The Canucks love Sam Reinhart thiiiiiis much.
It’s hardly breaking news that the Vancouver Canucks covet local boy Sam Reinhart something fierce, since every team covets Reinhart, who currently captains the WHL’s Kootenay Ice in Cranbrook. This in mind, he’s sure to be off the board well before the sixth pick in next week’s NHL Draft, which currently belongs to Vancouver.
But I’m of the mind that no team in the league is more motivated to move up than the Canucks are, and not just because they’d hate to see Reinhart have to leave the province unnecessarily: the centre fits with their offseason plan perfectly.
It’s important to remember that the Canucks are effectively serving two masters this summer: winning, and more importantly, winning back the fans.
This is a far cry from the Mike Gillis era, where they did what they thought was in the best interests of the team at that time, even if it occasionally left the fans pulling out their hair, such as with the hot-and-cold treatment of Roberto Luongo. This year, when the fans began to cool on a franchise that they felt was no longer thinking of them, the Aquilinis went into panic mode.
Hence, the Canucks have spent the last three months trying to convince the fans to move back in. (Baby! We can change! We’ll take you to the opera. Hey, do you like Trevor Linden? Sure you do! We’ll get him for you. Look, here he is! We’re telling you before we tell the media, because you matter to us, not those pencil-pushing muckrakers with their lame inverted pyramid. Who are they trying to fool? Pyramids are supposed to go right-side-up! No wonder the industry is struggling. It’s top-heavy. Anyway, love us again.)
And now, the pursuit of a high-end centre prospect with comparables like Jonathan Toews, who also happens to hail from the municipality just north of the Lions Gate Bridge. You can see why the Canucks might be willing to move heaven and earth (along with their own first-round pick and a top-four defenseman, as the Panthers reportedly covet) to have Reinhart.
Especially in light of the other trade they’re looking to make to the draft.
Ryan Kesler is on the way out, and I would be truly shocked if he wasn’t moved next weekend. After the Roberto Luongo saga dragged on and on and on like the American version of The Office, they’re likely to make sure the Kesler trade is a short series, like the British version of The Office.
The fans will appreciate that — right up until Ryan Kesler is gone, and it suddenly dawns on everyone that there’s no one coming back who will be quite as adept at patrolling the middle of the ice as Kesler was. It’s a centre-driven league, and the Canucks will immediately be weaker at the position, which means, regardless of the return, it’s almost certain to leave Vancouver a poorer team in the short-term.
In other words, next year’s team might not be much better than last year’s.
But fans won’t grumble in the slightest this time around, so long as they have a shiny object to distract them — namely, Sam Reinhart, the super-talented, homegrown prospect.
The Canucks are pursuing Reinhart because he’s good, sure, but also because he could conceivably be an on-ice version of Trevor Linden, a local guy — and a true local guy — that the city can’t help but love so fiercely they’re willing to focus on him, and forget all the problems around him.
It buys a little time for a gradual rather than immediate turnaround, giving supporters something to talk about and believe in while the team isn’t quite up to snuff; it softens the blow of losing Ryan Kesler by bringing in a prospect that’s happy to be here, and projects to fill the Kesler hole and maybe improve on the role in the future; and it allows them to worry less about getting a centre back in the Kesler trade, and add wing prospects, potentially, so when Reinhart is ready, he has what Kesler didn’t: someone, or, ideally, two someones, with whom to play.
One more thing: it gives the team a face they’re comfortable hanging up over the Georgia Viaduct, which is one more saleable, franchise face that they had when when Luongo came down last spring.
Like much of what the Canucks have done this summer, it makes sense both as an organizational move and a marketing move, which is why they’re certain to do everything in their power to ensure that it’s Florida’s draft pick, and not Sam Reinhart, that moves from one end of the continent to the other next week.