After a more-than-disappointing 2015-16 campaign that saw the Vancouver Canucks finish third to last in the entire National Hockey League, the vast majority of the fan base has been calling for a tear down of the club.
A full-on rebuild would be highly beneficial as far as the long term gain of the team is concerned. Despite the collective wishes of the fans, however, General Manager Jim Benning appears to be hellbent on making a push for the postseason. He also seems to be the only one interested in it. Whether or not management, ownership or the coaching staff want to believe it, the Canucks roster, as it stands right now, is not in any position to be a serious contender, and Benning’s continued push for playoff dates is only hurting the long-term prospects of the team.
The Vancouver Canucks Haven’t Figured Out Their Rebuild
The signing of Loui Eriksson is undoubtedly the centerpiece and defining moment of the playoff movement. While Eriksson is a fine player who can play in all situations, puts up 30 goals and 60 points, and will almost certainly compliment the Sedins well, he’s also a symbol of management’s resistance toward a rebuild.
At $6 million for six years, his contract isn’t a bad one, but one questions just how much better a 30-year-old Eriksson will get from this point onward. Sure, from a short-term point of view, he makes the Canucks a better team. Signing him shouldn’t cause anyone to experience extreme anger of any sort, but long-term, it’s not a move that needed to be made. He’s an excellent player that any team, including the Canucks, should be happy to add to their roster. But when taking into account context and the fact that he’ll be nearly 37 years of age come the end of his contract, it’s a signing that goes fully against what the club should be striving for.
One could also look at the unwillingness to move Jannik Hansen, who is coming off a career-best goal-scoring campaign (22), as a move that goes fundamentally against the idea of a rebuild. If Lars Eller can snag the Montreal Canadiens a pair of 2nd round picks, there’s no reason a cheaper and younger Hansen couldn’t get at least that, if not a 1st rounder.
If Eriksson wasn’t signed, keeping Hansen would’ve been defensible, but the fact that management knew they would go hard after Eriksson means trading Hansen for picks should have been a priority on draft day.
There’s also still the potential that the off-season doesn’t get any better from here on out. Should they not be able to find a buyer for veteran winger Alex Burrows, they may be stuck carrying him on the roster for the duration of the year.
There’s also the very real possibility that Luca Sbisa remains a Canuck throughout the summer and into the 2016-17 campaign. This is an unfortunate possibility not only due to his ridiculous $3.6 million contract, but the fact that it limits the amount of spots available for young defenders such as Andrey Pedan or Troy Stetcher.
The Canucks are truly in the middle of an identity crisis right now. Management wants a playoff berth, but the fans want a rebuild, and the roster will, in all likelihood, reflect just that. They might not finish in the bottom three and secure a high-end prospect, but it’s also probable they fall short of the playoff bar.
The team isn’t particularly fast, but they’re not that slow either. They’re not a defensive team, but also hardly an offensive one either. They’re not extravagantly old, but also a far cry from young. The Canucks don’t know what they want to be, and it appears that until they accept that a fresh start is needed, it isn’t likely to change any time soon. Who knows, maybe they sneak into a wildcard spot and get knocked off in four or five games. They’ll get a couple extra dates on the calendar, but until they start over and truly dedicate themselves to restocking the roster, Benning’s legacy will be one of failed retool attempts and continued mediocrity.