This was a wasted year for the Canucks. It has taken me awhile to get to this blog post, and it’s likely because I have largely been indifferent about the team performances this season. If playoff ticket demand is any indication, many fans feel the same way as I do. As a fan that is difficult to say. I always like to have a positive spin on situations – hey, Luongo almost had that – but this year was too much like last year: Shorter than expected.
There are positives for the Canucks in the last couple years: more wins than losses, amazing goaltending, some wonderful performances, and 2 more Northwest Division titles.
There are also negatives: poor player management choices from the draft on up, horrible defensive blunders despite being a defensive minded team, consecutive 1st round exists from the playoffs, and oh yeah: The Northwest Division is one of the weakest in the NHL. There’s a false sense of security in winning the Northwest Division title. It’s a guaranteed top 3 seed in the playoffs, but it allows the Canucks to play mediocre hockey and believe that they are playing better than they are. In the two President’s Trophy winning seasons, the Canucks were the only team to make the playoffs from the Northwest Division. This year, the Minnesota Wild were the 8th seed.
The jury is decidedly out on Mike Gillis’ tenure so far.
There are many hits – Gillis does seem to have a talent for getting players to re-sign for the so-called “Hometown Discount” – Sedins, Bieksa, and others. However, some other free agent signings have been regrettable – Sundin and Demitra (R.I.P. – no disrespect) among them.
The drafting has been mediocre, and the trading worse. Granted, you don’t always get a roster player out of a draft pick, and the Canucks have had late picks due to their regular season success, but the Canucks have traded away numerous picks and prospects for not much in return. Michael Grabner, Steve Bernier and a 1st round draft pick were traded for Keith Ballard. Kevin Connauton and a 2nd round pick were traded at the deadline for Derek Roy, who looks to be a pure rental. Since the Canucks were swept in the first round, that rental was short lived. Cody Hodgson was traded away for Zack Kassian. Hodgson is now a nearly a point-a-game player with the Sabres, while Zack was occasionally scratched for his inconsistent effort.
And finally, the goaltending
debacle controversy was “solved” by trading Cory Schneider at the draft for New Jersey’s 9th overall pick. This might prove to be the worst trade the Canucks have ever made, this side of Cam Neely for Barry Pederson. The Canucks traded away their #1 goaltender for a draft pick (Bo Horvat – a fine young player from the London Knights) and no roster players that might be able to help out the Canucks right now. Schneider stands to inherit the goaltending throne of Martin Brodeur in New Jersey, and will no doubt flourish behind New Jersey’s defensive style of play. It’s not fair to Horvat, who will be compared to Schneider for years to come, or to Luongo, who will once again resume the #1 role under the microscope of the Vancouver media and fans.