Jim Benning’s Retroactive Report Card: Year One

With the insanity of another Entry Draft and Free Agent Frenzy in the rearview mirror, we are again reminded of the media’s proclivity to rate teams as “winners” and “losers” before any of their recent acquisitions have actually hit the ice. As fans of the Vancouver Canucks, we’re all pretty familiar with being on the “loser” side of that prognosticating, especially since the media appears to have a fascination with belittling Jim Benning. Canuck fans must bear the slings and arrows of hockey “luminaries” like Jeff O’Neill, who proclaims the Canucks as “losers” because he doesn’t understand what they’re doing, despite a lack of evidence that Jeff O’Neill has understood anything, ever.

However, more seasoned hockey fans realize that drafts, free agency, and trading are not the sort of things that can be judged instantaneously. We must wait a number of years before actually determining whether a GM’s roster movements were positive or negative. Three years seems like the bare minimum waiting period before serious assessment can begin and, coincidentally enough, that’s exactly how long Jim Benning has now been on the job.

We’ll be taking a look at Benning’s first offseason as GM of the Vancouver Canucks, and trying to assess how well his various moves worked out, with the benefit of three years’ hindsight. The picks, signings, and trades will be graded based on how they turned out relative to expectations. For simplicity’s sake, I’m going to ignore purely AHL moves, like the signing of Cal O’Reilly or the trade of Kellan Lain for Will Acton.

 

At The Draft:

In Jim Benning’s first draft with the Vancouver Canucks, the franchise selected seven players.

Jake Virtanen, RW, 6th Overall

Grade: C-

Virtanen still has a few more chances to burn before he is considered a total bust, but early returns are not exactly promising. Virtanen’s accomplishments are especially suspect when compared to those drafted shortly after him, like William Nylander and Nikolaj Ehlers.

 

Jared McCann, C, 24th Overall

Grade: B+

McCann isn’t an absolute steal at 24th Overall, but anytime a player can step into the league shortly after being drafted late in the First Round, it has to be considered a win. McCann might be playing for a different organization now, but it looks like he’ll be an NHL player for a long time.

 

Thatcher Demko, G, 36th Overall

Grade: A

Goalies progress slower than other prospects, so it’s hard to call the drafting of Demko a total success yet, but the early indicators are that he will be very, very good. Demko is considered one of the top goaltending prospects in the world.

 

Nikita Tryamkin, D, 66th Overall

Grade: A+

Russian defections aside, Tryamkin has already demonstrated the ability to play top-four defense at the NHL level, and he brings some truly unique physical attributes. That’s quite a valuable player to pick up with a 3rd Round Pick.

 

Gustav Forsling, D, 126th Overall

Grade: A+

Forsling is already a solid, if unspectacular, NHL defender. Unfortunately, he’s doing that defending for the Chicago Blackhawks, but that doesn’t change the fact that he represents excellent value for a 5th Round Pick.

 

Kyle Pettit, C, 156th Overall

Grade: F

It looks as though Pettit isn’t even going to earn an AHL contract, making him an outright bust. That’s not unexpected with a 6th Round Pick, but he’s still this draft’s biggest failure.

 

Mackenze Stewart, 186th Overall

Grade: D

Stewart at least signed an NHL contract and spent some time in the AHL, which is more than plenty of 7th Round Picks can say. However, that signing does seem to be a case of Benning being overly generous, so it’s hard to call this a good pick.

 

At Free Agency:

Signed Ryan Miller, G, to 3-Yr Contract @ $6mil cap hit-

Grade: B

Miller’s contract was a fair one, which isn’t always true for UFA deals. Miller was paid exactly what he should have been as a mid-calibre starting goaltender, and he played that role consistently in his three years with Vancouver. Miller gave some terrible teams more of a chance to win than they deserved, and was a good signing.

 

Signed Radim Vrbata, RW, to 2-Yr Contract @ $5 mil cap hit

Grade: B+

If this signing were graded after only one year, it would be an easy A+. However, Vrbata’s excellent first season with the Canucks was followed by a disappointing poutfest. Still, signing a top-flight UFA for only two years, and having one of those years turn out to be fantastic value, is a better result than most GMs get on July 1st.

 

Trading:

Traded Jason Garrison, D, and Jeff Costello, F, to Tampa Bay for 2nd Round Pick in 2014

Grade: B

Time has shown that Jason Garrison’s contract was not a great one, with Tampa Bay having to pay Vegas to take it during this year’s expansion draft. Therefore, getting a 2nd Round Pick in return for Garrison wasn’t a bad deal at all, even if it seemed a bit cheap given his performance level at the time.

 

Traded 2014 3rd Round Pick to New York Rangers for Derek Dorsett, RW

Grade: C

Dorsett has never performed as anything more than a fourth liner for the Canucks, which means that a 3rd Round Pick is a little rich for his acquisition. However, Dorsett has also been a valuable character asset that has been a big part of the team culture for the past three years. Without his contract extension, which would come later, Dorsett was an ideal fourth line presence.

 

Traded Ryan Kesler, C, and a 3rd Round Pick in 2015 to the Anaheim Ducks for Luca Sbisa, D, Nick Bonino, C, and 1st and 3rd Round Picks in 2014-

Grade: C+

The context is important in this one. Benning was put into an extremely tight spot by Kesler’s incredibly specific trade demands, so getting any sort of value out of this trade was a win. Sbisa was not a great asset despite some okay performances, but Bonino sure was. Unfortunately for the Canucks, Bonino’s best years would come as a Penguin. The addition of a 1st Round Pick makes this trade more even, but Kesler remains an elite talent in the league, and it would have been nice for the Canucks to cash in more on him.

 

Traded a 2nd Round Pick in 2014 to Los Angeles for Linden Vey, C-

Grade: D

Taking a gamble on Vey was a reasonable move, given his AHL success and history with Willie Desjardins. Unfortunately, that gamble did not pay off, and Vey doesn’t look like a player with a future in the NHL. He definitely wasn’t worth a 2nd Round Pick, especially given Benning’s talents at the draft table.

 

Traded Alexandre Mallet, C, and a 3rd Round Pick in 2016 to New York Islanders for Andrey Pedan, D

Grade: C

Mallet was a complete bust, but a 3rd Round Pick in 2016 was a considerable price to pay for someone in Pedan who has yet to crack the NHL. Pedan has shown glimpses of potential, and remains a valuable AHL asset, but the Canucks probably would have been better off with the draft pick.

 

 

Overall Grade: B

Excellent drafting, minus the first pick, and great value free agent signings help boost Benning’s grade against mostly mediocre trades. Not a bad first year for a team looking to add youth and restock barren prospect cupboards.

Vancouver Canucks 2017 Entry Draft Preview

Disclaimer:

I am not a scout, nor am I a hockey professional in any way. I watch a lot of NHL hockey, and some AHL, but very little of any level below that. At most, I’ve seen these players play the odd game on Sportsnet. Almost all of my knowledge regarding the following players comes solely from the opinions of others, along with some highlight packages and things like that.

 

The Picks: 

(First Round is Friday, June 23rd. The rest are Saturday, June 24th)

First Round, 5th Overall

Second Round, 33rd Overall

Second Round, 55th Overall (from Columbus for John Tortorella, lol)

Third Round,  64th Overall

Fourth Round, 95th Overall

Fourth Round, 112th Overall (from San Jose for Jannik Hansen)

(Fifth Round Pick traded for Philip Larsen)

(Sixth Round Pick traded with Nicklas Jensen for Emerson Etem)

Seventh Round, 188th Overall

 

Top Nine @ 5OA:

Gabe Vilardi, C, Windsor Spitfires, OHL

Bob McKenzie’s Rank- 5

The Hockey News’ Rank- 3

The Good- Possession is the hottest word in hockey, and Vilardi’s got his possession game locked down. Vilardi uses his size and puck-handling abilities to control the play for his team, ensuring that they spend plenty of time on offense to help pad his impressive totals. Described as a player with great awareness and “hockey sense.” Was a major part of the Spitfires’ Memorial Cup win. 

The Bad- Vilardi’s skating has been questioned by most scouts. That’s something the Canucks have heard before, and sometimes it works out great, like with Bo Horvat. Other times, it’s not so great, like with Cody “Anakin Skywalker” Hodgson.

The Nickname Potential- “Chef Vilardi”

 

Miro Heiskanen, D, HIFK, Finnish Elite League

Bob McKenzie’s Rank- 3

The Hockey News’ Rank- 6

The Good- Heiskanen was a big climber in the rankings over the year, and seems to have claimed the spot as top defenseman. Heiskanen is an all-around defender who hasn’t looked out of place at either end of the ice playing against men in Finland. A true two-way defender.

The Bad- Heiskanen’s point totals aren’t anything to write home about, which suggests he’s probably not going to be a big scorer at the NHL level. Was part of an awful Finnish squad at the World Juniors.

The Nickname Potential- “The Kanen,” if he works on his shot.

 

Cody Glass, C, Portland Winterhawks, WHL

Bob McKenzie’s Rank- 8

The Hockey News’ Rank- 10

The Good- Glass is a skilled and smart player with no glaring deficiencies in his game. He scored at a tremendous pace for the Winterhawks, and he’s got a large frame that he should be able to fill out. He’s been compared to centers like Mark Scheifele and Ryan Johansen for his blend of size and ability, and some consider him nearly on par with Nolan Patrick.

The Bad- Projections for Glass are all over the board, and that’s likely because his development isn’t quite as far along as many of his draftmates. Glass has only played two years in the WHL, so teams will be drafting him based on projected development and potential, which isn’t an exact science.

The Nickname Potential- “Not Tanner”

 

Casey Mittelstadt, C, Eden Prairie, US High School/Green Bay, USHL

Bob McKenzie’s Rank- 6

The Hockey News’ Rank- 4

The Good- Mittelstadt has incredible puck-handling abilities, and is described as having an uncanny vision in the offensive zone. He’s already physically developed, at over 200 pounds, and uses his size to bring the puck into difficult areas on the ice.

The Bad- Mittelstadt has thus far played his hockey in relatively inferior leagues, which means that his development is still quite raw. His skating isn’t a strong point, so he’ll have a doubly difficult time adjusting to the higher levels of play.

The Nickname Potential- “Casey in the Mittel” or “Mittens”

 

Cale Makar, D, Brooks Bandits, AJHL

Bob McKenzie’s Rank- 4

The Hockey News’ Rank- 5

The Good- He’s been compared to Erik Karlsson, so he’s got that going for him. Makar is the most skilled defenseman in the draft, and he’s dominant and dynamic on the point. Makar’s skating ability allows him to control the play.

The Bad- Makar is small, and although that isn’t necessarily a hindrance, it will make the defensive game more difficult for him at the professional level. As well, Makar spent the year in the AJHL, a Jr. A circuit that is a step below the BCHL in terms of quality. That makes his developmental potential a bit of a question mark.

The Nickname Potential- “Dude, Where’s Makar?” or, for the older crowd, “Baby, You Can Drive Makar.”

 

Timothy Liljegren, D, Rogle, Sweden Elitserien

Bob McKenzie’s Rank- 16

The Hockey News’ Rank- 15

The Good- Liljegren started the season as a challenger for First Overall, but he dropped steadily in the rankings as the campaign wore on. However, he also started the year suffering a bout with mono, so perhaps his poor performance is explainable. Liljegren is a slick and talented defender with pro experience, and all of his ability didn’t just disappear overnight.

The Bad- All that being said, Liljegren did slide way down the draft rankings, and that traditionally isn’t a good sign. He’s described as defensively questionable, but he also played on a terrible team. Scouts obviously see something in Liljegren’s game they don’t like, and it’s never a good thing if a player’s progress plateaus before they’re drafted.

The Nickname Potential- “Lil’ Tim”

 

Elias Pettersson, C, Timra, Swedish Allsvenskan

Bob McKenzie’s Rank- 7

The Hockey News’ Rank- 10

The Good- The dirtiest dangles this side of Datsyuk. Pettersson is a visionary player that seems to see the play a few steps ahead of other players. He consistently drives offense for his team, and  he has pre-established chemistry with recent acquisition Jonathan Dahlen, too, which is a nice bonus.

The Bad- Pettersson isn’t as physically developed as several of the other prospects. He’s 6’2”, but only about 160 pounds, meaning he has a lot of work to do before handling the rigors of the NHL. Some scouts wonder if he has the fortitude to make skilled plays against tougher competition.

The Nickname Potential- “Don’t Call Me Barry” or “Heavy Petter”

 

Owen Tippett, RW, Mississauga Steelheads, OHL

Bob McKenzie’s Rank- 10

The Hockey News’ Rank- 7

The Good- Tippett is a goal-scoring machine, putting up 0.75 goals per game in only his second OHL season. His shot is his best weapon, and he’s skilled at getting into the high percentage shooting areas and letting it rip.

The Bad- Like many snipers, there are questions about Tippett’s work ethic and defensive abilities. Some question how often he’ll be able to get himself into a scoring position against a higher calibre of defense. He’s also a right-winger, which is a position the Canucks are unlikely to target.

The Nickname Potential- “Tipper,” “Tipsy,” or “The Tipster.” All boring, do no draft.

 

Martin Necas, C, Brno, Czech League

Bob McKenzie’s Rank- 11

The Hockey News’ Rank- 12

The Good- Necas is a highly skilled centerman who showed well for the Czechs at the World Juniors despite playing on a weak squad. Necas is a two-way defender and often sacrifices offense for defense, especially this year, when he went straight from midget hockey into the top Czech League.

The Bad- Necas is slight, but could probably grow into it. He’s also fairly inconsistent, and although he was playing against men in the Czech Republic, he did only put up 15 points. The Czech League is one of the weakest ones around, and thus the quality of competition Necas has faced is low.

The Nickname Potential- “Nechazzy.” (It’s pronounced Neh-chass).

 

My Personal Ranking Of Those Nine:

1) Gabe Vilardi

2) Elias Pettersson

3) Miro Heiskanen

4) Cody Glass

5) Casey Mittelstadt

6) Cale Makar

7) Timothy Liljegren

8) Owen Tippett

9) Martin Necas

 

An Assortment Of Nine @ 33OA

To list all of the potential second rounders the Canucks might draft on June 24th would be a difficult task. It’s hard enough to predict who will be available at number five, never mind figuring out the 33rd pick! This is just an informal collection of names that have jumped out at me and have been available at or near pick 33 in various mock drafts. It is by no means a complete list.

Pierre-Olivier Joseph, D, Charlottetown, QMJHL:

Brother of WJC member Mathieu Joseph. P-O is a puck moving defenseman who is no slouch on the defensive side. Needs lots of physical development.

 

Jaret Anderson-Dolan, C, Spokane, WHL:

Anderson-Dolan was the captain for Canada at the Under-18s, but he was also held pointless. He’s small, but skilled, and his point totals skyrocketed for Spokane this year.

 

Isaac Ratcliffe, LW, Guelph, OHL:

Ratcliffe is a ginormous 6’5”, and thus has power forward potential. Still quite raw and undeveloped, but you can’t teach size, and Ratcliffe has shown glimpses of greater offensive abilities.

 

Henri Jokiharju, D, Portland, WHL:

Jokiharju is slight for a defenseman, but he plays smart, skates well, and gets the puck to where it needs to be. He had a poor playoff performance, but looked great for most of the regular season.

 

Urho Vaakanainen, D, JYP, Finland:

Vaakanainen sports one heck of a name, and the Canucks have had luck with Finns lately. Vaakanainen hasn’t shown much offense anywhere except for the Under-18s, where he surprisingly put up over a point-per-game. He is a supremely smooth skater.

 

Jason Robertson, RW, Kingston, OHL:

Robertson has some of the skills of a power forward, but his skating isn’t where it needs to be to play that game. He’s a deadly sniper at the Junior level, but some question if he can play that game at a higher level.

 

Shane Bowers, C, Waterloo, USHL:

Bowers is one of those “safe picks,” with a rock-solid defensive game and enough offensive ability to pretty much guarantee him an NHL job. Probably a checking-line player at his best, however.

 

Maxime Comtois, LW, Victoriaville, QMJHL:

Comtois is a weird case, in that his production actually went down this year after a breakout rookie campaign. Comtois was given more responsibility this year, and failed to live up to it. He does have a reputedly solid defensive game, especially for a scoring winger.

 

Grant Mismash, C, US National Team Development Program:

Mostly, I just love this player’s name. However, Mismash was also a big part of the US Gold winning team at the Under-18s, and he plays a well-rounded offensive game that should translate to the pros.

 

Top Five Canucks Most Likely To Be Traded At The Draft-

1) Draft Picks- If the Canucks do want to move up at the Draft, the traditional way to do that is with various combinations of draft picks. With two second round picks, the Canucks have plenty of flexibility, and may jump at the chance to move up and grab a player they really like. The cost to move from 5OA into the top three might not be as large as it would have been in previous years.

2) Chris Tanev- The obvious candidate, as he may hold the most trade value on the entire team aside from Bo Horvat and Brock Boeser. Tanev’s age puts him just out of synch with the youth movement, and if placed on the trading block, he’d quickly become one of the most sought after commodities as a right-side, shutdown defender. A trade for Tanev is far more likely at the Entry Draft than it is before the Expansion Draft, as teams would not have to worry about protection slots anymore. However, the Canucks don’t have to trade Tanev at all, so other teams will need to offer something really astonishing to get Jim Benning to budge.

3) The Rights To Ryan Miller- The goalie market is starting to heat up, and it’s conceivable that there could be multiple suitors for Ryan Miller, and perhaps even multiple suitors in the state of California. With the league suddenly short three or more goalies post-Expansion Draft, it’s entirely possible that a team flips the Canucks a low draft pick in order to lock Miller up before the Free Agent Frenzy.

4) Luca Sbisa- Many expect Sbisa to be taken in the Expansion Draft, but if he isn’t, he might still be dealt. There will be a dearth of D-men in the league after Vegas culls their own defensive core from the herd, and with only one year remaining on his contract, Sbisa might finally be an attractive asset. If the Canucks hang on to both Tanev and Alex Edler, they might want to unload Sbisa in order to free up some space for Olli Juolevi, Philip Holm, or Jordan Subban.

5) Alex Edler- Edler, at 31, is the most logical piece for the Canucks to trade. He’s still productive, but probably not for much longer, and his value has definitely peaked. Edler also has a reasonable contract that would be attractive to multiple teams, but unfortunately that’s also the reason he most likely won’t be traded. Edler has a no-trade clause, and has stated his unwillingness to waive it in the past, as he loves the city of Vancouver. Perhaps his time playing with John Klingberg at the World Championships will entice him to take his talents to Texas?

How the Vancouver Canucks Can Quickly Recover From the Expansion Draft Via Free Agency

The offseason is soon completely upon us, and this year promises to be the most entertaining in a while. The NHL is expanding for the first time in nearly two decades, and the pending Expansion Draft will no doubt complicate the offseason roster plans for most NHL teams.

The Vancouver Canucks, however, stand to lose relatively little via Expansion, and they will also have the opportunity to make up for whatever loss they incur almost immediately via free agency.

 

Who Will The Canucks Lose?: The Canucks are probably going to lose one of either Luca Sbisa, Brendan Gaunce, or Reid Boucher. Of the three, Sbisa is probably the most effective player, but he is expensive and Vegas stands to have better options than him available at D. Gaunce has the most potential, but has shown himself to be an offensive black hole at the NHL level. Boucher is probably the best combination of current skill and potential, and is my personal bet to be selected. Other possibilities include Michael Chaput, Alex Biega, Jayson Megna, and Andrey Pedan.

 

What Will They Need Going Into Free Agency?: To replace the player selected in the Expansion Draft, the Canucks are going to need some added depth. This is especially true if Sbisa is selected, as the defense will have lost Sbisa, Nikita Tryamkin, and Philip Larsen in the same offseason (Although the signing of Philip Holm will help). If one of the forwards is selected, however, forward depth will be important, too, and a focus on depth centers is probably a good strategy heading into free agency, as center depth is always valuable.

The Canucks, looking at another potential lottery season, should focus on those free agents that are willing to sign for relatively cheap and, preferably, for only one year. This would allow the Canucks to sell some pieces at the deadline to accrue more draft picks. If any of these signings have playoff experience, that’s an added bonus.

 

Potential Depth Center/Forward Signings:

Andrew Desjardins, C- Desjardins offensive production has fallen off a cliff, with only one point in 46 games last season. That being said, Desjardins has a ton of experience, is only 30 years old, and is only two seasons removed from his turn as a Cup-winning fourth line center. Desjardins would likely be a deadline commodity.

Vern Fiddler, C- Fiddler is 37 years old, and was almost kept off the list because of it, but his trade deadline acquisition and run to the Finals with Nashville proves he is still a valuable NHL commodity. Fiddler could help mentor young forwards, and would likely be of interest to a contender at the deadline. Plus, his Kevin Bieksa impressions would endear him to fans instantly.

Stanislav Galiev, LW- Galiev is an odd case. He’s a group VI unrestricted free agent, meaning he’s hitting the open market at the unusually young age of 25. He’s torn up the AHL, but Washington’s depth has resulted in limited NHL opportunities. If Galiev is looking for a better opportunity in the big leagues, he’d make an excellent replacement for Boucher or Gaunce.

Dwight King, LW- King is only 27 years old, but he has an abundance of playoff experience with the LA Kings. His performance in Montreal was disappointing, but that’s true of countless Habs. If King could be signed at a bargain price, he’d be an excellent addition to any forward corps, and his experience would make him a definite target at the deadline.

Jay McClement, C- McClement, at 34, is getting up there in age, but he’s still able to maintain his position as an incredibly solid fourth-line center. He’s been toiling away in relative obscurity for the Hurricanes recently, and it’s a bit surprising he wasn’t dealt at the deadline this year. McClement is great on the defensive side of the puck, but offers little offense.

Nate Thompson, C- Thompson, 32, has been quite injury prone of late, but other than that he’s an ideal depth center. Thompson can play up and down the lineup, and he chips in plenty of offense for his role. Thompson’s great performance in the playoffs this year may result in a team overpaying him, however.

Chris Thorburn, RW- That Thorburn is the longest-tenured Winnipeg Jet says a lot about his versatility. Thorburn can play all forward positions, and he brings a large amount of toughness and grit to the lineup. At 34, his offense has dried up, but he’s the type of player that can make the game easier for his teammates just by being out there. A likely target for playoff bound teams at the deadline.

Scottie Upshall, LW- Upshall has been hanging around the NHL for over a decade and he’s remained relatively consistent throughout. At 33, Upshall has no room for improvement, but he’s a reliable depth scorer who can play on any line when called upon. Has a reputation of being a great teammate.

Ryan White, C- White, a 29 year old scrappy centerman, seems to be quite underrated. He played an important role in both Arizona and Minnesota this year, and even suited up in the playoffs for the Wild. He can play defensively, defend his teammates, and even chip in a bit of offense. Not a bad deadline target for any team.

Tommy Wingels, C- In addition to having one of the funnest names in the NHL, the 29 year old Wingels is a really versatile player. He can play any forward position and serve in multiple roles, although he’s best as a depth forward providing energy. His offense is nowhere near what it used to be, but he was still sought out by Ottawa to complement their roster this season.

Daniel Winnik, C- Winnik has an established history of garnering big returns at the trade deadline, having been traded for high picks on multiple occasions. He had a great regular season for Washington, notching 25 points, but disappeared in the playoffs, which may drive his price tag down a bit. At only 32, Winnik has a few good years left in him.

 

Potential Depth Defenseman Signings:

Yohann Auvitu- Auvitu was a darkhorse to ever play in the NHL, but he surprised by playing some competent minutes for a dreadful New Jersey team this year. His real coming-out party was at the World Championships, however, where Auvitu starred for an impressive Team France, hinting at some untapped potential at age 27.

Deryk Engelland- Engelland has spent the past few seasons being grossly overpaid by the Calgary Flames, but that could mean he is willing to sign for cheap to stay in Western Canada. He’s 35, and his best days are behind him, but he is one of the toughest d-men in the league and could replace some of the snarl of Sbisa and Tryamkin.

Cody Franson- The Sicamous-born D-man is not too far removed from some excellent seasons in Toronto, but his stints in Nashville and Buffalo were nowhere near as successful. At 29, Franson has definitely peaked, but he still provides a decent amount of offense and some competent defensive play. Most importantly, he likely has an interest in coming home to BC.

Eric Gryba- Gryba is a rough-and-tumble defenseman who performed well in limited showings for the Oilers this year. At only 29, Gryba has plenty of miles left on him, and he makes for a cheap Sbisa replacement if Sbisa goes to Vegas. Expect hitting, not offense, from Gryba.

Roman Polak- Polak is only 31 years old, and most would have probably pegged him as being much older. Polak’s style of game has worn his body down immensely, and his horrific injury in the playoffs probably won’t help his speed any. Still, Polak is a reliable veteran who is always in demand at the trade deadline, and the Canucks could do worse when looking for a Sbisa replacement.

Paul Postma- Hey-ey, wait a minute, Mr. Postma! Beatles references aside, the 28 year old defender has been held up by the defensive depth of the Jets, but still managed to put up 14 points in 65 games this year. Now a full-time NHLer, Postma might be looking for a home with a more definitive opportunity next year.

 

Potential Non-Tenders to Watch Out For:

“Non-tenders” are players who are technically Restricted Free Agents, but who might not be qualified by their teams and will thus become free agents. These would mostly be “reclamation projects,” but Jim Benning has shown an aptitude for such things in the past.

Nail Yakupov, RW- Yakupov is one of the most high-profile busts in recent memory, but the skill that made him a first overall pick hasn’t gone away. Yakupov will be a low-risk, high-reward sort of signing. Why not give him a shot?

Mikhail Grigorenko, C- Grigorenko was once highly-touted, but he’s failed to do much at the NHL level in either Buffalo or Colorado. Still, he was a part of some really weak teams, so the 23 year old might still find success with a new franchise. Grigorenko is weak defensively, but perhaps Travis Green could shore that up.

Eric Gelinas. D- Gelinas, 26, had a dreadful season, but he was playing for the worst team in hockey. He’s shown more potential in the past while a New Jersey Devil, so perhaps he can turn it on again in a city where Gelinas’ have been successful before.

Joe Morrow, D- Morrow is only 24, despite seemingly being “on the cusp” forever. He’s been a part of three organizations already, and has failed to make a significant impact on any of them. That being said, his last four seasons were in the Bruins organization, which has a large amount of defensive depth. There’s still potential there waiting to be uncovered.

Determining The Summer Trade Market For Chris Tanev

Everyone now finally agrees that the Vancouver Canucks are rebuilding. While many fans were wise enough to recognize the moves that Jim Benning was making to strengthen the team’s youth core, others refused to believe that the team was moving in a new direction until Trevor Linden actually used the word “rebuild.” Now that he has, and everyone’s on board, it is time to start looking at possible moves to bolster the process.

Most Canuck fans and pundits have identified Chris Tanev as the number one candidate to be traded this offseason. Hardly anyone wants to see Tanev go, but his age of 27 and cheap contract makes him far more attractive to a competitive squad than it does to a retooling team. Tanev might just hold the greatest trade value of anyone in the Canucks organization, and he certainly does once one removes the “untouchables” like Bo Horvat and Brock Boeser from the equation.

If Tanev does end up traded this offseason, there are three time periods in which the trade will occur. It will either happen before the Expansion Draft, between that and the Entry Draft, or during the Free Agency period. This article is going to look at the first two time periods, and how the unique circumstances of this particular offseason might affect the market value of Tanev. The Free Agency period can be ignored for the time being, as Tanev’s No-Trade Clause will have kicked in by then, which drastically changes the situation. The two factors that must be looked at closely are Expansion protection slots and a need for right-handed defensemen.

 

Who Needs A Right-Handed Defenseman?

Chris Tanev plays his best hockey on the right side, which is good news for the Canucks. Traditionally, skilled right-side defensemen are one of the rarest commodities in the NHL, which ensures that there are always a multitude of teams searching for one.

This offseason should be no different in that regard, except for the presence of the Expansion Draft, which will be discussed below. In the meantime, a quick look at NHL depth charts will show us which NHL teams most desperately need a d-man of Tanev’s calibre on their right side.

 

Arizona- Arizona might just have the weakest right-side defense in the league, with Conor Murphy the only player of note. Tanev would mesh well with any of Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Alex Goligosi, or Jakob Chychrun.

Boston- Boston has two great young RHD in Brandon Carlo and Charlie McAvoy, but having someone like Tanev around to eat up minutes while they develop wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world. He would also help their chances of contending while the current core is still around.

Buffalo- Buffalo has a young stud in Rasmus Ristolainen on the right-side, but he needs more help. Ideally, they’d want a LHD to pair with him, but they’d probably settle for another RHD like Tanev who could help take on some tougher minutes, allowing Ristolainen to play in more offensive situations.

Calgary- Calgary fans often tout their strong defensive core, but it’s not all that great on paper. Dougie Hamilton is a strong RHD, but after him it’s pretty sparse. However, the chances of trading Tanev within the division are probably slim, and even slimmer in Alberta.

 Colorado- Colorado needs help just about everywhere on their roster, but their right-side defense is actually pretty solid. They have Tyson Barrie and Erik Johnson there, but with rumours abound that Barrie will be moved, they might have a gaping hole there very soon. Tanev would become far and away their best defenseman.

Dallas- The Stars’ biggest problems are on defense, but of the two sides they are definitely deeper on the right. They have John Klingberg, Stephen Johns, and Julius Honka on the right versus Dan Hamhuis and Esa Lindell on the left. They would likely prefer a LHD.

Detroit- The once-mighty Detroit defense is now a tire fire. There’s little strength on either side of the ice, and Tanev would instantly become the team’s strongest defenseman. The best player Detroit has on the right side is Mike Green, and he’s not what he used to be.

 Edmonton- Edmonton’s defense has come a long way, but they still need some help. They now have Adam Larsson on the right side, but he and Tanev could form a potent one-two punch in that area. Again, however, it’s very unlikely that Tanev is traded to Alberta.

 Los Angeles- The Canucks probably aren’t looking to trade Tanev within the division, but if they do, LA looks like an okay option. They are stacked on the left with Alec Martinez, Jake Muzzin, and Brayden McNabb, but it’s pretty much just Drew Doughty on the right. That being said, Doughty plays about half of each game, so the need for Tanev is questionable.

 New Jersey- The Devils have competency on the right side, with Damon Severson and Ben Lovejoy, but neither of those guys are top-pairing material. Tanev would be, and he’d allow for some of the high-flying offensive players to focus more on the other end of the ice.

New York Rangers- The Rangers have a decent defense, but their right side needs a lot of work. Unfortunately, the team has a lot of salary tied up on the backend, and contracts like Dan Girardi and Marc Staal will be very difficult to move. The Rangers would love Tanev, but it’s questionable that they could pull off a trade for him.

 Tampa Bay- Tampa Bay has a definite need on the right side, although the already have a Tanev-type there in Anton Stralman. Tanev would still be a welcome addition, but Stralman’s presence and the Lightning’s salary cap woes likely means that the money would be better spent elsewhere.

 Toronto- Toronto appears to be the prime destination for Tanev. They have plenty of assets to spend, and a glaring need at RHD for a partner for Morgan Rielly. Even better, Rielly and Tanev have shown chemistry at the World Hockey Championships. Tanev would take a ton of pressure off of Rielly and Nikita Zaitsev, and would make the Leafs an instant contender.

 Vegas- People keep forgetting about Vegas as a potential trade destination for Tanev. They have literally no organizational depth at this point, but that also means they have little in the way of assets to trade. A player like Tanev would provide an invaluable steadying presence for the new franchise, but they’d likely need to give up their first for him.

 

Expansion Draft Protection Slots:

In many ways, the Expansion Draft has greatly lessened the normally lucrative market for defenseman, even for highly-coveted right-handers like Tanev. The reason for this is that teams are only allowed to protect three defensemen from the Expansion Draft, unless they want to sacrifice multiple forward protection slots to protect more D-men. That means that most teams are currently unable to trade for a defenseman without having to sacrifice a different d-man to Vegas.

While this limited market may make it seem prudent to wait until after the Expansion Draft to trade Tanev, there are a few reasons why that might not be the case. The first is the short timeframe between the Expansion and Entry Drafts, with only four days between the events. That might not be enough time to get a deal done. As well, teams that do have protection slots available might be willing to pony up now in order to beat the rest of the market on acquiring Tanev, along with avoiding “wasting” a slot on a player Vegas would never consider taking. The following teams fit into both the above category of needing a RHD, and the category of having protection slots to spare.

 

Arizona- Arizona is in excellent shape going into the Expansion Draft. They have barely any forwards worthy of protection, and so they could easily trade for Tanev and still protect Ekman-Larsson, Goligoski, and Murphy.

Boston- Acquiring Tanev would force the Bruins to expose Kevan and Colin Miller, but that’s probably an acceptable loss to acquire a player of Tanev’s calibre.

Buffalo- Buffalo would have to get creative to fit Tanev in before Expansion, but it could be done. They’d likely protect four D and four forwards, leaving Tyler Ennis and Zemgus Girgensons available.

Detroit- Detroit has some young defensemen it probably doesn’t want to expose, like Xavier Ouellet and Nick Jensen, but they could probably deal with it if it meant acquiring Tanev.

New Jersey- New Jersey has few forwards worth protecting, and they may go the 4 F, 4 D route even without Tanev. This would have them protecting Lovejoy, Severson, Andy Greene, and Jon Merrill, but they could easily expose Merrill if Tanev was brought in.

Tampa Bay- Tampa Bay will be using all of their expansion slots at forward, but on defense it’s another matter. Stralman and Victor Hedman will undoubtedly be protected, and there are a few candidates to take the third spot. None of those candidates, however, are anywhere near as valuable as Tanev.

Toronto- Right now, Connor Carrick will be the third defenseman protected by Toronto. Not to disparage Carrick, but we’re pretty sure Toronto would be perfectly fine letting him go if it meant they got Tanev to pair with Rielly. It’s not even that likely that Carrick would be selected by Vegas.

Vegas- Vegas is the one team that doesn’t have to worry about losing anyone in the Expansion Draft, so they could definitely swing a trade for Tanev before it happens. Unfortunately, that means that the only assets they’d have available would be draft picks, and it’s unlikely they’d give up the first pick in franchise history for Tanev. It’s also questionable whether Benning would accept something like a 2018 First Rounder in the deal, although that could be a really high pick.

 

Conclusion: I think that Chris Tanev should be on the table at this point, and that Jim Benning should be setting his price with various teams already. If one of the teams that has an open protection slot wants him before the Expansion Draft, they should know that they need to step up their offers, because the market will quickly open up once Vegas has picked their team. With at least seven teams in this category, there’s more than enough interest for a bidding war to develop.

Benning should also be negotiating with some of those teams that would only want Tanev after Expansion is complete, so that he can make a trade happen in that narrow window if necessary. Trading Tanev is going to be a tricky procedure, but if done right it could yield an impressive and important return for the Canucks. I think that the Toronto Maple Leafs are the most logical destination, but there should be enough of a trade market for the Canucks to really squeeze some legitimate value out of the Leafs in return.

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.

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.