23 May 2010
A whole playoff series later and the Blackhawks leave another team questioning their team makeup. This time they just out-hustled the Sharks and surprisingly swept the series.
Does the sweep of the Sharks make me feel any less disappointed about the Canucks' loss to the Blackhawks? No not really, but I think it's about time that I get around to give my thoughts on the team that was.
In the summer, Mike Gillis will have some interesting choices to make with Demitra, Mitchell, Johnson, Wellwood and Raycroft being some of the UFA's on the Canuck roster. There's also a plethora of RFA's as well, like Raymond, Hansen, O'Brien, Rome and Schneider to name a few. But this team that we had this year had what people thought of as the make up of a team that could have gone all the way, so what happened?
After the jump I go through the car crash that was the Canucks in the playoffs...
The team already had troubles coming out of the gate against the Kings in the first round. Luongo struggled, Alberts took dumb penalties and the team had trouble on their PK. Somehow (well partially due to the collapse of Quick) the Canucks were able to make it out of the first round. The team started fresh and looked forwards to a rematch against last year's playoff ender the Chicago Blackhawks.
There was much to be desired from our goaltender who made 7.5 million dollars this season. That's 7.5 million dollars for some seriously flaky goaltending. It hurts a Canuck fan knowing how much money we have committed to Luongo in his new contract, it hurts more to see unknown goalies shine in this playoffs (Niemi, Leighton, Halak). Now I'm not saying that the contract is bad in the long terms, because 1. Do you remember the Cloutier days? 2. All these negative remarks about his contract will be erased if he wins a Stanley Cup in the next few years, but based on this season, his goaltending collapses in the playoffs were a detriment to the Canucks
Coming in to the series against the Hawks, Gray over at Couch Tarts said something to the effect of:
"If you consider Christian Ehrhoff as the top defenseman on your defense, how do you expect to win?"
And she was completely right. Vancouver considered Ehrhoff our top defenseman, but not to say he isn't a great player, but compare him to Duncan Keith or Brent Seabrook, or Brian Campbell and he just doesn't compare. No one expected Willie Mitchell to be out for the rest of the season, but the serires showed some glaring holes in the make up of the Canucks' blue line
The defence had its moments, like Shane O'Brien playing some of the best hockey he's played for Vancouver, but as a whole our defence didn't match up. Alberts played better in the 2nd round than the 1st, but he clearly couldn't handle the offensive talent of the Blackhawks if a line mismatch occurred.
The strength of the Canucks should have been two strong lines capable of scoring and those two lines weren't able to score with consistency in this series. That being said, I don't find as much wrong with the offense of the Canucks this year as I do with their collapse in defence or goaltending.
Going forwards would I want to stick with the same group? No, there will have to be changes. The failed experience of former-client Demitra is thankfully over and with the emergence of Grabner and the potential of Hodgson or Schroeder playing next year, there will need to be some changes. Do you re-sign Wellwood? Try to trade away Bernier? (for anything really), re-sign Mason Raymond? Or use Raymond in some sort of trade package for a forward or defenceman.
AV may be one of the few coaches that has been with the same team for as long as he has, but in both series' he looked like he was being outcoached. In the Blackhawks series, it was like deja vu. You would think that he would have learned from the mistakes of last year but him and his coaching staff looked inferier to the coaching staff of the opposition.
In the end, we're just left with disappointment for a playoff run that could have been. Let's just hope that next year, if we see the Blackhawks in the 2nd round again, we'll have learnt from our mistakes we've made this year. It will be an interesting summer for Gillis with regards to the RFA's he has and which UFA's he goes after.
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