June 29, 2011

Fischler Report: Canucks still stinging from finals loss

by Stan Fischler

Goalies Roberto Luongo and Tim Thomas shared the stage at the NHL Awards last week. (photo: Getty)

No matter how the Vancouver Canucks’ spin doctors work on the corpse, the fact remains that British Columbia hockey surgeons have their work cut out when it comes to remaking the team and the city’s image.

Our roving reporter, Rob Del Mundo, offers the following report:
Vancouver’s battle scars still haven’t healed, despite the silverware some of its players earned at the 2011 NHL Awards

Only seven days after suffering the most devastating defeat in franchise history, the Canucks’ top players met head-on with their opponents once more. The loss in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup finals was still evident in the faces of Art Ross winner Daniel Sedin, Jennings co-winners Roberto Luongo and Cory Schneider (Marblehead, Mass.), and Selke winner Ryan Kesler.

Bruins defenseman Zdeno Chara – winner of the Mark Messier Leadership Award -- and Conn Smythe winner Tim Thomas, who also took home the Vezina Trophy as the league’s top goalie, represented the Canucks’ counterparts from the bitterly fought series.

As Vancouver’s Mike Gillis was named GM of the Year, the Canucks edged Boston by a count of 4-3 in award triumphs.

Of course, the Bruins won hockey’s most coveted prize by an identical tally in terms of games in the final series.

“I’m honored to win the GM award, but I’d trade it in a minute for the Stanley Cup,” said Gillis.

Luongo, one of many pundits to predict Thomas’ Vezina Trophy win, is struggling to cope with the loss.

“We haven’t had time to digest what happened in Vancouver,” said Luongo. “It was a tough loss, but it’s something that’s going to heal with time.”

Daniel Sedin, who replaced his brother Henrik as scoring champion, was more restrained in recollecting his team’s collapse; the Ted Lindsay Award winner preferred to celebrate the club’s regular season accomplishments.

“We should be happy with the guys we have here,” said Sedin. “The organization and fans should be proud of the team too.”

On Boston’s side, Chara finished a close second to Detroit’s Nik Lidstrom in Norris Trophy voting as the league’s top blueliner. Only a week removed from hoisting the Cup in front of a stunned Rogers Arena, the Bruins’ captain shared vivid memories of the epic seven-game struggle.

“The referees did a hell of a job not only controlling the series so it didn't get out of hand, but also letting us have those battles,” said Chara.

Thomas, who became the first goalie to win the Stanley Cup, Vezina and Conn Smythe in the same season since Bernie Parent did it with Philadelphia in 1975, considers the animosity of the battle against Vancouver to be water under the bridge.

“One of the things I told Luongo going through the handshake line was: ‘For the record, you're a fantastic goalie and you had an amazing season,’” said Thomas. “What matters in the end, though, is who won the Cup. I hold no ill will for anything that was said by anyone.”

Thomas’ words – however sincere – are likely little consolation to the dejected Western Canadians.

Gossip

* Mark Recchi’s retirement sparks the question: Where does he go from here? Not that the Bruins need another body in the front office, but Recchi could take on a role roughly equivalent to what Doug Weight is doing for the Islanders.

* Only one NHL coaching slot remains open – in Newark. But plenty of competent candidates remain. Precisely how GM Lou Lamoriello (Providence, R.I.) is thinking on the subject is known only to the Devils’ boss and a precious few in New Jersey’s high command.

The most mentioned candidates (in alphabetical order) are the following: Peter DeBoer, Mike Eaves, Mike Haviland, Ken Hitchcock and Craig Ramsay. Now that the draft is complete, it’s conceivable that Lou will name his new bench boss as early as this week.

* Preparing for its first NHL season since 1995-96, Winnipeg’s MTS Centre must first undergo some renovations in order to comply with NHL standards. The planned improvements include an installation of acrylic glass surrounding the ice surface, which is designed to reduce concussions.

Also on the agenda are dressing room renovations and a remodeling of the arena’s restaurant. A source close to True North says the renovations to the MTS Centre, which opened in 2004, will cost approximately $1 million.

* The Red Wings appear to be in a two-horse race with the Penguins for the services of Jaromir Jagr. Jagr, who played the last three seasons in the KHL, wants to return to the NHL. The five-time NHL scoring leader and 1999 league MVP will likely sign a one-year deal at a low base salary with performance incentives.

Stan Fischler can be reached at FischlerReport@aol.com.