Canucks get 30-day extension from AHL to find farm-team arena for next season; Seattle in the mix?

Patrick Johnston
May 14 2013 12:50PM


KeyArena, possible AHL venue? (photo: paulyb/wikimedia commons)

As reported by the Vancouver Sun's Brad Ziemer, the Canucks have been granted an extended deadline to decide on what they are going to do with their AHL franchise. 

Yesterday Drance picked up a Dave Eminian report on the strong possibility that the Canucks could allow their franchise to go dormant for the 2013-14 season, but the deadline extension is a new wrinkle to the story.

Read past the jump.

Ziemer spells out the two options available to the Canucks:

The Canucks really have two choices to make regarding the Peoria Rivermen franchise they purchased earlier this year. After deciding against leaving the team in Peoria for the 2013-14 season, they must either find a new home for the team or they can pay the AHL a $150,000 fee and have the league declare the franchise dormant for one year.

That latter option is the least palatable one for the Canucks as it would mean the team would have to scatter its prospects around the AHL and have them playing under a variety of different systems and coaches, outside their sphere of influence.

Given the infferred frustrations the Canucks had with the Chicago Wolves affiliation over the past two seasons, you'd figure the Canucks would far prefer to have a proper team in place for next season. 

Zeimer also picked up some interesting quotes from Scott Arniel, who served as the Wolves' coach this past season.

"You know, these conversations started a while ago and it has gone everywhere from Abbotsford, to Rogers Arena, to Peoria. to who-knows-where," Arniel said in a phone interview Monday. "Obviously you want to get an answer soon and get organized. The players will have been in three different cities in three years -- the guys who were in Winnipeg and Chicago and now to a new city -- so you do want some stability that way. It's a tough decision, but I know the Canucks are working towards getting their own team somewhere and have a spot where they can groom their young players."

Arniel went on to say that he thinks "something is going to get done." 

The option of having the AHL Canucks play at Rogers Arena or any other Lower Mainland arena is likely out of the question, as they are within the Heat's territorial limits, Ziemer noted.

From a business standpoint, putting the farm team in downtown Vancouver makes sense - it's another chance for Canucks Sports and Entertainment to draw money and in some ways, having a nearby, easy-to-travel-to rival might be appealing for the Heat. But you've got to believe that the Heat would fear losing a portion of their already-small fan base.

So, what are the options? Peoria is out, some have bandied about past AHL locales like Utica, NY. This morning, Wolves broadcaster Jason Shaver pondered on Twitter about Seattle:

KeyArena is a crap venue for NHL hockey (the rink pad is off-centre, leaving the scoreboard over one end, not centre ice), but for an AHL venue, selling just in the lower bowl, it could do ok...

1f92153409d9b33c123e47094f0ac4b6
Patrick Johnston is a Vancouver journalist. In addition to regular contributions here at Canucks Army, his work has appeared in The Province, Hockey Now and on the CBC. Check out his blog and other writing at http://johnstonwrites.wordpress.com or follow him on twitter: @risingaction
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#1 Rivalpiper
May 14 2013, 01:14PM
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As a Seattle resident, yes please.

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#2 UkeeRob
May 14 2013, 01:17PM
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Seattle makes sense, even if its short term. This team will probably end up in Abbotsford. The Canuck haters like to dump on Gillis for not having this in place before buying this AHL franchise in Peoria. What about Calgary though? Don't they see the writing on the wall? Would Vancouver's farm team really be viable in greater Calgary? Now the few fans of the Heat are really going to continue to support the team when they know their hometown NHL team is waiting in the wings to bring their farm team there? Maybe Feaster is the one who should get the grief over this situation, not Gillis.

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#3 Eric Blacha
May 14 2013, 01:48PM
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I could see the Canucks putting money into the arena. Seattle would be great.

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#4 NM00
May 14 2013, 01:50PM
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@UkeeRob

As a Canuck fan, there is much better ammunition with which to criticize Mike Gillis and the Canucks than this latest issue.

Such as MG's middling-at-best transaction record in 5 years; and the fact that he would leave very little to build upon for the next GM if he were fired tomorrow. You know, other than Burke & Nonis players.

The most troubling part of all of this is that Aquillini purchased an AHL team in all likelihood because he still believes in Gillis' plan to invest in player development.

Where is the return on this investment? Personally, I don't care if Aquillini makes a little less profit. But how can he be so complacent in all of this?

His hockey understanding appears to not go too far beyond looking at the standings on NHL.com.

He fired a GM in Nonis who was building the franchise properly and replaced him with a guy who has shown zero ability to build a sustainable contender.

The hate is warranted.

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#5 UkeeRob
May 14 2013, 02:51PM
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@NM00

Hey I'm not saying Gillis doesn't have his warts, every GM does. All I'm trying to say is he isn't the idiot that a lot of people like to portray him as. I don't think he's done that bad of a job. Do you really think we would have made it to the finals without some of the guys he brought in? Higgins, Lappierre, Torres and Malhotra were all important parts. His draft record isn't the greatest, but with constantly drafting high in the first round he has gotten Schroeder, Jensen and Gaunce who look like they will be regular NHLers one day. He also got Corrado in a later round who, many have said, was one of the best defencemen in the OHL this year. He signed Tanev and Lack to free agent contracts. He brought in Hamhuis and Garrison on cap friendly contracts as well. Oh and don't be so sure about Nonis...remember Patrick White! At least Gillis turned him and Burke's Nathan Smith into Ehrhoff.

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#6 Max
May 14 2013, 02:52PM
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You talk specifically about key arena, but there are better options.

Right now, the Seattle Thunderbirds (WHL) play in Kent in the ShoWare center, which is actually a really nice facility and would work well for AHL games.

Another option, again sharing with a WHL team, is to go north of Seattle and share Comcast Arena with the Everett Silvertips. I think this is slightly bigger then ShoWare.

Either way, two more options for playing hockey.

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#7 GRR
May 14 2013, 03:07PM
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Agreed, Gillis legacy so far is the Ballard Trade and the Luongo Saga.

The only good trade he's made was for Ehrhoff. David Booth's would be good if he could stay healthy, but since we lost nothing to bring him here, it stands as an ok trade.

The prospect cupboards are rather bare. But we also must mention that Nonis draft recored as pretty horrid as well. Over-all Gillis has been equal or only slightly better in that area.

The team's cap management has been the major success of Gillis team, but most of the credit goes to Laurence Gilman, the man who I think should be the next GM of the Canucks.

The team definitely needs a "reset" or "rebuild" in it's scouting department. While they have been able to find a few diamonds in the rough, over-all they have tried too hard to find these hidden gems, missing out on some obvious talent.

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#8 BrudnySeaby
May 14 2013, 03:07PM
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Me thinks these NHL & AHL rules are stupid and outdated. Get a rule-exemption and have the Heat and the Canucks AHL team share the Abbotsford arena for a season (or so). Brings down the tax expenses for the people of Abbotsford too!

I mean, if AC Milan and Inter Milan can do it, so should two farm teams for the NHL… Oh, for the uninitiated, those are 2 professional soccer teams in the Italian league. And trust me… those supporters hate each other, yet the organizations can share one soccer temple!

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#9 Mantastic
May 14 2013, 03:23PM
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@BrudnySeaby

you could have used a better reference at least based in NA like the Jets and Giants sharing metlife stadium in NY/NJ.

but the comparision just doesn't work with 2 minor league teams surviving from a small market like Abbotsford. it only makes sense for a mega markets for big league teams.

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#10 NM00
May 14 2013, 03:51PM
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@UkeeRob

Are you serious?

You are cherrypicking one failed Nonis pick (White) while being oblivious to Gillis' failures. And, worst of all, ignoring the bounty Nonis left for Gillis.

He left Schneider, Edler, Bourdon (RIP), Raymond, Hansen & Grabner. And Nonis didn't have high picks, either.

Not to mention the terrible trades for Kassian, Booth & Ballard.

He's made one great trade (Ehrhoff). Any Canuck GM could have signed local boys Hamhuis & Garrison.

Beyond that, it's easy to point to guys like Tanev, Torres & Higgins. But these are depth guys. The ENTIRE core (2 goalies, top 4 D, top 4 F) is comprised of Burke/Nonis, Nonis & BC born players.

And Gillis looks set to give away the best goalie in franchise history instead of trading away the younger, cheaper goalie with much better trade value.

Show me the "good" part of Gillis. It's been a couple of good moves and a number of bad ones. And it's getting worse as he starts making moves to save his job (see Derek Roy trade).

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#11 NM00
May 14 2013, 03:59PM
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@GRR

You are massively overrating cap management as a skill.

You need the right players at the right age to be able to sign to good contracts. Gillis inherited that and many of the contracts looked good at one point. Not anymore.

Spending $9.33 on two goalies, $4.2 million on a #6/7 defenseman, $4.25 million on an oft-injured winger and $4.5 million (starting next season) on a solid but unspectacular player with a knack for taking penalties are all questionable at best.

Hence, the Nux will be active in the buyout and contract dump game.

Finally, Gillis has been massively worse at drafting/developing than Nonis. He hasn't produced a single NHL regular other than Kassian (via Hodgson) through his draft picks.

That's after 5 years (Nonis had 4 and the Bourdon tragedy). And Kassian may need more AHL time just like he did this season.

Underwhelming to say the least.

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#12 Sonia
May 14 2013, 04:15PM
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So KeyArena in Seattle is an option but what about the Comcast Arena in Everett? I'm not sure about what the arena looks like but they used it as a venue for the 2012 Pacific Rims Gymnastics Championships and from what I saw on TV of the arena, it looked like a pretty good venue. What do you think?

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#13 BrudnySeaby
May 14 2013, 04:41PM
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@ Mantastic

Maybe that's because I'm Dutch and moved here only 5 years ago! ;-) So lot's of European sports "knowledge" and not so much NA!

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#14 Mantastic
May 14 2013, 05:10PM
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@BrudnySeaby

that makes sense. if you've been to the Abby, you know you can't compare it to Milan at all. just to let you know ;).

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#15 UkeeRob
May 14 2013, 05:22PM
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@NM00

I guess you wouldn't be happy with any GM unless he made all the right moves all the time. I'm not oblivious to Gillis' failures. I admitted that his drafting hasn't been the best, but when you start comparing guys who were drafted years ago to recent drafts the point kinda loses merit. Draft picks take time to develop. What would you say later if the Canucks were to fire Gillis now then Gaunce and Jensen become stars in a few years. Would you get on the new GM because he didn't draft as well as Gillis?

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#16 ricky steamboat
May 14 2013, 05:52PM
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@UkeeRob

44 years of losing never gets tiring, does it?

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#17 NM00
May 14 2013, 05:56PM
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@UkeeRob

"I guess you wouldn't be happy with any GM unless he made all the right moves all the time."

Please. Try. Harder.

Factoring out the relatively meaningless moves that all GMs make, I expect a GM of a big market cap team to make more good moves than bad. Otherwise what is the point of having him as GM?

Mike Gillis has simply not added value with his transactions to the core he inherited. I repeat, show me his good moves aside from the ones I have already mentioned. There certainly haven't been many significant ones.

"What would you say later if the Canucks were to fire Gillis now then Gaunce and Jensen become stars in a few years."

I would be thrilled. But these guys would also be beating the odds. Edler, Schneider & Hodgson were all top 50 prospects in the industry before they became impact NHLers. Bourdon was as well.

There is a correlation between being highly regarded within the industry and NHL success (the draft is one example). There are exceptions (like Detroit for a long time). But Gillis hasn't done anything, espescially with his first 3 drafts which are certainly old enough to evaluate, to make me believe the Canucks will be an exception during his reign as GM.

The Canucks don't have top prospects and they have a poor farm system. Find me an objective source such as Hockey's Future, The Hockey News or Hockey Prospectus that thinks highly of the Canucks farm system. You can't.

In fairness, Gillis has had mostly low picks. But he hasn't used them well It's a big reason he had to trade two good assets to get Derek Roy for a few games.

Not to mention the picks wasted on Bernier, Alberts, Ballard etc.

Not to mention getting poor returns for Grabner, Hodgson and, in all likelihood, Luongo.

I love the Canucks. And I want a GM who can build a sustainable contender. That means good drafts and trades. Exactly what Nonis did and Gillis has failed to do.

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#18 UkeeRob
May 14 2013, 06:43PM
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@ricky steamboat

Oh believe me I do tire of the losing. It was heartbreaking to see them lose the cup final. I just tend to give the Canucks my full support. This early start to the off season sucks. Oh well, at least Leaf fans know the feeling.

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#20 ricky steamboat
May 14 2013, 09:10PM
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@NM00

Ageed, 10000 percent. With GM's like Gillis , you don't need opponents. Nonis isn;t doing too well over in TO either, as both Burkes teams have self destructed. Gotta give cedit to Gillis for somehow finding a way to make the Sedin siters team even more implosive.

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#21 ricky steamboat
May 14 2013, 09:14PM
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@UkeeRob

Well, your heart should have predicted it, after all when losing becomes the norm, it's time to stop supporting losers. I bet you wouldn't put your life savings in a "Bank of Canucks."

losing is corrected by the whip, not by unaccountability.

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#22 Dormant
May 15 2013, 02:08AM
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Great article.

All I can say is, they better not go dormant. It would be a collosal diaster having prospects all over the country in different systems, coaches ad locations. The NHL teams prospects get priority - Nucks prospects would be left in the dust. Not to mention they coudln't bond. It'd be a disaster.

Aquilini better make this work or we're gonna oust him as an owner.

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#23 nas19ua
May 15 2013, 08:05AM
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Why anybody doesn't see Atlanta as an option, I wonder? It's pretty close to most AHL teams locations, has an NHL facility (Philips Arena) and some hockey hungry people. I know its too far away from VAN, but its an option in AHL traveling.

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#24 2gansta2care
May 15 2013, 12:56PM
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Can they put one in Calgary?

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#25 pheenster
May 16 2013, 12:43AM
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If we're talking co-location with a WHL team, what about Victoria? Not sure if this city could support an AHL team and the Royals, but it might work as a parking spot until Abby gets sorted out.

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#26 Rob
May 16 2013, 10:42AM
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Why not look to other markets within BC? Why not look at places like Victoria, Kelowna, or Kamloops? All three places have decent sized arenas that are used for the WHL and all three places have airports that could easily shuttle players in and out of town. The only concern I could see is the baby Canucks would probably put a dent in the huge Junior hockey market in those cities but I think all 3 cities should get a reasonable look.

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