Weekly Canucks Report: Week of Oct 24-30
Who Had a Good Week:
Troy Stecher- What more can be said about Troy Stecher that hasn’t already been said? He quite simply looks like yet another defenseman who has stepped out of the NCAA ready to play in the NHL. The sheer amount of skill on display makes it hard to believe it’s only beginner’s luck.
Brendan Gaunce- Despite most of his pro experience coming on the wing, Gaunce seems to have settled nicely into a 4th-line center role. His defensive game is noticeable in its efficiency, and he’s providing safer minutes than a lot of previous 4th-line centers have.
Erik Gudbranson- Gudbranson has come as advertised, a physical and defensively sound defenseman with limited offensive upside. Canucks fans were warned about Gudbranson’s poor analytics, but so far he’s been able to provide effective minutes. His whooping of Zack Kassian should make him an instant fan favourite.
Bo Horvat- The Horvat era may be beginning sooner than expected. Bo took over the team’s goal-scoring lead with his fourth of the year, and he continues to get better with every game. Horvat seems to be well on his way to becoming one of the premier two-way centers in the league.
Jannik Hansen- Hansen doesn’t get enough credit for what he does for the team. The Granlund and Sutter line looked worse when Hansen was removed, and the Sedins looked better with Hansen on their wing.
Who Had a Rough Week:
Alex Edler- After getting praise for his newly aggressive play last week, the wheels fell off for Edler this week. With regular partner Chris Tanev out, Edler’s defensive game greatly suffered. Edler’s new partner, Stecher, played great, so it’s Edler’s failure to adapt that is to blame.
Loui Eriksson- Eriksson is starting to get a taste of the fickle Vancouver fanbase, with some of the dumber fans on the internet already calling for his departure. After coming in as one of the most hyped free agent signings in recent history, Eriksson has gone nine games without a goal, unless you count the one he put in his own net. At the very least, Eriksson still looks fairly dangerous out there, unlike Radim Vrbata last year, but the goals are going to need to come soon.
Jake Virtanen- What is going on with Jake Virtanen? He looks completely lost on the ice, despite picking up some minutes with the dynamic Horvat and Baertschi duo. Especially disappointing given how effective Nick Ritchie was against Vancouver.
Nikita Tryamkin- This was a terrible week for Tryamkin, and once again it had nothing to do with events on the ice. The truth of Tryamkin’s absence from the lineup finally came out, and it didn’t reflect very well on the young Russian. Not only did Tryamkin come to camp out of shape, he’s currently refusing a conditioning assignment to the AHL. He’ll now have to practice his way into shape under the intense local media glare. Good luck, Nikita.
The Sedins- As the team’s premier players and on-ice leaders, the Sedins need to take some of the heat for the Canucks’ dismal offense. They aren’t playing poorly, except by their own standards, but it seems like the expected uptick in production from the twins is not going to occur. Even worse, Daniel’s chances of hitting 1000 points this season may be in jeopardy.
Willie Desjardins- When the whole roster’s production is suffering, most of the attention is squarely focused on the head coach. Desjardins already came into the season on the hot seat thanks to Travis Green’s situation, and the writing is on the wall for him if the offense doesn’t pick up.
Troy Stecher’s performance has created an interesting dilemma when it comes to defense. If Stecher keeps playing at this level, it will be next to impossible to demote him. That leaves the team with nine defensemen when Tanev returns. If the team waives Alex Biega, it then absolutely needs Luca Sbisa to stay healthy so they meet expansion requirements. Even then, Stecher taking a place in the lineup would mean that one of Sbisa or Philip Larsen would need to come out of the lineup, and both have played well. It also further complicates the Tryamkin situation, as he slides further down the depth chart.
Jayson Megna was pretty much invisible in his two games, and it is safe to say he won’t be the call-up next time there is an injury. Mike Zalewski played much better in his one game. Michael Chaput and Borna Rendulic are also possibilities for a promotion.
The Canucks passed on some interesting waiver options again this week, including a second crack at Teemu Pulkkinen. Given that the rest of the league passed, too, it’s hard to worry much about the missed opportunity.
The team has been worryingly quiet about Anton Rodin’s injury timeline, and there’s legitimate concern that he rushed his previous rehabilitation. He could be the offensive spark the Canucks need, but how long will they have to wait for it?
Chicago’s Penalty Killing was nearly at a historic low to start the season. While their PK percentage has finally crept back up to 50%, the Blackhawks were giving up almost three goals for every four power plays for awhile there.
Despite Don Cherry anointing Brian Elliott as the best goaltender in the world, Calgary’s goaltending remains every bit the problem it was last year. Elliott currently sits below a .900 save percentage and, combined with Arizona’s continued goaltending woes and LA’s injury woes, it means that the Canucks suddenly have among the best goaltending in the division, despite their record.
The Comets continue to see individual players find success while the team falls short, although they did manage to pull off a narrow victory to close the week. Utica started things off on Wednesday with a match against the Binghamton Senators to mirror the two parent clubs facing each other. Like the Canucks, the Comets put up little resistance in a 2-1 loss. Captain Carter Bancks got the lone goal and Michael Chaput extended his point streak to five with an assist. Richard Bachman was in net for the loss.
Thatcher Demko got his chance Friday against the Providence Bruins, but recorded a 4-2 loss. Demko is still winless at the AHL level. Chaput’s point streak continued with another assist, and one has to think he’s angled himself toward an eventual call-up. Derek Hulak scored and so did Jordan Subban, whose individual totals are on the rise.
Things got even better for Subban with Saturday’s 4-3 win over the Hartford Wolf Pack. Subban got a goal and an assist to bring his total to seven points in six games. It’s nice to see Subban make the most of his opportunity to reclaim the number one defenseman role with Stecher called up. Hulak had a goal, the game-winner, and an assist, and David Shields picked up a surprising two assists. Curtis Valk and Cody Kunyk also scored, while Chaput notched yet another assist to bring his point streak to seven games. Ashton Sautner left the game on a stretcher after falling awkwardly under a check, and was taken to the hospital for precautionary measures. He will likely be out for a bit, but was reportedly alert and responsive.
Bits and Bobs:
-The emergence of Troy Stecher brings the total number of “unheralded college defenseman suddenly blossoming into top-four NHL talents” to three in recent Canuck history. This development run of Chris Tanev, Ben Hutton, and Stecher is probably a once-in-a-lifetime thing for a Canuck fan, so make sure to enjoy it.
-After watching the Heritage Classic in Winnipeg, one has to wonder when the Canucks will next take part in an outdoor game. After the Luongo-Tortorella debacle that occurred last time, the franchise might not be champing at the bit to have another.
-One intriguing possibility: The Canucks vs someone in an outdoor game at Notre Dame in 2017/18. Third-party sites might be the reinvigoration of a concept that the NHL is looking for, and Notre Dame is a great candidate. At that point, the Canucks should have both Brock Boeser and Troy Stecher in the lineup, making them a perfect fit.
-For those wondering why the Canucks passed on the opportunity to pick up Emerson Etem again and send him down to Utica, take a look at Utica’s winger depth. Players like Michael Carcone and Marco Roy are already having a tough time getting ice-time, and Jake Virtanen will probably soon be joining them. Etem would just get in the way.
-Thatcher Demko Win Watch continues in Utica. It’s only a matter of time before ill-informed fans turn on him.
-Despite continuing to search for a goal, Sven Baertschi has begun to show a new level of offensive skill. He’s making the sort of creative moves that he just hadn’t been before, which is a good indication that he’s playing with confidence despite still looking for his first goal.
-The errors have crept back into Luca Sbisa’s game after a hot start, but his physical play is the best it has ever been as a Canuck. It is impressive to watch him lay hits on some of the biggest opponents in the West, like Lucic or Reaves.
-Troy Stecher’s performance will definitely help dull some of the pain of seeing Gustav Forsling play important minutes for the Blackhawks.
-The Oilers are going to be a tough team to play against for the foreseeable future. McDavid is one thing, but between Lucic, Kassian, Maroon, and Nurse, they also have one of the tougher lineups in the league.
-That fact made it all the more satisfying to watch Gudbranson get the better of Kassian in a battle of the titans.
-With the emergence of Adam Gaudette, is this the year that the Canucks have two prospects in the running for the Hobey Baker?
-How long until the fan-made graphic showing how close the team is getting to its projected 65 points becomes depressing instead of inspiring?
-To end on a positive note, here are two fantastic images from the week:
Daniel Sedin- Magician:
The Flames’ Season in a Nutshell