Canucks, Luongo face same situation as Olympic teammate Crosby
The Vancouver Canucks enter the 2012 regular season in a familiar predicament. The team must best an already impressive season by improving their play and themselves all in the name of capturing the elusive fourth win that escaped them in last year’s Stanley Cup Finals.
The Canucks failed to make the most of two opportunities against the Boston Bruins to clinch the Cup and now have an entire 82 game season to work towards that same opportunity once again. All due respect to Christian Ehrhoff and Raffi Torres, the Canucks begin this season with the nucleus of the team intact while looking towards younger players to step up within the lineup.
So how does a team return to capture Lord Stanley’s Mug after coming oh-so-close the season previous? The road to redemption isn’t pretty.
The Pittsburgh Penguins lost the 2008 Stanley Cup Finals in Game Six to the Detroit Red Wings, yet a year later Sidney Crosby returned to become the youngest NHL captain ever to win the Stanley Cup.
While the same end result is ultimately desired, the Canucks won’t find any comfort in the gruelling season the ’09 Penguins suffered through before becoming champions. Head coach Michel Terrien lost his job and everyone but the golden boy himself was rumoured to be on the trading block at some point during the season, yet the adversity made the Penguins stronger.
The transformation from defeated finalists to Cup Champions poses a daunting challenge for Vancouver, but with all the necessary pieces in place to make another run at the championship GM Mike Gillis is aware of the pitfalls waiting for his team as they attempt a return to the final.
“We’ve looked back at teams, especially Canadian teams,” Gillis told TSN. “There have been things that occurred that we have tried to avoid and things we have tried to follow.”
As much as Gillis has attempted to build a consistent hockey club, injuries to Ryan Kesler and Mason Raymond could cost the Canucks a few points early in the season. Cody Hodgson is expected to sufficiently fill the void at second line center, but the reigning Selke Trophy winner cannot truly be replaced.
Head coach Alain Vigneault shouldn’t be in danger of losing his job this season either; however the tough task of turning post-season defeat into regular-season success remains a tall order for the returning head coach. To say a slow start is expected would be an understatement.
Despite the absence of a Stanley Cup ring the Canucks return to the NHL regular season with a hateful target or their backs and only one goal in mind. Thursday another torturous season begins against the same Pittsburgh Penguins that made the journey back to the finals three years ago, offering the first of many lessons to learn this season.
Can the Canucks return to the big dance while escaping mid-season casualties? Thursday fans begin to find out.