Approximately one month ago, Vancouver’s East Asian population got the Lunar New Year party going. The Vancouver Canucks, instead of celebrating the Year of the Tiger, went all-in on the Month of Chaos. Cammi Granato joined the Canucks new management group 10 days in, and the month was a perfect introduction to life in the West Coast metropolis.
The Joy of Surrender
In what should have been a desperate January, the Canucks went 5-4-3. Pretend that’s one game over .500 all you want, but it’s five wins in 12 games. The distant playoff hope provided by their Boudreau Bump in December flickered and vanished in those 31 days. The month could have gone better if they played scheduled matches against the New York Islanders and Seattle Kraken, but no promises. Yeah, they ended the month going 2-0-2, but those two losses came against the Alberta teams. Break down the tents, it’s time to go.
Then came February, in like a Tiger. Okay, in like a tiger that stubbed its toe on the doorway with a 4-2 loss to – fittingly enough – the Nashville Predators. Most of the talk in town turned to who to move and who to keep. A playoff fatalism settled over the fans and they snuggled into the warm familiarity. The 2020 playoffs? A dream, obviously. Who plays hockey in a bubble anywhere outside the bar? C’man! One of the Canucks’ three pillars was out, the special teams continued to suck, and there were an awful lot of teams to hurdle. Relax. Sleep. Dream of Draft Day and the tradition of losing the lottery.
Spring, for Canucks fans, comes in September.
A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Rogers Arena
Hope is a fickle thing, they say. “They” have never met a Canucks fan. Canucks fans are infected with hope deep in their bones. So far there is no known cure despite the best efforts of ludicrous free agent signings, failed draft picks, and desperate trades. They are the only team in the league to lose the Stanley Cup three times – twice in Game Seven – without a win. And still, the tiniest ember of hope glows, ready to burst into flame with the slightest breeze. Or in this case, howl.
The Arizona Coyotes came to town in a perfect “trap” game. That’s one the home team should win but treats it too lightly and takes the loss. In this case, Vancouver blew Arizona out 5-1. Even better, the power-play went 2-for-3 and the penalty kill was perfect. And best of all, the missing pillar that is Quinn Hughes? More than adequately replaced by Oliver Ekman-Larsson getting three points that night. The Canucks were BACK, baby!
Until the next night where they were obliterated 6-3 by the New York Islanders. Three goals were scored in 31 seconds. Five were given up in the first period. Local
radio shows podcasts went back to discussing the coming J.T. Miller trade and life returned, more or less, to normal. Right up until the Canucks Demko’d the Toronto Maple Leafs in the next game. Then got a slightly more honest win against the San Jose Sharks for a two-game win streak. Playoffs, ho!
…before handily losing the most important game of the season against the Anaheim Ducks, 7-4. And it wasn’t as close as the score looks, either. For a little extra disappointment, Anaheim was the “catchable” team who were in a playoff spot, and this loss was just them stepping on the Canucks’ knuckles.
Don’t Call it a Bandwagon
The inherent indestructibility of Canucks fans’ necks should be the source of a major scientific paper someday. They are the only popular group with an accumulated immunity to whiplash injuries. The Canucks new management group – the ones who didn’t play here, at least – may want to buy protective collars in bulk.
But fans are only taking the lead from their ridiculous team, who won the next three games by an aggregate score of 17-5. The fading power-play returned, going 5-for-12. The penalty killing, by far the worst in the league this year, was perfect for all three games. The Kraken, Flames, and Rangers were all crushed beneath the mighty Canucks wheel. Not just Anaheim was within reach, but a half-dozen teams in the Western Conference had faltered since the turn of the lunar year. A playoff spot was once again a realistic(-ish) proposition. And the next game out was against one of the worst teams in the East!
Which, of course, the Canucks went and lost by a score of 7-2, bringing the Month of Chaos to a fitting, if not exactly glorious, close.
What’s it All(vin) Mean?
Possibly the biggest surprise of Jim Rutherford‘s tenure thus far is nothing. That is to say none of the personnel moves that have been expected/feared since he took over have happened. Rutherford is, after all, famous for his love of deals. Thinking about it logically, though, it makes sense. He’s not the general manager, and even when he was acting as one most of his focus was on putting a solid management team in place. Now that the Canucks new management crew is pretty much finalized, attention can turn to the on-ice product.
Patrik Allvin has a good team around him, and if they haven’t made a move yet it’s not because they won’t. Figuring out working relationships and communicating with new people takes some time. And it’s not like the first big deadline is an immediate crisis. They have some time, and they’re using it. And as an added bonus, the White Collars have just experienced in one month the ride most teams have in eight. The fans are used to it. Now they have to adapt to the fans.
So welcome to the Vancouver Canucks new management! Half of everyone here is going to hate for what you do next. Half will love you for it. And half will do both, switching sides to oppose another fan they’ve been arguing with since 1986. You’ve gonna love it here. We do.
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