With their loss to the Edmonton Oilers, the Canucks are out of the playoffs. Maybe the Sedin twins can make a foursome with Roloson and Hemsky and hit the links.
James said it best the other day: “the current crop of Canucks are like middling students–they just do enough to get by”.That ‘just enough’, unfortunately, wasn’t enough to get them into the playoffs. Who or what is to blame? I’m only a semi-serious fan and I only watched the last twenty games this season, but here’s what I figure:
- Markus Naslund – If you’re earning $6 million, you’d better lead the team in a category other than Handsomest Swede. His 25 goals and 30 assists weren’t nearly enough. His -4 in +/- doesn’t look good either. This is more speculative, but I never liked Naslund as team captain. He seems to lack the intensity that captains of more successful teams seem to have. He seems to shy away from contact, and he’s not exactly renowned for his back-check.
- Lack of scoring – The team has only three 20-goal scorers, and Daniel Sedin led the team with 29. They lost too many games 2-1 or 3-2. Would a major deadline deal have made a difference? I’m not sure, but I wish they’d rolled the dice.
- Injuries – The team lost a lot of man-games to injury, and their defence was decimated for most of the season. A couple of playoff-bound teams have lost more, but it was certainly a factor.
- Tough division – The Northwest division is the most competitive in the NHL. Teams play 32 games against their divisional opponents, and none of them are easy for the Canucks. Unfortunately, that’s not going to change.
Is there reason to be hopeful for next season? Hard to say, but here’s what I like about the team:
- The Sedins – They seem to have plateaued at good instead of great, but they’re very effective and scoring at nearly a point-a-game.
- Ryan Kesler – Teams kill for this kind of two-way, fleet-footed player who can hit, kill penalties and score 20 goals a season.
- Roberto Luongo – Still under contract. Huzzah.
- A Promising Youth Movement – Edler, Bourdon, Burrows Raymond and Shannon look reasonably ready for regular NHL duty. I don’t know how close Grabner, Schneider and Hansen are, but I can’t remember the last time the Canucks had so many promising young players in their system. I like GM Dave Nonis should move some young assets for scoring help over the summer.
- $9 Million To Spend – The team will hopefully bid farewell to Naslund and Brendan Morrison. That frees up some cash to go after some free agents.
- A New Captain – The team needs a change of attitude. With Naslund leaving, I hope they hand the ‘C’ to Willie Mitchell.
What team will I be cheering for in the post-season now that Vancouver is out of the running? I cheer for Canadian teams first, and Calgary last among the Canadian teams. So, then, go, Sens, go.
UPDATE: James Mirtle has a thoughtful and, to my mind, accurate review of the Canucks’ middling season. Best quote: “They couldn’t score last year Ã¢â‚¬â€ at home, on the road, during the season, in the playoffs, not in a box, not with a fox.”
UPDATE #2: Washington, now there’s a team with character. They’ve gone 9-1 in the last ten games to demand a spot in the post-season. They still need some help to get in, but I hope they make it. They deserve it, and I want to watch Ovechkin tear things up.