Friday, April 14, 2006

The end of the Canucks

I don't know why, but it seems only fitting that the Vancouver Canucks frittered away third-period leads in back-to-back games en route to missing the playoffs for the first time in five years.

The feat merely allows the Canucks to, once again, don the crown of 'Most Frustrating Canadian Franchise to Cheer For of All-Time.' (It's a big crown.)

Mudcrutch sort of made a quasi-case for his Oilers on Tuesday, one that veteran Canuck-watcher Tom Benjamin pooh-poohed yesterday.
If there is any justice, Edmonton fans will get another turn the year before the Toronto Maple Leafs get another one. I don't really care when either happens as long as it's after I'm dead.
Well said.

Back before 'the fan in me' died — (he was bludgeoned to death with a tire iron in J-school) — I was a Canucks fan. It's true.

And that's why I'm qualified to tell you why you should take pity on our poor, West Coast friends.

Ask a Canuck fan what happened in the late '90s, and most will draw a blank. It's a period that's been erased Eternal-Sunshine-of-the-Spotless-Mind style from half the city.

After a Cindarella run to the Stanley Cup finals in 1994, one that ended one Nathan-Lafayette-hitting-the-post shot short, longtime Canucks coach Pat Quinn moved into the general manager's role fulltime.

And, even only looking behind the bench, the years that followed were ugly.

Vancouver still shudders at the name Rick Ley. The nefarious 'Multiple Coaches' arrived in 1995-96. The next season brought a completely-in-over-his-head Tom Renney. M.C. reprised his reign of terror in 1997-98 and 1998-99.

Meanwhile, the Canucks missed the playoffs four years in a row — the first three of which starred 'Raphael' wearing a Messier jersey.

It all sucked. But when Marc Crawford, less than three years removed from winning a Stanley Cup, came to Vancouver, things began to change. The team even snuck into the playoffs (!) in 2000-01 as the 8th seed.

And, hey, a younger version of me forked over way too much money for four lower-bowl tickets for Game 3.

Up against a stacked Colorado team, the Canucks really didn't have a chance. But they were there!

The city was positively giddy.

Vancouver dropped the first two games in Denver, but the third game was a thing of beauty. A few lead changes, some fairly dominating play by the Avalanche, to be sure, but with the Canucks trailing 3-2 late in the third period, Todd Bertuzzi tallied what was probably the most significant goal in five-plus years of Canuck fandom.

We still had little chance to win, but, hey, we were there! The game was going to overtime — hooboy! In fact, my small party reasoned, one more goal and Vancouver would win their first playoff game since 1996.

Needless to say, it was one of the greatest days of our lives.


Two minutes and 45 seconds into overtime, Peter Forsberg got a breakaway. And you only really, truly know the ignominy it is to be a Canucks fan if, at that moment, you were rooting for 36-year-old 'Backup' Bob Essensa to stop the imminent shot.

That, my friends, is about as low as you can go. (And it now makes me realise I should have taken a tire iron to that fanboy long before moving to Toronto.)


Founded in 1909, the Montreal Canadiens are Canada's most glorious professional sports franchise. They've won 24 Stanley Cups, eleven more than the next most-prolific team, historically speaking.

The Edmonton Oilers? Heck, we'll be talking about that '80s dynasty fifty years from now. The greatest player of all time played there 10 seasons. There's no shame here.

Even fans of the Calgary Flames, who won a Stanley Cup in 1989 and had a great run in 2004, can hold their heads high.

As for the Ontario clubs, well, at least the Maple Leafs had their glory years, far away as they may be. The baby boomers can at least recall a time when their team did, in fact, win.

The Ottawa Senators? Well, with only 12 seasons played, they're the new kids in town. (Plus, they've got a team that could possibly win the Cup this year or next.)

Not out west.

For Vancouver, it's 36 years in existence and counting. And the way things are going, I'm not sure that team will ever win. It's a curse.


At 7:12 a.m., April 14, 2006, Anonymous Lyle Richardson said...

As I noted over at Tom's blog, missing the playoffs this season could be a good thing for the club's long-term future, as it makes it easier for Dave Nonis to make the difficult changes needed for this franchise to move forward.

Despite this season's woes, there are positives to build on, including the depth of the blueline (when healthy) and the long-awaited emergence of the Sedin Twins.

But in order to retain that blueline and the Sedins, somebody's gotta go, and that means probably Bertuzzi and Morrison, maybe Cloutier. It's even possible that Naslund's future with the club is in doubt.

I don't blame Nonis for sticking with the main stars this season, but even if the Canucks made the playoffs this season, they'd still be spinning their wheels.

Nonis doesn't have to blow up the entire roster, but it may be time to build around the Sedins and other younger players and see what they can get for some of those aforementioned veterans.

Just my two cents, James. Feel free to hack away as you see fit.

At 10:20 a.m., April 14, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

As the offspring of a Chicago Cub fan (and the victim of a mild afflicion of "Cub fever" myself), you have no idea how much more pain you could be in for. Imagine multiple generations and no end in sight, and that is what residents of Wrigleyville have to look forward to.

At 12:19 p.m., April 14, 2006, Blogger Jes Gőlbez said...

Heh, that picture is the stereotypical Yaletown Yuppie fan. Rockin!

I agree with Lyle in that Nonis now realizes that the core is rotten and the teams needs to go in a new direction. I don't have much faith on Nonis, however, since he's shown very little ability other than to do Brian Burke's dirty work with contract negotiations.

At 6:02 p.m., April 14, 2006, Anonymous Colby Cosh said...

How come Calgary's "Cinderella run" counts as a positive, but Vancouver coming "one goalpost short" in '94 seems to count as a negative?

Weird or not, I think you may be right about the way these things are perceived in respective cities, and I've had a lot of fun mocking Calgarians' amnesia about Games 6 and 7 of the '04 finals.

At 6:41 p.m., April 14, 2006, Blogger James Mirtle said...

10 years difference, that's why Cosh. If we were talking about a Canucks' team that had the orbs to advance to the finals two years ago, well, there wouldn't be much to complain about.

At 8:35 p.m., April 14, 2006, Blogger mike w said...

>For Vancouver, it's 36 years in existence and counting.

Oh Well!


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