Reality Check: The Vancouver Canucks Were Never Really That Good

Even when the Canucks were at their best, they were still second-best to someone else – Chicago, Boston, then Los Angeles.

Canucks general manager Mike Gillis gave an interview to Vancouver radio station

Canucks general manager Mike Gillis gave an interview to Vancouver radio station

You know what, Vancouver? You were never really that good.

I give Mike Gillis credit for his speech, or his interview, on Team 1040 yesterday. I appreciated the candor, and I appreciated at least his effort to accept some responsibility, knowing that he would have to also unintentionally throw John Tortorella’s coaching style/desire playing style/general idea of what hockey is under the bus. Likewise, I have appreciated Tortorella’s sorrow this year, too – the stubborn coach that seemed a lot more tyrant than any everyman has, I dare say, seemed downright pleasant this season, although he’s been unsuccessful to win any game his team had to win. A winner? Not right now. But a decent guy? Yeah, you could say that.

But the problem with the Canucks, their front office, and – honestly – their fans (that’s us) is that their rear-view mirror is hopelessly muddy, scuffed, and fingerprinted.

When we look in our mirror, we see someone completely different to what the rest of the league and the rest of Canada see. We see a former champion… they see a popped collar and too much cologne.

The thought out West seems to be, based of Gillis’s words Thursday, that the Canucks were the best team in the history of the universe, that they were only one or two games away from the city’s first Stanley Cup, that they had figured something out that 29 other teams hadn’t.

(And Vancouver has never won a Stanley Cup, in case you need to be reminded of this. No offence to the Millionaires, but we can’t live off that Cup you won before World War I.)

“I want us to play up-beat, puck possession, move the puck quickly, force teams into mistakes, high-transition game,” Gillis said on Thursday.

“That’s my vision, that’s how I believe you are going to win in the Western Conference and the National Hockey League… the top teams play that way.

“That’s the way we played.”

But the Canucks were never really that good, were they? Their greatest years were always second-best to someone at that time – first Chicago, then Chicago, then Boston. Even that famed 2011 year, the one that’s suddenly looked back on like it’s the one that got away, that was cobbled together through a series of fortuitous bounces… AND the Canucks lost. To Boston. While the world burned.

I’m not just talking about Bieksa’s OT goal, which the old school defenceman one-timed off the stanchion and knuckleball’d past a blind Antti Niemi.

I’m not even only talking about that Chicago series only a couple weeks before, when Vancouver inexplicably handed the momentum back to an eighth-seed Blackhawks team and let them crawl to the surface, once down 0-3.

I’m talking about the regular season, too… the greatest year that was was only made possible because the NHL’s one true competitive club – the team that actually should have won the Presidents’ Trophy that year – had to go its final four months without Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby.

The latter would have easily won the Hart Trophy over Daniel Sedin and Corey Perry, had he not suffered the mother of all concussions in that year’s Winter Classic, handed to him ever so politely by David Steckel.

And Malkin returned the following season, in 2012, to dominate the league and win its MVP.

When we talk about those years of Canuck perfection, we’re only talking about one year, aren’t we? And even then, we’re not talking about the whole year, because the season ended with an embarrassing 4-0 loss in Game 7 and a riot that cost more than Boston’s Stanley Cup parade.

Gillis’s quote above… that sounds like a 55-year-old reminiscing about when he had hair. And you’re thinking, “Sure, you could use gel and that must have been fun, but were you actually handsome?”

You’re always better in your memory.

Tell me, what did the Canucks win? What did they do that was so great at the time? They scored a lot of goals one season. They won an Art Ross or two. And then… anything?

That puck possession game Gillis is going on about, he’s not wrong – that is the way the best teams win. But those teams were Detroit, Pittsburgh, Chicago, Boston, and Los Angeles. Those teams are still Detroit, Pittsburgh, Chicago, Boston, and Los Angeles. Add San Jose and Philadelphia in there, too. The Canucks were in the mix once, yes. They were excellent, of course. They were exciting and fresh. But their expiry date was printed right there on the carton for all to see.

Other teams have flicked off this problem. Detroit, for example. Hell, even when the Red Wings are losing, it still seems like they’re winning.

In Vancouver, when we’re winning, it’s like we’re still losing. We’re just waiting for the pin to drop, because we know it will. Castles made of sand, stuff like that.

The years before 2011 were a wind up to a climax that never came. The years after? Well, we’re in them.

The problem with every loser franchise is that it thinks close counts in more than horseshoes.

And Vancouver, you’re blind to just how irrelevant you really are… and were.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Various Victoria locations were hit with a slew of anti-bylaw graffiti Wednesday. This image has been altered to cover up profane language. (Submitted photo)
UPDATED: Slew of anti-bylaw graffiti an ‘unacceptable’ form of communication says Victoria mayor, police

Downtown businesses, bylaw office and Ministry of Finance vandalized Wednesday morning

The Gordon Head Recreation Centre stands in as the Quimper Regional Hospital on Feb. 23 for filming Maid, a 10-part Netflix series. (Greg Sutton/District of Saanich)
Netflix transforms Saanich recreation centre into hospital for filming

Facility was closed to public Feb. 23 for filming of Maid

Greg Chow is the 2021 Local Hero of the Year. (Don Denton/Black Press Media)
Fighting fire a family affair for Colwood Assistant Chief Greg Chow

With 38 years of service, Greg Chow is the 2021 Hero of the Year

This rendering shows plans for the new “flyover”overpass connecting northbound traffic on Highway 17 heading west on Keating Cross Road. Plans currently seeking public input propose two options for the median along Keating Cross Road. Option 1 will prevent left turns onto Tamany Drive and Buena Vista Road. Option 2 (seen here)will allow for left turns onto Tamany Drive and Bujena Vista Road. (Screencap/Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure)
Public asked for comment on proposed overpass for Pat Bay in Central Saanich

New flyover overpass proposed for Highway 17 and Keating Cross Road

Dr. Bonnie Henry talk about the next steps in B.C.'s COVID-19 Immunization Plan during a press conference at Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Friday, January 22, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
456 new COVID-19 cases in B.C., 2 deaths

Since January 2020, 78,278 have tested positive for the novel coronavirus in B.C.

Anyone with information on any of these individuals is asked to call 1-800-222-TIPS (8477) or visit the website victoriacrimestoppers.ca for more information.
Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers wanted list for the week of Feb. 23

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

(Black Press Media File Photo)
POLL: Are you struggling with Greater Victoria’s cost of housing?

While Victoria remains one of the most expensive cities in the country… Continue reading

A health-care worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a UHN COVID-19 vaccine clinic in Toronto on Thursday, January 7, 2021. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette)
Vaccinating essential workers before seniors in B.C. could save lives: experts

A new study says the switch could also save up to $230 million in provincial health-care costs

Photograph By @KAYLAXANDERSON
VIDEO: Lynx grabs lunch in Kamloops

A lynx surprises a group of ducks and picks one off for lunch

When his owner had knee surgery, Kevin, 2, was able to continue to go for walks thanks to volunteers from Elder Dog Canada. (Contributed photo)
B.C. woman has nothing but praise for Elder Dog Canada

National organization has a fleet of volunteer walkers ready, but needs more clients to serve

Two women were arrested in Nanaimo for refusing to wear masks and causing disturbance on a BC Ferries vessel. (File photo)
B.C. ferry passengers arrested and fined for disturbance, refusing to wear masks

Police said woman threatened their pensions in Feb. 21 incident aboard Nanaimo-bound boat

A Nanaimo RCMP vehicle in the Woodgrove Centre parking lot. (News Bulletin file photo)
Woman groped by stranger in mall parking lot in Nanaimo

Incident happened near bus loop Saturday, Feb. 20, at about 4:45 p.m.

The late Michael Gregory, 57, is accused of sexually exploiting six junior high students between 1999 and 2005. (Pixabay)
Former Alberta teacher accused of sexually assaulting students found dead in B.C.

Mounties say Michael Gregory’s death has been deemed ‘non-suspicious’

Most Read