Vancouver Canucks: The Phantom Dynasty

Last night, the Anaheim Ducks eliminated the Vancouver Canucks from Stanley Cup contention with a 3-0 win. It's the first time since 2008 that Vancouver will not be there, and not only closes the curtains on one of the most challenging seasons in Canucks history, but in my mind brings an end to what was one of the biggest 'What If'-eras in NHL history.

The Vancouver Canucks of the noughties and early twenty-tens were one of the better teams to not win the Stanley Cup, or even consistently make the finals. Meanwhile, they were winning everything else imaginable. There are plenty of clubs like them in NHL history. For instance, if the San Jose Sharks don't win the Stanley Cup or at least make it to the Finals this year, they will become another 'phantom dynasty'.

Let's take a look at what the Canucks have done since 2002-03 when Vancouver was constantly putting up 100 point seasons.

Former Vancouver Canucks President Mike Gillis.

  • Seven 100+ point seasons
  • Seven division titles
  • Two 50+ win seasons
  • Two league titles

For any club, those are stats that you think would propel them to the finals in multiple seasons, but that was not the case here. They only reached the finals once, and when they did, they lost in to the Boston Bruins in seven.

The 2011 playoffs were the only time the Canucks got past the quarter-final during this stretch, and since 2002-03, Vancouver has been knocked out in the round of 16 three times, and eliminated in the quarter-finals four times.

When compared that to other clubs with high expectations, but have yet to win (Washington and San Jose, I'm talking to you), the Canucks may be struggling for a long time to come. They completely mishandled the Roberto Luongo situation, and now he's back with the Florida Panthers. Vancouver should be alarmed by the current tandem of Eddie Lack and Jacob Markstrom.

Wholesale changes have begun, Mike Gillis as of today is now the former president of the Vancouver Canucks and soon John Tortorella may be looking for a new job as well.

John Tortorella at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum on 15 November 2010. Photograph by Robert Kowal.

This year, Tortorella's first year with the club, has been nothing short of a disaster. His attempt to turn the Canucks into a defensive minded club failed spectacularly, and the offence has suffered.

There's also been plenty of drama that has nothing to do in terms of on-ice production as Torts was handed a six-game suspension this year for trying to get into the Calgary Flames locker room. This was back in early January, after Tortorella lost his temper with the Flames during a first period line brawl on Hockey Night in Canada.

There was also a rumour that Ryan Kesler would be on his way to the Pittsburgh Penguins at the trade deadline, but that never came to fruition.

Meanwhile in New York, Alain Vigneault, the man who was fired by the Canucks during the close season, will be coaching the Rangers in the spring as New York has a record of 43-31-5 and have 91 points on the season. They currently sit in second place in the Metropolitan Division.

Vancouver Canucks Captain Henrik Sedin at the United Center on 20 October 2010. Photograph by Cheryl Adams.

Injuries have also played a factor in the lack of production on this team, as Henrik and Daniel Sedin, two players who average around 85-100 points per season, have both failed to even record 50 points this year.

This team has also has had a lack of production from Alex Burrows, who as recently as 2011-12 had 28 goals, has managed a mere five in 46 games. Injuries have played a part, but not enough to explain the drop-off. He still had 13 in 47 last year.

Stats wise, the usually high powered Canucks are ranked 28th this year, and when it comes to goals per game, they're putting in 2.30 and are 27th on the power play. They've only taken advantage of being a man up 14.7% percent of the time.

The dynasty that never was is officially over, and now they must start anew. They should have been able to climb through that window of opportunity many times over, but it is closed. It will be a new batch of players who tries it next time, but how long will that take?