“I think people have to realize how long the rebuilds are. You look at some of the teams that went through that and we see them now how good they are, but there were a lot of tough years. -Jim Rutherford
Fan frustration with the Vancouver Canucks came to a head on Saturday night in their home opener.
After losing five straight road games to start the season, the Canucks crashed and burned at home, falling 5-1 to the red-hot Buffalo Sabers. Fans responded with a chorus of boos, with some even throwing T-shirts onto the ice in protest. That may seem extreme so early in the season, but it wasn’t just about the first six games, this has been building for years.
After the game, Canucks president of hockey operations Jim Rutherford was asked about the possibility of a rebuild and his answer seemed all too familiar.
“Well, I think people need to realize how long the rebuilds are,” Rutherford said. “You look at some of the teams that went through that and we see now how good they are, but there were a lot of tough years.
“I mean, it’s very possible that we’re in a rebuild in the direction that we’re going, but ideally, we’d like to transition this team as we go.”
Canucks fans have been hearing about the “on-the-fly” remodel for years. The Canucks never committed to a true rebuild in the past decade under former general manager Jim Benning, who traded more draft picks than he acquired, including two first-round picks in consecutive years to close out his tenure.
Frankly, fans don’t want to hear about how hard or time-consuming rebuilds are: On-the-fly reshuffling has led to as many “hard years” as a rebuild, with the Canucks missing the playoffs in six of the last seven. seasons. The difference is that a team that has been properly rebuilt will have a solid pool of prospects and hope for the future after those tough years, while the Canucks seem stuck in the same pit of mediocrity they started out in, with no prospects on the horizon. .
The other problem with Rutherford’s comments is that he is wrong. Rebuilds don’t have to take a long time.
Just look at the team that blew the Canucks’ home opener. After years of confused rebuilding efforts, the Sabers hired new management in 2020, then signaled a full-scale rebuild by trading Jack Eichel last November. Less than a year later, they have an exciting young team that could make the playoffs this season.
The Los Angeles Kings began a rebuild in early 2019 when they traded Jake Muzzin to the Toronto Maple Leafs, then traded more veterans in 2020. They kept top veterans like Anze Kopitar, Drew Doughty and Jonathan Quick, but supplemented them with possibly the top. group of prospects in the NHL, built with the draft picks they acquired in trades. Last season, just three years after beginning their rebuild, the Kings returned to the playoffs.
Then there are the New York Rangers, who formally announced their rebuild with a letter to their fans in early 2018. There were some rough patches along the way, but they reached the Eastern Conference Final last season, just four years after they start its reconstruction. They are now a legitimate Stanley Cup contender.
That’s what fans want from the Canucks: a true Stanley Cup contender. But Rutherford and general manager Patrik Allvin’s plan seems exactly the same as the previous group: sneak into the playoffs and hope for the best. Instead of a new direction, they continued in the same direction and quickly ran aground.
A complete teardown rebuild may not be necessary at this point, but the Canucks definitely need a course correction. Continuing down this path will lead to years far more difficult than any reconstruction.
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