Thu May 13 12:50pm EDT
Ed. Note: As the Stanley Cup Playoffs continue, we're bound to lose some friends along the journey. We've asked for these losers, gone but not forgotten, to be eulogized by the people who knew the teams best: The fans who hated them the most. Here is Edmonton Oilers blogger Scott Reynolds of The Copper & Blue, fondly recalling the Vancouver Canucks.)
By Scott Reynolds
Today we gather not to mourn the oh-so-deserved passing of the Vancouver Canucks, but rather to tell the hard truth to all of their deluded and grief-stricken supporters.
Grief is understandable. The deconstruction of a cherished worldview is never easy, and many of the true be-loo-vers actually thought that the Canucks were the better team before their series with the Chicago Blackhawks began. Jesus Luongo himself said as much even after the loss.
Yes, the expectation was righteous vengeance on the Blackhawks for a year ago; but rather than revenge, the Canucks engaged in recapitulation: eliminated on the exact same day by the exact same team in the exact same round.
Yet there were subtle differences. Instead of meekly folding into the night, Mikael Samuelsson(notes) had a toddler's temper tantrum. Instead of Chelsea Dagger over the speakers, Luongo was serenaded with sarcastic applause from his one-time disciples. Instead of seven goals against, there were only five. Luongo himself boasted that he "kept it under seven goals."
Congrats, my good man! That's a two-goal improvement on both your last performance in Vancouver and your last elimination game against the Hawks.
"Improvement was made." You must be so proud! It's like he thinks this was a game of NHL94, another chance just a click away.
I know from experience how frustrating it can be to hear your captain talk like that and to their credit, many in Vancouver are calling Luongo on his verbal diarrhea. But for many in GM Place, the most frustrating thing wasn't Luongo's post-game comments or even the loss itself. After watching each minute of each Canucks game in the playoffs -- so did more than 90 percent of Canucks' fans -- I know that what really killed the fans was the lack of penalties.
The Canucks didn't get even one until Samuelsson's hissy fit, which meant missing out on the daily recitation of the "Ref, you suck!" mantra.
Good officiating, bad officiating, it never seemed to matter: Whenever the Canucks were losing it was always the damned refs who were at fault. But in the last game of the season, the penalties didn't come and the fans went home with their team's inadequacies burned into their memories (in that overflowing section labeled "Failure").
Unchanged since '06
A man that was played to a draw by Michal Handzus(notes) and Dave Bolland(notes) is the best player in the league? It seems a tad far-fetched. And sure enough, looking at his "awesome" season, a few numbers besides the rudimentary goals and assists stand out. His shooting percentage sat at 17.5 percent, a full four ticks better than his career average. He started in the offensive zone more than any Canuck forward not named Daniel and often against nobodies.
The bottom line: He was lucky and he was playing against scrubs.
In the playoffs, Henrik Sedin showed that, despite being a very good player, he really struggles against other good players. Not only is Henrik Sedin not the best player in the league, he doesn't really belong in the conversation.
And what about Alex Burrows? He sure was great! That empty-netter against L.A. was clutch! Burrows even celebrated with the douchiest tribute for a fallen teammate of all-time. You'd think it would be impossible to make paying tribute to someone who's passed away into needless showboating, but the talents of Alex Burrows know no bounds! Imagine the thought process: "Change my number to 28 or 82? No... too classy. Put Bourdon's name or number on my helmet? No... too classy. Showboat like a junior player in front of defeated opponents? That's perfect!"
And the fans love him; I guess they can relate. Many Canucks supporters take on the persona of deluded Bobby Lu and some seem to think that Alex Burrows being a complete ass justifies their own ass-hattery.
Yes, my dear friends, you've seen success so infrequently that you declare Henrik Sedin the best in the league and the team ready for the elite in the conference -- when in reality the player is great, but not the best; and the team is just good, and nothing more.
And that's what makes Oiler fandom so wonderful. We know what a really good team looks like and we know that right now the Oilers are really bad. But we can at least be honest about the club. You should try it sometime.