What if the Vancouver Canucks didn’t make the Bertuzzi for Luongo trade?
By Bill Huan1 year ago
In the first few articles of our what-if series, we mostly stayed within the last decade of Canucks hockey.
That ends today.
For the first time, we’ll be venturing back into the 2000s and talk about what might’ve happened if the team didn’t make one of the biggest trades in Canucks history: Todd Bertuzzi for Roberto Luongo.
Timeline of events
After missing the 2006 playoffs by six points, the Canucks knew that they needed an upgrade in goal. Having the Sedins, Markus Naslund, and Todd Bertuzzi all put up over 70 points, the team had the firepower to outscore anyone. The defence was solid too with Mattias Ohlund and Ed Jovanovski patrolling the blue line, but goaltending was a huge issue with Alex Auld as the starter.
With seven being his previous career-high in games played, Auld was suddenly thrust into a substantial role and started a staggering 67(!!) contests in the 2005-06 campaign. He performed adequately by putting up a save percentage of 0.902% and a goals-against-average of 2.94 (which were decent numbers for that era), but it was obvious that the Canucks needed better goaltending in order to become a true contender. And with Bertuzzi’s off-ice issues continuing to affect the team, then General Manager Dave Nonis decided to shop him and see what he could get.
Soon enough, Bertuzzi was shipped off to Florida alongside Auld and Bryan Allen in exchange for Roberto Luongo, Lukas Krajicek, and a 2006 sixth-round pick. Bertuzzi went on to play only seven games for the Panthers due to back issues and was subsequently traded again to Detroit.
Meanwhile, Luongo didn’t do much during his time as a Canuck either. He only became the franchise’s winningest goalie ever, backstopped the team to within a game of the Stanley Cup, and was nominated for the Vezina Trophy a few times.
No big deal.
But what if that trade didn’t happen? As you’ll see, Bertuzzi would still have been dealt for a goalie, but one who would go on to leave a much different legacy in Vancouver.
The new blockbuster trade
After approaching the Panthers about Luongo and being turned down, Nonis starts talking to other teams to find a potential match. Tomas Vokoun in Nashville and Marty Turco in Dallas are two options for the Canucks, but neither team is interested in making a huge deal after both finished in the top six of the league in 2005-06.
Fortunately, Nonis is able to find another interested club in Anaheim. The Ducks’ starter was Jean-Sebastien Giguere at the time, and even though he was coming off a season in which he finished top 10 in Vezina voting, Anaheim was only a middling offensive team and still had a young up and coming goalie in Ilya Bryzgalov.
As a result, Nonis pulls the trigger and trades Bertuzzi to the Ducks in exchange for Giguere. With an elite goalie in place, the Canucks now expect to be a legitimate Western Conference contender moving forward.
The Canucks are rejuvenated with Giguere in net during the 2006-07 season. However, he fails to outperform Luongo, who came second in Hart Trophy voting in real life yet somehow didn’t even win the Vezina.
This drops the Canucks down a couple of spots in the league, as they now finish 11th overall and eighth in the Western Conference. The revised standing means that the team now has a date with a powerhouse Red Wings team, who easily dispatches them in five games.
The real change to that season, however, is that Anaheim doesn’t win the cup. Bryzgalov is a solid replacement for Giguere but it’s obvious that the Ducks made a mistake by giving the net to the young Russian so soon.
A weaker Anaheim team gives Detroit an opening to the finals, which they seize. In the East, Ottawa still goes on their Cinderella run but is swept in the finals as the Red Wings win their second cup of the 2000s.
Having become an unrestricted free agent in the summer of 2007, the Canucks make sure to lock up Giguere for the remainder of his prime by signing him to a four-year, $22 million contract ($5.5 million AAV).
Following a successful individual season, Giguere puts up even better numbers in the 2007-08 campaign. Unfortunately, the Canucks take a massive step back due to a struggling offence.
The team finishes top ten in goals against per game but their scoring takes a massive nosedive. Naslund is now five years removed from putting up over 100 points and finishes with only 55 points in 82 games. Bertuzzi is gone (duh) and Brendan Morrison appears in less than half of the Canucks’ games while scoring a disappointing 25 points.
Outside of Naslund and the twins, no one else on the roster even breaks the 40-point barrier. Their lack of firepower results in the team finishing 21st in the league; surprisingly, this is also where the Canucks ended up in real life, as Giguere had a similar impact to Luongo that year.
Coming off a disappointing campaign, the Canucks aims to get back on track in the 2008-09 season. The team looks to be on the right path with the Sedins becoming full-fledged superstars and putting up their first point per game seasons of their respective careers.
Ryan Kesler and Alex Burrows also starts to come into their own by providing solid secondary scoring, which is just a sign of things to come for both players. Along with new free-agent addition Pavol Demitra, all three players break the 50-point barrier and largely solves the team’s scoring woes from the year before.
With that said, the Canucks just can’t catch a break as Giguere begins showing signs of decline. The now 31-year-old posts a sub-0.900 save percentage and forces the team to start Curtis Stanford more than they’d like.
In fact, the team racks up 12 fewer points with Giguere in net instead of Luongo, and the Canucks miss the playoffs for the second consecutive season by finishing 21st in the league.
The one bright spot that comes out of the season, though, is that the team now has the 10th overall pick in the 2009 draft. But in typical Canucks fashion, they whif on the selection and choose Magnus Paajarvi over Ryan Ellis, who Nashville picks 11th. Regardless, the ramifications of that decision wouldn’t be felt until a few years later.
Having replaced Nonis a year earlier, Mike Gillis is determined to make big changes in order to help the team get back into the playoffs. His first priority is re-signing the Sedins, but neither are willing to take a pay cut due to the team’s struggles. This results in identical four-year, $26 million deals ($6.5 million AAV), which takes up almost all of the Canucks’ remaining cap space.
Without more room to operate, Gillis is unable to overhaul the team and enters the 2009-10 season with essentially the same roster. Giguere is determined to have a bounce-back campaign and looks good in training camp, but he suffers an untimely groin injury just a few games into the year.
Even though Giguere would only be sidelined for a few weeks, it was the start of an injury-riddled season that saw him play in less than half of the Canucks’ games. When he was healthy, though, Giguere performs admirably and helps the team finish 11th overall with 99 points.
Being in a weak Northwest division, the Canucks manages to finish first and nab the third seed in the Western Conference. They would lose, however, to the Kings in six games, as L.A. proves to be the superior team and actually finished with more points in the regular season.
That’s it for part one of this what-if scenario; stay tuned next week to see how it ends!
Spoiler alert: the Canucks don’t make the finals in 2011 and fails to capitalize on a team that could’ve been a powerhouse.
All stats courtesy of Evolving-Hockey.
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