I took a few days off to get away from the Vancouver Canucks' last loss, so bare with me for the brief bit of words as I go through withdrawals.
It gets harder and harder each year to follow this team since it came into the NHL, and to keep hearing, “wait till next year."
You invest a lot of time, energy, emotion, and, of course, money, and in the early years it consumed you during hockey season.
But as time moves on, it’s still important, but it does not rate as high on the gauge as the years went by.
At times you wonder to yourself, "why not wait until the playoffs begin, and then tune in," like some of us do for the MLB and NFL, but hockey draws you in like a magnet as you watch your team during the regular season.
And after 14 years of watching this team improve, I felt that this year's version of the Canucks had a chance to finally move past the second round.
It has been quite obvious to me for over the last four seasons now, that the Canucks lacked the size and toughness to go deep into the playoffs, and every time I wrote about the toughness part, I received all these comments to the contrary.
Maybe now all those commentators will finally give it up, as Canucks management, the media, and knowledgeable hockey insiders have echoed in unison what was evident to most fans, they're not big or tough enough for the playoffs.
It's one thing to know what is needed, and tougher yet to go out and obtain it in today’s salary cap world.
Eleven million dollars does not go far these days when you need what amounts to is two top four defensemen, and at least one top four power-type forward.
You can throw around all the names you want, but that amounts to squat, since there are 29 other teams that may also have that player on their radar.
What would really help the Canucks is if they could look to their prospect system and see if there are players that could fill those needs. And when I look at it, and reflect back on the past training camp, I don’t see the size and toughness there.
I see possible players that could improve the talent base of their third and fourth lines, but it’s no use building for the regular season if that doesn’t equate to playoff success, and this team is not built for playoff success.
The Canucks' farm and prospect list does not include anyone who I saw in training camp that was all that big, tough, and talented, and who could step in and make an impact next year.
Yann Sauve (defenseman), who was in camp last year, plays tough and has good size at 6'3" and 210 pounds, was sent back to his junior team for his final year, but is still two to three years away, and is going to be the stay-at-home defensive type.
Who knows if Cody Hodgson (the Canucks could have taken big, tough Kyle Beach) will be able to play next year with his injuries, and along with Jordon Schroeder, are players not of the types, that are needed to rebuild the two bottom lines.
I’m not going to get into who else is in the system, because who knows what players Vancouver general manager Mike Gillis may sign, and would negate some of the prospects anyway.
Management has said they expect some of the up and coming players to push for spots next season, although Michael Grabner has wheels galore, and looks like he can score. But does he have the playoff toughness that is needed?
I don’t see it.
So, the upcoming months leading up to free agency should be interesting, and if the changes are not in place after that, then don’t expect any improvement in the playoffs—as the two-and-out picture will continue.
If you don’t believe me, all you have to do is sit back and watch the big, tough and talented teams that are Chicago, San Jose and Philadelphia, play in their respective Conference finals.