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.
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.
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.
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.