What if the Vancouver Canucks didn’t make the Bertuzzi for Luongo trade? Part 2
Photo credit:NHLI via Getty Images
By Bill Huan10 months ago
Welcome back to part two of our what-if series on the Luongo-Bertuzzi trade.
At the end of part one, the Canucks had instead dealt Bertuzzi to the Ducks in exchange for Jean-Sebastien Giguere, who, at the time, was one of the best goalies in the league. Unfortunately, he would decline in a major way over the late 2000s while running into injury issues too, which resulted in the Canucks missing the playoffs in 2008 and 2009 before being eliminated in round one of the 2010 postseason.
This takes us to the fateful 2010-11 campaign when the team was one game away from hoisting the Stanley Cup. Without Luongo in net though, the Canucks fall well short of that lofty mark, leading to other major ramifications in the years to come.
2010-11 season: A run to the Conference Finals
The first big change to the season comes in the summer of 2010 when the Canucks fail to bring hometown boy Dan Hamhuis back to Vancouver. This was a result of the Sedins not taking pay cuts on their new contracts due to the team’s murky future, leaving new GM Mike Gillis without much cap space to work with.
Giguere is still the undisputed starter going into the year but the team has a new backup in a promising prospect named Cory Schneider. After Giguere struggles in net, though, Schneider soon takes the reigns as the Canucks’ number one option and doesn’t look back.
Even with a rookie in goal, this Canucks team has so much firepower that they still manage to win the President’s Trophy in the regular season. Without the contributions from Luongo and Hamhuis, the Canucks lose 3.5 wins from their original total, which is still good for 110 points and three more than the second-place Capitals.
Ironically, the Canucks meet the Blackhawks in the first round of the playoffs and actually manage to dispatch them in six games (they don’t call it the multiverse of madness for no reason!) instead of seven. In round two, they have a harder time beating the Predators but manage to eke out a close game seven win on home ice to advance to the Western Conference Finals for the third time in franchise history.
Unfortunately, that’s when the magical season ends. Schneider has arguably been the team’s playoff MVP up to this point but his inexperience exposes itself against the Sharks. San Jose’s firepower is just too much for the rookie to handle, as they send the Canucks packing after six games.
In the finals, the Bruins still emerge victorious and skate away with the cup, and the Canucks now enter the offseason wondering how they can build upon their success and hopefully become champions.
2011-13 seasons: A declining powerhouse
The Canucks finally have some cap space in the summer of 2011 after Giguere’s contract expires. This allows the team to re-sign Christian Ehrhoff to a five-year, $22.5 million ($4.5 million AAV) deal that runs from his age 27-32 seasons.
Gillis decides against making other big moves given the success that they had in the previous year and enters the 2011-12 campaign with Schneider entrenched as the starter. The team has a slow start to the season but picks it up after 20 games, showing the league that their recent playoff run was no fluke.
One notable change to the roster is the play of Mason Raymond. Without a finals appearance in 2011, he doesn’t have his horrific back injury and manages to continue producing as a top-six winger. Even so, the team finishes the year seven points worse but still ends up top-five in the league with 104 points.
After finishing as the second seed in the Western Conference, the Canucks have a rematch with San Jose in round one and manage to win in six games. In an odd way, not losing in the finals the previous year actually improves the psyche of the team since they have fewer playoff demons to exorcise.
In round two, however, the Canucks still fall to the eventual champion Kings, but not before making it a competitive seven-game series. Knowing that they pushed L.A. farther than any team, the Canucks enter the offseason with an optimistic view despite falling short of their ultimate goal.
Luongo not being on the roster means that there is no goalie controversy moving forward. And with Schneider up for a new contract, the Canucks wisely lock up their young star to an eight-year, $40 million ($5 million AAV) contract. The team also re-signs Raymond to a three-year, $9 million deal ($3 million AAV) using its remaining cap space.
Having a Raymond who fully realizes his potential is no small matter, as the contributions that he and Ehrhoff make actually help the team improve their actual win total by one and finish sixth in the league in 2012-13. This doesn’t change their playoff matchup, though, but without their collapse in the 2012 postseason, the Canucks manage to take out San Jose in six games.
A rematch against the Kings is on the table in round two, but the Canucks are eliminated by them once again. The disappointment is undeniable but it’s worth noting that this is the third consecutive season in which the team has won a playoff series, which results in Alain Vigneault keeping his job.
2013-16 seasons: The up and down years
The biggest change in the 2013 offseason is that Schneider isn’t traded to Bo Horvat since he’s firmly entrenched as the team’s starter. Even though they avoid the nightmarish season under John Tortorella, the 2013-14 campaign still isn’t kind to the Canucks as they are the last team to squeak into the playoffs in the Western Conference and are promptly swept by the Ducks in round one.
Even so, most people in the organization believe that this was just a down season and not a sign of things to come. As a result, Ryan Kesler doesn’t ask out of Vancouver and remains committed to the team since no one even thinks about a potential rebuild.
As it turns out, the club’s faith in its players is well-founded since the Canucks go on to have a huge bounceback year and finish fifth in the league with 109 points. The tiebreaker goes to Anaheim, though, meaning that the team’s first-round matchup is still against the Flames.
Fortunately, luck is on the Canucks’ side in this alternate reality as they manage to dispatch Calgary in six games. This sets up a huge second-round series against the Ducks, and after exchanging wins for six consecutive matches, Anaheim manages to get the better of the Canucks in an epic game seven that goes to double overtime.
Having come within a goal of another Western Conference Finals appearance, the team chooses to stay pat and run it back again in 2015-16.
Just like in real life, though, this is when things start to fall apart.
Kesler goes through an injury-riddled season that leaves him frustrated while the Sedins’ productions take a big nosedive. The only player keeping the team from finishing last in the entire league is Cory Schneider, who puts up an MVP level performance only to help the Canucks accumulate a meagre 78 points.
This results in them ranking 25th in the league, which is where the Jets originally landed.
And yes, that also means that the Canucks hit the jackpot by winning the second overall pick in the 2016 draft, which they use to select Patrik Laine.
That’s it for part 2 of our what-if series on the Luongo-Bertuzzi trade. Next week, we’ll conclude with the third part and see what ends up happening during the Sedins’ twilight years and how Laine impacts the team.
All stats courtesy of Evolving-Hockey.
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