That was the worst slump I've seen in a while for a team boasting that much talent. Like it or not, the Canucks are no NHL powerhouse, but they are a team with plenty of good players including 4 superstars, half a dozen excellent players and a handful of possible future superstars.
When a team like that goes off the rails the speculation starts flying. The coach takes the brunt of the mudslinging while team chemistry, lack of confidence, shoddy goaltending and special teams could all have fingers pointed at them as well.
Realistically, whatever it was doesn't matter much right now. The Canucks are back on the other side of CBC's playoff bar and were able to put together 2 wins in a row against reasonable teams. Unless another slump erupts we should see a team that will put up some points and wins.
The slump, however, opened up a lot of talk about the Canucks future. Should the losing have continued we would have seen a lot of changes around the deadline. Coaching changes, trades and long term signings all would have been on the block. With the team able to make a playoff run, those questions still remain. They include:
-Does AV stick around to coach another year?
It's tricky. AV did very well in his first year and squeaked out the Canucks first playoff victory and hardware in quite some time. His sophmore season and style of play were not so hot but admittedly, he did not have much to work with. His line switching and defensive breakout skills alienate many a folks but I think the players will decide his fate this offseason, if the Canucks make the playoffs. If not, he's the first to go.
-Who's future is up in the air?
It's a harder question to answer than say, who's staying. Luongo, Kesler, Johnson, Hordichuk, Edler, Bieksa and Mitchell I would put on a lock. But what about everybody else?
The Sedins will be the lynch-pins for the next season. If they walk for nothing it will be a huge blow to Vancouver. Major. The Sedins have been cheap, durable and top 20 players who were homegrown in Vancouver. But they do not 'lead' the team, nor do they show up at key points like slumps or the playoffs. If they are re-signed it will have to be at a long, reasonable, restrictive deal. If they are traded, they will have to get something major in return to fill the void left over; more than draft picks. The Canucks do not have youngsters that could step into that role, nor is there a free for all in free agents this coming year.
The defense poses the same problems. The Canucks do not have any 'quarterbacks' on offense; players who can lead, hit, score and shut-down. They have players that can do one of those things each but no superstar on defense. Some of the D will remain; Edler for his promise, Bieksa for his scoring and Mitchell for his stay-at-home leadership. But if Ohlund goes they lose a big, strong hard-hitting defenseman who has deep roots in the organization. Salo is locked up but totally inconsistent due to his injuries so may be traded for, who knows?
-What about the young blood?
Raymond, Burrows, and Hansen have all had promising but not spectacular seasons. Burrows may want to test the free agency waters, in which case he could be finished as a Canuck. He'd be offered great money, but given the Canucks may want to sign a superstar they can't throw money at him to stay. Other teams can. Hansen should be signed to a good cheap contract and kept. Raymond has skill, but unless he's willing to stop being a sloppy showboater, might get traded.
On the bottom end of the organization, what will happen to the farm team? Is anyone ready to make the jump up? Hodgson is still too small and young to make the team at this point and should be seasoned further. Ouelett, McIver, Grabner and Jaffray could all make the jump up.
Finally, what about the experiments?
Demitra hasn't been a wash, but hasn't earned his 4 million so far. Would they dare to trade him and for who? Will they try to land Gaborik to reunite the two? Sundin is picking up the pace, but will they resign his ridiculous contract? Will Sundin resign it? Bernier, Wellwood and Pyatt are all up for grabs and all have had upside and downside. I can't even contemplate what's going to happen there.
All in all, Gillis has made some great moves so far but the impact has been negligible. The team has only a few players under long term contract. This team could be radically different next year as perennial favorites such as Ohlund and the Sedins could leave gaping holes. Any predictions as to what's going to happen?
Vancouver has a lot to figure out. I live in the lower mainland and enjoy watching Canucks hockey. With the exception of a few canucks they don't seem to play with a whole lot of energy on most nights. I believe splitting up their energy line of Kesler/Burrows was a catalyst in their turnaround as they make their linemates work harder too. I say Hodgson is on the club next year at centre but I really hope they don't try putting him on the first line. I hope Gillis doesn't sign the twins for more than 5-5.5. As a duo they have to expect to play for a discount. There are a lot of questions but I will say this, Mike Gillis may be my favourite executive in the league right now. He makes himself heard, works hard, gets things done, and doesn't take any nonsense. Vancouver really found a diaond in the rough with this one. Do you think Kesler (even though an energy guy) has what it takes to be a full time top 6 forward?
You know I remember this team back in 1980 that had all the talent in the world and was supposed to win. They had to be snuck back into Russia after losing to a bunch of college kids. Lesson to be learned in the NHL: starpower does not = Stanley Cups. Hard work, determination, the right players and the right coaches = Stanley Cups.