Vancouver Sun

Curb your expectatio­ns

Canuck conundrum: Fickle fans keep moving the performanc­e bar

- Hmooney@vancouvers­­oney

It’s amazing how quickly things can change in the National Hockey League, even in the course of one game. Thursday against the Los Angeles Kings, the Canucks looked on their way to stealing two points from the defending Stanley Cup champions. Ryan Miller had been standing on his head, which is a strange way to tend goal (although it enables him to make higher kick saves). Either way, it appeared to be working, and the Canucks had clearly decided that it was Miller’s night, and purposed themselves to keeping the puck near him so he could work his magic.

At that point, the story was clear: a year removed from their bad selves (and not the bad selves one gets down with, but the bad selves that are just plain bad), Vancouver appeared to have rediscover­ed their ability to beat the California teams. Five out of six points on this recent swing! How fantastic! What a way to ring in the new year! 2015 may not be what Back to the Future II said it was going to be, but no doubt that Biff’s sports almanac had the Canucks as the 2015 Stanley Cup champs.

( Side note: remember sports almanacs? Of all the things B2TF2 got wrong, the notion that an entire plot point could hinge on a sports almanac in 2015 is even more ridiculous than the double necktie.)

Anyway. As you are no doubt aware, the game’s ending changed the conversati­on somewhat. Rather than completing his brilliant game heist, Miller was apprehende­d while ziplining out of the building. After failing to get square to Justin Williams on a power play, the Kings’ clutchiest scorer picked the top corner, clearing the cobwebs out of it with a perfectly placed wrister.

A few minutes later, Jarret Stoll beat Miller as well, and suddenly everything was different. In a matter of minutes, five out of six points had become a ho-hum three out of six, and Miller had somehow cost the Canucks a game he almost stole. Suddenly the strong outing in San Jose had been overshadow­ed by the collapses that bookended it, and all that optimism had been traded for concern and future considerat­ions. In three minutes.

But such is life as a sports fan. After all, it’s not just the journalist­s on deadline — drastic and frantic revision is what we all do. Consider: The Canucks are holding down third in the division and sixth in the Western Conference ... and it’s nothing but concern and discontent out on the West Coast. Hand-wringing. Fear. Rather than resting in the comfort of their current playoff position, we’re constantly checking under the bed and in the closet for monsters.

Which is crazy, because the club is exceeding the expectatio­ns laid out for them when the season began. Remember that? Only a few months ago, it was, “If the Canucks can compete for a playoff spot, this will be a successful season.” But after a few months of watching them do just that, we’ve made a few revisions. Time to go for broke. “Anaheim is getting away! Pick up the pace, Canucks!”

The Canucks aren’t allowed to meet expectatio­ns. That’s no fun. Then what would we talk about? So instead, we set them juuuuuust out of reach, then call the radio station to mutter.

Here’s an actual call from last night’s program:

“Jeff in Maple Ridge, you’re on the air.”

“Rassafrass­in no good for nothin muggafuggi­n nugglehead­s ...”

“Thanks for the call, Jeff, and I agree completely.”

Consider Nick Bonino, who’s on pace for 18 goals and 47 points this season, almost identical to the 22 goals and 49 points last season. When he was acquired, the hope was that he could reproduce last year’s totals. He’s on pace to do pretty much that. But he started the season too strongly. October and November were good to him. Suddenly 30 and 60 didn’t seem out of the question. So when he slowed down in December, basically falling to the pace we originally expected, he arrived at that strange spot in Vancouver where he was simultaneo­usly meeting and falling short of expectatio­ns.

Or how about the Sedins? We wanted them at a point-per-game pace. We feared they’d never be there again. But now that they’re right there, we want them to break into the top 20. “They used to be elite!” We cry. Point per game was enough until it seemed reasonable. Then we moved the stick.

But I suspect this is what we want. I suspect it’s borne of something deep in ourselves. We want to be happy with our sports team, but we too place that happiness juuuuuust out of reach. How else would we complain?

 ??  ?? What does the future hold for this season’s version of the Vancouver Canucks?
What does the future hold for this season’s version of the Vancouver Canucks?
 ?? GERRY KAHRMANN/PNG ?? Nick Bonino is simultaneo­usly meeting and falling short of expectatio­ns.
GERRY KAHRMANN/PNG Nick Bonino is simultaneo­usly meeting and falling short of expectatio­ns.

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