Sports

Upgrading the Canucks

Trade Naslund? What's it gonna take?

By Steve Burgess 8 May 2007 | TheTyee.ca

With his rugged Scandinavian looks, Steve Burgess is often taken for the missing Sedin triplet.

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Nothing personal, Markus

Damn Alain Vigneault. If only he'd left Sabourin in net, the Canucks would still be going.

Kidding! Really! Put away those ropes and shotguns, now. But it was indeed a cruel ending to Luongo Year One -- after an epic performance in Game 5 last Thursday, a momentary lapse of judgment. And that's all, folks. Which underlined the Canucks' plight against the Ducks in that series -- as soon as Luongo made a mistake it was all over.

We now attempt to look ahead with confidence. But that final Canucks performance was a bit of a damp squib, to say the least. Worse, it echoed past collapses that have caused some to question the culture of the Canucks over the years. Luongo's true value to the team is tied to the implied promise that his competitive fires will burn away any vestiges of Canuck defeatism.

So now what? Thursday's disappointment notwithstanding, this was a gem of a year. Aside from the arrival of Bobby Lu, Alain Vigneault succeeded in reinventing the team as a defensive unit. Now Nonis and Vigneault must pull off the daunting task of maintaining the gains made in the Canucks' defensive game while adding a few more goals.

That Anson Pyatt guy

One year ago my suggested plan of action in this space was titled "Trade Naslund." I mention that now only to underline the fact that I am either a hockey genius of the first order, or perhaps gifted with powers of foresight that are not of this earthly plane. Imagine what Vancouver could have got for Naslund last year when he was still among the league's leading scorers. Too late now -- his market value will never be the same.

They might be shopping him anyway. It's a cruel business and all that. Great as Naslund has been for this team, the Canucks might be better off without hauling his fat contract up and down the ice next season for modest returns. Without some room under the salary cap we'll be left to the tender mercies of Jan Bulis or whomever else the Canucks can find in that Army & Navy price range.

It will be interesting to see what happens with unrestricted free agent Taylor Pyatt. Last year it was Anson Carter who had a career year here and turned that into a big contract with Columbus. Unfortunately for the Blue Jackets, Carter had become addicted to the performance-enhancing supplements known as Sedins. Forced to quit cold turkey, he crashed. Pyatt's hooked, too. GMs might be reluctant to fork over for Anson Pyatt.

By any means necessary

Nonis didn't trade Naslund last year. Instead he merely went out and made one of the great trades of modern NHL history. Now the Canucks have their most solid backstop ever. Four top defencemen are under contract and some good young ones are on the way. All Nonis has to do now is pull off that trade-of-the-century thing again. Swap Marc Chouinard and a few nearly-new athletic supporters for Alexander Ovechkin, and we're in business.

Things are not all bad. Spring is here, allegedly. The Memorial Cup is coming to Vancouver and will now have our undivided attention. And Paris Hilton is going to jail.

We weren't supposed to win this year anyway. See you in September, boys.

What do you think needs to be done to make the Canucks an even bigger winner next year? Post a comment below.

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