First off, I would like to say that if the Canucks somehow manage to beat Los Angeles, I will eat my words.
The end to this season has been a disappointment, and the issues that the Canucks possess have been exposed by the Kings. The little issues that Boston exposed a year ago have turned into big issues that Los Angeles has exposed recently.
At the end of last season and into the draft and free agency, it was a "if it aint broke, dont fix it" mentality. We all felt that no matter what, if we kept the same guys, we were destined to be back in the Stanley Cup Finals.I was a little worried when there was too little change in Free Agency however. The additions of Marco Sturm and Andrew Ebbett (and to a lesser extent, Mancari and Pinnizzotto) did not appeal to me, but I accepted them because I felt we did not have any room to bring anyone else in.
Early in the season we traded for David Booth, which I felt, like I am sure everyone else did, pushed us over the top. The dreadful Marco Sturm was gone, and a lackluster Mikael Samuelsson was gone along with him. In hindsight, I still like this move, the problem is like most Canucks, Booth has not performed to his full potential in the playoffs.
At the trade deadline, I was content with the Pahlsson move, and although the Hodgson move suprised me, I accepted it and understood what Gillis was trying to do. As we know now, Hodgson wanted out, and there was no room for him to move up in the Canucks organization. I agree that Kassian has not come as advertised, and he has barely been noticeable on the ice. I was a firm believer that Ott would be in a Canucks uniform come the 28th of February, but obviously it did not happen. Kassian was the best deal that Mike Gillis felt he could make in the scenario he was in, and I have no problem with that. Anybody who says we should have kept Sulzer is foolish, because we all know that there was 0 chance he would have played down the stretch, and there was no way to know that he would strive in a top pairing role if he was placed in it as he was in Buffalo. Gragnani has not been the player as I had hoped, but that goes with the way that AV coaches. It is not AV's fault that Gragnani has been lackluster, but I feel that AV limited what Gragnani could do, and that took away some of his offensive upside.
After the trade deadline I felt that the Canucks chemistry was not right. Everyone was moving up and down lines, combinations were switched daily and it was hard for lines to get their footing. The injury to Daniel Sedin was unfortunate, and it has hurt the Canucks playoff chances, but in no way is that the reason that the Canucks are now down 3-0 to the Kings.
Very little change was made between this season and last, and we are looking at the same fate, no Stanley Cup. Is it time for change? Philadelphia pursued change in the offseason and has ultimately strived under it. Like Flyers' GM Paul Holmgren said, "I do not know if we are better, but we are different", and that is the way that I feel that the Canucks should go in this offseason.
First off, I think trading Schneider is a mistake. Luongo has not gotten Vancouver a Stanley Cup thus far, and I believe that ship has sailed. The media and the fans have battered Luongo in this city, and I feel that he can not elevate to the level that we expect him to in Vancouver. Although I agree that you cant win games if you cant score, and Luongo was not at fault for losses 1 and 2, his numbers were not good thus far. I know his play can not be based off of two games, but after this many seasons in Vancouver, I think it would be best for the organization to part ways. Luongo's contract is not as movable as Schneider is, but I feel that there are options. Toronto would be an ideal fit for Luongo. I know Burke does not like big-lengthy contracts, but they are in dire need of a goaltender, and Luongo has ties to Nonis. A move like this essentially saves Burke's job for at least another season. Another ideal location for Luongo is Florida. Here he could live with his family in their own home, and settle down for the latter years of his career. Florida suprisingly has a good team under first year GM Dale Tallon, but one of their weaknesses can be said to be in goal. Jose Theodore realistically is not your goalie in Florida, and Jacob Markstrom is not quite NHL ready. Bringing in Luongo solidifies their goaltender position, and he would strive in a lower pressure market like Florida. Ultimately, Luongo holds his own fate with his NTC, but I feel if Schneider is the go-to guy, he would be wanting to move.
Although I love Ryan Kesler like the rest of this city, I feel that he is a head case. The diving and whining has not gotten him anywhere, and I personally feel that he does not want to play in Vancouver. Ideally I feel he would prefer to play in a bigger US market, but he is also a potential player that Brian Burke is trying to get. Now I am not trying to turn this into a "trade every player to Toronto" blog, I am just speculating the best fits. Kesler has gotten a bad repuation from the rest of the league, and that could potentially harm his value, but his talent is unquestioned despite a lackluster season.
I have never been a Mason Raymond fan, I likely will never be one, but I feel that this one is obvious. Let Mason Raymond walk. There is no need to extend him, his play has been dismal this year, and his speed seems to be his only asset. I feel that his roster spot (and salary) could be used more efficiently.
Manny Malhotra has not been the same since his eye injury. It is a shame, but it is a fact. He is not the player that he used to be. Pahlsson has come in and taken the spot that Malhotra used to have, and I feel that 2.5M for a 4th liner is way too expensive in a salary cap world. Manny does have a NTC, and I feel there are very few teams that would have interest in him, but right now he brings little benefit on the ice.
As for free agency, the Canucks will have to make some decisions. I can see the Canucks re-signing pending UFA Samuel Pahlsson at a pay cut, for Gillis did the same with his deadline acquisitions last year. Players such as Andrew Ebbett, Aaron Rome, and Byron Bitz I can see walking, as much as I like all three of them, change is needed.
Next I look to the defence of the Canucks. I believe that Sami Salo will likely retire at season's end, allowing for Chris Tavev to be given a permanent roster spot. Kevin Bieksa was outstanding down the stretch last year for the Canucks, and he was spectacular in the playoffs. This season, he has not being the same. He comes off a big new contract extension, but he seems that he has regressed to the same mental mistakes that he has made in years prior. I personally think that Kevin's cap hit is too heavy for a player who has only really stepped up for a 6-month period. 2 years ago I sat in my hotel room in Hawaii watching the trade deadline, only to watch the Canucks bring in Andrew Alberts as their only NHL acquisition. I was immediately disappointed. After watching him take a 5 minute major and a game misconduct against the Kings in game 1 of their series that year, I felt that there was no place for him on the Canucks roster.
Finally, as much as I hate to see it. I feel that coach Alain Vigneault's time is up. He has played his favourites over the years, and it has hurt the development and gameplay of others. Grabner was hurt by AV, Hodgson was hurt by AV, and current defencemen Gragnani and Ballard are hurt by AV. Shane O'Brien also lacked opportunity due to AV's favourites, but this can easily be me defending my favourite player. It can only be speculated who the next coach would be, but it is in need of a change. As someone brought to my attention recently, what if AV were to be the coach of Erik Karlsson? Would he be the same player he is today? The likely answer is no, because AV likes certain type of players who are more conservative, and not ones who come with risks/rewards.
I am sure that many people will completely disagree with everything that I have said, and that is fine. I am not a Canuck hater, I love the Canucks, I have for years and years, and my opinion does not make me any less of a fan than anyone else. Everyone has their opinions, and I chose to express mine. Do I believe everything I discussed will happen? No, but in my eyes, I feel that they would be the best for the organization. I am not trying to convince someone to believe my mindset, nor am I going to believe someone elses, this is just what I feel needs to be done in order to shake up this team. As I said earlier, I feel that the Canucks need change, and that the Philadelphia motto should be followed - that being "I do not know if we are better, but we are different".
I thank you for the read, and I hope that my first ever blog was worth it.