brock boeser

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

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Canucks Disastrous Season Is Oddly Gratifying

With the first pick in the 2016 NHL Entry Draft, the Vancouver Canucks select…..

It has been a long, long time since the Canucks were in a position to potentially pick the best player available; the 2016 season has afforded them with that possibility. The #tank or rebuild or whatever you want to call it has been relatively successful if you think about it. Through injuries, trades and waivers, the Canucks have the chance to draft 1st overall for the first time ever!

Oddly enough, the real fans haven’t been happier.

Makes you think. As bad as this franchise has ever been, it’s never been THAT bad. The Sedins were taken 2nd and 3rd, Bo Horvat was taken 9th, Virtanen 6th; but no one was ever a 1st overall pick in VAN. The woes of the whale have never been so dreadful and yet so satisfying. We’ve asked to see this team blown up, we’ve asked for the younger players to get their time and we asked for cheaper ticket prices – all of those things happened.

Well, the only blowing up is Twitter when Benning makes an apparent stupid decision. It’s looking like a handful of his stupid decisions are panning out quite well though.

In the 2015 Draft, there were a handful of players Benning could have chosen: Travis Konecny, Noah Juulsen and my personal man crush, Nick Merkley. I don’t follow the US high school/college circuit at all so when he went with 6’1 190 Brock Boeser straight outta high school, I had no clue who this dude was and figured Jimbo swung and missed.

Kid’s tearing up the college circuit this year, he’s a freshman! He won the NCHC Rookie of the year award and his next goal ties him with Zach Parise for most goals by a UND freshman. Fellow 2015 pick Adam Gaudette who was also selected out of the USHL is having a great year as well for Northeastern making it to the NCAA big dance.

It’s no secret Jim is a great scout and he may very well have stocked the cupboards for years to come but when you come into a culture where everyone wants to win right now, both fans, players and management, you have to sell the journey. Canucks fans thought they had it all figured out when Boston was announced as the East Champs to face Vancouver in the 2011 Final. It was the dream run we all talked about, how could anything derail destiny?

Apparently, there were a few things that made that possible.

When Benning got to Vancouver he made it known he wanted guys who wanted to be here, Ryan Kesler didn’t so he moved him. Shocking to some but the writing was on the wall, you’re a Canuck because you want to be one 100%. If you aren’t going to work, you’re gone.

Differing opinions come up when Frank Corrado is mentioned, Hunter Shinkaruk, Zack Kassian and Eddie Lack. JB is building the Canucks the way he sees fit and even when we all cry bloody murder and demand his head on a stick (have we done that yet?), he continues to give us flashes of confidence.

Thatcher Demko is yet another prospect that is making waves and will most definitely be the goalie of the future for the Canucks and if it was possible, they’d sign him long term right now. He will give the Canucks what they had in Luongo and Schneider but hopefully this time they don’t screw it up. Once he’s in the lineup I doubt Vancouver is worried about picking anywhere near the bottom 5 picks.

Over the next week, the Canucks play the Jets, Predators, Blues and Blackhawks. Conceivably, they could be dead last or knocking on the door by next Sunday night; the crazy thing is I don’t see any diehards frowning upon this.

Have you ever been so enthralled with defeat that you look forward to the games just to see if they can come up on the losing end by the final buzzer? It’s unreal! We have waited for that next player to take us up the mountain and with the Sedins at Amen Corner, there isn’t much left for them to do before they hand off this team to the next leaders.

Every loss feels redeeming and as the rest of the garbage at the bottom of the league wins and Vancouver loses, the feeling of new life in an organization that hasn’t breathed in what seems like years is fresh.

All in all, the losses have piled up but the hope that this team will get a chance to turn it around with a combination of the top pick and maybe a splash signing July 1st is worth it. Even if Steven Stamkos signs elsewhere (totally likely) there is still many a dollar to spend and get this team competitive again.

Starting all over next season with a healthy roster and some new stars might be just what this team needed; no Cup right away but the belief it can get back to that level is really all most of us want. The Cup may elude forever but that’s nothing new.

So lose Canucks, lose a lot. Give us Auston Matthews and make America Vancouver great again!

Why Now Is A Good Time For The Canucks To Rebuild

Its been about 3 days or so since the Canucks have fired someone of importance and its only a matter of time before Fin get’s the axe and they introduce a skate-like mascot (hint hint). I have had some time to let everything sink in and evaluate what may or may not be happening to the Canucks; one thing is for certain: Trevor Linden and Jim Benning however unpopular and brash their decisions have been, are doing something that is bang on what should be happening RIGHT NOW. 

Its the best time to put this team in rebuild mode, but I ask that you read on so i can tell you why.

The future of the Canucks is coming and it is coming quicker than expected. Trevor Linden saw that his team was in danger of repeating itself and getting lost in the continuous cycle of politely tweaking a piece here and there to only keep things competitive.

The writing has been on the wall since 2012 and it has finally come to a head this year. We’ve all posed the question at one point or another “If you could have even just ONE Cup, would you take six to seven years of suffering?”

OK, im not saying things will get that bad but why not just do what we’ve told the Oilers and Flames to do: play the young guys and let them learn how to win, learn how to lose and grow together. The run Utica made this spring to the Calder Cup will help a handful of players gain the tools they need to be Vancouver Canucks on a full time basis.

Edmonton and Calgary held on way too long and in Edmonton’s case they just recently departed from the Oilers regime that has controlled the teams interests and is now finally making huge strides. I suppose having Connor McDavid helps things along.

So how do the Canucks make that transition? What’s left to throw away? Apparently the chance at decent draft picks but thats been beat to death. Do the Twins need to go now? Edler? Burrows?

Now, the Sedins haven’t been put to pasture and they are the type of players that could drop down the lineup for their final two years…maybe 2 more at a cap friendly number and help the young up and comers become pros. Linden did that to the Twins when they arrived and its coming around full circle.

We form bonds with our players and can’t justify sending them away when its obvious that’s the best decision. Trade them while their value is still good. Burrows has had some serious injuries and now would be the time to see a solid pick come back. Alex Edler can fetch a younger prospect or maybe a dman that just hasn’t fit in elsewhere.

Its possible the harsh decisions are over and TL and Benning are looking to build “their” team the way they want it. The ideology that didn’t result in a Cup is now being flushed out; The capologist was a great add at the time, as was the sleep doctor but gimmicks aren’t Trev’s thing. He’s a through and through hockey guy and he doesn’t need to push the BS.

Kicking Mike Burstein to the curb after 20 years was a shocker but as much of a shock as that was, was he still providing a valuable, reliable service? The way injuries have evolved over the last 10 years, you have to wonder if they were being read properly and given a proper diagnosis (see Cody Hodgson). Regardless, having a new voice, like any new coach can bring new life.

2011 was such a great year and its a shame that a rebuild has come so soon after it. A series of terrible decisions has brought us here and now is as good a time as any to start over…ish.

If it was a true rebuild, Ryan Miller probably wouldnt be here but riding out his talents isn’t the worst problem the Canucks have. The lack of fire and diminishing production in former core guys Ryan Kesler and Kevin Bieksa have made it a little easier to swallow their departures.

Don’t forget: many of you wanted these guys gone. Just because you didn’t get the return you thought was fair, doesn’t mean it wasn’t what was needed. As the eventual changes keep coming there will be dips in the Canucks cap number and opportunities to maybe add a star or two.

I don’t anticipate any important players will show up this year through free agency as it sounds like Benning has been given the AMEX for next years 2 big stars: Steven Stamkos and Anze Kopitar. It’s not like they will get them, either of them, but making a trade for someone big will be a lot easier; maybe Milan Lucic will come home.

Did you see how I bolded those guys? Now you’ll be thinking, how do we get Steven Stamkos? What will it take? Remember when we all thought Marian Gaborik was going to be a Canuck? It was infatuating and you couldn’t imagine a world where he wasn’t wearing the blue and green.

We were just given the same treatment with Lucic before LA snagged him. Lost my train of thought, sorry.

The new guys will be given plenty of chances to make the big club and losing won’t be welcome but it will become a new reality as things are gradually changing. Bo Horvat made the jump and could be the anomaly but with guys like Cole Cassels, Jake Virtanen, Brock Boeser and Frankie Corrado trying to get it done, winning takes patience.

There is not one team that has its rookie crop transform their team overnight. Even Chicago and Pittsburgh had growing pains. Coach Willie Desjardins will have to give these guys chances though and swallow a bit of pride along the way.

Get ready to lose some games this year but it’ll be worth it once the key guys turn the corner. This isn’t a doom and gloom piece; it’s the new reality we as Canucks fans live in. No one saw the the Messier era getting as bad as it did but even with that tire fire, good did come.

Sure, Bure and Mogilny winning a Cup here would have been nice, but we riotted after we lost Game 7 to New York, we aren’t allowed to have nice things. 

Jimbo will be given his chance to put the ultimate stamp on the Canucks and the true judgement will be right around the corner. Let the dust settle and see where he’s going to take this thing. The optics look like we are screwed for the forseeable future and maybe we are but ripping off the band aid is the only way things can truly change.

I don’t love how things have panned out but I don’t want to keep cheering for a push over either. It’s time to accept the rebuild and everything that comes with it. If anything, my daughters will know what it’s like to be a REAL Canucks fan.

Taylorism over on the twitter wrote this a few days back and it strikes a very similar parallel to what I’m getting at here.

Follow me on twitter: @always90four

Photo cred: bcbusiness.ca

Bowness Coverage – Post Draft, Pre Frenzy, Present Disappointment

This past week has really been a circus of emotions but that hasn’t stopped Canucks twitter and pretty much anything with a pulse from having a say. The NHL draft came and went with many storylines dictating the start to the summer, free agency begins July 1st and hopefully there is a shred of happiness that comes with that. Above all else, it seems Jim Benning may have some critics.

Early Saturday morning Eddie Lack was traded to the Carolina Hurricanes for a 3rd round pick and a 7th next year. On Tuesday afternoon the move we all thought was coming before the draft finally happened, but to a team we never expected; Kevin Bieksa is a Mighty Duck in exchange for the Ducks 2nd round pick next year. 

That alone is a big pause for the cause. 

1) The outrage in Canucksland was heard when Lack was moved for a 3rd round pick, many believing he was worth more. Benning was approached with eight offers and Carolina had the best one. What makes me wonder is if that was the best he could do, why trade him at all? 

Going forward why not keep the combo of Lack and Miller? Big deal if Markstrom walks, at the very least they could have moved HIM for a pick. It hasn’t seemed to matter who is in charge of the Canucks when it comes to goaltending, no one has a clue how to approach it. 

By the time Thatcher Demko is ready, Eddie Lack would be finishing off his 3 or 4 year deal and no doubtedly we would have found someone to partner up with Eddie, quite possibly Joe Cannata or someone else in the system. Everyone knew Lack would be able to sign a very cap friendly, team friendly deal and give the Canucks quality goaltending. Miller is our stop gap and with that tandem they could have actually made it work.

The goalie problems will never end in Vancouver, but thats ok, we’re used to it.

2) Just when the summer was about to get real snarly for Kevin Bieksa, Jimbo made the move I guarantee he did not want to do. Canucks South gained another member on Tuesday when Bieksa was sent to Anaheim to join buddy Ryan Kesler.

Benning did secure the 2nd round pick he was asking for, sadly it was the same one San Jose was offering and you wait, it would have been A LOT better. Bieksa is now on one of the most dangerous teams in the league, one that will most likely destroy the Canucks 5+ times next year.

Jimbo did well to get value out of Bieksa before he entered free agency and with all Juice’s injuries its actually a pretty saavy move. Its a shame he didn’t get what he was offered last week, we could be talking about a good player instead of guy that was just there in round 2. But the draft isn’t a sure thing so I give you kudos Mr Benning.

3) Yannick Weber was not qualified by the Canucks this week which begs the question: WHY!!!!? He was one of the few bright spots the Canucks had last year, he actually made a few powerplays worth watching and we actually didn’t care his name wasn’t Shea. How Benning let this guy slip to not even have leverage to oh I dunno keep his rights at least is nuts. 

Am I wavering here? I can’t tell. Maybe Benning has bi polar disorder or schizophrenia? Make one bad move, then one good move then another bad one. By October, there might be nothing left to criticize: we’ll all be dead from sarcasm.

4) On the plus side, Alex Biega and Linden Vey signed, oh and so did Jacob Markstrom. All very cap friendly numbers and maybe all this hair pulling will end up being a good thing? We wanted a rebuild, we wanted the problems gone and in a roundabout way I think Benning might be doing it.

Im not having fun typing those words and by the time free agency is in full swing I could take back everything and call for his head. Being a Canucks fan isn’t easy, being a Canucks armchair GM is even harder.

5) Side bar – Mike Richards may have a very rough ride back to the NHL; and that’s if they even let him back. He was stopped at the border with oxycodone, a very strong pain killer, and with that, the Kings released him. Richards was given a second chance in LA and it looks like thats all he’s getting. How serious is this? We will probably find out in the coming weeks.

6) Kind of got away from the draft so lets get back into it. At pick 23 Nick Merkley, Kelowna Rockets star forward, was NOT picked by the Canucks. I cried for a short time and my wife pretty much wanted me to shut up but as life happens we ended up getting the better version of Mike Fisher aka Mr. Carrie Underwood. 

Brock Boeser is the newest Canucks forward and although I know jack squat about him, it sounds like he is all business, and his business is doing the hockeys. Getting through the hyped up first round was tough and from the looks of things we did better than Boston.

Mr. Minnesota is a 6 foot hulking winger who is a self professed “power forward” that goes to the net and gets dirty in the corners. Maybe we’ll be so busy hoping Zack Kassian turns into Milan Lucic that Boeser will be our diamond driller.

The past few years have been good to the Canucks in the draft and hopefully ol’ Eggs Benny gets lucky from this one. Years from now we may look back and see all of our fortunes started here; I’m wrong a lot so lets not dwell on this. 

7) Going into July 1 there are a few guys the Canucks could take a swing at and even though they aren’t winning a cup soon, they can take a chance on these fellas and maybe parlay them down the road:

Cody Franson – Vancouver is in the mix to bring the BC boy home but he may not come cheap. With Bieksa gone and not having to sign Lack, there may be a few bucks in the kitty to sign this dman. We don’t have what you would call a good defensive core so Franson would definitely help. WANT LEVEL – HIGH

Joel Ward – I’ve wanted this guy for probably 4 years now and even though he’s getting older he still has some skill a few of our boys could learn from. He’s beat us around the net when he played for Nashville so we know he gets dirty. Won’t cost tons so he’s potentially affordable. WANT LEVEL – MEDIUM

Mike Green – I guess Washington isn’t home for Mike Green anymore. He’s still a valuable defenseman in many peoples eyes and if he somehow came to Vancouver I’m pretty sure he bounces back. Losing Kevin Bieksa and gaining Mike Green? I like that trade off. WANT LEVEL – HIGH

Johnny Oduya – Something something Stanley Cups. He’s 33 but he’s been to the top of the mountain twice and that might be worth talking about in the dressing room. Is this the direction Benning wants to go though? Maybe a bit more than we need. WANT LEVEL – SEMI MEDIUM

Antoine Vermette/Justin Williams – Doubt either of these guys gets a contract but they are worth talking to. 

8) Is Jim Benning done surprising us? Are there any other guys tha have played their last game in a Canucks jersey? Burrows? Edler? Higgins? Sbisa? Don’t hold your breath, I don’t think we’re done.

9) Pass it to Bulis is done with the Vancouver Sun. Daniel Wagner and Harrison Mooney put me on the Stick in Link feature one Tuesday and the next thing I know I’m the GDT guy for Canucks Army. I owe tons to these two and I can only hope their podcast keeps going and they keep pumping out quality shenanigans. 

SALUTE!

10) I ended on a music feature last time and becaause its summer, this one is no different. Here’s one of my new favorites from an amazing band. I hope Canada Day puts a smile on my face for the hockey fan in me but honestly, spending the day drinking beer, swimming in the sun and painting an apple box with my two little girls is all I need.

Enjoy!