With the Vancouver Canucks season coming to a close many would expect that the blame game would be topic number one around town. In my mind that should not be the focus as the team accomplished well beyond our collective expectations and the only thing that allowed us to toy with the thought of a Stanley Cup parade was our goaltending. Roberto Luongo proved last night, with a performance for the ages, as to why he is touted as the best goaltender in the game.
As I heard today on the radio, the foundation is set with Roberto Luongo in goal, defensively and offensively the leaders are in place with some tweaking here and there the Canucks could be back to the Stanley Cup contenders they once were. The management, coaches and players deserve a real pat on the back for their work this season, turning a rebuilding season into a division championship and second round playoff loss.
There will be more on the Canucks in the weeks to come as I try to get a read on the fall-out of this successful season.
As for the title 'Changing our focus'? The Memorial Cup, a trophy that is as highly sought after and harder to win than Lord Stanley's Cup will be in Vancouver this month. The top junior teams in the CHL will battle for Canadian junior hockey supremacy. See, this is the glory of living in a city that is a hockey crazy as Vancouver, the city not only goes crazy for the NHL's Canucks but the Giants have been making news for the past few seasons. During the NHL lockout the Giants were averaging 14,000 spectators to see their games.
Last season the Giants seemed poised to make a serious run at the 'Mem Cup' but with Gilbert Brule in their line-up the club fell short in the week long tournament.
The Giants entered this season knowing that they had a spot reserved for them in the tournament. As many of you may already know, the host team is guaranteed a spot in the tournament and the other three spots are reserved for the league champions of the WHL, OHL, and QMJHL.
Although they knew that they were guaranteed entry into the tournament, the Giants set out with a goal to win their league championship, thus winning their entry into the tournament. Well, they are four wins away from that goal as the club begins their WHL Championship final this evening against the Medicine Hat Tigers.
An up and down season for the Giants in which they began the season with only one overtime loss in their first 16 games. That was followed by some turmoil when first-string goaltender decided to leaved the team citing that he wanted to persue a professional career in the ECHL. Backup goaltender Tyson Sexsmith was good but seemed to be the one weakness in the club all season long and into the playoffs.
With a first round scare against the Chilliwack, the Giants managed to put their work boots on and take the Bruins in five games before defeating Seattle and Prince George enroute to this evenings series opener.
Some will question the intensity of the series as, due to the fact the Giants are hosting the Memorial Cup this season, both Vancouver and Medicine Hat will be in the tournament. The OHL representative will be either the Plymouth Whalers or the Sudbury Wovles and Val'dor or Lewiston will represent the QMJHL. Stay tuned, over the course of the next few weeks I will follow the series and preview teams and star players as the quest for the Memorial Cup moves on.
I would also like to take the time to congratulate player that I used to coach, Luke Siemens. Luke was drafted yesterday by the Chilliwack Bruins of the WHL.
CHL League Championship updates:
Western Hockey League
Vancouver Giants 1 at Medicine Hat Tigers 0 (Giants Lead Series 1 - 0)
Ontario Hockey League
Sudbury Wolves 1 at Plymouth Whalers 4 (Whalers Lead Series 1 - 0)
Quebec Major Junior Hockey League
Val-d'Or Foreurs 0 at Lewiston MAINEiacs 4 (MAINEiacs Lead Series 1 - 0)