Francesco Aquilini sets the bar low for Vancouver Canucks

VANCOUVER, CANADA - MARCH 17: Vancouver Canucks mascot fin dressed in a St. Patrick's Day costume cheers on the team during the third period in NHL action against the Columbus Blue Jackets on March 17, 2012 at Rogers Arena in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. (Photo by Rich Lam/Getty Images)

Vancouver Canucks owner Francesco Aquilini has seen perhaps the biggest makeover in the history of the franchise since they went from blue and green to the Flying V.

It’s a somewhat confusing time for him, seeing as how Vancouver missed the playoffs for the first time in five seasons and for only the third time since 2000. Trevor Linden is running the show, Jim Benning is his GM and Willie Desjardins is his coach. The Sedins are still thriving, the supporting cast is getting younger and faster and Ryan Miller is between the pipes.

Is this still a Stanley Cup contender?

Francesco Aquilini, earlier this summer:

“Winning a Stanley Cup is everything. If you don’t want to win the Stanley Cup, you shouldn’t own a team.”

Francesco Aquilini, on Team 1040 on Wednesday:

"I expect this team will be competitive. I think it’ll push for a playoff spot, and it's going to be exciting to watch. Once you're in the playoffs, anything can happen. Certain players can get really hot and make a difference. You just never know. Especially being in a salary cap world, everything is so even, just getting into the playoffs is a big deal."

Granted, “get to the playoffs and anything can happen” is still very much within “the Stanley Cup is the goal” range, but let’s be real: An NHL owner whose team was a Stanley Cup contender all of, what, a year ago, basically set the bar at “getting into the playoffs is a big deal.”

While we imagine Aquilini will take grief for this, give the guy some credit: He’s not overstating the depth of the team’s configuration, nor the time it could take for the Canucks to become serious Cup contenders again. It’s a team that will have to scratch and claw for the playoffs, and one that will need a heap of hot players and good fortune to better foes like the Kings, Blackhawks, Blues and Keslers, er, Ducks.

It's kind of refreshing, even if it's not going to sell tickets. But hey, that's why they're bringing in millions of dollars of gourmet food and high-end booze, right?