I've been forced away from the World Wide Web since training camp (thank you Apple), but with a resurrected MacBook and
renewed vigour a sense of obligation I return with meandering thoughts that may ultimately find coherence as it relates to the game of hockey and the team we love loyally tolerate. So you've been given your reprieve, but now it's time to suffer the whims and folly of another chapter of Taylorisms.
As we pass the quarter-mark of the NHL season, we've usually seen enough of players and teams to understand trends and streaks enough to be able to make more firm assessments of the goings on around the league. My take on the Canucks so far? They belong on the old MadTV skit "Lowered Expectations", the dating site all the awkward, sad, desperate and usually inappropriate characters go to find love.
"Dees 'Nucks" aren't without their charm, don't get me wrong. The somewhat surprising injection of youth has given us a little more to get excited about this year than maybe we were expecting. From top to bottom the team is faster, no moreso than when Brandon Sutter is in the lineup which for me at least is enough to justify the trade. The contract is another story of course, because his wheels are nice at $3.3M, but not so shiny at the $4.4M he is due to make next year (per generalfanager.com).
The reality is though, that at its core this team is full of warts and, hot start aside, would have no business sniffing a playoff spot if this were a typical year in the Pacific Division. Vancouver might be sitting only behind LA and San Jose at the moment, but in larger context are scarcely good enough for 6th in the Central where (at the time of this writing) the Canucks sit tied in points with Winnipeg having played one more game than the Jets. In the East, Vancouver would be sandwiched between Tampa and Boston, out of a playoff spot and giving up games in hand on everyone behind them save Columbus. It's top-3-or-bust for the Canucks this year, and considering Anaheim is (slowly) rounding into some sort of form and the surprising Arizona Coyotes refuse to go away, that is a pretty tall order.
Despite all the ink, breath and pixels spilled discussing the kids this year (which is a great story, don't get me wrong), this bus is still driven by Henrik Sedin and his brother Dank, and the team can go only as far as they are able to take them. The good news is that that could still be a pretty long trip considering the Twins remain close to elite status at 35 years young, but with little consistent help behind them in the lineup expectations need to be kept in check. In an episiode of "Lowered Expectations", this team is the 40-year-old divorcee who spent her settlement money on botox that went wrong and tries to hide it with a low-cut dress and 4 pounds of foundation.
Rebuilding, or retooling or whatever buzzword people want to throw around in describing teams in transition, is ugly and awkward. There is little cohesiveness, no one knows for sure what the end-game looks like or how long it will take to get there, and in between you have the highs of blowing out Chicago in front of a raucous home crowd and losing to New Jersey in a game I'm sure no one was conscious for at the end. That was one weekend. The real excitement to me is seeing the kids play, tracking their development and watching them grow on the ice. They are the future after all, and there's a certain enjoyment to get from watching the progression take place. There's also a more sinister pleasure to be had from wondering whether or not Vrbata will rediscover his scoring touch enough to increase his trade value, because to me, one of the best things that could happen to the team this year would to finally see a big sell-off of expensive veterans and start salivating over the draft.
We're in Future Mode now. This team as it is has it's moments, but overall isn't going to win over many hearts. Maybe it's more about our expectations than the group on the ice though.
The Vague Ideas
- One of the nail-biting issues of the season is the akward reality-tv show that is the Pacific Division this year. No amount of sucking seems to be enough as it looks like the entire west coast has decided to throw their hats in the Auston Matthews race. If Vancouver is within even smelling distance of the playoffs, does Aquillini give the okay to sell-off the veteran UFA's?
- Assuming Jim Benning really believed this team had a shot at the playoffs at the start of the year, how could he not have tried harder to improve the defence? When Luca Sbisa is a guy you look to and say: "we really need him back", you do not have a good defence.
- Hasn't Luca Sbisa looked a lot better this year? He's still not that good, but he has improved, no?
- Anybody else finding it harder and harder to know what Willie Desjardins is all about? No defensive structure to discern, odd lineup decisions and a continued lack of ability (or willingness) to make mid-game adjustments is getting frustrating. He can step up his press-conference game after being locked into "real-good" territory and that's great, but if you're not giving the kids any chance to atone their mistakes and your "genius coaching move" is to put Brandon Sutter with the Twins, I think we have to wonder...
- How long until Travis Green gets the tap? Does Willie D see the end of his contract?
- I'm just gonna leave this here: Zack Kassian is in stage 2 of the NHL/NHLPA drug and alcohol treatment program and hasn't played a single game for the Canadiens. Local hero Eddie Lack is sporting a 1-4-1 record with an .890 SV% at 5v5 (per hockey-reference.com), having started 6 out of Carolina's 21 games to date of this writing. Frank Corrado has yet to play a game for the high-and-mighty Toronto Maple Leaves, Nick Bonino is on pace for a 21-point season in Pittsburgh where Adam Clendening has suited up for 4 games, recording an assist.
- Anybody else dumbfounded by the layoffs at TSN1040? They have successfully shortened their listenable hours to 10am-6pm, and that's only if you have any stomach for 'The Moj'. David Pratt has a job as part of the worst morning show on radio (save maybe Peak102.7) but Jeff Paterson is unemployed? Vancouver really does hate its sports fans.
- Speaking of Vancouver sports fans, does someone wanna explain the crowd at
GM PlaceRogers Place Centre StadiumArena? Calling it a library is generous. Can't fill it even with tickets at their lowest prices in a decade? So cheap that even when you do go to a game, see the best one of the year, see Daniel Sedin score a hat trick, you can't even afford to toss in your shitty Billabong piece of crap you wear flat-brimmed and half-sideways? Poor showing there, kids. I realise hockey became "hipster cool" there for a few years but where are the real fans? Are there any inside the GVA anymore? Show yourselves. I understand the sad reality that things get corporate and average fans are priced out, but there's no reason not to go to games anymore and there are still great games to watch. What am I missing?
- Matt Bartkowski is one helluva skater, solid first pass at times, but can he do anything else?
- Has Burrows/Horvat/Virtanen been a thing yet this season? I feel it should be a thing. Burrows/Horvat/Virtanen. Anyone? Maybe it would be bad, but I want it in my life.
- How good is Ben Hutton? When I saw him at prospects camp in July he really stood out as a man amongst boys, and I put money down on him being an early callup but I never saw this coming.
- I hate how MSM types over-hype certain stretches of the schedule or specific games as "must-win" or "the season hangs in the balance", but when you look at Vancouver's next 5 games and see (in order) Minnesota, Dallas, Anaheim, LA, and Dallas, you can't hide from the thought that this stretch will have a big impact on the season.
I'll leave you with this, because we all had more than enough b.s. from Alberta fans before the season started.