In the summer of 2020, the Vancouver Canucks were the « flavor of the month ». Their return to the playoffs, after “only” four years of misery, proved to rebuilding teams that there was a fast path to success.
For the general manager of the Canadian, Marc Bergevin, the Canucks represented a model to follow. “I watch what is happening in Vancouver. The young people they picked up in the repechage. This is where the core of a team must come from, absolutely. We see it in Vancouver. This is the progression that the Montreal Canadiens are making at the moment. »
Thirty months later, what have become of the Canucks?
A bruised team. Torn. Adrift. The club is closer to last place than the Canadian. The general sentiment among the fans there is that we’ve wasted a golden generation, and we’ll be back in the cellar for another decade.
Whose fault is it ?
Certainly not recruiters. They found Bo Horvat (200 goals), Brock Boeser (130 goals), an elite defender (Quinn Hughes), their number one goalkeeper (Thatcher Demko) as well as the 2017 cohort’s leading scorer, Elias Pettersson. Plus Jared McCann, traded too soon, who is now shining with the Seattle Kraken. Five of their players have more points this season than the Canadiens’ leading scorer, Nick Suzuki.
To paraphrase Ding and Dong, the Canucks suck.
Unfortunately, the leaders of the club are not up to it. Rarely have I seen such a dysfunctional management team. OK, maybe the Montreal Impact, in its snowflake period. Hmm… On reflection, no. The Canucks are worse.
You know when they say a team is only as strong as its weakest link? Well, in Vancouver, the weakest link is the management team.
The president of hockey operations, Jim Rutherford, himself set the shack on fire recently, publicly declaring that he had met with several candidates for the position of head coach. The problem ? The head coach in place, Bruce Boudreau, was still in place. The poor man, who rolls his hump in professional hockey for 48 years, lived the ordeal of gout for more than a week, before being finally fired on Sunday.
The big class.
Let’s say that we are far from the « most beautiful dismissal in history » experienced by Joël Bouchard with the Anaheim Ducks school club. Management’s modus operandi caused unease in the locker room. « The guys are down, » defender Tyler Myers said. These are not easy times. A lot of business is going on…”
Indeed, there is a lot going on. So much that if Réjean Tremblay had put all the following plots in a season of Throw and counthe would have been accused of exaggeration.
The Canucks went to three head coaches in 13 months. All three are on their payroll. The three earn more than two million this season. Applause in slow motion.
The management of the Canucks is also in the line of sight of the Players Association, which is investigating its management of a hand injury suffered by Tanner Pearson, in a match against the Canadian. Pearson had three surgeries. It didn’t go as planned. He will miss the rest of the season. « This situation has been mishandled, » young defender Quinn Hughes told local media. His declaration unleashed a storm on the coasts of British Columbia.
What else ?
Off-ice storylines involving members of the organization are making headlines. In September, team owner Francesco Aquilini was sued by four of his children for physical and psychological abuse – allegations he denies. In November, the club and its assistant general manager, Émilie Castonguay, were the target of a discrimination complaint filed by a former hockey operations employee. “I feel broken. I’m tired of hiding,” Rachel Doerrie wrote on Twitter. “The allegations of Mr.me Doerrie are absolutely false,” defended Émilie Castonguay.
The leaders of the Canucks have also just granted a seven-year contract extension to one of the team’s best players, JT Miller, 99 points last season. No one will dispute his hockey skills. But does he exert a good influence on the young people of the organization? I doubt.
During a recent late game, goalkeeper Collin Delia was awaiting instructions from Bruce Boudreau to return to the bench, to be replaced by an additional forward. Miller grew impatient. He first yelled at Delia, before going back behind the net with the puck, and hitting the horizontal bar with his stick, to force Delia out of her semi-circle. A humiliating scene. For Delia. For Boudreau. For the organization. A counterproductive move.
By doing so, Miller arouses among his teammates the fear of making a mistake. Nobody wants to be the next player that Miller ridicules on national television. Canucks players could therefore tend to play more nervously. Miller’s reaction: “I don’t understand why people are talking about it. »
It’s a problem.
The Canucks will take years to recover from the last five months. Already, captain Bo Horvat, who will become a free agent in the summer, has announced his desire to leave the organization. When the leader of your team openly wants a change of scenery, it doesn’t send a good message to other NHL hockey players. Think about players who have no-trade clauses. Do you believe they will allow a transfer to Vancouver in the short term?
Now imagine free agents.
The Canucks drafted well. They have several gifted youngsters. However, talent is only one component of success. To be successful, a team must also offer quality coaching and a work environment. This is where the Canucks failed.
To the other teams, now, not to repeat the same mistakes.