Can this squad handle it?

BARRY MACDONALD -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:01 AM ET

In the 37-year history of the Vancouver Canucks, the expectation level has rarely been off the charts. This has not been an organization steeped in success. Two Stanley Cup final appearances. Oh-for-two in those.

Before we address the hopes for this year's bunch, let's review the few instances when expectations weren't met, and were probably a little unreasonable in the first place.

The 1981-82 edition reached the Cup final before getting bleached by the mighty Islanders, a dynasty in its prime. The expectations for that gritty Canuck group didn't actually surface during the run to the final, but as a result of it. It was pressure heaped upon the '82-'83 team, that quite frankly, wasn't equipped to handle it. They simply didn't have the talent to duplicate the magic they created the previous season; magic born out of hard work, team chemistry and Roger Neilson's towel power.

The '88-'89 crew will never be compared with the Flying Frenchmen, but did come close to shocking the world in the post season. This run lasted only seven games, when they pushed the Flames to the brink, before Joel Otto's skate decided. After the season, the Canucks added two-thirds of the KLM line and once again, the parade route was being mapped out. That was before Vladimir Krutov's love affair with hot dogs was discovered, and his indifference compromised the contribution of the classy Igor Larionov.

The Canucks next memorable post season push came in 1994. You know how it ended. Painfully. But again, it led to inflated hopes for the following season. Two issues got in the way of Vancouver going one step further. Pat Quinn decided to hand the coaching reins to Rick Ley. Ley did not command the same respect as Quinn did.... not even close. And a labour dispute pushed the start of the season back until January, and really impacted the group's ability to pick up where it had left off.

Fast forward to the spring of 2003, with the Canucks one win away from reaching the Western Conference Finals. They couldn't close the deal, getting Darby Hendricksoned in the forgettable seventh game meltdown at GM Place. Minnesota takes on Anaheim in the conference finale, the Canucks take on more expectations for the following season.

Which were again, not met. That was the, uh, Bertuzzi season. Then came the lockout. Then came those bloody expectations after the lockout when it was widely assumed that the Canucks would benefit from the new rules designed to open up play. Perfect for Vancouver's talented forwards. Stanley Cup, here we come. They missed the playoffs.

Which gets us to the here, and now. And quite possibly, a team that might just be able to handle the expectations. They have one of the best goalies on the planet, who takes confidence to a whole new level. The defensive corps is solid, but there is once again concern about who will emerge on the offensive end, to complement those being counted on for productivity.

There is nothing so uncertain as a sure thing. A lot has to fall in place for the Canucks to make a serious run. With expectations, comes pressure. This bunch just might be equipped to handle it.

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Barry Macdonald is co-host of BS in the Morning on Team 1040 from 6-9 a.m.


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