What if the Vancouver Canucks had kept Cory Schneider?
Photo credit:© Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports
By Bill Huan1 year ago
In the first few installations of this series, we imagined some what-if scenarios exclusive to the Jim Benning era, but I think it’s time to dive into earlier points of Canucks history now. For today and next week, “earlier” will only mean the last few years of the Mike Gillis regime, but we’ll definitely go back decades later on in the series.
So for now, enjoy the first part of our look into what might’ve happened had the Canucks kept Cory Schneider past the 2013 draft.
Timeline of events
After a second consecutive postseason flameout, the Canucks were looking to shake things up at the 2013 draft and opted to trade their presumptive goalie of the future, Cory Schneider, for the ninth overall pick. As fans all know, the club opted to select Bo Horvat, who would become the first foundational piece for the next era of Canucks hockey.
But what if management had decided to go in a different direction and trade Roberto Luongo instead? As you’ll soon see, things would get a bit bonkers, to say the least.
Heading into the draft, all eyes are on the Canucks as the entire league expects them to move Luongo. The veteran netminder had previously stated that he’d be willing to waive his no-trade clause but then refused to join the Leafs, so the Canucks had no choice but to move him to the one place where he’d be happy: Florida.
In return, the Canucks would receive Shawn Matthias and a 2013 third round-pick, finally putting an end to the goalie controversy in Vancouver. The Devils proceed to select Valeri Nichushkin with their ninth overall pick and Horvat goes one pick later to Dallas, with the rest of the draft remaining unchanged.
2013-14 regular season
Having finished eighth overall the previous season, the Canucks expect to be a playoff team again but have an underwhelming regular season. Luongo is revitalized in Florida and actually outplays Schneider, causing many to wonder if the club chose the right goalie moving forward. A full season of contribution from Matthias makes up for that difference though, resulting in the Canucks staying pat and finishing 25th in the standings.
|IN: 2.5 WAR||OUT: 2.4 WAR|
|Cory Schneider (2.1 WAR)||Roberto Luongo (2.4 WAR)|
|Shawn Matthias (0.4 WAR)|
Following a miserable season, Gillis and John Tortorella are both let go and replaced by Benning and Willie “real good” Desjardins. Ryan Kesler gets his wish and is traded to Anaheim once again, and Jake Virtanen joins the Canucks with the draft order unchanged.
The real turning point this offseason is how the new management group decided to use its cap space. There’s no need to add a starting goalie with Schneider in town, so instead of bringing in Ryan Miller ($6 million AAV) and Radim Vrbata ($5 million AAV), he chooses to sign Thomas Vanek to a three-year, $19.5 million deal ($6.5 million AAV) to play alongside the Sedins.
2014-15 regular season
Following significant changes both on and off-ice, the Canucks bounce back in a huge way and reassert themselves as one of the premier teams in the league. Although Vanek doesn’t quite live up to expectations, Schneider has his best season to date and establishes himself as an elite goalie, with a Vezina nomination to boot. In fact, Schneider’s brilliance helps add 3.3 wins to the club and allows them to finish sixth in the league with 108 points, but the club is once again matched against Calgary in the playoffs.
With Schneider playing the best hockey of his career, the Canucks manage to beat the Flames in six and advance to the second round. Matching up against Kesler and the Ducks provides the club with some extra motivation, but Anaheim’s firepower is too much for the Canucks to handle and they would bow out after six competitive games.
|IN: 4.4 WAR||OUT: 1.1 WAR|
|Cory Schneider (4.7 WAR)||Ryan Miller (0.5 WAR)|
|Thomas Vanek (-0.3 WAR)||Radim Vrbata (1.1 WAR)|
|Bo Horvat (-0.5 WAR)|
The big storyline surrounding the club heading into the summer is the impending free agency of Schneider. The netminder smartly waited until after the season to negotiate a deal in order to drive up his asking price, which was already at an all-time high following a Vezina nomination.
Thankfully for the Canucks, Schneider wants to stay in Vancouver and signs a seven-year, $43.75 million contract ($6.25 million AAV). Brock Boeser is once again selected at the draft but in order to be cap compliant, the club isn’t able to trade for Brandon Sutter and opts to keep Nick Bonino. The Eddie Lack trade also doesn’t happen since Jacob Markstrom isn’t on this iteration of the Canucks but Kevin Bieksa gets dealt to Anaheim regardless.
2015-16 regular season
Coming off a surprising 108 point season, the Canucks expect to be a playoff team once again but the wheels fall off completely. The club struggles from start to finish and isn’t within arm’s length of the postseason at the trade deadline even with their goalie having another outstanding campaign. Schneider is nominated for the Vezina for the second consecutive and the Canucks finish with five more points than they actually did due to his brilliance, which places them 24th in the overall standings.
It’s worth noting, however, that the Canucks choose to hold on to Jared McCann given the club’s gaping hole at centre, which will have huge implications later on.
|IN: 6.8 WAR||OUT: 4.5 WAR|
|Cory Schneider (4.6 WAR)||Ryan Miller (2.6 WAR)|
|Thomas Vanek (0.6 WAR)||Radim Vrbata (-1.4 WAR)|
|Nick Bonino (0.8 WAR)||Brandon Sutter (1 WAR)|
|Eddie Lack (0.8 WAR)||Jacob Markstrom (2.4 WAR)|
|Bo Horvat (-0.1 WAR)|
This is when things start getting spicy. The Canucks finishing 24th changes the entire draft order, which plays out like this:
- Toronto: Auston Matthews
- Arizona: Patrik Laine
- Calgary: Jesse Puljujarvi
- Edmonton: Matthew Tkachuk
- Columbus: Pierre Luc-Dubois
- Winnipeg: Olli Juolevi
- Vancouver: Clayton Keller
Since the club doesn’t have Horvat on its roster, they’re desperately looking for a centre who can replace Henrik Sedin following his retirement. There are obvious questions as to whether or not Keller can play down the middle given his small stature, but the Canucks decide to roll the dice on arguably the most skilled player in the draft anyway.
The other big change in the offseason is that Loui Eriksson doesn’t sign in Vancouver. Schneider’s big contract prevents the Canucks from having an abundant amount of cap space, so the only notable move that Benning makes is extending Lack to a two-year, $4 million deal ($2 million AAV).
2016-17 regular season
The Canucks hope for a bounceback campaign before the season starts but the club continues on its downward spiral. This is also the first year in which Schneider’s injury issues start popping up, which leads him to post uncharacteristically poor numbers. Without the team’s best player performing up to his usual standards, the Canucks finish the year with six fewer points than in real life but still finishes second last in the league, as the Avalanche trudges through a historically poor season that saw them accumulate just 48 points.
|IN: 1.7 WAR||OUT: 4.5 WAR|
|Cory Schneider (1.4 WAR)||Ryan Miller (1.3 WAR)|
|Thomas Vanek (0.5 WAR)||Erik Gudbranson (-0.4 WAR)|
|Nick Bonino (-1.5 WAR)||Brandon Sutter (1 WAR)|
|Eddie Lack (0.5 WAR)||Jacob Markstrom (0.7 WAR)|
|Jared McCann (0.8 WAR)||Bo Horvat (1.1 WAR)|
|Loui Eriksson (0.8 WAR)|
Well, that’s it for today! Stay tuned next week for the second and final part of this what-if scenario, where the Canucks desperately try to search for another starting goalie after Schneider’s injury woes take a turn for the worse.
All stats courtesy of Evolving-Hockey.
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