brock boeser

The Canucks and why We just want to so bad

It’s been said over and over when it comes to Elias Pettersson this season or Brock Boeser last year “hook it up straight into my veins”. We’ve been given two gifts in the form of goal scoring, playmaking, and sheer excitement. Not to say the Canucks haven’t been exciting before but not like this. The 94 run brought the Canucks to the forefront of the NHL as an underdog and in 2011 they were the odds-on favourite to win it all.

The Canucks have had exciting players but none of them projected hope like the duo of Pettersson and Boeser. The infamous (r)ebuild has carried on and there has been no lack of confirmation the Canucks will not be good for some time still but somehow now it feels different. Goals are coming from the expected sources and there’s not many of them, the defense is almost identical as it was a season ago and there hasn’t been a clear frontrunner for the net.

How are the Canucks managing to sell this?

This for starters.

Also this.

OK and that one as well.

One kid has turned his teammates into believers and they’ve begun to carry on his story without him in the lineup. Canucks Nation has unified once again through a bit of luck in getting Pettersson at five in the draft and equally, as amazing they stole Brock Boeser at 23. The wait hasn’t ended for a playoff-bound team but the Canucks have once again become appointment viewing.

The group that emerged from training camp looked like they were going to flirt with their record-low point total from two seasons ago when they plummeted to 69 points. Last year wasn’t much better but as Brock Boeser continued, so did Canucks fans. Believing in change is a great feeling. There’s a reason to get excited again. All the questions about sitting stale veterans are coming to fruition and for once the process seems like a real thing.

The defense has improved and Erik Gudbranson is no longer a liability.

Is it sustainable? Who cares?

It probably won’t be but even early on, this Canucks team has a moxie to them that other Canucks teams haven’t in the past. There aren’t any Sedins to talk about, no questions if they’ll retire or if their ice time will drop. The Ben Hutton questions seemed to have subsided and he is playing like he did as a rookie.

The new Canucks are making people want it in a way that feels odd. I think people have seen the perceived bottom and the jump back up the ladder is coming sooner than we all expected.

Vancouver has committed to team defense and their PK is just below sixth-overall. They’ve only given up three power play goals on 26 opportunities. It also means they’re a bit more aggressive by forcing the play a bit more which has drawn these penalties but you have to break a few eggs to make a spaghetti.

I think I may have that wrong. What about some of the other guys?

Brandon Sutter as a role player is a lot more doable than making him the second-line centre, Jake Virtanen embracing his growing role instead of forcing himself to be the immediate top-six threat everyone is waiting for him to become. He may never be the Todd Bertuzzi-type player many want him to be but he’s shown that his game has taken massive strides and #shotgunjake might be a star yet.

Loui Eriksson is still arguably the biggest question mark and what the Canucks will do with him in light of the Sam Gagner, Brendan Gaunce and Michael Del Zotto decisions is intriguing.

There are more than just these few players making people believe in change but at the top of it all is indeed Brock and Elias. These two may very well be the Canucks ticket to the top and we’ve all got a front row seat.

People are subscribing to The Athletic because they want more access to these guys, they’re bingeing The Patcast, they’re arguing over what Petterson’s freaking nickname is.

It’s fun to be a Canucks fan again and we want what they’re selling. We want it bad.

Photo: National Post

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With or Without Quinn Hughes, The Canucks Defense Will Suck Again Next Season

We’re all a little giddy after the Canucks somehow landed Quinn Hughes with the 7th overall pick in the NHL Draft back in June. Knowing full well Rasmus Dahlin wasn’t possible, Hughes was the second best option and for the first time in many years Canucks Nation was unified (ok, mostly) with a first-round pick and the likelihood he can help turn the franchise around sooner than later.

Whether Hughes signs a contract now or a year from now isn’t going to drastically change the Canucks on-ice product for the 2018/19 season. QH will no doubt impress like Brock Boeser did but on defense, it’s a bit more of a clusterschmuck and those same opportunities won’t be available for him on the back end.

The Canucks’ defense corps is crowded and Jim Benning hasn’t made it easy for younger players to advance. Michael Del Zotto was signed to a 2 year/$6 million deal which wasn’t terrible and has given the Canucks more speed on the back end but he’s hardly a catalyst for an improved offense, despite being second on the Canucks in defensive scoring. He’s a band-aid at best as this team transitions but a player like Ben Hutton is now in question after being pushed down the depth chart.

Speaking of Hutton, there has been a lot said about his future with the Canucks. The major question is “Where does he fit?” His six assists in 61 games last year was worrying if you believe he’s part of this team’s future. Hutton has been in the press box more than he would have liked this past year and coach Travis Green seems to have fallen out of favour with him, and no I’m not talking about Erik Gudbranson all of a sudden, unfortunately.

Ben saw the worst output of his young career in 2017/18 and may very well have played himself into a trade. Not sure how he isn’t given more of a chance like Jake Virtanen has up front but I suppose there is less movement on the backend and less room for error. The way Hutton has developed, maybe Quinn Hughes could make his debut this season.

Let’s say Hughes signs his entry-level deal this summer and can help the Canucks right away, can he really take a defensive group from third-worst in the NHL to even close to league average in shot percentage? I doubt it. Vancouver had a combined 2.83 SH% on defense last season, almost a full two points below the league average.

Hughes is going to be touted for his skating and maneuverability in the early stages and simply just getting the puck out of the defensive zone which will end up being a lot especially after losing the Sedins to retirement. He won’t get as many opportunities to shoot the puck as we all would hope and by the looks of those stats above, there aren’t many opportunities, to begin with.

So who would he be paired up with? The options aren’t pretty.

Vancouver shed itself of Luca Sbisa but doubled-down on colossal mistake Erik Gudbranson. Guddy is going to need a massive turnaround next season as well as staying healthy if he’s going to amount to anything on the Canucks. He isn’t a fan-favourite whatsoever and he seems to make his partners worse when they play together.

Three of the bottom five pairings last year on the Canucks involved Gudbranson when looking at CF% and as far as the aggression he was supposed to bring, it was almost non-existent. Gudbranson had 35 PIM last year and remembering any roughing, charging or even fighting majors is a stretch. Knowing how Green has deployed his defenders, we should all hope for a Tanev/Hughes or Edler/Hughes option. Everything else scares me.

On the money side, looking at where Hughes may fit in 2018/19 is muddy as well:

Troy Stecher will get signed in the next little while but other than that the defense looks set for the next season. Unless there is a trade or multiple trades, Hughes will be sandwiched in the bottom portion of the depth chart and with Benning’s commitment to Gudbranson and Michael Del Zotto, and that’s just talking about the guys on the big club, he may be fighting for minutes to start his career.

Of course, even early on, Hughes has shown in Development camp he may be the best skater for the Canucks defensemen and he hasn’t played a game yet. If he does make the team he’ll be given every chance to succeed but Green will still have to trot out Alex Edler and Chris Tanev with regular minutes, Stecher won’t see his status decline so it really only leaves three other spots in Gudbranson, MDZ and a combination of the rest.

In his rookie season, why subject Hughes to that mess when he can develop for another year eating up huge minutes in Michigan? The Canucks were patient with their other recent pick Elias Pettersson and it paid off in spades with a season for the ages by the young Swede. Brock Boeser also stayed back in North Dakota after his draft year and he too decimated his competition in college.

Defensemen are heavily criticized in the NHL and on this Canucks team, that is absolutely true.  The Canucks won’t make the playoffs this season and will most likely sit at the bottom of the standings in a race for Quinn’s younger brother, Jack, as the consensus top pick in next year’s draft. Let the Canucks work out their issues for one more season and give Quinn Hughes a real chance to make a difference in 2019 after his college season is complete.

He wants to be a pro but gets that going back to college isn’t the worst for his development. Thatcher Demko hasn’t even made the Canucks yet and he is supposed to take the reigns in net any time now after showing he has the ability to backstop this team. Regardless of what both the Canucks and Hughes decide, Vancouver will once again have a disgusting showing on defense in 2018/19 and really, what’s one more year?

 

Photo – The Hockey Writers

The Final Option: Put Eriksson With Boeser

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

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

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

Copied from Naturalstattrick.com

Copied from Naturalstattrick.com

Copied from Naturalstattrick.com

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

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

Copied from Naturalstattrick.com

Copied from Naturalstattrick.com

Copied from Naturalstattrick.com

It’s bleak.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo: Van Courier

Rookie Elite: From Bure To Boeser

The day has come.

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

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

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

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

The hype begins:

The OG hype machine:

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

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

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

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

Don’t forget, he’s 20 years old.

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Follow me on twitter: @always90four

Photo – Dobber Hockey

The CAPITALization of the Canucks Rebuild

The affirmation that the worst is over for the Canucks culminated in a 60-minute display against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Saturday night. All the talk about a rebuild, whether it be capital ‘R’ or lowercase ‘r’ may have just come to rest after the final buzzer at Rogers Arena. This “rebuild” or “restructure” or whatever the heck you want to call it took a monster leap forward when 2015 first round pick Brock Boeser had the game of his life versus the Penguins and assured management, fans, and the media that the Canucks might indeed be ready to rise again.

Canucks management never wanted to admit their team had hit rock bottom and needed to be rebuilt from the ground up. They made numerous decisions to try and mask the obvious problem that was in front of them. They threw money at the wrong players, offered lengthy contracts to aging veterans and drafted project players when NHL-ready talent was available.

The official rebuild wasn’t even a thing until just under a year ago. Even with Bo Horvat climbing the ranks to become the team’s eventual top center and Captain, there were other issues the Canucks weren’t addressing.

One of them was former coach Willie Desjardins.

It was pretty evident Willie had checked in the final year of his deal but if he was anticipating signing on somewhere else would he have not wanted to show he can lead a team forward? Desjardins went away from structure, line-matching, and youth when he let the Canucks unravel. Willie continued to use the Sedins as top line players when it was clear they were getting beat on the ice night in and night out.

The power play failed because the coach failed to see what options he actually had. Running an aging Ryan Miller into the ground when fresh, young, talent like Jacob Markstrom was waiting to be tested was just another example of how this team needed to address change immediately.

And it finally did.

Desjardins was let go, Travis Green was brought on and one of the most important parts of the rebuild had been fixed: a coach that knew how to deploy an effective lineup.

The next three things will define this team going forward:

Brock Boeser – He leads the Canucks with 13 points, he’s tied for 41st in league scoring, needing only 3 points to be tied for 11th overall in the league. To add to his impressive rookie campaign, he’s done all this playing two fewer games than his teammates after sitting out the season opener and the next game in the press box. The accolades seem endless having the 9th highest P/GM rank in the league with 1.30, and 2 GWG which has him in a tie for 8th overall.

That’s not taking into account his rookie status compared to his peers vying for the Calder. Boeser is in the top 3 in most of the rookie categories and November just started.

Brock has given the Canucks a weapon they have not possessed in many years: a true sniper. If you asked Markus Naslund who had a deadlier shot between the two of them, he might have a tough time picking himself. Boeser’s shot is accurate, it’s fast, and boy is it heavy! He’s felled a few players this season with just a wrister, something Sami Salo needed a full slap shot to achieve.

In the latest Provies written by Jason Botchford of The Province, we found out just how complex Boeser’s game really is in relation to pushing and pulling shots through traffic and using his linemates to the best of his ability. He’s a star and it’s not even close. Combine that with Bo Horvat and Sven Baertschi making up the NEW Canucks top line and this team looks like it’s in good hands.

The second thing that will define this team is the commitment to having the right players on the ice in all situations. Willie Desjardins subscribed to essentially rolling four lines and it didn’t work out well for him. Coach Green has seen that matching Brandon Sutter and Derek Dorsett, two players many thought shouldn’t even be on this team, against opposing team’s top lines has proved effective.

Green has preached a team defense for this year’s Canucks and the proof is in the pudding… err stats. Vancouver currently is tied with San Jose for allowing the least amount of goals in the league with 30. A year ago, somehow Vancouver allowed 27 but they only scored 16 compared to this season’s 35.

Defensive scoring is still a problem but that could get ironed out if the forwards allow the defense to take more chances without paying for it in their own net.

The power play has seen a revamp and still, isn’t perfect but having Brock at the shooter position will get results sooner than later. Last season, there was no visible evidence the team could produce a power play that kept opponents honest. This year, despite the 5th worst PP% in the NHL, the results are starting to build. Again, Boeser is a key cog in this machine and the better he does, so will his team.

Making sure players like Michael Chaput and Jayson Megna aren’t the first callups is a good way to ensure this team progresses.

Finally, the Canucks’ stable of young prospects and early year players will define where this team goes. Rushing Jake Virtanen and Jared McCann into the lineup early on proved to be a bad idea and because of that, McCann was sent packing. Virtanen was given a year to figure out his game and grow in the AHL and he has impressed many so far.

This wasn’t a play he would have been confident making a year ago. Jake has progressed and can be groomed to become an effective power forward. Prospect Kole Lind of the Kelowna Rockets is having a season to remember in junior. Lind is averaging 1.64 points per game this year and is getting it done in all situations. He’ll be a name to watch next season and might just get a chance to make it to the big club.

2017 first rounder Elias Pettersson is doing his own damage in the SHL across the Atlantic. With 17 points through 15 games, he too will have a legit shot at making the Canucks next year and many believe he could be the best player from his draft class, bold statement. Ryan Biech from Canucks Army posted this tweet based on Jeremy Davis’ pGPS map and looking at the players being compared, his career might be bright.

I could go on about Thatcher Demko, Jonathan Dahlin, and even Nikolay Goldobin and I know I’m leaving out a few, but there are players that are going to replace the Sam Gagner/Loui Eriksson/Brandon Sutter group. The Sedins might just be on the way out at the end of the year and Green can truly put his stamp on what this team will achieve.

The rebuild, as far as I’m concerned, is complete. The pieces are in the system so the true definition of what the Canucks are is up for interpretation. Breaking apart the entire organization get to this point was definitely close but some of the unforeseen success has fast-tracked the Canucks to become competitive again.

Apparently, compete IS in their nature.

Follow me @always90four

 

Photo – Nucks Misconduct

 

A94 Brings Back Jarkko Polo

Probably one of my favourite ideas was creating a post on the week that was for the Canucks. You can get a recap anywhere but I’ll try and keep it fun, somewhat short and memorable. If you remember Jarkko Polo it was a short review of each game played that week; the thing is I hate going into crazy detail so the new look should hopefully just cover what matters. Feedback is welcome and so are donations.

Like any kind: iTunes, Subway, Home Depot… literally anything.

OK, let’s rock and roll

 

There wasn’t much to talk about this week because the Canucks only played one game. But what a game it was! Leading up to the season opener none of us had any clue as to what the first lineup would look like but we were all 100% sure it included rookie Brock Boeser. If you saw the game last night, you’ll know that it didn’t.

It did include a renewed Jake Virtanen and a healthy Derek Dorsett. Dorsett wasn’t exactly a sexy pick to be in the lineup but many of us judged him on what he displayed on the ice while playing with a slew of injuries. He’s healthy now and after a stellar performance against the Oilers and completely shutting down Connor McDavid, he’ll be a fixture on the team in 2017/18.

The outrage on the Twitter about Boeser not playing was the equivalent of Ari Gold not being allowed to take a call during marriage counseling.

So Boeser didn’t play but you know who did, you know who absolutely did: Bo FREAKIN Horvat!

Bo finished last season with a handful of assists but one goal in his last 18. On Saturday night he potted two markers and he looked phenomenal.

One game does not a season make but a handful of those types of games from Bo is more than welcome. With one player stepping up it was two players that were kept sitting a bit longer than they were used to.

Henrik and Daniel Sedin were essentially 4th liners in the opener and even though it’s one game, new head coach Travis Green might just want this team to step into the future and slowly fade out the past.

The Sedins have delivered year in and year out and even last night for the time they were on the ice they looked pretty good. A reduced role means the younger players get to step up and in maybe the most sneaky way, we all will see the transition of the Sedins to a secondary or even tertiary role.

Troy Stecher had a big game and was so feisty he picked a fight that raised an eyebrow or two in the arena and at home. He held his own and took another step to solidifying himself as one of the Canucks top defenders.

To top everything off, Jacob Markstrom had a great night as well. Keeping Connor McDavid off the board and making some crucial stops on the PK and late in the game, Marky was dialed in for almost the entire night.

All in all, a great first week (game) but it doesn’t feel like the Canucks WANT to lose. We all begged for proper line deployment and so far we got it. We asked for younger players and so far, aside from BB, we got it. We asked for meat draw… OK, no one asked for that but the fans got one.

The feeling is good right now and had the Canucks even lost that one in OT, the feeling probably would have felt the same. This Canucks team is fun.

 

So far.

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

An All-Millenial Canucks Power Play… And Why It Will Succeed

Millenials.

They’re self-entitled, smartphone emojying, video game playing, mid 20 – 30 something freeloaders. OK, maybe that was all a bit much but the knock on them is that they aren’t willing to work for what they want and just expect the rewards to be given to them and that by succumbing to their demands, they, in turn, will produce results.

Now that Newell Brown is the back in the fold as the Canucks assistant coach, he can revive the dreaded 13% power play unit(s), and it would be a novel concept to give in to the millennial demand and stock up the man-advantage with an all-millennial unit. Of course, if you look into the term “millennial” it basically designates humans being born between the early 80’s and late 90’s to early 2000’s.

So going by this logic, the only players that don’t qualify for the first unit anyway are Henrik and Daniel Sedin. A case could be made for Loui Eriksson as well as he’s a mid 80’s baby. I personally don’t want to see the Sedins on the top unit for awhile because they’re so gosh darn predictable. A healthy Eriksson might be able to Radim Vrbata his way back into relevance with Bo Horvat and maybe Brock Boeser up front.

The feel with this specific demographic in a global sense is that they don’t want to communicate in person but rather on their phones which don’t translate well on the ice, well, unless you’re Alex Edler; he could pull that off no problem. He could text in plays on the bench, ditch the phone and unleash a clapper to the back of the net.

Nikolay Goldobin would be a prime fit up front after being inserted into the lineup without actually earning a roster spot. He’s young, he’s good-looking and he Instagram’s like a pro. Newell Brown was brought in to change the look and maybe Goldy could put a new filter on the power play, maybe sepia, and they’ll get better opportunities as the power play begins?

The Canucks PP couldn’t get any worse so adding a coach that does anything beyond drawing straws at practice is an upgrade. When people reference the millennial person it’s usually the late 20/early 30 people that don’t want their feelings hurt and need to be reassured they’re doing ok and blah, blah, blah.

Funnily enough, it’s the older players that have acted like they are the deserving ones. Rightfully so, in fact, as they’ve played the game longer and more than deserve to be where they are. Thing is, sports tend to a be a “what have you done for me lately?” kind of business and the Canucks power play has not done anything lately, you know, since 2011.

Conveniently, that’s when Mr. Brown was last in the mix. NO WAY!

On defense, there’s a chance things get better with Olli Juolevi getting a shot at the team this year and Troy Stecher could be deployed in more favorable situations. Uber-millennial Erik Gudbranson needs to stay the ^&$# away from the PP unit while loveable millennial Ben Hutton may just revive his scoring touch and we’ll all be smiling as the power play climbs to 20 or even 22% effectiveness.

Travis Green needs to give in to this wave of kids and give them p what they want because there’s a good chance that they deliver and one day those same kids will be the grizzled vets on the team like Chris Tanev is. Edmonton and Toronto benefited from the young’uns and it’s only a matter of time before some kind of success comes from the youth movement.

To recap Brock Boeser – millennial, Bo Horvat – millennial, Nikolay Goldobin – also a millennial as are Troy Stecher and Ben Hutton. They ALL would be great choices to revive a tragically dormant Canucks power play.

photo – theprovince.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

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