When the shortened NHL season began, the Vancouver Canucks were the one Canadian team favoured to win the Stanley Cup. However, the team was unable to live up to the organization’s expectations despite finishing the season at the top of the Northwest Division. Vancouver’s playoff performance has proven all but disastrous as the team hovers on the brink of elimination, which is increasing pressure to implement changes within the organization.
The offense is led by captain Henrik Sedin and his twin brother Daniel, who are recognized as one of the most effective offensive duos in the NHL. The twins intuitively understand where the other will be on the ice, with Henrik known as the playmaker, and Daniel as the scorer. Over the last several seasons, the twins averaged over two points per game, and were one of the main reasons that Vancouver won back to back President’s Trophies.
However, the twins struggled to perform in the shortened season as opponents successfully shut down the duo’s offensive dominance. In past seasons, the twins were the ace in the hole that Vancouver could deploy after other lines wore down opposing defenses. But injuries to the rest of the top six forwards, including Ryan Kesler, Alex Burrows, and Max Lapierre – along with the loss of third line centre Manny Malhotra – left the twins vulnerable to physically challenging opponents. As a result, the team struggled to make plays, fewer goals were scored, and Vancouver’s dominance of the Northwest was challenged for the first time in years.
But the ongoing saga with goaltender Roberto Luongo also contributed to the team’s declining performance. During the NHL lockout, Vancouver management named Cory Schneider the new number one goaltender as the team grew dissatisfied with Luongo’s performance in the playoffs. The team gambled that Luongo would become more valuable in the market as time went on, which was a gamble that never paid off.
Luongo has a contract that is worth more than most teams are willing to pay, which kept the troubled netminder within Vancouver. Although the organization never confirmed it, Luongo’s continued presence undoubtedly affected the performance of Cory Schneider, who engaged in a season long battle with Luongo for the official number one position. Luongo started the playoffs after Schneider was injured near the end of the season, and the team’s too biggest problems were made glaringly obvious.
The offense was unable to put pucks on the net, while Luongo, consistently shaky in the playoffs, struggled under the pressure once again. The Canucks dropped the first three games to the San Jose Sharks, and enter tonight’s game facing elimination. Fans and sports bettors are calling for changes in Vancouver, and the continuous failings in the playoffs are backing the organization into a corner.