It was a year Canucks fans won’t soon forget, one they look back on with a mixture of disbelief and embarrassment.
The Torts Year.
Those three little words still bring head shakes and indignant sneers. Of all the chapters in Canucks history, it might have been the most frustrating. One wants to say it was confusing or vexing, but that’s not true.
It was very clear why the Canucks made the move. They wanted to hold on to something that they didn’t know or couldn’t admit was already long gone. They wanted to push an aging core to deliver their best. They thought a battle-tested Tortorella, known for lighting fires under teams, was their best option to remain competitive. They resisted change and went against the trends of speed and skill that were starting to sweep the NHL. They doubled down on grit and “character” by bringing in a dinosaur.
They signed Torts to a four-year deal. He was out after one. He tried to physically fight an opposing coach. He ran his players to the ground and lost the room shortly after December. In short, it was a disaster that was only quelled by the Blue Jackets hiring Tortorella and having to give the Canucks a compensatory draft pick that turned out to be Team Canada World Juniors selection Jonah Gadjovich.
We were reminded of the The Torts Year earlier this month when another B.C. institution, the BC Liberal Party, chose a grizzled veteran as its leader at a time when the party is at a vital crossroads.
Wilkinson is a former president of the party, and has been an MLA since 2013. He’s trusted by the party establishment and thought to be someone that can light a fire under the party. He even listed driving a wedge between the NDP and Green alliance as his number one priority.
This is the direction that the B.C. Liberals went, because they think there are still some benefits in staying the course. They still think they can win.
Granted, the party won the largest percentage of votes in last year’s provincial election. But, as has been outlined in this very publication, the B.C. Liberals’ refusal to get with the times may mean that their recent defeat is just the beginning.
If the NDP and Greens’ referendum on electoral reform leads to a change in how we vote, the B.C. Liberals will likely never again hold a majority government. It’s another reason the party brought on Wilkinson, so the old tiger can rip the reform to shreds.
Instead of going with a candidate like rookie MLA Michael Lee, who is a savvy social media marketer and had the potential to move the party forward, the B.C. Liberals are still under the mistaken guise that they have what voters want.
The Vancouver Canucks had lost two consecutive first round playoff series when they fired the most successful coach in the team’s history in Alain Vigneault. The prevailing wisdom at the time was that the Canucks needed to be tougher to play against after losing to big, physical teams in Los Angeles and San Jose.
They didn’t need to think about getting younger and faster, no, they needed the Sedins to kill penalties and block shots. They needed team toughness. They still had the ingredients, according to the team’s brass. They just needed to add pieces like Dale Weise, apparently.
And, just as the stale B.C. Liberal party establishment voted for one of their own in Wilkinson, there were rumours that the Aquilinis were the ones vouching for Tortorella, in part because of his Italian heritage.
In January of 2014, the Torts experiment started to fall apart when the Canucks coach attempted to fight Bob Hartley of the Calgary Flames. In between periods. In the Flames’ dressing room. Seriously.
The Canucks missed the playoffs that year, for the first time since 2008.
The B.C. Liberal party likely won’t be able to get rid of Wilkinson with the same haste that the Canucks were able to vanquish Tortorella, but if the GreeNDP are able to pass a form of proportional representation, it won’t be long until they get the knives out for the party leader.
Again, we can comprehend why the B.C. Liberals brought on Wilkinson. It’s for the same reasons the Canucks hired Tortorella. It’s understandable. It’s just misguided.
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