8 steps for a quick rebuild of the Vancouver Canucks

Image Courtesy: Canucks.com

You might not want to admit it yet, but it’s time to rebuild.

Lets be realistic. The Stanley Cup isn’t coming to this city this year and it isn’t likely to come next year either. The Canucks likely need to wait until their young prospects (Bo Horvat, Hunter Shinkaruk and Brendan Gaunce) develop, which could take 2-3 years, to start pushing for another chance to win it all. So why kid ourselves?

When you go around calling yourself “Rob The Hockey Guy,” you elicit a lot of questions from your friends at a time like this. Lately I have been getting a lot of “what’s wrong with the Canucks” and “what are they going to do?”

The quick answers are they just aren’t good enough (although injuries are making them look even worse) and they need to get younger. It’s now painfully obvious that the core group that came so close to winning it all in 2011 can no longer be counted on to make the Canucks into a contender. They have to change the mix and they have to get younger. Unless someone finds the fountain of youth, the Canucks core isn’t likely to get better in the next few years given their ages:

  • Roberto Luongo (34)
  • Henrik Sedin (33)
  • Daniel Sedin (33)
  • Alex Burrows (32)
  • Kevin Bieksa (32)
  • Dan Hamhuis (31)
  • Ryan Kesler (29)
  • Alex Edler (27)

That’s right, the young man in the group still remaining from the 2011 run is Alex Edler and he is no spring chicken anymore.

Image Courtesy: Canucks.com

Image: Canucks.com

The Canucks need to rebuild. No, I’m not talking about following the Edmonton Oilers model here (they might not be able to if they tried given the amount of no-trade clauses on the team). I would like to follow the Philadelphia Flyers model in 2007.

The Flyers had a 101 point season in 2005-06 but had a nightmare of a season one year later. They finished with a league-worst 56 point season in 2006-07 and had a fire sale. They traded an aging Peter Forsberg to Nashville for two young players and two draft picks. They flipped Alexei Zhitnik for Brayden Coburn and dumped many of their veterans for whatever they could get. The result was a boatload of cap space which they used to sign Danny Briere, Kimmo Timonen and Scott Hartnell. Essentially they traded veterans for young players and replaced those vetarans through free agency and astute trades. The Flyers made the playoffs in 2007-08 and even made a run to the Eastern Conference Final.

So what’s my solution? Start making moves. With Wednesday’s trade deadline fast approaching (and Daniel Sedin potentially injured for at least 3 weeks), the time for action is now. Here are 8 steps to rebuild the Vancouver Canucks. This is a little bit pie in the sky because you can never be sure of what other general managers will offer, who will waive their no-trade clause and what players will be willing to sign in Vancouver during the offseason, but I tried to keep it as realistic as possible.

1. Trade Ryan Kesler: I think Kesler is an excellent hockey player, but he is injury prone and his production is likely to diminish in 2-3 years as he exits his prime years. Most importantly, he is willing to waive his no-trade clause and will garner a significant return. Trade Kesler to Philadelphia for Brayden Schenn or Sean Couturier as well as a good prospect and a first round draft choice and it will kick start the rebuild.

2. Trade Alex Edler: Alex Edler is a player with a lot of promise and a lot of talent, but he is a player that the Canucks don’t need. What we see with Alex Edler is what we get. He is a solid #2 or #3 defenceman who doesn’t fit-in well with the current Canucks’ coach. The Tortorella effect might be enough to convince him to leave and he should still reap a big return given what he has accomplished in his career. The Canucks looked into trading Edler last spring, with Detroit apparently willing to put together a package of young players that resembled Brendan Smith, Tomas Tatar, and Riley Sheahan. If the package is just Smith and Tatar, I pull the trigger.

3. Trade Roberto Luongo: I realize that I am now suggesting to trade Luongo and Kesler in the same article, so I hope I don’t have to join the witness relocation program after this gets published. I’m a Luongo fan, but he is going to turn 35 years old this year and isn’t likely to get better in the next few years. There’s no guarantee that any team wants his contract yet (though the cap is going to go up next season), but if they can find a taker they should put Lu out of his misery no matter what the return.

UPDATE: Mike Gillis has listened to me, Shawn Matthias and Jakob Markstrom are on their way to Vancouver.

Image Courtesy: Anne-Marie Sorvin/USA Today

Image: Anne-Marie Sorvin/USA Today

4. Re-Sign Mike Santorelli: I don’t want to trade the entire team, ok? I have been beating this drum for a while, but it’s time to re-sign Mike Santorelli. I was singing this tune back in early December and Santorelli’s value might be even more evident today. Santorelli played at centre and on the wing, played on all four lines, played on the penalty kill and power play, and was one of their best shootout options. He’s also only 28 years old.

5. Trade Jannik Hansen: Ok, back to cleaning house. Hansen is a player that has been a favourite of mine in the past but he hasn’t fit-in well with John Tortorella. He has become a tweener, not big enough to be really physical and not talented enough to play on their second line. Tortorella doesn’t even use Hansen on the penalty kill very often anymore. Get the best draft choice possible for Hansen and move him before his no-trade clause kicks in.

6. Shutdown and Buyout David Booth: I don’t think I have to explain myself here. David Booth has been a disappointment in blue and green and has one more year left on his contract at $4.25 million. The Canucks have one more compliance buyout to use this offseason and they should shutdown Booth immediately to ensure he doesn’t get injured (and becomes ineligible to be bought-out).

7. Sign Jaroslav Halak: With Luongo gone, the Canucks will need someone to share the crease with Eddie Lack. Luckily this is an excellent year to be shopping for a goalie. Jonas Hiller, Ryan Miller and Jaroslav Halak will be unrestricted free agents on July 1st. The Canucks may have the inside track on Halak because of goalie coach Rolie Melanson, who coached Halak in Montreal.

8. Sign Paul Stastny: Stastny isn’t a perfect hockey player, but he has skill (46 points in 55 games) and youth on his side (he’s only 28 years old). As a UFA, they might have to overpay for his services, but at least it will be for a player in the prime of his career. Stastny would centre the Canucks’ second line and help run their second unit power play.

The above list represents somewhat of a dream scenario to fast track a rebuild. It would give the Canucks a competitive lineup next season that could make the playoffs and re-stock their prospects cupboard (a prospect and two draft picks for Kesler and Hansen).

Here is what my team would look like, accounting for $5 million in extra cap space (keep in mind that young players like Bo Horvat, Hunter Shinkaruk, Brendan Gaunce and Nicklas Jensen could force their way onto the team):

D. Sedin H. Sedin Kassian
Burrows Stastny Santorelli
Tatar Schenn Higgins
Matthias Richardson Sestito
Hamhuis Tanev
Stanton Bieksa
Garrison Smith

The Canucks would get a whole lot younger and not a whole lot worse, if you ask me. Halak is probably a downgrade on Luongo (at least in the short-term) and Paul Stastny isn’t the complete player that Ryan Kesler is, but the injection of youth and potential into the lineup would do wonders for their future.

And if there’s one thing I’m craving for this franchise, it’s a bright future.

About the author

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Rob Williams Sports Editor at Vancity Buzz.

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  • Betty Henderson

    Bieksa still here? I’m in. Nice work.

  • Matt Dungey

    We are like minded . I agree with all of this except for the Hansen thing .

  • Robbie D

    Good article. I don’t want to see honey badger go, but agree he isn’t fitting in so much anymore :(

  • Dub J

    So you’ve downgraded our goaltending and defence without upgrading our scoring. Younger isn’t better if you put the wrong pieces in place. #edmonton

  • John

    As a 28 year old, I feel both decrepit (“no spring chicken anymore”) and virile (“only 28 years old”). Nothing like an age crisis while reading trade talk.

  • Chris

    WARNING WARNING: You are not allowed to bad mouth the Canucks or else you are a “band wagon” fan. Because “REAL” Canucks fans say so and don’t admit when there is a problem (which is all the time). 😉

  • a.l

    Keep it same for another year, it’ll be fine

  • Cam

    This would be a travesty. If you don’t recall, Philly blew it all up again after trading core players to get a goaltending upgrade (Bryz) Why do you think they say guys are coming into their prime for UFA’s (27/28) Statsny is a whole one year younger and represents youth to Kesler? They are both in their prime. Kesler’s prime being miles ahead of Statsny. Also you talked about Philly being atrocious that led to their rebuild, where they selected Claude Giroux. Newsflash! We aren’t getting that kind of talent with a pick between 10-15. This also isn’t a rebuild, this is what Leaf fans call a rebuild. Not getting any better but having different players being mediocre. The Sedins are where a rebuild begins, as Kesler could easily be a number one center. That’s committing to a rebuild, not mickey mousing it.

  • babag

    It’s much tougher to trade 14 million dollar twins than Kesler, especially since they want to stay and Kes wants out.

  • babag

    1 down, 7 to go

  • http://www.vancitybuzz.com/ Rob Williams

    They didn’t trade anyone for Bryz, they signed him as a UFA.

    Stastny is young for a UFA. I know Kesler is better than Stastny. But Stastny + the return in a trade for Kesler > Kesler. That’s what I’m saying.

    Philly was bad 1 year and selected James van Riemsdyk with the #2 pick. Claude Giroux was actually taken before their bad year with the #22 pick. But thanks for the newsflash.

    You could try to trade the Sedins, and I don’t think that’s a crazy idea, but what happens if they don’t want to waive their no trade clause? Right now there’s no indication they want to waive it, unlike Kesler who wants out. I think you’re being a little bit optimistic about Kesler being a #1 centre on a contending team though.

    I get what you mean though, if you’re going to be bad, then be BAD right? I don’t think that’s absolutely necessary in this situation. Build for 3 years down the road, when the Sedins are your second line and guys like Horvat/Shinkaruk are in the lineup.

  • http://www.vancitybuzz.com/ Rob Williams

    Haha… I’m older than you, don’t feel bad.

  • http://www.vancitybuzz.com/ Rob Williams

    I have in the short term maybe, but it’s the long term that I’m most interested in.

  • http://www.vancitybuzz.com/ Rob Williams

    We’ll keep him just for you Betty. I’ll let Aquilini know.

  • mhkmack

    Probably one of the better articles Ive read on Vancity Buzz. I dont agree with every one of your points, but I also dont have anything better to offer. Definitely, heres to a brighter future !

  • http://www.vancitybuzz.com/ Rob Williams

    I don’t agree with that at all. I consider myself a diehard fan but I criticize them all the time. For me, a bandwagon fan is someone who stops caring about the games.

  • Mike C

    I agree totally, well almost, Beiska has to go. The Sedins have another year , max, in them and that’s it and I’m being generous. The Drama Queen of the NHL is gone. ( Luongo ) so the dressing room should be better, it was poison in there. It was a nightmare with Kesler and Luongo in the same room, hated one another with a passion. Lets see he does next year rotting in Florida. Where he belongs I might add. What a phony bastard he is. Master at faking sincerity.
    Torts has to go, others are available. The Owner has to keep his mouth shut and let Linden do the best he can. Its not going to be pretty, but if they even think of a ‘retooling” this team is done for a lot of years down the road, because it ain’t gonna happen. Copy the Boston Bruins organization and structure, which they copied from Detroit. Boston is the template for an NHL hockey team, its all there. THIS IS TOTALLY ABOUT A REBUILD, take the 3 – 4 years and build something, not with crazy glue and scotch tape it together….build on solid ground not shifting sand…..take the time to do this right, and then look to the future of a much stronger Calgary and Edmonton and the whole division. This is all about gutting a team and putting it all back together properly….time will tell. I’m a Boston fan, so Go Boston Go. And oh yeah, say a “prayer for luongo” remember that smart ass remark he made about Eddie Lack….right…..