By Jim Morris, special to CBC Sports
VANCOUVER -- May has produced some unseasonably warm temperatures in Vancouver but dark clouds are gathering in the wake of the Canucks early playoff exit, signaling a storm is coming.
For the second consecutive year the Canucks have been banished from the first round
of the NHL playoffs, this time in a humiliating four-game sweep
by the San Jose Sharks. Many people predicted the series between the No. 3-seeded Canucks and No. 6 Sharks could go either way. No one expected Vancouver would disappear with a whimper and a whine.
Speculation swirls around Canuck management and players as the team begins to deal with the harsh reality of being swept in a series for the first time since 2001. It's a long fall for a Vancouver team that lost Game 7 of the 2011 Stanley Cup final, and won back-to-back Presidents' Trophies.
"This is not the way we should go out," said captain Henrik Sedin after Vancouver's 4-3 overtime loss Tuesday night. "It was almost like a first-time playoff team playing against a team that has been there before.
"That can't happen."
The questionable boarding call on Daniel Sedin in overtime that resulted in Patrick Marleau's winning power-play goal
just rubbed extra salt into Vancouver's wound. Should the penalty have been called? Probably not. Was that the reason the Canucks lost the series? Most definitely not.
"It's probably the most frustrating loss I have been part of, including the Boston Stanley Cup finals," said Daniel. "We [lost] the series by making mistakes, taking penalties.
"It sucks. We've got ourselves to blame."
Everyone from general manager Mike Gillis through coach Alain Vigneault to the players were allowed a mulligan after losing in five games last spring to the eventual Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles Kings. It's hard to believe everyone will escape unscathed this year. Fan outrage
Canuck owner Francesco Aquilini can't make decisions solely because of the fan anger being expressed by callers to radio sport programs and vented on Twitter. He also can't be seen as doing nothing.
"When I die, I want the Vancouver Canucks to be my pallbearers so they can let me down one more time," tweeted one fan.
Another was more direct.
"What do the Vancouver Canucks and the Titanic have in common? They both look good until they hit the ice!"
The Canucks were beaten by San Jose for a long list of reasons. They couldn't score goals. They took too many penalties. They were beaten too many times on faceoffs and in battles for the puck. Vancouver wasn't big enough, fast enough or strong enough. Key players didn't produce.
Assembling a team is the general manager's job. If the Canucks lacked the proper parts that blame rests with Gillis.Gillis criticized
Gillis has been criticized for letting the goaltending circus surrounding Roberto Luongo and Cory Schneider go on too long. Trading Luongo could have realized players that would have helped the Canucks this year or yielded future draft picks.
At this year's trade deadline the Canucks needed size and grit. Gillis obtained diminutive centre Derek Roy from Dallas. Roy had one assist during the playoffs.
Gillis is also responsible for trading a first-round draft pick and winger Michael Grabner for defenceman Keith Ballard, who earned $4.2 million US to watch the playoffs from the press box.
As for promising talent in the system, the Canuck cupboard looks bare.
It's likely Gillis will keep his job, but Vigneault could be gone.
Vigneault has won more games than any other coach in Canuck history. He can only play the personnel given him. But after seven years the players may need to hear a different voice.
One of the challenges facing Canuck management is to decide what to do with the franchise core.
The Canucks need to trade Luongo and free up $5.33 million in cap space. Decisions must be made on unrestricted free agents like Roy, Mason Raymond, Max Lapierre and Andrew Alberts. Don't expect Roy and Raymond to be back. Window for Sedins closing
The Sedin twins turn 33 in September and become restricted free agents at the end of next season. They are two of the best players to ever wear Canuck uniforms, but their window to lead Vancouver to a championship might have closed.
The list of aging veterans includes Alex Burrows 32, Kevin Bieksa 31 and Dan Hamhuis 30. Ryan Kesler is 28 but has needed off-season surgery the last two summers.
"With the group we have here we feel we should have been better and could have been better," Schneider said after Tuesday's loss.
"It's too late for that now."
Predictions are for a pleasant summer in Vancouver, but members of the Canuck organization will probably face some winds of change.Follow Jim Morris on Twitter @jememorris
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