NHL Draft

Taste Of NHL Pays Dividends For Canucks Pick Kole Lind

As bad as the preseason has been for the Canucks, it seems to have paid off in spades for multiple prospects still on the roster and players that have been sent back to junior/AHL. Case in point Kole Lind, 2017 2nd round Canucks pick (like you didn’t know).  Lind was sent back just in time to join his Kelowna Rockets teammates before the first game of the WHL season.

He didn’t need much time to adjust. Whatever the Canucks coaches taught him, he put into use right away.

In the Rockets’ home opener on Friday, Lind made quick work of the Kamloops Blazers defense and eventually their goaltender, fellow 2017 draftee Dylan Ferguson.

Here’s an assist a bit later in the game; the patience he shows is scary impressive:

Torching the Kamloops Blazers doesn’t put Lind in MVP consideration quite yet but he was far and away the Rockets best player and after collecting 8 points through 2 games this weekend, he’ll be hungry each and every night.

What Lind will eventually bring to the Canucks is the ability to score goals with a release similar to current Canuck hopeful Brock Boeser and retired great Markus Naslund. He is well used on the penalty kill and has gone end to end untouched while his team is down a man. That won’t be a regular occurrence in the NHL

The Rockets are a very different looking team this season with Nick Merkley,  Lucas Johansen and Calvin Thurkauf moving on, as well as the unknown fate of Dillon Dube at Flames camp. Kole Lind will be targeted as one of the top producers on his team this year but much like last season when he led the Rockets with 87 points, he’ll challenge for top spot again.

Vancouver will be keeping a close eye on Lind this year with the current youth movement afoot, a monster season in Kelowna could push his stock way up to a potential roster spot next year on the Canucks. It will be interesting to compare gameplay with Boeser and Lind this year to see how they matchup in relation to their competition.

Coach Jason Smith of the Rockets has Lind available in almost every game situation and that speaks well of his talents. When he does eventually turn pro, Kole will have a solid arsenal of weapons every time he steps on the ice and Travis Green will trust him with more than just 5v5 ice time.

Jim Benning hit a home run with the 2017 2nd rounder and if Lind can hold up his end of the bargain there may be more future picks out of the Okanagan. We all know it’s been invisible until this past year.

Follow me on Twitter @always90four

 

photo – The Hockey News

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Leon Draisaitl Speeds Up Canucks Rebuild aka The Offer Sheet

This could probably be summed up in about five tweets or so but it’s Friday and boredom has set in.

On July 1st the NHL Free Agency window opens for the year and a certain RFA, Leon Draisaitl, will be available. There have been plenty of arguments for and against signing him to an offer sheet and this would be the former. The old Oilers’ regime foolishly burnt a year of Draisaitl’s entry level deal after playing him 37 games in 2014/15 and then sending him back to junior where he came within a goal of winning the Memorial Cup (sigh).

Had they held him back this process would have been delayed by one year and most certainly the Oilers would have set themselves up by the 2018 trade deadline to clear enough space for him to fit comfortably. As it sits, this is not the case.

The reason tendering an offer sheet to Draisaitl is somewhat clever for so many teams including the Canucks, is that if a team WERE to sign him they automatically have a proven top pivot that doesn’t need to develop in the system or raise any concerns about character and the like.

Draisaitl is a horse and as we all saw in the playoffs this past spring, he’s a proven performer at the most important time of the year. Realistically, issuing an offer sheet to the LD camp most likely means max cash and four first round picks. A steep price for any team but in the case of the Canucks, there is no waiting around for him to be ready.

He makes the team better on day one and probably challenges for the 1C job… ok, he gets the job. That, in turn, pushes Henrik Sedin to the second line, Bo Horvat to line three and Sutter, well, they could probably trade him at that point. Could it work? Sure. Just imagine seeing 30-35 more goals next year, crazy to think right?

Everyone has seen the compensation the Oilers would receive, the cap hit that is attached to LD and the potential to take him straight to free agency as a UFA once this deal concludes but it can be argued that for a team somewhat as desperate as the Canucks, he’s a player worth the risk.

Bringing in a player that hasn’t come through the system and is making that kind of money could be looked at as a slight to the current team but if a player that good comes into the fold, they get it’s for the betterment of the team’s future.

There isn’t any further compensation required by the Canucks once the offer sheet is signed so the recent draft success by Jim Benning (yep, I said it) can calm Canucks fans as they know the future gets that much brighter as Draisaitl nears his next deal. It would definitely be one of the boldest moves by a Canucks GM since Brian Burke’s deal at the Draft in 1999 or even more recently when Cory Schneider was traded for New Jersey’s first round pick which turned into Bo Horvat.

The only other reason to offer sheet LD would be to flip a big middle finger to Peter Chiarelli after he crushed the Canucks in 2011 with the Bruins. Jim Benning was there too but it would solidify Benning as “one of us” and a statue would eventually be erected or maybe like a full page ad from a fan in The Province if this all panned out.

Adding LD helps the Canucks focus on other needs, most likely defense and maybe another winger in the next year. It keeps the rabid fanbase at bay and players like Brock Boeser and Nikolay Goldobin get a chance to eventually shine with him.

Leon Draisaitl will always be in Connor McDavid’s shadow and this is his chance to become the star himself. Plus, who really wants to live in Edmonton longer than they have to?

It’s just money, right?

Follow me on Twitter: @always90four

photo – youtube

House Always Wins For Vegas Golden Knights

Does anyone else think the Vegas Golden Knights #Expansiondraft process is overly shady?

Over the last few days, teams have been contacting VGK (or so we’re led to believe) to leave some of their unprotected players alone by offering draft picks for said protection. Vegas is in a position right now to bully a handful of teams into lucrative draft picks so the guys they were forced to expose stay protected without actually being protected.

Follow me so far?

With the Golden Knights drafting 30 players from the revealed NHL team lists on June 21, they have a chance to build a decent roster to start their first season. As the lists show, there are some players on there that teams probably aren’t thrilled to have exposed and that’s where the Vegas magic comes in.

Take Calgary’s Hunter Shinkaruk or Montreal’s Steve Ott, OK bad example; seriously though, Nashville’s playoff stud Colton Sissons or James Neal would be great pickups to start a franchise as would aging but still capable goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury from Pittsburgh.

So what happens? These teams (not necessarily THESE TWO) offer up first, second or third round picks to “leave them alone.” Doesn’t sound mafia-like at all, no way. This is how it all starts: first it’s a pick, then it’s a ridiculous offer sheet to an RFA (watch out Canucks/Bo Horvat) and then it’s Wikileaks or some crazy thing like that.

Vegas MUST be stopped!

Shady stuff, Vegas

This is already too much. Eventually, Gary Bettman will have to admit that the NEXT expansion draft will have to be amended so that the new team can’t strong arm current teams for their draft picks, all they can do is pick from what’s there or make ACTUAL player-to-player trades.

It’s playing out how the beginning of the salary cap front-loading contract scheme worked. Teams figured out the loophole as well as another one and allowed players like Ryan Suter,  Zach Parise, Roberto Luongo and Alex Ovechkin to bank top dollars in the first few years of their contract and when they are old and irrelevant their cap it is essentially zilch.

Apparently, if the price isn’t right Vegas just DGAF. The NHL has officially gone to a dark place.

The sad thing is that even though the Canucks exposed Luca Sbisa and Brendan Gaunce, Vegas may not even take either of them and it was Brandon Sutter who should have been exposed in the first place. Jim Benning could call George McPhee and ask to have say, Gaunce, protected and McPhee would probably just laugh and say “don’t worry Jimmy, we wanna win sooner than later so you’re fine.”

In Vegas, the saying goes “the house always wins,” and now that the NHL is coming to town it seems that rings true once again. The last few weeks have played out somewhat bizarrely for this whole scenario but the Golden Knights looked poised to strike early and make a name for themselves.

You shady, Sopranos-loving (that’s New Jersey?) young NHL team, you sicken me.

Just promise us this: you’ll let the Canucks win a Cup before you.

I beg you.

Follow me on twitter: @always90four

photo – reviewjournal.com

Canucks Can Get Spark Back Through Rebuild

Aside from fast-forwarding five years in the future, there isn’t an instant fix to getting the spark back when it comes to the Canucks. The last era of the Canucks began its ascent around 2006 and the pinnacle as we all know was in 2011. That era wouldn’t have existed if it wasn’t for the one right before it during the West Coast Express run and it began forming a reality when the Sedins were drafted in 1999.

Success doesn’t happen overnight.

What the Canucks DO have in their possession are many successful models that have preceded them both in their own organization and in the rest of the league. The current lineup isn’t all that enticing and the prospects that are developing won’t truly come to fruition for a handful of years still. In typical Canucks fashion, management has a flair for the dramatic and that might just be what this team ultimately needs.

Trading Edler/Tanev right now

We get it, Alex Edler doesn’t want to leave. He said he wants to see the rebuild through and although that’s quite noble, that’s not how these things work. Edler has worked to get an NTC and he has every right to use it but the NHL has burnt itself by having this as part of the CBA. A modified version should be discussed in the next go around but that’s not what we’ll discuss here.

Chris Tanev needs to be moved before his modified no-movement clause kicks in July 1. The Canucks need to keep the ball in their court and maximize whatever power they have while the getting’s good. There have been rumours the Canucks could make a pitch for Jonathan Drouin in Tampa and everyone loves a change of scenery reclamation player. It frees the team of broken sticks and injuries that seem to be more common than not.

Trading either/both of these players is a significant move in the rebuild direction, happens all the time. At some point, they’ll both be moved anyway so why not actually get something for them? Vancouver has always made a splash in the trade market when no one is paying attention and it’s possible they set the summer up with the first domino.

Be the big player on July 1

Again, the Canucks usually get “their” guy but it’s been pretty obvious their guy is the wrong one. Loui Eriksson was a terribly kept secret and despite articles that myself and other Canucks blogs have published, he isn’t a long-term fit in Vancouver. T.J. Oshie might not be a home run either but offering short-term big money can give the Canucks a more reasonable threat up front and balance the top two lines to the degree people will actually notice them.

Keeping Ryan Miller for another two years isn’t a splash but it gives him stability for his family and it would be silly to pull the plug on a guy after he finally has shown results. Kicking him to the curb just starts the process over and it’s unlikely Jacob Markstrom can handle the load as the number one guy. At some point, Thatcher Demko will be ready to take over and two years from now he should be groomed well enough to make a charge in the NHL.

Going the offer sheet route is dangerous and can potentially create some enemies, which again points to making a splash via the trade market. Jim Benning has better than good rating as a trade partner, not great, but better than good. Hopefully, someone needs a defenseman.

Trade up in the draft/trade to add another first rounder

There seem to be a plethora of players at the 5th spot and the names could change instantly with the parity that are picks 3-10. Nico Hischier would be the guy I can see Vancouver targeting which probably means they’d need the first overall pick to solidify their player. If taking Hischier isn’t a reality then snagging another top-10 guy should be.

It’s not a secret a few of the teams in the top five are shopping their pick. Why not take advantage of teams that don’t necessarily need the players the Canucks clearly do? Every GM before Benning in Vancouver has worked some magic at the draft and this feels like a good time to put his signature on this team. Acquiring a center and a defenseman would be a shrewd move and with the players mentioned above, Benning could send one of them away to get a stud that can help the team move forward.

Olli Juolevi has a shot to make the Canucks this October and he is just one year removed from his draft year. Talent and circumstance have created an opportunity and freeing up at least one older guard get the team that much closer to contention.

I’ve heard there are some Kelowna Rockets that potentially could be had in the second round, just saying.

The Jersey

It’s already been designed and I don’t believe there has been a release date for the new Adidas NHL jersey but creating a demand for the new jersey and all the merch that goes with it keeps the spark alive. When the team released the current version of the Orca when the Reebok Edge uniform came out, it was the middle of summer but the fans ate it up.

With no alternate this season, the Canucks will need to be relevant once again to get back their fashion crown. The shame is there are so many other versions and color schemes that the Canucks will never have the look/feel that Edmonton, Calgary, Washington, and so many other teams get when they trot out one color and one color only.

If Johnny Canuck has arrived, fans will be able to tolerate a less than exciting product on the ice if they feel they look cool off it.

Play the kids… ALL OF THEM!

The Oilers did it, the Penguins did it, heck Calgary has tried their hand at the youth movement and wouldn’t you know it, it’s paying off! There are arguably seven or eight prospects and current young stars that could occupy spots on this team. If Vancouver is going to lose at least let us watch the players we want to see.

Brandon Sutter is the opposite of flashy and he’s a liability as soon as he arrives at Rogers Arena. Luca Sbisa has a good shot at being claimed by Vegas, Alex Burrows and Jannik Hansen are now gone and going the PTO direction again isn’t going to happen. The fans don’t mind a team that tries, or at least LOOKS like they’re trying. Travis Green has seen a handful of the players related to this topic and there may be some talent we don’t know exists yet.

Play the kids and bring on the actual rebuild, no more lip service.

The summer is long and staying relevant to Canucks nation will be a challenge this year but the Canucks have the tools to make the team fun again and some of the solutions aren’t all that hard.

photo – sportsnet.ca

Canucks Rebuild Wouldn’t Have Made Sense With 1st Overall Pick

Let’s get serious for a second, the Canucks have never been lucky enough to get all the attention. Well, there was that one time with the riot and then the other riot and the Bertuzzi thing and the bitin… nevermind. What I meant to say was the Canucks have never been the center of attention when it came to building a successful franchise. They’ve never been quite that bad to pick first overall (in the pre-lottery days) and clearly, they’ve never been good enough to win it all and have a model named after them.

This rebuild that everyone talks about wouldn’t have made any sense if the Canucks somehow were awarded the first overall pick. That isn’t the Canuck way. It’s done through struggling special teams, it’s done through multiple failed large contracts and it’s done through the foolish spending of draft picks.

It’s done through Derek Roy, Eric Weinrich, Keith Carney, Jack Skille, Mats Sundin and even Sami Pahlsson. When the draft lottery came and went last weekend the Canucks were in the same position they’ve always been so when everyone bought into the possibility of getting the first or second pick, it was a pipe dream to even think that in the first place.

Picking 5th was almost as predictable as hiring Travis Green or the former Willie Desjardins. It was as predictable as losing out on Milan Lucic and signing Loui Eriksson and seeing Jayson Megna with the Sedins (thankfully that’s over).

Sure, things have been dwindling for a few years now and it’s tough to say if the bottom has actually dropped out but the rebuild is happening and getting the shiny new toy just wouldn’t have fit in with this franchise’s history.

It still amazes me that Roberto Luongo was ever a Canuck. I remember the rumours and thought “this couldn’t actually happen, could it?” It seemed too good to be true. It ended the same way pretty much if you stop to think. The saying goes “this is why we can’t have nice things.”

As Trevor Linden officially declared the R-word, Canucks nation can finally accept what will be happening. We all knew what was happening but just by saying it, decisions that point towards the future are more acceptable. The Canucks have always done it a bit differently and that’s OK. For whatever reason, it’s worked out pretty well.

There isn’t a Stanley Cup to speak of and the cupboards have never been overflowing with talent but somehow, some way, Vancouver has been a consistent enigma. Predictably unpredictable is a phrase I’ve used a lot with this team. Just when you think things are turning around the mumps show up.

When the team is riding high, they lose to Minnesota. Stuff like that.

There will be tons of speculation about who the Canucks will take at 5 and it’s entirely possible they trade up if they believed in Nolan Patrick or Nico Hischier enough. Other than those two guys, whoever they pick will work his way into the system and won’t show up on day one to crack the lineup. It’s a work in progress and the rebuild will take time.

Thatcher Demko is still a year or two away and he probably could start tomorrow if he had to. He was heralded as the next big thing and he’s not even on the team yet.

Bringing along prospects doesn’t happen overnight and picking 5th makes it easier to accept that. The next two seasons and drafts that follow will dictate what the next five to seven years look like, it’s not for a Cup in 2020.

Aside from Pavel Bure, this team has never been overly flashy and will have to construct a team that can compete with the best and they’re right at the beginning of that. Getting a slick defenseman in Timothy Liljegren or a forward like Cody Glass or Casey Mittelstadt will help down the road but the current Canucks will need some help through trades or one-year deals at free agency in July.

Having the opportunity to draft Patrick or Hischier would have just created more problems and forced those players to save a franchise that wasn’t ready to be saved quite yet. It took a long, long time for the Oilers, Leafs and even the Pittsburgh Penguins to achieve the success they now have.

Don’t expect the Canucks to solve all of their problems in one or two drafts, it just won’t happen.

It gets boring before it gets better and the 5th overall pick is about as unexciting as it gets.

That’s a good thing but it also could be really, really bad.

 photo – sportsnet.ca

Canucks Unlikely To Expose Sbisa In Expansion Draft Because Life Is Cruel

Imagine a scenario where the Canucks are abysmally awful and that it isn’t the worst thing going on. Now, imagine there is an opportunity for the team to expose a dumpster fire of a defenseman in Luca Sbisa in the expansion draft for the new Vegas Golden Knights only to be stopped dead in their tracks because two defensemen on their own team decided to go back to Russia.

This is the actual situation and it’s almost laughable because it is just so Canucks for this to happen.

Just when things couldn’t get any more interesting in Canuckland, both Nikita Tryamkin and Philip Larsen bolt back to Russia and leave the Canucks with a gaping hole on an already porous back end. As of today, the Canucks defense consists of Alex Edler, Alex Biega, Chris Tanev, Ben Hutton, Troy Stecher, and Luca Sbisa.

Including Alex Biega and Andrey Pedan will most likely happen as soon as training camp begins and it would take a season-long case of mono to a current defender for Jordan Subban to crack the lineup, let alone get called up.

Sbisa now becomes an asset to the Canucks and forces them to retain him on circumstance alone. He’s like the Barry Trotz of the Canucks. Whenever there’s a chance to finally rid themselves of his services, something comes up. It’s like you want to get healthy and lose a few pounds but then that new extreme DQ blizzard comes out and it’s basically game over again.

How is this even possible that their defense could get any worse, it’s already the worst! Following the Canucks as long as I have, it’s almost expected that things just don’t go their way. This almost isn’t even news anymore. So is this really real? Is Luca Sbisa going to finish out his contract as a Canuck?

Sure looks that way.

The $4 million final year of Sbisa’s contract will be an albatross that weighs heavy on the rebuild and sadly the team pretty much HAS TO keep him because quite frankly, who else is there? Let’s just say for a second that Olli Juolevi is an absolute rock star and makes the team out of camp. It’s possible. Then, let’s assume Sbisa isn’t claimed in the expansion draft and Trevor Linden and Jim Benning sign Erik Gudbranson, what then?

There now are two players that shouldn’t be on the team and are keeping this rebuild from happening. It helps the team sink further in the standings from day one, sure does, but developing a better system with whatever coach the team hires is still a distant dream because management wants to carry these guys for whatever reason that they sell the public on.

Sbisa tied Tanev and Tryamkin this season with 2 goals, not something to be proud of as Tanev doesn’t score anyways and any Tryamkin related stat is now a point of sadness. It’s really a shame he accumulated the 4th most points on the Canucks back end because he was at or close to the bottom in shifts per game and TOI/game.

Of all the defensemen playing at least 1000 minutes at 5v5 this season, Sbisa ranks 10th worst in CF% with 45.83% and 4th worst in FF% at 44.26%. He is a detriment to the Canucks and with both Tryamkin and Larsen gone this is a monster slap in the face to the process.  The timing couldn’t be worse and it now completely changes the NHL Draft for Vancouver.

What if the Canucks slip to 5th? Do they take a D instead of a forward? There is so much need up front that it is almost going to take a trade either way to attain what the team needs so this offseason is salvageable.

What once was an abundance of riches for Vancouver is now the biggest anchor that is sinking the team. Whatever goalie backstops the Canucks next season will have to be a hair short of perfect for this team to even be relevant by Christmas time. But, it’s early and the draft lottery is still to come.

Somehow, Jim Benning will draft off the board and Rogers Arena will implode. That seems like the only likely possibility now. Mark Messier would even be a goo… JUSSSSST kidding.

photo – vancourier.com

Next Season Crucial In Proper Canucks Rebuild

To say the next couple of years are important for the Canucks would be an understatement. It’s huge. Making the change at the coaching position and slowly dismantling the old regime were important to show the fans, not everything that Trevor Linden and Jim Benning said was a complete lie. The fans and media alike, have been told many different things over the course of the “retool on the fly” era and for the most part, it failed.

The inconsistent message that has been preached outwards has just confused the process for the fans, media and I would guess the players as well. Not knowing the direction the Canucks are headed can’t be easy when the players can’t even see where the team is headed. Linden needs, to be honest, and officially call this a rebuild.

How this team was able to be so fantastically deconstructed in such a short amount of time is truly amazing. What the Canucks failed to do was to have a succession plan or the very least passable options when moves were made. That is starting to happen now but it came at a fairly high cost. Giving up on players like Gustav Forsling, Zack Kassian, Nick Bonino and shipping off high draft picks at the same time just muddied the state the team was in.

I get it, those moves all had different situations attached to them but looking at each of them, it feels like Vancouver didn’t give them a true chance. Management has stuck by Luca Sbisa, Brandon Sutter and given an aging Loui Eriksson a hefty, long-term deal. If the Canucks are rebuilding, all of these moves feel like they were poorly thought out. There is no room to take on smaller contracts and the small contracts they HAVE taken on could have been avoided.

But fear not, this is not all doom and gloom, there is hope still to be found but don’t expect to see it next season or the season after. Providing a few things go the Canucks way, and one of those things is the placement in this year’s NHL Entry draft, the Canucks might be able to put a realistic timetable on the changes that are coming.

It’s no secret that picks #1 and #2 hold a lot of value and can slightly speed up the process of the Canucks rebuild. Having a centre that can instantly be inserted into the lineup to take the 3rd line pivot job can force Benning to look at moving Sutter. If Sutter is claimed in the expansion draft, that is all moot anyway and the #ExposeSutter movement will have succeeded.

Looking at point production, there is optimism, not much but a bit. Henrik finished with 50 points and it could be argued Daniel probably could have been there too! Bo Horvat led the team with 52 points and again, had Sven Baertschi had a healthy season he could have challenged for a 45ish point campaign.

Injuries crushed the Canucks this season which hampered the point production and a failure to adapt on the power play when it hit all-time lows as well as not allowing late game heroics due to poor line deployment absolutely cost the team both points on the scoreboard and in the standings. How that changes in October has yet to be seen.

So, having four potential 50 point players makes the Canucks a little more believable as a rebuilding team on the rise but don’t expect the same type of production after the season they had. Teams have figured the Canucks out and it will take a complete overhaul of their current structure to make the team competitive again. New look power play units, emphasis on available speed and holding on to the puck instead of the ever-predictable dump and chase.

There are players in the lineup that can make some of this happen and a few new ones as well. Ollie Juolevi looks ready to take on the NHL game and Jake Virtanen seems to have cut weight and sculpted his frame to fit in as well. I have no clue if they even make the opening night roster but with an offseason of opportunity, both players know they can earn a spot.

How about the late additions?

Even though we’ve only been given a small sample of Nikolay Goldobin and Brock Boeser, the talent these two possess has been noticed. Boeser made an immediate impact notching four goals and an assist in nine games to finish the year. Goldobin put up three goals in his first 12 with the Canucks. It wasn’t just the production on the scoresheet but the ability to use their linemates effectively and trust the talent they have. These guys know they’re good and with a new coach, their chances to succeed may be higher than when Willie Desjardins was at the helm.

The youth movement will be a lot more visible come the 2017/18 season, which is what many have asked for. I doubt there will be much change in the standings and Vancouver realistically may fall even further before they climb back up the ranks. Seeing an entire line of players under 24 years of age that are leading the Canucks is something worth noting.

Bo Horvat, Boeser and Sven Baertschi seem to present the future of the franchise while the Sedins may get the opportunity to bring a player like Goldobin along and groom him for his future reign in the NHL. I think it would be a great idea to potentially split the Sedins up on both power play units.

Not an original idea, I know. What I’d love to see would be Daniel on the first unit and Henrik on the second. Putting Horvat/Daniel/Baertschi up front to start and maybe Troy Stecher and Olli Juolevi on the back end would be my choice. Assuming they don’t score right away ( a safe assumption), bring on Henrik as the lines transition and allow the Sedins to potentially capitalize on the shift.

They have been beyond predictable for the last few seasons and this change would allow a small hybrid of ice time before putting Henrik out with potentially Eriksson and maybe Boeser or Goldobin. You may all think this is crazy talk but I’d say there is some merit there. This could also be applied to the regular 5-on-5 lines but trying it on the power play would be a good start.

Keeping the Sedins in the fold as productive 2nd and eventually, 3rd line players put them right back where their careers took off when they were alongside Trevor Linden. A depth pair of players that can be counted on to keep the lines moving and keeps the focus on the top two lines which in turn creates more scoring chances, probably not goals, but chances.

The focus on faceoffs was once again taken seriously in 2016. Manny Malhotra was brought on and the team climbed back up to finish 9th in the league with a 51.1% success rate. It was a bit less than the famed 2011 season at 54.9% but even then, this year’s position would have been good for 10th in 2011. It’s like they focused on something to be good at and it WORKED!

Jake Virtanen could use some of that love. The Canucks finally played the patience card with Virtanen this season and decided not to rush him back into the lineup. His numbers weren’t other-worldly by any means but it looks like he learned how to be a pro. Does he become the power forward Canucks fans have longed for since Todd Bertuzzi, probably not; but he could end up being a valuable part of the team’s transition.

Alex Edler is another point of interest or disinterest depending on who you ask. Edler isn’t leaving the Canucks and even if he’s asked it can be assumed he doesn’t want to leave Vancouver. He’s starting to show wear and please, please, please change the flex on that stick. He still has a booming shot but he just doesn’t get the chances anymore to let it go like he used to. If Juolevi makes the team, putting him with Edler might be a smart idea and it would allow Stecher to play with Chris Tanev.

Much of this is assumptive and all of this could change by June.

Which brings me to the goaltending situation and where Thatcher Demko fits into all of this. When Demko was drafted in 2014, Roberto Luongo had just been dealt and Eddie Lack along with Jacob Markstrom looked to be the immediate future of the Canuck’s net protection. That didn’t last long. Ryan Miller was eventually brought in through free agency, Lack was shipped to Carolina and Jacob Markstrom still hasn’t seen this cup of coffee everyone keeps talking about.

Demko finally went pro this past year and had a tough go to start his career but down the stretch, he was unbeatable for the most part.

Cory Schneider took the same route as Demko when he was drafted by the Canucks in 2004, he finally made his debut with the Canucks in the 2008/09 season but only played in 8 games when Roberto Luongo was injured. Schneider eventually made his full time, well full-time backup, start in the famous 2010/11 year.

Luongo and Schneider went neck and neck the whole season and it was at that point that Schneider had truly arrived, six years after being drafted. Demko most likely won’t have to wait that long but giving him time to fully mature can only help the Canucks in the long term. Ideally, if he followed the same lineage as Schneider and taking into account the current net situation and the numbers he’s put up, Demko would be the bonafide starter in 2018/19 or at the latest 2020.

There are a lot of similarities between both former college netminders but given the current state of affairs in Vancouver, Ryan Miller (hopefully) will have kept the net warm when it becomes available. By 2020, the Canucks should have a good portion of the building done, if not all of it, and the pieces being developed now will be reaching their primes.

By 2020, the Canucks should have a good portion of the building done, if not all of it, and the pieces being developed now will be reaching their primes. It’s time to look at the Oilers and Leafs rebuilds and understand that the process takes time.

Seeing Nolan Patrick or Nico Hischier in a Canucks jersey makes the process easier to swallow but neither of them will be the answer to the rest of the problems the team still faces.

One year at a time.

photo – http://www.sportsnet.ca/hockey/nhl/bo-horvat-scores-winner-lead-canucks-lightning/sportsnet.ca

Canucks Can’t Embrace Rebuild And They Might Lie To You

Willie is fired, Benning is planning for the draft and Linden is spinning #fakenews. The rebuild began awhile ago but will it ever really happen? We’ve heard the song and dance that has been spewed at us since 2012 and even with the dismissal of WD they aren’t that much farther than when his tenure began. We were told things were better than they were, we were told it would go quickly and that the proper pieces were being put in place.

I hate to say it but whether we want to believe it or not, we bought into the lie.

Losing 2011, YES I’M BRINGING IT UP AGAIN, started the process and two different “models” were tested but it was never carried through. Feeble attempts at adapting to a newer, bigger, faster NHL put the Canucks in the same shoes as the failing Oilers and Maple Leafs’ strategies. Lose to the Bruins – get bigger, thug more. Lose to the Kings – sign a speedskater or have lots of really good players that are borderline suspendable.

There was an opportunity to nip this in the butt and the old regime as well as the new, let their chance slip. Moving away Ryan Kesler was bold and it’s a shame the return wasn’t more. The same can be said for Roberto Luongo. The opportunities to make a splash and keep pace with the Western Conference were there and in typical Canucks fashion, they let them pass.

So now we’re here and it’s pretty ugly. I never thought there would be a season where I would be looking forward to the potential of a first-overall draft pick and now it’s two years in a row. Pure blindness and naivety to the situation are probably the most frustrating to tolerate. It’s like watching season two of True Detective, you watched it but you were disappointed every week.

Trevor Linden said himself after he retired that he didn’t want to be involved in hockey to the degree he is in now. Bringing him in as a PR stunt and a figurehead has only tarnished both his and the team’s image. As GM Jim Benning continues to put together his version of what he believes the Canucks should look like, the final result gets further and further away.

.@rayferrarotsn: There seemed to be no cohesion between what the Canucks expected from their coaches and front office

— TSN Radio Vancouver (@TSN1040) April 10, 2017

Management moved swiftly to remove Desjardins after another losing season and if it all were to go perfectly, there would be a clean sweep at the top including Linden and Benning. That being said, many of WD’s decisions this year won’t be repeated in 2018. Brandon Sutter might not even be a Canuck to start next year if Vegas claims him, Jayson Megna realistically doesn’t see much time on the big club and should probably be buried in the AHL.

Don’t forget Jordan Subban, the powerplay defenseman that shoots right, and is essentially the team’s best player that isn’t on the team. He could play here if there’s any sense out there. It’s easy to understand though because Alex Biega has been such a force on the Canucks and can fill any role whether it be forward or defense.

Removing the tip of the iceberg still leaves bigger problems underneath. The Canucks haven’t been honest with us and it’s pretty upsetting. It’s clear everyone knows what’s going on and if management stated the direction they were headed without the BS, we could support it. Is it going to be easy? No.

Linden is right, the prospects are coming but it’s the current situation that will keep them from getting over the hump. Next year, there needs to be a new face to the team, less focus on the Sedins being the focal points and more concentration on where goals will come from.

It’s insulting to the fanbase when we continue to be lied to saying “everything will be fine” and “change is coming”. Change should have come a long time ago and spinning the wheels isn’t getting things done. Bringing on Manny Malhotra was a nice start to change as faceoffs have dramatically improved in one season. Doug Jarvis was retained and you have to believe his systems are worth keeping around.

The next coach needs to have a teaching mentality but he also needs to have the “balls and grit” to compete at the NHL level. All the talk once again is about Travis Green getting the job. That’s swell, but it’s Willie D 2.0. You’ve had that coach already so you should have kept him around. Whoever comes this time around has to understand it won’t be a long-term position.

There needs to a coach who can suffer through the next phase of rebuilding and help create a winning mentality. No, not just a mentality, an environment; YA an environment!

But how do they GET this environment? Eating veggies and drinking Powerade milk bars? NO sir/mam. First off: SIGN BO HORVAT! It’s a simple thing, really. He’s the future of this team and he needs to know it. Second, platoon Nikolay Goldobin or Jake Virtanen (I really don’t care which) with Henrik and Daniel Sedin. They’re not leaving, they’ve said so, so let’s embrace their mentorship and lessen the load. Maybe give them fewer minutes per game and watch their stats start to rise again.

Sign Ryan Miller to a two-year deal. In fact, make sure you do right away. He’s literally saved their bacon for the last two seasons and with Jacob Markstrom’s health (OK, Miller’s too!) we need a veteran presence until the Canucks are begging to have Thatcher Demko in the lineup. They also need to cool it on rushing prospects into the pros. I want wins and goals too, but let’s not be greedy.

On defense, stop lying and move Alex Edler because he isn’t an effective member of this team anymore and if you’re willing to move Alex Burrows and Jannik Hansen, Edler’s a cakewalk. Parlaying Edler and maybe Ben Hutton too for a 20 goal scorer or even a few extra picks in this year’s draft could go a long way.

Rebuilding isn’t just a word. It’s a lifestyle. You know why the Oilers have bounced back and don’t say Connor McPlayoffs? They cleaned out any suggestion they were still hanging onto old ideas and the old boys club. I don’t know exactly HOW it finally came to a head but it did and wouldn’t you know it, the Oilers are good!

I was going to type that whole paragraph again and just insert LEAFS instead of Oilers but I’m too lazy. They did it too! Canuck Nation made for of those clubs for so long because we could all see their problems and the fix was so easy, well now it’s our turn and we need to take our own advice.

I say we, but I don’t work for the team. You’ve made that clear. This fan base is smarter than it’s given credit for and they just want to get back to winning. So win.

Win in the draft, win at free agency and win in the coaching search. The team isn’t just on the ice, it starts at the top.

This could be the Canucks moment to get it right so stop lying to us and admit you need to get better. We’ll follow you because well, we’ve done it this long so how could it get any worse.

Oh, you’re saying it can?

photo – canuckscorner.com

Canucks At The End Of The Beginning Of The End

If there’s one thing that is beyond frustrating about the Canucks it would be everything.

I had a perfectly good article half-written about the Sedins and why it’s time to retire and yadda yadda yadda they need to stay. The 2016 and 2017 seasons have been a cluster of both surprise and utter disappointment. Losing out on the 3rd overall draft spot in last year’s entry draft but getting a stud in Olli Juolevi and signing Troy Stecher out of college to find out he too, will one day be a star has kept the angry mob at bay.

The start of the Jim Benning era could have seen an immediate end with the lack of direction and insight into many of his decisions early on. It continued after coach Willie Desjardins’ first season when the rubber really hit the road and we all saw how the Canucks were going to be run both on and off the ice.

You would almost think they both had a personal vendetta against certain players or the team itself at times but things seem to be slowly taking a turn for the better. It’s anyone’s guess if Willie D gets the ax after this season ends or if Benning officially is on empty, what is clear though is what potential upside the team has going into next year.

Watching rookie Brock Boeser command respect on the ice as he dazzles and amazes with Bo Horvat and Sven Baertschi is a welcome change from the dull, dreary scene we’ve witnessed for the last few years. Boeser is a true star in the making with three goals in his first seven games and there is no doubt he will give the Canucks a much-needed punch of offense going forward. Same can be said for the young Nikolay Goldobin.

I was almost at my wit’s end for how the Sedins should have ended their careers but now I can see they need to ride it out a bit longer. The problem many have with them is that a suitable linemate always seems to elude them. There have been no efforts to split them up for longer than a period or two and the other mentality is that they still are the top line on the team.

Their declining production shows they aren’t the top line anymore and shouldn’t see the same ice time that top lines get. I believe the Sedins are still very valuable as a pair in a teaching role, much like how they were brought along by the president and former teammate Trevor Linden. We’ve seen Goldobin connect with the Sedins quite early and for him, it’s about effort and seeing the opportunity with players that can help him excel.

Could the Sedins get bumped down to the second or third line? Absolutely. In fact, it should happen so the progression of the franchise can take place. However it’s happened, Benning has brought the future a bit quicker than we may have thought and the end of this horrible beginning of the rebuild is almost at the end.

What?

Jimbo signed Jayson Megna recently to a one-year deal at the lowest possible contract($675k) and on the surface, we were ready for blood. Megna isn’t a first line player and that contract states it as such. What he does bring is speed and on a bottom six spot or even solely as a fourth line winger along with Derek Dorsett and even Michael Chaput or Brendan Gaunce, he can be better utilized with more effective shifts and a lot less ice time. It’s actually a monster bargain if done right.

Does the #ExposeSutter2017 movement pan out? Time will tell and if he actually IS claimed by the Vegas Golden Knights then a big contract is off the books and Horvat can take a few of those dollars while the rest can be used to bring in someone from free agency.

Treating this season as a write-off and gaining a potential “generational player” impact forward through the draft makes much of the suffering bearable. The Canucks have endured so many injuries there was no way this team could even potentially succeed to a possible playoff berth and through some of those injuries, an opportunity arose.

Markus Granlund will be back next year and can contribute on the second line, Loui Eriksson had the worst possible luck this year (much like Radim Vrbata did) and he will be able to rebound in 2018 with Granlund and possibly the Sedins once more. Somehow, Erik Gudbranson will be given another chance which kind of goes against the rebuild mentality because he’s just so bad, like he’s really bad, people.

We can go on and on about how things have to get worse before they get better and believe me, they’re bad. The toughest part in all of this is that the team itself didn’t believe they were this bad until it was too late. Had WD bought into what was going on, he could have salvaged a new contract as I don’t think he’ll be brought back.

The youth movement is coming in waves around the NHL and the Canucks finally have embraced it and at some point, they will benefit. It’s not going to happen overnight and next season will still be a learning curve but it’s coming around and within five years, the Canucks will be challenging for at the very least, a division crown.

They’re almost at the end of this terrible beginning and we’ll be able to breathe again if the franchise can make a splash in June.

photo – timescolumnist.com

Canucks Swipe Left On Right Handers

This is embarrassing but I had to google how Tinder worked before I wrote that catchy headline. Thankfully, I was correct in my guessing and I could keep writing this without error. Just like the popular dating app, Tinder, the Canucks are also consistently swiping left on right handed players. There are currently only 11 players on the 28 man roster that shoot right.

The results aren’t exactly exciting: Derek Dorsett, recent call-up Alexandre Grenier, Jayson Megna, Drew Shore, Jack Skille, Brandon Sutter, Alex Biega, Erik Gudbranson, Philip Larsen, Troy Stecher, and Chris Tanev.

Anyone stand out as a scoring threat here? If you answered Jayson Megna I’ll assume you’ve never seen a Canucks game before and I also would ask you to leave.

How important is it to have a right-handed shot? Well, it’s not the most important factor in deciding a team’s success but in an article from Corsica.Hockey regarding handedness of defensive pairings, it does play a factor in overall production. Thanks, Jackson McDonald! After reading that article, one could suggest that this translates to having a consistent opposite handed winger would benefit potentially the other wing and the centre on a given line. I’m reaching, potentially.

There has never been a solid answer complimentary player for the Sedins with a right-handed shot aside from Jannik Hansen and Anson Carter. Regardless of the success, they achieved together as well as with Alex Burrows, one can only wonder what a consistent right-handed shot would have done for them.

When Jim Benning went out and locked up Loui Eriksson to a contract of Luongo-like proportions, players like Kyle Okposo and David Perron were available, as was Thomas Vanek. Money talks and despite what the players will tell us, I’m pretty sure they can make a go on any team if the cheddar is right.

Current Canucks prospect, Jake Virtanen, is a righty and I get that he is developing but there has to be a spot for him to work on his NHL game. He doesn’t have to hang around but with the team all but mathematically eliminated from postseason play, let’s see him again. Looking back at the 2014 Draft specifically, William Nylander and Nikolaj Ehlers (not right-handed but cmon) were both selected after Virtanen and you don’t even have to check their current stats… oh I should?

Nylander has a healthy 18G, 30A, 9PPG and 21PPP. As for Ehlers, 22G, 34A and, 5PPG. Virtanen is working on his stuff when it’s near him, anyway.

Help is coming once NCAA sniper Brock Boeser signs and gets playing time on the big club. As they develop and become available: Lukas Jasek, Adam Gaudette, Jordan Subban and Dmitri Zhukenov will all be right-handed shots available to the Canucks as the team sees fit. It’s naive to think they’ll all be ready at the same time but Boeser, Gaudette and Subban could all be here sooner than later.

With no real finishers having a right handed shot on the Canucks, they have become predictive. Well, to be fair, it isn’t just what hand a player delivers his shot; the drop pass, lack of power play, lack of speed and not getting enough official shots on net, also factor in. The Canucks are almost dead last in many shot-based categories and having 60% or more of the team shooting from the left side will most likely keep those stats steady.

Vancouver is 23rd in 5v5 CF% with 48.20%, 28th in GF with 155 and shots for/game with 27.7.  They also have the 6th worst actual shooting percentage with 8.1%. Predictability has become the name of the game for the Canucks and blaming an aging core or poor line deployment is just part of the problem.

Willie Desjardins has his problems too, but he’s not responsible for attaining players to put on the ice. Jim Benning has slowly started to put together a team worth talking about but he preaches patience and with some of his recent signings/trades, I’m ok with patience.

Setting up the defensive pairings to accommodate the right/left configuration is part of the solution and many teams try and make their back end look this way. I imagine adding Jordan Subban is a good idea in this case and heck, I hear he has a decent shot to boot! This might even start the power play uptick instead of, you know, just not existing.

I don’t think the Canucks should employ a 50/50 split of right and left-handed players because that’s just stupid. But if you look at a team that doesn’t have opposite handed players in key positions, then yes, that should change slightly. I will say that some of the Canucks best line combos have existed with three left-handed players (West Coast Express, Sedins/Burrows, Bure/Adams/Lin…dang), you get my point.

To tie this up with a nice little bow, swiping left too much keeps you lonely, in Tinder and in hockey. Swipe right every now and then and there’s a chance you might score a bit… in hockey. If you know how to Tinder you may find this to be very informative. This is a hockey deal, though, so things may or may not have just got weird.

You watch, I’ll be right eventually. Correct, I mean. I shoot left, too!

Follow me on twitter: @always90four

 

photo – independentsportsnews.com