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E.J. Express: Was Canucks' loss to L.A. all that bad?

by EJ Hradek

There was wide-ranging disappointment in Vancouver after the Presidents' Trophy-winning Canucks, last spring's Stanley Cup runner-up, were eliminated from this season's championship chase in just five first-round games by the upstart Kings.

After further review, however, the Canucks might have done well to stretch the Kings to one more game than the minimum in that opening-round series.

Since then, Los Angeles has swept the second-seeded Blues and grabbed a 2-0 series lead on the third-seeded Coyotes (who finished just two points ahead of L.A. in the regular-season standings), outscoring those teams by a combined 23-8.

By contrast, if you throw out an empty-net goal in Game 1, the Kings had three one-goal wins against the Canucks, who played without ace forward Daniel Sedin in the first three games.

And in the last three games of the series, the Kings and Canucks each scored four goals. L.A. eventually eliminated Vancouver on an overtime goal by Jarret Stoll.


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For the Canucks, more than their own problems, they ran into the wrong team at the wrong time. GM Mike Gillis should keep that in mind as he considers what to do with his group going forward.

Now, let's take a quick trip on the Express.

WE'RE WAITING …: If the Oilers want to chart a new course without coach Tom Renney, that's fine. But come on -- make a decision already!

In my mind, it's really bad business to leave a coach hanging out to dry for several weeks after the end of the season. I don't think it sends a great message to all those young players in Edmonton about the way the Oilers run their team.

If the Oilers want to hire former Flames coach Brent Sutter, as is the rumor, just go ahead and do it. It's not fair to Renney, who has been left to sit by the phone while other jobs around the League get filled.

RETURN ENGAGEMENT: Speaking of coaching jobs, don't be surprised if former Avalanche/Thrashers coach Bob Hartley turns up behind a bench somewhere in Canada next season.

After leading the ZSC Lions to a Swiss League title, Hartley's name has been mentioned as a candidate for vacant jobs in Calgary and Montreal.

Hartley has ties to Flames GM Jay Feaster, dating to their time together working for the Hershey Bears of the American Hockey League in the 1990s. And Hartley is bilingual, making him a natural candidate for the Montreal job.

Hartley has a pretty strong career resume. He directed Colorado to a Stanley Cup in 2002 and guided the Thrashers to their only playoff appearance (and a Southeast Division title) in 2007. Hartley led the Bears to an AHL title in 1997 and he has a QMJHL championship to his credit, as well.

COACHING REMATCH?: A potential Kings-Rangers Stanley Cup Final matchup would give Darryl Sutter another shot at John Tortorella.

In 2004, Sutter's Flames took Tortorella's Lightning to seventh game in the Final before losing 2-1. The Flames had a 3-2 series lead, but couldn't finish the Lightning, who forced a deciding game with an overtime road win in Game 6.

Coincidently, the Rangers and Kings opened the season against one another in Stockholm back on Oct. 7. The Kings earned a 3-2 overtime win on a goal by since-traded defenseman Jack Johnson.

A week later, the Kings opened their North American slate in New Jersey, suffering a 2-1 shootout loss to the Devils on Oct. 13. Those teams met again on Oct. 25 at Staples Center, with New Jersey scoring a 3-0 victory.

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