For a number of years, the Vancouver Canucks have been the greatest hope for hockey fans who wanted to see the Stanley Cup come back to Canada. While that window has not yet completely closed, it is rapidly being cranked closed. The high point came 2 season ago when the Canucks advanced to the Finals but were beaten by the Bruins in 7 games. The low point came this past Tuesday night when they were bounced from the first round of the playoffs in four straight games by the San Jose Sharks.
So, now at the lowest point they have been, probably since the arrival of the Sedins, where do they go from here?
There are a number of options that may happen in the off-season, either individually or a combination of a number of them.
1. Fire the GM – The biggest distraction around the City of Vancouver since about game 3 of last year’s playoff against the Kings, when it became apparent that the crease was not big enough for both Roberto Luongo and Cory Schneider. GM Mike Gillis had the opportunity to go through a draft, a summer and a trade deadline, but couldn’t get his asking price, which was widely regarded as too much to take on the salary of Luongo as well as giving up assets. He is still a top level goalie but his contract was overwhelming for many teams. And the teams that were interested didn’t want to give the Canucks what they were asking for. Is botching the crease enough to warrant firing the GM?
2. Fire the Coach – Alain Vigneault has been at the helm for 7 full seasons, and has taken one of the top teams in the league past the second round just once, when they went to the 2011 finals. Now, with 2 straight first round exits has his time in Vancouver run out?
3. Trade a Goalie, but which one? – This was supposed to be the year that Cory Schnieder asserted himself in the Cancuks’ crease. It simply did not happen, due to injury and inconsisent play. He was good in the regular season, but couldn’t get the job done in the playoffs. Luongo was a good teammate and supported his team as best he could, but you could see his frustration at being second fiddle. The question is, could the Canucks trade Schneider instead of Luongo? His contract is more tradeable and he might get a bigger return because there isn’t so much invested in him. Luongo was the goalie when they had their best season, but hasn’t lived up to expectations since then. One has to go, but which one. Is Luongo a buyout candidate? Surely someone would need a goalie of his calibre, but can they afford it?
4. Blow up the Team – It might seem like a rather drastic step, but with just 17 players under contract for next year, the Canucks are over the $64.3M salary cap already. They have 12 players making $4M or more. Just trading a goalie is not going to help them get out of the mess they are in. The core is intact, but they are expensive. You would have to think David Booth and Keith Ballard would be trade bait, but finding a taker and getting something decent in return might be a bit too much. They have two amnesty buyouts, and they might have to use them this summer.
The Canucks are a team over a barrel. With no cap space, they can’t fill in with even minimum salary players without getting rid of some big tickets. Goaltending is a serious problem and coaching and management hasn’t done much about it in over a year.