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.

Just Posted

Royal Bay Secondary School’s rainbow crosswalk was vandalized shortly after being painted but by Monday, coincidentally the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia, the crosswalk had been cleaned up and students had surrounded it with chalk messages of support and celebration. (Zoe Ducklow/News Staff)
Royal Bay pride crosswalk restored following graffiti attack

Hate terms, racial slur, phallic images spray-painted at Colwood high school

One woman has been arrested in connection with a drug trafficking investigation. (Black Press Media file photo)
Victoria woman arrested, car and drugs seized during trafficking investigation

Multiple units combine forces for investigation, arrest

Victoria police retrieved a number of stolen items May 15 after arresting a man and woman squatting in an empty building. (Courtesy of VicPD)
Victoria police look to return stolen items following arrest of squatters

Golf clubs, power tools, jackets, cell phones and a MacBook Pro were retrieved

Protesters seen here rallying against the injunction order on April 1. (Black Press Media file photo)
RCMP enforce injunction at Fairy Creek blockade

Protesters can remain but police will ensure open access for loggers

A building in the 300-block of Mary Street sustained significant damage Saturday night after a suspicious fire was started. Police arrested an arson suspect Sunday. (Courtesy of Victoria Fire Department)
UPDATE: Vic West shelter resident to be evicted following suspicious fire

Building in 300-block of Mary Street sustained significant damage Saturday night

An avalanche near Highway 1 in Glacier National Park. Avalanche Canada will benefit from a $10 million grant from the B.C. government. (Photo by Parks Canada)
Avalanche Canada receives $10-million grant from B.C. government

Long sought-after funds to bolster organization’s important work

Sicamous RCMP Sgt. Murray McNeil and Cpl. Wade Fisher present seven-year-old Cody Krabbendam of Ranchero with an award for bravery on July 22, 2020. (Contributed)
7-year old Shuswap boy receives medal of bravery for rescuing child at beach

Last summer Cody Krabbendam jumped into the lake to save another boy from drowning

B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix and provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry update the province’s COVID-19 vaccine program, May 10, 2021. (B.C. government)
B.C.’s COVID-19 infection rate stays below 500 a day over weekend

14 more deaths, down to 350 in hospital as of Monday

Royal Bay Secondary School’s rainbow crosswalk was vandalized shortly after being painted but by Monday, coincidentally the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia, the crosswalk had been cleaned up and students had surrounded it with chalk messages of support and celebration. (Zoe Ducklow/News Staff)
B.C. high’s school’s pride crosswalk restored following ‘hateful’ graffiti attack

Hate terms, racial slur, phallic images spray-painted at Greater Victoria high school

Terrance Mack would have celebrated his 34th birthday on May 13, 2021. Mack’s family has identified him as the victim of a homicide in an apartment on Third Avenue in Port Alberni sometime in April. (SUBMITTED PHOTO)
Family identifies Ucluelet man as victim of Vancouver Island homicide

Terrance Mack being remembered as ‘kind, gentle’ man

Nathan Zuk had left his mother’s residence in Whaletown on Cortes Island in mid-December 2020 in a 14’ skiff rowboat and headed to an unknown location near the Pryce Channel, Deer passage, or Toba Inlet. Photo courtesy RCMP
RCMP need help finding man who set off from Cortes Island in 14-foot rowboat

Nathan Zuk left in December, may have been last seen in Toba Inlet approximately three weeks ago

Emergency service workers at the collision scene along Highway 4 in Hilliers on Sunday, May 16. A motorcyclist was airlifted to hospital by BC Air Ambulance and later died. (Collin C photo)
UPDATE: Motorcyclist dies from injuries sustained in Mid-Island highway collision

BC Highway Patrol says impairment not a contributing factor in crash

An avalanche near Highway 1 in Glacier National Park. Avalanche Canada will benefit from a $10 million grant from the B.C. government. (Photo by Parks Canada)
Avalanche Canada receives $10-million grant from B.C. government

Long sought-after funds to bolster organization’s important work

(PQB News file photo)
RCMP on the hunt for serial Rathtrevor Beach flasher

Two separate incidents noted at provincial park on April 30 and May 14

Most Read