Willes' Musings: Any change is good change for the Canucks, Brazil's thrills come with a cost and another thought for Gino
Canucks general manager Jim Benning made four different moves at the NHL draft that will significantly alter the Canucks’ roster for the next eight to 10 years. — Getty Images
Photograph by: Bruce Bennett, Getty Images
With glowing hearts, we offer a special Canada Day long weekend version of the Monday morning musings and meditations on the world of sports.
There are a couple of reasons for the faithful’s excitement over the Canucks’ whirlwind weekend.
One, after what they witnessed last season, any change is a good change. And two, rookie GM Jim Benning answered a lot of questions in his first meaningful test.
The Canucks’ congregation, after all, had been told repeatedly by the previous regime that it’s extremely difficult to make trades in the NHL. Or maybe that was good trades. Don’t know.
Benning, however, made four different moves at the NHL draft that will significantly alter the Canucks’ roster for the next eight to 10 years. In the process, he dumped payroll while getting younger, faster and cheaper. He also added two more first-rounders to the prospect pool as well as the top-rated goalie in the draft.
On the surface, it was a big weekend for Benning and the organization.
But what does it really mean for the Canucks?
It’s an interesting question because, as of this writing, Benning has simply improved the bottom half of his lineup. The Canucks now are closer to the four-lines, six-defencemen team he envisioned. But that second line remains a black hole and that’s assuming the Sedins return to the point-a-game level and give the Canucks some semblance of a first line.
Right now, the second line figures to be composed of some combination of Chris Higgins, Nick Bonino and Zack Kassian. That, of course, is subject to change, and maybe one of the kids alters its makeup. But whatever the configuration, it’s not nearly good enough to compete in the West.
The Canucks, as it happens, also have almost $18 million in cap space available with Kassian, Chris Tanev and the newly acquired Linden Vey to sign. That leaves a lot of iron for Benning to play with and you have to believe he’ll try to add a proven scorer in free agency to bolster that second line.
At least you hope that’s the case. It’s going to be tough for the Canucks no matter how they line up next season, but without another scoring threat they’re looking at another march to nowhere.
In the last two drafts, the organization has done an admirable job of restocking the shelves but, in all likelihood, their kids are two, three seasons away from making an impact. Benning has to buy them some time to develop. That’s what make you think there are still big moves to come.
LIONS NEED TO CAPTURE SOME FAN-MAGIC
Two things for the B.C. Lions to be concerned about. One is quarterback Kevin Glenn, who threw four interceptions in their season-opening loss to Edmonton on Saturday. But Glenn is a 14-year vet and it would be shocking if he didn’t bounce back.
What’s more troubling is the Lions drew 24,524 to the first contest of a season that ends with the Grey Cup game in Vancouver, and didn’t exactly capture the fans’ imagination with their performance. They need a bounce-back there, as well.
THRILLERS IN BRAZIL SHOULDN'T HIDE HUGE COST OF GLOBAL COMPETITION
Let’s see. Brazil, which carries the hopes of 200 million people, wins their first elimination game on penalties when Chile’s Gonzalo Jara hits the inside of the post. Then Holland equalizes with three minutes left before beating Mexico in extra time. And these were just the first two games of the knockout stage after three gripping weeks of group play.
No, not much drama or excitement in Brazil this summer. Not much at all.
This World Cup has delivered on every conceivable level, but that should leave soccer fans in a conflicted state. The price tag for mounting this event is estimated at $18 billion. This is in a country that owns the world’s seventh-largest economy but is 79th on a per-capita basis. As great as the spectacle has been, sorry, there is simply no way to justify its expense.
But stop me if you’ve heard this before. Every two years, hands are wrung and brows furrowed over the tremendous cost of staging the Olympics. Then the show begins and we are mesmerized. The bill for Sochi was $50 billion, $50-frickin billion.
Rio, meanwhile, gets a two-year break before it goes through the same thing again in the summer of 2016 and if you’ve ever been to that city, you have some idea of the strain it will be under.
Some serious questions must be asked and serious decisions made about these huge global sports festivals. Just don’t hold your breath waiting for FIFA and the IOC to lead the way.
CLEARLY, GINO MEANS THE WORLD TO VANCOUVER FANS
And finally, after spending a bit of time with Gino Ojdick last week, one thing is crystal clear. His relationship to the Canucks and their fans means the world to him, which is why the outpouring of support for the big man is so moving. Gino wasn’t exactly a star in his eight seasons here, but the connection he formed with this city and the province transcended his role on the ice.
There are a couple of reasons for that, and Odjick’s fearlessness was principal among them. But it also ran deeper than his tough-guy persona. In the end, the faithful were drawn to Gino because there’s nothing contrived or phoney about the man. He’s real. He’s honest. And he was vulnerable.
Yes, he had issues but, in the end, that just made him more human, more accessible, more like the people in the stands. And those people loved Gino.
One final snapshot from last week. During our conversation, it was revealed Gino had been glued to the World Cup. He was asked if he’d like to hear a joke.
He nodded and leaned forward.
‘What’s the difference between a tea bag and the English soccer team? he was asked.
‘Don’t know,’ he said.
‘A tea bag spends longer in the cup.’
He laughed at that one, laughed for a while. That was a beautiful thing.
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