Difficult Road Ahead For Canucks In 2013-14

Images Courtesy of Flickr. Photograph by Ryan McLean

Images Courtesy of Flickr. Photograph by Ryan McLean

If there is one team in the NHL that could boom or bust this season it’s the Vancouver Canucks. Three years removed from a Stanley Cup Final and Presidents’ Trophy, the boys in blue and green have steadily declined over the last two seasons.

Two straight disappointing 1st round exits are a telling sign that the Vancouver Canucks are not what they used to be. In the 2012-13 Stanley Cup Playoffs the Canucks failed to win a single game, bowing out anti-climatically to a hungrier San Jose Sharks.

Some will say the goaltending conundrum involving Roberto Luongo and Cory Schneider was the Canucks reason for a bad 2012-13, and that may be true. As outsiders we never truly know how internal distractions affect a professional hockey team. Regardless, that’s old news now. Cory Schneider is a New Jersey Devil, leaving Roberto Luongo to once again take the reigns and be the man in Vancouver.

With Luongo back in lead as the Canucks undisputed starting goaltender, there is a touch of anticipation in the air. Vancouver Canucks GM Mike Gillis was very open about his intentions to trade his team’s former captain all throughout the 2012-13 NHL season. In the end, Schneider was moved and Luongo stayed but the damage was done.

For us regular folk, it’s hard to understand the mindset of an athlete who gets paid millions of dollars a year to play a game. It’s easy for us to laugh off the notion that Luongo might take his frustrating tenure on the trading block personally. In reality, he may. He’s no less human than you or I, thus, it’s very possible Luongo carries some resentment into the upcoming NHL season. Either way, there is no conclusive evidence to support he feels that way, nor does a lingering feeling of anger toward the organization necessarily translate to poor on ice performance. Luongo is a professional. He’s been an exceptional goaltender for over a decade. It’s very hard to imagine he won’t be lights out amazing again this season.

John Tortorella Changes Things Significantly For The Vancouver Canucks Or At Least He’ll Try.

The addition of Torts as Canucks head coach was one of the most fascinating hockey stories of the summer. The Rangers former bench boss is heavily criticized for his regular spats with media personnel, a stigma that seems to define his reputation these days. Yet, once you look past all the controversy that follows Torts around everywhere he goes, one has to admit he’s a pretty successful NHL coach.

John Tortorella is known for getting the absolute most out of his 20 man roster. Lately, the Canucks have suffered from an apparent deficiency in maximized potential. Torts in Vancouver seems like the perfect fit on the surface. If the Canucks were un-motivated last season, they likely won’t be this year.

It’s unclear how the Sedins will perform in the typical defence first, extremely self sacrificing system John Tortorella has become known for. If the twins relish the new coach’s approach, they will be leaned on to excel in all areas of the game, at both ends of the ice. Daniel and Henrik are effective on their own side of centre as is, but they’ve never operated under such a demanding, shot-blocking coach before, or at least, not in recent years. Adjusting quickly will make or break their ability to succeed in 2013-14.

Going To California

It was once a forgone conclusion that the Vancouver Canucks would not only make the playoffs every year but they’d also win their division. The rebuilding Oilers, unimpressive Flames, inconsistent Wild and inexperienced Avalanche teams of the last five years never really had a chance to challenge the Canucks.

NHL Realignment has changed everything. While it’s true that the Oilers, Wild and Avalanche field their best squads in years this season, the Canucks have bigger problems. They join a division with the big three from California. The Los Angeles Kings, Anaheim Ducks and San Jose Sharks are serious hurdles in the way of another Canucks playoffs, let alone division title.

The Sharks and Kings made very quick work of the Canucks in the last two playoffs, allowing Vancouver one win in the two series’ combined. With stiffer competition and only 3 guaranteed playoff spots in each division, the days of the Canucks cruising into the post season are officially over.

The looming 2013-14 NHL campaign will determine whether the Canucks are still a power in the West or whether it’s time to cut some fat, re-evaluate, and take a different approach moving forward. The season really can go either way for the Vancouver Canucks.