Friday, September 01, 2006

Opportunity Lost

The Canucks join the Flyers and Senators (probably although I guess never say never) as teams who showed a lot of promise but never got to the top of the mountain.

The window is almost closed and for the Canucks, it probably is.

The defining moments for this team. Blowing a 3-1 lead to a Minnesota Wild team that looked like the 78 Habs by the end of that collapse, blowing by bewildered Canuck defenders as they filled Cloutier. And the Bertuzzi/Moore incident. That team, demoralized, fell to the Flames in 7.

Last season, racked by injuries, they fell short of the playoffs completely.

Now Cloutier is gone. So is Jovo. And Bertuzzi. And Marc Crawford as well.

With Alain Vigneault behind the bench, the addition of hard rock Willie Mitchell and star stopper Roberto Luongo this team is remaking itself, at least partially, as a defence first outfit.

Jan Bulis is a nice addition and will probably replace Anson Carter's 33 goals. Or close to it anyhow.

I think the Canucks get in - they were in last year if they had not suffered injuries that knocked out Jovo, Salo, Ohlund and Cloutier for extended periods, never mind hobbling Naslund and Morrison for most of the season.

And the Bertuzzi circus is long gone.

This team is not dropping to 11th. They are better then LA, Phoenix, Columbus, Minnesota, Dallas and maybe one or two more that THN picks ahead of them.

Dave Nonis' problem. He has no room under the cap and a startling lack of depth at every position. If Bulis produces then they have five forwards instead of six they can depend upon for offence.

Cooke, Pyatt, Chouinard, Kesler - they have some role players.

But if guys get racked up - say Ohlund and Salo go down here and there for a few weeks. Or Morrison.

Nonis just doesn't have that wiggle room to add bodies.

Having said that, I think reports of the Canucks' demise are premature.

But unless Krajicek is a player and some of these youngsters can contribute - Bourdon being one of them (unlikely), I see them as in and gone. Maybe Luongo steals a round. But that's all.


Anonymous said...

I do not see this roster as favourably as you do. The lack of depth will be a glaring problem here. Nonis has paid too much for the top half of his depth-chart. This will give them problems from the middle of the roster down. It actually would not be too bad with a $3.5M-$4M player instead of Naslund. I think that $3.5M for Mitchell is too much, but time will have to pass to bear me out. He is forced to go with too many minimum salary players.

Black Dog Hates Skunks said...

anon - I have to admit I am on the fence with this team - part of me agrees with you. I think ideally you build a team with as few big money guys as possible. Paying a guy 7M - how many guys are worth that? it really ties your hands.

And Mitchell is not worth 3.5M but the UFA market is crazy - remember Kubina got 5M. I'd rather have Mitchell.

This team will have quite a few minimum salary guys at the bottom end of their depth chart.

Now, having said all of that - they have three pretty good lines, an excellent goalie and three good D men. If Krajicek can contribute then this team will get to the playoffs, I think.

But their lack of quality players on the bottom half of the roster will do them in if they suffer a lot of small injuries - guys out for a week here, a week there (not enough to get salary cap relief to get a replacement) - and definitely will finish them in the playoffs

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Anonymous said...

While I agree that the Canucks do not have the quite the depth that some teams have, I think that Nonis has actively and effectively addressed this over the summer.

The Canucks were significantly more top heavy last season, relying heavily on the 1st and 2nd lines, and, as we all know, were in serious trouble once the injuries to Ohlund, Jovo, and Salo occured - the team was forced to play guys like Sven Butecnschon, Tomas Mojizs (sp?), and other career minor leaguers.

Signing guys like M. Chouinard, T. Pyatt, J. Bulis up front, and Y. Tremblay and R. Fitzpatrick on the backend should provide more balanced scoring and better defensive depth.

Further, guys like Bieksa, Burrows and Kesler, all of whom were essentially rookies last season should show some improvement. Kesler improved drastically over the course of the season and I fully expect him to score 20+ goals this season. A couple rookies, noteably Jesse Schultz and Luc Bourdon, are expected to make an impact this season - if they are able to do so, I think the Canucks should be fine (Schultz has a chance to play with the Sedins and quite frankly I think anyone should be able to score with those guys).

I think the Canucks should be a pretty good team this year, but as there has been so many changes to the roster, its impossible to predict how it will all mesh. I will say, comparing the rosters between this year and last year, I am inclined to be more optimistic about this season:

05/06 Roster

Naslund - Morrison - Bertuzzi
Sedin - Sedin - Carter
Cooke - Kesler - Park
Ruutu - Linden - Green

Ohlund - Salo
Jovo - Allen
Baumer - S. Mccarthy
Butenschon (?)


2006/2007 Roster (my estimates)

Naslund - Morrison - Bulis
Sedin - Sedin - Schultz
Kesler - Chouinard - Cooke
Pyatt - Linden - Burrows

Ohlund - Salo
Mitchell - Krajicek
Bourdon - Bieksa


Black Dog Hates Skunks said...

anon - your points are good ones and Kesler is a guy I like as well - a lot of people forget about him

I think however that thinking Bourdon may be ready for the NHL is wishful thinking - its possible but consider that Smid, who has three years pro under his belt already, is considered a longshot to have a positive impact on the Oilers and may not even make the team.

I know what you are saying - just a lot of ifs - Schultz, Bourdon, Krajicek, even Bulis.

having said all of that - this is a playoff team in my estimation

Anonymous said...

Now I'm not saying that Bourdon will be nearly as effective as Dion Phaneuf was for the Flames in his rookie season, his 'scouting report' on both TSN and Hockeysfuture described him to be one of the most NHL ready players in the Draft - a draft class generally considered to be one of the deepest and most talented in decades, and one highlighted by players such as Crosby, Jack Johnson, Bobby Ryan, Marc Stall, Brian Lee, etc. Remember, Bourdon almost made the Canucks roster last season, as an 18 year old.

Further, assuming Bourdon does make the Canucks and barring injury, it is extremely unlikely that he will be relied upon nearly as heavily as Phaneuf was by the Flames to be an impact player. It is much more likely that we will be playing 6th defenceman minutes with a fair amount of PP time - a role that is quite likely very conducive for success. Perhaps I'm being blinded by my love of the Canucks, but I feel Bourdon is very capable of playing 6th dman minutes - a role guys like Ryan Suter, Dan Hamhuis, Brent Seabrook were very succesful in.

I agree with you that there are some significant questions surrounding the Canucks - I just feel the potential for success is likely much greater.

Black Dog Hates Skunks said...

Hope springs eternal in the fall, huh? But I can see where you are coming from because I have the same feelings about the Oilers that you have for the Nucks.

Everything will work out - it has to!