Chick-chick. Chick-chick. Chick-chick.
That’s the sound of the Vancouver Canucks reaching the top of the metaphorical rollercoaster as their window of contention closes. Next comes the “AHHHHH!” as the team plummets toward a rebuild.
If there was any doubt as to what phase the Canucks are entering now, Thursday night erased it.
The Dallas Stars laid an absolute beating on John Tortorella’s hapless team, winning 6-1 on the strength of a five-point night from Tyler Seguin. Zack Kassian got himself ejected and likely suspended with this hit from behind on Stars blueliner Brenden Dillon:
But, uh, hey, at least newly anointed starting goalie Eddie Lack was kind enough to allow five goals through two periods, letting Jacob Markstrom make an earlier-than-expected Canucks debut.
This was a Canucks team coached by Tortorella, not Alain Vigneault, a team missing Daniel Sedin, a team no longer boasting Roberto Luongo and Cory Schneider as its goaltending tandem. Quite a far cry from Game 7 of the 2011 Stanley Cup final. In fact, tonight’s sorry effort and the events of the past week may signify the franchise’s lowest point since the Todd Bertuzzi/Steve Moore scandal 10 years ago.
Even the departed Luongo sprayed gasoline on the fire with, surprise surprise, a beautifully timed tweet:
If I was still the back up I coulda came in and mopped this game up nicely…..
— Strombone (@strombone1) March 7, 2014
It’s hard to find positives in what GM Mike Gillis has done considering how he handled Luongo and Schneider, but if nothing else, the Luongo deal signals the Canucks know their window has closed. Their two star offensive players are well into their 30s and, after years of drafting late in the first round and/or poorly, it’s time to start stockpiling young talent again. The Nicklas Jensens and Jordan Schroeders of the world are not going to cut it. Bo Horvat is a nice start (though he got hurt Thursday night…more good news for Vancouver), which makes sense because he was a top-10 pick. Now the Canucks must add to that and the best way will be to move Ryan Kesler before the draft, kind of like Pittsburgh did with Jordan Staal in 2012. Keeping him past the deadline was actually smart, as he’s under contract for two more years.
The next Canucks GM Gillis can take his time for the best possible return.
The Sedins and their $7-million cap hits through 2017-18 aren’t going anywhere. But perhaps the Canucks can build around them with new young talent the same way they insulated Bertuzzi and Markus Naslund with the Sedins years ago.
“If this isn’t rock bottom, I don’t know what is,” Kevin Bieksa told media after the game. That may be true, but there’s no shame in it, Canucks fans. All good things come to an end. Eventually, we’ll see a turnaround, but it may take several years.
Matt Larkin is an associate editor at The Hockey News and a regular contributor to the thn.com Post-To-Post blog. For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, subscribe to The Hockey News magazine. Follow Matt Larkin on Twitter at @THNMattLarkin