It was admirable seeing Vancouver captain Henrik Sedin stand up and place the blame for the Canucks’ woeful year squarely on the shoulders of himself and his brother, Daniel. It was as far from the truth as you can get without completely watching the truth disappear over the horizon, but admirable nonetheless.
The reality, of course, is those two are far less culpable for the Canucks missing the playoffs than team owner Francesco Aquillini, GM Mike Gillis and head coach John Tortorella. They’re the ones who’ve made the bowling-shoe-ugly decisions that in less than three years have whittled down this franchise from Stanley Cup frontrunner to a squad that could finish as low as 12th in the Western Conference this season. But, being the dutiful employee and great guy he is, Sedin attempted to defend management and ownership while also tossing out this laugher:
“I don’t think it’s time to panic,” Sedin said. “I still think, yes, you might want to get younger in certain spots and make some changes, but I think we can be successful next year. It’s not about three, four, five years down the road.”
I’ll give Sedin this much – he’s right about this not being the time to panic. Clearly, that was last summer, when Gillis panicked and traded goalie Cory Schneider. It was panic time when Gillis hired Tortorella, who represented the opposite of everything the Canucks were built to be. It was panic time when Tortorella lost his marbles in Calgary and made a mockery of what a modern-day coach is supposed to be. It was panic time when the Canucks dealt Luongo to Florida (while still having to eat some $800,000 a season in salary for the rest of Luongo’s contract) after the coach’s myopic personnel decisions alienated their star goalie once and for all.
The only panic move Vancouver could make at this stage would be to buy into Sedins’ belief the Canucks can be successful next year. They can’t. In fact, the right thing to do would be to send Sedin and his brother (as well as disgruntled veteran Ryan Kesler) out of town in the best trade they can consummate this summer and make “it” about three, four, five years down the road.
The Sedins will be 34 years old at the beginning of next season – the ideal age to join an actual Cup contender on which they don’t need to be the main focus on offense. That type of move rejuvenated Jarome Iginla this year in Boston and can do the same for the two Swedes once they extricate themselves from the sweltering claustrophobia of a Canadian market. They’re also under contract until the spring of 2018, giving the Canucks leverage in seeking more in a trade than the franchise would’ve had were they pending unrestricted free agents. And although they have no-trade clauses that give them control of their destination, the Sedins aren’t likely to pull a Martin St-Louis and provide Gillis with only one team they’ll willingly join. Gillis can create a market for them, so long as his asking prices aren’t as preposterously high as they were the fist time he tried trading Luongo.
Now imagine the Canucks keep the Sedins. They aren’t flush with salary cap space this off-season to improve the roster via free agency or trade. Once they move Kesler, they’ll be even younger and less experienced. And once that happens, somehow their fans are supposed to believe Vancouver will be better than any of the teams currently ahead of them in the Western Conference standings? Better than Pacific division rivals Anaheim, San Jose and Los Angeles? Better than the Hawks, Avalanche, Blues and Wild? Better than the Dallas Stars and their two young stars Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn?
Come on now. Let’s be rational about this.
No, the answer for the Canucks is absolutely about owning up to the disaster that’s taken place and figuring out how to make their way out of the rubble and build a new foundation. Bringing back the Sedins would only spraypaint the ruins in an attempt to label it as an art project.
The institutional arrogance that’s permeated the Canucks under the Gillis Era – and that peaked with the arrival of Tortorella, hockey’s ultimate anachronistic authoritarian – is at the core of Vancouver’s issues. Even if ownership cashiers Tortorella and/or Gillis, their replacement won’t be able to turn this group into a playoff team in 2014-15.
It’s nice when you’ve got a great leader like Henrik Sedin who is willing to blame himself for the cringe-worthy gong show that’s gone on this year in Vancouver. But you don’t reward that by subjecting him to more losses and frustration next season. The best solution, for both the Sedins and the Canucks, is for management to ride the wrecking ball until all the remnants of a bygone era are elsewhere.
Sorry, Henrik, but it is about three, four, five years down the road. And if Aquilini and Gillis act to the contrary, it will be about eight, nine, ten years down the line instead.