If ever there was an offseason where the decision to stand pat could be considered a “bold move” (in the Gillisian sense of the word), this is it. After coming within one win of the Stanley Cup Final, the Canucks’ GM finds himself surrounded by hungry, angry, confused people — zombies, basically — that want him to make the splash that will put this team over the top. And, with the losses of Raffi Torres and Christian Ehrhoff, fans have returned to their usual offseason call for a power forward right winger and an offensive defenseman. They want a big-time acquisition.
The fans aren’t the only ones. Francesco Aquilini’s infamous profanity-laced tantrum following game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final showed us a man that, despite owning the team, is also a highly emotional fan. You have to imagine that he wants Gillis to make a big move as much as we do. Hell, Gillis probably does too, and he may still make one. He’s a fan of this team also, after all. You know he’d trade the future to Skynet if it meant his Canucks would see a better outcome next year. But, all things considered, it’s entirely possible — and don’t go flipping the pool when I suggest this — that the Canucks are done.
First, the power forward. Sure, Ryan Kesler could definitely use one of those, and you have to imagine that Kesler — who hates to lose more than anybody and spent the majority of the last season playing, like the cardinal that hit the window, without healthy wings — feels similarly. With Raymond hurting, Samuelsson a mystery from day to day, Sturm an injury-hampered question mark, and Chris Higgins, Jannik Hansen and Cody Hodgson as uncertainties, one has to imagine that finding Ryan Kesler a new best friend will be a tall task.
I mean, it’s not like the need for a hulking power forward sprung up overnight or suddenly dawned on everyone during the aftermath of the Bruins’ cup win. The Canucks have been desperately seeking Bigfoot since Dave Nonis traded Todd Bertuzzi to Florida. For five years, it’s been apparent that the Canucks could use some skilful muscle in their top six, and Gillis has made numerous, unsuccessful attempts to address this. His first year on the job, Gillis made the first move of free agency, signing David Backes to an offer sheet, but the Blues matched. Three days later, Gillis acquired Steve Bernier for a second and a third round pick. Unfortunately, Steve Bernier played like Steve Bernier.
Really, the only time during the Gillis era that the Canucks had that power forward winger in their top six was when Mats Sundin’s presence briefly bumped Ryan Kesler to the wing. That’s right. Ryan Kesler’s ideal winger has been here all along. It’s Ryan Kesler.
Sadly, finding that big right winger is about as easy as solving this paradox. I’m sure Gillis is looking, but he’s been looking for years. And, while the sense of urgency may be heightened by the sting of defeat and the need to surround now-elite Kesler with complementary talent, how much higher can it really be? Gillis doesn’t seem like a man willing to wait three years, by choice, for what he has coveted from day one .
In other words: sure, the Canucks want a power forward. It doesn’t mean they’ll get one. Ask the Calgary Flames how easy it is to find a setup man for Jarome Iginla. We may be waiting for Godot, Canucks fans. More than likely, two of the six abovementioned options will be flanking Ryan Kesler come October.
Meanwhile, on defense, Christian Ehrhoff’s defection to Buffalo has prompted some to assume the Canucks are going to replace the German blueliner with another impact defender.
They might. They also might not. When pressed on the defense issue, Laurence Gilman responded, “I think we’re going be okay.” This could mean the Canucks have a replacement in mind. It could also mean they’re comfortable standing pat.
The Canucks already addressed a portion of Ehrhoff’s hole with the signing of Alexander Sulzer, formerly of Nashville. Sulzer is both a powerplay option and a German. They did it!
The other portion — the need for a top four defenseman — could very well be filled by way of promotion and increase expectation. Alex Edler can certainly do more. And as for the other hole in the top four? Well, Keith Ballard could have a bounceback season. If he does, the Canucks would essentially be finding a top-four defenseman in the attic. If he doesn’t, the Canucks could do what they did in the playoffs, and look past him to Chris Tanev, who rocketed up the depth chart, and is right-handed. Is he ready for a top-four role? He’s about a cool as Alex “Iceman” Edler — maybe even moreso. A Tanev-Edler pairing could be cooler than the Blues Brothers.
Considering what general managers paid this offseason for offensive-minded defenseman, one has to imagine that the Canucks might be better off expecting more from the guys they already have than looking elsewhere.
This may be the case all around.Tags: Canucks, Chris Tanev, Desperately seeking Bigfoot, featured, Kesler, offseason blues, Ryan Kesler needs a best friend