nhl draft

House Always Wins For Vegas Golden Knights

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

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

Follow me so far?

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

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

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

Vegas MUST be stopped!

Shady stuff, Vegas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I beg you.

Follow me on twitter: @always90four

photo – reviewjournal.com

Canucks Can Get Spark Back Through Rebuild

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

Success doesn’t happen overnight.

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

Trading Edler/Tanev right now

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

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

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

Be the big player on July 1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Jersey

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

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

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

Play the kids… ALL OF THEM!

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

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

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

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

photo – sportsnet.ca

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 photo – sportsnet.ca

Next Season Crucial In Proper Canucks Rebuild

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How about the late additions?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

One year at a time.

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

Canucks Swipe Left On Right Handers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Follow me on twitter: @always90four

 

photo – independentsportsnews.com

Canucks: All The Pain Drafting Can Buy

The Canucks aren’t exciting anymore…like on any level. Most of the fan base, the media and even its biggest critics have lost interest in the spark that seems to always allude this team. Struggling last season to a point we all thought there was a very real possibility Auston Matthews could actually be a Canuck, only to win just enough games to slam that door shut. The second place prize was pretty nice too, Patrik Laine was arguably just as good but of course, the Canucks put together a handful of wins at the very end and finish third last.

And then there was the lottery. What’s worse than picking 3rd instead of 1st? How about 5th? Thanks to the phrase “that’s so Canucks”, Vancouver was dealt yet another crappy hand in its illustrious franchise history. Drafting really hasn’t been nice to the Canucks and it’s caused many a heartache.

 

Every year, there is hope, every year there is pain and frustration. The Canucks drafting is a lot like buying a CD (remember those?) for that one hit song you heard on Much Music and your local top 40. You were excited to get on the wagon and be popular like all your friends. The problem is, you buy that CD and you put it in your discman (seriously, stop dating us) and after that first song, you realize the rest of the album really wasn’t all that good.

Of course I’m speaking of the 90’s and early 2000’s. So you’ve listened to this album a number of times trying so hard to like the rest of the tracks but you just can’t. But NOW, you’re wondering if that hit song was really all that good or if you just really liked the music video? Now, that song isn’t as impressive anymore and you kind of regret buying the CD in the first place.

My boy, Jackson Jackson aka Johnny Perogy on twitter and fellow Canucks Army writer guessed bang on which album I was talking about and I really couldn’t be more excited, mainly that we both had semi-bad taste in music. As the pic up top shows, I’m talking about All the pain money can buy by Fastball; you know the song (the way).

It actually wasn’t that bad an album but it was not worth the 13 bucks I paid. The Way was a great song, catchy and they played that thing into the ground on the radio.

This year, we had seen the mock drafts and speculated if Jim Benning would trade down and net some more picks after wastefully trading them away with other prospects that he just drafted, first rounders he just drafted; maybe he was going to trade that pick with a few stars to get PK Subban? Probably shouldn’t have talked about Subban, I don’t think I have enough money for potential tampering fines. 

OK, so the 2016 NHL Draft starts and as expected the Leafs get uber prospect Auston Matthews, he of Zurich. It’s exciting for Leafs fans everywhere because all of the years of sucking so hard, signing awful contracts to awfuller players and putting people in charge of the team that were hype more than help, the Leafs got better that day.

The Jets did as expected and selected Finnish star Patrik Laine. Some say he was the best player in the draft and compare him to a grittier Teemu Selanne. What could be better? And now its the Bus’ turn and Jesse Puljujarvi was ready to picked…byyyyyy the Oilers?

Columbus had the shocker of the draft and took the Canucks Pierre Luc Dubois at 3. It was over. Months of speculation – done. But maybe the Oilers were stupid enough to take someone else and let Puljujarvi go to 5? Nope. You cheer for the Canucks, that’s not happening.

All the hype that came with this draft, the potential promise of a star hybrid centre/winger coming to Vancouver was destroyed. But fear not, we got a stud #2 ceiling defenseman: Olli Juolevi. He isn’t amazing in any one area but he’s good at a lot of things. His brain is what seperates him and what puts him higher up on the rankings, one might say he’s smart like Nicklas Lidstrom; Bennings words not mine.

Why take a defenseman at 5 when you could probably get him around 9 by trading down? Why not just take a star winger like Matthew Tkachuk, a proven goal scorer from the London Knights? Is he Corey Perry, we’ll never know…we picked Juolevi. This organization needs pep and there is no pep. We were all very happy to have Dubois and once again our dreams were crushed.

From the first days of the Canucks being a franchise and getting Dale Tallon (insert wrong price sound on Price is Right) to trading Cory Schneider for the 9th overall pick; we just don’t have the luck or the right people to take this team over the top. Imagine if Dale Tallon was hired to GM the Canucks instead of Florida or Chicago? Sorry, that was mean.

There has only been a handful of times the Canucks have made the splash we wanted AND it panned out. There isn’t a history of success and aside from making the Stanley Cup Final 3 times, Vancouver has never been out of the 2nd round. At the draft, the possibilities of taking a superstar always escape the Canucks and looking back on previous years, it’s heartbreaking.

I am a big proponent of drafting local even if the East is loaded with talent as well. Heard of Duncan Keith, how bout Shea Weber, or maybe Milan Lucic? All players the Canucks could have easily drafted but instead took less than amazing options in those rounds.

The whole point of the draft is to sell hope, to bring in the next stars that will lead your team to a Stanley Cup. You can’t do that if you ignore the players right in front of your nose, those same players you can see down the street. The OHL and the Q always get so much spotlight and rightfully so, there are tons of forwards that end up being the NHL’s elite but not all of them come from the east.

Forgetting about the Western Hockey League has burnt the Canucks on many occasions and when they haven’t forgot about it, they’ve picked there too late. All 3 of those players I mentioned were very attainable and because the Canucks picked Michael Grabner, Marc Andre Bernier and Kirill Koltsov, their history has been quite different. How’d that go?

Jim Benning has actually done a pretty good job at the draft since he has been hired, even though he seems to part with his choices quicker than anyone would anticipate. His scouting prowess is the stuff of legends and apparently he doesn’t mind telling people. Like maybe you shouldn’t be so trusting Jimbo. Have a listen:

Jeff Paterson PAT CAST!!! – Olli Juolevi the second choice?

Drafting for many years has not been the strong suit for the Canucks and even though things have turned around slightly, there isn’t much to be excited about until the likes of Thatcher Demko, Brock Boeser and Cole Cassels crack the roster. It’s been the same year after year – hype, draft, disappointment. Until there is some dynamite breakthrough, get used to that formula.

Hang tight Canucks fans, the saying “pain is only temporary” doesn’t apply to us.

The Jim Benning Effect And Why We MIGHT Need To Chill Out

The title alone will probably make many a person mad and I’m cool with that. On Friday night, round one of the NHL Entry Draft completed and the Canucks picked Olli Juolevi at the 5 spot.

It probably wasn’t the exact guy everyone wanted and many feel Jim Benning reached to get him at 5 when he could have landed him at 9; moot now. Anyways, what basically happened was the Canucks didn’t lose any roster players, he didn’t give up any current prospects and he still has the minimal stash of picks he started with on Friday. Many of us would consider this a win.

Jim Benning has definitely divided the Canucks fans and media alike with his consistent inconsistency. The funny thing is, that is pretty much the Canucks in a nutshell. They never fully deliver on really anything but they never slump out to the point where the absolute bottom falls out. This is where we’re kind of caught in the middle with Jimbo.

We’ve blasted his every move as they’ve happened including at the draft this year. I know I was pretty steamed last year when my personal fav, Nick Merkley of the Kelowna Rockets, was passed over and Brock Boeser was taken at 23. Looking ahead, it was a phenomenal pick! A future star in the making for sure. His handling of young prospects and what we deem as bogus talent has been ever questioned but somehow, he’s slowly turned this team around.

Hear me out; the Canucks aren’t winning any trophies any time soon (team ones) and the building process takes time. Benning has put his stamp on this team and there are days where I’m sure Trevor Linden has to show Jim what stamp to use but he’s doing it. As a GM, Benning looks like he’s still learning on the job which is scary but as a scout he’s drafted some of our best talent.

So why do we continue to kick this guy out the door?

This is where the message boards blow up but is he really that awful? I actually feel like he might be on to something. Remember the episode of Seinfeld called “The Opposite”? George did everything the opposite and his whole world turned around. Maybe we need to start just accepting what Jim is doing (not completely though) and see some of this out.

Erik Gudbranson for Jared McCann and the pick maybe wasn’t the best deal to make but Florida always has Benning in his Fab 5 contacts. It is a shame the pick had to leave as I think that trade happens straight up but it happened, it’s over. Gubby (pronounced GOOBY) hasn’t played in a Canucks uniform and depending on who he’s paired with, he could become a stud on the back end; we just don’t know.

I’m willing to see how he pans out. At the very least, he HAS to be better than Luca Sbisa. I mean, he just has to right?

Back to the opposite theory, Benning seems to befuddle us with his dealings and he hasn’t exactly been flat out wrong on much. He got Sven Baertschi for a 2nd and they just re-signed the guy. He’s had some big misses don’t get me wrong and we all know which ones those are but his current stop gaps on the big club might just put the Canucks in the position to blow up at both the July 1 Free Agent frenzy and next season’s decision days.

I think we all just assume the Canucks will go FULL JIM BENNING on every move and we all know you never go full Jim Benning. It just feels weird that despite his glaring ineffectiveness to make a proper REAL trade, he is building this team from the ground up. It feels like his focus is 5 years from now and so what if there are problems today?

The Jim Benning Effect hovers on every move that’s made and unless its a home run every time, its considered a failure. This might not be all Jimbos fault. Weisbrod isn’t exactly a prince. The Assistant GM is just as important as the big guy, which is why when Benning was #2, when Nonis was #2 and when Gilman was #2, the GM could have the final say (kinda like a dentist when he walks in to finish up) and as a “team” proper deals were made.

Benning still operates IMO as an Assistant GM and his assistant does as well. No one is really in charge. So is he the one to blame? We would all love to be in charge of a team and have access to the resources and secret GM message board websites but you’d still have to pull the trigger. We have no clue what deals have fallen through, which ones never got offered and the like but we just assume that what we see as obvious…actually is.

It may all end up burning to the ground and that’s entirely possible but for now The Benning Effect has actually made the Canucks a slightly better team, even if we don’t want to believe it.

I found it tough to even type those words. He’s not Rain Man, he’s not a genius but he hasn’t lost his job so something must be going right.

Right?

photo – vancouversun.com

29 Clicks Later…The Canucks Pick Matthews (No Spoilers)

The Vancouver Canucks are so close to the first overall pick but they just can’t seem to get there. With a win against the Coyotes this week making things muddier than ever, the Nucks will really have to turn up the suck-o-meter to make this thing happen. Will there be a good player at 2nd or 3rd overall? Definitely, but that’s not what you came to see.

There are two “Draft Lottery Simulators” on the interwebs and I have spun that wheel like an addict waiting for a different result each time. We all wanna know “Where are the Canucks going to pick?” What I have done will not only mystify and amaze you but it will show you once and for all that no matter what, the Canucks will find a way to screw it up anyways.

How many clicks will it take to ride the unicorn into the sunset? Hopefully not a lot, that really would crush this article.

Let’s start with Tankathon!

Before I started, I took an inventory of everything I needed to know – the Canucks have a 6% chance of getting the first pick, 19.1% chance of a top 3 and of all the lottery teams, Vancouver has the 2nd fewest ROW with 22. Impressive, if you think not winning in regulation is impressive. In this case, I do.

First spin – dud. Second spin – same. On the 6th spin, the Canucks got the 2nd overall pick, not bad but they only do this once. Let’s keep going. The 15th go around netted the same spot but Buffalo got the first overall pick, typical! Spin 29, 2nd place again and to Toronto, ugh. Could you imagine Matthews, Marner AND Stamkos? Yeesh!

I could have stopped but on spin 32, Vancouver captured the crown jewel Auston Matthews! Not gonna lie, it felt good. I had a beer and lit some candles, played some Adele and pretty much called it a night. I did remember that I wasn’t done this experiment and things could change down the internet street. It is possible Canucks fans, like Leo DiCaprio Oscar possible.

The next vehicle to check out on the lot is the famous NHL Lottery Simulator. Its a 2016 model, pretty basic, no a/c, a TAPE DECK ARE YOU KIDDING ME? It has the usual: power steering, ability to pick first overall, create hope and crush dreams. Let’s take it for a ride!

So far, I do not like this version; 8 tries and a measly 3rd overall pick? This sucks. Barely off the lot and that’s all I get? Oh, but what awaited me at try number 10? Yes my friends, the top of the mountain, the Nickelback of draft picks (that means best FYI). I really thought it would take longer but 6% is not a bad percent after all.

Could you imagine Jim Benning started his day thinking “Aw man, I’m trade away Alex Burrows for a 6th rounder and re-sign Bartkowski to a whopper deal and then OUTTA NOWHERE he get’s the 1st overall pick? I mean, he’d still do the first two things but that would be the best part of his day after all that.

I tried a few more times to see if the chances were real, if it wasn’t all a dream. Turns out, the 18th lap around the track was another fruitful one, Benning was getting Matthews! It felt amazing! I truly believed this had happened and woke my parents up at 11pm to let them know. Apparently calling your folks about a fictional event isn’t a great idea, might not have a babysitter next week so I kinda regret that all now.

Back to the Canucks though; they got the pick and life is good again. Forget all the win, loss, loss, loss, win sequences, all the town hall meetings and if the Russian giant will pan out – the Canucks are back in the win column and its great.

Go figure, 29th time worked too! The problem to all of this is that the Canucks need more losses to get a better shot at that trophy. It won’t be easy because as we all know, Vancouver never does it the easy way.

There is still time and with a bit of luck, some questionable coaching and approximately 30 minutes a night from Nikita Tryamkin and Luca Sbisa, we got this locked up.

Or not, there’s that possibility too.

 

The Canucks Aren’t Gonna Tank, Not Now, Not EVER!

Throughout this season, I’ve asked myself this a dozen or so times and I’m sure you have as well: What if the Canucks continue to alternate wins with losses, slowly yet strategically move away an old player at a time and actually have a seven game playoff series, or worse….they win one? Earlier in December, the Nucks had the best % chance of landing Auston Matthews in the 2016 Draft. They just aren’t giving up on this season and I’m afraid they might do something stupid like make the playoffs again.

Honestly, how hard is it to #tank? Jim Benning knows that for it to work successfully he has to create situations where they CAN’T WIN!!!!

Jimbo is slowly wiping away contracts, trading away things that aren’t working and I’m not quite sure if Willie Desjardins has a heavy hand in the current look but this whole Medicine Hat Tigers thing is looking a bit suspicious. Of all teams, the Tigers? If Benning tried to assemble former players from the likes of the Oshawa Generals, London Knights or Kelowna Rockets; he might have more success.

Don’t get me started on the non BC issue.

As of Jan 13, the Canucks are a win out of 7th in the West and 8 points back of LAST….dead last overall. Figure that out. The Pacific division is much to blame for this season as it basically is giving hope to everyone in the division except the Oilers; and even then, when McDavid comes back who knows?

Just when you think the Canucks were about to really slide into first overall glory, they start winning again. They start breaking win streaks, they’re getting contributions out of guys that hadn’t scored in months, a timely injury to Ryan Miller yet again forces Jacob Markstrom into the starters role and wouldn’t you know it, he’s thrived!

Or how about guys like Linden Vey and Sven Baertschi? Vey was sent down at the beginning of the year and we all assumed that might be it, well I did anyways; he finally gets a chance to be called up and he’s actually getting involved, ya I’m stunned too! With Baertschi, he was in and out of the lineup as a healthy scratch and then the pairing with Bo Horvat came and they started to chemistry (I think we were looking for the words jel/gel, click or connect); they’ve combined for 16 points since December 18th.

Can this team do ANYTHING right?

There are literally tens of reasons the Canucks are surviving this season and not planning a special draft jersey for Mr. Matthews, one of which, actually two, are the Sedins and their continued production. At 35 years old (sigh, he mentioned their age again, EVERYONE mentions their age), Henrik and Daniel have 36 and 40 points respectively and if Jannik Hansen stays healthy all year they both should be in the mid 80’s or so by year’s end. Stunning.

They’ve carried this team when no one else could even be lifted and now we find out their thugs too? The recent brawl with the Panthers, Daniel Sedin losing 4 teeth and missing approximately 3 shifts; yet still able to confuse and frustrate opposing defenders. These guys are still so good and when they leave THAT’S when the true rebuild will begin.

The Canucks don’t have it in them to #tank. They aren’t the type of organization to completely give up and start over, stubborn in a way but I’m happy they give us hope; not Stanley Cup hope but like that Barack Obama poster kinda hope. We continue to beg them to move the Higgins’s, Sbisas’s, Veys’s and even the Vrbatas’s so we can see this team get in a position to start over. Some even say Milan Lucic would help that, I’m still not sure that’s such a great idea….but not the Kenins’s, they’re plural already.

Benning is finding ways to go moneyball on the NHL and he might be hitting singles just enough to start scoring runs. Yes, a complete baseball reference in a hockey article. Im multi-faceted in sports cliches so watch out! At the beginning, Sven Baertschi looked like we might be losing a 2nd round pick after not seeing quick results but if he ends up being Horvat’s permy linemate, a 2nd was an absolute deal.

Remember when we tried to get Emerson Etem in the Ryan Kesler deal? Well Benning got him for Nicklas Jensen or Jensen depending on the day of the week and how you prefer to pronounce it. It will work out as a something for nothing deal as Jensen wasn’t going to ever be a Canuck. Who is this guy and will we continue to hate all his decisions? Some people will but Benning is quietly shutting everyone up one sneaky move at a time.

He’s real sneaky.

So tanking probably isn’t in the Canucks cards this year anymore and if they had pulled the trigger on the season before Christmas, the team might be in deep deep trouble ala Bart Simpson

That was a nice stroll down memory lane. But back to what I was talking about, something something tanking right? In typical Canucks nation fashion, we all tend to jump the shark a bit too much and demand immediate answers that aren’t always practical, possible or rational (the last one might be redundant).

Seeing this season out as a team, a fan base and media as a whole might help us to learn a lot of what this team is actually capable of. It could be a sour, smelly garbage bin of despair or it could be the bonus fry at the bottom of your Arbys bag that you are so happy was there for you at the end; regardless no tank, potential big surprises and no one on the team we need to refer to as “18 year old (insert player here)” or “(players name with a y at the end then Hockey)”.

This is the Canucks. Its usually painful, frustrating, confusing and exciting every day of the week. Just chill out. Nothing new to see here.

Follow me on twitter, not because you have to but because you can write it off on your tax return: @always90four

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!