Ah, those were the days.
I’m typing these words up at 6:09 on a Thursday evening, between the afternoon and the evening curling draws at the Brier. It’s not that I find curling more exciting than hockey, but I don’t think I’ve watched a full Vancouver Canucks game beginning-to-end since their game against Toronto right before the Olympic break, and before then, well, yeah.
I was born in Vancouver, grew up in Vancouver and have lived 98% of my life in British Columbia. I’ve also spent about 40% of my life watching sports. It would shock my 15-year-old self that my 25-year-old self doesn’t watch Canucks games all the time anymore, nor particularly cares where they finish in the standings. I’m not sure quite what did me in, but I haven’t cheered for a goal since the Stanley Cup riot (well, except that time Chris Tanev happened).
There’s a TV behind me tuned to TSN replaying the Todd Bertuzzi and Steve Moore incident on repeat, doing a 10-part series because of the 10-year anniversary of March 8. 2004. Yeah, I was at that game too. I remember the date.
What strikes me about the Canucks this season is how bad they appear versus how bad they are in reality. The Canucks are 17th in the league in PDO and 10th in Corsi close. They’re 4th in shots for on the powerplay and yet 29th in shooting percentage. (Stats from Thursday night from ExtraSkater.com) They’ve been decimated by injuries. There’s a legitimate case to be made that the Canucks have been unlucky this season, but I don’t think that there’s a legitimate case to be made that the Canucks are still among the league’s upper echelon of teams.
When I last checked, the Canucks were down 3-0 to Dallas (and wound up losing 6-1). The Stars have been my adopted team over the last couple of seasons, so that’s not all that bad. I really like Jamie Benn. The Stars have a real shot to not only make the playoffs, but make some noise.
As I see it, there’s little reason to keep this current management group and coaching staff together for another season. Possibly a worse sin than being bad – the Canucks have become boring. Mike Gillis has become obsessed with size in the post-Stanley Cup era, and John Tortorella somehow got an entire city that watched Henrik and Daniel Sedin skate around opponents for a decade convinced that toughness wins out.
Tom Sestito Top Sixtito has become a running joke.
With Daniel injured, Henrik ineffective and Roberto Luongo traded, we’re running out of bright spots on this team. During the summer I personally “retooled” my expectations for the Canucks: the goal was no longer to win Presidents’ Trophies or Stanley Cups, but to simply be good enough to help Henrik become the Canucks first ever player with 1000 points. That would secure him entry into the Hall of Fame. But even that looks to be in Jeopardy lately. Henrik has 40 points this season and still has 168 left to go in four-and-something years as a player in his mid-30s (assuming he plays out his contract until the very end). It may go down to the wire.
But some perspective is necessary. Everything has fallen apart and things look bleak, but it’s an interesting contrast since, ironically, about 25 fanbases would be completely envious of what Canuck fans got to experience since about December 27 2002. Since then the Canucks have won 131 more games than they’ve lost. They’ve never finished a full 82-game season below 39 wins and missed the playoffs just twice. Both years they’ve missed the playoffs they were in the race right up until the end, missing by a combined total of six points. They’ve won seven playoff series and were serious contenders for two generations worth of teams.
That’s over right now, and a period of rebuilding begins. I don’t know how long it will take, but in the meantime, if you’re a hockey fan, here are some good games for you to watch on the weekend:
WEEKEND WATCHABILITY INDEX
Every weekend game is ranked on three factors: the quality of the two teams involved, the potential for absurd goal totals, and the proximity of both teams to playoff races.
FIVE STAR GAMES
Boston Bruins @ Tampa Bay Lightning – Saturday @ 4:00 p.m. Pacific
The hook: I’m not entirely sure how my formula will react to the loss of Martin St. Louis, but the Lightning are still a high-quality team that need wins to avoid being caught in the race for the Wild Card. Both teams have excellent offences and goaltending and have much better offensive depth than defensive depth, so this could be either a hard-fought, high-chance 1-0 game or a wide open 7-6 shootout. Or something in between.
Pittsburgh Penguins @ Anaheim Ducks – Friday @ 7:00 p.m. Pacific
The hook: Pittsburgh is on the second half of a back-to-back. Both teams are susceptible to being beaten by high puck-possession teams but they’re just goal-scoring machines right now. Also, a chance to scout eventual Canuck Brandon Sutter.
FOUR STAR GAMES
St. Louis Blues @ Colorado Avalanche – Sunday @ 5:00 p.m. Pacific
The hook: The highest-ranked Conference III game on the week! Ryan Miller, who has thus far seen Conference opponents Phoenix and Nashville, gets his first big test against a real Western Conference team. Miller so far has a .921 save percentage as a Blue, compared to .923 with the Sabres this season, proving once and for all that the Buffalo Sabres are better at restricting shot quality against than Ken Hitchcock.
Detroit Red Wings @ New York Rangers – Sunday @ 9:30 a.m. Pacific
The hook: Wait, you’re hungover and won’t be watching the Brier bronze medal game? You probably deserve to watch a game with David Legwand and Riley Sheahan potentially playing Top Six roles.
New Jersey Devils @ Detroit Red Wings – Friday @ 4:30 p.m. Pacific
The hook: There may be something wrong with my formula, but these two teams have the highest combined even strength Corsi of any game played this weekend, and they’re also going up the same time as Buffalo and Florida, which, wait… isn’t that Roberto Luongo’s first game since the trade? Okay, scratch that. Don’t watch this one at all. Jaromir Jagr 700 goals watch is over anyway.
Boston Bruins @ Florida Panthers – Sunday @ 2:00 p.m. Pacific
The hook: There’s a chance the Panthers might become a watchable team with a good goaltender. They’ve had decent puck possession numbers for a couple of years but train wrecks in net. Brad Marchand will probably do something stupid.
Ottawa Senators @ Winnipeg Jets – Saturday @ 12:00 p.m. Pacific
The hook: A noon-time, nationally-televised game between two offensive teams that can’t buy a save and need every win in a competitive playoff field? What’s not to love here?
Phoenix Coyotes @ Washington Capitals – Saturday @ 4:00 p.m. Pacific
The hook: Mike Ribeiro’s anticipated return to Washington, right? May be worth to turn on Gamecentre unless the HNIC game between Philadelphia and Toronto devolves into complete chaos, which isn’t all that unlikely of an event.
Montreal Canadiens @ San Jose Sharks – Saturday @ 7:00 p.m. Pacific
The hook: My formula ranked Calgary-Vancouver as the worst game of the week, so this is a pretty good alternative. My fearless prediction: Marc-Edouard Vlasic is on the ice for two P.K. Subban points, and Subban subsequently sends the game tape, a trade demand, and a Xerox of his butt to Steve Yzerman.