June 30, 2013

Pucks On The 'Net: On Cory, Lou and 2013 NHL Draft

Shortly after the conclusion of the Canucks season in 2012 I penned a goodbye column to Roberto Luongo. I never published it, because I wanted to wait for his departure to become official. The article was really good, in my biased opinion, because I felt I captured my passion quite nicely at the time. I hated to see Luongo go as I really enjoyed him and wanted him to stay, but I realized that the Canucks had made their bed and there was no turning back.

Apparently I was wrong.

We were all wrong. I don't think any of us really expected this turn of events until a few days ago when the Edmonton rumours surfaced. And once the Oilers made their draft pick at #7, we figured the Schneider trade option had evaporated. Two picks later Gary Bettman announced that the Canucks had traded Schneider to New Jersey, of all teams, for the 9th overall pick.

Roberto Luongo is again the undisputed number one goalie in Vancouver, even though we are not sure if he's terribly happy about that.

Where to start? First, a lot of Canucks fans are upset that Mike Gillis did not get more in return for Schneider. Count me in that camp, but ultimately this whole goaltending schmozzle came down to this choice: Trade an elite goaltender for the 9th overall draft pick, or, somehow, trade an elite goaltender for pretty much nothing. And possibly take on a lot salary to do it.

That choice makes it fairly obvious. Take the top ten draft pick and hope to make amends with Luongo quickly. Reportedly team owner Francesco Aquilini travelled across the continent over night to visit Luongo at his Florida residence prior to the announcement.

Also fairly obvious is the fact that Aquilini was not prepared to write a $27 million dollar check for a compliance buy out.

That left Mike Gillis with no choice. He horribly mismanaged this whole debacle, though in fairness to him he could not have anticipated how much Luongo's contract would hamper the franchise when he signed the goaltender. The new collective bargaining agreement really changed the landscape on him in that regards. Still, he was forced to move the goalie he wanted to keep. Had he wanted to move Schneider he probably should have done it last year or sooner. How about to Columbus for Jeff Carter? He sure would look good in Vancouver.

Gillis continues to come across as a directionless leader who is really unsure what he wants to do in many different aspects. "We haven't decide that" and "I don't know that answer yet" and "we are listening to all offers" have become constant remarks from Gillis. He also likes to talk about "the sponsors." He is clearly uncomfortable with the media, but he needs to evoke clear messages of strong leadership through the media to his most important sponsors - the fans.

Instead, he slaps the fans in the face with this, as tweeted by Ken Campbell of The Hockey News:
Bruce Arthur of the National Post sums up my initial reaction with this gem:
I have been increasingly critical of Mike Gillis. His lack of an apparent vision for getting this team back on top down right scares me.

Here's some more Pucks On The 'Net
  • Just when you think Schneider has escaped the goaltending zoo, Devils' GM Lou Lamoreillo insists that 41 year old Martin Brodeur remains as the team's number one goalie. Schneider can not escape Louuuuuu!!!!
  • I will not pretend be much of an expert on these prospects. Bo Horvat sounds like a solid pick. They rave about his character and two way game and how he is a can't miss player. Yeah, well said the same thing about Cody Hodgson not so long ago, so I will take a wait and see approach. Hopefully Horvat remains in junior at least one more year. The London Knights are a great development team and are hosting the Memorial Cup in 2014. Horvat sounds like a slower version of Ryan Kesler. I'm thinking he's projecting to be a #2 center at best, and perhaps more realistically a #3.
  • The Canucks suddenly have a nice collection of prospects at center. There are no blue-chippers, but Horvat, Brendan Gaunce and Jordan Schroeder offer some solid bets.
  • I also like the Canucks selecting Cole Cassels and Jordan Subban in later rounds. Most middle round draft picks sound great on draft day and many are never heard from again. I think we will see these guys get a shot one day, especially Subban.
  • Great job by the New Jersey fans at the draft. When the Colorado Avalanche, including Patrick Roy, approached the stage to make the first overall selection, the pro-Martin Brodeur crowd spontaneously broke into a "Marty's Better!" chant.
  • The same fans did not return to the chant when New Jersey drafted Anthony Brodeur, Martin's son, with the 208th overall selection.
  • Colorado had been open all week about drafting Nathan MacKinnon and passing on home grown blue line stud Seth Jones. But I don't know if anyone expected Jones to slide all the way to the 4th pick. Colorado, Florida (who took Aleksander Barkov) and Tampa Bay (Jonathan Drouin) all could really use a guy like Jones, but ultimately they are looking for immediate help. History shows us forwards are far more likely to step in and make an impact, whereas defensemen take a while to mature. There probably is no better place than Nashville for Jones. The Predators have developed a lot of good young defenders. Jones can take his time finding his game behind Shea Weber.
  • The trade I liked best on draft day was San Jose poaching Tyler Kennedy out of Pittsburgh for a 2nd round pick. Kennedy is a real versatile player who can move up and down the lineup. He also has a strong playoff reputation.
  • Days after scoring the Stanley Cup winning goal David Bolland was traded away by the Chicago Blackhawks. The move, to Toronto for 3 mid round draft picks, freed up the salary cap space to re-sign playoff hero Bryan Bickell and, since the oft-injured Bolland is a year away from unrestricted free agency, not a surprise. I was surprised to see Chicago move Michael Frolik, who was an excellent depth player and penalty killer. That is a real strong pick up by Winnipeg.
  • The New York Islanders, who terribly bungled top prospect Nino Niederreiter, nicely swapped him to Minnesota for Cal Clutterbuck. Clutterbuck, a former junior teammate of John Tavares, will add some nice grit and penalty killing work to the Islanders, and will not be easy to play against. The Islanders could use one more veteran forward like that.

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