No, thank you.
We don’t need to get any better.
We’re good enough already.
In short, that was the Vancouver Canucks’ approach to the NHL trade deadline. And the Canucks weren’t the only team unable or unwilling to swing a last-minute deal; there just wasn’t as much activity as there usually is, with the number of trades decreasing for the first time since the NHL lockout. It’s a sign of the tough economic times – and the fact teams are still figuring out salary cap.
But make no mistake, it’s not like Mike Gillis has been sitting on his hands. Rather than add rental players, the first-year GM decided to keep his roster intact. It’s difficult to argue with his logic, considering the Canucks won 10 of 12 games leading up to the trade deadline. Gillis took care of some business the day before the deadline by re-signing versatile winger Alex Burrows for four more years; Burrows had been eligible for unrestricted free agency and likely would’ve been dealt if he didn’t re-up. Instead, he remains a key cog in Vancouver’s secondary scoring-by-committee.
The Canucks’ big moves, of course, came in late December when they landed will-he-or-won’t-he free agent Mats Sundin and in mid-January when Roberto Luongo returned after missing two months with a strained groin.
With those two elite players in place – along with a core of the Sedins, Ryan Kesler and Pavol Demitra up front, and Willie Mitchell, Kevin Bieksa, Mattias Ohlund and Sami Salo on the blueline – the Canucks believe they can make the playoffs and be a contender once the post-season begins. This puts a lot of pressure on Luongo, but that’s nothing new; he’s always had to be the team MVP if Vancouver was going to go anywhere.
While Vancouver isn’t a top-flight contender, the Canucks are among the second tier of hopefuls in the Western Conference and certainly have the potential to pull off an upset and go on a playoff run. (Hey, that’s how it went down in ’82 and ’94, the only two times Vancouver has advanced to the Stanley Cup final.)
The three division leaders in the West – San Jose, Detroit and Calgary – look like the cream of the conference, but Luongo can even things up pretty quickly. And Vancouver looks good to take the No. 4 or 5 seed, meaning they’ll avoid the Sharks, Wings and Flames in the first round.
After that…the truth will come out.
This column also appears in the Vancouver Metro newspaper.
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