5 Missing Pieces Keeping the Vancouver Canucks from Being a Contender
If the Vancouver Canucks have learned anything over the past two years, it's that they do not have the right pieces to contend for the Stanley Cup.
They've seen themselves outscored, out-defended, out-goaltended and, well, out-competed on every possible level.
They could be in a worse position, however, as just a few changes to the team could instantly revitalize their Cup hopes. They're still a strong team. They still compete in the regular season. They just need to figure out what's holding them back in the postseason.
5. Size and Determination
The Canucks lack that player who will stop at nothing to make the play, who will stand up to anyone to protect his team. They aren't small by any means, nor are they weak, but there's still something missing here.
Take a look at the Boston Bruins and Los Angeles Kings for example (both of whom went through the Canucks en route to the Stanley Cup, and both in their respective conference finals right now). Milan Lucic and Dustin Brown are perfect examples of what the Canucks lack. They hit, they get hit, they fight and they score. And they won't stop doing so until the choice is no longer theirs.
The only player the Canucks have who even closely resembles the level these two play at is Ryan Kesler, but his injury-prone history and size disadvantage (in comparison to those noted above and players similar) limits the true role he can play.
As much as I hate to say it, the Canucks need their Milan Lucic.
4. No. 1 Goaltender
Vancouver needs a No. 1 goalie. No more, and certainly no less.
There isn't a problem in net for the Canucks; in fact, they have one of the best goaltending tandems in the NHL. But a tandem doesn't pay off when it comes along with this much scrutiny and this much uncertainty.
The team, the fans and the media need a definite starter. Until that happens, it will not only be a distraction, but also an unnecessary chunk of payroll handcuffing a team with little space to work with.
3. New Coach
I was never a fan of the limited opportunity Alain Vigneault provided Cory Schneider and Keith Ballard, nor his dealings with the media—but I never considered him a "bad coach."
But when you continually lose in the playoffs when entering them as one of the best in the league, all with the same coach behind the bench, it's time for a new face. His apparent inability to control his team's discipline during the 2013 playoffs and the subsequent first-round loss was just the final straw.
With Vigneault already relieved of his duties, we know that change is coming. Whether the new face is that of Lindy Ruff, Dave Tippett or another candidate remains to be seen.
2. Willing GM
Over the years, the Canucks have wound up with some overpaid players on the roster (Keith Ballard, David Booth and Roberto Luongo to be specific).
It is a common view that these players need to be traded. If they can't be traded, they need to be bought out. According to Capgeek, the Canucks have $47,222 in cap space (the second lowest in the league) for next season despite numerous free agents that need to be dealt with.
The Canucks are now in a desperate position with little to no bargaining power. Mike Gillis has failed to rid the Canucks of these contracts in the past, and it'll only get harder.
The Canucks need a new GM to call the shots if they're going to put an end to this downward spiral.
1. Clutch Scoring
2.00 goals per game against the San Jose Sharks in 2013.
1.60 goals per game against the Los Angeles Kings in 2012.
1.14 goals per game against the Boston Bruins in 2011.
The offensive stats in the Canucks' past three playoff series are bleak. They produce in the regular season but become flat-footed as soon as the 82nd game wraps up.
Every successful team has that player who scores the big goal at the right time. Until the Canucks do, they will not find success in the playoffs.
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