Well, the 2009-10 Vancouver Canucks season is over. Frankly, it was not that large of a shock to me, but still stings anyways. We were playing a team that had equal or stronger talent up front, far superior defense & had a goalie who had better stats than Luongo in most categories. Yet still, there is that feeling this team should have done better.
A lot of the Canucks sudden ending came at the hands of some of its most reliable players thru the regular season. Guys like Kesler, Demitra, Burrows, Raymond and Ehrhoff who were stable & even at times exceeding their expectations pretty much vanished come playoff time. A parade to the penalty box did not help their cause much either. But the non-efforts of some of their biggest players was more concerning to me.
I think a lot can be said of a teams effort when guys like Kyle Wellwood, Jannik Hansen & Shane O'Brien might have put up the best efforts on the team in the game that mattered the most, the final one. No desperation or "we MUST show up now" effort seemed to ever show up in guys like Kesler, Raymond or others.
The same "we can overcome anything" mentality the Canucks had used all season in their late game come from behind victories, the same mentality they even displayed against the Kings a round earlier was non-existant in the Hawks series. Chicago outscored the nucks 11-3 in the 3rd period of this series, they beat them all three times in GM Place, where the Canucks had a 30-8-3 record this season. The Chicago Blackhawks schooled the Canucks in the building they had schooled so many teams this year, the way they had schooled so many teams this year.
Over the next few days, a variety of excuses will come to the surface for sure. "This player was playing with this injury" will be common. but lets face it, does anyone for a second doubt the Hawks players are not also banged up & playing thru adversity? Seriously? With the exception of Sami Salo, who truthfully probably shouldnt have played in the last game, but kudos to him for doing it, no one on the team really has a severe enough injury that they can say that was the reason for the sudden drop off in productivity. Aches & pains are expected in a playoff fight. If it was TOO serious, they wouldnt have been able to play thru it as is. So, an injury really is a thin excuse, not a reason, for a drop off in productivity. Yet fans will eat it up when it comes out that this player & that player were fighting thru a really irritating flea bite or a *GASP* an itchy beard. But seriously, things like shoulder, knee & back injuries in the playoffs are going to be suggested. So, either the Canucks palyers are less able to fight thru adversity, or the entire Hawks franchise were playing in Iron Man suits.
The blame of this season ending on the same day as it did the year before does not solely fall on the players shoulders though. Coach Alain Vigneault (aka- the 2nd best coach in the series) without question shoulders some of the blame. His irrational coaching decisions thru the series were without question as much of the problem as the players wearing the jerseys.
AV took Mikael Samuelsson, who was still producing with the twins, off the Sedin line. Replacing him was offensively invisible (and a major reason for the Canucks game 3 loss after a penalty of idiotic levels which caused the 3rd goal) Alex Burrows. He seemingly rewarded one of the teams least effective stars with a promotion to the top line. This was after Burrows caused the team to not only lose a great scoring opportunity off an icing call with the Sedin line coming out against a tired Hawks line by taking a penalty, but was also at a time that the player in question had ONE playoff goal (not including an irrelevant empty netter against the Kings) in his last 15 playoff games. This is compounded when you realize that till the 3rd period of Game 6, Burrows was more or less the Sedins linemate. For the record, he scored ZERO goals with that promotion (not including an irrelevant empty netter). Burrows has 1 playoff goal (not including 2 empty netters) in 18 consecutive playoff games, got promoted to the top line, where Samuelsson was still producing...BY ALAIN VIGNEAULT!!
The same coaching decisions were evident in round 1 when Andrew Alberts (granted he settled down later in the playoffs) was possibly the worst player on all 16 teams in the playoffs at the time, kept getting chance after chance despite continually blowing it. Odd part was that double A had shown no signs during his short regular season time here to believe he warranted multiple chances. The same Vigneault demoted the teams top goal scorer to the 3rd line after he had slight slump where he only scored 1 goal in 2 1/3 games. Top goal scorer in the playoffs, demoted 2 lines for a slump that even Conn Smythe trophy winners are bound to go thru during a playoffs. Pathetic.
Then comes Vigneaults decisions between the pipes. Roberto Luongo is an elite goalie, no question....when hes on. When he isnt on, its scary though. He clearly was not "on" at home, yet AV kept going back to him & in fact, he went to back-up Andrew Raycroft only once in the entire playoffs, and that was back against the Kings. Luongo gave up 21 goals in 6 games. A goals against average of 3.52 and a save percentage of .862 from the starting goalie in the 2nd round series, and you never once go to your back up?? How about his 5.35 GAVE at home in round 2? Shouldnt that warrant a look at the back up? A back up that in the regular season had a better GAVE & only slightly less SPCT than your 7 million dollar starter?
When did AV turn into Marc Crawford? When did Vigneault quit being a coach, and start being players "buddies"? He played the playoffs like he was trying to win friends with some of the players. Burrows, Alberts, Luongo, Bieksa, Kesler and Raymond were all given ample chances to "step up" & all of them kept wasting their chances for the most part. Yet players who did produce, who were showing up, kept getting the short end of the straw. Mikael Samuelsson told Team Sweden to go fuck themselves earlier this year after getting left off the Swedish Olympic team. What could he have to say about a coach that demoted him 2 lines for essentially having 1 off game or so in the face of all these other non-performers getting handed chance after chance??
AV can perhaps explain why in a do or die game that you are only down a goal or two, your top line is not being double shifted?
- The Sedins had ice times of 18:51 and 18:40 each in the final game.
- Burrows (he of the ONE non-empty net playoff goal in the last 18 games) 19:37??
- Kesler (he of 0 G in the last 7 playoff games & 1 this post-season all together) 18:42??? Wellwood 18:52
- Samuelsson (teams leading goal & points scorer in the playoffs) 16:10.
- Raymond (0 goals, 0 points, -3 +/- in last 4 games) 16:47 played more than the teams best contributor offensively.
The top 3 lines were grossly mismanaged in the final game perhaps more than any other time in the playoffs.
Coach Vigneault one night suggested that Luongo was the 2nd best goalie on the ice that night. He wasnt wrong. He was the 2nd best goalie that night. However, no one once made note of the fact that this comment came from the 2nd best coach in the series. Alain Vigmeault was grossly outcoached by Joel Quenneville and to be brutally honest, maybe a tire iron could have outcoached him.
If the blame is to be broken down into a percentage basis. I would have to split it up like this.
Bieksa & Ehrhoff 5%
Rest of the forwards 5%
Rest of the defense 5%
Sure some of that blame seems unfair. I mean the defense core was eating up minutes they werent really qualified to take on at times with the various injuries. But still, the fact is they had jobs to do & at times werent able to do it.
This team didnt win because of several performances on the ice, and one performance behind the bench.
I did something different for the Blue Jackets. I didnt even try to get 1 single thing done of my own inventory. I decided to rent my services out to another local hound since I just didnt have any CBJ stuff that I felt I imminently needed. In my opinion, the arrangement was ok. Would have liked a b
So, with that I had a limited supply of players to go for.
I learned a quick lesson for the rest of the season....I need a hockey only binder.
I have been using my celebrity binder for my hockey stuff in the preseason, which was a bit clunky, but manageable. With the real season here now & more stuff I will have, its not an option. Lesson 1 noted.
off to the hounding.
Lets start in goal shall we?
STEVE MASON- I got 2 on the trip. In general he seemed good about signing 1 per everytime he was seen. The potential to get multiples was minimal. I think he might do it in smaller settings, but if theres several or more people around he seems intent on sticking to 1 per person. Overall, still a decent signer after his Calder Trophy win last season.
MATHIEU GARON- 2 autographs. Also a trophy winner last season (the Stanley Cup) Mathieu was still his easy going self. Still signing multiples & seeming to have no problem with it. I think he was limiting to 3 or 4, but thats still a decent amount that anyone should be happy with.
FEDOR TYUTIN- 0. Had nothing for him. But I observed him signing multiples for people. He wasnt signing everything, but 3 seemed to be a reasonable number to expect from him.
ROSTISLAV KLESLA- o. Had nothing. In the past, he was elusive & not overly interested in signing. In the last year or so he seems to have eased up. He still seems to be a strict 1 per, but now he doesnt try to avoid people as much as I recall in the apst.
KRIS RUSSELL- 2 autographs. Kris was willing to do multiples, I dont recall what the max was anyone asked for. But he seemed to do everything I saw asked of him. I think he might do several at once.
MARK METHOT, JAN HEJDA, ANTON STRALMAN & MATHIEU ROY- I didnt observe enough to be too sure. But in general, they all signed when asked.
RICK NASH- 4 autographs. Rick has been a pretty consistent 1 per the last few yrs. Yesterday he did 2 at once without even batting an eye. In larger crowds hes still a 1 per it seems, but hes still a near guarantee to get. For a superstar he is still a good signer.
NIKITA FILATOV- 15 autographs. As you can guess by the stats, he does everything. Crap auto, but what do you expect from someone that signed 20+ for 1 person?
JAKUB VORACEK- 0. Had nothing. But Jakub is still a great signer. He has no problems with several items at once.
ANTOINE VERMETTE- 1 autograph. I dont really recall people asking him for several, but the few who had 2 or so out seemed able to get them.Unsure what limits he may have, but 2 seems reasonable.
JARED BOLL- 0. Had nothing. Great signer. If you have several items, its probable he will do them all in 1 shot.
RJ UMBERGER- 0. Had nothing. In the past, he seemed unwilling to be a willing signer. Now he seems to have changed some. Still seemed to be just a 1 per, but the disdain I recalled him having in the past for it seems to have washed away.
DEREK BRASSARD- 0. Had items, but my timing was just bad. Would sign multiples, but he does seem to limit to baybe 3 or 4.
SAMUEL PAHLSSON, RAFFI TORRES, JASON CHIMERA, KRISTIAN HUSELIUS & others- Were generally fine. All signed, maybe not multiples in all cases, but you will get atleast 1 each from them.
Total autographs from Columbus- 26
In addition- 8 Canucks autographs. Including 1 Luongo. 1 Raycroft. 4 Ehrhoff, 1 O'Brien, 1 Raymond
Next up- Montreal Canadiens
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From time to time I have something to say on hockey. Whether its the Vancouver Canucks, NHL in general, Womens Hockey or International Hockey...if I have something to post, it will be in here.