The Canucks post-season quandary – Is this what 1995 felt like?

Vancouver Canucks 2012 off-season

Richard Hodges answers five key post-season questions…

This is Part 3 in the series of 4 offseason analysis articles that our Vancouver Canucks writing team will be adding to NWSB in the coming days.

It’s the postmortem part of the season for the Vancouver Canucks and it seems fitting because how did we get here?

How did 15 playoff wins become one? Is this what 1995 felt like?

The best way to figure it out is to dive right in on our NWSB off-season questions. (“Q” @Nwsportsbeat is making me answer these by the way)

1. What 3 areas concern you the most with respect to gameplay with the Canucks in 2011/12?

The first one is goal-scoring because that seems to have been completely abandoned. Mike Gillis talked in his post-season presser about wanting to play up-tempo offensive hockey but the philosphy didn’t exactly translate on the ice this season as almost everybody regressed statistically.

Daniel Sedin is the only pure goal-scorer on the roster and we saw what happens when he goes down. The Canucks lose.

Maybe David Booth turns it up next year or Ryan Kesler bounce back, but the Canucks need to learn how to score goals or no goalie in the world can save them.

The second is the depth on the blueline where Christian Ehrhoff was missed solely due to the fact that he was replaced with Alex Sulzer, throwing the depth off whack and forcing the Canucks to rely on Sami Salo as the only legitimate option to pair with Alex Edler. When Salo went down or Edler went cold, there was nothing but confusion in the back-end, leading to fire-drill defensive coverage.

daniel sedin canucks

It's TRUE! Daniel Sedin is the only pure goal-scorer on the roster.

The third area that concerns me is whether this core has peaked.

Obviously last year was a landmark year hard to top but this was the first season under the Gillis/AV/Luongo era where the team failed to improve on the season prior. Let’s face it, the Sedins may never win an Art Ross again and Ryan Kesler has little hope to score 40 goals again.

So where does this go next year?

Is this the start of a slow San Jose Sharks-style death?

2. What do you do with Coach AV and his staff and why?

I have no idea. The temptation is really really strong to make an emotional scapegoat out of AV and certainly Newell Brown has a lot to answer for regarding where the powerplay went, but the question as always is whether a better option is out there.

Vigneault also set in motion a series of events that led to Roberto Luongo telling Mike Gillis today that he would waive his no-trade clause. Firing the man who started that mess might create an even bigger mess(ier).

My opinion on Alain Vigneault has always been that he’s a fantastic coach who maybe has trouble adapting on-the-fly. He’s very process-orientated which leads to great regular season but maybe isn’t so effective in the playoffs where results are all that matters.

The question is, does Vigneault want to be here still? Montreal is tempting and it wouldn’t take much to make them next year’s Ottawa Senators.

With one year left on his deal, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Gillis keep him on and see how the team responds in the first few months.

3. What players on this team don’t deserve to be back next year based on their 2011/12 play?

Mason Raymond is an easy answer. He had the season on his stick in Game 5 overtime when he couldn’t complete the wrap-around and fell on his butt. His career in a nutshell.

Keith Ballard

Keith Ballard should be moved purely for cap reasons

He has the wheels but it looks like he’ll never effectively put it together, or at least not on the Canucks where he doesn’t seem to fit on any line.

Let him find his game somewhere else, the Canucks are contenders and can’t give him that luxury.

I’d like to see Keith Ballard moved purely for cap reasons as he a bit of a bounce-back year. Still, that’s $4.5 mill that surely be better spent, say on a winger who can score..

Not sure who would want Andrew Alberts but there’s no way he brings anything to the table and with young guys in Kevin Connauton and Yann Sauve pushing in Chicago, he’s a pure waste of a roster spot at this point.

Meanwhile it’s a given some of the fourth-line forwards like Byron Bitz, Aaron Volpatti, Andrew Ebbett, and Dale Weise won’t be back next year.

4. If you would trade a goalie, which goalie would you trade and why?

Aka THE question of the spring.

Cory Schneider might  be a better goalie than Roberto Luongo, he’s never been a starter is all.

Luongo meanwhile is handling this whole thing so well you wonder if his mentally fragility questions can be thrown out the window.

Schneider is cheaper, but by how much and for how long? He also probably brings back the sweeter plum in a trade.

Rick Bowness called the decision to ride Schneider the toughest one the coaching staff has made in six years, and Gillis’ decision on how to move forward is surely his toughest as well.

If you put a gun to my head, I would say trade Schneider for the better return and keep the perfectly capable goalie with the Gold Medal.

Schneider’s hype is akin to Luongo first came over for Todd Bertuzzi and we all know how that story crashed and burned.

Better to go with the devil you know and the king’s ransom of a return at the draft..

After all, goaltending was the only stable aspect of the Canucks this year. Use this as an opportunity to plug a few other holes. Hockey is not a pure goaltending competition.

5. If you are the GM what moves do you make? What 3 things do the Nucks need to get right for another cup run?

I would probably take a good hard look at finding someone who can score a goal or two or at the least, set up Kesler and Booth with some regularity.

As mentioned, I’d explore options to move Ballard, especially with Booth’s contract becoming a bit of a concern as well.

I wouldn’t mind bringing Sami Pahlsson back but he’s an aging option and not a long-term solution. Especially with Manny in the forced twilight of his career, a decent bottom-six centre would be nice.

Shea Weber

If we're in fantasy land, I'm going after Shea Weber

A capable right-hand shot top-four defenceman who can play on the powerplay and skate with Alex Edler would be absolutely amazing. If we’re in fantasy land, I’m going after Shea Weber/Ryan Suter but there’s more realistic options to be had that could work. Jason Garrison in Florida is intriguing….

For the Canucks to go on another Cup run they have to first successfully answer the goaltending question. If they go with Luongo and he falters, or Schneider and he cracks under the new pressure the window might be closed and even more jobs could be on the line.

Even worse, what if they get nothing on the return for the guy shipped out?

Second, they need Ryan Kesler to be the dominant force of last year. Maybe that’s not 40 goals again, but he wasn’t even in the Selke conversation this year. He’s the emotional heart of this team the Sedins could never be, so gimme a heartbeat buddy.

I can tell you really really want to win, so let’s go do it.

Finally, they have to want it. The Canucks have this disturbing playoff trend of cracking when things don’t go their way, of taking their ball and going home. They need to learn to fight through adversity.

Daniel Sedin talked about the Canucks being over-excited in the first two games against the Kings and Drew Doughty mentioned being able to see the Canucks energy evaporate after Brad Richardson scored to tie Game 5.

The Canucks might want that cup but so does every other team, and they’re not going to hand it to Vancouver with a bow. The Canucks need to learn to take it from their cold dead hands.

They should also curb the extra-curricular stuff like the diving and chirping that only seems to distract them from actually playing hockey. Just put your head down and focus on the game.

Or uh, keep your head up. (Especially when Duncan Keith is on the ice).

Please comment below or hit me up on twitter today!


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About Richard Hodges

A proud Vancouverite with a lifelong passion for the home teams that some would classify as pointless and disturbing. Now realizes that The Linden Tree is not the play you think it would be.
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  • LOL Mess(ier) – nice! Shea Weber is interesting. I don’t wanna see any of this head to glass shit. I’d rather Kesler continue diving that have a dirty head shot artist on my team.

  • I’ll play Devil’s Advocate and say I’d rather the Canucks play the hammer, rather than the flail is any potentially on-ice controversies.

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