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Monday, July 25, 2005

Canucks fate lies in balance

In the last few days, the hot topic out West has been the Vancouver Canucks - more specifically, the fate of Markus Naslund and Todd Bertuzzi. If Naslund decides not to return to Vancouver, does that spell the slow evolution of the team back into the depths of mediocrity (not that they may not be there at the present time)?

It's hard to say outright, but in the words of Yoda: A serious blow it would be.

If Naslund takes his skills elsewhere, what does Bertuzzi take from that? Who knows how effectively Bertuzzi will return given the optimum circumstances, but take away his long time linemate and best friend, he may find that a change is high up on his priority list - even though he is under contract.

Yes, the short-term fate of the Canucks will become much clearer within the next few weeks, and depending on where Naslund goes, it could be a murky fate indeed. Despite a fairly strong offensive showing recently (perhaps a one-line show), the Canucks are rather shallow at the forward position. And should Naslund leave, he would create a huge gap up front, and an even larger gap in the dressing room. A suitable replacement will not be easy to come by, even in the new era NHL.

And it's not like Vancouver has a plethora of talent waiting in the wings - their top prospects from recent seasons includes the likes of Jason King, Brandon Reid, Fedor Fedorov and Ryan Kessler - players who may or may not turn out to be solid, but will almost assuredly never be overly significant.

And unless the Sedin twins somehow manage to break-out from under the black cloud of averagedom, things could be very mediocre indeed.

I say that not because I'm a pessimist, but because I lack the confidence in the abilities of first time GM Dave Nonis to build the team. Every time I hear him speak, I shudder with contempt. I don't dislike Nonis, quite the opposite, he's very personable (from what I've heard), and well spoken. But what bothers me, in my humble opinion, is that he doesn't seem to have the gumption or wherewithal to bring the team to a new level.

"I didn't make any secret about the fact we were going to try to sign Markus and we will," Nonis said at a news conference. "We're going to make a concerted effort to put a team out there that is competitive."

Well, that's great, but it doesn't get me all warm and fuzzy inside. I've heard enough lip service over the last several months from idiot GM's and asshat players that unless the next round of lip service comes from a knockout redhead, I'm not interested. Naslund should be priority number one for Nonis - unless he has a sure-thing replacement lined up, which I doubt.

I'm sure that several teams face a similar fate - after all, if everyone had the answers, life in the NHL would be easy. I don't envy Dave Nonis, he's being thrown right into the fire and he could quickly end up in a situation where he's digging his team out of the dirt. Not a great way to start one's tenure as a GM. But, let's hope that he can manage to pull it off, and the Canucks can move forwards instead of back.


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