Weekly Canucks Report: Week of December 12-18
Who Had a Good Week:
Luca Sbisa- Alright, credit where credit is due. Sbisa had a good week, with his nice goal, solid fight against Carolina, and continued meshing with Stecher. Sbisa is currently a stable presence on the blueline, which is a nice surprise.
Bo Horvat- After a bit of an offensive dry spell, Horvat bounced back with four points in three games this week. Horvat was an underappreciated part of Jannik Hansen’s dramatic goal against Columbus, digging the puck out for Hansen and then using his speed to befuddle the defense and open space for Hansen.
Sven Baertschi- Baertschi responded as well as could be hoped after a healthy scratch, immediately putting up three points in his return and looking dangerous on most shifts. Baertschi got a point in each of the next games, too, and continues to show chemistry with Horvat.
Alex Burrows- It wouldn’t be fair to mention Horvat and Baertschi without mentioning Burrows, who also put up four points this week. The expected drop-off in Burrows’ production hasn’t happened yet, and maybe it won’t.
Ben Hutton- Hutton only got one goal (that counted) on the week, but he looked like a dangerous offensive threat throughout. More importantly, Hutton ate up some important minutes, leading all Canuck defenders in ice time against Columbus, despite the presence of Chris Tanev.
Brandon Sutter- While the debate over Sutter’s effectiveness with the Sedins is still up for debate, none can deny that, individually, he is having a great season. Sutter also managed to put up four points this week, including three goals, and looked strong at center between Markus Granlund and Loui Eriksson.
Markus Granlund- Granlund put up three points in three games, but more importantly he continued to look like an NHL with actual offensive potential. His chemistry with Sutter was on full display once again.
Who Had a Rough Week:
Nikita Tryamkin- The defense is going to have to take some of the heat for the Canucks’ losses this week, and Tryamkin may have been the worst of the bunch. Tryamkin’s play has slowly worn down in the previous weeks, and his lack of a solid partner appears to be hurting his performance. Tryamkin has been caught looking foolish on a number of plays lately.
Alex Biega- Biega has finally got a bit of time in the lineup, but that doesn’t necessarily mean he looks like an NHL defenseman. Biega is noticeably outmatched several times per game, and he leaves his D partner with a lot to compensate for.
Ryan Miller and Jacob Markstrom- Miller can’t be blamed for the defensive collapse against Carolina, but he didn’t do much to stop the bleeding. He and Jacob Markstrom each had a dismal .800 save percentage in that stinker. Miller played much better against Tampa Bay, but followed that up with a lackluster performance in the loss to Columbus.
Willie Desjardins- The loss to Carolina was among the most embarrassing single games in Canuck history, and the full-team nature of the collapse meant that much of the blame was (fairly) placed at Desjardins’ feet. He was already on the hot seat coming into the season, and it’s hard to imagine his seat getting much hotter than it is right now without something happening.
When will Alex Grenier get a chance with the Canucks? He continues to light it up in the AHL for Utica, and provides much more of a well-rounded game than current call-up Jayson Megna does.
The week marked the return of Jonathan Drouin rumours, but I don’t think they’re very realistic. Tampa Bay still views Drouin as a franchise talent, meaning the cost to acquire him would start with Chris Tanev and escalate from there. The Lightning would be interested in the types of assets the Canucks want to hang on to.
The Trade Deadline is still a few months away, but the chances of the Canucks playing themselves into playoff contention between now and then are slim. If another losing skid hits, look for the Canucks to start preparing to enter seller-mode.
As John Tortorella returns to Vancouver at the helm of a red-hot Columbus team, it’s important to remember that the Canucks will be receiving a compensatory 2nd round draft pick from the Blue Jackets in exchange for Torts’ rights. Tortorella is finding success now, but he has a reputation of only working out in the short-term, and either way, the Canucks are receiving fantastic value for a coach they didn’t want anymore.
The Frank Corrado saga is an interesting one for Canuck fans. On the one hand, it’s nice schadenfreude for fans who were told by their Torontonian counterparts that waiving Corrado was a huge mistake. On the other hand, it’s hard not to feel bad for Frankie, who was a fan favourite while in Vancouver and is now having his development seemingly purposefully stalled by Mike Babcock.
One more Schadenfreude than usual this week. Gregory Campbell, and his father Colin, are not very popular amongst Vancouverites. (Hmm, both Vancouverite and Torontonian are real words according to Microsoft). Gregory had his NHL contract with Columbus terminated on Sunday, and although it’s never nice to cheer for what is likely the end of someone’s career, there are probably some Canuck fans, still smarting from the advantages Gregory and the Bruins gained from his father’s position of power, that are smiling at this news.
Things got a little more interesting for the Utica Comets this week, as the oft-injured Anton Rodin joined the club for a conditioning stint. Unfortunately, by the week’s end, he had likely re-injured himself and sat out the team’s final game. Not the kind of conditioning the team was hoping for, to say the least.
The Comets, with Rodin dressing, kicked things off with a 3-2 loss to Albany on Wednesday. As always, I would like to remind readers that Albany is the capital of New York State, which is just bizarre. Thatcher Demko made it back in time to lose the game, in OT, while Rodin himself picked up a nice assist on Alex Grenier’s goal. Pascal Pelletier got the other assist on the goal, and potted a goal of his own, assisted by Jordan Subban and Grenier. The veteran Pelletier has been hot since joining the Comets.
Two nights later, Utica was held scoreless in a 3-0 defeat at the hands of the corporate-sponsored St. John’s Ice Caps. Demko only made 17 saves in the loss, but Jake Virtanen was one of the few Comets to retain an even plus/minus rating on the night. Grenier beat up Ulf Samuelsson’s son, so that’s something positive to take away from this:
Things looked better on Saturday, when the Comets jumped out to a 3-0 lead against Binghamton. Unfortunately, they then surrendered four straight goals in Canuck-like fashion, falling 4-3 in overtime. Michael Garteig was in net for the loss, but put up 28 saves. Curtis Valk, Subban, and Cole Cassels scored for Utica, while Grenier, Pelletier and Darren Archibald maintained their strong play with an assist each. Anton Rodin did not dress, although the exact reasons for this are still unclear. Virtanen accomplished little, but did mix it up a bit with Michael Blunden.
Joe LaBate chucked a huge hit at a Senator, and then whooped Patrick Sieloff in the subsequent fight. I’ll link it here both to show off LaBate’s physicality and to showcase the awful ugly sweater variants the Sens were wearing:
Bits and Bobs:
-I missed talking about the Jamie Oleksiak suspension last week, so I will now. Canuck fans were a bit perturbed at the suspension, not because Oleksiak shouldn’t have been suspended, but because his transgression was remarkably similar to Nazem Kadri’s hit on Daniel Sedin. There’s an obvious size difference at play, but that appears to be the only separation between the two incidents.
-ICYMI, John Tortorella had a little tiff with Jason Botchford, refusing to answer his questions because he “didn’t like” him. Another reminder that Tortorella was another in a long line of entertaining Canuck coaches, despite his overall lack of success in Vancouver.
-Was the Carolina rout the most embarrassing ever? The strongest argument against it is the March 10, 2014 defeat at the hands of the New York Islanders, which saw the Canucks give up seven third period goals to lose 7-4.
-The Canucks lack of depth is being exposed a bit now that injuries are becoming a concern. This had to be expected given the team’s history, and is part of what will keep the team in the basement this season.
-Mattias Ohlund entering the Ring of Honour is definitely a wise choice. My personal favourite memory of Ohlund will always be his rivalry with Jarome Iginla, which got downright vicious at times.
-Brock Boeser’s injury might just be the most depressing news of the holiday season for Canuck fans, who were all excited to see him perform at the World Junior Championships. Here’s hoping he can recover quickly and go on a tear to close out his NCAA career.
-Guillaume Brisebois’s cut from Team Canada was another World Junior disappointment, although no an entirely unexpected one. Olli Juolevi, on Finland, and Lukas Jasek, on the Czech Republic, are the only remaining Canuck prospects at the WJC.
-Despite the scorn heaped on Willie Desjardins for the Baertschi scratch, it sure is hard to say it didn’t work. A reminder that NHL coaches know a lot more than fans when it comes to motivating their players.
-With Erik Gudbranson being injured long-term, maybe it’s time to re-visit the Hutton-Tryamkin pairing. It looked good last year, and there’s really no reason not to.
-Many fans are wondering when Jordan Subban will get a call-up. Hard to believe it won’t happen soon, with Edler and Gudbranson still out for the foreseeable future.
-A final note on Willie Desjardins. He seems to have an interesting philosophy when it comes to physical play. Players like Erik Gudbranson, Nikita Tryamkin, Luca Sbisa, and Jake Virtanen have all seen a gradual decline in their physicality while under Desjardins’ coaching system. Each of them seems to have suffered for it. The unleashing of these beasts might be the single most exciting prospect of the immediate post-Desjardins era.