Sunday, January 20, 2008

To Swede, or not to Swede (and if so, which Swede?)

There's lots of discussion going on in Canuck Nation at the moment regarding Hockey Night in Canada panelist Al Strachan's suggestion last night that Mats Sundin may be headed to Vancouver. It's certainly an intriguing notion: the Canucks' major weakness is a lack of deep, consistent scoring, which Sundin would certainly provide. However, given that he's likely to only be a rent-a-player and wind up back in Toronto next season, the question is if he's worth the steep price the Leafs will certainly demand. My thinking is he is, but only if two conditions are met: first, that Vancouver's playing well enough that his addition would be enough to push them over the top into the realm of serious Cup contenders, and second, that the Canucks don't have to mortgage their entire future to grab him.

The first condition seems to be a bit of an iffy proposition at the moment, as the Canucks haven't played consistently lately. After falling behind to Detroit, one of the best teams in the league, they mounted an incredible comeback and only lost in a shootout. However, they then fell 4-3 Saturday to the Los Angeles Kings, one of the worst teams in the league, on Hockey Night in Canada. The Canucks seemed to catch fire later in the game, and easily could have tied it with chances like the one Ryan Kesler had with less than a minute left: however, as Kesler himself said, they never should have been down that far.
"We seemed to be all over them at the beginning, but for us to be down 3-0 to the last-place team in our conference is inexcusable for us," Kesler told Ben Kuzma of the Vancouver Province.

A positive that can be taken from the game was the Canucks' generation of offensive chances: however, their defensive play that has stood out for most of the year was noticeably absent. They'll need to find a way to get both to click simultaneously, and on a consistent basis, if they want to be a serious contender. Interestingly enough, this condition is necessary for more than one reason: not only do the Canucks need to be able to challenge for the Stanley Cup to have a Sundin trade approach the realms of rationality for the organization, but they'll likely need to be in contention in order to have Sundin consider it, due to his no-trade clause.

On Condition II: it's uncertain what the market would require, so this is hard to discuss at the moment. I would certainly jump at the scenario Sportsnet hockey analyst and former Leaf GM Gord Stellick proposed in Rick Westhead's Jan. 9 Toronto Star article: swapping Sundin straight up for Cory Schneider, Mason Raymond and Taylor Ellington. This is nice because Schneider isn't that incredibly valuable to a Canucks team that will live and die on Roberto Luongo's play (and has also been getting strong backup play from Curtis Sanford). Drew MacIntyre has also shown himself to be a good prospect, and has been actually outplaying Schneider so far this year from what I understand, making Schneider a very expendable prospect (but one the goaltending-troubled Leafs might be interested in). Losing Raymond and Ellington would hurt a bit more, but many would happily give up both for a chance to win the Cup: this scenario also allows the Canucks to retain their draft pick this year, a good move considering that this draft is supposed to be very deep. However, my guess is that John Ferguson Jr. (or his successor) would want more for Mats, including picks.

Perhaps a better option is lurking out there in Peter Forsberg. Zanstrom wrote that Forsberg claims to be completely healthy and might be a possibility for the Canucks. If so, the Canucks would be a great fit for him, due to both Swedish ties and potential to contend. They also have enough cap space (especially if Morrison's injury turns out to be longer-term) to make Forsberg a decent offer. His injury problems notwithstanding, this is a gamble the Canucks should try. If it fails and Foppa gets hurt, all they've lost is a chance to make a run this year, rather than pieces of their future.

- Alanah's take on the Sundin/Forsberg situation
- Zanstrom's thoughts

Other links of the day:
- Tom Benjamin's take on the Toronto situation
- James Mirtle on the records teams will need to get into the playoffs


- The always-inspiring Uli Hesse-Lichtenburger of ESPN Soccernet has a great piece on how media oversensationalize even the most routine goals
- Stephen Brunt's take on the possible split between Liverpool owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett Jr (originally with the great headline "Doomed to Walk Alone")
- Brunt's compatriot Ben Knight of the Globe and Mail on Kevin Keegan's return to Tyneside
- Soccernet has Hicks denying the split
- A piece I wrote for my Journal blog about the Premier League title race

- Neate Sager has some interesting thoughts over at The CIS Blog about the NCAA situation
- Speaking of the NCAA: my long-in-the-making piece for the Journal on the situation appeared on Friday: I'll have more on it both here and in Tuesday's Journal
- Mark Wacyk of on U of T's recent win over the Gaels in CIS basketball
- Sager again on his personal blog, talking about the weekend that was in CIS hockey and basketball


- Bill Simmons' always entertaining mailbag and picks
- Brunt again on the Patriots' triumph over San Diego

- Sager with Brunt's thoughts on why he didn't submit a Hall of Fame ballot: very interesting stuff. I admire Brunt for taking a stand for what he believes, but as Sager points out, it's a shame he's not voting while far lesser minds are
- Jeff Blair on an interesting clause in Scott Rolen's contract
- Blair's colleague Larry Millson has a nice retrospective on John McHale, the former Montreal Expos
president who died Thursday

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