OK I’m Reloaded!!
In a couple of weeks the NHL will convene in Pittsburgh for the NHL Entry Draft, the official start of the offseason. (Pro-tip: If you’re ever unsure of the exact date, just ask an Oilers fan.)
For the Vancouver Canucks it’s been a bit of a change of pace this year, going from having just a week to prep for the draft to close to two months.
While the panic around town has subsided as the Los Angeles Kings reveal themselves to be a team of destiny, the scars and wounds from just a week and a bit of playoff hockey make the draft very important to continue the push for that ever elusive Stanley Cup.
Mike Gillis has always insisted that he executes his job with one eye towards the present and one eye toward the future. The 2012 NHL draft is an opportunity to further extend the window of opportunity at a time when Ryan Kesler is auditioning for Florence + The Machine, sending the centre position into a state of flux. Meanwhile the blueline can no longer seriously contend for deepest in the league and the goaltending situation has reached critical mass.
While last year’s off-season was somewhat poisonous, there was a prevailing spirit of optimism that the team was just a few months away from giving it another shot and really, when you play that badly in the Finals and still come within a game of the cup, dreams can get big.
This year, we’ve seen a long slow crawl towards the draft punctuated by endless trade rumours surrounding Roberto Luongo that made for an awkward month and a bit where Gillis and fans simply had to wait until they could do something again, frozen in carbonite quite like most games of this boring, boring Stanley Cup Final.
The calendar year of 2012 wasn’t the greatest for the Vancouver Canucks, exposing the warts that could easily send a pessimistic fan into a dizzied downfall.
Thankfully though, the doom and gloom that lurks in the hearts of all Canucks fans does not exist within the brain-trust of the organization (I sure as hell hope) and the 2012 draft is the first step to getting over the shock of April. How fitting it takes place in Pittsburgh?
Here are three keys for the Canucks at the draft.
If Dalton Thrower is available, take him
Let’s see. He has an amazing name, hails from North Vancouver, and is the type of rugged two-way defenceman the Canucks could use to complement their blueline. This is a kid who took on Thomas Wilson at the 2012 Home Hardware Prospects Game despite giving up six inches to Wilson to protect his Saskatoon teammate Lukas Sutter after a borderline hit.
That’s the heart of a Canuck.
His 54 points last year was good for eighth in the WHL amongst defenceman and his play has numerous comparisons to his favourite NHL player, Kevin Bieksa.
Let’s get him in a Canucks uniform.
Maybe look at some Centers?
Kesler will be back, but Kesler is playing a dangerous game. He doesn’t even have any labrums left I’m pretty sure. (I’ll ask Dr Recchi for clarification on this one.)
If we have one eye towards the future, then the future of the centers in Vancouver looks as bleak as those center prospects currently in Ottawa and yes that is a very strained jab at the Liberal Party.
Henrik is over 30, Manny is a parrot away from a pirate, and Kesler we’ve talked about. The danger isn’t imminent but the beautiful nature of the draft is that it allows you to act today to fill holes in the line-up that may pop up in 3-5 years.
Let’s pick a goaltending horse
Let’s end this stupid dragged-out debate.
The choice isn’t black and white and I still stand by using Schneider to fix some holes in the other 18 roster spots, but whatever Gillis decides, the draft would be a good place to do it and move forward. It can’t hurt to have the issue resolved by July 1 when UFAs and Schneider’s agent will be calling.
Oh, and if it’s Luongo, let strombone1 break it.