The Vancouver Canucks have seen a decline in both ticket sales and television ratings over the last couple of years. The team then pledged a rebuild to the fans, but are they really earning the trust of the Canucks faithful again?
Following a third non-playoff season in four years, the Vancouver Canucks have been a franchise in limbo as they try to reconstruct a different identity in a new era.
Everyone knows what has happened to this team. Throughout the last four years, we saw Alain Vigneault, John Tortorella and Willie Desjardins all coach the Canucks before receiving pink slips. Former general manager Mike Gillis was fired in 2014 and was replaced by current GM Jim Benning.
Furthermore, a handful of key pieces from the 2011 Stanley Cup Final run have left. That includes Roberto Luongo, Cory Schneider, Ryan Kesler, Kevin Bieksa, Dan Hamhuis, Alexandre Burrows and Jannik Hansen.
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And though it’s been evident that this team has needed a rebuild since their embarrassing sweep at the hands of the San Jose Sharks in the first round of the 2013 postseason, the Canucks didn’t actually commit towards the “r” word until this April.
But as Ed Willis from the Vancouver Province pointed out, the Canucks roster suggests this team is undergoing anything but a rebuild.
As such, he’s not sure this is going to sit well with fans:
"But this is also an organization which is trying to keep its fan base engaged and it’s hard to see where the Canucks’ opening-day lineup is going to do that…The Canucks maintain they want to build a competitive environment which will bring out the best in their younger players.The problem is that competitive environment is being supplied by average veterans who are largely in the decline phase of their career. The faithful have already suffered through two excruciating seasons. Sitting through another losing campaign without seeing what’s coming is asking an awful lot."
Which brings us to the million dollar question: Are fans really picking up what the Canucks front office is putting down?
Front office isn’t clear with direction
It’s somewhat easy to understand why the Canucks attempted the balance of icing a competitive team that could make the playoffs while also trying to add more young talent. The problem is that it both failed and didn’t sell with the general fan base.
Canucks television ratings saw a 27 percent drop, according to a Dec. 2015 report from Chris Zelkovich at Yahoo Sports. What made matters worse? Michelle Ghoussoub from CBC reported that team ticket and merchandise sales were historically declining in December of last year.
Signing Sam Gagner (28) and Michael Del Zotto (27), to cheap deals made sense. They are both effective players and can stay here when the Canucks are competitive again. But keeping veterans like the Sedins, Alexander Edler while recently signing Thomas Vanek are indicators that the franchise won’t actually rebuild.
The Canucks have been old and slow over the past few years. With so many fading veterans on the roster, this is not going to be a product of hockey fans want to watch.
Fans have a voice
Do you really think the Canucks would be somewhat rebuilding if ticket sales and television ratings were still through the roof? Unlikely.
A large portion of fans have spoken: They don’t want this rebuilding on the fly. They want young, fast and exciting players on the roster. They want less veterans and more young talent. Fans want to see the future cornerstones of the franchise, as Willis pointed out.
With the signing of Vanek, that takes away one roster spot from a young player. With the Sedins still on the roster, that takes away big minutes from future Canucks.
The ratings and ticket sales have spoken. The front office has lost plenty of faith from the fan base. They now have to find a way to earn it again in 2017-18, because it’s clear fans aren’t buying what the front office has tried to sell.