Canucks dysfunction makes Blackhawks’ problems seem small

VANCOUVER, BC — The Blackhawks were nothing more than a sideshow Tuesday at Rogers Arena.

Instead, all eyes turned to the Canucks, and the Hawks turned out to be the opponents for Rick Tocchet’s first game as head coach.

The last two years have been rough in Vancouver, but now the stew has boiled over. The egregious mishandling of a protracted coaching change from Bruce Boudreau to Tocchet revealed a level of organizational dysfunction rarely, if ever, seen in the modern NHL.

Boudreau, beloved by the fans and quite successful throughout his long career, was given less than 14 months in charge to try to revive a team that his predecessor, Travis Green, had been stranded for four years. That, in itself, reflected excessive impatience.

Much worse, however, was how Boudreau was treated in his final weeks. Tocchet’s impending hiring had been well known for a while, and Canucks president of hockey operations Jim Rutherford even admitted in a ludicrous press conference on Jan. 16 that he was “calling and talking” with coaching candidates. external.

Meanwhile, Boudreau was abandoned in his position as a lame coach. He broke into multiple press conferences as the Canucks limped off decisive losses in their final games.

The turmoil has left the Canucks with broken spirits, serious doubts about their internal structure and decision-making processes and little hope that a once-promising rebuild will bear fruit.

The Canucks entered Tuesday 18-25-3, on pace to miss the playoffs for the eighth time in nine years, but not bad enough to enter the draft lottery with high odds. His prospect pool is ranked 28th in the NHL, according to The Athletic. They are well over the salary cap (using long-term injured reserve to comply) and have seven contracts with more than two years remaining at more than $4.7 million per year.

Elias Pettersson has stalled below superstar status. JT Miller has struggled immediately after signing an extension. Bo Horvat and Brock Boeser could soon be traded. The past, present and future are bleak.

None of this is Tocchet’s fault, of course. Hawks coach Luke Richardson, no longer the least-tenured coach in the NHL, endorsed Tocchet as a man who “trains with passion,” and Tocchet has largely hit the right notes thus far.

“You’re dealt the hand you’re dealt,” Tocchet said Tuesday. “The hand I’m dealt is [I need to fix] the process. Is [about] the way we do things”.

Much-loved former Hawks goaltender Collin Delia (who started Tuesday) and defenseman Riley Stillman (who was a healthy scratch) have also been caught in the crossfire.

Instead, scrutiny has focused on the franchise’s top-level management, among whom Rutherford, general manager Patrik Allvin and president Francesco Aquilini are the most public figures.

Even Rogers Arena offers evidence of poor foresight. Summer renovations to the Canucks’ locker room hallway cut off access from the visiting locker room to the visiting coaches’ room, as teams discovered earlier this season. A shoddy, curtained miniature hallway inside the main hallway provided that access Tuesday.

In a December 26 column, the Sun-Times listed the Flyers, Sharks and Coyotes as teams likely to agree to trade places with the Hawks if offered, unenviable as the Hawks’ current position is. .

In hindsight, the Canucks should have been named in that category as well. An email from a reader pointed this out at the time, and the events of the last month have made that abundantly clear.

The Hawks’ recent past and present may also be bleak, but their future is much brighter, and the leadership group tasked with getting them there seems much more competent.