May 12, 2010

Puck On The 'Net

My Canucks are out. There's no shortage of reasons as to why, but that should not be mistaken for excuses. The Canucks biggest problem? The Chicago Blackhawks are an amazing hockey team.

Here's Wednesday's Slap Shots:
  • I still can't believe Sami Salo played 48 hours after rupturing a testicle. He was obviously hampered in his skating. But I guess Salo at 60% is better than a minor leaguer. Then the Canucks lost Alex Edler early in the game, seriously depleting the blue line. Once the team fell behind by 2-0 the tiring Canucks defense was caught time and time again up ice, hanging Roberto Luongo out to dry.
  • Alain Vigneault's decision not to dress a 7th dman is down right bizarre. By all accounts it was obvious Salo was a liability. Vigneault lost his game of Russian Roulette when Edler left the game. Vigneault could have dressed either Lawrence Nycholat or Nolan Baumgartner as a 7th D. The could have played the occassional 4th line shift, or just sit on the bench and double shift a forward on 4th line duty. But Vigneault's decision to not dress an insurance defenseman really came back to bit him in game 6.
  • Long time readers know I've always been critical of Alain Vigneault. In fact I've been more critical of him than any other Canucks coach with the exception Mike Keenan. Vigneault made some questionable decisions all playoffs long and was outcoached by Joel Quenneville. His failure to solve specialty problems and play the line matching game hurt the team. 
  • All that being said, the game is played by the players, and they just weren't good enough. The Sedins were good but never as dominant as they were in the regular season. Luongo was up and down, with poor performances in games 3 and 4. Alex Burrows had another disappointing playoffs. Ryan Kesler was a complete non-factor, although apparently he had a shoulder injury.
  • Injuries are an easy excuse, but you have to find ways to win anyways. Just ask teams like Montreal, Boston and Philadelphia. The Canucks best players were not good enough. All in all it was another disappointing playoff, especially given this appeared to be the team's best chance to win the Stanley Cup.
  • The off-season will be an interesting one in Vancouver, with UFAs Willie Mitchell, Pavol Dimetra and Kyle Wellwood (unless prized prospect Cody Hodgson remains injured) are all likely gone. There isn't a lot in the UFA market place this year, so will changes need to come via trades? I'll be most interested in what they choose to do with Kevin Bieksa, Christian Erhoff and Sami Salo, all entering their final year of their contracts before becoming unrestricted free agents themselves. My best is Salo will play out his contract. Erhoff may be extended at some point next season, but I wouldn't be surprised if the Canucks tried moving Bieksa this summer (perhaps packaged with goalie prospect Corey Schneider?) for a younger impact player.
  • I think I may have to cheer for Chicago now, if only because local boy Wade Flaherty is a goalie coach/consultant with the Blackhawks. He's done a good job with Antti Niemi, hasn't he?! If Chicago wins the Stanley Cup, I would have to assume Flats would get a chance to bring the Cup back to Terrace BC. That would be the Cup's 2nd trip to Terrace in 12 months! Go Blackhawks Go! 
As always, join me for more thoughts and conversation on Twitter @HockeyLegends.

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