There is still no rivalry but there is shame in the NHL’s Cascadia corridor.
That shame belongs to the 53-year-old Vancouver Canucks who have been bypassed by their would-be rivals, the Seattle Kraken, in just two short years.
The Kraken are into Round 2 of the Stanley Cup playoffs after dispatching the defending champions in seven games. It’s a place the Canucks have only reached once since 2011, and that was the 2020 bubble playoffs in Edmonton.
It’s 12 years and counting since our community played host to Round 2.
The cruel irony is that the Canucks have been trying to make the playoffs in every year since their run to the 2011 Cup final. The Kraken, meanwhile, positioned themselves to build over the long-term, valuing cap space and younger players in the expansion draft of 2021.
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They needed a shot of competitiveness after a lacklustre first year, and they had the cap space to do it, adding forwards Oliver Bjorkstrand and Andre Burakovsky, defenceman Justin Schultz of Kelowna and goaltender Martin Jones, of North Vancouver.
The Canucks finished 32 points ahead of the Kraken last season and won all four games.
Their “rivalry” failed to get off the ground because of the competitive imbalance, and due to the heartwarming story of Canucks equipment manager Brian “Red” Hamilton and Kraken fan Nadia Popovici. The latter may have saved the former’s life by noticing a cancerous mole on his neck and pointing it out via a hand-written note pressed on the glass.
Vancouver also won the first two games this season, but finished 17 points back of the Kraken. That’s a 49-point swing from one season to the next.
So, yes, Canucks Sports and Entertainment should feel embarrassed that their organization has fallen behind a second-year expansion team this quickly, and this dramatically. And perhaps worse yet, the Kraken’s first rival is the Avalanche, not the Canucks.