One and Done

The Vancouver Canucks are supposed to be a team that is built for annual Stanley Cup runs. This isn’t supposed to be the last time. In fact, this is supposed to be the beginning. General Manager Mike Gillis has much of his core locked up for multiple years including the Sedins, Ryan Kesler, Roberto Luongo, Dan Hamhuis and Alex Burrows.

Championship hangover is something most seen in hockey and football. Makes sense, they’re the 2 most physical. It takes a lot out of a team to make 1 championship run, much less 2. This might not be a championship hangover for the Canucks but it might as well be.

Only 5 teams in the last 20 years have reached back-to-back Stanley Cup Finals and 2 of those have gone on to win in consecutive years. They say that hockey is the hardest championship to win. 4 gruelling series, 16 victories, all over a long 2 months. Brutal.

However, bodies aren’t the only thing that the players invest. It’s how much they invest emotionally.

The Canucks have invested as much and probably more than most teams have in the past. It was their year and it was time to get the monkey off their backs. Everyone was tired of being the city without a championship. Tim Thomas just got in their way.

The team was battered, bruised and decimated. Alex Edler played on broken fingers, Kesler on a torn groin, Higgins possibly on a broken foot and the list goes on and on. They left it all on the line and fell short.

It’s hard to imagine that they have one more in them next year.

This season was too much for the entire team. The drive they had to bring the team and the city of Vancouver a Stanley Cup was enormous. It showed throughout the playoffs. The toll that this run will take on the team is going to be all too evident next year.

Moreover, if the NHL wants to continue this ridiculous trend of avoiding calling penalties in the playoffs the Canucks will have even more trouble next year. The whistles went away for the most part throughout the playoffs and this is a roster not meant to match up to the physicality that a playoff series prior to the lockout presented. This is a roster meant for the open ice and skill that the new era was intended to be.

The one guy you wouldn’t expect to suffer from a hangover is Ryan Kesler. This true warrior, who skated as hard as he could through the drug-masked pain even with a minute to go in a 4-0 game 7, was teary eyed. “I really thought we were going to win this one” said Kesler following the loss, “I can’t put it into words right now.” He gave it everything he had but it wasn’t enough. The whole team did.

Related: Why Isn’t Anyone Worried About Ryan Kesler

Roberto Luongo has had to battle through so much. Mentally he must be drained. His psyche must be like one of those flipped, flaming cars on Robson Street.

Justifiably he has been berated by the media and toyed with by the fans. A Stanley Cup would have shut them all up. Now it’s another long year of having to answer question after question about his mental toughness and ability to come up clutch.

He’s thinking of giving Lebron a call for some advice.

For a guy whose psyche is as delicate as a newborn baby, Roberto Luongo is going to have trouble shrugging this one off. His continual inability to play well on the road, the more overpaid by the day 12 year contract, a red sea parted five hole and the cardboard blocker he tries to pass off as a glove on his left hand all add up to one messed up goalie. This coming after new goalie coach Rollie Melanson completely remodelled his game prior to the season.

3 words: 11 more years.

Related: Roberto Luongo the Ex-Factor

More bad news for the Canucks comes from the thought that 3 of their top 6 defensemen are coming off the books in the summer. Kevin Bieksa, Christian Ehrhoff, and Sami Salo have expiring contracts. With no way to sign all 3, the Canucks will have to find a way to compensate in that regard. The fantastic play of rookie Chris Tanev is a good start.

If the Chicago Blackhawks are any indication of what lies ahead, the Canucks should be worried. Although the Blackhawks roster was decimated, it was apparent during their round 1 series with Vancouver that they weren’t playing with their hearts fully committed during the regular season. This was a team that underachieved greatly but had the talent and ability to turn their play up when the season was on the line.

The core of their roster stayed intact, which gave them arguably the best team in the Western Conference. They couldn’t muster up enough for the regular season though. The toll their championship run had taken on them was too drastic to overcome.

Vancouver will likely be seeing much of the same next year.

The Canucks have the team to contend next year, at least on paper they do. This is their small crack in the window of opportunity. In spite of that, nothing can make up or account for the roller-coaster that the team has gone through this year. The roller-coaster that will ultimately lead to the team’s downfall next season.

In theory, being that close to winning a championship should motivate them more. In practice, the thought of retribution won’t be enough to toil through the grind of another deep run into a 2nd consecutive Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Related: Trip Back in Time Killing Canucks

Agree? Disagree? If you have any questions, comments, suggestions, please feel free to reply in the comments section below. Or you can e-mail me at cross_can15@hotmail.com. Also, follow me on twitter @paintstheblack and I will gladly return the favour.

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Questions, comments, suggestions? Send yours to cross_can15@hotmail.com. Follow me on twitter @paintstheblack

13 Responses to One and Done

  1. BackCheck says:

    Once again we witnessed that the best team in the NHL by virtually all statistical and tangible measures is not the best team when the intangible and human factors are added to the mix.

    You Nucks fans aren’t alone. My Ducks also came within one game of drinking from the Cup in 2003, missed the play-goofs, rebuilt the blueline around Scot Niedermayer and went to the WCF. Added Pronger and won the Cup.

    You guys will raise the Cup.

  2. I should begin by saying, I married into hockey. My husband is a life-long Bruins fan and me? A Puerto Rican girl that had never seen snow until a short 10 years ago and thought hockey was just played by crazed men.

    My husband taught me the game, took me to watch it locally and we have been fortunate enough to actually attend a few Bruins games at the Garden. I learned the game, its rules, its beauty and became a rabid Bruin fan. On Wednesday night, I lost it. While I B-lieved, I knew the Canucks would give us a run for our money, I knew they were the superior team. I also knew my guys wouldn’t give up, we may lack start power forwards like a Sedin or an Ovechkin, but those guys have heart and a will to succeed.

    Though there were an amazing amount of questionable calls, and non-calls, I think we can agree that it all came down to one game and the rightful team won.

    I cheered for the Canucks all through the Western Playoffs, how could I not, and will cheer for them again when they make the playoffs next season. You will hold that Cup, Canucks. I’m certain you will.

  3. joebeans2002 says:

    I agree fully on Kesler, best player on the team and the one they should be building around. Not the twins or Burrows. Burrows is just not very good. he compares nicely with a lot of 3 or 4th line players around the league. The twins should be gone. If you want to build a championship team and the refs disappear, then perhaps adding some players that won’t disappear under those circumstances would be appropriate. The Bruins matched up very well on forward with the canucks. Maybe no leading scorer, but their depth is way better and I’ll take 4 decent lines over 2 good ones any day. And no toughness up there either. where is their Marchand or Lucic? It sure isn’t Burrows. The biggest issue was defence. Salo, Erhoff and Bieksa could be gone. i would have to say an easy goodbye to the first 2. The Canucks need a number 1, go to guy like Chara or kaberle. They don’t have one, although Bieksa shows potential. If they trade the Twins for a decent 2nd line centre and a number 1 defenceman then they will solidify a run for next year. You can’t win without that guy. Duncan Keith almost beat them by himself this year. Salo and erhoff would not be missed at all. As backcheck says, the Ducks built around Neidermeyer and added Pronger when they won, and the canucks tried to win with a top 6 that didn’t have a top 2, let alone top 4. And in goal, Thomas won that round, obviously, but Luongo is ok. Maybe playing Schneider a bit more during the season would help. All that Roberto did was play himself off Team Canada as the number 1 (stakes to high to gamble on which guy shows up) but will be a solid number 1 for many years in vancouver.

  4. Good point about next year, the core depth is definitely there. It was troubling how quickly our scoring disappeared during the Finals. Luongo has become the ultimate trick-or-treat goaltender and I am unsure if we can survive 11 more years with him. The team will be back in the Cup, but needs to gain the grittiness that has long been missing from their squad. They tried to gain it during this playoff run through chippy play – all it did was make the entire league hate us. We have to learn to fight through, and the Sedins have to learn to rise in the playoffs, not peak in the regular season. Hopefully they can next year. Overall, very disappointed at the loss but hopeful we can come back…maybe without Keith Ballard albatrossing our defensive corps / more proven scoring depth.

  5. huffygirl says:

    Historically, Canadian teams have dominated the cup, so I’m sure the Canucks will be back, probably with vengence. Although, playing with vengence does not always bring the win -sometimes it backfires.

    On another note, Vancouverites dissapointed the world with their post game riot, bahavior that unfortunately is often reserved for American fans. (we’re not proud of our people when they behave that way either.)

  6. Reg says:

    Good read Chris, it certainly will be a long, hard road back to this point again for this team, emotionally and physically. And while they might not make it to the Finals or even the Conference Finals next season, the team is set up for protracted period of elite team status and there’s certainly no reason to panic.

    If Samuelsson, Higgins, Kesler, Raymond, Hamhuis, Ehrhoff, Edler, Malhotra and Henrik are all operating at even 75% at the same time, this team is drastically different and that impacts Roberto’s goaltending as well — because even in those losses, it’s not as if the Canucks were likely to win 0-0.

    I think Ehrhoff and Bieksa both return, Ballard gets moved/dumped, and two of Higgins, Lapierre, Torres and Hansen return. Hodgson has to have a permanent role on this team next season. Gonna be an exciting off-season.

  7. cupcrazy12 says:

    The Canucks will make it back eventually, but the stigma of never being able to win the big one will be with them for years to come until they are able to finally hoist the Cup. The Bruins outplayed them in almost every game of the series and I don’t think it is quite fair to be laying in on the refs in the games. You wouldnt want to make a Stanley Cup game a whistle blowing affair with 100+ penalty mins. When you break down the head to head match up, it was the grit of the Bruins that won them the Stanley Cup. Thomas outplayed Luongo, Lucic, Marchand, Ryder, Kreji outplayed the Sedins, Kessler, and Raymond. It came down to heart, and that was exactly what the Canucks were missing in game seven.

    If anyone wants to check out my blog and wage their opinion on game seven feel free!

    http://cupcrazy12.wordpress.com/2011/06/17/bruins-bring-cup-back-to-boston/

    • Drew Bay says:

      Yes, it’s a sad sad time for us Canuck fans. It almost seems inevitable these days that there will be a Cup Finals hangover. Who knows how well we could have done if we were fully healthy… but then again, I don’t think having a full-health (and adding Samuelsson, Raymond, Rome and Hamhuis) team would have been the remedy to beat Thomas. We weren’t going to magically score that many more goals. The bottom line is the Bruin’s D is incredibly solid, very rarely were there second and third chances being afforded, and they were much more responsible and alert in their own end. Plain and simple.
      We are playing bridesmaid again to a deserving team, but I truly hope that we will make it back again soon. There is so much to like about this team and key parts in place as you mentioned, but there’s just that one missing OOMPH or x-factor that we need to get over the top. On to free agency or a trade….

  8. topshelfbk says:

    Nice blog post Chris. It’s a so-close-yet-so-far situation for the Canucks. On the one hand, they might be able to do what the Penguins did – they went the limit with the Wings and came back to win the next year. But they just looked like a shattered team in game seven – they had no fight left in them. And how does Roberto Luongo come back from that performance – blowing it completely in four out of seven games in the final. The other positive is to look at the Bruins though. They were destroyed by that loss to Philadelphia last year but they managed to pull themselves back together and I think actually use that as a motivating factor. So we’ll see.
    If anyone is interested in a Habs-centric blog, please check out Top Shelf With BK, penned by my son Keane and I, at http://topshelfwithbk.wordpress.com/.
    Brendan Kelly

  9. Nice post Chris. I don’t agree that it’ll be that long for the Canucks to raise the cup, but the Game 7 loss was demoralizing to say the least. I’ll have some reaction that’s a few days late, I’ve been busy and I’ll have it up today or tomorrow.

  10. Jeff Sabo says:

    Chris,

    I agree that Kesler is a player they should be build the team around. He was consistent in the playoffs, created opportunities and didn’t go through scoring or offensive droughts like the Sedin twins did. Kesler is a great overall player and can do a lot if given the right cast to work with.

    It is interesting to hear you say that the Canucks were physically beat up, however, last season was a bit different with the Olympics. Many of the teams like Buffalo, Pittsburgh, Detroit and San Jose struggled last year in the playoffs because many of the players were even more worn out from an 82 game season and a tough Olympic schedule. It added more games then usual to the schedule and a lot of players did mention that by the time the NHL playoffs started, they were worn out. With no Olympics this year, the Canucks played the regular season and playoffs like any other team in the league and didn’t have to win multiple game sevens like the Bruins did.

    Something that will be interesting is the long contract that Luongo has. A lot of teams that have signed players to longer deals like this tend to end up getting stuck later on. Rumors have been flying that the Flyers might be interested in dealing away Jeff Carter and his multi-year deal, the Islanders are stuck in a 15-year deal with goaltender Rick Dipietro and the Devils have a 15-year contract for Ilya Kovalchuk. Signing a player to that long of a deal makes it very difficult to deal away if the player is not producing or changes need to be made to the roster.

    Jeff

  11. Pingback: Bruins win Game 7, win Stanley Cup title | thenewsofsports

  12. cordaro9418 says:

    Let’s look at it this way… on paper the Boston Bruins never should have won the Stanley Cup. Hell, they never should have made it to the finals. On paper, the Bruins couldn’t match up against the star-studded teams of Philly or Tampa, never mind the elite Canucks. In terms of star-power, the Bruins have Big Z and to an extent Timmy ‘The Tank’ Thomas. That’s it. We didn’t even have our top Center in Marc Savard. No one around the league ever says “Wow, they have Patrice Bergeron” or “Milan Lucic is gonna’ be a huge factor’… nope, the Bruins are built on Cam Neely…. and those like him. Big guys and little guys who will destroy all in their path, including themselves at times, to win.

    Montreal was a grind. Philadelphia was a grudge match, only the Flyers didn’t know it. Tampa rested on the greatest Game 7 in Conference Finals history. Vancouver, well they may have done themselves a great disservice by believing their own press going into Game 7… No home team had lost in the series… No team had comeback from down 0-2 to win… Vancouver also made several mistakes in poking the caged Bear with a stick. The Burrows biting incident was bad enough, and he scoring two goals in a game he should have been sitting out was worse… but Laperriere’s ‘biting’ taunts got the Bears pissed. Being pissed combined with the loss of Horton early in Game 3 simply cemented the B’s home ice advantage. Roberto’s mouth and his remarks towards Tim Thomas building the Games 6 momentum was what sealed their fate. Thomas, the only steady and consistent force on the team was now locked in. Period. In games 1,2 and 5 the Bruins were their own worst enemy, falling back on the same weaknesses that dragged out through the Tampa series. In games 3 and 4, they were just too tough for the finesse of the Canucks to tackle, nevermind the 7th player in the crowd. Games 6 and 7? Sorry, that was a combination of grit, determination, and Tim F^&kin’ Thomas.

    When The Sedins were running around waiting for the refs to officate penalties… it simply showed they hadn’t recognized the difference between the regular season whistle, the playoff whistle and the Stanley Cup whistle. As the team leaders, they allowed Alex Burrows to bite, taunt, cheapshot and dive… and the officials, after the intial replays of the bite, felt shown-up and a bit stupid. Burrows was done in their eyes and couldn’t get a call to save his life. Laperriere jumped a bit too soon on the taunting bandwagon and fell into the same trap. The officals did what they should have… they let the players and coaches dictate the most coveted prize in sports. When Brad Marchand was breaking sticks and getting loud, he was told without hesitation “Knock your sh!t off, you’re a distraction to the team…” and even in Game 7, as he returned the fans taunting knocks on the glass following his second goal, Mark Recchi reminded him “That’s not what it’s about.” Who did that for Vancouver? Ask Marty McSorley why he has a few rings. Cause of his talent? No, because he enforced the talent. Bodyguard to Gretzky, Messier, Super Mario… who is bodyguard to the Sedins? Raffi Torres?

    Sure, several players for Vancouver played hurt. It’s the Stanley Cup Finals! If you aren’t playing hurt, you must be a healthy scratch. Fingers? Ribs? Feet? Get a massive concussion or compressed spine and you have a reason to sit in the owners box. Malhotra gets all the props in the world for screwing down a full face shield and suiting up. It’s Lord Stanley’s Cup and that’s more than enough.

    Three Game 7’s to win the cup. Sorry Vancouver, but there are no excuses. You were the Best of the West and lost to the Beast of the East. Is it what you wanted? No. But there’s nothing to be ashamed of. Yes, you’re built for the Cup and built for it longterm. You have a load of talent… tired or no, they didn’t perform to the best of their ability in their first real test. While Boston most likely won’t be back in the Finals next year (Pittsburgh will be re-stocked and with Crosby), you guys have more than a chance.

    Just because teams like Hartford/Carolina, Tampa Bay, Dallas and Quebec/Colorado won the Cup before you ever did… no need to panic.. or riot. You’ll get it. The 2012 realignment might be right up your alley.

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