James O'Brien

Hockey Daily Dose

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Putting out fires in Vancouver

Thursday, May 09, 2013

It’s easy to label a player or team “chokers” when you’re following a single series. Every game matters and 8-14 days* can totally exonerate or delete months of hard work. One can rapidly forget how much randomness occurs in the playoffs, especially when you’re just rooting for one piece of laundry and watching everything else with less interest.


If you’re the type who tends to soak in the big picture of a given postseason - or even the bigger picture of multiple playoff years - then the picture gets much cloudier.


Long story short, it’s dangerous to jump to too many sweeping conclusions from a single series or postseason. Few series strengthen that argument quite like the San Jose Sharks’ shocking sweep of the Vancouver Canucks in the 2013 quarterfinals.




The Canucks and Sharks are, in many ways, kindred spirits. Both have been contenders in the Western Conference for years now. Each franchise employs a general manager who seems to attract critiques as often as he invites praise. Those same guys have made their mistakes here and there, yet they’ve put together formidable groups of talent via bold trades, interesting free agent moves and timely drafts (although Canucks GM Mike Gillis’ predecessors supplied the Sedin twins and Roberto Luongo).


Fittingly enough, many people have slammed each team because their respective windows have “closed.”


There is a key difference, however. Despite rabid fans who make “The Shark Tank” a fantastic atmosphere for a contest, playing - and failing - in San Jose doesn’t carry the same kind of angst-ridden urgency that it does in Vancouver.


Look, I can’t promise that Canucks management will fire Alain Vigneault … or that management itself will change with Gillis losing his job.** Still, it seems pretty obvious that some significant changes are coming.


If there’s any mercy, Roberto Luongo will be gone. Vigneault and/or Gillis might end up waving a different flag, too.


It’s just unclear if doing what many frustrated fans want to do - blowing it all up - is really the right move. With the Sedin twins on their way out and many peripheral players (plus Bobby Lou) on their way out, some modified version of this Canucks team might just be worthy of another shot.




Really, recent sports history reveals that it’s silly to turn your back on a quality player or team that still could have some gas in the tank. After all, many people assumed Dirk Nowitzki’s best chance at a title was through, yet the Dallas Mavericks shocked the mighty Miami Heat for the 2011 NBA title


The most amusing example of sports narrative redemption might just be Patrick Marleau’s first-round performance in 2013, though. Marleau somehow transformed from “gutless” to a hero who factored largely (four goals [including one GWG] and one assist for five points in four games) into the sweep.


No one wants to hear it, but most of those four games were close. Even the Game 3 meltdown was competitive up until … it wasn’t.


If any team can relate to how a sweep can be a lot closer than it sounds, it’s the Sharks (something similar happened to them against the Chicago Blackhawks in 2010). It’s way too early to say that San Jose’s patience - fueled somewhat by the smaller media spotlight on their trials and tribulations - is a success.


Then again, maybe it all comes down to your standards for failures and success.


Jump for more playoff thoughts, including MAF’s latest faceplant.


* - At a time, depending upon how many rounds a squad might advance.


** - After all, Gillis is the guy who gave Luongo that onerous contract, not Vigneault.

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James O'Brien is the Hockey Daily Dose's author and has been a contributor to NBC's Pro Hockey Talk for more than four years. Follow him on Twitter.
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