There’s losing when you’re playing badly and then there’s losing when you’re in the game. Both lead to different types of frustration

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If you were sitting in the Sportsbar at Rogers Arena during Thursday night’s 3-0 Canucks loss to the visiting Edmonton Oilers, you would have spotted a very invested viewer: Team owner Francesco Aquilini.

He may not have been saying much, but you could tell he was tense and frustrated.

You can understand why. This hasn’t been an easy season for his team.

Early in the year, it was like Canucks players had forgotten how to play hockey altogether. Passes weren’t clicking. The players looked like they’d never played defence before.

Now they’re playing better, but the results still aren’t there.

The owner surely isn’t alone in the organization in feeling frustration about the current state of play, which has the Canucks mired in sixth place in the NHL’s all-Canadian Scotia North Division.

Both scenarios will lead to frustration, but they’re of a different kind, head coach Travis Green said after Thursday’s game.


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“From a coach’s standpoint, the frustration level is higher when you’re not playing well. When you’re playing well and not getting results, you tend to bang your head against the wall and you feel for your players a little bit,” he said.

Green played in 970 NHL games himself, so he knows the player’s perspective. Both scenarios are frustrating, he said, though the frustration for each case differs.

“But either way it’s difficult,” he said.

Goalie Thatcher Demko made a number of big saves Thursday to give his team a chance to win, but his teammates couldn’t put a single puck past Oilers goalie Mike Smith.

Asked the same question as Green, Demko took a similar tack to his coach — at least they’re doing things better now, as opposed to the beginning of the year.

“I think right now we can at least say that we’re playing hard and doing a lot of the good things. I thought early in the season there were some things we had to clean up and I thought we’ve done a really job of doing that,” he said.  “Obviously, the results just haven’t been there.

“We’ve been in some pretty tight hockey games that just haven’t gone our way, continue to improve and see if we can turn the tide here,” he added.

Asked further about whether losing games by a close score is still harder to bear, Demko called the dilemma “tricky.”

“Obviously that has a different kind of frustration of its own,” he said of losing games again and again by slim margins. “It’s another thing that this team is going to have to battle through.”


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Defenceman Jack Rathbone on the ice with coach Travis Green during Canucks training camp at Roger Arena in Vancouver on Jan. 12, 2021.
Defenceman Jack Rathbone on the ice with coach Travis Green during Canucks training camp at Roger Arena in Vancouver on Jan. 12, 2021. Photo by NICK PROCAYLO /PNG files

Rathbone’s a pro

Jack Rathbone hadn’t played a hockey game since March 7, 2020, when he picked up a pair of assists in a 7-1 demolition of St. Lawrence University by his Harvard Crimson.

It was a flashy, though unexpected, finish to his collegiate career. The game before he had a goal and 10 shots on goal.

That Rathbone can put some sizzle on the puck is why the Canucks drafted him in the first place and were perfectly fine with him playing another year of high school hockey for family reasons.

It was a case of great things come to those who wait. They signed him last summer. He skated and worked out at home, then came west for training camp before Christmas.

He showed well in Canucks training camp, then was assigned to the taxi squad so he could get some further practice time with the Canucks’ coaching staff before eventually being reassigned last week to the Utica Comets, the Canucks’ primary American Hockey League affiliate.

On Friday Rathbone made his professional debut, skating on a pairing with fellow rookie Jett Woo for the Comets in their home game against the Rochester Americans. After a series of callups by the St. Louis Blues — who are also affiliated with the Comets during this COVID-19 affected season — the Comets are down to a baker’s dozen of forwards and just seven defencemen, making Rathbone’s insertion into the lineup a pretty easy decision.

Rathbone’s return to action had plenty of sizzle: he picked up three assists in a 7-2 win for the Comets.


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“I was a kid in a candy store,” Rathbone told reporters post-game. “I got to come to the rink with a smile on my face and work hard.”

Utica coach Trent Cull had a hard time holding back on praise for the rookie.

“He’ll be a guy that we can’t wait to coach more of. I mean he’s such a good student, he wants to learn and he’s just a really good kid. Then you see how he snaps pucks and has that ability to move it and do it at a really good level. It’s something that’s a blessing. Every coach loves that, you love when a guy can snap and move pucks because that means you’re not spending time in your D zone,” he said. “Jack walks the blue line better than any (defenceman) I’ve seen in this league.”

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