Would the Canucks be any better off with a new coach?
That’s the big question today in Vancouver, after last night’s 8-6 loss in Carolina.
It was the second time in the last month that the Canucks had blown a three-goal lead in the third period. On Nov. 19, it was a 3-0 lead over the Blackhawks that turned into a 4-3 overtime defeat. Last night, it was a 5-2 advantage that disappeared in a matter of minutes.
The Canucks (12-16-2) finished 1-4-0 on their five-game road trip. They’re still only four points back of a wild-card spot, but no team in the entire NHL has won fewer games in regulation than Vancouver (5).
“There’s three games on that road trip we could have won that we didn’t win,” head coach Willie Desjardins told reporters. “You’ve got to find ways to win those games. You just have to.”
Desjardins has faced varying degrees of criticism this season. The way he deploys his players. The team’s structure. Its mentality. All those topics are fair game.
At the same time, his defenders will say he wasn’t given enough to win with, and that’s probably fair too. After all, the last thing this team could afford was injuries, and Chris Tanev has now missed 23 games, Alex Edler nine.
In other words, Vancouver has only played seven games with its top defensive pairing intact, and the Canucks went 4-2-1 in those seven games.
Last night in Carolina, their six d-men were Erik Gudbranson, Luca Sbisa, Ben Hutton, Troy Stecher, Alex Biega and Nikita Tryamkin. Granted, that group should still be able to protect a three-goal lead, but the fact it didn’t, well, try to act surprised.
At this point in the season, replacing the coach may be the only chip that GM Jim Benning can play. Maybe Doug Jarvis takes over. Or perhaps Travis Green gets the call from Utica.
But management (and ownership) should not escape blame in all this, because the Canucks did not go into the year expecting to lose. They signed Loui Eriksson and kept veterans like Jannik Hansen. They have so far resisted a tear-down rebuild, with the justification they wanted their “young kids to learn how to play in a winning environment, so they learn the right way to play.”
Which begs a pretty good question — can a “winning environment” exist without wins?
And if it can’t, what do you do then?
The Canucks host Tampa Bay Friday. And then it’s only fitting that John Tortorella will be in town Sunday, with a chance maybe to get his 500th career win.