Well, it’s now been a week since the Canucks’ season finally, mercifully came to a conclusion. But while their last game was a week ago, the season was really over a few weeks earlier as they careened wildly down the NHL standings during a nine game losing streak to close out March. And despite the dead cat bounce that was the three wins against the playoff-bound California teams, the Canucks finally came a complete stop with the third-worst record in the NHL this season.
I would say they hit rock bottom, but not quite. They landed on the Leafs and Oilers.
Now, you might think that those of us that have been calling for a rebuild through the draft would be satisfied with a finish that leaves the Canucks with a 33% chance of picking in the top three. And you would be right. That might literally be the only thing many of you have been right about all season, but you would be right.
However, the fact that the Canucks wound up in the bottom three despite trying their best to make the playoffs does not inspire much in the way of confidence. Being bad while trying to be good is a sign of front office ineptitude. It reminds me more of the Oilers over the last 10 years, than the Leafs in the last two, and it doesn’t bode well.
The problem is one of decision-making and there is little to no evidence that this group is capable of making sound decisions. So while it’s great that they find themselves in a position to add another top prospect to the organization in June, I remain unconvinced that they can develop them well and surround them with enough solid pieces to actually build a team that can eventually compete for the Stanley Cup.
Sure, the more vocal among you will tell me I should wait and see. That Benning is restocking the prospect pool. That the contracts he has given out aren’t that bad and he has a lot of cap room to work with. That he should get the benefit of the doubt. But I’ve already spent more than enough time cataloging the failures of this management team. What more is there to see?
Or maybe you’re thinking hindsight is 20/20. After all, the team was decimated by injuries and nobody could have seen them finishing this poorly, right?
The problems with the Canucks went well beyond their injury woes, but lets start there.
The lack of depth on the blue line was needlessly exposed this season and, ironically, so was Frank Corrado:
As Thomas Drance wrote right here on Canucks Army at the time:
There’s been a lot written about Vancouver’s lack of depth along the blue line in recent months, and one might reasonably argue that the club couldn’t afford to lose a promising 22-year-old defender. If we’re discussing asset management, it’s probably also worth noting that the club has now dealt Gustav Forsling for Adam Clendenning, traded Clendenning this summer, and have now lost Corrado on waivers – further depleting an area of need in the system.
And a week later, Money Puck spelled it out even more clearly:
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.
So yeah, nobody saw this coming.
And just in case you still don’t think they could have used Corrado, let’s see how he did (on a horrible Leafs team) in comparison to the Canucks’ blue liners:
But hey, at least they were able to sign Tryamkin. That should give them some depth. Only, as Ryan Biech pointed out in early March, they almost couldn’t sign Tryamkin because of the unnecessary cap woes they found themselves in this year.
But that’s another galling thing about this team. Not only were they the third worst team in the league despite trying to actually make the playoffs, they were the third worst team in the league and they had huge salary cap issues all season long! If anything, all those injuries actually helped them out by providing a little bit of cap relief.
I bet nobody saw those cap problems coming either:
Unfortunately, as a result of the Lindenning administration’s allocation of $12.2M to Miller, Sbisa, and Dorsett, the Canucks have not only lost an opportunity to exploit their competition, but they’ve put themselves in a bind if they still plan on fielding a competitive roster next fall. It’s going to be tough to improve when you have no money to spend on getting better.
Well, I guess we didn’t call him Money Puck for nothing.
You know what else nobody saw coming? The Canucks’ scoring woes:
If the publicly stated goal of making the playoffs is the actual goal of the organization and not just some feel-good PR spin, then Vancouver is really in a bad place offensively going in to next season. Their core offensive contributors are more probable than not to take a step back, their depth scorers have been gutted through trades, cap mismanagement, and free agency, their best and most promising young player is likely to regress himself, and it doesn’t appear like the team will be able to clear enough cap space to bring in some free agent help, if there’s even any left on the market.
That was Rhys Jessop back in July of last year, and sure enough here are the bottom 10 teams in goal scoring this season:
But there were some bright spots in the lineup. I mean, nobody saw Sven Baertschi as a viable option after the first month of season, right?
I have seen hardly anything from this management team over the last eight months that gives me confidence that they can just squeak into the playoffs and actually accomplish anything.
And so, I am torn on a nightly basis.
I’m torn when I see them dressing Adam Cracknell instead of Sven Baertschi…The puck is almost always in the offensive zone when he is out there. Sure, you can pick on his play and say he’s not strong on the puck, but the fact remains that the puck is in the offensive zone more than not.
I could go on and on, but let me conclude with a final word on asset management and the disastrous trade deadline that saw the Canucks finish the day with two unrestricted free agents still on their rosters. Much has been made of Dan Hamhuis and the various almost trades that just couldn’t quite get done. But what about Radim Vrbata? Why was there such little interest in a guy that scored 31 goals just one season ago?
Probably because he only managed 13 this season, largely as a result of spending twice as much time paired up with Horvat or McCann instead of with Henrik Sedin. It’s too bad nobody thought of pairing him with the Sedins in order to boost his trade value heading into the deadline.
But hey, who am I to talk? I’m just a nobody writing on a website with a bunch of other nobodies:
That being said, I wish we were wrong more.