Blackhawks’ Spy Report: The Vancouver Canucks
Torts is seen here in his natural state screaming at the Canucks players. Photoshop by Joe Kremel of Blackhawkup.com
The Vancouver Canucks have been an interesting team to watch from a GM standpoint these past few seasons. They’ve always had skill and a bit of an edge to their game, but despite their winning record, they were voted Most Overrated by the players in 2012. Last season the Canucks struggled a bit, but still tied the Kings for fourth in points. Some blamed their coach Alain Vigneault, but others put the blame squarely on GM Mike Gillis. The brass decided to fire A.V. and keep Gillis around, which was questioned by the fan base and NHL experts alike. Gillis has a little over 5 million to spend and still has 8 players that need to be signed/moved. Most of those players are depth and role players, but regardless, he has decisions to make.
(Warning: some sarcasm and humor may be present.)
The Keepers – Luongo/Lack (5.33 mill/750k): Roberto Luongo went from suffering nearly unanimous dislike to becoming an instant fan favorite within a year and a half. His twitter feed @strombone1 was the main catalyst of the massive perception change. Along with that shift came a different looking Luongo in net. Between his feed and his newfound carefree attitude, he looked better between the pipes. Some argue that his play helped push the Schneider trade and dissuaded the Canucks from using a compliance buyout on him. Eddie Lack will most likely be the next backup for the Canucks. I have watched him play for the Wolves a number of times, and he seems pretty decent. It’s still too early to tell if he will be a Luongo/Schneider caliber goalie, but he has some promise. I would expect to be seeing his name a lot next year.
The Twins – Daniel and Henrik Sedin (6.1 mill each): The Sedins had a rough season by their usual standards, but they were still producing nearly a point per game. The Olympic diving twins are very skilled players that still have a number of good years left. They are younger than Hossa and were nearly on the same pace. Hossa is still considered an extremely valuable piece of the Hawks core, so why all the hate for the Sedins? Sure, those players have different styles of play, but they are comparable. Something that wasn’t really brought up was their playoff performance. They both had three points in four games; it’s hard to ask for more than that. I know that they are the “leaders” of the team, but look at the Hawks. The scoring came from all over the lineup. You can’t expect 2-3 players to completely carry a team in the playoffs.
Bench Boss Or Bully? – John Tortorella: Alain Vigneault was a dirty player, but as a coach he was on top of the stats revolution. He really worked the faceoff dots, and he seemed to be the kind of coach the players liked for the most part. That will all change with the hiring of Torts. Torts can only go two ways with this team. He can bring a strong defensive work ethic that builds off of solid goaltending leading the team to become an extremely strong contender. Or, the forced defensive style and poorly handled player interactions will knock them out of the playoff hunt. I don’t see them being on the playoff bubble next season; they’ll be either safely in or well out. Bringing in Torts is a risky move, but he does bring one thing that is underrated. He knows how to draw attention off of his players and onto himself. That could be perfect for a team that is in an overly passionate city.
Prognosis: Not confident. They are now in the new Pacific division with tough competition which will only exacerbate the strain of introducing a new coach with a new style. Expectations are always high in Vancouver, and while you may not like their fan base, there is no denying their passion. This team will become more of a well-rounded team, but will that payoff right out of the gates? I’m leaning towards no. That doesn’t mean that this veteran core can’t do it. Time will tell on this one.