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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3rd Line’s The Charm

Dave Bolland may not be around to help the Blackhawks stop Art Ross winner Daniel Sedin.

If it looks like déjà vu, feels like déjà vu, and sounds like déjà vu then it must be déjà vu. Right?

In a match made in heaven for the mindless, the Vancouver Canucks will face their newfound arch nemesis Chicago Blackhawks in the first round of the 2011 Stanley Cup Playoffs. In case you don’t follow the NHL, the Blackhawks have ousted the Canucks from the playoffs in each of the last two years while giving Vancouver fans a new hobby.

As Vancouverites continue to poke pins and needles into their Patrick Kane dolls, there is also a growing sense of anxiety amongst fans as to the growing likelihood of a first round upset.

The hometown fan depiction of the Chicago Blackhawks as this Mount Everest-like hurdle, that once overcome will lead to our eventual playoff glory is preposterous. The Vancouver Canucks have lost a couple of years in a row to a couple of pretty damned good teams. A Stanley Cup winning team in fact.

At an attempt to be insightful, fans also carry on the notion that somehow the Blackhawks have “gotten in the heads” of the Canuck team, especially goalie Roberto Luongo.

“They’re in our heads.” “They have our number.” I hear it around town way too much.

As clever as it makes you sound, the thought that the Canuck team itself places the Blackhawks on this glorious pedestal as well is just silly.

Although the circumstances of the series may scream déjà vu, the Blackhawks roster of 2011 hardly resembles their Stanley Cup champion roster. Despite the more well-known core of players such as Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Marian Hossa, Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook still comprising a solid Chicago team, the immense depth that stymied the Vancouver Canucks last season is almost non-existent in the 2011 version of the Blackhawks.

The lack of depth in the salary cap pressed Chicago Blackhawk gives the Canucks a significant advantage that most likely will not be overcome by an otherwise talented group of Blackhawk players.

The key to last year’s series was the ability of the Blackhawks to shut down the vaunted Sedin twins. A combined effort from Chicago’s checking line did a magnificent job of stopping the Sedin’s and essentially Vancouver’s offence.

The problems will lie here for the Blackhawks. A number of important yet underrated checkers lost during the offseason including Andrew Ladd, Adam Burish, Ben Eager and John Madden will pose serious issues for the Blackhawks. Not to mention the questionable health of their most valuable checker, Dave Bolland, who is still out with a concussion.

Moreover, the Vancouver Canucks not only have the Sedin line to carry the offence this year but their increased production from the 2nd line, including 40 goal scorer Ryan Kesler, and improved depth in their bottom 6 will make the task that much more difficult for Chicago’s lack of an adequate checking bottom 6.

The key to this series is in the hands of the bottom 6 and primarily the 3rd lines of each respective team.

The advantage, as you have probably already determined, well that goes to the Canucks. Even though unfairly suspended Raffi Torres is out for the first two playoff games and one of the best faceoff men in the league Manny Malhotra is out for the season because of eye surgery, the Canucks still sport an incredible amount of depth. The deadline day acquisitions of Chris Higgins and Maxim Lapierre add to the plethora of possible bottom 6 candidates in the Vancouver line-up.

Vancouver’s 3rd line may hold the final key to victory but as I wrote in January, goaltender Roberto Luongo is going to need to step it up in order for the Canucks to make a serious playoff run. He has played brilliantly since Christmas but his weak playoff resume leaves much to be questioned from the franchise goaltender.

The supposed “in Luongo’s head” guy in Dustin Byfuglien has departed, which will leave no reason for fans other than choke if Roberto Luongo doesn’t continue to perform in the manner that he has for much of the season.

This fear from Canuck fans of the name and jersey of the Chicago Blackhawks does not reflect that nature of this sure to be passionate first round playoff matchup.

While the mirage of déjà vu in this series may not flee the minds of Vancouver fans, there is no doubt that a Canuck victory would be as satisfying as a cold glass of water in the middle of the Sahara.


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. I am now on twitter follow me @paintstheblack and I will gladly return the favour.

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