It’s been a rough season if you’re a fan of the Vancouver Canucks or the Edmonton Oilers? One, the Canucks, see their Stanley Cup window slamming closed. The other, the Oilers, are in the midst of what’s becoming a decade long rebuild that has become a much longer project than anyone hoped. And what makes matters worse for both clubs: they are stuck in the Western Conference with a handful of juggernauts that will provide massive roadblocks for the next few years, at the very least.
The Vancouver Canucks had chances. They lost in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup final in 2011 after years of working toward hockey’s ultimate prize. But this current core, one that features two former Art Ross winners, is clearly spiralling downward.
One year ago, the Vancouver Canucks were amid a goaltender controversy because Olympic gold medalist Roberto Luongo was being challenged by promising up-and-comer Cory Schneider. Canucks GM Mike Gillis made it known publicly that his intentions were to trade the aging Luongo and try to milk his veteran core with Schneider between the pipes. Good plan. However, Gillies was unable to move Bobby Lou at last season’s trade deadline and was forced to ship Schneider to the New Jersey Devils at the 2013 NHL entry draft for a first-round pick.
One year ago, you would’ve said the Canucks had the best goaltending duo in hockey. Today, they have neither netminder on their roster. Luongo was traded back to the Florida Panthers last week for veteran centre Shawn Matthias and goaltender Markstrom.
To make matters worse, Canucks heart-and-soul Ryan Kesler wants out. The beastly centre reportedly demanded a trade out of Vancouver and Gillies tried to oblige but was unable to orchestrate a great trade for his club.
To make matters ever more worse, Canucks head coach John Tortorella’s tenure in Vancouver is best known for sitting Luongo at the Heritage Classic and for doing this in a game against the Calgary Flames earlier this season.
BUT, as bad as things look for the Canucks right now, they at least have enough talent on the roster to flip veterans for a solid foundation. Teams covet Ryan Kesler, Alex Edler and Kevin Bieksa. Should Gillis recognize this core’s closed window of opportunity and gain solid return on his favourable veterans via trade, the Canucks may not need to suffer through a lengthy turnaround for several years. And by trading Luongo, as well as, trying to trade Kesler, it’s evident Gilles is aware of what he needs to do, and will do it over the next twelve months or less.
The Edmonton Oilers had one chance. They made the Stanley Cup finals in 2006 – the first campaign after the season long NHL lockout of 2004-05. The following summer, generational talent defenceman Chris Pronger requested a trade and was granted his wish. Pronger was moved to the Anaheim Ducks, and with him went the Oilers chances of ever duplicating the surprise run of ’06.
Since the 2006 Stanley Cup final the Edmonton Oilers have not played in a single playoff game. The franchise drafted 1st overall in 2010, 2011, and 1012: Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Nail Yakupov. Good players, but no Ovechkin, Crosby, Kane, Stamkos, Tavares before them, or MacKinnon, who is as legit as it gets.
The Edmonton Oilers are going to miss the playoffs again this season despite being more than half a decade into a rebuild that won’t quit. On top of that, there is nothing to indicate that the Oilers will be ready to snap out of this current funk anytime soon; especially not with San Jose, Anaheim, Los Angeles, Chicago and the St. Louis Blues all sustainably solid this year, and beyond. And the Colorado Avalanche are a team on the rise with as young a core as the Oilers, but a much more promising group.
Who’s worse off? That’s a tough question. The Oilers are in better shape if one considers the age of their best players: a bunch of high-pedigree kids under 25.
The Canucks, however, as old as their top guys may be, have the assets to possibly pull off a quick and effective re-tooling if all goes well.
Anything can happen from one year to the next. And the Canucks may even make the playoffs this season, although they won’t win a round, you can almost be sure of that. But, it’s tough to assume either the Oilers or Vancouver Canucks will be challenging for a Stanley Cup title in the near future.
The Canucks, in their defence, may not be as bad as it looks. And the Oilers, well, they may not be as far from success as we think. But the short term future doesn’t look great for either team.