The trade deadline came and went yesterday and the Vancouver Canucks stayed on the sideline. There has been much disappointment in the #Canucks twitter sphere because of expectations that were set earlier in the week when Asst. GM Lawrence Gilman stated that the Canucks were going to be active and had more deals in the works. The fan/team wish list which included Raffi Torres and Ryan Clowe went unmet as those players and others went to other teams in exchange for draft picks – which is frustrating to any fan who knows that most NHL draft picks never even play a game in the NHL.
The fan base was restless for change largely because the present team has been hit by significant injuries and the players that have been on the ice have at times seemed listless. Most significantly the saga between the Canucks and Roberto Luongo continues with no end in site. Whereas on the one hand the Luongo contract albatross was given as the reason for a lack of movement, on the other was the Canucks wanting to get fair value for a very good goalie regardless of his contract. Well, if the contract is the problem then anyone taking it on is not going to give “fair value” for the player, right? This all seems pretty simple, like one of those commercials with the kids sitting around talking about whether its better to be “fast” or “slow”…
Change Was Needed
The Canucks needed to be active yesterday because they said they needed to be – their words, not ours. The shuffling of players back/forth from Chicago and juggling of lines has been indicative of the fact that Coach V has not been happy with his players performance. For most fans getting a player like Derek Roy was a welcome step, though not one that dealt with the core issue of playoff readiness and increased physical play. Booth, Weise, Kassian, Pinnizotto, Kesler, Ballard and Raymond have all been hit by the injury bug and there is no way to know if any of them will be ready for the playoffs or will be able to last through 3 – seven game series if they are ready. Further, returns on all of these players (except Kesler) have been uneven.
Mostly however, it was important for this team to become Cory’s team and to give him his chance to lead the team forward outside of Luo’s shadow. That will not happen now and who knows when it will. The return for Luo was largely beside the point – though getting a first round pick or starting D-man would have been nice. Goalies are finicky, kind of like kickers in the NFL, and though they are the most important player on the ice teams are loathe to tie themselves for long periods of time to players who can slump easily and are subject to so much media/on-ice scrutiny. Now Cory has to go through another playoff run watching his back – and even though its not likely that Luo will run over him with a golf cart (sarcasm) – he probably would like to run over GMMG.
Gillis Needs To Go
GMMG needs to be relieved of his duties not because he has done a bad job with the team, but because he has lost control of the team’s direction. This is the second time that he has botched big decisions for the Canucks. First was the Cody Hodgson situation. Whether Cody wanted to be in Vancouver or not was not the point – he is a supremely talented player that showed promise, played center, and worked at his craft incessantly. The same cannot be said of Zack Kassian who though he also shows immense promise is simply not ready for prime-time, and already seems to be turning into a haggard version of Shane O’Brien. The idea that the Canucks were sheltering Cody’s minutes and pumping up his value is laughable. The guy has 13 goals this year, is dynamite on the power play, strong on the puck, terrific around the net and is even killing penalties for the Sabres. His FO % is better than Henrik’s and every other Canucks center. He just needed time to come into his own and overall shows a similar skill set to John Tavares who, if analyzed in the same light that Cody was while in Canuckland, would be deemed expendable because he is not good enough defensively.
The Canucks had a chance to get rid of a terrible contract, add some playoff ready gamers in exchange for picks that will likely never amount to anything – see Anton Rodin, Prab Rai, and the entire 2009 Canuck NHL draft.
Being a GM of a hockey team is about direction – you don’t always have to make the right decision, hell you can even make trades for guys like Ballard, Booth, Kassian, and others and be forgiven. What you can’t do is leave the ship rudderless and listing – exactly where it is now for the Canucks.