At least there wasn’t a riot in the streets this time.
The Vancouver Canucks suffered the indignity of getting swept out of the first round of the playoffs against the San Jose Sharks on Tuesday night, and pundits are forecasting a rough future for the club.
Fire Alain Vigneault!
Fire Mike Gillis!
To be sure, its all just a bunch of noise, but there are some valid points to be addressed and analyzed.
First off, the stats.
Vancouver has lost 10 of their last 11 playoff games.
Vancouver scored only seven goals in five games in their first-round series against the L.A. Kings last year, and only scored eight goals in their series against the Sharks.
San Jose was awarded 28 power play opportunities, while Vancouver had 13 chances with the man-advantage in the series.
Each Sedin twin had three points apiece in the San Jose series. Last year, Henrik had five points, while Daniel had two against the Kings (however, the latter didn’t play for three games of the series due to a concussion).
Ryan Kesler’s only points came when he scored twice in one game against the Sharks, but he only collected three apples against the Kings.
You could see it against the Kings, but it was this latest series against the Sharks that exposed Vancouver’s major weakness in the playoffs: an inability to score goals.
Chris Higgins is without a goal in the last two playoff series outings, while Zack Kassian is in the same boat. Mason Raymond only has one goal in nine playoff games, and Derek Roy, who the Canucks picked up at the trade deadline, couldn’t make an impact in the post-season.
San Jose also won the special teams battle, with a power play percentage of 29.2, while Vancouver was rated at 20 per cent. After all, the Sharks were given plenty of opportunities over the series to tweak and perfect their ability to score with the man-advantage.
It is never classy to criticize the officiating, but it was disheartening to see a lack of consistency across the board when it came to calling penalties.
The numbers speak volumes—San Jose with 28 power play opportunities to Vancouver’s 13.
Was Vancouver undisciplined at times and deserving of some of those penalties?
Absolutely, but there were a few instances, such as in Game Three when Kesler got cross-checked from behind into the boards by Brad Stuart with the referee eight feet away in the corner, that should’ve warranted a penalty.
However, the play went on uninterrupted.
Complicating matters was Canucks defenceman Kevin Bieksa, who shot off his mouth after the game, calling out Logan Couture and Joe Thorton for diving.
With the antics of Alexandre Burrows and Kesler in the past, the Canucks don’t really have any credibility on the issue of diving.
Although their save percentages don’t suggest it, the Roberto Luongo and Cory Schneider were probably the best players out on the ice. Yes, Schneider had a terrible third period in Game Three, but that just goes to show how slim the margin of error is in playoff hockey.
Luongo, on the other hand, played well enough to keep the Canucks in the action for the first two games, but his team didn’t help him out in the offensive department.
It goes without saying that their two consecutive early playoff exits puts AV on the hot seat.
It’s fair to question some of his decisions in the series, like switching out Roberto Luongo for Cory Schneider in Game Three, when it was clear that goaltending was the least of Vancouver’s issues in their first two losses.
However, love him or hate him—he’s still the winningest coach in Canucks franchise history.
Canucks General Manager Mike Gillis isn’t safe either, as some of his trades and inability to nurture and develop young players has fans calling for his blood.
Vancouver doesn’t have a lot of blue-chip prospects, and the ones they do have need more seasoning. Jordan Schroeder showed some promise, but AV seemed to favour Andrew Ebbett. A bright spot was Frank Corrado, who looked capable of holding his own on the back end after getting called up at the end of his junior season in the OHL.
The Canucks gave up a second-round draft pick and a defensive prospect for Roy, who didn’t add the scoring pinache that the team hoped for. Vancouver picked up Sammy Pahlsson last season as a rental for two fourth-round draft picks, but its safe to say that one didn’t work out.
It’s always hard to pin the blame on management when it’s the players who strap on the skates and play the game, however, sometimes a shakeup is a good thing.
I point directly to the L.A. Kings last year, which replaced head coach Terry Murray for Daryl Sutter midway through the season, made a few smart roster moves, and ended up with a Stanley Cup championship.
They didn’t blow up the team, they didn’t do a top-to-bottom rebuild, but Sutter’s arrival brought a new culture into the dressing room, which was instrumental to turning their fortunes around during the season in order to peak for their playoff run.
Perhaps this is what the Canucks need—a new culture.
AV has done a great job with the team over the years, but the results have been the same.
And as a man much smarter than me once said, “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, and expecting a different result.”