Monday, July 28th, 2014

With a Thud

4

The season ends with a whimper for teams that miss the playoffs. For those teams that do play in the postseason, it ends with a thud for all but the champion. So it was on Tuesday night for the Canucks and their fans. A thud, then emptiness, then recriminations.

I do much better dealing with the thud and the emptiness than with the postmortems that inevitably end with the conclusion that the Canucks are not good enough, and never will be good enough. In the words of Ed Willes, “This team’s biggest sin appears to be that they are good, not great.” In my books, that’s not much of a sin.

They lost to a better team, but the Hawks aren’t that much better, and Gary Bettman’s CBA is going to drag them backwards next season. It does that to every very good team (I don’t think “great” is possible in the Gary Bettman Hockey League) and next year is Chicago’s turn. The Canucks needed better performances and better health and better luck. If there is any consolation to the thud this year, it is that had the team managed to survive Chicago, they were not going anywhere without Mitchell, Edler and Salo. The Canucks needed all hands on deck and they needed all players at the top of their game.

They had neither. End of story. The same thing will be true next year no matter what Gillis does this summer. They will be a good team that needs great performances, good health and good luck to do better than this year. Why is that so hard to accept? It is the same for every good team. The good news is that they probably won’t be any worse than they were this year, again no matter what Gillis does this summer.

And a season that ends with a thud is a lot better than a season that ends with a whimper.

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Comments

4 Responses to “With a Thud”
  1. headspacej says:

    Well said. Fan expectations seemed awfully high going into the playoffs — downplaying the loss of Mitchell, overestimating the potential impact of the middle-six forwards, and believing in Luongo’s resurrection. As disappointing as this loss was, the season has to be seen as successful…at least more successful than 20+ other teams, which is really all you can ask of any team these days.

    In both rounds, team defense was shaky, both from the D-corps and forwards (and goaltending at times). Chicago’s checkers and top-4 D helped their goalie look good — Vancouver’s did not. Guys like Versteeg, Byfuglien, Ladd and Bolland were a pain to play against and chipped in with some offense. I don’t know if it’s because of Burrows’ and Kesler’s transformation into scorers, but the Canucks forwards got pushed around and seemed ineffective in checking roles. Luongo and the D needed more support than they got.

    Of course having better D would have made that deficiency less glaring. Playing the what-if game probably isn’t productive, but I wonder how things might have been different if Mitchell had come back in the first round and Lukowich hadn’t been hurt (solid stay-at-home guy, looked good in pre-season, previous cup winner), or even if they could have appeased M.Schneider and found a role for him as the season progressed. In training camp, the team had too many D, but somehow ended up with O’Brien playing 22 minutes in the last game of the year. That doesn’t let Gillis off the hook entirely, but makes you wonder what he might have done differently — picked up a better D-man than Alberts at the deadline?

  2. James Mirtle says:

    Good, not great is how it always seems Vancouver’s teams are. Maybe it’s just because I watched those teams so closely, but they still remind me of the WCE years with Naslund, Bertuzzi and Morrison.

    Losing Mitchell was huge, and I don’t know if Gillis could have adequately replaced him. What surprised me was that it didn’t seem like he made a real effort to do so.

  3. Tom says:

    Good, not great is how it always seems Vancouver’s teams are.

    Your youth is showing. For most of their history, the Canucks were shitty, not mediocre. The first really good team they had was the Bure-Linden-Mclean Canucks. After a few years of being good but not great, McCaw lost patience. The result? The team reverted to shitty, not mediocre for several years.

    Since Burke rebuilt the team, they have been good, not great. There is no clear way to improve to great. (Unless of course, they get lucky and win with the same core. They will then be redefined as great.) The alternative – radical surgery to alter the core – is far more likely to produce shitty, not mediocre rather than good, not great. Under this CBA, consistently above average is about all that can be accomplished. After that it is in the lap of the hockey gods.

    I don’t know if Gillis could have replaced Mitchell either. I don’t know how hard he tried.

  4. Dennis_Prouse says:

    I would argue that the Canucks had a two season window there in 2002-03 and 2003-04 where they had a legitimate shot at winning the Cup, back when players like Naslund, Bertuzzi, Morrison, and Jovanovski were at the height of their powers. Had they gotten past the Wild in ’03, I still believe they would have won it. That window, of course, snapped shut in March 2004 with the Bertuzzi suspension. The Canucks of that era reminded me of the Blues of about 1999 or so – tantalizingly close to winning it, but they missed their opportunity, and had to re-tool.

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