NAKED EYE (Dan Murphy):
For me, post July 1 is time for relaxing and taking time off from hockey talk, but damn Filipovic just wouldn’t take no for an answer. The dude has been harassing me for a few weeks now to write something about the Canucks’ off-season. I now know what Cameron felt when Ferris rang him up on that day off.
That damn millennial Filipovic probably hasn’t even seen the movie to understand the reference. Anyway, he is nothing if not persistent, so here goes…
The first thing that must be said is that any moves were going to be an improvement over last summer. And I’m not talking about the draft. Signing Loui Eriksson was never a good idea considering where it was trending. Just because you have the money doesn’t mean you have to spend it. Six years times $6 million for Eriksson would have made sense for a team on the cusp of something big, but that certainly wasn’t the Canucks on July 1, 2016. So the fact that they didn’t dole out big bucks for a big name is the most important thing that didn’t happen this summer.
As for the guys they did sign? I know some out there wonder why the Canucks went shopping at all (except for a back-up goalie). The thinking being just give the ice time to the guys you have, finish bottom three again and hope you don’t get screwed in the lottery AGAIN. And while I suppose you could argue that philosophy I do not agree with it.
There is something to be said for internal competition. Roster spots and minutes should be earned and not granted. If a young player knows he has a spot lined up then it would be human nature (for many) to not push himself as hard as he might if he were fighting for that spot with someone else.
Golfer Lee Trevino once famously said, “A hungry dog hunts best.” And it’s true. Bottoming out year after year, getting high picks and gifting those picks spots is not always a recipe for success. One only has to look at the Oilers between Pronger and McDavid for proof of that.
The Canucks have done their shopping at the right stores this summer. They passed on the big name brands in hopes of finding better bargains.
Sam Gagner is the most famous of the bunch and he’s coming off a career-high, 50-point season. The term and dollar value of his contract (three years x $3.15 million) is not prohibitive. And while a two-year deal would have been better for the club, the signing is easily justifiable. Plus, Gagner gives new head coach Travis Green an option on the power-play, something the Canucks desperately need.
Michael Del Zotto, Alex Burmistrov and Patrick Wiercioch are all smart signings as far as I’m concerned. All are low-risk, low-money deals for players who have shown flashes in the past. These are value signings. If they exceed expectations, great! If they contribute to the team, good! And If they don’t play at all, meh. Even though Canucks GM Jim Benning said the players weren’t signed with the intention of flipping them for picks later on, that’s still a good option for this team down the road.
So, win-win. Something the Canucks likely won’t do a lot of this season.
NERDY GUY (Dimitri Filipovic):
After a season in which they were unequivocally one of the least eventful teams in the league to follow on a nightly basis, the Canucks flipped the script and shifted that narrative by making a flurry of moves as soon as the free agent market opened up for business.
While none of the individual signings were of the splashy variety (which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as we saw with last year’s Loui Eriksson debacle), at the very least the sheer quantity of transactions served as an entertainment life raft for the large swathes of Canucks fans desperate for anything to get excited about.
The fact that there’s actually some substance, logic and a unifying central theme to the moves is only gravy. Whether it’s Sam Gagner, Michael Del Zotto, or Anders Nilsson, the Canucks were wise to target players in their respective primes while keeping the length of term they were committing to them down.
If everything works out as planned, they’ll be able to step into the lineup immediately, take advantage of the unique opportunity for playing time that being on a losing team tends to present, and be flipped for a medley of future assets at some point in the next two years. And even if it doesn’t work out as planned and the added exposure actually causes their production to deteriorate, their contracts will have expired and their money will be off of the books by the time the Canucks will need that financial flexibility.
Even rolls of the dice on fliers like Patrick Wiercioch and Alex Burmistrov should be commended. Acknowledging the very realistic possibility that nothing comes of them and they’re sitting in the press box at some point midway through the season before being sent back to the bargain bin next summer, they’re the types of lottery tickets a team like the Canucks should be taking a chance on. Both are in their mid-20s, have flashed potential at certain points in the past, and most importantly, cost the team next to nothing to take for a spin.
The most important thing here is that while the Canucks have added a handful of legitimate NHL players that should help them be more respectable in the immediate future, the moves shouldn’t obscure the long term plan here. Even if it looks like there will be fewer gaping holes in the lineup next season, they’ll once again lose more than they win, which is perfectly fine.
Falling to fifth in the draft after all of the work they did to ensure their 29th place finish last season was an unfortunate turn of events, but that shouldn’t dishearten the team’s fans or decision-makers. The 2018 draft class is considered to be much better than 2017’s, featuring two potentially franchise-changing talents in Rasmus Dahlin and Andrei Svechnikov. It’s far from a sure thing, but you’re dealing with probabilities and the best way to ensure that you’re picking at the top of the draft is still by positioning yourself at the bottom of the league.
After an encouraging string of moves – which started back at the trade deadline and has carried through the draft and free agency – for the first time in a long time there’s at least the semblance of a plan in Vancouver. And in turn, a reason for fans to be finally hopeful that there could be a light at the end of the tunnel.