This Is The End – April 26, 2015
With the Canucks bounced from the 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs, Chris, Matt & J.J. got together for episode 62 of C4 to break down what went wrong and if anything went right.
For instance, how does an experienced team lose after racing out to a 3-0 lead in a must-win game? And what one thing did the Canucks in against the Flames? Or was it not just one thing but a multitude of issues. And while the hurt is still strong, they tiptoe around what happens next for this veteran laden squad.
All that and more in your favourite Canucks podcast!
When you lost me as a Fan – Open letter to the Vancouver Canucks Organization
This year, for the first time since I was a young boy, I went the whole regular season without watching at least one full Canuck game. The first full game I watched was game one of the playoffs and that was the last. I did not watch another playoff game as the series was determined in the third period of that game. Once again, you fell short because you did not have the internal fortitude to gut it out. An all too familiar story with the current team. I have no faith in the current line-up.
So why, if I have been a lifelong fan, did you lose me? And when? Well it happened a couple of seasons ago – I still remember (painfully) the specific game. It was game three of the final against Boston. Up two games to none, you lost 8-1 in Boston. I have never seen a blow out like that in the Stanley Cup. I was stunned at how the team folded. Swearing you would be better, you went on to be shut out in game four, losing 4-0. Twelve goals to one in two Stanley Cup games, on national – sorry, international television. In the popular vernacular, the Bruins “rag-dolled” you. Just like Chicago, LA and Anaheim have since. When the going got tough, you disappeared. And the young Flames just did the same thing this year. Stunning. Embarrassing. Determinative. Definitive.
After that Boston series, I lost my faith in the team. More accurately, I could not stomach supporting the team. To be clear, I am no band-wagon jumper. I am not a closet Habs fan or Leafs fan who pulls for the Canucks when their teams are down and then jumps off the band wagon when their teams are rolling. I’ve seen all the Flyers jerseys, Boston jerseys, you name it, around town. Not me. I have followed and supported you religiously. Through many bad years – the ones where the Oilers used to come to town and beat us senseless (is it my imagination, or did they win every game 8-1?). And through those .500 years, where you could never seem to get out of the middle of the pack.
I have supported this team for a long time. The first year I started following you, you were a powerhouse, going 47-17-8 and winning the championship. Incredible year. That was 1969-70, your last year in the WHL. Your stars were guys like Andy Bathgate, Phil Maloney and Murray Hall. I was twelve years old. I am not knew to this.
I followed with excitement when you joined the NHL. I remember your first goal. Barry Wilkens scoring the lone goal in a 3:1 loss to the LA Kings. I watched as the team lost year after year, as expansion teams did in those years. I hung in there. You would get better.
I was not a casual fan. I made a concerted effort to follow the team. Before the time when every game was shown on TV, and not having the cash to attend more than a game of two a year, I listened to all the games I could on the radio. Jim Robson was my best friend through my University years as I listened to him call your games as I sat in my basement suite studying. I can still remember sitting in the exam room trying to remember the answer to an exam question only to have the stats from the game the night before floating through my head. And Robson’s voice, “Here’s a shout out to all the shut-ins and those who cannot get out to the games joining us here on the radio ….” Still the best play by play announcer there ever was. He was part of Canuck lore.
I watched the junior drafts. I knew who was on the farm team, and who you were watching in the junior ranks. I cringed when JJ Daigneault, a high first round draft pick, crossed the stage on crutches, and watched as you traded away Cam Neely for spare parts. I remember Bill Laforge. Need I say more on having suffered through bad decisions? And if that was not enough of a coaching debacle, you did it again with Tortorella. He couldn’t even be bothered to move to Vancouver, choosing to live south of the border and commute daily. That is what I call commitment to the team. Imagine that happening in Montreal.
I watched the team hire a California design team to come up with what might go down in history as one of the ugliest sports jerseys of all time – the flying V. In fluorescent colours no less. You looked like a dance team for a bad 80’s music TV show. At least we didn’t have to witness the shame of the white skates used by the California Golden Seals. Thank god for small mercies.
I saw players with names like Billy Derlago, Dan Woodley, Jason Herter, Libor Polashek, Mike Wilson, Josh Holden, Nathan Smith, Patrick White all come and go. Many of our fans have never heard of them. Well, they all have one thing in common. They were all your first round draft choices. And how about that glorious draft year of 1993 – top three picks, Mike Wilson, Rick Girard and Dieter Kochan. Do you recall what they have in common? None of them played a single game for the Canucks.
I sat through Pavel Bure, probably the most talented player to ever wear a Canuck jersey, thumb his nose at us. And then I watched as we feted and rewarded him recently. If we were New York or Philly, we would have run him out of town.
I was there for the heartbreak of the first final – losing out in four straight to a vastly superior Islanders team, and then pain of watching Nathan Lafayette hit the post in the third period of game seven in the Rangers series. In both cases, gutsy efforts by our boys. But just not enough.
While many of those years were not great, I watched quality players who gave their all for the Canucks. One of the first captains, Donny Lever, who has never been properly recognized by the organization. Stan Smyl, Curt Fraser, Harold Snepsts, Richard Brodeur, Glenn Hanlon – the latter weeping when he was traded because he bled Canuck colours. All guys who took their talents and squeezed everything they could out of them. There are a lot more like those guys who wore the jersey well. They were worthy of supporting, worthy of pulling for, regardless of the outcomes. Those lunch bucket teams. I loved those guys and was a proud Canucks fan. But not now. Now I am embarrassed.
One the hardest things to admit is that we have never had a leader that could put us over the top. We have been both blessed and cursed with our captains. Probably having had some of the finest citizens and role models anyone could ask for in a professional athlete – Marcus Naslund, Trevor Linden, the Sedins. People you were proud to call not only Canucks, but citizens of Vancouver. But none was able to take us all the way.
Through it all I stuck with the team.
So, where does that leave us? Well, for me, I am on the fence until the team turns over and starts a new. This should not be starting now. It should have started right after the Boston debacle. We didn’t lose that series in a hard fought, close battle. We capitulated. It was embarrassing. I have watched the NHL since the 70’s and have never seen a team fold like that. Our team that lost four straight to the Islanders made a more gallant effort than that. Watching those games in Boston made you cringe. Sure, there was a reaction. A wholesale change at the management level. But the core of the team that played that series is still here.
I was glad at least to see the new regime brought in. Having Trevor at the top seems almost to be pre-ordained, and no one will doubt his commitment. Willie Desjardins looks like a quality coach and the regular season performance speaks to that. I welcome Jim Benning, who comes from a successful regime – ironically the one that so recently humiliated us – but I am somewhat puzzled by some of the moves to date. Instead of getting tougher and grittier, key trades brought in Nick Bonino and Linden Vey. The former, not talented enough to be a slick first or second line centre and too small and soft to be a third or fourth line grinder. Where does he fit in? And Linden Vey? I am guessing he will be out of the league in a year. More Bo Horvat and Derek Dorset, and less players who play on the periphery.
Based on the outcome of the recent Flames series and going back to the Boston series, the message is clear. This team needs to get younger, grittier and it needs to add character. It is hard to stomach seeing Duncan Keith throwing elbows at our star players and getting away un-scathed. It is galling to hear jerks like Dave Bolland calling out the Sedins – calling them the sisters – and that going unchallenged. It is excruciating to see Brad Marchand taunting our fans. And it is unbearable to see heavy weight teams like Los Angeles Kings and Anaheim Ducks running rough shod over our team. And if that is not enough, here come the Oilers, Jets and Flames. Oh, wait a moment, the Jets are now even with us and the Flames have already blown by. At least we are one up on the Oilers; whoops, I forgot, Connor McDavid.
This is not about adding goons. It is about adding character players who are mentally tough, and who can take us over the top. Jonathan Toews is no goon, being one of the slickest players in the league. But he is tough as nails and always comes through in the crunch. Anyone remember him scoring a short-handed goal in the last couple of minutes, almost single-handedly, in order to tie up an elimination game against us? He comes from a long line of skilled, but mentally tough, players who always find a way to win – Trottier, Sakic, Yzerman and many others like them. It is that kind of toughness that we don’t have now. Players who simply refuse to be denied. Winners.
I am only one long suffering fan and to be sure many people will disagree with much, if not all, of what I have to say. But, I think an awful lot feel the same way. At a very minimum, whatever the team has been doing for nearly fifty years has not delivered a Stanley Cup to this great city. And for the long suffering and deserving Canucks fans, that is a tragedy.
So, I will end by admitting my hypocrisy. I said you lost me as a fan. Well, not entirely true. I didn’t take the time to write this letter because I don’t care about my team. I do. I am frustrated by the refusal to acknowledge that this core is not going to get it done.
One Beleaguered Canucks Fan