The Vancouver Canucks finished the job. They bowed out of the NHL playoffs in four games, allowing the San Jose Sharks to complete their sweep.
Questionable officiating gave them a nudge out the door, but the Canucks deserved to lose that series.
“We put ourselves in the situation where one bad call costs you a game,” Canucks defenseman Kevin Bieksa told the Vancouver Sun. “It was four games of not executing. This wasn't an isolated incident; we were in a 3-0 hole. We didn't play good enough to win the series. It sucks. There's no way to sugarcoat it.”
They have lost 10 of their last 11 playoff games. They are growing old and less relevant.
So what happens now?
General manager Mike Gillis could fire coach Alain Vigneault, but the pool of head coaching candidates is underwhelming.
Gillis could try to trade goaltender Roberto Luongo again, but he will have a tough time finding somebody to take the rest of Luongo’s onerous deal.
The Vancouver Province raised the possibility to moving the Sedin Twins at some point next season to turn the page on this era. That concept seems unpalatable . . . but so does the notion of giving Henrik and Daniel additional years at big dollars.
The Province’s Ed Willes summed up the scenario:
The Canucks were exposed against the Sharks. They were exposed as being too small and too soft to compete at the highest level of an NHL which now rewards other attributes.
This team is no longer close. The window is closed. You saw it over these four games; four games in which the Canucks grew old before our very eyes.
As for the rest of the 2013 campaign, the most exciting part is coming up for the Canucks and that’s all you need to know about what they’ve become.
Canucks goaltender Robert Luongo sounds resigned from moving on from scenic Vancouver this summer.
“I don't want to be one of those guys who is going to stand in the way of anything,” Luongo told reporters. “I always want to put the team ahead of me first and I don't want to be one of those selfish guys.”
He has 10 years left on his epic 12-year, $64-million contract. It appears young Cory Schneider is more than ready to replace him. The lad was 20-8 record last season with a 1.96 goals-against average and .937 save percentage.
“Cory earned it,” Luongo said. “It is a very unique circumstance that we're in where we have an elite young guy who is up and coming, who is probably going to dominate the league for many years. It is a business and that's the way it goes.”
Luongo, 33, would have value to Maple Leafs GM Brian Burke, who is looking to make major changes this summer. Tampa Bay has no long-range solution in goal, so Steve Yzerman should at least give him some thought.
The Red Wings will have lots of cap room and that franchise has gotten great mileage from twilight-year goaltenders in the past. The Blackhawks would also have to consider allocating large dollars for goaltending help after their spring flop.
With Martin Brodeur nearing retirement in New Jersey, that is a logical possibility. Luongo enjoyed his time in South Florida, so he figures to put the Panthers on his list as well.
Canucks GM Mike Gillis told folks in Vancouver that the front office will take some time sorting through this issue.
“I think we all need to take a deep breath,” Gillis said. “The early exit from the playoffs, not meeting our expectations, can lead you to make some pretty poor decisions in a real hurry.
“I think we all need to step back for a couple of days and not do anything — think about it then begin to plan out what we want to do with this team over the summer for the coming season.
“It’s a little premature to start down that path already.”
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