Vancouver Canucks Plan That Wasn’t

Vancouver Canucks

Come one, come all! See the Amazing Vancouver Canucks Plan that magically disappears before your very eyes! It’s here! It’s gone! Everyone sees it, yet no one can describe it in any way, shape, or form! Grab it, and it slips through your hands like smoke. Getcher tickets handy, folks!

Vancouver’s No Plan Plan

The Vancouver Canucks plan over the past decade(-ish) has been to get back to the playoffs NOW at any cost. While that is understandable for a team that is close to competing for the Stanley Cup, that isn’t the Canucks. That hasn’t been the Canucks for quite a long time now, either, so what gives?

When the team owner finally pulled the trigger and fired Jim Benning and Travis Green, among several others, the 2021-22 season was put into a freeze. What was going to happen next? Who was it going to happen to? No one really knew because a replacement general manager didn’t show up until a month later.

Still, when he did the air was buzzing with potential. Sure, the actual general manager is Patrik Allvin, but with Jim Rutherford at a desk could trades be far behind? And the best, most obvious choice for the Vancouver Canucks plan was to make big moves and start the rebuild. Use that great season of J.T. Miller‘s and jumpstart the rebuild. Maybe move out a legacy player or two, and bite the bullet on one of the bad contracts. When you’re new, fans let you get away with that sort of thing!

March 21st came and went and the moves made were pretty insignificant. Tyler Motte and Travis Hamonic were moved out and Travis Dermott – yeah, he’s still around! – came in. The buzz remained, only now it was one of confusion. What the heck was that?

Rule One: Don’t Be A Sucker

For all their protestations about no deals being available, the new group messed up. Sure, no one wants to get a reputation for being the first GM everyone calls, but the team needed change more than they needed respect. The problem was that they were suckers.

The Canucks surged up the standings since the coaching change, and now they were just four points back. Somehow, some way, the team was within striking distance of the Vegas Golden Knights. As it happened, they would end up just two points back of Vegas, but the Golden Knights also missed the playoffs to that wasn’t the talking point it could have been.

Whether the sucker at that point was the general manager or the owner is irrelevant. Getting blinded by the gleam of the playoff date brass ring is a common flaw in sports. What they needed was to realize the players could stretch for the ring all they wanted – and they do! Let the players and coach reach. That’s never a bad thing.

But a better thing is to see that to get the ring, you may need to change horses.

You Pays Your Money, You Takes Your Chances

The first sign that the Canucks plan was to ride the hot hand and worry about tomorrow, tomorrow was J.T. Miller. Not trading him – or any other major component – meant the team was going to ride it out. The troublesome contract of Brock Boeser loomed largely, but no deal was made there, either. Not one of the big-name, burdensome contracts was shipped out, though that’s less of a surprise. Moving the draft-pick “sweeteners” that usually go with such a deal would NOT have gone over well.

Which, okay, the management and owner clearly decided to let the team run its course. Maybe they’d get there, after all! It would be a great story in a town that needed one and a lot of pressure would be off. It didn’t work out that way, but hey, that’s sports for you. Best laid plans and all that of thing, right?

The problem is they didn’t do what so obviously needed to be done in the offseason, either. Boeser got a new deal; Miller got a new deal; Bo Horvat got bupkis. Which is its own special set of problems that look like they’re going to congeal poorly.

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Move Fast or Die

The opportunity for the team to make major changes with the hand wave of “not our players” is gone. Having Rutherford come out and say he was surprised the coach was around for a second year was… well, a surprise. Then, if not disdain, then indifference the management team has for Horvat has been pretty clear from the start. Offering the team captain – and coincidentally 31-goal scorer – a lowball deal for an unknown amount of time is not a great way to open negotiations.

But, again, the Canucks plan was to have three centres with Horvat being the third. And you can only offer your third-line centre so much money, after all. Looking at it from Horvat’s perspective, this is his last chance to cash in on a big deal. No one likes to pack up and move, especially if they have kids. But those same kids are a good reason to get as much as possible with this one chance he has. And this is the place where he is the most valuable to the team.

That’s the kicker for the team trying to move him, too. Other teams aren’t going to have the same value for Horvat as his loss will cause in Vancouver. But his point values – around .74 per game over the last five years – aren’t enough for another team to justify a huge contract offer. He could still get a fair return as a rental, but that’s what he’s going to be traded as.

Drive Enough Circles, End Up A Target

And now the team is stuck. Their biggest trade asset is going to be extremely difficult to replace. Even if they do manage to make Miller a decent centre, there’s everything else he is to the team. Horvat’s not playing 21 minutes a night because coach Bruce Boudreau thinks he’s a liability.

Whoever the Canucks trade, they want young players back. Those players won’t be as good as whoever heads out, but so be it. The real problem with getting young players and/or picks is that they probably won’t contribute in any substantial way for three or four or five years. Then you look at the team and decide when exactly it is they’re going to be ready to compete. So the next moves had better correspond with that new timeline.

It’s past the optimum time for the Canucks to initiate major changes, but there is still an appetite for it. Given the last Canucks plan, a new one of “let’s worry about tomorrow today instead” would probably go over pretty well.

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