Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Season Review: Vancouver Canucks

Well, mow we're gearing toward the conference finals of the playoffs, we will be reviewing the seasons of teams as they're eliminated from the playoffs. Obviously, the last team reviewed will be the one that wins the Cup.

Now the last team to be eliminated from the Western Conference Semifinals: The Vancouver Canucks.

Season expectations: When you have the Sedin twins and one of the greatest goaltenders in Roberto Luongo; the expectations are pretty high. Mikael Samuelsson was brought on to provide some scoring while Ryan Kesler and Alexandre Burrows were poised to take larger roles with the team. Longtime defender Mattias Ohlund left during the off-season but with the emergence of Kevin Bieska and the acquisition of Christian Ehrhoff, the team looked to have a solid core of defenders. Though the team was noted for their two-way ability, they had toughness built throughout the roster and looked like they were one of the most complete teams to be put on the ice. Missing the playoffs would be unacceptable; these guys had the ingredients to be cup contenders.

My prediction: I predicted the team would be first in the Pacific Division and first overall in the Western Conference.

The truth: The team finished atop of the division and third overall in the conference. They made it to the Western Conference Semifinals where they were eliminated by the Chicago Blackhawks in six games.

What went right?: In case you didn't hear, Hendrik Sedin won the Art Ross Trophy as the league's top point-scorer with 112 points and this was with his brother Daniel out of the lineup for 19 games. Alexandre Burrows had a breakout season and lead the Canucks with goals scored with 35. Secondary scoring was prolific too, as Kesler put up 75 points and both Samuelsson and Mason Raymond put up 53 points; defenders Erhoff and Alexander Edler each broke the 40 point barrier for their team. There was no lack of toughness either, as five players broke 100 PIM for the season, with Darcy Hordichuk leading the way with 142. On the blue line, Sami Salo, Willie Mitchell, and the oft-disciplined Shane O'Brien managed to keep things tidy in their zone, being the players who broke +10 while not simultaneously being one of the top scorers for the club. Luongo was his talented self during the regular season (even winning a gold medal in the Olympics) while Andrew Raycroft enjoyed a rebound season as a backup, putting up a 9-5-1 record with a .911 save percentage in 21 appearances.

What went wrong?: I hate to put it all on one person, but Luongo's goaltending for the entire postseason was absolutely brutal. He'll finish the postseason with a GAA over 3.00 and a save percentage that's sub .900. When that's the numbers that your starting goaltender is putting up and the coach decides not to put in the backup, then your team's going to have a difficult time scoring when they're constantly retrieving the puck from their own net. In fairness though, the team was very sloppy for most (if not all) of Game six against the Blackhawks, goal scoring dried up as the postseason progressed, and we won't mention Sami Salo's injury to the hairy gumdrops.

So what's next?: The team has $45M committed to salaries next season. From that, they'll need to qualify Cory Schneider, lock up their RFAs (who, at worst, can play a depth role competently for the Canucks) and perhaps look for a scorer who can provide some of the production the team had hoped they would have seen from Pavol Demitra. They still have a complete hockey team, so there's no reason to suspect they won't be back and contending next season.

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