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The Canucks have some difficult decisions heading into the 2018-19 season.
Should they get top prospect Elias Pettersson into the NHL as soon as possible or should he gain some experience in the AHL first? If Pettersson is in the NHL, should he play on the wing or at centre? If Pettersson is on the wing, who’s going to centre the second line behind Bo Horvat?
Then there’s Quinn Hughes, the Canucks’ first round pick from the 2018 entry draft. Is he ready for the NHL? If so, can they convince him to forego another year at the University of Michigan to turn pro? He won’t want to sign a contract if there isn’t a clear path to the NHL, in which case the Canucks will need to move a defenceman or two in a trade.
Moving a defenceman is a necessity if the Canucks want to get younger on the backend. As it is, they’ll enter the 2018-19 season with the same defence from 2017-18, with no room for Hughes or other young defencemen, like their first-round pick from 2016, Olli Juolevi.
Both Hughes and Juolevi play on the left side, but it’s a right side defenceman, Chris Tanev, who likely has the most trade value. Should they trade Tanev before next season for prospects and draft picks, risk him getting injured again in the 2018-19 season and losing trade value, or keep him to mentor and partner with their young defencemen?
That’s barely scratching the surface of the difficult decisions facing the Canucks right now. There’s one decision, however, that should be absurdly easy: when to retire the Sedins’ numbers.
It’s absolutely a “when” and not an “if.” The Sedins’ numbers will be retired. The only question is when it will happen and it shouldn’t really be a question. The Canucks should retire the Sedins’ numbers as soon as possible.
That should mean sending “22” and “33” to the rafters at the first home game of the 2018-19 season. Conveniently, that first home game will also be the season opener. Even better, the game is against the Calgary Flames, a longtime rival that the Sedins ate alive throughout their careers.
Daniel Sedin had 88 points against the Flames in his career, the most he had against any team, while Henrik’s 78 points against the Flames is surpassed only by his points against the Edmonton Oilers. One of the most iconic moments from the Sedins’ combined careers came against the Flames: Henrik’s between-the-legs tip-pass to Daniel for his between-the-legs hat trick goal that secured Henrik’s Art Ross Trophy.
The choice should be obvious: kick off the 2018-19 season with a ceremony honouring the greatest Canucks of all-time, figuratively passing the torch to the Canucks’ youth.
According to TSN’s Jeff Paterson, however, the Canucks are considering waiting until the 2019-20 season to retire the Sedins’ numbers as part of the team’s 50th anniversary celebrations. Paterson called it a “better than 50/50 chance.”
On the one hand, it makes some sort of sense to honour the best players in the franchise’s 50-year history as part of the 50th anniversary. There’s also plenty of precedent: teams frequently wait several years before retiring a player’s number. Paul Kariya and Scott Niedermayer, for example, are both in the Hockey Hall of Fame and have both been retired for eight years, but the Anaheim Ducks have only just announced that their numbers will be retired this coming season.
On the other hand, why wait? Everyone knows the Sedins’ numbers will be retired and there’s no need to drag this out longer than it needs to. Just because other teams wait too long to retire numbers doesn’t mean the Canucks should do the same.
Stick-taps and Glove-drops
A tap of the stick to Anaheim for finally retiring Paul Kariya’s number, though it was Kariya holding up the honour rather than the Ducks. Kariya has a fair amount of resentment towards the NHL, as they did little to prevent the concussions that ended his career, but he deserves to be honoured by the Ducks.
I’m dropping the gloves with Lou Lamoriello, who has made several inexplicable signings since being hired by the New York Islanders. The latest is a four-year contract for enforcer Ross Johnston, who has played all of 25 NHL games and has 6 career points.
11 - Another decision for the Canucks this off-season: Troy Stecher and Jake Virtanen need new contracts. Stecher has filed for salary arbitration, but it might hurt his case that he only managed one goal and 11 points last season.
1.1 million - According to Matt Cane’s contract projections, which predict free agent contracts based on similar deals signed in past seasons, Virtanen’s likely contract will be for two years and a little more than $1.1 million per year.