Back in April, right about the time the poster boys for underachievement were eliminated from playoff contention, the howling began.
There was a consistency to it -- an urgency.
The message was clear. Please, Mr. Nonis, do something about this mess, because we, the Canuck faithful can't, and won't stomach this any longer.
The message was not lost on the general manager. Fair to assume in fact, that long before the howling, he knew a house cleaning was in order.
So he whacked the head coach.
He traded the man-child who wore number 44.
He chose not to re-sign free agent Ed Jovanovski.
He moved the nice guy goalie with the can't-stop-'em-when-they-count reputation.
He has not given in to the unrealistic salary demands of his leading goal scorer.
He let the human hemorrhoid Jarrko Ruutu move on.
And guess what? The howling, while it has abated to some degree, has continued.
The reason this is such a successful hockey market is that people care. They are passionate about this team. They have opinions, some of them actually reasonably well founded. But please, can we give this new-look bunch a chance?
I am amazed by the number of people I run into who have pretty much written off this season as one of rebuilding. Rebuilding? Excuse me?
You do not rebuild by acquiring arguably the best goaltender in the game and giving him nearly $30 million over four years.
If you are rebuilding you find a prospect and get Martin Brochu as his backup.
You do not rebuild by giving a stay-at-home defenceman $14 million over four years.
And you do not rebuild by flushing the lack-of-discipline types -- and go to the head of the class if you guessed Bert and Ruutu.
No, this isn't rebuilding.
It's changing the way this hockey team does business.
It is going to have a commitment to its own end.
People will be held accountable.
There is a new sheriff in town with a reputation for running a tight ship, without alienating his players.
It was a change that was overdue. Long overdue, some might say.
The core group that has been torn apart was never the same after that collapse against Minnesota in the spring of 2003. Many of us were deluded into thinking that it would be one of those painful lessons teams go through as they learn how to win a Stanley Cup. That wasn't the lesson learned here.
Dave Nonis took over the GM duties in the summer of 2004. He gave the nucleus of the team he inherited one season to catch lightning in a bottle. It didn't happen.
He promised change, and he has delivered. Give him credit for that, for now at least. Down the road, you might be giving him a whole lot more.
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