It plans and trains for the next season. There is no other way.
The hurt may not have totally worn off yet, but maybe that's the motivator the Canucks need heading into the 2011-12 season, which by all accounts should be another memorable one for this now 41-year-old franchise.
The big guns are all back in blue and white, and odds are they're hungrier than ever because they now know what it's like to play and lose with the Stanley Cup in the building. Henrik Sedin
, Daniel Sedin
, Roberto Luongo
, Ryan Kesler
and Co. have vivid memories of another team celebrating on their own ice, so they can probably imagine what it's like to play and win with the Cup in the building.
The Canucks know it won't be easy. Their path is already littered with obstacles.
Kesler is likely going to miss the start of the season after having hip surgery in late July. His optimistic recovery time is 10 weeks, but that would put him right at the start of the season. Unless he heals and rehabs quicker than the medical experts predict, he will not take part in training camp, which could set him back until November.Mason Raymond
is not expected to join the Canucks' lineup until November at the earliest, but that's an optimistic estimate. Raymond suffered a vertebrae compression fracture when Bruins defenseman Johnny Boychuk drove him backside into the corner boards in Game 6 of the Cup Final. The club announced then that he could be out anywhere between four to six months.
The news appears to be better for defenseman Dan Hamhuis
and winger Mikael Samuelsson, both of whom missed the end of the playoffs last season with injuries. Hamhuis and Samuelsson will likely be ready to start training camp.
However, provided Kesler and Raymond are able to make seamless returns to the lineup, the Canucks appear to have the same amount of talent and depth that led them to 117 regular-season points and Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final last season. Now they can add experience to the overall team resume.
The Canucks lost five players off their Stanley Cup Final roster -- defenseman Christian Ehrhoff and forwards Raffi Torres, Jeff Tambellini, Tanner Glass and Alex Bolduc. Ehrhoff, Torres and Tambellini played in Game 7.
Ehrhoff is by far and away the biggest loss, especially because he was a solid point man on the power play and played 24 minutes a game. As soon as Canucks GM Mike Gillis realized he wasn't going to be able to sign Ehrhoff, he traded his negotiating rights to the New York Islanders for a fourth-round draft pick in 2012.
At least Gillis was able to get something in return.
Ehrhoff, who had 50 points in 79 regular-season games as well as 12 points in 23 playoff games last season, wound up getting dealt to Buffalo and signing a whopping 10-year, $40 million contract. The Canucks instead chose to re-sign Kevin Bieksa
, Sami Salo
and Andrew Alberts
to keep some of their blue line intact.
Torres is another important but replaceable part gone from last season's roster. He played left wing alongside Maxim Lapierre
and Jannik Hansen
on what was at times an impressive and productive third line. Torres signed a two-year contract with the Coyotes.
Tambellini, Glass and Bolduc were in and out of the lineup during the playoffs. Tambellini moved on to play in Switzerland while Glass signed with Winnipeg and Bolduc landed in Phoenix on a one-year, two-way contract.
Rolston waived his no-trade clause and was promptly dealt to the Isles in a salary cap move that saved the organization more than $3 million for this season. Lamoriello re-signed Parise, a restricted free agent, to a one-year, $6 million deal one day later.
White, who had played all of his 743 regular-season games and 111 playoffs games in a Devils uniform, was bought out in the final year of his contract on Aug. 2 and landed with the San Jose Sharks a day later. He was selected by New Jersey in the second round of the 1996 Entry Draft and made his debut in 1999-2000, playing a part in Stanley Cups in 2000 and 2003.
Leblond was dealt to Calgary for a 2012 fifth-round draft pick, while Salmela signed a two-year contract with Avangard Omsk of Russia's Kontinental Hockey League.
Additionally, minor-league goalie Mike McKenna and defenseman Tyler Eckford were lost via free agency and minor-league forward David McIntyre was traded to the Minnesota Wild.
The Canucks' most notable addition isn't guaranteed to be on the team after training camp. Owen Nolan, the 39-year-old right wing and veteran of 18 NHL seasons, will try to make a comeback with the Canucks on a professional tryout contract, which only guarantees him a look in training camp.
Nolan spent last season playing in Switzerland, but he had 33 points in 73 games with the Minnesota Wild in 2009-10. If he makes the roster, he could spell Raymond until the young winger is able to return to the lineup. If he doesn't make it, Nolan could try to latch on with another club to continue his NHL career.
Marco Sturm is another option for the Canucks as a second-line winger. Sturm signed a one-year contract after splitting last season between Los Angeles and Washington. His speed is questionable as he has had both of his knees surgically repaired, but Sturm is experienced and as recently as 2009-10 scored 22 goals with the Boston Bruins.
The rest of the Canucks' signings were made for organizational depth. Byron Bitz
, Andrew Ebbett
, Mark Mancari, Steven Pinizzotto
, Alexander Sulzer and Matt Climie
all signed to one-year contracts, but all could wind up playing with the Chicago Wolves, Vancouver's new AHL affiliate. Todd Fedoruk also signed a professional tryout contract.
"He was the best player available to us (at No. 4) in the draft; he's got the most upside to be a longtime contributor to the organization," Director of Scouting Dave Conte told NHL.com. "Whether it's tomorrow or in three years, that's OK. He was the right guy for us at this time.
"Adam has unique abilities that are evolving. I don't want to call him a neophyte, but they are evolving, and that's where coaching comes in … to maximize those abilities. He's got the size and skill, but until they manifest themselves, answering whether or not he'll play with the team this year is an unanswerable question."
As long as Henrik and Daniel Sedin
are around, the Canucks will contend. Save for Ehrhoff, the core of last season's team is still in place and now they know what the grind is all about and what it takes to get through it.
However, there are some lingering questions that will need immediate answers or Gillis could be left scrambling by the trade deadline? The most pressing involves Keith Ballard
. Can the maligned yet well-paid defenseman be the answer in the wake of Ehrhoff's departure?
Ballard has to find his way onto coach Alain Vigneault's good side and earn a regular place in the top six. He's making $4.2 million in each of the next four seasons, so he has to show Vigneault that he can be responsible enough to play important minutes. He couldn't do that last season and wound up as a healthy scratch for most of the playoffs.
The Canucks have to give Ballard every opportunity to succeed because they're paying him big money and trading him could prove to be impossible. They don't want to dump him in the minors and eat that contract.
It's up to Ballard to prove he can play for this team without making the costly mistake at the worst time. He will have competition as Chris Tanev, Andrew Alberts
and Aaron Rome
are also vying to earn top-six minutes behind Hamhuis, Kevin Bieksa
, Alex Edler and Sami Salo
Vancouver's brass is also wondering if Cody Hodgson is ready to step up and play a bigger role. The young center might have to with Kesler likely starting the season on injured reserve.
Despite not having those answers yet, the Canucks still look good and they should be considered the odds-on favorite to win the Northwest Division for the fourth straight season.