Hide your eyes. Just when you think it can’t get any worse for the Vancouver Canucks, things derail even further. After last night, the wheels are officially off the train.
The Canucks carried a 3-0 lead into the third period during a home bout with the New York Islanders. When the game came to a close 20 minutes later, the scoreboard read 7-4 New York. Yes, Vancouver gave up seven goals in the final frame, fumbling what could’ve been a much-needed victory in epic fashion. A week after the team brought an end to the dramatic Roberto Luongo saga, after star forward Ryan Kesler reversed course and asked for a trade that never materialized, last night seems to solidify the belief that this season is a never-ending nightmare for Canucks fans.
When the Vancouver faithful finally awake from this dreadful dream, they’ll likely do so to a team without its head coach. A common thought churning up around British Columbia is that Canucks coach John Tortorella will more than likely get axed this offseason, and last night may have been the final nail in the coffin.
To be honest, this isn’t terribly surprising. Tortorella came in right away and tried to impose his defensive, shot-blocking strategy onto the team. To put it bluntly, it was quite a “square peg in a round hole” situation. The Canucks weren’t necessarily built the same way as Tortorella’s former team, the New York Rangers, so this influx of grit seemed like trouble from the start.
However, at a certain point in the season, it was really looking like the team was gelling. They opened the month of December winning ten of 12 games, putting them in the thick of the playoff hunt. But a successful end to the calendar year was followed by a dreadful start to 2014. Vancouver only won four games in January, just one in February. Overall, they’ve won two of their last 14, all but cementing the likelihood that they’ll miss the postseason for the first time since the ‘07-’08 campaign. It’s a scenario that should be sending Tortorella on the job hunt at season’s end.
There were many around the league who believed Vancouver’s window of competing was slowly coming to a close, but nobody thought it would slam shut as swiftly as hit has this year. Because of how rough things have gotten, GM Mike Gillis is expected to be relieved of his duties in the offseason. A new GM will undoubtedly result in a new coach. And why wouldn’t it? Can any rational-thinking GM look at the job Tortorella has done and feel confident?
He’s attempted to impose a strategy on a team that, for the most part, rejected it (unless you think allowing seven goals in one period is a solid display of shot-blocking). In multiple meetings with the media, he’s admitted the difficulty he’s had in figuring out how to work with his roster. Oh, and his decision not to start Luongo in the Heritage Classic essentially chased the club’s starting goalie out of town.
Tortorella has proven he can be a successful coach in this league, winning a Stanley Cup with the Tampa Bay Lightning and keeping the Rangers contending during his tenure in New York. But, he needs to have the right team, one that’s willing to buy into his game plan. He doesn’t have that in Vancouver.
It’s just not working. Nobody wearing a Canucks sweater, be it players or fans, is happy. It’s time for Vancouver to start considering a rebuild, and it starts with bringing the Tortorella era to an abrupt end.