Rebuilding in hockey: How it works, why it happens

Professional sports can be fickle from one year to the next. A team that is almost identical to the year before’s playoff team can end up at the bottom of the pile with fans calling for the heads of the GM, coach, star player, owner, and even other fans. To any hockey fan, winning and losing is painfully familiar, but when are the crazed people that lurk in the comment section of your local paper’s website right when they say the teams needs to rebuild completely?

First, when you’ve run out of goalies and coaches to blame. Goalies and coaches are the go to scapegoats in hockey, there’s always something behind them that knows the system and can be called up so, it’s very easy to get rid of them before doing something more drastic like firing a GM or changing the core of your team. An example of this can be found in 2010 when the Washington Capitals won the President’s trophy for the most points in the regular season but were eliminated from the playoffs in the first round. Since then, the team has struggled to be a competitive playoff team. This year, the Caps missed out on making the playoffs as well. The Capitals need to look further than just coaching and goaltending. The most obvious change would be replacing long time GM George McPhee, who’s been under some quiet scrutiny for the past couple years. Another more daring suggestion is to rethink who the core of the team is. Besides superstar Alex Ovechkin and Olympian John Carlson it might be time to make some big moves.

Secondly, when the rebuild just keeps happening. The Edmonton Oilers are an example as they’ve been in rebuild mode since June 23rd 2006 when right off of a heartbreaking Stanley Cup loss to the Carolina Hurricanes, defensemen Chris Pronger requested a trade. The team hasn’t been the same since. Sure, they’ve gone through the motions of hiring new presidents, coaches, and GMs, But they’ve got to do more than just lose and collect draft picks. In terms of pure young talent the Oilers are loaded with it, which is what happens when your team’s spot in the draft has been in the top 10 for the past 5 years. A team like Edmonton needs to do something.

Lastly, when the off ice issues have become bigger than the team. The Vancouver Canucks season this year has been a soap opera in the sense that it’s been cringe worthy, the ensemble has changed for no reason without warning, and you can’t look away. Now, the team took a step towards rebuilding recently and fired GM Mike Gillis, who probably broke every single rule about being a GM from a PR perspective. Between mishandling a goalie situation that cost the team not one but two franchise goaltenders, not trading a player who wanted no business in Vancouver, publicly fighting with his own coach and deciding that the trade deadline should be spent on a golf course, he probably deserves an award of sorts for handling things as bad as he did. Despite getting rid of Gillis there are a lot more questions that need to be answered. Coach John Tortorella still hasn’t proven that he’s the right fit for the team.