The Week Ahead: A sweet reprieve from cheering for this infuriating team

Every Wednesday we take a look at The Week Ahead to see what storylines we’ll be following, because Wednesday is a day meant for looking ahead to the future. Around here we call Wednesday “Future Day” and we all wear silver jumpsuits and big bubble space helmets. Doesn’t everybody do that?

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The Canucks have two more games before the Olympic break, and we’ll get to those, but first a word on the break itself, and that word is finally.

Finally, and not so much because the Olympic hockey tournament in Vancouver was so much fun and the years have fallen away slowly as we wait for the next one, although that’s true, but because, as a Canucks fan, you should cherish this brief intermission.

Simply put, it’s more than an intermission. This isn’t just a chance to get up, stretch the legs, hit the restroom, and maybe buy a sparkling water. For Canucks fans, this is a much-needed vacation.

The team has been frustrating this season. There’s no getting around it. They’re not scoring. They’re not converting on powerplays. The Sedins look unmagical. Everyone’s hurt. They don’t appear to be elite any longer.

Granted, I think an honest assessment of this team at the beginning of the season would have led to the conclusion that they weren’t going to be elite, and I think the despair over this fact is evidence that we’ve all been spoiled. Your team’s not going to be elite every year; it’s foolish to think otherwise.

Similarly, I think projecting the lineup over the next few years based on what the Canucks have now is equally foolish. A lot can change in a hurry. The Canucks might make some adjustments, get a few unexpected performances, gel as a team, and be back in contention next year. Or they might plummet and be Buffalo or Edmonton, two teams whose fanbases deserve a lot more sympathy in their plight.

Really, anything could happen.

In a way, that has to be the fun of following the Canucks. I’ve said it before, but I think fans who view every moment of every game through the lens of CUP CONTENTION are ruining the fan experience with big-picture fretting. In the end, it’s not about whether or not the Canucks win the Cup, really. That’s the goal, sure, but it’s really sort of a MacGuffin. Most times, the Canucks aren’t going to win it, and if you measure your enjoyment of a Canucks’ season by whether or not the team wins the Cup, then you’ve yet to enjoy anything, and if you put this much time and effort into something you don’t enjoy, you’re an idiot.

Far more fun is just following the team through the natural highs and lows of being a team — not unlike a reality show, really. You follow the team from game to game, and little storylines pop up here and there, and sure, you know what they’re after, but in the end, as long as it’s on, you’re going to keep watching to see what happens next.

Right now, the Canucks are in a skid, and at some point, they won’t be. I’m actually sort of looking forward to seeing where and when the turn comes. I bet it’ll be a memorable moment, not unlike when Alex Burrows scored that breakaway winner on the Hurricanes back in 2009. (Come to think of it, another one of those would put an end to two long-running skids.)

All of this said, though, it’s been an unsatisfying season, and I think the recalibration of who this team is that’s happening in the minds of Canucks fans has been exhausting. And thankfully, for two weeks at least, we get to take a vacation from it and cheer, once again, for a team that also happens to be the favourite.

Enjoy the sunshine, Canucks fans.

Thursday, February 6th
Away versus the Montreal Canadiens

Before we get there, though, the Canucks have two more games on their Eastern road swing. The first is a visit to Montreal, the new home of Dale Weise. But Weise probably won’t be on the ice all that much, so if you’re looking for something else to keep an eye on, try this: Douglas Murray is old and slow and not very good anymore. He’s known as a stay-at-home defenceman, and not because he’s naturally good at defending, but because he’s bad at taking the puck anywhere else. Watch him, then watch Raphael Diaz, and chuckle to yourself that the the Canadians traded the latter to make room for the former.

Saturday, February 8th
Away versus the Toronto Maple Leafs

Finally, the Canucks close out the pre-Olympic portion of the schedule in Toronto, the home of former General Manager Dave Nonis. This is a winnable game, and I’ll explain why: the Maple Leafs are terribly defensively. The tradeoff, of course, is that they seem capable of scoring right now, but if the Canucks can play the sort of tight defensive game they’re capable of, they’ll get some chances to make it count. Of course, that also means this could be one of those games where they outshoot their opponents drastically and still lose. That’d be a frustrating way to wrap up the the 2013-14 season BCE (Before Canadian Excellence).

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Note: PITB won’t be going away for the Olympics. We’ll still be following the Canucks in the tournament, but we’ll also be switching our overall allegiance from Team Canucks to Team Canada. Should be a fun experiment. For the next two weeks, you can call us Pass it to Zamuner. All hail PITZ!

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11 comments

  1. Aliyah
    February 5, 2014

    It was nice to have a reminder of that Burrows goal back in 2009. Hopefully our next win is a memorable just like that. Maybe a Burrow’s OT goal?

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  2. steveB
    February 5, 2014

    Hear, hear. I look forward to a blank spot on the Canucks’ schedule. It’s been very taxing to watch them spiral down the drain this season.

    I hope that Ryan Kesler, Alexander Edler, Henrik and Daniel Sedin continue their current standard of play during the Olympics and Roberto Luongo and Dan Humhuis don’t.

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  3. Zach Morris
    February 5, 2014

    Do we get a banner change for Pass It To Zamuner? :D

    I’ll go shot for shot and change my name to Zamuner Morris!

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  4. akidd
    February 5, 2014

    that was pretty much a eulogy, harrison. amen.

    these guys gave us a wild that’s for sure. i thank them and wish them good luck with their new teams.

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  5. Chris the Curmudgeon
    February 5, 2014

    You know something, it’d be fine if we just had to accept an average team that plays like an average team. It’s far more infuriating that we have an average team that’s average because for stretches, they look unstoppable, and then they’ll have a slump where we’re shocked that they even score a goal. The spread of the data is not typical of a middle-of-the-pack team. I suppose when it comes to “infuriating things about the Canucks” this season is just par for the course.

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  6. Snepsts
    February 6, 2014

    I still have faith. I like this team, and statistically we still have the capability to win close games. The morale isn’t there right now, it’s obvious, because they used to find ways to win 2-1 or 3-2 or get a point and lose the shootout and it isn’t happening because the other guys are just a little better most nights lately. The Canucks lack an identity with all the roster changes and injuries and Sedins who aren’t ironclad and bounce back from every crosscheck. But they’re not done yet. I think all the emotion from the Kings game and Torts messed with their identity. They were built to be a robotic statistically perfect team. Puck controlling first line and power play, power second line, checking third and a ho-hum vaguely necessary fourth line. But injuries have made that next to impossible, and they are never good when they have had consistent defensive corps injuries that cause constant shuffling in d-man pairings who have to learn how to play together practically every game. Things may come together if the team can find it’s fundamental identity again, which for me is the game – not the anger, the emotion, the fights and line brawls. It is the brains combined with the skill that always made this team, and Gillis is the brains behind the team. If the team plays as a team, to combine their collective skillsets in the lines that they were designed to play in, and hopefully overcome their injuries, they have a chance to make a playoff run.

    Personally, I am not watching Sochi hockey. The active persecution, oppression and hate of LGBT people in Russia is sickening and inhumane to say the least. To me, participating in the Olympics there is no different than participating in the Olympics in formerly apartheid South Africa. Any country that marginalizes, oppresses and actively abuses any minority does not deserve to host an international athletic event that presupposes equal opportunity to strive for greatness, athletic and international solidarity and universal celebration of personal achievement.

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    • Amor de Cosmos
      February 6, 2014

      Word.

      (Re: Your final paragraph.)

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  7. BBoone
    February 6, 2014

    You make a great point about being a fan. Canucks are now “rebuilding” and will begin to do it on the fly. In hindsight this should have begun the second year after the cup run but instead there was some stubborn intrenchment on some level. It is a mistake to overpay the past in the hope that “one more time” will get it done. Therfore in hindsight fewer “core” players should have been signed to long term no trade contracts , the Team should have been sellers or stand pat at the last deadline and a real rebuild through drafts etc begun by trading more assists for youth. Yes it was time for a coaching change but time will tell if this is the group to be in charge of a rebuild. In my opinion they should have hired the LA assistant. Regardless it is part of the fun of being a fan to see young players come in and watch the character and style of the team evolve, hopefully into another cup challenger. Great PITB column .

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  8. Noodle
    February 6, 2014

    Has it really been 4 years since the Vancouver Olympics? I miss it so much. : (

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  9. LaLou
    February 6, 2014

    Every game, I sit down and say, “maybe Burrows will score tonight”. Whether we win or lose, cup or no cup, I’m just waiting for that moment, because I think, without a doubt, it’s going to feel great. :)

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  10. Brent
    February 6, 2014

    Burrows will come out if his slump in the next two games. If not tonight, then certainly against the “hated” Toronto Maple Leafs. You know he will be pumped for that game. Anyway, I hope he does it and starts to feel better about himself. This will likely help the team as well. And yes, the team needs this break. Unfortunately, some of them are going to the Olympics, which is good for their respective countries, but not necessarily good for the Canucks.

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