By Josh Martin, Sports Editor
The NHL lockout has finally arrived and, with respect to the Player’s Association and the owners, I couldn’t care less. It has been a long and grueling road, one with an inevitable end of no hockey this year. There remains a glimpse of hope still shining that the negotiations may come to an agreement at some point in the near future, but for now, “we just want to play hockey” seems to be the theme.
Until I actually see hockey being played on my television, I can’t help but tune myself out of all the high school drama from both parties and focus on more important things. Besides hockey games being taken away from millions of living rooms across North America, this lockout could possibly work in the Canucks’ favour.
Does this team look like it’s ready to make a case for the cup right now? They sure as hell weren’t ready last post-season, getting stunned by the L.A. Kings in five games. And they weren’t ready the year before when they lost to the Bruins in the Cup final.
Ryan Kesler won’t be fully recovered from his injury until Christmas-time, which means the Canucks would have to address the fact that they need a second line centre replacement. And they can’t ignore the huge gaffe on the third line. It was a problem for all of last season; a problem too big for Sammy Påhlsson, who came in at the trade deadline and merely provided some much need “depth.” By this, I mean he did absolutely nothing besides win a faceoff or two.
This lockout also gives the Canucks time to figure out what on earth they’re going to do about the Roberto Luongo deal. Despite his recent comments that he wouldn’t mind coming back to the Canucks and playing with Cory Schneider, he wants to get out. He was obviously told to stop telling the public that he wanted to leave to Florida because it was his “best option.” A smart move on GM Mike Gillis’ part to tame Luongo, but a tad too late. It’s going to be a difficult task to unload his contract and be able to get some decent players or draft picks in return.
It’s evident that Gillis isn’t afraid of playing the waiting game with the rest of the GM’s in the league that are seeking a proven starting goaltender. Perhaps Gillis is waiting for the season to begin—if it even does this year—to make a move regarding Luongo.
Sami Salo was the latest Canuck d-man to move down to the Tampa Bay Lightning and join former Canuck Matthias Öhlund. His booming shot will be missed on the point and especially on the power play. With Salo’s absence comes yet another hole in the defensive corpse, one that has suffered losing offensive juggernaut Christian Ehrhoff in the previous year. Both players provided a huge presence on the back end and without them, it’s hard to say the Canucks are a better team. Although the signing of Jason Garrison this off-season—the only addition to the Canucks worth noting—should provide some presence to the hole left by Salo.
With all of these gaps throughout the lineup, it leaves the Canucks in a worse position than where they left off. They seem like a team that is no longer up and coming, a team where no big name players want to go. Perhaps they’ve officially missed their crack at the Cup.
Big name free agent players don’t seem to gravitate to the Canucks. The New York Rangers, the Edmonton Oilers, and the Minnesota Wild all have enticing organizations throughout their lineup with all of their promising talent. Those are the teams where players want to play. That was evident this past summer when the Canucks lost out on Jesse Schultz, Rick Nash, Shea Weber, and Shane Doan to different teams.
Maybe the lockout won’t be such a bad thing after all. Maybe it will give the Canucks the time they need to regroup for a fresh start.