Welcome to a new feature here on Canucks Army and all sites on the Nation Network: What Would You Do Wednesday, where we put you, yes YOU, in charge of your own imaginary Vancouver Canucks. We’ll present you with a different scenario each week, and you tell us how you’d solve it in the comments section below. Give props to the answers you do like and trash the ones you don’t. Easy! So let’s get started:
In our last WWYD installment, we asked you how Vancouver should use Alex Burrows in their forward lines. Despite his success with the Sedins and Vancouver’s declining scoring rates at 5-on-5, reader van implied that Burrows was best utilized elsewhere in the lineup as the Sedins are good enough to take care of themselves:
The Sedins have produced similar results with with Burrows, Hansen, Kassian and Jensen (~60% GF and CF) and could probably find similar chemistry with a player like Vey. Basically the impact Burrows has on the Sedins is more replaceable than the impact he could have on other lines.
Wetcoaster also tended to agree that Burrows’ greatest current utility wasn’t as a running mate with the Sedin twins, but rather as a mentor for other young players like Linden Vey and Zack Kassian:
I think the question of what to do with Burrows should be dictated by the needs of the Canucks’ organization going forward – and I think Burr’s value now isn’t necessarily in scoring the dirty goals himself but in mentoring the upcoming crop of Canucks prospects coming into the pipeline.
He works hard, plays hard, sees the ice well, defensively responsible, etc. etc.
Those are fine and valuable qualities (that apply to Hansen and Higgins as well) – but also ones that can be ataught and need to be learned by a lot of young players.
This was originally seen as a rebuilding year by management prior to their run of early-season success, and the Canucks should stay focused on developing their young players and you can’t tell me that Burrows doesn’t have a lot to teach Horvat, Kassian, Vey (and later Virtanen and McCann) about consistency, work ethic, location (and bad shooting percentages).
This week, we’ll be asking you a bigger question than what lineup decisions Willie Desjardins should make. The Vancouver Canucks played game 41 of their regular season last night – a 5-1 loss to the first place Nashville Predators – meaning that they are exactly half way through their 2014-2015 season. As of this writing, they have a record of 23-15-3, meaning they are on pace for 98 points. They sit 4th in the Pacific division, and hold a two point lead on Calgary and a 4 point lead on Dallas and Colorado for the final Wild Card spot, however Vancouver has games in hand on everyone in the West.
98 points has been enough to make the playoffs every season since the shootout was introduced, however it hasn’t been unusual for the West to have seven 100-point teams and an 8th just squeak in with 96 or so points. Either way, with Colorado and Calgary likely to fall out of the playoff race, it will be difficult for Vancouver to miss the playoffs if they play the way they have over the first half of the season.
As this is the case, another shot at a postseason run looks probable. So, what should Vancouver do to prepare themselves? Should they be actively trying to buy players to gear up for a postseason run? Should they be selling off aging players to build for the future? Or should they stand pat and hope they don’t need to spend valuable assets to accomplish their goals?
On Tuesday morning, Jason Botchford of the Province indicated that Vancouver has to be a buyer at the trade deadline because of their explicit goal of making the playoffs. In some ways, buying at the deadline makes sense. Despite Vancouver’s struggles of late, they still have the second best goal differential in the division, and the rest of the Pacific’s would-be powerhouses being weirdly inept opens the door for anyone to make it through to the Conference finals.
As this is the case, 2014-15 may be shaping up to be a perfect storm of sorts for the Vancouver Canucks. None of their chief rivals have really posted elite results, and once you get through the divisional round, it’s anyone’s game. Hell, if the Oilers and Hurricanes can meet in a Cup final, anything can happen. Couple this with the inevitable slow-downs of the Sedins, Dan Hamhuis, Kevin Bieksa, Radim Vrbata, Alex Burrows, and Ryan Miller, and this may be the very last kick at the can for this Vancouver core, so they’d be silly not to take this opportunity for one final run.
The other side of this argument is that the writing is already on the wall for this team. They can’t manufacture goals or chances or shots or attempts as proficiently as the majority of the NHL, and their special teams aren’t good enough to win them games on their own. Scoring has been an issue through two coaching regimes now, and you simply can’t win if you can’t score goals.
Age has also taken its toll on the core, as Daniel and Henrik Sedin simply aren’t the players they once were. It’s an uncomfortable truth to face, but the sooner the Canucks and their fans confront the fact that the team isn’t good anymore, the sooner the team can start making moves with their eye on the next window opening. The best time to be a seller is when your assets still have the most value. Buy low, sell high, as they say.
Of course, the Canucks could also stand pat and trust that what they have is enough to make the playoffs and beat an Anaheim or a San Jose in a seven-game series. Ownership would get their playoff revenue, while management doesn’t have to mortgage the future on a risky short-term bet. This path comes with an element of risk though, as Vancouver still could miss they playoffs and get nothing for their current player assets, while avoiding a top draft pick. The upside is all the benefits of being a buyer though, with none of the downsides.
So, with the first half of the year behind us, what would you do to prepare Vancouver for the second half and the push towards the playoffs? Would you position yourself as a buyer and try and take advantage of a weak division? Would you announce that you’re a seller and begin building for the future? Or would you wait and see how this season plays out and decide on which path you’ll take at the draft? Let us know in the comments below!