Time to Tread Water
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.