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The Fun Of Ambiguity

by Staff Writer / Vancouver Canucks
When hockey seasons in hockey cities like Vancouver end sooner than hoped or expected, people want answers.

The fans have questions and certainly the media have questions. But what was made apparent at Tuesday's year-end media briefing by both Dave Nonis and Alain Vigneault is that the Canucks general manager and head coach still have questions. Plenty of questions. So there weren't many answers to be found in the jammed media centre at GM Place.

It wasn't at all that Nonis or Vigneault was withholding information. It's just that five days after the Canucks had been eliminated by Anaheim, those two hadn't even had the chance to sit down for their own formal year-end meetings to share thoughts with each other. So how could they possibly share them with the media on Tuesday?

The pair held exit meetings with the players last weekend but had yet to get behind closed doors to flesh out all that they'd been through over the past 11 months since Nonis hired Vigneault to coach here.

Both men touched on a number of areas, but didn't shed a whole lot of light on the specific steps that will be taken to make the Canucks a better hockey club. And again, that's because it's impossible for Nonis or Vigneault to know at this point.

Nonis talked in generalities about exploring trade options and seeking free agents that would address the Canucks' need for increased offence. He talked about the desire to bring back some of the team's soon-to-be unrestricted free agents, but wouldn't name names. He said the same thing he's said a million times before - and rightly so -- about not being able to talk about other teams' free agents since they're still under contract and he didn't feel like getting hit with a hefty tampering fine. He talked about the benefits of having speedy forwards and pointed to the club's recent draft history in that regard. He talked about the salary cap and his plans to stay an arm's length from the top end (whatever that number turns out to be) if he can help it.

Nonis did offer up a couple of newsworthy items - his desire to sign Corey Schneider and turn him pro in Manitoba next season, his intention to get Ryan Kesler signed to a new deal rather than dragging the young forward through the arbitration process and an admission that failing to close out Dallas in five games left the Canucks with little in the tank for the second-round against the Ducks. He also pointed to the teams still in the hunt for the Stanley Cup and noted playoff experience was a common-thread, something he hopes his team's 12 games this post-season are something to build on going forward.

Vigneault spoke of the merits of Markus Naslund as captain and indicated in a roundabout way that there was a spot in the line-up waiting for Trevor Linden if the veteran winger wants to return for another season. The coach perked up as he spoke of the kids in the system - Jannik Hansen, Alex Edler, Luc Bourdon, Mason Raymond - some of whom have already shown they can play here and all of whom should be regulars before too long. He indicated little would change in his style or his systems so that Canuck fans can expect a similar looking team - albeit with a few new faces - when the club hits the ice for training camp in September.

And, as you'd expect, both Nonis and Vigneault raved about Roberto Luongo.

Other than that, the 60 or so media in attendance were left to read between the lines about what the Canucks will look like next season. Again, there were far more questions than answers on Tuesday. But if Dave Nonis wanted everyone to have all the answers he would have invited the media to sit in on next week's organizational scouting meetings and his sessions with Alain Vigneault before they head their separate ways for a few months. And that's not going to happen.

Besides, if everyone in the city had all the answers in mid-May, how much fun would that make the rest of the summer? It's Vancouver -- where the only thing better than second-guessing during the hockey season is playing armchair GM in the off-season. Let the games begin.

Jeff Paterson is a Team 1040 broadcaster and a regular contributor to the Georgia Straight. E-mail him at
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