Alright, well, the media in Vancouver has had a chance to lose their collective minds over the Canucks being eliminated by the Chicago Blackhawks and most people have come in from off the ledge, so I thought I’d offer up my own thoughts on the Canucks past season. I’m not going to address that bullshit about trading Roberto Luongo, because, frankly, its retarded thinking, so whatever. Although getting eliminated in the second round is disappointing, I can’t say that I’m particularly upset with how the team did over the past season.
First, and most importantly, the Sedins have proven that they should be retained. They were our leading scorers in the playoffs and didn’t fade at all when things got physical. The truism that your best players have to be your best players fits them perfectly. Mike Gillis should be hard at work at hammering out an extension with them, hopefully before July 1st.
Secondly, probably the most talked about story revolving around the Canucks was Mats Sundin. It’s disappointing that he started to show up right as the season was ending for the Canucks: while he didn’t look great during the regular season, he was serviceable and his size and ability to win draws in the faceoff circle were important factors for the Canucks success. I wouldn’t mind seeing him back, but then again, it’ll depend on his pricetag and what other moves Gillis decides to make.
Finally, I’m still seriously stumped as to what happened against Chicago. I mean, I know what happened (we lost, the better team won) but what led to it has me mystified. If anyone would like to offer up an explanation, I’d be all ears.
As for next season? Well…
I’ve been ranting and raving about potential free agent Jay Bouwmeester for a while now and I think that he is someone that Gillis really needs to be pushing at to land. There are rumours that he wants to come out to play in Western Canada and be closer to home, so it gives me hope that he might be interested in signing on. I know that the big story going around right now is Scott Niedermayer, but I think that Gillis has to think about the status of this club and whether or not he’ll be able to have a Cup contending team next season. Niedermayer on any team seems an obvious choice: he is a future HOFer, has won anything and everything, can be clutch when he needs to be and can grow a killer beard. But, you have to consider other things, such as Roberto Luongo’s contract status and the rest of the team.
Worst case scenario, the Sedins walk this July and Gillis goes after Sundin and Niedermayer. Efforts to retain Luongo are fruitless and he bolts next season as a free agent. Sundin and Niedermayer both decide to retire and the Canucks are left with holes all over the place, especially if you factor in Pavol Demitra more than likely not being offered another contract next season, either.
This is why Jay Bouwmeester looks to be an attractive option for Gillis, even if he doesn’t have the same hardware that Niedermayer does: he is young and could potentially be locked up long term. He fits more into the club and their plans longterm than Niedermayer or Sundin could. And while both of them would look to be awesome to have on a roster, if the purpose of signing Niedermayer is a way of enticing Luongo to stay with the team, well…I can’t help but think that’s faulty logic. Luongo isn’t an idiot and would realize that these players don’t have a very long left in the league. Niedermayer has been contemplating retirement for a while now and probably wants to end his career with one last hurrah at the Olympics, possibly captaining Team Canada. Sundin is in the same boat, as we all know how long it took HIM to make a decision.
Add to this, that Niedermayer would be joining Sami Salo, whose days are numbered as well, and the Canucks suddenly look very old in all the wrong spots.
If you look at the future of the club beyond the next season or so, though, and there are a lot of reasons to be optimistic about things. Cody Hodgson is going to be factoring in huge for the Canucks, possibly as early as next season. Michael Grabner, another young player that is making a name for himself down in the AHL with the Manitoba Moose, is also knocking on the door of the club. These are two young, skilled players who are going to be playing in the NHL soon. Throw in the Sedins and someone like Jay Bouwmeester, all players who are capable of playing at a high level, and things are looking a lot better and you have a core that (hopefully) would be signed for more than just the next season, as well as young talent, such as Alex Edler, Mason Raymond, Hodgson and Grabner, and the team has a solid mix of experience, talent and youth that would be far more appealing to Luongo than say, Niedermayer and Sundin. I’d also argue that this would help with negotiations with Luongo, if Gillis keeps playing what I like to call the “Alex Burrows card”: take less money in order to strengthen the team elsewhere.
That is not to say I’m against bringing back Sundin or signing Niedermayer if the opportunities present themselves. It is simply that Gillis needs to have his priorities focused on younger players that can be locked up for longer terms than what a player like Niedermayer would be interested in. Go after Scotty, but please, please look at Bouwmeester first and for the love of God, have the Sedins signed before you talk with Mats or Niedermayer, Gillis.