The Return of the Weekly Canucks Report: Week of October 9-15

Who Had a Good Week:

Derek Dorsett- Dorsett wasn’t just a Willie Desjardins favourite. Dorsett has always been a coach’s favourite throughout his career, and his deployment under Travis Green has shown why that is. Dorsett will do whatever is asked of him, and Green has him using his energy, drive, and limited skill to maximum effect. Dorsett led the team in shorthanded time on ice during the penalty-filled game against Calgary.

Brock Boeser- After his much-discussed scratching for the season’s first two games, Boeser picked up where he left off by notching two points in two games, including a trademark highlight-reel goal. Boeser is the real deal, and was easily the best player on his line with Bo Horvat and Sven Baertschi.

anditsgoone

Michael Del Zotto- Who could have predicted that Michael Del Zotto would be leading the team in ice time? Del Zotto obviously has Green’s trust, and he’s been deployed in all situations and against the top lines of opponents. That resulted in Del Zotto being a minus five on the week, but that’s to be expected.

Chris Tanev- Is this the long-awaited offensive awakening of Chris Tanev? Tanev had two goals in three games, and looked much more active on offense in general. Tanev’s ice time was surprisingly low, but he led the defense in shorthanded time in a week that was heavy with penalties, and he managed to be only minus one in a week that contained three losses.

 

Who Had a Rough Week:

Bo Horvat and Sven Baertschi- Horvat and Baertschi have been pencilled in as first line forwards for this season, but they haven’t looked like it so far. After a stellar first game, Horvat was largely invisible this week, and Baertschi has looked out of sync since the season began. Here’s hoping the presence of Brock Boeser can ignite their offensive game.

Loui Eriksson- Eriksson was pointless in his first game of the week, despite receiving ample ice time, was benched in his second, and then got injured 32 seconds into his third. That’s the definition of a rough week.

It makes one wonder how long it will be until we see something like this:

skincond

 

Thomas Vanek- Vanek had two points in three games this week, which is realistically about the best production Canuck fans can expect from him this season. However, he also looked almost comically slow on the ice, a fact that was exacerbated by playing with the similarly lead-footed Sedins. It’s hard to imagine a playoff contender not wanting a speedier option when they go looking for a rental at the deadline.

Ben Hutton- This week, in three losses, Hutton was only a minus one, and he received the second-most ice time on the team in the latter two games. However, for all that opportunity, Hutton looked particularly inept on the ice. The play seemed to die whenever it reached Hutton’s stick, and he flubbed several golden opportunities in the offensive end. This is a player who needs a rebound season badly.

 

Roster Talk:

With the injury to Loui Eriksson, Jake Virtanen likely re-enters the lineup, and for once the Canucks have a bevy of options in Utica to callup as the 13th forward. Many fans want the forward callup to be Nikolay Goldobin, who is lighting it up in Utica, but Reid Boucher and Anton Rodin are also options. Boucher might be the best fit, as whoever is called up could find themselves in the pressbox.

The team also has a number of candidates for a defensive callup to replace Alex Edler during his absence. Patrick Wiercioch, the veteran left-side D, seems the most likely, but Philip Holm or even Evan McEneny could come up instead.

When will Anders Nilsson make his season debut? Jacob Markstrom wasn’t exactly stellar this week, and next week features a heavy schedule, so it shouldn’t be long before Nilsson enters the Canuck crease.

 

Comets Report:

For once, the Comets got a Sunday off, and only played two games this week, Friday and Saturday. First, Utica visited the Rochester Americans, and walked away with a 2-0 victory and a Thatcher Demko shutout. Nikolay Goldobin scored, his second goal of the season, and Reid Boucher picked up two assists. Patrick Wiercioch had the other goal, and Carter Bancks notched the other assist.

On Saturday, the Comets bussed over to the Onondaga County War Memorial Arena to take on their rivals, the Syracuse Crunch. Once again, Thatcher Demko was in the crease, and once again he won the game, this time by a score of 3-2. Goldobin opened the scoring again, and his marker was followed by single tallies from Philip Holm and Michael Chaput. Holm also notched two assists, while Goldobin had one, while Boucher, Bancks, and Evan McEneny added single helpers. At one point, Demko came flying out of crease to get involved in a scrum started by former Comet Cory Conacher.

 

The Week Ahead:

The Canucks are in for a busy week. After two days off on Sunday and Monday, the Canucks leave on an Eastern roadtrip with four games in six nights. On Tuesday, October 17, the team will visit Alex Burrows and the Senators in Ottawa, with a 4:30PST start.

Following that, the Canucks have their first back-to-back of the year, taking on the dreaded Boston Bruins on Thursday, October 19, and the Buffalo Sabres on Friday, October 20. Both games have a 4:00PST start.

Finally, the Canucks are in Detroit to take on the lowly Red Wings on Sunday, October 22, at 4:00PST.

 

Bits and Bobs:

-The suddenly sparse attendance at Canucks games is actually a real reason to worry. There was always a question as to how the Vancouver fanbase would handle a rebuild, and there seems to be legitimate concern that the answer is “not well.” Plenty of fans are happy with the stable of young players built by Jim Benning and Trevor Linden, and it would be a real shame to see them relieved of their jobs due to low attendance before their work can pay off.

-At this point, it’s easier to list the Canuck prospects who aren’t doing well in various developmental leagues around the world. In particular, the forwards:

Kole Lind has 17 points in eight games in the WHL.

Elias Pettersson has seven assists in eight games in the top Swedish league.

Adam Gaudette has seven points in his first three NCAA games.

Petrus Palmu is the highest scoring rookie in the Finnish Liiga with ten points.

Jonah Gadjovich has nine points in eight games in the OHL.

In addition to the strong start of Goldobin in the AHL, it’s a great time for Canuck forward prospects.

-With the early indications being that the Canucks will be in the basement again this year, it’s hard not to think about the potential for adding another Benning draft class to this already-stocked prospect cupboard.

-After just one game, both the good and bad of Derrick Pouliot should be apparent to Canuck fans. With the spotty defensive play, it’s easy to see why the Penguins gave up on him, but the potential is there, and former WHL coach Travis Green might be the man to unlock it.

-Shorty without Cheech is like a hot dog without ketchup. Fans demand All John Garrett, All The Time.

-With Jared McCann scoring four points in his first four games, and Erik Gudbranson reduced to a team-low 12:08 of ice time, now Canuck fans can understand how Calgary fans must feel about Baertschi and Granlund. Gudbranson wasn’t just the defenseman with the lowest ice time, he played the least minutes of anyone except Alex Burmistrov and Loui Eriksson, who left with an injury.

Advertisements

Weekly Comets Report: Week Of April 10-16

Weekly Comets Report: Week Of April 10-16

Crushing Disappointment Edition

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Weekly Canucks Report: Week of April 3-9

Weekly Canucks Report: Week of April 3-9

Last Report of the Year Edition

 

Who Had a Good Week:

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

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

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

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

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

 

Who Had a Rough Week:

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

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

 

Roster Talk:

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

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

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

 

Schadenfreude Section:

RETIRED UNTIL START OF NEXT SEASON.

 

Comets Report:

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

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

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

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

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

 

Bits and Bobs:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Weekly Canucks Report: Week of March 27-April 2

Weekly Canucks Report: Week of March 27-April 2

 

Who Had a Good Week:

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

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

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

 

Who Had a Rough Week:

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

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

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

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

 

Roster Talk:

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

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

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

 

Schadenfreude Section:

RETIRED UNTIL NEXT SEASON!

 

Comets Report:

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

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

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

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

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

 

Bits and Bobs:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

https://hockeytalkie.wordpress.com

Weekly Canucks Report: Week of March 20-26

Weekly Canucks Report: Week of March 20-26

Who Had a Good Week:

Brock Boeser- A storybook beginning to what the Canucks hope will be a legendary career. Boeser came exactly as advertised, with a hard and heavy shot and the hockey sense to know how to use it. The criticisms of Boeser’s skating seem a bit overblown, as Boeser doesn’t seem to have much trouble keeping up with Horvat and Baertschi. The instant chemistry with those two is just bonus.

Reid Boucher- Boucher continues to deliver no matter what sort of opportunity he is given. Willie Desjardins doesn’t seem to be his biggest fan, but there’s a lot to like about his lethal shot and his ability to fire it from tight quarters. Scoring two goals from the fourth line against Minnesota was extremely impressive. A must re-sign now.

Sven Baertschi- Baertschi has finally become comfortable in a top-6 position, and his creativity is starting to show on a regular basis. His amazing soccer play on Boeser’s first career goal is good evidence of this. It seems that Horvat and Baertschi take turns driving the play, and that makes them a tough line to play against.

Bo Horvat- Horvat had a bit of a slow start to the week, but he really came alive once Boeser was added to his line. Horvat cracked 50 points this week, and by no means does it look like he’s topped out quite yet.

Chris Tanev- After looking pretty shaky the week before, with rumours swirling about his health, Tanev turned around and delivered one of his best weeks of the season. He was his usual slow and steady self, but also made some noticeable defensive plays by winning some tough battles. He managed to chip in a couple of assists, and even stuck up for Jack Skille when he was hit by Charlie Coyle, chasing the much larger forward all the way down the ice.

Richard Bachman- Bachman is starting to gain a reputation for shutting down high octane offense. Bachman was great against the Wild, and what more could you want from a third-string goaltender?

 

Who Had a Rough Week:

Jack Sille- Poor Jack Skille. He finally returned to the lineup after nearly having his role usurped, actually looked pretty good, and was then promptly injured again. This likely hurts Skille’s chances of being re-signed, unfortunately.

Nikolay Goldobin- Goldobin was fairly invisible this week. That’s probably a combination of his recovery from illness and a severe lack of ice time, but it would be great if he could string together some production during the last couple weeks of the season.

 

Roster Talk:

The line of Sven Baertschi, Bo Horvat, and Brock Boeser sure looks like a future first line. The aptly-nicknamed BoBoBae line is sure to keep things interesting in Vancouver for the foreseeable future.

Reid Boucher now has to be a priority to re-sign. His hot play late in the season might remind some of Emerson Etem, who played his way into a contract last year and then played himself right out of the NHL in October, but that’s still a risk you have to take every time. Few would claim that re-signing Etem hurt the team, or that they shouldn’t have taken the chance.

Keeping Boucher around will create a bit of a winger glut going into next season. The Canucks have already signed Baertschi, Boeser, Daniel Sedin, Loui Eriksson, Markus Granlund, and Nikolay Goldobin for next year, each of whom will be looking for a top-6 spot. That’s not even considering Anton Rodin, who is still ghosting around, and whoever the Canucks draft in the 2017 first round. It’s a good problem to have, but it’s still a problem. Even the ranks below the top-9 are stocked up, with Derek Dorsett, Joe LaBate, and Joseph Cramarossa all likely to return, and the re-signing of either Michael Chaput or Jayson Megna for expansion purposes a near-certainty.

 

Schadenfreude Section:

It might be time to retire this section for the season, as the Canucks don’t really have much to lord over the other teams than a draft position. They did top the 65 point barrier, but that doesn’t make too much of a difference in the end. At the very least, the antics of Eugene Melnyk in Ottawa ensures that the Canucks will never hold the title of worst ownership in Canada.

Canuck fans can prepare themselves for some vicarious schadenfreude via the NHL playoffs. Imagine the satisfaction of watching Alex Burrows and the Ottawa Senators knock off the Maple Leafs, or of seeing Jannik Hansen and the San Jose Sharks taking out the cocky Oilers en route to a Stanley Cup (and a free draft pick for the Canucks).

 

Comets Report:

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: The Utica Comets played three games in three days this weekend. That’s right, lately the Comets are essentially working the same hours as a high-school student with a part-time job.

Utica began on Friday with a visit to Albany, which is still shockingly the capital of New York state. The game was a dull affair, with Carter Bancks scoring the only Comet goal in regulation, unassisted. Thatcher Demko led the team through overtime with 33 saves, before shutting out all opponents in the shootout. Chad Billins and Darren Archibald scored in the shootout to give Utica a 2-1 win.

Perhaps tired from the night before, the Comets dropped an embarrassing 5-1 defeat to the Syracuse Crunch, their most frequent opponent. Demko was in net again, and still made 28 saves, but it was not enough. Former Comet Cory Conacher sniped two of his own, and added an assist. Mike Zalewski had the lone Utica goal, assisted by Billins and Pascal Pelletier. The Comets only put up 21 shots, three of which came from Jake Virtanen.

The Comets made it three arenas in three nights with a visit to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton on Sunday. Michael Garteig finally got into the net to give Demko a much-needed rest. Archibald opened up the scoring, assisted by Evan McEneny and Cody Kunyk, but this would just Utica’s third goal in the last nine periods of hockey. Garteig made 31 saves, but it was not enough, as the Penguins prevailed 2-1 on a third period goal. Potential signee Zach Aston-Reese got an assist for the Pens.

 

Bits and Bobs:

-What a start for Brock Boeser. If you’re like me and appreciate the fantastic storylines that can come out of hockey, you couldn’t ask for a better debut. Less than 24 hours after an intense double-overtime elimination game, in his home state, with his parents announcing the lineup, and then he scores a goal. After all Boeser has had to deal with in his short life, it’s great to see that the Legend of Brock is already off to a great start.

-I didn’t come up with this stat myself, GoldenHawk07 did, but Boeser played 11 periods in 48 hours in three cities for two teams this weekend. That is just insane.

-Sticking with the Minnesota game, I mentioned Brad Marchand last week as an all time Canuck killer. An elbow to the face of Troy Stecher reminded me that Martin Hanzal is also a good candidate for the list, albeit for different reasons. Who could forget the time he injured three Canucks in one game? The man’s a menace, but you rarely hear his name discussed as a league-wide dirty player, which makes me wonder if he saves all his malice for the Canucks.

-The Utica Comets are on quite a run, and have turned a miserable season around into a hunt for the playoffs. This is despite the team being ransacked by injuries and disease outbreaks at the NHL level, and spending the majority of their season without designated vets like Jayson Megna and Michael Chaput. Some folks had soured on the possibility of replacing Willie Desjardins with Travis Green, but I have to wonder whether Utica’s resurgence has more people hopping back on the Travis-Train. I, for one, would love to see him given a shot.

-Speaking of next year, the NHL announced that the Canucks and Kings will be playing two preseason games in China this coming September. This harkens back to the Canucks facing off against the Ducks in Japan back in the 90s, and is sure to be a memorable experience. I’m personally looking forward to staying up late to watch. Middle-of-the-night hockey rules!

-Before anyone says it, Troy Stecher’s injury will likely not mean an audition for Jordan Subban. Philip Larsen is still kicking around, and Utica are in the middle of a tight playoff race. Better to leave Subban down on the farm to play meaningful games.

-With seven games remaining, the Canucks are in a dogfight with New Jersey for the third-last spot in the standings, and thus the third-best chances in the draft lottery. Colorado has long since sewed up last place, and the Coyotes seem unlikely to make up the six point difference between them and the Canucks.

-The third position in the lottery draft would be equivalent to what the Canucks had last year, but they would have to share that slot with Las Vegas, lessening their chances. Still, this gives the Canucks a 10% shot at first overall, and that’s something.

Weekly Canucks Report: Week of March 13-19

Weekly Canucks Report: Week of March 13-19

Who Had a Good Week:

Markus Granlund- Naysayers have been waiting for the other shoe to drop on Markus Granlund’s production, but it’s just not happening. Granlund has established himself as a legitimate top-9 NHLer, and he took charge of the Canucks’ offense this week. The Sedins have looked at their best with Granlund on their wing, as his two-goal game against the Bruins showed. Granlund was then swapped to Horvat and Baertschi’s wing, which has to be considered a promotion at this point. Who would have ever guessed Granlund would be on the cusp of 20 goals at this point?

Nikita Tryamkin- This week was hopefully a taste of what’s to come from Tryamkin’s career. His fight with Jamie Benn may have featured less “killer instinct” than some would have preferred, but the fact he’s tossed around the league’s premier power forward on multiple occasions this season is highly impressive. Tryamkin’s game is becoming more and more solid, and he even added a rare point this week.

Reid Boucher- Call me crazy, but I liked what Boucher brought to the Horvat-Baertschi line. Obviously, the coaching staff disagrees, but I think his ability to always get a good shot off makes him a valuable addition to two players that consistently generate chances.

 

Who Had a Rough Week:

Ryan Miller- I think Miller is starting to get worn down. He faced 78 shots in two games this week, so he’s not getting a ton of support, and his play has suffered a bit as a result. Miller is still giving the team more of a chance than it deserves, but he’s not quite at the standard of play he was earlier in the year.

Alex Edler- Speaking of worn-out, Edler has been eating up a ridiculous amount of ice time for the Canucks since his return from injury earlier in the year, and it’s beginning to show. Chris Tanev’s obvious injury puts even more of a load on Edler’s shoulders. He’s being asked to play the role of a number one defenseman, and he’s not always capable of that.

Chris Tanev and Brandon Sutter- It’s time to shut Chris Tanev and Brandon Sutter down. They are both clearly playing through injuries. Tanev is still able to play effective minutes, because he’s Chris Tanev, but he’s a step behind where he normally is, and there’s no real point in playing him now. Sutter is clearly less effective than he was at other points in the season. Let them get healthy and come back strong next season, please.

Michael Chaput- Chaput is simply not scoring line material. He’s being asked to do more by the coaching staff, for some reason, and he doesn’t have that “next level.” A depth player who should remain a depth player.

Willie Desjardins- The sometimes bizarre ice-time decisions of Coach Willie have been publically called out by Jim Benning, and Desjardins’ response was to put Michael Chaput on the top line again and increase Jayson Megna’s icetime. It’s hard to imagine Desjardins not being fired at the end of the season. He’s an easy scapegoat, and doesn’t appear to be fully aligned with management.

Jayson Megna- Why pile on at this point? Megna’s excessive icetime is not his own fault, but it does put his actual faults on display for all to see.

 

Roster Talk:

It sounds as though Brock Boeser is going to join the Vancouver Canucks as soon as North Dakota’s season is over, which may be very soon. Boeser will be able to audition for a permanent NHL spot with relatively low pressure, and he might be able to pull off the feat of never having to spend time in the AHL.

Adam Gaudette, on the other hand, won’t be signing a contract this year, and will be returning to Northeastern for his junior season. This is a bit disappointing to fans who wanted to see him join the Comets for a playoff push immediately and continue his professional development next season, but going back to college isn’t the worst decision. Gaudette will really get to be the go-to guy at Northeastern next year, and will almost certainly sign when their season is done.

The “mystery defenseman” turned out to be Jalen Chatfield, an undrafted defenseman playing for the Windsor Spitfires. Chatfield looks like a pretty run-of-the-mill prospect, but he only costs a contract slot and the Canucks will have plenty of those after this season is complete. Some Spitfire fans have given Chatfield rave reviews and claim his game is a bit understated and thus unheralded. Windsor hosts the Memorial Cup this year, so he’ll get some great experience there before joining the pros next season.

 

Schadenfreude Section:

Last week, I talked about how nice it was to see the East finally forced to appreciate Alex Burrows. This week, it’s Jannik Hansen proving the opinions of Canuck fans correct, as he’s been placed on the San Jose top line alongside Joe Thornton and Joe Pavelski. Another supposed beneficiary of the Sedins who has never received the league-wide respect he deserves. Perhaps that will change with a Stanley Cup run! Hansen was hurt on the weekend, but here’s hoping it is a minor setback.

 

Comets Report:

Another week, another three-games-in-three-nights weekend for the Utica Comets. Thatcher Demko was back in the net on Friday to take on the Syracuse Crunch, who are part of a balanced breakfast. Demko racked up his eighth straight win, as the Comets won 4-3 thanks to a mid-third period goal from Mike Zalewski. Borna Rendulic and Pascal Pelletier each scored a goal and an assist, and Darren Archibald got a goal of his own, making this a fine night for the Utica veterans. Jordan Subban got back on the board with an assist. At this point, fans had to wonder, would Demko’s winning streak last forever?

No, it would not. The streak ended at eight as the Comets fell 4-1 against the Bridgeport Sound Tigers. Evan McEneny scored the lone Utica goal, but he was assisted by Subban and Jake Virtanen, which has to make Canuck fans happy. Andrey Pedan was penalized with a five minute boarding major for a questionable hit, and had to fight Ben Holmstrom after exiting the penalty box, which was Pedan’s first fight in awhile.

The Thatcher Demko win streak may have ended on Saturday, but it picked right back up on Sunday, and he began a potential point streak as well with an assist on an Alex Grenier goal during a 5-2 drubbing of the Providence Bruins. Virtanen also scored, just his seventh of the year, along with Michael Carcone, Curtis Valk, and Cody Kunyk. Chad Billins and Mike Zalewski each notched two assists, and Carcone and Grenier also joined the two-point club by adding assists of their own. Pedan got in another fight, this time with Anton Blidh (not a typo!).

 

Bits and Bobs:

-Jonathan Dahlen is on fire in his league playoffs right now. His four goal game caught a lot of attention, and according to Jim Benning he’s also attracted the attention of the Swedish World Championship team. That would be quite an honour for Dahlen, and a nice summer treat for Canuck fans.

-Speaking of prospects, Bob McKenzie had some great things to say about Jake Virtanen on his Bobcast. McKenzie’s opinion is as solid as any in hockey, and he believes that Virtanen still has a future as an NHL player and that his struggles are overblown. It’s hard to argue with the numbers on this, but it is nice to hear that Virtanen still has some high-profile believers out there.

-Nikolay Goldobin may be rethinking his excitement to be a Vancouver Canuck after his ridiculous illness. Goldobin reportedly lost 15 pounds in the ordeal. Sorry, Nikolay, this franchise was forever cursed when they let Mark Messier wear Wayne Maki’s #11 jersey, and now you’re one of us! Like joining the X-Men, we hope you survive the experience!

-After that third period hattrick, which boosted him into the league goal-scoring lead, is Brad Marchand now considered the ultimate Canuck killer? He’s definitely climbing the ranks of all-time Vancouver enemies.

-The Canuck fanbase seems to have finally united in embracing the tank. The loss against Dallas was huge for the Canucks’ potential descent down the standings, and after this week there is a very realistic chance they finish the season with the second highest draft lottery standings. The difference between second-last and third-last is especially important this year, since the third-last team will have equal odds in the lottery to Las Vegas, lessening their chances. Go Coyotes/Stars/Wings/Devils!

-I thought this comment on Reddit by funnyredditname deserved more attention. I mostly agree with the poster, and think they make an argument that helps make sense of Willie’s seemingly nonsensical choices:

 

 

-Sorry if it seems a little light this week, gang. I’m actually on the road all weekend. My trip included a drive through Vancouver, and seeing Alex Burrows’ banner still hanging outside Rogers Arena definitely choked me up a little. Here’s hoping they keep it up until next season.

Weekly Canucks Report: Week of March 6-12

Weekly Canucks Report: Week of March 6-12

Who Had a Good Week:

Sven Baertschi- Baertschi only had a single goal this week, but still managed to look impressive every time he hit the ice. Baertschi appears to be making up for the time he lost to injury, and is driving the play like never before. With both him and Horvat operating at full speed, their line becomes almost impossible to handle, no matter who their right winger is.

Troy Stecher- After a shaky last week, Stecher rebounded perfectly, putting up three points in three games and playing a much more tenacious style of defense. This is a player who isn’t going to accept losing just because the fanbase is fine with it, and his energy is infectious. Stecher went right back to jumping into the play this week, proving his confidence is as strong as ever.

Ryan Miller- Miller had two strong games this week and a less-than-stellar effort against the Islanders. Still, versus two contenders in the Canadiens and the Penguins, Miller put up 36 and 45 save efforts, keeping his team in two games that they really had no business being in.

Alex Biega- Biega made a surprisingly strong impact as an energy-line forward. His physical play was noticeable in each game he played, and he definitely got under the skin of some opponents. Biega really earned his “Bulldog” nickname this week.

 

Who Had a Rough Week:

Ben Hutton- Plus/minus is a horribly flawed stat, but there’s something to be said about going minus 2 in each of the three games this week. After a string of strong games, Hutton was asked to take on more ice time than usual this week, and looked a bit overwhelmed. His defensive shortcomings were definitely exposed by the high-powered offenses of the Eastern Conference.

Jayson Megna- With so many other intriguing talents entering the lineup, it is becoming harder and harder to ignore the utter uselessness of Jayson Megna. His recent penchant for major giveaways certainly isn’t helping matters.

Brandon Sutter- It wouldn’t be surprising at all if Sutter is one of the Canucks who is rumoured to be playing through a serious injury. He just doesn’t look as engaged in the play as he did earlier in the year. His ever rotating cast of questionable wingers isn’t doing him any favours, but it might be time to shut Sutter down for the season if he truly is injured.

 

Roster Talk:

The Canucks signed an overager from the Gatineau Olympiques, Zack MacEwen, to an entry-level deal. MacEwen, 20, has an impressive frame at 6’4” and 212 pounds. He racked up 68 points in 63 games in his second QMJHL season, and has shown an aptitude for physical play. His contract will slide for this year and he is likely AHL-bound next season.

The Canucks also signed Drew Shore for the remainder of the season. The former Calgary Flame and Florida Panther had been playing for Kloten in the Swiss-A League this season, and was among the league’s leading scorers. Shore has never put up much production at the NHL level, but was a reliable AHL scorer and is part of a large hockey family. Brother Nick is an LA King, while brother Quentin toils in the LA minor system.

Not satisfied with two signings in a week, the Canucks will apparently announce the signing of a mystery defenseman sometime tomorrow. This d-man will likely be an NCAA player whose season is now over, or another overager from the CHL. This will leave the Canucks with precious few contract slots with which to sign Brock Boeser and any other NCAA free agents they desire.

 

Schadenfreude Section:

Canuck fans had to put up with a brand new round of Alex Burrows-related trash talk after the fan favourite was dealt to Ottawa. Now, the entire Eastern Conference is getting a taste of what Burrows can really do. He has six points in six games for the Senators, and his team is 6-0 since the trade. So much for riding on the Sedins’ coattails!

It seems that the LA Kings chose Ben Bishop over Ryan Miller, and the early returns are not fantastic. In two starts for the Kings, Bishop has two losses and a sub-.900 save percentage. Sure seems like Miller would have been the better choice.

 

Comets Report:

This week featured another full weekend slate, with Utica playing Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. To make matters worse, the Saturday game was on the road, while the other two were at home. Friday featured a visit from the Bridgeport Sound Tigers, which resulted in a 2-1 victory for the Comets. Thatcher Demko was in net once again, making 23 saves. Curtis Valk and Michael Carcone scored the Utica goals, with Jake Virtanen, Cody Kunyk, Pascal Pelletier, and Ashton Sautner each nabbing an assist. Cole Cassels got himself into a scrap with Kyle Burroughs.

The Comets had to travel to Lehigh Valley the following day, but at least Demko received a rest as Michael Garteig got the start in net. It wouldn’t turn out to be a stellar night for him, though, as the Phantoms notched a 4-1 win. Kunyk had the only Utica goal, with Virtanen and Valk assisting. A small point streak for Virtanen at this point in the season is a definite positive.

Demko was back in net on Sunday for his second shutout of the year, blanking the Binghamton Senators 5-0. The Comets really spread out the scoring, with Darren Archibald, Borna Rendulic, Mike Zalewski, Evan McEneny, and Pelletier all getting one goal each. Archibald and Rendulic each added two assists, and Valk had two helpers of his own. Jordan Subban was held off the scoresheet, but did get tossed from the game towards the end for an altercation with the much larger Patrick Sieloff.

After slipping down the standings earlier in the season, the Comets’ recent winning ways, spurred by the near-perfect goaltending of Thatcher Demko, have put them back in the playoff hunt. With less than a quarter of the season remaining, the Comets are neck-and-neck with the Toronto Marlies and the St. John’s IceCaps for a spot.

 

Bits and Bobs:

-It’s believed that Brock Boeser wants to play in the NHL one his NCAA season is complete, and there’s no real reason for the Canucks to say no. If North Dakota is eliminated any time soon, look for Boeser to sign a contract and start suiting up for Vancouver immediately.

-Adam Gaudette, on the other hand, appears more likely to stay an additional season in college. The Canucks will still try to lure him with the promise of some NHL playing time this season and a potential Utica playoff run, but he’s probably not turning pro until 2018.

-Zachary Aston-Reese, Gaudette’s teammate at Northeastern, is the top NCAA free agent available. Having Gaudette in the fold may give the Canucks an advantage, but the two normally only played together on the powerplay. Aston-Reese scored a ridiculous 63 points in 38 games, and is said to be a major net-front presence. The Canucks could easily offer him NHL time right away.

-The mumps were ridiculous enough, but now there’s food poisoning, too? Not to mention whatever horribly infectious disease is causing Nikolay Goldobin to run around in a surgical mask. At this point, would hiring an exorcist as a precautionary measure be a bad idea?

-As the season winds down, Canuck fans can get excited for the World Hockey Championships. A number of Canucks are likely to get invites this year, especially with players like the Sedins, Edler, and Tanev all almost certain to sit out. One has to think Bo Horvat will be high on Team Canada’s list, and they may take a look at Troy Stecher, too. Markus Granlund for Finland, Nikita Tryamkin for Russia, and Sven Baertschi and Luca Sbisa for Switzerland are all good bets.

-With rumoured injuries plaguing even the Canucks that are currently playing, it will be interesting to see if and when certain players are shut down. Chris Tanev appears to be the most affected, along with Brandon Sutter.