Sometimes you just get “The Feeling” about a team. That perhaps, this is just not its time.
Or, when you are Alain Vigneault, that this might be the end of your time. In Vancouver, at least.
The Vancouver Canucks have gone blah. Meh…
Watching them used to be must-see TV on a West Coast start after the kids have gone to bed. But that was back when they used to score tic-tac-toe goals, throwing it around on the power play like the Harlem Globetrotters.
Today, the only one in Van City with a ball eternally spinning on the tip of the finger is general manager Mike Gillis, who hasn’t been able to find his deal for a goaltender. We applaud his dogged patience, but it has left Vigneault with a Top 6 player dressed in goalie pads and a baseball cap at the end the bench every night, and a wonky team save percentage of .905.
And the longer the season goes, the less sure we become which goalie Gillis should actually be shopping. Or if there is a deal out there that can fill the needs of Vancouver’s ever-growing list of must-haves, if this team is to resemble a Stanley Cup contender again by late April.
Ryan Kesler comes back, only to be injured again. David Booth shows up at training camp out of shape, pulls his groin, and hasn’t been any help all season. Now he’s out “indefinitely” with a sprained ankle.
Zack Kassian has a sore back, but like so many before him, he has only produced when playing with the twins. Kassian has five goals this season. He’s not helping very much.
Now, the one thing you could count on — beating the Minnesota Wild at Rogers Arena — has deserted the Canucks as well.
In a game tied 1-1 after 40 minutes, with first place in the Northwest Division on the line, the Wild pulled away from Vancouver decisively Monday night, scoring twice to beat Vancouver 3-1. Minnesota also won a stunning 68 per cent of the faceoffs Monday night, a statement game for the Wild as they moved atop the Northwest.
“I thought we got a good 60-minute effort,” Henrik Sedin, ever the positive voice inside the Canucks room, told reporters in Vancouver. “If we can keep playing like that every game we are going to get wins … I don’t think we gave up a whole lot of chances.”
That effort will beat the lesser teams, on a lot of nights. But as evidenced on Monday, it wasn’t enough to defeat the oncoming Wild. No power play, no even strength goals and no progress for Vancouver, a program that is officially treading water after taking its fans to Game 7 back in 2010.
While the Wild have now won five of their last six games, Vancouver has dropped six of its last eight. Minnesota flexed its muscles Monday at The Rog, and is feeling the confidence of a team that is, for now, the best in the Northwest.
“That’s what’s going on right now,” head coach Mike Yeo said of the steadily mounting confidence. “It’s fun to be on the bench and listen to the guys talk and say the things they’re saying. It’s a good focus right now.”
“I liked a lot of parts about our game tonight,” offered Vigneault. “We went after them. We played well with the puck. We put pressure on them. We had some real solid scoring chances and we forced their goaltender to make some good saves.”
It was the start of a five-games-in-seven-nights run that will shape the Canucks’ season in no small way. St. Louis is in tonight, as each game becomes a symposium in Vancouver on the future of Vigneault.
He has spent seven seasons leading these Canucks, and we’re a believer in Vigneault as an elite coach. His roster today isn’t close to what it was in 2010, but things like that never seem to matter it gets decided that the message has gone stale.
Vigneault’s Canucks have gone eight games now, scoring two or less in seven of them. And even though they’re getting their power play chances (ranked ninth in the NHL in opportunities) the unit has gone cold. A 14 per cent efficiency has Vancouver sitting 27th in the NHL, and is a big reason for a debilitating scoring drought.
The Canucks used to bury you on the PP. Without that weapon, it is just another good team, but not a great one.
“Those are our best players,” Vigneault said earlier this week of the flailing PP unit.
They are indeed, Alain. That’s why their jobs are safe.