I have to admit: for the very first time since I started this blog (at the dawn of the Luongo era) I find it impossible to tolerate my own team. I've been an unabashed fan of the Canucks, dedicating probably way more hours than I'd like to admit to watching, analyzing and writing for them here or at canucks.com. I've mocked them when needed but generally have rolled with the highs and lows like most headstrong supporters. But, again for the first time, I am catching myself asking why I bother.
That first period last night was the breaking point. Here were the downtrodden Canucks, well rested and angry, ready to make a statement. On the other end were the Wild, a tired team that played the night before, traveled to Vancouver and didn't even dress their #1 goon and don't have their #1 sniper who's been on the sideline for weeks. The two teams were tied in the standings, both needing the points. Honestly, what more of a stage to showcase a change in their play could Vancouver need?
And despite all of that the Wild outplayed them in the first 20. Immensely. The Canucks were outshot, took three penalties and gave up two goals, including one PP goal. The exact same script that this team has done (not playing the solid 60) since the very first game of this season.
It took Kesler - who you just gotta love as a hockey fan - to make a game of it. He basically took his merry band of men and lifted them on his back to keep them in it. Twice.
Kesler did precisely what Sundin is supposed to be here to do. Isn't that why he's a Canuck? Ed Willes jumps on this very theme this morning:
Maybe it was unrealistic to expect him to make an immediate impact. Maybe it was unrealistic to expect him to step in and be the player we last saw in Toronto...But, by any reasonable standard, he's been here long enough to acclimatize himself to the NHL grind and bring his conditioning and timing up to an NHL standard. And not only has he failed there, he's actually hindered the Canucks' attempts to get on track.
Maybe it was unrealistic? Damn straight it was. Some of us called that some time ago.
In fact, while I'm kissing my own ass, part of my argument against Sundin was the likelihood of getting him and not making the playoffs:
3. He signs with Vancouver and they miss the playoffs - Oh this would be fun; all this pre-production drama about where the hell will he sign and he doesn’t help the team make the cut. Why? We can take a guess at any number of plausible story lines: Luongo remains on the sidelines, Sundin doesn’t play well with the Sedins or anyone else, Demitra gets injured, Wellwood gets injured, Kesler gets injured, Bieksa gets injured, Salo remains injured, Fin gets injured, Vigneault can’t make heads or tails of his own team, etc.
Well my run of injuries notwithstanding, this is the trend they are on now.
Then there's that last one: Vigneault not making heads of tails of his own team. You realize that's the giant elephant in the tiny room here still. I've slowly accepted that he probably won't be fired, or if he is, it'll be at a point when it doesn't matter anymore. I mean, shit, if losing eight straight and nine at home can't get you pink slipped, what's a few more losses?
So fine, if we really have to live with AV, then he needs to make some drastic moves. Sitting Sundin in the 6-on-4 at the end of the third last night was a good start. How about some of these ideas for Tuesday against the Hurricanes?
1. Sit Wellwood. The poor guy just doesn't have it. He, alone, could have buried this game multiple times last night.
2. Sit Salo. When the duct tape holds him up, he can't hit the broad side of a barn with those shots. The PP is bad enough without wasting time cycling the puck around the perimeter, passing it back to him and letting him blast it 5 feet away from the net each and every time. Unless you want to sit Bieksa, this is the guy to give some rest too. Besides, I'm sure he needs to heal for something.
3. Figure out a way to at least get Jaffray back on this team. The young guy tried as best he could when given the chance earlier. Hell he's got more points then Sundin. This roster needs eager blood and Manitoba is where it is. If it doesn't work, fine. Send him back. But some of these kids may be able to make a difference. In fact, while you're at it, also consider Bolduc, Ouellet, Krog, Cullen and, what the hell, Grabner.
4. Move Kesler to the top line. You've had everyone try and play with the Sedins. Why not give Kesler a chance now. Make the third line Burrows/Pyatt/Bernier and keep your fingers crossed they don't implode. But Kesler (and maybe Burrows) is the only guy laying it all on the line right now and he should be rewarded.
Or you know? Don't do any of them. Keep saying your system works. Keep hoping that somehow, somewhere, this team will remember how to win a game. There's still plenty of losing streak left I guess.
Some may call last night progress. Vancouver may have ultimately outshot the Wild but they were rarely in control of the game, save for parts of the third. And mind you this is the Wild, not the Flames, Hawks, Sharks or Wings who would likely be first round opponents.
I don't call not playing yet another first period, having to crawl back into yet another game, coughing up more penalties and more PP goals "progress." I call it the ninth straight loss at home.
Albert Einstein said "The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results".
Sorry Einstein, but clearly you never met Alain Vigneault, Mike Gillis or the Vancouver Canucks.