I’ve spent the better part of the last week trying to figure out why everyone thinks the Vancouver Canucks can make a run deep into the playoffs. Considering I haven’t seen much of them this year, it was a task I was struggling with quite a bit.
That’s when I decided to take a look at their payroll and figured it out: they’re making a run because they don’t have a choice.
This summer the Vancouver Canucks are getting blown up no matter what happens this spring. The Sedins are UFAs, Sundin is a UFA; pretty much every important forward on the roster is going to need a new contract aside from Demitra and Kessler.
In fact, Vancouver currently has six forwards and four defenseman currently under contract next year. That’s a huge amount of turnover for one team, and those six forwards are far from a “top six” by any means. Don’t forget that backup goaltender spot, not to mention the fact that Luongo is a UFA in 2010.
The point is that Vancouver needs to win and win now. The way their roster is designed doesn’t leave much room for error, and because of it they’ve gone for broke. The expectations for the team have been high and only got higher when they signed Sundin over the winter; and now they have to live up to them. Right now it looks like it’s this year or three years from now; and everyone involved knows the stakes.
What is interesting to me is just how different a strategy this is compared to the Sabres’ approach. One of the things I never understood about 2007 was the trade deadline. It was clear as day that the end was coming for this team. The two biggest contracts were expiring and the market value was going up. The Sabres needed to go for broke, and they got… Dainius Zubrus.
Now don’t get me wrong, they didn’t stand pat. However, it was clear they needed a different kind of player. Zubrus was brought in to give the team some extra firepower, but he played outside of his comfort level and became the most physical player on the team because no one else seemed to want to play that role.
Of course it’s easy to dissect in hindsight, but Zubrus will probably go down as one of the oddest rental players in Sabres history. To me it seemed like we already had four or five guys like him, and as it turned out we did. We probably needed a guy more like Dominic Moore: a more aggressive, utility-style player that could give a more playoff-oriented style.
What does this all mean? Well, nothing. It’s just an interesting experiment in “getting there” is all. The Sabres have preached continuity and the results have been modest at best. This year Vancouver needs to make a run, and we’ll get to see if it was all worth it in the end.
My guess is no, but it sure is more exciting in the meantime.