If there’s a bigger mess in the NHL than the Vancouver Canucks, feel free to point it out, because the organization looks like an 18-year-old’s dorm room over March break.
The Canucks have a GM that has emptied the prospect cupboard and restocked it with Kraft Dinner prospects and Hungry-Man draft picks. They have a coach with a history of handling young players with the grace of a bull in a china shop. They have an owner who can’t get rid of either, or both, without eating some serious crow. Think of the severance packages sizes.
Yet with Vancouver now in full-on rebuilding mode, there’s no poorer pairing to nurse along a young movement, and little support on the actual team. With Roberto Luongo and Cory Schneider gone, and Ryan Kesler and Alexander Edler sure to follow in the summer, the Canucks are down to two cornerstones: the Sedins. But it’s hard to believe that, at 33, the twins will want to stick around in hopes of raising a new crop of kids from cradle to Cup.
There are worse teams in the NHL, but all of them have much brighter futures.
The Calgary Flames have been committed to a rebuild for more than a year now. The New York Islanders have one of the NHL’s best players in John Tavares and a promising supporting cast in Kyle Okposo, Ryan Strome and Griffin Reinhart. The Panthers have an elite No. 1 goalie, a bevy of top prospects including Aleksander Barkov, Jonathan Huberdeau and Nick Bjugstad, and a new owner with deep pockets. The Buffalo Sabres have a dizzying amount of high-end picks and prospects. And as bad as the Edmonton Oilers have been managed, they still have a tantalizing core in Jordan Eberle, Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Nail Yakupov and Justin Schultz.
Who does Vancouver have? Bo Horvat projects as a top-six forward, but his ceiling doesn’t approach any of those. Hunter Shinkaruk is an undersized, skilled prospect with second-line potential at best. Nick Jensen has all but fallen off the future map. And scouts now suggest Brendan Gaunce will top out as a career minor-leaguer.
The glory days are gone in Vancouver, and with the current disarray, there are none on the horizon for the fans.