It’s playoff time in the NHL and hockey fans in two of Canada’s three largest cities are on the outside looking in.
Both the Vancouver Canucks and Toronto Maple Leafs could not squeeze into the 16-team postseason. For the Leafs, a colossal collapse in March spelled their demise. For the Canucks, a good first couple of months disintegrated into a season of odd incidents and poor play.
Both have quickly turned to big names in the game to help turn around their fortunes.
The Canucks have brought iconic former captain Trevor Linden back into the fold after he spent six years in the hockey wilderness. The Leafs have secured Brendan Shanahan from the league office, a hall-of-famer who has won both a Stanley Cup and Olympic gold.
The big question now is whether these two greats on the ice, now with grey hair sprinkling their former mullets, can turn around the fortunes of these franchises.
Linden’s task looks larger than that of Shanahan’s. The game has passed the Canucks. It’s all about speed and size now, and the Canucks’ core players, specifically the Sedin brothers, have never been known for their fleetness of foot. They are smart, skilled and tougher than they are given credit for — they are not, however, fast.
One could argue neither of these big announcements from the Canucks or Leafs amounts to a hill of beans. Even someone with a smidgeon of hockey sense could tell you the Leafs need reliable defencemen. Shanny going to play D? Does Linden have a time machine to get the speedy Pavel Bure back on the ice?
These announcements are window dressing, at best. Bring in a big name, parade him in front of the cameras, mollify the disappointed season ticket holders. With huge, no-trade player contracts stifling both teams, we wish Linden and Shanahan luck.
So, for whom do we cheer when the quest for the greatest trophy in pro sports begins on Wednesday? We held out hope it could be the Phoenix Coyotes with their ownership link to Qualicum Beach but, alas, they did not make it to the dance. The last remaining Canadian-based team, Les Habitants? No thanks.
We will scour the rosters, find the team with the highest percentage of B.C. and Canadian-born players, and go that route.
— Editorial by John Harding