Flipping the season switch from post to off
This is Part 1 in the series of 4 offseason analysis articles that our Vancouver writing team will be adding to NWSB in the coming days.
The expectations on the Vancouver Canucks this past season were higher than they have ever been. Coming off a Game 7 loss in the Stanley Cup Final left fans wanting that final piece of the pie so badly, anything less wouldn’t be enough to quench the thirst of our hearts.
It’s the final week of April and the Canucks are done.
The idea is so alien even after just ONE Stanley Cup Final appearance in 17 years in which we saw the team play until the middle of June. It’s a week where the most hard-core of fans will wake up on the wrong side of the bed each and every morning.
Going forward, there is lots yet to happen with Mike Gillis’ team, but with respect to the waking up on the wrong side of the bed, let’s just remember that it’s not our girlfriend’s, boyfriend’s, co-worker’s, or family member’s fault the Canucks are out. Have some happy pills; and by happy pills, I mean Coconut M&M’s.
Obviously there will be a lot of questions needing to be answered this off-season and below are five that I’ll take a crack at. Before I do, all I want to say is I’m a fan, win or lose and I hope that even through this defeat, we can be somewhat excited for the changes that are to come in the Canucks’ organization.
What 3 areas concern you the most with respect to gameplay with the Canucks in 2011/12?
The 4th Line – This issue came to a head in the series against LA. Their 4th line was a force for almost the entire 5 game span and then you look at Vancouver’s. Nay, you glance daringly at Vancouver’s because it’s so ugly. The Canucks’ 4th line wasn’t consistent for more than two games this season and it’d go a long way to find three guys who are all good enough to stay in the lineup night in and night out and establish some familiarity over an 82 game season and beyond.
Ryan Kesler – The Greek God that he is matched the number on his back with the amount of games he went without a goal to end the season. At least there’s something impressive we can take from the crap he displayed recently. Not scoring in the final 17 games of the season is unacceptable for a former Selke Trophy Winner. Heck, he was just 1 year removed from that and guzzled his way through the season where a Selke nomination wasn’t even a possibility.
I don’t want to hear the, “Oh, he’s coming off of hip surgery,” excuse because if he wasn’t 100%, he shouldn’t have returned when he did. Had he played like more of the leader he’s supposed to be, we may not be questioning whether he guzzle for us next season. It is for that reason he should be more upset with himself as opposed to the team as a whole for not advancing past the first round.
Zack ‘Young Buck’ Kassian - I suppose ragging on this guy isn’t the fairest of things to do and I could even just go back to Cody Hodgson but what did Zack do since the game against Buffalo when he scored his first goal as a Canuck? I’ll tell you; he had 1 assist. Sure he is a rookie and he wasn’t marketed as the scorer Cody Hodgson ever was and will be, but the kid didn’t even fight or hit or pick his butt. Picking his butt would’ve at least been productive because maybe then, he wouldn’t have stunk so much.
Starting next season, I don’t care who’s coaching. Zack Kassian needs to get more consistent ice-time and opportunity to be himself and get accustomed to the NHL ice surface. He was extremely restricted since coming here and for that reason, he was a useless piece on the roster during the stretch run when Cody could’ve been a contributor.
What do you do with Coach AV and his staff and why?
I wrote a piece last November entituled (hehe) Alain’s Illusion. It focused on how Alain Vigneault gets way too much credit for the talent there is on this roster. The players on this squad shouldn’t need Coach Vee to tell them how to play and win with the exception of maybe the power play and penalty kill. Apparently, they can’t even do that right anymore.
Alain Vigneault and Rick Bowness are honestly two of the best in the business. If you say otherwise, well AV will probably not hear you with his 2 Jack Adams nominations and one win plugging his ears.
Perhaps it depends on how much faith management has in the players’ ability to win the Cup in the 2012-13 season.
If they believe this team as it is can be a contender once again, then you keep Vigneault because of his familiarity with the players. Some say his voice has gone stale but what’s better? A familiar voice or a completely unfamiliar voice? Give this core one more chance.
If this team is dubbed not able to be a contender or main contender that could finish at or near the top of the conference and league, then sure, get rid of AV. He’s obviously lost the room and will do no good for guys like Kesler who need to get their game back starting in Game 1 of 82.
What players on this team don’t deserve to be back next year based on their 2011/12?
Mason Raymond – Dammit Mason, you were supposed to be Cody Hodgson leaving town at the trade deadline. Mase showed his ‘utter’ uselessness in this first round loss to Los Angeles, milk hot dogging his way to falling more than the Greek economy and missing the net worse than Fernando Torres. MayRay is an RFA July 1st.
Aaron Rome – Plug. UFA on July 1st.
Andrew Alberts – Double Plug. 1 year left on contract before becoming a UFA.
Ryan Kesler – This one’s a toughy and I touched on it a little in the first question. I can add though that him allegedly not facing the music as much as Hank, Dank and Kevin Bieksa did post-game five is rather discouraging. Iain MacIntyre of the Vancouver Sun says Kesler was in his stall but it still doesn’t sound like he owned up as much as the other leaders on this team. For a guy who’s supposed to have the “heart of a canuck” or better, that’s disappointing. I want character guys on my team and whether Kes was injured or not, he’s not shown much character. Expect a trade if Kesler can’t show he’s got more than just his ego before July 1.
Manny Malhotra – Poor Manny. He is a guy with character. He is a guy with gusto. He is a guy with the heart of a Canuck. That being said, his time has come. It’s sad to say at the age of 31 but that eye injury messed him up. On a team that is supposed to be so defensively sound, his hampered vision shows in his -11 rating on the season. 18 points with 7 goals isn’t too shabby but it should be better as a 3rd line center. He’s got one year left on his contract but as part of a package, he is exportable.
If you would trade a goalie, which goalie would you trade and why? If you choose to keep them both, back that up.
Well, I’m definitely not keeping them both. If I would trade a goalie, I really don’t have a choice now but to trade Roberto Luongo. If I’m Mike Gillis, well Alain Vigneault has put me between a rock and a hard place with Luongo. He [Luongo] has to go.
Sure it was AV’s decision to start Cory Schneider but don’t think for a second that Gillis had no choice to over-rule that. Of course he does; he’s the freakin’ President and General Manager. His ass is on the line. He didn’t over-rule it so clearly, Gillis had given up on Lu at that point as much as AV.
Did I personally want to see Roberto Luongo traded this summer? No and that’s where you have to wait for more in my “Why Roberto Luongo should stay in Vancouver” story coming up in the next 24 hours.
Discuss the job Mike Gillis is doing. If you are the GM what moves do you make? What 3 things do the Nucks need to get right for another cup run?
What would I give to actually be Mike Gillis? Season tickets and I get to do whatever the hell I want with a professional hockey team. That must be the life eh?
What am I doing this off-season if I am GM MG?
Schnu vs. Lu - There may not be any games left to play but it’s still a distraction. The longer this ordeal goes on, the more time outsiders have to ridicule our organization and there’s more time for frustrations and jealousy to fester between Lu, Schneidz, Coach Vee and management. I think we all know Luongo is going to Tampa Bay so as soon as the playoffs are over, get that deal done. Hello Vincent Lecavalier!
Stabilizing Center - So let’s say as Mike Gillis, I keep Ryan Kesler. I’ve got Henrik and Kes at 1 & 2. Who do I have at 3 & 4? I’m getting rid of Malhotra and I’m honestly not too keen on re-signing Samuel Pahlsson. Cody Hodgson is gone so let’s re-sign 29 year old Calgary/Vernon native Andrew Ebbett and keep the agitating Maxim Lapierre.
Whether he [Ebbett] plays on the 3rd or 4th line is decided in training camp but the guy has some hands. He even scored an OT winner in his first game back from a broken neck. Ebbett had 5 goals and 1 assist in 18 regular season games while never getting more than a paltry 1 game shot in the playoffs…and that came in game 1 alongside Henrik. First line to press-box the rest of the way. Another questionable move by AV.
The Outer Rim - I’m going to have to pay for new facades on the outside of Rogers Arena because I’m pretty sure Mason Raymond and Roberto Luongo are up there. In fact, take them all down and replace them with a giant electronic ring that goes all the way around the building and depicts Henrik Sedin et al chasing a moving Stanley Cup. 8 BIT CANUCKS FTW!
Let’s be honest, Mike Gillis still ranks in the top 3 GM’s the Canucks have ever had and certainly, if Coach Vee deserves another shot, Gillis does too. Yeah yeah, he has the core that Brian Burke and Dave Nonis built but the important things in life are the little things and it’s the little pieces he’s added that have led to this team’s greatness the last couple years.
Is that it?
Is that all that’s going to happen?
Hell no. In fact, ¾ of what I predicted is probably wrong. Although, the electronic ring is a pretty good idea; take that to the bank.
Our time will come…it’ll just have to be next year.
Lastly Canucks fans have a read of the 10 commandments to being a Vancouver Canucks fan.