Weekly Canucks Report: Week of January 23-29
Who Had a Good Week:
The Sedins- This is the best the Sedins have played in two seasons. Henrik is playing particularly well, even though his point streak was snapped against Arizona. It’s a shame that the twins haven’t been able to drag their linemate along with them but, for now, they’re playing like a number one line again. If the Canucks are to have any hope of making the playoffs, the Sedins will need to maintain this level of play for the duration of the season.
Bo Horvat- Sure, Horvat only put up one assist this week, but he also attended his first (of many) All Star Game. I’ve said before that I think fans will one day look back at this season as the start of something special, and Horvat’s All Star debut is further evidence of that. The team’s young players are taking the sort of strides that Vancouver fans just aren’t used to. Of course, just being there wasn’t enough, so Bo had to score two beauty goals.
Pavel Bure- Bure was a bit of a long-shot to be named one of the NHL’s Top 100 Players, so it was nice to see him make the cut. It would have been depressing to not have any “true” Canucks on the list after a nearly 50 year history. Bure may not have the numbers of some other Hall of Famers, but he had a truly unique and dynamic skillset and it’s nice to see that recognized.
Sven Baertschi- Baertschi has almost already eclipsed his career highs with much of the season left to go, and although some would still call him streaky, the hot streaks are starting to become more and more frequent. Two goals in two games makes for a good, but not atypical, week for Sven.
Nikita Tryamkin- It seems like Tryamkin has definitely found his physical game. His stapling of Andres Martinsen was especially satisfying because Martinsen had tried to rough Tryamkin up earlier. This goes to show that the big Russian does have a bit of a mean streak, something Canuck fans have been hoping for since he was drafted.
Who Had a Rough Week:
Granlund-Sutter-Megna- This line has been off lately, and it’s not all Jayson Megna’s fault. While he does add little to the line, Granlund and Sutter have also not been displaying their independent chemistry as a dynamic duo, as they were earlier in the year. Whatever it is, it caused their ice time to drop in the Arizona game.
Alex Burrows- Burrows is slumping, and may actually be regressing back to his mean after a hot start. He often seems a bit behind the play and has recently been missing on some easy chances. It might be time to try someone else with Horvat and Baertschi.
Loui Eriksson- Once again, Eriksson is not exactly playing bad. He still plays very effective minutes, and actually led the forwards in ice time against Arizona. However, he was signed to produce, and he simply hasn’t been doing that, even though the Sedins are putting up numbers again. Loui really needs a hot streak.
The All Star Game traditionally sparks a bit of roster movement, as teams have a quiet weekend to reassess their rosters and enter negotiations a month ahead of the Trade Deadline. The Canucks are rolling, but will almost certainly wait until closer to the deadline to make any decisions. However, there could be a bit of movement among the other teams this coming week.
The Canucks are suddenly faced with a surprising defensive surplus. While Erik Gudbranson’s injury has temporarily saved the team from having to make any difficult roster decisions, they still need to make some decisions soon with Gudbranson needing a new contract. I’m going to do up a whole post about the team’s various options, which I will post at a later date.
The Trade Deadline is now less than a month away, and the intermittent time will determine whether the Canucks are looking to buy, sell, or stand pat on that day. Although the team’s recent record would suggest selling is off the table, that might mean the team is walking away from a windfall of picks and prospects. Looking around the league, the deadline will likely be a seller’s market, and it may be in the Canucks’ long-term interests to get in on the action. I’m also going to make a separate post breaking this down, which I will post sometime in the next week or two.
First, a little bit of reverse-Schadenfreude with Jared McCann. Not only did he put up a point against the Canucks immediately after I featured him in this section, but since then he has found a semi-permanent home on a line with Jaromir Jagr. You’re welcome, Jared!
With the reveal of the NHL’s semi-official list of its Top 100 Players, it is time to once again remember that Mats Sundin, all-time Maple Leaf great, chose to end his career with the Vancouver Canucks instead of in Toronto. Sundin’s time in Vancouver is underappreciated, both for the impact he had on the team and the sheer amount of bother it caused Toronto fans.
Utica started a slightly condensed week with a Wednesday matchup against the Springfield Falcons, who are disappointingly not called the Isotopes. The Comets lost 2-1 in overtime, with Richard Bachman manning the nets fresh off his AHL Player of the Week honours. Pascal Pelletier scored the lone Utica goal, assisted by Colby Robak and Mike Zalewski, who has been hot of late. Jake Virtanen was -2, and was blamed by some for the overtime goal against.
Bachman stayed in the net for another game on Friday, a regulation 3-2 loss to the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins, who have the unwieldiest name in the league. Alex Grenier had a goal and an assist, while Curtis Valk nabbed two assists. The suddenly hot Evan McEneny potted a late goal to cut the lead to one, but it was too late. Virtanen was pointless, but was all over the ice and had five shots.
Thatcher Demko was back in the net Friday for yet another matchup with the Syracuse Crunch, who are an important part of a balanced breakfast. Demko picked up a shootout loss, falling 4-3, which makes this the first winless week for the Comets in awhile. Carter Bancks and McEneny scored, with Jordan Subban picking up the final goal after returning from a brief call-up. Bancks also had an assist, along with Grenier, Pelletier, Zalewski, Michael Carcone, and Wacey Hamilton. The Comets had a chance to win the game on an OT powerplay, but failed to convert. No Comets scored in the shootout, and Demko was beat once by Cory Conacher.
Both Jordan Subban and Alex Grenier represented the Comets at the AHL All Star Game(s), and both were certainly worthy candidates. I still haven’t found time to watch the Skills Competition, however, so I can’t comment on their performance there, and the games themselves are actually being played tonight.
A special note on Jake Virtanen. While his stat-line still looks pretty ugly, he appears to have turned a corner this week. Although some Comets media outlets blamed him directly for an overtime loss, highlight packages and coach Travis Green’s analysis reveal that Virtanen is once again skating hard, playing physical, and driving the play. If he keeps this up, the points will come, and, hopefully, so will the confidence.
Bits and Bobs:
-This week saw some heavy rumours that the NBA was moving to Seattle within a few years. It’s unclear whether this will help or hurt the likelihood of NHL expansion in the area, but perhaps a shared arena is a possibility. At the very least, it’s another indication of the desire for a pro sports team in the area.
-If the Canucks do fall out of the playoff race over the next month, don’t get too down in the dumps. Remember, the World Championships is a yearly boost for fans of rebuilding teams, who get to see their young talent represent their countries in a mildly important tournament. One has to think Bo Horvat and Troy Stecher will get looks for Team Canada, and Brock Boeser may get the call for America.
-One has to think that Jannik Hansen’s return from injury is Loui Eriksson’s deadline to either put up or shut up when it comes to playing with the Sedins.
-The All Star skills competition was, as always, the highlight of the weekend. The new distance shooting drill was fun, but also made for some pretty boring television. Leave it to Bo to be a part of the very best moment, when Mike Smith won a car.
-For the record, Horvat also got absolutely robbed in his race with Laine. That was veteran stickwork by Horvat that went unappreciated by the clearly biased event organizers.
-A personal highlight for me was our old friend Jim Hughson’s awkward exchange with PK Subban about the prospect of Auston Matthews getting some “action” over the weekend.
-To fans that might be disappointed if the team makes a playoff run and ends up with a middling draft pick: look at all the middling draft picks playing in the All Star Game this weekend: late round gems like Johnny Gaudreau, project picks like Brent Burns, non-first rounders like PK Subban and Shea Weber, and the Canucks’ own late first, Ryan Kesler. Team-defining players don’t have to be drafted with lottery picks.
-Of course, the All Star Weekend remains largely a waste of time, and another reminder of how badly it will suck it the NHL is not at the Olympics next year. Expect some definitive news on this soon.
-On the same day of the All Star festivities, Olli Juolevi was featured in a game on Sportsnet. Juolevi looked good in a 7-6 shootout victory, notching two assists and saving the game in OT.
-Correction: Last week I mentioned that this six-day break counted as the Canucks’ mandatory five-day break for the year, something that every team has included on their schedule this season. It turns out I was wrong, and the Canucks have another five-day break coming up in February. Sorry, folks!
-Willie Desjardins win this week put him into 5th place all-time for wins as a Canuck head coach. It seems like only yesterday Desjardins was being hired, which really puts into perspective how difficult life is as an NHL coach. In the franchise’s 47 year history, only four coaches have stuck around long enough to pile up more wins than Willie.
-The Chicago Blackhawks were absolutely overrepresented in the Top 100 NHL Players, with Jonathan Toews and Duncan Keith making the list over guys like Evgeni Malkin and Joe Thornton. That sucks, but it’s nice vindication for Canuck fans, as it proves we were right all along when we said that the league totally favours them.
-The above comment is only mildly sarcastic.