Weekly Canucks Report: Week of February 27-March 5
Who Had a Good Week:
Jim Benning- What a week of sweet vindication for those on “Team Benning.” The oft-maligned GM pulled off an amazing performance at the deadline, returning premium assets for his expendable players while his colleagues struggled to obtain low draft picks. Benning and Linden’s claims that they’ve had a plan all along suddenly look more believable.
Bo Horvat- The Legend of Bo continues to grow. After being given a rotating “A” in the wake of the Burrows trade, Horvat responded with a three point effort. This was in the midst of a five point week that included Horvat’s 20th goal. 50 points once looked like a lofty goal for Horvat, but he’ll likely easily eclipse that within a couple of weeks.
Ryan Miller- Miller got to stay in Vancouver after the deadline, which one has to think is his preference. With Markstrom injured, Miller played three straight games, and seemed to get stronger as the week went on. This culminated in a 41 save performance against LA before finally conceding the net to Richard Bachman.
Sven Baertschi- Back after missing time due to a Cody McLeod cheapshot, it didn’t take Baertschi long to get back into his groove.
Nikolay Goldobin- Goldobin was already popular in Vancouver after being part of a high-value trade for Jannik Hansen. His apparent social media skills endeared him even further to fans. Scoring on a breakaway in his debut sealed the deal. Even better, Goldobin got bumped up to Horvat’s line after Eriksson’s injury. Everything’s coming up Goldy!
Richard Bachman- 43 saves in his debut and a stint watching NHL hockey from the best seat in the house! More on Bachman below.
Who Had a Rough Week:
Loui Eriksson- Eriksson didn’t have a strong week, although he did have his first multi-point effort in awhile against the Sharks. Of course, given Eriksson’s luck this season, he then immediately suffered an injury in the next game. This guy just can’t catch a break.
Alex Biega- Desjardins continues to play Biega as little as humanly possible. Even Philip Larsen, when in the lineup, is playing more than Biega. Unlike some of Willie’s icetime choices, this one makes sense. Biega looks overwhelmed at times, especially against the large Californian teams.
Troy Stecher- Stecher isn’t playing horrible, but his game is beginning to show a bit of wear and tear as the season drags on. That should come as no surprise, as Stecher is coming directly from the NCAA, which plays far fewer games than the NHL. The gulf in icetime between Stecher and partner Alex Edler continues to grow, sometimes nearly reaching a difference of ten minutes!
Brandon Sutter- Sutter has quietly slipped into a bit of a cold streak. Given his ever-rotating cast of wingers, that should probably be no surprise, but he isn’t driving play the same way he was at the beginning of the season. He did pick up a cheap assist on Goldobin’s first goal, and looked better when reunited with Granlund against Anaheim, but he still isn’t playing as well as he was earlier.
The Alex Burrows trade was almost unbelievably good. Canuck fans were called foolish for wanting a third round pick in return for the versatile veteran. Instead, Benning picked up Jonathan Dahlen, who had been picked in the second round last year and had seen his stock rise since after an excellent performance in the WJC and back in Sweden. The sting of losing one of the franchise’s most popular player was definitely lessened by the amazing return he brought to the team.
The Jannik Hansen trade wasn’t quite as impressive as the Burrows deal, but only because Hansen was perceived to have more value from the get-go. Nikolay Goldobin is a young former first rounder, and has already stolen the hearts of Canuck fans. The conditions on the fourth round pick attached to Goldobin are some of the most interesting conditions in Canuck trading history, with a guaranteed upgrade to a first round pick if the Sharks win the Stanley Cup. Go Sharks!
Joseph Cramarossa isn’t quite as exciting as Dahlen and Goldobin, but he’s a great pickup as far as waiver acquisitions go. Cramarossa is still quite young, and Anaheim fans were upset to lose him, especially for free. Cramarossa brings a lot of energy to the lineup and will stick up for his teammates, which will become increasingly important as the Canucks play out the season without any hope of making the playoffs.
Looking around the league at other deadline returns was an incredibly satisfying experience for Canuck fans. Whilst Vancouver was adding premium prospects and a potentially high pick, other franchises were struggling to return fifth and sixth round picks for valuable rentals.
Stemming from the last point, it was also quite cathartic to see other teams’ fanbases praising the Canucks for once. The team and their supposedly bumbling GM, Dim Jim, had been the subject of derision for several seasons now, but it’s hard to argue with results. Now, any discussion of “who won the Trade Deadline” or “who has the strongest prospect pool” is bound to include the Vancouver Canucks, and that’s got to feel good for Canuck fans who believed in Benning and Linden’s process.
The Comets got a long break to start the week before having to play three games in three nights on the weekend. With Richard Bachman recalled to the Canucks, it fell to Thatcher Demko to start all three. He responded with some excellent play and three consecutive wins.
The first came on Friday at home against Binghamton, a 5-2 victory. The Comets spread the scoring around, with Darren Archibald, Joe LaBate, Jordan Subban, Pascal Pelletier, and Alex Grenier each scoring a goal. Grenier, Archibald, and LaBate added assists, too, with Curtis Valk putting up two of his own.
Saturday saw Demko pick up his first career shutout in a 3-0 shutdown of Albany. Jake Virtanen scored the opening goal, which happened to be the winner, ending a long drought. Wacey Hamilton and Borna Rendulic also scored, with Evan McEneny, Cody Kunyk, Colby Robak, Ashton Sautner, Pelletier, and Mike Zalewski getting their name on the scoresheet with single assists. Demko had to make an impressive 38 saves to get the shutout, including a number of powerplay attempts.
Not done yet, Demko and the Comets returned on Sunday afternoon to take on the Bridgeport Sound Tigers, which is an excellent name for a band. Utica won 2-1 on the strength of a one goal and one assist performance by LaBate. Captain Carter Bancks had the other goal, with Hamilton, Robak, and Cole Cassels nabbing assists.
Bits and Bobs:
-I’ll briefly pat myself on the back, because I totally called it! I said before the deadline that Jim Benning standing his ground and refusing to deal Dan Hamhuis for bargain prices at last year’s deadline may give him a stronger negotiating position this time around. Given what he got back for Burrows and Hansen, one has to think it played a role.
-I’m seeing a lot of people saying that the Canucks are finally “deciding” to rebuild or retool the team. I’d argue that this is all part of the ongoing process that Linden and Benning began when they took over the team. We’ve constantly seen youth inserted into the lineup and being given a chance to succeed in a semi-competitive environment from the beginning. The players entering the lineup have thrived, in part due to support from veterans, and now they’re being supplemented by even more incoming talent. Bright days lie ahead for the Vancouver faithful.
-A brief shoutout to Richard Bachman, an excellent third-string goalie. Bachman once had aspirations as an NHL prospect, but saw his chances pass him by. Now, he’s accepted his role as an AHL starter, giving the Canucks some stability in their system. He’s mentored Thatcher Demko, fills a required expansion slot for the Canucks, and has now proven that he’s capable when called upon to fill-in at the NHL level. What more could a franchise ask for?
-Willie Desjardins’ decision-making from here on out will probably determine how many fans feel about the beleaguered coach in the long term. Desjardins’ habit of sheltering the minutes of young players will be far less acceptable in the eyes of fans now that the team has given up on the playoffs. Fans groaned when Goldobin found himself stapled to the bench despite scoring in his debut, but Willie seemed to correct that mistake against Anaheim. Time will tell.
-Speaking of Goldobin, one of the unheralded aspects of acquiring him is finally bringing in a fellow Russian to keep Nikita Tryamkin company. Tryamkin has adapted well to North American life, but this still has to make him pretty happy.
-Seeing Jarome Iginla getting all ornery with Luca Sbisa and Alex Edler certainly brought back some old memories. I don’t know if it’s nice to have Iginla back in the division, but it’s certainly nostalgic.
-ICYMI, Mr. Clutch himself, Alex Burrows, delivered with two goals on two shots in his debut for the Ottawa Senators. Has there ever been an important moment that Burrows didn’t step up for? What a legend. Vancouver should start prepping a spot in the Ring of Honor now.
-Jannik Hansen has still yet to play for the Sharks due to immigration issues. Restricting the immigration of Danish citizens just makes sense, after all, have you read Hamlet? Those Danes are a murderous bunch.
-Best moment of the entire Trade Deadline Day? James Duthie correcting Jay and Dan on their joke about the Sedins being soft. Atta boy, Duthers!
-It’s a good bet that few Canuck fans thought the team would be taking two of three wins from this post-deadline Californian roadtrip. The rest of the season may be painful, so it’s a good idea to enjoy this brief bright spot while it lasts.