Stanley Cup playoffs: What changes are coming for Vancouver Canucks?

Christian Petersen

After another disappointing end to another season, it appears as though drastic changes might be on the horizon for the Vancouver Canucks.

The Vancouver Canucks have had to deal with grandiose expectations for several years now. With five division championships, consecutive Presidents' Trophies, two semifinal appearances and a Stanley Cup appearance that spanned seven games, the Canucks' laundry list of accomplishments made them a perennial favorite for the Stanley Cup.

This also meant the team garnered a great deal of attention.

However, this year was supposed to be different. With the Chicago Blackhawks taking over the mantle as the Western Conference's top-team, there was a theory that the Canucks could enter the playoffs under the radar. Without a target on their back, some thought the team could finally capture the championship that has eluded it.

Now, after being swept by the San Jose Sharks in the quarterfinal round, all any one is thinking about is where the Canucks go from here.

The most glaring issue the team will deal with this summer is that of displaced goaltender Roberto Luongo.

After a disappointing performance in last year's playoffs, the Canucks decided it might be best to part with Luongo and move into the future with his backup, Cory Schneider. The problem is, the organization never found a deal that met its standards, and Luongo is still on its roster.

Oh, and his 12-year, $64 million contract that carries an annual average value of $5.3 million against the salary cap (with nine years remaining on it) hasn't made it any easier to move him, especially with the salary cap dropping $6 million next season.

To make matters a bit more complicated, Schneider played inconsistently in his two games during this postseason. While it likely won't alter management's plans to move Luongo (never say never in professional sports), debate will surely ensue about the potential return Schneider would fetch compared to his older, more expensive counterpart.

Another topic of debate could be the job security of head coach Alain Vigneault.

Once San Jose and Vancouver were paired as first-round opponents, some questioned whether the losing head coach could also lose his job. With both teams failing to meet Stanley Cup expectations over the last few years, a culture change was theorized as a potential result dependent upon the nature of the series.

With the Canucks failing to record a win this postseason, Vigneault could prove this theory true.

When looking at the team's roster, there are seven pending unrestricted free agents (which includes Manny Malhotra) and four restricted free agents. There is an argument that Vancouver is a one-line team without much depth beyond its top-forward pairing. This could result in the team looking to make sweeping changes to reconstruct the makeup of the roster.

With that in mind, questions might be raised about the man in charge of making these decisions.

General manager Mike Gillis has been in charge of the Canucks since 2008, which was the beginning of the team's competitive run. Considering that other general managers have done far worse and still remained in their positions (Darcy Regier in Buffalo, for example), it seems unlikely that Gillis is in danger of being removed.

With that being said, he will be dealing with the difficult decisions that come along with a performance as disappointing as the 2013 Canucks.

Gillis already has $64.4 million allocated to 17 players for the 2013-14 season. It's hard to imagine that management will be comfortable returning next season without altering the roster in some way. That means Luongo might not be the only Vancouver player being shopped this summer.

While much is uncertain about what the future holds for the Canucks, the one thing that appears certain is that change will be coming.

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