With the Vancouver Canucks staring down a potential playoff elimination game tomorrow night against the Calgary Flames, one can’t help reflect back to former head coach John Tortorella’s postseason assessment of the Canucks in 2014. To paraphrase the now unemployed Torts: the core of the team is too old and too stale.
Though Torts was undeniably entertaining most nights (unlike his Canucks team last year), many hockey pundits questioned his unorthodox coaching style. However, it appears Torts was right about one thing: this year’s retooled Canucks team is pretty much the sports equivalent of putting lipstick on a pig; a pig that charges $91 to $304.75 per playoff ticket.
So what does Trevor Linden, the president of the Vancouver Canucks, do now? The goodwill Linden’s front office mustered over the year will likely be depleted after fans watch this year’s team suffer the same fate as years past: an aging team of no-shows-when-it-counts.
Vancouver does have the Sedins: skilled players that play exceptionally in the regular season. But at the "old" age of 34, they may never be the clutch playoff heroes the Canucks need them to be. During the playoffs, the twins are forever targets, with the opposing team’s players draped on them like additional jerseys. Signed for another three years each, fans can enjoy all the Sedins’ regular season play; unfortunately, don’t expect the same magic in the playoffs.
However, a larger issue facing the Canucks still lingers, as it appears the team never got the memo from NHL head office: skill and finesse don’t win you the Stanley Cup; it’s about intimidation.
Were the L.A. Kings and the Boston Bruins the most skilled teams in the NHL the years they won the Stanley Cup? Probably not—but they managed to outmuscle and outgoon their opponents, destroying the opposition’s will to win. If you don’t believe me, go back and watch Bruins vs. Canucks 2011 Stanley Cup final or the Canucks first-round experience versus the Kings in 2012.
NHL commissioner Gary Bettman loves to promote the skill and finesse of the league's stars, but when it comes down to the dogfight that is the Stanley Cup playoffs, it always appears to be about thuggery; something Michael Ferland and the Calgary Flames have done quite well to date. All Canucks fans can do now is hope that next year, Linden and his team will make the changes necessary to finally secure the franchise’s first Stanley Cup and not just apply another shade of lipstick to a stale old pig.