Head coach Alain Vigneault of the Vancouver Canucks looks on from the bench during their NHL game against the Columbus Blue Jackets at Rogers Arena November 29, 2011 in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.
Photograph by: Jeff Vinnick, NHLI via Getty Images
Having had a day to get over the shock of the Vancouver Canucks' ridiculously easy ouster from the NHL playoffs, you realize that while last year was maybe their one great shot at a Stanley Cup, they're going to be in the mix for a couple of years yet.
Consider the Sedin twins played hard and well in these playoffs and met with some success. The goaltending is going to be outstanding no matter how this present logjam is resolved, and the defence is unlikely to see any significant changes other than possibly Sami Salo. So that leaves another year to work on Alex Edler's brain and another year of development for Chris Tanev. Maybe Tanev becomes the 20-22 minute guy while Salo takes the 12-14 slot.
What needs work is the forward group, which over the course of the past calendar year has lost that which made it so distinctive and so successful last year: its speed through the neutral zone, which all opponents feared when it worked in concert with the Sedins and drew penalties for the once-feared power play.
Consider that Ryan Kesler, Mason Raymond and Christian Ehrhoff -- all of whom created speed through the neutral zone with the puck or alongside it -- either departed or were unable to function at anywhere near the same level of effectiveness. David Booth, who was brought in for gains in this area, brought his legs to bear during the regular season at stages but was laughably ineffective down the stretch and during the playoffs. Not terribly sure the pro scouting department has the slightest idea what it's doing, frankly.
For whatever reason, whether it was for health reasons or a de-emphasis on attack, this team suddenly had virtually no speed other than that of Jannik Hansen, or Alex Burrows on his best day. Early in the season the Canucks got their offence from the Sedins and Cody Hodgson, who were able to function at their own pace through their unique skills. However, with Kesler hobbled and the others either gone or not functioning, there was no fear factor for teams playing Vancouver. Stop the Sedins and you were fine -- there was no way they were going to score enough to beat a decent team. Their identity, their weapon from last year, was gone.
The fix isn't easy but not impossible. Who knows what will happen to Kesler this summer when he gets a chance to become pain-free and have a full summer to train. Surely he will regain some of his old speed, the question being how much recovery is possible and to what degree will he break down in the playoffs? He always does. The question is when and how bad will it be?
His no-trade clause doesn't kick in for another year, so moving him is possible but it's unlikely this organization will be giving up on him before they see to what degree he can regain what he once brought to this team. A full recovery seems overly optimistic. It's hard to imagine this team qualifying Raymond unless it's to move him, because the paying fans could not possibly tolerate another season of that act, particularly when accompanied by the "I'm just happy to be playing" refrain. Besides, why pay Raymond $2.6 million when Anton Rodin could come in with at least the potential to do more down the road when he learns how to play in the league. He's got speed and talent as well and couldn't produce any less than Raymond for less than half the money.
Jordan Schroeder is a possibility if they want to go back to a quicker, more skilled centre, and there's a good chance Nicklas Jensen could be ready given he already has seven points in eight games in Chicago since joining the Wolves at the end of his junior season. A coach with a tolerance for young players would also be nice if any of these scenarios are to be considered.
There will be assets from any goaltender movement, more of a contract if Luongo goes, a good young player in the unlikely event it's Cory Schneider leaving. And there will no doubt be more options not mentioned here, so this is fixable. But better get it right this summer. The door won't remain open forever.
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