By: Trent Leith / November 25, 2021
When a team that’s “all in” like the Vancouver Canucks comes out of the gate as flat as they have, the rumour mill starts swirling and fans start calling for heads.
The Canucks’ management and ownership has so far decided the best way to handle the increased heat over the last few weeks is with patients. In a time where fans are chanting in the arena for the GM to be fired and for ownership to sell the team, naturally, speculation around what could happen to the on-ice personnel has started to churn as well.
The biggest rumour and the one with probably the most coverage is the Minnesota Wild calling to ask about JT Miller. The speculated return starts with Kevin Fiala and a 2nd round pick.
As goes for everything, Canucks fans are split down the middle about if this is the right approach to solve the slumping Canucks. The thing about Miller is he has nearly a point-per-game so far this season (7G, 12A in 20GP). He is arguably the best Canuck skater this year.
Despite his counting stats though, there is a lot to dislike about JT’s game, he produces dangerous turnovers and strange decision-making at times, but he knows this and is holding himself accountable at the very least. Miller has said that he knows he can play better and that he needs to. And that says a lot from the most consistent scoring player leading his team.
While Miller could fetch quite a return on the trade block, I don’t think a trade is a right call with Miller right now. Maybe these trade rumours are a shot across the bow of the locker room to try and kick start the players, or maybe it’s a knee-jerk reactionary move to try and save face, and jobs in management.
Not The Time for Trades
With the Vancouver Canucks on the brink of franchise-altering changes, this is not the time to trade a player of Miller’s calibre or importance. With GM Jim Benning’s job hanging in the balance, he should not be the guy making meaningful, long-term changes to the roster. He is desperate to keep his role as general manager, and that desperation can be smelled a mile away by 31 other GMs in the league.
Miller shouldn’t be available for a trade right now, nor should Boeser, or any other impactful player on the team. Not right now. If changes at the top of management happen, then and only then player trades should be back on the table.
Not the Time to Rebuild
There have been calls from some fans to blow up the team and start a rebuild again. The Vancouver Canucks are at the point where a rebuild is not the right move. When you’re rebuilding a hockey team you blow up the players that you have and sell for prospects and picks so you can build a high-end young team via the draft down the line. The Canucks are on the tail end of a rebuild, they have drafted, developed and insulated their young players with skill. But yes, the job is not complete and work needs to be done to further insulate these players especially on the back end. If you were to blow up the team right now you would be looking to collect good young players much like the ones you already have.
We are not at the point yet that the Canucks should be considering a rebuild. There’s not a lot to like about the team that is currently on the ice as far as production goes, and if the rumours of the locker room turn out to be true, there are some reasons to consider blowing it up. But losing can create a bad atmosphere and that is almost exclusively what the Canucks have done for the last eight years.
The Canucks took their first real steps out of the rebuild with their success in the bubble, and then they lost all their free agents that same offseason, many being very valuable to the team and the culture. A lot has happened to stunt the growth of this team, but that doesn’t mean the window with these players is closed, not by a long shot.
Before the team gets blown up, they should have a second chance under a new regime. They should get a real chance to prove whether they deserve a shot as a group, or if the damage is irreparable and they need to be sent their separate ways.
What Can Be Done Instead
It’s been pretty doom and gloom around the Canucks, and StadiumChinatown.ca has been contributing to that as well, but we’ve said it before and we will say it again, the management needs to change. JB and his staff have proven that no matter the length of the runway they are given, they can not build a contender. To their credit, they do have much of the hard part done, they have high-end forwards, elite top defencemen and an All-Star calibre goalie. It’s the rest of the team that is leaking. A new set of eyes is needed to restore faith in the players and put this team over the hump to contention.
When it comes to coaching, it’s a coin flip. Travis Green is not the sole problem but coaching also isn’t without blame, you just need to check the net-front on the first powerplay unit to see what I mean.
Changing the head coach might be a temporary jump start for the players until ownership can find new management. Ultimately it’s not entirely on the players or the coaching staff, though they do share some blame, but the biggest and most important domino to fall is management.
Until new management comes in, this regime should be limited in the transactions they can make, and that includes player trades.