Tonight the Vancouver Canucks were once again eliminated in the second round of the Stanley Cup playoffs in what has become an annual exercise in disappointment. Once again, a Canucks team, which did so well in the regular season, failed to live up to expectations and bailed out of the playoffs in disastrous fashion.
I have to admit though, I never thought this year’s team was really a serious Cup contender. Which brings me to my next point. There are dumb hockey fans no matter what city you look in but there are certainly a fair share here in Vancouver. Every year, at the beginning of the season, there are invariably a large number of Canucks fans who say, “the Canucks are going to win the Cup this year.” What a stupid statement to make, especially when they make that statement without even fairly assessing the team. A true hockey fan is one a knowledgeable fan, one who has watched enough hockey to know the makeup of a team that truly has the pieces to make a serious Cup run. Every year though, there are idiots here in Vancouver who proclaim the current team is the “best Canucks team ever”, just because it’s the current team. These people have no sense of history and are blinded to reality. It’s mainly younger fans who fall into this category, just because they don’t know better. Sadly, a lot of people thought this year’s edition of the Canucks “were the best ever” but that’s not true. If you don’t believe me, ask Jim Robson, he’ll tell you the truth.
I guess I should temper my criticism of this year’s team because they were riddled with injuries with regard to their defensive corps. Losing Willie Mitchell for half a season and all of the playoffs was a severe blow. Then continuing to lose d-men and having to play guys like Andrew Alberts just made things worse. Winning teams don’t use excuses though. They find a way to win, no matter what adversity they may face. It may not be fair but I have to single out one player on the team. The play of team captain and the highest paid player, Roberto Luongo was not at a satisfactory level. He has yet to prove himself as a playoff goalie. Let’s not even mention the Olympics. Winning the gold medal with the most talented players on the planet in front of him did not prove he could play under pressure when it matter. Bobby Lou basically sucked after the Olympics were over. Sure, he had short flashes of brilliance here and there but he failed to string together enough consistent performances. A true playoff goaltender puts together enough good performances so that his play makes a positive impact. Having one good period in every five or six doesn’t help your team.
Though I’m hearing it less and less, every year I hear people say Roberto Luongo is the best goalie the Canucks have ever had. Those people could not be more wrong. Since 1994, the best netminder ever that played for Vancouver has been Kirk McLean. His performance in the spring of 1994 exemplifies all the qualities a true playoff goalie exudes. He was brilliant throughout four long playoff series. He was calm, cool, and collected. He didn’t let opposing players or circumstances bother him. He stole games for his team when Vancouver had no business winning games. If you’re tired of watching Bobby Lou let in five plus goals in critical playoff games, I invite you to view the video above. Kirk McLean turns aside 52 shots to lead his team to victory in game one of the Stanley Cup Finals (not a measly round two game). When Luongo can lead his team into the Finals, you let me know.