Focus, Kassian, FOCUS. (Photo: Rich Lam)
This is a regular Friday feature combining a healthy mixture of observation, analysis, and foresight on the Vancouver Canucks. If you’d like to get at me about anything covered in this column, follow me on Twitter at @yyjordan and let’s start a textual relationship (wink).
1. Well, the trade deadline came and went this week, and Mike Gillis has seen better days as the General Manager of the Vancouver Canucks. No matter how you slice it, Gillis outright failed on April 3rd. He failed to make the extra move needed to put this team in a prime position for the playoffs, despite reportedly being in on discussions about Ryan Clowe, Jussi Jokinen, and Raffi Torres. Gillis had talked about wanting another versatile forward in the lineup, yet somehow couldn’t do better than the 6th/7th round pick Pittsburgh gave up for Jokinen, who can play both wing and centre.
2. But mostly, April 3rd will be remembered as the day Mile Gillis failed Roberto Luongo, who deserves to be a starter on another team given his considerable abilities and the way he has handled himself in a tough situation. This week’s Graphic Comment is right: the Canucks are a better team for the remainder of the season with Luongo rather than Ben Scrivens and a pair of 2nd round picks. But Gillis has put himself in an impossible situation; he’s got a franchise goalie with wounded pride riding the pine, hoping beyond hope that there’s something resembling a market for his services this summer.
3. To be fair to Gillis, the situation was possibly compounded by the fact that David Nonis is still bitter about being "screwed over" by Gillis and Aquilini. In this instance, the scare quotes around "screwed over" translate to "not doing enough to improve your hockey team, missing the playoffs and then getting canned for it". Gee whiz, no wonder he’s carrying a vendetta! Nonis thinks he’s sitting fat and sassy with his club 5 points clear of 8th in the East, but given that his Leafs are one of the worst possession teams in the league and are 1st in PDO, there very well may come a time when he wishes he had put personal issues aside and made an honest effort at a fair deal.
4. We were all a little surprised that Gillis didn’t manage to pull off another deal on deadline day, but perhaps we shouldn’t be. My sources (the voices in my head, basically) have informed me that instead of working the phones and trying to make things happen, Gillis just sat in the corner holding a framed photo of Roberto Luongo while softly singing U2’s "With or Without You".
5. Let’s move on to what the Canucks DID do this week: trade for Derek Roy. Exactly 2 weeks ago while discussing trade targets in this space I said "a guy like Derek Roy would be a terrific fit." Needless to say, I’m happy about this deal. He’s exactly the kind of versatile centreman the Canucks were in dire need of — someone who is reponsible in their own end but also possesses significant offensive creativity.
6. I appreciated Chris Higgins’ quote about Roy being "a breath of fresh air". I think that is something this Canucks team desperately needed. The core group has been essentially the same for so long, and there were no major shakeups after last year’s playoff loss. Things can get stale, and Roy gives them a new dynamic.
7. The re-signing of Higgins for the next 4 years at 2.5M per was a suave move by management that sort of got lost in the hoopla of the trade deadline. It was appropriate that after Higgins gushed over what Roy brings to the table, the two of them formed a line with Jannik Hansen and had a hell of an outting against the Oilers. 2.5M for a guy who can fill-in on any line and brings it every night? Yeah, more of that, please.
8. The speed with which Zack Kassian was called up yesterday tells me that management was counting on adding another forward at the deadline. The fact that they had to tell him to rein it in a bit and refocus tells me that it’s been a long time since anyone in management was a 22-year-old rich single male in Vancouver. You can’t ask your players’ knockout wives to man the phones during a telethon but then prevent one of your rookies from going on the prowl! Caman!
9. In all seriousness, the Canucks for Kids Telethon is one of the many great annual events put on by the team. They brought out the big guns this year with both Trevor Linden AND Pavel Bure in the house. I can’t wait until 2023 when the Sedins just start popping up at telethons and other charity events.
10. Speaking of Bure, parading him out for a press conference was a great bit of post-disappointing deadline PR. Pavel said he has talked to Aquilini about jersey retirement but nothing is confirmed yet. This begs the question: if they do raise his number to the rafters, is it #10 or #96? I’ll always think of Bure as #10, but we wouldn’t want any of the younger fans getting confused and thinking they’re honouring Trevor Letowski.