Long gone are the days of Al Arbour and his high flying Islanders of the 80’s. While Vancouver’s franchise win percentage was sinking far below .500, like mercury in the antarctic, Arbour and the likes of Mike Bossy, Billy Smith and Brian Trottier we decimating the league in the relative obscurity of New York.
The 1982 Stanley Cup Final was a benchmark year for organizations on both sides of the conference divide. Vancouver bumbled around the .500 mark for most of the season and then went on a tear, losing only twice in their final 22 games (including playoffs). New York was coming of their second straight cup and they breezed through the regular season with 118 points. Mike Bossy, who would go on to win the Conn Smyth Trophy, scored 147 points in the regular season and was the difference maker between New York (blessed with talent and organization) and Vancouver (armed with a tenacious coach and gritty squad of veterans).
New York won that series, as most of you know. What the series did for the Canucks, long the laughing stock of the West Coast, was solidify the presence of hockey in the region and whet an appetite, long unsated, in the local fanbase.Canucks Nation was born.
Tuesday’s prosaic game against the Islanders was a far cry from the heated battles of Mike Bossy and Tiger Williams. It was a reunion of Roberto Luongo and his former team (he played 24 games for the Isles before being traded by “Mad” Mike Milbury in 2000) that went as un-heralded as the game. The Canucks were out of the gate quick with a slick snapshot from the hashmarks by Pavol Demitra, but quickly sank into a particular show of mediocrity. Blue gave his team every oppertunity to win, minus scoring a goal, but in the end the Canucks can leave this one for the trash heap.
All the panache Vancouver displayed in Saturday’s victory over Toronto was absent in Monday’s “tie”. The bonus point came and went with zero fanfare, not even Kyle Wellwood could conjure anything from his magic poncho.
Right now the Canucks are 24th in the league in penalties, but they are 20th overall on the penalty kill. The team retains a certain hubris if they think they can continue to play undisciplined and continue to score on the PK. Even that one single, solitary night, when one single, solitary power play goal costs them a point.
Its a far cry from 1982. But to get back to the final the Canucks need a large dose of reality.
Until then, Canuck Nation shall wait.
Next Up — Rangers