Originally posted on Pro Sports Daily  |  Last updated 4/27/12

How did the Vancouver Canucks go from being Stanley Cup finalists one year to first-round flops the next?

Many would like to believe the Canucks' early playoff exit was all about bad goaltending. Roberto Luongo, public enemy No. 1, was benched after the Canucks lost the first two games. Cory Schneider took his place, performed exceptionally well most of the time, and will take over as the No. 1 netminder once Luongo is traded this summer.

But the truth is: Coach Alain Vigneault pulled Luongo only in an effort to get some much needed momentum. Had it not been for Luongo's strong play, the Canucks would have been blown out in Game 1.

You can expect to hear considerable discussion about Vancouver's goaltending situation in the next several weeks as Luongo's possible destinations, ranging from Tampa Bay to Toronto, and potential trade returns are discussed ad nauseum. There will also be considerable talk about Schneider's impending new contract. He is due for a big raise. Is he worth it?

The Canucks will also require a new backup as Schneider moves up to No. 1. Who will it be?

Stay tuned.

But all of this talk about goaltending will, ahem, mask Vancouver's real problem: a lack of scoring.

Simply put, Vancouver's top six forwards were not consistent enough. They need to be much better.

Henrik and Daniel Sedin and Alex Burrows, the top line most of the season, did their part, albeit to a lesser degree than in seasons past. However, the second line went AWOL many nights, because -- it has since been revealed -- Ryan Kesler was playing with an undisclosed injury since February and the others did not show up to play often enough.

Mason Raymond was a major disappointment after he flourished briefly following his return from a fractured vertebrae. David Booth was hot and cold after being acquired in a trade early in the season from Florida, and looked lost while playing in the playoffs for the first time in his career. Chris Higgins was never the same after he battled foot and hand infections and an adverse reaction to the antibiotics used to treat them.

Among the bottom six, Jannik Hansen had a strong first half but disappeared in the second half. The output from the rest of the crew, aside from Max Lapierre, was almost non-existent.

As a result, the Canucks had few options when the power play tanked. Defensemen, notably Alex Edler (career-high 49 points) fared reasonably well production-wise but could only do so much. The offensive struggles point to a lack of depth throughout the organization at forward.

The Canucks were largely able to finish first overall for the second consecutive season because they play in a weak division (the Northwest) and did not face many contenders down the stretch. As periodic call-ups showed, the Canucks have few, if any, players on the farm who are ready to play regularly in the NHL right now, and it's questionable whether they will be much better by September.

During four years at the helm, general manager Mike Gillis has drafted only one player who became a regular: the departed Cody Hodgson. In addition to a bona fide power forward who can produce consistently and take some of the pressure off the Sedin twins, the franchise lacks the strong internal competition that ultimately produces more points.

Gillis contends offense is what sells in the NHL, but at the trade deadline he placed an emphasis on acquiring more defense. The GM also contends Zack Kassian can become a more influential player, but he was not what the Canucks needed at the trade deadline.

Some argue the Canucks had to get Kassian then because he would have been snapped up by another club. Maybe so, but Vancouver required a proven scorer who could help them immediately -- and didn't get one. The lack of consistent production was exacerbated when Daniel Sedin missed 12 games, including the first three playoff contests, and nobody could fill the void.

True to form, he excelled upon his return for the final two games, but by then it was too late.

Gillis fashions himself as an innovative GM who likes to spend considerable time and money on special projects surrounding sleep-deprivation prevention, fatigue reduction and improved health and nutrition, among others. All of these are commendable and should not be dismissed, but ultimately success ties into talent.

His draft record is unimpressive, and his trades have not made huge long-term impacts. The club's need for more scoring is becoming critical.

Unless more scorers arrive soon, it won't matter who plays in goal.

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