Weekly Canucks Report: Week of January 23-29

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.

 

Roster Talk: 

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.

 

Schadenfreude Section:

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.

 

Comets Report:

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.

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Preseason Point Predictions Versus Reality: Dawn Of Production

The All Star Game gives us all a little breather from Canucks hockey, and is as good a chance as any to take stock of the team’s season thus far. Recently, much has been made of the preseason predictions that were handed down for the Canucks’ performance this year, most of which predicted the team to slide to the bottom of the league standings. However, the prognosticators have been proven wrong once again, as Vancouver is flirting with a playoff position more than halfway through the year.

Team performance aside, this weekend is also a good opportunity to look at how individuals on the team have performed based on preseason point production predictions (say that five times fast!). For the purposes of this, I’ve taken my own predictions (published here: https://hockeytalkie.wordpress.com/2016/07/27/vancouver-canucks-2016-17-point-predictions/) along with those made by The Hockey News, and compared them with the actual 82 game pace that each player is on. (Since the predictions were mostly made for an 82 game pace, that made the most sense to use for comparison, even though some players obviously won’t end up playing 82 games).

 

Henrik Sedin

THN Prediction: 55

HockeyTalkie Prediction: 65

Actual Pace: 52

Comments: The predicted spike in production for the Sedin twins after landing Loui Eriksson as a linemate never materialized, and their production has reached its lowest levels in years.

 

Daniel Sedin

THN Prediction: 59

HockeyTalkie Prediction: 65

Actual Pace: 43

Comments: Daniel’s decline has been even steeper than Henrik’s, with him hovering around a 0.5 point-per-game average.

 

Loui Eriksson

THN Prediction: 52

HockeyTalkie Prediction: 60

Actual Pace: 34

Comments: Perhaps the most disappointing player on this list. Eriksson hasn’t played terrible or anything, but his production is nearly half of what was predicted.

 

Bo Horvat

THN Prediction: 51

HockeyTalkie Prediction: 50

Actual Pace: 52

Comments: Many people guessed that Horvat would continue to do great things this season, and he has definitely delivered. Despite what were called overly optimistic predictions by myself and THN, Horvat is arguably exceeding anyone’s expectations.

 

Sven Baertschi

THN Prediction: 33

HockeyTalkie Prediction: 50

Actual Pace: 45

Comments: Few, outside of yours truly, predicted a major breakout from Sven Baertschi. While his extremely cold start hurt his point totals, since then his production has actually been way over a 50 point pace.

 

Jannik Hansen

THN Prediction: 35

HockeyTalkie Prediction: 30

Actual Pace: 41

Comments: Most predicted that Hansen would take a step back after a breakout year, but that’s only been the case due to injury. In terms of pace, Hansen is having a fantastic year once again.

 

Brandon Sutter

THN Prediction: 30

HockeyTalkie Prediction: 35

Actual Pace: 38

Comments: Many were hopeful that Sutter could bounce back after an injury-plagued season, and he definitely has. His point totals are even higher than most would have expected.

 

Anton Rodin

THN Prediction: 17

HockeyTalkie Prediction: 41 pt pace

Actual Pace: 27

Comments: Rodin was a wildcard coming into the season, and he’s still a wildcard halfway through. Injuries have robbed Rodin of his chance, and his “actual pace” is only based on three games and one point, so be aware of the small sample size.

 

Jake Virtanen

THN Prediction: 25

HockeyTalkie Prediction: 34 pt pace

Actual Pace: 8

Comments: The less said about Virtanen’s season, the better. He’s beginning to rebound in the AHL, so let’s focus on next year for him.

 

Markus Granlund

THN Prediction: 16

HockeyTalkie Prediction: 20

Actual Pace: 32

Comments: Easily the breakout player of the season, nobody could have predicted Granlund’s skyrocketing production. Even my own prediction of 20 points was called silly by some, but look where he is now!

 

Brendan Gaunce

THN Prediction: 16

HockeyTalkie Prediction: 20 pt pace

Actual Pace: 7

Comments: Gaunce hasn’t had any sort of offensive spark at the NHL level, but he’s also found himself stuck in the fourth line the entire time. He will likely never be a big producer, but is still playing solid hockey.

 

Derek Dorsett

THN Prediction: 19

HockeyTalkie Prediction: 20

Actual Pace: 23

Comments: Dorsett was continuing to be a premium fourth liner, and was even outproducing most predictions, before an injury got in his way. Will be interesting to see if he can continue his roll when he returns.

 

Alex Burrows

THN Prediction: 22

HockeyTalkie Prediction: 21 pt pace

Actual Pace: 30

Comments: Alex Burrows is the renaissance man of the Canucks. After nearly being bought out, Burrows has resurrected his career and is on his best pace in years.

 

Alex Edler

THN Prediction: 30

HockeyTalkie Prediction: 40

Actual Pace: 21

Comments: The Canucks defense, out-of-nowhere Troy Stecher aside, has been a disappointment in terms of production this year. No one is feeling that more than Edler, who is barely at a 20 point pace.

 

Ben Hutton

THN Prediction: 24

HockeyTalkie Prediction: 30

Actual Pace: 22

Comments: Hutton could be argued to be experiencing a bit of a sophomore slump, but it is not pronounced. Look for a breakout from him next year.

 

Chris Tanev

THN Prediction: 17

HockeyTalkie Prediction: 30

Actual Pace: 16

Comments: My big, bold prediction really didn’t pay off. Tanev remains a steady, if unspectacular, top pairing defenseman.

 

Erik Gudbranson

THN Prediction: 16

HockeyTalkie Prediction: 15

Actual Pace: 16

Comments: No surprises here. Some hoped for a bit a leap from Gudbranson, but he is what he is at this point.

 

Nikita Tryamkin

THN Prediction: 10

HockeyTalkie Prediction: 10

Actual Pace: 10

Comments: High five, THN! We did it! For Tryamkin, offense will have to come later.

 

Luca Sbisa

THN Prediction: 11

HockeyTalkie Prediction: 15

Actual Pace: 19

Comments: Sbisa has blown everyone’s expectations away this year, and while he still isn’t much of an offensive threat, he’s outpacing predictions on that front, too.

 

Philip Larsen

THN Prediction: N/A

HockeyTalkie Prediction: 30 pt pace

Actual Pace: 18

Comments: No one knew what to make of Philip Larsen coming into the season, and most still don’t. He looked alright on the powerplay, but certainly wasn’t the potential spark he was advertised as. His severe injury put a halt on any sort of development.

Weekly Canucks Report: Week of January 16-22

Weekly Canucks Report: Week of January 16-22

 

Who Had a Good Week:

Henrik Sedin- You had to know Henr1k would be here. Not only did the captain hit a major milestone, he ended the week with two game winning goals and an assist in three games. Best of all, Henrik seemed to control the play better than he has all season, and was definitely the catalyst in the improved play of his line.

Daniel Sedin and Loui Eriksson- Daniel and Loui didn’t have quite the week that Henrik did, but the entire unit played much better than on previous stints together. This line seems to be just on the verge of finding major chemistry and breaking out offensively. 

Ryan Miller- Miller is the number one reason the Canucks have climbed so high in the standings. His play in the week’s two wins, in particular, was very strong, and even in the loss to Chicago he put up 31 saves. If the Canucks remain in playoff contention, they realistically can’t trade a goalie that is playing this well.

Luca Sbisa- Sbisa is making a good case for Las Vegas to take a good, hard look at him. Sbisa is playing extremely solid hockey on a pairing with Chris Tanev, and even put up two points in three games this week. One of the few players that consistently hits.

Nikita Tryamkin- Tryamkin seemed to rediscover his physical game this week, and it had predictably dramatic results. He is at his best when he uses his size to his advantage, and that requires bodychecking, so it will be interesting to see if Tryamkin can maintain the physical play.

 

Who Had a Rough Week:

Reid Boucher- It wasn’t much of a debut for Reid Boucher. Despite it being a game against one of his former teams, Boucher played six minutes and didn’t make much of an impression. He did have a nice hit, but wasn’t given a chance beyond that. Desjardins must be unimpressed with something in his game.

Troy Stecher- Stecher started the week sick, and had a tough time recovering. His offensive game continued to be strong, but he was noticeably overwhelmed on a couple of occasions by top opponents, particularly against Chicago. It may have been wiser to keep Stecher out of the lineup to recover, and just playing Pedan or Subban.

Markus Granlund- When Granlund isn’t contributing offensively, he can often appear invisible. Again, having Jayson Megna on his line can’t be helping, but this was still an off week for Granlund.

 

Roster Talk:

The Trade Deadline is fast approaching, and every pending game becomes that much more important in determining the Canucks’ roster strategy. If this strong play continues, there is no way the team sells anyone at the deadline, even if it resists the temptation of rental players. Fans hoping for a windfall of draft picks may be disappointed unless the next month sees a major losing streak.

The return of Jannik Hansen might be the thing that stops the Canucks from acquiring any rentals at the deadline if they remain in playoff contention. The reasoning will be that reinserting Hansen is better than any potential rental, and thus no draft picks will be expended.

Drew Miller, brother of Ryan, is on waivers, and some have mentioned the possibility of the Canucks reuniting the brothers. While a veteran fourth liner is far from a need on the Canuck roster, Miller does bring a lot of experience playing under Mike Babcock’s system. As far as intangibles go, he wouldn’t be the worst fill-in until Dorsett returns, assuming the team is finally willing to send Megna or Chaput back down.

 

Schadenfreude Section:

Another NHL coach, Jack Capuano, was fired this week. Most preseason predictions named Willie Desjardins as the coach most likely to get the axe, but now it looks almost certain that Desjardins will finish the year as head coach.

Seeing Henrik Sedin score his 1000th point was great, but the fact that it came against long-time antagonist Shawn Thornton was the icing on the cake.

 

Comets Report:

The traditional structure of the Comets’ schedule was altered this week, with them playing a mid-week back-to-back and only one weekend game. That did little to stop the roll that the Comets are on, as they won all three. The first game occurred Tuesday in St. John, a 5-2 win. Richard Bachman was in net, as he was for every game this week. Cody Kunyk and Pascal Pelletier each got two goals and an assist, and the suddenly surprising Evan McEneny picked up the reverse. Mike Zalewski also had a multi-point game with two assists.

The Comets followed up the very next night with a 3-1 victory over the same Ice Caps. Jake Virtanen snapped his cold streak with an assist on Wacey Hamilton’s opening goal. Borna Rendulic and Cody Kunyk got the other goals, meaning that Kunyk scored three of his five goals on the season in roughly 48 hours. Cole Cassels got a rare assist.

Perhaps most impressive was Utica’s Saturday shutout of the Syracuse Crunch. Kunyk kept up the hot play with a goal and an assist, and McEneny also scored one. Cassels and Archibald had the other goals, and the often offensive Alex Grenier and Curtis Valk picked up an assist each. Virtanen also notched an assist, as did Tom Nilsson, making his long-awaited return. Oddly enough, all four goals were scored in the third period.

 

By request, the season stats of some key Comets:

Alex Grenier- 38 GP, 13 G, 19 A, 32 P

Curtis Valk- 39 GP, 12 G, 15 A, 27 P

Jordan Subban- 34 GP, 9 G, 13 A, 22 P

Michael Chaput- 10 GP, 2 G, 11 A, 13 P

Jake Virtanen- 29 GP, 4 G, 5 A, 9 P

Joe LaBate- 19 GP, 2 G, 6 A, 8 P

Evan McEneny- 30 GP, 4 G, 3 A, 7 P

Cole Cassels- 33 GP, 5 G, 2 A, 7 P

Mike Zalewski- 21 GP, 1 G, 5 A, 6 P

Borna Rendulic- 37 GP, 3 G, 3 A, 6 P

Michael Carcone- 31 GP, 1 G, 4 A, 5 P

Marco Roy- 15 GP, 1 G, 3 A, 4 P

Jayson Megna- 4 GP, 1 G, 2 A, 3 P

Andrey Pedan- 22 GP, 2 G, 1 A, 3 P

Thatcher Demko- 21 GP, 9 wins, 2.84 GAA, .901 Sv%

 

Bits and Bobs:

-Henrik Sedin hitting 1000 points, and the resulting ovation, was a truly special moment. It may have taken longer than some fans predicted, but the wait was more than worth it in the end. Who could have predicted in 1970 that it would be 47 years before a Canuck hit 1000 points?

-Was the looming milestone potentially weighing on Henrik? It will be interesting to see if his line’s play improves noticeably moving forward.

-The much-awaited Jordan Subban call-up finally occurred, but only due to Pedan’s expiring waiver-free period. Subban is unlikely to play unless an injury occurs, although it would be nice to see him sub in for Biega for a game or two.

-The Canucks’ rivalry with Chicago is now all but dead. It will be interesting to see who Vancouver manages to develop a new rivalry with going forward. A Seattle team, which is probable in the next five years, is a perfect candidate.

-Make sure to enjoy these next two games, because the Canucks go six days without a game right after. They are off from January 26- February 1.

-This is because of the new, mandatory five day break that every NHL team will get this season.

-The Canucks might just need it, as they are starting a stretch that sees them play nine of eleven on the road. The road hasn’t exactly been friendly this year.

-It’s been a bit surprising to see how quickly many fans have jumped back onto the playoff bandwagon after the Canucks’ recent hot play. It is easy to see a major fan crisis occurring if the team ends up hovering around the edge of playoff contention.

-The darkest timeline is easy to see: The Canucks hover into and out of a playoff spot, right up until the final two games of the season, during which the Edmonton Oilers officially eliminate them. The team thus receives a middling draft pick and has no playoff appearance to show for it.

Weekly Canucks Report: Week of January 9-15

Weekly Canucks Report: Week of January 9-15

 

Who Had a Good Week:

Bo Horvat- Honestly, this wasn’t Horvat’s strongest week, as he put up only one point in three games and was a -2 overall. However, this was also the week that Horvat was named to the All Star Game, and that makes it a good week. Furthermore, Horvat is starting to consistently get as much ice time as the Sedins, so even the coaching staff is noticing his team-leading play. 

Brandon Sutter- Sutter had a big week, with two goals and three points overall, including the game-tying goal late against Nashville. Sutter and Markus Granlund are becoming the team’s second-leading dynamic duo, after Horvat and Baertschi. My, how the times have changed.

Markus Granlund- Granlund’s offense continues to be a bit spotty, as this week saw him score two goals in one game and go pointless in the rest, but it’s hard to deny the numbers he is putting up. It’s becoming more and more difficult to imagine exposing Granlund in the expansion draft. 

Jayson Megna- Let’s give credit where credit is due. Not only did Megna manage a two point effort when removed from the Sedin line, but he actually seemed to fit fairly well with Sutter and Granlund. Megna still seems to add little aside from his skating speed, but at least it appears that his time on the first line is over, which will get the fans off his back.

Alex Edler- Quietly, Alex Edler continues to put up massive minutes for the Canucks amidst defensive injuries. Edler received far more ice than Chris Tanev in two of the three games this week, providing a modicum of offense and some seriously steady defense. His veteran presence allowed Troy Stecher to bounce back after a tough game in Nashville.

 

Who Had a Rough Week:

The Sedins- The Sedins managed to put up two points each in three games this week, but they continue to look a step behind the play at most times. Luckily, Willie Desjardins has recognized this and is beginning to share the ice-time more evenly between his top three lines. It could be argued that Loui Eriksson helped the twins more than they helped him this week, and while that’s nice, fans are hoping to see a lot more mutual chemistry in the future.

Alex Burrows- Trade rumours regarding Burrows surfaced this week, and the timing probably couldn’t be worse. Burrows has hit an offensive slump, and while he’s still keeping up with Horvat and Baertschi, one has to wonder if his goal-scoring resurgence has run its course.

Nikita Tryamkin- After a strong last week, Tryamkin hit a bit of a wall, and saw his ice time slashed as a result. Tryamkin made a few too many errors in judgement, and found himself on the losing end of some puck battles with smaller, more skilled opponents. He needs to get back to playing within his wheelhouse.

Alex Biega- Playing with Alex Biega does not help Tryamkin at all. Biega’s workmanlike effort is commendable, but he’s getting exposed as a less-than-NHL-quality defenseman this season. The sooner the Canucks can replace him in the lineup, the better.

 

Roster Talk:

Rumours swirled around a potential Colorado trade due to the presence of some Canuck scouts at their games, but nothing seems likely at this point. The big ticket items in the Avalanche fire sale include names like Duchene, Barrie, and Landeskog, but each would require a package of young assets and draft picks that the Canucks just can’t afford to give up right now.

It was also mentioned that an Alex Burrows trade may be on the horizon, with various teams apparently kicking the tires this week. Most Canuck fans would only be alright with seeing Burrows dealt if it meant he got a real chance to win the Stanley Cup, preferably with his hometown Canadiens. Burrows could hopefully net the Canucks a second round pick, and would be a great addition for any playoff contender.

The issue of expansion protection continues to get more complicated for the Canucks. Granlund’s excellent play of late, combined with Jannik Hansen’s injury and age, make it likely the Canucks will protect Granlund and expose Hansen come the expansion draft. If the team hangs on to both Burrows and Dorsett, fulfilling its expansion requirements, they may look to trade Hansen at the deadline to avoid losing him for nothing. Expect a late first in return.

 

Schadenfreude Section:

With Cory Schneider defeating the Canucks, it was yet another opportunity to revisit the Horvat for Schneider trade. However, for the first time ever, it could actually be argued at this point that Horvat is the more valuable asset. At the very least, Horvat is having a better season than the struggling Schneider, and that provides some nice vindication for former GM Mike Gillis.

With Jake Virtanen’s struggles in the AHL well-documented, it’s worth noting that Jared McCann is in the same boat. McCann has only put up six points in 15 games at the AHL level this season, and added one more NHL point in a brief call-up.

 

Comets Report:

It was a perfect week for the streaking Comets, who put up three straight wins. The first came against the breakfast cereal-sounding Syracuse Crunch on Wednesday, a 2-1 victory. Alex Grenier and Darren Archibald, two bruisers who have been pacing the Comets’ offense of late, each put up a goal and an assist, with Curtis Valk and Thatcher Demko also snagging assists. Archibald’s tally was the OT winner.

Richard Bachman was back in the net for the next two games, starting with another 2-1 win over the Providence Bruins at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center. Jordan Subban returned to score against his brother, Malcolm, with assists going to Borna Rendulic and Michael Carcone. Mike Zalewski finally got his first goal of the season, which proved to be the winner.

Saturday’s game was the best of the week, a 3-1 victory over the hilariously-named Bridgeport Sound Tigers. Grenier and Archibald again got a goal and an assist each, and Valk picked up two assists. Evan McEneny finished things off with an empty net goal. Once again, Jake Virtanen was pointless in more ways than one, although he did register at least four shots in each game this week.

 

Bits and Bobs:

-It was nice to see Troy Stecher have an immediate rebound game right after a tough outing. That shows great mental fortitude.

-Is it time for a Jordan Subban call-up? Now might be the perfect time, with similarly offensive defensemen Ben Hutton and Philip Larsen both out with injuries.

-Alex Grenier is perhaps even more deserving of a call-up. Not only is Grenier putting up his best AHL season yet, but he could add a physical element that the Canucks are sorely missing.

-We need to talk about Jake. Virtanen’s performance at the AHL level is now impossible to ignore, and the numbers say it almost certainly precludes him from playing in a scoring role at the NHL level. It’s still too soon to completely write-off the 20 year old, but things don’t look good at all.

-Henrik Sedin inched closer to a big milestone in what has become an intolerable wait for 1000 points. I originally predicted that Henrik’s big moment would come sometime between December 20th and January 7th, so he’s already beyond that point. Here’s hoping it will come soon.

-The NHL All Star Game will feature the reveal of the NHL’s Top 100 Players Ever, and one has to wonder if there will be any true Canucks on the list. Pavel Bure might be the best bet, but he seems like a long-shot. Perhaps Igor Larionov will sneak in.

-If the Canucks barely miss out on the playoffs, and thus screw themselves out of a high draft pick, then loser points will become a major part of the discussion. This makes overtime losses a particular slap in the face, and gives more evidence that the league should convert to a 2-0 point system.

-I think some fans need a bit of clarification on the exact rules regarding expansion and its requirements. Many have noticed that Alex Biega is close to hitting the minimum number of games to count as an exposed defenseman for the draft, but don’t quite understand what this means. Every team needs to expose two forwards, a defenseman, and a goalie that have hit certain longevity-related milestones and are still under contract for at least another season. The Canucks currently have a multitude of forwards that meet this requirement, along with many defensemen, but the team is still limited to only protecting a certain number of players. Essentially, Luca Sbisa and Biega both hitting the minimum means that the Canucks now are over and above the requirements for exposing defensemen, but it doesn’t mean they can keep Sbisa and just expose Biega, unless they also want to expose one of Edler, Tanev, or Erik Gudbranson. However, it does mean that the Canucks could trade one of the two and still be just fine.

Thoughts on Reid Boucher

Boucher is an undersized, but very skilled offensive player. Dominant at the AHL level, and has had some small stints of sustained scoring at the NHL level.

Rattie may have made more sense, however, I will point out that Boucher has better stats at every level of play, thus far. Same draft year.

For those wondering why the Canucks didn’t just claim Boucher a day ago when he was also on waivers, at that point, New Jersey had first dibs as the former team that lost him on waivers. They made the claim, and then tried to immediately send him down. The fact they had to put him on waivers again means at least one other team, possibly the Canucks, also had put in a claim. Why they thought they could sneak him down, I’m really not sure. Perhaps they thought Rattie was enough of a distraction to slip Boucher by.

I believe the Canucks had higher waiver priority than Carolina, as they are tied in points, but Carolina has games in hand. Theoretically, the Canucks could have claimed Rattie. But this may have been a case where Benning made the safe play. You can’t claim two players on waivers without being prepared to actually take on both, and so perhaps Benning snagged Boucher thinking it was likely Rattie was gone before the Canucks’ priority spot. That didn’t end up being true, but at least they were certain to get someone.

Just my two cents! All speculation. Excited to see what Boucher can do.

Weekly Canucks Report: Week of January 2-8

Weekly Canucks Report: Week of January 2-8

 

Who Had a Good Week:

Bo Horvat- Horvat has become Mr. Consistency. This was yet another point-per-game week for him, and one has to wonder if this is just how it’s going to be from now on. Once again, he created offensive opportunities out of pretty much nothing, and further cemented his legend with the weiner dog shenanigans.

 

Ryan Miller- In three games this week, Ryan Miller made 90 saves, including a 44 save performance against the Flames on Friday. Miller looked fantastic for three straight wins, and isn’t going to give up his crease without a fight.

Alex Edler- The importance of Alex Edler was illustrated this week when injuries hit the backend, and Edler was forced to play some massive minutes. Edler is back to being a difficult player to play against.

 Nikita Tryamkin- Tryamkin seemed to respond well to heavier minutes, and was rewarded for it, as his ice time increased throughout the week. Tryamkin is beginning to play a much more active game at the point, where his enormous wingspan helps him to get pucks on the net consistently.

 Markus Granlund- Granlund only scored in one game, but it was a three point night against his former team and probably his best as a Canuck. Was the best member of his line throughout the week.

 The 4th Line- It’s unclear how long the line of Gaunce-Chaput-Skille will be together, but they seem to fit well as a fourth unit. They’re strong on the forecheck and eat up valuable minutes.

 

Who Had a Rough Week:

 Jayson Megna- With a quick viewing of the “Game in Five” from Saturday, posted on the Canucks’ Youtube channel, one can see Megna flub two golden opportunities (three, if you count the two whacks he had at one of them) and commit a brutal giveaway right inside his own blueline. This isn’t an isolated incident, either. Megna got an assist this week, but it was his first of the season!

 The Sedins- The twins picked up some points during Monday’s game, but were pointless in three straight games afterwards. The team’s win streak was all the more remarkable because the top line wasn’t really doing anything for much of it.

 Anton Rodin- Rodin is still injured to some degree, as his deployment shows, but then why isn’t he just sitting out? Will he ever be fully healthy? It’s hard not to lose patience with this promised payoff.

 Loui Eriksson- Eriksson only put up one point in four games, and didn’t look particularly dangerous out there. With both he and the Sedins needing a jumpstart, has there ever been a better time to put them back together?

 

Roster Talk:

It will be interesting to see where Reid Boucher inserts into the lineup. It’s hard to say where he best fits, but the Sutter-Granlund line might be a nice start. Will a forward be sent down to help out Utica soon? Chaput and Megna are the obvious candidates, but it’s not out of the realm of possibility that Brendan Gaunce gets sent down to spend some time as a go-to offensive player.

With more defensive injuries, it might finally be time to give Jordan Subban a shot. After Tryamkin’s reaction to the Michael Ferland hit, it may be safer to call two defensemen up, anyway, which would mean Subban and Andrey Pedan.

The next two months, leading up the trade deadline, could be very important to the franchise and its future. If the team continues to play well, expect an acquisition or two, likely at the cost of future assets. If the team hits another skid and falls in the standings, expect some veterans like Jannik Hansen and Ryan Miller to be traded for draft picks and prospects, which will benefit the team in the long run.

 

Schadenfreude Section: 

With the Colorado Avalanche struggling so mightily this season, one has to wonder how safe Joe Sakic’s job is. If he does get the axe, maybe the Canucks can finally bring him home in some sort of executive role. What’s Paul Kariya doing these days?

The Chicago Blackhawks lost yet another Winter Classic game, bringing their total record to 0-3-0. Even more embarrassingly, they trotted out noted spousal abuser and Nazi Bobby Hull for the opening puck drop. Go Blackhawks!

 

Comets Report:

The Comets got most of the week off, but then paid for it with a three games in three nights weekend, known as an AHL special. The first stop on the tour was Friday at home against Albany, and resulted in a 4-2 win. Richard Bachman got the W, with Colby Robak, Alex Grenier, Curtis Valk, and Wacey Hamilton all scoring a single goal. Grenier also got an assist, Darren Archibald got two, and Mike Zalewski picked up his first point in awhile.

The Comets picked up an overtime win the next night in Hershey against the Bears. Alex Grenier scored early in the third to knot things at 2-2, and Curtis Valk scored the winner 21 seconds into overtime. Valk also notched an assist and Archibald had two for his second game in a row. Speaking of streaks, Hamilton had the other goal, his second in as many games. Thatcher Demko was in net to outduel former Canuck prospect Joe Cannata.

Utica couldn’t make it a clean sweep, losing Sunday’s game to Lehigh Valley by a score of 4-1. Grenier had the only goal, assisted by Valk and Robak, and one has to wonder how hard of a look the Canucks are taking at Grenier and Valk. They seem to be the only players, along with Archibald, who are consistently scoring. Bachman was in net for the loss. Jake Virtanen was scoreless again this week, but at least he got in a shoving match with TJ Brennan this game.

 

Bits and Bobs:

-Fans are understandably worried that the team’s recent winning streak goes against the idea of this being a rebuilding season, and may entice management to be a buyer at the deadline. Roster movement aside, I think the win streak can be seen as a positive part of the rebuild because of which players were the major contributing factors. Young players like Horvat and Baertschi were the primary reason for the streak, which points to improvements in their development. That’s exactly how a rebuilding team is expected to improve, through individual talents getting better.

-Overall, other than the regression of the Sedins and Loui Eriksson’s inconsistent production, this seems like a pretty bright timeline for the Canucks. Horvat, Baertschi, Stecher, and Granlund have all developed far beyond expectations, and Burrows, Miller, Sbisa, Sutter, and Edler are all having bounceback years.

 -There’s something to be said about the lack of physicality in the Canucks’ current lineup. Tryamkin is the team’s only real threat, and that became pretty apparent on Saturday when the Flames turned up the hitting and the Canucks could not respond. Derek Dorsett is more sorely missed than most realize, but surely there’s someone on the farm who could help.

-This season will be looked back on as a fantastic chapter in the legend of Bo Horvat. He actually won an adorable child a pet with nothing more than his scoring prowess! The saga continues.

-The five defenseman situation was definitely a bit odd. My best guess is that Ben Hutton reported himself as 100% good to go on Friday night, and the team chose not to call anyone up due to Utica’s aforementioned three games in three nights. Then, something flared up for Hutton overnight or early the next day, which caused him to pull out late.

-As for sitting Anton Rodin on the bench for the entire game, that’s more easily explained. This is often done when a team dresses 13 forwards, as seen in the World Juniors. Furthermore, Rodin is obviously not at 100%, so it makes sense to save him unless there’s an emergency.

-Alex Burrows has played defense for the Canucks in the past, and was a defenseman in junior. I wonder if they would have put him back there for a few shifts had Tryamkin actually left the game.

-Before we get to the more exciting prospect news, it should be noted that Jake Virtanen has only one point in his last eight games on the farm, and did not get a single point this week. The Canucks should seriously consider sending down Chaput or Gaunce to give Virtanen some more talent to play with. His progression is more than troubling at this point.

-Brock Boeser returned to North Dakota this week and racked up five points in two weekend games. The surgery seems to have been a success.

-Adam Gaudette, meanwhile, is up to 30 points in 19 games. He should absolutely be signed to a contract at the end of his NCAA season.

-It will be interesting to see how Olli Juolevi responds in the OHL after his disappointing WJC experience. Here’s hoping he goes on a tear. He picked up one assist and 11 shots in his first game back.

Weekly Canucks Report: Week of December 26, 2016- January 1, 2017

Weekly Canucks Report: Week of December 26, 2016- January 1, 2017

Who Had a Good Week: 

Bo Horvat- At some point, I’m just going to have to make up a generic entry for Bo that I can copy and paste every week. Once again, he continues to create offensive chances from seemingly nothing, drives the play constantly, and wins nearly every puck battle.

Sven Baertschi- I don’t think Baertschi is getting enough credit for the magnificent season he has had since his cold start. More importantly, Baertschi is showing himself to be the consistent scoring threat that Canuck fans hoped he could become.

Loui Eriksson- Eriksson is another player who has come alive after a very cold start. Despite getting booted of the Sedin line in favor of Jayson Megna, Eriksson continued to produce and looked like the dynamic offensive threat that the team was hoping for when it signed him.

 Alex Edler- Rather than needing time to shake off the rust, Edler stepped back into the lineup looking the best he has in awhile. Edler continues to click with Troy Stecher, and has already begun eating up an impressive amount of playing time. Once again, the physicality seen in Edler’s game is something we haven’t seen for years.

 Nikita Tryamkin- This was Tryamkin’s best week in awhile. He paired well with Ben Hutton when they were played together, and seemed to use his size especially well in containing some of the towering forwards present on all three teams the Canucks played.

 Jacob Markstrom- Markstrom played lights out against Edmonton, showing that his recent inactivity hasn’t left him with any rust. The only question that remains is how Markstrom will manage to get himself more starts.

 Ryan Miller- The only reason Markstrom isn’t starting more regularly is this man, who is holding onto the crease with aplomb. Miller’s strong play this week is of two-fold benefit to the Canucks, as it likely increases his market value around the league.

The 4th Line- Brendan Gaunce, Michael Chaput, and Jack Skille put in several great energy shifts, and provided exactly what a team looks for in a 4th line.

 

Who Had a Rough Week:

Jayson Megna- Simply put, Megna just isn’t first line material. While he didn’t play awful next to the twins, he also noticeably flubbed a few chances that probably should have been goals. The Sedins deserve a better linemate than this, and several are available.

Daniel Sedin- While Henrik picked up two goals this week, Daniel didn’t notch a single point. While this may have had something to do with Megna being on their line, Daniel’s own play didn’t exactly help matters, as he looked a bit slow out there. This led to multiple penalties.

 

Roster Talk:

Alex Burmistrov was placed on waivers Sunday, and might be worth a look. The former 8th overall pick has been putrid with the Jets, but they also have a very deep forward corps that has limited his opportunity. There’s still a lot of skill to be had with this player.

Erik Gudbranson’s return, whenever that might be, is certainly going to complicate things. Stecher looks like a permanent addition to the roster, and Luca Sbisa and Tryamkin have both been playing strong as of late. Who comes out of the lineup?

I’m going to keep harping on Alex Grenier until he gets a shot with the team. No Utica Comet is producing as well as Grenier is this season, and he also brings size, physicality, and toughness to the lineup. All in all, he’d even be a better fit with the Sedins than Megna. Give him a chance!

 

Schadenfreude Section:

The Arizona Coyotes are mired in a seven game losing streak right now. While it’s nice to see a division rival struggling mightily, it is also a double-edged sword for the Canucks. If the Canucks go into a slide in 2017, it might be hard to catch the Coyotes for the lottery position in the Pacific.

Overall, I hate seeing players get hurt in a fight due to incompetent linesmen. However, if there’s anyone who probably deserves it, Adam McQuaid is a great candidate. Enjoy:

http://www.hockeyfights.com/fights/135649

 

Comets Report:

The Comets lost all three games they played this week, but managed to gain a point in two of them. Utica hosted St. John’s for two consecutive home games, with the first being a 4-3 overtime loss. Curtis Valk, Jordan Subban, and Pascal Pelletier scored the Comets’ goals, but Subban was also partially to blame for the loss, taking a penalty in overtime. Jake Virtanen picked up an assist on Pelletier’s goal, with Valk and Alex Grenier the other notables to pick up points. Thatcher Demko was in net.

Richard Bachman returned for the rematch on Friday, but also ended up losing in overtime, 2-1. Wacey Hamilton scored the lone goal, assisted by Yan-Pavel Laplante and captain Carter Bancks. Virtanen picked up two shots, but also two minor penalties.

The Comets finished out 2016 with a rough 6-3 loss to the Rochester Americans on Saturday. Grenier, Darren Archibald, and Colby Robak got the goals, and Thatcher Demko managed to pick up an assist on Robak’s. Laplante showed off his pugilistic skills once again, as seen below:

http://www.hockeyfights.com/fights/135699

 

Bits and Bobs:

-Bo Horvat’s strong finish to the year left him leading the team in goals and points for the calendar year of 2016. What a pleasure it has been to watch his development into a premiere NHL talent.

-Gary Bettman mentioned that the NHL will host three outdoor games during the 2017/18 season. I wouldn’t be surprised if one of them is hosted by the University of North Dakota, and if so, expect the Canucks to be involved thanks to Troy Stecher and Brock Boeser.

-The three wins this week showcased Willie Desjardins’ line-rolling at its very best. The Canucks’ opponents seemed to have a tough time containing the constant barrage of pressure as the three scoring lines came off the bench one after another.

-The controversy regarding Bo Horvat’s ice time, especially in relation to Brandon Sutter’s, is still misplaced, in my opinion. Again, I will reiterate that Desjardins seems to have a plan in place for Bo, and it seems to be working. Fans complained about Horvat playing on the 4th line in the past, and it ended up being great for his development. Remember, a stated goal of this organization was to fill age-gaps to supplement the aging core and incoming youth, and I think that’s what we’re seeing this season. Players like Sutter and Markus Granlund are eating up the minutes that the Sedins are losing, rather than Horvat or Baertschi, in order to provide a little shelter and less pressure overall. Horvat and Baertschi are, after all, still developing.

-The controversy surrounding Jacob Markstrom’s deployment, however, is fair. The team has invested in Markstrom with his three-year contract, and at some point they’re going to need to give him room to establish himself as a legitimate starter. Perhaps a Miller trade at the deadline is what it will take.

-With Alex Burrows playing his 800th game, and seeming like a near shoe-in for a top ten spot in franchise scoring, is there any doubt he’ll one day find himself in the Ring of Honour?

-Is this the most disappointing World Juniors in recent memory for Canuck fans? Between Brock Boeser’s injury, Guillaume Brisebois’s failure to make Team Canada, and Olli Juolevi captaining Finland to relegation, it’s hard to imagine it going any worse as far as the franchise is concerned. At least Lukas Jasek is still in contention!

-I’m no fan of Keith Tkachuk, nor his bratty son, but hats off to him for his honouring of former Canuck Pavol Demitra during the Blues’ alumni game: