The Detroit Red Wings are Stanley Cup champions—again. Congrats to them. And although their 3-2 victory over Pittsburgh in Game 6 of the final marked the official end to a very long hockey season, the best part of the hockey season for many is only now about get underway.
The Vancouver Canucks, who last played a game exactly two months ago today, are now into what should be 30 of the most significant days in its recent franchise history.
Between now and the first week of July, so many questions about the future of this hockey club will be answered. Will Markus Naslund be back, and if so, will he return as captain? Will the injured Brendan Morrison be part of the mix moving forward? Has Trevor Linden truly played his final game in the NHL? He’s on record as saying he’d like to make an announcement on his future sooner rather than later and not let the issue drag on into the summer.
Do unrestricted free agents like Byron Ritchie, Brad Isbister, and Aaron Miller have roles to play in Mike Gillis’s master plan? What about Curtis Sanford? Although on the record expressing his interest in backing up Roberto Luongo again next season, Sanford didn’t win a game for the Canucks after the middle of December and didn’t start a game for the Canucks after January 29.
Does Alain Vigneault have faith in Sanford, or will the organization be looking for a third understudy for Luongo in the three years he’s been here?
We should get the answers to those questions and many others over the course of the next 30 days.
There’s also the NHL Entry Draft on June 20 and 21 where the Canucks currently hold the 10th overall selection, but may be willing to move it to address their scoring woes. The Canucks have a history of making moves at or near the draft: adding Alexander Mogilny (1995), acquiring the picks necessary to grab the Sedins (1999), and dealing for Luongo (2006) all on draft weekend. Might we see another bold play by the Canucks this time around?
And beyond that, July 1 is now on the horizon when the Canucks will have more than $15 million to spend on unrestricted free agents. We’ll finally get to see how Mike Gillis plans to address the weaknesses of the hockey club that he laid out in his introductory press conference when he took the reins six weeks ago.
Oh sure, the Red Wings and Penguins may have provided hockey fans with thrills and excitement over the past week. But for Vancouver Canucks fans, the real fun and games are about to begin. This ought to be a most interesting month, indeed. Who says hockey season is over?