Face it Canucks, your Stanley Cup window is shut
With stars Daniel (left) and Henrik Sedin not getting any younger, how much longer can the Canucks consider themselves Stanley Cup contenders? (ANDY CLARK/Reuters)
The Calgary Flames reached Game 7 of the Stanley Cup final in the spring of 2004.
The Flames braintrusts spent several seasons afterwards believing they were still a Cup contender, drafting poorly while trying to recapture the magic by adding pieces around their core. They failed to even come close and this season, when it became obvious that dream was more dead than a zombie in the path of Rick Grimes, finally started a long-awaited rebuild.
The Edmonton Oilers reached Game 7 of the 2006 Stanley Cup final.
The Oilers spent the next couple of seasons chasing the faint hope they could return, failing to land many free-agents they chased, losing key players from their own team and hitting rock bottom to the point they drafted first overall three consecutive seasons.
The Vancouver Canucks reached Game 7 of the 2011 Stanley Cup final.
Anybody believe the Canucks will be back there any time soon?
More likely, the Canucks are heading down the same path as the Flames and Oilers.
Last season, the Canucks were defeated in the first round of the playoffs by the Los Angeles Kings.
Today, they are still stinging from the effects of a four-game sweep at the hands of the San Jose Sharks, which concluded Tuesday.
Next year? Good guess, but it's a longshot the Canucks will be skating until late June and battling to the championship round. Or the year after. Or the year after that.
Their loss to the Sharks exposed too many holes.
The Canucks were too slow, too small and too soft to beat a Sharks team not known for being a club that grinds you into the ground.
Moreover, they didn't have the depth to compete with a team that not only had its veteran big guns firing, in Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau and Dan Boyle, but were led by young guns Joe Pavelski and Logan Couture.
In short, if Henrik and Daniel Sedin aren't scoring, the Canucks can't compete, because nobody else will or can step up and take their place. And lord knows, there aren't young rising stars to play the part of Couture and Pavelski.
It didn't end there. The vaunted Canucks defence corps, which was one of the NHL's most offensively productive in the regular season, was a non-factor in the Sharks' zone until it was too late and was hemmed into its own zone for too much of the games.
The goaltending, another strong point, was only good enough to lose a few games by close scores, not steal a win.
What's even scarier, though, is the future of the Canucks.
One of the prices paid for being a strong team for so many years is the impact at the draft table. Late first-round picks rarely turn into stars. Vancouver has exacerbated the problem by dealing away picks or young players for pieces that didn't make a difference.
Around the league, the Canucks are considered to have one of the NHL's shallowest prospect pools, even if defenceman Frank Corrado looks like a keeper and forwards Brendan Gaunce, Jordan Schroeder and Nicklas Jensen have strong potential.
Meanwhile, the Sedins will be 33 years old before next season starts. Ryan Kesler will be 29, but his body appears to be broken down to the point he's going on 40. Alex Burrows is 32. Kevin Bieksa will be 32 in June. Dan Hamhuis is 30.
The core of this team, other than No. 1 goalie Cory Schneider, is aging fast. Fans in Calgary can relay to those elsewhere how that changes a club in a hurry.
That's not to say all is lost next season. Should general manager Mike Gillis make an astute trade involving No. 2 goalie Roberto Luongo, he'll buy his team some time. Maybe there's another move to be made involving a player such as Burrows. And maybe Alex Edler will return to his form of a couple of years ago.
Maybe Schneider will learn from this experience. He's a good goalie, but in his playoff games, Schneider was guilty of making big saves but couldn't win, with bad rebounds proving costly.
It should add up to a playoff spot in what will be a tougher division next season -- Vancouver, Edmonton and Calgary will join the three California teams and Phoenix -- but times will certainly become leaner for the Canucks down the road.
Look at the journey their Alberta counterparts are on right now to see the future.
On Twitter: @SunRandySportak
Do you think the Vancouver's window of opportunity to win a Stanley Cup is closed?
Almost, not quite yet