It is hard to imagine a more perfect weekend for the local hockey club. The current franchise icons had their contracts extended, their only hall of fame player had his number finally and rightfully enshrined and the hometown heroes dispatched the previously high riding Maple Leafs in easy, but dramatic fashion.
With the news of the Sedin contract extension surfacing on Friday, it was easy to feel a little sorry for Pavel Bure, whose long-deferred moment of respect was at risk of being overshadowed.
But this kind of news could not be surpressed and will put to rest a matter that was only weeks away from becoming a significant distraction for the club.
In the end, a four year commitment to these players is not surprising nor exorbitantly expensive. And it is consistent with Mike Gillis’ organizational modus operandi.
Ultimately, it is a move that will ensure the Canucks are competitive for quite some time. Though with the Sedins’ confirmed inability to consistently score in the post-season, a salary commitment of this size will likely impair the club’s championship aspirations lest the long anticipated emergence of some youthful scoring ever happens.
As for Bure, we’ve blogged endlessly that his moment of recognition from the club was long overdue. Simply put, he was the most exciting player, not only in franchise history, but of the entire post-Gretzky generation. He singlehandedly put the Canuck franchise on the sporting map and catapulted them into the global business they’ve become. Whatever version of his demise in this market you accept, he’d done more than enough to merit the ultimate recognition he received last night.
The 4pm local start time certainly ensured that the rest of the nation got a reminder about how great he was - and though few will admit it, he represents the greatest player to lace them up for a Canadian team since Gretzky left Edmonton. Like Don Cherry (or Ron McLean) would ever tell you that.
Some interesting revelations from last night’s ceremony:
Pat Quinn has dramatically aged. He has in recent years lost his trademark girth, but now appears frail and gaunt. We hope he is well.
The grumbling boo-littered reception for Mike Gillis was shocking. He’s gotten a mostly free pass from the media in this town, but clearly the fan-base has become impatient. Anyway, at that moment, as the ultimate architect of the ceremony, deserved a better response.
Pavel was remarkably well spoken, humble and thankful. It’s a shame that his introversion and shyness were mistaken for indifference, or worse, to this insecure market all those years ago.
Any reference to the ceremony cannot be complete without reference to Pavel’s wife, whose choice of attire was a welcome distraction for many, icing on the proverbial cake.
As for the game, the choice of opponent represented the site of Bure’s greatest post-season accomplishment, notwithstanding his trademark first round game seven double overtime winner. In the ‘94 five game semi-final dismissal of the Leafs, Bure was easily the Canucks’ best player, scoring often and in his typical thrilling fashion against arguably the greatest Leaf team since 1967.
And this time, the Leafs rolled into town as one of the league’s supposed heavyweights so says the frenzied media in the centre of the universe - a young quick team with significant size and two supposed number one goalies.
But the Canucks, as they have for many, many years, dominated the Leafs. If not for some lucky saves from the nervy James Reimer, it could have been a 7-0 blowout.
In the end, the Canucks looked inspired, as they have most nights of the John Tortorella era. And despite an ineffective power play, were full value for the 4-0 win.
The Leafs looked flat and frustrated, a failing that will be chalked up by their friendly media to the travel no doubt. Or more likely a second period incident that resulted in a significant injury to Leaf centre David Bolland and a goal for malingned Canuck winger Zack Kassian
As Zack Kassian steered the hated David Bolland into the boards, he severely cut his leg in the process with Kassian then scoring while Bolland was agonizing and out of the play.
As with most incidents in the NHL these days, one’s perspective is defined by what team they back. Kassian will argue he was simply finishing his check. Leaf fans will accuse him of an intentional kick to the unprotected back of Bolland’s leg.
It seems clear that Kassian appears to steer Bolland into the boards using his left leg while finishing his check - not necessarily “dirty”, but clearly, in hindsight, dangerous. He’s a repeat offender. And it’s against the Leafs on HNIC. This guy seems to have the luck of Todd Bertuzzi. If he only had the game.
No matter, with their only hall-of-famer officially celebrated, their iconic franchise leading scorers again contractually committed and another nationally televised beat-down of the hated Maple Leafs in the books, all is good. For now.