Rob Soria is the Edmonton Oilers' correspondent for OurHometown.ca. Rob was born and raised in Edmonton and is the author of the Edmonton Oilers blog - OilDrop.ca. He has been a dedicated follower of the game and its history for years but his focus remains on his hometown Edmonton Oilers. If you have questions or wish to contact Rob, you can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org
What do the Vancouver Canucks do now?
As Jarret Stoll and and his Los Angeles Kings teammates celebrated his series clinching overtime winner, the Vancouver Canucks organization and their fans were left in a state of disbelief. This isn't how it was supposed to go. Who is to blame and who will ultimately pay the price in Vancouver.
Edmonton - April 23, 2012 - As Jarret Stoll and and his Los Angeles Kings teammates celebrated his series clinching overtime winner, the Vancouver Canucks organization and their fans were left in a state of disbelief. This isn't how it was supposed to go. This was going to be the year that the Canucks would finally bring a Stanley Cup to the city of Vancouver and their long suffering fans. Instead, the suffering will continue for President Trophy winners and their loyal followers. There is little doubt that the focus will now shift to what went wrong but is it time for a major shakeup in Vancouver?
While many had picked the Canucks to return to the Stanley Cup finals for a second consecutive year, their early exit should not come as a huge surprise to any level headed hockey fan. Personally, I had picked the Kings to win in six and there were some very good reasons for it. When you take into consideration that Vancouver was without one of their best players in Daniel Sedin to start the series and that they were facing, in my mind, the best netminder in the league in Jonathan Quick, it would be no walk in the park.
The other thing to keep in mind, is many hockey observers picked the Los Angeles Kings as a legitimate contender in the Western Conference before the season started. LA put together a very good team but an absolutely God awful start to the year, put them behind the eight ball. They are not your "A" typical eighth seed and to be completely honest, what is an eighth seed these days? In the Eastern Conference, the Washington Capitals were also considered to be favourites heading into the 2011-2012 campaign but all they managed to accomplish was sneak into the number seven seed on the last day of the regualr season. Yes the Kings were the bottom seed in the West but this was no "Miracle on Manchester"...not even close!
Despite the disappointment felt across British Columbia, the Vancouver Canucks are an organization that should not jump to any conclusions and make rash decisions that they may very well regret down the road. General Manger Mike Gillis already decided to move prospect Cody Hodgson to the Buffalo Sabres for Zach Kassian at this year's trade deadline and while the move may look better in the long run, at the moment, it was an epic fail for a team that struggled to score goals for a second consecutive playoff series. While the Canucks do have to make a couple of hard decisions before the start of next season, there is no reason for them to "blow things up", as some have already suggested.
In my mind, it is fair to question if Alain Veigneault is the right man to lead this club moving forward. While Veigneault is a very good coach, it seems as though his time may have run out with this current edition of the Vancouver Canucks. He has led this team to consecutive league titles as the best team in the regular season and did get them to the Stanley Cup finals last season. That being said, all coaches wear out their welcome at some point and his players do not seem to be responding in the same fashion as they did in previous seasons to their head coach. The Veigeault situation could go either way but if I were to guess, look for a different man behind the bench in Vancouver come 2012-2013.
The most obvious and pressing issue that needs to be dealt with, is goaltending. Vancouver have two very good netminders in veteran Roberto Luongo and youngster Cory Schneider but they can no longer co-exist. Whatever route the club decides to go, they well be set in goal for years to come. While Schneider would obviously be far easier to move and fetch a nice return, he would be the man the Canucks would ultimately like to keep moving forward. On the other hand, there are limited suitors for Luongo's services because of his current contract but make no mistake, there would be teams out there that would be more then willing to acquire one of the better netminders in the NHL. Having said that, they will not get anything of real use in return for Luongo and would likely have to take on a bad contract in return, to move the veteran's absurdly lengthy contract.
Outside of that, Vancouver really does not have any real big moves to make. Sure they could add another top notch defenceman but what team couldn't? Up front, they have had issues getting consistent secondary scoring in the playoffs but they seem to already have the pieces in place. They could likely add another top six forward but that is about it. What they need to do, is get players like Ryan Kesler, Alex Burrows and Maxim Lapierre to fall in line and stop hurting their team on the ice and off the ice.
Lapierre is what he is and is ultimately an after thought. Players like him are dime a dozen but if he would ever learn to control his on ice "act", he would be very effective bottom six forward. The key in this whole equation remains Burrows and Kesler. When Burrows keeps to playing hockey and not being a complete idiot with his mouth and his on ice actions, the now veteran winger is simply outstanding. He has turned himself into a bonafide 25 goal guy and while he is nothing more then a complimentary piece in the grand scheme of things, he is almost as irreplaceable as the Sedins, when his head is screwed on right.
As far as Kesler goes, the rugged American has the total package but tends to become preoccupied with trying to get under the opposition's skin by taking cheap shots and diving all over the ice. Many Vancouver fans were disappointed that he was unable to duplicate his 41 goal campaign from a year ago but Kesler is simply not that player. Like Burrows, he is a 25 goal man but brings so much more to the table, that allows him to carry this team on his back for a short periods of time. That being said, the now twenty-seven year old centre is in no way shape or form a forty goal guy and appears to be regressing when it comes to his development between the ears.
If these three are unable or unwilling, to fall in line with what Vancouver is trying to do, then they need to be sent packing. Good teams typically have a small window to compete for a championship but if they do not have everyone on board, then it ends up being nothing more then a wasted opportunity and that could be exactly where the Vancouver Canucks are headed.
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