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.
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.
RETIRED UNTIL START OF NEXT SEASON.
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!