OK, before we begin, everyone breathe and watch Eddie Lack make some amazing saves.
Good, now let’s never talk about that Detroit game ever again. Well, after this. It was perhaps the lowest point of a season filled with low points for Canucks fans; it’s one thing to lose a game, but it’s another thing completely to lose a game against a team playing its second of back to back games, yet still somehow get outworked.
In the old days, the Canucks were often accused of not working hard enough for sixty minutes and instead relying solely on their talent to get them wins. This current Canucks roster doesn’t have that luxury, yet they chose to….well, I don’t quite know what they chose to do in order to try and win last night’s game. Maybe they thought Eddie Lack was going to score a goal for them at one point? Maybe getting over Dale "Dutch Gretzky" Weise is harder than we think?
"Damn it Dutch Gretz, you promised Dalpes you wouldn’t cry!"
Read on past the jump for more.
Regardless, last night’s game brought the crescendo of questions (and anger, so, so very much anger) to new heights as fans in Canucks Nation eyed the calendar warily, noting that the NHL trade deadline was approaching on March 5th. The question (and the anger, never forget the anger) that everyone was asking was, "What will Gillis do before the deadline passes?"
As my overloard and commander in chief noted last year, Mike Gillis can best be described as a "cautious" GM. As I noted in an article that was about 10,000 words too long, the Canucks don’t really have a great track record when it comes to this whole "deadline trading" thing.
It’s hard to believe much of anything will happen if we go by past records. That being said, this is a different climate we’re in, one in which NHL teams are quote-unquote being handcuffed by the salary cap. As everyone is aware, the NHL salary cap dropped this year, but is expected to go up next year, and as a result, it is thought that many teams are unable, or unwilling, to make moves due to the one year dip in the cap. Will this impact the Canucks? Has it already?
My first bit of research was to see how much trading had been impacted by this year’s salary cap to see if there is any indication that yes, trading overall is down. I am not one to make fancy charts and graphs (unless I use MS Paint, then I can make some pretty kick ass charts and graphs) so let’s just look at the number of trades that have happened during the course of the start of a season until a month before the trade deadline (to bring us aproximately where we are in the season now), for the last six seasons:
Current season – 19 trades (Oddly enough, 7 of the trades since the season started have involved the Oilers. Yes, 37% of the trades done so far, Edmonton was in on them. Even better is that 4 of the trades involved Toronto. 58% of all trade activity so far has been produced by Canada. You’re welcome, slow hockey news days on TSN.)
2013 – 25 trades (Cole for Ryder was the biggest trade, unless you’re Pierre McGuire, in which case that Dustin Tokarski trade made you Tokarski yourself).
2012 – 23 trades (Turris for Rundblad and Rene Borque for Cammalleri were the big deals).
2011 – 22 trades (There were no big deals, really, unless that trade for Nathan Paetsch was a memorable night for Canucks fans. Who? Exactly.)
2010 – 14 trades (Higgins and Kotalik for Jokinen and Prust was a big deal, though none might be as bad as Cam Barker actually getting Chicago Nick Leddy. Cam Barker had trade value at one point, I kid you not.)
2009 – 28 trades (Steen and Colaiacovo for Lee Stempniak was easily the biggest deal).
Trading activity league-wide is probably lower this season than the raw number indicates due to the Oilers pushing the numbers higher, but for the most part, there just simply isn’t a lot of significant activity from the start of the season until the build up to the deadline at any point in the last six seasons. So for the people who think Mike Gillis is the devil for not having done a deal by now, he’s not the only GM who tends to sit back and wait during this time.
There are most likely not a lot of dance partners out there for Gillis, much less ones looking for a strict hockey trade where both sides benefit. Alas, this doesn’t help us predict how this trade deadline will go, though, as we don’t know if trading will pick up like it traditionally does, or if it will stutter and stall due to the aforementioned cap fluctation this year.
That brings us back to the question of "What should Mike Gillis do?", then. Assuming trading stays the same and the usual deadline shenanigans go down, what should Gillis attempt to do? The Canucks are of course no longer in the position they were in two years ago, much less last year. Remember that window everyone talks about? Well regardless of your feelings on that metaphor, it is leaning towards closed more than open at this point in the season.
Not many people think the Canucks should be loading up on parts and spending young assets for a lengthy playoff run, as for some crazy reason watching a team that was swept out of the playoffs two years in a row play even worse this year doesn’t inspire a lot of confidence. So what should they do at the deadline?
If the Canucks are smart, they do nothing. Don’t make a trade unless it’s an obvious Jack Johnson-for-Jeff Carter type trade. That mythical "Alex Edler for Evander Kane….ok we’ll throw in a third rounder to top it off" kind of deal (please note I am not saying the Canucks will get Kane for Edler at all) is the only deal the Canucks should go after.
If someone wants to kick the tires on David Booth for a draft pick, they should of course do it (nobody will, but let’s pretend just for fun). If there is any other pending UFA on the team that somebody wants, then yes, go for it. If they even get an offer for a Burrows level of player for a good young prospect, they should honestly consider it. It doesn’t mean they have to do a full on re-build right this second, but adding another young part to the mix (even though I doubt many people will be buying high on Burrows) would be a prudent course of action.
What the Canucks need to say no to is any kind of Derek Roy deal, as this team is just not in a position to be buying at all. This is not a team that is one top six forward away from contending. Just try re-watching any game against a Californian team and it makes it very hard to imagine the Canucks getting through one of them, let alone two of them (go watch the Eddie saves again if this upset you. It has a calming effect).
The Canucks will get healthier as this season wears on, or at least they should if the Hockey Gods ease up a bit, and they can still make the playoffs and still show off their Torts aggression. They don’t need to trade Horvat, Shinkaruk, or any other of their scant few prospects in an attempt to win this season. It’s sad to see the team so far removed from 2011, but that’s the reality of the situation in my humblest of opinions.
At the end of the day, the Canucks do need to re-build, re-tool, whatever you want to brand it, and it can be done without doing a complete meltdown. The optimistic view is to try and do what Detroit did, and age gracefully and contend with an aging core. The pessimistic view is to avoid becoming Calgary, and continue to put off a re-build until you’ve devalued your roster so much that you’ve set your franchaise back several years and have to hire Brian Burke to threaten to punch people in a barn again.
The trade deadline fan in me will be bummed out by lack of activity, due to the fact I always watch deadline day with the thought that the Canucks will be adding "the last piece" just before trading closes for the season. The realist in me, though, see the Canucks in the odd position of being the seller more than the buyer for the first time in a while, and that is ok, because sometimes hockey teams have to do that. it might not be fun to admit that the team is no longer the President Trophy winning bad asses of years past (two, count them, TWO times in a row, baby!), but it doesn’t mean it’s the end of the world, either.
Whenever I get too sad about deadline day trading, though, I always remember 2006 and remind myself "it’s not always a good idea to be a buyer anyways…"
(Stick tap to NHLtradetracker.com for the pic)