There was a great deal to like about what the Vancouver Canucks accomplished this past season. A well-coached team, with many stars and some gritty players like Bieksa and Kessler (and others), who got the job done and carried the team to the finals.
But how many times have we heard hockey coaches, analysts and media types say: “Your best players have to be your best players…”
Well, as it turned out,
’s very best—Daniel Sedin, Henrik Sedin and Roberto Luongo— all paid to be their best, were not. Vancouver
It’s a tremendous accomplishment just to get to Game 7 of the Stanley Cup final. Winning a Cup has to be one of the most—if not the most—difficult thing to do in team sports. It’s grinding your way through four playoff rounds. Injuries mount. The pressure from all sides is palpable. The other teams want it badly, too.
It’s not easy.
But when, as Luongo wanted to be, an athlete is paid as the best in the game and you carry that reputation with you, people, fair or not, expect a lot in return.
The truth is, Luongo, in particular, has not delivered. (And along the way, he has inadertantly cast himself, again fair or not, as a not entirely likeable guy, especially when compared with say, Tim Thomas, who also happened to out-perform Luongo in the finals...)
Long considered by many as a “great” young goalie through his years in Florida, he grew unhappy there and was launched into an incredible opportunity with a Canuck team five seasons ago that seemed poised to be good—very, very good.
He would be the guy, it seemed, that would put them over the top: a world-class goalie, or at least one with a reputation as such.
Brian Burke had never acknowledged that he needed better goaltending during his tenure in
, and that ultimately helped cost him his job when the Canucks failed to do anything of note in the playoffs during his time there. Vancouver
His successor, Dave Nonis brought in Luongo, the apparent “answer”.
And year after year,
fans have waited for Luongo to be “the guy”, the goalie that takes it home. Vancouver
All goalie have bad games. But over the course of a playoff series, you need your number-one guy to be good way more often than not, and rise to the toughest occasions.
It is now clear that Luongo–and yes, it’s a pattern—has not been able to do that. (Just over a year ago I posted on Luongo on the heels of Vancouver's playoff exit...)
re-group and come back and win a Cup? Sure, some teams need to get close before winning it all. Vancouver
But history also shows us that there are teams that are close, close, close for years and eventually, it just doesn’t happen for them.
Will the Sedins become gritty all of a sudden, after ten years in the league? Will Luongo become a clutch goalie, after four playoff opportunities in
Very talented guys, all, to be sure. But guys who will lead you to a championship?
Now, I’m not so sure.