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