Those who give up too soon never know what might have been.
Up and down British Columbia, the cry is heard: Tear down the Canucks! The Sedin twins are too old – at 32! – the coach, Alain Vigneault, can’t win the big one, the window is closing. . .
How wrong the sports-loving universe can be in the despair of the moment.
It is probably the most difficult thing to know in sports – when a team is ready to be dismantled. When is it too old, when have its leaders lost a step, when are the core players simply not good enough? But Vancouver is a team built for the long-term, deep at every position. Why tear it down now, when it has one last hurdle to go – that final step before greatness?
The team looked uninspired in the playoffs. It is hard to be a perpetual overdog; self-confidence can turn to complacency, or grow brittle. Underdogs have nothing to lose and, let’s face it, try harder. (Witness the Ottawa Senators.) An excuse? Of course. The team was simply not good enough. A great team would have overcome the loss of Daniel Sedin (and its effect on brother Henrik) for the first four games of the series. A great team would not accept the ultimate playoff excuse: “We ran into a hot goalie.” (Jonathan Quick of the Los Angeles Kings was hot and Quick.)
Last season, Vancouver won the President’s Trophy for finishing first overall in the regular season with 117 points. It lost in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup final. This year, it again won the President’s Trophy, with 111 points. But points don’t tell the whole story. Some ingredient of inspiration or cohesiveness was missing. No one had a truly great year. Centre Ryan Kesler, high skill and high ferocity, a true leader, never seemed himself after hip surgery.
The answer is not to tear down Rome (Aaron Rome, the defenceman); it’s to show the same patience that went into building Rome (the city), to inject a bit more youth and hunger, more depth on defence. Mr. Kesler is 27. He will be back.
Vancouver should have been Canada’s team. Coming out of the Winter Olympics last year, the city was on a roll. Then came Game 7, a riot, and the forlorn exit on Sunday night.
But the window is still open; don’t dismantle the building.