Cam Cole: Rebounding Canucks can't deal with the real season

 

NHL odds and sods: Oilers’ hierarchy still entrenched; goalies? Not so much

 
 
 
 
First-year Vancouver Canucks head coach Willie Desjardins may bring the fire in this opening-round series in Calgary against the Flames, but his players aren’t igniting in the cauldron of the NHL playoffs.
 

First-year Vancouver Canucks head coach Willie Desjardins may bring the fire in this opening-round series in Calgary against the Flames, but his players aren’t igniting in the cauldron of the NHL playoffs.

Photograph by: Jeff McIntosh, THE CANADIAN PRESS

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NEW YORK — Items that may grow up to be columns, playoff edition:

NOT GOOD ENOUGH: Whatever else they have achieved in this bounce-back season from the John Tortorella disaster, the Vancouver Canucks of the Trevor Linden-Jim Benning-Willie Desjardins administration have not proven they are built for the rigours of the post-season.

Viewed, admittedly, only on big-screen TVs in bars and hotel rooms from the far side of the continent, the impression is that compared to the hit-and-hustle, clog-the-lanes teams that are winning in the playoffs, the Canucks are middling in an awful lot of categories. Not as fast, not as determined, not as direct, not as punishing, a little too error-prone on defence, a little too East-West on the attack, a little vulnerable in goal.

So, yes, it was a good season. Until it got serious.

ANOTHER AMIGO: The appointment Monday of former Hockey Canada head Bob Nicholson as Edmonton Oilers’ CEO may clarify the club’s confusing line of command eventually, but any idea that the move may dislodge Kevin Lowe from the hierarchy is likely wishful thinking on the part of disenchanted Oiler fans.

Not only is Lowe solidly entrenched with (and idolized by) his good friend, team owner Daryl Katz, but he worked with Nicholson on the management teams of three consecutive Canadian Olympic hockey missions, two of them gold-medal efforts. That’s a pretty solid bond, one Nicholson is unlikely to break.

WHY SPEND MORE? For every argument that says a team can’t win without a great goaltender, there is a counter-argument that there are few superstar goalies, and the rest blow hot and cold, and the important thing is to bet on the right horse.

Detroit didn’t plan on Petr Mrazek ousting Jimmy Howard from the starting job. The Ottawa Senators certainly didn’t see farm-team call-up Andrew (The Hamburglar) Hammond’s incredible stretch run coming, nor did the Chicago Blackhawks envision yanking their Stanley Cup-winning goalie, Corey Crawford, in favour of career minor leaguer Scott Darling.

Devan Dubnyk, traded three times in a year, was a mid-season desperation throw by the Minnesota Wild who merely saved their season, and after Eddie Lack survived the Roberto Luongo/Cory Schneider fiasco, no one in Vancouver was sure he was ready to be thrown into the fire when their big free-agent signing, Ryan Miller, got hurt.

Goalies are unpredictable animals.

REAP AS YE SOW: People like Winnipeg Jets behemoth Dustin Byfuglien and Seattle Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch take fans’ unwavering devotion for granted, and see themselves as owing nothing beyond what they give on the field of play.

Fair enough. There’s no law against being monosyllabic. But here’s a thought:

In earlier days (which I actually witnessed) players, with few exceptions, didn’t make so much money that they could afford to be rude and dismissive, because they knew that being polite and co-operative might buy them a year or two of goodwill at the end of their careers.

NAME DROPPING: I don’t think it’s overstating the case to say that ex-players like Kevin Lowe, Craig MacTavish, Trevor Linden, Marc Bergevin, Bruce Boudreau, Doug Risebrough, Patrick Roy and Joe Nieuwendyk, to name just a few, advanced into the hockey coaching/management sphere in part because they were quotable and interesting and, consequently, viewed as bright and insightful. Not all proved to be, but many did.

Ditto the ex-players who now populate the TV panels and colour analyst positions — Ray Ferraro, Craig Simpson, Nick Kypreos, Mike Milbury, Aaron Ward, Mike Johnson, Kelly Hrudey, et al.

Same with coaches like Mike Babcock, Paul Maurice, Ken Hitchcock, Todd McLellan and Bob Hartley, and with GMs like Bryan Murray and Dale Tallon and Brian Burke and, before he became a recluse, Glen Sather.

When all was said and done, their willingness to play the game with the media earned them a line of credit to be used during lean times, so that calls for their heads didn’t come quite so quickly, or at all.

MEN BEHAVING BADLY: Different story for Cincinnati Reds manager Bryan Price, who unloaded a total of 77 f-bombs on the Cincinnati Enquirer’s C. Trent Rosecrans the other day out of a complete misunderstanding of the job of a reporter. Price thinks it’s to be an extension of the team’s Department of Withholding Information. So he lit up Rosecrans with the kind of tirade we hockey writers have only ever heard before from audio tape of former Leafs coach John Brophy, who used the four-letter friend-getter a mere 72 times, as pretty much every part of speech, in a 1988 rant about his own team’s lack of character.

DOWN AND DIRTY: As for the near-fight in the elevator Monday night at Consol Energy Center, where Pittsburgh Penguins GM Jimmy Rutherford cussed out columnist Rob Rossi, who’d been critical of Rutherford’s personnel decisions and handling of the salary cap, that sounds like a case of a GM much too thin-skinned to hold the big job in a demanding hockey market.

Carolina was a pretty pressure-free environment, which may be how he lasted so long there.

ccole@vancouversun.com

Twitter.com/rcamcole

 
 
 
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First-year Vancouver Canucks head coach Willie Desjardins may bring the fire in this opening-round series in Calgary against the Flames, but his players aren’t igniting in the cauldron of the NHL playoffs.
 

First-year Vancouver Canucks head coach Willie Desjardins may bring the fire in this opening-round series in Calgary against the Flames, but his players aren’t igniting in the cauldron of the NHL playoffs.

Photograph by: Jeff McIntosh, THE CANADIAN PRESS

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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