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Canucks GM: No sweeping changes, injuries a factor in Cup loss

To hear General Manager Mike Gillis say it, the Vancouver Canucks would be Stanley Cup champions were it not for injuries and the Boston Bruins.

Gillis and Canucks head coach Alain Vingeault met the media on Friday for a debriefing on the 2011 Stanley Cup Final and the rest of the season. Gillis compared the loss against the Bruins to the New York Islanders' playoff struggles before their run of four Stanley Cups from 1980-1983.

Which isn't to say he sees the Canucks as dynastic, but rather as a team whose current configuration can win a Stanley Cup.

"To go out and say we need to do 50 different things, I don't think we do," he said. "I think this is a competitive Stanley Cup team, and we proved it this year."

But did that team show up against the Bruins? Gillis mentioned several times during the press conference that the Canucks team that won the President's Trophy and dominated the regular season wasn't the same team that played in the Stanley Cup Final — because of injuries.

"It's unfortunate, and we're not going to use it as an excuse, but in the Final it really wasn't reflective of the team we had during the season, for a variety of reasons. When you begin to lose players, it's part of playoff hockey. It's a war of attrition," he said.

"We thought we had lots of depth, but when you have some of these injuries you go through guys really quick."

Here's Gillis on the lingering injuries to Dan Hamhuis(notes), Alex Edler, Kevin Bieksa(notes), Ryan Kesler(notes), Chris Higgins(notes), Christian Ehrhoff(notes), Henrik Sedin(notes), Mikael Samuelsson(notes) and Manny Malhotra(notes) that undermined their efforts in the playoffs:

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But along with the injuries, Gillis and his coach both indicated that the Bruins turned out to be a difficult team to handle for Vancouver — especially after the whistle.

Both were asked about the physical domination by the Bruins at times during the series; while Boston didn't always lead in hits, they seemed to carry the play when throwing their body at Canucks players … or their fists after the whistle.

"What might have caught us off-guard was after the whistle [actions]. The stuff that was allowed which usually isn't permitted. For whatever reason, it was," said Vigneault.

He said the Canucks' inability to score on the power play during the series allowed the Bruins to continue that extra-curricular activity. What was typically a deterrent for teams trying to take liberties with players like the Sedins didn't intimidate the Bruins, who were masterful on the power play during the series.

It was also by design that the Canucks didn't respond to the Bruins' prodding in the series.

"We had told our guys to stay out of the scrums, play whistle to whistle, as we had all year," said Vigneault.

So do the Canucks have to get tougher in the offseason?

"I'm not going to build our team around a set of circumstances," said Gillis, indicating the Bruins series wasn't always going to be the norm. "There were points in that series where it may have reflected a different era in hockey. And it is what it is."

Instead, he was very 'stay the course,' believing that the group in the room was good enough to challenge for the Stanley Cup next season. He gave goalie Roberto Luongo(notes) a vote of confidence ("I think it's unfair to pick out specific players and place blame on him.") and anticipated retaining free agents Sami Salo(notes), Ehrhoff and Bieksa.

"We're intent on trying this team together as best we can," he said.

Maybe the Canucks are good enough to win the Stanley Cup, and it just wasn't their time.

Maybe next year they don't see the Bruins in the Final. Or go through several key injuries and a suspension in the Final.

That's next season. For now, Gillis said the team is still feeling the unparalleled sting of losing a Game 7 on home ice.

"We worked tremendously hard and had the biggest disappointment that you can have," he said. "It's going to take a little bit of time to get over it. "

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