive fire on Sunday morning.
The numbers aren’t pretty:
- In their last 7 home games, the Canucks gained just 2 points, including 1 point in their just-concluded 5-game home stand
- They were outscored 30-19.
- The powerplay connected on only 4 of 22 opportunities (18.2%).
- Conversely, their penalty kill allowed their opponents to connect on a combined 7 of 22 chances against (31.8%).
- During this 7-game home losing streak, the Canucks only held the lead a combined 78 minutes and 19 seconds.
- Even when they scored first – they did in 3 of those 7 games – they obviously couldn’t hang on and the Canucks now have the 9th worst record in the NHL when scoring first.
- They’ve lost a lot of ground to the other Western Conference teams. They’re only 1 point up on 9th place Colorado, 2 points up on 10th place Columbus and 3 points up on 11th place Minnesota. And all those teams have games in hand on Vancouver.
A couple of seasons ago, we were at least able to find some consolation in a lot of their losses. Early in the 2006/2007 season, the Canucks lost a few games, but at least outworked, outshot and outchanced their opponents. Back then, we lauded Alain Vigneault for changing the team’s culture. Recently, we’ve only seen that work ethic in spurts. In very short spurts.
In fact, the Canucks have been horribly inconsistent for the last year or so. From January 2008 to April 2008, they put together a 17-19-6 record, including the 1-7 meltdown in the last 8 games of the season. So far this season, they’ve only had one really good month (November, when they put together an 8-3-2 record) and a bunch of less than stellar months (a combined 14-16-4 in October, December and January). More importantly however, it’s not just the fact that they’ve lost a bunch of games, but also how they’ve looked losing them. Especially in the last two weeks during this record slump, they’ve looked lost, disorganized and defeated.
Over the last week, the Canucks blogosphere has been trying to figure out what has happened to our beloved team; Alanah, Mike and Sean all have posts on the subject and they all revolve around the same guy: Alain Vigneault.
In an effort to find some semblance of identity in 2008 alone, the Canucks booted their old captain (two if you count Linden’s treatment), shed the vestiges of the past (Morrison) and canned the old GM for not getting it done when he had a chance to make a difference. In their place they took the unorthodox steps of naming an agent their GM and a goalie their captain and actually brought in high priced free agents (in Demitra and Sundin).
New look, same result.
Well, not exactly the same result. In the summer, Vigneault was adamant that he ran the system he did last year because of the personnel he had. In response, Gillis brought in Sundin, Demitra and Bernier to improve the scoring lines and brought in Johnson and Hordichuk to improve the 4th line. The result is that the Canucks have 5 points less after 47 games than they did last year. (And yes, I realize that Luongo was injured for more than half of those games, but then again, how many of the teams they lost to had Luongo or a goalie of Luongo’s stature?)
For some reason, the default position of Vigneault’s coaching philosophy is to fall back to the mentality that he’s coaching a junior team full of precocious children who have no idea what they’re doing and no awareness of how serious this situation is.
At the AHL level, that might fly, but at the NHL level and with this team? It didn’t fly well last year and it’s not working so well now.
And it’s not that I give a toss about insulting players of “calibre” either—they’re grown ups and they can take it—but I don’t think it’s very effective. Stuffing a player like Pavol Demitra on a line with Darcy Hordichuk says more about a childish coaching staff having a temper tantrum than it does about Demitra’s recent performance.
His regular and public calling out of these players surely may have had an impact as well. Calling them into the coach’s office and showing them their missed plays or missed assignments is one thing; letting the entire world know how much they sucked is another. And doing the latter on a regular basis just doesn’t seem like good management practice. In this week’s The Crazy Canucks episode, I used the analogy of a nagging wife and her husband. The first couple of nags might get a positive reaction, but after a constant stream of nagging, the poor husband would more likely just tune her out. I wonder if the Canucks are at that point where they’re tuning out the coach.
When Mike Gillis was named the Canucks GM this summer, he said that his most important decision was regarding the future of his head coach, and of course, he chose to stick with Vigneault. I’m wondering now if he made the right choice. I don’t want to sit myself firmly on the “Fire Alain Vigneault” bandwagon just yet, though I do wonder how much of the Canucks’ play is a result of his system and coaching methods.
Now, I’ll admit that there were some positives from tonight’s game. Forgetting that they actually led by 2 goals with only 3 minutes left in the second period, it was nice to see them come back from a third period, 2-goal deficit to get the loser point. Surely, the team can draw on this to turn their season around. At least I hope they do or we might see a horde of Canucks fans heading for the Alex Fraser.