It is no secret that the Vancouver Canucks do not operate like a typical rebuilding team. Make no mistake, the team has accrued plenty of talented young building blocks over the past few years: Bo Horvat, Brock Boeser, Elias Pettersson, Jonathan Dahlen, Adam Gaudette, Quinn Hughes, Olli Juolevi, Thatcher Demko, Michael DiPietro and the list goes on. However, the team has also gone about business as usual, signing free agents and at times even overpaying to add veterans to the roster. Over the past two off-seasons, Vancouver has taken roster spots away from younger players in order to sign the likes of Erik Gudbranson, Sam Gagner, Michael Del Zotto, Anders Nilsson, Thomas Vanek, Darren Archibald, Jay Beagle, Antoine Roussel, Tim Schaller and more. The moves have put the team no closer to being a contender. The Canucks have not advanced past the first round of the playoffs since their 2011 Stanley Cup Final appearance and have failed to reach the postseason altogether in each of the past three years. It seems unlikely that the trend will change any time soon, either.
The Province’s Ed Willes is worried that things might get even worse. Willes claims that recently departed team president Trevor Linden ” lost his job because he favored a patient, methodical approach to the team’s rebuild”. With Linden gone, the team has been even more aggressive than usual this summer in targeting older players. Vancouver made an offer to John Tavares that was rejected and more recently has been linked to Erik Karlsson. While he isn’t convinced the team has the means to acquire Karlsson, the fear is that some player will come along on the trade market that they can afford and will deplete their promising prospect ranks to acquire. Willes firmly believes that Benning and the Canucks are in the hunt for a cornerstone player, no matter the cost.
Just as it has in recent years, even adding an elite veteran player is unlikely to get the Canucks to where they want to be. As it is currently composed, the team lacks the supporting cast to be a true contender. The greatest strength of the organization is the youth waiting in the wings, with at least two goaltenders, four defensemen, and eight forwards under the age of 25 that are all almost universally expected to be NHL regulars for a long time to come. Yet, the cost of adding a marquee player would be a package of those exact players or upcoming (early) draft picks. The patient approach that Linden fought for could transform the Canucks into one of the league’s top teams in five years time. An impatient acquisition could cost them what progress they have made and, in Willes’ opinion, cost them fans as well. So perhaps the question is not “is Vancouver looking to make a big splash?”, but “should Vancouver be looking to make a big splash?” and the answer seems to be a convincing no.