Thursday, June 16, 2011

Missed opportunities

By Kshell

The Vancouver Canucks lost game seven of the stanley cup finals 4-0 to the Boston Bruins. While the nation celebrates the Bruins winning their first stanley cup in 39 years the people of Vancouver who haven't ever won a title in 40 years are left with nothing. Then the aftermath of the loss turned ugly as the city started to riot acting like idiots. Most of those idiots aren't true Canucks fans and knew win or lose they were going to riot. I won't judge Vancouver on the rioting because odds are the people doing the rioting aren't from Vancouver. Instead what I'll focus this blog post on is how northwest teams counting the Canucks typically don't do well when blowing a missed opportunity. While some franchises can lose in the championship rounds and come back the following year to win a title that isn't the case up here. I'm not just talking about the following year there seems to be a cloud that hangs over these franchises. All the teams whether you are a Mariners fan, Seahawks fan, Blazers fan, Sonics fan, Huskies fan or Cougars fan have blown a huge opportunity and still haven't recovered from them. The goal for the Canucks will be to end this trend next season or else Vancouver fans be prepared to have a long decade coming up.

I'll start the most recent team who lost a championship game the Seattle Seahawks. The Seahawks as we all know lost Super Bowl XL to the Pittsburgh Steelers 21-10. That is a game due to the officiating the Seahawks still haven't got over it. The Seahawks who were a 13-3 team and had homefield throughout the playoffs were easily the best team in the NFC. Yet the following year they only went 9-7. Despite a core which featured Matt Hasselbeck, Shaun Alexander, Walter Jones, Lofa Tatupu and Marcus Trufant who were all in their prime or entering their prime they would never reach the promise land again. The Seahawks would lose to the Bears 27-24 in overtime the following year in the divisional round. The Seahawks haven't advanced past the divisional round since losing the Super Bowl. The Seahawks also lost guard Steve Hutchinson in his prime and the offensive line hasn't been the same. You'll notice a big reason why our teams never get back to that mountain top is often due to bad moves. The Seahawks are still searching for their first Super Bowl win in franchise history.

For the Washington Huskies their basketball program hasn't been to a Final Four since 1953. The closest they have ever been was in 2006 when they featured the best player in college basketball who was also a guard and a senior. That is a final four recipe right there as the Huskies rode Brandon Roy to the promise land. The fifth seeded Huskies were up seven points on the Connecticut Huskies with a little over a minute to go. UCONN had stunn the Huskies back in 1998 on a Rip Hamilton buzzer beater to deny the Huskies an elite 8 trip. This game was revenge for Washington instead it was the worst loss for basketball or football since I've been a fan. Washington self destructed allowed an UCONN three pointer at the buzzer to tie the game. Then Washington lost in overtime as Brandon Roy fouled out in overtime. The Huskies would miss the NCAA tournament the next two seasons and have only advanced to the sweet 16 just once in five years since that dreadful loss. The Washington Huskies are still searching for their first Final Four since 1953 as they blew the best opportunity in the Romar era.

The Seattle Mariners in 2001 were coming off a season in which they lost the ALCS in six games to the New York Yankees in 2000. In 2001 the Mariners ran away with the division by May as they won 116 games which tied the 1906 Chicago Cubs record. The Mariners were clearly the best team in baseball and the future appear bright for the franchise. The Mariners would lose to the Yankees in five games which including a swing game in game four in which the Mariners blew a 1-0 lead in the eighth inning. The Mariners that offseason would trade for Jeff Cirillo who was a huge bust and sign James Baldwin who was also a bust. The Mariners would also win just 93 games which was a 23 win decrease and miss the playoffs. Just three years after winning 116 games the Mariners would lose 99 games and be on their third different manager in a span of four seasons. The Mariners not only have never reached a World Series they have yet to even make the playoffs. Since 2004 they have had just two winning seasons. The Mariners missed their opportunity in 2000 and especially the 2001 season. The Mariners like the previous teams have yet to recover after missing their opportunity.

The Portland Trail Blazers who had finally overcame blowing their previous missed opportunity have yet to recover from the 2000 Western Conference Finals game seven. The Blazers in 1992 NBA Finals in game six against the Chicago Bulls had a 15 point lead that they blew to the Bulls to lose the Finals. The Blazers would lose in the first round in six consecutive seasons. The Blazers finally broke through in 1999 reaching the western conference finals before getting swept by the San Antonio Spurs. Well after a busy offseason the Blazers who had trailed 3-1 in the series to the Los Angeles Lakers battled back to force a game seven. Then the Blazers took a 15 point lead into the fourth quarter. That year the best two teams were in the West so while no fair to assume this series was for the championship. The Lakers would go on a 15-0 run to tie the score up and eventually win 89-84. For the Lakers they would go on to win the first of three straight championships. For the Blazers well they have yet to win a playoff series since. In 2001 and 2002 the Lakers eliminated them in the first round. Add it all up the Blazers have lost six consecutive first round series. The Blazers also traded away promising young star Jermaine O'Neal that offseason for Dale Davis. This loss still haunts Blazers fans as that franchise hasn't seemed to recover from that missed opportunity.

The Washington State Cougars had finally made the Rose Bowl for the first time in 67 years in 1997. The Cougars took on #1 ranked Michigan Wolverines trying to win their first Rose Bowl since 1916. The Cougars trailing 21-16 and going for the shocking comeback win. The type of defining win that the Huskies had in 1978 Rose Bowl that propelled the program to greater heights is what the Cougars were going towards. All-American quarterback Ryan Leaf spiked the ball but the officials said that spike took two seconds and the game suddenly ended. Although the Cougars had a great season they were denied to get their first national win. The type of win that can turn a bottom program into a contender. The Cougars would take last place in the Pac-10 the next two seasons then have a losing season for the third straight year. Although the Cougars would recover and make the Rose Bowl in the 2002 season they were blown out. The program hasn't been the same after the 2003 season. The Cougars missed out on their best chance to win a Rose Bowl which they haven't done in 95 years.

The Seattle Supersonics actually did the best job originally of recovering from a missed opportunity. In the 1978 NBA Finals they lost game seven at home only to beat the same Washington Bullets in five games for the championship in 1979. In 1994 the Sonics were the #1 seed in a year Michael Jordan wasn't in the league and they lost in the first round. The following season the Sonics again lost in the first round. Finally in 1996 the Sonics broke through and made the NBA Finals. Although the Chicago Bulls were the better team the opportunity to win a title was still there for the Sonics. Instead the Sonics lost in a respectable six games and had they won game two this could have been an interesting series. That following offseason the Sonics signed unknown center Jim McIlvaine to a lot of money. Eventually cause Shawn Kemp to demand to be traded after the following season. The year after that George Karl was fired and the Seattle Sonics never advanced past the second round after that 1996 NBA Finals. The Sonics after firing Karl had advanced past the first round just once(2005). The Sonics eventually left Seattle after the 2008 season having won just three postseason series after the NBA Finals. Safe to say the franchise never recovered from those heartbreaking playoff losses of the 1990's.

Now to the Canucks who themselves didn't recover well from their last missed opportunity. The Canucks in 1994 battled back from a 3-1 series deficit to force a game seven of the Stanley Cup Finals only to lose to the New York Rangers 3-2. The Canucks the following year were swept in the second round. Then were bounced in the first round in 1996 only to miss the playoffs four straight seasons after that. They didn't reach the western conference finals until 17 years later which was this season. Now you have to wonder how the Canucks will respond to such a devastating loss. The Canucks were by far and away the best team in the NHL by all the NHL experts. The Canucks had home ice throughout the entire playoffs and were up 2-0 in this series. The Canucks after being destroyed in Boston 12-1 combined came back home to win game five. Only to be outscored 9-2 including losing game seven at home 4-0. The Canucks in their four losses were outscored 21-3 so there was no specific game which hurt just the whole series. People in Vancouver will wonder all offseason why their team laid four eggs in this series. The Canucks are now 0-3 all-time in franchise history in games in which if they win they hoist the Stanley Cup. Hopefully history doesn't repeat itself like it always seems to do with teams in our region.

In conclusion, you can see why teams sometimes play to win for this year. Like I just pointed out even when the future seems so bright you never know if that is your one and only opportunity. So when you have those rare opportunities you have to win those games. All those teams I just mentioned are still recovering from such devastating losses and in the case of the Sonics they left town. The Mariners and Blazers are going on a decade of dissapointment after tasting a championship. The Seahawks have been nothing more than just average since the Super Bowl. While the Huskies and Cougars have tasted some success since then it was never as close as those losses. Hopefully for the fans of Vancouver the Canucks can reverse the trend. Just take a look at the team who beat the Canucks the Boston Bruins. The Bruins blew a 3-0 series lead last year then lost their first two home games this postseason only to rally to win the Stanley Cup. In sports sometimes the winner is the team who is mentally strongest and in the case of teams who lost the championship it's just about being mentally tough. Why I respect the Buffalo Bills who went to four straight super bowls so that was three straight offseasons they battled back from blowing a chance at the title. This region has had our fair share of opportunities and every time it feels like our teams let us down. Maybe the Canucks can reverse the trend of our teams falling apart after blowing a golden opportunity. For my Canucks friends hopefully for your sake they do.

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