Maybe it's time for Gillis to start thinking about tomorrow
As the season comes to a close, and the ‘Nucks give up 3 goal leads to the likes of a Tavares-less Islander group, the team finds itself four points outside of a wildcard spot—behind a team that’s played two fewer games in the schedule. Things look grim, and it seems that even coach Tortorella has resigned to the fact his first year behind this bench will be a failure. As John Garrett so eloquently framed the scene: this is a fragile Canuck group.
It seems that every highlight package features at least one glimpse of the impassioned American rolling his eyes, or scoffing in bitter acceptance at the train wreck he’s contractually obligated to lead. The mire of these last fourteen games will weigh heavily on a coaching staff that entered this year with high hopes, and higher expectations.
With no support from a management group that appears unable to improve a roster thats seen its best days through trade, Johnny T. and company might be advised to cross the finish line without a virtue that’s synonymous to professional sport: honour.
Note that analysts and critics seem to agree that this draft class has substance. Names like Aaron Ekblad and Sam Reinhart have featured prominently on Bob McKenzie’s desk, two names that catalyze a pool of prospects that offer a more collective allure than the past couple years. Should the Canucks join their Alberta neighbours in salivating over the possibilities of June 27th, or is the likelihood of a strong finish worth sacrificing the future? That crop of players, boasting names like Horvat, Shinkaruk and Subban, could benefit from the added competition another top-ten pick would present.
Before skeptics begin to question the integrity of this plan, the organization needs to accept that a seven-game series with any of the California teams or Chicago likely wouldn’t go beyond four one-sided contests. The evidence was carved in last spring’s drubbing at the hands of San Jose, and the five-game upset that saw eighth seeded Los Angeles eliminate the President Trophy winners. It would be advisable for Gillis to pull the plug on this season’s pulse, giving Tortorella another year to motivate this group, all the while deepening this organization’s pool of young talent. The move could subvert the complete rebuild teams like the Oilers are caught in, and would remedy the ills of waiting until it’s too late—a scenario carried out by Darryl Sutter that Calgarians lament.
However, the morality required to throw games can’t be found in your average professional hockey dressing room. The very nature of the sport is selfless, as the altruistic post-game player interviews prove. Clubs in other sports have thrown entire seasons to earn a young star’s rights, a dilemma that’s become quite problematic in Aussie rules football. The NBA recently addressed the issue, making all fourteen non-playoff teams equally eligible for the first overall pick.
But, let’s not get sidetracked, the name of the game is consistency and—looking at the ‘Nucks record the past few weeks—perhaps dignity can be found in staying the mediocre course. If ownership had intended this season to be a bust, then their plan is coming to fruition in spades. Good ol’ Francesco and his brother vetoed a viable Kesler trade, maintained an unreasonably high Heritage Classic ticket price, and built the team’s brand by establishing a somewhat forced Ring of Honour. We’re not saying the business magnates fall into the category of super villainy, and have sinister designs on the team, it’s just that anytime owners interfere in management decisions there’s a reason to be suspicious.
Nevertheless, the direction of this team goes beyond the guys who cut the cheques. If this team is to reestablish itself as a Cup contender, it needs to make decisions that affect not only today-but tomorrow as well.
It’s nice seeing youngsters like Niklas Jensen, Darren Archibald and Jordan Schroeder get substantial ice-time in tonight’s game versus the Islanders, inclusions that benefit the team’s collective depth. The ‘Nucks still have a big group of veterans that can mentor this next generation, a knowledge exchange that significantly expedited the developed of both Cory Schneider and Eddie Lack.
So, the question lingers: should management and coaching dabble in immorality, and throw this season, or is it worth forgetting the goals set for this season so that Lack won’t find himself in a Pacific division shooting gallery—with no apparent end in sight?