If there was such thing as a panic button in Vancouver it would be tromped on daily. People would be jumping, both knees touching their chin and landing both feet on to it alerting everyone that the Canucks are a mess and that it is in fact time to panic. This time last year the Canucks were a little over two weeks removed from losing the Stanley Cup. This year playoff hockey ended a lot earlier. The Canucks were bounced in five quick games by the eventual Cup winning LA Kings. This off-season the team is in a unique and not so familiar position. One that needs to be handled carefully and with a great deal of patience.
As a die hard fan of the team, it can sometimes feel like like there isn’t ever a real off-season. The playoffs end and then it’s the draft, followed by free agency and before you know it you’ve complained long and hard for two months about the shitty weather and then before you know it, main camp is opening and everyone’s ready to go. One thing you get used to as a fan is players coming and going. There’s players you’re used to seeing every year and then there’s your garden variety rental or depth players. At the end of the cup run I was convinced the Canucks wouldn’t be bringing back a few bodies, in fact I would have bet my legendary third testicle that we would never see Keith Ballard, Mason Raymond (back injury and all, cause I’m a cruel fucker apparently), Max Lapierre, Chris Higgins, Sami Salo and even the red haired wonder, Cory Schneider. I would get into debates with friends on the issue and they would say, “Why would you want to dismantle that much of the team? They got to within one win of the Stanley Cup”. Truth be told, they were right. For once I think I really realized what role players bring to the plate. What would the Canucks have looked like without Chris Higgins and Sami Salo this year? When those two were healthy they were easily two of the better Canucks all year. I was so willing to write them off in an effort to improve the team, when in fact losing either or both of them would have damaged the team greatly. Patience is a virtue. That much I know now.
At least two players who won’t be returning next season aren’t your typical rental or depth guys. The loss of Sami this year to free agency is a rather large one. Salo has been a Canuck since 2002-2003 and though he’s probably missed more games due to injury than Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins have played collectively, he was, when healthy, the most consistent defenseman the Canucks had. His canon of shot from the point and ability to not rely on his size, but smarts are what set him a part from other defensemen. The other player likely to be in a different uniform at the start of camp is the best goalie the franchise has ever seen. Roberto Luongo stated he would waive his no trade clause at the end of the season to make way for Cory Schneider. To do what is best for the team, said Luongo.
Losing Luongo is huge, regardless of who you have taking over. Roberto has broken every goaltending record in Vancouver, been nominated for the Vezina, Hart and even won the Jennings Trophy, sharing it with Cory Schneider. Oh yeah, and who can forget that he got to within one game of bringing the city of Vancouver it’s first Stanley Cup. The loss of Luongo is going to be huge when he’s finally gone.
There is a lot to look forward to going into next season. The Canucks have won two straight Presidents’ Trophy’s, they have a a solid core in place and a young goalie that is ready for his time in the spotlight. So, with all of that why is there reason to change? Or at least why is there the feeling that a small group of the fan base wants change? Well, simply put, two Presidents’ Trophies aren’t Stanley Cups, they’re nice, but they’re not the cup. The core is getting older and two of the main pieces of that core are only under contract for two more years. The budding superstar in net, the one that has put up fantastic numbers as the go-to guy when Luongo was in a funk or needed a rest, what about him? He’s been unbelievable when called upon, but how will he handle playing 60+ games a season?
I can understand why those things would be of concern to anyone. I would be lying if I said I wasn’t concerned the team was going to be complacent and stick with a lineup very similar to the one it had last season. However, I’m going to wait it out and rather than joining the rest of the fans, the ones who so eagerly want to monkey stomp the panic button. I’ll ride it out and see what happens. After all, it’s only July 3rd, what did anyone expect? Full line projections? The trade of Luongo, the 1-2-3 free Raymond and Ballard giveaways? Caman.
Although I listed some reasons for concern, it’s not time for main camp and if it was, there’s till time for change. Luongo will be moved, that no one doubts. That trade will start a chain reaction within the club and things will begin to move. I’m not saying Raymond and Ballard both magically disappear, as much as some would like that to happen. I’m just saying that until this trade happens, be patient. Don’t be those fans that run around looking for the panic button. Have a little faith in the management, trust that they will put together a team that is able to compete and hopefully win a Stanley Cup. Stop worrying about Presidents’ Trophy’s and just be excited for next season. It’s all you can do.
It’s exactly what I plan on doing this off season.
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