Sports

The Vancouver Canucks restart their season against St Louis tonight. Do you care?

Roberto Luongo reaches for his water bottle way back in October, 2013, when his Canucks were rolling along to a solid start to their 2014. Things have changed. - Wikimedia Commons
Roberto Luongo reaches for his water bottle way back in October, 2013, when his Canucks were rolling along to a solid start to their 2014. Things have changed.
— image credit: Wikimedia Commons

John Tortorella was cheering for the Swedes. Daniel Sedin and Alex Edler were silver medallists. Roberto Luongo and Dan Hamhuis were gold medallists, but combined for 1:04 of ice time in their final two games. Ryan Kesler is hurt, and apparently about to be traded. But, not really. Well, maybe. Actually, Vancouver is about to make a monster trade any day now, we hear… but monster could mean anything to anyone, and the Canucks have never done a deal when they were supposed to.

File all that under whatever. None of it matters.

Because the Canucks have lost seven in a row, even if it's been a couple weeks since we had to care. Because there is no worse, no more helpless team in the NHL right now than the Vancouver Canucks. Because, oddly, Tortorella's quote does matter a little… because it showed he actually cared about the team, about the city, and about that ridiculous whale logo on the front of Luongo's jersey.

Trade or no trade, seismic shift or not, it's refreshing to hear a coach defend his team like he's not only proud to be a part of it, but also like he'd die before he'd be a part of any other.

Tortorella behind the bench is like a Rottweiler behind a front door. Go in if you'd like, but make sure you're a friend of the owner. It probably sucks for the milkman – or any ambitious, kind of dick-ish reporters – but it's good for the guy paying the mortgage.

And this whole Canucks thing is all tremendously disappointing, except not in the same way the end to every other season has been tremendously disappointing.

2009 and 2010 were broken records, with both teams crumbling at the hands of the Chicago Blackhawks, but there was at least a future to follow them. 2011 was disappointing because it ended in the Stanley Cup Finals. Duh. 2012 was disappointing because it proved everyone who doubted us right, and 2013 was just flat out boring.

In 2009 and 2010, there was a sense of, "Hey, we've arrived!" Since then, it's been last call... and we're trying to find a partner for post-bar poutine.

2014? I'll be damned, but the Canucks actually started out just fine. They were great, actually, and they went on to go 10-2-1 in December. They were flying. They were, on most nights, as good as any team in the National Hockey League, and their top three scorers were their top three scorers.

Plenty of Stanley Cup champions have started out worse.

And there were pleasant surprises, like Luongo's exceptional return to a starting role, Mike Santorelli's rise from the bargain bin to the box office, and the don't blink brilliance of the defensive play of youngsters Chris Tanev and Ryan Stanton.

Those pleasant surprises have faded, fallen, and floundered. Tanev is hurt, even if he's *healthy. Stanton missed significant time with an injury and didn't return until the Canucks needed more than him to help them. Santorelli is done for the season and is probably a little depressed about it (hey, I am). Luongo's play doesn't matter now because – like with Stanton – there's little he can do himself to change this team's fortunes.

Defence wins championships, but it doesn't steal them.

The Canucks have had their injury trouble, yes. It more than likely destroyed the goodwill their start – and their December – had built and it has definitely prolonged their misery.

But you'd be foolish to think injuries are what's separating the Canucks from the Sharks, the Penguins, the Bruins, the Blackhawks, the Kings, or the Blues.

Vancouver's injuries have been like an anchor on a drowning man… but even without the anchor, he's still not much of a swimmer.

And that's true of every heavyweight, really. Since winning the Stanley Cup in 2009, the Pittsburgh Penguins have been pathetic in the postseason, especially considering their roster and their record. Each series they win builds toward another disappointment, with playoff losses to Montreal, Tampa Bay, Philadelphia, and Boston. Only last year did they manage to win a couple seven-game sprints first, over the New York Islanders and then the Ottawa Senators. World beaters, I'm sure.

The L.A. Kings can't score. Of course, that didn't stop them in 2012, when they won Cup even though they scored the fewest goals in the NHL that season.

The Boston Bruins were embarrassed by the Chicago Blackhawks in the final three games of last year's Stanley Cup Final, but the Blackhawks themselves have looked less than perfect this season, too.

St. Louis appears to be the only sure thing, but two straight playoff losses to the Los Angeles Kings in 2012 and 2013 makes them more like a Rock in a best-of-three – powerful, yes, and Scissors doesn't stand a chance, until Paper somehow smothers you.

And in Vancouver, the Sedin Twins are amortizing fast. Alex Burrows hasn't scored a goal all season. Ryan Kesler is wasting his prime on the West Coast, sad as that is to say, and the defence is battered and bruised, as always.

The Canucks are talented enough – when healthy – to get themselves out of this rather kosher dill pickle, but they're getting old pretty darn fast, and every lost year expedites that process. 2011 proved that, if you don't win the Stanley Cup when you can, you just may never. And second place doesn't mean a damn.

The Canucks still have time to get a little better, but the real question is a rather sad one… should they even want to?

The year isn't over, which is depressing sometimes because you're almost afraid to open your eyes on most nights. You'd rather just hear the unflattering score and throw your arms as if to say, "I told ya!" instead of watch the game live with your eyes peeking out behind barely-spread fingers.

But there really is time... Many people forget – or just don't know – that Vancouver had an eight-game losing streak going after Christmas in 2009, in the middle of a stretch where they also won just one game in 11. That year, the Canucks somehow turned into the hottest team heading into the playoffs with Mats Sundin, Pavol Demitra, and the then-young Kesler, Daniel and Henrik, and Burrows.

That losing streak wasn't so depressing, because (again) the future was ahead of this team. Now, it's clearly the other way.

But should we give up? Just roll over and let the Anaheim Ducks have their way with us? Well, maybe. Have you watched us lately? What are we fighting for?

Oh, and by the way. Vancouver restarts its season against St. Louis tonight. So, you should watch that.

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