sami salo

Noah Hanifin Could Be Jim Benning’s Sami Salo Trade

By now, you’ve heard every possible Noah Hanifin to the Canucks trade angle. Why it would work, why it wouldn’t and so on. It’s no secret that Hanifin is on the up and up and with his stats progressing handsomely year over year. He was named an NHL All-Star for the first time this past season and it’s possible that this is just the tip of the iceberg for his production.

Ever since the Elliotte Friedman 31 Thoughts snippet, things have been a little bit nutty. All it took was this, and Vancouver was buzzing:

 

 

 

A lot has been said since that article but the potential for a 2018 version of a Sami Salo to Vancouver trade is enticing. When the Canucks traded Peter Schaefer back in September 2002 for Sami Salo, the Finnish defender hadn’t hit his stride quite yet and he would eventually become one of the Canucks’ anchors on the backend. Of course, he wasn’t healthy a whole lot but when he was on his game, Vancouver had a legitimate threat that could tickle the twine from the parking lot with his rocket of a shot.

With Hanifin, Vancouver would be getting a guy who doesn’t need to be acclimated to the league, he knows the pace, the pressure and the mindset needed to succeed. Sure, Carolina isn’t exactly the place to hone your skills but Noah seems to have figured things out for the most part. The Hurricanes are in a position to rebuild, like the Canucks, and moving a skilled up and coming defender could potentially bring back the asset(s) needed to further the process.

When Cory Schneider was traded to New Jersey in 2013 for the 9th overall pick, many people quickly shouted: “that’s it?!” Was Schneider really only worth a first round pick? Turns out it worked for both teams as Bo Horvat was the player taken with that pick and it’s possible he becomes the Canucks future (like maybe by October) Captain, while Schneider has become the Devil’s man between the pipes.

It hasn’t been as rosy as Horvat’s tenure in Vancouver thus far but both teams got what they needed.

The rumored trade so far is Hanifin for the Canucks’ 7th overall pick. It’s been said the Hurricanes are asking more than that but looking back at the Schneider trade, both teams could benefit from this right away without potentially ruining the relationship between both GM’s (says me).

The parallels between the Salo trade and the potential Hanifin one aren’t extensive but they do have some similarities and quite frankly, for most of us, that’s good enough. Salo was gaining steam in his rookie campaign with Ottawa and was scoring as a second-pairing defender. Hanifin was also a second-pairing guy this season but was Carolina’s top scoring defenseman.

The Canucks were in need of a reliable defenseman back then and were able to part with a mid-range forward in Schaefer who put up 36 points in the season prior to the trade which basically is the equivalent to what Sam Gagner or Brandon Sutter did this past season. Wait, what?

STOP THE PRESSES! Get Jimbo on the phone ASAP!!

Salo hadn’t eclipsed 20 points in a season when he arrived in Vancouver but when he found his groove he was getting most of his offense on the power play. He went from almost one-third of his points coming on the power play in his first season with the Canucks to just over half the season after that and then to just under two-thirds of his points coming on the man-advantage in his third season with Vancouver.

Hanifin’s contributions on the power play aren’t quite at that caliber yet but were somewhat similar to Salo’s production when he was still in Ottawa. Of course, the power play in Vancouver saw gigantic improvements the moment Brock Boeser was stapled in “the spot”. Adding another weapon to that unit would easily increase the Canucks offense in that area.

Noah’s skating is his biggest asset right now and it has been said he’s still improving all the other areas of his game.

Parting with a high pick most years isn’t always a great idea but if there is a chance to acquire not only an NHL-ready defenseman but a player that doesn’t need training wheels like some of the players that have arrived recently to the Canucks, I say you do it. The Canucks most-likely will draft a defenseman with their first pick so why not take a similar player who is already producing and skip the first part of the development stage.

I’ve argued why this idea makes more sense than drafting a player they may not see for years, or ever potentially. I’m all for developing talent but for conversation’s sake if you could take a producing Noah Hanifin right now or the possibility of, say, Olli Juolevi working out, what would you choose?

Potential is great and all but IMO a guy like Juolevi is still a lottery ticket until proven otherwise where Hanifin has already proven he can contribute as very good everyday NHL defenseman.

Brian Burke made a shrewd move in Salo and now Jim Benning has an opportunity (or so we are led to believe) to get his version of the up and coming defender. The hype train has left the station and only time will tell if stops at “Expo Line to… Stadium/Chinatown”

*Disclaimer: I do not think they are the same player but players with a similar career trajectory thus far. Also, Hanifin is not Finnish.

 

 

Cover photo – NHL.com

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Canucks Need Recharge On Powerplay

Much like the two men in this photo, the Canucks powerplay was once very productive. Gone are the days of the booming shot from the point by Sami Salo, a monolith in front of the net in the form of Todd Bertuzzi, the snipe from the top of the face off circles by Markus Naslund or heck, Henrik and Daniel Sedin just cycling their way to an easy goal. What started fairly hot this season with Hank, Danny and the VRB; has turned into nothing more than a fun exercise in passing. The Canucks PP is in serious need of a recharge.

As of Wednesday Dec 10, Vancouver was ranked 16th on the PP at a 18.3% clip. With 3 PP markers in the first two games, the tease of something finally working again was easy to buy into. Radim Vrbata fit in quite nicely as the final play when the Sedin’s were done goofin around with the puck and adding ex Los Angeles Kings AHL star Linden Vey to the first unit had an immediate impact. Had we figured it out, was the farce over? No it wasn’t actually; but the positive start gave us something to work back to.

Amazing how these two are related isn’t it? You can sense the bitterness built up from years of failure, false hope and pure unadulterated anger. Considering games are won and lost in the playoffs on special teams, you’d figure that would be a key focus point. We remember the good days of being spoiled with Nazzy, Bert, Morrison and Salo. They just made it look so flipping easy.

When you look at the Capitals power play, they have it figured out; they have Alex Ovechkin at the blue line and everyone’s job is to essentially get him the puck so he can blast it into the net. It’s worked pretty well too! They’re 2nd in the league with a 28.8% success rate. Not bad. Ovie has 6 goals thus far with the extra man and my guess is that climbs higher.

In 2010/2011, Vrbata had 10 power play goals, he’s at 5 already this year. Maybe they need to tweek how they setup and have him at the blue line. His shot is so hard and when it’s up close it takes more work for him to get that final pass. Set him up like Ovechkin and let it rip. Get Linden Vey down low with the Twins or at least work him into a position where Vrbata can set up at the back.

They aren’t reinventing the wheel here folks, there have been proven ways to make the power play work. It usually starts with the faceoff, so maybe throw in Bo Horvat as an experiment, his focus at the dots is amazing and who knows, maybe he can turn it up. But that just gets the first unit going.

When the A team doesn’t get it done, there isn’t an answer behind door #2. Sure, its a bit of a case of yips but there needs to be the same hustle and dedication as the first group. Nick Bonino, Alex Burrows and Chris Higgins have been criticized lately for their lack of well, anything. Clearly everyone can see that Brad Richardson, Jannik Hansen and Shawn Matthias are blowing up on the radar so give them their due and blend them in.

Burrows may have hit his production wall and could easily be on the decline so if it IS broke, fix it. Have Bonino, Richardson and Higgins as a unit. Chris Tanev can help but maybe its the whole setup that’s wrong. There is a fix here and all the armchair coaches have their opinions. Go back to the strengths and just exploit them. This Canucks team has a lot to offer still, they just need to find their way….maybe tomorrow would be nice.

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