Forty-one years since the Vancouver Canucks’ conception, the franchise finds itself being asked the same question: what has to change for next year?
Rabblerousers will look at this team’s early playoff exit as an end of an era beginning from the top to the very bottom, or metaphorically, from Mike Gillis to Roberto Luongo, of whom have both seen their Vancouver careers run from heralded saviour to social pariah. These people have the “what have you done for me lately” mentality, and while I usually disagree with the panic-button fanbase, they have a legitimate point in that Zack Kassian, Marc-Andre Gragnani and Bobby Lu did little to assist in this year’s postseason effort.
Gillis’s trading of Cody Hodgson – he of vogue Vancouver sports talk for years and touted as the next Trevor Linden (may he never die) – opened a crack in Vancouver’s late-season scoring that grew into such a noticeable fissure by the end of the campaign that even Los Angeles forgot about its own scoring faults, which is a double entendre of such magnitude that this
paragraph split. To be fair to Roberto, the team in front of him may have let him down in his starts, but ultimately the Canucks’ (dare I say ‘once’) number one goaltender didn’t steal either game, which is what he’s paid to do for a town that deserves a better class of criminal.
The critical fan will take a breath and realize the only glaring need, which is secondary scoring. Particular players played beneath their calibre this year, and their linemates suffered as a result. The long season prior can’t be used as an excuse as many of the maligned Boston Bruins had a more productive hangover than they had in their championship year. Tyler Seguin alone tripled his offensive output, much like my Charmeleon forgetting Ember and learning Fire Blast.
Athletes such as Ryan Kesler, Alex Burrows and David Booth can be expected to recharge over the offseason; they’re just too skilled to clip along at the brow-furrowing rate they did throughout the ’11-’12 campaign (in Booth’s case, the chemistry will multiply – I predicted earlier that he’d be a 50-point player with Vancouver and wasn’t far off before the team’s offense collapsed). Mason Raymond and Manny Malhotra had the opposite effect on brows however, as their hair-raising point totals are approximately half of where they were last year. I’d feel terrible for Man-Ho (heh) if he doesn’t make the team next year, but I would understand front office’s decision either way. He’ll be lucky to be a 20-point guy playing on the fourth line when he’s supposed to be a 35-point third line centre; that has to be tough on a guy.
I don’t have much input on Raymond anymore, so I’ll simply say that he’d do really well in the knee- and elbow-pad industry if personal experience using them equated to success. He’d be an excellent prison guard as well, considering he wouldn’t leave the perimeter for any reason whatsoever. His idea of a forecheck is mentally reaffirming to notify golfers ahead of him, is what I’m saying.
That said, the optimistic fan will look to the future in the likes of Jordan Schroeder, Anton Rodin and especially Nicklas Jensen. Gillis mentioned the three among others in his end-season state of the union address on Tuesday, suggesting that the young trio will have their opportunity to make the team this year, or at least get their nine games in before being sent back to their respective clubs. I’d wager that if Samuel Pahlsson doesn’t re-sign with the club, the third-line center position is Schroeder’s to lose with the fourth centered by number 40 with a safe combination of wingers not even a stethoscope could decipher.
I’ll speculate on Luongo in a later post, but I will mention that after his out-of-character, aloof interview on Tuesday where he all but said he’d already waived his no-trade clause, all signs point to Schneider and Lack being the go-to tandem for next year, which I’m all for. Roberto’s rewritten the franchise’s record book in his six years but hasn’t been able to get it done even when those teams have been built from him outwards, like the Tyrannosaurus Dinozord from Power Rangers.
So as we asked before, what changes? In my opinion (and barring any assets acquired in a potential Luongo trade), expect a youth movement while retaining the team’s leadership core. Gragnani and Chris Tanev will likely be the bottom-pairing defencemen, and Alexander Edler will play with notorious bad-boy and dirty clipper Keith Ballard if resident old/one-timer Sami Salo decides to retire.
D. Sedin-H. Sedin-Burrows; Booth-Kesler-Kassian; Higgins-Schroeder-Hansen; would be my top nine for 2012-13.