For an organization that has spent almost its entire existence accomplishing nothing, the amount of noise Vancouver Canucks generate is certainly too big. Three Stanley Cup Finals losses are the sum total of their 53-year existence, yet the drama they create always seems to seep into the wider world of hockey, if only because they demand it. Maybe, given their West Coast location, it’s the only way they can get anyone to pay attention to them between their sporadic spasms of ability, throwing yet another childish tantrum instead of just doing what they’re supposed to. Picking off one of the most beloved guys in hockey, Bruce Boudreau, is a great way to make headlines when your game isn’t.
The Canucks are bad this year, which is not a shock. But they are not, or at least not, sucked in any noticeable way. They are not quite in the “Suck Hard for Bedard” derby, nor are they even close to the playoff chase. They are in the worst place you can be in hockey, a hazy gray area filled with nothing and going in no direction. Basically, Sheffield.
When things are like this in the mud and without progress, firing the coach is a natural development of events. The Canucks need some kind of overhaul, they have for a very long time, and they hired new GM Jim Rutherford about a year ago. The GM wants its own coach and hasn’t hired Boudreau. But it shouldn’t be that hard not to tell the world that you interviewed other coaching candidates before you fired the one you got, which is correct which Rutherford did.
It’s no surprise that a GM would talk to others before firing a coach. It wouldn’t be smart to fire the guy and then make up on the fly. You want to have a plan. But it should all be hidden so you don’t completely embarrass the guy you have. Especially when that guy is Boudreau, who his players and fans always love. You could do that with someone like John Tortorella, of course.
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The Canucks publicly shamed Boudreau for this guy?
Perhaps the most burning aspect of all of this is that Rutherford and the rest of the Canucks front office put Boudreau on hold so they could hire Rick Fucking Tocchet. There’s nothing to suggest that Tocchet isn’t the same moron that almost every other NHL coach is, a beloved former player who keeps getting jobs because he was a beloved former player and that’s that.
Tocchet coached for six years, two in Tampa and four in Arizona, and while neither team was anywhere near good, it’s not like any of them got to play over their heads. He never came close to a true playoff spot (no, the bubble doesn’t count), and it’s hard not to notice his current replacement in Tampa, Guy Boucher, who managed to go wild in the conference finals in his first season taking over. There aren’t even a bunch of young players you could claim helped develop into real stars. One gets the impression that Steven Stamkos would likely have found his way to 500 goals had he not spent two seasons under Tocchet’s tutelage.
But there was Boudreau, left hanging in the wind all week, perhaps with his bosses hoping he’d quit in turmoil and absolve them of what they owed him, coaching two games at home and everyone in the building knowing he I will be fired. And it seems Boudreau knew exactly why it took so long.
Can anyone tell by looking at Tocchet’s work on TNT that he is anything but an asshole? What exactly is it about this moron that deserves to treat Boudreau this way? By the way, Boudreau’s ears are dripping with performances in the playoffs and seasons with 100+ points as a coach. Overall, he knows what he’s doing, even if he hasn’t come that close to the cup.
Vancouver’s problems are not due to Boudreau
But even Boudreau couldn’t get it going in Vancouver, because they’re such a mess. In Washington, Anaheim and Minnesota, Boudreau walked in and immediately soared those teams to the top of their divisions. in Vancouver, he failed to keep the shafts from falling.
To be fair to both Boudreau and Rutherford, this mess was created before they arrived at BC, thanks to the rudderless leadership that came before. Former GM Jim Benning never wanted to start over, but it’s debatable whether the Canucks ever did either. Under Francesco Aquilini’s ownership, the Canucks have consistently made the bottom of the playoffs instead of starting from scratch, leading to a lopsided roster full of players who were desperately poached and signed to ridiculous contracts simply because the Canucks needed someone. They traded for Oliver Ekman-Larsson just in time to watch his bones and skills turn to cardboard. Tyler Myers has always been stiff, yet the Canucks couldn’t help but be impressed by the fact that he’s 6-8. Conor Garland isn’t too high financially, but Benning gave up a draft pick and more to get him and OEL when he’s just a guy, just like anyone else who puts on a Coyotes jersey.
The whole organization is in disarray
The Canucks weren’t helped by some younger players who looked like retiring stars. Elias Pettersson looked like he was going to be what Karil Kaprizov was as a rookie four seasons ago. He never moved beyond that and looks like a really good second baseman. Brock Boeser looked like a 40-goal scorer his freshman year before he got hurt. Since then, he has never been completely healthy and has never taken a step forward, albeit a couple of steps back. Sometimes he was a healthy scratch.
The Canucks didn’t really earn the trust of their players either, what Quinn Hughes dropped it from her bag when he told the world he thought Tanner Pearson’s injury was mishandled. At no level below Rutherford does anyone feel they are being treated well.
Rutherford also decided to extend JT Miller rather than trade him, and Miller is a good player coming off a 99-point season, but he’ll be in his 30s by the time the team is relevant again. There is no room to extend captain Bo Horvat, who is headed for the exit door probably as you read this. Which is fine, Horvat isn’t exactly a franchise-turning player, but how do the Canucks plan to find that? They’ll have to rush to get into the mix for Bedard or Adam Fantilli, and there are just enough players who aren’t good enough to be contenders, but nowhere near bad enough to see Vancouver bottom. They don’t really have much of a discount for a few more seasons unless they can rob another team blind (never out of the question in the NHL). They saw what a team built around Horvat, Pettersson, Boeser and Hughes could get from them, a handful of themselves. Now it’s time to try with just Hughes and a new team.
But how do they get there? The Canucci have never shown any evidence that they know how, which is about the only tradition they have succeeded in their existence.