General manager Mike Gillis of the Vancouver Canucks tried to address the issue of toughness through minor additions in the 2011 summer offseason.
That attempt obviously failed, because the team never were able to play the tough guys at key situations, especially when the stakes were high.
Last year, the Canucks added: Mark Mancari, Byron Bitz and Dale Wiese.
These three players played a total of 7:06 minutes. If you choose to include Zack Kassian to the list of tough players, he played 4:51 in the playoffs over four games. That is barely over one minute per game.
In the cap era, toughness comes from the team's top contributing players. Guys like David Backes, Ryan Clowe, David Clarkson, Chris Neil, Ryan Getzlaf, and Jarome Iginla. Toughness does not necessarily equal to fighting during the regular season, hitting and banging on the fourth line, or acting as the enforcer on the team.
The Canucks don't have the tough guy. The Sedin twins are hard working, but not physical players, Kesler and Burrows are not physically imposing enough to create problems for their opponents. David Booth, Chris Higgins, Mason Raymond and Jannik Hansen Hansen are not the typical tough players who finish checks and grind down low.
So what has to change?
First, the Canucks must find a way to acquire a power forward that can contribute offensively. Whether those players come from free agency or through trade, Gillis must find a way to make his Top-6 harder to play against.
One of the main issues this year was the top offensive players went unchanged. No matter how tough the team is on the fourth line, it doesn't matter when they sit on the bench for 58 minutes a night.
What the Canucks can do this offseason is try to address toughness when they find a deal for Roberto Luongo and Keith Ballard. The asking price may include a player of that nature, and the benefits will pay off down the road for them.
Also, in free agency, there are a few names that may be available. They include forwards Ryan Smyth, Dustin Penner, Shane Doan, and Bryan Allen on defense.
Speaking of trades, the dream deal may be to acquire Rick Nash from Columbus Blue Jackets for Roberto Luongo. It is no secret that the Blue Jackets would like a stable goalie that can steal them games, and Rick Nash is a player they are likely to move if they can get a significant player in return.
If Nash is available, the Canucks have the Sedins who have never played with a full-time elite forward on their right-wing. If Nash was acquired, that top line would become more physical with added size and skill.
At the end of the day, the changes to acquire toughness requires a face lift for the Canucks instead of a patchwork effort from the management team.
Tomorrow, the third part of the five-part sequel will discuss how the Canucks should rebuild their elite level status defensively, going from the goaltending to the blue line.
In case you missed it:
Part 1 on Offseason Blueprint to Change on Player Personnel Changes.
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