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.
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.
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.
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.