Courtesy of Jeff Vinnick / Getty Images
So much for retooling on the fly.
The Vancouver Canucks are free falling into the NHL standings basement, which doesn’t bode well for the self-proclaimed playoff team.
Over Valentine’s weekend Vancouver lost 5-2 to dead last Toronto and the Minnesota Wild, who had just relieved Mike Yeo of his head coaching duties. As of Feb. 16, the Canucks sit 23rd in the 30-team league and just seven points ahead of last place Toronto. There are rumors that the Canucks’ ownership has been handicapping general manager Jim Benning’s ability to make trades. Team president Trevor Linden has since publicly squashed this notion.
Vancouver fans are showing disapproval through online ticket resales, with tickets going for as low as $35 in the hockey-crazed market. This is mainly due to team management’s claim of the “retool, not rebuild” direction the Canucks are taking.
That may have cut it a season ago, but not anymore. It’s time for the Canucks to accept the fact that they are no longer a playoff caliber team. The best remedy for this team right now is to become sellers at the league’s upcoming trade deadline and stock the cupboard with draft picks for the next few years.
Players like Dan Hamhuis, Radim Vrbata, and Alex Burrows could pick up some returns from teams headed to the playoffs. The Canucks have an especially good chance at landing a top five pick in this year’s draft, where the big prize is American-born Auston Matthews, who’s been tearing it up in Switzerland’s pro league this season. This method might hurt the attendance figures during the short term, but if the Canucks become Stanley Cup contenders again, the losing years will pay for themselves.
Other recent NHL/Local Hockey updates:
Calgary Flames defenseman Dennis Wideman had his 20 game suspension, for cross-checking referee Don Henderson in a Jan 27 game against the Nashville Predators, upheld by NHL commissioner Gary Bettman, but not for the reason one might think. According to the league it took was a text Wideman sent to his Flames’ teammate about the situation to uphold it, because the NHL is allowed to ask for access to player and referee phones if they believe there is evidence pertaining to the issue in question. This is a somewhat lame excuse for the full suspension, but it seems as if the league was looking for any reason to set a precedent. There hasn’t been a situation like this in quite some time, and the league doesn’t want to upset the referee’s union by not sticking to their guns. From a league standpoint, this suspension needed to stay in order to help with future incidents.
Tampa Bay Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman put out a press release last week saying the team would not be trading superstar forward Steven Stamkos at the trade deadline, and why would they? They may be at odds on a contract extension with Stamkos becoming a free agent in the summer, but the Lightning are still very much in the playoff race. But that still means this season is win or bust for Tampa Bay. Stamkos is set to get a massive raise in June, and the Lightning might not be able to match the offers made by clubs with big cap space like Toronto and Vancouver. Tampa Bay came two wins away from the Stanley Cup last season, and another deep playoff run might sway Stamkos to stay in town for less money.
Buffalo Sabres forward Evander Kane was suspended by the club for missing a mandatory team practice on Feb 15. Kane had called Sabres head coach Dan Bylsma that morning to tell him he wouldn’t be coming to the team’s practice. Kane had also been seen the night before taking part in the festivities at the NBA All-Star Game in Toronto and partying most of the evening and into the morning. This is yet another incident in a growing list for Kane, dating back to his time playing for the Winnipeg Jets when he reportedly had “dined and dashed” at a number of Winnipeg restaurants. Kane has been in the league for nearly seven seasons now, and it’s time for him to start learning from his mistakes. It’s a huge reason he isn’t a Jet anymore, because management and teammates had gotten tired of his constant apologies. The appeal of being a big shot celebrity and going out to party at special events is understandable, but playing hockey is why he has status at all. If Kane doesn’t learn soon, he’ll become a has-been.
In local hockey news, Roy Sommer, head coach of the American Hockey League’s San Jose Barracuda, became the winningest coach in AHL history on Feb 10 when the Barracuda beat the Ontario Reign 4-2 for his 637th career victory. It’s an amazing accomplishment, and it’s even more exciting that it happened in our own Bay Area backyard. Congrats to Roy on achieving a much deserved record.