They believed in themselves at the start of the year when few people did and built on that belief to get off to a good start and a tremendous regular season finish.
That is why it is so disappointing to have the season end the way it did. The team that for 82 games of the regular season and the first four of the playoffs looked so poised and so disciplined fell apart against the Hawks.
You can say they were three minutes away from taking a 3-1 lead in the series and you would be right but you can also say they had a lead in all six games and three leads in their final game and you know how it ended. You can say all that but it still doesn't change the outcome and the too-early summer.
Despite all the media what ifs and analysis of what went wrong, this is a team that surprised many skeptics and there are numerous positives to take from the year.
Mike Gillis has now had a full year to watch the team and can start to really make it his own. The Canucks won the Northwest Division with 100 points. They scored eight fewer goals than Calgary but allowed twenty eight less and this is with Roberto Luongo
being injured and playing in only 54 games. That is the fewest he has played since 2000-2001. Ryan Kesler
ended up with 26 goals and 33 assists. His previous best was 21 goals and 16 assists. Alex Burrows had 28 and 23. His previous best was 12 and 19. Other players who had career years were Kevin Bieksa
, Alex Edler, Steve Bernier, Mason Raymond
, Willie Mitchell, Jannik Hansen
and even Henrik Sedin
. So why is everyone so down?
The team is at a crossroad.
Expectations were high and in the playoffs, were not met. Henrik and Daniel Sedin
provide a steady supply of points as they have proven over the past eight years. To keep them, the team will have to commit between 12 and 14 million dollars. It would be hard to replace their offence but if they return next year, can they take you past the second round?
Mattias Ohlund will want a long term contract and a substantial raise. In four of the last five years he has played at least 77 games and averaged twenty four minutes a game. He personifies hard work and dedication but he will turn 33 in September and can Alex Edler fill his shoes? Roberto Luongo
is eligible to become a free agent after next season. I am sure the Canucks will try to lock him into a long term deal. He has been superb but struggled in the Chicago series.
If you asked me to bet in game one that the Hawks could come back from down 3-0 in the third period to tie it up or that the Canucks would have three separate leads in game six and lose, I would have been an easy mark both times.
Roberto has said he wants to sign where he has a chance to win the Stanley Cup. He has to believe and I mean really believe that he can do it in Vancouver or he might as well move on.
Alain Vigneault has won two division titles in three years. He realizes that his team is built around his goaltender and team defence. It obviously has worked in the regular season but has not translated into a long playoff run. Anaheim beat the Canucks at their own game two years ago and Chicago was able to dictate the style of play to take advantage of their quickness.
Expectations are a necessity to succeed and when those expectations are not met changes have to be made.