The Vancouver Canucks were once the most feared team in the West. They won the Presidents’ Trophy in back-to-back years, and the only real controversy was whether it should be Roberto Luongo or Cory Schneider starting in goal.
Now, Luongo is gone, Schneider is gone, Ryan Kesler is uninterested and the Canucks are on the brink of missing the playoffs for the first time since 2008.
In a game on Monday night which should have been played with a playoff mentality considering there are only 12 games left in their season, the Canucks came out slow, sluggish and lackadaisical. Before you knew it, the Tampa Bay Lightning, who are also scratching and clawing for a playoff spot, had a 3-0 lead.
The Canucks fought back and almost sent the game into overtime, which is commendable, but sometimes you just dig a hole too deep and it’s impossible to climb out of it.
Success without Stanley Cups is a difficult road to take in the NHL. Sure, the Canucks had a bunch of winning seasons in a row and won the Northwest division five years in a row before the new alignment, but it never really matters in the long run if a ring is never won. The Canucks have gone from Stanley Cup hopefuls to mapping out a rebuilding blueprint in less than a year.
Luongo and Schneider have already packed their bags, and I’d be willing to bet a pretty penny that Kesler will be headed elsewhere in the offseason. That is, if the Canucks can’t figure it out before this season abruptly ends with continuous defeats.
Vancouver still has a solid team. They still have guys like Alexandre Burrows and Henrik Sedin in the lineup who can create offense. Eddie Lack is no slouch in between the pipes and love him or hate him, head coach John Tortorella can be an effective commander when his head is screwed on tight.
The Canucks’ loss to the Lightning is a tough one to swallow, but if they can learn from how poorly they started the game and make the proper adjustments, they don’t have to throw in the towel quite yet.
Shane Darrow is an NHL writer for Rant Sports; Feel free to follow him on Twitter @ShaneDarrow.