Way back at the end of November in this very space, I marvelled at the Canucks’ terrible six-game homestand, an unfortunate stretch in which they played host to the Sharks, Stars, Panthers, Blue Jackets, Blackhawks, and Kings, and came away with a 1-2-3 record, thanks largely to their inability to close out games.
I dubbed this “masterpiece of tragicomic theatre” their worst homestand ever, and elsewhere, I speculated that, at year’s end, we would look back on it as the low point of the Canucks’ season.
In the parlance of today’s youth: ROFLMAO. I am a buffoon. Five months later, I am confident that this homestand was far from the Challenger Deep of this terrible, god-forsaken year. Heck, it may not even be in the top five. Here are the other candidates, in chronological order:
January 15: The day after a loss to the Los Angeles Kings, which fans were all to happy to view as a moral victory, the Canucks headed to Anaheim, where the Ducks made absolutely sure there was no way to misinterpret this loss as a win. They scored 9 goals to Vancouver’s 1. It was the hockey equivalent of watching Samara crawl out of the well in The Ring. At game’s end, all our faces looked like her first victim from the movie’s opening scene.
January 16: The Canucks lose 1-0 to the Phoenix Coyotes, but if the Coyotes had also been awarded a goal for every Canuck that Martin Hanzal damn near cross-checked to death, the final score would be 3-0. Hanzal, who apparently wields a horizontal hockey stick like Samson wields the jawbone of an ass, wiped out Mike Santorelli’s season with one crushing blow, then turned his sights on the Canuck captain. That was it for Henrik Sedin’s iron man streak, that was it for Santorelli’s season, and one could argue it was even it for the Canucks’ season as a whole.
January 18: Or maybe you’d even forgotten about that day, overshadowed as it was by the game that followed it, a visit from the Calgary Flames. You might recall: after a line brawl that saw 9 players ejected in the game’s first two seconds, John Tortorella lost his mind at the intermission, opting against going to his own room and choosing instead to charge into the Calgary Flames’ dressing room, presumably to go “Martin Hanzal” on everyone.
He never quite made it, which is a shame, because watching him land just one punch on anybody might have made the 15-day suspension that followed seem worth it. With Tortorella out of the lineup, the Canucks looked like a team without a head coach in his absence (which makes sense), and they weren’t quite the same when he returned, either.
March 2: The Heritage Classic was supposed to be a fun and nostalgic little event, harkening back to 1915, that glorious year when a team from Vancouver won the right to call themselves the Stanley Cup champions with a victory over the Ottawa Senators. Instead, the event seemed to harken back to a much more recent time: last season, when the Canucks’ goaltending controversy was in full bloom like the cherry blossoms of spring.
Poor Eddie Lack was booed and jeered, the fans chanted for Luongo, and the Canucks played just badly enough to fuel the anger of everyone in attendance. Somehow, the Canucks managed to overshadow their own event with yet another instalment in their never-ending goaltending saga, and fans were left to wonder — if they can’t manage the P.R. on a simple day like this, how can this team possibly chart a course for the playoffs?
March 10: The Canucks waltzed into the third period of a game versus the New York Islanders leading 3-0. Victory was theirs. Unfortunately, “they” are the Islanders, who scored seven times in the third period to win 7-4. There are lost empires that didn’t collapse that drastically. If there were people watching in Atlantis, they were probably like, “Wow, what a collapse, and I would know, since my island nation was swallowed by the sea.”
April 7: With their playoff lives on the line versus the Ducks, the Canucks drew John Gibson, a goaltender making his first professional start. They’d had their struggles with Anaheim in the past, but this was a gift. Unfortunately, they returned it, mailing in a lacklustre, lackadaisical performance. Thanks to their dearth of lustre and adaisical (not to mention shots, of which they had but 18) Gibson’s first NHL start was also his first NHL shutout, and the Canucks were done.
So too was Mike Gillis, who was unable to overcome a season that features a seven-way tie for worst moment. I guess that makes sense.