April 23, 2012

Canucks Season Is Over


It's over. The Vancouver Canucks season is over.

And now the questions begin. And there will be many of them. It will be a second-guesser's paradise. But for now we will attempt to answer just one question.

Why?

We can over-analyze every aspect of the team, but the answer is pretty simple. They simply not score.

The team scored just 8 goals in their quick 5 game exit. They could not outscore the L.A. Kings, who were the 29th team in regular season offense. If you added up all the goals and assists scored by all of the Vancouver players in round one, the Flyers top two playoff scorers (Claude Giroux and Daniel Briere) would be only 1 point off.

Daniel Sedin's concussion obviously did not help. Losing your top goal scorer for a month never helps. Brother Henrik looked lost at times without him. The Sedins came alive upon their reunification in game four, but ultimately it is the same old song every playoff in Vancouver. Shut down the Sedins, and you shut down the Canucks. It does not matter how good the Canucks goaltending may be, the Canucks do not have the secondary scoring to get the job done in the playoffs. Without the threat of secondary scoring, the other team can throw a blanket on the twins and defeat the Canucks.

Ryan Kesler, a 41 goal scorer last season, did not score a goal in his final 17 games of the 2012 season. David Booth, the much ballyhooed acquisition to increase offense, had 1 goal in his final 16 games, and none in the playoffs. The spirited Chris Higgins dried up with just 1 goal in his last 9, and 1 in 20 in the playoffs. Mason Raymond did not score in his final 11 contests, and has just 2 goals in 33 playoff games. The usually reliable Alex Burrows scored just once in the playoffs, despite increased power play time.

Perhaps the Canucks have to seriously take a look at Ryan Kesler as their second line centre. Outside of the 2nd period of game 2, he was invisible against the Kings. He has 0 goals in his last 12 playoff games and just 2 in last 17. He has just 10 goals in 53 career playoff games, 5 of which came against Nashville last playoffs.

The accountability has to fall to the players, but the coaching staff and management do not get a pass here either.

For some reason, the scoring all dried up in mid January. The power play disappeared. Clearly it is in part a systemic issue that the coaches had 3 months to fix. The power play and the zone entries became predictable yet were left unchanged. The D-pairings were erratic, when in the past they were more significant contributors to the offense. And for all the line experimentation, why it took until game 4 of the playoffs to break up the Kesler/Booth combination was baffling.

Manager Mike Gillis also needs to be called out. Every playoff the Canucks come up short on offense. Beyond that the team continues to be perceived as needing more toughness. He failed to make the appropriate remedy on either front.

So while the second guessers will be out in full force (usually with no shortage of answers) but it is Mike Gillis who needs to ask the hardest questions. He also needs to answer them. Will he keep the coaching staff? How will the goaltending dilemma play itself out? Who is in, and who is out? How will a weak unrestricted free agent market and impending collective bargaining agreement hinder Gillis' ability to do much of anything?

It promises to be a very interesting (and long) summer for the Vancouver Canucks

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