Things That Make You Go Hmmm: Looking Ahead to Next Season
[Inspired by Arsenio Hall’s “Things That Make You Go Hmmm…”, Clayton Imoo talks about Canucks-related things that make him go hmmm… You can follow Clay on Twitter at (@canuckclay) or on his website, Clay’s Canucks Commentary.]
It’s been a few days since the Vancouver Canucks lost 4-0 to the Boston Bruins in game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals, bringing a sudden and disappointing end to a very memorable and entertaining season. From Markus Naslund’s jersey retirement in December to the unforgettable game 7 against the Blackhawks, the season had drama, excitement, and emotion. But when you end the postseason with a loss, it means you didn’t get the job done. And it also means questions… things that make you go hmmm:
- What will the team look like next year? The Canucks have 8 unrestricted free agents to make decisions on this off-season, the most notable being defencemen Kevin Bieksa, Christian Ehrhoff, and Sami Salo. Together, they made a combined $10.35 million (or 1/6 of the total team payroll) this past season. Even with the salary cap expected to increase to $64 million (an increase of over $4 million), it is the common belief that they will need to take hometown discounts for the Canucks to keep all 3 of them. Up front, both Raffi Torres and Chris Higgins are among the UFAs. Throw in the aging Mikael Samuelsson (who the Canucks might consider trading), and the top 9 could have a much different look next year. Only the goaltending will be constant with Cory Schneider under contract for one more season (unless he’s traded) and Roberto Luongo locked in until the 22nd century (or so it seems). Given that free agency starts in less than 2 weeks from now, things are going to get very interesting very quickly.
- What will be the lasting legacy of the riot and the aftermath? After game 7, I actually stayed at Rogers Arena for a full hour after the game. My reasoning was two-fold: I wanted to see the Bruins celebrate with their families, and I wanted to avoid going out on to the dangerous Vancouver streets. Once I finally left the arena, I was amazed at the number of people heading TOWARDS the dangerous areas as opposed to heading AWAY from them. I remember that evening chastising those who were going just to take pictures and video as I felt that they were only adding fuel to the fire (so-to-speak) instead of helping the police out. As it turns out, these same people are helping the police capture those who participated. I prefer to think of the brave few who tried to stand up to the rioters and the thousands of people who voluntarily cleaned up the downtown streets the next day in an effort to preserve the reputation of our beautiful city. We’ll get a couple of chances in the near future to see if we’ve collectively smartened up: the Celebration of Light fireworks displays this summer and the Grey Cup festivities in late November.
- Can the team return to the Stanley Cup Finals next year? A common sentiment among Canucks fans after Wednesday night’s loss was that the team will be back next year. It’s certainly not unprecedented: the Penguins and Red Wings played in back-to-back Stanley Cup Finals in 2008 and 2009, with each team winning once. But it’s not common: prior to the Wings and Penguins, the last team to appear in back-to-back Stanley Cup Finals was the New Jersey Devils in 2000 and again in 2001. They too won in one of those two years. But before we talk about what’s going to happen in the Finals, we first need to look at whether or not the Canucks will get there. Given that their core is in place for next season (Sedins, Kesler, Burrows, Raymond, Malhotra, Hansen, Hamhuis, Edler, Luongo, and maybe Schneider) the Canucks are undoubtedly a playoff team, and likely to challenge for the Western Conference title and possibly the Presidents’ Trophy once again. They will return hungry and determined to do what they couldn’t do this year – go all the way. And if the Canucks can indeed make it back to the Finals, odds are that they’ll follow the example of New Jersey, Pittsburgh, and Detroit (all 3 teams when 1-1 in consecutive Finals appearances) and win the Cup. But how ‘bout we worry about that in about 11 months from now?
It’s hard to believe that the NHL Entry Draft is less than a week away, with free agency a week after that. But just before the draft will be the NHL Awards in Las Vegas on June 22. The Canucks will be well represented, with candidates in 7 award categories (Hart, Lindsay, Vezina, Selke, Jack Adams, GM, and NHL Foundation). Just how many will the Canucks take home to add to their Art Ross, Jennings, Campbell, and Presidents’ Trophies? That’s something that makes me go hmmm…