HOW daunting of a task do the Vancouver Canucks face in trying to get back to the Stanley Cup finals?
Over the last 10 years, only Pittsburgh has been able to follow a loss in the final round with a Cup victory the following year (2009). Of the other nine clubs to lose in the Final, Philadelphia, Detroit, and Dallas lost in Round 2, Ottawa, Calgary and New Jersey lost in Round 1, while Edmonton, Anaheim and Carolina failed to make the following playoffs altogether. In fact, Edmonton has not made the playoffs in the five years since!
Those are not great odds for the task facing the Canucks.
But ultimately the Stanley Cup is not the Canucks immediate concern. They have a long regular season ahead of them, with lingering health issues making for a tough start.
While most players were enjoying luxurious vacations and playing golf, the Canucks were still getting beat up by the Bruins. When virtually every other team’s players began full off-season training, the Canucks were still licking their many physical and psychological wounds. Two thirds of the second line – Ryan Kesler and Mason Raymond – are not back until sometime in November.
None of this will help the Canucks get off to a good start. The Canucks are already notoriously poor starters anyways. In the past 5 seasons the Canucks are just 31-28-3 in October overall under coach Alain Vigneault.
Despite that volatile mixture, Canucks fans should not have to worry about missing the playoffs. Their depth and power play should be enough for them to win the weak Northwest Division. In Gary Bettman’s bizarre NHL, that would guarantee the Canucks a top three seeding in the Western Conference playoffs, and at that point anything can happen.
Just like last season, the 2011-12 Canucks will be defined in the playoffs, not the regular season. It’s not a matter of talent, but of character. As far as the regular season is concerned, the Canucks will be much more focused on the final 20 games of the season heading into the playoffs rather than the first 20.