Weekly Canucks Report: Trade Deadline Edition

Weekly Canucks Report: Trade Deadline Edition feat. Mumpford and Sons

 

Where to Follow on Deadline Day:

If you want the news as quickly as possible, Reddit is your best bet. r/hockey and r/canucks will no doubt be reporting trades within seconds of them being announced elsewhere. Far easier than setting up a Twitter account.

If you’re more into the spectacle of Deadline Day, watch TSN, then switch to Sportsnet during the commercials. TSN still has the superior broadcasting team, and the reported return of Jay Onrait this year will only make things that much better. Nothing beats the multi-desk set-up that TSN runs, which facilitates the excitement of seeing Bob McKenzie react to a text message or Pierre McGuire creepily dropping in with big news. Sportsnet does have Elliotte Friedman, which is why they’re worth visiting during commercial breaks.

 

Further Reading: 

On Why Selling May Be Particularly Lucrative This Year:

https://hockeytalkie.wordpress.com/2017/02/11/566/

On Why Jim Benning’s Attitude At Last Season’s Deadline May Yet Pay Off:

https://hockeytalkie.wordpress.com/2017/02/19/jim-bennings-trade-deadline-long-game-how-2016s-disappointment-could-payoff-in-2017/

 

Trade Chips:

Jannik Hansen- Hansen has one-year remaining after this on his bargain contract that averages $2.5 million, and includes a limited no-trade clause. Hansen’s likely exposure in the pending Expansion Draft give the Canucks a reason to deal him, and his versatility and affordability make him an appealing target for contending teams. Hansen can play anywhere in the lineup, and has plenty of playoff experience.

Possible Return- Given the high return on players like Martin Hanzal and Patrick Eaves, it is not unreasonable to expect a first round pick, or at least a second and a good prospect, for Hansen. With more buyers than sellers, the Canucks can afford to auction him off a bit.

Probable Destinations- Washington has long been discussed as a possible destination for Hansen. Anaheim and Minnesota were rumoured to be interested, but that may have changed for the Wild with the addition of Hanzal. Calgary and Edmonton are also good fits, but it would be hard to see Hansen playing in Alberta. His cheapness makes him attractive to Chicago. Winnipeg would be a nice return for the former Manitoba Moose.

 

Ryan Miller- Miller is a UFA after this season, and the Canucks can easily afford to retain on his $6 million salary. The only question remaining is how large of a market for goaltenders there is come Deadline Day. With Ben Bishop already moving for an underwhelming return, it doesn’t look great.

Possible Return- Before the Bishop trade, many would have expected a second round pick or more for Miller. Now, it seems like a third would have to do, although perhaps a decent prospect could be thrown in, too.

Probable Destinations- Los Angeles is no longer a possibility for Miller, although the other two Californian teams could still be. San Jose doesn’t have a fantastic backup behind Martin Jones, and Jonathan Bernier has been pretty bad for the Ducks. Calgary may be a decent fit, if Miller were willing to go there. St. Louis has been there and done that.

 

Alex Burrows- It will be hard to see Burrows go, but it is probably time. The mood of his CBC After Hours segment seemed to indicate that he expected to move, but didn’t want to say too much. Burrows is a UFA after this year, and his cap hit is $4.5 million. The Canucks could retain on him, as well.

Possible Return- Vernon Fiddler went for a fourth round pick, so one has to think Burrows is worth more than that. A third seems fair, although I would hope that Benning is also seeking out some “diamond in the rough”-type prospects as deal-sealers for his deadline trades.

Probable Destinations- Montreal is the best possible scenario here, as everyone wants to see Burrows return to his hometown and win a Cup. Anaheim has also been rumoured, which would mean a reunion with Ryan Kesler and Kevin Bieksa, as has a potential reunion with Alain Vigneault in New York. Really, there are very few teams that couldn’t benefit from a player like Alex Burrows.

 

Jayson Megna/Michael Chaput/Jack Skille/Reid Boucher- Teams often look for depth at the Deadline, and one never knows who they will target. Someone looking for an extra center may look at Chaput, and someone seeking an extra powerplay piece may want Boucher. If the Canucks can cash in on any late draft picks for these guys, they should go for it.

 

Philip Larsen/Alex Biega- The same goes for Larsen and Biega, as teams always look for defensive depth heading into the playoffs. Biega’s situation is slightly more complicated, as he cannot be traded if Luca Sbisa is also traded. One of the two will need to fulfill the Canucks defenseman requirement in the Expansion Draft, so both can’t be dealt.

 

Other Potential Pieces:

Luca Sbisa- With the emergence of Troy Stecher, Ben Hutton, and Nikita Tryamkin, and the incoming presence of Olli Juolevi, Sbisa will lose his spot in the lineup sooner or later, despite a recent uptick in play. If a team asks for Sbisa at the Deadline, the Canucks should probably say yes, even if the return is limited. However, his $3.6 million salary, which lasts for another year after this one, makes it unlikely anyone wants him.

Erik Gudbranson- The Canucks have played their best with Gudbranson out of the lineup, and the emergence of the above-mentioned defensemen does make him seem a bit redundant. However, it seems unlikely that the Canucks could make a deal for Gudbranson right now that would return anything close to what they dealt to get him. This makes it more likely that Benning hangs on to Gudbranson and re-signs him, hopefully to a reasonable rate.

Alex Edler- Edler is the oldest Canucks’ defenseman, and his age puts him slightly too far ahead of the emerging core. While Edler has been the Canucks’ best D-man this year, it may be time to sell high on him and clear a path for younger defensemen to step up. Chris Tanev would still be around to lynchpin the D, and Juolevi would come in next year to start the process of replacing Edler. I personally think Edler could bring back a surprisingly high return from a team looking for long-term help on defense.

Ben Hutton- Hutton’s name has popped up in recent rumours, but it’s really not a great idea to trade a player in the midst of a sophomore slump. It seems far more prudent to wait and see if Hutton bounces back next year before entertaining any thoughts of trading him. The smartest move is probably just keeping him as a future top-4 defenseman.

Chris Tanev- Tanev is probably the second-most valuable Canuck on the trade market, after Bo Horvat. However, he’s a few years younger than Edler, and is a better fit to stabilize the Canucks’ D-core while the youth takes over. Tanev is also one of the most underrated players in the NHL, which makes it hard to believe the Canucks would get fair value for him.

Markus Granlund- Conceivably, the Canucks could decide they prefer Jannik Hansen to Markus Granlund and decide to trade the mumps-stricken winger instead. Granlund probably has less value than Hansen, however, and this isn’t a very likely scenario given the age discrepancy between the two.

 

Team Wants and Needs:

Draft Picks- Jim Benning is strongest when it comes to drafting, but the Canucks have yet to have a true surplus of picks during his tenure as GM. Now is the time to load up on picks in the top three rounds for the next 2-3 drafts.

Expansion Draft-Exempt Forwards- If the Canucks pick up any non-cap dump players, they will almost certainly need to be Expansion Draft-exempt. That means players that have two or fewer pro seasons by the end of this year. With the sudden surplus of talented young defensemen, the Canucks would definitely prefer Expansion-exempt forwards more than anything.

Physical, Utility Cap Dumps- If the Canucks do trade Burrows and Hansen, they might want some warm bodies to fill out the lineup for the remainder of the year. They may also be asked to take on cap dumps by teams that they trade with. In either case, the Canucks should seek out physical, utility-type forwards. The team has been pushed around a lot since Derek Dorsett left the lineup, and if they’re going to give up hope on the playoffs, it would be nice to see them defend themselves a bit better.

 

Remaining Schedule/Projected Finish:

The Canucks will play exactly 20 games after Wednesday’s Trade Deadline. During the course of that 20, they will play playoff-bound or playoff-hopeful teams a whopping 18 times. The only down-and-out opponents will be the Dallas Stars and the Arizona Coyotes. This stretch will feature two three-game sets against the California teams and three games against the surging Edmonton Oilers, including the last two of the season.

That being said, the Canucks could end up sinking pretty far in the standings. There is zero chance of catching the dreadful Colorado Avalanche, and even catching the Coyotes will be a major challenge. Expect the Canucks to end up ranked anywhere from third to sixth when the Draft Lottery comes around.

 

Legacies to Discuss:

Alex Burrows- Trevor Linden will always be my favourite Canuck, because he’s a childhood hero, and those can’t really be replaced. However, since I’ve been old enough to really watch and understand hockey, my favourite Canuck has been Alex Burrows. I first saw him play during the full-season lockout, when I followed the Manitoba Moose very closely, and it has been an amazing experience to watch Burrows’ unprecedented rise to NHL success. People will debate endlessly about whether or not “clutch play” is a real thing, but if it is, then Burrows undoubtedly had it in spades. He’ll finish in the top 15 for all-time Canucks scoring, and that’s just crazy for a guy who got his start in the ECHL. Burrows will absolutely get a spot in the Ring of Honour one day.

 

Jannik Hansen- Hansen was once a gangly young prospect who debuted in the playoffs, and became central to the series against the Ducks. Since then, he’s played a thousand different roles on the team, including a memorable stint with the Sedins. Hansen is one point away from entering the top 30 for all-time Canuck scoring.

 

Ryan Miller- Miller’s signing was panned by many fans when it happened, but his play in Vancouver has converted many of his former critics. Miller has been a solid starter for each of his three seasons with the Canucks, and he sits a surprising sixth on the list of most wins by a Canuck goaltender. It is hard to argue that Miller didn’t live up to his contract, in the end.

 

Comets Report:

While the Canucks were idle, the Comets played four games in seven nights this week, with three of them on the road. First up was a trip to Albany, which is actually the capital of New York, look it up! Utica won 3-2, coming from behind in the third. Borna Rendulic, who has been heating up lately, opened the scoring, while Darren Archibald and Jordan Subban got the job done in the third. Archibald also got an assist, as did the streaking Evan McEneny and the not-so-streaking Cole Cassels. Richard Bachman was in net for the victory.

Two nights later, the Comets were in Rochester, which is known as the Flour City apparently. Utica fell 3-2 in overtime with former Comet Cal O’Reilly picking up the winner. On the Utica side, Cody Kunyk, a recent scoring star, and Mike Zalewski got the goals. For Zalewski, it was his second of the year. It was a night for defensive assists, as Subban, Andrey Pedan, Colby Robak, and the on-fire McEneny each notching one. Bachman was also in net for this one.

The team made a brief pit-stop back home for a game against the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins, also known as the most annoying AHL team to type. The Comets won 2-1, and Thatcher Demko was back in net to pick up the W, making 27 saves. Subban and Archibald scored the goals, while Zalewski, Pascal Pelletier, and Michael Carcone each assisted once. The only goal scored against Demko was a powerplay marker by Tom Kostopoulos, an NHL veteran who once knocked out Kevin Bieksa.

Kunyk continued his roll on Saturday with a two goal performance against Binghamton, boosting the Comets to a 3-2 victory. (Three of the four games this week ended 3-2, which is meaningless trivia, but kind of neat.) Rendulic scored the other goal, a game-tying effort in the third, and Chad Billins chipped in with two assists. Zalewski kept his miniature scoring streak alive with an assist, while Curtis Valk broke out of a mini-slump with an assist of his own. Archibald and Robak also notched one each. Demko picked up his second win in a row, making 30 saves.

 

Thoughts on Saturday’s Game vs. Sharks:

-Jayson Megna had his most noticeable game as a Canuck against the Sharks. He was skating hard, chasing the puck, and playing physical, which he never seems to do. Either he felt the need to step up in the absence of so many players, or he felt Grenier and LaBate breathing down his neck and realized he has a job to fight for.

-Evan McEneny was, predictably, overwhelmed in his first NHL game. He didn’t look outright horrible, but got walked multiple times and was at least partially responsible for two goals against. Seems like there is little reason not to give Jordan Subban a shot now, especially with Luca Sbisa falling ill.

-Alex Grenier was a bit disappointing. I had hyped him all season, and he looked good when the puck was around him, but he also looked a bit lead-footed. Grenier is the kind of player that needs to initiate more to succeed, and he was playing way too passive against the Sharks.

-Joe LaBate continues to impress. After a good training camp and preseason, LaBate was once again very noticeable. For a big guy, he skates well, and his hit against Melker Karlsson was huge and legal. He also answered the bell twice for himself, which was nice to see. If the Canucks shed wingers at the Deadline, I wouldn’t mind seeing LaBate get an extended audition.

-Three more games against the Sharks to round out the year will not be fun, especially when they’re fighting to maintain their division lead.

Weekly Canucks Report: Week of February 13-19

Weekly Canucks Report: Week of February 13-19

Who Had a Good Week:

Bo Horvat- After a brief respite due to injury, Horvat returned to put up yet another strong week. Horvat had two points in his three games, while obviously playing hurt, but his defensive game is also becoming increasingly noticeable. It’s a shame he missed out on his chance to go against Crosby and Malkin.

Granlund and the Sedins- Markus Granlund continues to be an excellent fit on the top line with the Sedins. After the team was shutout against Pittsburgh, the line contributed two excellent goals in the next three games, and Daniel Sedin assisted on Chris Tanev’s overtime winner against Calgary. In true Sedin fashion, Henrik was even the victim of a cheapshot courtesy of Brandon Manning, scourge of Western Canada.

Nikita Tryamkin- Tryamkin picked up a rare point this week, but it is his physical play that deserves the most mention. Tryamkin is getting more and more comfortable with the NHL game, and that’s not great news for opposing forwards, as Troy Brouwer found out on Saturday.

Alex Edler- Any week in which you score from center ice is a good week. Edler had a two point week and once again led the team in ice time by a large margin in each game.

 

Who Had a Rough Week:

Jacob Markstrom- Markstrom was stapled to the bench even more than usual this week. His one appearance was a less-than-impressive showing against the Blues, making only 17 saves on 21 shots. At least two of the goals could be considered weak, as well, meaning Ryan Miller isn’t losing starts anytime soon. This was demonstrated by Miller playing both games of the weekend back-to-back.

Loui Eriksson- This might have been Eriksson’s most invisible week as a Canuck. Eriksson was pointless, and didn’t even seem to get much in the way of scoring opportunity. Eriksson’s confidence appears shot, and he just isn’t putting up effective minutes.

Jayson Megna- Even in limited minutes, Megna is more of a detriment than a help night after night. He was on the ice for goals against in three of four games this week, and contributed nothing back to make up for it. It was unfortunate to see Jack Skille exit the lineup instead of Megna.

Alex Biega- Biega might have played his last game as a Canuck, and it was at forward. Biega has now met the minimum number of games to fulfill the Expansion Draft requirements for defenseman exposure, making him a backup plan to Luca Sbisa and making it far less likely he’ll get back into the lineup.

 

Roster Talk:

The Trade Deadline is now just over a week away, and will dominate the roster-based discussion until then. Despite the disappointment of last season, there is plenty of reason to expect the Canucks to be more active this season, especially with so little opportunity to climb in the standings before March 1st.

It will be interesting to see if the Canucks take on any cap dumps if they do end up selling at the deadline. They will have room if they deal players like Burrows and Miller, so they could take on expensive players as an incentive to increase the value of their trades. Targeting some tough, physical fill-ins might not be the worst idea.

If the Trade Deadline does end up being another disappointment, remember that there will be a sort of Offseason Second Deadline just before the Expansion Draft, as teams desperately try to shuffle their rosters before losing a player to Vegas. This will undoubtedly be one of the best years for player movement in league history.

 

Schadenfreude Section:

Who didn’t chuckle at the notion of the Calgary Flames signing Tank Commander Matt Bartkowski to help save their season?

Milan Lucic’s scoring has begun to dry up, and his even strength scoring in particular is far less than expected. Lucic only has seven even strength goals on the season, one more than the much-maligned Loui Eriksson.

 

Comets Report:

This week must have felt like a vacation for the Comets, who only had three games and zero back-to-backs. Their first game was Wednesday against Toronto, and it was a dominant 5-2 victory. Cody Kunyk paced the team with a goal and two assists, while Carter Bancks and Evan McEneny each notched two points. Jake Virtanen had an assist, as did Andrey Pedan, Alex Grenier, and Joe LaBate, among others. Curtis Valk, Wacey Hamilton, and Borna Rendulic all had goals. Richard Bachman was in net.

Utica flipped the score of the previous game on Friday night, losing 5-2 to the Springfield Falcons. Rendulic and Chad Billins had the goals, and Kunyk, McEneny, Hamilton, and Michael Carcone each had one assist. Bachman took the loss in net, although he was pulled after four goals against. Demko allowed one.

Sunday featured a wild 7-4 loss to the Lehigh Valley Phantoms. Thatcher Demko was in net for five goals against, and two were into an empty net. Kunyk capped off an excellent week with a goal and an assist. Jordan Subban, Grenier, and Pedan each had a goal, with single assists going to Demko, McEneny, David Shields, Pascal Pelletier, Carcone, Rendulic, and Jake Virtanen. Truly a night for spread-out scoring.

 

Bits and Bobs:

-The Canucks’ lack of shots, especially early in games, is troubling. Twice this week the Canucks went more than half a period before getting their first shot on net. If the team is going to sink in the standings, it can at least be entertaining as it does it.

-Plus/minus is a horribly flawed stat, but the totals of individual Canucks is still pretty interesting. Most players have an abysmal rating, with the exception of the Baertschi/Horvat/Burrows line. Another sign of that line’s dominance.

-The lack of physicality within the Canuck lineup is becoming more and more apparent as the playoffs approach and the intensity begins to ramp up. The team has been getting roughed up with regularity, and only Tryamkin appears willing to give any pushback.

-If the Bye Week Curse holds true for the Canucks, their playoff hopes will be all but eradicated by the Trade Deadline. The Canucks don’t play again until Saturday against San Jose.

-When will Adam Gaudette be considered a top flight prospect? After yet another hot streak, he is sitting at a ridiculous 49 points in 31 games.

-Don’t hold your breath waiting for any league response on the Brandon Manning slash. If the Canucks want any measure of justice, they’ll have to enact it themselves, Patrick Maroon style.

-With only one game next week, the Report will be replaced with a Trade Deadline preview for a week, with a full version to return the week after. Cheers!

Jim Benning’s Trade Deadline Long Game: How 2016’s Disappointment Could Payoff in 2017

I’ve already discussed why becoming a “seller” at the 2017 Trade Deadline is the best course of action for the Vancouver Canucks:

https://hockeytalkie.wordpress.com/2017/02/11/566/

To keep the optimism train going, let’s look at another reason why 2017’s Deadline could be a fantastic one for the Canucks.

The 2016 Trade Deadline was a major let down for the Vancouver Canucks and their fans. The Canucks had no hope of making the playoffs, and were beginning to sink to the very bottom of the standings, but they had a few pieces ready to sell off as deadline rentals, putting them in a very good position to cash in on some prospects and draft picks. Yet, when the day had ended, Dan Hamhuis and Radim Vrbata were still Canucks, and there were renewed calls for Jim Benning to be fired. At the end of the season, both Hamhuis and Vrbata left as UFAs to Dallas and Arizona, respectively, and it seemed like a case of poor asset management. However, the decisions made on that day may finally be paying off on March 1st, 2017, as the Canucks prepare for another Trade Deadline as definitive sellers.

 

What Happened?

The exact events of February 29th, 2016, easily the most boring Deadline Day in recent memory, are still not fully understood. In the case of Radim Vrbata, it has since been intimated by several sports reporters that he purposefully filled his trade list with teams that either wouldn’t want him or wouldn’t pay a high price for him. Faced with nothing but lowball offers, Benning chose to keep a disgruntled winger who everyone knew would flee far, far away from Vancouver in the summer.

When it comes to Dan Hamhuis, it is no secret that he was ready and willing to move and that the Canucks wanted to move him. Hamhuis had a limited preference of potential destinations, and Dallas was likely number one on his list, given that he signed there in the offseason. Dallas was interested in Hamhuis, but they were also looking at Calgary defenseman Kris Russell, and attempted to play the Canucks and Flames against each other. It appears that the Stars used this negotiating tactic to lower their initial offer for Hamhuis, something Benning apparently balked at. After Dallas had acquired Russell, their last reported offer for Hamhuis was a third round pick, which the Canucks outright refused. There may or may not have been some ownership meddling involved on either side. Hamhuis remained in Vancouver, and although there were some hints that he was willing to re-sign at a discounted price, he left for Texas shortly after free agency opened.

 

The Precedent Set For 2017

Fans were annoyed when the Canucks failed to gain any return for Hamhuis and Vrbata, and that’s certainly understandable. Even a third rounder for Hamhuis and a seventh for Vrbata might have seemed better than losing them for absolutely nothing in the summer. In the short term, this is true, as something is undoubtedly better than nothing. However, in flatly refusing to deal his assets for anything less than he thought they were worth, Jim Benning set an important precedent. He drew his line in the sand, and the 2017 Deadline might just be where it starts to pay off.

The Vrbata situation was fairly unique, so let’s focus on Hamhuis for now. Hamhuis was a prize UFA rental, and should have returned at least a first round pick. A third would have been a bargain for the Dallas Stars, so Benning refused to give him up. This establishes the precedence that, when it comes down to it, Benning is willing to hang on to his assets if his prices aren’t met, even if it means later losing said assets for nothing. Benning appears to be a man of principles, one who says you can either pay the full price for my players or find someone else to trade for. Despite costing the Canucks some draft picks in 2016, this hardline tactic puts the team in a much stronger bargaining position for 2017.

 

How It Could Payoff

Other GMs around the league now know that Benning is not going to respond to lowball offers. As teams start to make their pitches for Alex Burrows, Ryan Miller, Jannik Hansen, or Alex Edler, they now know that they will have to either step their offers up to Benning’s standards or shop elsewhere. If Benning requests a second for Burrows, a first for Miller, or more than that for Hansen, other GMs are now fully aware that he would rather hang on to those players than settle for less. There will be no calling of any bluffs, because Dallas tried that last year and it turned out Benning wasn’t bluffing. The man doesn’t bluff. He is bluffless.

This could, of course, still backfire. After all, nothing is stopping the other franchises from shopping around and finding their rentals elsewhere around the league. However, as previously discussed in my last article, the Canucks are shaping up to be one of only a few sellers league-wide at this particular deadline. In a seller’s market, this places the Canucks in an extremely strong position. The message is clear: meet our prices, or go without acquisitions and hurt your playoff aspirations. Someone will capitulate eventually, and it won’t be Benning.

This could definitely pay off when it comes to UFAs like Burrows, Miller, or even the litany of fillers like Michael Chaput or Jack Skille, who might now return a sixth instead of a seventh. However, it will be most noticeable if the Canucks trade any players with term remaining, like Hansen, Edler, or even some less-discussed names like Chris Tanev, Ben Hutton, and Erik Gudbranson. With these players, there is no spectre of potentially losing them in the summer for nothing (Expansion Draft aside), so Benning has even less incentive to sell low. He can simply set his pricetag, wait for someone to meet it, and just hang on to them if the auctioning doesn’t go well. Chances are good, someone will step up and pay up, and the Canucks will be much better off for it.

Weekly Canucks Report: Week of February 6-12

Weekly Canucks Report: Week of February 6-12

 

Who Had a Good Week:

Bo Horvat- The Bo Horvat Hype Train continues. Horvat hit a new career high for goals with his 17th, a perfect cap on a week that saw him deliver five points in four games. Horvat played fantastic despite going up against some of the biggest and strongest opposing centers around. On the defensive side, Horvat single-handedly shut down the Sabres in the dying seconds of Sunday’s game.

Alex Burrows- After a bit of a slump, some wondered if Burrows was reverting back to the norm, but he came roaring back this week. Burrows was a point per game over four games, but more importantly he reignited his chemistry with Horvat and stopped flubbing some of the great chances that Bo continually provides. The altercation with Robin Lehner was vintage Burrows, and helped spur the Canucks to victory against the Sabres. 

Markus Granlund- Granlund was one of four Canucks to go a point per game this week, and he did so in an unfamiliar position, flanking the Sedins. Rather than holding the twins back, Granlund added a new sort of energy to a top line that was sorely in need of it. That Granlund meshes so well with the Sedins is further bad news for Loui Eriksson. 

Alex Edler- Not only did Edler have a point in every game this week, but he did so while eating up the most ice time on the team yet again. Edler played about 23 minutes each night, and provided solid, relatively-mistake-free defense to go along with his rejuvenated offense. Edler is playing like  a number one D right now.

Luca Sbisa and Chris Tanev- This defense pairing has become a steady, go-to, shutdown duo for the Canucks. Tanev is playing like he usually does, which is incredibly efficiently, but Sbisa is playing every bit as well, and arguably better. Both players seem to elevate the others’ game.

 

Who Had a Rough Week:

Loui Eriksson- Eriksson lost his spot on the top line to the returning Jannik Hansen, and then was kept out when Granlund was placed there next. Eriksson did score a rare goal this week, but he looks a bit lost out there right now. Confidence appears to be an issue, and that’s no surprise given his results this season.

Brandon Sutter- Sutter had a bad week, but that should be no surprise. Sutter lost his productive linemate, Granlund, and was placed on a line with Eriksson and Jayson Megna, neither of whom provided him much help. Sutter is not the sort of player who can do it on his own.

Jayson Megna- Canuck fans got a brief break from having Megna in the lineup, but he’s back, and remains relatively ineffective. Any line that Megna gets put on seems to be anchored down by his presence, and many are wondering why someone like Reid Boucher can’t be tried higher in the lineup.

 

Roster Talk:

There was further talk of Alex Burrows to Montreal, with reports that GM Marc Bergevin is specifically targeting him. Canucks fans know exactly what Burrows can bring to a roster, and he seems like a perfect addition for any playoff contender. Returning to his hometown and winning a Cup would be a storybook ending for Burrows, and most fans wouldn’t mind seeing him go if it meant he got another crack at Stanley. Nothing is stopping Burrows re-signing in the summer, either.

There is something to be said for Markus Granlund’s versatility. He is quickly becoming a fix-all solution for the Canucks’ lineup, in a role that Jannik Hansen used to fill. Granlund has developed chemistry with almost anyone he has played with, and can competently play all three forward positions. Further evidence that he should definitely be protected in the upcoming Expansion Draft.

The Canucks now have only six games between them and the Trade Deadline. In my opinion, selling at the Deadline remains the best possible course of action, and I wrote up a separate piece outlining exactly why I think that is. Check it out:

https://hockeytalkie.wordpress.com/2017/02/11/566/

 

Schadenfreude Section:

Getting the chance to shutout John Tortorella and the Blue Jackets was a nice interruption to the Canucks’ recent slide down the standings. Much has been made of Torts’ performance this season, but the shine is beginning to wear off him, and it was pleasant for the Canucks to play some role in that.

Speaking of coaches, Claude Julien was fired this week. Not only is it yet another coach fired before Willie Desjardins, who most predicted wouldn’t survive the season, but Julien was the mastermind behind the 2011 Bruins, so Vancouver fans can take some personal satisfaction in his firing.

 

Comets Report:

Let’s start with a quick note on Brendan Gaunce. Gaunce was sent down to the Comets earlier in the week, and responded extraordinarily well. After an iffy first game, Gaunce quickly got up to speed, picking up three points in the next three games. This is exactly what fans were hoping to see from Jake Virtanen’s stint on the farm. For the record, Virtanen was again pointless this week.

The Comets began a four game week with a visit to Toronto, home of the Marlies. Utica dropped a 4-2 decision with Richard Bachman in net once again. The scorching Darren Archibald and Colby Robak scored the Comets’ only goals, and Evan McEneny notched two assists. Gaunce was -2 in his return.

Things got kicked up a notch in Game Two of the home-and-home series between the Marlies and Comets, which was also the first of a three-games-in-three-nights marathon. The teams scored ten goals between them, but unfortunately six of them went to Toronto, leaving a score of 6-4. Gaunce picked up a goal and an assist, as did veterans Wacey Hamilton and Chad Billins. Hamilton completed the Gordie Howe Hat Trick by fighting Kerby Rychel, a popular Nintendo protagonist. Captain Carter Bancks got the other goal, and Jordan Subban, Curtis Valk, Borna Rendulic, and Robak picked up single assists. Former Canuck Frankie Corrado picked up three assists against his old club. Thatcher Demko was in net for five goals against, with the last going into an empty net.

The Comets rebounded Saturday against the Springfield Thunderbirds, named for one of the more unheralded X-Men. Gaunce scored again just over a minute in, with Bancks and Hamilton getting the assists. Curtis Valk then scored the eventual game winner 18 seconds later, in what would end up being a 2-1 game that saw all three goals scored in the first period. Billins and the mystery man, Tom Nilsson, got the assists on Valk’s goal. Bachman picked up the win, racking up 31 saves.

Subban was surprisingly made a healthy scratch for the final game of the week, a 3-2 loss to the Syracuse, not Cinnamon Toast, Crunch. Demko was back in net to pick up the loss, making only 14 saves on 17 shots. Rendulic and Andrey Pedan scored for Utica, with Cody Kunyk, Archibald, and Alex Grenier, who had a quiet week, picking up assists.

 

Bits and Bobs:

-The Cody McLeod hit on Sven Baertschi had all the appearance of a targeted play, but was ambiguous enough to avoid a suspension. However, given McLeod’s history, most fans have no doubt as to his intentions. The Vancouver faithful weren’t exactly holding their breaths for a suspension, for good reason.

-The unfair suspension-related history of the Vancouver Canucks was illustrated brilliantly by /u/failureisimminent on Reddit. This user crunched the numbers and found that the Canucks have served nine suspensions over the past five seasons, while drawing only one suspension out of their opponents. This is the largest differential of any NHL team, and is especially surprising given the number of questionable hits handed out against Canucks in recent years. It is hard not to feel like a conspiracy theorist when one looks at raw evidence like this:

-https://www.reddit.com/r/canucks/comments/5sxbhv/the_number_of_suspensions_and_fines_the_dops_has/

 

-Reid Boucher is hard to get a read on due to limited minutes, but the early returns are positive. Boucher appears to skate a little better than advertised, and he managed to get his famous shot off a few times. It would be nice to see what he can do higher in the lineup.

-Seeing Nikita Tryamkin hurl Boone Jenner to the ice was fantastic. Here’s hoping this spurs more aggressive play from the towering Russian, so that he can lose the BFG nickname.

-Although Burrows came close in his clash with Robin Lehner, it has now been two full months since any Canuck had a fight. It’s difficult to say there has been any effect, positive or negative, on team performance.

-After successful surgery, Anton Rodin is likely on the shelf for the remainder of the season. This is not how Rodin envisioned his return to North America going, but hopefully he is willing to give it another shot next year.

Why Selling at the Deadline Is the Best Course of Action

The Canucks’ recent slide down the league standings, combined with their even more recent shutout of the Columbus Blue Jackets, has reignited the “to tank or not to tank” debate once again. While fans on both sides of the divide can agree that they don’t want the Canucks shilling out assets for trade deadline rentals, they differ on how much renting out the Canucks should do themselves. While continuing to attempt a playoff push is a noble goal that can positively impact the development of young players, I’m here to argue that becoming a “seller” at the deadline is the best course of action for the Canucks this year. The circumstances both around the league and within the franchise have aligned to create a scenario in which the team’s future could greatly benefit from the current trade market.

 

The Candidates To Be Traded

Jannik Hansen

Hansen is easily the most discussed potential trade chip for the Canucks. This is largely due to the upcoming Expansion Draft, but also due to the large return he could possibly garner. Hansen has one year remaining on his high-value contract, and is one of the more versatile players in the league. Also elevates his game in the playoffs.

 

Ryan Miller

The market for goaltenders at the deadline depends entirely on context. Sometimes, there’s a need for them and sometimes there isn’t. If there is any sort of demand for goalies, Miller will be a highly sought-after commodity. Of all the UFA goalies, Miller has been among the best, with arguably only Ben Bishop a better target for a contending team.

 

Alex Burrows

Burrows is a player whose value may be inflated by the relative dearth of quality UFAs available at the deadline. Like Hansen, Burrows is versatile and elevates his performance come playoff time. The Montreal Canadiens seem like an ideal fit, and they reportedly have interest in him.

 

Jayson Megna/Michael Chaput/Jack Skille/Reid Boucher

If any team shows interest in acquiring any of these players for any sort of return, the Canucks should be all over it. You never know which depth player has caught the eye of an opposing GM. Chaput seems the likeliest candidate to go, but Boucher could have some interest, too.

 

Alex Edler

With two years remaining on his contract after this year, Edler is not a traditional rental at all, but with few rental D available, a contender may look to acquire him anyway. His relatively inexpensive contract will make it easy for other teams to fit him in, and there are few teams that couldn’t benefit from his addition. At 30, Edler might not fit in with the Canucks’ future plans.

 

Erik Gudbranson

As an upcoming RFA, Gudbranson isn’t a traditional rental, either, but it at least makes him a no-commitment acquisition for a playoff-bound team. The Canucks played their best hockey with Gudbranson out of the lineup, and the emergence of Nikita Tryamkin (and to a lesser extent, Luca Sbisa) may have made him redundant. Would still return a decent package.

 

Luca Sbisa

Sbisa has had a renaissance year, and that may have increased interest in him from around the league. If the Canucks allow Biega to play a few more games and thus hit the minimum for expansion requirements, Sbisa could be in play despite having one more year on his contract. A contending team that needs a defenseman to fulfill said expansion requirements would be ideal.

 

Philip Larsen/Alex Biega

Like Megna, Chaput, and Skille, if the Canucks can get anything in return for these players, they should. You never do know what sort of defensive depth teams will be looking for heading into the playoffs. One caveat: if Sbisa is traded, the Canucks will need to hang on to Biega.

 

The Need For Draft Picks

The Vancouver Canucks have only made 20 draft selections in the three drafts within the Jim Benning era. While this isn’t exactly a small number, and is relatively average, it is lower than expected for a rebuilding team. My own research has shown that teams that successfully retool often do so with a bulk of draft picks, a strategy that combined with good scouting ensures a constant influx of young talent. The Canucks organization appears to have the scouting prowess, but it doesn’t yet have the windfall of draft picks. This deadline could change that. A reportedly weaker draft class in 2017 may even make teams more willing to part with picks.

 

Lack of Prominent UFAs

The trade deadline market is often heavily affected by the availability, or lack thereof, of prominent upcoming unrestricted free agents. This year, the UFA market is especially light. Most of the big names, like Brent Burns, have already re-signed, leaving a sparse list of potential pickups. Kevin Shattenkirk is the biggest name, but has a rumoured desire to only sign in select cities. Many of the other top UFAs are either extremely likely to re-sign with their current teams (Joe Thornton, Alexander Radulov, Mike Fisher) or on a contending team that won’t sell (TJ Oshie, Brian Campbell, Jaromir Jagr, Nick Bonino) or a goalie, with a limited market (Ben Bishop, Brian Elliot).

This leaves the Canucks sitting pretty if they decide to sell, as players like Burrows, who might not otherwise attract a lot of attention at the deadline, suddenly look like desirable acquisitions. It also means that teams that would otherwise be seeking UFA rentals have to settle for players with term remaining, like Hansen or Edler.

 

The Seller’s Market/Parity

Some would say the greatest accomplishment of the post-lockouts era has been leaguewide parity, and that is on full display in 2016/17. Just look at the Canucks, who only a couple of weeks ago were flirting with a playoff position, and now find themselves near the bottom of the league. By the time the deadline rolls around in less than a month, the playoff picture will still be murky and many teams will still believe they are in the hunt.

This creates a seller’s market, as the small number of teams giving up on the playoffs makes potential acquisitions a scarce commodity. This allows the few sellers to auction their pieces between a large number of would-be contenders, and thus jack up the prices. Players that would normally go for a third rounder now garner a second, and a player that would usually cost a second suddenly returns a late first and a prospect. This is the perfect time to decide to become a seller.

Weekly Canucks Report: Week of January 30-February 5

Weekly Canucks Report: Week of January 30-February 5

 

Who Had a Good Week:

Brandon Sutter- This wasn’t a great week by any measure, and Sutter’s two goals against Minnesota were definitely the highlight amongst many lowlights. After a quiet game to start the week, Sutter led the forwards in ice time in the second and final game.

Luca Sbisa- Despite the Canucks allowing ten goals against this week, Sbisa was only a minus one. He played over 20 miuntes in each game, trailing only Alex Edler and Nikita Tryamkin in the San Jose game and only Edler in the Minnesota game. He continues to look steady if unspectacular.

 

Who Had a Rough Week:

Loui Eriksson- The Sedins didn’t have their best week ever, but their linemate didn’t help matters. Eriksson seems to drive offense well enough, but he also fails to convert on numerous obvious chances each and every game. He’s lost his spot on the top line to Hansen for the time being.

Philip Larsen- Larsen has returned from injury, but the results have not been pretty. Larsen got a goal this week, but he also victimized by opposing forwards on numerous occasions, and created several chances against via outright blunders. Larsen probably just isn’t an NHL talent.

Alex Burrows- Burrows, like Eriksson, is often seen flubbing a great chance generated by his two more talented linemates, Bo Horvat and Sven Baertschi in this case. Burrows still provides valuable penalty killing minutes and forechecking, but it might be time to try someone else on that line as his cold streak continues.

Ryan Miller- To fault Miller for the ten goals against this week wouldn’t be fair, but he didn’t exactly help matters, either. Miller faced a ton of shots against Minnesota, but he also let a ton in. A couple of soft goals is never a good thing when you’re already under siege.

 

Roster Talk:

The Canucks three game plummet down the NHL standings has made discussion of the impending Trade Deadline a brand new ballgame. With less than four weeks to go, it’s a ten game sprint to the deadline, and the results will affect the future of the franchise. The vocal segment of the fanbase known as Team Tank will be loudly cheering for losses, and it’s hard not to have empathy for their desire to see pieces sold off for draft picks and prospects.

If the Canucks remain so low in the standings, the Entry Draft will also become a major topic of discussion amongst the fans. Expect to hear a lot about Nolan Patrick, Nico Hischier, and Timothy Liljegren in the coming weeks. Currently, the Canucks are tied for third-last, which would give them the same lottery odds as the Las Vegas Golden Knights.

The Canucks have a sudden defensive surplus that will need to be addressed in some way or another this offseason. I made a whole other post about it, so check it out:

https://hockeytalkie.wordpress.com/2017/02/06/the-sudden-defensive-surplus-what-to-do/

 

Schadenfreude Section:

The Colorado Avalanche have 30 points, and are on pace to have a historically bad season. They’re so bad, in fact, that they could go .500 for the remainder of the season and still not hit the pathetic total of 65 points that was cruelly predicted for the Canucks at the season’s outset. The rivalry with the Avalanche is nonexistent these days, but it’s hard not to get some satisfaction out of this turn of events.

The former Canuck to complain the most about his time in Vancouver in recent years has to be Dale Weise. After having a bit of a hot streak in Montreal, Weise crowed to any reporter who would listen about how he wasn’t given a chance in Vancouver, despite the fact he received opportunities all over the lineup. After signing a big free agent contract with Philadelphia, Weise has a grand total of five points on the season. Maybe he spent the majority of his time with the Canucks on the fourth line for a reason.

 

Comets Report:

Due to the All Star Game, most of the Comets got a lengthy break this week, with the exception of participants Jordan Subban and Alex Grenier. The rest of the team only had to play one game, a Friday night matchup against the Hartford Wolf Pack, who confusingly have only one solitary wolf on their logo.

Utica started Richard Bachman yet again, proving that Thatcher Demko has been relegated to the role of backup for the time being. The result was a 4-3 regulation loss, with Darren Archibald providing much of the excitement via two goals and a fight. Borna Rendulic got the other goal, which was only his fourth of the season. Curtis Valk, Andrey Pedan, Carter Bancks, Chad Billins, and Subban each picked up single assists. Former Canuck property Nick Jensen scored against the Comets, his 20th of the season.

 

Bits and Bobs:

-Here’s a prospect we haven’t heard much from this season: Jakob Stukel. Stukel recently put up 18 points in 15 games, although his stats are still a bit behind his last year’s totals after a cold start.

-Speaking of cold, Brock Boeser just put up an assist on February 4th to snap a six game pointless drought, the longest of his NCAA career. He has done the unthinkable and dropped to merely point-per-game status with 23 points in 23 games.

-Olli Juolevi went pointless this week despite the London Knights putting up 11 goals in three games. He is barely on pace to surpass last season’s totals, and has been a bit cold of late. Thatcher Demko is barely playing, so it’s not a great time for the Canucks’ top prospects.

-In good news, however, Adam Gaudette continues to shine, and now has 41 points in 26 games.

-Now that Jayson Megna is finally out of the lineup, will he be sent down to help out the sliding Comets?

-According to Sportsnet, at some point the Sedins moved into second place for times with points on the same goal, behind only Wayne Gretzky and Jari Kurri. Gretzky and Kurri have 764 occurrences, while the twins have 694, so it’s not out of the question that the Sedins pass the Oilers legends before their careers end.

-The upcoming schedule isn’t exactly promising, as the ten game sprint to the trade deadline begins with a six game roadtrip that zigzags the continent. This roadtrip will have a massive impact on the Canucks’ deadline plans.

-To hear Trevor Linden confirm that the team would not trade future assets for deadline rentals made a lot of sense and couldn’t be called unexpected, but it was still comforting to a fanbase that still isn’t convinced a youth movement is in place.

-I was right that Jannik Hansen’s return from injury was the deadline for Eriksson’s audition with the Sedins. It took Eriksson less than half a game to lose his spot to Hansen.

-Canuck fans may have noticed that Vern Fiddler was traded back into the Western Conference this week, meaning he’ll receive more opportunities to practice his famed Kevin Bieksa impression. He’s farther away from his preferred audience of Alain Vigneault, however.

-Frankie Corrado cleared waivers, and that shouldn’t be a surprise. He was very promising for awhile as a Canuck, but his development really plateaued. That problem was exacerbated when Toronto literally stalled his career by keeping him glued to the pressbox for an entire season, and then some. Feel bad for Frankie, but be glad the Canucks weren’t feeling nostalgic.

-Fantastic to see Henrik Sedin appointed as the Canucks LGBTQ-inclusion ambassador, a move that every NHL team repeated. Also cool to see the team wearing rainbow uniforms for an upcoming warmup. Hockey really is becoming a more welcoming place at a rapid pace, and players like Henrik are a major part of that. Also, kudos to Canuck enemy Brad Marchand for getting the ball rolling on the whole thing.

The Sudden Defensive Surplus: What To Do?

A year or two ago, the defensive depth of the Vancouver Canucks seemed pathetic. Now, it is suddenly both an area of strength and a potential surplus that the team’s management could exploit. Do the Canucks have too many bodies on defense, and what can they possibly do about it? Let’s take a look.

 

Current Defense and Contract Situation (After 2016-17) 

Alex Edler, 30, Two years remaining @ $5 mil per, NTC

Alex Biega, 28, One year remaining @ $750 thou per

Chris Tanev, 27,  Three years remaining @ $4.45 mil per

Luca Sbisa, 27,  One year remaining @ $3.6 mil per

Philip Larsen, 27, UFA

Erik Gudbranson, 25, RFA

Ben Hutton, 23, Two years remaining @ $2.8 mil per

Nikita Tryamkin, 22, RFA

Troy Stecher, 22, One year remaining @ $925 thou per

-Of the nine players listed above, only Biega and Larsen can be written off as relative nonfactors moving forward. The remaining seven all definitely deserve a spot on an NHL roster, whether in Vancouver or elsewhere. This means the team has a bit of a surplus already this season, if and when the defense is completely healthy. There’s no easy answer as to which of the seven should come out of the lineup on a nightly basis.

 

Incoming Defense

Olli Juolevi, 18

-Juolevi is not eligible for the AHL next season, meaning the Canucks must choose between having him in the NHL or putting him back in the OHL. This will put extra pressure on he and the team to have him play in the NHL.

Jordan Subban, 21

-Subban is approaching the age where some sort of NHL experience is required to move his development forward. Within a couple of seasons, he needs to grab an NHL spot or his career is essentially bust.

Guillaume Brisebois, 19

-Brisebois is still young, but should be making his pro debut next year and has looked good in preseason viewings. May be ready sooner than expected.

Carl Neill, 20

-Neill has put up two fantastic seasons since being drafted in the fifth round, and is definitely the wildcard prospect on defense for the Canucks.

 

Next Season and After

It seems obvious that the Canucks will need to trade or lose at least one defenseman before next season, and perhaps two. Quite simply, there needs to be room in the lineup for all of Stecher, Tryamkin, and Hutton, with room for Juolevi being a major bonus. By the season after that, the need to shed two becomes a near certainty. Juolevi will almost definitely be ready for major minutes at that point, and will be a bit of a disappointment if not.

While Las Vegas may take the decision out of management’s hands by selecting Luca Sbisa in the Expansion Draft, all other scenarios give the Canucks plenty of opportunity to bring in some decent value for their

 

Possible Outcomes

Keep Everyone

-This is technically possible, but is going to result in limited opportunities for several young defensemen. Tryamkin, Hutton, and Stecher will all need major ice time to develop, and sending Juolevi back to London may stagnate his development.

Trade Chris Tanev

­-The most discussed option on the table. After Bo Horvat, Tanev may be the Canucks’ most valuable player, and would undoubtedly bring in a massive return. However, Tanev is only 27, and is still young enough to play an important role on a rebuilt team. Tanev’s status as Mr. Underrated could make him more useful to the Canucks than his trade value would reflect.

Trade Alex Edler

Edler may also garner a terrific trade return, thanks to his reasonable contract and history of performance. Edler is also the elder statesman on the blueline, which makes him a natural candidate for a deal from a retooling franchise. Edler’s spot seems like the most obvious future home for Juolevi.

Trade Erik Gudbranson

-Gudbranson is up for a contract renewal, and many fans are concerned he will earn more money than he is worth. Interestingly enough, the Canucks have played their best hockey since Gudbranson left the lineup due to injury. However, to trade him, the management team would have to swallow their pride a bit, as he was recently acquired.

Trade Luca Sbisa

-Sbisa is having his best season as a Canuck, but he remains overpaid at $3.6 million per season. Trading him may be difficult, but if the Canucks could manage to convince Las Vegas to take him in the Expansion Draft it would be ideal.

Trade Ben Hutton

-This idea has been floated by some, and Hutton would probably return a decent amount in any trade. However, Hutton is also going through a bit of a sophomore slump, and his future performance may be worth more than anything the team gets back in a trade.

 

HockeyTalkie’s Preference

Bite the bullet and deal Gudbranson, for sure. Aim for draft picks and/or forward prospects in return. Attempt to convince Las Vegas to take Sbisa, and include incentives if necessary. Failing that, trade him. If that doesn’t work out, keep Sbisa as a veteran presence, put a bit of faith into the youngsters and trade Edler for a huge return. Even if Sbisa is dealt, trade Edler anyway the moment Juolevi starts showing well at the NHL level.