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John Stevens' firing from the Flyers may be the move that will set off a series of changes to some NHL teams. The recent struggles of the Blue Jackets has Ken Hitchcock reportedly in the hot seat along with the Blues' Andy Murray. While both the Ducks and Leafs have been off to rather disappointing starts, Randy Carlyle and Ron Wilson may also be on the hot seats although their respective GMs have publicly stated that roster changes will be made before the head coach gets the ax. Players such as the Blues' Patrik Berglund, the Kings' Dustin Brown, the Leafs' Niklas Hagman, and the Coyotes' Peter Mueller are just a couple names that are being thrown around. What's surprising is that these are young, quality players (asides from Hagman) that just haven't really found a niche on their teams. Some teams are making changes to deliver a message while other teams like Carolina may be looking to re-build their team already.
The best part is, it looks at though Vancouver may be a beneficiary of these moves, as it's been rumoured that the Rangers are interested in re-uniting Marian Gaborik with Pavol Demitra and it is believed that Mike Gillis is openly shopping Shane O'Brien. <img src="http://www2.pictures.gi.zimbio.com/Vancouver+Canucks+v+New+York+Islanders+QtmV6Kt6aZfl.jpg" class="imageFloatLeftFramed">
The struggling Rangers were off to a hot start thanks to the play of Vaclav Prospal, Ales Kotalik, and Michael Del Zotto on the powerplay, but John Tortorella's squad is struggling mightily of late and is currently on the outside looking in. While Gaborik (21 goals) and Prospal (20 assists) continue to pile on the points, Kotalik has failed to score a goal since November 5 and hasn't finished the game with a plus since October 14. Del Zotto has only 5 points in November after posting 12 in October and is -9 in his last 5 games, including an ugly -5 in a 8-2 loss against the Penguins. Questions concerning the Rangers' offensive depth were raised but quickly silenced after their hot start but it looks as though it was merely a mirage. The Rangers don't have much cap space to work with (roughly $1 million) so if they wish to acquire Demitra the Canucks will most likely have to take on some salary in exchange. Demitra is a UFA at the end of the season and given his injury history, production, and the emergance of Burrows and Kesler as dependable offensive weapons, it is unlikely he will be extended beyond this season. The Rangers picked up Erik Christensen off waivers from Anaheim a few days ago and a player that could be moved is Chris Higgins ($2.25 million), who has been in Tortorella's dog house this season and has only 9 points.
O'Brien, on the other hand, has always been on the outside looking in once Mathieu Schneider was signed. While defensive depth was an area that Gillis felt the team needed to improve, O'Brien has been used sparingly and the Canucks do have Aaron Rome, Nolan Baumgartner, and Lawrence Nycholat as call-ups. O'Brien brings an edge to this defensive corps but it is obviously something that Gillis deems expendable. Exactly what sort of compensation the Canucks can get for O'Brien remains to be seen but I don't see a big market for him - it is rumoured that the much more dependable and valuable Aaron Ward is on the block. Gillis may simply try to parlay O'Brien into a pick but I imagine that Gillis would prefer if O'Brien returns East rather than going to San Jose as Bruce Garrioch from the Ottawa Sun suggests. O'Brien played just over 15 minutes against Carolina, the only Vancouver defenseman to play under 19 minutes that game. O'Brien has had his run-ins with the coaching staff in the past dating to last year and is obviously not in the team's long-term plans.
I don't think it's any coincidence that these rumours have come at the heel of an afternoon loss against Carolina. It could be blamed on the schedule, in which the Canucks were playing matinee game after posting hard-fought back-to-back wins against New Jersey and Philadelphia, but even then the Canucks' play against the lowly Hurricanes lacked any sort of urgency in the second period. The Canucks shot themselves in the foot in a game that they should've taken.
One area the Canucks may wish to improve on is special teams, especially the PK, which sits 21st in the league at 78.4%. Vancouver's 4th ranked PP is clicking at 22.7%, but asides from a blowout in Edmonton (4 PPGs), the Canucks have gone 0-19 with the man advantage in the other six games. The Canucks may simply just choose to re-stock the pipeline with prospects and picks but you can definitely count out any talks regarding Ilya Kovalchuk.