I've been thinking a lot about 2014.
That's the last time the Vancouver Canucks dismissed a general manager, and it feels like many of the same forces are currently in play.
The Canucks' 3-0 loss to the Oilers on Thursday gave them a record of 2-9-2 for the month of February. With just 18 points in 24 games, they're down to a .375 points percentage. That's 29th in the league, ahead of only Detroit and Ottawa. The Sens are surging — on a three-game winning streak, causing drama with wins over Montreal and Calgary, and now just three points behind Vancouver. Even the Red Wings picked up a nice win over Nashville on Thursday, off a hat trick from our old friend Sam Gagner.
After the final horn sounded at Rogers Arena on Thursday, Twitter was chockablock with grim Canucks stats. Here are a couple that jumped out at me.
At the beginning of the week, I was lamenting the Canucks' 3.3 percent chance of making the playoffs. As of Friday morning, SportsClubStats
now has them down to 0.8 percent.
The 2013-14 season was my first here at HockeyBuzz. If you click the "Archive" button at the top of this page, you can scroll back through those first few months of 2014 that led to Mike Gillis's dismissal.
Ownership pulled the trigger on March 30, the morning after the Canucks had been mathematically eliminated from the postseason following a 3-0 home loss to Anaheim.
It was the climax of an unbelievably dramatic stretch that included not just John Tortorella's intense year behind Vancouver's bench, but also the Sochi Olympics in February and the Heritage Classic in the third game back on March 2. And that set up the dramatic trade deadline a few days later, which saw Roberto Luongo moved out and Jacob Markstrom brought in, and red-hot Ryan Kesler trade rumours that ended up amounting to nothing.
Reading back, the hottest Kesler rumour was out of Pittsburgh — a package that, ironically, included Brandon Sutter, and which I wanted no part of. I was more interested in the rumoured offer out of Philly, which was said to include Brayden Schenn.
Some of these details got fuzzy in my brain over time, but I did remember how closely Francesco Aquilini kept watch over Gillis during that deadline. Is he doing the same right now with Jim Benning, who's said to be frantically working the phones in search of a deal to shake up his moribund group?
Thursday's lineup adjustments weren't much help. After suffering an injury during preseason, Jayce Hawryluk finally made his Canucks debut, and was all but invisible. Playing on the fourth line with Antoine Roussel and Jay Beagle and wearing Mats Sundin's old No. 13, Hawryluk played six shifts for 3:28 of total ice time — and nothing for the last 25:23 of the game. His only mark on the stat sheet was one giveaway.
On the blue line, Travis Hamonic also got back into the lineup after missing 18 games. As a righty, he was paired back with Quinn Hughes, while Jordie Benn moved to the left side with Tyler Myers and Olli Juolevi was given the night off after appearing in the last eight games.
Hamonic played just 11:01, but was much busier than Hawryluk. He had seven shot attempts in that limited ice time — four of which were on goal — plus a block and a hit.
And though he played just 44 seconds on the penalty kill, he was on the ice while Alex Edler was in the box in the second period — when Alex Chiasson scored what proved to be the game-winning goal. Sigh.
Hamonic was doing a good job of helping to guard the net — until he moved up higher and let Chiasson sneak in behind him.
Once again on Thursday, Thatcher Demko deserved a better fate. He was perfect at 5-on-5 and stopped six shots from Draisaitl and seven by McDavid — Connor's goal came into the empty net with 23 seconds left on the clock. Much like last week's 2-0 shutout loss to Winnipeg, a little run support could have gone a long way.
The Canucks will kick off the month of March with back-to-back games in Winnipeg against the surging Jets, starting Monday. That gives them three days off between games for the first time this season — some much needed rest time for players like Quinn Hughes, Tyler Myers and Nate Schmidt, who are all in the top 10 in total time on ice for this season so far.
Among forwards, four Canucks are in the top 12: Bo Horvat (6th), Brock Boeser (7th), Elias Pettersson (10th) and J.T. Miller (12th, despite having missed the first three games of the season when he was in quarantine).
I'm sure that fatigue is a factor. And I bet every loss feels exhausting at this point.
Organizationally, it'll be interesting to see if this mini-break offers a moment for reflection. It's been just two weeks since Francesco Aquilini's vote of confidence. An initially positive response has now devolved into a 2-3-2 record, and nine days and counting since the last win.
If Jim Benning is going to see this season through to the end, it's time for him to come out from behind his curtain, at the very least. Since his season-opening press conference with Travis Green, when he expressed so much optimism about the season that lay ahead, Benning's only public comments have been that disastrous interview
with Ben Kuzma of The Province
at the beginning of this month, where he said he "kind of ran out of time" as far as getting his ducks in a row to re-sign Tyler Toffoli.
I'm sure he'd rather hold a presser when he has a trade to announce. But even if that doesn't happen, it's time for him to support his coach and players, and share his thoughts on where the team currently stands.