Vancouver, BC (Sports Network) - With the Vancouver Canucks the victims of an
early playoff exit for the second consecutive year, it's become clear the
franchise needs a summer of change.
The impending shake-up will almost certainly begin behind the bench, where head
coach Alain Vigneault, despite being the team's most successful coach in
history - compiling a 313-170-57 regular-season record and a 33-35 playoff
record - will likely take the brunt of the blame for his team's inability to
deliver come playoff time.
But while axing Vigneault is certainly the easiest and most predictable move,
it can't be the only one for general manager Mike Gillis as he tries to figure
out how his team - one that came into the season with expectations to make a
run at the Stanley Cup - has been bounced from the opening round of the
postseason for the second year in a row.
Vigneault certainly deserves his fair share of the blame for taking a team that
was the best in the league in both offense and defense during the 2010-11
season - the season they reached Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals before
falling to the Boston Bruins - and having them fall to a 19th overall finish on
offense and 10th overall finish on defense, respectively, this season despite
the majority of the core players from that Cup finalist still part of this
While a lot has been made of Vigneault's decision to embrace a more defensive
style - a change that has earned him a lot of criticism from fans and media
alike particularly throughout their ill-fated playoff series against the San
Jose Sharks which saw them manage to score just eight goals over four games -
the biggest knock on the Canucks coach is his methods of utilizing his players,
especially over the last couple of seasons.
Some of the more questionable decisions he has made this year include forcing
offensive defenseman Jason Garrison to ride the pine on the power play during
the early part of the season, making rookie defenseman Frank Corrado a playoff
regular ahead of the likes of veterans Keith Ballard and Cam Barker, and
starting netminder Cory Schneider in Game 3 of their first-round playoff series
against the Sharks despite the fact he was coming off an injury that forced him
to miss two weeks of action and Roberto Luongo was arguably his team's best
player in the first two games of the series.
But Vigneault can't be the only change this team makes this offseason as it
has become quite clear they need more than just a new voice to guide them.
For the first time since he arrived on the job prior to the start of the
2008-09 season, Gillis will have to take a serious look at tinkering with the
core that clearly seems to be past its best production.
In the last couple of seasons, the Canucks have seen the Sedin twins'
production go from 198 combined points in 2010-11 to 85 points during this
lockout-reduced season, which pro-rated to a full season would be just 145
They've seen Ryan Kesler go from arguably being the best two-way forward in
the league to being a shell of his former self due to a multitude of injuries
suffered over the past two seasons. In all fairness, however, he was probably
their team's best forward in their brief playoff run this year.
They signed blue-liner Alexander Edler, whose play once drew comparisons
to former Detroit Red Wings defenseman and future Hall-of-Famer Niklas
Lidstrom, to a long-term deal only to watch him continue to put forth
inconsistent performances that make him look like an All-Star one night and an
average journeyman the next.
They've also invested a significant amount of dollars in a number of secondary
players outside their main core only to watch them continually fall below
expectations, including the likes of forwards Mason Raymond and David Booth and
much-maligned defenseman Keith Ballard.
Moving out a good number of those non-core players either by cutting them loose
in free agency or possibly buying them out is a given, but if the Canucks want
to really shake up the culture of this team, then they'll need to examine their
key players closely and determine if it might finally be the time to bring in
some fresh blood.
The Canucks have seen up-close what complacency and an unwillingness to make
bold moves can do to a team. They've sat by and watched once-fierce division
rival Calgary Flames suffer through season after season of mediocrity before
they finally decided to move out a couple of their key pieces earlier this year
in captain Jarome Iginla and top defenseman Jay Bouwmeester, albeit much too
late in many fans' estimation.
They have a chance this offseason to avoid a similar fate. Fans in Vancouver
can only hope they take the necessary steps to do so even if it means they'll
have to bid farewell to some of the best players in franchise history.
The Sports Network