How quickly a team can fall from heavy favorite to a complete mess is pretty remarkable. Sitting back and looking at it, the demise of the conerstone of Vancouver professional sports nearly mirrors the current situation that is taking place on the hardcourt in Hollywood.
While I am not an equally diehard Canucks fan as I am an LA Lakers faithful, I have, like many others, invested my fair share of time supporting and following the team; one that as of just a few years ago gave the city hope of a championship parade, but now is in full rebuilding mode.
Fans in both Vancouver and Los Angeles have grown accustomed to the finer things in life. While the Canucks haven’t had even a sniff of the same level of championship success as the Lakers, the predictions for success the last few years have been high, but pathetically have fallen way short.
Over the past five years, both teams have been early-season favorites to compete for a division title (at the very least), if not the conference championship.
OIL AND WATER
When he was first hired, fans thought that Torts was the man who would light a fire under the Canucks’ collective asses following a couple of lackluster seasons by a team that was predicted to be a playoff contender. However, the roster makeup and the coaching style have not proven to mesh as hoped. Asking a group of finesse players to drop and block pucks while playing 25-plus minutes a game has not been a recipe for success.
When Jim Buss and company brought Mike D’Antoni to guide the aging all-stars to another ring, fans were eager to see what “seven seconds or less” would look like with an older Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash and Pau Gasol, not to mention a happy-go-lucky Dwight Howard. The outcome has resulted in absolute failure, as the need for Kobe to have the rock and Pau’s inability to hit the long-range jumper screamed for a different offensive structure — one that D’Antoni doesnt seem to have in his playbook.
WHO ARE THESE GUYS?
Quick: Name the Canucks first line. What about the Lakers starting five?
Through injuries, trades and free agency, both the Canucks and Lakers have sent out what looks like a farm club roster on a nightly basis rather than that of a professional franchise. Starting with the lengthy absence of Alex Burrows to the injury to Alex Edler to the recent trade of Roberto Luongo, you can’t blame the casual fan for wondering who is lacing up the skates on a nightly basis.
As for the Lakers, once a star-studded roster is now a near vagabond lineup. With only Pau Gasol as the only marketable name — and even that’s a stretch — the Lakers have lost not only games, but the off-court advertising and merchandise stranglehold they once had on the city of LA.
BENCHMARK FOR FUTILITY
Records were set in the month of March for both franchises, but not ones that either club are especially proud of. The Canucks tied league and team history against the New York Islanders by allowing seven third-period goals. Only three other times in league history has this achievement been reached, unfortunately with the last time being by Vancouver as well. The Lakers, who are in the process of setting one of the worst regular-season records in team history, set the mark for the worst loss by the purple and gold with a 48-point stinker against their in-building and city-rival LA Clippers.
From an individual standpoint, the scoring drought from go-to guys on each team has been incredibly hard for both player and fan to deal with. The lengthy absence of mesh tickling from both Henrik and Daniel Sedin, Alex Burrows and David Booth are but a few of the reasons for the Canucks struggles. On the hardcourt, the loss of Bryant and Nash has put the scoring load on the shoulders of Gasol, who has been on a statistical slide over the past few seasons.
For years, LA was used to seeing Kobe’s name among the league leaders, but with his injury and the lack of someone stepping up on a constant basis to take over that role, the Laker Nation has floundered.
WHAT DOES THE FUTURE BRING?
Questions are plentiful in Vancouver as to who is going to go first: the players, coach or general manager? The same can be said in Hollywood.
As for how to restart the foundation, the Canucks seem to have little in the cupboard in terms of a big-name player onto whom fans can latch. Eddie Lack? He is far from being ready to be the No. 1 between the pipes. Bo Horvat? When you trade you’re No. 1 goaltender, you hope that the player you got in return would not be playing in the Juniors.
The Twins are on the downside of their career at 34 years old, and injuries are starting to take a toll. Ryan Kesler, one who is tagged as the heart and grit of the team has asked to be relocated, but had his request denied.
With a less-than-stellar track record for drafting talent, compared to the rest of the NHL contenders, one has to wonder where exactly the next wave of talent will come from, as right now it’s not like being a Vancouver Canuck is an ideal place to play.
While being a Canuck may not currently be the most desirable destination in hockey, the immediate future in LA is equally in jeopardy due to lack of finances, draft picks and questionable decisions from the top. And let’s not forget that the Black Mamba is not the easiest guy in the league to get along with — just ask Dwight Howard.
With only three players under contract for next season, including about $35 million wrapped up in just Kobe and Nash, there really isn’t a lot of extra cake to be used to entice a couple of star studded free agents. Any hope of building through the draft following this summer has been shot, as the Lakers traded their 2015 first round to Phoenix and their second rounder to Orlando. Two years following that, another first rounder will be sent to the Magic as well.
In order for either franchise to fix their future, it has to start from the top and work down through miseduated ownership, misguided management and misjudged coaching.
The reality unfortunately for the fans of either or both teams is that the road back to success looks to be a long bumpy on.