Tuesday, June 05, 2012

The road to Stanley goes through Vancouver

With the L.A. Kings up 3-0 in the Stanley Cup Finals, it looks like any remaining games against New Jersey in this series are all but a formality.  Congulations Dustin Brown and company for rendering the entire 82-game regular season schedule utterly useless.  When the Kings win their 16th win of the post-season in the next few days or so, they will become the first team in NHL history to win the Stanley Cup as an eighth seed.  A supremely impressive stat.

However, implicit in that achievement, another almost equally baffling story continues to develop.  Eighteen years in the making, it goes as follows: Teams that beat the Vancouver Canucks in the playoffs go on to win the Stanley Cup at a 73% success rate.  Of the 11 times the Canucks have qualified for the post-season since 1994, they were ousted by the eventual champions on eight occasions.  More recently, if you jump the gun like the rest of the hockey world and include the L.A. Kings, the rate increases to 100% in the past three years.  If you're a team planning your championship parade route, make sure it includes a stop in Vancouver.

The last 11 teams to eliminate the Canucks since 1994
and their usually successful fate

But what does it all mean, Basil?  Besides the obvious Messier curse, nothing of major significance, really.  However, it does say something about the nature of Vancouver's latest playoff disappointments.  For the better part of a decade, the Canucks have developed into somewhat of a perennial contender.  Since the team's liberation from mediocrity circa 2004 (thank you Markus Naslund), Vancouver has been chosen on several occasions as a Cup favourite.  But despite the quasi-annual hype – peaking around the lockout and again in the past two years – the team has but one measly trip beyond the second round since then to boast of.  As a result, the prevailing widsom surrounding this group has often been that they cannot play to expectations in the post-season.

I understand this requires a certain kind of perspective, but when you consider just how often the Canucks' conquerors go on to prove their ultimate worth, the average fans' yearly pill of disappointment becomes at least a little easier to swallow.  On the record, Gillis begs to differ (for presumably professional reasons), but the team's first-round exit this season does take on a different meaning now, given L.A.'s success.  Imagine the Kings went on to be swept by the Blues.  Or that the Flames' semi-upset of Vancouver didn't result in them becoming Western Conference champions in 2004.  Logically, those losses become far more dubious.

So take solace Canuckland; take it wherever you can.  Ultimately, it's not much more than a briefly interesting stat you look at and go "Huh."  But the off-season is long and not every team can use "we were beaten by the best" as an annual excuse 7.3 times out of 10.  For all the glass-half-fullers out there, you're welcome.  Take it and run!  For the rest of you, sorry I even brought it up...


*See the discussion regarding this article on the Canucks.com forums here.

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