The Canucks Week in Quips for May 10

Mike Gillis never sleeps, cause sleep is the cousin of death.

Well, another disappointing season has come and gone for the Canucks. Whether you want to bring out the microscope and analyze what went wrong or just forget that it all happened, at least you now have several weeks of stress-free playoff hockey watching ahead of you! So there’s that, but not much else. 

Anyway, allow me to send you off into the sunset with the final installment of Canucks Quips for the 2013 season. Fair warning: it’s sort of an epic mishmash of emotions.

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1. I’ll start with a story. It was Game 2 of the 2011 Stanley Cup Finals, and my girlfriend and I had ventured over to Vancouver to take in the atmosphere. It took us hours to get into the viewing area outside of the CBC building, and once we actually did get in our view was horrible. We had to stand for the whole game, and Meg — not the biggest hockey fan in the world, but admirable in her tolerance and support of my obsession — was getting restless. The game was tied in the 3rd period. "Oh god, it’s going to go to overtime," she groaned. "Maybe they’ll score a quick one," I replied, actually convinced it would be a four overtime marathon. We know what happened next: Alex Burrows scored 11 seconds into overtime. The city exploded. The Canucks were up 2-0 in the Stanley Cup Finals. Meg and I found ourselves lost in the middle of a city pulsing with joy. But as the kid says in the clip from "Shogun Assassin" that opens GZA’s classic album Liquid Swords: "That was the night everything changed…"

2. In 14 playoff games since Game 2 of the finals, the Canucks are 2-12. Their offense abonded them after that fateful night, only showing up briefly against the Sharks on Tuesday when it was far too late. For all the criticism the Sedins have taken and will continue to take, they generated key goals in games 2, 3, and 4. It was the depth players that let the team down. Where were Chris Higgins, Jannik Hansen, Mason Raymond, and Derek Roy on the scoresheet? San Jose’s depth took over the series while the Canucks wilted.

3. The Canucks forwards as a group lacked a clear identity this season. They weren’t overly physical. They weren’t hard on the forecheck. They weren’t creative offensively. They had no 3rd line centre. Their 4th line was in constant flux. On any given night a guy like Higgins didn’t know if he was going to be a defensive checker or a top six winger. On one hand it’s a benefit having players who can slide up and down the lineup, but I’d argue it ended up hindering the Canucks in that most players lacked clearly-defined roles when the playoffs started.

4. Some of the line combinations Alain Vigneault pulled out of his hat were truly bizarre, but at the end of the day he was just playing the cards he was given. Mike Gillis failed to put together the right group of players. Case in point: our biggest complaint was AV’s unwillingness to insert Jordan Schroeder into the lineup in the playoffs. When your best option for a 3rd line centre is an undersized rookie, the GM hasn’t done his job.

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5. That isn’t to exonerate the coach in the slightest. AV was taken apart by Todd MacLellan, and some of his decisions — like the refusal to incorporate one of the league’s biggest shots into a power play featuring two of the league’s best playmakers — were indefensible. He rushed back Cory Schneider when Roberto Luongo had been their best player, and he didn’t truly shake up the look of his lines until the team was in a 0-3 hole. There is sufficient evidence to warrant bringing in a new coach at this point, and while I think AV was put in a difficult situation to succeed in one sense, I wouldn’t disagree with the move if it happened.

6. The players share Vigneault’s habit of waiting until it’s too late. There’s a complacency engrained in them that needs to be shaken free, and that probably has to come from a new coach. They played desperate hockey in the 3rd period of Game 2, and we didn’t see that again until the 3rd period of Game 4. In other words, only when they were in danger of falling into a hole or being eliminated altogether did we see their best hockey. You have to bring that sort of attitude from the opening puck drop in the playoffs.

7. As I feared after it ended, Game 2 was the best hockey this iteration of the Canucks was capable of playing, and it wasn’t enough. They crushed the Sharks in shot differential, as they did to most teams this season, but at the same time they lost the scoring chance battle, as they did to most teams this season. The Canucks were a very odd team this year in that regard: they threw a ton of shots towards the net, but they also gave their opponents way, way too many quality looks most nights.

8. Mike Gillis’ press conference yesterday was a bit of a mixed bag. He seems confident in the core, but says they need to get younger and bigger. I got the impression he was referring to the bottom six, which means Mason Raymond is a goner. It’s time, or past it even. In my mind, Raymond would excel on a team like the Coyotes or Predators, one that plays a controlled, defence-oriented system and capitlizes on turnovers with speed. I could also see him landing in Calgary, which would be weird.

9. Derek Roy can hit the bricks. He wasn’t even present for the year-end interviews yesterday, which is appropriate because he wasn’t really present in the playoffs either. The Roy trade will go down as a complete failure on Gillis’ resume, which is too bad because most of us considered it a great move when it was made (me included).

10. That’s becoming a common trend for ol’ Mikey G. It looked like the Canucks were getting a big 2nd line winger for peanuts when they acquired David Booth. Hasn’t worked out. It looked like they were getting a top-4 defenceman for a failed prospect when they traded for Keith Ballard. Hasn’t worked out. As Tyler Dellow of mc79hockey mentioned on the podcast with Drance yesterday, it makes more sense to judge a GM on his process around making trades than the actual result of the trade in a small window. In that sense I think Gillis has made sound moves, even though they sure don’t look good right now.

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11. The size vs. skill debate is alive and well again. Some point to the Kings and Bruins’ success as indicators that the Canucks need to get "bigger", while others point to the Blackhawks, Pens, Canadiens and Islanders of this season as examples of how skill wins. Here’s the thing: yes the Kings and Bruins were big, but they were also extremely skilled. For every Dustin Penner and Milan Lucic, there was a David Krejci or an Anze Kopitar. I worry about the Canucks deviating too far from skill, because good puck possession teams will always be the real contenders. 

12. Gillis and Laurence Gilman have a very challenging summer ahead of them. They have to clear some serious salary off the books (likely starting with Keith Ballard and Roberto Luongo) while filling some very signficant holes at forward at the same time. The club needs a skilled second line winger, a stalwart 3rd line centre (what Manny Malhotra was in 2010), and a reliable 4th line.

13. The two names that will be talked about at length as we attempt to keep our blogs populated with content through a long summer are David Clarkson and Nathan Horton. They both represent the ideal hybrid of size and skill that I talked about above. They remain long shots; as two of the more attractive names in a thin free agent pool they’ll be highly saught after, and as mentioned the Canucks have a lot of legwork to do before they can add signifcant contracts.

14. As I wind down here, if this is indeed the last we see of Alain Vigneault behind the Canucks bench, I have to give him his due. No matter what you think of the man, he coached the greatest Canucks team of all-time (2010-11), and brought the organization more success than any other coach in their history. Every core player flourished on his watch, arguably because of the situations he placed them in. Alex Burrows was a minor league plug when AV arrived, the Sedins were merely "good", and Kesler was as raw as they come. Props to you AV. It’s going to suck playing whatever team you’re coaching next year.

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15. Finally, same goes for Roberto Luongo. It’s hard to say enough good things about how he handled himself this season. Having a once-franchise player with a massive contract sitting on the bench could have been an absolute catastrophe. Most players of that ilk would struggle to accept that role, but most players aren’t as humble, generous, and flat out hilarious as Roberto Luongo. He’s one of the greatest athletes the city of Vancouver has ever seen, and after his public display of humility this season, I’m finding it harder and harder to wrap my head around why we want to get rid of him at all. I’ll quietly cheer for whatever team he ends up on. "Looks like Lui’s starting tonight!"

Well, that’s it for me. It has been a weird, disappointing season, but I’ve enjoyed every chance I get to write here. as ever, you can find me on Twitter. Here’s hoping we have some renewed hope to start next season. If not, I have a backup plan:


  • Mantastic

    “I worry about the Canucks deviating too far from skill, because good puck possession teams will always be the real contenders.”
    That’s my biggest concern too. Aside from the fact that I still believe skill teams can win in this league, the 10-11 Canucks were fun to watch and not just because they were very good. 2013, not so much.
    Even though I’m probably not with the majority here, I’m excited to see what happens and am positive about the management’s ability to make this team better.
    Now I don’t think they’ll instantly go back to their president’s trophy-winning ways, but despite everything, there’s still a lot to like in this team going forward.

    • Mantastic

      Agreed there are some strong elements but the Sedin-Burrows combination is soft and is not likely going to LEAD the offence moving forward. Henrik still has it i think and Danny is suffering. Splitting them up would be interesting as the cycle game has run its course in my opinion. It was very predictable in the SJ series. They picked up the cycle and cut it off. Anyway, I like Schneider and Lack in G. Garrison, Hamhuis, Bieksa, Tanev, Corrado looks like a quality D. ( you can include Elder in there but i think he is trade bait and gets moved ).

      Up front is where it is a cluster:

      Keeping danny and Henrik is quality ( depends on what they resign for). Kes, Burr are quality players but Burr is getting older. Let’s see at what level he can play at in years to come. Higgins has hustle but disappeared in the playoffs. ( injury or not ).

      Young kids: Jensen ( would look strong with Kes and potentially Kassian or on top line with Hank). Gaunce 3rd line C. Kellan Lain 4th line C.

      Wingers need to figure it out…..

    • BrudnySeaby

      “I worry about the Canucks deviating too far from skill, because good puck possession teams will always be the real contenders.” That’s my biggest concern too. Aside from the fact that I still believe skill teams can win in this league, the 10-11 Canucks were fun to watch and not just because they were very good. 2013, not so much. Even though I’m probably not with the majority here, I’m excited to see what happens and am positive about the management’s ability to make this team better. Now I don’t think they’ll instantly go back to their president’s trophy-winning ways, but despite everything, there’s still a lot to like in this team going forward.”

      Sedin…is that you? What are you doing here? Shouldn’t you be at the gym working on your powers of invisibility?

    • Fred-65

      Unfortunately Clarkson would not be able to play the game he does in NJ with the Canucks. He’d be in the box all night, sad but true. In fact when you think about while the rest of the league is trending towards big and bruising I don’t think it would work here. Most teams want to play the roll of the hammer now while Vcr will be condemned to be the nail

      As for Roy. I couldn’t believe that MG signed this guy. He’s not the typical centre you want for play-off hockey. I kept think hey maybe I’m wrong when fans kept heaping praise on the guy…….but in the end it turned out to be true a good player for game thirty in a league game but for the play-offs not so much

  • UkeeRob

    Luongo has been the best goaltender we have ever had. You could make a case for keeping him and trading Schneider. Schneider’s cap hit will one day be more than Luongo’s. It appears as though management is sold on going forward with Schneider. Regardless of how each of us Canuck fans feel about this, we need to get behind this decision. We need to support Schneider and wish Luongo well and thank him for his time here. As fans we cannot debate this endlessly. Team unity is an immeasurable ingredient to winning a championship. Fan unity may not seem important, but it is. If you are a true Canuck fan, you must not debate this further. Schneider cannot sense Canuck fans second guessing this into next season. It will only be counterproductive to what all true Canuck fans want, that being a championship. Inevitably there will be those who will start a Luu chant next season if Schneider has a bad game or two. If you are a true Canuck fan, you cannot do this. Regardless of how you have felt about this goaltender debate in the past, present or future we must think of the ultimate prize. Schneider must feel our unified support if we are to attain that prize. If we are all Canucks, we must show it or our ultimate prize will be unattainable.

  • UkeeRob

    I don’t think the top-six is where Vancouver has a problem at all. Yes the core’s getting older but the Sedins are still point-a-game players and will be for a couple more years. The problem is the bottom six. Look at the 2010-2011 team. What made that team so special? Healthy Kesler, obviously, but also a fantastic third line that crushed it defensively. That line created a ripple effect on the team – it lifted the defensive burden on Kesler, which caused opposing teams to refocus on him, opening up more space for the Sedins.

    I firmly believe that Vancouver’s top six, if they can stay healthy, is remains among the best in the league. If Gillis can really nail the third line – bring in a Malhotra-esque defensive centre (trade Edler for Couturier maybe?), play him between Higgins and Hansen or find a big energy forward (Raffi Torres again, or someone in that mold), and if Kesler and Booth can remain healthy or mostly-healthy for a season, I think you’d see Vancouver put up top-of-the-league offensive numbers again.

    • Mantastic

      Sedins weren’t even PPG players this year. what makes you think they’ll be PPG next year moving into a much harder division… they’ll be 33 and still be “elite” scoring? give me a break.

  • UkeeRob

    Henrik had 45 points in 48 games… Daniel had 40 points in 47 games.

    In a shortened season, that seems pretty damn close to point-a-game to me.

    I agree with Matt that the bottom six was pretty terrible this year (bottom 9 really). They just felt like a collection of spare parts, even though there are some quality players in there.

    I think it would be interesting to see the Sedins split up next year. Hank’s offence was crazy when Danny was injured (small sample, I know, but probably worth seeing if it could be repeated over the course of a season), and Danny is an underrated playmaker and could be exactly what Kesler needs on his wing. Might not work, but with a patient coach willing to try it out over 5-10 games, it might be worth a shot.

    I can only think of 7 forwards from the current team that I’d be comfortable seeing on next year’s team (Sedin, Sedin, Burrows, Kesler, Hansen, Higgins, Kassian… maybe Lapierre but only as a 4th C, and I wouldn’t be heartbroken if he were moved).

    Defence will be interesting with Corrado and Tanev there for a full year… suddenly the team would have three solid RH D.

  • BrudnySeaby

    I for one am hoping that both Gillis and AV get fired.

    AV has had his chance and did very, very well over the years. But it is time to move on and see if the team can move forward in performance again. Also, he has been regularly out coached in the play-offs, sometimes by better coaches, and sometimes because he is just too stubborn and refuses to adapt and exploit a possible advantage his team might have (had).

    As for firing Gillis, I say this because I feel that if the organisation is to reset, as he himself put it in words, I think it is best left to new management. Only then the Canucks as an organization can truly create a new identity. This would also enable the new management to truly put all options on the table. For one, if the team needs new assets, Gillis cannot do a 180 on the Luongo trade and trade Scheider (who would most likely fetch us way better players than the return in a Luongo trade). A new GM could re-evaluate the situation and see if Luongo would be willing to stay under new management and coaching. Also, on a more personal level, I feel that Gillis is never humble, but always defiant, and I don’t like that from our GM as he is part of the face of the franchise.

    Having said all this, my deepest wish is for the Canucks to hire a coach who is committed to playing an up-tempo and attacking style of hockey; a style that fits the Canucks. And that in all the pieces they bring in, skill is the leading factor. After all, size has not been the problem, but adequate scoring has. And that needs to be addressed.

    • asdf

      1. not sure if MG meant “reset” as in start from scratch. core is going to be intact and keep in mind how many players currently have no trade clauses.

      2. i don’t understand why ppl want gillis to be “humble” or else fired – like…do we feel we are entitled to an apology from him? he’s going to defend his team and defend his staff and their decision, obviously. i don’t think he’s “defiant” but he’s just a guy who knows how to address the media. which gm is so “humble” that you want him as head of your organization? would rather have a smart guy who sounds like he knows what he’s talking about.

      i think MG has a very good feel for the canucks and understands the roles that players play very well. that’s good enough for me, bc there are so so many GMs in this league who don’t even meet that threshold.

      if i were a betting man, AV will be scapegoated out of town and MG will stay.

    • BrudnySeaby

      “Gillis cannot do a 180 on the Luongo trade and trade Scheider (who would most likely fetch us way better players than the return in a Luongo trade). A new GM could re-evaluate the situation and see if Luongo would be willing to stay under new management and coaching.”


      By far the most compelling reason, in my opinion, to hire a new GM would be to keep Luongo and trade Schneider for an impact young forward.

      I don’t see why we should accept Gillis giving away a top 10 goaltender for peanuts just because the Canucks have another guy who looks like he is becoming a top 5 goaltender.

      Something along the lines of the Johnson for Stewart/Shattenkirk deal. I believe Cory would be able to bring that kind of player (or those kinds of players) back to the organization.

      I suppose Gillis could get Luongo on board with staying in Van City if he’s the #1 and Cory is traded for a good player.

      But then what the hell has been the point of the last two years?

      Schneider should have been traded for an impact player such as Jeff Carter LAST season. In a world where Jack Johnson can yield Carter, I’m confident Schneider could have done the same.

      This is not hindsight. It’s pretty simple asset management. Two great goalies. One net. Trade the goalie (even if it is the better goalie) who makes the Canucks as a whole the better team.

      And a GM should be judged on both process and outcome. If a GM is only judged on process, there is zero accountability.

      And poor outcomes should make all of us question whether or not Gillis has a good process.

  • BrudnySeaby

    @ Sedintosedin

    The way I understood his “reset” was that it has to do with addressing the way the team is built to face the hockey style that is prevalent in todays NHL (less speed and small bodies, more grit and big bodies). In the presser he acknowledged that the core of the Canucks is in place and that that core needs to be complemented with these kind of players to give them a chance to win (as you cannot magically switch out the whole team).

    When they hit the reset button to address these changes, I would like them to address the culture of the Canucks. I think it needs to change a bit and I should have mentioned that earlier. It needs to be where everybody involved is fully accountable for their own performance and behaviour. Examples: players on the ice taking bad penalties and having bad discipline, coach and/or player calling out the refs for poor decisions, calling other teams out for their on ice behaviour, etc. (in 2010-2011 they talked about playing whistle to whistle, seems like they have forgotten about that along the way somehow…)

    Of course, the MG could have been far more accountable during the press-conference (and thus humble) and I would argue that the accountability needs to start with him and trickle down through the whole organisation. Also, where the hell was AV? He should have been there to address the media as well and face all the difficult questions. But no, he left the GM, his captain and the other players to do all the dirty work. I find this unbelievable. AV doesn’t show an ounce of accountability by this.

    So yes, more humble. And more accountability would be nice.

  • BrudnySeaby

    Trading the older goalie is about keeping the window open longer. Of course that only works if you can draft talent to replace the old talent, but a goalie is perhaps the one player who can drag any team into playoff contention.

    I agree with Matt – if we can get the right 3C, there will be a ripple effect throughout the team.

    If we can sort out our powerplay, the Sedins should easily get back to being PPG players.

    • BrudnySeaby

      Keeping the younger goalie only keeps the window open longer if he is as good as the older goalie a few years down the road.

      Considering the fluctuation of goalies from year to year, why should we be confident that 3 or 4 years from now Schneider will be significantly better than Luongo?

      How do we know Schneider is going to be durable as a 60-65 game starter? How do we know he will play at an elite level when he is fatigued from a heavier workload?

      FWIW, Schneider just got injured after a prolonged stretch of games. It could be a one off. But we really have no idea how durable he will be.

      This is the second time Gillis is trying to predict the unpredictable nature of goaltending.

      He already regrets the first instance (signing Luongo to a contract that takes him through his age 43 season).

      Giving away Luongo, if that is what it comes to, doesn’t make much sense when the player acquired in a Schneider trade would have just as good of a chance at extending the window.

      • BrudnySeaby

        “FWIW, Schneider just got injured after a prolonged stretch of games. It could be a one off. But we really have no idea how durable he will be.”

        Would you prefer another 6 more years of Luongo?
        If you couldn’t win in that time, what makes you think he will be able to do it six more years later?

        I don’t know how a goalie can get that kind of contract when he hasn’t won anything.

        At this point in time with that stupid contract, plus his penchant for melt downs, Gillis would be lucky to get a box of steaks in return for a trade. There’s a time one has to CUT their losses. This guy is over rated, over paid, and no one believes in him except the delusional fans that are left. If i went about my business based on the Canuck model of building a winning team, I’d be bankrupt and on the streets a long time ago.

  • BrudnySeaby

    My biggest fear as well – that they deviate far away from puck possession in quest of getting bigger.

    I’m hoping they can get a 3C or young winger in a Luongo trade this summer. That should fill 1 of the holes. I think Boyd Gordon is a good 3C/4C option as well. I like Ryder and Clarkson – but Clarkson’s gonna get paid.

    Still wonder where Jordan Schroeder fits on this team? He’s a centre who hasn’t played well on the wing. Can he fill their 3C next yr?