taco tuesday

Loui Eriksson is Better Than You Think

This season has not gone particularly well for Loui Eriksson. He’s 7th in team scoring on an underwhelming lineup, he’s scored 11 goals when it was openly expected he would net around 30 and any chance at rebounding his luck with the Sedins or Bo Horvat or really anybody has disintegrated before our eyes. As bad as he’s looked on the score sheet, Eriksson has actually been a pretty good player for the Canucks.

I’m not saying he’s worth the $6 million per season he’s getting but looking at a few stats suggests he might just be the most unlucky guy on the Canucks this season, maybe the league.

It’s still not known if Eriksson has played with some kind of wrist injury or dual wrist injuries (is that even possible?) because everything that has been sold to us prior to this season was that Loui was a goal scorer and we could expect the goals to come from his stick at the very least. There are only 13 games left to play this season and scoring 30 goals just isn’t going to happen.

Heck, scoring 15 seems unlikely.

Eriksson isn’t entirely at fault, though. Willie Desjardins hasn’t utilized his talent to a point where an appropriate conclusion can be made on his lack of finish. He’s played 318 minutes of 5v5 hockey with the Sedins this season and when he has they’ve combined for a tidy 100.1 PDO and a respectable 55.4 combined CF%.

Advanced stats don’t decide every shift but nothing looks like it’s going wrong when they’re together, it’s not costing the Canucks any more goals than other lines overall and yet he was never given a chance there. That being said, having a 60.9% combined Ozone start in that time doesn’t help things.

So why not keep him with Horvat? They have been above average with a PDO of 106.7, which with this team clearly would not last, but having played just over 120 minutes of even-strength together, they have combined for substantial 83.3 GF%. Whoa, big number alert! Maybe he isn’t terrible, maybe he’s… good?

Willie is aware he has more than one option for each player, right? I know Jayson Megna has infinite possibilities but this isn’t about him right now. I can’t fathom how WD is allowed to strut lines night in and night out that don’t represent what the Canucks actually could look like. Plain and simple, Eriksson is actually a goal scorer, this we know from past stats.

His first season in Vancouver could be labeled a write-off by many but that’s only looking at it on the surface. Eriksson is one of three players on the Canucks this year to play at least 200 minutes at even strength and still, have a CF% above 50. He’s been on the ice for the 8th most Corsi events against on the team and has proven he’s not a defensive liability.

I feel like we’ve said this before about another winger that wasn’t getting proper deployment. I can’t find any “stuff” to readily back that up, though.

Digging even deeper, when the Canucks are trailing Eriksson is 2nd on the team in CF% with a 57.37 mark. The coach obviously trusts him to be out there to keep the game close but giving him proper chances to score doesn’t seem to be part of the agenda. Why not give him the chance to succeed then?

The writing is on the wall that Willie may not coach another season on the Canucks bench and whoever does take over the reigns might have an easier job than the trainwreck shows. Eriksson has regressed this season for various reasons and I doubt Jim Benning is actually that dense to sign a guy thinking he “might” reproduce the same numbers as past years.

He locked him up because even on this sad sack team there is a future and with five more seasons to go, Eriksson may very well be a large part of what that future looks like. The Sedins have hung around and whatever coach takes over will have to realize that either splitting them up or putting them in a lesser role will only help this team succeed.

Horvat and Brandon Sutter have emerged as the top two pivots and should have the appropriate linemates to accommodate them. Henrik and Daniel can still be quite effective when they get less ice time and aren’t asked to carry a power play that has moved on without them. Eriksson should now have the chance to play on the top line with Bo and most likely Sven Baertschi.

It’s unreasonable to think Eriksson will continue to be this unlucky; hockey only punishes for so long. It’s a game of ebbs and flows and unfortunately for Loui, his has lasted an entire year. Giving him top billing to start the year next season should help him rebound to the player that scored 30 goals for the Bruins last season.

There is no Patrice Bergeron or Brad Marchand to help those stats along but the development of Horvat as a progressing top line centre gives me hope that he can get back to that pace once again. Goal scorers don’t just stop scoring goals, even the aging stars like Jaromir Jagr and our favourite, Pavel Bure still scored until it was time to hang them up.

At the very least, Brock Boeser and a handful of up and comers will get Eriksson off the slump and his willingness to be in the dirty areas will eventually result in more goals.

He may not get to set up as much as say, Radim Vrbata did, but Eriksson has a rougher game and can bang around to create more chances. I can’t see him falling any further which means it has to go up from here.

2017 will be a season Loui Eriksson will want to forget but he hasn’t been that bad and if he keeps doing what he’s doing, the score sheet will start seeing his name a whole lot more.

 

photo – cbc.ca

Advertisements

Willie Desjardins Wasn’t The Answer To The Canucks; They’re Still Figuring Out The Question

Three seasons into Willie Desjardins’ tenure as the Canucks head coach and he still hasn’t been able to progress the on ice product to the next level. General Manager Jim Benning, hasn’t exactly equipped WD to the point where he may have been able to take the team further but he hasn’t hindered the Canucks chances anymore or any less overall. Benning can’t call the lines during the game so at this point, the coach looks like the fall man.

There are so many examples of why Willie Desjardins hasn’t been a great fit in Vancouver and aside from his first season as bench boss of the Canucks, it’s been amazingly painful to watch this team sink down the rankings. Willie hasn’t progressed the power play, the penalty kill is equally dismal and as you go down every category, the Canucks just aren’t close to being a forward moving team.

Winning faceoffs can’t be credited to Willie as Manny Malhotra has been the reason for their success in that area. It doesn’t mean they should make him coach, though.

The decisions are mounting as we get closer to the end of the year and decisions like benching new Canuck forward Nikolay Goldobin after scoring a goal just isn’t smart at all. A game later, he seemed to trust him more and even gave Goldobin PP time but I can’t imagine that was Willie’s call. WD is a developmental coach with players that haven’t quite made it yet and the body of work that we’ve seen is evidence of that.

In the AHL, Willie was great. He was highly sought after once he made it to the Dallas Stars coaching staff and once the move happened, we all found out that head coaching in the NHL isn’t exactly the same as assistant coaching in the NHL.

It’s no secret the Sedins are nearing the end of their respective careers in the league but Willie keeps putting them out in top minute situations and giving them first billing on the power play. The Sedins are phenomenal players and are still among the leaders for the Canucks in scoring but they aren’t THE leaders in scoring anymore and would need some help to keep up with the guys taking over.

So is this really ALL Desjardins’ fault? Not entirely. He inherited a team that was in transition and has been given second-tier stars to lead his team. Radim Vrbata had checked and rightfully so, he was underutilized. Loui Eriksson no doubt has checked out as well and he just got here.

Knowing the direction the Canucks need to go isn’t rocket science but they’ll have to have more than just Bo Horvat and eventually Brock Boeser. They’ll also need a coach willing to put these players into a position to succeed; Desjardins just isn’t doing that enough.

If players are proving their worth on the ice then they need to be given more responsibility, not less. Trotting out 3rd and 4th line players in the dying minutes of a game doesn’t exactly scream success.

Maybe WD just wasn’t ready for what was in front of him, I don’t know. What he should have been able to do was see which players were going to help aid the team and which ones hindered it. Going back to the Sedins, the never ending question of who their winger will be isn’t just on Willie D, it’s always been a problem.

From 2007-2011, the answer just found itself but when a player like Jannik Hansen statistically and analytically was the best option, WD kept putting fringe NHLers at the Sedin’s side. It’s just bad coaching is what it is.

Scratching Sven Baertschi or benching Anton Rodin has to be a red alert for management and it’s possible they’ll let it ride out to the end of the season, but why? How do they let a guy who dresses an injured player sit on the bench for the ENTIRE game hang around?

Do you think Baertschi has great things to say about Willie if he was let go; I’d expect an Alex Burrows type of confession from him.

Teams can their coaches mid-season all the time. The Canadiens did it as soon as Claude Julien became available because they knew what they were going to get. The current Canucks management just doesn’t have enough experience in these types of decisions. The scouting seems to be a whole lot better and the drafting is coming along, heck, some of the trades are even working out but the man entrusted to lead the team every night isn’t working any magic.

However this season finishes, be it the 1st overall pick or the 3rd, the Canucks need to retool and continue the rebuild course they’re on. Loyalty needs to be thrown to the curb as the Oilers finally did and their turnaround seems to be doing alright.

This team has lost its identity for the time being and no Boston or Los Angeles or Chicago model will solve their woes, it’s on the Canucks to figure out who they are themselves. Speed looks to be the direction the team is headed with some fancy playmakers in tow. Young studs in Troy Stecher, Ben Hutton, Boeser, Horvat, and Goldobin are proof this team isn’t dead.

Barely alive, but not dead.

We started off with “real good” and we’re now stuck with #firewillie. The Canucks fan base doesn’t like a loser and it wasn’t that long ago that Jim Benning was the man on the hot seat. He might get the ax too, but he’s bought himself some time since the deadline and his success at the draft.

There are way too many questions still with this Canucks squad but a handful of answers are showing up and coaching will be the first domino to fall. It’s suffocating to watch this team struggle to compete against even the worst teams, they deserve better.

Right?

Follow me on twitter: @always90four

photo – vancouver sun

Canucks Trying To Get A Better ‘Reid’ On Offense

I slay puns, there’s no argument there. For anyone living under a rock, NO I’m not talking about former Canuck Brandon Reid in relation to the header; Reid Boucher is the newest talk of the town after being claimed off of waivers last week. Boucher pulled the ol Esa Tikkanen last week when he was a member of the New Jersey Devils, Nashville Predators and now, the Vancouver Canucks.

Canucks fans have been clamoring for a waiver claim and they finally got one. Boucher will add some defensive depth to the bottom six forwards, a decent shot and he can score when given a chance. Becoming an RFA after this season will give him just enough time to either impress the Canucks into re-signing him or get him a contract elsewhere.

After the Anton Rodin debacle on Saturday night, a defensive forward could have fit the role as a sixth defenseman instead of the five they employed. The Rodin situation is a whole other debate and you really have to wonder what the heck the Canucks are doing with him. This isn’t the time, though. Reid will definitely be given a shot on the Skille line and just maybe a shot with either Bo Horvat or Brandon Sutter.

Admitting Jim Benning does smart things is tough sometimes (@ me all you want) but I think this may fall under that category. Trading for Markus Granlund when we all thought Hunter Shinkaruk was going to work here seemed idiotic and just plain wrong, look where they are now. Former first round pick, Jack Skille, was signed to a PTO and then a 1-year deal after impressing in the pre-season.

The handling of Frank Corrado, Anton Rodin, and a few others is confusing and conspiracy theory worthy but with the current players kind of set, it isn’t too distracting. Boucher will hopefully help the Canucks in the short term as it’s looking more and more like bodies will be needed.

On defense, there’s a good chance Jordan Subban may just get his first NHL game but some really bad things would have to happen and I don’t wish for that at all. Up front, though; the book on Boucher is his shot and contribution on the PP while being an average skater. Needing speed on this team doesn’t exactly scream REID BOUCHER but they obviously see something in him.

Dominating the OHL last season with Sarnia by scoring 62 goals does say he can find the net which could translate on the right team. Sometimes, the waiver process allows a player a chance to get where he should be instead of wasting away on a team that can’t utilize his strengths. The Canucks for the most part, seem to be out for lunch every time someone good comes up but again, that’s a whole other story.

I still think they should have claimed Ty Rattie from the Blues as I think he could have helped the Canucks more immediately but I’m not the GM as I’ve been told so I’ll have to wait to see how this pans out.

There IS one thing that makes me an instant Reid fan, however, his birthday. September 8th.

Lifelong Canuck as far as I’m concerned.

Follow me on twitter: @always90four

 

photo – thehockeywriters.com