The one key element to a successful hockey team most overlooked is chemistry. We often heard from the Vancouver Canucks camp, “we have a lot of new faces, it takes a little time to jell on the ice.” Well it takes a bit of time to jell off the ice as well. All elements have to jive.
This is not a team that’s jiving.
After the 4-1 loss in Pittsburgh on Wednesday, two of the Canucks veterans appeared to question the squad’s fidelity and fortitude.
Even at a high level, on a contender, most of the little idiosyncrasies have to fall into place. And for sure the big ones. I know a team that won a Stanley Cup that had a few players and a coach tell me that if one player had been healthy instead of missing the playoffs, they never would have won it.
One guy, that’s all it takes to upset the apple cart. That’s an extreme case; the term “cancer” is used in certain instances.
Or there’s simply too much “newness” for the existing personalities to digest. The Vancouver Canucks group has been together a grand total of two-and-a-half months, with two key figures showing up late.
For Quinn Hughes and Elias Pettersson, when looking around, there must have been an element of “who are THESE guys?” For the new guys, when these young heroes reappeared, it may have been, “so who ARE these guys?”
That is not to suggest the Vancouver Canucks have a cancer or anything close to it. But compatibility takes different forms and it’s not guaranteed. Just ask JT Miller last night after the Canucks record fell to 6-12-and-2 with the 4-1 loss in Pittsburgh, on whether the team was playing hard for one another.
“I don’t know. I think sometimes we could probably do that a little more consistently,” Miller said. “I thinking honestly, things aren’t going well and during this stretch, amount of time, it’s really, really hard mentally to stay the course and use our process to win games … when we get everybody to buy in, we’re a really hard team to play against.”
Are they buying in? Pause … “I don’t know,” Miller added uncomfortably.
And regardless of whether or not it’s all wine and roses in the room, that room has to buy into what the coach is selling. We are not seeing a discipline to systems in Vancouver. The bizarre turnovers and blown assignments and random rushes have resulted in an avalanche of odd-man rushes going the other way and a small mountain of losses.
Special teams: Buying into what’s being sold, again, and execution, with a desire to execute.
Canucks captain Bo Horvat stammered through a cliche’ vortex when asked whether the team was playing for its coach.
“I mean, that’s out of my hands,” Horvat said. “For me I’m just trying to do whatever I can in the locker room to try to turn it around, I, we have to worry about us in the room and leave it up to … it’s on us to turn this thing around, it’s nobody else, it’s us bearing down and getting these wins and doing it for each other. At the end of the day that’s all we can control.”
The beat will goes on until the general manager makes a change or two, if and when ownership allows him to make them. The status quo is no longer an option unless the goal of the season becomes a high draft pick and saving some cash.