Is The Entire NHL Colluding To Trade Away Erik Gudbranson?

Think about it for a second, why would anyone say good things about Erik Gudbranson’s game? He’s been a bit of a band-aid the past two seasons, he doesn’t score or add any real value to his current team, the Vancouver Canucks, and he shies away from critical hits during the game. OK, he’s third on the Canucks in both hits and hits-per-game but I’m pretty sure those numbers are inflated.

His CF%, 42.47, is lowest on the Canucks as is his Rel CF% -7.9%. When he’s on the ice, it’s definitely not a great thing. He’s a right-handed defenseman, tall and, sure, can hit people but it does seem a bit strange he’s being hyped up so much, no?

What does Renaud know that we don’t? Do Canucks games fail to broadcast anywhere but Vancouver? It just doesn’t make sense reading a comment like this. Everyone in Vancouver, everyone that follows, covers or berates the Canucks has been in sell mode with Gudbranson for most of the season because he just doesn’t move the needle in terms of physicality (that’s noticeable anyway) and his failed defensive assignments continue to resemble Sbizzas night in and night out.

It’s like a Willie D redux but with a hulking statue of a defenseman.

This is the reality most games:

Yikes! The reports from the Canucks camp are that they would like to re-sign Erik to stay with the Canucks, potentially as long as fellow dud Loui Eriksson wears the whale, err… orca.

Why would the NHL’s top reporters be so gung-ho on moving Gudbranson, what information does the general public not have access to? They all see the same games, the same mistakes and the same lack of fear in opponents eyes when they face-off against EG. Is this just being left alone and accepted as reality?

Erik Gudbranson has very little going for him that would make him “tradeable”: He’s quite handsome, have to give him that, he’s a RHD as mentioned above, he’s a former third-overall pick, tall, and… OK, that’s all I have. This feels like doctors being paid to promote a drug even if they have no idea what it actually does or if it even works.

There’s a conspiracy to move Gudbranson that is being accepted by everyone outside of  Vancouver and it doesn’t sit well with me and it shouldn’t sit well with you either. The Canucks never have anything good happen to them and this is probably one of those times where the trade is about to go down and someone yells “GOTCHA!”

Someone needs to deep-dive this situation and get to the bottom of why Erik Gudbranson is a good player to trade for. The math just doesn’t add up and if it does, it will probably end up looking like $5M x 5 years. That’s the worst math of all.

 

Follow me on twitter: @always90four

 

Photo – Daily Hive Vancouver

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Team Toughness Already Exists On Canucks… Without Gudbranson

First and foremost, I am not declaring the Canucks are a tough team, far from it. They also aren’t complete pushovers. With the trade deadline looming and the rumours of a potential Erik Gudbranson contract extension getting major press, it should be noted that the Canucks are doing just fine, relatively speaking, without Gudbranson’s “toughness”.

Saturday night, the Canucks had a pretty spirited game against the Tampa Bay Lightning and of all the players that should be making a case for their spot on the team, Erik Gudbranson was pretty much invisible when it came to the checking part of the game.

Technically, he had one hit. I wasn’t able to pinpoint when that was. Above him: Michael Del Zotto, Alex Edler, Jake Virtanen with nine, three, and three hits respectively. Notable hits were also executed by Brendan Gaunce who is starting to come alive, Brandon Sutter because obviously, and a hard-nosed Sven Baertschi.

All of those players were noticeable while Gudbranson could be seen many times hunched over and watching the play. OK, he’s a big guy but if his claim to fame is that he can stand up for his teammates and deliver hits that keep opponents wary of his presence, he was anything but that guy against Tampa.

He’s been anything but that in most games this season, healthy or not. He signed a “show me” deal this season to prove his injuries last year weren’t a one-off but it’s looking more and more like they were the norm. The mantle that comes with being a top draft pick is a heavy one to bear but at some point, the Canucks have to cut their losses. He isn’t the guy they thought he was.

I agree with Benning but I don’t think I agree with who he is referring to. If there actually is a market for Gudbranson, they need to move him ASAP and not let this drag on further than it has to. This also could be a defining decision to get Jim Benning re-signed or let him walk after his deal is up this season. A bitter pill to swallow is that Luca Sbisa was probably the better overall defenseman.

Yikes.

Statistically, Gudbranson is towards the top of the Canucks in the hit categories but it doesn’t seem to be visible during the game. He has the worst CF% on the Canucks with 42.37%, same in the Rel CF% with -8.46%, a full 1.5% lower than the next closest teammate Brandon Sutter. Vancouver shouldn’t be holding on to his services for his offensive game, which I doubt they were, to begin with, but he won’t be turning into the second coming of Willie Mitchell on the Kings.

He’s a liability to the present and the future of this team and even with the stats pointing out he’s doing an alright job of being physical, it hasn’t shown up anywhere that matters.

This guy might be serious but if the Leafs follow him on Twitter, he’s doing great work to # GetGudbransonTraded. However, looking at a bunch of his other posts, he’s a bit off the deep end.

Taking a chance on Jake Virtanen panning out is a much safer bet than signing Gudbranson long term, or at all. There are hits to be given up and down the lineup and Travis Green should be able to make his players buy in that they have to push back. Going forward with #44 would be a very bad idea and the final nail in the coffin if Trevor Linden and the Aquilini’s decision to move on from Benning.

The clock is ticking…

 

 

photo – Independent Sports News

Canucks “Very Official” Mid-Season Awards

It’s awards season everywhere! The Grammys, The Oscars, The SAGS, Golden Globes and the “very official” first-ever Always90four mid-season Canucks awards. The NHL All-Star Game has just concluded and obviously, super-rookie Brock Boeser won MVP*. He is winning everything lately, including our hearts and with all the accolades and Schedule A bonuses that he’s earned, Boeser might be well on his way to the trophy awarded to the AHL’s Championship team… no wait that’s the Calder Cup, not Trophy. Confusing.

Even though the NHL’s actual awards aren’t given out until June, I’m here to hand out the mid-season gold statues, thankfully my kids still had some gold glitter and construction paper from the birthday party this weekend.

Without further ado, here are the “very official”, “super important” Canucks Mid-Season Awards:

 

Cody Hodgson/Zack Kassian Award

This goes out to the player(s) that really had a lot more to give to the Canucks, or so we thought but failed to deliver on their potential. Oddly enough, this award has co-winners in the inaugural ceremony and it’s no stretch of the imagination about whom I am referring to and they are Jake Virtanen and Erik Gudbranson.

Virtanen has been given opportunities to succeed, put in a position to use his big frame but he just can’t unleash the power-forward player from within. He’s a good NHLer but as of right now, it doesn’t look like he’ll amount to a whole lot more than a third or fourth line winger. It’s a little early to suggest a trade but like the award he’s honoured by, even Cody Hodgson was dealt early on.

Erik Gudbranson was brought in to provide a physical presence much like Virtanen, but he is more of a shadow than the monument Jim Benning and co. thought he was. In all fairness, there were signs he could get back after his injury a season ago but he’s healthy now and has been less than impressive.

 

Sami Salo Blue Cross Award

The Finnish defender was an absolute threat with his booming slap shot from the blue line but the man couldn’t stay healthy to save himself. Vancouver has been anything but healthy this season and it’s tough to pick just one. Is it Alex Edler and his knee injury, Sven Baertschi’s jaw getting dismantled, Chris Tanev’s teeth, or even Bo Horvat’s broken foot. Jeez louise, Brock Boeser blocked a shot that we all thought was potentially going to end his season.

Taking home the mid-season Salo Blue Cross Award is Brandon Sutter. This guy has really had a rough couple of seasons as a Canuck. Last year was basically a write-off while he’s battled to stay healthy this season with what was called a hip injury. This isn’t something any player would want to be known for but such is life. If Sutter makes it a month without some sort of ailment, that in itself deserves a medal.

 

Tom Sestito Award

No, this is not a tough guy award. The Tom Sestito award goes to the player on the Canucks who has been given a roster spot night in and night out and has failed to do almost anything with it. Digging through the Internet to find a former player worthy of having this award named for his efforts, or lack thereof, was difficult.

The one player that pretty much stole this award on day one is none other than, wait for it… Brendan Gaunce. His career statistics should make Travis Green wonder why that spot couldn’t be better suited for a producing centre and allow a player like Reid Boucher to get called up or Darren Archibald to sign a league-minimum deal and bring some grind into the lineup. The Canucks need to figure out if Gaunce is in their future. He doesn’t feel like he will be.

 

Jayson Megna Loyalty Award

Everyone remembers the Lassie-like loyalty Willie Desjardins had with Megna last season which made absolutely no sense whatsoever. It’s not like Megna was all that good either. Travis Green has his own loyalty towards one individual this year and just like a season ago, most of us are left shaking our heads in confusion. And the winner is…

Yup, Nic Dowd.

There really isn’t a better player to stand behind? Jake Virtanen has fought through a tough season but at the very least, give THAT guy more ice time. Heck, if it came down to it I really wonder if Green would think long and hard if it came down to Dowd or Boeser. Scary stuff.

 

Jeff Cowan/Jason King Participation Ribbon

Cowan the Brabarian was a folk hero for a short time before reality set in and the question of sustainability was answered. Same could be said for the former NHL Rookie of the Month November 2003, Jason King. For the smallest pocket of time both of these players ran a hot streak as good as anything seen in Las Vegas and then the bottom dropped out. They were the equivalent of a really good chorus on a single track of a 13 song album. Needs to be more than that for 12.99 on iTunes.

When the Canucks are spending $6 million a season on a player that has a good week twice in a season, they’re paying too much. The participation ribbon goes to none other than Loui Eriksson. His late November streak gave us hope but alas, it was a repeat of watching Todd Bertuzzi after “the punch”. Not the player he used to be, not at all. Jim Benning wins GM of the year if he can move that contract.

 

And last but definitely not least is the most important award of them all…

Todd Bertuzzi Mid-Season MVP Award

This isn’t the actual MVP award. That one is hands down given to Brock Boeser. The Bertuzzi MSMVP is given to the player who has turned in a great half-season effort, put up respectable numbers but most likely is either A) not even on the team after the season or B) has fizzled out down the stretch. It’s the backhanded compliment of all awards. There are no prerequisites to have punched and seriously injured another player, trolled a fanbase and failed to back it up, or leave the bench to start a fight.

There were a few candidates for this one but in the end, for the betterment of the Canucks future, Thomas Vanek was given the shiny glove trophy. Vanek has done everything he was signed to do, averaging 0.71 pts/game, and now that the Canucks are out of the playoff run (not actually, but let’s be real here) it’s time to focus on how great of a haul Benning can bring in.

I can’t see Vanek fizzling down the stretch, he just doesn’t have that in him. Getting traded would really help the Canucks and Vancouver could easily sign him again next season.

*Boeser won the MVP award via Twitter fan vote. The actual 2018 NHL All-Star MVP should have been Nikita Kucherov and it wasn’t close. Regardless, like an empty-net goal that ends a slump or starts a streak, Brock has another feather in his cap on his journey towards the Calder or maybe more.

 

photo – TSN.ca

Canucks Are Due For Lottery Luck

The Canucks have a history more unfortunate than anything Lemony Snicket has ever created and yet we follow their every move and complain when things don’t go their way like it’s a foregone conclusion the NHL and, life really, have it out for them. I just finished “100 Things Canucks Fans Should Know and Do Before They Die” and it’s not a big surprise but the Canucks have had a pretty tough go well before they even entered the NHL. A great book, you can be sure, it dictates every travesty Canucks Nation has ever endured. (Still read the book, don’t be a cheapskate!)

Over and over, Vancouver misses the boat by what seems like inches and end up becoming miles. Gilbert Perreault going first overall in the 1970 Entry Draft to the expansion Buffalo Sabres and not the Vancouver Canucks after a Steve Harvey-like mishap from then league president Clarence Campbell.

Wikipedia

There was theatrics from day one which is a microcosm of the Canucks history, really. When it came to the standings, the Canucks were never bad enough to be last and secure the top pick and spoiler alert: they’ve never been good enough to win the Stanley Cup either. So why does this year feel like the year Vancouver finally breaks their pattern of luck and wins the first overall pick to select Rasmus Dahlin, an absolute stud of a Swedish defenseman?

Throwing the Canucks a bone is one reason. Everyone will remember after the lockout when Sidney Crosby was the prize for the draft lottery. The odds from the season prior to the lockout were set and the teams were counted down. The Canucks were still in it with 10 picks to go and after the commercial break wouldn’t you know it, the Canucks were awarded pick number 10.

Because, of course.

After all, isn’t it flat out luck that the lottery balls fall in their favour on decision day? It sure is. Playing the Draft simulator is nothing that hasn’t been done by pretty much every Canucks fan at one time or another in the last few years, hey, even Jim Benning (former Canuck player) got in on the action. Once a Canuck, always a Canuck I guess. The misery follows us all and even former players know what’s up. The NHL Draft Lottery Simulator has received heavy media attention over the years and despite its ability to show which teams could potentially win the first overall pick, the actual draft lottery has had other ideas.

Take last year for example:

The Canucks had a 12.124% chance of selecting first but based on how the lottery works, there are multiple draws, and wouldn’t you know it the Canucks ended up with the fifth pick for the second year in a row even though they finished with the second-worst record in the NHL last year. What was even crazier was that the New Jersey Devils had an 8.5% chance and the Philadelphia Flyers had a 2.20% of netting the first pick and they proved that just missing out on the playoffs was better than “tanking” and the Devils took Nico Hischier first overall and the Flyers selected Nolan Patrick with the second pick.

It’s as random as Tide Pods being a food craze in 2018 (this year is going to be so messed up) which is one reason the Canucks will win out this year. “Even a broken clock is correct twice a day” is said from time to time and even the Canucks are due for some good luck every now and then. Brock Boeser is a great example of that as is Elias Petterson. Two players that had zero business being available when they were and yet look how far each dropped.

Don’t let that little bit of good luck change you though, there were prizes available both years that could have set the Canucks up to succeed sooner than later but history reminded the club that wouldn’t happen. Luck has punched Canucks fans in the face over and over from the Cam Neely trade, to the Wayne Gretzky signing that never happened, Todd Bertuzzi trolling the Minnesota Wild fans in 2003, the Nick Lidstrom goal, the Martin Gelinas goal, Cory Schneider getting dehydrated and even Cody Hodgson’s back.

OK, the Gretzky thing wasn’t really luck, that was just plain stubbornness. So what about that Dahlin kid?

The 2017/18 World Junior Championships were a perfect showcase to display Rasmus Dahlin’s talents with Sweden and the fit he had with Petterson just felt right. If Dahlin were to become a Canuck, one final season from the Sedins and 82 games being mentored from, believe it or not, Alex Edler could pay enormous dividends. Here’s just a sample of what Dahlin is accomplishing this year:

Absolutely disgusting.

Chris Tanev, among other players, could be dealt this season and that hole could instantly be filled by a playmaking, sniper on the backend. Sometimes the cards just feel like they were meant to fall in your favour. Of course, I say that every week when I purchase lotto tickets for my office.

Vancouver has lucked out numerous times when it comes to injuries, cap space, and eventual opportunities for many of its stars and the ultimate horseshoe would be at the Lottery. Going back to 2011 is a great example of how simple luck on the injury front and a bit of hard work with understanding the salary cap put the Canucks within a win of the Cup.

That season could have gone very differently if everyone was healthy. So what does this wheel do besides give hope?

Heading over to NHL Lottery Simulator, it took 12 tries in my latest voyage to get the Canucks the first overall pick. It doesn’t mean anything and is in no way affiliated with the NHL. It wastes some time in your day and gives you the hope that the Canucks might just get their lucky number. There have been so many instances where Vancouver has been given a raw deal and it just feels like it’s time that changed, if only for a day.

All it is is luck. The Canucks are due for some good news and once, just once, it would be nice to have the shiniest toy on the playground.

 

Photo – Vancouver Sun

The Final Option: Put Eriksson With Boeser

Loui Eriksson is lost.  He has 13 points this season and pretty much all of them came within a two-week period. He’s barely noticeable on the ice and he is the latest Canuck to have a contract that “sucks”. Somehow, the Canucks must continue on with the Swedish Anchor for four more years. Watching the losses mount is one thing but seeing a $6 million player float in and out of existence on the ice is a tough pill to swallow. A buyout is not an option so what should the team do?

The last possible option without scratching him: Put him on Brock Boeser’s line.

Boeser has made pretty much everyone better around him. Of his 22 goals and 18 assists, here’s the breakdown of how Boeser’s stick has influenced his teammates:

Copied from Naturalstattrick.com

Copied from Naturalstattrick.com

Copied from Naturalstattrick.com

If you noticed there are only a few players not involved here that actually have a point: Jake Virtanen and Loui Eriksson are most notable. Jake doesn’t really need Brock’s assistance but that would sure be a fun line to see go for a night or more; they could call it “Flash and Bang”. OK, that’s more of an NFL running back tandem name but still, it’s good, admit it. The Boeser Effect has made the Canucks tolerable this season and with losses in tow, every game is a chance to see what else the rookie can do. Eriksson might be his biggest challenge yet.

In contrast, here is Eriksson’s rainbow of coverage:

Copied from Naturalstattrick.com

Copied from Naturalstattrick.com

Copied from Naturalstattrick.com

It’s bleak.

His report card would read “does not play well”. The second page of it would eventually say “with others”. Horvat is out so let’s eliminate those numbers, for now, Baertschi just came back so it could take some time to see that whole two assists increase, Vanek for now is with The Flow and the defense is a wash because they come and go.

Much like the movement to get Erik Gudbranson traded away, Loui Eriksson will need to move mountains before he’s even considered tradeable. It feels like Extreme Makeover: Eriksson Edition. Brock has two weeks to develop line chemistry with Loui and most likely Sam Gagner and show not only Travis Green but the rest of the NHL that Eriksson is indeed still capable of scoring goals or at the very least being a regular contributor.

To be fair, Boeser has only had two sets of linemates this year and really, the only change would be Thomas Vanek being subbed out for Loui. The speed difference would be most obvious change and maybe a power-play to start would be the best way to go, not sure. They both are shooting forwards so the idea of having them on opposite sides creates a problem.

Having LE as the setup guy at the top would get the ball rolling. The left-handed Eriksson feeding the right-handed Boeser flows (no pun intended) nicely and I can see a rush co-existing with these two. It intrigues the mind if only for a minute… hopefully, longer if you’re still reading that Loui has only been with the Sedins at 5v5 for any significant amount of regular time.

Small fact: Boeser and Eriksson have skated on the ice along with Gagner for just over 18 minutes of 5v5 and the small sample size isn’t amazing. It’s not a mind-blowing look and I can’t even remember which game it was exactly but it wouldn’t hurt to go back to that considering Boeser doesn’t even have a point with Eriksson at all.

Their time together wasn’t a Corsi dream, far from, but it’s not even about possession right now: it’s about production, something the Vancouver Canucks lack in almost every way imaginable.

At this point in the season, with all the losing and the injuries maiming the Canucks, why not experiment with possible options? Bo Horvat and Brandon Sutter will be returning sooner than later and this may all be a moot point by then but why not give it a try? The race to the trade deadline is approaching and the idea of Eriksson being snagged is a pipe dream at best.

It’s not that people hate Loui Eriksson but for the amount of money he’s linked to regardless of the bad decision made by Benning to sign him, he’s here as a Canuck and one more productive player is all anyone really wants. there was a time where he did produce and his career should be far from over but then again, stranger things have happened.

I honestly think Loui just needs some kind of reboot and riding shotgun with one of the hottest players in the league right now would definitely be that shot he needs.

Photo: Van Courier

For Boeser or For Worse

It’s been said time and time again, “This is why we can’t have nice things”. Brock Boeser was the culmination of a month of these comments. Twenty seconds into the middle frame of the Canucks/Flames matchup on Sunday night, Boeser was felled by a Mark Giordano shot that simultaneously felled Canucks Nation.

You could have heard a pin drop. WARNING: Graphic potential season-ending content

We all felt it, immediately. This was a whole separate Provies in itself, this was a feature-length Pat-Cast, this was a 30 for 30. This may have been the end. Of course, at the time of writing this, no one but the Canucks knows the status of Boeser’s ankle/foot. Thankfully, that’s something we won’t have to dwell on until at least Monday morning.

Where was Nikita Tryamkin to give him a push to the bench, WHERE WERE YOU NIKITA?!?!

“This is why we can’t have nice things”, tanking has proven this a few times, at least for the Canucks. Injuries have leveled this team in a way that is just bizarre. How it is even possible that Vancouver has lost its top center, his wingman, and now the team’s best player who just so happens to be dominating the NHL Calder race and is ranked in the top-5 in goal scoring race?

It’s beyond crazy. From there, the injuries to Brandon Sutter, Derek Dorsett, Erik Gudbranson, and Chris Tanev are just white noise, really. Everyone hoped this day wouldn’t happen and Boeser has only been on the team for less than half a season and he’s become the most polarizing figure in Vancouver sports.

The Sedins never reached the popularity of this magnitude.

This was ONE day ago! Less than 24 hours later, here’s what is being read online:

Maybe it’s over, maybe it’s not. Henrik and Daniel Sedin have been getting back to their old ways but even then, they had Boeser to take the load off so they could sneak in and do some damage.

This isn’t even a question of adversity or how the Canucks will deal with all the injuries, it’s past that point. Until February rolls around, there is realistically no chance the Canucks win more than three games until then. The sky has fallen, it’s over, the Canucks are doomed. Any other ones I missed? Team Tank will surround this like vultures by the morning. Just wait.

The World Junior tournament is just over a week away and then the focus can transition to Elias Pettersson’s dominance of a child’s league compared to the heights he has risen since his draft day. Anything to take our minds off of this doomsday situation.

 

Oh, and there’s no more milk in the fridge. Great.

 

Follow me on twitter: @always90four

photo – Nucks Misconduct via Mike Ehrmann

Forget the Maturation Process, the Canucks Need Goals

Travis Green needs a wake-up call. He lost his top center, one of his top wingers, he’s been without his third line center for some time and the rest of the Canucks are struggling to score. Putting in 4th line grinders in place of budding scorers is not a smart way to keep the team competitive. Once again, Henrik Sedin will be asked to shoulder the load on a team that has no clear sign of keeping up. It’s kind of getting heavy.

Save Brock Boeser (seriously, save him), there aren’t many other options to score right now. Loui Eriksson has receded into a winter slumber after going on a mini point streak, Thomas Vanek has 2G in his last 16 games, and the rest of the goals are on IR. Daniel Sedin isn’t the goal threat he once was and Jake Virtanen is only getting opportunities when the lines seem to cross over.

Couldn’t agree more, Blake.

The Canucks have called up Nikolay Goldobin because he is a…scoring…winger. He’s not going to learn much sitting in the press box in favor of Nic Dowd. This is Jayson Megna/Michael Chaput syndrome all over again. Green has made many of us believers with his slightly different style of coaching and it has paid dividends early. He can’t regress now.

He’s hit a rut, a pretty significant rut and the goals aren’t going to magically appear. Even with stellar goaltending, which the Canucks currently are not getting, they can only afford to allow 1-2 goals per game. Not a recipe for winning. Green is quite clearly playing the media he greets every day at practice, pre-game and post-game pressers, so he isn’t about to show his hand.

What many of us would like to know is: are the Canucks a playoff team or a development team? It can’t be both and properly grow; the Oilers may be a good example of this.

Goldobin isn’t the answer by any means for Vancouver but leaving out a goal scorer like they did with Boeser to start the season doesn’t build any trust. This team isn’t matured yet and players need to learn lessons but sometimes the best possible player available needs to play. That may translate to Reid Boucher getting a call-up as well, who knows?

I try to be a good parent. I discipline when necessary and I don’t give in because one of my kids wants a cookie, or both usually.  But you know what, SOMETIMES I give in and give them a freaking cookie or buy them the smoothie at the mall.

You know why?

Because it’s for the greater good of the parents, ME and my WIFE. We get peace and quiet, they behave and there’s no yelling. That’s a parenting win from time to time. Doesn’t mean it’s the right thing to do or that it will happen over and over but in a pinch, it’s a win. They don’t mature any quicker but it buys us time.

Travis Green has a problem that for the immediate future needs addressing. Goldobin is the best player not playing every night. There may even be another trade on the horizon which could involve Alex Burmistrov and maybe more.

For now though, kick the maturing to the curb, coach. This team needs wins in a bad way and if they don’t start building a .500 record at the very least, Bo Horvat and Brandon Sutter returning will be all for not.

Throw em a bone, Travis!

 

Follow me on twitter: @always90four

photo – nhl.com

Thomas Vanek Is ‘Meh’zmerizing

Thomas Vanek doesn’t exactly scream excitement. He keeps it pretty low-key, his interviews are straight-forward and when he celebrates a goal it’s just above bland. Vanek is pretty “meh”. His play, however, is the opposite of his persona. He is quietly having a great season in Canucks blue and green and his following on social media begs for more of his meh-zmerizing play.

On the surface, Vanek looked like he was brought in to add some scoring depth to the bottom-six and give a veteran presence in the dressing room. What coaching and management knew was that he was a playmaking winger that could bring a lot more than just goals.

That may cost GM Jim Benning next summer when he’s a UFA once again. Vanek is already up to 17 points on the year which puts him on pace to score 51 by season’s end, good enough for exactly his career average as of this post.

“Tommy Gun” as Jason Botchford has referred to him, has proven he’s definitely more of a playmaker than a scorer and on a Canucks team that needs distributors just as much as it needs finishers, he’s been a great fit. Of course, he does score as well.

Vanek will be 34 years old in January and if he’s still producing the way he is, which there are no signs he won’t, the Canucks will either command a hefty price at the deadline or at the very least he’ll ask for a few more million dollars on July 1. With the Canucks potentially losing Henrik and Daniel Sedin after this season to retirement, they’ll have two spots and maybe more to fill and Vanek wouldn’t be a terrible player to bring back.

Obviously, there are a handful of prospects trying to earn their spot on the team next season but a player of Vanek’s ilk has a proven scoring ability that those young players wouldn’t have developed at the pro level yet.

He’s a valuable piece on the power play and I wouldn’t be surprised if the coaches let him run things on the man-advantage from time to time, he’s second on the team with 9 PP points. The accolades don’t stop there as he’s tied for third in team scoring and third in assists. His expected production is right on schedule and there would have been no chance these kinds of numbers would have been possible last year under former coach Willie Desjardins (had to get that dig in).

If TV believes this team is headed in the right direction, the Canucks might get lucky and ink him in the neighborhood of $3-4M for another season or two. Nobody wants to be on a one-year deal and he has more than proven himself to have earned his current contract.

As the season continues, Vanek will hopefully boost more than just the power play and get players like Markus Granlund and Loui Eriksson on the score sheet more often. He’s been involved more often than not with the helpers so it’s not out of the realm of possibility. It’s not the Buffalo Sabres Thomas Vanek that is currently producing for Vancouver but considering he’s producing just under some of his best seasons there, he’s a steal at $2M.

He truly is meh-zmerizing and we wouldn’t have it any other way.

 

Follow me on twitter @always90four

Photo – TSN 1040

Rookie Elite: From Bure To Boeser

The day has come.

There is a Canuck rookie as electrifying as Pavel Bure once was. This both saddens and excites me as Pavel Bure is the reason I became a Canucks fan and felt no player could ever hold a candle to his ability on the ice in a Canucks uniform. As Brock Boeser has emerged he has brought with him hope and the beginning of what could be an amazing era in Canucks history.

It doesn’t take long to see why Boeser has become the heir-apparent as the best player on the team, he does everything so well. His shot is lethal. It’s broken ankles, goalies, and even his own coach’s predictions of how good this young star could be.

The hype surrounding Brock before he even played his first game was quite similar to Pavel’s debut. Everyone knew what to expect, the pins and needles mounted as the day came near and when North Dakota was eliminated from the NCAA playoffs we all knew it was time. It’s tough to say if anyone believed he’d be playing for the Canucks the very next day but hey, that’s sports!

BB scored in his first game against his hometown Minnesota Wild, honestly what could be better than that? Pavel never scored in his first game but he rivaled Brock with the excitement of what was about to come.

The hype begins:

The OG hype machine:

That same tingly feeling is there when Bure took to the ice and now as Boeser steps over the boards for a shift. Something magical feels like it’s about to happen and every time the puck is on his stick you think you’re about to see the biggest goal of his career… it’s been almost predictable.

Bure never scored until his 4th game when he potted two against the LA Kings and didn’t really pile on the goals until later in the season. His play spoke for itself though, and his first game was almost a microcosm of what we were going to see throughout his career. Everything Pavel did was magic and it didn’t take long before he was the talk of the league.

Brock Boeser is reaching that status. He isn’t as fast as Bure was and doesn’t have the same hands as him but Boeser has a release that is otherworldly. The way he is able to bend his shots may be his eventual calling card. Boeser definitely has more of a Markus Naslund type shot but with the velocity of an Alex Ovechkin blast.

Media and fans alike are building a case for Boeser’s Calder consideration after he took the NHL by storm this week after scoring 6 goals in his last 5 games with 2 of those coming on the power play. He’s heavily involved as the final shot in the Canucks set pieces and the offense is quickly funneling down to him.

Don’t forget, he’s 20 years old.

This shot is attached to a 20-year-old, OUR 20-year-old.

Harbouring a star of Boeser’s caliber has been tough to accept as a Canucks fan because we’ve been burned so many times with almost and never was. Pavel Bure had it all and got the team so close to its first Cup, Markus Naslund and Todd Bertuzzi could never get over the hump of the second round and eventually fizzled out. The Sedins, Ryan Kesler, and Roberto Luongo just couldn’t figure it out and had front row seats in Game 7 against the Bruins as Boston cheered its first Cup in decades.

Bo Horvat had his doubters as well so you can see why it’s tough. Brock is a special talent that on the Canucks, is not matched. He will continue to get the media coverage that comes with being an overnight star and from the looks of it, it’s about as exciting to him as clipping toenails.

Getting jacked on a Calder candidate in November is dangerous but considering Boeser has played three fewer games than his teammates (two of them were healthy scratches to start the year) as well as being on pace to play more games than Pavel Bure did in his rookie campaign, it’s entirely possible.

He currently leads the Canucks in goals and points and as the stats mount up for Brock, the records will start to fall in the Canucks annuls. There hasn’t been a player like him in a long time and it feels good to be envied again after seeing players like Connor McDavid and Auston Matthews fall to teams because they won* a lottery. Boeser was scouted and Jim Benning delivered in spades.

One can only imagine what Elias Pettersson and Jonathan Dahlen will do once they arrive.

 

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Photo – Dobber Hockey

Canucks Power Play: Insert Coin To Continue

Oh great, another Canucks power play article, super!

Things have unraveled so quickly on the man-advantage that coach Travis Green has regressed to running three units with the Sedins still being trotted out on the regular. The obvious answer early on was to get Brock Boeser the puck in a shooting position. Green has committed to putting Bo Horvat, Boeser and Sven Baertschi on his top line but it doesn’t carry over to the power play.

Like a classic game of NHL Open ice, the Canucks are going to need to put a few more tokens in the machine to continue this game.

 

Obviously, the Canucks don’t have snipers like Pavel Bure and Alex Mogilny but at least back then the coaches knew what do with them. Across the league, the top teams on the PP have dedicated gunners from “the spot” as Jeff Paterson labeled it a week or so ago. The Canucks have seen a few of these teams set up the guy on the spot, namely the Dallas Stars and Tyler Seguin.

The top powerplay producers in the league have players put in a position to score. Dallas, Tampa, New York, Pittsburgh, and Winnipeg are all in the top-five for power play percentages. Their stars Steven Stamkos, Alex Ovechkin, Patrik Laine, and the aforementioned Seguin all have schemes set up to get them the puck. How Green hasn’t figured out he already has a guy, actually a few if you include Thomas Vanek and probably Bo Horvat as well.

It’s not for a lack of opportunity either; the Canucks are three chances back of Chicago for most powerplay opportunities in the league, a dramatic improvement from a year ago where they had 25 fewer chances at this same point in the season. What seems to be hampering their chances is their inability to keep the puck in the offensive zone for longer than the initial zone entry and even then half the time it looks like a dump and chase.

Back in the day, the Sedins would cross the blue line, make their quick drop pass to the other twin and begin their cycle until the puck found its way to the back of the net. When the West Coast Express was rolling over opponents, Brendan Morrison would setup Markus Naslund at the face-off dot and pull the trigger which either went in the net directly or Todd Bertuzzi would clean up the garbage.

This new Canucks team has a few weapons that have proven to be deadly when configured properly. At the beginning of the season, it was all about quick passes and keeping the puck moving. When defenders get enough time to set up their blocks they have a better chance of… well, blocking the shot or worse, clearing it down the ice.

What the Canucks need to do is have a triangle offense where Boeser and Vanek are the face-off dot shooters, a middleman, say Horvat and a guy who can hold the line on defense which would probably be Alex Edler? Have as much potential firepower as possible on that first unit and build a complementary transition group that can maintain that speed.

Unless Green catches lightning in a bottle with Loui Eriksson or Sam Gagner, they should be nowhere near that powerplay. Gagner is too predictable, much like the Sedins are now, so having a possession-based second unit with Brandon Sutter, Michael Del Zotto and Ben Hutton as the set pieces at least until Troy Stecher returns. Markus Granlund could probably be used in there as well as Sven Baertschi and use the Sedins as a last ditch effort if things aren’t going well at all.

Seeing the Canucks’ powerplay opportunities grow is all the more reason to input the young players instead of watching a two-minute snoozer with the old guard.

Video games have a pause and a reset button, arcades make you put in more coins when you’re losing; the Canucks need to pause and reset their approach if they want to have any kind of success when they draw a penalty.

Sadly, there are no cheat codes in real life.

Follow me on twitter: @always90four