The Vancouver Canucks were swept out of the playoffs by the San Jose Sharks, earning the unfortunate distinction of being the first team sent home from the 2013 postseason. The Sharks completed the sweep with a 4-3 win in OT on Tuesday night, earning the squad a spot in the second round.
Vancouver's season ends almost exactly as it began with fans questioning the team's goaltending. Fans are also speculating that Vancouver coach Alain Vigneault has probably coached his last game for the Canucks.
It feels oddly appropriate that the Canucks season ended with their goalie controversy still firmly intact.
Recalling the lockout, everyone was predicting Roberto Luongo would be traded and the team would ride Cory Schneider. As the season unfolded, it was clear Luongo would at least be in the mix until the trade deadline. Surely the Canucks would pull the trigger on a move by the trade deadline, right? Not quite. They held on to Luongo and Schneider, refusing to make a commitment to either goaltender.
The Canucks had to make a goaltending decision for the playoffs and their decision was again a poor one. Luongo was deployed for Game 1 and Game 2 before Schneider came in for Game 3 and Game 4. Neither man played very well, but it seemed a bit odd to start Schneider in Game 4 after he gave up five goals in Game 3. Luongo didn't earn a victory in either game he started, but he looked to be the calmer, steadier option.
The flip-flopping of the goaltenders in the playoffs symbolizes a 2013 campaign where the team used the exact same flawed strategy. Appropriately, it cost the team when it mattered most.
Ultimately, the way coach Vigneault handled this situation may end up costing him his job. It might not be exactly fair for him to be the one blamed for Vancouver's embarrassing showing, but the coach is usually the first one to go when a team with big expectations makes an early exit.
It's also fair to blame GM Mike Gillis for allowing the goaltending situation to carry on as long as it has. Instead of sticking with one goaltender and trading the other to bring in parts that could improve the team in other weaker areas, he allowed the drama to play out all season long, causing one big distraction for everyone involved. He was waiting for the right time and the right price, but his hesitancy to deal one of the two goaltenders is a decision that deserves scrutinizing.
Now the Canucks head into the summer with questions across their roster and across their management. Don't be surprised if the Canucks have a new coach and possibly a new GM in the coming days/weeks/months.
Will Luongo and Schneider both be on the roster for the 2013-14 season? It's doubtful, but then again that's what we all thought heading into this season.
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