The homogenization of the Vancouver Canucks began with the remake of Alex Burrows’ game. When he stripped the diving and head-snapping out of his repertoire, he removed any reason not to like and respect him as a player. From there it extended through the exit of serial flopster Max Lapierre, the protracted wane in production and injury issues of Ryan Kesler, and the elimination of a two-goalie system that was a factory of controversy for West Coast scribes.
Somehow, the Vancouver Canucks had lost their news-making ability and with it went their swagger. That, “We don’t care what you think of us. Just drop the puck and we’ll kick your ass,” attitude that made the Canucks the team they were in 2011 had somehow disappeared. And so did the sheer volume of hatred fostered by that 2011 Cup run. Hatred from Canucks fans towards the Chicago Blackhawks, Brad Marchand, Jack Edwards, and a Bruins team that walked into Rogers Arena and won Game 7 decisively.
Gone are the twitter daggers launched at any journalist who dared point out a dive, or the debate over the calls Vancouver never seemed to get from referees who once had reason to be wary of the Canucks.
I know, hate is a strong word. But we love that it is seeping back, slowly, with a rush of emotion this weekend that climaxed when Milan Lucic distanced himself from his own hometown.
“Other than being at Rogers Arena no one will ever see me in downtown Vancouver ever again,” Lucic told the Boston media on Monday, after video surfaced of Lucic outside a Vancouver bar, complaining that an unknown assailant had punched him twice, maybe three times. “I have no reason left to defend my city and the people in my city. I’m disgusted and outraged.”
(Memo to Brian Burke: You want truculence? Find the guy willing to throw down with Lucic in a bar.)
It seems a total over-reaction by Lucic — but it’s about time someone over-reacted to something surrounding the Canucks. We’ve missed the drama, Vancouver, about as much as we’ve missed being able to call the Canucks Canada’s only true, Stanley Cup contender.
Disdain towards the Stanley Cup rioters; sarcasm towards Roberto Luongo, who has remade his image as a self-deprecating and hilarious follow on Twitter; a Lapierre dive, and a Mike Gillis press conference.
All of that drama went up in a puff of smoke, and we wonder: Does its absence go hand in hand with the fact the Canucks have won but a single a playoff game in the two postseasons since that tumultuous Cup run of 2011?
This weekend the Canucks looked like a serious contender for the first time in a long while. Their game was razor sharp in dominating Edmonton 4-0 and Boston 6-2 on back-to-back nights. And the theatre was back too.
On Friday, cameras caught Zack Kassian mocking an Oiler. We’ll never know with absolute certainty that it was Sam Gagner whose face shield Kassian was referencing as he pointed to his own chin and said the words, “What’s this?” But Gagner was in the group of players Kassian was looking towards as he spoke, and he had busted Gagner’s jaw only weeks before with a wanton high stick.
Was it cheap and lacking in class? You can judge that for yourself. All we’ll say is karma does not favour those who mock others’ injuries. Particularly when they caused those injuries themselves.
Then the very next night, as Vancouver’s game apexed in a game some were touting as “Game 9” in Vancouver, the Canucks were on the receiving end of some pantomime, as Brad Marchand pretended to raise a Cup, then kiss his imaginary Stanley Cup ring in front of the Canucks bench.
It was classic Marchand, a not-so-subtle reminder of who won Game 7 in 2011. There was only one team that could bring that out of him, and on Saturday they played well enough to do just that.
“He’s got no class,” Henrik Sedin told reporters postgame. “I mean, he’s a great player. It’s too bad he has to act like he hates us all the time.”
It’s OK, Henrik. It’s been a while since the Canucks brought out the worst in anybody.
Maybe you should just go with this.