Ugh, locker clean out day.
The least fun activity of any hockey season came and went Tuesday with the Vancouver Canucks addressing the media one final time to officially wrap up the 2011-12 season.
General Manager Mike Gillis spoke to the media before the dressing room opened up and while he had some revealing things to say, Roberto Luongo stole the show.
In the largest media scrum since the Stanley Cup Final last season, Luongo stood tall and expressed his disappointment in the season having ended so early; he said it hasn’t really sunk in yet and likely won’t for a while.
What will be making headlines for the foreseeable future were Luongo’s comments about his future, which turned a few heads.
Luongo has and always will be a team player and when asked if he could envision himself splitting time with Cory Schneider in goal next season, he said he’s willing to do what’s best for the team.
“It’s going to be what’s best for the team, whatever scenario that is, I’m okay with it,” said Luongo, who added “whether that involves me being here or not is okay.”
Luongo has met with Mike Gillis already and the two will reconvene in a few days to discuss all the scenarios available moving forward.
When questioned on if he’d rather stay in Vancouver or explore other options, Luongo maintained his stance on doing what’s best for the Canucks.
“I’d prefer to do what’s best for the team. Ultimately, even though I had a no-trade, it is not my decision, but it is a very unique circumstance that we’re in where we have an elite young guy that’s up and coming and is probably going to dominate the league for many years, so I’m not sure what I would do if I was GM as well.”
Luongo went as far as saying “yeah, of course, if they asked me to” when asked if he’d be willing to waive his no-trade clause.
No excuses from Kesler
Most NHLers are playing at less than 100 per cent in the post-season and Ryan Kesler said Tuesday he was not himself for the first round and for months before that.
Kesler said he injured his shoulder sometime in February and may need surgery; he hasn’t had the necessary testing done or talked to the Canucks trainers or doctors as of yet, so he couldn’t comment with certainty.
He was certainly not using any ailment as an excuse for a 17-game goalless drought to end his seventh campaign with the Canucks.
”Obviously it bothers you, but I’m not going to sit here and make excuses. I wasn’t good enough down the stretch and it’s going to be a long summer and I’m going to take this time to rest and recover and come back next year better.”
If there is a bright side to summer sneaking up on the Canucks so quickly, it’s that they actually get a summer, as opposed to the less than eight weeks off they had last year to mentally, physically and emotionally regroup.
With how short last off-season was, it all kind of blended together into one long year and that didn’t help Kesler in his recovery from left hip surgery.
”It’s tough coming off injuries, it sounds like another excuse, but it’s tough, it took me longer than expected, I probably came back a little too early, but that’s hindsight now and I felt the last two months I was skating really well and for me I was happy to see that.”
Sedins struggle with Games 1 & 2
Daniel and Henrik Sedin play a similar game and they spoke a similar game Tuesday as the twins both blamed Vancouver’s uncharacteristically slow start to the opening of the Western Conference Quarter-Final for its eventual demise.
”In a seven game series, you can’t give away two games because then you’ve got to win four out of five against a team like LA that doesn’t give you anything,” said Henrik. “That’s way too tough. First game maybe our emotions were too high, we took too many penalties, second game our power play cost us the game and that happens on rare, rare occasions for this team, but it happened twice and that can’t happen.”
Daniel said this is definitely an opportunity lost by the Canucks to really do some damage in the post-season, but that the first round can be one of the toughest. Vancouver’s overtime win in Game 7 over Chicago last season is proof of that.
”I think we realized last year it’s tough to get to the Final, but even getting through the first round is huge, then you get on a roll and good things happen. We were in a pretty deep hole after the first two games at home and I think that cost us the series.”
Off-season changes occur to every team, even the Stanley Cup Champion, so there is bound to be some turnover in Vancouver. Daniel hopes it isn’t major because he and Henrik believe in this group.
”We have a really good thing here, I think people have to realize that, they also have to realize that getting out of the Western Conference is extremely tough. You can look at us being the No. 1 seed and LA being the No. 8 seed, but on paper it’s a pretty tight matchup.
”We knew it was going to be tough, I think we had the team to beat them for sure, but when we had the start we did to the playoffs, it’s tough.
Booth’s first kick at the can
David Booth and Zack Kassian were the only Canucks to make their playoff debuts this post-season and while Kassian hit the jackpot in just his first NHL season, Booth paid his dues.
The Canucks forward spent five seasons with the Florida Panthers before being traded to Vancouver last October; he was happy to finally join a contending team and the irony now is that tonight the Panthers can advance to the second round for just the second time ever, and the first time since 1996.
Still, Booth wouldn’t change a thing.
”I really enjoyed playing with these guys, kind of got me excited again, like really excited to come to the rink and to play,” said Booth. “I’m really happy I came here and hopefully that excitement will be here as long as I’m here.”
Although Booth didn’t find the back of the net in his first five playoff games, he was a sparkplug for the Canucks and his improved play led to time spent on Vancouver’s top line alongside Daniel and Henrik Sedin.
Then, just like that, the season was over and he was cleaning out his locker, again.
”It just goes by so quick, now it’s like where did that go? You wish you could have done something more, started a little bit stronger, it was fun playing in those games, it’s just kind of disappointing looking back.”
Booth isn’t disappointed looking back at his season, however, as it was easily his most difficult as a professional and he said he feels stronger for everything he experienced.
”It was an emotional year, that’s for sure. I wasn’t expecting the trade at first, then coming here to a new team, trying to get situated, then injuries, struggling on the ice, there’s always highs and lows and that’s a part of being an athlete you have to deal with and it makes you a little bit stronger every time you go through something like that.
”I had lots of good times though, you definitely look back on the good times more than anything else.”
Raymond quick to forget
If anyone has one of those mind eraser gadgets from Men In Black, Mason Raymond would like to borrow it.
Like Booth, Raymond had the most difficult year of his career and it all stemmed from the severe injury he suffered in the Stanley Cup Final last season. The injury prevented him from working out properly, returning to the ice properly and being the player he knows he can be.
Still, GM Mike Gillis expressed faith in Raymond and said the Canucks aren’t giving up on him for next year.
”It’s great support,” said Raymond, who looks to benefit from a lengthy summer as much as anyone. “I didn’t get much of a summer last year due to my injury to work out, so obviously it’s disappointing we lost out, but I look forward to now getting a good chance to getting full workouts in during a full summer heading into a full training camp being more prepared for the full season to come.”
Raymond’s work ethic is second to none with the 26-year-old learning a lot from Trevor Linden before he retired, so if anyone can rebound from a devastating injury and sub-par season, it’s him.
He won’t be changing his game in doing so either.
”I am the player I am, I’m not going to go change and be the bigger hitter I am or something like that. There are plenty of pieces to the puzzle; it starts with working out in the off-season and continuing to do those things.
“I think I’ve proven it a bit in the past as who I can be as a player, I’ve learned a ton this year, there’s a lot of things that go on and I’ve said time and time again, just when you think you’ve learned a bunch, you learn even more through the circumstances I went through this year.”