You guys know me. I am a positive guy. I try to find the good in everything. Honestly, I just feel that is the better way to go through life.
But the knives will be out tonight. Twitter and TEAM will be a their bitchiest best, and everyone will be forecasting doom and gloom.
So, you'll excuse me if I am not sunshine and lollypops. ( or at least, not as positive as I try to be ! ) This game just did not warrant such a reaction.
How did we get to this ? Apart from the obvious answers of injuries all coming at once, and that 6 game suspension for the coach in the middle of a time when the team looked to be getting it going, I really don't have an idea.
I will say this. There is still, ( before the trade today, obviously ) a great deal of players from the recent past on this team. Everyone doesn't suddenly "suck" all at once. ( OK, the Houston Texans did this past year, but they had no QB ! ) It IS a team that, when you go back the last five years and add up the records, is one of, if not the most productive teams in the NHL regular season. Maybe that is why the current play is so painful.
To the game. There is not much to be said. This was low event hockey at it's finest. When the Canucks were not flubbing passes, breaking sticks, fanning on half chances, or squeezing the sticks so tight that carbon fibres were making clouds behind them, they were having to deal with a team that, if there was no chance to rush, and even if there was, were just sending pucks into the air and watching them drop at the red or blue line at the first sign of danger. I swear that Dave Tippett must make his player practice that dump for 50% of their practice time ! Who can blame him ? It frustrated the opponent tonight, and his team got twice as many chances as a result. But the Canucks made it easy on them...
When they weren't dumping it out, the Coyotes were forechecking with their heads facing the other way ( bailing at the first sign of the Canucks moving the puck ). It is a system we are all familiar with at this point. It is a system that is the anathema of entertaining hockey. It is also a system that requires a team to battle through it to succeed, and the Canucks were just not doing that too much tonight.
Their first period may have been their best, at least in respect of zone time. The 'Yotes kept most of the play to the outside, of course, and collapsed back to the goaltender like a Greek Phalanx at the first sign of a shot. The teams did have an 8-8 saw-off on the shots though, and the home team got the only goal of the opening period.
Kevin Bieksa and Eddie Lack got their signals crossed, and a simple dump in became a grenade, as McMillian jumped on the puck and fed Doan, who had a great chance to score. Lack almost redeemed himself with a fantastic save, but the puck trickled off of him to the side of the net, where, ( of course it was him ) Vermette was able to battle the puck into the empty net for the only goal the game would see.
That second period though. Yikes. I've always said that the first and third are about skill, and the second period, with it's long change, is about will. The team that is working harder will look better in the middle stanza. That team was certainly the home team. They outshot the Canucks 14 - 4, and were, by far, the harder working team. Without Eddie Lack's play, the game would have been out of reach come the third.
The Canucks even got a break in the third, as Vermette was pushed into Lack, decided to lounge there for a while, and was looking around for the ref to come count 1-2-3, instead of trying to get out of the crease and off of the goalie. It was an easy call to make for the striped shirts, and they waived it off.
I'm going by the broadcast, but this might have been the first game of the year that the Canucks were not able to have a power play of their own, drawing zero calls. Now, usually, you need to be pushing the play more to get calls, but there is little doubt that Don Van Massenhoven lived up to his rep as one of the worst refs in the NHL.
The first call on Burrows ? Light, but it was a call, albeit one that Burrows probably gets called on him more than anyone else. The second was an easy one, as Sestito definitely high sticked Ribiero. But the third, ( most important call, it was made with 7:22 left ) was a dive, pure and simple. Edler's "cross check" simply was not that hard. Halpern sent himself flying. The referee ten feet away from the play got it right, and let the play continue, but the guy 100 ' away, Van Massenhoven, decided to help the team that was, until recently, the property of the NHL. To make matters worse, there were two hooks on Canuck defenders on the penalty kill, and what should have been an easy to call interference ( easy for anyone other than DVM...who, did I mention ( ? ) he sucks ?! ) call on Burrows forcing the play up ice. There was an earlier obvious trip on Bieksa too that was not called by DVM, too. ( don't take this wrong though, I am in no way excusing the effort of the Canucks in this game by disparaging the refs. It's just that they had as bad a game as the visitors )
Maybe it is sour grapes. Heaven knows, after watching what passed for a hockey game tonight, one might be negative, ( You know how it is with we Canuck fans and the refs ) and this has been a frustrating season. It just seemed that the Coyotes could get away with whatever they wanted tonight.
That is my one little bitch about tonight's game. It probably would not have made a lick of difference anyhow, as our team's power play has been clownshoes all season. But it was an added reason to reach for the aspirin, on a painful night.
So, what now ? Well, the media pundits and experts are having a field day building their little narratives. ( again though, it is totally understandable. We have two networks, and TEN HOURS of time to fill tomorrow ! ) This season seems to be enough for them to go with "REBUILD" as narrative one, certainly after the deal today. FTR, when a player really only gives you one team they want to go to, and they have a no trade clause on their deal with 8 years remaining, if you are able to get two guys like Shawn Matthias and Jacob Markstrom, you should be lauded, instead of having to endure the snippy slings and arrows Mike Gillis has had to deal with today.
But that is part of his job. You can see how it weighs on him though. These are real people, and they have real lives. Myself ? I would very much like to see Ryan Kesler stay ( and it should be noted that he once again said all the right things again in his pre game interview ), but if the Canucks can get a King's Ransom for him, ( and only then ) send him along. My opinion is still that, for all the rumours, and the TSN / Sportsnet guys pushing it hard, it is still only 50 / 50 that he gets dealt.
But then, my opinion is that this team still has some players, and this is a reboot, and not a rebuild. I know that might be a minority position amongst the hyperbole, but I just can't see a team with the record the Canucks have over the past five years being that horrible, because they are having a bad year...
Chalk tonight up to a bit of the distraction, and a listless team reacting to losing a good friend and leader in somewhat surprising fashion. It would not be the first time ( in a lot of sports ) that a team tanked in the first game after a leader left.
The positive ? They play the Stars, Flames, and Islanders in their next three, With, or without Ryan Kesler, win those three games, and the last 15-16 games are right down to the wire for the playoffs, where anything can happen.
Perhaps, once the dam breaks, and all the talk is gone, what is left can rally and go on a run. I know one thing. If Mike Gillis watched this game, and decided that it wasn't just the shock of the deal, he might have been convinced to ask everyone he can to waive their NTC's. But, I am thinking, more realistically, that when you see how dejected Kevin Bieksa was after this one, he knows that there are still guys that care. I believe the GM when he says that the team does not ask guys to waive clauses they gave up money to get. ( and, all you wags seem to forget that. The Canucks have a multitude of players on "great deals" because they wanted to stay here, and because they gave up money for certainty. Remember that next time you bitch about the GM giving out too many NTC's. )
I tend to believe folks, or at least take them at their word, when trying to read these deadline interviews. I watch the body language, read the tone of voice. Ryan Kesler, Kevin Bieksa, Mike Gillis, unless they are all almost sociopathic in their ability to bullshit, make me think that it won't be a fire sale tomorrow.
But that is just me. You know, the guy that looks for the positive. It all starts at 5 AM folks.
Strap in !