Utica Comets

The Case For Jordan Subban As A Loss Leader

Everyone is a salesperson. From the guy on late night TV telling you why need a weight that you can shake vigorously to help you drop the pounds to the nice woman at the jewelry store that can smell your vulnerability as soon you ask why the 4-C’s are important. Agents try to sell the GM’s why their player is worth more money and ownership tries to sell the fans why rebuilding with a lowercase r is OK.

When it comes to Canucks defensive prospect Jordan Subban, selling a reason why he should be on the big club has proved to be quite difficult. It’s not that he can’t score goals or that he isn’t fast enough; he’s a star in those categories. In fact, last season in the AHL, Subban was 3rd amongst all defensemen with 16 goals. He was tied for 7th in primary points (goals and first assists) by defenders with 30 and 17th in overall points by a defenseman with 36.

No one will argue that Subban can’t produce. However, the knock on PK’s younger brother is that defensively, he stinks. The 2017 preseason has been fairly evident of this as he’s been the visible one getting burned for a handful of goals. The blame isn’t always pegged on the last guy but his defensive efforts aren’t exactly NHL caliber.

You know who else was atrociously awful as a defenseman? If you guessed Luca Sbisa then you would win a prize. There are no prizes to give out but if there were, you’d have one today. Somehow, Sbisa was trotted out on a nightly basis when there were plenty of other players clearly more deserving than him to be in the lineup.

As the saying goes, let’s look at the stats:

Luca Sbisa (VAN) 2016/17 – Goals: 2 Assists: 11 GF: 46, GA: 72   TOI/60: 18:58 (7th on team)

Jordan Subban (UTI) 2016/17 – Goals: 16 Assists: 20 GFoI: 42 GAoI:  45  (AHL doesn’t track TOI, but looking at the stats, he would have been playing big minutes).

OK, so based on some similar metrics, Subban was on the ice for a lot more action on either side of the ice than Sbisa. Knowing that, would it not be more beneficial to go with the loss leader in this case? A loss leader in sales is something sold at a loss to attract customers. It has been done in the housing market to get the ball rolling on a development and for the Canucks, having an exciting player on the ice, regardless of the final score, gets people back in the rink.

Even though Sbisa is gone, players like Erik Gudbranson and Thomas Vanek are still on the team. At some point, an injury will rear its head and someone will need to be called up. If having Jordan Subban on the ice means goals are going both ways, the surrounding players and goalie should be able to weather the storm. How bad could Subban really be?

For what it’s worth, Gudbranson had a GF 16 and GA of 38. Subban doesn’t look so bad now, does he?

There isn’t necessarily a spot for Jordan right now but looking back at last season, the Canucks would have most likely benefited more from having Subban on the team. If there is going to be red lights lit at both ends of the ice, why not put in a guy that can actually contribute to them instead of being both an offensive AND defensive hinderance? What about another route, though?

It has been suggested by various people that he switch positions to accommodate to his talents, to say, the wing. It’s unlikely he cracks the Canucks lineup anytime soon due to a logjam of “talent” ahead of him. Smaller forwards have risen to the spotlight in the NHL in the last few seasons so it would be a great time to experiment with Subban up front.

Of course, with two preseason games left to play, it’s a little late for that.

When the time does come to call a forward up, Subban would be an interesting choice. Heck, Andrey Pedan played up front! Goals may come at a premium this season and Jordan has a decent release. Worth a try. It’s worth a try for many of the young stars trying to make the Canucks. If the goals are coming, the losing doesn’t hurt as much.

Comparing Sbisa to Subban is kind of a moot point as Sbisa has moved on to play for Vegas and any stats above were from last year. However, there are still a handful of players that need to be kept honest because there are guys that can rock the boat and get the fire into the lineup. Taking a hit by allowing more opportunities to score goals is well worth the chance to score more.

Limit his ice time as a bottom pairing defenceman and anchor him with a responsible partner OR put him on the wing. Jordan Subban deserves his shot.

The Canucks won’t challenge for a playoff spot this season but having increased goal production combined with excitement (hey, what’s that?) will get the needle moving in the right direction.

photo – Today’s Slapshot

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Canucks Need To Ctrl+Alt+Del

Like a spooked 16-year-old on the family computer at 12:30 a.m, the Canucks need to hit ctrl+alt+del on the 2016/17 season. It started better than anyone thought, going 4-0 out of the gate and then it nose-dived to reality losing nine straight after that. There hasn’t been a long enough stretch where everyone can step back and say “Hey, this team will be ok.” It’s over and we all know it.

Shuffle the lines, call up whoever’s left and start accumulating draft picks.

After losing to the reigning Stanley Cup Champions, the Pittsburgh Penguins, it was fairly clear the Canucks aren’t in the same league right now. The Sedins were outplayed, they didn’t have Bo Horvat or Brandon Sutter, Ryan Miller despite his efforts was left for dead and Alex Biega was used as a forward.

Things have taken yet another turn for the worse. Last season, that would have been ok because there was a pretty significant reward had they lost at the right time. This year, they won’t be bad enough to have a legit chance at scoring Brandon Wheat Kings star Nolan Patrick. In typical Canucks fashion, they’ve shot themselves in the feet again.

For whatever reason, the obvious temporary answers ON the ice aren’t being addressed like making Horvat or even Sutter the top centre. Markus Granlund has emerged as a valuable depth winger that can be used anywhere, much like Jannik Hansen. If they have two of the same player, that makes one expendable.

I love Jannik, I really do. He has always been heralded as potentially the hardest working player on the team for many years and he’s the only player that seems to understand Sedin hockey. He doesn’t want to leave and if management asks him the fallout won’t be pretty. Here’s the thing, though: he brings back realistic future value. The downside is that this year’s crop of players isn’t exactly deep so after the first round, what is there to really get excited about.

What is there to even get excited about in the first round itself?

There isn’t a deep prospect pool ready to overtake the current Canucks roster so the rebuild we all know and crave won’t be complete after this year or even the next two years. Are we really going to be ok seeing Hansen, Burrows, or even Ryan Miller shipped off to the ends of the earth? Compound that with the expansion Vegas Golden Knights (are they still called that?) and the landscape changes dramatically.

All signs are currently pointing to Brock Boeser signing with the Canucks after his season ends in North Dakota so they could have an impactful goal scorer sooner than later. Vancouver still has Jake Virtanen but even HE isn’t quite sure what the Canucks want out of him. This season has been clouded with half-truths and they haven’t even spun the situation to a place where they have people on their side.

The deployment of less than sufficient lineups (Alex Biega as a forward, Anton Rodin as … a hurt bench warmer?) has cost them a few games, overplaying their goalies has easily cost them a handful more and not even having players that can produce on a nightly basis, well I don’t even know what that has amounted to.

Just like that paranoid teen, you need to hit reset and start over. The parts work fine but restarting and assessing what went wrong can help put things in perspective so the fix can be applied. If the Canucks are going to start moving players and asking them to waive their NTCs, they shouldn’t just be going after picks but players that can help them NOW.

I have been a big believer in admitting wrongdoing and moving on. There are a handful of mistakes the Canucks have made that they can at the very least, save whatever dignity is left of the situation and attempt to steer the team in the right direction. Whether it’s moving on from coach Willie D, pulling the trigger on trades that can breathe fresh life into the team, shipping off Virtanen or just no more Jayson Megna, there are fixes that we can accept.

Gary Bettman would be wise to read that book on mistakes.

Sticking by the Canucks gets tougher by the game and the only hope that seems to be keeping us focused on the future is in fact, the future itself.  It’s really tough to say how the Canucks could botch this season any further but it will only be a matter of time before something else happens.

Take a step back, see what you have and work with those pieces to move forward. There are some great players on this team that can become household names around the league but they need to be supported. It isn’t happening right now and it won’t happen unless immediate change is made.

THE BOTTOM IS ABOUT TO FALL OUT!!

Ctrl+Alt+Del

Follow me on twitter: @always90four

It’s Official: The Canucks Are The Definition Of Insanity

Most of you have heard the saying “the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.” The Canucks would then fall under this category. That isn’t the ACTUAL definition but you get the idea. The power play, the head scratching roster decisions and trading away 2nd round picks, WHY DO THEY KEEP TRADING THAT PICK?

It’s about time the Canucks as a whole, get out of that cycle.

There is a serious change about to happen in Vancouver and it’s not the weather, sorry. The Canucks have unearthed some interesting stories this season and it really covers every aspect of this team. The ones that look them dead in the face are obviously the power play and the emergence of Bo Horvat as the top centre.

For starters, the power play needs a complete overhaul. I’m not talking about a TLC reality show, I’m talking about seeing the actual performers on the team, their productivity levels and the potential of the guys that aren’t getting time there. Horvat is tied for the team lead in points and at some point will break away and top everyone.

He’s been a consistent threat up the middle and has made Sven Baertschi a household name. Heck, Alex Burrows became a young man again because of Bo. I haven’t even mentioned that he made the All-Star game in his 3rd season.

Oh, ok, now I have.

The Sedins, although crafty and still fairly good, are not number ones anymore. Give the next generation the baton. Aligning Loui Eriksson with Bo on the first unit will pay dividends within a short amount of time and before you know it, goals will start happening. Goals lead to wins I’m told.

On the back end, Nikita Tryamkin has shown that his howitzer has crazy real potential. It’s hard, it’s fast, it’s destructive: a recipe for a beautiful disaster. If it’s not from the blue line, start moving him up front to screen, I mean, he’s the BFG, he’s tall and screeny. The actual possibility that these things could work isn’t something you read on the Internet (well here you do anyway), people are figuring this out on their own.

I did and I write a blog in my parent’s living room.

Thankfully, the Canucks aren’t the most penalized team in the league but the rest of the NHL is getting faster and the younger players need to be the ones leading the charge. Slow players need to catch up which usually correlates to penalties, hooking, holding, etc. Seeing Jordan Subban get sent back down to Utica hurt but he was able to play in the AHL All-Star game and he no doubt will be back soon.

Subban is another player that needs to make the next step for Vancouver. He’s ready and offers so much potential and speed. Reconfiguring this team to transition to the new NHL will benefit the Canucks sooner than they think. Brock Boeser and Olli Juolevi will arrive soon enough which means someone up front is gone on the wing which is pretty easy and someone on the back end is expendable.

There are enough pieces back there to choose from and realistically, there is a player that can fetch a decent return.

But enough about the dismal power play, what about starting Ryan Miller every night but yesterday? Willie Desjardins can’t continue to isolate Ryan Miller in the net, he needs a partner that can ease the load, especially if the playoffs are something they want to achieve. Miller is having a great season and really feels at home and keeping the Canucks alive every game he plays would be all for not if they burn him out.

Thatcher Demko isn’t quite ready and shouldn’t be rushed in to the mix, Cory Schneider was given time and he flourished because of it. Give Miller rest and he can perform like an All-Star.

What drives everyone crazy is that many of these changes just aren’t or won’t be happening. It’s a stubborn leadership group off the ice that is keeping this team from succeeding. Look at the Leafs, Oilers and Flames; if they would have seen themselves spinning their tires on ice (no pun intended) they would have realized what answers were right in front of them.

Edmonton only JUST realized this recently but that’s a whole other thing and I don’t write about the Oilers.

The surface hasn’t even been scratched on all the things that could immediately remedy the Canucks (not playing Jayson Megna, like at all, Erik Gudbranson getting another shot next year) but if the little things they are doing well continue, the chance that these other changes take place become more and more likely.

It’s insane to think the same thing has gone on this long. Why is this team so afraid of the next step?

Time’s up, we’ll cover this in another session.

Follow me on twitter: @always90four

Win or Lose: Willie Desjardins Needs A New Plan

The carousel of ideas is endless: there are so many ways to potentially fix the Canucks. Not ALL the problems can be fixed with these ideas but just a bit of common sense could ultimately turn the Canucks around and get them in a position to succeed sooner. Willie Desjardins could be given all the statistical evidence he would need to put the Canucks in a more productive state and it seems his stubbornness to adapt has hindered the Canucks’ progress.

He needs a new plan.

Hard facts will show you that goals aren’t being scored in Vancouver, for the Canucks anyways, in almost any fashion. The Canucks are currently 25th in the league in GF/GP, 27th in PP% and back to 20th in PK%. Actual goals for and against are right in there as well. Even on paper, the Canucks probably should be better than they are.

How they’ve configured their lines and failed to implement the right players into a given game shows that Willie and his coaches are not adapting to a changing NHL landscape, well that and they’re just not coaching well.

Aside from Jannik Hansen, the only day-to-day option to be playing with the Sedins should be Loui Eriksson. Jim Benning is paying him $6M a season to score goals and help ultimately, the Sedins score more as well. Until recently, that option wasn’t even given a fighting chance, let alone a chance at all.

I believe the Sedins aren’t as worn out as they have looked, they just need a player that fits them and we all believed the World Cup line with Sweden was a precursor to what we could expect on the Canucks. The unfortunate part of that is that Willie D isn’t the Swedish coach so he may not have seen those games.

Proper coaching would also have revealed that the Sedins probably shouldn’t be on the top powerplay unit anymore, either. If they were going to hang around on that top unit until season’s end, put a better model forward. Sven Baertschi and Bo Horvat clearly are the changing of the guard and as their points increase, Willie will have to adjust to where the goals are coming from.

You will never see me bad mouth Henrik and Daniel Sedin, they’ve earned their spot in Canucks history as essentially, the best ever; what they aren’t doing anymore is making quick, effective plays that result in goals, leads, and wins. Yes, they’re still scoring but its how much more they could be scoring that is more alarming.

The powerplay is awful and when the puck continues to be funneled to Troy Stecher, goals aren’t going to be falling from the sky. Stecher has had a great start to his season but no one has plunked themselves in front of the net and in the dirty areas to fight for goals. Brandon Sutter is the only one and he shouldn’t be the only one.

It’s not that crazy to think that Nikita Tryamkin would be a good option to stand in front and direct traffic until a rebound comes, it really couldn’t hurt. His height and build are reason alone to put him there. Large man in front of the net; seems easy. If it’s not him, Loui Eriksson is a big guy and his stick works just fine. Somehow, Jayson Megna is on one of the powerplay units and he, of all people, does not score goals.

Megna has 3 goals.

Michael Chaput is 2 goals away from that. I’M 3 goals away… me. I don’t play hockey for anyone. I’ll say one thing, though: if Sven Baertschi and Bo Horvat or Loui Eriksson are creating chances, they need more opportunity. The Sedins are becoming more predictable than normal and the rest of the league is finally able to catch them (it took 10 years).

Heck, overload the top group until the goals start coming. It wouldn’t be the first time that’s happened and if you put all of your eggs in one basket, something has to give, right?

What about the whole Anton Rodin/5D issue? Is this something that could have been avoided? ABSOLUTELY!

We all know the details of this now, it’s been repeated ad nauseum. Recent waiver addition Reid Boucher, who has a defensive awareness who at the very least could have fielded a few shifts on the blue line or Jack Skille another defensive forward or knowing you had a banged up Rodin the night before which could have resulted in Andrey Pedan being called up; THAT would be a proper fix.

It’s putting Derek Dorsett out in the final minutes of a close game when everyone and their dog knows Bo Horvat or Brandon Sutter would be a way better option. These are simple coaching decisions that are being pushed aside. Don’t get me wrong, Willie is a pretty good coach but he will “coach” himself out of a job if he doesn’t see the obvious changes that should be made.

The wrong players on the wrong lines, the wrong lines at the wrong time, and a coach who doesn’t know what he has; it’s funny how we’ve moved away from Jim Benning because if this was about him (which it kinda is) we’d want him gone. I suppose we did want him gone already. Nevermind.

The Canucks have the capacity to score goals and as the next few years come there could be a lot more of them. Don’t put a cap on talent, Willie. You gave Ben Hutton, Bo Horvat, Jake Virtanen, and even Jared McCann all a chance and if you’re willing to risk that much, that early, you should be able to make the right moves half way through a season when it’s gone wrong.

Making the proper rational adjustments would also give Ryan Miller and Jacob Markstrom a better chance to win games. Vancouver has been in 20 1-goal games this season, which is just under half of what they’ve played. If even 5 of those games went the other way including OT/shootouts, the Canucks would be 5th in the Conference and snuggly above the playoff bar.

A million people can’t be wrong, although many of us wish we were wrong more.

The Canucks are a good team but bad decisions have forced them to become a pretty bad team. This isn’t right. There needs to be change or this team will rot out.

Follow me on twitter: @always90four

 

photo- usatoday.com

Why Are The Canucks Playing The Good Hockey?

This season was supposed to be a dud. It was supposed to equate to 65 points and one of the worst NHL seasons ever, combined most likely with the first overall pick. But, we all know they could never achieve such a feat. Now, the Canucks are winning multiple games in a row, playing without regular NHLers and it looks like they are having fun.

How do you even explain this season? It’s not like any fancy stats can back up how surprising this team has been, heck, the real stats say they suck too! So why does it feel like the Canucks can actually achieve more than they should? Let’s take a look:

First off, there isn’t any particular reason that injuries should make any team better aside from seeing how some of the prospects on the farm are coming along, but injuries to key Canuck players like Chris Tanev, Alex Edler, Derek Dorsett and Jannik Hansen have forced the Canucks to dress half of the Comets pretty much.

Starting Troy Stecher in Utica seemed like the dumbest move ever but sure enough, the injuries came and Stecher was back on a plane to start on the number one pairing. That gave the Canucks just enough time to see a bit of Philip Larsen and what his PP decisions looked like. It’s evident he has lost that job, on the first unit anyways.

Stecher looks like a seasoned vet out there and when he unleashes that shot, you’d never believe it could come from such a small man. Ben Hutton is getting right back in there and looks like he has been on the team for years. Crazy to think Hutton was just a rookie last year.

Nikita Tryamkin started the season a little shaky and even though he was able to play out the end of last year to gain some valuable experience, it didn’t feel like he was going to make an impact… until he did. Tryamkin is yet another surprise player that most Canuck fans couldn’t see this team without.

Tryamkin has a powerful body that can dominate on the boards, the accidental injuries he has caused prove there is a lot of power there. So far, it doesn’t look like Nikita will be an offensive weapon but he can do what Erik Gudbranson was supposed to do, but for way less money.

These are just the guys on the team RIGHT NOW. Olli Juolevi is still in junior and will eventually challenge for another spot. The expansion draft next year will most likely peel away Luca Sbisa for cap reasons but that still leaves 5 other guys. Chris Tanev isn’t going anywhere, neither is Hutton or Stecher. Alex Edler is up there in age and the amount of sticks he breaks is getting borderline ridiculous, but aside from a trade he’ll probably finish out as a Canuck.

That leaves two spots and with Erik Gudbranson becoming an RFA next season, there will be some important decisions made.

But back to how weird this team has been.

Vancouver starts the year 4-0, then goes on a 9 game losing streak. They split a few here and there before putting themselves in a position to now win 3 straight. I don’t get it. This isn’t an overly talented bunch, compared to the rest of the NHL but somehow they are staying relevant. You can’t miss a game because there always seems to be a story.

After the Canucks finished off the Wild on Tuesday, a team they probably should have lost against, this happens:

So now they just score goals all the time, a squad that… doesn’t score goals very often? OK, I’ll bite. There was an article about the Canucks face-off success and how Manny Malhotra has helped them get back to winning those battles, cheating a bit and starting with the puck instead of losing draws and eventually giving up goals.

One area the Canucks have stepped up is at the Bo Horvat position. He is the heir apparent and it doesn’t look like that will ever change. Horvat leads the team in points, has re-ignited long-serving Canuck Alex Burrows and has created options for coach Willie D to use Brandon Sutter up front with the Sedins while $6 million dollar man Loui Eriksson, makes Michael Chaput and Markus Granlund look like real NHL players.

It feels like the Canucks have channeled their inner District 5 Ducks talent and taken a rag-tag group and made them into a team that can compete, you know, without the DUI.

Making the playoffs is still quite a long shot for this team but if the Canucks are going to actually rebuild which is what I believe we have been sold, this is sure a fun team to watch despite the ultimate goal of hoisting the Cup.

Waiting a bit longer for this team to rise up again isn’t always a fun task but as I’ve said before, guys like Juolevi, Brock Boeser and Thatcher Demko make waiting a bit more tolerable.

I still don’t know how the Canucks are making this happen, though. Proper lines is a good start.

Follow me on The Twitter™: @always90four

 

Photo: nhl.com

3 Kelowna Rockets That Should Be Vancouver Canucks

You’ve already decided this was worth reading because of two things: A) You’re a Kelowna Rockets fan or B) You hate how the Canucks have passed on great players just down the road and you’re ready to see the REBUILD. There’s a third option which I guess is both.  It’s no surprise that I’m making a case for a few former Kelowna Rockets to become Canucks, being a homer and all, but here we are and if Jim Benning (or whoever is in his chair by the end of the year) decides that it’s time to rebuild, then here are three players the Canucks should look at:

Madison Bowey (Washington Capitals/Hershey Bears), Damon Severson (New Jersey Devils) and Tyrell Goulbourne (Philadelphia Flyers/Phantoms)

The first question would be why are you picking two defensemen when the Canucks are pretty set at that position. No, no they’re not. Luca Sbisa can’t possibly be a long term solution so at some point he’ll be traded or if they happen to see it through, he’ll become a UFA. The Erik Gudbranson experiment feels like it won’t last very long and re-signing him would be a bad move. But then again, we still have Benning.

I guess the other question would be: do you really think the Devils would trade their number one defenceman?

But let’s get back to where the Canucks are sitting.

Philip Larsen probably won’t play another game unless injuries keep taking defenders down. Alex Biega is just kind of sitting there and he’s been given a chance but just isn’t IT. Jordan Subban down in Utica feels permanent with this management group and with the list of guys ahead of him growing by the month, it seems harder and harder for Jordan to be a Canuck.

Then we have the big group: Alex Edler, Ben Hutton, Chris Tanev and Troy Stecher. This is your core for now. Nikita Tryamkin could be #5 with some time and finesse. He’s actually having a decent year now that he has adjusted a bit more to the North American game. His strength and sheer physical dominance will eventually make him a threat on the back end for the Canucks.

Adding a player like Damon Severson right away gives the Canucks a solid, young top 6. It’s entirely possible Edler or Tanev is moved if enough is going the other way or there is a big enough package that one has to go. If it’s me, I move Alex Edler in this case.

Madison Bowey is intriguing because of the leadership, grit and passion for the game. He’s tied for 9th best in the AHL for defensemen points and is 5th on the Hershey Bears in scoring. He holds the line well, has a booming shot from the blue line and he isn’t afraid to dust it up. Bowey is still raw but putting him on a pair with Hutton or Stecher would be pretty fun to watch.

If you like goals, you’d get that from Bowey. Tough to say what Washington sees in him at this point so he may still be a cheap enough chip to acquire. If the Canucks feel they have botched the Jake Virtanen situation as a whole (which they basically have thus far) and want to move on like they did with Cody Hodgson and Zack Kassian, Jake could be a good fit in DC. Obviously, it isn’t a 1:1 deal so Vancouver would be saying goodbye to a higher pick or possibly another top prospect.

Bowey was taken in the 2nd round of the 2013 NHL Draft, the Canucks albeit did not have a pick that round and they would take Cole Cassels in round 3 but for a rock on the blue line which the Canucks are still trying to find, he’s going to be a sure thing. Coming within an OT goal in the 2015 Memorial Cup as Captain of the Rockets, he knows how to win… oh and he was pretty decent at the World Juniors too!

Over to Damon Severson, it’s unlikely the Devils have any plans of getting rid of this guy. At 6’2, 205lbs, Severson is a mobile monster on the blue line. First of all, he plays for the Devils, second, he already has 3G and 9A this year; which I don’t want to remind you but that’s the same point total as Henrik Sedin who happens to be second in Canucks scoring. Taylor Hall is his only equal in points in the swamp.

Adding to those 12 points is the 5 power play assists he has as well. The Canucks took Alexandre Mallet in the 2nd round of the 2012 NHL Draft where Severson went 3 picks later to almost end the round. Yes, there were decidedly better prospects and current NHLers after those guys (Gostisbehere, Vesey) but again, how do you not entertain taking a defenseman out of a program that churns all-star players at that position? Ridiculous.

You know all the big names that have come out of the Kelowna Rockets system and believe you me, Damon Severson is quietly becoming the next big name. He was a steal in the 2nd round as far as I’m concerned and just like Shea Weber fell to the very, very lucky Nashville Predators, the Devils had to be excited they were able to get such a stud.

Severson’s final campaign as a Rocket was a beauty, 15G 46A, 5PPG, 15PPA, 18 points in 14 playoff games, etc. You get the idea, he’s good.

Moving what looks to be your top defenseman after only 3 seasons isn’t exactly smart but they have Cory Schneider and old Lou is long gone. Severson might be a long shot at best but for the sake of your reading pleasure, I put him in here. Is giving up on Jake Virtanen a good idea so early in his career? Is he the next Cam Neely? Who knows. I’m dreaming but Benning is crazy enough to make a trade like this work.

There are a handful of guys that make sense in a meaningful trade from the Canucks and when you take emotion out of it, Alex Burrows and Jannik Hansen are decent pieces to move. Diving into the Comets for trade bait isn’t the smartest idea but on the back end, I think they can afford to move a few guys if necessary.

Wait, do we even have anyone good down there?

Up front, the spark plug that is Tyrell Goulbourne is worth kicking tires on. In his rookie season last year with Lehigh Valley, Goulbourne notched 7 goals and 10 assists, he combined that with a healthy 75 PIM. Not bad for a guy who had come off a lacerated calf in the spring during the WHL playoffs which ended his junior career.

Tyrell won’t be a top 6 winger but like Jannik Hansen he can move around throughout the bottom 6. He has the softest hands, surprising speed and when he adds a bit of intensity to his game, those fists have helped out a few teammates:

That fight is the one that stands out the most for me as I was at that game. The Rockets were getting beat early in that one and Goulbourne went for the biggest guy on the team, who also liked the rough stuff and absolutely dummied him. He was a fan favourite and always gave his team the edge when the game was close.

The skill guys do their stuff but it’s the energy guys that fill the hard minutes to give the stars their space. Goulbourne is a blast to watch and having him as a Derek Dorsett replacement a few years from now or a more talented Aaron Volpatti in the day just works. There are guys like Raffi Torres and Maxim Lapierre that you need in a long run (whenever that happens again) and Goulbourne can be that guy. Right now, super cheap.

I’m thinking Goulbourne could go for a Mike Zalewski, Jayson Megna or HEY! Joseph Labate.

My good buddy over at Canucks Army, Jeremy Davis, gave me some great data for you to ponder on these 3 guys, well 2 mostly. His pGPS system is pretty cool and I asked him to get data on all 3 guys but Severson is already a full-time NHLer so he kind of drops out of this. Madison Bowey had a pGPS of 47.5%, matching 28 of 59 players that became NHLers playing over 200 games.

Here’s the kicker: the matches averaging 32 points/82 games were Mike Green, Keith Yandle, Dennis Wideman and Christian Ehrhoff. Pretty decent company. If you can add a player like that for a low cost before they become that player, you should definitely be doing it.

Tyrell Goulbourne had a 9.4% rating matching only 24 of 256 players. The players that did make it averaged 21 points/82 games. Curtis Glencross, Antoine Roussel, Chris Kelly, Vern Fiddler were the most successful matches. Mostly 3/4th liners and replacement level NHLers. I’m holding out for a guy like Goulbourne because even Vern Fiddler didn’t have what Tyrell did in his fists.

Guys like these move around all the time before some GM finds his diamond. Jim Benning can actually do some good here by kicking tires on these players instead of the mess that is Evander Kane. I don’t expect the pinnacle of these 3, Damon Severson, to come cheap because you would basically be asking to have their top guy.

See what would happen if Benning traded Tanev or Hutton (I’M NOT SAYING HE SHOULD, I’M JUST PROVING A POINT!) Regardless, they are all interesting options for a Canucks team that needs to get serious.

Don’t forget, Brock Boeser will be a Canuck soon enough and that guy seems like the real deal.Plenty of goals will come off his stick. There are players that will instantly make the Canucks better that just need time. Thatcher Demko on the back end is earning his stripes and a few years from now he’ll be talked about all around the league. As Cole Cassels develops further, his opportunity will increase to make the team as well.

Looking at the former Kelowna Rocket players, it’s evident they can be valuable editions to Vancouver and I believe the Canucks have moveable pieces and with the rebuild in progress, they’re young enough to be around for awhile.

Remember when Edler was a rookie? Bieksa? HECK, Tanev? Time goes by pretty quickly so jumping on a hot prospect is a timely deal.

Follow me on twitter: @always90four

 

Canucks Leaky Tire Goaltending About To Be Fixed

By now you’ve figured out I love comparisons! Most of them fall by the wayside and a handful of people get them but are half impressed to say the least. However, with the recent contract extension of Jacob Markstrom it’s safe to say I have a gooder here. Ever since the dual departures, nay, triple departures of Cory Schneider, Roberto Luongo and Eddie Lack, the Canucks have been searching for a fix to their goaltending problem. Some may say it’s been a slowly leaking tire.

I too am experiencing a leaky tire situation and until its ultimately fixed/replaced, it will nag away on the message center of my vehicle. I can go to the gas station and fill it up back to normal pressure, I can buy the spray in repair kit but unless its truly fixed, the problem will remain. When Vancouver re-signed Markstrom to a new 3 year deal, they took their leaky tire and replaced it with a name brand snow tire that can handle the challenges of winter.

Ryan Miller has one more season left on his own 3 year deal and as the team came down the stretch both he and Markstrom split the duties almost 50/50. It was evident the Canucks played well for both tenders and with a cheaper, younger option in place until soon to be superstar Thatcher Demko completes his training in Utica, Markstrom can start the 2016/17 season with aspirations of being the #1.

Knowing that the Canucks will soon have a high performance all weather tire in Demko makes the next few seasons quite bearable. It should be known that Ryan Miller on many nights last year was a big reason the Canucks even hung around; I guess we could blame him for not dropping another two standings spots.

A far from stellar statistical year for Marky, sporting a 2.73 GAA and .915 SA%, his starts increased confidence in the Canucks fan base knowing we had a solution on the back end. It may only be July but once training camp begins, Miller, Markstrom and Demko will all have played and grown with the developing defensive corps sprouting on the blue line.

Alex Edler is now the wise teacher with Dan Hamhuis’ departure, so guiding Ben Hutton, Erik Gudbranson, Chris Tanev, Nikita Tryamkin, Luca Sbisa and 2016 first round pick Olli Juolevi may be a challenge for the goaltending standing tall. It’s expected M&M (see how I did that?) will have to shoulder a fair amount of defensive blunders but thankfully without Matt Bartkowski, they’ll just be Sbizzas.

When Schneider and Luongo were sent to far away lands there wasn’t much air left in the goaltending tires and just when we all thought Eddie Lack had repaired the problem, the Nucks sent him away too!

We all saw this roulette wheel of goaltenders before Luongo came to town and we knew until it was ultimately solved the fixes were all temporary. The vehicle is almost fixed in Vancouver, we’re so close to having those high performance treads installed. Jacob Markstrom gives the Canucks time to let Demko mature at the pro level with more games than a college season delivers and the pro game will help him adjust and prepare for his eventual succession.

Maybe it’s the Swedish connection that keeps us calm? The Sedins made us believe too; I guess there’s something to be said for the Tre Kronor? Jim Benning did a smart thing, yes Pet Bugs, a smart thing by signing Markstrom and if the tandem of Marky and Demks can be better than Lu and Schneids, we’re in for some good times once more.

And that’s just the back end.

Once a goalie graveyard, Vancouver is again becoming the place to be for the masked man. The tires are taken care of and I can’t wait for that new engine to be ready. The Canucks will be ready for Race Wars sooner than we think.

No Quick Fix For Canucks; A Season Lost Is a Season Gained

By now it’s fairly obvious I am a philosophizer of words, a craftsman of verbiage and a knight of partial sentence structure. The Canucks have turned me into a 21st century literary magician and I only have them to thank. But enough about me; this latest Canucks season may have looked like a colossal tire fire on the outside but the guts of how they got there and the results that follow are a positive.

There is no magic bullet, I mean there is and its $39.99, but a handful of things that occurred this season paired with the recent draft success of Trader Jim Benning will help put this team in a better position to succeed down the road. As the title states, a season lost is a season gained.

Let’s look at the positives and more specifically Jimbo’s draft picks. He didn’t pick Nick Merkley and for that I may never forgive him but he did pick some kid named Brock Boeser and he just won the NCAA Championship with North Dakota. Add to that Boeser’s goal and three assists in the final and things are already looking up for a future Canucks star.

Rewind a bit back to the Frozen Four and 2014 2nd round pick Thatcher Demko just lost out in the semis. He capped off a monster season with a 28-7-4 record, 10 shutouts, 1.88 GAA and a .935 SA%. The kid is good.

After Demko’s first two games this year, he shut out his opponents six of the next seven games. If you thought Cory Schneider was awesome, it’s safe to say we might have a short memory.

Fast forward to Benning’s current success stories and although he can’t claim responsibility for Ben Hutton or Bo Horvat (edited, thanks for the reminder @GoFour3,it was late), JB did bring on Jake Virtanen and Jared McCann. Benning hasn’t been the GM of the Canucks that long and all 3 of these guys currently occupy a regular roster spot. The obvious stand out is Horvat.

In just his second season, he has more than developed into a key member of the Canucks and had Brandon Sutter not been injured as much as former Canuck Sami Salo, Bo may have had a better statistical season. That being said, Bo was dealt a less than favourable situation and was forced to do more than he should have.

He was voted most exciting player this year and if you check out a recent piece I wrote about Bo, he has the skills to pay the bills.

OK, a lot of the good things end here. The Canucks finished 28th overall in the standings which sounds great if you know, you’re in nationals for I dunno, high jump? This is the NHL and with only 30 teams, it isn’t a good place to be.

There may or may not be a glimmering prize at the end of this season but was watching this season implode before our eyes really worth it? How can Jim Benning and company honestly say they progressed this year? Last year?

The frivolous signings and downright odd ball trades make you wonder if Benning or moreso John Weisbrod got their GM certificate from collecting 6 UPC’s from Froot Loops. What do other GM’s around the league think? They can’t possibly view the Canucks as the model franchise anymore, or did they ever?

Zack Kassian for Brandon Prust —— This actually happened and one wonders why. Even Cody Hodgson was caught off guard.

Matt Bartkowski – 1 yr/1.75M ——REALLY??? Was there no one better, did you really think Frankie Corrado was that bad?

Derek Dorsett – 4 yr/10.6M ———– A fighter and 4th line fill in basically. Hardly the guy you want mentoring the actual talent on the team. He’s here until my 2yr old is done kindergarten. Think about that, I sure will be.

Luca Sbisa – 3 yr/10.8M ———- Benning didn’t have to sign him. The Kesler trade could have played out and that would have been the end of it. You don’t commit to something like that unless that player has shown you he’s worth hanging around. I use that term loosely.

Trading Hunter Shinkaruk for Markus Granlund – what in your right mind would make you think that’s a good deal? Shinkaruk didn’t even get an instant cup of coffee in the NHL before management decided he wasn’t a Canuck. If we are being told patience, the least they could have done was shown a bit of it themselves. This one is seriously going to bite them back.

Putting Frankie Corrado on waivers when Chris Higgins could have gone on LTIR at the beginning of the year and they could have salvaged a valuable asset for more than….nothing. This pattern is becoming quite disturbing.

However, all these moves have helped structure what needs to be done and that is the rebuild we all talk about. After the 2012 season, it was perfectly clear that the Canucks were no longer on top of the mountain and the mountain was quickly fading in the distance. This season ended up being so bad that it highlighted the exact places where depth players and youth should be stationed.

It’s clear that Ben Hutton and Chris Tanev are the future on the back end but if those are the only two, we have problems. When Luca Sbisa and Alex Edler were injured it was apparent what their presence and big time minutes meant to the team. Combine that with Matt Bartkowski, his fluky defense leading 6 goals and the errors, oh the errors; its a recipe for disaster.

Thankfully late in the season towering d-man Nikita Tryamkin came and gave us all a breath of fresh air. He is the player the team could have used in 2011 but better late than never. Tryamkin will definitely be a fixture on the Canucks defense for years and if he’s anything close to Zdeno Chara, we should be so lucky.

Unfortunately, that’s how bad it’s gotten. We were looking forward to the guys on the farm to save the team. Shouldn’t that be the job of the mainstays, the vets? This was the first year in a long time where the goaltending really didn’t matter because they were the only guys showing up every night.

Even with Ryan Miller’s hefty contract and what began as Jacob Markstroms clean resume, they managed to be the one consistent thing going.

Next season goaltending will not be addressed because for now, it works. If Thatcher Demko ends up signing on, it’s only a matter of time before his throne is made available.

Starting Jake Virtanen and Jared McCann on the big club this year was the way to go and even though they were met with many struggles and adversity, they can start next year in Utica and play at a level that they can build their skill base. These are two very talented young men and their development at the pro level is now the next task.

Having this year’s crop of rookies growing up on the farm for at least a year will free up spots once again for some free agents and maybe a proper trade or two. Is Alex Burrows still in the Canucks plans? The fan in me says I hope so but he was so bad this year and its surprising he wasn’t asked to leave before some of the other rumoured guys like Vrbata and Hamhuis.

There is some big money coming off the books and fans have been told the team will spend on July 1. Steven Stamkos is quite unlikely but adding real depth around the Sedins, Horvat, Sutter and on the back end will make this team better.

Back to Burrows though, he has been everything to the Canucks and at the very least he deserves a shot. I’d give him a chance to start the year and if they aren’t seeing what they want, trade him. He has a decent cap hit at 4.5M next season so if there is anything to offer elsewhere, he should be easy to move.

Finally, the Canucks are saying Willie Desjardins is their guy next year. Desjardins really didn’t look great this year and with so many injuries and having to ice a team that maybe he wouldn’t have picked if he had the ultimate say makes his coaching look suspect. To be fair, he did much of the same things he did in his first season. He just had a really poor roster this year.

It might be a lot of the same next year or it might involve Auston Matthews and a new coach but the struggle this year was a place to grow and they did, we did too.

We all found out what we were willing to tolerate this season; some of us 82 games, others sporadic periods. We have been so spoiled for so long, it felt good to be ok with losing. This team will bounce back and its when you see the absolute bottom that you can truly appreciate the top.

So long 2016, we hated you.

Photo credit – vancouversun.ca

The Canucks Have Sucked EXACTLY As Much As Expected

So I just got a new Dyson from a refurbished  goods auction site, saved about 200 bucks. I missed out on about five or so in the last few weeks so I felt redeemed I finally got my unicorn. But because I was so excited to just “get one on the cheap” I failed to read the semi fine print; it was missing some key accessories and I was kinda bummed out.

This Canucks season in a lot of ways is like my “new to me” Dyson; when the season started, we knew things weren’t a whole lot better but we figured we knew what we were going to get. They were going to most likely suck and probably miss the playoffs. Just like me and my Dyson though, we didn’t read the semi fine print – but in the Canucks case, when your team actually DOES SUCK, it’s not a whole lot of fun.

 

There are only seven games remaining on the Canucks schedule and it will be a struggle to get through them all. The saving grace is that they could easily lose all seven of those and with the Leafs and Oilers randomly pulling off the odd win, that’s good news in Canucks land.

It’s passed the point of finger pointing and blaming when it comes to Willie Desjardins and his methods; Jim Benning has a C+ INCOMPLETE on his GM report card and his bright spot is basically his draft picks, Sven Baertschi and the end result of Nikita Tryamkin sans the contract issue.

Is it really surprising the team has ended up being this bad? This offseason, Zack Kassian was traded for equally awful Brandon Prust who by the way doesn’t really want to be here. Chris Higgins was waived and has up until recently, been banished to Utica to waste away (well he’s still getting paid but you know what I mean).

Frankie Corrado, yet another budding prospect, waived for absolutely nothing and claimed by the Toronto Maple Leafs. Hunter Shinkaruk was this year’s Cody Hodgson and found his plane ticket to Calgary for Markus Granlund. On the surface, this year was doomed from the get go.

Going back to my Dyson for a sec, it has that great ball technology and the loss-less suction, this is the reason you get it. It’s the best and you want the best. Henrik and Daniel Sedin are the Canucks main selling feature and the reason they didn’t plummet to the bottom much, much earlier. My vacuum has some scratches on it but at the end of the day its a Dyson vacuum and it still does what all the other ones do – sucks.

The Sedins are 35 and lead the team in scoring; they have wear and tear and have to shoulder the load of criticism and noise as the losses pile up. They knew it wasn’t going to be easy and even though they’ve paid their dues, how they do to finish off their careers and how they set this team up for the future is how their legacy will be capped.

Thankfully for Willie Desjardins, his unique coaching style has been given the vote of confidence for next season. I don’t entirely buy that but to be fair he hasn’t been given a very good team. The 2006-07 Canucks had a mediocre team but with Luongo in the pipes, they won a ton of games and most of that was defensive hockey; this year’s team does not have that luxury.

Another luxury they don’t have? Anything better than Linden Vey and Derek Dorsett. This can’t actually be what hits the ice every night, can it? When your GM fails to charge his phones on trade deadline day and accidentally drops his chirpy in the lake on July 1, you can’t have a lot of faith in the team he has paid to play for him.

Willie has given Vey a bit more ice time than is warranted according to basically everyone but him, but with Henrik Sedin being the top pivot for the Canucks, letting Vey get key faceoffs makes sense. Or not. The Canucks almost look like they want to be bad on purpose.

Injuries have really hampered this team but the Canucks aren’t the only team with banged up players, they’re actually 7th in the league with 277 man games lost; just under 100 less games than the Leafs. Think of it this way: the Canucks are 2 points ahead of the Leafs and have done it with 100 more man games played and a more complete NHL roster. Basically, the Canucks are bad and you should have known this already in October.

There isn’t any reason to think Bo Horvat was going to win over everyone along with Jake Virtanen and Jared McCann and lead this team back to the playoffs one year later with a new found direction; the Flames kind of did it but you can check the standings and they suck again too! It doesn’t happen that way, you can’t win overnight.

The argument to this would be of course Ben Hutton.

Hutton had a great camp and was absolutely a lock to make the team. He has had a quick learning curve and hasn’t looked out of place. Without Hutton, the Canucks looked even more lost than they do now and we would all shutter to think what this team would look like if he didn’t play for them all year.

Being bad on purpose might be the only thing that makes sense in all of this. Yes, every team says the playoffs are the goal every year; you don’t want to say you’re content with just playing 82 games and calling it a good year – restructure when you know things aren’t going to pan out and start molding the future instead of watching it whittle away game after game.

If Auston Matthews is the end game, then sucking as much as my Dyson is the way to go. This season shouldn’t have been a surprise, so appreciate the fact that this team was actually following through on a promise. Normally predictably unpredictable, this Canucks team sucked EXACTLY as much as we should have expected.

 

Jim Benning Broke The Canucks; Maybe He Should Go

The 2016 NHL Trade Deadline was the final straw for many Canucks fans; Jim Benning is no longer capable of steering the Canucks ship in the right direction, he has taken a page out of James Cameron’s book and sunk the Titanic. I have been a pretty even keel guy and have given many of the Canucks leaders the benefit of the doubt. Not this time though, I’ve had enough. Its pretty clear Jim Benning broke the Canucks and I think his time is up.

Maybe a little harsh to start but when you start breaking down the moves Benning has made, possibly John Weisbrod as well, he isn’t fit to be in charge. I had an interesting conversation with a good friend of mine recently about the blatantly obvious situation the Canucks find themselves in; going from Assistant GM to THE GM is kind of like riding shotgun for a long time and then being told you have to drive now.

Benning sat in the passenger seat for a number of years before being given the keys to a very, very expensive machine. You can wikipedia his resume because I don’t feel like letting you know what he’s done, you know too much already. Jimbo was the right hand man for 8 years before making the transition to all powerful.

When you’ve sat shotgun for 8 years, helping make important decisions is basically old hat, but when YOU’RE the one making the final decision, you hope the guy assisting you has done his work as well. He’s basically been the passenger long enough he has seen how to drive a car and it looks very doable; and then he starts driving and realizes its not the same thing.

Analyzing every move Benning has made would be redundant and not all of them have been bad. Jim has proven he’s an excellent scout and maybe one of the top ones out there, but do you really want a scout running your hockey club? I don’t.

I’ve talked about the Kelowna Rockets many a time and they have a jedi scout in Lorne Frey. He’s unearthed the likes of Shea Weber, Duncan Keith and my personal fave Nick Merkley; but I couldn’t imagine him taking over Bruce Hamilton’s job as GM. Nothing wrong with that its just they excel in different areas.

There’s always talk of the next deserving GM when one gets canned but why can’t teams see these guy’s strengths AND weaknesses? Of course, you can’t always find everything you’re looking for; Mike Gillis was very much out of the box thinking and had never had a job like that before so you can’t paint them all with one brush.

It’s entirely possible Jim Benning has architected the future Canucks with his shrew draft strategy but he’s also shooting himself in the foot by pawning off available picks for players that really have no business being acquired or leaving extra picks on the table when he waives players that could warrant a valuable return.

Once the trade deadline passed, it was quite clear the Canucks were not in it to win it. What we see before our eyes is the Canucks team that will finish out the season, plus or minus a few AHL callups. With no one coming or going this year, it’s a real head scratcher as to what management and potentially ownership is thinking.

All the focus on Monday was if Dan Hamhuis would waive his NTC and accept a trade to what we later found out, the Blackhawks or the Stars. That never happened and with all the focus shifting that way, players like Radim Vrbata and the #GarageSale7 were left in limbo. Another eye opener was that Alex Burrows name was left completely off the radar.

Was there any demand for Burrows’ talent this year? Just because someone isn’t on the block doesn’t mean he’s not available. Burrows has had a terrible year and is a shadow of his former glory. His career seems to be running its course but would he not be an asset for a team needing a 3rd liner on a well balanced Cup contender?

These are questions that should have been asked.

So should Benning actually be fired? In a word, no. We’ve seen teams like the Oilers, Flames, Leafs and even the Blackhawks keep former GM’s around, some just to appease the “old boys club”, some to eventually set to pasture. But if I’m the Canucks and more importantly Trevor Linden, I keep Benning around.

He isn’t the guy for THIS job but his knowledge and prowess of the development side of the game can’t be ignored. Re-package his role into VP of operations/scouting/Assistant GM, kick Weisbrod to the curb because clearly his ideas are awful (Granlund, seriously?) and put someone in charge who actually knows what they’re doing.

Sure, he’ll be mad and maybe sad or even sad/mad but he’s still being paid and I’m sure being 2nd in command for the Bruins Stanley Cup wasn’t the worst feeling. The worst feeling was trading away Tyler Seguin……and there it is.

A competent GM would not have given voluptuous contracts to Luca Sbisa, Derek Dorsett, Ryan Miller, Brandon Su…you know what, you get it. You know how I learned to save money? My parents showed me how and they guided me along so I wouldn’t go out and blow my savings on useless toys or beer.

They got half of that right – let’s be serious I was 10 when I got a bank account and I didn’t know beer yet.

Did no one stop Jimbo when he had the ol’ wallet out to sign these guys? Like anyone? His decision making is just atrocious and there’s no way this team should be run this way.

Going back to the deadline, was there really not a trade to made either way? You need picks, you need prospects and its evident you need 18 players a night. After the game against the Islanders, they did not have any of those things.  Mr. Benning has waived Adam Cracknell which he didn’t need to do, Frankie Corrado, again something he didn’t need to do and trading Hunter Shinkaruk.

I need a moment.

Hunter Shinkaruk on the surface, was the best player not on the Canucks. He was then traded for Markus Granlund who is not the best player on the Canucks, he’s not the best player not on the Canucks; what he is, is the best trade the Flames made until trade deadline day when they got potentially 2 first round picks for Kris Russell.

Listening to Tony Gallagher on Tuesday helped open up the wounds that almost healed. Why trade Shinkaruk who the Canucks felt wasn’t going to be a Canuck in the end for someone who won’t be a Canuck past July 1 IMO? It’s like showing your hand in poker and then driving the pot up to eventually still lose.

That’s not how it works. What COULD have been done was they could have just not traded Hunter Shinkaruk OR…….at least driven his price up until they got literally anything more valuable than less than a happy meal…minus the toy.

Thinking how this has all happened and how nothing has been fixed yet, Trevor Linden and the AQs need to do some serious brainstorming as to how this situation can be remedied. This rebuild is humming along and the coach can only work with what he’s given but now Benning is taking things away from him and that’s not fair to WD or the fans.

I don’t believe Benning knows what he’s doing most days when it comes to anything in front of him. Give him the scout job with all the perks and patch up this mess before it gets worse.

Even Mike Keenan got things going and we hated his guts.

Fix this Trevor because this has gotten way out of hand.