Ahh Vancouver Canucks, you don’t let me down…
…in letting me down. 14 years in a row now…I’ve followed and supported you all season just to see you crash and burn in the playoffs or right before. And, as I mentioned last post, I keep coming back for more.
At least when I was an Oilers fan things were black and white. See, with the Oilers there’s two ways to go: all the way, or straight to the golf course. There’s none of this kicking butt all season, getting everybody’s hopes up and then resting on your laurels in April and May. When the Oil makes the playoffs (at least over the past decade or so), people are pleasantly surprised, and when they go deep it’s an underdog miracle run. Not so the Canucks; we expect the Nucks to make the post season, and this year and last year in particular expected a deep run.
Let’s continue the Oiler reference for a bit (if rather thinly). Because being a Canucks fan is kind of like being a fan of an Oil company. They’re big and profitable and never stop selling product, yet at the end of the day, they apparently have no heart. They’re just this profit juggernaut, selling out their tickets consistently and winning just enough to keep the fans’ asses in the seats.
It took me a couple days to write this post, as I had to kind of digest the loss the other night. Then I was busy yesterday and just didn’t get the chance to write it. But a couple things I noticed this playoff run, short and ignoble as it was. First off, the players who I thought had consistent and unwavering heart and soul the whole playoffs were small in number. There was obviously Roberto Luongo, who deserves MVP for taking the underachieving Canucks as far as he did. Willie Mitchell took an absolute shit kicking and kept coming back for more, and in my opinion is the undisputed best back line defense man in hockey today. He seemed to play his heart out every game and thru pain to boot. He’s my vote for the next captain of the Canucks, and should be a team MVP runner up to Luongo. Yannick (Janick?) Hansen, the kid brought up from the minors…man this kid’s going to be a superstar. Where the heck has he been hiding? BoomBoom (Bieksa) played his heart out when he was healthy enough to get on the ice (except maybe one game where he seemed to be a bit sluggish). And finally the digger guys…Burrows in particular stood out for me, and so did my absolute least favorite Canuck, Jan Bulis (more about him later).
Linden was great in in 8 out of 11 games and average in the other 3. I’m a huge fan of Trevor Linden and his work ethic and his ability to keep that ethic as he’s moved from being a top scoring captain to a third and fourth line guy as he’s gotten older. Naslund was great in at least 4 or 5 games and seemed missing in the others. Brendan Morrison…well, I’ve gotten used to him being the Saturday Night Live of hockey (you know: he’s never been as good as he used to be…take the words I just typed very literally and you will get my meaning). The Sedin twins…seriously wtf happened there? You know, my opinion for coaches and GM’s is that if your superstars are sick during the playoffs, come out and say it for crying out loud. All this keeping it secret to play some kind of stupid mental game is…well…stupid. All you did was make everyone disappointed and pissed off at the twins.
Taylor Pyatt looked to be trying and failing miserably all of the last series…I just don’t know what was up with him. Where as the twins were kind of laid back and appeared lazy but still skilled (if ineffective), Pyatt appeared to work hard but have no ability. And Smolinski…oh my gosh he seemed awful to me all playoffs. A buddy of mine is a big fan of his, but all I noticed from Smokinski was missed opportunities, missed shots on open nets, and weak giveaways from the point. Brent Sopel is good when he’s good and atrocious when he’s bad. He was very consistent to his regular season play (ie whenever he gets the puck it will either result in a scoring chance for us, or one for the other team – seriously there isn’t a player in the NHL who I like who scares me as much when he has the puck… I cringe every time he has it in our end, and wait for the across ice pass to a team mate that gets intercepted or for the un-necessary flip over the boards for a penalty).
Kelly Hrudey and I are in complete agreement on Jan Bulis: this guy is a lazy, selfish player, and really does no one on the team any good. All season, I thought this guy was a gross underachiever and took way too many dumb penalties or whatever. Not so different from Todd Bertuzzi or even Ed Jovanoski (to bring up a couple fo former Nucks)…except…Bertuzzi and Jovo are superstar points makers and play makers. And frankly both of those guys are at heart team players who take their role as it’s assigned to them. Bulis…well he’s just an overpaid whiner who deserves nothing beyond the third or fourth line until he gets over himself and starts being a team guy. Having said all that, Bulis was awesome in the playoffs, and one of the few consistent hard workers on the Canucks. I kind of hope to see him continue this work ethic next season, but I fear that he’s going to be this era of the Canucks’ version of Glenn Anderson from the Gretzky era oilers…a lazy, underachieving, non team player until the playoffs when he breaks out of that and gives it 100%. I hated Anderson for that back in the day, and Bulis earns my ire now for the same thing.
Ok, so, after all that wordiness and opinion, the final game. Wow, that was an absolute disaster as far as the Canucks were concerned. It was downright embarrassing for the first 2.5 periods, and then just tragic after that. Thank goodness Luongo was so on fire, and I personally feel it’s only fitting that after keeping the team in the game for so long and being let down by the rest of the team, he lets in a weak goal for the loss. Seriously, if your goalie faces 48 shots in regulation (compared to the 20 or whatever you gave the opposition) in a playoff game where you’re down 3 games to 1, you really REALLY don’t belong to be there. Go home, work on your golf swing, cuz as a team you suck. If you’re that outplayed, the other guys are deserving of the series win. Not only that, but both goals the Ducks made on him were questionable from an officiating standpoint (especially the first one…that one was obvious goaltender interference) …in my mind he made 58 saves out of 58 valid shots and the other two should have been whistled down.
By the way…equipment malfunction? I’m going with plumbing issue. I will evermore call it “PooGate”. Good on Dany Sabourin tho, standing on his head like that for a few minutes.
So what now? Personally, much as I am and have been a huge fan of Marcus Naslund, I fear it’s time for him to pass the ‘C’ on to someone else. He’s just carried too much team baggage and bad times for too long. I’m just not sure who could wear it. There’s Willie Mitchell, but he’s a non scoring defenseman and they rarely get the C. Brendan Morrison doesn’t seem to be a real team leader, the twins are good but not leaders, Smolinski is average and the young guns are all…well…young guns. Just not team leader types yet(I’m speaking of Burrows, Green, Pyatt, Kesler etc) . And you know my opinion of Bulis. Goaltenders are never Captains cuz they can’t be going out talking to the refs at center ice after a whistle. So who could do it? Matt Cooke? Meh, he’s a third liner…maybe an ‘A’, but not the ‘C’. Sami Salo? Is he a leader?
Anyways, there’s a Saturday-afternoon-nothing-to-do-super-long-post on the greatest sport no one outside of Canada cares about, and my team’s place in it this year. Next year will be their year, I can feel it! I say that every year, mind you.