The Paper Feature: Behold, the worst homestand ever

The Paper Feature will run every Wednesday in the Vancouver Sun’s print edition, as well as online here at Pass it to Bulis. (It’s called the Paper Feature for what we hope are obvious reasons.) 

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Good hockey teams tend to outplay their opponents, and over the Canucks’ most recent six-game homestand, they did this regularly. But good hockey teams also tend to win with some regularity, and this, the Canucks are not doing.

It’s bewildering. Attempts to analyze what’s wrong have us all looking about as dense as Homer Simpson failing to recognize his wife’s fear of flying: Marge, what’s wrong? Are you hungry? Sleepy? Gassy? Is it gas? It’s gas, isn’t it?

Heck, I wouldn’t rule out gas with the Canucks. We just don’t know.

So you’ll excuse me if I forgo any attempt to get in there and analyze this most recent homestand for its systemic failures, which seems like a fool’s errand, and instead take a step back at marvel at this masterpiece of tragicomic theatre.

This was, in my estimation, the worst homestand in Canucks history.

I’m not talking about raw points, because it’s certainly possible to reap fewer points from a six-game stretch. With one win and three loser points, the Canucks skate away from the homestand with 5 out of a possible 12. But it’s not so much that the Canucks left seven points on the table. It’s about how they left seven points on the table, the emotional rises and falls, the way they toyed with us, with our hearts, and found creative and unique ways to bring us to the verge, to leave us devastated and agape.

It began with the San Jose Sharks, in a game that the Canucks played well enough to win. They’d beaten San Jose the week prior, and they looked poised to repeat the feat, clutching a 1-0 lead heading into the final minute.

Then everything fell apart. At 18:55 of the third, Tomas Hertl sent the game… Hertling into overtime. There, the Sharks scored again, and suddenly, the 1-0 win the Canucks had earned was a 2-1 loss. A heart-breaking twist. You couldn’t have written it better.

The next game, an angry Canucks team stormed out demanding a victory versus the Dallas Stars, and outplayed Dallas from beginning to end, outshooting them 43 to 23. But they couldn’t score. In a reversal of the previous outing’s fortunes, the Canucks found themselves trailing 1-0 heading into the third, and with the devastating Sharks’ loss fresh in our minds, all we could think of was how the Canucks might soon pay it forward, transmitting the weeping to Dallas fans like some sort of facial infection.

Nope. Two minutes into the final frame, the Stars scored the insurance goal. Yet another unexpected turn. The Canucks lost again, and by the same 2-1 score. Dramatic consistency!

Then Tim Thomas and the Panthers visited, bringing with them a shot at redemption. The Panthers are terrible, after all, and the way the Canucks had been playing, results aside, this looked to be the cure for what ailed them.

Nope. They flipped the script again, playing down to the Panthers and forcing us to relive a scenario where the Canucks take a lead, but can’t beat Thomas to put it away. Then Thomas’s team storms back to tie things up and force a final, deciding moment, and then, in that moment, he shuts the door, and when Roberto Luongo can’t do the same, he skates away a winner.

That’s right: after two devastating losses, the Canucks treated us to a microcosm of the 2011 Stanley Cup Final. Just what we needed. What climax.

Suffice it to say, that sort of emotional gut-punch calls for a brief, light reprieve. Fortunately, the Columbus Blue Jackets were willing to play jester, surrendering 6 goals in a blowout. Comic relief!

But that game also served to raise our hopes so that there was something for the Chicago Blackhawks to dash the following night. Once again, the Canucks outplayed their opponent, and once again they lost in dramatic fashion, as their one-goal third-period lead turned into a deficit in a span of 9 seconds. Suddenly, what had the look of Vancouver’s first consecutive wins in the month was a back-breaking loss to the team’s archnemesis.

Finally, the Kings came to town for the grand finale, and it was everything one could have hoped for in a final, devastating act. Again, a visibly desperate Canucks visibly outplayed one of the league’s best teams, taking the lead and coming within shouting distance of the win.

Then, beyond seemingly all reason, it happened again. The Canucks completed a circle that began against San Jose, surrendering the game-tying goal achingly late in the affair and the game-winning goal in overtime. It was a homestand that ended exactly the way it began — a loss that was brilliantly foreshadowed.

As a fan, I’m flabbergasted at this homestand. But as a fan of theatre? Wow. It was tragic. It was comic. I laughed, I cried. I am spent.

Well done, Canucks. Well done.

***

Tweet Podium

This feature takes a moment to recognize the best tweets of the week, because we’re online-type writers and Twitter is an online-type thing. If you see a great Canucks-related tweet, send us a link. Or plagiarize it and bask in its glory.

BRONZE

 

Ryan Stanton for Calder.

SILVER

 

It’s funny because it’s true…

GOLD

 

Don Cherry’s gold foil suit jacket was one of his more sane outfits, actually.

25 comments

  1. Naturalmystic
    November 27, 2013

    As a non-fan of Vancouver, I found the home stand to be delightful.

    The fail whales need to get at least 6 points from this road trip to stay in the hunt for a wildcard spot.

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    Rating: -38 (from 48 votes)
    • Iain
      November 27, 2013

      trolls mystify me. are their lives really so empty that they can find nothing better than to pointlessly add negativity to the world at every opportunity? do they troll all of fandom spreading sniping passive-aggressive footnotes to their hollow existences? or do they reserve their vitriol for specific fanbases, that have somehow offended their sense of propriety at some unspecified point in the past?

      answers on a postcard, please. and no crayon allowed.

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      • mb13
        November 27, 2013

        Are Canucks fans lives so empty that they cannot enjoy some fun banter at the expense of their favorite team losing when playing well and they all collectively ask “why me”? Maybe Canucks fans should put their lives in perspective a little bit and realize that it’s all good fun. If it isn’t, you take hockey a little bit too seriously.

        One of my favorite pastimes is driving after a Canucks loss to listen to the “fans” call in with their hilarious solutions to the team’s woes.

        With respect to this version of the team… here’s a hint… they aren’t that good. After the twins, they are a team of plumbers playing checkers while the rest of the league is either playing chess or knocking over the board and punching them in the mouth. Too bad Gillis was left with an empty cupboard when he took over the job… when he leaves, what’s the next guy going to say… “at least GMMG had a cupboard… I have nothing” – LOL

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        • Brad
          November 27, 2013

          Except it’s not fun banter when you do it all the time and with such a negative attitude. Then it just becomes…wait for it…trolling!

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        • Harrison Mooney
          November 27, 2013

          Is your life so empty your idea of fun is revelling in and adding to the frustrations of others?

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          Rating: +20 (from 26 votes)
          • MB13
            November 27, 2013

            LOL – so how was the summer of 2012 for you Harrison? What were YOU up to?

            and really … people get frustrated about the Canucks? c’mon, it’s a game.

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            Rating: -7 (from 9 votes)
            • Harrison Mooney
              November 27, 2013

              See, that wasn’t trolling. That was satire. What you’re doing is not that.

              I was also invited by the outlet to do it, and paid well. You, on the other hand, were not and are not.

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              • mb13
                November 27, 2013

                Judging by the comments section of your “columns”, the audience didn’t agree that it was satire. They would have called it trolling. But hey, so long as you got paid to troll, that’s the important thing.

                Congrats!

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              • Harrison Mooney
                November 27, 2013

                Comments section was mostly dopes, yes, but it also had its fair share of people saying, “Guys, this is satire.” I have seen no one defend your work here but you.

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        • Empty Canucks Fan
          November 27, 2013

          You said your banter would be fun. This isn’t fun! Gaaaaah!

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          • madwag
            November 27, 2013

            chill out, people. and if you want the trolls to go away, then ignore them. personally natural mystic and mb13 provide the odd laugh and even and insight once in a while. there are others whose names need not be mentioned that i just skip by because they’ve nothing of consequence to say. pure vitriol has no place in the world but for goodness sake, as i said, chill.

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            • mb13
              November 28, 2013

              I think this comment is quite amusing considering two comments above, Harrison states he has “seen no one defend *my* work here but *me*”.

              Harrison – talk about head in the sand.

              If you guys want this to be a “get along gang” where every poster sings the praises of a team that is 5 points out of a playoff spot chasing teams with games in hand… then just say it at the top of your comments section. Keep enjoying “shoes” comments where he only sees the silver lining of a team that can’t score and has a hard time winning.

              On a sidenote, I just realized why the Canucks fans are so whiny… they take their cue from the lead color commentator on their broadcasts. You can’t watch 2 mins of a Canucks game without Garret crying about the refs missing a call. But hey – par for the course. The GM whines, the players on the team whine, the commentator whines and the fans whine. And everyone wonders why this team is annoying. *rolls eyes*

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        • shoes
          November 27, 2013

          Don’t let them bug you mb13….I feel strongly that you and naturalmystic are a fine couple. You might be a fine couple of trolls, but you make a “striking twosome”

          And your comments, well those are just plain beautiful, not insightful or smart but beautiful…..please tell me you are Oilers and Flames fans.. LOL Or maybe Leafs, nation.

          Or are you going to tell me that your “secret” team is on pace for 82-0, ……again!

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        • Neil B
          November 27, 2013

          See, though, here’s the thing: you’re not fun.

          Fun would be the way Fear the Fin bashed the ‘Nucks (with the ‘Nucks really acting as stand-ins for the Sharks).

          Fun would be the shot from the Oil’s twitter feed at VAN’s twitter feed the other week, with a shot of Thomas holding the Cup (I think PITB did a summay of the exchange; look it up).

          But all you (and NM) have given us so far is the troll’s equivalent of “we gave it 110%” or “we’re taking it one game at a time”. Bad math I can understand; if an Oiler fan’s math is bad enough, he can turn even his team into a playoff contender. (See what I did there?) I mean seriously: rhyming nickname? Check. Mocking the fans for not enjoying losing? Check. Air of superiority despite cheering for a team with a worse record? Check.

          At least work some groaner-worthy word-play into your posts (“Edler’s post-hockey career as a baker shows real promise, based on the turnovers he made tonight”; “Chicago sure went into FeastModo over Vancouver’s first line tonight”). Show some kind of creativity. Some kind of edge.

          ‘Cause really, right now, you’re not provocative, and you’re not edgy, and you’re certainly not fun.

          You’re boring.

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          • Tom1040
            November 27, 2013

            All this and no T1040.

            Wow.

            Natural Mystic, mb13 – this is a site intended for North Koreans only.

            PB, Shoes, Harry and so many more are card-carrying party members.

            And now for a song from the past:

            “Canucks, we love you…we really really love you…yes we dooooooooooooo….

            We’re with you, we’re with you, were really really with you…yes we aaaare…”

            Let’s all snuggle up to our life-sized Mike Gillis pillows.

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            • PB
              November 28, 2013

              Is it cute or sad when the cult of personality only has one follower and it’s yourself? Tom1040, your absence is of course noted only by you. You’re like the Kim Jong-Il of Team America World Police only a lot less funny…

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            • shoes
              November 28, 2013

              My apologies Tom .1040, I never noticed you were not here, until you posted another meaningless troll. Then I thought, “that sounds familiar” and lo and behold out comes the little engine who could.

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  2. DanD
    November 27, 2013

    Great piece Harrison! One of the other interesting features of this tragic homestand is the critics it has magically brought forth on this very blog. I should like to find their favourite blogs and post disparaging comments on them after every post. What fun!

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  3. Pavo
    November 27, 2013

    An acquaintance of mine is of the opinion that the Canucks are ill-fated because of the poor feng shui at Rogers Arena. I had little time for such superstitions.

    But now I’m not so sure.

    Perhaps the hockey and feng shui gods are buddies. Perhaps they are collectively offended by the slight of the (admittedly ugly) viaducts. Perhaps Canucks fans should throw their full support behind city proposals to pull them down and replace them with something more attractive.

    In the meantime, maybe the Aquilinis should consider sacrificing a goat or two to appease these disgruntled gods.

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  4. PB
    November 27, 2013

    One of the more disappointing home stands that I’ve seen in quite a while. You have to think that the run of bad luck will end at some point but it is getting frustrating.

    As for the tendencies of trolls (cambo, natural mystic, mb13), it is slightly amusing but mostly sad. I can’t stand the Leafs, Bruins or Blackhawks but can’t see the point of wasting my time reading their blogs and posting on them. Must be as exciting as being a commenter on Yahoo or a local newspaper’s blog…

    What’s funny is the fact that some of the trolls are Oilers, Flames or Sharks fans, or supporters of equally terrible teams. At least the Blackhawks and Bruins are good and have won something. It’s really hard to take seriously fans of a team that has been even more of a tease-and-flop than the Canucks (SJ) and so consistently awful as the Flames or Oilers. Ah well, there’s always next year, isn’t there, when the rebuild in Calgary will start, when Thornton and Marleau will come through, when that stable of #1 overall picks will turn into a contender in Edmonton.

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    • Just some guy
      November 27, 2013

      Hopefully it ends tomorrow, in Ottawa, while I am watching it all go down. I am considering not going though because so far every NHL game I have attended the team I was cheering for lost….

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      • Frank N.
        November 27, 2013

        Go cheer for Ottawa than! Duh! ;-)

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  5. shoes
    November 27, 2013

    I am of the opinion, that if you break each one of the games down……they were just plain bad luck. It would not have came to that had the PP been better than 3%. Say 23% like it should be. That would have changed 3-4 L’s to W’s. and made a 4 or 5-1-1

    It does happen, and Chicago in the height of their glory went 13 in a row without a win in 2011. I also remember the Wings in ’09 going a long stretch of not being able to win.

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  6. bluemoonjones
    November 27, 2013

    Here’s hoping shoes above here is right and that there was indeed just a lot of “plain bad luck” involved in the 5 L’s in this last home stand. But I’m getting more legitimately concerned every game with thinking that there is a lot of actual underlying validity to what has essentially been beaten’ to death by us armchair types as the cause of the teams’ problems since that win vs Boston in January of ’12: the Canucks’ lack of goal scoring ability.

    Scoring the puck is the basic premise of hockey. And it’s just not gone well for Van for so long now that you have to wonder about this teams basic ability to put the puck in the net. I know it sounds silly, but…

    This years’ atrocious power play along with, lets face it, the teams’ terrible performances in shootouts has to make you wonder if these guys, collectively, might indeed just be a very bad bunch of shooters. You can skate, check, forcheck, block shots, goaltend, pass, and slap a million pucks on net,, but at the end of the day, it’s about actually getting that puck into the net, and for whatever reason, these guys aren’t doing it very often.

    But man here’s hoping it’s just bad luck…

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  7. Snepsts
    November 27, 2013

    I can’t help but think about all the games over the last three seasons the Canucks won in OT, or just barely won, against lousy teams who outplayed us statistically. We’d see the postgame interviews with quotes like “we were lucky” and “we have to play better but we are happy with the two points”

    I think the NHL is in actual fact a different beast now. With the new divisions, the Canucks have to play a different game. More physical, more consistent. We need to roll dependable third and yes, fourth lines so the first two lines can gel and rack points up. Less turnovers in more games against elite teams that, even down two periods, can still pull out a win in a single period like we used to do against generally weaker talent.

    The Canucks are in the new NHL, and they have to up their game. We might need more talent, and we might just need a whole new fourth line, or something. But the bewilderment at statistics has to stop. There is a new statistic, and it is teams that find the will to win no matter what the cost.

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