Monday, November 24th, 2014

Time to Tread Water

9

It has been a long time since Vancouver was effectively eliminated from the playoffs this early and even longer since the Canucks have had such a disappointing season. (Vancouver has not been mathematically eliminated, of course, and the team will pretend they still have a chance for a while yet, but for me the loss to Tampa seals the deal. Even if they win the rest of their games, they will only have 94 points and that will not be good enough. There has been scant hope for weeks – now there is none.)

So what now? The good news is that the Canucks are a lot better than their record. Assuming the Sedins snap back (no other assumption is thinkable) and their luck generally is better, the Canucks could be back into the mix without making significant change. In other words, there is no need to panic. The bad news is that the mob is clearly restless and many believe that nothing short of dynamite will do.

The Canucks do have to get better if they want to contend, but I doubt if they can get better with either trades or free agents. They need a couple of good (or better) young forwards. Nicklas Jensen may turn out to be one of those forwards – he is one of the few bright spots this season. (The continued development of Chris Tanev – I think he will turn out to be a star – and the stellar play of Eddie Lack are the other bits of good news.) If the team is forced to trade Kesler, they will need three or four good young forwards. And while Lack has played very well, the goaltending remains questionable.

If I was Mike Gillis (and I survived the season) I would:

1) Fire Tortorella. I don’t think he is anywhere near entirely responsible for the disaster, but he hasn’t helped and I would never have hired him in the first place.

2) Go into the free agent market to shore up the goaltending with a veteran.

That’s it. I’m going to save a good job for Jensen and I’m going to save a roster spot for at least one more young player. I’m going to try to tread water – and expect to fight for a playoff spot next year – while I wait for the organization to cough up the young players I need.

If I owned the Canucks I might worry that Tortorella’s head and a new goaltender won’t be enough to satisfy the mob. In that case, I’d fire Gillis, too. A new general manager is more likely than Gillis to adopt a tread water strategy. Mind you, this is an easy call for me because I wouldn’t have hired Mike either.

If I trusted Aquilini to make a good choice to succeed Mike, I’d advocate for his dismissal along with Tortorella. The last thing I would do is fire Gillis and keep Tortorella. That reeks too much of the Mike Keenan era. The result, I fear, would be lots of action, roster churn and an accelerated decline.

If I had to bet, Aquilini keeps Tortorella. Its been that kind of year.

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Comments

9 Responses to “Time to Tread Water”
  1. Mr Lewis says:

    Hmm,
    I”m thinking that both (MGGM & Mike Torts) might stick for a season. Torts isn’t really the same kind of poison that Keenan was, no slavish devotion to a Messier and no vindictive actions towards a beloved Linden. Torts has his ideas with what to do with what he has and he might be willing to use them in ways he hasn’t tried before. He has very little choice. It is hard to become an NHL coach by being stupid. John T. once had a huge success and then many failures and next year’s Canucks are likely to be his last kick at the silver can, or at least show that he can direct a rebuilding team towards it.
    Call me goofy, but I’m feeling more positive about this team in the last three weeks than I have in the last 1.5 years.
    The youth and future of Vancouver have been stuck in the minors because the management and coaching staff have been stuck on past glories and propping up holes with cast-offs. Take a deep breath, next year is looking good. It will be frustrating at times, but very entertaining. For now, enjoy Jenson and Lack, and Burr trying like hell to justify his 4.5.
    Oh yeah, Kassian will be the next Bertuzzi. Just please without the Moore.

  2. Thomas Pratt says:

    Tom,

    I agree with the general thrust of your post, but not necessarily the specifics. I agree the Canucks don’t need major surgery, but they do need to do a bit more work than adding a goalie, too.

    1) If Tanev is the real deal, I think they need to move one of the incumbent top 4 D. Granted they have NTC and therefore might be difficult. But he and other D prospects seem blocked by the entrenched group at the top. Edler won’t waive, and presumably Bieksa won’t either. Would either Garrison or Hamhuis? Canucks are really hamstrung by NTC.

    2) The need to trade Kesler for a young C and picks. If he really does want out, no reason to hold on. He’s a good player, but the right trade would help the team add to their prospect pool, get younger and make waiting for the kids even more fruitful.

    I’m not convinced they need a veteran goalie, at least until they are convinced Markstrom is not going anywhere. Markstrom/Lack seems like a fine combo for a team awaiting youth. I’m not sure about waiver status, but bringing in a vet, only to lose Lack or Markstrom to waivers seems counter productive to an effort to bring in youth and increase depth in the system.

    I couldn’t care less if Gillis is fired, kicked upstairs or retained. I do agree they need to cut their losses with Torts. His system is just what Rangers fans warned us it would be. It’s not right for the players on the team, or the fans in this market.

    • Tom says:

      1) Tanev is the real deal for sure, but I don’t have a problem paying Garrison too much to be a number five guy. As long as the team doesn’t overpay for splashy free agents there will be lots of cap space. I’m not against a deal, but I don’t think the return will be anything special and I like depth on defense in particular.

      (I don’t see the point of buying out Booth either. We don’t need the cap space and he fits on a third line.)

      2) I’ll trade Kesler if he insists he wants out. We might get good prospects back, but it also creates a huge hole to fill. The biggest problem with my plan is that kids will break your heart. If you do deal him, it will make the playoffs next year a lot harder. I want to compete while the kids struggle.

      3) I hear you about the goaltending. Part of that is change for the sake of change. Part of it is worry still about Lack. I have nothing bad to say about him – and I really like his style – but I’ve seen too many goalies do great for a year and then fall apart. I assume the fact we haven’t seen Markstrom so far says something about the Canucks view of him. I don’t want Horvat and Jensen both stepping up next year and then see the team start punting away games with bad goaltending.

      4) The one good thing about firing Gillis is that the new GM has the chance to say, “Whoa. I want to tread water until I see what I have here…” The bad thing is Aquilini might hire his nephew or something.

  3. Hop says:

    I assume the fact we haven’t seen Markstrom so far says something about the Canucks view of him.

    Dumb question: does this mean he’s “the future” (and not the present) or does this mean he was purely a trade chip to begin with?

    If you don’t completely trust that Eddie Lack isn’t Corey Hirsch or Patrick Lalime or Steve Mason, do you sign a UFA like Halak and try to contend with a HaLack tandem for the twilight of the Sedins’ careers, enabling you to offload Markstrom to a team able to break him in at the NHL level in exchange for players who can help you win now? (Does Buffalo need another goalie prospect? And do they have any players who can help you win now left?)

    Also, I’m not anywhere near the real Vancouver, but from virtual Vancouver I think both Tortorella and Gillis are gone.

    (And for the record: I don’t completely trust that Eddie Lack isn’t Corey Hirsch or Patrick Lalime or Steve Mason– meaning the Steve Mason we’ve seen for 90% of his career and not the first-half rookie year Steve Mason or the first-half Flyers career Steve Mason. But I don’t know what he is, or will be. Lack has 1900 career NHL minutes. It’s just not enough of a sample size.)

    • Tom says:

      Dumb question: does this mean he’s “the future” (and not the present) or does this mean he was purely a trade chip to begin with?

      I don’t know. Maybe he was nothing, a player traded to give Florida a roster spot for Luongo and the Canucks a backup this year. They may just let him go.

      The Canucks obviously think Lack is the real deal and they expect him to be the number one going into next year. I’d look for an insurance policy, not too expensive and short term. Somebody who wants to compete for a number one job. Reimer? Dubnyk? That kind of guy.

      • Roberto says:

        Markstrom was considered to be one of the best goalie prospects out there a couple of years ago. Knee injuries have slown his development somewhat, but I don’t think the Canucks would let him go before Rollie giving Rollie a chance to work with him and see what they’ve got.

        • Tom says:

          I don’t think they should either, but the management team is so disfunctional now I think they are fixing themselves. I assume everyone agrees that Lack has a job next year. Is he fine as a number one? Is Markstrom good enough with enough upside to go with Lack and Markstrom? If not it is easy enough to add a goalie in the summer. But doing so creates another logjam. Send Markstrom down and eat his salary in the minors? Risk losing him on waivers without exploring his upside?

          That Tortorella has parked him is another indictment, I think. Not only did his decision in the Heritage game force the Luongo trade, the failure to let management get a good look at him after he was acquired – the season was lost – creates another problem.

          Gillis surely wanted Markstrom to play some. Torts doesn’t have a good excuse not to play him. My suspicion is that he knows it is Gillis or him and he is actively trying to make Gillis’ job more difficult.

  4. Hop says:

    p.s. Just to be clear, I don’t want to see the Canucks sign Halak. Among UFA goaltenders, I think Greiss and Montoya might be the only bargains and Phoenix and Winnipeg probably will (and should) resign both of them.

    http://www.capgeek.com/free-agents/?year_id=2014&team_id=-1&position_id=G&fa_type_id=2

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  1. […] • Tom Benjamin thinks the Canucks’ best course of action is to do very little this offseason, besides adding a veteran goalie and firing John Tortorella. As for the rest, let the team’s prospects grow into roles and tread water a while. [Tom Benjamin] […]



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