To help celebrate our national holiday — the first day of free agency in the NHL — here are the musings and meditations on the world of sports.
- The wisdom of the Tyler Myers contract will be analyzed compulsively over the next century or so in our market but in the here and now, consider the following.
If you think Vancouver Canucks general manager Jim Benning went rogue and signed the rangy defenceman in an attempt to save his job, you haven’t been paying attention over the last five years.
This move was made with the blessing of the Aquilinis. It is, in fact, entirely consistent with a philosophy the organization has pursued since Mike Gillis was fired at the conclusion of the 2013-14 season. Loosely stated, its intent has been to keep the Canucks’ competitive while they rebuilt their roster and every offseason they made significant moves with the goal in mind.
The irony, of course, is that strategy was so poorly executed, the Canucks ended up drafting in the top-10 four years in a row and have now assembled a good young core despite their best efforts.
The Myers’ signing, and the trade for J.T. Miller, are simply a continuation of that philosophy. Last summer, team president Trevor Linden pushed for a different approach, arguing the Canucks were still four years away from being a competitive team.
Benning and assistant GM John Weisbrod told the Aquilinis the team was actually a lot closer to making the playoffs. The result? Linden was fired, amicably of course, and the Canucks wake up today with Miller, Myers, Jordie Benn and Oscar Fantenberg on their roster.
Undoubtedly, those players make them a better team. But are they good enough to make a difference in the brutally tough Western Conference?
If they are, this was a master stroke by Benning.
If not, well, the next GM will be picking up the pieces from another failed administration which is kind of the story of this franchise.
- That said, the Canucks’ blueline heading into next season will feature Alex Edler, Myers, Quinn Hughes, Troy Stecher, Chris Tanev and Benn, with Fantenberg and the eternal Alex Biega for depth. For a position that’s been a black hole since the Canucks last made the playoffs five years ago, this represents a significant improvement.
The next question is in relation to what? The West was again the site of an arms race in free agency with Matt Duchene signing with Nashville, Joe Pavelski and Corey Perry with Dallas and Mats Zuccarello going to Minnesota. That’s in addition to the trade which sent Phil Kessel to Phoenix and the Sharks’ earlier signing of Erik Karlsson.
There’s no question Benning improved the Canucks and for all the hand-wringing about the ruinous contract Myers was about to sign, the deal made sense both in term and compensation. But Benning was still hampered in free agency by the bad contracts he accumulated over years of mistakes in free agency and trades.
He has a long way to go to bring the Canucks back to respectability in the West. He made some steps on Monday but its doubtful he could regain all that ground in one offseason.
- The B.C. Lions offered a glimpse of what they could be in Calgary on Saturday but they are destined for mediocrity this season until they find a way to pressure the opposition quarterback. With the game on the line in the final three minutes, Stamps backup quarterback Nick Arbuckle was throwing on virtually every play and the Lions couldn’t disrupt his rhythm with any semblance of a pass rush.
The result? Arbuckle went 9-for-9 while producing two touchdown drives in the Stamps’ 36-32 win.
When you look at the stats sheet, in fact, it’s hard to believe the Lions lost this game. Total offence was 445 yards for the Lions to 375 for the Stamps. Time of possession was 37:11 for the Leos, 22:49 for Calgary, largely because the Stamps rushed for just 30 yards on 12 attempts.
The Lions were also the more disciplined team — 55 yards in penalties to 89 while conveniently ignoring three offside calls on Odell Willis in the final three minutes.
But here they are, 0-3, which isn’t a death sentence in the CFL but it’s not ideal for a team trying to rebuild its brand. The Lions will get better as this season unfolds. But they still need upgrades at some key positions if they’re going to challenge the CFL’s elite.
- And finally, in the aftermath of the Roberto Luongo recapture schemozzle, the finger has been pointed at Luongo for sticking his team with a US$9-million bill, former Canucks GM Mike Gillis for signing Luongo to the 12-year deal in the first place and Benning, well, just because.
But there’s only person who wears the black hat in this story.
During the 2012-13 Gary Bettman-led lockout — not to be confused with 2004-05 or the 1994-95 lockouts — the NHL commissioner seized the opportunity to punish teams who had the nerve to exploit a hole in his previously negotiated CBA.
The resulting cap recapture legislation came over three years after Luongo signed his deal and will now create a significant competitive disadvantage for the Canucks for the next three years.
This remains an outrage. No existing rules were broken when Luongo, and others, signed their long-term deals. But Bettman still found a way to punish the Canucks retroactively for the crime of making him look bad.
This market had enough reason to dislike Bettman before Luongo retired. Suffice to say he didn’t make any new friends last week.