More has been a word buzzing around Vancouver for a few days now; the Canucks wanted more goals, more saves, more wins and Friday team general manager Mike Gillis said he needs more time before he’s able to explain Vancouver’s second round exit.
As Gillis and head coach Alain Vigneault held their year-end media availability in front of gaggle of reporters, questions were aplenty, ranging from Roberto Luongo’s captaincy to the ineffective Canucks penalty kill, but the major query on most minds revolved around losing to Chicago.
“I think we clearly didn’t compete the same way in the playoffs as we did in the regular season and we have to take some time and evaluate why that happened,” said Gillis.
“It’s a little too close to it to start assessing what went wrong, but we had players that had career regular seasons and we didn’t get the same performances in the playoffs and we have to figure out why. I think before we get to changes that have to be made, we need to go through that evaluation.”
Despite needing time to take a step back and assess precisely what led to Vancouver’s demise, Gillis knows precisely when the Canucks lost their focus, which allowed Chicago to spin the series. Last year it was Martin Havlat turning the tide with a late third period goal in a 2-1 overtime comeback win in Game 4, this time around Patrick Sharp’s shorthanded score 6:49 into the third period of a 4-2 Blackhawks comeback victory in Game 2 stood as the golden goal.
“We played our style of game one other game in the series and we weren’t going to win with that,” added Gillis. “We have to get to the bottom of why those things occurred and we definitely need to improve in certain areas with the personnel.”
The Canucks have now lost to the Blackhawks as the favourite and as the underdog, the only difference between six game series losses being that coming out of last year’s matchup, many said Vancouver was in fact the better team, it simply didn’t play to its strengths.
Gillis couldn’t state the same this time around.
“When you look at the totality of the two series over two years, we didn’t match their emotional level and if that’s a major part of it, which it is during the playoffs, I can’t sit here today and say we were the better team.
“You need the full package to be able to win; it’s such a tight league that you get a bounce here or a bounce there and it changes the momentum, it changes everything. Pittsburgh the other night hit the post three times in a minute and lost the series. It’s that tight. When you’re in those types of series and you’re in that type of competition, you need to have absolutely everything going for you or you’re not going to get through.
“I think Montreal is showing that, they’re getting everything they possibly can out of every player they can and that’s what we have to have. If Chicago was better than us in certain categories, then they’re a better team.”
One of the best questions and responses to come of the press conference involved whether matching the intensity of teams like Chicago in the future is a matter of nature or nurture.
How can you get the players to not only match, but surpass the enemy and mentally leapfrog them in a seven-game series? Gillis looked to the strides made by Vancouver’s offence, the second highest scoring unit in the NHL this year (up from 11th in 2008-09 and 23rd in 2007-08) to formulate his response.
“When I came here this was a very defensive team, I said at the time that Alain coaches the players that he has and we’ve transformed this team into a much more offensive team, so I do think you can nurture to an extent.
“This was the first time in Canucks history we had the leading scorer in the league. That’s the result of a lot of good things, including Henrik’s desire and effort, but it’s also a result of style of play and the people that he’s playing with and how the defencemen move the puck up, it’s a lot of different things. I think there is nature and nurture that goes into it. I believe we have strong leadership in our dressing room, maybe we need to nurture it a little bit further to get more out of it.”
There’s that word again: more. More is clearly required of the Canucks to take the next step and more is what Gillis will be in search of this summer.