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It's a Thin Line...

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Yeah, the Canucks are probably not going to do the playoff thing this year. But the good thing about enduring a bit of losing ? It will clear out the bandwagoners for a while...

Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports

There are so many things to do in Vancouver.  In the entire beautiful province.  A lot of the fanbase of the Canucks could probably tell you things that they would do with the time they dedicate to the team on game nights.  While this is not to say they should, there is a reason why some of our fanbase get thought bandwagoners that only get involved when the team is doing well.  ( not here, of course, most NMers are hopelessly addicted ).

Because there is a bit of truth to it.  That, and the aforementioned playground we reside in contribute to the way some of the fanbase react to games like the 5-0 loss to the Kings.  The general sense of malaise and tales of woe ( coupled with a strong spicing of armchair GMing and "what I'd do..." ) make #CanuckTwitter tough to read after games like that.

So, should we be panicking and joining the mob ?  Do you need a new pitchfork, or can you make do with the old one ?  That is up to you.  I can only speak for myself, and while I understand how the pain of losing makes it tough to stomach at times, as long as the team is playing hard and has not given up, that is good enough for me.  Though the idea of "giving up" is for the fans.  Athletes don't think like that.

Even if they did, the Canucks are not in a position to even consider it.  They reside in a playoff spot at the moment( before the 31st's games ), tied ( with 37 points, 1 point behind the Sharks, and 11 points behind the surging Kings. )   They have played a couple more games than everyone else in the division to be even with the Coyotes, one up the Flames, and a couple up on the Ducks.  And the Oilers are only 4 points out of a playoff spot.  Hell, they have one more win than the Canucks !  So, everyone is going to be in the race for a while, probably.

An argument can be made that the Canucks have actually had a good season to date, when measured against the preseason tales of the bottom of the barrel that we all read.  Especially when viewed through the lens of how they have had to deal with injuries.  Here is the current list of NHL injuries at ESPN.  There are a couple teams ( the Pens and Bolts ) with longer lists, but this one is only the past week.  The Rotoworld one completes the picture with the long term injuries the team is dealing with. ( hover your cursor over the symbol to the left of the player for up to date news ), but those are just official, and don't tell you everything.

Captain Hank is playing, but not taking faceoffs, and not at 100% ( and not even on the lists as a result.  All while "no big deal" ing it to the media.  Yeah, Swedes are soft ).  Burrows and Higgins are playing hurt, because they are needed.  Tanev is day to day to day to day to day to day.  Just getting hot Sven Baertschi is now sidelined.  Miller is still out, and about a week away.  It is not something to toss your hands up and declare the "season over, these guys suck" like the Twitterati after the Kings game.  When most of your Top Six is playing hurt or not at all, and a good chunk of your Top Four defense to boot, being competitive in todays NHL while those folks get better is a good thing, not a bad one. And the Kings are 6-3-1 in their last ten, and look to have turned it around.  So, while I dislike that team, I can respect them.  Getting beat soundly by them right now is not a bad thing at the moment.

Are the players still playing hard ?  As painful as the recent losses have been ( and when you check the standings, the L10 column is a quick look at who's hot and not. ) The Canucks are 5-4-1, which is competitive in the West.  The Ducks and Coyotes are next up, before the Florida teams and Eddie Lack's new cohorts come to town.  Based on the effort, and their last ten, unless the roof totally caves in, there are points to be had in the upcoming slate of games.  The talent level, and relative health of the lineup may not make that prediction come true.

I think it is pretty apparent that the season is going to be one of "you just never know" as the kids get experience that will be invaluable down the road.  One thing they stressed going into this retool was to have a "winning environment".  At the moment, that is a relative term.  Heaven knows it is a thin line between winning and losing in the NHL.  But in the past run of , if not excellence, then very very good play for most of the past decade and this one too, we have seen this team spend to the max and be competitive. Without the one thing we all want to see, this city has become pretty spoiled when it came to having a team to cheer for that was pretty ******* good for a pretty long time.

I know, there was always something.  That West Coast Express team should have won a Cup ( goaltending was the "thing" there, ask anyone ! ), and we don't need to rehash 2011 to get the point across.  Since 1994, the Canucks have missed the playoffs seven times.  The "great leader" Messier's time here neatly coincided with the worst,  a four year span from '96-'97 to '99-'00.  THAT, Mr white tower Rogers guy stuffing his ads down our throats, is why we change the channel when that bald dome fills the screen.  The idea that you folks keep ignoring tit and still propagate the myth of the "great leader and winner" is kind of laughable to a fanbase who saw a guy who did everything to divide instead of lead.  Who took the most cash a guy could make at the time,  and then did all the wrong things , ( he had help from the management at the time.  John Macaw made that deal, not the hockey guys.  Messier was entitled and lazy as a result of that direct link.  ) that definitely did not produce any kind of promised success.  We see him a bit differently on the West Coast as a result guys.  Maybe put someone else in the ads out here?  ;-) .Please ?  After that was 2005- '06 and 2007-'08, and of course the Tire Fire Year of TORTZ in '13-'14.  Still, two thirds of the possible ( 21 seasons and counting since 1994 ) times the city could get to feel that special sense of anticipation ( yeah, I know it has been pretty fleeting a feeling as of late ) that comes with the second season, they did.

The team has been to the Final more than any other Canadian team in that time.  Hell, only the Oilers and Sens in the 2000's have been there since Pat Quinn led the team within a crossbar of it all..  The point is, as we watch the youth get their on the job training, a little historical perspective never hurts.  We have been pretty spoiled here.  I know it aint the Wings streak of playoff appearances, and I make this statement without the research when I say it is probably the best of any team in the birthplace of hockey over that span.  Feel better now ?  No ? Damn.  OK, carry on with wishing for losses and "Falling for Auston" instead then...carry on.

A quick blast through how some of the players have been doing, and / or progressed :

Alex Biega - He is +3 while logging 17:56 TOI and having 2 assists on 18 shots.  It is fun to watch him play, and realize he has finally made his dream come true after 300+ games in the minors.  Willie has said "he'll stay in" even as the injury list shortens.  A nice vote of confidence.

Radim Vrbata - Has struggled to score lately, and is a a 7.6% shooting percentage on a team leading ( two more than Daniel Sedin with 135 ) 137 shots.  ( It might hurt his trade value a little, but not much.  The NHL knows he can score. )  His line is playing well and getting chances...just not results.

Bo Horvat - See above.  His play has been pretty good as well lately, actually.  He is just really, really snakebit.  Those powerful rushes to the net will start paying off as soon as one goes in off a foot or something.  Still playing hard and the right way.

Ben Hutton - My boy is -6, the worst on the blue line.  He is still making confident plays in his own end that lead to 80 foot passes to forwards though.  Handling the extra ice time as well as can be expected.

Alexandre Burrows - His -10 is almost as bad to look at as Vrbata's -14. ( both pale in comparison to Bo's -17. #yeesh ! ) That is what happens when you are struggling to score as a team.  Pucks that usually go in skip over your stick at point blank range instead.

Daniel Sedin, Henrik Sedin, and Jannik Hansen - Since Whiteboard Willie put 36 beside 22 and 33, they have been a pretty great 1st line in the NHL.  Hansen has 12 goals and 22 points, while the Captain has a team leading 24 assists and 33 points, and Daniel has a team leading 16 goals and 37 points.  That's 9th and 15th in the NHL, BTW.

Special mentions to Andrey Pedan, who looks intriguing at 6-5 and 215-220.  Pretty good speed for his size, and a good first pass.  Sven Baertschi, who had goals in three straight before joining the ( sigh ) injury list.  Brandon Sutter, for starting to skate a bit on his own, Luca Sbisa ( you miss him now, dontcha !? ), for getting closer too, and Adam Craknall, who has averaged just under 13 minutes a game, with 3 goals and 4 assists in 31 games played.  Not bad for someone folks thought was an afterthought brought in for the Kraft Hockeyville game, because he was from there.  Faster than everyone thought, and busts his butt every shift.

I get that there is a thin line between love and hate, and that watching winning hockey is much more enjoyable than watching struggling hockey, or hockey where you have to look for the good things, or hockey that the team is still winning, but it is like pulling teeth, or losing in various heartbreaking fashion.  It is not the same as the heydays, when the power play would roll over another team on it's way to another 6-3 win.  You can bet there will be changes along the way, and that the team will not look the same at the end of the season.  But the team said they would play the kids, and they are.  They are still competitive while doing so.  Sure, it is not the times we are used to out here living in " The Most Beautiful Place in the World", but it'll do.

Shit happens.  Surely we can handle a bit of short term pain for the long term gain.  The Aquilinis have tried everything else.  Sticking with Jim Benning's' plan to "play the kids in a winning environment" is still the right thing to do.  Surely we can handle it, right Vancouver B.C ?