The last time Vancouver missed the playoffs, in 2008, it was a miscue, but prospects were still good. The team was young, on the rise. This time the failings are rooted deep, and the outlook is dire. Trevor Linden, the team’s new president of hockey operations, has to be honest: he’s got a multiyear rehabilitation job on his hands. Here are five things he can do for starters.
1. Fire Tortorella
The fiery John Tortorella, above, was hired to spark a veteran team, but the head coach has failed. Almost the entire roster of players delivered poor performances. The hockey is painful to watch. The team has the third-fewest goals scored in the NHL – and in third periods, the Canucks are dead last. The severing of ties with this season has begun and dismissing the coach is the essential next step.
2. Don’t be Calgary
When the Calgary Flames almost won the Stanley Cup in 2004, they clung thereafter for years to the idea they were still on the verge, close to contention. They were wrong, and the naive conviction led to many wasted seasons. Now Calgary is mired at the bottom. Vancouver must work to be a contender on a three– to five-year time frame. Make the necessary, hard decisions in the next two seasons to get there.
3. Share the pain
Fans in Vancouver have paid top dollar to support this hockey team. Sales are slowing, as the Canucks implode. The club thought it was generous by keeping ticket prices unchanged for next year. Acknowledge the game, for now, has changed, and cut prices. Bring back families. Promote the promise, the future, Zack Kassian, Chris Tanev, Eddie Lack. Deliver fun, freewheeling hockey.
4. Trade Kesler
Forward Ryan Kesler wants out. Owner Francesco Aquilini hopes to keep him. Let go. Kesler, who is 30 in August, is the heart of this hockey team but the era is over. Move Kesler to a winning team and get back as many young prospects as possible. Do the same, if possible, with Alex Edler. The Sedins will provide wise and graceful leadership as the team is overhauled and younger skaters emerge.
5. Connor McDavid
The foundation of the now-ended glory years began in 1999, when the Canucks finished second last in the league. The team turned that into two Sedins. Next year is an ideal season to finish near the bottom – with the potential prize of the No. 1 draft pick, boy wonder 17-year-old McDavid, a generational prospect in the lineage of Gretzky and Crosby. And a top-five pick is a reasonable consolation prize.