Forty Years, No Cup in B.C.
It might be the Curse of Steve Moore, but that would only cover the playoff failures that have occurred over the past seven years.
In all, the Vancouver Canucks have hit the 40-year mark in terms of unsuccessfully trying to capture the Stanley Cup. So many good players, two Cup final appearances, one horrific incident that stained the game forever in 2004, a lifetime of disappointments. From Orland Kurtenbach to Henrik Sedin, the Canucks have tried it every which way and have yet to come up with the winning formula.
The 2009-10 season ended exactly the way last season ended, with a one-sided blowout loss to the Chicago Blackhawks last night at GM Place by a 5-1 score. Just as Roberto Luongo couldn't deliver top-notch goaltending last spring, he couldn't do it again this spring, outplayed by Finnish rookie Antti Niemi in Game 6 with the Canucks facing elimination.
The Hawks go through to the Western Conference final for the second straight year, and will face the San Jose Sharks as the two best teams in the west have pushed their way into the Final Four. It should be a terrific series, with two big lines - Joe Thornton between Dany Heatley and Patrick Marleau for the Sharks, Jonathan Toews-Patrick Kane-Dustin Byfuglien for the Hawks - set to go head-to-head.
Chicago's blue-chip defensive pair of Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook made a huge difference against the Canucks, and they'll need all the rest they can get before the Western Conference final begins in California.
For Vancouver, a blueline that some experts warned last fall was too brittle proved to be just that. Willie Mitchell was lost before the playoffs began, Sami Salo was hobbled before last night and Alexander Edler went down in the first period after a big hit by Byfuglien. GM Mike Gillis chose to spend his big dollars on Luongo - whose 12-year extension kicks in next season - and forwards Henrik and Daniel Sedin, leaving the club without anything like a Keith or a Seabrook on the back end. Kevin Bieksa, Christian Erhoff and Shane O'Brien were all game last night, but that's not an elite blueline.
Head coach Alain Vigneault could be faulted for not dressing seven D-men last night, and after four years on the job without getting out of the second round, he may find his time in Vancouver is up.
None of the Canucks big stars came through, yet the club is married to all of them for the long term. Luongo is no longer considered one of the best goalies in the game and will make $10 million next year, the first of his $64 million pact. The Sedin twins, probably signed to below market value at $6.1 per season each, have four more years on their deals. Ryan Kesler, who didn't score a goal against Chicago or do much at all, sees his six-year, $30 million contract kick in next season.
The blueline is thin, although Edler looks like a comer. You might wonder if a good puck handler like the very available Tomas Kaberle could benefit the 'Nucks. Kyle Wellwood did his best but isn't a consistent point producer and Pavol Demitra was a huge disappointment based on how well he played for Slovakia at the Olympics in Vancouver. In the end, this was a team that couldn't win in the pressure cooker of playing on home ice. Team Canada may have won Olympic gold with Luongo in net at GM Place, but the Canucks were 0-3 there against the Hawks, surrendering 17 goals in those three games.
The tragic flaw of this team is that it was completely built around the belief that Luongo was one of the greatest goalies ever to play. They made him captain, and gave him a monster contract, and the result is a netminder who couldn't handle the weight and at 31, isn't as good as he was three years ago.
Now the franchise enters its fifth decade, still waiting for a championship.