I have watched every single Canucks game from my laptop. I read the Vancouver papers and ESPN online. I often wonder if other Canuck fans and some journalists just don’t see what I see. The Canucks have played below the expectations of some but have actually reached their potential. I have 82 regular season games to back up my theory.
Let’s start with the division. The Northwest was weaker than expected this year, due to the fact the Flames imploded under Sutter. Colorado was a feisty club but they bouts of doubt during the year with the young crew. The Oilers and Wild were almost non-factors. The Canucks barely had .500 records against the Pacific and Central divisions.
The Canucks were two different teams, home and road. Second best home record in the league, versus 17th best on the road. At a professional level you would think that noise and cheering would not have that much of an effect. So that would mean that the system the coaching staff is running is flawed. Matching up lines is easy to do at home but without last line change it would seem Vigneault doesn’t have to a way to adjust, particularly on the road where they have a terrible 77% penalty kill. And their power play was also a paltry 18% on the road.
One of the biggest differences I saw all season, was when the Canucks won, their forwards were back checking and keeping opposing defensemen out of the play. When the forwards didn’t play that style, it was easy for the opposing forwards to pick up rebounds and feed it back to the point for clear shots.
Most of the columns in Vancouver talk about Luongo and his “poor” play this year or that the captaincy has distracted him. While his numbers were low for his career in Vancouver, I doubt there is a goalie who could replace him and give this team the stability it needs. Luongo is paying the price for standing on his head in seasons past. His numbers are great for a team that went “offensive” this year. His has been left on his own many times this year as the Canucks defense has jumped up into the play. Kind of reminds me of Grant Fuhr when the Oilers would be satisfied to let him face a few breakaways a night because they knew they could score more goals. The Canucks adopted that attitude this year. They would jump up in the first and second period…fall behind and then have to play catch up in the third. The Canucks would be stupid to trade Luongo and they have no one to replace him and there are few teams that have a goalie that could be a workhorse like him.
This series is something that G.M. Mike Gillis will have to look at over and over and decide if he wants a team that can just win the Northwest or a team that battle with Chicago and San Jose. Trade a prospect or a guy like Mason Raymond and get some defensive help. It could be argued that no Canucks defenseman would a top d-man on any other contender. Don’t sign any free agents over the age of 35. (the Messier debacle) Let Demitra go…..let Mitchell go. Mitchell was no better last year against the Hawks than Bieksa was this year. Go after some restricted free agents, like Joe Paveski. Be willing to trade Hodgson or Schneider if you are getting value in return.
And finally….I agree with Jeff O’Neil of CFOX. Change the music at GM place during the games. It has brought bad luck.