By Mike Archer. I’ll be the first to admit to suffering from the malaise which has afflicted all but the most diehard Vancouver Canucks fans these last four years. But something’s happening here … and I think I know what it is.
You know the feeling …
Aw Crap. They blew a two goal lead in the 2nd period.
Aw Crap. We’re already down three in the first. We’ll never come back.
Aw Crap. We’re losing it in the third period.
We primed ourselves to get ready for the disappointment and learned to enjoy the occasional surprise victory. But the victories were usually against lesser teams or, too often let’s face it, a fluke.
A team with a lot of talent but past its collective prime. A team with the skills to win but without the spirit to do it consistently.
Then came Trevor Linden. A smart, effective player and leader who knows what it takes to win. A guy whose pleasant and winning personality belies the talents of an astute manager and strategist.
Then came Jim Benning. A no-nonsense team-builder who knows how to recognize young talent; talent looking for a home; and most of all … talent looking for an opportunity to shine.
I started noticing a change about a month ago. I realized that I was losing the hopeless feeling when my team was down two goals going into the third. I lost the impulse to change the channels in order to avoid another disappointment.
My team was surprising me. Coming from behind. Holding onto a lead. Finishing games and grabbing the win in overtime.
They were winning. Reliably. Consistently.
The new guys are the ones doing it. Vrbata; Matthias, Horvat, Bonino, Sbisa … names I didn’t know last fall but know very well now.
And the old guys aren’t slouching. The Sedins and Burrows are carrying their share of the load shifting gradually to the role of play-makers who set up the goals but still scoring a lot of goals.
It’s a team that is finally in balance. A strong group of young, new and eager players trying to prove themselves with an experienced crew to help them do it.
Which brings me to Willie Desjardins. I was scared at the beginning of the season because I saw a guy who looked, nervous, out-of-place and, frankly, scared. He chewed his gum a little fast … and he shifts his chin back and forth when he’s nervous. He let the heat escape from his tight-collared shirt a bit too often. I even thought he looked shifty when he glanced up at the clock after someone scored a goal on us. (Do I sound like a paranoid hockey fan yet?)
Now I realize that was all just the malaise talking. The malaise of having almost made it and the fear of never getting there again.
I’ve lost that fear. I no longer suffer from the malaise.
I think we’ve got a winning team; a serious shot at the playoffs; and, an outside chance at pulling off a miracle.
And that is all a hockey fan really needs … hope.