Screengrab via Play Now Sports
All of the talk in Vancouver leaving yesterday’s trade deadline had to do with the one that the Canucks didn’t make, rather than the two they did. The way the rumours had been given an opportunity to gain steam and marinate in the week leading up to it surely played into that, as did Ryan Kesler’s tweet (and awkward way of trying to deflect the attention afterwards, except not really).
How the team handled the entire situation has been a polarizing topic. Without being in the room, we may never know the full story of how close a trade actually was at any time leading up to the deadline, but the fact of the matter is that the Canucks are a fast-sinking ship, and a seemingly malcontent Kesler is still here.
A case can certainly be made that it would’ve behooved the team to expedite his departure from the situation in an attempt to begin the “retooling” as Mike Gillis calls it, but – strap into your seats – I’m actually of the belief that the Canucks were wise to note cater to the contenders that circled them once they smelled blood.
Speaking frankly and based on what we know of the Pittsburgh Penguins offers on the table, would having sent Kesler their way been anything but catering to them? A package of Brandon Sutter, and two draft picks? An overrated third line center and two picks (that figure not to be in a prime slot because of where the Penguins sit in the standings) for what’s arguably the Canucks’ best player?
That’s hardly the king’s ransom I would expect Vancouver to get in return for the player affectionately (and more recently, annoyingly) referred to as “Beast Mode”. Even if he’s only on-pace for his lowest point total over an 82-game season since 2008, I’d have to imagine that a second-line center of his caliber can fetch more than that… right? Then again, I don’t wear a fancy suit.
But when your General Manager is tripping on himself, spinning this season as just an “anomaly” (conveniently, last season was a “weird” one) and symbolically throwing in the towel with the trade of Roberto Luongo, you can’t deal from a position of strength. Getting back to that tripping remark – the Canucks are by his admission “fighting for a playoff spot”. Not that I think anyone is buying that, these days.
With this we are just beginning to scratch the surface of the Kesler-Canucks dichotomy. The narratives, both inward and out, are as fluid and interchangeable as Kesler’s linemates in Vancouver, and every bit as suspect. Just a day before the deadline, the Canucks were effectively “retooling”, or something. They couldn’t trade Kesler, and now they’re fighting for the playoffs. Right.
The saddest part about all of this is that I can’t help but feel that the reality lies somewhere smack dab in the middle: no-man’s land, as it were. And in that you have just a glimpse into the mind of one Michael David Gillis. The writing is on the wall: miss the playoffs and your walking papers are ready.
With this in mind, I can’t help but acknowledge the sort of pretzel logic – thanks for that term, Steely Dan – Gillis has found himself trapped in. Realistically speaking, the Canucks don’t have a hope in high-hell of making the playoffs. BUT, that hope is marginally better with Ryan Kesler. That said, what good will be making the playoffs, just to be jettisoned in a similar fashion to last year? And so it goes on, and on, and on… and on.
With the team’s embattled leader desperate to save his job, how could we not expect the vultures to swirl in? Surely the hope is that Gillis can be swayed into accepting less than market value (where, oh where, would they get the idea that he would EVER do such a thing?) so as to showcase a longterm plan and perhaps sway the Aquilinis into giving him another year. How can I assume anything else when the best reported offer centered on a career third-liner?
Then there’s the issue of that meddling ownership. To this point nobody has been able to put a thumb on just how much involvement ownership had in the deadline war room, but Gillis admitted that they were to some degree involved in the entirety of the process (and not just with the Kesler situation). Others have intimated as much, as well.
There is, of course, the remarks from one Penguins writer, Rob Rossi, who suggests that ownership was the main impediment in getting any deal done with the Canucks. Rossi even went so far as to suggest that ownership “nixed” a trade between the two clubs. But then again, lets just remember who’s agenda he’s pushing here; something tells me he’s not exactly a Canucks fan.
By that same token, I can’t help but wonder if ownership really was the mitigating factor here. Remember, if you will, that this is the same ownership group that was reticent to buyout Keith Ballard (how’s his post-AV Norris bid going, anyways?) and his onerous contract last offseason. Oh, and yeah, that Luongo guy too. Whatever wound up happening to him?
Is ownership every bit as delusional as some would write them off as? Well, if they’re forcing Gillis to keep Kesler around for a playoff push (for that Cash Rules Everything Around Me, dollar dollar bill, y’all), the answer is probably yes. Very much yes.
It’s also likely that they just don’t trust Gillis and his crisis goatee at this point as well. It would be incredibly unfair and disingenuous of me to look at the Canucks goaltending situation without taking into account the surrounding circumstances… BUT! In less than a calendar year, Vancouver has gone from having it’s best goaltending tandem in franchise history to having two very unproven netminders in their stead. Oh, and the returns on that tandem include: one roster player, one blue chip prospect and one floundering prospect of a backup goaltender.
Basically, things in Canuckistan are incredibly unstable and volatile. As volatile as I can ever remember things being. Whether the Canucks couldn’t get what they wanted, ownership said no, or Gillis is just being stubborn doesn’t matter at this point.
What matters is that by waiting until the draft, more teams will be able to partake in the Ryan Kesler sweepstakes. And that, is good. Better yet, there might even be a new guy at the helm by then. Me, I’m putting an electric razor in his welcoming gift-basket. I’ve had enough of the crisis goatee.