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Into The Crevasse, Vancouver... It's Our Only Way Out
"It's your only move, Lemon. Sometimes the way back up is down. Let me tell you a story. It's 1994. I went ice climbing, and I fell into a crevasse. I hurt my leg, and I couldn't climb back up. So fighting every natural instinct, doing the thing that seemed most awful to me, I climbed down into the darkness. And that's how I got out. When I got back to base camp, I went and found my fellow climber, the one who had cut me loose after I fell. And I said, 'Connie Chung, you did the right thing.'"
– Jack Donaghy, '30 Rock'
Vancouver, we have to go down.
We have to embrace the suck-dom that has been 2014. It could happen again and, sure, there are reasons to be pissed. But getting mad at the Canucks for this wasted year does as much good as getting mad at the Catholic Church while you stand in line at the Vatican... you probably have your reasons, all justified, but it's just how it is. If you don't want to pay the fee or spend the time, then head back to your hotel.
David Booth – that guy above – has caught fire, in comparison to his normal temperature. Zack Kassian has shown something that at least hints at a promising career. Brad Richardson is sort of like a new Chris Higgins. If only Chris Higgins was a new Chris Higgins...
There's little to be said about Ryan Kesler. Just let the summer take its course. We'll meet up in October and discuss it then. Will he be a Penguin, a Blackhawk, or a King? Or a Canuck? It doesn't matter now. The year is done. There are five games to go, and all we have left is exhaust.
Last night's game was too typical of Vancouver this year. Not this season – keep that in mind – but this year.
The Canucks outplayed the Rangers for the better part of 60 minutes. Certainly, they outplayed them for the final 40. But it didn't matter, again, like it hasn't for a long time. With AV in town, his ex-girlfriend couldn't impress. She was drunk on the dance floor, flying high until midnight when she came crashing down in clompy heels and spilled rum and cokes.
Vancouver outshot New York, 35-31, and by a 13-6 margin in the third period. They pressed and they pressed hard, but they got behind early and then had to scramble to shove pucks past all-world goaltender Henrik Lundqvist, which they did only once on a screened one-timer from Ryan Kesler – an excellent job by the walking-the-plank winger to dig a clapper out of a defender's skates, off a nice pass from Thing No. 2, Daniel Sedin.
But the Rangers took a 2-0 lead before Vancouver could wind up. Final score? 3-1.
Odd, wasn't it, that AV's new team won the way his old team so often did. Let's get up quick, let's sit on the lead, and let's see how it plays out.
"Two points, battling to get in, that's all this is," the old Canucks coach said (NHL.com). Sounds pretty simple, when you put it like that. If only it was.
It helps that he now has Rick Nash and Martin St. Louis, who teamed up on a shorthanded 2-on-1 to seal the night for New York. (The play was, as a one-off, the fault of Zack Kassian and Yannick Weber, who were pushing the offensive and got caught. But that happens when you're trailing a hockey game, as Alain Vigneault definitely knows. You can't knock Kassian for that final giveaway anymore than you can knock a quarterback for a 50-yard interception when he's down seven points with 13 seconds to go.)
The first goal was sort of B.S.
Eddie Lack seemed to have the puck, it got shovelled and prodded out of his glove and the loose puck went to a waiting Daniel Carcillo, who more than happily tucked it behind Vancouver's new No. 1.
The second goal came on the powerplay, a quick flick from Benoit Pouliot. We can forgive the Canucks and Eddie for that... unless you can't forgive them for the penalty that put Pouliot in that position, and that's fair.
But, really, Vancouver got behind while playing ahead. It would be easy to shrug it off if it wasn't the millionth time it's happened – and not just since January, but since October.
Remember in the fall, when those countless late collapses kept mounting but the Canucks were still safely in the playoffs? Remember how we sort of cutely mused, "Boy, I hope this doesn't come back to bite us in the ass!" Well, it obviously has, and when the sandcastles tumbled in January – as injuries to both Sedin twins, Kesler, Alex Burrows, Mike Santorelli, Kevin Bieksa, Dan Hamhuis, and Chris Tanev crept in the backdoor and built a home – the team couldn't find an answer.
Well, maybe it's a good thing. Maybe having our Canucks humbled by the rest of their world is useful. Actually, it's essential.
We could have made the playoffs this year. We should have made the playoffs this year, actually. But, were we going to win a Stanley Cup? A lot of ankles would have to break and everything would have to fall our way. And Vancouver did nothing to push themselves into an "I Think I Can!" position. When Los Angeles won the Cup in 2012 – the first-ever eighth seed to do so, by the way – they made two moves and one non-move that put them there: 1) They brought in Darryl Sutter to coach; 2) they traded for Jeff Carter; and 3) they kept their captain Dustin Brown, who was the subject of trade rumours at that year's deadline, not unlike fellow American Ryan Kesler was in Vancouver this year.
L.A.'s moves weren't popular at the time. Carter's arrival seemed like nothing more than a dysfunctional way to cater to the then-struggling Mike Richards. Sutter was a wizard without a wand who had coached himself out of Calgary, which is almost like working your way out of your family's corner store. It should have been impossible, but he was that bad at his end in Alberta. And Dustin Brown? Move him, don't move him... nobody cared, at the time.
Not to mention, the Kings were led by an unproven Jonathan Quick. He was a running joke... "Not so QUICK," we'd yell, whenever someone like Mikael Samuelsson would put a one-timer past him. Yeah, we clever here.
But L.A. went down, into the crevasse. They accepted their awfulness and they brought in players that wanted to play there and wanted to play together.
Say what you will about Vancouver's prospect crop, which – until last summer – was pretty pathetic. But when I see players like Bo Horvat or Hunter Shinkaruk, even Nicklas Jensen and (the already awesome) Chris Tanev, I don't just see points or plus/minuses or advanced statistics... I see guy who love to play hockey and who want to play hockey. You know, they way Ryan Kesler used to be? It's too hard to trade for some other team's weapon and hope they not only work out, but that they also stick with you past that next summer – take Derek Roy and Sami Pahlsson as your recent proof.
(*It's clear to me, by the way, that the Canucks can't go forward with both Daniel/Henrik and Ryan Kesler. One of them (I count the twins as one person) has to go. This team will never win a Cup with two entrenched, ineffective centers, especially when Vancouver's incoming bushel of Ontarian assets has nowhere to play.)
Guys like Jonathan Quick are examples in patience. Guys who aren't champions one year could be Cup winners the next, and you only get those guys by eating your turd while you have to.
So, embrace your awfulness, Vancouver. Enjoy the suffering. But please, can you leave your suit and tie at home? You could have heard a BlackBerry buzz last night, it was so damn quiet.
If I'm a Canuck, I'm not sure I'm crazy about you, the fans, either.