By Jay Zawaski-
(CBS) In the NHL (and most other sports), rivalries are grown and cultivated by playoff series.
Over the past couple of seasons, the Blackhawks and Canucks have managed to avoid each other in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Last season, the Canucks were swept by the San Jose Sharks in the first round. In 2012, the Blackhawks were eliminated in the first round by the Phoenix Coyotes.
Perhaps absence makes the heart grow fonder.
There are a few factors when analyzing why the rivalry may be losing a bit of flair.
First off, former Canuck public enemy No. 1, Roberto Luongo, has made himself somewhat of a sympathetic figure. He was jerked around by Canucks management, and believed he was on the move over the last two summers. Instead, the Canucks traded his long time…backup? Partner?
Let’s just say they traded his long time “other guy who plays goalie,” Corey Schneider, to New Jersey. Even the most committed Canuck hater had to feel for Bobby Lu. Couple that with his hilarious, self-deprecating Twitter account, and he was hard to hate.
Their head coach, Alain Vigneault, was fired last summer. Vigneault had a “James Bond villian” type persona. You knew that he orchestrated every dirty hit, head shot and dive. He’s now the head coach of the New York Rangers, while former Rangers coach John Tortorella took over the Canucks. Tortorella is a little bit lower on the jerk totem pole than Vigneault. Not much, but a bit.
On the Hawks’ side, some of the main Canuck agitators have left the team. Adam Burish and Dustin Byfuglien left after 2010. So did Andrew Ladd, who was Ryan Kesler’s huckleberry on more than one occasion. Dave Bolland, who was always vocal about his disdain for all things Vancouver, is gone as well.
Aside from Andrew Shaw and Brandon Bollig, who confirmed his hatred of the Canucks to me on Wednesday night, the Hawks don’t really have an agitator type. Of course, those two are prime candidates to pick up the slack.
What do you think? Has the rivalry lost steam? Who are the best Hawks and Canucks to get it going again? Leave a comment below.
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