Ask Adam: Canucks’ future, Calder race leaders, and a later trade deadline

Adam Proteau
Alex Edler (Rich Lam/Getty Images)

This is THN’s online mailbag – and a special Valentine’s Day mailbag at that! Well, it’s not love-related. You know how it works. If not, I’m sure Wikipedia has a handy description. Thanks to all who submitted a question.

Hey Adam,

The Vancouver Canucks are just three years removed from a trip to the Stanley Cup Final, and two years removed from a President’s Trophy. Once a perennial Western Conference powerhouse, this team had suddenly fallen from being elite to out of the playoff picture heading into the Olympic Break. Who is to blame most? Owner Francesco Aquilini for allowing management to spend too much money? General Manager Mike Gillis for making many questionable, head-scratching moves? Or the players?

Is it also time for this team to start a fire sale in the offseason, moving as many veterans as possible? Or can they only hope the prospects will shine soon?
Alex Hoegler, Vancouver

Hey Alex,

As I mentioned yesterday in my column, I think it’s time for the Canucks to start making big moves prior to the March 5 trade deadline. They’re an old team (12 players will be at least 30 or older by the end of 2014) and there are no elite-caliber prospects on the horizon who can compete with the likes of the young talent you see in Western Conference powerhouses such as St. Louis, Chicago or even Colorado.

Who’s to blame? I can’t blame the players for agreeing to lucrative, long-term deals. However, I can blame Gillis for throwing them out there (and including no-trade clauses for most, if not all of the core) so willingly and I certainly can blame Aquilini for hiring John Tortorella – a poor fit for this team’s personality, and someone who’s showing he has no answers for what ails them – as head coach. Gillis has run this team like the player agent he once was; he should have been dismissed after royally bungling their goaltending situation last season.

I don’t think they have to tear down the entire roster and start from scratch, but the Canucks are a collective asset that’s steadily depreciating. It will be painful for their fans to see management retool, but far less painful than being forced to suffer through an ongoing exhibition of the laws of diminishing returns.

Adam,

Do you think Nathan MacKinnon will be an automatic Calder winner simply because of his NHL draft status/hype? I know he’s good and deserves a shot at the prize but Tyler Johnson should almost be the solid frontrunner if not for his output, for the fact that he’s been instrumental in Tampa Bay’s success since Vincent Lecavalier departed and then with the injury to Steven Stamkos. Johnson has stepped up in a big way and I think that earns some extra merit. Thanks!
Erica Schrader, Spokane, Wash.

Erica,

No, I don’t think MacKinnon is a lock for the Calder. Now, he may very well win rookie-of-the-year honors, but as someone who does get to cast a ballot in that race, I can tell you he’ll have to earn mine with solid all-around play.

But that’s not to say Johnson won’t get votes. He’s in a larger group of Calder contenders that includes teammate Ondrej Palat, Jets blueliner Jacob Trouba, Flames center Sean Monahan and others. The description of the award goes to the player deemed to be “most proficient” in his first year, so factors such as the ones you described in relation to Johnson aren’t going to be the deciding factors.

Dear Adam,

With the addition of the loser point following the lockout (no, the other one), it appears that more and more teams are on the playoff bubble come the early March trade deadline. Since many of these bubble teams don’t want to throw in the towel, it leaves only a few teams willing to conduct an all-out fire sale. While this is great for teams like the Sabres, since it’s a seller’s market, why doesn’t the NHL push back the trade deadline to a time when it’s more clear which teams will actually make the playoffs, therefore increasing the number of players available to contending teams?

Also, why do they insist on placing the deadline on a weekday (Wed., March 5 this year) instead of on a weekend, when arguably, more people could follow the day’s transactions?
Brandon Sparks, Fredericton, N.B.

Dear Brandon,

I see where you’re coming from, but there’s a counter-argument that’s got a lot of merit as well. If the deadline was moved up to, say, the final week of the regular season, what would stop the league’s true Cup contenders from making a bunch of trades to load up for a playoff run? At that point in the year, there would be very few salary cap constraints to prevent them from doing so and many people would see that as a circumvention of sorts.

As well, the optics of large numbers of players changing teams with one or two weeks left in the year are not pleasant. Is it really a “team” in the traditional sense if a GM can acquire five or six players to play five or six games before the playoffs begin? Many, if not most would say no.

As far as your final question, I don’t think there’s any real issue with the day of the week the deadline falls on. There’s such massive interest in it in Canada, you could make the deadline at midnight on a Monday and millions of people would find a way to consume the information. With all the options available on TV, radio and online, there’s very little outcry for change.

Hey Adam. I was wondering, with all the talent that Canada has, do you think they will ever be allowed to send two teams to the Olympics?
Eric Duncan, Toronto

Hey Eric. No, there is zero chance of that happening. It’s fun to imagine what Canada’s second Olympic unit would be, but that flies in the face of everything the Olympics represent. I mean, if Jamaica could send as many sprinters to the Summer Games as possible, would they not knock most countries out of contention? And would other countries not squawk over the disparity?

The answers to those two questions are a resounding “yes” and “yes”. Canadians should be happy their homeland is blessed with enough talent to ice two elite international teams. Looking for a way to make it happen is a waste of time.

Ask Adam appears Fridays on THN.com. Ask your question on our submission page. For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, subscribe to The Hockey News magazine. Follow Adam on Twitter at @ProteauType.