Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Season Recap and Thank You's

I know this post is a few days late but 1) I'm in Canmore, AB right now for our annual week-long family vacation and 2) I purposely wanted to wait a few days to recap what was an amazing season without being compromised by its heartbreaking end.

There was much to like about this Canucks season. While the guys fell short of their ultimate goal, they far exceeded all our expectations. Besides John Garrett, did anyone really expect the Canucks to set franchise records in wins and points, to win the Northwest Division, and to not only make the playoffs but to also win its first round series against the Dallas Stars?

Now, none of those accomplishments would have been possible without Roberto Luongo in goal, and really, Louie putting on a Canucks jersey is the best part of this season. Louie came as advertised and broke Kirk McLean's franchise records for goaltender wins by a goalie in a season. He gave the Canucks a fighting chance in games they had no business being in, and for his efforts, he is a finalist for the Hart Trophy, Vezina Trophy and Lester B. Pearson Trophy.

More importantly - and I say this with all due respect to Markus Naslund, Trevor Linden and all the other leaders in the room - Louie proved to not only be the team's best player but also its most vocal leader. He elevated his game when it mattered the most, and when it was necessary, he grabbed his teammates by their throats (figuratively I'm sure) and urged them to do the same.

The Sedins, Taylor Pyatt and Kevin Bieksa all had career seasons. Trevor Linden was perhaps the best Canucks skater in the playoffs. In the second round, Markus Naslund played the best postseason games of his Canucks career. Even the kids - Lukas Krajicek, Jannik Hansen and Alex Edler - all elevated their games, and for the most part, didn't look like they were playing in their first NHL playoffs.

As much Dave Nonis was criticized after last year's fiasco, he deserves credit for righting the ship so quickly. Removing Todd Bertuzzi from the dressing room was a tough decision, and on its own, could have been addition by subtraction. Somehow, he also managed to get Roberto Luongo and Lukas Krajicek in the return. Ditto with removing Marc Crawford and putting Alain Vigneault behind the bench.

What helped is that the new people in the room all bought into the culture that Nonis and Vigneault wanted - the team-first culture that, quite honestly, we didn't see much off last year. They instilled a culture of work ethic and accountability, and allowed the players to gel together and perform, collectively, at a higher level than the sum of their individual parts.

Dave Nonis still has some work to, but with such a sound foundation in place, it's a relief to know that the Canucks won't - or shouldn't - tailspin into mediocrity like they did in the late-90's. Nonis' challenge this offseason is to improve the team some more with, once again, limited cap room. The difference is that this offseason, he is working with a team that won a division title and went into the second round of the playoffs instead of one that didn't even qualify for postseason play. He also has the comfort of having Luongo, the Sedins and his veteran defense core all signed to long-term deals.

What could help Nonis is the promising play of some of the youngsters in the organization. For the first time in a long time, the Canucks actually have some depth. I already mentioned Krajicek, Hansen and Edler. When both were healthy, Bieksa and Ryan Kesler also played significant roles. From the junior ranks, Luc Bourdon is waiting for another shot at the bigs. Michael Grabner and Juraj Simek were among the top scorers in the WHL and it's not inconceivable that one of them can see some playing time in the NHL next season.

This season was deemed a rebuilding year. Boy, did they ever rebuild, and with that in mind, this season was an unqualified success. Nonis turned over 13 players and most of the coaching staff from the '05-'06 season and rebuilt the Canucks into a hard-working, hard to play against team, one that many of us can be proud off.

Thanks for a season to remember, guys.


I also want to take this opportunity to thank everyone who swung by this season. Last season, about 30,000 of you came by and visited this site; this season, that number was multiplied almost five times more. As well, I felt honored to be recognized, contacted and linked from some in the mainstream media, including the Canucks official site, the Globe and Mail, the Vancouver Sun, CBC TV, CBC Radio, and CTV.

Like Dave Nonis, I hope to make this blog even better next season. I'll probably play around with the layout a bit more, and of course, I'm certainly open to suggestions from you. (To those who emailed me about blog links, I'll update my blog roll when I get back.)

For now, I'm going to finish off my vacation, hit the links and the trails in Canmore and Banff and the hot tub in our resort. When I get back, I'll post on some of the more note-worthy goings on with the Canucks and the Stanley Cup finals, and the crew from The Crazy Canucks podcast will hopefully do a recap episode soon. I'll probably also follow the Vancouver Giants and Manitoba Moose's continuing playoff runs. Thank you again and I hope everyone has a safe summer.
posted by J.J. Guerrero, 10:54 AM


At May 09, 2007 5:32 PM, Blogger DaveO said...

Thanks for always kicking down the great posts with careful thought, diplomacy and enthusiasm. I too am excited about the depth and have great trust in Dave Nonis to make some good calls (I'd like either Gomez or Drury please ;-)).

Pleasure to be on the same (grinding) line with ya on the Crazy Canucks too. More good times ahead.

At May 10, 2007 7:41 AM, Anonymous Daniel, Germany, said...

Thanks JJ for your great canucks coverage last season. I'm looking forward for next season.

At May 10, 2007 1:51 PM, Blogger L Graham Smith said...

thanks JJ: I'm stuck here in the divide between Red Wing country and the Leaf Nation, so I really look forward to your blog to get an update on the Canucks
good season: get the sense the Canucks are 2/3 players shy from really contending -- mostly forwards, the defence looks good as ong as we can hold off on injuries.

At May 11, 2007 8:51 AM, Anonymous For Nucks' Sake said...

JJ, this is an excellent blog. I've enjoyed reading it over the course of the season & playoffs. (I discovered it during the lockout season, when I was so starved for hockey nourishment that I investigated new avenues—i.e., fan sites and blogs.) You asked for feedback on the visuals, layout etc. I think that the "Mission Sixteen" graphic is very cool, and should be brought back for next year's playoffs (as much as it breaks my heart to see it stuck at 5 like that...). Nice work!

At May 13, 2007 9:51 PM, Anonymous GZ Expat said...

JJ - Nice work this season...its great to have all the media information on games in one spot that I can click to.

Do me a favor...fork out a little dough and buy yourself a real website and rid yourself of the Blogspot locale. This is strictly a selfish point, as Blogspot gets on and off access in China (its currently off)...and its painfully slow to access via anonymous proxy's.

Keep it up through the summer, tho.

At May 27, 2007 12:24 AM, Blogger beanie said...

Thanks for the great and insightful blogs over the past season. I'm in Australia, but yours is a regular stop over for me as I keep in touch with the Canucks.

At May 27, 2007 12:39 AM, Blogger beanie said...

JJ, I'm really sorry, but I think I might have accidentally hit objectionable blog when I was clicking off your blog. I didn't mean to, but the pointer sort of slid across the page as I clicked and this little red flag came up. Sorry if it causes trouble - refer them to this email and I will apologies profusely. Which I am doing currently actually.

Keep up the good work with the Canucks Hockey Blog. I may not always post, but I always read your blog.


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