Public Enemy Number One
Theo Fleury Playoffs Red Wings
Soon after Fleury made those comments, he was lambasted on Twitter (@TheoFleury14) and accused of being a misinformed troll. Ah, the beauty of social media and the Internet. Now, before everyone here starts getting their pitchforks and lanterns in a city-wide manhunt, let's step back and discuss this.
First, while I disagree with Fleury's prediction, he has made it clear that he's going against the grain. There's nothing inherently wrong with that - it would've been akin to saying that Boston U would've upset Kansas in the first round of the NCAA tournament. You're going to get laughed at, and Fleury clearly knew what he was going to get, but it's not out of the realm of possibility. If the Canucks did indeed bow out in the first round, doesn't that make Fleury a genius? Like it or not, he makes some great points in his argument. He even concedes that the Sedins' skills are mind-blowing.
Second, if there's anybody's opinion about this matter that you should respect, it's Theo Fleury's. Very few players have made it to the NHL with a size disadvantage and even fewer have played with the same amount of fire Fleury had back in his heyday. He's an Olympic gold medalist, a Stanley Cup winner, and overcome substance abuse and depression. He's been on league-leading teams, teams that have choked, and teams that have won. If anyone knows about fighting a battles, win or lose, it's Fleury.
Expectations are sky high in Vancouver - anything short of a Cup title and the President's Trophy this squad will win won't mean anything. The ultimate prize is still the Cup, so whatever happens between Opening Night and the last game of the playoffs is just all white noise when all is said and done. Jason Botchford isn't sure why there's been so much criticism directed at the Canucks, and more specifically, Roberto Luongo, but it's clearly because the Canucks have never, even been in this position.
Think about it. Which team is the most criticized in the MLB? The Yankees, because they're a historically great team with an insane payroll that isn't a reflected on the field. The NBA? The Miami Heat, because LeBron James and his buddies teamed up and have formed one of the most talented nucleus in league history and promised 6 championships yet still struggle to stay atop the East. The NFL? The New England Patriots, because Tom Brady's pretty boy image was front and center along with their historic 16-0 season.
The Vancouver Canucks are the best team in the NHL. They sit comfortably atop the league standings and boast the league's best special teams. Luongo is statistically having one of the best seasons in his career. Make no mistake - the Canucks are public enemy number one in all 29 other arenas in the NHL. Every single team wants to beat the Canucks. They're going to get picked apart by fans, experts, GMs, and coaches because they're the team to beat. They're the litmus test. And one of the easiest bones to pick with the Canucks? The fact that they've been blown out by the Hawks in two consecutive years, and in both years Luongo has been less than stellar. Pressure to win in the playoffs comes from regular season success. It's the logical step. What people want to know are the ones at the top. It's an exercise in social psychology as it is about sports. The reason why so many top teams choke (Washington) is because there's much more pressure on them to perform. And so many upsets happen every year (Montreal) because there's less pressure. Some teams thrive off pressure, some don't. So far, it's pretty fair to say the Canucks don't.
Some people in Vancouver are up in arms because they can't take the criticism. Well, now we know how the Sharks felt the past couple of years and we know how Sidney Crosby feels on a nightly basis. You want to know why nobody picks apart the Red Wings' game even though Jimmy Howard really isn't that good, Jonathan Ericsson has hit a wall in his development, and Tomas Holmstrom refuses to fight? Because they've won Cups.
Stop whining about not getting enough respect. Suck it up, play hard, and win the damn thing.