Ever since 2009, two NHL teams bordering a coast had an upward trajectory. they had everything a team could want: an identity all their own, a lights-out goaltender, and all-around solid coaching.
And then they met in the 2010-11 Stanley Cup Finals. And only one team emerged the victor; both in that wonderful day in June...and also for the long-term.
Because you see, that 2010-11 Boston Bruins team was not just good, they were so good that they may have irreparably damaged the way the Vancouver Canucks top brass conceived how to run and construct a hockey team. To the point that nearly everything that has happened to them, everything that’s gotten them to near the bottom of the Western Conference has at least some Boston Black and Gold starting point.
And let’s break it down.
The Canucks seemed to walk out of that final as if they’d been personally victimized by it. They did indeed play like the Canucks of 2010, but something unquestionably seemed “off” about it. It didn’t help that, once they got to the 2011 playoffs, they happened to run into another physical team (that just happened to also be the poster child for an analytics-first team. Again.) who was getting fantastic goaltending from an unconventional American.
Clearly, things needed to change for them, but how exactly?
The General Manager:
Jim Benning used to be assistant GM for the Bruins during that magical season in 2010. Mike Gillis, after four years of his team in BC being generally strong but getting pasted by San Jose, LA, and then just not making the playoffs in general, was let go. Benning was his replacement.
And this might just be hindsight talking, but Boston might’ve dodged a cannonball-sized bullet regarding who currently runs the team.
Since then, Benning has tried to enbiggen the Canucks forward corps without regard for whether or not that player size is being put to use by said player, has handed NTCs out like candy, has been bleeding draft picks at a terrifying rate in order to make trades, deciding to go all in on certain players and repeatedly getting burned by said pick-ups, or waffling on getting the highest return on players that could maybe help the ‘Nucks in the future by being someplace else (Dan Hamhuis says hi). His draft record is all over the place, finding guys like Brock Boeser and Thatcher Demko, while also whiffing and going after disappointments like Jake Virtanen.
Oh, and the lengths this man has gone to for Erik Gudbranson; the west coast’s very own Dan Girardi. All to ensure this guy remains wearing blue and green. He will get Gudbranson signed, and everything else can KICK ROCKS.
Sounds like hyperbole, doesn’t it, but direct statements regarding the guy seem to follow:
“He’s a physical, stay-at-home defenseman who helps us,” Benning said. “We have other defensemen who are more puck-moving guys, but we don’t have anyone else with Gudbranson’s style of play.” - Jim Benning, apparently unaware he could just draft someone who can do Gudbranson’s job but better.
They wanna give a guy whose worse than Adam McQuaid at most things a multi-year extension.
But a GM can only do so much. It’s a coach who decides how things go on the ice. Boston kinda screwed that up too.
Alain Vigneault didn’t always have the spotty reputation of being a cranky child and results alone say he’s a pretty solid coach.
But everything you know about him now is the direct result of what happened to Vancouver in 2011.
The following year, AV once again led the team to another playoff appearance, but by that point anything less than a conference final was going to put him on some thin ice with the already mercurial Vancouver Fanbase. They got bounced by the Kings.
And now his head was firmly in the entirety of British Columbia’s crosshairs. Even after going back to the playoffs. That sweep solidified it in Canucks management and fanbase: AV couldn’t get it done. And he was gone.
In his place? John Tortorella.
Now, if you’re Vancouver, you’re probably liking this hire. He’s passionate for sure, and he’s definitely someone who can light a fire under player’s rear ends. At the time, there was reason to at least consider this move a smart idea. After all, they needed passion and fire after getting bludgeoned for several straight years in the playoffs. Someone needed to wake them up.
And then the other side of the coin: Tortorella is an actual crazy person who made it clear he was going to act like a damn fool whatever chance he got, and he got plenty:
He alienated a lot of people during his brief but exciting tenure as head coach and probably hit a land-speed record in losing a room in the process. Most notably, he alienated Roberto Luongo, who still is statistically the best goalie Vancouver’s ever had. And that was enough to make him leave.
But he was just the final push after a few years of relatively undeserved resentment: and that’s an important point.
Oh you better believe Boston screwed up their goaltending:
Roberto Luongo could possibly live to see his number retired by either franchise he ends up retiring with, which is incredible by all standards and he should be commended for his body of work.
However, fans and management saw a different story in the aftermath of the 2010-11 Stanley Cup Finals.
Many fans believed the man was cooked, he had mentally collapsed and his performance was flagging because of it, and should be traded so Cory Schneider could take over, and things would be right all over again, and thanks to actual, real-life crazy person John Tortorella, fans got their wish. Right after the Heritage Classic, no less!
Or at least...half of that wish anyway.
At the beginning of 2013, Schneider was now in New Jersey, and in the place of him and now Luongo was Eddie Lack and Joacim Eriksson. Not exactly a winning tandem. But not to worry, Jim Benning was now in charge! And what did he do?
He got Ryan Miller. Who was already pretty old when he got there and below league average in terms of SV%. And Lack as it turned out, wasn’t the right fit for any sort of backup job and definitely not a starting gig. This resulted in three years of mostly nothing other than an embarrassment at the hands of but otherwise keeping a lopsided squad in many of their games.
And then Miller left for free parking at Disneyland.
Now they have Anders Nilsson and Jacob Markstrom.
Markstrom said this not too long ago regarding the ‘nucks bad time lately:
The Post Game Show #Canucks #TSN1040— TSN Radio Vancouver (@TSN1040) February 10, 2018
Markstrom "I'm not good enough, and we got a lot of guys on our team that's not good enough either to be in this league. It's embarrassing"
So yeah. Things aren’t looking great. And if they were more patient, they’d probably still have a future hall of famer on their roster.
How has this impacted Canucks fans? Have they been broken too?:
You can’t be broken by something if you showed up broken to begin with.
The reality of Canucks fandom, as I understand it, is a blind, raging hope beyond hope that burns brighter than any stellar entity that no matter what analytics, the eye test, common sense, and experts say...This is their year. I believe it counts as a kind of undiagnosed mania that requires further study. Their fan culture is based around being nuts. Their team is based around being nuts and making decisions that seem like career suicide anywhere else. Their lines are nuts. Their management is nuts. Their arena is nuts. The statue outside the arena and it’s story is nuts. Everything about them is based on being completely mentally broken by 40+ years of coming up short, whether by playoffs or by regular season.
Really, if you look at it, all Boston did was get this ball of misery back on track by knocking the closest thing they had to a great moment off the pedestal and watched it crash to the floor.
And it has been a wild ride. I hope the Canucks never recover so I can enjoy it like the sick little schadenfreude monkey I am.
Tonight’s game is once again at 10pm in Vancouver.