Thursday, July 24, 2014

In Linden We Trust

It’s mid-Summer—well, okay, I’m in the Southern Hemisphere so it’s mid-Winter—so that means it’s time to set aside all this talk of war, disaster, nationalism, dysfunctional governments and who-shot-who-first-ism and move to what is really important:  Hockey.  Specifically, your Vancouver Canucks.

Coming off of a disastrous season, the Canucks are heading into the 2014-15 season with some big changes.  There is some good news, including some very good news.  There is some bad news, including some very bad news. 

The Good News – Three Losers Shown the Door

-- The insufferably whiney Roberto Luongo has been sent back to Florida, where he belongs and where he never should have left.  I have never in my life witnessed a professional athlete who radiated loserdom at the level Luongo did.  Despite rapid fan support, coach after coach forced to work with him eventually went on to benching him and finding excuses not to play him.  He was locker room poison, an embarrassing primadonna and an example of how a man blessed with the highest level of skill and talent can still be a failure if he lacks mental fortitude.
-- The not-ready-for-GM-prime-time experiment that was General Manager Mike Gillis has been fired. Gillis, a supposed hockey genius, is a player agent; not surprisingly, his fellow GMs took to him like the lone public defender at a District Attorneys’ conference.  He was repeatedly unable to make deals or trades, his draft picks were the laughing stock of the league and his final act of throwing former head coach Alain Vingault under the bus to save his job showed his character.  Good-bye, and good riddance.

--  Disastrous, and quite violent, New York import, head coach John Tortarella, was fired.  To be fair, this one is on the owner. Google “Canucks Tortarella Success”and you get 63,900 results.  Google “Canucks Tortarella Disaster”…..306,000 results.  I would be surprised if the man shows his face West of Calgary for the remainder of his life.

The Very Good News – The New Team Off the Ice, the First Big Acquisition

-- New team president is legendary Canuck Trevor Linden.  The new coach, Willie Desjardins, is a seasoned and proven winner.  The new general manager, Jim Benning, has been key to the Boston Bruins’ recent run of success, is a solid and respected GM league-wide and, best of all, lives in Portland, Oregon.  What a breath of fresh air this team is.

-- Add in legendary Canucks defenseman Doug Lidster as a new Assistant Coach and, wowza.

-- This new team acted to plug a hole in goal by signing Ryan Miller, from the St. Louis Blues but known more for his years with the Buffalo Sabres and the number one goalie for the U.S. national team.  Not only is Miller a better goalie than Luongo, he’s also a better man.  In his first interview with Vancouver press he stated how honored he was to play in one of hockey’s most important markets, how excited he and his wife were to move to Vancouver and how much he looked forward to meeting his new teammates.  (By contrast, Luongo announced his disappointment at being traded by Florida, that his wife hated rain and would remain in Florida and that he didn’t know any players on the Canucks).

The Bad News – The Old Team On the Ice

-- The Canucks were unable to make many major changes and will continue to rely on a core of players that largely date to the GM before Gillis.  The Sedin twins will continue to be the first line, and after that it’s largely only hope that someone will have a career year.  The team continues to be too heavily Swede, which is fine in a bikini contest but not in the NHL.  (Yes, I am of the Don Cherry School of NHL Personnel Management).

The Very Bad News – A Winner Walks Out the Door

-- American forward Ryan Kesler demanded to be traded before the end of the season and, despite pleas from the new management team, he held his ground.  New GM Benning dealt him to the Anaheim Ducks in the hockey equivilent of a fire sale.  Kesler is the anti-Luongo, a man with a much lower quotient of skill and talent but with the fiery determination that marks a winner.  His steadfast refusal to remain around a team that carried around the stink of failure is part and parcel of that determination.

-- Of all the images of last season, one will stay with me for a very long time.  The scene was a post-game interview with someone, I don’t remember who, following a 7-1 loss to the Calgary Flames.  In the background, sitting on a bench staring into his locker, was a towel-wrapped Kesler.  Though one could not hear him, making out his words was easy enough.  He was staring intensely in to his locker, his entire body language one of coiled and stifled outrage, saying over and over again: This is a fucking joke.

When your team attracts the likes of Luongo and repels the likes of Kesler, you have a problem.  Let us hope the new team off the ice has what it takes to give Vancouver the team it deserves.

The old “We Are All Canucks” banners have been replaced with the new team’s promise.  I think it speaks for itself.


  1. Excellent analysis Jourdan, I completely agree with everything you said. Of all the things Gillis did, firing Vignault was the dumbest. Matt and I were rooting for the Rangers in the SC final this year ENTIRELY because Vignault was the coach. You, as much as anyone, would know that a Canuck fan abhors the Rangers. To root for them tells you much about how violently we fucking hated Gillis.

    I am saddened by the loss of Kesler, he added much needed gravitas to the team. I hope the new goalie works out and I am longing for the day the "Sedin" franchise decide to hang up their skates. I don't hate the Sedins, but really their day is done. We need new fresh leadership on the ice, motivated players, players who are excited EVERY game to be playing in one of the NHLs strongest markets.

  2. The Vancouver Province toady had an article that said that all player would be expected to step up their games -- except the Sedins.

  3. "Toady," of course, was supposed to be "today." Still haven't quite figured out this iPad thingy.

  4. tee hee

    I was wondering who the toady was ;-)

    We've got plenty of 'em here in Olympia...