Monday, June 26, 2006

Nonis takes charge and charts the new course

The Dave Nonis era has been anything but quiet in the last week, bringing to an end an unusual lull in the noise that usually comes out of the Canucks camp in a city that lives and dies with everything Canuck. The Vancouver GM has begun to put his stamp on the team, that two years ago seemed a lock for a Stanley Cup and now is being re-tooled and re-built to make another run for the Cup.

There was a too long amount of time between the firing of Marc Crawford and the hiring of his replacement, while Canuck fans waited for a decision the speculation ran rampant, any number of out of work coaches were supposed to be considered for the task at hand, rumours even made the rounds of a return of Pat Quinn to the Canuck family. Which would have made for a nice story as Quinn was perhaps one of the most beloved coaches in Vancouver history, but also carried the baggage of having been the GM and President here before.

To think that Nonis would launch his plan for a Canuck rebirth with as huge a presence as Quinn in attendance just seemed to be a silly prospect. If this was to be Nonis’ team, a clean break from the past was needed, that would mean no return for the big Irishman to the west coast this time around.

After he finally got around to announcing that Alain Vigneault had been named head coach, it’s been one announcement after another at GM Place, with the expectation that there may be a few more before they head to training camp in September.

Things got rolling late last week when Vigneault announced that he would be looking for new assistants for the upcoming season, as Jack McIlhargey and Mike Johnson were let go, a sign that the old gang was moving along, a new direction was being charted.

Then the bomb dropped, Nonis and Mike Keenan worked out a deal that sent Todd Bertuzzi, Bryan Allen and Alex Auld off to the Florida sunshine, heading to Vancouver (providing they can hammer out a contract) will be Roberto Luongo considered by many to be one of the top three or four goaltenders in the league and the marquee goaltender that Canuck fans always seem to demand but always find go wanting. Expectations will be high once again in Vancouver as they anxiously await the latest saviour for the nets.

The Bertuzzi deal finally exorcises almost all the ghosts from GM Place, only a few more things need to be cleared up before Vigneault has a free hand to sculpt the on ice project in a direction that Nonis wants it to go.

Dan Cloutier most certainly will be moving along, his salary far too high for back up status and his value in a trade still quite high for a team looking for a transition goaltender (hello there Toronto, Ottawa, goaltender deals in aisle five). Also with Bertuzzi now gone, more than a few people are speculating on the future of Markus Naslund who at the moment has a no trade clause in his contract. As last season wound down it seemed as though Naslund’s interest was waning as well, worn down and frustrated it seemed as though the joy of the game was being drained from his body, with his best friend now gone one wonders what his thoughts may be. He has always suggested that one day he would be finishing out his career back home in Sweden, you wonder if perhaps that day is a lot closer now than it was at the end of April.

There are other hurdles for Nonis to contemplate as he works on the master plan, Jovanovski is on the cusp of free agency and the Sedins and Anson Carter are also in the market for new deals. How he handles all of those issues will set the standard for what will come in September.

He has however announced that he’s not afraid to make the changes that need to be made to make his team better. In an era of stand pat GM’s and teams afraid to rattle a few cages, Nonis has shown that he’s more than ready to shake the trees a bit get his team back on track.

More importantly he's firmly taken charge and thus responsibility for the teams success or failure, something that Canuck fans will find admirable and welcome!

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