Monday, May 27, 2013

The Heartbreak of Hockey

The best days around this blog are when our wonderful, hockey-loving friends offer to guest post. Thanks to @lisapy74 (Canucks Superfan Extraordinaire)  for the post below -- amazing, as always! We love posts from Lisa and would love posts from other hockey fans. Hint, hint!!

The Heartbreak of Hockey

I understand that hockey is a sport, and that players are basically a commodity, who can be bought and sold at will.  But really, where is a player's incentive to try harder, to push himself, to prove himself, if he can be traded away at any given moment?

Perfect example - the Vancouver Canucks.  They've been knocked out of the first round of the playoffs for two years straight.  This year, they got swept, didn't even win a single game.  Although Game 4 did look promising for a minute.  But honestly, I don't blame the players.  I blame the Canucks' organization - the GM and the Coach, first and foremost. (Note: Lisa wrote & sent this to use before the BIG changes in Vancouver!!)

Every team in the league who under-performed or didn't meet their fans' expectations this year can fall back on the same excuses:  the lockout, a shortened season, player injuries, and not a lot of options at the trade deadline to improve their team.

So, why did some teams do so much better than others? Vancouver has heart, and grit, and will.  They have the determination and the strength.  The guys have really tried to develop the team chemistry it takes to win.  Why didn't they? Maybe I'm just a bitter fan at the moment, disillusioned by the prospect that my team is about to be blown to bits, and have it called a 're-organization, or a reset', as Mike Gillis loves to say. 
Let's see.  Yes, players were injured (God bless Ryan Kesler for playing seven, yes seven, games with a broken foot), but that wasn't the real problem.  The coaching and the management are the real problem.  Team skates seemed to be optional more often than not.  I think the Canucks rarely, if ever, practice the shoot-out even though it played a major factor this season when every single point was important.  I still don't understand why the Sedins only seldom kill penalties, and why they don't participate in the shoot-out.  Players with their skill level (and salary) should not have that option.  They are part of the team, right? Don't get me wrong, I'm not blaming the Sedins, I'm just saying, where is their fire? If I thought it would help my team win a championship, damn right I'd take a turn at the shoot-out, kill penalties, and get fired up and fight back when other teams repeatedly pushed me too far.  But they don't, and it's sad.  It's sad, because I have a sick feeling my team is going to get blown up in the near future, all in the name of a rebuild.

Don't make a guy who's a natural center play a winger position.  Don't put a right-handed defenseman on the left-hand side and out of his comfort zone.  Quit switching your D-pairings and your forward line combinations so much it makes my head spin.  If you call someone up from the AHL, let him play for more than one or two games.  Otherwise, what's the point? How do you even know what the guy can do in two games? With all of this, plus injuries, and the so-called goalie controversy, how can a team manage to build lasting chemistry? Hey, let's put a rookie on the top line with the Sedins.  Let's make Kesler play on the wing, and Burrows play center, while we're at it.  Hamhuis and Bieksa, let's split them up, screw their great chemistry and how they always know where the other one is going to be on the ice. 

God forbid we practice the power play, because that's not important at all, right? And Vancouver may be guilty of occasional diving or embellishment, but they also don't get a lot of breaks when it comes to penalty calls either.  I've seen Alex Burrows (in person) get whacked across the back of the legs repeatedly by an opponent, while the refs seem not to notice, until he snaps, and retaliates - and then he gets called for a penalty! How is that fair?

Let's put poor Schneider in cold for playoff games, when he hasn't played in two weeks, after battling a groin injury.  Let's yo-yo Luongo - you're our number one, no number two, no let's trade you, no let's keep you.  Make a decision and stick it with it AV.  At least act like you care about your players and about the game.  It matters to these guys and it matters to the fans.  And your job should be on the line after this season.  Yours, and the GM's.  Not the players' jobs.

My real problem with the Canucks' early exit is that a player like Mason Raymond is still getting grief from the fans.  He can't score a goal in the playoffs (but he did).  He's not fast enough (but he's one of the quickest skaters).  He falls down all the time (give me a break).  Not to mention, he was willing to play center, not his natural position, when called upon.  I remember one of the analysts said not that long ago, and I'm paraphrasing here, 'I shudder to think where this Vancouver team would be without Mason Raymond right now.'  And now he's one of the first to face the threat of the chopping block.  After all he's overcome, and how much he's improved, he still can't do enough for this team.  He wants to stay in Vancouver - that's where he started his career and his family.  I want him to stay in Vancouver.  Don't penalize a player for a team's shitty season, and blame it on the salary cap.  It infuriates me that every time something goes wrong, Raymond is always one of the first to be thrown under the bus.  He's given his all to this team, after what could have been a career ending injury, and he refused to give up.

Even though they're out of the playoffs again, I refuse to give up on this team.  Yes, I understand that players have to be traded and that they can't play hockey forever.  But don't blow up a team just because the top dogs can't perform at the level they should be.  Why can the status quo be maintained for these guys, but the players (and fans) have to pay the price? I put my heart and soul in to supporting this team, like any other hockey fan.  I've cried, I've screamed, I've cursed and I know I'll cry some more.  I'm emotionally invested, I care, probably more than I should.  So why doesn't management seem to care at all?

I still believe in the Canucks - the core group that we have.  And anyone who thinks Raymond isn't, or shouldn't, be a part of that, hasn't been paying attention.  I'd give anything to see my team still on the ice, battling it out for a chance to go for the Cup.  I'd give anything to know that my team won't be a bunch of strangers come next season.  All I can do at this point is pray to the hockey gods that some common sense prevails, and the people in charge are finally held accountable.  And that I make it through the summer.

- Thanks again to Lisa for the awesome post. Saucer feels the need to comment on a few important points after reading Lisa's awesome post:

1 - You should be following her on twitter - @lisapy74
2 - Alex Burrows is hot as fuck. Sentences which contain "Alex Burrows" and "whacked across the back of the legs repeatedly" somehow get jumbled into something with a way different meaning in Saucer's head. Does that happen to anybody else??
3 - The Sedins are hella creepy. Enough said.
4 - Saucer's Avs & Flyers struggled too, but I honestly think it's better to not make the playoffs at all than to get swept in the first round. Lisa, next year will be better. I know it.
5 - So Lisa sent this before AV was fired but after reading it I think she has a lot of good points. I think Lisa should be the next coach of the Canucks. Lisa, if that happens I'm absolutely, 100% positive we can work something out so Saucer can have a job with the team. I have a very diverse skill set...


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