After nearly a decade of being one of the strongest teams during the regular season the Vancouver Canucks may have seen their ‘dynasty’ come crashing to an end Sunday night in San Jose. Trailing the Sharks two-games-to-none already Vancouver played sloppy, flat and imploded in the third period as they watched their Stanley Cup dreams dissolve. The5-2 loss was Vancouver’s ninth playoff loss in their last ten playoff games and in many ways is the end of the team we’ve known.
While the series is not technically over, the chance that Vancouver comes back is about the same as Don Cherry saying something coherent. This one is all over.
It’s the end of what is the best run in franchise history as major changes are needed.
What went wrong
Many people will assign this failure to the so called goalie controversy. While Cory Schneider nursed a mysterious ‘body’ injury that kept him out of Game’s 1 & 2 head coach Alain Vigneault went right back to a cold Schneider for the biggest game of the season. Schneider had not played in two weeks and had not even suited up for the first two games of the series, and it showed.
As bad as the three goals Schneider allowed in the third period were, this game was lost by the skaters in front of him. For the third straight playoff series Vancouver could not score, could not generate consistent offense and put too much pressure on their goaltenders.
The Canucks have only scored five goals in the three games of this series and one of those was knocked in by a Sharks player. Further more, they have only managed 15 goals in their last ten playoff games — simply not good enough.
Break them up?
The time has come to ask the question that has been swirling around in the dark recesses of Canucks fan’s minds. Are the Canucks built for the playoffs? They made a run in 2011 but other than that year this core of players has not had the best playoff success. They won a couple of opening round series in 2009 and 2010 but were handled pretty easily by the Blackhawks in the second round in both of those years.
Their last three playoff series have been major disappointments and the offense, or lack thereof, has been the reason.
A lot of heat has been aimed at the Sedins for the the Canucks lack of playoff scoring but they have not been as bad as people are protraying them to be. In the last eight playoff games Henrik Sedin is averaging .88 points per game while his brother is scoring at a .80 clip. They aren’t the problem either.
The finger needs to be pointed at the rest of their top nine forwards, most of whom have brought nothing to the table.
Ryan Kesler is scoring at .62 average in the last eight playoff games, Alex Burrows .25. Those two players need to supply secondary scoring and aren’t doing it enough. It gets worse from there.
Chris Higgins has scored zero points in Vancouver’s last eight games, Mayson Raymond has one, as does Jannik Hansen. That simply is not going to get it done.
Of those players only Raymond has a contract that is expiring next season. The Canucks will once again be looking for scorers who can fit into their top nine and provide consistent scoring. Where they are going to find that is anyone’s guess.
Changes at the top?
Inevitably when a team slinks out of the playoffs two years in a row the way Vancouver has the blame lands at the feet of the head coach. Alain Vigneault has had tremendous success with the Canucks but his time is most likely over. Whether Mike Gillis remains in charge of the roster will also have to be looked at.
Gillis is the man who put this team together. He is the one who failed to trade Roberto Luongo this off season after making his desire to do so public. The Canucks do not have any top-flight scoring prospects waiting in the wings and Gillis’ trade for Zack Kassian last year has yet to bear the fruit that he hoped it would.
After a decade of dominating the Northwest Division, winning back-to-back President’s Trophies and a trip to the finals it appears the the Canucks are facing a summer that is going to be headlined by the dreaded ‘R’ word – Rebuild.
Andrew writes about the WHL and NHL Draft Prospects. He also covers the Seattle Thunderbirds for 710 ESPN Seattle and spent two years with Sportsnet. Follow him on Twitter @andyeide.