Tuesday, 15 February 2011

Canuck Cup Success Unlikely?

I feel a little bit of a hypocrite as I sit down to write this. Only a couple of months ago I wrote an article discussing how complete the Vancouver Canucks seemed to be, and how they were bringing more to the table this year. They were dominating the Western Conference then and they were finding games very easy to win. I considered them possible favourites to lift the cup. I didn't say they would definitely win but I was certainly singing their praises.

How a couple of months can change things...

I should start by saying that, in appearance, not much has changed. Vancouver are still top of the pile in the Western Conference and are still playing reasonably well. It is safe to say they will reach the playoffs too. Why the pessimism then? Well Vancouver don't look as Cup-ready as they did not so long ago. They are a banged up team with plenty of injuries to their blue-line and their offense is starting to show its lack of depth. Behind the Sedins and Kesler, who do they have who you can consider a game-winning (nevermind a cup-winning) player? Maybe Samuelsson? Maybe Burrows? Maybe not.

You need a healthy team to win a Cup and Vancouver do not have that. While they do have depth on their blue-line, they are currently being stretched very thin. Andrew Alberts was the latest casualty to Vancouver's defence after he broke his wrist in the second period of a 3-2 loss to St. Louis. He joins teammates Alexander Edler (back surgery), Dan Hamhuis (concussion), Keith Ballard (sprained knee), and Lee Sweatt (broken foot) on the injured reserve. Only Ballard and Sweatt have not been placed on long-term injury reserve.

Can Luongo be a cup-winning goalie?
Beyond the lack of offensive depth and the crippled blue-line, Vancouver may have another issue. Roberto Luongo is a great goalie and has proven that in the regular season. However, he has yet to prove his pedigree in the playoffs. He has never been past the second round and while some of the blame lays at his team-mates' feet for not protecting him enough and not scoring enough, it also lies at Luongo's feet for not repeating his regular season form when it really matters.

There are plenty of issues facing the Vancouver Canucks right now and, at least in recent years, they have shown themselves to be a team that doesn't face adversity particularly well. We haven't seen a Canadian Stanley Cup-winning team since Montreal back in 1992/93. Maybe this year is a bridge too far as well.


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