This postseason, the Vancouver Canucks couldn’t kill a penalty, make a late save, or score goals. They also couldn’t win a game. But what was everyone talking about when it was over? The officiating. Yes, it is the same as it ever was. The long-simmering rivalry between the local team and the referees who officiate its games seems as entrenched, and embittered, as Yankees-Red Sox. Roll up to the Rogers Arena entrance and what greets you is a statue of Roger Nielsen, raising a stick high in the air with a towel draped on the butt end like a white flag. It lampoons the refs, immortalizing their ineptness, while whispering in every fan’s ear, “Your team didn’t lose, it got screwed. Royally.” It also reminds visiting referees they are now entering hostile territory, just in case it may have slipped their minds. If that doesn’t drive it home, the Canucks will. Take this past week. After Game 1, the Canucks called out the linesmen for allowing the Sharks to cheat on faceoffs. After Game 3, they called out the refs for being duped by embellishing. Kevin Bieksa even used props. It was a four-game series and they managed to make officiating the overriding storyline, tossing every official in their path under the bus. Who knows what they’ll say today when the players and GM Mike Gillis meet the media after two controversial calls cost them their final game of the season. But the best advice they could follow is this: Shut up. It doesn’t matter anymore if the Canucks are in the right. It doesn’t matter if the Sharks embellished more. It doesn’t matter if every 50-50 call went San Jose’s way. It doesn’t even matter if the refs made calls to settle old scores. What matters is the Canucks have a loathsome reputation for antagonizing referees, both on the ice and off it, and it seems to have put a target on their backs and it’s one they can’t seem shake. It sure hasn’t helped them. Instead, the more they complain, the more there is to complain about, creating a vicious cycle they have to end and the only way to do that is silence. A lot of it. The Sharks did dive more than the Canucks. The calls were inequitable, and in more than a few cases, entirely unfair. There’s a seven-minute video circulating on YouTube which strings together about a dozen calls. If you don’t watch that and leave thinking the Canucks were jobbed, you may be walking through life blindfolded. For the Canucks, none of this should matter. The reality is they didn’t lose because of calls. They lost because they weren’t as good as the Sharks. Try and blame the officials during their locker cleanout today and it only fortifies the narrative that the whiners are at it again, and this time they’re complaining about calls in a sweep. Off camera in San Jose, Ryan Kesler shared with TSN a telling story about his reputation as a diver. He worked diligently last year to change his image. He kept his head down instead of snapping it back. He didn’t bewail calls on the ice. But when the playoffs started he saw Dustin Brown’s act. He viewed him as a player trying to do everything he could to do win and thought he needed to do the same. He admitted he started diving again. On the first one, all the work he had put in rehabilitating his reputation was gone. Poof. The Canucks’ brand name in the past six years is as much about whining and embellishing as it as about dominating the Northwest Division. If the Canucks are going to turn it around, so that they’re a team which gets the benefit of the doubt, it’s going to take some time. Check out Alex Burrows, who has been reforming for two years and he still can’t catch a break. That’s because there is a lot of history.
Canucks: Officiating conspiracies? Stop whining and just shut up
Vancouver Province | May 9