First, a confession.
I watched Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals with Tracy, my two sisters and their significant others. About halfway through the third period, I received a text message from a friend who was watching the game on the CBC screens that said fights were starting and things were getting out of hand. I had a sick feeling in my stomach, not because the Canucks are about to lose their best chance to finally lift Lord Stanley’s mug, but because I remember 1994 and the riots that happened then all too well. All of us left with about four minutes left in the game and hopped on the Sky Train just in time to hear a car explode from Georgia St.
I didn’t see the end of that game. I didn’t see Brad Marchand’s empty-net goal, amazingly, his 11th of the postseason. I didn’t see Gary Bettman hand the Stanley Cup to Zdeno Chara.
Yesterday, I finally mustered the strength to watch the rest of Game 7 from my PVR. Some may call it therapeutic. I say it’s ready to move on.
As disappointing as last year’s finish was, the fact is that the Canucks played perhaps their greatest season. They won the President’s Trophy, a first in franchise history. They finished at or near the top of every significant statistical category. Individuals won awards and the team made it to the Stanley Cup Finals for just the third time in their 40-year history.
Can the Canucks repeat the magical ride that was the 2010/2011 season?
History suggests that they can’t. Since the lockout, only two teams have made it to the Stanley Cup Finals in consecutive years. (The Detroit Red Wings and Pittsburgh Penguins played each other both in 2008 and 2009; the Wings won in 2008 and the Penguins won in 2009.) In six years, ten different teams made it all the way to the big dance.
However, this season’s Canucks have most of the same faces in the lineup. The top-9 is largely intact with the exception of Raffi Torres. Ryan Kesler and Mason Raymond are out to start the season, but the Canucks will have trade deadline day pickup, Chris Higgins, for an entire season, free agent signing, Marco Sturm, and Cody Hodgson looking ready for a full-time NHL gig. The fourth line is revamped and will be anchored by Maxim Lapierre, a huge upgrade over Alex Bolduc. (We’ll see how much better Aaron Volpatti and Dale Weise are over the dozen-ish guys the Canucks rolled out on the fourth line last year.) As well, the entire defense corps is back except for Christian Ehrhoff. Ehrhoff is a big loss, but will hopefully be offset by Alex Edler and Chris Tanev taking the next big step in their development and a full and healthy season from Keith Ballard.
It’s true that there are a lot of factors that have to fall into place to return to the Stanley Cup Finals. That said, I think the Canucks are in a good position to make this happen.
Sometime before their season opener against the Pittsburgh Penguins tonight, the Canucks will raise the Western Conference Championship banner to celebrate their accomplishments of last season. Besides that, the team will move forward and focus on finishing their unfinished business from last year.
We should all do the same.