A swirl of an evening ended the Vancouver Canucks rotten hockey season – and on Monday morning, as the players pack up for the spring and summer, the questions of how to reconstitute the hockey team are legion.
On Sunday night, the Canucks honoured one of their best before the game, Pat Quinn, and saw one of their best, Daniel Sedin, rediscover his scoring touch for one night, before leaving the arena for hospital on a stretcher. The night concluded with coach John Tortorella railing against rival Bob Hartley of Calgary.
And even as the woeful Canucks punched up the even-more-woeful Flames 5-1, Vancouver finished the 2013-14 season with 191 goals scored in regulation or overtime. It is the lowest of any full Canucks season ever, since the team opened for business in 1970, the singular failing of this team coached by Tortorella.
“The year we’ve had and I’m the coach, you tuck your tail between your legs and leave,” said Tortorella after the Sunday game. “It’s been a rough year.”
Players meet at Rogers Arena Monday morning to clean out their lockers and speak with reporters starting at 10 a.m. PT. The questions turn to what went wrong and how quickly Trevor Linden, the team’s new president of hockey operations, will move to make changes. The fate of the coach is the immediate question.
For some time on Sunday, however, the business of hockey was of little consequence. Daniel Sedin had scored two goals for the first time all season but near the end of the second period was pushed into the boards by Calgary’s Paul Byron, Sedin’s head and shoulder striking the glass.
Sedin lay mostly motionless on the ice and was wheeled off the ice on a stretcher, his head and chin secured, and then left in an ambulance for Vancouver General Hospital. Tortorella after the game eventually declared Sedin was okay and the 33-year-old forward was released from hospital by 10:30 p.m.
At the buzzer, the loss left Calgary likely with the fourth pick at the draft in June, and Vancouver likely with the sixth. Calgary will have a 10.7-per-cent chance at the top pick in the draft lottery, and Vancouver will have a 6.2-per-cent shot.
After the game, Tortorella took on Hartley – verbally, from a distance.
In January, the Flames coach started his thuggish fourth-line, including Kevin Westgrath and Brian McGrattan, and a line brawl ensued. Tortorella then escalated the confrontation after the first period by trying to push to the Flames locker room. Tortorella was suspended by the NHL for 15 days and Hartley was fined. On Sunday, Hartley again iced his fourth line including Westgarth and McGrattan to begin the game and in the second period, while Sedin was on the ice, questioned the referees calling a penalty.
“It’s embarrassing,” said Tortorella of Hartley. He went out to answer several questions on the theme and described the starting of the fourth-line as “bush league,” and then cut it off. “I gotta get out of here,” said Tortorella as he left the press conference.
It was before the game, before the lamentable present came to an end, that was a celebration of the successes of the past, an honouring that conjured hope for the future. “We wanted to recreate some hope in this city,” said Quinn of returning to the team in 1987 as general manager, his job to overhaul a team that was in difficult days.
Quinn was inducted into the team’s ring of honour. He had played for the team in its first two seasons, in the early 1970s, and then made his local legend as GM and coach, helping lead the team to the verge of the Stanley Cup in 1994. His first draft pick, in 1988, was Linden.
The circles of the past and present and future intersect in Vancouver.
And so it is, more than a quarter-century later after Quinn brought Linden to Vancouver, Quinn is elevated to the Canucks ring of honour, and Linden is hired to recreate hope. Quinn, acknowledging the woeful present, a season imploded, concluded his ceremony to say: “Great times are going to be with us again.”