Sports. Honestly. Since 2011

What Bo Horvat Owes Vancouver

Bo Horvat recently made a comment during a post-game interview that – to put it mildly – got some attention in his former home. But what that attention is can be a little confusing – if you’re unfamiliar with Vancouver Canucks fans.

From Controversial Beginning to Acrimonious End

Horvat’s selection in the 2013 entry draft was only possible because of their ongoing goaltending drama. The choice to send Cory Schneider to the New Jersey Devils took a lot of observers by surprise, no doubt. But it allowed for the return of the ninth overall pick that year, bringing Horvat to Vancouver.

Even his pick was slightly controversial, with him rated closer to the teens than a top-10 selection. He was fêted as a solid, two-way centre with middle-six upside, and that appealed to a team in desperate need of centres. Or any prospects at all, for that matter. Much was spent in the pursuit of the Stanley Cup, and younger players were lacking.

His first season went well, playing a sheltered role on the fourth line. Horvat scored 13 goals and 25 points in his 68 NHL games – fine numbers for a 12-minute player. But if he was going to play centre, he needed to grow slowly into the role. The Canucks traded for Brandon Sutter to take the role of second-line centre and match-up man. Sutter, of course, got the first major injury of his career and only played 20 games in 2015-16.

That left the 20-year-old Horvat filling in far more quickly than the team wanted. Playing for the 29th-best offence in the league, he scored 16 goals and 40 points. In stopping attackers, he was less successful. Which, given his experience, wasn’t a surprise to anyone. Desperate times, desperate measures.

Time to Go for Bo

For the next six seasons, Bo Horvat was pulled in these two directions. Told that the team needed goals, but he was also supposed to stop the best scorers in the league has given him a split personality in his game. Playing for a new contract he focussed on scoring and has produced. No one who sees 31 goals and 54 points in 49 games can say otherwise.

The reason he was playing for a new contract, of course, was the new management. They had decided he was less important than J.T. Miller, signing Miller while low-balling Horvat. The response from Horvat was, well, 31 goals in 49 games, pricing himself well out of the team’s reach.

Now, it’s not like his previous contract left him poor: six seasons at $5.5 million each is an amount he fully earned. And unlike some locations, being captain in Vancouver involves a lot of public interaction, which he handled with aplomb. On the ice, his production remained either 2.1 points per 60 minutes to 2.3 p/60. That’s consistent.

Many more points were coming from Miller, though, and that’s where the management decided to put their money. The long-term offer to Horvat was, rumour has it, closer to $5 million per year than it was to $6 million. That’s not an offer you make to a player you want to keep.

It became very obvious that no signature was forthcoming, so a deal was struck and off Horvat went to Long Island.

Once Upon an Island(er)…

On Saturday, Bo Horvat was asked how it felt to be in such a tight playoff race, the response of the fans, etc. There’s a link to it at the start, there.

“Yeah, it’s been unbelievable. It’s a lot better than Vancouver, I’ll tell you that for free.”

Well, then.

The response, of course, has been absolutely hilarious. From the negative and rather direct:

To the wrestling fans eager for some kayfabe of their own:

As far as we’re concerned, however fans want to react is fine. It’s sports, for crying out loud. Nobody’s living or dying on your opinions about it, so go get whatever you need. That’s a big part of the fun of sports fandom! There is, after all, a reason why we had “Canucks Drama” as a repeating tag on this website.

Won’t Anyone Think of the Sportscasters?!?

But the best, the absolute BEST, responses have been from the sportscasters. A recurring theme is regularly bemoaning the lack of “real hate” between players on rival teams. Heck, Elliotte Friedman makes some sort of comment every couple of broadcasts of 32 Thoughts about missing the “real rivalries” from bygone eras.

Then he gets one, and what happens? “Oh, wait! Not like that!”

Same happened with Halford & Brough. On Monday, they were all about hating on Bo Horvat because of his comment, then suddenly on Tuesday? Oh, gosh, people “didn’t get it” and were just too mean – to Bo and to them – and it wasn’t fun anymore. Sniffle.

Hate to say it, but: Have you idiots even heard of Vancouver?

This fanbase is online, all the time. Add that to what is already a borderline incendiary batch of personalities (Clay Imoo excepted) and YEAH! That’s the response you’re going to get! This fanbase is a sack of cats when the team is winning, never mind when they’ve made the playoffs once in eight years.

“We want you to get angry, but we also want to control it” simply isn’t one of the options available.

Was Bo Horvat Justified?

To repeat – however you want to feel about Horvat’s comments is fine. It’s your fandom, you get to express it however you want. Even if it makes podcasters and radio hosts cry. But in our opinion?

Bo Horvat was responding to a question about how the playoff race felt. Just a reminder here that the Canucks have been in one – ONE – playoff run at Rogers Arena during his tenure. And that happened when he was a rookie.

He was here through the decline of Henrik and Daniel Sedin and the team’s desperate efforts to get back to the playoffs. Through years of selling off picks and prospects, through a management group taking wilder and wilder swings in an effort to remain employed.

Horvat was the face of an ineptly run franchise that was treated like a favourite toy by its owner. He was put front and centre for the cameras after every game, win or lose. All for one failed playoff run in his rookie season and needing a play-in round during COVID. There wasn’t even a guarantee the Canucks would have made the playoffs without the invite in 2019-20.

Then he waited patiently while a new arrival had bags of money dropped at his feet.

Horvat clarified his statement on Tuesday:

“I didn’t mean any disrespect to the fans of Vancouver, the teammates or city of Vancouver at all[…]”

Notice who’s missing there? If it’s not the fans, not the city, and not the teammates, then there aren’t many more folks the disrespect could be aimed at. But there are still a few.

And if fans want to be angry at anyone, it should be those few.

Main Photo: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports


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