Is it pretty much understood now that Marc Crawford will be gone after the end of the season? I certainly think he will be, and along with him will be Bertuzzi and maybe Naslund. I personally won't be too sad to see Naslund go, as for the whole last season and the end of the previous season he hasn't been giving off good vibes. This season there have been numerous stories about the problems in the Canucks' dressing room. In particular, I read a report on TSN that said that a player who started the season in the Canucks' lineup (McCarthy?) claimed their problems to be "ten times worse than they appear to be". The way Naslund played definitely supported the rumours (for fuck's sakes, pass to Morrison/Ohlund/Jovo/Salo/Baumgartner/not Bertuzzi, he's open). Now, any hockey fan knows that hockey writers' opinions are a very noisy signal, so to speak, but any statistician knows that as you average them out you tend towards the truth. It's the law of averages!
Anyway, when I look back at the great Canucks teams of recent years that came short in the playoffs, it always comes down to the goaltending. Cloutier was steady in the regular season but didn't seem to flat-out steal a lot of games. Fortunately, he rarely had to. This year Auld carried the team at stretches, but then he reverted back to ordinary, which I assume has something to do with only getting four games off in the last four months. Giving Cloutier the benefit of the doubt, maybe that's what happened to him the last four years.
This has always rankled me, ever since Brian Burke and Crawford came to power. Great as their team may have been, it really seemed like they simply could not handle goalies. Burke was responsible for the acquisition of Felix Potvin, remember. As for Crawford, I have this theory that at any given time in the last five years, either the wrong goalie has been the starter in Vancouver or the backup goalie is unduly getting the shaft. 2001: Dan Cloutier got the start over Bob Essensa in the playoffs. 2003: Peter Skudra had a couple of bad games and Crawford lost all confidence in him -- never mind that Skudra stood on his head to get the Canucks into the playoffs the previous year. 2003: the Canucks pick up Johan Hedberg. I always thought that if you went around the league the majority of coaches would start Hedberg over Cloutier. Hedberg had a string of bad games, probably relating to his broken hand, and just like that Crawford is done with him, causing Hedberg to play even worse. Auld got the nod in the playoffs as soon as Hedberg let in one bad goal.
This year, Auld wins -- well, falls ass-backwards into -- the backup job by virtue of his contract situation. He plays well but peters out, likely due to fatigue. Why did he only get four nights off? His first backup, Maxime Ouellet, has three ordinary games and is finished in Vancouver. His second backup Mika Noronen, yet another Goalie Of The Future, plays one so-so game and is shelved for the rest of the season. Meanwhile, Auld falters down the stretch but Crawford continues to go to him, night after night. He was no better than ordinary when I saw him the other night.
This all seems hypocritical of Crawford when you consider all the breaks he's given to Cloutier. Why? I have a theory, which I of course pulled out of my ass because I really don't know hockey enough to be talking about it: Crawford's pre-Canucks NHL career was exclusively with the Nordiques/Avs, where he had to deal with a rather lame tandem of Stephane Fiset and Jocelyn Thibault before they got Patrick Roy, whom Crawford rode to the Cup. I think his mistake was treating Cloutier as if he was Patrick Roy, at the tender age of 26. Maybe he had bad memories of the platoon situation?
Anyway, I really hope that the next coach of the Canucks is ready to give the other guy a chance, dammit, and I'd like to see a backup goalie actually get a fair chance to get hot. Every year a backup goalie rises to prominence and steals the starter's job. For example, Auld seems alright but let's not forget that the previous season in Manitoba he lost his starting job to Wade Flaherty, then 37 years old. I'm not saying that it will happen, but that it could happen and if it did we'd all be really happy about it. Besides, why run Auld into the ground? He's not Patrick Roy either, he's only 25.
Oh, and I hope, if he stays for next year, that Naslund passes to someone else, dammit. Also, that "world renown writer" Kevin Kinghorn sits on his own nuts and faints.
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