Monday, April 07, 2008

Tee times are now available—Vancouver edition

As the NHL season comes to its end, three Canadian cities are left to wonder what went wrong, what needs to be changed and most importantly where do they shift their allegiances to for the playoffs, if they bother to watch at all..

We begin our examination of the angst of the believers, three cities united in the knowledge that there won't be any more shinny this season, but for what's available on the television set.

In Vancouver, as the lockers clear out and the early start to those vacation plans get made, the soul searching has begun. From the west coast, changes are expected as disappointment roars as loud as the surf coming in from the Pacific Ocean...

The good news we guess is that new Dad Roberto Luongo gets to spend some quality time with the ladies in his life now, baby and Mom no doubt ready to welcome Papa home from the hockey wars of 2007-08. For Bobby Lou, it will be much needed break from hockey we suspect, able to zone out of the daily pressure of having to be the last chance for a franchise that didn’t do much to help him out this past season.

Luongo was played too much, looked tired at the wrong times and could never count on his team to hold a lead for battle back for the most part should a goal sneak by him.

In this season he quickly learned why Vancouver has long been considered a Goaltenders graveyard, as guys from Auld to Young with a Cloutier, Irbe, Weeks or a Fountain to name a few in the middle, could testify to the union, Vancouver is one hard town to play in.

In their history the Canucks have called close to fifty goaltenders to duty in the crease. A good many of whom left Vancouver with shattered confidence and declining play and no doubt nightmares of games that slipped out of their control with expectations crushed under the weight of failure.

It was supposed to be so different this year with Luongo, the rock that they had long been looking for since the days of Brodeur, Garrett or McLean.

It may still be, but Vancouver squandered a valuable year by not surrounding their franchise goaltender with the required talent to move further down the NHL playoff road, he’s still set for at least two more seasons (unless a trade comes along), so time is of the essence to make sure that he feels that Vancouver is not just another version of Florida north.

Other questions that will be answered in short time will be the status of Trevor Linden, Saturday night’s emotional season ending tribute from the fans might be the push that Linden needs to call it a career. You want to go out on a high note, and there won’t be many higher moments for a hockey player than the showering of respect and love that he received on Saturday night.
There is no doubt a future for him with the Canucks in any capacity that he might wish to pursue, he was long the face and heart of the franchise, for a team that needs to rebuild its bridges with the fans, they’ll find a key spot for him to fit into.

The current captain Markus Naslund is said to be pondering retirement or perhaps expecting to move on, while he was saying all the right things about his Vancouver experience, the criticism of the last year from the media and the rabble at times, must have been hard to accept. While he has been a dedicated Canuck since his arrival, this had to be one of his most frustrating years as he struggled to find his scoring touch and more importantly to find line mates to fit in with. His departure may be the signal from GM Dave Nonis that changes are on the way, that is providing Nonis himself is still around to make the changes.

With new owners having inherited their GM, Francesco, Roberto and Paolo Aquilini may want to seek out their own manager (already the rumbles of a Bring back Burkie campaign), maybe even a new coach, giving more credence to the curse of the coach of the year award.

Still to be determined, is the status of Brendan Morrison soon to be a free agent, but coming off a disappointing year marred by injury, likewise the potential of the Sedin twins didn’t seem to make the jump expected this season, are they still a work in process or will trade winds move them off to new adventures.

Many questions surround the Canucks, a team that only few short years ago was considered just one player away from a Stanley Cup contender and now are so many players away that it seems like a complete re-tooling may be the only option left…

As can be imagined they have been the talk of the Vancouver sports scene for more than a few weeks now, here’s a sample of the mood as the lockers empty…

Vancouver Sun--Canucks on the Go?
Vancouver Sun-- From pooped to 'poopies'
Vancouver Province-- March madness for Luongo

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