Coming into Wednesday’s trade deadline, the Canucks could have done just about anything and it wouldn’t have surprised us. They were “aggressively listening” to offers for both Ryan Kesler and Alex Edler, a process we imagine involves an ear trumpet, at the very least. Roberto Luongo had been moved the day before, proving, as the philosopher Kevin Garnett once shouted, anything is possible.
With the team plummeting out of contention, it seemed as though Mike Gillis and co. were on the cusp of blowing it up in the traditional sense — an oft-talked about course of action in hockey, but one that rarely ever happens.
It didn’t happen Wednesday either. The team’s lone move on Wednesday: closing the book on Raphael Diaz’s short tour of duty in Vancouver by shipping him to Alain Vigneault’s Rangers for a fifth-round pick.
(That’s Raphael Diaz, who was so integral to the Canucks’ first powerplay unit that Jordan Schroeder was scratched so the team could keep him in the lineup for the Heritage Classic. What in the world is this team doing?)
Ryan Kesler remains a Canuck, proving once again what Roberto Luongo learned last deadline: the only thing that prevents a trade deadline deal more efficiently than a no-trade clause is telling Mike Gillis you’re willing to waive it. Kesler knows it now too, tweeting a Luongo quote — “told you so” — alongside a photo of an umbrella getting hammered with rain, a day after a Florida-bound Roberto Luongo tweeted a palm tree.
Seriously, when did the Canucks get so good at Twitter? And where are they getting all these poignant emojis? And more importantly, what the hell happened today?
Well, that depends on who you ask. Earlier in the day, rumours began to swirl that it was Canucks’ ownership holding up a deal, either because they didn’t have confidence in Mike Gillis to make it, or because they didn’t want to give up on the playoff revenue from which the Canucks are yet to be mathematically eliminated.
That was Rob Rossi’s final report shortly after the deadline passed.
To be clear, #pens feel Vancouver ownership nixed trade that would have sent Kesler to Pittsburgh.
— Rob Rossi (@RobRossi_Trib) March 5, 2014
If this is the truth, especially about the playoff revenue, consider me furious. As I said yesterday, chasing a playoff berth over angling for long-term improvement reeks of money-grubbery. If the Canucks held on to Kesler to extend their season by two weeks, they are among the stupidest franchises in hockey.
But The Globe & Mail’s David Ebner countered the report, saying that it had nothing to do with confidence — either in a playoff berth or a lack thereof in Gillis — but rather, was simply a matter of the Canucks not getting what they asked for.
Penguins offers for Kesler were parts of a player-prospects-pick but never the whole trifecta. Canucks decide to wait.
— David Ebner (@DavidEbner) March 5, 2014
It’s important to remember where the other reports are coming from: Pittsburgh, who didn’t get what they want. It’s very possible that the reports of meddling ownership, which seem to come primarily from the Southwest corner of the Quaker State, are one last smoke bomb tossed by a Penguins’ front-office unhappy that Gillis wasn’t bluffing about holding onto Kesler unless the price was right.
But regardless of what actually happened, the rumours of front-office meddling and a lack of confidence are going to stick, for one simple reason: they’re believable. Too believable.
Ownership doesn’t have confidence in Gillis and Tortorella? Neither do the fans any longer.
Gillis is the architect of this team, and Tortorella has been at the helm during a precipitous fall from grace. Teams occasionally get worse instead of better, but when was the last time you saw a team descend into the utter chaos and ineptitude of this year’s Canucks? What were we supposed to make of Tuesday night’s total no-show? I’m not confident in Gillis and Tortorella guiding this supposed re-tool either. These last two days, with Gillis failing to make a trade I felt he needed to make, a day after reportedly watching Pat Brisson make the Luongo trade he couldn’t in 48 hours, haven’t helped.
And as for ownership and their reported meddling, that wouldn’t surprise me either. Those have been the rumours for quite some time, and nothing that happened today — again, nothing happened today — seems out of character for them.
Thing is, there are potential upsides to retaining Kesler. While the package may be worse now that you’re offering one fewer year of playoff Kesler under his current deal, you might be able to drive the price back up — or get players more in line with what you truly need — with a larger group of suitors at the draft.
And if you do keep him, you just cleared a ton of money off the books with the Roberto Luongo trade. With some young talent finally arriving next year, potentially, and with the Canucks four centres strong for the time being (Henrik, Kesler, Matthias, Richardson, and Horvat somewhere in there), some smart summer moves (say, strengthening the wings by moving a defenceman, and getting a new coach whose teams don’t suspiciously forget how to do offence) could reposition the Canucks to be back in the thick of things sooner rather than later. They might even make Kesler happy again.
But here’s the problem: it’s simply impossible for Canuck fans to see an upside right now, a future where the ship is righted. Not when we have no trust in the people at the helm.
Today’s rumours are going to stick because the Canucks have a confidence problem, and nothing that happened today did anything to fix it.