Written by: Larry “The Nucks IceMan” Johnson
Here I go again, now entering into year number 41 contemplating whether this Canucks team can get back to the Stanley Cup final. Their other two visits, first in 1982 and then in 1994, were followed by long droughts before they had a sniff at returning.
When you look back at the other NHL teams that have been able to return to the Stanley Cup final, the Detroit Red Wings have been the most successful. They have played in it six times since 1995, and won the Cup four times.
Only three teams in that period, Detroit in 1997 & 98, Dallas Stars in 1999 & 2000 and Pittsburgh Penguins along with Detroit in 2008 & 2009, have been in back to back Stanley Cup finals.
The major question for the ‘Nucks Nation will be, can this 2011/12 version be one of those teams? I’m not going to comment on that for now, as I would like to see some pre-season and regular season games, along with viewing some of the other teams.
I do have a comment about this team on what I have seen the last three to four seasons – I still do not think this team is built for the play-offs. Rather, what I see is a team that has been assembled for the regular season.
Whether GM Mike Gillis has added enough depth to the defense and forwards, along with grit on the third and fourth lines, will only come to light as the season goes on.
In thinking about the Penguins return in 2009 to the Cup final, I remember that late in the 2008-09 season they added a veteran player named Bill Guerin. Here was player that was a power forward in the earlier part of his career, was Captain of the New York Islanders, and could take care of himself and his team-mates.
Not too many players tangled with Guerin from 1993 to 2006, and if my memory serves me correctly, when he came to the Penguins he played on a line with Sidney Crosby. His role was easily defined, which was to make sure the other teams did not take liberties with Crosby.
The Penguins went on to wrestle the Cup away from Detroit that season, and Crosby scored 15 goals and had 16 assists in 24 games in those play-offs. Bill Guerin went on to play another season with the Penguins before retiring.
I bring this up because of what has happened in the last three play-off seasons with the Sedins. Anyone who watched those series would have witnessed the physical abuse that the Sedins endured during the games and after the whistles.
Who can forget Boston’s Brad Marchand repeatedly punching Daniel Sedin in the face, while no one on the Canucks did anything about it? Oh yes, I forgot, this was the new style of non retaliation that Mike Gillis had instilled into the Canucks. Guess what? It doesn’t work in the play-offs.
Alex Burrows, who has played mostly on the Sedin line over the last three play-off seasons, is not the guy that is going to protect the Sedins. I admire his grit in playing an agitating style but he is not going to deter the opposition.
There really has been only one player, and he didn’t play regularly with the Sedins, that could slow the after whistle antics down, and that was Todd Bertuzzi.
Maybe, just maybe, the Canucks have a player that is attending this training camp on a tryout basis, that can play that role. I’m speaking of 39 year old Owen Nolan. Now before you write this concept off, hear me out.
Nolan has always been a tough player to play against and could fight with the best of them. He has been the Captain of the San Jose Sharks and the Minnesota Wild. Not only that, but this power forward that can play either wing (although a natural right winger) – can still score.
In the last three seasons he was in the NHL (2007-10), he scored 16, 25 and 16 goals respectively. There are a number of similarities between what Guerin did for the Penguins and what Nolan might be able to do for the Canucks.
So, if the Canucks could squeeze one more season out of Nolan hopefully playing with the Sedins, that would take care of the abuse that was heaped on them during the play-offs. It would also give the Sedins a bit more open space, and if Nolan can’t score 25 goals or more with the Sedins, then I’ve greatly underestimated Nolan’s ability.
I also feel that Alex Burrows could easily play on the second line with someone that he paired up well with in previous years, and that is Ryan Kesler – when he returns. Until then, Cody Hodgson would have Burrows, and either Mikael Sameulsson or Chris Higgins to display the potential that management feels he has.
I’m like the guy from Missouri, which is known as the “show me” state.
Footnotes: I don’t see any of the prospects being able to crack the Canucks line-up, although I liked the size and physical play of forward Darren Archibald and defenseman Adam Polasek in the Young Stars Tournament.
All but two of the Canucks pre-season games, which starts on September 20, are covered by either Sportsnet or TSN. The NHL Network is covering the other two.
Two ways that non season ticket holders can attend a game – 1) join the Prime Seat Club and (2) Last Minute Ticket Club.
Credits – AP, Getty Images, Google Images and Yahoo Sports!
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Filed under: Vancouver Canucks