Okay, to start off, I didn’t have to luxury to watch all of the games as I spent a lot of my time away from Vancouver, but I tried to watch every game as best as I could through web-streaming.
The Canucks had a disappointing season this year, missing the playoff for the second time in three seasons, and the disappointment was shown by the firing of GM Dave Nonis.
But in all fairness to the team, the Canucks were plagued with injuries the entire seasons, and a full dressing of all regular defensemen were quite rare. Brendan Morrison’s wrist surgery around December side-lined him most of the season, while also ending his Iron-man streak at 542 consecutive games. However the injuries to the team did give chances for young prospect to try-out at the NHL level.
As a result, young 22 years-old defensman Alexander Edler’s rookie season turned out to be an excellent one. Edler was in fact invited to the YoungStar game during the All-Star weekend, which he was also named to the NHL All-Rookie Team. He finished his year playing the most games played of all Canucks defenseman at 75 games, loggoing a bit over 1600 minutes played. Earning 20 pts in his rookie season, with the highest plus-minus rating of 18, before finishing the year at plus-6, Edler became a regular on the PP unit, with four of his goals scored with the man advantage.
Another young prospect who took the advantage of this year’s injuries was 22 yr-old speedy-forward Mason Raymond. Raymond, a 2nd-round, 51st overall pick of the 2005 draft, played 49 games this year for the Canucks, getting 9 goals and 12 assists. In the absence of Morrison, the Canucks was in desperate need of scoring, and young Raymond was able to partly fulfill that role with his quick speed and soft hands. It seems very likely that Raymond, along with Edler has graduated to the NHL level, and should’ve earned a roster spot for the next season.
Having said that, Edler and Raymond’s performance seems like the only silver-lining one can pick out during this season, as there were a lot of expectation for the Canucks, especially after last year’s division-title club-record breaking season. Heading into the Christmas break this year, the Canucks were seven games over .500 at 44 pts, tied for first in the NW division. The second half of the season sees the Canucks struggling with offense but playoff-hopes still seems very likely. As the trading deadline approaches, the Canucks were in need of signing a big-name forward to help turn their season around. As it was later revealed, Nonis was solely focused in chasing Tampay Bay MVP forward Brad Richards, so focused that the Canucks were left with no other options once Richards signed with the Dallas Stars.
We were left with an insignificant trade of the two Matts, Matt Cooke to Washington for Matt Pettinger. Hardly an improvement to our scoring need at all. Many people put their blame of the subsequent break-down of the Canucks to the lacking of action before the trading deadline. A sense of hopelessness, as some suggested, creeped into the locker room, and slowly ate up any confidence players have of winning the cup. This lack of confidence resulted with an even worse fate, the Canucks not even making the playoff. Just before the final eight games, the Canucks, although struggling, are still 3 points away from the highly competitive NW division title. But with just one win in the final eight, including a crucial loss to the non-cup-contending Oilers in their second last game at home, eliminated any last chance of a come back.
Personally, I think it’s often too easy to give out excuses for a team’s failure due to injuries, or lack of actions from a GM. But if we look closley at the players, we quickly find out that the Canucks were out of the playoff due to the quality of the players they have. The Sedins were used in the Canucks’ line-up as first-liners this season, sometimes with Naslund on their wing as well. But when the team needs their contribution the most, especially during the last-stretch, our star players weren’t stars at all. The Canucks ended their season ranking 7th best overall in terms of Goals Against Average, with most of the top 10 teams in this category playoff contenders (except Vancouver and Columbus). However, the Canucks ranked 23rd (8th worst) in terms of Goals For. Of course this stats doesn’t show the complete picture, but it does offer some clue to the failure of the team.
I believe that Nonis was supposed to be fired in Feburary as opposed to April. He losts his job after the trading deadline, when he mis-calculated on the chances of landing Richards, and also his lack of a contingency plan to get another goal-scoring forward. Is it fair to blame Nonis was everything that went wrong with the Canucks? Of course it’s not. But it is rather obvious what the Canucks immediate need was, I mean people have been yelling “find a winger for the Sedins” for years now, and yet we enter our post-season not a step closer to our goal.
Next off, with Mike Gillis on board now, where do we go from here? Will Alain Vigneault remain the head coach? Will Markus Naslund and Brendan Morrison re-signs with the team? Which Unrestricted Free Agent will we bring in for next year? Answers to these questions are no doubt in the minds of a lot of people right now, but I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.Signing off, Saint Pako of the Hockey Digest.