The Vancouver Canucks And The "Grit" Misperception.

Trade deadline day is in full swing, with 8 trades involving 15 players going down by the official/unofficial 3:00 pm eastern time deadline.

The home town team has made one trade, acquiring noted Sedin stopper Sami Pahlsson from the Columbus Blue Jackets for a pair of fourth round draft picks, reportedly in this year's draft.

There has yet to be what you would term a major move; Rick Nash, Dustin Brown, Derek Roy, Cory Schneider and other top players heavily rumored to be on the move have stayed put and the top teams in the league have generally decided to hold steady with what they have. Of course this could all have changed by the time this post is published, considering the flurry of activity right at the deadline last year, but I'm not expecting anything big to happen. In today's NHL, the time to make blockbuster trades is draft weekend, when hope springs eternal and GMs are much more willing to part with their big pieces.

Back to the Canucks. There is sure to be a fairly large group of fans that are unhappy that the Canucks didn't acquire either:

  • A big tough forward who can both fight and score
  • A big tough defenceman who can both fight and defend

After all, the team was desperately in need of one or both of those types of player in the final five games last season, a 1-4 stretch which saw the Canucks blow a two games to none lead over Boston in the Stanley Cup final. The Bruins pushed the Canucks around, at times taking penalties that they easily killed off and at other times simply getting off scot free for their goonery.

The answer in the eyes of most fans is to add toughness, grit: Get someone who can stand up to Milan Lucic and Zdeno Chara, someone who can corral Brad Marchand when he starts running around.

The thing is, do the Vancouver Canucks really need to add those types of players? No one in the league has been able to push the Canucks around with any kind of regular success like Boston did in the Cup Final. The Chicago Blackhawks have had some success with the strategy in what is quickly becoming the distant past, as they seem to have given up trying to goon it up when they face us: After giving up 5 power play goals on 6 chances to the Canucks in a 6-2 loss early this season, they have taken a grand total of zero penalties in two subsequent meetings. In fact, I just read that the Blackhawks have sent "tough guy" John Scott to the New York Rangers, who tried to mix it up with Kevin Bieksa in the playoffs last season, to no avail. So it would appear that if the Canucks and Blackhawks meet for a fourth straight season, the Hawks will be focused on keeping the leagues number one power play unit off the ice, rather than trying to intimidate them into failing on the man advantage.

Let me be clear here when I say that there is only one team like the Boston Bruins in the NHL: The Boston Bruins. No one can match their combination of size and toughness, speed and skill, and if the Canucks were to try, it would take a handful of moves and a complete over-haul, something that would be incredibly stupid at this time in franchise history. The team is mere weeks away from their second consecutive Presidents Trophy. Since the trophy was created in 1985, there have been three back to back winners: Edmonton in 86 and 87, Calgary in 88 and 89 and Dallas in 98 and 99. (Detroit won back to back Presidents trophies in 95 and 96, but due to the lock out shortened 95 season, I'm not counting it.) All three teams won the Stanley Cup in their second go-around as regular season champions, so if the Canucks can indeed wrap up the regular season in first place over-all, history will be well on their side as they make their way through the post season.

No, the team is far better off sticking with what they have, a disciplined, puck possession team with more offensive skill than any other in the league and a defense corps and goaltending duo that at least 26 other teams would gladly take with no questions asked.

The Canucks don't need more grit. If they make it to the Stanley Cup Final and the big bad Bruins are waiting for them, we'll be treated to another incredible series. With any luck the Canucks will have a few more healthy bodies to meet the challenge the Bruins present. If they do things will probably end up differently. If they don't, well, they might come up short once again.

If they do, please don't blame Mike Gillis and a "lack of grit". It simply wouldn't be fair.

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