Has Anything Really Changed?
This is a question many around the NHL are wondering when it comes to the Vancouver Canucks. We know they lost Schneider in what some call a crazy one-sided steal by the Devils, and some minor parts are gone, but the majority say the core is still the same and as such this team will struggle and be a bubble playoff team. Watching all the preview shows on television and reading the numerous magazines it seems most believe this is a team with a very small window for success and one that may have already closed, especially since they no longer have the “cushy” Northwest division to play in. If you listen closely enough you can hear the thud of fans everywhere jumping off the bandwagon. For myself, I am a fan first and foremost. I survived the lean years and I have enjoyed the good ones. I made it through Messier and Keenan and I will make it through Gillis and Tortorella. I will still be a fan if they lose but obviously I enjoy the winning more. With that said I predict they will finish 3rd in the Western Conference and play the NY Rangers in the Stanley Cup final, winning it in 7 on home ice. They switched coaches over the summer, why not switch the outcome on the 20th anniversary of what some say was one of the best Finals ever played. I’m sure some think I am crazy, and my Canuck coloured glasses are affecting my ability to logically predict anything. To those I say, you are absolutely right. I want this team to win, I need this team to win. When the Canucks do well I yell less at the tv, I’m generally happier in my day-to-day goings on, and I regret less that I have a tattoo of the original stick logo just waiting to add a little Stanley Cup underneath it. Now how can I justify my reasoning behind this bold prediction? Easy, no one thinks it can happen, not the mainstream media, not the disgruntled fans of the team who think they fired the wrong person and should have canned Gillis instead of Vigneault, and not the majority of NHL fans who still love to hate the Vancouver Canucks. Why do I think it will happen? 3 reasons.
1. John Tortorella
This guy is a proven winner. He doesn’t get along with all media and can be stubborn and abrasive. I say who cares. He could ban cellphones, twitter, blond-haired reporters, ties on Tuesdays, it doesn’t matter to me if the Canucks win, and if they don’t win, at least put forth a solid, hard-working effort every night. Torts expects his players to block shots, work hard to get the puck, be aggressive and work their asses off. Great. I’m all in with that philosophy. Fans pay a large sum of money to make this sport run and in turn they deserve to be entertained, and so far I have to say I have been entertained, whether it be Torts threatening to leave a media conference for a cellphone ringing or Kelser using a little foul language to get his point across. I am entertained, now just bring that same energy to the rink every game night and we will be ok.
2. The Core Group
For all the changes this team has made over the last few months, other than trading Schneider, this is the same core group from the past few years. This core group has been together for a long time and has had success in the regular season that hasn’t carried over to the playoffs. Do they need to be reminded of this by the media or other naysayers? Do you think they don’t realize they have a limited number of opportunities to finish off what they couldn’t 3 years ago? These are grown men playing a game they love, they work in a hockey mad environment, one where their every move is analyzed and scrutinized, whether it be on the ice or off. They know what the expectations are of this fan base, and I am pretty sure they put those same pressures on themselves. Let them play and let’s see what happens. My prediction may be bang on or dead wrong, that’s what makes is so fun, no one knows.
3. Vancouver Canucks Ownership Group
The ownership group of the Aquilini’s were fans of this team before they become owners. They spend to the upper cap every year and haven’t so far as we can tell, inhibited a move that GM Mike Gillis has wanted to make, either by trade or signing. Have they maybe become a little too involved? Who knows and unless you are Gillis, who cares. As long as they are willing to sign the cheques and spend their money, I don’t have a problem with their ownership. Would I like tickets to be cheaper? Yes. But then I would also like a few other things to be cheaper, like hotels, restaurant bills, and the cost of the BC Ferries (sorry, not happening when you have a monopoly). Until demand is less, things aren’t going to change. If you are unhappy about the cost of attending a game, don’t go. It’s a choice. You could live in Toronto where the average fans spends almost $200 more to go, or somewhere like Florida where you can save a little over $100 but aren’t seeing the same quality hockey. Don’t get me wrong it is expensive to watch a game almost anywhere you go, but at least I have owners that seem to care and want to win. Things could be a lot worse.
I know this preview doesn’t have the numbers and stats some people may be looking for. This is my first one and maybe next year I will write more based on my head than heart. But as a Canuck fan I am excited. We are going to see a complete full season, one where we get to see every team at least twice. We aren’t watching TV to get labour updates. Hockey is the fastest and most exciting game on the planet. Let’s just sit back, relax and see how it all plays out.
As always you can follow my take on the Vancouver Canucks, hockey and anything else that peaks my interest on Twitter @F4SLanceHornby