It has been a busy week in Canuckistan. On Sunday, the team hosted super-skills, and a curious twitter controversy erupted over media independence; on Monday – Gillis acquired reinforcements just before the deadline; on Tuesday – ghastly superimposed ads appeared behind the glass – sending fans into paroxysms of general annoyance. Ironically, the least exciting part of last week was Tuesday nights game…
Tuesday Night Doldrums:
The Canucks beat the Blue Jackets in the eighth round of the shootout on Tuesday night. Suffice it to say: I haven’t been that bored since the time I had to read Hume’s treatise: Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion. Perhaps I’m over-reacting, but I’d suggest that Tuesdays performance was the worst team game the Canucks have played since the 7-1 shellacking at the hands of the hated Blackhawks back in November. It’s not so much that the team was bad – Luongo turned in one of his best performances of the season – it was that their play was lethargic, sloppy and painful to watch. From an entertainment standpoint, it wasn’t just the teams worst game since November, it might have been their least entertaining game since 2007 – the year that Spengler Cup participants Byron Ritchie and Brad Isbister got regular power-play time. It was #battleofOnterrible quality hockey. Let’s just agree – if an unusual “illegal stick” is a games most indelible moment, then that game irredeemably sucked.
The Canucks lost every meaningful hustle stat: they were outhit, they were below 50% in the circle, they turned the puck-over 11 times, they had 20 shots blocked, and they gave up 1 clear, and 3 partial breakaways. The teams performance of late has undeniably been frustrating – but the teams recent 5-5-0 swoon isn’t cause for panic – at least not yet. As Jason Botchford points out, it’s not unusual for eventual champions to sag down the stretch. Though that’s a comforting thought, it doesn’t make these recent games any easier to watch!
We can expect to see tonight’s game have a similar feel to Tuesdays snoozer. Nashville – like Columbus – is a desperate, offensively limited unit who will try to slow the pace and grind out an ugly win. It would be nice to see the Canucks really take it to the inferior Predators – if only to give Shea Weber an extra moments pause before he decides to extend in Nashville after the season – but I don’t think it will happen. My strategy for this evening: close my eyes and think of the upcoming back-to-back in California this weekend. The Canucks usually come to play against the Ducks and the Kings, and we can only hope that matching up with these two familiar antagonists will wake the team from their current slumber. Anaheim-Vancouver is a reliably chippy, energetic and closely contested game; and the Kings are 2-0-0 against the Canucks in the season series, so one would hope the Canucks would be motivated to make a statement.
Murph v. Charron:
I am concerned about the evolution of Canucks coverage on Rogers Sportsnet. If you were following Twitter on Sunday, Canucks blogger @camcharron was skeptical of @sportsnetmurph‘s participation in Canucks Super Skills and criticized the Sportsnet in-game host/beat-reporter/sideline reporter for interacting in this manner with the club. Cam’s criticism lead to a twitter dust up between the two. I tend to be sympathetic to Mr. Charron’s argument in this case – journalistic independence isn’t a switch one can flip on and off, it’s a rigorous standard that needs to be applied in a constant, narrow manner. It’s admirable that Murph gave up an afternoon to support a charitable organization – but if he wants his point of view to be trusted by fans, it’s probably inappropriate for him to be involved in a Canucks event like he was on Sunday.
The New Eye-Sore:
Cam Cole wrote a controversial column recently about the hubris of a Canadian market team like the Canucks taking their fans for granted – in it he described the organization as, “in demand [and] out of touch.” He was complaining specifically about the team not making players available to the media during a road game in Nashville a couple of weeks ago. I’d argue that the superimposed ads on the glass that made their first appearance during Tuesday night’s Sportsnet broadcast are another example of this type of hubris.
An NHL game is already cluttered with branded space – on the ice, along the boards, lining the upper-deck – do we really need to add more obtrusive visual clutter to a Canucks broadcast? I’ve long hated the over the top proliferation of branded-space from an aesthetic perspective (indeed, I’m among a small minority of fans who’d far prefer to see tasteful adds on jerseys than on the ice surface). Needless to say: I wasn’t happy about the new superimposed ads. The ads themselves changed throughout the game, they were often ugly and they distracted from the game. Trevor Presiloski had some good arguments in support of the ads. It’s reasonable for the team to experiment with new ways of generating ad revenue – but, these ads went too far and diminished my enjoyment of the broadcast.
In this case, the team can’t have their cake and eat it too. Either “We are all Canucks” and the team is an important part of the community with an agenda that extends beyond simply making money, or it’s a cold-blooded business enterprise. Of course it’s the latter – we all know this – but the team likes to brand itself as something more, something collective, an ‘altruistic’ staple of the community. Superimposing obtrusive adds on the glass behind the goalies diminishes the visual quality of watching a game on television. It prioritizes the bottom line over fans enjoyment of the product, and though, in perspective – it isn’t the biggest deal in the world; surely we can all agree that the ads are an unwelcome eye-sore. They’re an annoyance on par with silent pop-up windows. As someone who already pays for NHL League Pass in order to watch Canucks hockey – I’m not happy to see the team moving towards squeezing out every last dollar, from every last inch of unbranded space within the arena. As @mozy19 wondered yesterday – where does it end? I get the economics of the issue, but the Canucks are a well-oiled revenue generating machine, and these new ads are, to put it simply: excessive, ugly and unnecessary.