We are done
Set the town on fire
We can burn higher than the sun
Instead of being saddened by the latest early playoff exit, many Canuck fans are angry – Angry at controversial officiating, the lack of player movements, the dumbest player trades, the persistent goaltending controversy, the agonizing losing streaks, and the inability to score. All of these problems culminated in one clear fact:
The Canucks can be beaten…very easily
Here are some problems that the Canucks need to address, or at least try to:
Problem #1 – No Depth
Every other team since the 2011 Stanley Cup debacle has improved their roster. Take the Chicago Blackhawks for example. Let’s face it: The Canucks wouldn’t have been in the Final had it not been for Alex Burrows’ game winner in Game Seven against a weakened 8th-Place Chicago team, and we would’ve been talking about a wasteful 2011 season in Vancouver. The Hawks are the top team this year because they’ve been able to retain good scoring talent in Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Patrick Sharp and Marian Hossa. Even with the loss of gritty players such as Andrew Ladd, Troy Brouwer, Dustin Byfuglien, Ben Eager and Adam Burish, the Blackhawks took in young talent from their farm team. Enter an exciting young crop consisting of Marcus Kruger, Andrew Shaw, Ben Smith and Calder Trophy nominee Brandon Saad. This is a team that knows what it’s doing.
The Canucks however, have no talent pool to help replenish the roster. Wait, they did have a young talent but he’s now playing for the Buffalo Sabres (Cody Hodgson) in the Zack Kassian trade-that-didn’t-make-sense-whatsoever. Didn’t the Canucks have Michael Grabner? He was great in Vancouver, but now he’s battling it out with the New York Islanders who are still alive. And what about defensive star Kevin Connauton? Oh wait, he went to the Dallas Stars for Derek Roy. Who’s left from the minors? Sadly, Steve Pinizzotto, Frank Corrado and Tom Sestito were steamrolled by the San Jose Sharks in the first round. After that, there drafts have been fairly weak, and will be weak for years to come.
Problem #2 – Two Elephants in the Dressing Room
When Antti Niemi left for the San Jose Sharks, there was briefly a question about the Chicago net. Corey Crawford had a terrible 2011 and 2012 season, but with the addition of solid backup Ray Emery the goaltending this season has been solid. Vancouver’s? Well, Roberto Luongo was supposed to be traded before the start of 2013. And we all believed that Cory Schneider was going to be the de-facto number one. The result? Luongo is still here, through no fault of his own. Cory Schneider, after his so-called “mystery injury” as brought in for Games Three and Four, when clearly Roberto Luongo was the only Canuck who showed up for Games One and Two.
Roberto Luongo needs to go. Not just because he failed in Vancouver, but because the environment in the Canuck organization has become very sour on him. With the pressure faced by fans and media there, and with the goaltending controversy that just won’t end, the time is right for Lou part ways, and play his remaining goaltending years somewhere where he will be appreciated. Toronto comes to mind. Depending on how they fare against the Boston Bruins, the Maple Leafs should continue to try to deal for him in the off-season.
Problem #3 – Goal Drought
The media focus was so much on the goaltenders that everyone forgot about the most significant flaw – goals, or lack thereof.
Roberto Luongo can’t win games alone. He can’t score, but neither could the Sedin Twins, Ryan Kesler when he’s injured, and Mason Raymond, Alex Burrows, Zack Kassian and the entire offensive core. Since the losing Game Six in the 2011 Cup Final, the Canucks won only one game, and lost ten games. San Jose outscored the Canucks 15-8. And while there were offensive spurts in Games Two and Four, the Canucks just couldn’t stop the Sharks onslught and let them tie, and eventually win both games.
Simply put: Can’t win if you can’t score. So what has to happen? With one more year on their contracts, I think it’s time to get value for trading away Daniel and Henrik Sedin. They aren’t getting any younger, and certainly proven time and time again that they can’t play when the heat is on. Kesler is the heart and soul of the Canucks, but he can’t be hurt all the time. He stays, but Raymond, Booth, Higgins and Lapierre need to go.
Bring in someone with the calibre and drive to score. Someone like Daniel Briere or Johan Franzen who kicks it up a notch in the postseason. Until that happens, someone up above needs to make a gutsy move. But here lies the next problem…
Problem #4 – Ineffective Management
Since the collapse in Game Three, the Twitter has literally been “fired” up with “FireAV” hashtags, representing Alain Vigneault and the cries from Canuck fans to fire him. His demeanor, line juggling, and goaltending decisions have dogged him through most of his tenure in Vancouver. What did he do to deserve the Jack Adams award in 2007? Can’t remember, only remember Lou going to the bathroom during the Game Six loss to the eventual Stanley Cup Champion Anaheim Ducks. For many fans, Canuck memories are usually short, and usually negative.
And GM Mike Gillis? He should be on the hot seat as well. While he brought in good trades early in his tenure, reigning in Maxim Laperriere and Chris Higgins, he also made some flops trading for Kassian, Roy and David Booth. Gillis also didn’t secure the Canucks future by giving up draft picks, thus risking the organization in the long run. No only do we have no future, we also have a bad reputation from fans outside of Vancouver.
The more Gillis rants about the officiating, the more the refs may try to call more against his team – It’s called cause & effect. The refs are here to stay, no question about it. Regardless of Kelly Sutherland’s call on Daniel Sedin’s shoulder-to-shoulder “penalty” in overtime, the refs weren’t the sole reason the Canucks have this reputation. Canucks have been known to dive and embelish things, and then turn around & call out other teams for doing the same things they do, only to backfire on them in the end.
What goes around comes around doesn’t it, Kevin Bieksa?
Final Problem – The Fans Want Results…Now!
Between 2011 and the two short playoff runs afterward, we’ve seen both the good and bad about being a Canuck fan. From starting riots in Downtown Vancouver to posting funny logos with golf clubs instead of hockey sticks in the logo, like the team, the Canucks fanbase has also gotten a bad reputation from the haters. Everyone else likes nothing better than to embarrass the Canucks & fans, and toot their horns on social media. For the next little while, Canuck fans will be called losers, just like the last 43 years.
The Canucks Organization should listen to their fanbase. The Gillis/Vigneault reign has produced absolutely nothing. Fans are growing ever-so impatient. Getting first place overall and achieving top individual points doesn’t create championships. With the realignment that will be taking place next season, the Canucks will have to act quickly in order to deal with a reorganized and challenging Western Conference. Almost every team in the West, especially the Edmonton Oilers and Calgary Flames, were easily able to embarrass the Canucks. Who’s to say the trend won’t continue if the Canucks don’t do something now to deal with all their issues thereby appeasing the growing angry mob.
The Canucks in the Gillis/Vigneault Era could’ve had it all. (But with the Canucks’ close call to losing to the Blackhawks in 2011, it could’ve been much worse…)
A former novice/atom player, timekeeper and fan of the game, Peter has lived and breathed hockey throughout his life, covering hockey happenings in Edmonton, Vancouver, and currently in Saskatchewan. He is now a contributing writer for the Hockey Writers.