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Thursday, 6 March 2014

And the winner of the Vancouver Goaltending Controversy is... Eddie Lack?

Little does he know by next week his life will be hell.

Man, here I was thinking i'd be done writing about hockey for awhile, maybe write something about being a dad then Mike Gillis goes off and does something that shocks most of the hockey world more then seeing that Iron Mike Keenan in Russia documentary on Sportsnet. Luongo finally gets traded for a 3rd string goalie, only months after the Canucks dealt away their other #1 netminder, Cory Schneider.  In less than a year, the Canucks have lost 2 starting goalies, their most successful head coach, and the once dominant scoring machine Sedins are both approaching their worst offensive outputs in their careers.  

But how does this rate in the Vancouver Canuck all-time list of colossal WTF moments?

Here's my Favourites, in semi-random order.

Towel Power 

They're not happy here. This is a sign of surrender, not victory...

Only in Vancouver are they able to take a symbol of defeat and rally around it like James Duthie & Friends at the World Juniors tryouts. Historically, waving a white flag is a symbol of surrender. And while it was pretty funny when 'interim' head coach Roger Nielson did it in a playoff game back in 1982 against the Vancouver Canucks, it's kind of WTF that it's lasted this long and Canuck Nation instead takes it as a source of pride that they are so willing to surrender that they hand out free towels before playoff games, just to remind everyone that once, 30 years ago they felt that they were getting the shitty end of the referee whistle and still are.

The Bertuzzi Lawsuit Saga

Who would have thought a man of my size would cause so much damage to a spinal column?

Was he following orders or was he just being a prick? Bertuzzi's assault/payback on Colorado's marginal 3rd liner Steve Moore for hitting Markus Naslund in a previous game was the end of the West Coast Express, Marc Crawford and most people's respect for Todd Bertuzzi. The court case brought forth by Steve Moore for 'loss of income' was legit and if was boiled down into a couple of weeks, would have made for a great movie. Bertuzzi, Coach Crawford, the Canuck organization were all asked who was to blame and well, apparently everyone is still pointing fingers at each other.

The Canucks 1st ever pick; Dale Tallon 

It's 1970. Two new NHL teams are welcomed into the league, the Vancouver Canucks and the Buffalo Sabres. To determine 1st pick, a roulette wheel was used (as coins were too controversial and lacked suspense).  Buffalo won and picked future Hall of Famer Gilbert Perrault, 1/3 of the relatively famous French Connection Line in the 1970's.

Dale 'Don't Bother To Unpack' Tallon

What can you do, right? The Canucks did get second pick and they used it to pick Dale Tallon 2nd overall, ahead of 2 other notable Hall of Fame draft picks that year - Darryl Sittler (#8), Billy Smith (#59)
Gilbert Perrault won the Calder Cup his rookie year and wound up playing 17 years with the Buffalo Sabres. He brought immediate respect to the Buffalo franchise, leaving behind final numbers of 512 G 814A and 1326 points. Buffalo made their first trip to the Finals in 1975, losing to the Broad Street Bullies.
Meanwhile, that other guy, Dale Tallon, played three years in Vancouver, 44G 93A for 137 points as a defenceman.  Pretty decent numbers and after representing Vancouver 2x at the All-Star Game, they traded him away. So it goes.

And so it began...

Those uniforms...

'nuff said.

The Cam Neely Give-away 

Seriously, we get it. The uniforms sucked.

Hard to believe that it would take nearly 20 years for this to stop being mentioned as 'the worst Vancouver Canuck Trade of All-Time' because Vancouver has really been working overtime on trying to make everyone forget this deal with it's recent trades. While Neely had yet to become a Hall of Famer and the antithesis of the Power Forward, the Vancouver franchise took a lot of heat over this one. Canuck fans know this trade by heart - Cam Neely traded to Boston after 3 seasons for Barry Pederson and a draft pick that was used to pick Glen Wesley, an all-star defenceman who played 20 years in the NHL. At the time of the trade Neely was playing behind 2 other right winger stars (by Canuck standards) Stan Smyl and Tony Tanti so nobody really said WTF until... well the next year when Neely scored 36 goals and 36 assists. For his part Barry Pederson put up similar points but after 3 years with the Canucks, he was traded away for a used bag of popcorn while Neely became a household name and Ulf Samuellson's nemesis.

These jerseys were considered an improvement

In what was the first step in what turned out to actually make the Canucks a contender, it started in the usual WTF'ness that is the Canucks. In 1987 the Canucks were owned by  the Griffiths family who began talking to LA coach Pat Quinn about becoming the General Manager/Coach of the Canucks. Quinn accepted the job but the problem was that he was still under contract to the Kings. The Kings organization found out about Quinn's moonlighting when a Canuck trainer brought a $100,000 cheque over to Pat Quinn the night of a hockey game. Problem was the game was between Quinn's Kings against the Canucks. The League called shenanigans and suspended Quinn from being allowed to coach the Canucks for a couple of years. Thankfully, this WTF moment allowed Quinn to relieve himself of coaching duties and concentrate on building a contender, complete with draft picks Trevor Linden and Pavel Bure, trades for Kirk McLean and Greg Adams.

Luongo's Contract 

I can't believe I get paid millions to get boo'd. 

Fast forward through the 1994 Stanley Cup and the decade long WTF after; the squeezing out of local vertically challenged owner, Arthur Griffiths Jr by John McCaw, the rebranding of the franchise to the Orca Bay Sports Conglomerate and a move into what was then called GM Place. Let's go past another few changes of uniforms (including those 'salmon' matinee jerseys), skip past most of the 2000's and another change of ownership to Francis Aquillino. Go past the Brian Burke years and the WTF announcement of former Player Agent Mike Gillis as General Manager. Get to the joy and WTF of 2009 when 'front-end loaded' contracts were all the rage. Get to that announcement that Luongo signed a 12 YEAR deal for roughly $64 million, including being paid $10 million the first few years, 6.7 million for the next few a year, with a no-trade clause for the first five years. Vancouver's goaltending controversy was solved forever.

Of course, this looked like a great deal as Luongo quickly lived up to the money, leading the Canucks to within one game of the Stanley Cup. But that's not good enough for most Canuck fans (see 1994 Cup Riot for foreshadowing). What most Canuckleheads have quickly forgotten was how active they were in throwing Luongo under the bus as the reason as to why the Canucks ultimately lost to the Boston Bruins and then every game ever after that Luongo starred in. Blaming everything on the Canuck goalie is nothing new in itself as Dan Cloutier, Felix Potvin, Alex Auld, Garth Snow, Arturs Irbe and Kirk McLean would attest.

Firing Alain Vigneault 

Noose feeling a little tight there?

Everybody needs a fall guy and for Mike Gillis he chose it to be the winning-est coach in Canuck history, Alain Vigneault. It was not good PR having a former #1 now back-up goaltender making $6 million/yr while sitting on the bench as his understudy put up Luongo-like solid numbers. Alain Vigneault was shown the door after another early-round playoff loss to the always dominant San Jose Sharks. And while a host of other dominant teams that have lost in the first round retain the coach that got them there, AV was shown the door.

And to show that if you don't learn from history, you are doomed to repeat it, Mike Gillis went and hired a former NY Ranger coach and noted asshole, John Tortorella who at the time of this writing is doing the same great WTF job that his former NY Ranger coach turned Canuck killer did.

Speaking of former NY Ranger team killers...

The Mike Keenan Implosion

Keenan directing which way his players should go.
Now to the really good stuff. Okay, you are only a couple years away from nearly winning the Cup. You still have a pretty decent core team with Trevor Linden, Pavel Bure, Dave Babych, Jryki Lumme, Kirk McLean and Gino Odjick. Teams fear playing you, or at least Gino, especially if you are St. Louis.

Life is pretty good. Your still a contender, but injuries are taking their toll. But then your owner gets forced out by an American enigma who proceeds to rebrand the team and destroy all Karma that happened in the last 10 years. Mike Peca is traded for Alex Mogilny, which looks good on paper but Mogilny is no Mike Peca. Your owner wants some changes and so he takes  free agent Mark Messier on a fishing trip and hires him. Soon after GM Pat Quinn is fired along with Coach Tom Renney. Messier's life-partner Mike Keenan is brought in to help sink the sinking ship.

That's right, the new owner decided the best thing to do for the franchise was to bring in the coach and douche player who miraculously held on to beat the Canucks in seven games only 3 years ago and was notorious for not getting along with anyone, including dogs.

We all remember how that great experiment turned out - Linden gone after a memorable dressing down by Keenan in which Messier failed to stand up for his fellow Captain and teammate. The team fractured down the lines of Linden vs. Messier. Keenan, in his dual role as GM did 10 separate trades that year, the biggest trading away Linden. Also leaving that year were Gino Odjick, Kirk McLean, and Dave Babych. Pavel Bure sat out most of the next season until he was traded to the Florida Panthers. Keenan was fired less than two years into his dismantling after Brian Burke was brought in to stem the leaking.

Which brings us to He-Who-Should-Not-Be-Named.

Everything about this picture still hurts.
Seriously. WTF.  I don't know of any athlete that would personally want the guy cheap-shotted your Captain and then cried as he held the Stanley Cup after beating your team. The 94 Canucks were an amazing team, playing on heart, sweat, a vicious Bure elbow to Shane Churla and Linden's cracked ribs after a notorious cheap shot in the dying seconds of game 6 inflicted by Messier.  Trevor Linden and friends gave the city of Vancouver a small taste of what being a Stanley Cup winner should feel like. Everybody wanted the Canucks to win, unlike in 2011 where the legend of the West Coast Express had changed into West Coast Arrogance and most of Canada were split between being called Anti-Canadian for cheering on the Canucks over Boston.

Back to Mark. He signed on and quickly caused controversy by being given the previously retired #11. It was a sign of foreshadowing that he was handed the C by true team captain Trevor Linden before the season started. It was kind of like The Joker given the keys to Gotham by Batman. It didn't feel right and it wasn't. The Canucks continued to tank, the 'leadership' promised by Messier never blossomed as he spent most of his time on the injured list. He was instrumental in bringing in his own team including Mike Keenan to keep dismantling Linden's team. When he left the Canucks, they were mired in the bottom of the pack. Play-off aspirations a far-fetched dream. Even Calgary had a better chance than Vancouver.

To add insult to injury Messier returned to the Rangers, his mission fulfilled of completely destroying the Canucks franchise for the next five years. Fans never forgot. Or forgave. And oh yeah, in a complete dick move he successfully sued the Canucks for $6 million in back pay, some kind of contract stipulation/reward based on and increased value of the franchise during his 5 year contract. Important to note here that he left after 3 years but in those final 2 years, when he wasn't on the team and attendance improved he felt it was because of his time there.
He now spends most of his time writing bad poems about the New York Rangers spurning him for AV and editing his Wikipedia page.

But the reason why Mark Messier is only #2 on Ogie's All-Time list of Canuck WTF?

The Wayne Gretzky non-signing

I seriously doubt this ever happened.
In what has to be the biggest fuck-up in Canuck history, and there's lots to choose from, the Canucks were only hours away from signing the greatest player in history for the second time. Years earlier, when Pocklington was shopping Gretzky around in the late 80's, it came down to the Kings or the Canucks. Short story; the Canucks couldn't come up with $18 million Pocklington wanted. The Kings could.

So fast forward nearly 10 years. Gretzky has done his thing for hockey and for America. He had just played a short stint in St. Louis under Keenan and wanted out (sense a pattern there?). It came down to Toronto or Vancouver. Toronto pulled out due to their famous justification that they were already playing to sold-out crowds with a mediocre team so why should they pay extra money for someone who couldn't actually sell anymore tickets. So it came down that the Great One would most likely finish out his career on the West Coast.

To sum up the story as told  by Al Strachan in his book;

Gretzky's agent and Canuck ownership representatives were in an hours long discussion over length and terms of the contract. Gretzky retired to his hotel suite while the bargaining parties went deep into the night. After midnight, Gretzky was contacted to be informed a deal was done, he only had to come over and sign it. Gretzky said he would sign it in the morning. The Canucks said "No, it has to be signed now or no deal."

Gretzky said something to the effect of 'Fuck that. I'm Wayne Gretzky, I said I would sign it in the morning.'
The Canuck tool in charge of the negotiations repeated he had to sign it NOW so Gretzky told him to go fuck himself (paraphrasing). The next morning Gretzky hopped on a plane and went off to New York.

The Canucks, in full panic mode now settled on the 2nd biggest fish in the market, Mark Messier. All because someone didn't take Wayne Gretzky's word that he would sign a contract in the morning.

This still would have happened. 
I'm done. Can't wait to see what happens next in Canuckland...

feel free to say your bit in the comments.

1 comment:

  1. I can't believe i still cheer for this team..I totally agree with that peca/mogilny trade. Better than neely/pederson but still...