WATCH: Canucks coach Willie Desjardins addresses the media after his team is eliminated from the NHL Playoffs in a 7-4 loss to the Calgary Flames
As the Vancouver Canucks ended their 2014-2015 NHL season, fireworks went off at the Vancouver Convention Centre.
It was a private party, with the timing of the fireworks planned well in advance – but it left a bitter taste for those watching the game downtown.
But there was plenty a Canuck fan could celebrate about this season, even if a 100-plus point season was followed by a first-round exit for the third time in four years.
“I’m proud of our guys, 101 points this year is a good run,” said Willie Desjardins as his first season as an NHL coach came to an end.
“We won some big games during the year – that doesn’t make you feel any better now, that gives you nothing – but at the same time, I’m still proud of the group and proud of the city.”
Global BC’s Squire Barnes says the season can’t be considered a failure.
“What they wanted to do at the outset of the season was they wanted to rebuild without crashing out, they wanted to rebuild but still be a playoff team, and transition that old guard into a new core group,” he said.
Barnes said the development of rookie Bo Horvat, a second straight season of strong play from Eddie Lack, and the five-year contract given to Chris Tanev all bode well going forward.
“Truth be told, they were better in the regular season then they thought they were going to be.”
The Sedins had bounceback seasons, both finishing in the top 15 in scoring. But both will turn 35 before next season. Radim Vrbata, who led the team with 31 goals, will turn 34. Alexandre Burrows turned 34 earlier this month.
But the twins are signed until 2018, and Burrows until 2017. Absent a trade, the core will stay in tact for at least another year, a fact Desjardins seemed fine with.
“When I came in here I thought we had great leadership, and I’m even more proud of our leaders now,” he said.
The team’s 2014-2015 success will likely hinge on whether their younger players can continue to develop.
“They still have to change their forwards out. A lot of them are in their early to mid-30s, that can’t continue,” says Barnes.
“But Horvat’s got some playoff experience and clearly belongs. They’re hoping Jake Virtanen (the team’s first pick in the 2014 draft) steps up next year. There are pieces for the future.”
Post-series fireworks may be appropriate sooner rather than later. But tonight, they surely stung.
“I thought our fans were great…and they deserved a Game 7,” said Desjardins.
“I’m proud of our guys, but it just didn’t go down.”