Weekly Canucks Report: Week of November 21-27

Weekly Canucks Report: Week of November 21-27

 Who Had a Good Week:

Bo Horvat- Horvat has taken over the team lead in point scoring, and who knows if he’ll ever give it back. This season has seen Horvat absolutely take over the team, and his somewhat unique combination of slick passes and power moves have kept the Canucks involved in every game.

Alex Burrows- The old Burrows appears to be back, at least temporarily. Fans were a bit depressed by Burrows’ early play, but he has figured things out alongside Bo Horvat and is scoring timely goals like he used to. It’s unfair to expect Burrows to maintain this level of play, but he still contributes on the defensive side of the puck, too.

Sven Baertschi- Count Baertschi as another Canuck who has been boosted by Horvat’s play. At the start of the week, some were questioning whether the Canucks would expose Baertschi in the expansion draft, but it’s hard to imagine that now that his chemistry with Horvat is on full display once again.

 Ben Hutton- Hutton had a mediocre start, but his play has picked up of late and he was rewarded with a two year deal worth $2.8 million a year, which is excellent value for the Canucks. Hutton put in some clutch minutes in the absence of Edler, and his post-game dancing may be his most valuable asset.

 Troy Stecher- How long until Stecher gets the speech telling him to buy a place in Vancouver? Stecher has been playing huge minutes and looking effective no matter what the game situation. It’s hard to imagine him ever returning to the AHL at this point.

 Loui Eriksson- All of a sudden, Loui Eriksson has hit a hot streak and the heat is off. More importantly, Eriksson has been creating offense on his own as well as making connections with his linemate, Markus Granlund. This should lead to Eriksson being a more valuable contributor when he is inevitably reunited with the Sedins.

 

Who Had a Rough Week:

 Alex Edler- Edler wasn’t playing well, and his broken hand will keep him from righting the ship for some time. While it will be interesting to see how Troy Stecher plays without Edler, if Stecher maintains his excellence it will make Edler look even worse by comparison.

 Erik Gudbranson- It is starting to look more and more like Gudbranson is the one holding Hutton back, rather than the other way around. Gudbranson simply isn’t contributing enough right now to make up for his shortcomings.

 Michael Chaput- Chaput received some prime offensive minutes alongside Loui Eriksson and Markus Granlund, and although his linemates found success, Chaput wasn’t really a part of that. He does not look like an NHL calibre player, and the team might be better off giving Brendan Gaunce a shot there.

 

Roster Talk:

 Luca Sbisa Watch has almost ended. The defenseman needs just seven more games to hit 70 over the past two seasons, which means he is eligible to fill Vancouver’s expansion requirements in July. After this, there is no real reason to keep Sbisa in the lineup over Tryamkin and Stecher, so it will be very interesting to see what happens when all defensemen are healthy.

Alex Biega has had a weird week. Right after being sent on a conditioning stint to the AHL, a roster spot finally opened up for him with Alex Edler’s hand injury. Look for Biega to play a couple of games down there before being recalled, which will mean a different defenseman gets a quick look. Fans will be hoping for Subban, but it will probably be Pedan.

The debate over which forwards will be exposed in the expansion draft has started to heat up. The Canucks can only protect two of Jannik Hansen, Sven Baertschi, Anton Rodin, Markus Granlund, and Brendan Gaunce. The Canucks are almost certain to lose a valuable forward, and projections saying that Sbisa will be selected are pipe dreams.

 

Schadenfreude Section:

Gerard Gallant was fired by the Florida Panthers, meaning Willie Desjardins was not the first coach fired as countless pundits predicted. There are arguable a few other coaches that are on hotter seats than Desjardins, who has his team playing fairly well of late.

As I noted in my other write-up from this weekend, almost every recent former Canuck in the league is playing poorly this season. Two exceptions are both in Arizona, where Radim Vrbata is having a bounceback and Brad Richardson was having a career year before breaking his leg. Players like Nick Bonino, Hunter Shinkaruk, and Jared McCann have been playing awful.

 

Comets Report:

The Comets began the week with a 2-1 victory over the Syracuse Crunch, another win for Thatcher Demko. Alex Grenier picked up his sixth goal with Curtis Valk adding yet another assist, and Derek Hulak got the other goal. Demko was pitching a shutout until more than halfway through the third, and made 31 saves overall.

The offense hit its stride on Friday against the Rochester Americans, with a 5-2 upset. Four players put up a goal and an assist each, including Darren Archibald, Wacey Hamilton, Andrey Pedan, and Borna Rendulic. Rendulic and Pedan in particular have been cold of late. Jake Virtanen got an assist, and Jordan Subban put up a single goal. Demko kept his win streak alive with 30 saves.

The good times ended with a 4-1 loss on Saturday to the Toronto Marlies. Alex Biega played for the Comets but was a -2, and Cody Kunyk got the lone goal assisted by Subban and the recently-added Colby Robak. Demko’s win streak is luckily still alive, as Michael Garteig made his AHL debut in losing fashion.

 

Bits and Bobs:

-Sunday’s news on Jake Virtanen was a good example of what I mentioned last week about truth in journalism. News 1130 tweeted a quote of his from the Hockey News of “I dunno exactly what (the plan is) they didn’t really communicate with me as much.” This sounds pretty terrible out of context, but a closer inspection shows that this statement was specifically in response to a question about when Virtanen will return to the NHL. Virtanen was generally positive about his AHL assignment in the THN article, and was simply saying that the Canucks hadn’t told him when they planned on recalling him. More manufactured drama.

-Joe LaBate looked decent in his first couple of games. He has a knack for finishing his checks, and has come a long way since his pro debut two years ago.

-The comparisons between Markus Granlund and Hunter Shinkaruk are starting to look more and more favourable for the Vancouver Canucks. It’s unfortunate that Shinkaruk is struggling, but it is a nice feather in the cap for Canuck fans who had to hear a lot of trash talk about this trade.

-With all the attention the Vegas Golden Knights got this week, it is only a matter of time before media attention in Vancouver turns to potential Seattle expansion. The situation in Seattle seems a lot more stable than it has been in the past, and Canuck fans should get hyped for a potential cross-border rivalry.

-Thatcher Demko’s stats look a lot better now that he is on a winning streak and the undisputed starter for the time being. Yet another reminder not to overreact to cold starts.

-The World Juniors are only a month away, and they’re shaping up to be a memorable event for Canuck fans. Olli Juolevi and Brock Boeser are locks, and Guillaume Brisebois and Adam Gaudette are possibilities. William Lockwood is a darkhorse for Team USA.

-Fans complaining about Ben Hutton’s contract extension by comparing it to Jacob Trouba’s are way off-base. Trouba got his contract after attempting to stare down Winnipeg Jets’ management and being put firmly in his place. Hutton’s contract came after a stint as the team’s most likeable player. Not at all comparable situations, and Hutton’s contract compares nicely with other similar players around the league.

Quarter-Season Report on Former Canucks

We are now just slightly beyond the quarter-mark of the NHL season, which is generally a good time for reflection. All of the teams in the league have played over 20 games, which means that sample sizes are large enough to get a clear picture of individual performance without the taint of hot starts and cold streaks.

Instead of looking at the performance of current Vancouver players, which we do on a weekly basis, I thought it might be more interesting to judge the play of some recent former Canucks. For simplicity’s sake, I’ve only gathered players that left the organization sometime over the previous two seasons. Please let me know if I’ve missed anyone!

 

Matt Bartkowski, D , 28 , Providence Bruins (AHL)

14 Games Played,  2 Goals and 5 Assists for 7 Points

Vancouver fans will not be shocked to learn that Tank Commander Bartkowski did not find an NHL spot this year. It’s nice that he’s back in the Bruins organization, and he seems to be doing well at the AHL level, where he probably belongs. Failed in a tryout bid with Ottawa during the preseason.

 

Nick Bonino, C , 28 , Pittsburgh Penguins

22 Games Played, 1  Goals and 7 Assists for 8 Points

Last season’s playoff hero has not kept his hot streak going into the regular season. Despite the occasional reunion of the HBK Line with Carl Hagelin and Phil Kessel, Bonino’s offensive returns have been quite poor this year, with only eight points. Not a great showing in a contract year!

 

Kevin Bieksa, D , 35 , Anaheim Ducks

22 Games Played, 1 Goals and 0 Assists for 1 Points

The Canucks definitely cut ties with Kevin Bieksa at the right time. Bieksa is still capable of holding down bottom-pairing minutes, but the days of 40+ points are way behind him now. Bieksa’s contract has also made him an absolute anchor, and will cause the Ducks some pain as they approach the expansion draft.

 

Adam Clendening, D, 24, New York Rangers

6 Games Played, 0 Goals and 2 Assists for 2 Points

Clendening has continually been an NHL/AHL tweener throughout his career, but he seems to have found a semi-permanent home as a Rangers healthy scratch. While he’s only played six games, many Ranger fans want to see him playing more and blame Alain Vigneault for his poor usage, which is something Canuck fans can certainly sympathize with.

 

Frank Corrado, D , 23 , Toronto Maple Leafs

1 Games Played, 0 Goals and 0 Assists for 0 Points

The sad saga of Frankie Corrado carries on. Corrado’s lengthy pressbox stint made headlines last year, and while he eventually played more towards the end of the season, he’s gone right back to the sidelines this year. Hard to believe that Corrado is only 23, but it looks like his career might have stalled for good.

 

Adam Cracknell, RW/C , 31 , Dallas Stars

22 Games Played, 2 Goals and 1 Assists for 3 Points

When Cracknell came to the Canucks, he wasn’t considered a lock for the roster, but he’s doggedly held on to an NHL job ever since. He may find himself out of the lineup whenever Dallas returns to full health, but don’t be surprised if he stays, as Cracknell provides great utility whether he goes.

 

Emerson Etem, RW, 24, Anaheim Ducks

3 Games Played, 0 Goals and 0 Assists for 0 Points

Etem is currently in the AHL after doing very little in his return to Anaheim. It has undoubtedly been a tough year for the quick-skating forward, and it looks like his NHL career may have come to an end. At least he remains close to home playing for the San Diego Gulls.

 

Gustav Forsling, D, 20, Chicago Blackhawks

20 Games Played, 1 Goals and 3 Assists for 4 Points

This one absolutely burns for Canuck fans. Forsling was dealt for the middling return of Adam Clendening, and has since walked out of the Swedish Elite League and right onto a full-time spot with the Chicago Blackhawks. Forsling has yet to put up big totals, but is regularly playing on Chicago’s special teams and hasn’t looked out of place.

 

Dan Hamhuis, D, 33, Dallas Stars

21 Games Played, 0 Goals and 5 Assists for 5 Points

Hamhuis has been defensively solid for the Stars, as predicted, but he has little support on the backend, thanks to poor seasons from John Klingberg and Johnny Oduya. On many nights, Hamhuis must feel like he’s back in Vancouver, and the expected offensive boost that playing with Dallas’ potent offense should have brought has not materialized.

 

Chris Higgins, LW, 33, Nowhere

HAS NOT PLAYED

Higgins performed fairly well in a tryout with the Calgary Flames, but was ultimately pushed out when Kris Versteeg jumped ship from Edmonton camp and joined the Flames. Since then, Higgins has not played anywhere and may be considering retirement.

 

Nicklas Jensen, RW, 23, Hartford Wolf Pack (AHL)

19 Games Played, 7 Goals and 5 Assists for 12 Points

I think it’s safe to call Jensen a bust at this point. He doesn’t even approach point-per-game status in the AHL, and is a long way from cracking the New York Rangers’ roster. Easily one of the worst first rounders in recent Canuck history, which have been fairly successful of late.

 

Zack Kassian, RW, 25, Edmonton Oilers

19 Games Played, 2 Goals and 2 Assists for 4 Points

Kassian’s days as an offensive force are behind him, but he seems to have settled into a niche role in the Oilers’ lineup. The Oilers made a point of acquiring some muscle to protect their young stars, and Kassian is a key part of that initiative. He’s still a wild man, and the Edmonton fans appreciate it.

 

Ronalds Kenins, LW, 25, Zurich SC (Swiss-A)

22 Games Played, 2 Goals and 4 Assists for 6 Points

If you needed proof that Ronalds Kenins brief offensive explosion with the Vancouver Canucks was a fluke, look at his Swiss-A totals this year. Kenins is a grinder everywhere he goes, and he probably never really had what it took to be an NHL player. At least he gets to finish his career in beautiful Switzerland.

 

Shawn Matthias, C, 28, Winnipeg Jets

10 Games Played, 2 Goals and 1 Assists for 3 Points

It’s no surprise that Matthias has missed a bunch of time and hasn’t put up big offensive totals, as he has always been injury-prone and streaky. He hasn’t since approached the production he put up while in Vancouver, indicated it was somewhat of a lucky streak. Still, he fits in well with the big-bodied Winnipeg lineup.

 

Jared McCann, C, 20, Florida Panthers

17 Games Played, 1 Goals and 2 Assists for 3 Points

Things have not gone as planned for Jared McCann. McCann is currently in the AHL after failing to do much at the NHL level. Most disappointingly, he had a real opportunity for offensive minutes with Jonathan Huberdeau out long-term, but his play just didn’t warrant it.

 

Brandon McMillan, LW, 26, Zagreb Medvescak/Nizhny Novgorod Torpedo (KHL)

33 Games Played, 9 Goals and 6 Assists for 15 Points

McMillan was barely hanging on to an NHL job while with Vancouver, and he’s made the wise choice to head overseas to the KHL. McMillan is likely pulling down a pretty nice paycheque to play as a middle-6 forward in the second-best league in the world, and it’s nice to see.

 

Brandon Prust, LW, 32, Germany, perhaps?

HAS NOT PLAYED

It’s been a weird year for Brandon Prust. After failing to earn a contract with the Leafs, Prust hung around the team anyway for the first quarter of the season, practicing but not playing. This awkward situation has just recently ended, with Prust reportedly heading overseas for an opportunity in Germany.

 

Brad Richardson, RW/C, 31, Arizona Coyotes

16 Games Played, 5 Goals and 4 Assists for 9 Points

Out of all the former Canucks on this list, Richardson might have been having the best season relative to expectations. He was playing at a 45 point pace, a career high, and still being defensively responsible for the youth-laden Coyotes. Unfortunately, the gigantic frame of Nikita Tryamkin put a stop to Richardson’s great campaign via a horrifically broken leg. Best wishes to Brad in his recovery.

 

Tom Sestito, LW, 29, Pittsburgh Penguins

8 Games Played, 0 Goals and 1 Assists for 1 Points

2016 has been great for Tom Sestito. Not only is the outspokenly right-winged knucklehead undoubtedly pleased to be living in Trump’s America, he is holding down an NHL job way after most assumed he’d be out of the league. Sestito hasn’t done much for the Penguins, but he offers a modicum of security to Crosby and the boys.

 

Hunter Shinkaruk, 22, LW, Calgary Flames

6 Games Played, 0 Goals and 1 Assists for 1 Points

Shinkaruk continues to impress at the AHL level, but has done absolutely nothing for the Flames in the big leagues. Shinkaruk looks non-competitive most nights, and seems to have lost that spark which once made him a preseason sensation. It is looking like Jim Benning made the right call when it came to cutting ties with Shinkaruk.

 

Ryan Stanton, D, 27, San Antonio Rampage

15 Games Played, 1 Goals and 3 Assists for 4 Points

Stanton is a perfect example of a player whose peak playing ability was just at the cusp of the NHL. He played two full seasons for the Canucks at the ages of 24 and 25, and since then he has settled back down to being a career AHL defenseman. Stanton’s game hasn’t changed much.

 

Linden Vey, RW/C, 25, Calgary Flames

4 Games Played, 0 Goals and 0 Assists for 0 Points

Vey’s status hasn’t changed in his address switch from Vancouver to Calgary, and it looks unlikely that he’s going to forge a long-term NHL career at this point. He’s soon to be surpassed by younger forward prospects, and this might be his last chance at the big leagues.

 

Radim Vrbata, RW, 35, Arizona Coyotes

19 Games Played, 6 Goals and 7 Assists for 13 Points

Vrbata has been a pleasant surprise for Arizona, especially with his bargain basement contract. He’s not yet approaching the point totals he put up in his first Vancouver season, but he is on pace for about 50 points and has meshed well with the young Coyote forwards.

 

Yannick Weber, D, 28, Nashville Predators

19 Games Played, 0 Goals and 3 Assists for 3 Points

Weber has, somewhat unexpectedly, become a permanent fixture in the Nashville lineup after floating in and out for the Canucks last year. Weber’s presence is almost a cruel reminder of that other Weber fellow who is no longer with the Predators, but Nashville fans have been reasonably pleased with Yannick’s level of play.

Weekly Canucks Report: Week of November 14-20

Weekly Canucks Report: Week of November 14-20

Who Had a Good Week:

Baertschi-Bo-Burrows- Bo Horvat is individually the strongest member of this line, and continues to be the team’s best player, but his new linemates have definitely boosted his play. The new “Killer B’s” line found instant chemistry, and it has Alex Burrows playing like his old self.

Brandon Sutter- Sutter is now on pace for about 50 points, and his clutch scoring made him the undisputed hero of the week. Sutter doesn’t just fit in with the Sedins, he continually manages to elevate their play. He’s still probably more valuable as a center, but it’s hard to take him off the wing when it is working so well. 

Loui Eriksson- After a noticeable uptick in play and a subsequent rise in production, Eriksson’s numbers on the season are starting to look more respectable. If Loui’s hot streak can continue, the pressure will start to ease off on him and he can focus on getting back to his game. 

Troy Stecher- Stecher continues to make for difficult roster decisions. Every time he plays, it gets harder and harder to take him out of the lineup. Stecher’s smooth moves at the point are already the best on the team, and he looks ready to hold down a top-four role.

 Daniel Sedin- It’s rare that Daniel gets a chance to get discussed apart from his brother, so let’s use the opportunity his eight-game point strike provides. Both Sedins have been playing well, but Daniel has been the better of the two, and the results show it. Daniel is playing like he really wants to hit 1000 this season.

 

Who Had a Rough Week:

 Luca Sbisa- Fans were right to be optimistic about Sbisa after his strong start, but the old Sbisa is back. Things are now in a holding pattern until Sbisa plays the minimum number of games to be exposed in the expansion draft, and then he has likely lost his spot in the lineup to Tryamkin and Stecher.

 Jack Skille- Derek Dorsett’s injury is a welcome opportunity for Skille to show his stuff, but so far, Skille has been relatively invisible as a Canuck. He doesn’t really look like he adds much at the NHL level, and the Canucks have plenty of interesting call-up options to try out.

 Alex Edler- When your fresh-from-college rookie partner is the stable one on your defense pairing, it’s not a good sign. Edler has been shaky after a solid start, and his decision making skills have been particularly terrible of late. He looked awful against Chicago and helped the tying goal happen with an ill-timed hit.

 Erik Gudbranson- The pairing of Ben Hutton and Gudbranson has been frequently victimized lately, but Hutton turned it on this week, which makes Gudbranson look worse by comparison. Gudbranson probably needs to find a new partner ASAP, because he hasn’t done great things for Hutton’s effectiveness.

 

Roster Talk:

 With Jake Virtanen now serving a stint with the Utica Comets, it would be nice if Michael Chaput could be sent down so Virtanen has a talented center to work with. Perhaps the much talked about waiver acquisition is finally going to occur. As of the writing of this, Matt Puempel is sitting on the waiver wire.

 As the season progresses, the prospects of an Alex Edler trade are on the rise. Edler appears to be holding back rookie Troy Stecher, rather than the other way around, and the lineup looks like it could handle the loss of Edler, especially with Juolevi incoming. Despite his struggles, Edler has the pedigree to command a healthy return.

 Alex Grenier is almost certainly the next Comet to get a call-up. Grenier has 13 points in 15 games, and his fighting prowess makes him a logical Dorsett replacement.

 

Schadenfreude Section:

Jared McCann, after the much-criticized trade to Florida, has three points, which is exactly as many as Erik Gudbranson. Sophomore slumps do exist, but this is a little ridiculous, especially on the talented Panthers.

Calgary and Glen Gulutzan continue to struggle mightily, to the point that Gulutzan is now considered to be on the hot seat. How unexpected would it be to see Gulutzan fired before Willie Desjardins is? As bad as the performance has been in Vancouver, it’s been much worst and much more disappointing in Calgary.

 

Comets Report:

The Comets’ first game of the week was a lackluster effort against the Hershey Bears. Curtis Valk and Darren Archibald continued their hot play with a goal and assist each in a 4-2 defeat. Andrey Pedan’s poor play kept up, as he got yet another minor penalty and contributed little else. Richard Bachman lost to former Comet Joe Cannata.

Things got better on Friday night with a high-scoring 5-4 victory over the Springfield Falcons, who are tragically not called the Isotopes. Five different Comets scored, with Alex Grenier, Cole Cassels, Joe LaBate, and Valk scoring, while Archibald got another overtime winner. LaBate and Grenier also got assists, while Valk got two. Jordan Subban kept up his pace with an assist. Thatcher Demko was in net for his second win.

Saturday brought about significantly more subdued hockey, but the Comets prevailed once again with a 2-1 win over the Rochester Americans, who must be regretting their nickname these days. Jake Virtanen got his first point with the Comets by assisting on a Valk goal, which was also assisted by the red-hot Archibald. Cassels scored in his second consecutive game after going scoreless to start the year, with LaBate getting the lone assist. LaBate has six points in 12 games, and could get a call-up soon if Dorsett is out long-term, although Grenier probably gets it first. Bachman picked up the win, but Demko finished the game after Bachman suffered an injury.

 

Bits and Bobs:

-It must be nice for Michael Garteig to earn an NHL pay cheque for awhile. Garteig has taken duty in Alaska with grace and has quietly been putting up an excellent pro debut, with six wins in seven starts.

-Curtis Valk is finally making a name for himself at the AHL level. He has 12 points in 14 games with the Comets, and has ably filled the void left by Michael Chaput’s call-up.

-Brock Boeser has gone a bit cold after a nearly two-points-per-game start. He currently sits at a more than respectable 16 points in 13 games, but is being outscored by Adam Gaudette.

-If you’re looking to prognosticate when Jake Virtanen might return to the big club, December 3rd is not a bad guess. Why not give Virtanen a shot to prove himself in what is sure to be a physical game?

-Richard Bachman’s injury is unfortunate for him, but fortunate for Canuck fans that wanted to see Demko get more time in net.

Why Canuck Fans Need to Take Media-Generated Storylines With a Grain of Salt

The last couple of weeks have convinced me to quickly sum up my thoughts on the Vancouver media. Since Trevor Linden and Jim Benning have taken over in Vancouver, the fanbase has been whipped into a frenzy by continuous “scandalous” storylines about the supposed incompetence of the new regime. With the 2016/17 edition of the Canucks bringing such a low quality of play to the ice, the intensity of this discontent has been ratcheted up even further. This write-up is meant to be a reminder as to where these storylines are coming from, the Vancouver sports media, and why they maybe shouldn’t be taken quite so seriously. After all, the media is only going to keep printing these stories if fans continue to get so worked up about them.

 

The Media Has Been Confrontational With the Canucks Since Gillis Era

Fans need to remember that even the local media isn’t exactly “friendly” when it comes to the Vancouver Canucks. The Mike Gillis era featured a cantankerous General Manager who went out of his way to frustrate and ignore the media. This led to a contentious relationship between the club and its media coverage, and the results of that have yet to fade. The new Linden-Benning regime have made efforts to strengthen the relationship between the team and reporters once again, but the current batch of pundits, like Jason Botchford and Matt Sekeres, have made their names on controversy and conflict. The new management may want to move on from the adversarial relationship, but the media definitely doesn’t because it’s been thriving on it for so long.

 

The Media is Usually Misinformed, as Benning Has Kept Cards Close to the Vest

While Benning and Linden have been more open with the media in several ways, they have also been relatively selective with what information they discuss. When it comes to player and roster management, the most-talked about subject when it comes to rebuilding teams, Benning has played his cards pretty close to the vest. Aside from inevitable trades like the Ryan Kesler ordeal, few Benning moves have been reported or rumoured before their completion. The media has tried to project Benning’s moves and extrapolate his plans from his statements, but they’ve rarely if ever actually predicted anything.

 

Media Opinion is Informed by Fan Reaction, Which is Usually Wrong

The media and the fanbase take their cues from each other in almost equal measure. When it comes to reacting to moves from the Canucks, the media almost always reports on it using the fanbase’s immediate reaction as their basis. Unfortunately, that gut reaction from fans has almost always been proven to be wrong when it comes to the long term. After all, there’s a reason we’re not all NHL employees.

Fans have decried almost every Benning roster move, and they have been wrong more often than not. The Hunter Shinkaruk for Markus Granlund trade was heavily denounced by fans, yet Shinkaruk still can’t crack the NHL and Granlund is outscoring his highly-touted brother. Fans hated the Brandon Sutter for Nick Bonino deal, and now Sutter is on pace for almost 50 points while Bonino has just five on the year. It’s almost as if qualified NHL management know more than the average fan. Remember, when the media reports that a move is bad or one-sided, that’s almost always based on the fan’s reaction to it.

 

What We Do Hear is Often False

Let’s not forget that the media can also be plain wrong. We’ve seen countless rumours never come to fruition despite seemingly concrete certainly from media sources. Who could forget Marian Gaborik’s infamous real estate shenanigans? Rumours have abound for the past couple of years that Benning was willing to deal young assets for immediate help, which sent fans into a furor, and yet none of these supposed trades have ever materialized. Somehow, Benning is still reviled as if the trades had actually happened.

 

Or Blown Out of Proportion

 The media’s job is to convince their audience that something interesting is always happening, even when it isn’t. This often leads to small and insignificant things being blown way out of proportion. The Canucks have seen two very recent examples of this in their own local media.

First, comments from Erik Gudbranson in response to specific questions about the poor play of partner Ben Hutton were misconstrued as Gudbranson choosing to throw his teammate under the bus without prompting. Secondly, the fact that the Canucks were “keeping tabs” on Evander Kane, as you’d hope most NHL management teams are doing with an available and talented asset, was turned into a week-long storyline full of thinkpieces about how Canucks management had lost their way by even considering a hypothetical deal of which no one had details. Bob McKenzie quickly noted that the Canucks actually had little interest in Kane after hearing that he still commanded a high price, but the anger that fans had already felt will probably not fully fade by the time the next manufactured controversy occurs.

 

Or Fails to Report on Actual Stories

For all the inside information that the Canuck-related media faction claims to have, they often miss some really important stories. To wit, the media lambasted the Canucks for their supposed mismanagement and subsequent trading of Zack Kassian, but somehow failed to miss the real story of his off-ice issues. Much was made of Cody Hodgson’s conflicts with management, but the truth of his father’s strange interference never came out until after he was traded. The media seems to frequently report on issues that never go anywhere, and miss out on actually important drama happening behind the scenes.

 

We Will Never Know What Goes On Behind Closed Doors

NHL clubs are ultimately private organizations, and fans need to realize that they will never be fully privy to what goes on behind closed doors. A great example of this are trade demands. For every noisy public trade request, there are almost certainly dozens of polite and quiet requests made privately between club and player. Every time a trade demand goes public, there is always mention that the player had already asked privately and was rebuffed. The fans and media never get to hear about most of these incidences, because they are either quietly taken care of or forgotten about. Yet the few occasions a trade demand does go public manage to give fans a false sense of security that they know the inner workings of their favourite club.
The recent Jake Virtanen saga is a prime example of this. We only know of the vague comments made by the team to the media, and have tried to create our own storyline out of that. The media, and the fanbase, have no idea what was communicated between Virtanen and the club, but that hasn’t stopped either from wildly speculating.

 

There is No Reason to Believe Someone Trying to Create a Complete Storyline With Incomplete Information

Overall, NHL clubs usually keep a fairly tight control over information coming from their club. There are occasional leaks but, for the most part, teams carefully monitor how much the media and fans find out. If you need evidence of this, look at how injuries are handled come playoff time.

Despite this, it is still the media’s job to turn the incomplete they have into something that resembles a complete story. It’s not their fault, it’s what the public expects. Nobody wants to read media that only claims to have part of an idea of what’s going on. However, in knowing this, fans should really re-evaluate how much trust they place in the media. The media has no problem interspersing facts with speculation and not differentiating between the two, and people should always keep this in mind.

 

The Media is Biased Towards Simplicity

When it comes to creating storylines, the media is always going to be biased towards simplicity. After all, in our information-blasting world, each media outlet has increasingly less time to influence their audience. They need to get stories through to people in as little time as possible, and thus simplicity rules. But, as always, the real world is more complex than can be expressed in a single newspaper column or blog.

A good example of this from recent Canuck banter is the apparent disconnect between the Canucks’ ownership, management, and coaching staff. The media likes to portray this as if it’s a group of children fighting over toys in a nursery, but anyone who has worked in a large company before knows that collaboration is a much more complex thing. It is possible for groups to work together despite not agreeing on everything, and it’s likely that the relationship between Linden, Benning, and the Acquilini’s is complicated and full of differing opinions. However, the simplicity-biased media instead portrays it as immature bickering and one side getting their way over another in an endless soap opera.

 

The Media is Biased Towards Controversy

Most of all, the media is biased towards controversy. Any fan who has been following the Canucks for the past decade must be able to see this. The team has been in the midst of one potentially franchise-shattering crisis after another for more than ten years running, during which the club saw their greatest run of success. One might assume that the team gets less heat from the media now than it did during their recent peak, but there’s not that much of a disparity. There were just as many articles written about the potential firing of Alain Vigneault as are now being written about Willie Desjardins, and Vigneault might be the greatest coach in franchise history.

Ultimately, it is the media’s job to sell more of itself. Fans are only human, and humans love storylines. If the media can convince us that there’s always some dire and controversial story surrounding the team that we care about, it will. The atmosphere surrounding the Vancouver Canucks since the advent of social media has proven this, with negativity and anger constantly being the overarching themes of discussion. It is up to fans to start thinking about the way they consume Canuck-related media in order to force any change they want to see. The media can and will rise to whatever quality Canuck fans demand of it.

Weekly Canucks Report: Week of November 7-13

Weekly Canucks Report: Week of November 7-13

 Who Had a Good Week:

 Bo Horvat- I was thinking that pretty soon I could make a copy-and-paste paragraph on why Horvat’s had a good week, as he’s been that consistent. However, Horvat’s goal against Dallas was quite possibly the nicest goal this year, so he deserves a special shoutout this week. He’s not too far off of a 50 point pace.

 Troy Stecher- Stecher was going to make this list even before his dramatic first career goal, but that was just the icing on the cake. Stecher has a few defensive holes that will need filling, but his quick thinking on the point is especially notable. It’s going to be really hard to send him down this time.

 The Sedins- The Twins finally racked up some points this week, and began looking a bit like the Sedins of old. They are still among the slowest first liners in the league, but they often manage to slow the game around them down to compensate.

 Nikita Tryamkin- Tryamkin appears to have completely usurped Philip Larsen’s spot in the lineup, and not without good reason. Tryamkin has been effective on a variety of pairings, and one has to think his physicality is only going to improve from here.

 Loui Eriksson- Eriksson bumped the slump this week, but more importantly he had several good shifts with the Sedins. The team needs him to produce on the top line if it’s going to get value from his contract, and Eriksson is finally playing like a high-profile free agent should.

 Alex Burrows- Not only did Burrows put up over a point-per-game this week, he even spent a few good shifts with the Sedins for nostalgia’s sake. Burrows is playing with grit and determination and looked fine as Horvat’s winger against Dallas.

 

Who Had a Rough Week:

 Ryan Miller- Miller had another heroic moment with his diving save against Detroit, but overall he didn’t look great facing the Red Wings or the Stars. Miller definitely isn’t to blame for the team’s woes, but he isn’t stealing any games like he sometimes can.

 Philip Larsen- Larsen seems to have lost his spot in the lineup for the time being. Larsen isn’t entirely to blame for the team’s poor powerplay totals, but Stecher appears to be the more dynamic option and Tryamkin is simply playing better. Larsen remains in limbo for now.

Erik Gudbranson- Gudbranson is at his worst when he’s playing frustrated, and the Vancouver Canucks are playing frustrating hockey right now. Gudbranson needs to focus on simplifying his game and maintaining control.

 Jake Virtanen- Virtanen’s exile in Utica was pretty much a worst case scenario, as he did not play well and was called back up anyway. At some point, something has to give with this player.

 

Roster Talk:

 Jacob Trouba is not a realistic trade target for the Vancouver Canucks. The Jets are looking for a young, left-side defender in return for Trouba, and the Canucks should hang on to Ben Hutton without a doubt. As well, Trouba really wants to play the right side, and the Canucks are fairly stacked there currently. This would not be a good use of assets.

 Many fans are surprised there hasn’t been a waiver pickup yet. With injuries at forward, there have been a few intriguing names on the waiver wire, like Seth Griffith, that might have deserved a look. Having Michael Chaput up with the Canucks is hurting the win-starved Comets more than it is helping the parent club.

 Brock Boeser and Olli Juolevi are completely untouchable. The team has no business trading top-flight prospects, and the fanbase has no reason to assume Jim Benning feels any differently. Rarely has a Canucks’ prospect developed as well as Boeser has, and the offensively-inept Canucks would be laughed at for trading one of the top goal-scoring prospects in hockey.

 

Schadenfreude Section:

 Dan Hamhuis is generally still beloved by Canuck fans, but watching him get completely danced by Bo Horvat for a goal on Sunday was especially enjoyable. Many thought Hamhuis was leaving for greener pastures in Dallas (no pun intended), but it hasn’t exactly worked out that way for him.

 The woes of the Calgary Flames are the one thing keeping the Canucks from a one-way ticket to the bottom of the division. Arizona is also behind them in the standings, but looks to be improving, whereas Calgary was generally considered to be a playoff contender this year. Their offseason acquisitions are not working out, and Hunter Shinkaruk isn’t proving to be any sort of solution. The only downside to this is if the faltering Flames hurt the Canucks’ draft lottery odds.

 

Comets Report:

 The Comets have been feeling the pressure lately, and their first contest Friday against the Lehigh Valley Phantoms (which totally sounds like a high school team) didn’t help matters. Utica fell 4-1 and didn’t put up much of a fight. Carter Bancks got the goal, with John Negrin and Alex Grenier getting the assists, and Richard Bachman was in net for the loss. Jake Virtanen didn’t accomplish much with zero shots and a -1 rating.

Things got a lot better on Saturday when the Comets faced off with the Hartford Wolf Pack. Thatcher Demko finally recorded his first AHL win in the 3-2 overtime victory. Darren Archibald was the hero, scoring both the game-tying and game-winning goals, while Curtis Valk assisted on each of Archibald’s and got one of his own. The Comets mobbed Archibald after the OT winner, obviously relieved to shirk their losing ways.

 

Bits and Bobs:

 -Derek Dorsett seems to be at his best when he’s the main man on a team in regards to enforcing. When Brandon Prust was around, Dorsett’s play and physicality was diminished, but he’s been at his best all season.

-Thatcher Demko win-watch is finally over. Few thought we’d have to wait over a month to see Demko finally put up a win at the AHL level, but the Comets have had that sort of season.

-When will Brendan Gaunce take the next step forward? Gaunce still looks competent in a fourth line role, but his development seems to have stalled there. He isn’t adding any new elements to his game as the season wears on.

-Ryan Miller seems to be on a bit of a PR tour. His diving save from the bench, along with his previous defense of Troy Stecher, has made Miller a fan favourite all over again.

-When Loui Eriksson scored at home, we found out his goal song is “Louie, Louie.” How nice to once again hear that catchy tune at Rogers Arena.

-Carey Price is approaching historic status over in Montreal, and it’s fairly significant for British Columbia. BC hockey has come a long way, and now it may be the birthplace of the best hockey player in the world. Is Price already the best BC-born player in history and, if not, when will he be?

-Nolan Patrick’s somewhat mysterious injury has further clouded the top of the 2017 Draft. Patrick’s injury may be serious enough to keep him out of the World Juniors, and could make him a riskier pick in June.

-Olli Juolevi is now at 11 points in 14 games, and is trending upward. With his slow start to the season, it’s all the more reason why trading him would be insane.

-CBC floated the idea of Trevor Linden quitting. To this, I say “no way.” I firmly believe that the team knew it likely wouldn’t make the playoffs this season, or even next, and that it is all “part of the plan.” Linden was brought in as president in part because he’s a well-respected public face that can see the team through a difficult period while maintaining good public relations. He’s not going anywhere.

-Is a Stecher-Tryamkin pairing the future? Once Luca Sbisa hits the required number of games for him to be exposed in the expansion draft, he could find himself scratched at the expense of these two. Few fans would complain.

Weekly Canucks Report: Week of October 31- November 6

Weekly Canucks Report: Week of October 31- November 6

 

Who Had a Good Week:

Jannik Hansen- Hansen just works. Even when his linemates aren’t making much happen, Hansen has a knack for creating scoring chances through sheer effort game in and game out. He provided an offensive spark when the team was at a historic low. Hansen seemed to be carrying the Sedins this week rather than the other way around, and his avenging of Daniel was a fitting conclusion. The Honey Badger has amazingly mastered the technique of both giving a shit and not giving a shit at the same time.

Nikita Tryamkin- The gigantic Russian finally got to play and, while he’s very much still a work-in-progress, Tryamkin looked promising once again. He’s definitely not shy about exploiting his size, finishing nearly all of his checks. He looks legitimately terrifying as he crouches down and lines up opponents coming into the offensive zone.

 Ryan Miller- All things considered, Miller played pretty well this week. He didn’t receive a ton of support, but made some nice saves along the way. However, let’s be honest, Miller is not on this list because of goaltending. His courageous and instantaneous defense of Troy Stecher won Miller the universal admiration of Canucks fans. He has always been a good teammate, and has a history of sticking up for his players, but this will undoubtedly be the highlight of his Canuck career for most fans.

 Bo Horvat- You get the sense that more people would be talking about Horvat’s season if the team around him were playing better. Horvat generates chances for himself with power moves in the offensive zone on a regular basis, and he hasn’t forgotten his playmaking chops, either. Look for Horvat’s point totals to increase once the rest of the team bumps the slump.

 

Who Had a Rough Week:

 Loui Eriksson and Sven Baertschi- Neither Eriksson or Baertschi have looked particularly terrible on the ice, but their goalless droughts are impossible to ignore. Baertschi has been playing fast-paced and active hockey, but isn’t having a lot of luck. Eriksson looks out of synch and uncomfortable. Both look like they have a lot more to offer.

 The Sedins- The Sedins are still being asked to carry an enormous offensive load with the least support they’ve had in their careers. It is not going well. The twins look overlooked and tired on the ice, despite Jannik Hansen’s rejuvenating presence. The week was capped off by another showing of disrespect from the Department of Player Safety, proving once again that the Sedins are the least respected superstars in recent league history.

 Willie Desjardins- The seat couldn’t be hotter for Desjardins at this point. Saturday’s offensive “explosion” of three goals brought the Canucks’ weekly average to one goal per game. The coach is often the scapegoat in this situation, but when the entire team is playing so poorly, it’s hard to point the finger anywhere else. It’s become a matter of when, not if, for Willie Desjardins.

 The Fanbase- Fans previously bristled at insinuations that the Vancouver fanbase could not handle multiple losing seasons, but that notion is hard to challenge right now. The online discussion surrounding the team has become unbelievably toxic, with some of the very same fans that once hated on Jim Benning for refusing to tank now ranting and raving about a team destined for a lottery pick. As Canucks fans, we really need to learn to look at the “big picture” this season, and see this year as a part of a long-term process.

 Jake Virtanen- I really didn’t want to include Virtanen on this week’s list, because it’s getting repetitive at this point. However, he continues to be a complete non-entity on the ice. The game against Toronto was the most physical of the season, which is supposed to be Virtanen’s bread and butter, but he wasn’t involved in any significant way. The longer he stays in the NHL, the more damage will be done to his confidence. Get him to Utica, pronto.

 Luca Sbisa- The old Sbisa is starting to show his face again. While Sbisa’s physical play continues to be on-point this season, the previous defensive miscues and frequent poor decisions are creeping back into Sbisa’s game. He’s turned up some juicy turnovers recently, and has been walked on numerous occasions.

 Ben Hutton and Erik Gudbranson- This pairing seems to have chemistry, but they did not have a good week. They were relied upon more heavily with Alex Edler and Chris Tanev exiting the lineup, and the result was that Hutton and Gudbranson were on the ice for a ton of opposition goals. Hutton in particular is having his roughest stretch as a Canuck, and is making uncharacteristic mistakes.

 

Roster Talk:

 Willie Desjardins seems destined to be the first casualty of the Canucks’ poor play. After he’s gone, the roster will be held more accountable, and that’s when fans might see more movement. Currently, things are probably in a holding pattern until a coaching change.

 Eventually, one has to think a shakeup trade is coming. Even though plenty will tell you (myself included) that the Canucks really had no intention of competing for the playoffs this year, the club cannot appear to be satisfied with the current level of play if it wants to develop prospects in a positive environment. Someone like Jake Virtanen or Alex Edler could be a target of a move like this, but one has to hope that Jannik Hansen has temporarily moved himself to the untouchable category.

The defense will undoubtedly be addressed at some point, but that will have to wait. Oddly enough, everything depends on Luca Sbisa. I’ve seen countless fans asking the same question: “Why can’t the Canucks keep Stecher up and waive Alex Biega?” The answer is two-fold. First, the team needs a defenseman to hit the minimum requirement of games played this season to expose in the expansion draft. Ideally, Sbisa will hit that minimum eventually, but the team needs to keep Biega around in case Sbisa is injured. Once Sbisa hits the magic number, look for some moves to happen.

Secondly, Biega being waived doesn’t really affect Stecher, or Nikita Tryamkin for that matter. Whether at the NHL or AHL level, these young players need ice time to develop. Biega is fine sitting in the pressbox, but it’s something that the team will try to avoid for Stecher and Tryamkin. There simply aren’t enough starting spots in the NHL for everyone.

 

Schadenfreude Section:

Right after beating the Canucks in an embarrassing shutout fashion, the Montreal Canadiens were destroyed by the lowly Columbus Blue Jackets to a tune of 10-0. For a brief moment, the Canucks were not the butt of the rest of the hockey world’s jokes.

 Ryan Kesler got knocked out ridiculously hard by Max Domi, son of Tie. While Kesler was definitely unfairly impeded by a linesman in the incident, anyone still stinging from Kesler’s trade demands probably found some pleasure in watching him get his clock cleaned. It was also mighty nostalgic watching Kevin Bieksa skate a dazed Kesler off the ice whilst laughing at him.

 

Comets Report:

The good news is that the Comets are not experiencing an offensive drought like the Canucks are, as they put up seven goals in three games this week. The bad news is that they lost all three. The Comets started things off Tuesday with the first of back-to-back games against the St. John’s Icecaps, the only professional sports team named after a Tim Hortons beverage. The Comets dropped the contest 4-3 in overtime, which meant that Thatcher Demko got his first professional point. Carter Bancks, Darren Archibald, and new guy Phil DeSimone scored one each, while Michael Chaput’s point streak was finally snapped. Jordan Subban and John Negrin each picked up two assists.

Things weren’t as close the next night, as Utica went down 6-3. Subban picked up another assist to maintain his offensive pace, and Chaput made up for his previous pointless contest with a goal and two assists. Alex Grenier got a goal and two assists, as well, and Joe LaBate got one and one. Subban, Chaput, and Grenier are really driving the Utica offense right now. The game was tied 3-3 going into the third, but Richard Bachman and Utica gave up three straight to lose it.

The Comets got a three-day break after that, before facing off against the Syracuse Crunch on Saturday. The low-scoring affair saw Utica fall 2-1, with Grenier getting the only goal. Not surprisingly, Subban and Chaput picked up the assists. Bachman was in net for the duration of the loss. As a side note, Andrey Pedan appears to be contributed very little outside of minor penalties, and is probably not angling for a call-up anytime soon.

 

Bits and Bobs:

 -For once, 2016-17 might be a season where injuries are welcome, as long as they’re not serious. Tanev and Edler’s injuries have provided an opportunity to see what Stecher and Tryamkin can do.

 -Rarely in Canuck history have they had so many snakebitten players at once. Players have gone through ridiculous droughts before, but never in unison like this. One has to think the law of averages will soon come into effect.

-Speaking of the Canucks’ offensive woes, it definitely makes for easy pickings for repetitive, non-local broadcasters. Hey, did you know Loui Eriksson has only scored one goal, and it was against his own team? Let’s mention that ten more times in the next hour, and then talk about how bad we feel for him.

 -The Stecher-Tryamkin pairing looks comical out there, but they played pretty well together. Could this be revisited in the future?

-Troy Stecher had one of the most memorable first points in Canuck history amidst the chaos of Nazem Kadri’s hit on Daniel Sedin.

 -As bad as the results were this week, at the very least team camaraderie appears to be high. It was fantastic to see the Canucks stick up for one another against the Leafs, proving that they still care about the team and each other.

-Jannik Hansen’s fight was very reminiscent of his first, where he charged in to protect Roberto Luongo from Daymond Langkow. I can’t find a clip of it, and I don’t think he even got a fighting major, but the way Hansen rushed towards his opponent was nearly identical. What a hero.

-Many were upset at Alex Burrows for spearing Morgan Reilly, but I personally didn’t mind it. Reilly was already given the opportunity to fight when Brandon Sutter repeatedly challenged him, but chose not to. This was vintage Burrows enacting justice in a way most wouldn’t be willing to. When the time came, he also wasn’t shy to drop the gloves.

-The lack of a Kadri suspension has the pitchforks and torches out, and with good reason. The Sedins continue to be the most disrespected superstars in the league, and the Canucks come up on the short side of another controversy yet again. Kadri has a history of targeting star players, and was all over the Sedins all night.

-Another important question is why Daniel Sedin kept playing after the hit. It doesn’t seem worth it at all to risk potential concussion-related consequences in a meaningless game that was quickly getting out of hand.

-Did Morgan Reilly deserve a suspension? Probably not, but that’s a dangerous hit to throw in a blowout game, and the Canucks responded accordingly. Nothing wrong with taking Reilly to task for that hit.

-The Canucks play the Leafs again on December 3rd. Mark your calendars. Erik Gudbranson was heard calling for the death of Matt Martin, and while things won’t be quite that extreme, expect some definite fireworks. As Canucks fans, we should not be ashamed of our team taking the “low road” this time around. The Department of Player Safety has shown its unwillingness to protect the Canucks on too many occasions, and the Canucks have every right to take matters into their own hands. I would support starting a “goon” line of Virtanen, Skille, Dorsett, Gudbranson, and Tryamkin, a la Bob Hartley. Hell, why not call up Andrey Pedan and Joe LaBate and make it a real party?

-Back to positivity. Adam Gaudette now has 12 points in eight games, and is challenging Brock Boeser’s scoring totals. Both could turn pro later this year.

-Brett McKenzie, an unheralded 7th round pick, has 22 points in 16 games for North Bay in the OHL. This is the exact sort of offensive outburst that turns a draft pick into a legitimate prospect.

-Matthew Tkachuk has passed the nine-game mark and is officially a full-time NHLer, which has caused some fans to begin comparing his progress to Olli Juolevi’s. To those fans, I have two words for you: Valeri Nichushkin. Some fans were sure the Canucks erred by picking Bo Horvat over “The Nuke,” and look how that turned out.

-Since the Canucks are headed towards another lottery pick, more attention will be paid to Nolan Patrick throughout the year. He currently has nine points in six games, and is drawing comparisons to Anze Kopitar.

-Travis Green is the future of the Canucks coaching staff, and it wouldn’t be shocking to see him in place shortly after the current road trip. However, Green is not a miracle worker, as his current record in Utica shows, and fans should be patient once the switch is made. Nobody is going to be able to turn this train all the way around in one season.

-Some Leaf fans seem to think that Matt Martin earned his ludicrous contract with his performance last night. Truly, a sentiment that could only come from a fanbase using David Clarkson as a benchmark.

Five Future Enemies of the Vancouver Canucks

With the decidedly less-than-hot start,  Canuck fans continue to keep one eye on the future, knowing that the youth movement has begun and that new stars are on the way. With a refreshed roster will come new storylines, and as old rivalries from the past die down, the Canucks will need to find some brand new bones to pick around the league. The Canucks have had no shortage of public enemies throughout the years; from Dustin Byfuglien to Dustin Brown, and some, like Duncan Keith, will never be forgiven. With all that in mind, here’s a look at some upcoming players from around the league that seem likely to be on the receiving end of some Canuck-fan hatred in the seasons to come.

Matthew Tkachuk, Calgary Flames

Tkachuk’s father, Keith, was one of the league’s dirtiest superstars when he played, and the apple didn’t fall far from the tree. Tkachuk picked up a reputation for questionable play in the OHL, and has seemed to ramp it up upon hitting the pros.

Tkachuk made several cheap plays during the Penticton Young Stars tournament, including a really late hit on Tate Olsen and a bizarre attack on Brendan Lemieux, who we’ll talk about later. Tkachuk has already received some attention at the NHL level for a slewfoot on Brandon Davidson. He had been suspended for a similar play in the OHL. Although he escaped suspension for that incident, you can bet that Tkachuk will be getting pretty familiar with the Department of Player Safety over the next few years.

With Tkachuk entrenched in Calgary for now, Canuck fans will be given ample opportunity to build up their dislike of him. In addition to his on-ice play, the Canucks had a chance to draft Tkachuk but chose Olli Juolevi instead, leading to further reason to root against him. Worst of all, Tkachuk was recently told he’d be staying with the team permanently with the same mock-ceremony that Jake Virtanen and Jared McCann received last year, an idea which was obviously stolen from Willie Desjardins by Glen Gulutzan. Get your own ideas, Glen!

 

Brendan Lemieux, Winnipeg Jets

Lemieux is the son of Claude Lemieux, one of hockey’s greatest villains, and Brendan seems determined to follow in his father’s footsteps. Although a talented player, Lemieux has thrown himself fully into the role of agitator, and frequently plays to hurt his opponents. Lemieux was often suspended in the OHL for dangerous hits, including a 10 game sit-down.

Lemieux is renowned not just for cheapshots, but for his mouth, as well. That presumably led to his jumping by Matthew Tkachuk in Penticton, but Tkachuk was far from the only target of Lemieux’s words. If he’s anything like his dad, few topics will be off-limits for Lemieux.

After being sent down to the AHL to start the season, Lemieux has already made a statement. Against the Bakersfield Condors, he threw a questionable hit and then forced an unwilling Danish player into a fight. Like father, like son.

 

Drake Caggiula, Edmonton Oilers

Drake Caggiula does have a reputation for being as much of a pest as one is allowed to be in college hockey, but that’s actually not the primary reason that Canucks fans will cheer against him. Caggiula was a NCAA free agent who seemed destined to sign with the Canucks and join his North Dakota teammates Brock Boeser and Troy Stecher. Tragically, Caggiula signed with the Oilers after another famous Gretzky phone call and, presumably, several ignored calls from Mark Messier. Since then, Caggiula has openly talked to the media about how hard Boeser campaigned for him to join the Canucks, but he still chose Edmonton.

Caggiula plays an agitating style, and Canucks fans were particularly sour to see him perform well against the team in the preseason. Caggiula has a penchant for scoring goals in every situation, and will no doubt be a net-front presence for years to come. Canucks fans will hope that Caggiula is Justin Schultz 2.0, and not the second coming of Ryan Smyth.

 

Nick Ritchie, Anaheim Ducks

Nick Ritchie was one of two top-ranked power forwards in the 2014 Draft. Jake Virtanen was the other. For that reason alone, the two will always be in unspoken competition according to Canucks fans. Ritchie’s playing style is perhaps even more physical than Virtanen’s. Both are able to intimidate opponents with crushing hits, but Ritchie is also able to fight with the best of them.

Already, Ritchie seems to have passed Virtanen in the depth charts by frequently lining up with old Canuck enemies Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry. An apprenticeship from those two will no doubt ensure that Ritchie receives many lessons in how to make the Vancouver Canucks angry. Crosschecks to the small of the back will be a crucial part of his education.

The Canucks have a recent history of being physically dominated by the California teams, and Ritchie is just one more in a long line of players destined to run over our defenseman and take runs at the Sedins. Hopefully having Erik Gudbranson around will act as a bit of a preventative measure when it comes to Ritchie.

 

Anthony DeAngelo, Arizona Coyotes

Anthony DeAngelo came into the league as an easily hateable player. After all, it’s not often that a junior player is suspended for using slurs on multiple occasions. That’s not to say that DeAngelo doesn’t give league staff other reasons to suspend him, as he’s thrown a number of dangerous hits.

DeAngelo was traded from the Tampa Bay Lightning not long after drafting him, which doesn’t speak to his character. He landed in Arizona, where he’ll eventually play in the Canucks’ division. With several young forwards coming through the system, the chances of one of them having a run-in with DeAngelo are going to be high.

Canucks fans have no special reason to dislike DeAngelo, but an agitating defenseman playing within the division who is known for hate speech makes for an instant public enemy in Vancouver. All it will take is one questionable hit from DeAngelo for the pitchforks to be out in full force.