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Changing With the Times

As we wait for the pendulum to swing Tort's way ( edit: more like an axe, and it swung ! ), as rumours of Boston's assistant manger leading the GM search heat up, ( Jim Benning a one time teammate? ) as everyone awaits Trevor Linden's first act, ( the right one ) so they can go ahead and dissect it to the Nth degree one way or the other, ( sometimes even both ) the talk of our hockey team here is in the abstract, "my team isn't playing, so this is all that is left for me this year... @sigh@ " ...damn I miss the playoffs...they're so good this year !

Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Spor

But, that us our lot in life, fellow Canuck fans, so there is no sense in mollycoddling and vacillating about it.  That way lies madness and tales of woe that only an Alberta sports fan can tell ( yes, I said that. The Oilers for far too long with their drafts not improving them enough, and the Flames were sucking before Iggy went and made the Bruins even better damn it... )...and, as the late Hunter S Thompson famously said, "we are, after all, professionals...".

The team definitely did not live up to the expectations of a demanding populace, and even though it could be posited that the past record should be expected to get a little bit more slack, the fact is that the literal "cliff" in my last "Change" post 's graph is surely going to scare some.  It is almost like we came face to face with our shared fandom mortality.

Well, maybe not that dramatic.  But there have been gigabytes of clickbait generated over the past few weeks, ( when we aren't watching hockey in that strange at arms length enjoyment that comes with not liking the teams involved, but loving the games played for their sheer, breathless intensity and pure fun that makes hockey the best sport to watch on the planet )....terrabytes maybe. It is what we do, and while you can find the entire roster, breakdowns of who they should or shouldn't keep, which of the prospects might challenge for how many spots, and of course the ongoing pure, uncut speculation that is al we have to read right now while we hunt the dark corners of the internet for our hockey rumours while out of the spotlight.

Personally, I am still pretty happy with cheering for my team.  I remain confident that a Cup will one day find it's way into a West Coast summer's day with a million BC'ers basking in it's reflected glory.  You kind of are obligated to be, and at this point, I just want to get one before the rest of the No Cup club. The Blues, Leafs ( yes Leaf fans, 2 round     "  B & W Cups " don't count in this reckoning, and 1967 is as long as those poor bastards in St. Louis had to go through, and there are enough teams without one too the rest in this list here ... a few good teams amongst the bad there...

Even if after the NHL went from 6 to 12 teams, and didn't have a four round Cup until 1979 - 80 when they merged with the WHA,, those two teams still stand way above our travails out West , and at least we had 3 Cup Final appearances and two Game Seven's to ponder through our tears. The list here is Cup Final droughts, and the Canucks are actually way way down on it, even if it only goes to 2012 ;-).

But those things really don't mean too much.  No, after a period of sustained, at least regular season, excellence that seemed to build the fan expectations to a resounding crescendo before the clashing, crashing cymbals of the past year ended that tune.  The two first round exits that preceded it have to be blamed on someone, and it can be argued in several different logical and cogent ways.  I am not really here to argue with folks about that.  I can read a calendar too.

Here is the thing to remember. You have an owner that wants to win a damn Cup as much as you do, and one that spends to the Cap limit and beyond each and every year to do so.  There is a reason that Canuck fans had such heightened expectations. It is because since 2008, we got used to the playoffs, and the exhilaration, the wonderful early summer days that make those celebrations and gatherings uniquely West Coast.

( Note : wrote the above before Torts would be gone, the rest after. Sometimes life puts the commas in the right places ;-) OK.....continue. )

But, now that Torts is gone ( to a great TV career, I am sure. Milbury should be worried today...Torts has four more years of paid vacation, and would be better on the FIRST day than Milbury ever was in that TV role ), we can get down to some serious pondering here.  We know that the new coach will have his own systems, sure, but with Mr Linden at the helm, the chances are that the fit will be better, and that is a lot of what those of us that believe the team underperformed this past year thought was the problem anyhow.

I was a Torts fan, to start.  But it just seemed that he would tell us one thing in the media, and the team something different in the room.  Look to the "youth" in the line up for example.  The Sedin Twins present the most intriguing example however.

That the two identical leaders on the team would say "you bet boss" when told to block shots on the penalty kill is not a surprise.  They have always said they are more than "one dimensional players", and probably took that shit as an insult when they were winning Hart and Lindsay Trophies to go with their Art Ross hauls.

They simply did what the coach asked for, and led as best they could through it.  There has been ( sparingly, together the Twins are very durable ) a long period of at least one Twin on the ice, it seems.  Especially the Captain and his streak.  Even while the mouthbreathers and brain deprived would come up with concepts like soft, feminine, and just plain funny looking to wallow in their animus, the brothers and quintessential Canucks would just put their heads down and play the game that they love, and that we all love watching.

It has been that way through a lot of years of continual improvement and Sedinery Wizardry.  But now, for the first time in a long time, there has been a slight regression.  As TSN told me in their morning loop, ( while reporting on the Torts firing. It is indeed reason one why, as they noted in the Linden quote.  There was too much regression throughout the lineup.

For whatever the reasons, ( and it sure was entertaining, in a " Don Cherry coached your team once " sort of way ) that was enough for the team, and for me.  Henrik Sedin had 50 pts, his lowest since 2003-2004 ( 42 ) .  Daniel Sedin had 47 pts, his lowest since the year before ( 31 ) , and the guy that everyone said had the "best" season amongst the insanity was Ryan Kesler, but his 43 points was his least since he had 37 in 2007-2008., Torts might be a good coach. He does have a Cup.  But he just was not the right coach in Vancouver at that time.  As Yankee and others have said, a "square peg in a round hole" ).  Let's just acronym ( SPIRH ) that bitch, and never speak of it again.

You have two players ( and Kesler is an 11.7 % in his career so far , and his 393 in 655 games is only part of what he brings on the ice, but still close to the Twins. #KeepKes ) who have flirted with that point a game line their entire career. Henrik Sedin and Daniel Sedin.  Compare them to Sidney Crosby here.  Why Sid ? Well, he is, by all accounts, the "best in the game", and also one of those elite players that is ALWAYS over a point a game when you look at his career stats.

When you look at the truly great players, they inevitably are types that, like Sid, by and large, most had a better than 10 % career shooting percentage, and rarely have seasons under that line.  Mr Crosby has a 14.8 % so far. ( Daniel is at 11.9 % and Henrik 13.0 % to date ) Now when you look at the Top 10 in total points, you see how those numbers compare.  Gretzky was a 17.4 % over his career.  Messier a 16.4" . Gordie Howe played long before they adopted that stat, but still played long enough to get to 16.0 % for the years they did ( starts at the expansion era or 67-68 in his remarkable career )  Ron Francis is #4 on the all time points list, and his 14.6,  ( pretty Sid like ) Marcel Dionne rounds out the Top 5, and had a lifetime 13.6 %. ( Dionne is also # 2 all time on shots taken, between Ray Borque and Al MacInnis. Both of who have an identical 6.6% career shooting %. Defensemen take more shots though. The 10 % line is for forwards  ;-)

We have two, supremely talented ones.  When compared to Sidney's well over ( 769 reg season points in 550 games ) a point a game, the slightly under that magical number, Henrik ( 842 in 1,010 games ) and Daniel ( 805 in 979 games ) is still more than enough for not doubting their ability to do it again.

The prevailing sentiment amongst some of the doubters in the fandom and media, I can understand.  We are not exactly "stoic" out here. Hyperbole, amazing unsubstantiated statements, and overstatement are our stock in trade here in the most NorthWesterly corner of the NHL.  It is what it is, as someone once said. Sometimes it's even fun.

But the fact that both our guys have historically proved they can do it, and who have responded to every time there has been disappointment by just working harder ( honestly, if you think the workout program this year is not one for the ages for these guys, after the way this year went ), the fact that they have never given us any reason to doubt, is certainly not enough for me to jump ship now.

They are facing the same spectre of age we all are.  That they continue to do that as the guys that test out the fittest on this team ( Mike Santorelli testing out up with them was the reason he opened some eyes, and was hired and top 6 ! ) , and their character and ability to handle age as we all do leave me with no doubts they can do it again.  They are thirty four next year folks, not forty.

So, whether the change that occurs is Ryan Kesler, someone else, or whatever the new guy (s) wants to do, and whether your two identical hockey superstars responsibility ( 1st or 2nd line ) is in the new regime, doubt in their abilities, and desire to return to levels not seen before is simply not in my vocabulary when thinking about there abilities, and ability to produce.

They earned that with the same character that makes me respect them on and off the ice.  The same dignity that made their ability to deal with the fishbowl of Canuck fandom from the time that "Sedin Sisters" was something that we ourselves ( well, the CanuckTeaParty, you know how those folks can be. Everyone knows somebody, right ? ;-) hung upon them.

This season was the worst in a long time.  That is fine.  We can deal with it.  But everyone that is writing the team off as folks do in all sports, but love to do in regards to this hockey team needs to remember that the context is one of continual excellence. The regular season became better than the post season suckage in that estimation, and you can look at it in both ways.  But we are not talking about a team that had to suck for a long time.  You have had a real hope of competing for the prize for a while Vancouver hockey fans.  This past season  is going to force us to realize that those recent times, and this most recent one, are harbinger, or anomaly.

But it should not mean immediately writing off the Twins as a place where points will go to die, and where their production will "never be the same" as a certain radio station with the rights had hosts agreeing with "first time caller, long time expert"'s engaged in the lazy hyperbole that passes for programming these days....

Simply because they believe it to not be so.  As many times as the Sedin Brothers have shown to be able to defy "the pundits" opinions ( nevermind the "experts" ), that is enough for this long time watcher of the team.

2137 already? Next time...change and youth. Get off my lawn kid !