Tuesday, January 04, 2011

An Embarrassment of Riches Makes the Canucks Hard to Shop For

Other General Managers had no idea what to get this guy for Christmas. He's just hard to shop for right now.

You remember a month ago when someone asked you what you wanted for Christmas? Some years, you have the answer right away, but some years, you just don't know. You're perfectly content. You can't think of any glaring need in your life that could be filled, or even anything you'd kinda like to have. Sometimes, you can't, for the life of you, put together a wish list. It sucks, because normally, being happy is a good thing. But now, here are people trying to figure out what to get you and you can't help them out. You become one of those people who's hard to buy for, and everyone hates those people who smugly say "I don't know" whenever asked about their Christmas list. You hate trying to buy for those people. Screw those people. And now, here you are, one of them, because life's going too well for you right now.

Is it too much to ask for a glaring hole in your life?

This is how Mike Gillis must feel around now. With Salo's impending return, the cap situation sort of necessitates a trade. Great news, though! The Canucks have plenty of assets to move around. Gillis is undoubtedly getting calls from around the league, asking, what do you want?

And what answer could he possibly have? No part of the roster really needs help.

The offense is more than complete. The Canucks have eight forwards that can fit into the top 6 -- the obvious Sedins, Burrows and Kesler, plus Raymond, Samuelsson, and now Tambellini and Hansen. Six of those players scored 25+ goals last season. This season the Canucks' offense is even deeper. Samuelsson was playing on the 4th line last game. Cody Hodgson can forget the possibility of a call-up this season. It doesn't matter if he's ready, the Canucks are just too deep.

Even the 4th line is clicking right now. Bolduc isn't a perfect 4th line center, cause there's no such thing -- once you've got a requisite amount of skill, you belong on the 3rd line. Remember that Rick Rypien may be back for the playoffs, and he can do the job. Tanner Glass is a dependable 4th line checker who helps to kill penalties, knows what to do in offensive situations (although he rarely creates them himself), and manages to hit everything in sight. The Canucks won't find a better 4th liner for his price. They're unlikely to find better than Bolduc at his price. Volpatti we can do without, but keep in mind that when the Canucks are healthy, it's Tambellini, or Samuelsson, or Hansen or Torres playing on the 4th line, and all of them can handle the job and more.

But let's ignore all that and imagine there's a magical "perfect" fourth line out there, ready to be traded for. Are the Canucks really going to trade guys like Cory Schneider and Kevin Bieksa for someone who'll play 5 minutes a game come playoff time? Nope.

On defense, the Canucks have too many guys as well. Ehrhoff, Edler, Ballard, Hamhuis, Bieksa and Salo are all potential top-four D-men in the league. The Canucks have six of them. Even if they traded away Alberts and Rome, they wouldn't have the cap space for all six, so one of them has to go. I'm not sure who it'll be, except that it shouldn't be Bieksa. Or Edler, obviously. Or Hamhuis or Ballard. And of course we shouldn't trade Ehrhoff. And the Canucks are always a better team with Salo, so they shouldn't trade him either. Should the Canucks go after a top-tier D-man? The very thought gives me a headache.

Of course, in goal the Canucks have assets they could part with as well. Luongo, obviously, is the goaltender Vancouver's going with. He, like Mike Gillis, is God. Since we don't know which defenseman the Canucks are going to send off, Cory Schneider is the most likely player on the team to be traded. He's going to be a starting NHL goaltender somewhere, and those don't grow on trees. The Lightning just went after Dwayne Roloson -- don't tell me there isn't a market for goalies. Really, though, even if the Canucks traded Schneider, and needed a backup in return, the backup's only job come playoff time is going to be to keep the bench warm and maybe make interesting faces to keep us entertained (in which case I vote for Pascal Leclaire). Still, just because the team doesn't need anything this season, I expect Schneider will remain the Canucks' backup till the off-season. What the Canucks especially don't need is a goaltender.

So what else is there, the Canucks could possibly want? The Canucks seem to have a full roster, plus one goaltender, one high-end D-man, and at least one top-six forward. With no holes, the only real roster move the Canucks could make is to upgrade. Swap all the excess assets and a guy like Samuelsson for someone like Jeff Carter (just for the sake of the argument -- I know Carter isn't going anywhere). Problem is, even if a team WAS willing to make that kind of deal, the Canucks don't have the cap space for it, so in order to manage a move like that, they'd have to create a hole in the lineup. What's the likelihood of Gillis making the team less complete just to get a little bit better at one position? Even if there were no risk of damaging the already killer chemistry of this team, I'd say it's still an unlikely scenario.

With a full roster, there's always picks and prospects, I suppose. But even there, there's a problem. Sure, hockeysfuture only has the Canucks ranked at No. 22 in the league when it comes to the strength of their prospect pool. So what? The site acknowledges that the main concern is the dropoff after the top 5 prospects of Cody Hodgson, Jordan Schroeder, Anton Rodin, Sergei Shirokov and Kevin Connauton. That's sorta true, although I'm not ready to discount Bill and Lee Sweatt, as well as Yann Sauve. Still, even if it's a 100 percent dead-on assessment of the Canucks' prospect pool, the Canucks still have at least three or four prospects who might deserve an NHL position, that they just don't have room for. It's a shame when a player like Hodgson can't earn a roster spot no matter how good he is, because the team's got too many players signed. Why would the Canucks trade valuable roster players just to put more prospects in that position?

And why would the Canucks want draft picks? True, you can never have too many, but that doesn't mean you trade roster players like Schneider for them. Most players aren't Phil Kessel and most GMs aren't Brian Burke -- it's unlikely that the Canucks will score two first rounders. Even if they did, a situation like the one in Toronto, where they wound up giving away a lottery pick, is rare. More likely, the picks are going to be the second half of the first round -- still good, but not amazing. From the 1990 to the 2005 drafts, only about three players in four play more than 100 NHL games. So in the best-case scenario, the Canucks trade guaranteed NHL players for 75% likelihood NHL players. Even if the Canucks' great drafting continues, at best they wind up with more prospects they don't have room on the team for. Why would the Canucks trade away roster players just to make the Manitoba Moose better?

Ultimately, something's going to happen. The Canucks can either keep a healthy Salo on IR, or make a trade, and something's going to come back the other way. Probably NHL-calibre defensemen, because Gillis is well-known for thinking you can't have enough NHL-calibre defensemen in the system come playoff time. Either way, the Canucks have extra parts that can fetch a good price, and it's a mystery* what will come back in return. Really, what do we want?

*It's a mystery to everyone but Gillis. Mike Gillis always has a plan, and like God's plan, it's often a mystery to mere mortals.


  1. It's that fourth line, which still plays 7-8 minutes a night that worries me. Bolduc has played well of late, but Tanner Glass and Aaron Volpatti are still complete defensive liabilities, and in the playoffs when your top guys don't have as much energy to go around, you can't put out guys you don't trust.

    Best player available that fits Canucks' need? Ryan Shannon, oddly enough.

  2. I think they'll keep Salo on IR until the playoffs and, provided this somewhat dickish move isn't illegal under the CBA, it's probably the smartest thing to do, since he is going to get injured again when/if he returns.

    I think Cory Schneider is among the least likely players to get moved at the deadline. You wrote:

    Since we don't know which defenseman the Canucks are going to send off, Cory Schneider is the most likely player on the team to be traded. He's going to be a starting NHL goaltender somewhere, and those don't grow on trees. The Lightning just went after Dwayne Roloson -- don't tell me there isn't a market for goalies.

    But Roloson was acquired as an experienced veteran by a team who sees that as their 'missing piece'. I can't see why they would have been interested in a trade to bank on an unproven keeper to serve in this role (one of theirs, Mike Smith, fit the exact same demographic when they acquired him, for instance). Goalies who get moved at the deadline are going to be veteran impending UFAs like Olaf Kölzig was, not promising up-and-comers. I can't think of a team in playoff position who would better their chances by making Schneider their starter this season.

    If Schnedier gets moved, it'll be in the offseason, and I imagine to a team trying to finish off a rebuild.

  3. Yeah, I thought about 4th liners. Still, you don't trade Kevin Bieksa (for example) and Cory Schneider for Ryan Shannon. You don't trade those two players for Ryan Shannon and a first. The Canucks would be overpaying sending a 2nd rounder away for a 4th liner, so it's unlikely that need will matter much in the upcoming trade talks.

    Besides, Glass is a PK guy and the Canucks have one of the top 5 PK units. Even the 4th line isn't doing so bad. And PitB will never support the trade of a Scrabble Champion to another team, just in case Scrabble skills become a necessary component of the Cup Final.

  4. Oh yeah, J21, I don't see Schneider moving at the deadline. I don't see him on the team come this time next year, though. Bieksa, Ehrhoff, Salo... these guys likely won't all be on the team this time next season, but you can't say for sure who won't, whereas with Schneider, he's gone next season's deadline at the latest.

  5. May I just say first that I have a (typically Vancouver) doom-and-gloom attitude that PITB will get traded. I am giddy to have found an intelligent-*ish (*ish in a good way) blog.

    Okay, now, here's my question: I'm not up on my rule-book, but I wonder, can the Canucks 'rotate' injuries? Ie, if Kesler's hurting (as I think he may be), can they put him there for a bit? This seems to be the healthiest I've ever seen this team, but as we get further into the season, and become more of a threat, there are apt to be some guys going down. (Sorry, I hate saying that, because no one wants this to happen; god, what a predicament to be in, waiting on injuries...)

    I'm also pleased that no Canucks were named to the all-stars, while many of our biggest competition going in. I say 'yay'. Tucker those guys out ;)

  6. Another great read from PITB.

    Personally, I'm secretly hoping that Luongo is traded for a legit 1st/2nd line scorer.

  7. This comment has been removed by the author.

  8. @ anonymous 2:31

    Really? have you been hanging out with the crack fox?

  9. @Cam

    I'm completely baffled by your characterization of Tanner Glass as a defensive liability. The guy takes a regular shift on the penalty kill and is far stronger defensively than Volpatti. With Hansen, Samuelsson, or Torres on the 4th line when everyone's healthy, that's a damn good 4th line.

  10. @Anonymous 2:28

    In order to go on long-term injured reserve, the player must be physically unable to play as adjudged by the club's medical team. That player would need to stay on the LTIR for a minimum of 7 days. Source

    Unfortunately, it's not as simple as rotating players in and out of the IR. They have to go through the medical examination and would have to miss a minimum of 7 days. Having a bruised foot (not a bone bruise as Hamhuis had earlier this season) wouldn't qualify Kesler as he is clearly physically able to play.

  11. Pretty much the only thing we're lacking right now is a solid 4th line center. It's not that Bolduc is bad, is that he's not stellar in the position. Who is a stellar 4th line center in the NHL? Well, no one, as they would be centering the 3rd line instead.

    I guess the only concern is injuries. It's impossible to predict who will get injured (Except Salo. We know he'll be out eventually), so I wouldn't expect a trade until (knock on wood), one of our main pieces are out for an extended period of time, like Willie Mitchell.

    Now, what if nothing major happens between now and the trade deadline? Well, crap, I don't know. Maybe we ice 7 defenceman per game (Edler, Ehrhoff, Hamhius, Ballard, Bieksa, Salo, and Alberts), and use Bieksa on the 4th line like last year, move Glass to center (as has been rumoured) and keep Salo on the PP. In the 3rd, we can shut down the 4th line for 5 on 5, and get Bieksa to play D.

    I'm not even convinced this is the best idea, but all I know is that of the current roster plus Salo, only Bolduc seems replaceable.

  12. (Oops. Thanks for the source... Heh, and I'll refrain from asking CanucksCentral-type questions in future. Cheers!)

  13. With Rypien's exception and Parent past waivers, Canucks only need to clear $1,806,452.


    Waive Rome, send down Volpatti, then do one other move. Could even send down Bolduc and run Bieksa as a forward with no spares on the roster. Not the best idea because of injuries, but it keeps the key pieces together for playoffs.

  14. A solid 4th line center who's not a defensive liability and will come at an affordable price these days? Kyle Wellwood!

    There, I said it. Now it's someone else's job to light a fire under him.

  15. trade salo for draft picks before he inevitably is hurt again. he's a liability despite his powerful point shot. madwag

  16. Trading Salo is unlikely at this point. There are several issues: the first is his health. It's not even certain that he will be able to actually return to the team at any point this season. It's possible that he won't be healthy to return until after the trade deadline.

    Second is loyalty. Salo has been a Canuck for the vast majority of his career and Mike Gillis has suggested previously that he doesn't like to trade players unless it puts that player in a good position to play. I suspect he wants to keep Sami Salo in the organization to let him retire a Canuck.

    But the third reason is the most important: he has a No Trade Clause. He would need to approve any potential trade and I doubt Gillis will ask him to waive it. He's not going anywhere.

  17. I'm going to go ahead and put the 4th liner argument in the main post, instead of saying it in the comments again.

  18. i took it like a man! it's always a treat to be put in one's place. by the way, i agree with chickenhawk. sign wellwood for the fourth line.


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