Whether it was getting swept in the first round of the playoffs or the root-pulling trade that sent Cory Schneider to New Jersey, the 2013 playoffs and the ensuing offseason left a bitter taste in the mouths of all Canucks fans. But Vancouver didn’t care as long as a Stanley Cup would arrive in time, and as told by various sources, the Canucks were still a legitimate contender. Naturally, the fans eagerly filled Rogers Arena again, only to see this unfold.
Both Sedins failed to hit the 60-point mark for the first time since 2003-04. Their linemate Alex Burrows went 35 games before scoring his first goal of the year. Alexander Edler, expected to lead as the team’s all-round blueliner, continued to miss Christian Ehrhoff and finished with a league-worst minus-39 rating. Vancouver only scored 191 goals as a team, ranked 28th in the league and posted the worst post-lockout record in franchise history.
As the season drew to a close, it was obvious to many that Alain Vigneault, should never have been fired. His replacement, John Tortorella, not only failed to energide the team with his snappy attitude, his roster lost the speed and excitement which were the reasons why the Canucks won games in the past.
The Canucks did thrive under Tortorella early in the season, they even had the Pacific Division title in sight when they closed out the year of 2013. However, the initial success was only a flash in the pan as the Canucks knew they couldn’t last under Tortorella’s pledge to play with “more bite”. The team found themselves playing dangerous hockey and when the injuries did happen, they imploded and Tortorella was fired as a result.
Even with his team dazed and confused, GM Mike Gillis continued to play with fire by trading Roberto Luongo to Florida. The deal introduced another goaltending situation that only brought more question marks to the team and ended in the eventual dispatch of Gillis himself.
Are the Canucks a rebuilding team now? Absolutely not. As far as past records suggest, Vancouver’s core still has tons of gas left in the tank and is still very capable of contending for a playoff spot. With almost everyone on the executive board replaced, the team needs to stop making risky moves and settle for stability. A new coach that leads his team with an up-tempo style of play would also be a big welcome in Vancouver.
Vancouver has always been the loser on draft days and if they are to retool and remain competitive at the same time, it’s a problem that has yet to be addressed. Other teams such as San Jose and Detroit had aspiring players like Logan Couture or Gustav Nyquist who were able to step up in the past, but when Vancouver needed help their farm system was empty. The Canucks will have to resort to making safe picks and hold on to their future talent in order to be game-ready next year.