The Vancouver Canucks have been a blazing tire fire during this season and it seems as each week passes, more gas gets poured on.
Monday night, the Canucks hit a new low when they mustered only 18 shots against the Anaheim Ducks and were shut out by first-time NHLer John Gibson. The fact the loss also officially eliminated the Canucks from the post-season exacerbated that embarrassment in front of a home crowd. By the end of the 3-0 loss, Rogers Arena looked as empty as a Florida Panthers game in January.
As apathetic as the people in attendance have become, they also hold a bewildered frustration. How did a two-time Presidents’ Trophy winning team go from Game 7 of the Stanley Cup final to a distant, declining also-ran in only three years? How did a team with too many world-class goalies end up with zero world-class goalies? How did an exciting, free-wheeling, offensive juggernaut fall to the same scoring depths as the Florida Panthers?
It happened fast and it happened without reason. Monday night, the disgruntled faithful voiced their frustration in the final seconds of the loss with a “Fire Gillis” chant.
Tuesday morning, speculation began that a major change was going to happen in Vancouver before the end of the regular season and before the day was over, ownership had given in to the demands of the fans and fired Gillis. Rumors immediately began picking up steam that Linden was going to be hired in some capacity.
For his part, Linden shot down those rumors shortly after.
Then again Wednesday morning came another report, from TSN, that Linden was indeed going to be hired as team president. Tuesday night, THN's Ken Campbell wrote former Hockey Canada head Bob Nicholson was also talking to the Canucks about the presidency. The Canucks will hold a press conference Wednesday where we will likely find out where the new direction is headed.
Gillis had already put his arms up in surrender, saying the team’s style moved away from the one that brought them success and, when asked about the future of his failed coach, he peered into the future to suggest he wouldn't be back in the GM's chair. But what Gillis said to Vancouver’s TEAM 1040 last week about his coach exposed the gulf between the GM’s vision for the team and to where the path had deviated.
“John’s an accomplished coach. Six years ago, people thought Alain Vigneault couldn’t change from a defensive style coach to an offensive style coach. If given the resources and if the players are committed to it, I think any coach can coach the team that he has. Having said that, our problems are far-reaching and they will be addressed. If people don’t want to get on-side with how I view this team and how it’s supposed to play, then they won’t be here – just like six years ago.”
The way Gillis had talked as the season unraveled put into question just who was pulling the strings behind the scenes. Was it the GM who hired the defense-heavy John Tortorella, or was it the Aquilini ownership? If Gillis was taking direction, which other moves were made that wouldn’t have been his first choice?
If Trevor Linden – or anyone else - is indeed hired as president or GM, will the direction really be any better or any different?
If Linden is the guy, the Canucks will attempt to play the same card the Avalanche did with Joe Sakic. He had his vision for the team, hired Patrick Roy to carry it out and today Colorado sits higher in the standings than Chicago. The difference in Vancouver is, if any new management body has to move ahead with Tortorella and with the same system in place, I’m not sure the results can be expected to be any different.
Gillis made some confusing moves in his time as Canucks GM. The Cory Schneider trade was a head-scratcher, the Roberto Luongo trade a shocker and there’s not much to show for either. For these reasons, Gillis didn’t appear to be the right man for the GM job. But with the way the team has folded, the way the style has changed and the defeated words Gillis was muttering, it’s no longer clear he was the one who should have taken all the blame.
Would hiring Linden, or any other candidate, bring about the necessary change to get this once-mighty powerhouse back on track?
Right now, everything in Vancouver is being clouded by the overwhelming smoke of that raging tire fire.