What's worse than blowing a 2-0 lead, then scoring late but settling for a single point?
Now we know.
It's blowing a 3-0 lead, not scoring late, and having nothing to show for your efforts.
The Vancouver Canucks gut-punched their fans again on Tuesday night, harder than ever, after their 4-3 regulation loss to the Edmonton Oilers.
After the game, Travis Green got as close as he'll get to calling out his players.
Iain MacIntyre isn't usually one to point fingers, either. But in this case, he has a theory.
At this point, I do wonder how things would be different if there were fans inside Rogers Arena. If the ticket-buying customers who are the lifeblood of every National Hockey League team were also on hand to "feel the game change," would they help pump up the Canucks players and get them back on track? Or would the cries for change be even louder?
I feel like, without the in-person public gatherings, it might be easier to sweep what's quickly turning into a disastrous season under the rug. Is ownership counting on that?
And here's a question I haven't asked so far. How much of this mess should fans lay at the feet of ownership, and their aggressive spending freeze since Covid hit? That's something that was driven home for me this week in an article out of Utica on the retirement of longtime Comets forward Wacey Hamilton.
Along with family considerations, injury challenges he's faced during his career and the uncertainty of what an AHL season would look like this year, the Canucks' purse strings were another significant factor in the 30-year-old's decision to hang up his skates.
The Comets’ parent team, Vancouver, was on a budgetary hold for much of the hiatus and Hamilton said he 'could see the writing on the wall' he likely wouldn’t be back.
I can't blame the 'budgetary hold' for the team not re-signing Markstrom, Tanev or Toffoli — the Canucks are capped out this year, just like every year. And I can't blame ownership for not agreeing to authorize any buyouts that would cost real dollars. The Canucks are certainly not the only organization to be pennies more closely due to the pandemic.
But I do keep wondering if things would have been different if the budgetary hold could have been superseded by inking Travis Green to a contract extension.
I don't think Green is dogging it. Whether he wants to stay in Vancouver or wants to keep his options open to see what's out there at the end of the season, he's better served by winning.
And I don't really think that the players have quit on the coach. They've had too many good starts — coming out looking strong before getting in their own way and watching crucial points slip away.
We have heard chatter that part of the reason why ownership doesn't want to make changes at the coaching or management level this season is because they don't want to pay more people not to work. Again, it's tough in this environment, but isn't that like deciding that it's too expensive to change the oil in your car? Avoiding small costs at the risk of incurring something much larger down the road?
Again, how will this season sit with the fanbase when it is time for them to start handing over their credit cards again? On top of having to re-teach the habits of gathering, and convincing folks that it's safe to do so, won't it be that much tougher if you have a middling product to promote. Again?
In my last blog on Monday, I was musing on how Vancouver might be able to make some headway in the North Division if they could string together some wins while the Flames and Habs keep losing.
Not only didn't the Canucks do their bit, but the Flames pitched a shutout in Toronto on Monday night in front of David Rittich, while the Habs picked up another point in a shootout loss on Tuesday — and saw their coach get fired on Wednesday morning!
That's the opposite of where the Canucks are at. I believe Montreal committed more money to contracts than any other team this offseason. They spent — bigtime — so the minute their odds of making the playoffs started to dip, they took action.
In their case, it doesn't hurt that Claude Julien was in the last year of that big 5x$5 million deal that he signed when he came back to Montreal in 2017. They'll only need to cover a few more paycheques.
It also doesn't hurt that they were able to promote from within, and elevate two francophones.
I don't know all that much about new interim coach Dominique Ducharme, but I was impressed with the Canadian clubs he took to silver and gold at the 2017 and 2018 World Junior Championships. And I'm very happy to see Alex Burrows get a shot in the NHL in just his third season of coaching. There seems to be an expectation that he might be able to revitalize Montreal's moribund power play.
The bottom line for Montreal is that they only made the postseason in two of Claude Julien's four seasons behind the bench, and last year, it was only because of the expanded format. And as much as their preliminary-round win over Pittsburgh shook up the Eastern bracket last summer, that's all that the Canadiens are building off. The Canadiens haven't won a round since they beat Ottawa back in 2015.
One thing Julien's firing symbolizes for me — I think those halcyon days of the big-money coaching contracts that came in the wake of Mike Babcock's $50 million deal with Toronto are in the rear-view mirror, just like blockbuster free-agent deals have evaporated for players.
We're all in this mess for awhile yet. And while Travis Green may have been hoping he could cash in on his second NHL contract, the market may not support him, or Rod Brind'Amour, or Rick Tocchet, or the other coaches who are also on the last year of their deals and have not yet been re-upped.
Unprecedented times, as they say...