Yesterday we looked at a team who earned a playoff birth in the lockout-shortened 2013-’14 season and followed it up with a disappointing playoff miss this season in the New York Islanders. Today we look at a team who underachieved in a similar fashion in the Vancouver Canucks.
The Vancouver Canucks finished tied for 24th in the NHL with a record of 36-35-11, for a total of 83 points. The Canucks finished 5th of 7 teams in the Pacific Division and 12th of 14 teams in the West.
The goaltending controversy in Vancouver was finally resolved last offseason on draft day when the Canucks shocked the hockey world and dealt Cory Schneider to the Devils. Although a lot of damage was done to the relationship between Roberto Luongo and the Canucks’ organization, Vancouver was set to step forward with an undisputed #1 netminder. Although many questioned the hiring of John Tortorella, the Canucks were expected to be in the mix for a playoff spot, even in a difficult Pacific Division. After all, they had the same core group going forward that was 1 win away from a Stanley Cup in 2011.
- The Canucks had the opportunity to host a Heritage Classic game against the Ottawa Senators at BC Place, bringing out over 54,000 fans. In a season in which highlights were few and far between in Vancouver, even this event came with its lows. Not only was the retractable roof closed for this “outdoor” game in Vancouver, but the Canucks blew a lead to lose the game, and Tortorella’s decision to start Eddie Lack over Roberto Luongo may have been the nail-in-the-coffin for Luongo’s tenure in Vancouver.
Given the lack of highs above for the Canucks, it should come as no surprise that the theme of this Canucks squad was underachieving.
- The twin scoring leaders of the Canucks, Henrik Sedin and Daniel Sedin, were the poster boys of underachievement in Vancouver this season. Each failed to collect more than 50 points. However, the theme was also evident elsewhere in the top six with Ryan Kesler collecting just 43 points in a healthy season and Alex Burrows chipping in with just 5 goals and 10 assists.
- The relationship between Roberto Luongo and the Canucks’ front office was on thin ice going into the season, even with his job as the starter secure. The combination of team underachievement and Tortorella’s decision to start Lack in the Heritage Classic appeared to force Vancouver’s hand to deal Luongo to Florida. An organization with two franchise-calibre goalies in Luongo and Cory Schneider was now left without either.
- Although Eddie Lack showed well as the backup to Luongo, it became clear that he wasn’t ready for the limelight once Roberto was dealt. In the month of March, the first month Lack was the full-time starter in Vancouver, Eddie posted a 2.98 GAA and .889 SV% in 14 starts.
- The hiring of John Tortorella appeared doomed from the get-go and skeptics of the hiring were proven correct. Tororella never lost the room, he never had it from the start. Clearly John wasn’t able to get the best out of these players and the exclamation mark of his tenure came when he was suspended 15 days for his conduct after a brawl in against the Calgary Flames. The organizational problems didn’t stop with Tortorella, though. Mike Gillis was also let go of his GM duties.
PROGNOSIS FOR NEXT SEASON
Things are looking bleak for the Canucks going forward. After losing both Cory Schneider, then Roberto Luongo since the summer, Vancouver is left with Eddie Lack and Jacob Markstrom as its goaltending options for next season. Neither of which appears close to being a bonafide #1. As for the skaters in Vancouver, there remains little optimism. It appears that the window has closed on the core group of forwards in Henrik and Daniel Sedin, Ryan Kessler, and Alex Burrows. Alex Edler has not quite lived up to his potential in Vancouver and the age of Kevin Bieksa seems to be catching up with him. The Canucks appear to have some decent prospects for the future, led by Bo Horvat, but it would be a shock to see this roster remain in-tact by the end of next season. It is clear that this group is on the decline.