If you remember the end of the last season (like basically a year ago) you might remember your Vancouver Canucks had a bit of a problem putting the biscuit in the basket. When the Sedins account for 22% of the offensive production and their game hits a snag (cough cough) then we all naturally cast fond eyes at the second line where Ryan Kesler - just like a year ago now - isn't 100%. This is a bigger problem than where we overnight Luongo (more on that in a second).
It doesn't sound like we'll be seeing RK17 anytime soon:
"There’s no timeline," Kesler stressed Sunday. "I’m not going to come back until I’m 100 per cent — before I even think of coming back. I still need a lot of practices with actual NHL players. That’s going to come in time. This (recovery) is not short term for me. I’ve got to take care of my body first and foremost, but I’m like anybody else. I want to play."
So, while not ideal, GMMG and Mr. Vigneault have some strategery to do. The league should open in about 13 days, giving the duo just enough wiggle room to weigh options like:
Plan A: Promote From Within
This means an immediate promotion for Chris Higgins and his abs or Maxim Lapierre and his grin. Or keep them entrenched in support roles and give the keys over to Jordan Schroeder (9-10-19) who has played solidly for the Wolves. Malhotra and Ebbett are (less desirable) options to sprinkle into the mix. This all makes sense on paper of course, but a few losing efforts or ghastly results with his new linemates could spell doom for whoever replaces Kesler, and knowing Vigneault's twitchy addition to line juggling, Plan A may involve a few people filling the Keslord's skates.
Plan B: Target a UFA
Go read the existing list of notable centers. Now shake your head with me and say "sweet pot-smoking Bieber no." Ditto the RFA route unless GMMG can convince Joe Nieuwendyk that Benn is actually the second coming of Brad Isbister and to sell now. Then, when Nieuwendyk laughs him out of the room, GMMG goes the kidnapping route (note: NM doesn't officially endorse kidnapping...yet).
Plan C: Trade Now
Once the CBA is ratified, there should be a mini flurry of activity as the GM's all simultaneously step on each other trying to run towards the open buffet of asset management. You think Luongo, but Gillis could easily move Ballard, picks or a prospect if he believes there is a below-the-radar youthful option which may benefit the team. Of course those types of players rarely help the "win now" team with a giant hole in their top six which likely means a noteworthy trade may have to wait until the new trade deadline approaches (rumored to be in April) or...
Plan D: Trade Luongo Now
Finally we get to the sexy, sensationalist plan. Seriously...google "Luongo Toronto" and you'll see there's damn near a million pieces of web litter attached to this rumor and for good reason. Though Vancouver has said all along they'll start the season with both netminders (damn the scribes!) Luongo will only command attention in a few hospitable markets (at the latest count that would be only Toronto and Florida). Even Luongo admits it. If you believe the hype and at some point this week Burke and Gills put aside their mutual disgust for each other long enough to agree on something, it'll likely involve Nazem Kadri or Tyler Bozak heading west.
In my revoltingly humble opinion, all of these options suck since they don't make Vancouver stronger immediately which has everything to do with losing Kesler's two-way play more than whatever his replacements bring. My two cent GM cap (which is my favorite hat and no you can't borrow it) says Gillis will roll with Plan A. Whenever Luongo moves on, it'll likely address the gaping hole down the middle but it may not be a Kesler-level solution. That option may never be on the table, meaning the best option is to go with the committee approach and - as with last year's approach when Keith sent Dank into the stratosphere - hope for the best.
...and now that this is all written down, expect this post to be null and void when Luongo is traded to Chicago on Wednesday for Michael Frolik and a box of twinkies snagged off Ebay.