THE OFF SEASON AFTER THE COLLAPSE BEGINS
After losing 7 of their final 8 games of the 2007-08 season and falling out of a playoff spot, major changes for the Canucks were in order. Aside from most people wanting Alain Vigneault's head on a stake and more offence, nobody really knew what was going to be done or expected what was bout to happen.
The offseason after the failure provided a lot of surprises to the Canucks and the fans. Here is a general summary of what happened starting right after the playoffs started and the Canucks were not in it..
April 7, 2008: Dave Nonis and Alain Vigneault hold an end of the year press conference. While AV could not really answer what the hell happened to the Canucks down the stretch, Nonis did.
"I think that down the stretch a couple things happened. You're looking at a team that I think that in some respects ran out of gas in certain areas and injuries over the course of the year took a significant toll particularily on our back end and we were asking players to do things that they were able to do over short periods but maybe they weren't capable of doing for the whole year."
"I expect that you'll see a much different group once we get to training camp."
"We're going to be a team that actively pursues a number of player all over the lineup. We'll be very active in that area. We have significant amount of cap space."
"I wouldn't have any problem trading even a group of players in order to bring the right players in."
"We are pretty well positioned. I keep saying ‘we’ -- this team -- is pretty well positioned in my opinion to take a serious step forward and I believe that if they hire the right person there’s no reason to think that that can’t happen," Nonis said. "And I hope that it does because I’ll be able to look back and say those are the pieces I put there."
Nonis made several boneheaded moves in his tenure (ehrm Carney and Weinrich for starters) but he also brought in guys like Taylor Pyatt, Willie Mitchell, and most importantly, Roberto Luongo and Lukas Krajicek, which kind of overshadowed his blunders.
The Luongo trade was one of the biggest trade rapes in NHL history. How did Bertuzzi work out in Florida, Keenan?
Almost as eqaully important, as Nonis alluded to in his goodbye speech, he had left the Canucks in great position with salary cap space.
April 23: Former player agent Mike Gillis is hired as the new Canucks GM. A shock. What kind of move was this, putting a guy with no GM experience at the helm of a team? Gillis exuded confidence in his interview. He said he'd bring positive changes to the organization and hoped that the personnel would endorse it, or hit the road. Alain Vigneault seemed to have Gillis' vote of confidence right away. Gillis said of AV:
"Coaches handle the assets they have been given," he said. "The assets here were lean at times."
A bold statement, but true it was. I remember getting the feeling that either Gillis knew what he was doing and could be trusted (great post by Yankee there) to turn the franchise around or that this could become a gong show.
Speaking of gong shows, on the same day Gillis was hired, the Globe and Mail posted an article (rumor) that Markus Naslund did not want to stay in Vancouver if Alain Vigneault was still the coach. Naslund of course was about to become an unrestricted free agent. My immediate thought was: "don't let the door hit your ass on the way out, Markus."
April 29: Gillis unleashes his Top 5 Priorities:
1. Talking with Vigneault and guaging his direction
2. Guaging Roberto Luongo's commitment to the organization
3. Finding more scoring.
4. Dealing with the Naslund issue.
5. Improving scouting and player development
April 30: Canucks' 2000 First Round pick Nathan Smith arrested for streaking. Yankee once again stresses the importance of drafting. Dear god I forgot about that story. Sheesh!
Stay tuned for more Canucks season review (May 2008) coming up in a couple days.