Earlier this week we took a look at the Canucks goaltenders and defencemen, deciding who is likely to return and who is likely to move on. Today, we look at the Canucks’ forwards. Mike Gillis doesn’t have a lot of work to do with his forwards, but he does have options. His most important forwards are already under contract for next year, so it’ll be just a matter of tinkering with his depth forwards. Given the lack of production from his second line at even strength, he may want to find a better winger to play with Ryan Kesler.
As I sit in the comfort of my own living room, watching drunken hooligans ransack downtown stores, I was finally able to relax myself enough to type this up. I, like most of you, truly believed this was THE year. A President’s Trophy, a Clarence Campbell Bowl, a franchise record for points in a season, a William M. Jennings Trophy, an Art Ross Trophy, and Hart, Selke, Vezina, and Adams Trophy nominations. The highest scoring team in the regular season. The highest scoring defensive corps in the regular season. Let’s not forget that home teams in Game 7s of the finals were 12-3, and the whole trend of Stanley Cup wins after hosting Olympics in Canada. But quite simply put, it was not meant to be.
I’m not one to use Canucks marketing campaign slogans on a regular basis (I’ve never said that ‘we are all Canucks’), but never has ‘this is what we live for’ been more true. Game 7, Stanley Cup Final, at home. This IS what we live for. It’s what the players live for, it’s what the fans live for. Quite simply stated, it’s the biggest game in Canucks history. It’s bigger than 1994. There will probably never be a bigger game for this franchise. This is their time. They will become legends if they win, or be labeled as chokers should they come up short.
Late last night I received an email from my friend Darin. Darin is a die hard Canucks fan, about as die hard as you can get. He watches every game, analyzes every play. He loves the Canucks. But he also takes losing pretty hard. He last ranted this hard during the Chicago series last year. He was remarkably quiet during the first round this year, but after last night, he needed to rant.
I was twelve years old when Jim Robson famously called “the Vancouver Canucks are going to the Stanley Cup FINAL!” after Greg Adams’ famous goal in 1994. And now 17 years later, a new generation has a iconic call of their own (give kudos to John Shorthouse, he wasn’t fooled). It wasn’t pretty, but the Canucks were the best team in this series versus the Sharks, and deserve it. This team keeps winning, and they keep doing it in different ways. Lets review how it all went down last night:
It wasn’t a picture perfect win, but it was a win nonetheless Monday night at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville. The Canucks limited the Predators chances, en route to a gritty 2-1 win. Usually I’m not a big fan of sitting on a one goal lead for long periods of time, but if there ever was a time to do it, it was game 6 in Nashville. The ice surface was so poor that it was very difficult to make complete passes and hold pucks in the offensive zone. The puck looked like a bouncy ball out there, hopping and skipping around all over the place.
One of the great things about this year’s Canucks has been the way the players have absorbed each other’s best qualities. Malhotra’s faceoff skill, Ballard’s hip checks, Sedin body positioning, and Bieksa’s tenacious yet positionally sound defence have been picked up by the entire team. The stud in the shared skills stable though is certainly Kesler’s sizzling every-inch-matters brand of intense puck pursuit. Even twinkle toed Mason Raymond has turned into a fore checking menace!
Sami Salo is back, well, almost. He’s been skating for a long time now, and has been practicing and traveling with the team for a couple of weeks also. So when is he set to return? The Canucks are keeping this somewhat secretive, but it looks to be soon. The reason is of course the salary cap. The Canucks are very close to the cap right now and will be over it when Salo returns. According to CapGeek, the Canucks would need to get rid of $1.8 million of annual salary if Salo returned today.
The Canucks announced on Monday that they have re-signed Mason Raymond. The restricted free agent re-signed just minutes before his arbitration case was to be heard. But that’s not the surprising part, the surprising part is that Mike Gillis was able to get Raymond to sign a two year deal, worth $2.55 per season. There’s no doubt in my mind that Raymond would have been awarded more in arbitration, perhaps well more. In fact, most pundits (including myself)were predicting $3 million or more.
It went somewhat under the radar because it was reported the same day as Markus Naslund’s jersey retirement was announced, but the Canucks have announced that they will be having a “ring of honour” at Rogers Arena. The idea behind the ring of honour is that they will be able to honour some players from the past that don’t quite deserve to have their jersey retired. Is this a good idea? In a way I like the idea of honouring past players in a way other than jersey retirement, but just what will be the criteria to get on the ring? Four players will be honoured this year, beginning with Orland Kurtenbach. The other three have yet to be announced.