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Public Enemy Number One

Jason Chen

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"I'm going to go out on a limb here and I'm going to say that the Vancouver Canucks will not make it out of the first round... no matter who they play," says Theo Fleury.

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.


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Unfortunately, the ones whining (some fans) can't actually win the cup - the team would have to do it. Fleury states his opinion honestly, and with understandable reasons - yet we can't accept a difference in opinion? This has nothing to do even with his credentials, fans are flaming him because he predicted against the canucks. All his trash talk came after he was attacked.

The team already has everyone else's respect as a good team, even if they don't win a cup.

This is all about the fans' sense of entitlement. Once we drop that, then we as a fan base will get respect. It's time for us to restore ours.

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The team already has everyone else's respect as a good team, even if they don't win a cup.

This is all about the fans' sense of entitlement. Once we drop that, then we as a fan base will get respect. It's time for us to restore ours.

That reminds me of another thing - despite all the praises this team has received, this team doesn't have the same respect a Cup-winning team does. Going into round one, if I was a #8 team, would I be more scared of the high-flying Caps and a rested Ovechkin or a struggling Flyers squad? It's a no-brainer, I'm more terrified of the Flyers because I know they've been there and know what it takes while the pressure's on the Caps to perform and I KNOW they can cave under pressure.

It's the same deal with Vancouver. Until we win a Cup, there will always be detractors. Nobody's talking about just how average the Habs team is (asides from Carey Price) because they've gone on long runs and have a trump card in the form of a Cup title from '93.

Criticism comes with the territory of being number one and failing to win important games. The Canucks are in the same boat as the Sharks and Caps.

It's tough to hear about all the whining in this city because Vancouver can be such a bandwagon hockey town and there are tons of Canucks fans who are better than that.

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Jason,

You say that the Canucks are in the same boat as the Caps and Sharks.

No. They are not. The Caps and Sharks are teams that have been tops in regular season play and then failed to impress in the playoffs.

The Canucks look like they are going to finish as the top team in the regular season this year, but the playoff story is still to come. They may join the Caps and Sharks as "chokers", but that has not happened yet.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but in the past the Canucks have usually lost to teams that were better than they were during the regular season.

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Jason,

You say that the Canucks are in the same boat as the Caps and Sharks.

No. They are not. The Caps and Sharks are teams that have been tops in regular season play and then failed to impress in the playoffs.

The Canucks look like they are going to finish as the top team in the regular season this year, but the playoff story is still to come. They may join the Caps and Sharks as "chokers", but that has not happened yet.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but in the past the Canucks have usually lost to teams that were better than they were during the regular season.

I agree, this year's playoffs is going to hard to predict (more on that in the future playoff post) but for various reasons (Kesler's emergence, blueline depth, rested Luongo).

However, going back to 2004, when the Canucks started to string together division banners, the team has never made it past the semifinals. Divison banner years in 2004, 2007, 2009, 2010, have resulted in two upsets and in the two losses against higher seeds (#2 Ducks in 2007, #2 Hawks in 2010), the Canucks have only one three games combined (combined score 14-7, I think). And in that 2007 first-round series against Dallas, we got really lucky because we should've lost and had no business of being in the second round against the Ducks either. There's also the manner in which we've lost as well, and the last two years have been ugly (5-1, 7-5). It certainly has looked like we don't belong.

I think the same can be said about the Sharks and Capitals. They just don't look like they belong despite being regular season monsters.

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