Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Random Hockey Thought of the Day - Vancouver Canucks and What May Have Been. . .

I was listening to Team990 this morning. (On a side note, I'm still suffering through the loss of PJ Stock on the station as he was my favorite 3 hour listen every day, but who doesn't enjoy Montreal radio when the Habs are in the playoffs, surprising people and doing well?).

Anyway, Tony, the host of The Montreal Forum, said that even though he's a Habs fan, he'd want the Canucks - Canada's only other representative team - to win the Cup if the Habs got knocked out. I get it. I'm sure many people would feel the same. I'm not a full-time Habs fan or a Canadian, but I know I rooted for Calgary in 2004 and Edmonton in 2006. I mean, why not see a Cup back in Canada if the team is able to win it, right?

His reasoning was interesting though. He said he'd root for them for all they'd gone through. Luc Bourdon's motorcycle accident (two years ago this month, unbelievably so). Coach Alain Vigneault's up and down trip to the NHL. And the tragedy of Taylor Pyatt's (who noteably no longer plays for the Canucks) fiance dying last year.

Now, granted, I didn't understand the last one. While I do understand Pyatt was well liked by his teammates and I'm sure they sympathized with their friend, I'm not sure a year later that is going to be a reason. This takes nothing away from the importance of Pyatt to either the Canucks (or the Coyotes he played for this season) or the extend of the tragedy, which was extreme, but I'm still not sure I connect the two.

Regardless, it got me thinking why - even though I'd surely love to see the Hawks win a Cup. I mean unless you hate them, why wouldn't you? - I wouldn't mind if one of these years turned out to be Vancouver's year.

I'm a Rangers fan, was a Rangers fan in 1994. Obviously I wanted 1994 to go exactly as it did. The good guys won. The guys that needed to erase a 54-year curse. Magic. And it may never happen again. Especially if the last 16 years are any indication.

But, I always hoped in the back of my mind that the Canucks would get back there. Probably in the early stages of my hockey watching I assumed that they'd be right back there next year. I mean why not, right? They came as close as you could to winning it all. I'm still curious how that happens, even though we've seen it before. Ask the Florida Panthers of 1996. Sometimes you just get there and no one knows why, and you don't get close since.

If you look at the Canucks though and the years that followed (and it's worth it) it was an odd journey.

The 1995 shortened season saw the team struggle, but make the playoffs to lose in a 4 game sweep to Chicago in the 2nd Round. In 1996 their leading scorer Pavel Bure was injured early in the season, struggles continued, and the Canucks didn't make it out of Round 1. The following year, 1997, they didn't even make the playoffs. They, as Rangers fans know, ushered in the Mark Messier years in Vancouver, which as we also know, didn't really go well for either team. They made the playoffs every year after that experiment, but never made it out of the 2nd round.

Post lockout, they'd narrowly miss the playoffs in 2006, causing the team be torn apart and re-made, and the start of the Roberto Luongo Era in Vancouver. They make it to the 2nd round in 2007. They narrowly missed the playoffs again in 2008, and the great Trevor Linden retired from the NHL. In 2009, the Canucks made the playoffs, swept St. Louis, before going on to lose the heartbreaker in Game 6 to the Blackhawks and Patrick Kane's hat trick.

So, what this tells us is that, not including this year or the full lockout year, and since 1994, the Canucks made the playoffs eight out of fourteen years, but never made it out of Round 2. Never came even close to getting back to where they were in 1994. (Although besides the blip of 1997, neither did the Rangers, if we're being honest).

Just goes to show you, there really are no givens or guarantees in professional sports. You may really never get that chance again.

I think of those Canucks that I really liked, those that aren't there anymore. Legendary good guy Trevor Linden. Former Canucks turned Rangers Kirk McLean and Pavel Bure, who carried the team that playoff year. Even though those guys aren't there anymore today, I felt for them afterwards. Not many I've ever liked more than I like and respect Trevor Linden.

As for the current team, there are certain things you have to admire about them. Luongo, may not be perfect, but he's damn good at times. And he, last year when things went badly, stood up through tears to speak to the media post game. Only 2 players did. The Sedins (who I am actually pretty sure I can tell apart if I met them both face to face) are a great story. Not long ago, it was all about their contracts and how many years, and how much $$. Proving a few people wrong now, aren't they? A very well deserved Hart nomination for Henrik too. Alex Burrows, like him or hate him, is a good story, of a kid that was playing ECHL hockey years ago and is now playing alongside two of the league's best.

So, honestly, if the Canucks end up winning the Cup...I'm not disappointed. It may have just been a long time coming.

And...as we've just proven, sometimes you don't get a second chance.

**Note: This was not one of the segments I planned when I went into this season and said I had new, fun segments. You know the plan I had every intention of following unti life got in the way. We'll see how this goes. Also, major helmet tip to Sports Encyclopedia Vancouver Canucks for the info. What, you thought I remembered every single year of Canucks history over the last 16? If you did, I love you for it, but you gave me way too much credit. Great site, great info.**

No comments: