It has been a interesting week or so in Canuckleville. After the Taco Kid got traded, the Twitterati lost their minds for a while. Jim Benning was suddenly inept at a job he has done all his life. The man was literally born into hockey, with a father as a scout. None of that mattered to that small loud segment of our fanbase that by their volume gets an outsized portion of the attention. Or so it seems. Here at NM, we try to be open to one and all, regardless. Things like narratives and ( especially and ) our sports media's insatiable desire to pander to that small loud segment are less important. It is the loud voice that sometimes gets all the attention, ( see Trump, Donald ), but it is not the only voice.
But I am telling you nothing new. As someone who was six when the team played it's first year ( and I lived in the Interior. You want to talk about the "Canuck Tea Party". There is a rabid, purer strain in many of the small, hockey mad towns in this province ), and having been a fan ever since, I have met many of the aforementioned. I love them. They are friends and family. I just choose to not do it anymore. Especially in the offseason, when everything is supposition.
Now, don't get me wrong here. I am as passionate a Canuck fan as those season ticket holders ( or, those that used their invites to the Summer Summit thingie ) that took all of nine minutes to chant Eddie Lack's name, and boo in the face of their GM when they found out that there were calls on Ryan Miller. ( "You mean we could have traded Miller and kept the beloved Eddie" BOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO......." )
If Eddie Lack is indeed "thought of as a back up around the NHL"", then no amount of winning Twitter and being a media darling will change that until he does it on the ice. Look at the guy the Oilers got for more than what the Canucks got for the guy that Canuck fans fell in love with . Fell for Eddie so much that the first thing they wanted to do after the chicken dinner was find a reason to get mad and boo the guy that traded him.
Cam Talbot - 57 GP, 2.00 GAA, and a .931 in the NHL, and a career record of 33-15-5.
Eddie Lack - 82 career appearances, a 2.43 and .917, and he was 34-30 and 9 with the Canucks.
Even factoring in the fact that New York was a much better defensive team this year than the Canucks, one line looks like a guy you would pay for, while the other put up back up numbers.
I totally get it though. I fell in love with Eddie Lack myself. Part of it was the way he grabbed the spotlight that often burns too hot for goaltenders in this town and owned it like no one has since Gary Smith. ( Seriously kids, google "Suitcase Smith". Dude co-won a Vezina here, and got traded sooner than you would think a Vezina guy should because he compared the owner's daughter's looks to one of his horses at a party. He was a pretty unique guy as well ). The way that he did perform when the starter was injured was certainly decent. When they lost some of those games, I remember recapping how "you could not blame it on the goaltender ". So, the reasons behind getting vocal at the GM, I can understand them, especially in this town. But those numbers don't lie either.
None of the moves the GM made this year were that bad. They were just different, ( and tougher because the players involved were all popular ) because they fulfilled different needs, and because they address different needs. That seems pretty progressive. Like the hiring of Rick Celebrini as "director of rehabilitation". The Canucks have often been cutting edge, and hiring one of the best guys in his field to head a team that includes a long time assistant promoted to a "head trainer" position, while still looking for another strength coach to join Takahashi's team is certainly a different way of organizing that aspect of the team.
They spent time with the San Antonio Spurs this off season to learn how that team has sustained such a high level of performance from their aging ( yet still performing way better than the "experts" think they should with those aging stars. Tim Duncan is a freak ! ) core. The team will have an "entire team" approach to the health and care of their team, just like Mike Gillis had his "sleep chamber" with this reorganization.
But all the media mavens in this town saw was the firing of Mike Burnstein after getting rid of Gilman, Crawford and Henning. All they could see was another easy opportunity to stir up that one segment of the fanbase they know they can always get riled. Sad, huh ?
So, that was another of the moves. How about the Bieksa deal instead ? That is one that that certainly divided the fanbase. Folks were a little more rational on that one after a while, as the return is OK for a 34 year old on an expiring contract. But Kevin Bieksa was so much more than that here. He was an icon. He was one of the guys that the media always turned to, because he is an awesome quote, and an honest one. His charity work is amazing, turning the tragedy of his close friend on the team into a way to help people who really need that help. There is a reason why, when facing the wall of all the jerseys with their numbers and nameplates, I spent my $200+ on #3.
Even while I struggled with it in his autopsy because of that, it was pretty easy to see that deal was probably going to happen. Corrado and Clendening needed spots. The loser in that battle of right handed defensemen for KB3's spot will probably take the spot Ryan Stanton vacates as a waived player. They will still make the team, but they will have to watch the waistline with all that press box popcorn available.
So, so far Jim Benning is two for three. Three for three if you buy into the company line about Brisebois being the "guy we wanted" if they had gotten the second round pick the masses demanded as a "reasonable price" for Saint Eddie. Even if you don't, the more I learnt about him after he was drafted, I am willing to cut JB some slack on that deal. The goalie market is always weird anyhow. And the trade market does not have a column for "media savvy" when it comes to adding up the pluses and minuses to make a trade in today's NHL.
Whether he went three for four, or ".500" depends not only how you view the Lack deal ( and it is not a coincidence that the same tongues wagging on one were wagging on the other over at CA, and amongst the twitterati ), but how you feel about acquiring Brandon Prust. For the record, I would have done that deal straight up, but giving up a pick ( 5th round ) with it is OK too. Why ? Well, big Zack certainly showed he has talent, but he just cannot, right now, harness that talent on a consistent basis. In return, the Canucks got a very, very good PKer, a bottom six stalwart, and a player who is the poster child for consistency. They gave up the "appearance" of talent for the certainty of performance that is Prust's calling card. With enough youth in the pipeline now to replace that promise ( and, it is Zack, not Eddie, who is like a Rorchadt Test for Canuck fans. Some see Todd Bertuzzi, some see Alex Stojanov. The Canucks moved a headache for a reasonable price and got a very good return. That is a win for me.
I like Matt Bartkowski, even if that means the twitter tongues wag about "see, he is trying to make the Bruins here!". He has speed, and I, again, have enough trust in this GM's ability to assess hockey horseflesh to allay my final judgement until, you know, we actually see the team play. Taylor Fedun was a pretty good prospect, just making the NHL before he broke his leg in that horrible play that changed the icing rules in the NHL. Richard Bachman may only play in the AHL, but has played enough in the NHL to be a decent "injury callup" to fill that need. The way JB signed Yannick Weber while avoiding arbitration was a nice piece of business as well. So, the free agent signing and other business has been professional and understandable.
So, what is the problem ? What happened to the guy folks were falling all over themselves to hate on Gillis for ? Maybe nothing ? It certainly was not his draft class this year, as the Canucks seemed to pickup some very good players. Seriously, the more I read and watch on Youtube about Zhukenov and Jasek, I wonder how the team managed to get them where they did ! Our second generation scout had another good draft, by most reports.
Perhaps the deals were not that bad in retrospect ? Perhaps Canuck fans ( all over B.C ) were just crankier than usual because it has been so damn hot recently. All I know is, once the T.O media (Tim and Sid is my bet ) gets ahold of the tape of the season ticket folks giving JB the business, it will all be about the same lame jokes and "look at these guys".
From a fanbase and city that suck so hard Oiler fans feel sorry for them, while judging a team that, for all the changes and "getting younger", has clearly been the one with the best record over the last twenty years in Canada. That is our cross to bear people. Even if those folks are more worthy of your pity than your response, pithy though it inevitably would be, even THEY can throw up the "No Cups" thing. Sure, it was a Black and White, six team, two round Cup ( kind of like getting to the third round now ), but...well, you know.
That is what we want, right ? As the team progresses along the path of "retool", rebuild", "getting younger", or just remaining competitive while bringing in new blood, like every good team does ( see Detroit ), opinions will vary. I know it might be an unpopular opinion right now, but I honestly don't get the hub-bub. I liked Eddie Lack as much as anyone, but even that underwhelming to some deal was not THAT bad.
But then I have never been a "tar and pitchforks" guy. Or, at least I have not been that guy for a long long time !