By Josh Martin, Sports Editor
Losing in five games in the first round of the playoffs to the eighth-seeded team in the Western Conference is unacceptable for a team that just won their second consecutive Presidents’ Trophy (as the team that finishes the regular season with the most points in the league). And the fact that the Los Angeles Kings were struggling to even make the playoffs doesn’t help the Canucks case, even if coach Alain Vigneault insists that any team that makes the playoffs is just as good as the top teams in the league. The bottom line is that the Canucks were expected to go far, especially with all of the experience they endured last year when they lost to the Boston Bruins in the Finals. For them to win just one measly game in the first round of the playoffs is a huge disappointment.
Generally speaking, the Canucks were flat out terrible. The only positives for the Canucks in the series were the goaltending, the fact that Daniel Sedin came back after suffering a nasty concussion on March 31, and the lack of a riot. Other than that, there was nothing even remotely impressive.
In the five games played the Canucks managed to score only eight goals. Yes, only eight times Canucks fans were allowed to cheer. It just doesn’t seem fair that, after 82 games of rooting for your home team in order to make the post-season, fans only got to watch five games with just eight goals scored. What a way to end the year.
Even if Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick seemed unstoppable, the shots that the Canucks were generating—before Daniel returned for games four and five—were mostly from the perimeter. They didn’t get those key scoring chances from the slot. They couldn’t even break through the defense, which played right into the hands of the stingy way that the Kings play. Quick was good, but he wasn’t tested nearly as much as he should have been.
The key guys for the Canucks that were supposed to step up just simply didn’t. Ryan Kesler forgot how to play hockey, Chris Higgins was virtually invisible, David Booth was more concerned about how quaffed his hair looked, and Alex Edler decided to switch majors into becoming a choke artist. They were lost.
And when Vigneault needed to come up big with a smart coaching decision to get his team going, he failed to do so. He never decided to put Maxim Lapierre back on the first line with Henrik and Alex Burrows at any point in the series, which was a go-to line that found instant chemistry when Daniel went down with his concussion. “Lappy” put up six points in his final seven games of the regular season, just over a third of his point total, which speaks volumes considering that he had 19 points in 82 games. He had one point in the five game series. Burrows had six points in his final five games of the regular season while Henrik had eight with that line combination. The fact that this line never even made an appearance in the playoffs, while Daniel was still out, remains to be a mystery.
The other huge gaffe in Coach V’s decision making was when Daniel came back for the final two games in the series. Not once did he lean on the Burrows-Henrik-Daniel line that has been the most productive Canuck line in the past several seasons. Instead he decided to go with Booth and the Sedins—a line combination that lacked in chemistry and was completely ineffective.
Yes, the playoffs were a car-wreck of a disaster for the Canucks. Everything that could have possibly went wrong did, and then some. And coming out of the post post-season depression brings up the simple question of what exactly went wrong?
Well, you could blame this all on the Duncan Keith hit on Daniel Sedin. The loss of our leading goal scorer and best player seems to be the most popular choice as to why the Canucks didn’t show up. However they were still struggling to find that secondary scoring even when Daniel was in the lineup. There’s no doubt about it that the loss of Daniel was a huge hit to the team, but it doesn’t seem like it was the one determining factor that ultimately worked against the Canucks.
No, it seems as though the loss of Cody Hodgson is the most logical reason as to what went wrong. Ever since his departure on February 27, the Canucks managed to score only 54 goals in their final 24 games in the season, including the playoffs. That’s an average of 2.25 goals a game, well below their 3.03 goals per game that they averaged in their 82 game season. Hodgson’s 16 goals and 17 assists were exactly why the Canucks were so good during the course of the year. That secondary scoring was essential to their success and without it, the pressure mounted on the Sedins’ shoulders to produce along with Kesler—who clearly cracked in the playoffs. His presence would have been huge for the series against LA, especially since goals were so hard to come by.
So why couldn’t GM Mike Gillis wait until the off-season to trade him?
“There clearly were issues that were ongoing,” Gillis said of Hodgson. “I spent more time on Cody’s issues than every other player combined on our team the last three years. “We made a determination that he didn’t want to be here, we built him into something we could move,” Gillis said. “There were six young players that I would have traded him for if any of them were ever made available. One was made available at the trade deadline and it was Zack.”
Yes, Zack Kassian who was a healthy scratch for the final game in the series and was averaging five minutes per game before that—a plausible choice to replace Hodgson.
With all of that said, let’s just say that this off-season there’s going to be a heck of a lot of changes, if the Canucks want to redeem themselves after an embarrassing early exit in the first round of the playoffs. PQ: The key guys for the Canucks that were supposed to step up just simply didn’t.