Which is nice. This time of year for a team that has not used to not playing in the final tourney or left with watching the other teams play and learning about how they do it. I noticed a way the Ducks play in the second period of Game Two that makes even a fast team like the Stars play on their heels, and it felt like a minor epiphany.
Ahhhhh, yes, that is how they do it ! Eureka !
Here, it is more like how do you fix things, who do you fix it with, ( with Trevor Linden, now ), and whether or not your #1 player in this past season wants to stay ( he says he does, relentlessly ), or go.
Never a dull moment. It is not anything new in this glorious game we love to enjoy as voraciously as possible, knowing it truly is the best game of the Big Four to watch live. Without a doubt. The long periods of sustained hockey that a great game will have, with the back and forth, continuos action, actual violence as a consequence, and what is not to like ?
But when it is the team you enjoy that is one of those fourteen, and it is the first time since 2008, and then you read this ( thoroughly enjoyable article by Kevin McGran of the Toronto Star, though I definitely would take umbrage with his dire reading of the current situations. Potato - Poe-tat-O ) Why not "stomp our feet" indeed. But the real winner is this graph. The story uses 1993-1994 as the benchmark ( the year after the Canadians won the last Cup to reside for the year in it's saintly home of Canada ). It and the second table are the hidden gems in the story when it comes to seeing where we are at here in Canada.
The Canucks are the brown line, and you do have to admit that it is impressive in relation to the other Canadian teams shown with the cool colours. I'll get to a few things about this one in a second, but check out this 2nd screen grab from the bottom of the same article.
Vancouver sits, at 10th, 23 games behind the Sharks, ( Canucks have 13 playoff appearances to Sharks , 2nd to the Wings 17 playoff appearances in 20 years ) and only 33 mere games behind the Penguins, who have had back to back, "best player(s) in the game" to deal with. The Pens have 3 more playoff appearances, and that one Cup, but look at the teams that are ahead and behind.
The Hawks and their two recent Cups speak for themselves, but they are 17th since 93/94 in total points, two above the Canadians ( 13 in 20 playoffs ) and Maple Leafs ( 10 playoffs ). That third column, with all the playoff appearances, overall record, and, of course, Stanley Freaking Cups, it is easy to see why Mike Gillis would talk about the "Detroit Model". Their 2,066 wins, 4 Cups, and 20 straight years in the playoffs are all the benchmarks for this Golden Generation of hockey. It is also important to note that, except for that green line going up past the Canuck's current plight, almost all the others are hovering pretty close to what we all agree is our worst season. Our worst is almost every other Canadian's team average when you look back at the spikes and valleys !
The Wings first game win against the Bruins ( 1,776 wins, 15 playoffs ) showed what happens when a team gets into the dance, and I am sure they will give them all they can handle, ( and where Milan Lucic did this, and then had the Puck Gods show him how wrong it was by taking away a goal on the only puck to get through Jimmy Howard on the night )
All this is to give those of us out here a sense of how good we have had it, and to maybe, just maybe, take a deep breath. Enjoy the hockey right now. Playoff hockey is the best. But just nod serenely at that other team's fan who will be trolling you this summer. Really.
Take a second look at that graph. A more meticulous viewing shows a few things. The last time the Canucks were as low as they are now was in 1999. It was the time of Brian Burke, and while his contributions are duly noted, and his steep improvement until 2004 was better than Mike Gillis's when you look at how steep his angle is ( and how Dave Nonis's was less than Mike Gillis. His getting canned in 2008, the last time the Canucks missed the playoffs, is hardly the freaking Shakespearean tragedy it was made out to be at the time. He's a local boy, we get it, but the math dont lie ! ), look at that mountain during the Mike Gillis era.
You an talk about rosters left behind, and relative depth, or whatever you like. Mr Gillis never got credit from some in out media for getting to the Cup in 2011 for crying out loud, with scribes both East and West piling little mountains of tribute at the feet of the previous two titleholders.
Mike Gillis got let go, because that is what happens when your line goes like that on a graph. It's like a penny stock on the old Wild West of the VSE, and it is no surprise that he was let go. It is even a worse drop off than Mr Nonis. But that should not make us forget the contributions he made to the 761 wins, 1,739 points, and 66 playoff wins ( Best in Canada by 7 over the Senators, and 8 over the Leafs. The Habs only have 40 wins in the dance in the past twenty years. But then again, they did win that Cup in 1993 ! ). All those numbers are, by a decent margin, the best in the land of hockey.
Of course, none of that matters in the here and now. The plunge off the cliff that the first graph shows has understandably gotten the natives a stirring. Big dealings are on. The local puck media is holding an official DeathVigil over the current coach, and there will be a new man in the GM chair before too long. Opinions on his options, chances, desires, and the chances of success vary wildly.
Perhaps no one personifies that more than the best player in this historically bad season than Ryan Kesler. The KesLord is an enigmatic personage for Canuck fans at the moment. There are some that are already flooding the TEAM 1040 lines with trade proposals, convinced that the rumours and reportage on the situation ahve him on his way out the door, and happy to be doing so.
But the player himself has been steadfast about how this is not the case. He has spoken passionately and at length on the subject on multiple occasions, and has not wavered on his protestations of how much he wants to be here. It creates and interesting dichotomy for Canuck fans. It is like having a Plan A and Plan B for your rosterbation these days. A regular and Supersize one. ( and, of course, has begged the opinion, voiced by some of our sages already, that his departure hastens in a new era of Dark Times of the Rebuild ).
I, for one, have some confidence in the possibility of another narrative the " Redemption of the KesLord". He is the perfect player to trade, with a very Cap for Production friendly hit. If he is indeed on the way out, that will surely make him a market player. One that needs to bring back at least his equal to signal that this is indeed "retool, not rebuild" storyline.
So, you read all sorts of things about these guys. It is a sometimes ugly side of the collective mania, but there it is. It is just noise to the really good ones anyhow, and that it is part of the package of playing in a Canadian city, let alone the best one over the last two decades in a country where the sport is followed, dissected, and devoured with an appetite that seems to know no bounds. There is a pretty high probability that there is someone in an office in the NHL head office who follows the Canadian dollar fluctuations on a daily basis. As the most recent Cup participant from the hockey homeland, and like al the other ones, just watching to see how far the Canadians can go in this one, all we have until next fall is the promise of hockey, and lineups to come.
If we take the best player last year at his word, then the possibilities become more varied and dynamic. Right now, the rumour de jour is that Paul Maurice has a four year contract, and Evander Kane is possibly on the market. A 21 year old like him, with all that potential, the home town lure, would certainly be the best example of "a player to play with Kesler", but there may be others as the off season unfolds. After that there is money to spend on a goaltender to play some real minutes with Eddie Lack, so he can get some practice time in with Rollie from time to time. The rumour mill has spit out Jaroslav Halak because of his being able to play Rollie Melanson's style to a tee, having his best years by far with the Canuck goaltending coach.
With the variable of keeping or buying out the last year of Booth's deal, and the trading of any number of folks that might decide that, even though they got a no trade of some degree ( for instance, Hansen's modified no trade kicks in soon but not yet ), maybe I don't want to be here.
That is something that often comes up at a time like this, but, again, consider that gragh again. That is a pretty impressive bump to all the other teams in our country, where their suckage was at varying up and down levels not anywhere near the levels that pretty well 80 % of this current roster maintained. That they eracted to a horrible season predictably, with dramas behind the bench diametrically opposite to the polished positivity and entertaining style of AV's coaching, well, sometimes shit happens.
The injuries that were almost devious ( and, again, Detroit. All those injuries this year, and made they made the playoffs by going 10 for 16 down the stretch ). One Top 6 guy would have to replace two more going onto IR, in their return. The Sedin Twins must have played less together this year than any season that they can remember.
It is what it is. But just because the graph is pointing down, does not mean that it will continue going down, and nor should it. The talent that is here should have earned a little bit of slack by that mountain on that graph ( who am I kidding ? it's strictly "what have you done for me lately" when it comes to success in this demanding market. ) One where they themselves are guilty of setting such a high standard to bitch about. That is just how it is, how it should be, and it is something every one of the players were aware of when they signed on the dotted line here.
The difference really is, how much of that slack are you willing to give the new guy and Mr Linden to do their thing? There is no doubt that change is coming, inevitable, and needed. But don't forget the change that will come just from that talent coming back for redemption themselves. There will more than one huge chip on the shoulder in the Canuck dressing room next fall, with or without the Livonia, Michigan native. I hope he stays myself, as I think that the Sedins need to be utilized as the best second line in the NHL, and the first be built around Kesler.
Have fun with the change. Of course, we could talk about change all day here in Lotusland. Certainly for more than this here 2085 words that, for me, are enough for now.
More to come. Always. ;-)