Needless to say, the Vancouver Canucks have not had the season they were hoping for. After ending every season since 08-09 at or near the top of the standings, the Canucks find themselves 11th in the Western Conference and looking for answers. Vancouver has lost 12 of their last 14 games, including what has to be the low point of the season, a 7-4 loss to the New York Islanders on Monday night. The Canucks, on home ice, led 3-0 going into the third period before watching that lead disappear in just over three and a half minutes. There is plenty of blame to go around for the Vancouver Canucks this season as they struggle to find out where it all went wrong.
The season did not start out disastrously for Vancouver. They won nine of their first 15 games, which included a 7-game road trip. The dynamic twin duo, Daniel and Henrik Sedin, were as productive as ever, scoring at or above a point-per-game (PPG) pace. Their goaltending was solid, with Roberto Luongo earning most of the playtime due to his stellar performances. It was not the kind of month they had been used to having over the past couple years, but any time a team has a long road trip and still ends a month 5th in the conference can be considered a success.
Early in November, the Canucks showed the first sign of something being very wrong. Starting with a 5-1 loss to the Los Angeles Kings, Vancouver lost five games in a row, scoring only six goals in those five. The offense, which had been so prevalent in October, had suddenly disappeared. After blowing out Columbus in the following game by a scoring of 6-2, they would lose their following two against Chicago and Los Angeles. The month had turned into a disaster. They would end November with only four wins in their 13 games played, falling to an unfamiliar spot for the organization: 9th place in the conference and out of the playoffs.
The lack of offense should not really come as a surprise to Canuck fans, as Vancouver coach John Tortorella was marred with the same issue in New York when he coached the Rangers. It was thought, at the time, that the issue was with the Rangers’ lineup, never really having the superstar players performing up to their potential. But with these same issues resurfacing in Vancouver, who have typically found great production from the likes of the Sedins, Ryan Kesler and Alexandre Burrows, it is becoming more and more obvious that Tortorella is, at least in part, a reason it all went wrong for the Vancouver Canucks. This does not bode well for the future of the organization, as Tortorella recently signed a 5-year contract with the Canucks.
The biggest difference between this year’s Canuck team and teams of years past has been the drama inside the lockerroom. It all began last year, when Luongo felt unhappy with his playtime, becoming usurped by young goaltender Cory Schneider. Luongo asked the Vancouver management for a trade, but the management threw a curveball and opted to trade Schneider instead. The issue was considered resolved until the play of upstart Eddie Lack created a similar problem this year. Forward Ryan Kesler is also rumored to be unhappy within the Vancouver organization, having been overheard during the Sochi Olympics discussing a trade from the Canucks. Defenseman Alex Edler denied these claims, despite all evidence to the contrary, an example of when a player should probably just avoid talking to the media. Luongo was traded to Florida this past week, but Kesler remains in the organization, keeping the drama alive and well in Vancouver.
The season hit its low point with the latest quagmire the Canucks find themselves in. Vancouver has just two wins over the past month and a half. Their offensive well has run completely dry and the entire city is in full-panic mode over the fate of their hockey team. Those that are not panicking have gone straight toward grim acceptance and depression. The organization recently attempted to ease some of the panic, when Canucks general manager Mike Gillis sent a letter to season-ticket holders discussing the state of the team and their plans for the future. The letter read as fake and overly optimistic, comparing the floundering team to the division-leading Anaheim Ducks, making Vancouver fans question whether the general manager believes what he wrote or believes the fans do not pay attention to the rest of the league.
Despite the hardships, the Canucks season is still surprisingly salvageable. They remain just four points behind the Dallas Stars for 8th place in the Western Conference, though the Stars have played three less games. But after a game where they allowed the lowly New York Islanders to score seven goals in the final period, a game which Tortorella called “a kick in the teeth”, it is hard to imagine this same team making the playoffs. The latest loss was likely the final nail in the coffin for the Vancouver Canucks, an accumulation of a season where it all went wrong.
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Commentary by Jonathan Gardner
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