Vancouver Canucks goalie Thatcher Demko, right, stops Vegas Golden Knights’ Jack Eichel (9) during the third period of an NHL hockey game in Vancouver, on Monday, November 21, 2022. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

Vancouver Canucks goalie Thatcher Demko, right, stops Vegas Golden Knights’ Jack Eichel (9) during the third period of an NHL hockey game in Vancouver, on Monday, November 21, 2022. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

THE MOJ: This Vancouver Canuck tire fire is going to be difficult to extinguish

This team is going to be paying the price of previous bad decisions for a long time

The Vancouver Canucks organization can best be described as a tire fire.

How else would you characterize it?

From the top on down, this team is a mess.

Canucks President of Hockey Operations Jim Rutherford has been an outspoken critic of head coach Bruce Boudreau and has called out his coach for a poor training camp and that the team plays with no structure. Rutherford has also let it be known that Boudreau was not his hire and that he took over the reigns assuming that Boudreau had a one-year contract — not knowing that he had in fact signed a two-year deal.

Translated? He’s not my guy and the reason I can’t fire him is because we’re still paying our previous head coach and general manager.

As for Boudreau, he hasn’t been able to replicate the team’s success after he took over in December of 2021 and perhaps the biggest reason has been the play of Thatcher Demko.

The 26-year-old goaltender provided solid goaltending last season that masked some of the defensive deficiencies of Boudreau’s run-and-gun philosophy. After Boudreau’s arrival, Demko had a solid .918 save percentage. This season that save percentage is down to .882. In fact, the Canucks 4-1 win over the Kings last Friday was the only time that Demko has allowed two goals or less in his 13 starts.

The team itself has now blown seven games in which they have had leads of two goals or more with the latest being Monday night when the Canucks squandered a 4-2 lead in the third period against Vegas at home. That number is astounding considering the Canucks have only played 19 games as I write this. Those seven games speak volumes in terms of how this team reacts to adversity and a lack of trust in the system and in their teammates.

To use one of Bill Belichick’s more famous quotes – just do your job. It’s a simple yet complex phrase. Doing your job means knowing your responsibilities and executing them. But it also means that you have to trust your teammates to do theirs. When teams go into a slide, players will have a tendency to try and do too much. The end result is that extra effort does more damage than good, as in attempt to help out, you often wind up neglecting your own responsibilities.

After the loss to Vegas, Vancouver was five points out of a wildcard spot. Yes, you could probably sit tight, hope the team turns it around and sneaks into the post-season but what would that accomplish? Getting drilled by Colorado or Vegas in the first round?

Let’s not kid ourselves. If the goal is to win a championship this team needs an overhaul.

That overhaul is hampered, however, by the not-too-friendly contracts of Oliver Ekman-Larsson and Tyler Myers, who soak up $13.2 million dollars of caps space between them. The good news is that Myers’ contract is up next year. The bad news is you’ll probably be collecting a pension before Ekman-Larsson comes off the books in 2027-28.

The Canucks desperately need to get rid of some bad contracts, but to do so they have to add sweeteners such as prospects or draft picks – the very thing that this team can ill afford to give up right now. They need to stockpile picks and prospects but in order to do that, it might take an ‘unexpected move’ as Rutherford alluded to in which a core player might be dealt.

The organization has made plenty of mistakes the past few years.

Unfortunately, they’re going to be paying the price for awhile.

As any firefighter will tell you, tire fires are extremely difficult to extinguish.

Veteran B.C. sports personality Bob “the Moj” Marjanovich writes twice weekly for Black Press Media. And check out his weekly podcast every Monday at Today in B.C. or your local Black Press Media website.

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