Who's to Blame for Vancouver Canucks' Disastrous Postseason?
The run to the Stanley Cup Finals from two years ago must seem like a distant, dead memory for members of the Canucks right now. This is the first time Vancouver has ever been swept and the second straight year that they've been overpowered by a lower seed in the quarterfinals.
This is a team that has had Stanley Cup aspirations for several years now. The Sedin Twins have been in town since 2000, and the squad has only improved since then—at least on paper.
The Canucks now have a long flight back to Vancouver to think about where to go from here. This was a case of yet another great regular season, only to be vanquished by a stronger and faster foe in the first round.
Someone has to take the blame, and there's plenty to go around in Vancouver.
Vancouver's Penalty-Killing Unit
Vancouver's penalty-killing unit went through the first three games of this series yielding a meek 76.5 percentage.
They knew this was something that they needed to fix if they were going to have any chance of climbing out of the three-game hole they'd played themselves into. Then they gave up three goals to the potent power play of San Jose in the decisive Game 4.
Joe Pavelski scored twice with the extra man, and the final dagger to the heart of Vancouver's 2013 season came from Patrick Marleau while—you guessed it—on the power play.
The fact that it was guys like the Sedin twins heading off just makes matters worse for the Canucks. These were veterans taking bad penalties at inopportune times, and it quite literally cost Vancouver the series.
The Sedin Twins
Daniel and Henrik Sedin are the offensive motors of this hockey team. Wherever they go, the Canucks will follow—they flat-out were not good enough in this series. San Jose's top dogs outworked them and outscored them, leaving the Vancouver flat on its backs and looking everywhere for offense in this series.
If the top guys are scoring and the depth players are leaving them out to dry with no support, that's one thing. But when your franchise cornerstones fail to produce and end up on the negative side of the ledger more often than not, then there's a problem.
The Canucks bowed out of the playoffs with the (tied for) second-worst goals for per game—a pathetic 1.67 goals-for is not going to win in the preseason, much less during the Stanley Cup playoffs.
Some points were there, sure. Yet, if the Sedins weren't trying to cycle down low and getting knocked off the puck, then it didn't seem like their names were being announced all that often while Vancouver was in the offensive zone.
When the Vancouver Canucks traded for Derek Roy at the deadline, they had a very specific goal in mind: to replace Ryan Kesler in the short-term and to create outstanding scoring depth heading toward the playoffs.
Kesler returned, and Roy bounced from line to line, never becoming a factor in the series against the Sharks.
There weren't unrealistic expectations placed on Roy. He needed to win some faceoffs and help score a few goals to help prop up the Sedin twins and Kesler. Even the most modest ideas of what Roy could do in Vancouver never came to fruition, as he posted just one assist through three playoff games and finished with an abysmal .353 faceoff-winning percentage.
That isn't the kind of production the Canucks were looking for when they traded a second-round draft pick and prospect Kevin Connauton at the deadline.
The Cory Schneider/Roberto Luongo Circus
The soap opera that has been Vancouver's goaltending situation received a fitting end when the Canucks were swept out of the playoffs in Round 1. While the duo has handled the delicate situation admirably, it still undoubtedly became a distraction during the playoffs.
Before every game, there was the "will they, won't they" drama about who the Canucks would start in net.
Roberto Luongo played well in the first two games of the series, despite not getting the "V" in either contest. Luongo dropped Game 2 in OT just like Schneider dropped Game 4 in OT—obviously winning both of those games in extra time would have changed the outcome of this series dramatically.
So what happens when you have $10 million worth of netminders on the payroll, neither of whom seems able to win in big games?
That could be the big question in Vancouver over the summer. That and who will replace coach Alain Vigneault.
Alain Vigneault is going to be fine no matter what happens to him in Vancouver. They could very well decide to keep him around for one more go-around, but time is running out for the Canucks. The Sedin twins will turn 33 before next season, and several other key components of this team are aging as well.
Ryan Kesler is only 28 now, but his recent injury history may "age him" a bit. Hockey is a young man's game, and a 30-year-old with a banged up body can't always hold his weight against healthy 22-year-olds.
That's just life in the cap era.
The Canucks only have a certain number of legitimate shots at winning a Cup before they have to enter a small rebuild. Nothing the likes of which they'll see in Calgary with the Flames—something more along the lines of what the Detroit Red Wings are doing right now.
The time may have finally come for a new voice in the locker room. Vigneault has been coaching the Canucks for almost seven years, and his squads have seen much regular-season success, but they've come up too short too often in the playoffs.