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.

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.

Preseason Point Predictions Versus Reality: Dawn Of Production

The All Star Game gives us all a little breather from Canucks hockey, and is as good a chance as any to take stock of the team’s season thus far. Recently, much has been made of the preseason predictions that were handed down for the Canucks’ performance this year, most of which predicted the team to slide to the bottom of the league standings. However, the prognosticators have been proven wrong once again, as Vancouver is flirting with a playoff position more than halfway through the year.

Team performance aside, this weekend is also a good opportunity to look at how individuals on the team have performed based on preseason point production predictions (say that five times fast!). For the purposes of this, I’ve taken my own predictions (published here: https://hockeytalkie.wordpress.com/2016/07/27/vancouver-canucks-2016-17-point-predictions/) along with those made by The Hockey News, and compared them with the actual 82 game pace that each player is on. (Since the predictions were mostly made for an 82 game pace, that made the most sense to use for comparison, even though some players obviously won’t end up playing 82 games).

 

Henrik Sedin

THN Prediction: 55

HockeyTalkie Prediction: 65

Actual Pace: 52

Comments: The predicted spike in production for the Sedin twins after landing Loui Eriksson as a linemate never materialized, and their production has reached its lowest levels in years.

 

Daniel Sedin

THN Prediction: 59

HockeyTalkie Prediction: 65

Actual Pace: 43

Comments: Daniel’s decline has been even steeper than Henrik’s, with him hovering around a 0.5 point-per-game average.

 

Loui Eriksson

THN Prediction: 52

HockeyTalkie Prediction: 60

Actual Pace: 34

Comments: Perhaps the most disappointing player on this list. Eriksson hasn’t played terrible or anything, but his production is nearly half of what was predicted.

 

Bo Horvat

THN Prediction: 51

HockeyTalkie Prediction: 50

Actual Pace: 52

Comments: Many people guessed that Horvat would continue to do great things this season, and he has definitely delivered. Despite what were called overly optimistic predictions by myself and THN, Horvat is arguably exceeding anyone’s expectations.

 

Sven Baertschi

THN Prediction: 33

HockeyTalkie Prediction: 50

Actual Pace: 45

Comments: Few, outside of yours truly, predicted a major breakout from Sven Baertschi. While his extremely cold start hurt his point totals, since then his production has actually been way over a 50 point pace.

 

Jannik Hansen

THN Prediction: 35

HockeyTalkie Prediction: 30

Actual Pace: 41

Comments: Most predicted that Hansen would take a step back after a breakout year, but that’s only been the case due to injury. In terms of pace, Hansen is having a fantastic year once again.

 

Brandon Sutter

THN Prediction: 30

HockeyTalkie Prediction: 35

Actual Pace: 38

Comments: Many were hopeful that Sutter could bounce back after an injury-plagued season, and he definitely has. His point totals are even higher than most would have expected.

 

Anton Rodin

THN Prediction: 17

HockeyTalkie Prediction: 41 pt pace

Actual Pace: 27

Comments: Rodin was a wildcard coming into the season, and he’s still a wildcard halfway through. Injuries have robbed Rodin of his chance, and his “actual pace” is only based on three games and one point, so be aware of the small sample size.

 

Jake Virtanen

THN Prediction: 25

HockeyTalkie Prediction: 34 pt pace

Actual Pace: 8

Comments: The less said about Virtanen’s season, the better. He’s beginning to rebound in the AHL, so let’s focus on next year for him.

 

Markus Granlund

THN Prediction: 16

HockeyTalkie Prediction: 20

Actual Pace: 32

Comments: Easily the breakout player of the season, nobody could have predicted Granlund’s skyrocketing production. Even my own prediction of 20 points was called silly by some, but look where he is now!

 

Brendan Gaunce

THN Prediction: 16

HockeyTalkie Prediction: 20 pt pace

Actual Pace: 7

Comments: Gaunce hasn’t had any sort of offensive spark at the NHL level, but he’s also found himself stuck in the fourth line the entire time. He will likely never be a big producer, but is still playing solid hockey.

 

Derek Dorsett

THN Prediction: 19

HockeyTalkie Prediction: 20

Actual Pace: 23

Comments: Dorsett was continuing to be a premium fourth liner, and was even outproducing most predictions, before an injury got in his way. Will be interesting to see if he can continue his roll when he returns.

 

Alex Burrows

THN Prediction: 22

HockeyTalkie Prediction: 21 pt pace

Actual Pace: 30

Comments: Alex Burrows is the renaissance man of the Canucks. After nearly being bought out, Burrows has resurrected his career and is on his best pace in years.

 

Alex Edler

THN Prediction: 30

HockeyTalkie Prediction: 40

Actual Pace: 21

Comments: The Canucks defense, out-of-nowhere Troy Stecher aside, has been a disappointment in terms of production this year. No one is feeling that more than Edler, who is barely at a 20 point pace.

 

Ben Hutton

THN Prediction: 24

HockeyTalkie Prediction: 30

Actual Pace: 22

Comments: Hutton could be argued to be experiencing a bit of a sophomore slump, but it is not pronounced. Look for a breakout from him next year.

 

Chris Tanev

THN Prediction: 17

HockeyTalkie Prediction: 30

Actual Pace: 16

Comments: My big, bold prediction really didn’t pay off. Tanev remains a steady, if unspectacular, top pairing defenseman.

 

Erik Gudbranson

THN Prediction: 16

HockeyTalkie Prediction: 15

Actual Pace: 16

Comments: No surprises here. Some hoped for a bit a leap from Gudbranson, but he is what he is at this point.

 

Nikita Tryamkin

THN Prediction: 10

HockeyTalkie Prediction: 10

Actual Pace: 10

Comments: High five, THN! We did it! For Tryamkin, offense will have to come later.

 

Luca Sbisa

THN Prediction: 11

HockeyTalkie Prediction: 15

Actual Pace: 19

Comments: Sbisa has blown everyone’s expectations away this year, and while he still isn’t much of an offensive threat, he’s outpacing predictions on that front, too.

 

Philip Larsen

THN Prediction: N/A

HockeyTalkie Prediction: 30 pt pace

Actual Pace: 18

Comments: No one knew what to make of Philip Larsen coming into the season, and most still don’t. He looked alright on the powerplay, but certainly wasn’t the potential spark he was advertised as. His severe injury put a halt on any sort of development.

Positivity/Schadenfreude: Who Are the Canucks Outscoring This Year?

Since my last positivity post was so well-received, I thought I would sneak one more in before the holidays were over. This one adds a little Schadenfreude to the mix, by looking at which players the current Vancouver Canucks are outscoring around the league. I tried to restrict it to players that A) had played a similar number of games to their comparable and B) was within a few points. There aren’t really meant to be any real conclusions drawn from this, but I thought it was an interesting perspective to take.

 

Bo Horvat

Is Outscoring Tyler Johnson and Sean Monahan 23 to 20/21- Both of these players were considered near certainties to develop into first line centers, whereas Horvat was never given a chance. This season, the tables have turned.

 

Henrik Sedin

Is Tied With Joe Thornton 24 to 24- The Sedins aren’t having their best offensive season, but it’s nice to see that Henrik is at least keeping pace with his strongest contemporary, Jumbo Joe.

 

Daniel Sedin

Is Outscoring Jonathan Toews 22 to 18- Not only is it good to see Daniel outscoring a legitimate superstar, the fact that it’s a Chicago Blackhawk player makes it all the more enjoyable.

 

Loui Eriksson

Is Tied With 18-year old Sam Bennett 18 to 18- Accidentally read Lucic’s PIM column instead of points. Eriksson does not have as many points as him, but is tied with 20-year old 18-year old Sam Bennett, so he’s got that going for him.

 

Sven Baertschi

Is Outscoring Ryan Nugent-Hopkins 18 to 16- Baertschi has been hot of late, and is now outscoring recent first overall draft pick “The Nuge.” Can’t complain about that.

 

Brandon Sutter

Is Outscoring Nick Bonino 18 to 17- These two will be forever tied by the fact they were traded for one another, and it looks like Sutter has the edge as far as this season goes.

 

Alex Burrows

Is Outscoring Patrice Bergeron 14 to 8!- What a great year for Burrows, and what an awful year for Bergeron. Will be fun if Burrows receives more Selke votes than Bergeron this year!

 

Markus Granlund

Is Outscoring Boone Jenner 14 to 11- Jenner was considered an elite young talent while Granlund was considered a cast-off, but things look very different this season.

 

Jannik Hansen

Is Outscoring Anthony Duclair 9 to 7- Not only is Hansen outscoring the once-promising Duclair, he’s doing it in far fewer games played.

 

Jack Skille

Is Outscoring Dale Weise 6 to 4- Former Canuck Dale Weise ran his mouth about the franchise after departing it, so it’s nice to see the marquee free agent being outscored by training camp invite Skille.

 

Brendan Gaunce

Is Outscoring Jimmy Hayes 4 to 3- Gaunce hasn’t exactly lit it up, but at least he’s outscoring some Boston “talent.”

 

Derek Dorsett

Is Outscoring Tom Wilson 4 to 3- Tom Wilson was touted as the perfect 4th line player, but Dorsett has played the role with greater effectiveness this season.

 

Michael Chaput

Is Outscoring Nick Bjugstad3 to 2- Bjugstad was injured to start the year, but he’s only put up two points since. Chaput was expected to be an AHLer but is outpacing him.

 

Jayson Megna

Is Outscoring Patrick Sharp 3 to 2- Former Blackhawk Sharp victimized the Canucks regularly, so who could have expected him to be outscored by unlikely top-liner Jayson Megna?

 

Jake Virtanen

Is Outscoring Curtis Lazar 1 to 0- Let’s hear it for little victories!

 

Troy Stecher

Is Outscoring Jarome Iginla 10 to 9- That’s right, former Canuck destroyer Jarome Iginla is getting outscored by a rookie defenseman who hasn’t even played the whole season.

 

Ben Hutton

Is Outscoring Dan Hamhuis 10 to 8- Hamhuis left the Canucks for the Dallas Stars, who have greatly disappointed this season. Hutton, meanwhile, appears to be trending in the other direction.

 

Luca Sbisa

Is Outscoring Zdeno Chara 9 to 8- I think this one speaks for itself.

 

Erik Gudbranson

Is Outscoring Jared McCann 6 to 3- Sure, Gudbranson is injured, but McCann is in the minors, and that’s undoubtedly worse.

 

Alex Edler

Is Outscoring Niklas Kronwall 4 to 3- The battle of the aging, injury-prone Swedish defenders goes to Edler this year, so far.

 

Nikita Tryamkin

Is Outscoring Ryan Murray 4 to 3- Murray is one of the most highly-touted young defensemen in the league, but here’s a mostly-unknown Russian import outscoring him.

 

Philip Larsen

Is Outscoring Cody Ceci 4 to 3- Larsen has missed a lot of time this year, but he’s still outpacing highly-regarded Ottawa rearguard Cody Ceci.

 

Chris Tanev

Is Outscoring Olli Maatta 3 to 2- Maatta is supposed to be an offensive defenseman. Tanev is not.

 

Alex Biega

Is Outscoring Dmitry Kulikov 2 to 1- Kulikov was Buffalo’s big acquisition on defense. I wonder if they knew Biega was available?

The Positivity Report: One Nice Thing About Every Canuck

It’s the holidays, and most people are looking for any good cheer they can get, so let’s take some time to celebrate all the good that has come from this Canuck season. There have been some lows, sure, but forget about that for now. Like an elementary school civics lesson, we’re going to try to say something nice about every single Canuck!

Henrik Sedin- With just eight more points, Henrik Sedin will become the first player to ever hit 1000 points while wearing a Canuck jersey, further solidifying himself as the great Canuck of all time.

Daniel Sedin- Daniel is a little further off than brother Henrik from 1000 points, due to injuries, and he might not make it there this season. Even if he doesn’t, he and his brother are very likely to pass Henri and Maurice Richard as the second highest scoring pair of siblings in NHL history.

Jannik Hansen- Hansen’s injuries have been a bummer, but when he’s been in the lineup his production has maintained a steady clip, which wasn’t exactly expected. Hansen is also a hero for fighting Nazem Kadri with broken ribs. 

Loui Eriksson- Eriksson’s improved production of late is reason enough for positivity, but I’d like to highlight his own goal on opening night. What better way to establish that he truly belongs on the hard-luck Canucks?

 Bo Horvat- Horvat was once described as a “safe” draft pick. This season, he established himself as the best player on the team and raised serious questions about his potential as a first line center. He’s come quite a long way.

 Sven Baertschi- After an extremely cold start, Baertschi has basically been a point-per-game player since. If he can maintain the pace, Horvat won’t be the only one whose top line potential is being discussed.

 Alex Burrows- Burrows was nearly bought out this summer, but this season he’s re-established himself as a valuable NHL player. Burrows might even be looking at an extension in the summer if he’s not dealt at the deadline.

 Brandon Sutter- Sutter is on pace to have the best production of his career, and may hit 50 points, which makes for a nice bounceback from last year’s injury-plagued season. Has improved in the faceoff circle.

Markus Granlund- After his trade to the Canucks was widely lambasted, Granlund has established himself as a solid NHL player, unlike the player he was dealt for. Granlund is set to surpass all of his career highs, and was even outscoring his more-famous brother for awhile.

Brendan Gaunce- Gaunce has quietly stepped into the NHL lineup without looking too out of place. Plays an efficient game that doesn’t get a lot of notice, but also doesn’t cause any problems for his team.

 Derek Dorsett- Dorsett was playing perhaps his best hockey as a Canuck before being injured. It sounds as though he’s getting relief for a chronic injury right now, so that’s a major positive for him.

 Jack Skille- Skille might have thought he was out of chances at the NHL level, but injuries have allowed him to have a nearly constant presence in the lineup. Occasionally shows off the skills that made him such a high draft pick.

 Michael Chaput- Chaput was expected to spend most of the season in the AHL, but he’s only ten games away from hitting his career best in NHL games played for a season. Only needs two more points to hit another personal best.

 Jayson Megna- Megna played his way into being the Canucks’ top winger call-up, and injuries have since given him a solid shot at NHL time. His two goal performance was an obvious highlight.

 Jake Virtanen- Fans wanted Virtanen to go down to Utica and dominate, and he eventually went on quite a goal-scoring tear. While he has since cooled off a bit, Virtanen has maintained a good attitude and is gaining confidence at that level.

 Joe LaBate- Big Joe LaBate was once thought an NHL long-shot, but he has already played his first NHL game in only his third pro season. Continues to physically dominate on the farm.

Anton Rodin- Rodin tore it up in the preseason, and managed to rehab himself back into the lineup after yet another injury setback. Should be fresh for the post-holiday portion of the season.

 Mike Zalewski- Zalewski was a long-shot to even get an NHL contract, so being an occasional call-up is a great achievement for him. Chaput’s time in the NHL has meant more time for Zalewski.

 

Chris Tanev- Tanev is a steadying presence on the blueline, and the constant trade rumours from other markets shows how valued he is around the league. His injuries have also allowed for greater opportunity for younger players.

 Alex Edler- Edler, before his injury, was showing a willingness to hit and to shoot that had been missing in his game during recent seasons. His back issues appear to be behind him (no pun intended).

 Troy Stecher- Do I really need to say anything positive about Stecher? Is there anything negative about him? NCAA free agents are hit or miss, but to have one step directly into the lineup and contribute like Stecher has is nearly unprecedented.

 Ben Hutton- Hutton experienced a bit of a sophomore slump to start the season, but he never let it get him down. Easily the cheeriest player on the Canucks, and fans appreciate it.

 Erik Gudbranson- Gudbranson proved his importance to the team during the Toronto debacle, protecting his team’s honour against the very intimidating Matt Martin. Seems like a Grade-A teammate.

 Luca Sbisa- Sbisa got the fans and advanced stats fanatics off his back this season with a bit of a bounceback performance and solid underlying stats. He’s clicked with Troy Stecher of late.

 Nikita Tryamkin- Tryamkin was criticized for showing up at camp out of shape, but he practiced his way back into shape and thus impressed his coaches. Once he entered the lineup, he never left.

 Alex Biega- Biega was a depressing sight in the pressbox every night, but one has to remember he’s making an NHL paycheque to do so. Still, it has been nice to see Biega finally get some action and put his bulldog-like nature on display once again.

 Philip Larsen- Larsen did show a solid ability to get shots on the net during the powerplay, which had been a problem for the Canucks. Is recovering well from a brutal concussion.

 

 Ryan Miller- Miller has played well enough behind a less-than-experienced defense to maintain his role as the de facto starter. Miller has also put in a good enough performance to draw interest from other teams for a deadline deal. Proved himself a hero by defending Stecher against Matt Martin.

 Jacob Markstrom- Markstrom also proved himself a hero by shielding the unconscious Philip Larsen’s body from stampeding players, and also by blocking the douchebag trying to take a picture of the scene.

 

 BONUS: Willie Desjardins- Desjardins is an embattled coach on the hotseat, but he deserves credit for a number of things. First and foremost is the fact that under his coaching, Horvat, Baertschi, Hutton, Granlund, and Stecher have all entered the NHL lineup and thrived with little to no previous NHL experience. Something about Willie’s coaching style makes for a smoother transition into the NHL for young players, and the organization is reaping the rewards of that already.