Your Vancouver Canucks Pre-season Report
“… Bertuzzi in front, Druken SCORES!!! Standing O for Harold Druken, 3:19 of overtime, and the Canucks are on their way to the playoffs!!”
Sound familiar? Most of the die-hard Canucks fan would remember that great moment when Druken popped in the overtime winner in game 81 at home against Felix Potvin and the Los Angeles Kings and ensured the Canucks their first playoff season since they lost tot he Colorado Avalanche in 1996.
It was a long suffering five years, but with the help of General Manager Brian Burke, and Coach Marc Crawford, the Canucks improved dramaticly–from last place (58 points) in Western Conference to 8th place (85 points) in the Conference last season–and eventually brought back the fans back to GM Place. The Canucks sold out 19 times last season, and their finances last year was +$15 Million, they are looking to even their deficit fromt the last 3 seasons by the end of this season.
However, they have one big area that they haven’t improve much since Burke took over as GM–goaltending situation. Back to the Mike Keenan regime, there were Hirsch, Snow, and Irbe. Then Sean Burke came in for a few months in a trade with Martin Gelinas, but was gone as fast as he came in. Irbe eventually went to Carolina to play for the Hurricanes as a free agent to start the ’99 season, and the Canucks lost Hirsch as well. then they had Kevin Weekes, a young goalie that Brian Burke said that he was the goalie of the future, but he didn’t last long either. He got traded, along with Bill Muckalt to the New York Islanders (Weekes is now in Tampa Bay) for Felix Potvin. Potvin, a former Leaf, was a big impact in Toronto a few years back, but he got dealt to New York after the Leafs found out what Cujo could do for them. His debut with the Canucks was a success–a 6-3 home win against the Washington Capitals– and he continued to show his abilities in the next few games. He was an impact on the Canucks’ last 2-and-a-month run for the playoffs (they missed it by an inch), and he signed a one year contract to play in the 2000-01 season. During the summer, the Canucks signed Bob Essensa to replace Snow, who had signed with Pittsburgh. Bob was the backup, and he became the starter after Potvin struggled to win games, and got booed out of Vancouver and end up in LA in February. Fans were chanting “Bob-by, Bob-by” when Essensa was playing his best hockey of the season. But because of age (36), and they need another backup, the Canucks traded D Adrian Auccoin to Tampa for G Dan cloutier, who was 24 at that time, and has a great potential of becoming a great goalie.
Cloutier and Essensa alternated games as starting goalies, but Essensa was still the better choice when the playoffs came. but it didn’t really matter if the Canucks lost the top two forwards (Naslund and Cassels) just before the playoffs, then lost Essensa in game 3 and Morrison in the middle of game 4 against the Avs. they lost by a goal in the first 3 playoff games, but the Avs showed why they are an elite team by winning 5-1 in game 4. Although Cloutier got burned in game 4, and his consistantcy wasn’t great, he was assigned as No.1 goalie after Burke let go of Essensa. Burke stated that Bob can’t play 40 or more consistant games base of his age. So they invited Fitzpatrick, a 32-yrs. old goalie that didn’t play much for the past 2 season, to the training camp, along with the 20-yrs. old Alex Auld. the two split the duties against the San Jose Sharks in their first preseason game, and Fitspatrick looked great, so that means the Canucks’ goalie situation is close to being solved.
Another year, higher expectations, will the Canucks do damage in the playoffs? We’ll find out… soon. and keep posted to the Canucks Report, right here.