As a general rule, you should be pretty confident about making a long-term bet the moment you make it.
And eventually, one of two things starts happening. Hopefully, it shows early promise, comes to fruition and leaves you feeling like a genius—like when I bet one of my friends that another one of our group would be engaged in a year. They put a ring on it the next month and were married before the year was out.
But the other thing that can happen—and it has to me all too often—is that the bet starts crumbling in your hands like a badly made scone.
That’s the sensation I have been getting for all of the Vancouver Canucks’ 23 games this season.
At the start of last hockey season (a lifetime ago), I bet food editor Neal McLennan 12 bombers of beer (you know, the tall bottles) that the Vancouver Canucks would advance further in the playoffs than his Edmonton Oilers. It was a risky bet, no question. The Canucks hadn’t been to the playoffs in four years. But, of course, these were the Oilers.
Though the Oil finished ahead of the Canucks in the standings, they pulled what I like to call a “classic Edmonton” and were eliminated in the play-in round by the not good Chicago Blackhawks. The Canucks? Well, they won the play-in round and then went on to beat the St. Louis Blues before losing to the Vegas Golden Knights in seven games.
And so, to the victor went some considerable spoils.
I have to say, Neal did an excellent job at picking out the beers. (They were all mostly excellent, but the number one goes to the Dageraad/Yellow Dog Never Tear Us Apart collab—it might have been my favourite beer of the year.)
So when Neal asked me to re-up the bet for this year, I really had no choice. In truth, I didn’t love the way the offseason unfolded for the Canucks, as they saw Jacob Markstrom, Chris Tanev and Tyler Toffoli leave in free agency. But I also wasn’t going to back down to an Oilers fan. After all, we're talking about the Oilers, right?
Turns out, Edmonton forwards Connor McDavid and Leon Draisatl have decided to re-define what it means to be dominant in the NHL this season while the Canucks have been lacklustre on offence and a tire fire on defence without Markstrom constantly bailing them out.
In a 56-game season, a bad start can ruin you, but Vancouver had been playing considerably better as of late. Going into last night’s matchup with the Oilers, the Canucks were second-last in the seven-team all-Canadian North Division. It didn’t look good, but they were also only six points back of the Oilers—not an impossible hill to climb.
Then last night happened, and the Canucks squandered a 3-1 third period lead to lose 4-3 in regulation, which is actually kind of morbidly impressive. It’s especially disappointing given what a terrific job the team had done in shutting down McDavid for two periods.
So yeah, it doesn’t look very good right now.
But remember, the Canucks just need to come in fourth in the division to make the playoffs, and then anything can happen. (Right?)
It won’t happen without some sort of radical turnaround, though. And the team’s owner has already ruled out changes to the management or coaching staff for this year—a puzzling move given that the Canadiens are playing much better and just fired their coach.
Sadly, it very much looks like I’ll be raiding my local liquor store in May. Both for the bet and to drown my own sorrows.