2016-17 Vancouver Canucks Report Card

The 2016-17 NHL season was a disappointing season for the Canucks, at least on a macro-scale. On an individual basis, however, the performance of the team varied wildly from player to player. This end of season report card is meant to reflect how players performed in relation to expectations at the start of the season. The results range from exceptional to dismal, with most falling somewhere in between.

 

FORWARD

Bo Horvat, A+

What more can be said about Horvat’s season? He lead the team in scoring but, more importantly, he also established himself firmly as the future leader of the team. Horvat looks like a potential future first line center, which is way over and above his draft-time projections.

 

Henrik Sedin, C+

The Sedins did not have a great year, but Henrik certainly was the better of the two. After several dry spells, Henrik ended the year on a hot streak, and nearly stole the scoring title from Horvat.

 

Daniel Sedin, C

Daniel had his worst season in a long time, barely cracking 0.5 points-per-game. It’s not that he looked outright awful, but it was such a marked decline from the quality of play the twins normally provide.

 

Sven Baertschi, B+

Baertschi went from Calgary castoff to potential first line winger, and for a large portion of the season was operating at a nearly point-per-game basis. Baertschi clicked with Horvat and the two proved a dynamic duo, even if Baertschi’s ongoing health concerns got in the way a bit.

 

Brandon Sutter, C

On the one hand, this season was a good bounceback year for Sutter, who spent most of last season on the IR. On the other hand, he was granted an inordinate amount of icetime, including first unit powerplay minutes, and did not produce nearly enough.

 

Markus Granlund, A

Granlund was probably the breakout player of the year, shattering his previous goal and point totals long before the season was over. A late season surgery robbed him of his chance for 20 goals, but the fact that he did as well as he did with a nagging injury is highly impressive.

 

Loui Eriksson, D-

What an awful first year for Eriksson. The season started with him scoring on his own goal, and it didn’t get much better after that. Eriksson failed to find chemistry with any other Canuck, and needs to rebound next year to prevent himself from being a completely wasted signing.

 

Jack Skille, C-

Skille provided an adequate presence on the fourth line, but didn’t really do any one thing well enough to stand out. He also continued to be plagued by injuries, which probably cost him his spot on the team moving forward.

 

Jayson Megna, C-

Megna took a heap of abuse from the fans thanks to Willie Desjardins insistence on giving him icetime, but he did add some speed to the lineup. Still, scoring only eight points after spending time on the first line is a little embarrassing.

 

Michael Chaput, C

Chaput was supposed to spend the majority of the year in Utica, but he ended up as a Canuck for 68 games. Chaput didn’t really add anything special to the lineup, but he was a serviceable utility player that spent time on every single line.

 

Reid Boucher, B+
For a waiver pickup that struggled to enter the lineup, Boucher had an impressive end to his season. Boucher only had seven points in 27 games, but most of that came in the final stretch, and his amazing shot definitely deserves another look.

 

Brock Boeser, A+

Canuck fans were excited for Boeser’s arrival in the NHL, but nobody expected it to go so well. Boeser put up four goals in just nine games and, more importantly, established chemistry with Horvat, leading many to speculate that the two will makeup part of the first line moving forward.

 

Brendan Gaunce, C-

Gaunce looks like a competent, but unexciting, NHL talent. His offensive production was pathetic, and he played the most games of any NHL player without scoring a goal. However, his defensive play was solid, and his smarts will likely gain him another chance.

 

Derek Dorsett, Inc.

Dorsett’s season never really got off the ground, with him missing most of the year after neck surgery. It will be interesting to see how Dorsett bounces back after such a lengthy absence.

 

Nikolay Goldobin, B-

Despite it being fairly apparent that Willie Desjardins was not a fan of him, Goldobin gave fans enough of a glimpse to be excited about him moving forward. With limited icetime, Goldobin notched three goals in 12 games, and showed some chemistry with the Sedins.

 

Drew Shore, C-

Shore played pretty well for a late-season signing out of the Swiss league. There are probably better options for the fourth line next season, but Shore certainly didn’t play himself off the team.

 

Jake Virtanen, F

There are some reasons to be slightly optimistic about Virtanen’s development in Utica, but overall this season was an unmitigated disaster. Virtanen simply isn’t scoring enough at any level to justify his draft position, and his physical game has become nonexistent.

 

Anton Rodin, Inc.

Rodin was never not injured, and might just be a player that is too fragile for the NHL. Rumours are that he may just return to Sweden in the offseason.

 

Griffen Molino, C+

A late-season addition after his NCAA career concluded, Molino impressed with his speed and forechecking abilities. He doesn’t have much offensive skill, but could carve out a bottom-six career.

 

Joe LaBate, C+

LaBate was probably the most surprising of the Utica callups, and his physical game got him into the lineup far more often than was expected. May have a future as a fourth line tough guy.

 

Joseph Cramarossa, C-

Cramarossa looked promising as a fourth line player, but Desjardins’ disdain for physical play seemed to hamper him. Got injured before a more complete assessment could be made.

 

Alex Grenier, D

Grenier was easily the most disappointing of the Utica callups, and was a non-factor for his five games with the team.

 

DEFENSE

Troy Stecher, A

Stecher was a revelation this year. He was a high-profile NCAA signing, but nobody expected him to step right from college into the NHL. He did not only that, but he also spent a sizeable portion of the year on the top pairing, and did not look out of place.

 

Alexander Edler, C+

Edler was a workhorse for the Canucks this year, eating up a ridiculous amount of minutes. This worked against him, to a degree, as it put his many flaws on full display. Edler is not a number one defenseman, but he made his best attempt at filling the role this year.

 

Ben Hutton, C+

Hutton went through a sophomore slump this year. The former calm, cool, and collected rookie looked overwhelmed at times, but his play improved throughout the year and he should rebound nicely next season.

 

Luca Sbisa, B-

For a team whipping boy, Sbisa had a great season. He started out the year as arguably the team’s best defenseman, before regressing as the season wore on. Still, Sbisa was far from the tire-fire he had been in previous campaigns.

 

Chris Tanev, B-

This year was business as usual for Tanev, which meant incredibly steady defense but also a rash of injuries. As always, nothing about Tanev stands out, but his absence from the lineup was definitely noticeable.

 

Nikita Tryamkin, B

It’s tempting to dock Tryamkin a few points for his traitorous return to Russia, but the truth is that the hulking defender had a great season. After missing the opening portion of the year due to poor conditioning, Tryamkin stepped into the lineup and looked like a top-four solution who could use his ample size. Here’s hoping his Russian vacation is a short one.

 

Philip Larsen, F

Larsen was billed as an offensive powerplay specialist, but he finished the year with one goal and six points. At no point did he look like an NHL-calibre defender, and he’s already signed overseas for next year.

 

Erik Gudbranson, D

Gudbranson added some physicality and grit to the lineup, but his play did not really justify the assets that had been traded for him, or the presumably large contract he is about to sign. Gudbranson did play much of the year injured, so it remains to be seen if his play can rebound.

 

Alex Biega, C

Biega did whatever was asked of him this year. He’s a barely-capable fill-in defender, and he may have played his best hockey as a physical, forechecking forward.

 

GOALTENDING

Ryan Miller, B+

Miller was a real challenger to Horvat for the title of Team MVP. Although he looked overworked at times, Miller gave the Canucks a chance to win on almost every night, which is not really something that they deserved.

 

Jacob Markstrom, C-

Markstrom’s terrible year was only partially due to injuries. Even when he was in the lineup, Markstrom did nothing to show that he was ready to steal the crease back from Miller. Then again, he didn’t exactly receive a lot of opportunity to do so.

 

Richard Bachman, B

Bachman is everything a team could ask for in a third-string goalie. He looked good enough that most fans would be happy to have him as a full-time backup next season. The only downside to his play was the creasetime he took away from Thatcher Demko down in Utica.

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The Willie Desjardins Coaching Obituary

VITAL STATS:

Born: February 11, 1957 in Climax, Saskatchewan (teehee!)

Pre-Canuck Accomplishments: WHL Champion in 2004, also Coach of Year in Both WHL and CHL. Gold as Assistant Coach on 2009 WJC Team Canada. Head Coach of Team Canada at WJC in 2010. Won Calder Cup with Texas in 2014.

Hired: June 23, 2014

Fired: April 10, 2017

Record With Canucks: 109-110-27 (so close to .500!)

 

THE GOOD:

Bo Horvat- Willie Desjardins is the only NHL head coach that Bo Horvat has known. During their three seasons together, Horvat has gone from being considered a dependable two-way prospect to a potential first line center and the de facto leader of the team moving forward. Desjardins took a measured approach to Horvat’s development, starting him on the 4th line and only increasing his ice time incrementally despite Horvat’s rapid improvement. Some criticized Desjardins for this, stating that Horvat was succeeding in spite of him, while others thought this was being done to shelter Horvat’s development, but the results speak for themselves. Under Willie’s coaching, Horvat has severely outstripped even the most optimistic expectations anyone had for him, and it’s hard to pretend that Willie didn’t have anything to do with it.

Other Ascendant Forwards- Horvat is not the only forward to see his career thrive under Desjardins. Sven Baertschi and Markus Granlund both went from being Calgary rejects to legitimate top-9 NHL players under Willie’s guidance. Again, some will try to mitigate Desjardins’ influence here, but other coaching staffs had tried and failed with both Baertschi and Granlund. Something about Desjardins’ coaching style has allowed multiple forward talents to blossom. For all the talk of him holding back the youth, Desjardins obviously did little to hinder the arrival of Brock Boeser at the tail end of the season.

Defensive Development- As good as the development of a few key forwards has been under Desjardins, the development of the defensive core has been arguably better. Chris Tanev and Alex Edler were already established as NHL talents before Willie was hired, although Tanev has certainly solidified himself as a top pairing D under Desjardins. However, all three of Ben Hutton, Troy Stecher, and Nikita Tryamkin launched immediately successful NHL careers with Desjardins as head coach. Defense is supposed to be the toughest position to break into in the NHL, and yet three longshot prospects made the team and thrived in a matter of two seasons. All three now look like bonafide top-4 defenders, and Canuck fans should know firsthand that defensive development rarely goes so smoothly. 

Earning Minutes- While the extremes to which Desjardins took this philosophy are certainly debatable, the fact that he demanded that young players earn their minutes instead of just being handed them probably had a positive impact on the team’s development. The Canucks have seen the dangers of gifting icetime thanks to the folks over in Edmonton, and Desjardins took a nearly opposite approach. While this seemed to limit immediate opportunities for some young players, it also gave them a long-term opportunity to truly earn their spot in the NHL by ousting more tenured veterans. Players like Horvat, Baertschi, and Stecher really had to fight for their NHL spots, and keep playing well to keep them, and that policy seems to have pushed them to great heights.

Respect For Veterans- On an aging team, respect for veterans is important, and Willie definitely had that. His detractors would say he had too much of it, but Desjardins’ appropriately reverent treatment of the Sedins, Alex Burrows, and Ryan Miller likely had a positive effect in the locker room and avoided the sort of personality clashes that often plague losing teams.

Team Building- Willie Desjardins just seemed like a great guy, and a coach that the players liked on a personal level. He was a master of team building, bringing in assistant coach Perry Pearn specifically due to his camaraderie-developing skills. Fans don’t always see what goes on inside the locker room, but some of the things we did see were extremely positive. The gag Desjardins pulled on Jake Virtanen and Jared McCann when they made the big leagues, or the welcome he gave Brock Boeser to the NHL, are just a few of the examples of how Desjardins helped bring his team together through some trying times.

Media Honesty- Plenty of fans made fun of Willie’s “real good” manner of speaking, but he was also a straight-shooter, and that’s not something fans can always count on from a coach. Desjardins was always honest with the media, perhaps to a fault, and that continued right through to his tearful final press conference.

 

THE BAD:

Offensive Woes- Simply put, the Canucks struggled to sustain any level of consistent offense during Desjardins’ reign as coach. After a strong first season, during which the Canucks placed 8th in goals for, it was all downhill. In both of Desjardins’ final two seasons with the team, Vancouver was second-last in offense. Willie’s teams were consistently outshot and outchanced, and this season in particular saw a bizarre phenomenon wherein the Canucks would go for tens of minutes without getting a single shot. Desjardins didn’t have the most talented rosters to work with, but he also didn’t make the most out of them, either.

Overreliance on Starting Goaltender- Desjardins respects his veteran players, and that reverence obviously extended to Ryan Miller. However, Desjardins also spent the last two seasons ignoring a perfectly capable backup in Jacob Markstrom. Yes, Miller was undoubtedly the better of the two, but he looked overplayed during several stretches, and the imbalance in play has no doubt hampered Markstrom’s development. There was probably a more even way to handle the two goalies.

Lack of Trust in Youth- The dark side of Desjardins’ respect for veterans was his lack of trust in young players. Even megatalents like Horvat and Stecher had to work hard to earn icetime under Willie, and players like Nikolay Goldobin with holes in their defensive game weren’t ever given much of a chance. Many young players developed well under Desjardins, but not all were given the full opportunity that their skill may have afforded them.

Lack of Physicality- The Canucks under Desjardins were one of the least physical teams in the Western Conference. This wasn’t strictly due to personnel, either. Big hitters like Derek Dorsett, Luca Sbisa, and Erik Gudbranson all saw their physical play decrease under Desjardins’ leadership. Youngsters like Virtanen and Tryamkin seemed a bit neutered by Willie’s system, and seemed to be less and less likely to throw hits the more they played under him. It will be very interesting to see how these two in particular respond to a different coach.

Too Honest With Media About Players- Willie’s honesty with the media could occasionally backfire. His honest assessments in the media of players like Goldobin and Tryamkin annoyed fans and seemed to do little to motivate either guy. Some things are best kept behind closed doors.

 

THE UGLY:

Picking Favourites- I can remember a time when Canucks fans were excited at all the Medicine Hat connections coming to Vancouver, with Trevor Linden, Desjardins, Dorsett, and Linden Vey all joining the fold. Boy, that notion ended quickly. Desjardins, like many coaches, had his favorite players, but Willie seemed to play his more than the average bench boss. Former players like Dorsett and Vey were given roles far above their skillset, and could often be found on the ice late in a one-goal game. After these players were removed from the roster, Desjardins found new favorites to inexplicably overplay. The name Jayson Megna will be forever imprinted in the brains of Canucks fans thanks to this annoying Desjardins habit.

The Powerplay- The Canucks have spent the last two seasons with a powerplay that ranks in the bottom five of the league, and those who watch every game are probably surprised it wasn’t in dead last. Desjardins’ powerplay setup became all too easily predictable, and its repetitive plays were handled with ease by most opponents. Under Willie, the Canucks often struggled to even get setup, and his overreliance on veterans like Brandon Sutter and the Sedins over others like Horvat and Baertschi certainly didn’t help matters. A non-physical team that can’t score on the powerplay makes for a bad combination, and that’s what the Canucks were under Desjardins.

Inability to Adapt- The word on Willie Desjardins from other coaches around the league was “predictable.” Willie seemed to have an inability to adapt to changes, and kept sticking to his original gameplans long after opponents had figured them out. The Canucks were described as easy to play against because of this trait, and it makes a lot of sense that Desjardins had a great first season and fizzled thereafter. When things got tough, Desjardins chose to double-down on some bad strategies rather than trying to innovate, and that likely cost him his job more than anything.

 

THE FINAL WORD:

It was definitely time for Willie Desjardins to go. Fans were sick of his bizarre deployments, players seemed to have tuned him out, and Jim Benning was semi-regularly admonishing him in the press. However, I do believe that fans will eventually look back fondly on Desjardins’ tenure as Canuck coach, and not just because of the high draft picks it yielded.

When Willie was hired, one of the best qualities ascribed to him was his ability to develop young talent. He seemed like the perfect coach for a team that was rebuilding and, in many ways, he’s helped that process along. Players like Horvat, Baertschi, Stecher, Hutton, Tryamkin, and Granlund will be a major part of the Canucks going forward, and they all got their NHL starts under Desjardins. As a long-time fan who has seen countless promising prospects come to Vancouver and flame out, it has been fantastic to see young players finally succeeding for the Canucks. Willie Desjardins deserves plenty of credit for this, even if he won’t be around to see the fruits of his labour. Such is the life of an NHL bench boss.

Weekly Comets Report: Week Of April 10-16

Weekly Comets Report: Week Of April 10-16

Crushing Disappointment Edition

 

Entering the final week of the AHL season, the Comets were in a tough spot. They had to make up three points on the St. John’s IceCaps in order to catch them for the final playoff position in the North Division, with only three games remaining and a game in hand. For Utica, every game this week was a must-win.

Utica made a difficult situation even worse on Wednesday by dropping an embarrassing 7-2 decision to the Syracuse Crunch on home ice. The game started out fairly evenly, with both teams scoring a goal each in the first two periods. Michael Carcone scored the opener, assisted by Borna Rendulic and Chad Billins. Then, late in the second, Cole Cassels tied the game 2-2 with a nice rebound goal, set up by Wacey Hamilton and Andrey Pedan. After that, it was all Syracuse, as the defense collapsed and left Thatcher Demko out to dry. Demko was in net for six goals against, including four in the final period alone. Defenders like Jordan Subban and Evan McEneny suddenly looked out of their depth as Syracuse poured on the pressure. Speaking of pressure, the Comets had now lost their game in hand and would need some help to make the playoffs. The frustration was obvious. LaBate had a fight early in the game, and Curtis Valk got into it with Tanner Richard towards the end of the game, which led to Jake Virtanen being ejected for Third Man In. I have yet to find a clip of either incident.

Utica kept their hopes alive on Friday with a hardfought home win against the Hartford Wolf Pack, 5-4. This time, Richard Bachman was in net to make an impressive 39 saves. Carcone again opened up the scoring on a snipe assisted by Alex Grenier and Mike Zalewski. Then, Nikolay Goldobin stepped up big to score two goals, both of which were assisted by Curtis Valk and Darren Archibald. Archibald also added a goal of his own, assisted by Jordan Subban and Colby Robak. Andrey Pedan scored the game winner unassisted midway through the third. Some familiar faces popped up to plague the Comets on this night, with Ty Ronning scoring a goal and Nick Jensen potting two, including a late one that brought the Wolf Pack to within a goal.

Entering Saturday, the Comets needed both a win and a St. John’s loss in order to make the playoffs. They got neither. St. John’s won an impressive 4-1 game against the division-leading Marlies, a result that Utica found out about during the third period of their own game. At that point, however, the Comets were already down and out against the Crunch. Syracuse was up by two within the first six minutes of the first, and the game never got close beyond that. Demko was back in net to take the 5-2 loss, and once again Goldobin contributed two goals in a losing effort. Robak had the only assist on the first goal, while Virtanen and Ashton Sautner notched points on the second one. At the very least, Canuck fans can be glad that the season ended on a Goldobin goal set-up by Virtanen. Little victories, I suppose.

At this point, the entire organization was eliminated from the playoffs. None of the Vancouver Canucks, Utica Comets, or Alaska Aces made it to any postseason action. It’s going to make for a long summer.

It should be noted that, while most Canuck fans would have enjoyed the Comets going on a playoff run, and it undoubtedly would have been good for some of the team’s prospects, St. John’s making the playoffs is still something to be happy about. This was the last season for the IceCaps, who will move to Laval and become the Rocket from here on out. Having the IceCaps make one more playoff appearance for the fans on the rock to enjoy is a pretty nice outcome. If anyone had to beat out Utica this year, I’m glad it was them.

Weekly Canucks Report: Week of April 3-9

Weekly Canucks Report: Week of April 3-9

Last Report of the Year Edition

 

Who Had a Good Week:

The Sedins- The Sedins showed this week that they will not go softly into that good night. Tank be damned, the twins put up points and looked more dangerous than they have in a long time. Henrik made a solid run at the team’s scoring lead with six points, while Daniel contributed four of his own. Most importantly, the duo showed some of the new arrivals on the team what vintage Sedinery looks like.

Brock Boeser- Boeser has been the team’s leading goal scorer since he entered the NHL, and he shows no signs of slowing down. Boeser scored two goals in four games this week, and would have been over a point-per-game had some of his set-ups to teammates been finished, at a time when the Canucks’ offense was struggling. He showed great chemistry with the Sedins on the powerplay, and was the beneficiary of some sweet passing from Henrik.

 Nikolay Goldobin- While Boeser benefitted from the resurgent Sedins on the powerplay, Goldobin did the same at even strength. Goldobin only scored the two goals on the week, but he helped the Sedin line look dangerous again, and made several good plays at top speed. His dish to Ben Hutton on Saturday was fantastic, even though Hutton couldn’t finish.

Griffen Molino- Molino is still looking for his first NHL point, but he’s done enough to make an impact in his short time with Vancouver. With limited minutes, Molino has shown that he was wicked speed and a willingness to use it on the forecheck. He looks like a potential bottom-6 talent, for sure, and that’s fantastic for a low-profile NCAA free agent. Was unfortunately injured on Saturday.

Troy Stecher- Stecher seemed to get let off the chain a bit this week, and he really responded well. Stecher was jumping up into the play more than usual, and looked more like the adventurous and exciting player he was at the beginning of the year. Stecher’s at his best when he’s encouraged to get active in the play.

 

Who Had a Rough Week:

Willie Desjardins- One might suspect that GM Jim Benning wanted to fire coach Desjardins after the two clashed over the playing time of young players, and he definitely received the justification to do so in this last week of play. The Canucks tanked in spite of Desjardins, and almost everyone is certain that the franchise will move on once the summer hits.

Brandon Sutter- Sutter only scored one point on the week, although that’s probably to be expected when one is flanked by Michael Chaput and Jayson Megna. More troubling were Sutter’s public comments about Goldobin’s lack of “balls,” which earned him the ire (and the memery) of Canuck fans online. Sutter is meant to be a character guy, but he didn’t show it in the final week of the season.

 

Roster Talk:

With the two losses against the Oilers, the Canucks secured sole possession of second-last place in the NHL, and with it the second-best lottery odds for the Entry Draft. This was a crucial “win” for the organization. Second-best odds are always a good thing, but they’re a special coup this year because the Las Vegas Golden Knights will be sharing odds with the third-last team, thus making the top two spots inherently more valuable. This gives the Canucks a fantastic shot at drafting one of Nico Hischier and Nolan Patrick, the best two prospects in the 2017 draft. In the first of three lotteries, the Canucks will have a 13.5% chance at the first overall selection, and they can draft no lower than fifth overall.

There was a bit of franchise-related sad news this week, as the Alaska Aces closed up shop after a good run in the far north. The Aces were the Canucks’ ECHL affiliate, so they will need to find a new one for next year. This led to the Canucks calling up Yan-Pavel Laplante for the final game against Edmonton, as he was the only prospect of note still playing in Alaska.

With the season at its end, now is a good time to look at the expiring contracts on the team. The list of unrestricted free agents, who can sign wherever they want as of July 1st if not re-signed first, includes Ryan Miller, Anton Rodin, Jack Skille, Philip Larsen, Alex Grenier, Chad Billins, and Borna Rendulic. The restricted free agents, who require a qualifying offer in order to retain their rights, is a lot longer, and includes Bo Horvat, Reid Boucher, Brendan Gaunce, Joseph Cramarossa, Michael Chaput, Drew Shore, Erik Gudbranson, and Nikita Tryamkin at the NHL level. Farmhands at RFA status include Michael Garteig, Andrey Pedan, Joe LaBate, Mike Zalewski, Evan McEneny, and Tom Nilsson. Obviously, Horvat, Gudbranson, and Tryamkin are the key players of the bunch.

 

Schadenfreude Section:

RETIRED UNTIL START OF NEXT SEASON.

 

Comets Report:

The Comets entered the second-last week of the AHL season in a dogfight with the Albany Devils and St. John’s IceCaps for the last playoff spot in the North Division. Once again, Utica faced a three-games-in-three-nights scenario, in desperate need of wins. Unfortunately, not everything would go as planned.

Things started well on Friday, as the Comets defeated potential playoff opponent Toronto by a score of 3-1. Joe LaBate, Cody Kunyk, and Wacey Hamilton all scored for Utica. Assists were provided by Colby Robak, Chad Billins, Alex Grenier, Darren Archibald, and Borna Rendulic. Archibald also received a penalty shot, but was unable to score. Thatcher Demko was in net to improve his evermore impressive stats, making 25 saves.

Saturday’s game did not go nearly as well. Facing off against the Rochester Americans, who are already out of the playoff picture, the Comets dropped an embarrassing 5-0 defeat. Michael Garteig was in net for all five goals against as the team tried to rest Demko. Penalties were a bit of a problem for the Comets, with two powerplay goals against, but it was mostly an uninspired performance that cost them in this one.

The Comets really needed a win on Sunday after Saturday’s mistakes, especially since they were facing St. John’s, but they would not get one. Demko was back in net and made 25 saves, but was beat once. That was all it took for the Comets to lose 1-0 to the IceCaps. This puts the IceCaps three points ahead of Utica with only three games remaining in the season. Every game from here on out will be a must-win game.

As previously mentioned, the Comets are active next week, so I will probably do a Comets Report on Sunday to round out the year. Hopefully, at that point I can move on to a Comet Playoff Report.

 

Bits and Bobs:

-I’ll admit, I was very nervous watching Bo Horvat drop the gloves with Darnell Nurse. I guess we Canuck fans should have learned by now to stop doubting that Horvat can do anything. He more than held his own against a very, very good fighter, and one with lots more size and experience.

-Need evidence of Horvat’s leadership? I really wonder if Ben Hutton fights Eric Gryba without watching Horvat take on Nurse the night before.

-Henrik Sedin’s late push for the team scoring race gives at least a bit of hope that he and Daniel can have a bit of a bounceback year next season. The twins will have no shortage of talented wingers to partner with in 2017/18.

-It’s a pretty easy answer to the question of who Canuck fans should support in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Fans will be tempted to cheer for either Alex Burrows and Marc Crawford in Ottawa or Jannik Hansen in San Jose, but a Sharks victory carries with it an extra first round pick for the Canucks. That makes it a no brainer to support the Sharks, and they have decent odds, to boot.

-With many of Vancouver’s traditional enemies in the playoffs, Canuck fans should prepare to eat plenty of crow over the next few months. Chances are good that at least one of the Leafs, Flames, Oilers, or Bruins will go on a decent run.

-There are a ridiculous amount of Canucks injured to end the year. Derek Dorsett, Erik Gudbranson, and Anton Rodin have been out the longest, but they were joined by Jacob Markstrom, Sven Baertschi, Markus Granlund, Brendan Gaunce, Joseph Cramarossa, Jack Skille, and even Griffen Molino,  All will reportedly be ready for start of next season.

-The annual Canuck Awards, as voted by the fans, were handed out before the final home game on Saturday. Bo Horvat won the awards for both Team MVP and Most Exciting, Troy Stecher won Best Defenseman as a rookie, and Markus Granlund was the Unsung Hero.

-As much as I love Horvat, I think Ryan Miller would have been an equally worthy candidate for MVP. As the season has fallen apart, the leadership of Miller has constantly come to the forefront. He battles night in and night out, and gives the team a reasonable chance to win in any game. He took the time to encourage Nikolay Goldobin after he’d been called out in the media by the coach and a teammate, and Goldobin seemed to respond very positively. All the more reason to consider bringing Miller back for one more year if he’s willing.

-Thank you to everyone who read my Weekly Report and other writings over the season. I enjoyed doing these, and will definitely do them again next year. In the meantime, expect regular articles in the summer, along with specific reports on things like the Entry Draft, the Expansion Draft, and Free Agency Day. Hopefully, regular Comets playoff reports can be added to the list, but we’ll have to wait until next week to find out. Cheers, everyone!

Weekly Canucks Report: Week of March 27-April 2

Weekly Canucks Report: Week of March 27-April 2

 

Who Had a Good Week:

Sven Baertschi-Bo Horvat-Brock Boeser- The Next Coast Express keeps on rolling, and are the only thing keeping Canuck games watchable right now. The line contributed all of the Canucks’ offense this week, even if that only amounted to two goals and one point each for the line. Still, Boeser has adapted to the NHL quicker than anyone anticipated, and he’s helping make sure that Baertschi and Horvat end the season on a high note.

Nikita Tryamkin- This week, Nikita Tryamkin played more than Chris Tanev. Now, Tanev is battling injuries, but that’s still a huge indicator of the amount of trust that Tryamkin has earned throughout the year. His massive hit on Dustin Brown made Canucks fans love him even more, just when they thought they couldn’t possibly.

Drew Shore- Shore will probably not be re-signed, but he’s putting in a pretty solid audition as a fourth line center right now. Shore isn’t fancy at all, although he has generated a few offensive chances and is decent on the forecheck. He was above 50% in faceoffs this week, and contributed heavily to a Canuck penalty kill that only got beat once against three strong offenses.

 

Who Had a Rough Week:

Nikolay Goldobin- There’s something about Goldy, at least according to Willie Desjardins. In the second game of the week, Goldobin received less ice time than Griffen Molino, in his first NHL game, and in the first game Goldobin only outplayed Joe LaBate. Finally, Goldy closed out the week by being scratched against his former team, the Sharks. It’s not looking like he’ll end the season on a scoring streak, unless he does it in Utica for the playoffs.

Philip Larsen- Larsen has been out of the picture for awhile, but he has popped back up to remind everyone how bad he is at defense. In his one game of the week, Larsen looked horrendous against Anaheim, and played so bad that he was replaced by Alex Biega, who had been dressed as a forward, part way through the game.

Sedins and Chaput- The allegedly young and talented Chaput just isn’t getting it done with the Sedins. Rather than adding to their line, Chaput accentuates the twins’ weakest points, like their lack of speed, and has helped turned the line into a bit of a defensive liability. That’s not good news, since they’re already an offensive black hole right now.

Jacob Markstrom- After recovering from food poisoning, it was confirmed that Markstrom would need season-ending surgery, a result of his injury suffered during the Super Skills competition. What a rotten end to an unpleasant season for Markstrom.

 

Roster Talk:

Jayson Megna receives a contract extension, and everyone loses their mind! However, Canuck fans may have overreacted on this one. Megna does appear to receive special treatment from coach Desjardins, but aside from that he’s been a pretty solid depth player. In reality, Megna would be an AHL asset with a different coach, and his near-minimum salary ensures he can play that role next year. Most importantly, Megna fulfills one of the Canucks’ two required exposure slots for forwards. Derek Dorsett no longer counts due to his injury, so expect at least one of Brendan Gaunce, Michael Chaput, or Jack Skille re-signed soon to fulfill the other obligation.

Griffen Molino chose the Canucks over at least a dozen other teams when he chose to sign as a UFA out of Western Michigan. Molino, 23, doesn’t have standout stats at any level, but he put up 33 points in 40 games this year and is reportedly a strong skater with a great work ethic. Molino looks to top out as a future bottom six guy, and he’s receiving an NHL audition right now.

The NHL revealed this week that it will publish protected and exposed lists for the upcoming Expansion Draft. This means that the public will know exactly who their team wanted to keep and who they felt comfortable losing, and will give fans in Vancouver and elsewhere yet another set of roster decisions to criticize over the summer.

 

Schadenfreude Section:

RETIRED UNTIL NEXT SEASON!

 

Comets Report:

At the very least, the Comets have had a consistent schedule lately, even if it’s consistently brutal. Once again, Utica played three games in three nights this weekend, and looked to solidify their playoff chances.

Things didn’t get off to a great start on Friday as the Comets visited Rochester for a 5-2 loss to the Americans, who are probably questioning their team name right about now. Thatcher Demko was actually pulled after he allowed four goals on 20 shots. Michael Garteig went in, but despite playing over half a period, he only faced one shot, which he saved. Pascal Pelletier scored, assisted my Michael Carcone and Alex Grenier. Jordan Subban scored an unassisted goal with 15 seconds left, but it was too little, too late.

A return home Saturday led to better results for the Comets, who turned the tables on Rochester by winning 5-3. Demko was back in net, making 20 saves en route to victory. Demko also picked up an assist on one of Jake Virtanen’s two goals, both of which were nice. Joe LaBate got a goal and an assist, and Carter Bancks and Darren Archibald scored the other goals. LaBate and Archibald both scored unassisted. Curtis Valk, Evan McEneny, and Wacey Hamilton each picked up a single helper.

It took a shootout, but the Comets managed to close out the week with a 3-2 defeat of the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins, who hoard three city names to themselves. Subban had a goal and an assist, and Cody Kunyk scored the other goal. Frankie Corrado should actually get credit for the Comets’ second goal, however, as he shot it into his own net to help his former team. Valk picked up another helper on the week, adding to his impressive totals as an AHL rookie, and also notched the shootout winner. Demko made an impressive 43 saves total, and added three straight in the shootout.

The Comets are now tied with the slumping Albany Devils for the final playoff position in the North division. They’re also one point behind the St. John’s IceCaps. With only a couple of weeks remaining, every game counts from here on out.

 

Bits and Bobs:

-Is it time to get excited for a Utica playoff run? Not quite yet. The Comets are still in a battle to even make the playoffs, so Canuck fans should jump on the bandwagon right now to cheer them on for the stretch run. Players like Goldobin and Gaunce are eligible to go down for the playoffs, and others like Demko, Subban, and Virtanen are already there, so this could be quite an entertaining playoff run for Canucks fans if it happens.

-Speaking of the AHL playoffs, don’t expect to see Olli Juolevi there. Although Juolevi’s season could end this week, if he and the Knights are eliminated by new Canucks Jalen Chatfield and the Spitfires, he will not be starting his pro career right away. Jim Benning confirmed that the team has decided that Juolevi will begin his offseason training immediately, since he really needs to bulk up.

-Utica’s late season push has put Travis Green back into the conversation as a potential replacement for Willie Desjardins. ICYMI, I did a writeup on Green and seven other coaching candidates, and you can check it out here:

https://hockeytalkie.wordpress.com/2017/04/02/eight-potential-new-coaches-for-the-vancouver-canucks/

-Markstrom’s injury is one more cherry on top of a hard knock season for the Canucks, but the season-ending injury of John Tavares in New York gives a bit of perspective. The Canucks were, at the very least, lucky to avoid any injury to their very best player, Bo Horvat, or their two de facto leaders in the Sedins. Key defenders Stecher and Tryamkin also stayed healthy, and saw their careers blossom. Not every team had such luck. Some will speculate as to what the Canucks’ season could have been with better injury luck, but it always could have been worse.

-In the middle of the season, when the Canucks were on a hot streak, I proposed a very dark possibility: that the Canucks would flirt with playoff contention only to be eliminated by the Oilers in the two final games. Instead, now there’s a possibility that the Canucks could boot the Oilers out of the Pacific lead in those final two games. Most Canucks fans would prefer losses if it affects the lottery standings, but moral victories are always nice.

-Tune in next week for the final Canuck Report of the season. I’ll keep on doing the occasional article in the summer, and will almost certainly do write-ups for the both the Expansion and the Entry Draft, along with Free Agent Frenzy. As always, read it first at:

 

 

https://hockeytalkie.wordpress.com

Eight Potential New Coaches For The Vancouver Canucks

The writing appears to finally be on the wall for Vancouver Canucks coach Willie Desjardins. The Canucks were likely destined for a poor finish in 2016-17 no matter who was behind the bench, but the final month of the season has given the organization plenty of reason to move on. Desjardins appears to have a different philosophy than GM Jim Benning when it comes to the ice time of younger players, and Benning felt the need to assert himself on this front via the media. Perhaps more troubling, especially for some fans, is the apparent disconnect between Desjardins and some of his players, like Nikita Tryamkin, when it comes to physical play. Let’s not even mention Jayson Megna, but we all know you were thinking it.

That being said, despite Desjardins’ many flaws as a coach, he has done a lot of good for the Vancouver Canucks organization. Players like Bo Horvat, Sven Baertschi, and Troy Stecher have blossomed under his tutelage, and his reported knack for developing youth seems to have been accurate. The Canucks will want to carefully select his replacement so that the accomplishments Desjardins has made with certain players isn’t interrupted. With that in mind, here are eight candidates to take his job.

 

Travis Green- The conventional choice. Green has been helming the Utica Comets for four seasons after a brief apprenticeship with the Portland Winterhawks. Green has made the playoffs in three of four seasons with the Comets, despite the Canucks not providing him with a ton of talent. His tenure includes a run to the Calder Cup Finals in 2015. At one point, he seemed like the de facto replacement for Desjardins, but a slow start this season changed that for some. Now, with a late season rebound for the Comets, he’s back on the radar. Green has a knack for bringing a team together, as evidenced by the performance of the Comets this season despite a roster that was constantly in flux. A player’s coach, Green allows players to play their games rather than trying to fit everyone into the same system, which is a sharp contrast from Desjardins. Expect a more physical team with Green at the helm, too. That being said, Green’s style of play isn’t entirely dissimilar to Desjardins’, and the Comets have never been an offensive powerhouse under him.

 

Marc Crawford- Crawford brings with him a lot of nostalgia, but there’s more to him than that. Crawford has greatly matured as a coach, and he spent four years in Switzerland refining his technique. He’s a lot calmer now than Canucks fans will remember. A few NHL teams pursued Crawford this past summer, but he elected to join Guy Boucher in Ottawa, where the two have the Senators playing far above expectations. It’s unknown how much impact Crawford’s coaching had on the development of Auston Matthews, but Matthews’ performance in the NHL this season certainly doesn’t speak ill of Crawford’s ability to develop young players. Crawford has always been an offensive coach, which could be exactly what the stagnant Canuck offense needs.

 

John Stevens- Stevens was a highly-sought after coach the last time the Canucks were looking, and he remains a top coaching prospect. He has head coaching experience, but lately has gained a reputation as an excellent assistant. He’s currently helping out in Los Angeles, which may actually make hiring him impossible. Darryl Sutter is nearing retirement, and the Kings have already announced Stevens as his heir apparent. There’s little reason for Stevens to leave an organization that is sure to give him a shot in a year or two. Stevens is big on professionalism, and has a great track record developing young players in Philadelphia and LA, so it’s too bad he’s likely not available.

 

Gerard Gallant- Gallant was the sacrificial lamb when the Florida Panthers struggled early this season, but it sure looks like he wasn’t the problem. The Panthers has since completely tanked right out of playoff contention, and their mishandling of Gallant’s firing was just one of many PR blunders they pulled this year. For his part, it seems like Gallant did an excellent job developing the many young and talented forwards in the Panthers stable, while still managing some major veteran egos like Jaromir Jagr’s. That might make him a perfect fit for a team still carrying the Sedin twins, but trying to integrate more and more youth. Perhaps Gallant could help make Olli Juolevi’s entry into the league as successful as Aaron Ekblad’s, who hasn’t looked the same without Gallant behind the bench.

 

Paul MacLean- MacLean was once described as a “bug-eyed walrus” by former Canuck Brandon Prust. His mustache alone is a good reason to hire him, but he brings an impressive resume, too. MacLean is an offensive coach, although his teams sometimes have defensive struggles. Several young players blossomed under his tutelage in Ottawa, including Kyle Turris, Mark Stone and Mika Zibanejad. MacLean has been criticized for a lack of communication with his team, which is definitely a strike against him. He’s currently an assistant in Anaheim, a team that is finding success yet again this season.

 

Kevin Dineen- Dineen probably has the most colourful resume of any coach on this list.  The longtime NHL veteran has been a head coach in Florida, as well as the head coach for the Canadian National Women’s Team. He’s currently an assistant in Chicago, where they just clinched yet another division title. Dineen has been praised for his intelligent decision making, and his experience as a player has made him an excellent motivator. Dineen was tough as nails when he played, so expect his teams to play that way, too, if he ever gets another head coaching shot.

 

Ken Hitchcock- Hitchcock likely wants nothing to do with the Canucks, and truthfully, the reverse should be true, as well. Hitchcock planned to retire after one more season with the St. Louis Blues, but they couldn’t wait and fired him mid-season. The legendary coach has always been big on stingy defense, and the Canucks don’t need someone who will come in and stifle the offense of young talents like Bo Horvat, Sven Baertschi, and Brock Boeser. If Hitchcock signs anywhere else, he’ll be looking for a Cup, and the Canucks aren’t anywhere close to that yet.

 

Brad Berry- Berry is one of the least-known coaches on the market, but he’s got some intriguing connections to Vancouver and his name has been dropped by a few respected media types. Berry is currently the head coach for North Dakota in the NCAA, meaning he coached Brock Boeser this past season. He was an assistant there for a number of years prior, and thus was around for Boeser and Troy Stecher’s NCAA championship in 2016. Berry also worked as an assistant coach for the Manitoba Moose back when they were the Canucks’ affiliate. He’s a former NHL defenseman and has a rep for developing young d-men, including Alex Edler back in the Moose days. That might be perfect for a team adding Olli Juolevi to an already young defensive core.