The team’s chemistry was about as strong as Britney Spears’ chemistry with her father, Jamie.
Sportsnet writer, Iain MacIntyre, says Canucks’ struggles parallel underachieving team in 1997
By Brandon Yip, Senior Columnist
The Vancouver Canucks’ woes continue as they head further in the wrong direction like Clark Griswold in the National Lampoon’s Vacation films. At the time of writing, the Canucks’ record is 8-14-2; and this includes a modest two-game win streak featuring road wins over Montreal and Ottawa.
Vancouver, in their last 19 games, has only five wins—going back to October 26. The Canucks have 18 points, tied with the first-year Seattle Kraken (8-13-2)—who are ahead of Vancouver due to having one fewer loss. That puts the Canucks in last place in the Pacific Division and they are six points behind a wildcard playoff spot.
The Montreal Canadiens, whose record is worse than Vancouver’s at 6-16-2, fired general manager, Marc Bergevin, on November 28. With the Canucks struggling as well, speculation has arisen with fans and media regarding the job statuses of Travis Green and Jim Benning. However, no changes have been made, yet.
November 28 was a bittersweet homecoming for Conor Garland, who grew up south of Boston in Scituate, Massachusetts. “We played well,” he said to the media after the game as reported by Sportsnet. “I say that a lot but, man, it stinks. That’s a good team to give them two power plays. That’s not to say they were bad penalties or anything, it’s just, you know, it’s what (the Bruins) do. They win games. That’s why they’re always deep in the playoffs. They wait for their chances. We held them to nothing, and then all of a sudden their top line ends up with two. That’s what happens.”
Travis Green spoke after another disappointing loss to Boston. He appeared at a loss for words during his post-game press conference. “I’m probably going to sound a little repetitive: it’s a tough game to lose again,” he said. “I think it magnifies the way things are going. A lot of good efforts tonight. It was a heavy, heavy, hard-fought game. At the end there, their top guys find a way to get it done.”
Green is trying to remain positive despite the Canucks sliding further out of a playoff spot. “I think almost to a man, a lot of guys are playing well (for the Canucks),” he said. “They’re just not finding ways to score when we need it. We need a couple of goals. Even tonight, Motte gets the shorthanded breakaway. It would have been nice for him to score there. You feel for your group on nights like tonight.”
Sportsnet writer, Iain MacIntyre, is familiar with covering Vancouver Canucks teams that have had poor starts to the season. He says there are similarities with the present Vancouver team to the 1997 team: Mark Messier’s first season in a Canucks uniform. There were elevated expectations for that team with a talented roster: Mark Messier, Trevor Linden, Pavel Bure and Alex Mogilny. Instead, the team chemistry was about as strong as Britney Spears’ chemistry with her father, Jamie.
The Canucks, two months into the 1997-98 season, had a record of 3-10-2. In November 1997, general manager, Pat Quinn, was fired followed by coach Tom Renney. “…Mike Keenan came in and seized enough control of hockey operations that half the team ended up getting traded while the Canucks fell towards the bottom of the standings,” MacIntyre said in an email interview with the Other Press. “The main difference this season is only that nobody has so far lost their job. But a team that allocated nearly $70 million to [add] Oliver Ekman-Larsson and Conor Garland to a group headlined by Elias Pettersson, Brock Boeser, Quinn Hughes, J.T. Miller, Bo Horvat and Thatcher Demko started 6-14-2. This is easily the Canucks’ most disappointing season this century.”
MacIntyre says the Canucks’ special teams have been a detriment. But he also believes another problem is their lack of offensive production. “But what’s been truly astonishing is the offensive disappearance of most of their top forwards, who were supposed to be good enough as a group to spackle over the gaps on defence,” he said. “Instead, past the quarter pole, Boeser and Pettersson each had only four goals, while Horvat and Miller also endured extended goal slumps.”
MacIntyre states the Canucks’ poor start has hurt their chances to qualify for the post-season. “On top of that, [Vancouver’s] penalty-killing has been epically inept, hovering just above 60 [percent] efficiency and at the bottom of NHL rankings,” he said. “Between these two factors, it’s a minor miracle that 11 of the Canucks’ 16 losses were by only a goal or two (with an empty-netter). Their special teams and scoring problems have crushed them more than their defence.” If Travis Green is fired, he will be hired immediately by another team. As the old sports cliché goes, “You’re hired to be fired.” Unfortunately, the coach pays the price for the underperformance of his players. But one thing is for certain, despite the Canucks losing so many games—the team has continued to play hard for their coach. It is apparent the players have not quit on Travis Green. And most importantly, Canucks’ ownership hopes fans do not “quit” on the team—and stay away from Rogers Arena—after what they have witnessed at the quarter mark of the season.
Canucks schedule this week (all games at Rogers Arena)
Monday, December 6 vs. Los Angeles Kings (7 pm)
Wednesday, December 8 vs. Boston Bruins (6 pm)
Friday, December 10 vs. Winnipeg Jets (7 pm)
Sunday, December 12 vs. Carolina Hurricanes (7 pm)
Tuesday, December 14 vs. Columbus Blue Jackets (7 pm)