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The Worst Year in Vancouver Canucks History, 2021

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NHL free agency, Brandon Sutter
Presently inactive Vancouver Canucks centre Brandon Sutter.

Good riddance. Almost. Still a week remains, and although things have started to look up in the end, the calendar year 2021 is the worst in the history of the Vancouver Canucks.

Maybe because of Covid other franchises can say the same thing, but in this case we’re not comparing franchises. The pandemic, combined with a handful of other factors and events, brought an unprecedented pile-up of awfulness to BC’s NHL team.

Yes, beloved alumni have passed away before, teams have failed to make the playoffs, and coaches and GM’s have been fired, but add all of that on top of some other horrible one-offs and the Canucks have just seen the worst of the worst.

The Covid virus swept through the team’s roster last spring further destroying an already ruined season. Travis Green, the head coach, was sick for months, slow to recover. Brandon Sutter, a long-haul Covid victim, is one of just a few players league-wide who haven’t been able to return. It devastated his career. This is unprecedented.

The Canucks were playing meaningless regular season make-up games last May while other teams had already started the playoffs. Also unprecedented.

Vancouver played the entire NHL season in front of empty seats at Rogers Arena.

After a summer roster overhaul, optimism seemed to take hold, only to see the team get off to an awful start to the 2021-’22 season. Green and his general manager Jim Benning were fired on the same day. Ironically, Benning’s roster, the one everyone originally raved about, is the same one that just reeled off a six-game win streak under a different coach. Irony that sucks for him. It’s now up to President of Hockey Operations Jim Rutherford and the GM he hires to finish what Benning started.

In early September the Canucks lost an active member of their scouting staff when European amateur scout Patrik Jonsson died of cancer at the age of 51.

The Chief Amateur Scout of the Vancouver Canucks is former player Ron Delorme, who had this to say via Twitter upon hearing the news: “Today we lost a beloved member of the Vancouver Canucks scouting family. Patrik Jonsson. He was a special person. May the memories he made with us over the years + during his final days help him find peace. Nils Hoglander will keep his memory alive … RIP Patrik, you were a good soul.”

Johnsson’s death came a little more than two weeks after three teenage, hockey playing Canucks fans were killed in a car accident. Time stood still in the regional junior hockey community from Langley all the way to Edmonton.

In recent days the Canucks family has lost former coach Bob McCammon and former goalie Curt Ridley.

Long time pre-NHL Canucks Western League centre Ron Hutchinson passed away in July at 85.

Former Canucks winger Bobby Schmautz died in March on his 76th birthday.

Sicamous, BC native and briefly a Canucks winger in the 1970’s, Rob Flockhart, died at age 65 back on January 2nd. A symbolic start to a horrible year.

There have been other ugly years dating all the way back to expansion in 1970, but lost playoffs and bad drafts and injuries pale in comparison to the events of 2021. And it refuses to give up. An annoying going away gift; five games postponed around the holidays (and counting?).

The great news: it’s almost over.

Out of the rubble hopefully rises some hockey happiness.

The transition has begun with new coach Bruce Boudreau, Rutherford, and a soon-to-be-named GM.

Here’s to a new attitude around the rink and city, a new confidence, and most importantly the end of the pandemic as 2022 beckons.

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