The Canucks are in a pickle. Ownership wants to make the playoffs, management wants to develop a new young core. The Canucks traded Eddie Lack away, signalling that management does not believe the core as it stands can make an impact in the playoffs. Assuming they make the playoffs the next two seasons. The trade of Kevin Bieksa also underlines this fact. While he has struggled with injuries and inconsistency in the past few seasons, Bieksa is a valuable voice in the locker room after having experienced a Stanley Cup run. Despite these trades, Canucks management will hammer the fact that they want to make the playoffs every season. However, with their desire to develop a younger core there will be growing pains, including missing the playoffs.
Unfortunately as NHL Free Agency opens, I do not believe the Canucks will be making any exciting splashes on the market. Which, in theory, is great for developing a new young core; the line management seems to be taking. Players like Bo Horvat, Sven Baertschi, Frank Corrado, Adam Clendenning will be able to take a greater role with the team. Utica players Brendan Gaunce, Hunter Shinkaruk, Alexandre Grenier, Niklas Jensen will be given every opportunity to make the Canucks. With the Western Conference loading up and mediocre teams getting better everyday, the time is perfect for the Canucks to "accidentally" be worse the next few years to get a better draft position. As well, the coaching staff has the opportunity to evaluate these young players and see if they are close to being full-time NHL players.
As the roster stands, the opening day lineup will look something like this:
Daniel Sedin - Henrik Sedin - Alexandre Burrows
Sven Baertschi - Bo Horvat - Radim Vrbata
Chris Higgins - Nick Bonino - Jannik Hansen
Niklas Jensen - Linden Vey - Derek Dorsett
Ronald Kenins, Brandon Prust
Alex Edler - Chris Tanev
Dan Hamhuis - Yannick Weber
Luca Sbisa - Frank Corrado
Adam Clendenning, Matt Bartkowski
The lineup is my own opinion and is based off of how the team looked prior to the playoffs, in the playoffs and how the Utica Comets shaped their roster. This lineup works if the goal is to develop a younger core. Baertschi, Horvat, Jensen, Vey, Kenins, Tanev, Sbisa, Corrado, Clendenning, and Markstrom are all 25 or younger and Utica call-ups in the same age bracket. That group of young players has the makings of a younger core. Canucks management has pushed the idea of players needing to develop longer in the AHL before making the lineup and this roster fits that mold, with Horvat being the only exception to the rule.
The Canucks look ready to take a step back standings wise for the sake of player development. At this point, scouts are in consensus that centre Auston Matthews will be the number one overall draft pick in the 2016 draft. Trading Bieksa and Lack seem would seem to support management's desire to develop a younger core of players and put them in a position to potentially draft in a higher spot. As much as I want them to win, the Canucks need to look to the future for a cup run and continue to acquire good young pieces through drafting and trades.
The Canucks are in a pickle this season. Should they make a major free agent signing? Should they trade more roster players to make room for younger players? Or, do they do nothing more than minor signings?