Congratulations on an outstanding start to the year! Our $6M goalie is playing like a $6M goalie, the Sedins continue to drink from the fountain of youth, and the young guys are playing better than any of us ever could have hoped for. Make no mistake about it, the first four games of the year have been a lot of fun. Hopefully, the good times keep rolling; even us critical fans still want the Canucks to be successful by just about any means necessary.
However, as a co-owner of the team, I’m not without concern, and I’d like to have a chat.
Of course, I suppose myself and the millions of other Canucks fans aren’t legal co-owners of the team, but it’s a mutually dependent relationship. You may call me a fan, a shortened form of fanatic (definitely an apt term for many of us in this market, am I right?), but the team only has value because us fans choose to fork over some of the highest ticket prices in the league for the privilege of watching our team play. In fact most of us can’t afford to get in the doors of Rogers Arena anymore, so we support the team by watching on Sportsnet, buying our Bo Horvat shirshey’s and whatever other collateral we can get our hands on. At the end of the day, a team’s value without its fans is sort of like a balloon without air. Maybe co-owners isn’t the right term for our relationship. Let’s go with business partner.
It’s not like I’ve hated every move this management group has made. They were right to get what they could for a rapidly deteriorating Kevin Bieksa. The Tanev, Weber, Baertschi, and Bartkowski signings all look pretty good, and they’ve picked up some nice players in the past couple drafts. Speaking of the draft, as a draft nerd I understand how rare it is for second round picks turn into NHLers, so I appreciate the process behind the Vey, Baertschi and Clendening trades, even though the end results are a bit of a mixed bag.
However, as your business partner, I feel obligated to share some concerns with the way our team is being run. It seems to me that the new guys are playing a bit fast and loose with the company’s assets.
The first real eye opener for me was when they signed Derek Dorsett and Luca Sbisa to rich extensions last spring. It wasn’t so much that I dislike those players. The fact is that every team has a few guys that the analytics types aren’t fond of. The issue is that the team seemed to completely misread their market value in the backdrop of a dropping Canadian dollar, which was destined to lead to a flat salary cap. I mean, if a basement-dwelling blogger can see the writing on the wall as far back as last November, why can’t this highly paid executive team? I know what you’re going to say, an extra couple years and couple million dollars spent above the curve on our hard earned dollars isn’t a big deal in the grand scheme of things. It’s a little thing.
I could spend far too long discussing the Eddie Lack situation. Here is a guy who was so desperate for a chance at a starting spot he signed a 2 year, $2.75M AAV deal with the Carolina Hurricanes. In no world should Robin Lehner, Martin Jones, and Cam Talbot all command higher returns that what the Canucks received for Lack. Let’s not exaggerate, though. It is just the difference between draft a pick in the 20s and one in the 60s. It’s a little thing.
Then we had the Brandon Sutter trade and extension. I’m not going to argue the details of the trade itself. Obviously the Penguins thought the package they received was better than the package they gave up, and the Canucks believe the reverse to be true. What irks me is that management chose to sign him to a long-term deal, without playing a single game, on the basis that he would be a “foundational” center. I thought Henrik was our foundational center, for now anyway, and isn’t Horvat our foundation center of the future? With the stunning development of Jared McCann, Sutter is now playing out of position on the wing with the twins. Maybe Sutter as a converted winger is exactly what the team needs, or maybe he’ll return to center after McCann plays his 9 games. However, from where we sit today it looks like he’s been outplayed by a couple of kids, and his long-term role with the Canucks may be in the bottom six. There’s nothing wrong with being a strong third line center, but if so we’re overpaying him for his services in both years and salary. Is it a huge deal? No. It’s just another little thing.
Then the Frank Corrado thing happened. Hey, I get it. Corrado got outplayed by Ben Hutton, and Jake Virtanen and Jared McCann earned roster spots too. When your team has three rookies play their way onto the roster, forcing management to make tough decisions, that’s a champagne problem, right Francesco? Plus, it’s not like Corrado is going to win the Norris anytime soon. But the thing is, we know what happens to the Canucks blue line over the course of a season. They get decimated. Over the past few season, the Canucks top 6 defensemen have averaged close to 80 missed games between them. Last year the team iced 10 different defensemen. The year before that? 11. With that fact pattern, it is critical you not only have defensive depth, but preferably cheap depth. Especially if you’ve made a few salary cap mistake.
So if you have the opportunity to protect an affordable player like Corrado, who Utica coach Travis Green chose to lead his team to the Calder Cup finals only a few months ago, while Hutton barely made the pre-game skate, you protect him. Even if he doesn’t turn out to reach his second pair ceiling that many, including myself, think he will, he’s cheap depth you’ll need sooner rather than later (side note: Welcome back Edler). Even the basement bloggers knew there was a way to keep Frank:
This was really avoidable.
Assign Biega, Cracknell and Hutton.
Place Higgins on IR
— Ryan Biech (@ryanbiech) October 5, 2015
Either they didn’t understand the intricacies of the waiver wire as well as a blogger, or they didn’t think anyone would claim him, or they didn’t care. Honestly, I’m not sure which scenario is more concerning. But hey, it’s just Frank Corrado, who has not won a Norris trophy. It’s just another little thing.
As a successful business leader, you’d know better than most, so maybe I should ask you. Do the people who help you run one of the most successful real estate development companies in North America make little mistake after little mistake?
I don’t know much about business, what with still living in my mom’s basement and all, but I would think that the most successful companies focus on getting it right every time, even if it is just the little things. Their likely position would be that if you can’t do the little things right, how can you be expected to do the big things right?
An excellent executive team would have prided themselves on accurately predicting the consequences of a sliding Canadian dollar on the free agent market. They would have ensured the value they received for assets like Eddie Lack was market value, not below. They’d at least watch Brandon Sutter practice with his new teammates before backing up the money truck. And they damn well wouldn’t watch a 22-year-old defensemen with second pairing upside walk out the door for nothing when it could have been easily avoided.
Some may think what I’m asking for is unreasonable, but is it really unreasonable to expect excellence from the people who manage our team, Francesco? I would expect a successful guy like you would expect nothing less.