As any Canucks fan knows, the last few years have been painful to watch when it comes to playoff time. The 2011 Stanley Cup final match up with the rival Boston Bruins still pains me to think about to this day. The President’s Trophy curse seemed all too real as the Canucks dropped a 2-0 series lead and lost 4-0 in game seven to give up the championship.
It’s been nearly four years since the Bruins raised the Cup in Canucks territory yet things seem to have only gotten worse. Since their run for the Cup they have been eliminated in the first round three times (including this year) and didn’t even qualify in 2013-2014.
When the Canucks fail critics are quick to point fingers at the Sedin twins or blame whatever goalie they have in net that year. But where does the problem really lie? Following that dreadful game seven loss the Canucks franchise had to make some serious changes.
The 2013-2014 NHL season didn’t look good for the Canucks from the get go. During the off-season the Canucks swapped coaches with the New York Rangers which landed Alain Vigneault in the Big Apple and Jon Tortorella in the Rainy City. There seemed to be no issues with Vigneault’s new position but many feared if Tortorella’s “rough n’ tough” coaching style would sit well with his new veteran team.
It wasn’t long before seasoned players began to dispute Tortorella’s coaching techniques. A 2011 incident with Marc Staal already had Alex Burrows on Tortorella’s bad side. After his eventual firing, rumours surfaced that Tortorella had spent much of his time tempting the Canucks organization to buy out Burrows’ contract. Needless to say the team suffered through an unhealthy environment.
Before Ryan Kesler was traded to the Anaheim Ducks this past off season he played a key role in the success of the Canucks. He was a leader both on the ice and in the dressing room so long as he was happy with how the team was playing. It wasn’t uncommon to see him acting out and joking with the guys in the room but his attitude soon shifted. The Canucks were a dominating force in the then Northwest Division but they couldn’t seem to make it past the first round. Rumours had it that Kesler wasn’t happy and he wanted out.
At the same time Kesler was having behind the scenes meetings with (former) General Manager Mike Gillis, everyone was still wondering what was going to happen with Roberto Luongo. With Corey Schneider out of the picture Luongo finally felt as though he would be staying in Vancouver for the time being, at least until the off-season. Much to his surprise Luongo was traded to the Florida Panthers at the 2014 trade deadline. As for Kesler – nothing.
The 2013-2014 season was a disaster for the Canucks and understandably so. There was simply too much going on behind the scenes for the players to focus on making the playoffs, let alone making another run for the Cup. As the season winded down the Canucks came up short and finished in 12th place with 83 points. For the first time in six seasons the Vancouver Canucks missed the playoffs.
A Fresh Sheet of Ice
The 2013-2014 season came to a disappointing close for the Canucks organization but gave them the opportunity they needed to start over. With the hiring of former Canuck winger Trevor Linden as the team’s new President, things were looking up. Mike Gillis was relieved of his duties as General Manager and John Tortorella was fired as the head coach. Shorty thereafter Linden hired Jim Benning as the new GM and Willie Desjardins was hired to replace Tortorella.
The new staff had a lot of work on their hands and the 2014-2015 season was approaching fast. As we know Benning was able to complete the Kesler trade and acquired solid young talent in Nick Bonino and Luca Sbisa. With Luongo in Florida, Kesler in Anaheim and Tortorella out of the picture, the Canucks could focus solely on the upcoming season.
— Vancouver Canucks (@VanCanucks) April 29, 2015
Despite the outcome of this year’s playoffs it was a successful year overall for the Canucks. A fifth place finish in the Western Conference is remarkable considering the previous season. The young Calgary Flames squad made for a tough first round opponent but the Canucks will have to adjust. Moving forward the team will take this season as a learning tool and be a top contender next season.