June 20 2011 01:52PM
The Canucks have some tough decisions to make, none more difficult than what to do with Roberto Luongo.
(Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
This is a fan-post written by Malcolm Ert.
I still can’t believe what happened on Wednesday night. Like a lot of you, I was so sure the whole year that the Canucks were destined to win it all. I think Bieksa said it best “I don’t think you ever get over a SCF game 7 loss.” I once lost a winner takes all championship game like this one, obviously, it was high-school sports so it's not even remotely on the same level – but I do know it hurts and that you never get over it. But there is nothing we, or anyone else, can do about it now - I know I did everything thing i could at game 5 as a fan, so on to the next one...
The one thing the 11/12 Nucks will have the 10/11 team didn’t is the taste of the finals. The desire to get back might have been absent had the team drunk from the cup. So yes, i will once again be put money on our boys in Vegas. The core will want this badly now, more so than before. However, Gillis and company do need to make some tweaks. Sure, I would take the exact roster again next year, but in a capped world – that's not really an option. Changes are coming.
When you look at the Canucks current roster, it's pretty difficult to poke holes in it. But there are some difficult decisions facing the Canucks brain-trust, and luckily for them I have some suggestions! I'll focus on three major decisions facing Gillis: he needs to add size up-front, he needs to figure out what to do with the free-agents along the blue-line, and he needs to make a decision regarding the future of the teams goaltending.
First of all, the Canucks lack a true top-6 power forward. We need someone else to stand in front of the net so Kelser can use his speed and his shot, both which are neutralized when he is parked out front. I know he has quick reflexes and can make an excellent tip, but the top-6 must be bigger next year so the team doesn’t burn out by game 100. Obviously my dream would be for the Bryzgalov negotiations to fall through and for the Canucks to trade say Schneider and Hodgson for JVR and Hartnell, but it's not likely. In the world of UFAs, I'd think Gillis would do well to look into adding guys like Joel Ward and Brooks Laich.
The second thing missing that separates us from the other power-house teams in the league is a true 1A defenceman. A guy like Zedeno Chara, Dan Boyle, Shea Weber, Duncan Keith. Now I believer that Edler can get there, but I don’t believe anyone else can. I have said this year we have six 1B defencemen (though if I'd seen Ballard play game 4 of the finals in February, maybe I'd have said 5). Hammer is very good, but he lacks the offensive tools to be considered elite. Bieksa knocks on the door at times, but his decision-making can frustrate even his most ardent supporters (Artem). Salo is too old, but it sounds like wants to be back very badly. Though Ballard is better, I think, than he showed this postseason, and Ehrhoff remains an elite offensive producer from the back-end, I don't hear many people arguing that either are elite guys. Deciding who to re-sign, who to let walk, and making damn sure he doesn't over-pay for a guy like Ehrhoff – who is clearly not deserving of 1A money despite his point-production – is a major challenge. Also, until I know for sure that they're inked by their current rights-holders – I'll be dreaming non-stop of one of Doughty or Weber wearing Green, Blue and White. Unlikely, I know, but crazier things have happened (Andrew Ference was a major contributor on a Cup winner – after all).
Goaltending remains a big question. Actually it's the biggest question going forward. When we look back in 15 years at this version of the Canucks, we'll look at the Luongo deal, as the decision that made or spoiled the team.
In Luongo, we have a veteran guy, who is committed here long term in Luongo. He is an Olympic champion and has proven his value as a legitimate NHL all-star. The Canucks also have one year left on what looks like could be an incredibly effective and savvy young ginger star. I think Gillis must weigh both of his options as keeping both is not possible long-term. Ginger-bricks will walk next summer, he's already too good to back up Bobby-Lu for the next 5-6 years (though that didn't stop Gillis from fantasizing about it in his closing presser).
If there's a silver-lining in losing in the finals to Boston, it's that Boston won on the strength of mind-bendingly good goaltending. It has been known for years that goaltending is the great equalizer in the playoffs, but still - in a copy-cat league, where goaltender values plummeted on the heels of a Leighton/Niemi Finals last summer; goaltending should once again demand a price this off-season. Vancouver has a choice to make: Luongo or Schneider. There are arguments that can be made for both. Trading Schneids would bring back more value than trading Luongo (if that's even possible), because Luongo's albatross contract means the Canucks would probably have to take on another bad-contract to seal the deal.
My stance on this is simple: Luongo should probably go. I've played goaltender since I was a child, and I love the guy. I'm not a blame Luongo type, and I don't think his play cost us the series. I think he's a blue-chip goalie. But Jason Botchford has it right, we (the fans and the city) simply have a toxic relationship with Luongo - it isn’t healthy for any of of the interested parties. As great as Luongo has been in Vancouver, there's just too much baggage to move forward together, as I see it.
When Luongo first came here, we needed him, and he stood on his head every night. It wasn’t all that long ago that the perception of our team was Luongo and a bunch of spare parts to get a goal a game. I don’t think it can be understated how much that has changed. What we expected of Luongo was only possible when we were playing not just defense first, but almost defense only hockey. We simply can’t ask the same of him anymore. So tomorrow, we need to wake up and accept Luongo can’t do it alone, or move on. I honestly think at this point, walking away makes more sense.
Malcolm Ert lives in Vancouver and wants to win the cup as badly as anyone. When I am not thinking about the Canucks I am working with Freedom 55 Financial. You can follow him on Twitter for both @malcolmert