One loss is no reason to start looking for flaws in a month that has seen the Canucks win eight of 10 games, but with the trade deadline less than a week away, Mike Gillis has a decision to make.
Gillis must ask himself how much he wants to enhance the Canucks’ chances of making a lengthy playoff run this season, and what he is willing to give up to do so.
The Sharks and Red Wings have clearly established themselves as the class of the West, and any upgrade would be aimed at improving Vancouver’s chances against either of these teams as the Canucks are well positioned to take on any of the other playoff-calibre clubs in the conference.
The biggest needs appear to be more scoring punch up front and a puck-moving defenseman, but show me a club that isn’t looking for either and I’ll show you a team that is already booking tee times.
Of course, Gillis would like to take a shot at a significant addition to the roster, but the lack of overall depth in the organization creates a conflict between short-term and long-term goals.
Cory Schneider, Cody Hodgson and Michael Grabner appear to be the only legitimate prospects at this point in time, and trading one or more of those players for a rental player would further gut the franchise down the road.
Ditto for early-round draft picks, which represent both future assets and cost certainty, the latter being vital given the financial uncertainty that lies ahead for the league.
Are there underperforming players on the current roster that could be moved? No question.
But the only way such players could fetch anything of value is in a situation where a potential trading partner is trying to purge salary.
With the Sedins and Alex Burrows in search of contract extensions this year, and a looming big money deal for Roberto Luongo on the horizon in the summer of 2010, don’t expect the Canucks to take on a big money player with three or more years left on a deal.
When asked about potential acquisitions in the days ahead, Gillis has made it quite clear that the addition of Mats Sundin was his big move for the year.
He could surprise everyone by pulling off another noteworthy deal, but it seems more likely that he will add smaller pieces by improving the grit quotient and physical component of this hockey club. Instead, the Canucks will probably bank on Luongo and Sundin saving their best hockey for the playoffs, and hope the Sedins finally deliver the breakthrough post-season performance that fans have been begging for.