The players are discouraged and frustrated, the coaching staff appears alarmingly dejected, and the fans are beyond bummed. With wince-inducing expressions like “toxic atmosphere” being tossed about, the Vancouver Canucks look to be in dismal shape. It’s almost hard to believe this team was in the playoff hunt only a month ago.
Persistent talk of the prospective firings of both the head architect, GM Mike Gillis, and on-ice foreman, coach John Tortorella, aren’t helping matters. While Gillis hasn’t yet hung his bench boss out to dry, as reported by ESPN Insider Craig Custance, there hasn’t been a volleyed vote of confidence either.
"That's rumor and speculation," Gillis said late Wednesday morning, when asked about Tortorella’s future with the Canucks. "I'm not commenting on that because then it just lends credibility to what's out there with bloggers and all kinds of different people. So it's unfair to comment on any future plans other than what we've already said, which is we're trying to get younger, we're trying to retool and we're trying to do some things differently the next one, three, five years."
What Gillis did not say: “We stand confidently behind our head coach and don’t intend to make changes regarding the position in the near future.” Or anything to that effect.
The hamstring injury to Daniel Sedin (out for “weeks”) is obviously another significant factor, as is the perceived misery of Ryan Kesler, having not been dealt before the trade deadline. Oh, and the Canucks have won only two of their last 14 contests; a stretch punctuated by Monday’s abysmal 7-4 loss to the New York Islanders. No wonder recent escapee Roberto Luongo can’t stop smiling.
Now, this doesn’t mean the Canucks are irredeemably cooked for the remainder of 2013-14. Remember the premature ballyhooing about the Philadelphia Flyers following their rough start to the campaign? Some armchair GMs were willing to trade Claude Giroux, Jakub Voracek and anyone else with a pulse for a pack of quality hockey tape. Yeah, well, Giroux has since averaged over a point per game, Voracek has been no slouch, and the Flyers are hanging on to a playoff spot in the East. Speaking for the NHL-loving community at large, we tend to overreact on occasion.
But while the Flyers were frustrated by a temporary lack of on-ice cohesion and, in some cases, simple bad fortune, the situation smells much more sour in Van City. For reasons outlined above, and others, this doesn’t strike as a situation where a few players are slumping and the bounces aren't going the team's way.
So, from a fantasy perspective -- which is what we’re about here -- the atmosphere doesn’t bode well for Vancouver’s perennial heavyweights. Henrik Sedin (owned in 100 percent of ESPN.com leagues) has one goal and zero assists in his past 13 games. Kesler (owned in 100 percent of leagues) has three goals, zero assists and is a minus-six in his past 10. Top fantasy defensemen Jason Garrison and Dan Hamhuis haven’t contributed much. Kevin Bieksa may be the best of the under-performing blue-line bunch, and his numbers aren’t much to crow about either. And freshly endorsed as the club’s No. 1 netminder, rookie Eddie Lack, is supposed to manage his best at the heart of it all. Best of luck to him.
Our fantasy advice? If you have other options available, bench all of your Canucks -- even Henrik and Kesler -- at least until the Canucks' ship rights itself. Which, for the sake of the Vancouver faithful, will happen sooner rather than later.
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