January 2009 will go down as one of the worst months in the history of the Vancouver Canucks.
After beginning the year with a victory in Nashville, the Canucks proceeded to double that win total over the course of the next 30 days despite the addition of future Hall of Famer Mats Sundin. Along the way, the Canucks set a new record for franchise futility on home ice with nine straight losses.
As the club fumbles its way into February, it is becoming increasingly difficult for even the most optimistic of Canucks’ fans to envision a way out of the abyss this team has fallen into.
Yes, there were signs in Saturday’s overtime loss that the players have enough collective character to not simply pack it in and call it a season. Instead of folding after falling behind 2-0 after 20 minutes, the Canucks fought valiantly to earn a single point with 40 shots and Ryan Kesler’s second goal of the game with sixteen seconds left in regulation.
But time is quickly running out and Mike Gillis must ask himself a crucial question: Is this season salvageable? If he believes it is, he can do one of three things.
First, he can fire Alain Vigneault and hope that a shakeup behind the bench translates to a turnaround on the ice.
He could also pull the trigger on a significant trade, but the required willing partner appears hard to come by these days.
Finally, he can stand pat, something his predecessor was crucified for.
He’ll look like a genius if the Canucks rise from the ashes over the final 32 games, but he’ll be berated should the club’s current play continue.
Gillis said on Thursday that his patience level is dictated by on-ice play, and that his patience with this group was at an end. We’re about to find out if the GM’s actions speak louder than words.
• Wally Buono could soon be scrambling like Doug Flutie in an effort to solidify his quarterback contingent.
Buck Pierce will work out for the Houston Texans this week, meaning there’s at least a possibility the man Buono recently named as his No. 1 pivot could be bolting.
That leaves Jarious Jackson, who has shown the ability to win as a starter — but not the consistency required to keep the job — and Zac Champion, a sophomore that impressed in what little playing time he was afforded last season.
The fact that Buono is even entertaining the thought of bringing back Casey Printers tells you all you need to know about his confidence in that duo.
He will publicly state that he firmly believes the Lions can win with both Jackson and Champion, but can they win a Grey Cup? If Buono doesn’t promptly dismiss the topic of Printers’ return, you have your answer.