Like all members of Canuck Nation, we here at Critically Canuck have suffered a long time. We will not die happily unless the Stanley Cup makes its way to Stanley Park.
Here you'll get the straight goods on our heroes. With both feet on the bandwagon, we will, however, pull no punches. As long time season ticket holders, that's our prerogative.
Expect analytical insight with a strong sense of history. We'll ask the tough questions. And answer them. Enjoy.
Ask me anythingSubmit
Yesterday, Vancouver Canucks’ President and General Manager addressed the media in his annual post-season delivery. In the wake of a second straight embarrassing playoff exit, he had plenty to answer for. And did so in his typically uncomfortably smug and evasive style.
Unlike seasons’ past, his support of his coaching staff was not explicit - the foregone conclusion being that head coach Alain Vigneault (who was absent from the proceedings) will be replaced in the coming weeks.
Gillis made multiple references to this season being a “messed up” one, negatively impacting his plans in a number of ways. Apparently, the lockout (which was anticipated by everyone) impaired his ability to move Roberto Luongo. Further, the parity induced by a shortened season made for a cluttered trading market with too many buyers and not enough sellers.
These comments, true as they may be, are simply excuses for a job that was not done. Coming from the smug Gillis, this is as close to an admission of guilt as we’ll get.
He spoke of “resetting” the organization as he did when he started here five years ago. The fact is that “resetting” amounted to sticking with the blueprint of the previous regime, retaining the same head coach and core players. The success of the early Gillis years proved it was the right decision, but proving how much credit Gillis should get for it is another matter entirely.
With particular reference to the four game sweep at the hands of the San Jose Sharks, Gillis referenced the notion of “luck”. After all, the Canucks were inches from a Jannik Hansen empty net goal that would have clinched game 2 and were then torpedoed by borderline penalty calls that cost them game 4. These points are duly noted but can’t hide the fact that the team failed to win a single game. Nor was there any qualification of their ride to the 2011 Stanley Cup Final on Kevin Bieksa’s lottery like stanchion assisted game winner.
There was also reference to how the game has changed and how the Canucks must adapt to that change. Gillis spoke of this new emphasis on size and toughness as if it was some scientific revelation that could only now be completely accepted and acted upon. In fact, it’s been the modus operandi for successful playoff teams more often than not for simply generations. And has been as clear as day to anyone specifically following this team since the flame out Stanley Cup loss to Boston two years ago.
As it relates to the self-induced goaltending controversy, there was finally an admission that Roberto Luongo has “likely” played his last game in this market. And optimistically, Gillis declared that there should be more options available this summer for a Luongo exit. We can only infer that Luongo will now desperately accept a trade to anywhere.
In short, the offerings of Gillis were predictable - long on excuses and short on culpability. There was, at least, an acknowledgement that some significant things need to happen. And whether or not the relative success of the Gillis era accrues entirely to him (or previous management regimes), it appears such success will allow him another opportunity to do what needs to be done.
That, of course, is the question on everyone’s mind these days, casual fan or otherwise. And at no point in Canuck history has there been such a polarized response.
As the defending two-time President’s Trophy winners and near Stanley Cup champ two years ago, this exact team, more or less, has been recently elite and on everyone’s short list to win it all.
But based on the uneven and sometimes injury plagued play of this lockout-shortened campaign (backed only by the superlative play of Cory Schneider), the Canucks, in the eyes of many, are on target for another embarrassing first round exit.
The core personnel from the 2011 team remains intact, improved by the upgrade in goal of Schneider over Roberto Luongo and the pick-up of a legitimate second line playmaker in Derek Roy.
So on that simple basis, this team should have another shot at winning it all. And that is certainly what Canuck management would be selling you.
But you should recall last regular season wasn’t as impressive as advertised. The Canucks were bailed out consistently by their elite goaltending tandem and feasted on poor divisional opponents. The power play, that had ruled the league in 2011, was beginning to show the cracks in a foundation that would crumble completely this season.
And, of course, there was the overriding issue of lack of size and playoff grit up front - an issue that first haunted them in the Cup Final loss to Boston and was a contributing factor in last year’s early playoff exit - and one that remains unaddressed.
Mike Gillis has been quoted as saying that luck is one of the biggest components of playoff success. And he’s right. This particular version of the Canucks has been most susceptible to injury - perhaps an indictment of the Canucks’ declining depth. This team, it seems, will need more than just a little luck to get back to the promised land.
So while the memories of the 2011 near miss are most fresh in our minds, it would be wise to lower our expectations for this team - a team, that on paper, looks a whole lot more like the 2007 Canucks than they do the Stanley Cup finalists of two years past.
That team, buoyed by the other worldly goaltending of Robero Luongo, featured a veteran forward group that struggled to score (thirty-six year old Trevor Linden led the team in playoff scoring) and was bounced in the second round by the eventual Cup champion Anaheim Ducks.
Some things could happen this time around. Kevin Bieksa, Chris Higgins and Chris Tanev could get healthy and remain so. The Sedins and Ryan Kesler could resurrect their power play magic. Zack Kassian could emerge as a consistent physical, yet disciplined force. And Derek Roy just might provide second line offensive production, as advertised.
But other things will most certainly happen. The Canucks’ overall depth will be tested by the rigors of playoff hockey. The aged forward group will struggle to score, particularly at even strength. The team, as a whole, will get pushed around by bigger younger teams like Los Angeles and St. Louis. Cory Schneider will stand on his head.
You add all that up and a reasonable conclusion is another first round loss, or, if they are a little lucky, an unsuccessful trip to the second round.
After acquiring centre Derek Roy yesterday, Canucks’ Assistant General Manager, Laurence Gilman, was quoted as saying that his team was “fertile” and would be going “all in” at this trade deadline. Specifically, he expected one or two more deals to get done.
One day later, the trade deadline has expired and nothing more has happened. The typical excuses will be forthcoming. “It was a sellers’ market”. “We don’t want to mortgage our future”. “We like our team as is”. “Ryan Kesler is coming back”. “Derek Roy is a versatile player”.
And some or all of them may apply. But we should realize that the words of the Canucks’ upper management have not been in sync with their actions for quite some time.
You will recall last season’s trade deadline. The Canucks, defending Western Conference champs, traded an emerging player, Cody Hodgson, for a player that was, and remains, an enigmatic prospect - Zack Kassian. This was hardly the action of a team that was trying to load up for a Stanley Cup run.
Further, when it became clear that Cory Schneider was an elite NHL goalie, the team opted to keep him and attempt to move Roberto Luongo. Seemingly, another decision that did not fit well with a team that was aiming to win during their window of opportunity. Seemingly, Schneider would be more valuable on the trade front than the aging Luongo and his gaudy salary.
And now, another deadline has passed with the only acquisition being Derek Roy. Roy will be a valuable component on a team that has been without a 2nd and 3rd line centre all season. He is a play-making pivot on a team that is in dire need of such. But it is hard to imagine that he will be enough to elevate the level of play to Stanley Cup contender.
Mike Gillis’ handling of the Luongo matter is fodder for another blog piece. But it appears that Gillis’ arrogance has gotten in the way of getting a deal done.
With one year to trade his prized keeper, Gillis has not been able to pull the trigger, seemingly unaware that a player’s market value is simply represented by whatever the highest bidder is prepared to pay.
You don’t need to look too far to see what other teams have done in similar circumstances. You will recall Chris Pronger’s speedy exit from Edmonton. Or Jaroslav Halak’s quick departure from Montreal when it became clear he and Carey Price similarly couldn’t occupy the same net.
By continuing to defer on the matter, Gillis is speculating enormously and, in the end, doing his franchise a disservice. But the conclusion is pretty elementary.
The Aquilinis, despite claims to the contrary, aren’t really all that concerned about a Stanley Cup win. Ongoing competitive play and a handful of playoff dates year-after-year is fine.
And from a bottom line perspective, it likely is. But the next time you hear someone from the Canuck brass declare that they are “all in”, you must know they are only bluffing.
Ryan Kesler is hurt. Again. Zack Kassian is back in the doghouse. And, the infinitely spinning goalie carousel does just that.
Kesler, whose performance had faded after an initial promising return from his latest round of injury woes, has broken a bone in his foot. The injury occurred last week in Dallas, explaining the former all-star center’s struggles in the past few games.
What has to be quite disturbing to all is that Kesler has morphed into the injury riddled Sami Salo. It is not like he’s had a chronic problem ailing him the last couple of seasons, instead suffering all manner of seemingly unrelated injuries - hips, wrist, shoulder and now foot.
It is becoming clear that the feisty straw that stirs the drink may never appear in the line-up consistently enough to have the required impact. It is impossible to imagine this Canuck team maintaining any kind of extended success without a healthy Kesler.
Earlier this season, with both Kesler and David Booth out of the line-up, Zack Kassian saw some first line minutes and played well enough to deserve more of them. But instead, he has found himself in Alain Vigneault’s doghouse once again. Things bottomed out last night as the robust winger saw only six minutes of ice time.
Contrast that to Buffalo’s treatment of Cody Hodgson, the player controversially dealt in exchange for Kassian last season. This season, Hodgson has played over 20 minutes most nights and never less than 17 in a single game.
It is really hard to tell exactly what the plan is for Kassian, notably a year younger than the man he will be forever compared to. But he certainly looked comfortable and effective playing top line minutes earlier this season, bringing his unique combination of skill and sandpaper as advertised.
Now he is back to patrolling the fourth line - a lose/lose proposition if there ever was one. Is it any coincidence that the Canucks’ poorest play this season has corresponded with the times when Kassian’s ice-time has been reduced? If there is an upside to the Kesler injury, it would be the chance for Kassian to get more minutes again.
Based on Cory Schneider’s post game comments last night, he is clearly bristling from something. Whether he’s unhappy with his recent inconsistent play or the ongoing melodrama of who’s the number one keeper in this market is not clear. But it’s not an optimal situation obviously.
We’ve been adamant, ever since it appeared that this market couldn’t accommodate both of these elite keepers, that Luongo should be moved sooner rather than later.
We reiterate that 33 year-old netminders don’t appreciate. The Canucks have gambled on this matter, waiting until situations force the hands of other teams into desperate positions. The opposite, unfortunately, is now true.
Chicago seemingly can’t lose with their current goaltending tandem. The Leafs are off to their best start in a decade. The cash strapped Florida Panthers have wisely opted to play their prized prospect between the pipes. And the Oilers are happy to ride Devan Dubnyk, their goalie of the future who is finally delivering consistently.
So where there was once a number of potential suitors for Luongo, it’s hard to find more than one now, the perpetually goaltending challenged Flyers being the only logical destination.
As the injuries mount and the Canucks struggle, the luxury of two elite starting goaltenders is becoming stupidly extravagant. Worse yet, the Canucks may no longer be bargaining from a position of strength.
Further, the commitment to the development of the Canucks’ two cornerstone players of the future, Kassian and Schneider, ought to be consistent. Kassian seems to possess a demeanour and skill set that should be of value each and every night. And Schneider, as the proclaimed number one goalie during the off-season, should get the same chance his predecessor did to get his game on track.
One thing is for sure, should the Canucks continue to struggle in the coming weeks, the pressure on Mike Gillis may finally reach a tipping point, forcing the organizational flip-flopping to end.
Six games into their regular season, the Canucks performance to date has been missing the high points. And while a half-dozen games isn’t much, in this shortened season, it’s the same as the ten game mark in a full slate.
In that sense, the season so far is business as usual for this team ever since Alain Vigneault took over. In fact, in the initial ten game increments of those now nearly seven seasons, they’ve never won more than 5 of 10.
Yes, in the stretch of their most significant continued success in franchise history, this team has always been slow out of the gate.
But there a few differences this time around. This season is shorter and thus the impact of a slow start is amplified. Further, this team is older. And in the context of the late starting regular season and now accelerated schedule, this combo could be lethal.
How did the Canucks, now with nine of their regulars over 30 years of age, do the last time they were this old? They missed the playoffs (2007-08).
With an even .500 record this far, there have been some notable under-achievers - particularly the collective play of their top four defencemen. Noted free agent acquisition, Jason Garrison, was brought in to boost the power play, but has yet to register a single point. While Alex Edler, Kevin Bieksa and Dan Hamhuis have been volatile.
Goal scoring, a problem that reared its head dramatically at the end of last season, continues to be mediocre. The once high-octane offense is scoring at a rate that is one goal less per game than the first place Chicago Black Hawks.
Many pundits had predicted that shootouts would be more prominent in this condensed season. And for the Canucks, that has certainly been the case. And as per usual, in the Alain Vigneault regime, the Canucks have struggled to compete. Whether this will be enough motivation for Coach Vigneault to actually practice the shootout remains to be seen.
The upside though is that the team is getting significant contributions from young players (most notably Zack Kassian and Chris Tanev who both started the season in game shape after playing big minutes on the farm club) so by the time the more experienced players round into form, there should be a notable increase in performance.
And Mason Raymond has found top gear for the time being and remembered where the front of the net is.
Further, this version of the Canucks seems more suited for the rough going with Kassian along with Aaron Volpatti engaging in a number of fisticuffs. There has been a demonstration that this team is less likely to be intimidated.
And, whenever Roberto Luongo finally gets dealt, this team should get just a little bit younger and more offensively skilled. Though with every passing day, it is just as likely that the stubborn Mike Gillis has missed the high water mark for his star keeper’s value.
You will note that we’ve not mentioned the return of Ryan Kesler and David Booth. That’s for good reason. We doubt Kesler will return this season and, if he does, he will be a shadow of his former self. As for David Booth, the Canucks were better with him out of the line-up last season than there were with him in it.
On Friday, the hated Hawks pay a visit to Rogers Arena for a game that will be yet another measuring stick for this year’s squad. The early season encounter between the two typically results in the Canucks getting their lunch fed to them, the wake-up call that finally turns their season around.
Okay, this is a Canucks blog, but today’s news of the BC Lions dealing Geroy Simon can’t be ignored. Any story that trumps the on-going Roberto Luongo saga cannot be denied.
Simon has been the face of the franchise for a decade, doing more on the field and, just as importantly, off the field than anyone.
The trade of Simon, who wanted to stay by the way, will be sold in the usual fashion - the injustice of the business of sport. But that’s a cop-out.
Undeniably, wins and losses are the biggest component to the business success of any team. But they are clearly not the only component. There is a good chance that this deal will work out in the long run on the field. But what about off?
Geroy was not just a star player, the all time best receiver in league history. But he has been a champion off the field - constantly available to the media and dedicated to community involvement. That, ladies and gentlemen, is a huge component to the success of your brand.
When you attend a Lions game at BC Place, you’ll see a sea of orange Lion jerseys. The majority of them bear Simon’s name and number. In the end, player loyalty and loyalty to a player go hand in hand - and both sell tickets.
It’s one thing to trade a player like Jason Clermont, similarly in anticipation of a fading skill set, back to his home town of Regina. But you wouldn’t trade Lui Passaglia - you’d let him kick until he was 45 years old. And so it should have been with Geroy Simon.
Unlike the Luongo affair, there is not an obvious replacement for Simon. Nor has Geroy suffered through the playoff meltdowns and loss of confidence (in himself, from the organization and fans) that Luongo has. Nor has he shuffled off to Florida every off season - the man has embraced his sport and, equally, his community.
This is, frankly, a sad day in Vancouver sport history.
Oh well, at least Mike Gillis gets one day out of the sporting spotlight…
With the business of renewing his own contract and extending that of his coach long behind him, it was expected that this summer would be a most eventful one for Canuck General Manager Mike Gillis. After a disappointing end to a season where expectations couldn’t have been higher, it was felt there might be more than just a little tweaking to the personnel of a squad whose oppourtunity to win it all is starting to close - though no one in the organization would say that out loud. And, of course, there was the little matter of Roberto Luongo; his pending trade likely to be Gillis’ defining moment in Vancouver..
And so far, little has happened.
Local product Jason Garrison was inked to a lengthy and costly contract and, on paper, does little to fill the voids left by Sami Salo and Aaron Rome. That along with the retention of the likes of perimeter player Mason Raymond and the re-acquisition of fourth liner Guillaume Desbiens has been the fruits of Mike Gillis’ so-called labour.
The unofficial word from the Canucks regarding Luongo is that they haven’t seen a decent deal yet and won’t deal him until they do. Even if that means starting the season with two number one goalies and $9 million tied up in a position where only one guy can play. But that is a stance that carries unnecesary risk. Luongo is a known commodity, whose value, independent of anything else, cannot get any higher. 33 year-old former number one goalies don’t appreciate. By waiting for a better deal, Gillis exposes himself to getting a much worse one. Gillis is effectively putting the fate of the Luongo deal in the hands of the play of young netminders in other markets (James Reimer in Toronto, Cory Crawford in Chicago and Anders Lindback in Tampa), who could rightly eradicate any need for an upgrade .
In the end, the Canucks should be happy to find a taker for Luongo’s salary and simply move on. Whatever the best offer he’s got so far represents Luongo’s market value - and not whatever hopeful notion Gillis might have. What Gillis is doing right now amounts to gambling, albeit with the house’s money. The end result could be an inferior deal and a disgruntled Luongo, who frankly deserves much better.
While this was not a bumper free agent market, some of the happenings this summer tell a tale about exactly where Vancouver rates in the hearts of those with the freedom to pick where they play.
Early on the Canucks lost the Justin Schultz sweepstakes, as the heralded young defender opted instead for the perennially last place Edmonton Oilers.
And while they were never in the running for Rick Nash, it was rather telling that the superstar winger didn’t list the back-to-back President’s Trophy winners on his short list of desired locales.
And then there is Shane Doan, who would be the perfect antidote for what has ailed the Canucks most, a physically robust forward with size, durability and skill. With news leaking that the Canucks have already offered him a decent deal, you can bet he his not coming - such story likely leaked by the Canucks to make it appear that they at least showed interest in the veteran Doan, who seems destined to inexplicably return to Phoenix.
And finally, we have the comments of one Mikael Sameulsson. You remember him. The cagey Cup winning veteran who was one of Gillis’ early signings - one that was roundly lauded at the time and meant to foreshadow the type of signings we could expect from Gillis. Samuelsson was a respected reasonably hard-nosed two-way player, who came here to win another Cup. Except he got dealt before that could happen. And after being unceremoniously shuffled off to Florida, he has triumphantly returned to the Wings as a free agent and took that opportunity to openly blast Canuck management one more time.
Mike Gillis’ claim to fame in Vancouver has been his ability to retain his core players for big discounts to market (most notably the Sedins, Luongo, Ryan Kesler, Alex Burrows). And while as a management group, the team has seemingly taken some bold steps to attract free agents, it has clearly not worked to any measurable extent (save Dan Hamhuis) and with his core group aging and/or ailing, it’s hard to believe that Vancouver is about to become a more popular destination to play. No matter how hard Gillis might try to convince you otherwise, the window of opportunity to win it all is closing quickly…
While the biggest move of the Canuck off-season has yet to transpire, there has been some recent activity that demands our commentary.
The most impactful move so far was yesterday’s signing of defenseman Jason Garrison. Garrison, a local product with less than three NHL seasons of experience, has struck it rich, signing a six-year deal for nearly $28 million – a lofty pay-day for a player with one notable NHL season to his credit and who was passed over at the entry draft years ago. But the 27-year-old, a late bloomer, has been a quick study at the NHL level, logging over 22 minutes per game in his first two full NHL seasons. And with 16 goals last season, he looks to be more than capable of filling the offensive void left by Sami Salo, who has begun his retirement early alongside former teammate Mattias Ohlund in Tampa Bay. And while we’ll miss Salo, at times the Canucks most complete d-man, he was clearly (and rightfully) looking for a financial home-run instead of another year in Vancouver at a market discount.
But the committment to Garrison smells like the Keith Ballard debacle all over again (a significant financial commitment to a player with some success albeit only in a low pressure hockey backwater). We can only hope that he won’t wilt under the spotlight of playing in his hometown and, most importantly, manages to avoid the doghouse of Alain Vigneault. While Garrison is a big body, he is not known for his physicality, which will put him at odds with Vigneault from the get go. The real oddity here is that Garrison now becomes the Canucks’ highest paid defender. And he won’t have the smooth skating Brian Campbell to partner with, but instead the inconsistent Alex Edler. At this price, it seems impossible that Garrison will be able to meet expectations. But Ballard can keep him company.
Outside of Garrison, there has been no other additions, but plenty of players on the way out. Joining Sami Salo on the way out-of-town are Aaron Rome, Marc-Andre Gragnani, Sami Pahlsson, Victor Oreskovich, Mike Duco and Ryan Parent.
The only real surprises here are possibly Rome, who seemed to be a favourite of Coach Vigneault and Gragnani, who was obtained at the trade deadline and forecasted in the long-term as a possible power play quarterback.
Rome, as a depth defender, was essentially redundant with Andrew Alberts still on the team. But the decision to not retain Gragnani seems bizarre, particularly since the team bent over backwards to give him ice time down the stretch so that he could remain a restricted free agent thus giving themselves first crack at retaining his services. Perhaps the signing of Garrison was anticipated, allowing the team to give up on Gragnani?
We will not at all mourn the loss of the overrated Pahlsson, but only the price paid to get him (two fourth round picks and a minor leaguer) - this deal looks like something a panicky Dave Nonis would have cooked up. And for the time being leaves the Canucks (with Ryan Kesler on the sidelines) with Manny Malhotra and Maxim Lapierre as their second and third line centres. Where have you gone, Cody Hodsgon?
Players that seem to be destined surprisingly to start the season in Vancouver include Mason Raymond, Manny Malhotra and, of course, maybe even Roberto Luongo.
Since Raymond was untradeable at the deadline, the Canucks seem prepared to give him another look, at a reduced price. The return of mister flash and dash and his perimeter puck handling are not what this team needs.
Manny Malhotra suffered through a horrible season and the Canucks are on the hook for another year at a very pricey $2.5 million, but with the loss of Ryan Kesler for at least the early portions of the season, Malhotra will get plenty of opportunity to return to his one-dimensional form.
While the signing of new number one goalie Cory Schneider to a three-year deal should have officially put the end to the Luongo era, it would not surprise us if Bobby Lou starts the season here. After all, Mike Gillis, in case you haven’t noticed, is quite determined to do things as unconventionally as possible. From our perspective, it is in everyone’s best interests to move Luongo sooner rather than later. While it’s conceivable that early season struggles by goaltending starved teams like the Leafs and Lightning could up the ante in the Luongo sweepstakes, the reverse is also true and could leave the Canucks with $9 million tied up in a position where only one guy can play. Ultimately, Roberto is a proven commodity whose value, independent of other team’s needs, will not get any higher. Further, he has been the consummate professional in his time here and should be spared any further indignity in this market.
There is still plenty of time in this off-season for Mike Gillis to upgrade his back-to-back President’s Trophy winning team and despite the log jam in net, there is still plenty of money to spend. And we expect it will be spent. Just ask Jason Garrison.
We wish to thank the Hockey Hall of Fame for finally having the good sense to induct one Pavel Bure, saving us from our annual righteous rant in support of the Russian Rocket, easily the Vancouver Canucks’ most dynamic player ever and, arguably, the most entertaining player of his generation. If you wish to be enlightened further, please consult our archives.
And while his selection is most overdue, in the end, there are no levels of HHOF membership - all players enshrined are on equal footing. And make no mistake, Bure belongs. As a second generation Russian superstar, he was a pioneer for his countrymen at the NHL level, where he was simply the most electrifying player since Guy Lafleur and Bobby Orr. And like Orr, his knees couldn’t endure the full tilt of his playing style - his longevity being perhaps the only legitimate beef against his induction. And while some may question his character upon exiting Vancouver, there are two sides to every story, but Bure’s is rarely told. In the end, he scored and entertained everywhere he went, excelling both professionally and internationally. For a brief moment in time, he was the most captivating player of his sport.
Joining Bure in today’s inductions were Adam Oates, Joe Sakic and Mats Sundin. It seems that the HHOF is finally getting over its obsession with Stanley Cup winning players with Sakic being the only of this year’s inductees to have sipped from the cherished cup. And rightfully so, in the modern day 30 team NHL, there will be plenty of elite players who may never become champions. Indeed, in the era of the six team NHL, Cup rings may have meant something, but that notion is now prehistoric. And with the inclusion of Sundin and Bure, it seems that the HHOF is also getting over its bias against European players, which makes perfect sense since it is the “Hockey” Hall of Fame and not the “NHL” Hall of Fame.
With Bure’s induction, the Canucks once again find themselves with egg on their face as it relates to their franchise’s first and best superstar. How can the team’s only bonafide Hall of Famer (sorry, Mark Messier and Mats Sundin don’t count) not have his number hanging from the rafters while the likes of career plumber Stan Smyl is so enshrined? Some sources may say that Bure has been offered such an honour (or at least inclusion in the lower tiered Ring of Honour), but has refused. This is entirely possible, but also irrelevant. The hanging of a number from the rafters is much less about awarding the player, but recognizing his impact to the franchise and its fans. Yes, Pavel wasn’t necessarily the model community citizen, but he put the Vancouver franchise on the sporting map, making himself and his team an international brand. Stan Smyl or Trevor Linden or Markus Naslund could never have done that. And if the Canucks had retired his number (even without him attending the ceremony) before he had entered the hall, they would have looked a whole lot better than they do now, where any official acknowledgement of his career will look like after the fact pandering.
The irony of all this, of course, is that Pavel’s induction was announced by Pat Quinn, whom Pavel has now claimed as a father like figure, but was possibly part of the reason for Bure’s requested exit from Vancouver. Meanwhile, here in Vancouver, current President and General Manager Mike Gillis (Bure’s former agent) issued a very brief press release jointly recognizing Bure and Sundin, who played only half a season here in what was easily Gillis’ strangest move…
During Wednesday’s conference call with Canuck head coach Alain Vigneault, the news of his recent contract extension was likely the least revealing tidbit for the ravenous media.
With Mike Gillis’ contract extension, the supposed debate about Alain Vigneault’s future in Vancouver was long over. All that was left to discover was the length of his stay.
Alain Vigneault, in his tenure in Vancouver, has been most readily approachable to the media swarms, though his responses are most always cagily guarded so much so that one local media personality has claimed that AV is instead short for Always Vanilla.
And you can’t really blame Vigneault, given the tendency of the media to over analyze every word that comes out of his month. But let’s play along and take a closer look at some of his disclosures yesterday on a day when AV did momentarily lower his guard, presumably much to the chagrin of his boss, Mike Gillis.
We can only hope that Ryan Kesler was not listening though it appears either he or his agent were. With the recent implicit lashing from AV, he might otherwise pull a Cody Hodgson. Seriously, this time AV is not excusing Kesler’s poor play on account of his chronically injured status. It’s hard to imagine that this is the best way to motivate the thin-skinned Kesler, the Canucks’ obvious inspirational leader. If this now frosty relationship can’t be fixed, Mike Gillis might be placed in the unenviable position of having do deal Roberto Luongo and Kesler.
Along with tossing his team’s embattled defacto captain under the bus, he lobbed a grenade at the Canucks’ medical team declaring that his biggest regret this season was how he handled the return of Daniel Sedin. Apparently, Vigneault fully expected his leading scorer to return in time for game 1 of the playoffs, but didn’t appreciate the extent of his injury until it was too late to implement the roster changes he might have contemplated to best compensate for the loss. This is simply a bizarre declaration from Vigneault - where he’s somehow trying to absolve himself from any early exit blame by leaning on an injury excuse and while casting a bad light on his medical team.
In the end, it’s ridiculous thing for him to have said. In today’s NHL, how could anyone (put aside the medical staff for the moment) particularly AV, not envision that Daniel’s head injury had a very good chance at being a season ending injury. He should have planned on that basis right from the get go. When we talk about AV not having his team prepared to play when it matters most, this is exactly what we are talking about.
But perhaps he his, unknowingly or not, onto something. From the issues regarding Willie Mitchell’s concussion to the supposed mistreatment of Cody Hodgson’s bad back to the premature injury returns by Ryan Kesler to the apparent uncertainty about what seemed a classic head injury to their best player, the Canucks’ medical team is starting to quack like a collective duck.
Vigneault also seemed to confirm that Cory Schneider was to be his main man next year, which runs contrary to the recently publicized, but completely ridiculous notion that he and Roberto Luongo could share the net duties once again.
And apparently there has been strong internal discussion about how next year’s edition of the Canucks should be styled. In his season ending press conference, Mike Gillis proclaimed his love for an attacking, offensive and entertaining brand. But perhaps he and his coach aren’t quite in agreement, no doubt inspired by the collective style of this year’s Stanley Cup final contestants.
We’re not so sure we’re sold on chasing the latest fad. It seems that from one year to the next, teams with different styles win. Chasing what seems to be working now will leave you a season behind. In the end, it’s about the personnel the coach is entrusted with that should dictate the style of play. Clearly this edition of the Canucks’ is not built for grinding out low-scoring affairs.
So enjoy stewing on these little nuggets from Alain Vigneault, it’s another long summer after all…