If you have been following the Vancouver Canucks over the last decade, it has been tough. Any Canucks fan will tell you that.
Apathy has been a common theme in the fanbase and we have seen some fans displaying their frustrations at home games this season. It has been a season that has not gone to plan at all for the Canucks.
Radiohead’s song Let Down off their 1997 magnum opus OK Computer sums up the Canucks fanbase.
The emptiest of feelings
Clinging onto bottles
And when it comes it’s so so disappointing
The plan was “playoffs or bust” heading into the season, but it looks like the team will miss the playoffs for the eighth time in ten years. The Canucks are 18-22-3 after 43 games this season and are 3-7-0 in their last ten games.
On Monday morning, Canucks President of Hockey Operations Jim Rutherford sat down with the media to talk about the team’s season, the direction, Bruce Boudreau and a lot more.
You can watch the full press conference here. As you can probably tell, we’ll go over the highlights of what Rutherford said and I’ll give my thoughts.
It’s safe to say this presser was…confusing to say the least. Let’s dissect it.
The one thing that was noticeable about the presser was that Rutherford was open and honest when answering questions. For instance, he took some accountability.
“I’m disappointed in the job I’ve done to this point,” said Rutherford per Thomas Drance of The Athletic.”
He also spoke about
“When I came here, I knew it was going to be a big challenge,” said the Canucks President per Chris Faber of Canucks Army. ” I knew we were going to have to make minor surgery. Have I changed my position? Yeah. We have to make major surgery.”
Well, that was an interesting choice of words as Rutherford also spoke about the team’s handling of Tanner Pearson’s multiple hand surgeries (Ha, handling. Unintentional pun right there.) in the same press conference. But the words “major surgery” does sound encouraging, right? It could mean the rebuild is going to start…right?
Retool not rebuild
Well, not exactly.
Rutherford said something that has been said for almost a decade.
“We’re not looking towards a rebuild, I’d rather call it a retool, said Rutherford per Canucks Army’s David Quadrelli. “My preference is when we make these deals it’s not necessarily for draft picks that may come in and help the team four years, five years from now. I’d prefer to get younger NHL players that maybe didn’t work out in their entry-level contract and, you know, bring them in and give them a second chance. We’ll still try to acquire some draft picks. But we have to go about this in a way that that it’s not a long-term rebuild, and I think we can do that.”
Well, that isn’t necessarily encouraging. Sure, there is a chance you could get value in a young NHL player that hasn’t worked out but the chance is small. Former general manager Jim Benning loved acquiring reclamation projects. Sven Baertschi, Nikolay Goldobin, Derrick Pouliot and Markus Granlund come to mind as reclamation projects. They did not work out in Vancouver, though Baertschi and Goldobin showed some flashes.
The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and hoping for different results. Draft picks take time to develop but it’s all about thinking long-term into the future. Sure, not all draft picks pan out but they have a higher chance of doing (especially first and second-rounders) so than reclamation projects.
Rutherford also spoke about what changes could be made.
“The changes we need to make are not with the core players,” he said per Rob Fai. “The changes we need to make are the other players on the team, and it could end up being core players.”
Now that is contradictory. So he doesn’t want to get rid of core players but other players but then says the core players could be leaving. That doesn’t make sense right?
Tanking, contracts and Bo Horvat’s future
Connor Bedard is the most highly touted prospect since Connor McDavid who first overall to the Edmonton Oilers in 2015. Every Canucks fan would like him and Rutherford wasn’t shy about wanting the first overall pick.
“I’ll say the obvious, we all want the first overall pick, this year of all years,” he said per Batchelor.
You know, if you want the first overall pick, tearing the roster down and rebuilding would increase those chances. Retooling? Not so much. Again, this feels like another contradiction.
“I thought we were tanking?” said Rutherford per Batchelor. “We’re pretty close to the bottom. But I would never, running a team, go and tell the coach or the players not to play hard.”
Well, no coach or player is in the game. You play to win the game. Tanking necessarily doesn’t mean playing to lose every game. To tank, you need to trade players for picks and prospects and make the roster look bad. That doesn’t mean the team will go 0-0-82 but they are one of the worst teams in the league.
The team can play with intensity and structure every night and still lose a lot. But that gives fans hope for the future. The Chicago Blackhawks, Anaheim Ducks and even Arizona Coyotes are the best examples of tanking right now.
A big part of the reason why the Canucks are in limbo is that they have no cap space and it has gone to many players that aren’t exactly worth their contracts.
“We haven’t had the opportunity to take those steps…we’re stuck with contracts that we can’t move,” said Rutherford per Drance. “Until we move those out or until they expire, it’s going to be hard to take those steps.”
Let’s not forget that Rutherford, general manager Patrik Allvin (we should’ve heard from him on Monday too.) and the rest of the management group decided to give JT Miller an eight-year extension. They also gave Ilya Mikheyev a four-year deal (he’s been good for what it’s worth) and re-signed Brock Boeser to a three-year deal.
Dating back to last season, there was interest in Tyler Myers and Conor Garland. However, the Canucks held on to them. Trading both of them when their values were high could have gotten the Canucks something for the future.
The contracts can’t be an excuse to start a rebuild. Surely, there is interest in players like Boeser or Myers. To get rid of bad contracts, the Canucks are going to be prepared to lose trades. If they aren’t willing to swallow that pill, then the door to contention will remain shut for a long time.
There is one player the Canucks can trade that has high value and that is Bo Horvat. Rutherford was, of course, asked about him.
“I believe we’ve taken our best shot,” said Rutherford on Horvat per Drance. “With the offer, we have on the table right now is fair value for what he’s done up to this year…We’re in a pickle here. He’s had a career run and he’s looking for his money.”
Maybe if they extended Horvat in the summer (who would’ve taken less money) instead of Miller but they wouldn’t be in a pickle. Now that Horvat is going to want a massive raise, re-signing him would be tough to do so.
Bruce Boudreau’s future
You have to feel bad for Bruce Boudreau.
The Canucks head coach brought life into the team when he was hired in December 2021 but he looks so dead inside on the bench. It’s hard to blame Boudreau. Sure, some of his lineup decisions are baffling but Boudreau is a good coach. He shouldn’t take the blame for how bad the team is because they are simply not good.
However, it looks like Boudreau’s days as the Canucks head coach are numbered. There have been rumours that former Pittsburgh Penguins assistant coach, Arizona Coyotes head coach and current NHL on TNT analyst Rick Tocchet is the guy to replace Boudreau.
But Rutherford was quick to say that Boudreau was going to remain as the main guy behind the bench…at least for now.
“There’s lots of speculation out there, Bruce is our coach now,” said Rutherford per Lachlan Irvine of Canucks Army. “When we got off to a slow start this year we, the hockey staff, watched the coaching staff closer. There’s been times where we’ve had real good runs, and the team has played pretty well and there’s been times where we haven’t. (and) Why is that? When I say this, I’m not pointing this at Bruce, you know. Bruce is a friend, I really like Bruce and he’s done good work. But this is what we review all the time and try to make a decision.”
The way the Canucks are treating Boudreau right now is very bad. It’s no wonder why he looks so dead inside on the bench. The ideal route would be to fire Boudreau to get him out of his misery and make Mike Yeo the interim. That way, there is more time to figure out who the next head coach will be. If Rutherford likes Boudreau and sees him as a friend, that is what he should do.
I can’t imagine going to work every day knowing that I’m going to get fired and my boss is looking for my replacement. At that point, why bother?
To sum it all up, Rutherford’s comments were very contradictory. He was saying that the Canucks need to be overhauled AKA major surgery but isn’t willing to do a rebuild because he doesn’t want it to be too long.
That doesn’t sound like a good plan but it has been tried for years now with bad results. It has to be either win now or be bad for the sake of the future. It can’t be both. The Canucks have to pick one path and stick to it. That path has to be rebuild and fans can get behind that but Rutherford’s comments on Monday didn’t provide much hope.