VANCOUVER – The Vancouver Canucks wasted little time putting a highly disappointing NHL season behind them Sunday as players cleaned out their lockers.
Now it remains to be seen whether General Manager Dave Nonis cleans house after the Canucks missed the playoffs for the second time in three years.
“The knee-jerk reaction is to make a lot of change, there’s no question,” said centre Brendan Morrison who is scheduled to undergo knee surgery Monday.
“There’s definitely going to be change but I don’t know if it’s going to be a complete revamp.”
Many players believe Nonis, who has eight employees who become unrestricted free agents this summer, will be looking to improve scoring.
The Canucks had a 1-7 stretch run skid and missed the playoffs by four points. Take away the six goals they scored in the only win and they had 10 in the seven losses.
“Are they going to completely roll over and bring new guys in and go from there or are they going to seriously go after some guys and try to improve our team offence,” Morrison said.
“Defensively we’re set. When we’re healthy we have one of the best D in the league. But I do think there are some pieces to be added and I think everyone agrees with that.”
The players were together as a group for the last time before a team dinner on Monday only hours after Saturday’s 7-1 season-ending loss to the Calgary Flames.
Morrison and eight-year captain Markus Naslund, whose production declined to 25 goals after three 40-goal seasons that ended in 2002-03, are two key Canucks who might not be under contract July 1.
Veteran Trevor Linden all but confirmed his retirement after Saturday’s loss and Naslund has steadfastly remained silent on whether he’ll move on.
Photographers took pictures of the empty cubicle with Naslund’s nameplate. Naslund said he’s considering everything.
Maybe not playing hockey?
“We’ll see. I’m going to take my time and when the dust is settled try to put all the pieces together and make the best decision for me and my family.”
Naslund has talked in the past of raising his young children in Sweden. The 12-year Canuck also said there’s a need to improve scoring.
“We have to generate more offence,” Naslund said. “That’s been lacking the last two years. We’ve relied too heavily on our goaltender. Even when you’re playing a defensive system, you need goals.”
Goaltender Roberto Luongo, the highest-paid Canuck at US$6.75 million, struggled in the failed stretch drive but won’t be an unrestricted free agent until July 2011.
He got his first taste of the post-season last spring when the Canucks won a club-record 49 games, a division title and one playoff round.
“Once you get a taste of it, you want to be back in it,” said Luongo who was lifted from three of the season-ending losses. “I remember saying last year after we were eliminated you have to wait a whole year to go back to the playoffs.
“You wait a year and you’re not in it and you have to wait a whole other year for a chance to playoffs. It’s hard and I don’t think I’ll be watching too many playoff games on TV.”
Key defencemen still under contract include Willie Mitchell, who had some clashes with coach Alain Vigneault, Sami Salo, Mattias Ohlund, Lukas Krajicek and youngsters Kevin Bieksa and Alex Edler.
Among forwards signed through next season, Ryan Kesler and Alex Burrows had break-out years and Taylor Pyatt matched his previous season’s point total.
Also under contract are promising Mason Raymond and Matt Pettinger, the only trade deadline acquisition.
The bulk of the Canucks’ scoring load has fallen on Daniel and Henrik Sedin whose numbers tailed off this season after showing steady improvement since they arrived seven seasons ago.
The twins will be the key Canucks entering contract years next season.
“When you’re supposed to score and produce and you don’t do that, it’s disappointing,” said Daniel who dropped to 29 goals from 36 and expects a different-looking lineup next season.
“We all know in this business if you don’t show results, things can happen. Everyone in (the locker room) should know that and we do. We didn’t get the result we wanted and things can happen.”
Daniel and Henrik, the set-up man whose assists declined by 10 to 61, still have a year remaining on their US$3.57-million contracts.
Henrik said they realize they could be part of trade package aimed at rebuilding the club.
“There’s nothing we can do about it,” he said. “It’s someone else’s decision but this has been our home for pretty much one-third of our lives.”