Black Ice Issue #30 — Captain Canuck

“…[T]here is going to be that seventh game; we’ll hope they can patch Linden up and get him in that one. He will play — you know he’ll play; he’d play on crutches! He will play, and he’ll play at Madison Square Garden on Tuesday night! The game is over!”


–Jim Robson, after Trevor Linden got hit my Mark Messier while crawling to the bench at the end of Game 6

It was the finest performance by the finest Canuck to ever don the “C” (not to mention every single Canucks crest and color) in the history of hockey in the City of Vancouver.
And I once made him soup and I once had a crush on his wife, although I didn’t know it at the time. I used to work at a restaurant in Yaletown as a line cook. It was located right beside the store Linden’s wife ran at the time. A clothing boutique called Basquiat. The other cooks and myself would often stand outside ofBasquiat smoking cigarettes on break and generally talking shit about whatever topic available. I made a comment about Linden’s wife (which I did not know at the time) which Toot’s, our Sois Chef, has never let me live down. It was something along the lines of, “damn she’s hot,” and it may or may not have been made within earshot. Everyone laughed, flicked their cigarettes, and walked back toward the kitchen. Later on, Jordan the Chef, told me that the girl I had a crush on was none other then Christine Linden, Trevor’s wife, and that the couple was — in fact — in the restaurant at that very moment.
Starfucking has always been a funny thing for me. People go ape-shit over celebrities all the time but it’s never been my bag. It’s an interesting phenomenon to watch, as people loss all sense of composure and personal class at the presence of another human being — who happens to be famous. Which isn’t to say I’m not immune to the surreal force of celebrities (I’m particularly vulnerable to local celebrities, see — Tamera Tagert), but, when the Linden’s order came in, I caved, I insisted on making the soup. Why? I’ll never know. Perhaps so that one day, when I’m writing a hockey blog on the day-in-day-out ramblings of an obsessive Canucks fan I could mention with pride and bravado that I made Trevor Linden soup.
That’s right, I made Trevor Linden soup!
And now here we are on the cusp of another dynasty — you will be happy to note the small ‘d’ used in the spelling of dynasty. This week, with the raising of #16 to the rafters at the Garage and the signing of Mats Sundin, has be one of the most exciting weeks in Canucks history (to quote Don Taylor). And the winds of change are raging in full force.
But what, here in Vancouverdom, will this squad offer in the realm of real change and real hope apart from a full roster about-face? What, besides an inventory permutation, will this new face of the Canucks signal?
Most pundits argue the Canucks will now place a distant third in the conference and wonder if Sundin (and a healthy Luongo) are strong enough to topple through the battery of San Jose and Detroit. And let’s not forget Chicago. Vancouver’s surging power-play picked an awful time do go flaccid on Saturday night against the young gunning ‘Hawks. Kane and Toews feasted on Canuck mistakes, despite being outplayed by Vancouver. Was that just a market aberration, or will our winning percentage correct itself the next time out? Vancouver has notoriously stepped up their game against a smaller Detroit team; they are also notorious for losing to San Jose, generously handing all four meetings last year to the Sharks. Going into HP Pavilion tonight, where the Sharks are a whopping 17-0-2, is going to be the real litmus test.
Let’s face it, the Canucks cannot get swept in any season series this year by Western Conference opponents. Every year we do, we miss the playoffs by inches. Remember 2006 when Curtis Sanford and the Blues swept the season series and we missed the playoffs by three points? And last year versus San Jose, same thing. Ostensibly Vancouver needs to go .500 against San Jose to have a reasonable shot in the playoffs. Sundin aside, if they can pull a measure of confidence together when it comes to the Sharks then the Canucks will have no problem making to the playoffs.
Because let’s face it, at this point nobody should be drafting a Stanley Cup parade route on GoogleMaps yet. With this notoriously fickle squad (see — 1996 and the arrival of Alex Mogilny or 1997 and the arrival of Mark Messier) the arrival of a proven player does not necessarily herald a championship ring. What the Canucks need first and foremost is a leader. A Captain of Captains, to lead this team to the promise land on his shoulders. There has been cohesion in this group at times this season, but a lack of the force necessary to carry a team is still missing. Steve Yzermen in 2002 won the cup for the Detroit Red Wings on one leg, literally. After the 2002 Olympics, Yzermen underwent an MRI which revealed he had virtually no cartiledge left in his right knee. Knowing that surgury would likely finish him for the season, Yzermen soldiered on in one his best post-season performances to date, potting 6 goals and 17 helpers to lead the team with 23 points to a third cup in six years.
It was a legendary performance. Something each Canuck and potential leader can stand to learn from.
Luongo has been out nearly a month and there has been little in the way of consistent leadership for the Canucks in his absence. Certain players have answered the call for periods, but then the aperture widens and the absence of leadership once again opens. Daniel Sedin has put his head down and gone to work, netting 12 goals in his last 17 games. There is much to his game that has improved over the years including killing penalties and going to the net to score the dirty — crashing the goaltender — type goals. There is no doubt Daniel (and Henrik) have a desire to win, they simply lack that je ne sais qois that past captains have immortalized. Ryan Kesler is the most improved of all Canucks, and his crash-and-bang style of play, with heart to boot, is exactly the type of play invented for playoff hockey. If we get to the playoffs, look for Kesler to step-up, but will this be enough enough to thwart the enemy?

 

Trevor Linden captained the Canucks to within a goal-post of the Stanley Cup. He wore his heart (and play) on his sleeve and desire to give (both to his team and to the fans) was congenital, inveterate and authentic. In a era where the payoff is measure by dollar amounts, it is the incalculable effort of leaders such as Linden and Yzermen and so many others in the history of the game which has propelled pretenders into contenders and contenders into winners. There is a small margin in this day-and-age and this “new” NHL, between these three characteristics and it is only a true captain that is able to close the gap.
Will Mats Sundin provide the needed adhesive for this unit that possesses promise, but is not necessarily promising? Will Roberto Luongo, upon his return, launch his career (and his team) into the contenders columns and, come playoff time, lead the the procession, Cup in hand? Win or lose, this team needs an identity that is sadly missing to date. Perhaps with the addition of these two all-stars the team that will the gains necessary to win. The gains are identity, consistency and leadership, three traits that Detroit is still commanding even after the departure of Yzermen. Traits that San Jose has spent the past three year learning, albeit byzantine in its approach, which has brought the team closer and looking more and more legitimate everyday. Traits that have Chicago on the fast-track to reshaping a crumbling hockey empire, with youngsters such as Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews taking the reigns earlier then expected, they are making a strong argument this campaign for NHL domination.
But winning in Vancouver will only come when a true captain comes forward. Someone who can own this town once again.
Someone who I can make soup for.

 

Whatcha think?