Date Posted: June 25, 2011
Print Edition: June 24, 2011
It wouldn’t be fair to call it a failure of a season, after winning the President’s trophy and falling just one place short of first in the most grueling postseason imaginable. Yet one can’t help but wonder what could have been and what exactly went wrong with the team just one win away from the ultimate prize. For longtime fans it was like watching the greatest movie with the bitterest of endings. From controversy to injury, the final round didn’t go the way anyone hoped, but maybe these are the lessons this group needed to learn for another shot next year.
When the Canucks managed to move past all kinds of injuries all year long, it was easy to pretend the injury to Dan Hamhuis was less dire than our initial nightmares suggested. When they managed a 2-0 series lead, though, it seemed like the Canucks had dodged a bullet. But perhaps that was the biggest reason the Canucks began to crumble. Not only did it throw off the team’s number one shutdown pairing, it forced a complete re-matching of defense pairings from top to bottom. Christian Ehrhoff was even forced to play on his off-side. When you account for the loss of Aaron Rome to boot, it’s no surprise that things began to go awry.
For a team like Vancouver, a strong defence is everything. Consider how important it was to have scoring from defencemen in the third round – that valuable asset entirely dried up in the Finals. The shift left the whole team searching for some cohesion, some chemistry, but it was too late, and the best the team could hope for was one more grinder win – but it just was not to be.
Perhaps the fact that the rest of the team was also burdened with some pretty serious injuries had to do with that as well. No one on the team is going to make that excuse, but the increasingly physical play at the end of a hard-fought season wore the team down to the bone. We made it as close as we could have gotten without winning the Cup, and we paid every price for it. Mason Raymond literally broke his back when he put it all on the line.
Those injuries were partly bad luck, of course, but Mike Gillis must have a pretty good idea of what more his team needs if it is going to top it’s performance this year. That is, if he can manage to keep the core of the team intact with the impending raises that many on the team deserve. That isn’t to mention the possibility of other teams being better next year, which is a major possibility, especially considering how much of the season Sidney Crosby missed last year.
When looking back at this run in a couple years, I hope what stands out is more than the rioting and the misguided blame cast on Roberto Luongo. The enormous crowds in downtown Vancouver were incredibly well-behaved win-or-lose for every single game except the last one. The street parties after game two and six were as unforgettable as the girls in Canucks body paint. The celebration after defeating the Sharks was also incredible, and if fans would remember, it was Roberto Luongo who made all of that possible with some of the best goaltending this city has ever seen. When looking back at this run in a couple years, I hope fans will remember just how much fun it really was. And who knows, we might not have to wait 17 years for another chance.