Jensen Train Takes Detour to Utica (Plus An Update on Jordan Schroeder)

Dimitri Filipovic
September 24 2013 02:43PM


Nicklas Jensen is sad, and he doesn't care who knows it. (Image via Flickr )

It appears that the #JensenTrain has been stalled for the time being with the young talented winger reportedly being sent down to Utica to work his way back from a shoulder injury (sustained in last Saturday's game from hell for the Canucks). Meanwhile, Jordan Schroeder, who got hurt in the same game, is expected to miss an extended period of time with an ankle injury that we still don't know very much about. 

It's certainly a rough break for both guys, as they each seemed to have a realistic shot at earning a spot on the opening night roster heading into camp.

Some thoughts just past the jump on what that means for both of the young players, and the Canucks, with the regular season opener in San Jose being just over a week away.

While some people aren't fans of Schroeder as a player, I was actually pleasantly surprised by his play last season. He showed me enough in his abbreviated stint with the Canucks to make me believe that he's a legitimate NHL player. And since there weren't really any other names that jumped off the page at me when I scanned the team's bottom-6 centre options a few weeks ago, I figured he had as good a shot as anyone to land the favourable gig of playing between Jannik Hansen and Chris Higgins on the 3rd line.

For what it's worth, he barely played with Higgins last season, but in the 113+ minutes of 5v5 time he saw next to Hansen, they had a 71.4% Goals For rate. I thought he definitely had some flashes in his 31 games last season, which is all you can ask for from a guy getting his first taste of the NHL.

Unfortunately for him, his preseason lasted less than 2 periods; he injured his ankle blocking a shot in his debut against Edmonton. By now you're probably aware of John Tortorella's thoughts on the X-Ray machines in Edmonton, but we haven't really heard anything regarding a second opinion, so it's difficult to say exactly what the extent of the injury is. If he's only going to miss a few weeks, it's probably not broken or fractured, meaning it's likely just a bad bruise. But we'll see.

While he has been sitting out, Bo Horvat has been doing his best to convince people that he can hang with the big boys at the NHL level, and Mike Santorelli has been impressing with his overall play. There's also Brad Richardson, although he'll ideally be doing work on the 4th line. Anyways, Schroeder's injuries certainly haven't done him any favours, and the fact that he's waiver eligible complicates matters even further. This'll be an interesting season for him, no doubt. 

As for Jensen, he seemed to be a very viable option to start the season as the left winger on the 2nd line next to Alex Burrows and Ryan Kesler, with David Booth still not quite ready to go. We were quite high on him when we ranked him as the number 4 prospect in the team's system, and may have even appeared to be too low on him when he dominated in Penticton at the Young Stars Classic. Jason Botchford was ranting and raving about him (leading to #JensenTrain becoming a thing on Twitter), and his play even brought the dirty old man out of Tony Gallagher.

His play didn't translate to the preseason, though, as he looked quite overmatched and out of place. Maybe it's a blessing in disguise for him and the Canucks that he'll be given the opportunity to get fully healthy, and build his confidence back up in Utica before potentially being called up once the team inevitably struggles to generate goals. Keep in mind that he's only 20 years old, and has only 28 games of AHL experience under his belt. There's no real reason to rush him at this point.

The Vancouver Canucks looked very good in dismantling a depleted Phoenix Coyotes squad last night, but with the season just 8 days away, there still remain far too many unanswered lineup questions for my taste.

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Dimitri Filipovic writes about hockey on the internet, and is the Managing Editor of Canucks Army. You can follow him on Twitter @DimFilipovic, and email him at dimitri.filipovic@gmail.com.
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#1 NM00
September 24 2013, 02:56PM
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So five of Santorelli, Shinkaruk, Gaunce, Horvat, Weise & Sestito in the opening night lineup...

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#2 Mantastic
September 24 2013, 03:21PM
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@NM00

depth, will be the achilles heel for the canucks this season.

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#3 NM00
September 24 2013, 03:26PM
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@Mantastic

Oh I'm well aware of that...

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#4 Mantastic
September 24 2013, 03:32PM
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the only problem with Jensen and Schroeder not starting in the NHL means the possibility of burning the 1st year of ELC on either Horvat, Shinkaruk or Guance.

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#5 Peachy
September 24 2013, 03:41PM
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Mantastic wrote:

the only problem with Jensen and Schroeder not starting in the NHL means the possibility of burning the 1st year of ELC on either Horvat, Shinkaruk or Guance.

I'd expect the Canucks to juggle them such that it doesn't happen for Horvat or Shinkaruk.

Burning a year off of Gaunce's ELC isn't ideal, but it's also not the end of the world because he's not expected to make the kind of impact that will result in a huge cap hit down the line. I kinda hope he makes me eat those words, but it just doesn't appear to be likely.

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#6 argoleas
September 24 2013, 03:45PM
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The Canucks stated that they will try to go with youth as much as possible, and although seems like the lineups will not look that different from last season, the inevitable injuries and possible future suspensions (especially once they play Edmonton again) will force them to use more players from Utica. Not likely at the level of Ottawa last year, but it will happen, as I expect that it will happen for most teams in the west.

For now, the opening lineup seems to be

D.Sedin/H.Sedin/Hansen Higgings/Kesler/Burrows Gaunce/Santorelli/Horvat Shinkaruk/Richardson/Weise Sestido

With relief in the form of Kassian, Schroeder, Booth, and Jansen when their injuries/suspensions are done. Will that be enough? Doubt it as I still expect Shinkaruk and Horvat to be sent down before they max out their games, and we are still iffy on whether Gaunce would be sent down as well.

So assuming no injuries/suspensions, and with the above 3 players sent down back to their junior teams, this is how the lineup and immediate depth shake up:

D.Sedin/H.Sedin/Hansen Higgings/Kesler/Burrows Booth/Santorelli/Kassian Jensen/Richardson/Weise Sestido

Its not a bad lineup, but I agree we should be seriously worried about depth.

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#7 NM00
September 24 2013, 04:01PM
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@Peachy

It depends how a year of Gaunce's ELC is burned.

If he plays 10-15 games and then gets sent back to junior, that is piss poor asset management.

The depth beyond Corrado & Jensen in Utica is extremely shallow.

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#8 Peachy
September 24 2013, 04:09PM
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NM00 wrote:

It depends how a year of Gaunce's ELC is burned.

If he plays 10-15 games and then gets sent back to junior, that is piss poor asset management.

The depth beyond Corrado & Jensen in Utica is extremely shallow.

Agreed regarding the 10 - 15 games. I don't think it's likely though. He's probably either up for 9 games or the season.

Depth is poor at Utica, but a reasonable option is bringing up Lain as the 4C and moving Richardson to wing. Lain / Richardson / Weise is probably going to get killed, but if they're that bad they'll only get 5 minutes a night starting in the neutral zone. It won't hurt the team much.

If the Canucks get any more injuries or suspensions at forward though, it could get ugly fast.

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#9 NM00
September 24 2013, 04:14PM
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@Peachy

I don't think it's likely either with Gaunce.

I just hope the forwards are healthy enough after 9 games that the big 3 can be sent back to junior and the Canucks can have a mediocre season without disturbing the mediocre future...

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#10 Peachy
September 24 2013, 04:19PM
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NM00 wrote:

I don't think it's likely either with Gaunce.

I just hope the forwards are healthy enough after 9 games that the big 3 can be sent back to junior and the Canucks can have a mediocre season without disturbing the mediocre future...

Oh come now, mediocre is a bit harsh. Mediocre implies that they're a 16 - 25 team in the league. The Canucks are realistically somewhere between 6 and 15 in the league.

They're by no means elite, I get it, but things really aren't that bad.

This is why you have your wet blanket reputation. :P

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#11 NM00
September 24 2013, 04:29PM
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@Peachy

I always considered mediocre to be 11-20.

Perhaps I should have said middle class? I use them interchangably.

Trust me, I'd love to not have to be a wet blanket.

But where is the hope?

We are years behind Edmonton and Calgary in our respective rebuilds and the GM is about to lock up the twins to ensure his job security and prolong the mediocrity...

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#12 argoleas
September 24 2013, 04:31PM
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@Peachy

I wonder. I would certainly say that the Canucks are not as bad as their last 2 playoffs runs. However, the question is still whether they have what it takes to compete in the division, and the conference. One could look at this lineup and state that if everyone has non-injury career years, the team will do well. But equally, Edmonton could have a breakthrough year, and LA, JS, and Anaheim could get even stronger. My guess is that the Pacific division will have 5 playoff teams, so Vancouver is almost certainly guaranteed a playoff spot, but there are lots of question marks right now.

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#13 NM00
September 24 2013, 04:37PM
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@argoleas

The Canucks lost the key member to their save percentage advantage, the core is fairly old and the organization hasn't drafted and developed an NHL regular since Mason Raymond.

This team isn't better than the 2013 version and it certainly isn't better than the 2011-2012 version.

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#14 argoleas
September 24 2013, 04:52PM
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@NM00

Not sure on what basis you would state that the last year's team was better. Luongo did not have a good year, and all those numbers meant nothing when Schneider lost the last 2 playoff games, so the potential of a better Luongo is there, and certainly we will not have the distractions of who the number one goalie is there. Lack is still an unknown. A healthy Booth and Kessler, a more mature Kassian, a Richardson/Santorelli that although no replacement for a healthy Malhotra, is much better than nonexistent Malhotra.

Obviously, since we are making a comparison of the reality of last year vs the potential of the current team, in my view there is no comparison for the potential. But making such a comparison can only be really done once this season is finished, as many things can go right, or wrong.

But no question we dont have the team we had in 2011-2012, and this version has many question marks.

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#15 NM00
September 24 2013, 04:58PM
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@argoleas

All drama aside, Schneider & Luongo gave the Canucks an elite tandem for the last 3 years.

Can Lack replace Schneider? That's a lot to ask of any goaltender espescially one coming off of hip surgery.

And where is this healthy Booth and more mature Kassian?

I agree they should make the playoffs. But that's about it.

Hopefully the younger/higher upside Oilers and Ducks don't overtake the Canucks this season.

Because once they do, missing the playoffs might be the next step...

Although, in all honesty, missing the playoffs might not be the worst thing for this organization.

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#16 argoleas
September 24 2013, 05:11PM
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@NM00

>> Can Lack replace Schneider? That's a lot to ask of any goaltender espescially one coming off of hip surgery.

This will be one of the keys to the season, especially with Lou, if he even plays very well, will have those extra olympic games. If Lack can give Van decent goal-tending for 15-20 games, that will be fine. I dont see them replicating the planetary alignment that was 2011-2012, even under the most favorable conditions.

>> And where is this healthy Booth and more mature Kassian?

This is another key question that can only be addressed at the end of the season. Certainly not a good start.

>> Hopefully the younger/higher upside Oilers and Ducks don't overtake the Canucks this season.

This could indeed happen, and even if it does not happen this season, it will soon enough. If there is any room left before the window closes, this season is it.

>> Although, in all honesty, missing the playoffs might not be the worst thing for this organization.

I would say yes only if they miss it badly. I dont think this organization will be helped if for the next 5 years the best they can do is the 14th pick. Unless there is a massive sale for better picks/prospects, which under such circumstances, would be the way to go. I dont mind giving it a try this year, but if there is no success, just start over. Dont pull a Calgary.

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#17 JFR
September 24 2013, 05:15PM
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Jensen is a good young player with a lot of upside but so far when he is playing, you don't even hear his name called. Both Jensen and Gaunce need to learn how to use their big frames better and be around the puck. Gaunce has a knack for being in the right place for rebounds, but needs to before physical. Utica will be good for Jensen and even Gaunce if he doesn't have to go back to OHL.

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#18 argoleas
September 24 2013, 05:20PM
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JFR wrote:

Jensen is a good young player with a lot of upside but so far when he is playing, you don't even hear his name called. Both Jensen and Gaunce need to learn how to use their big frames better and be around the puck. Gaunce has a knack for being in the right place for rebounds, but needs to before physical. Utica will be good for Jensen and even Gaunce if he doesn't have to go back to OHL.

I agree that Utica is the best place for Jensen right now. There is some mental hurdle he needs to overcome and that is the best place for it. Hopefully he can settle down and have a good half a season before Van calls him up to replace the inevitable injuries.

My guess is that Gaunce is going back to junior, with a possible Corrado route at the end of the season.

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#19 Ted
September 24 2013, 05:59PM
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Jensen didn't look like he was ready for the NHL in his pre-season games so Utica is not a bad spot.

I think we have some solid prospects in Utica and we should be able to ease them into the big club. No need to rush anyone.

It seems almost certain we will break camp with some rookies but they should all get sent down prior to burning a season off ELC. Give your prized prospects a feel for the NHL.

As usual NM00's stupidity never ceases to amaze. I love how he knows the Canucks system so well and writes off everything. Is there any way we can put him on ignore so I don't have to see his crap conspiracy theory paranoia?! Seriously.

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#20 Nateb123
September 24 2013, 06:41PM
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NM00 wrote:

I always considered mediocre to be 11-20.

Perhaps I should have said middle class? I use them interchangably.

Trust me, I'd love to not have to be a wet blanket.

But where is the hope?

We are years behind Edmonton and Calgary in our respective rebuilds and the GM is about to lock up the twins to ensure his job security and prolong the mediocrity...

If you're talking about solely duration, then yes, we got to the rebuild party years after the Flames and Edmonton. If you're talking about quality of the rebuild, I have a hard time buying that, especially when we have so many players who will be in the lineup for a while. Hockey players don't keel over at 25. Part of the reason we aren't stocking up parts to replace a position is because the old parts are nowhere near broken or used up yet.

Calgary and Edmonton might have picked high but they haven't been smart enough to sign reclamation projects who have real impact on the roster, nor smart FA signings who don't handicap the team with their salaries. MG isn't perfect but I don't see many GMs doing nearly as well, let alone better, especially in Alberta.

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#21 NM00
September 24 2013, 07:38PM
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@argoleas

I pretty much agree with all of this.

Most of all the "don't pull a Calgary" part.

This is my biggest fear by far. That the mediocrity drags on.

Which is why I think signing the Sedins prior to the season is the wrong move.

The Sedins have given every indication that they will stay in Vancouver if they are fairly compensated.

No need to rush it.

There might not be enough to compliment and build a winner around the Sedins anymore in Vancouver.

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#22 NM00
September 24 2013, 07:46PM
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Ted wrote:

Jensen didn't look like he was ready for the NHL in his pre-season games so Utica is not a bad spot.

I think we have some solid prospects in Utica and we should be able to ease them into the big club. No need to rush anyone.

It seems almost certain we will break camp with some rookies but they should all get sent down prior to burning a season off ELC. Give your prized prospects a feel for the NHL.

As usual NM00's stupidity never ceases to amaze. I love how he knows the Canucks system so well and writes off everything. Is there any way we can put him on ignore so I don't have to see his crap conspiracy theory paranoia?! Seriously.

You're going to wear yourself out before the season starts slugger.

Delay gratification.

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#23 NM00
September 24 2013, 08:01PM
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@Nateb123

Who are these players that will be here for awhile?

Calgary and Edmonton may very well screw up their rebuilds. Time will tell.

"MG isn't perfect but I don't see many GMs doing nearly as well, let alone better, especially in Alberta."

What has he done well?

Has he drafted well?

Has he traded well?

Has he supplemented this team with quality free agents?

Aside from magical powers over the win-loss record, cap wizardry and allegedly being the reason the franchise value has increased, I'm still not sure why people believe he is competent.

He's the Marc-Andre Fleury of general managers.

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#24 Lemming
September 24 2013, 08:45PM
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To comment on the actual post, I think sending Jensen to the minors is the right call. He just hasn't looked all that good in the preseason games he's played. I don't know if it's because he played a season of Swedish hockey and just got unaccustomed to the NHL pace and game, but it can't hurt.

This all being said, I'd say his stock is dropping a little bit. He's gotta show he can be a leader in the AHL if he wants to continue to be well thought of as a prospect.

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#25 NM00
September 24 2013, 09:01PM
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@Lemming

Jensen's being sent down basically to rehab.

I just hope, if necessary, he's ready after 9 games.

Forward depth might be the biggest issue this year and these injuries/suspensions aren't helping matters...

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#26 Neil B
September 24 2013, 09:46PM
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@NM00

>>"MG isn't perfect but I don't see many GMs doing nearly as well, let alone better, especially in Alberta."

> What has he done well?

Cap management. The core of this team is signed for less than street value. Because of that (and Booth's injuries) we might be able to take advantage of about a dozen teams' salary cap woes to poach a good player for a journeyman, or a journeyman for a grunt.

> Has he drafted well?

Yep. His first pick has 139 games and 77 points, and scored a 60-point pace last season. Yeah, it was for someone else. But you asked about his drafting, not his asset management.

>Has he traded well?

Yep. When Booth is healthy, he produces at a pace appropriate for a second-line winger without 1st PP unit time. He stole Ehrhoff. The *trade* for Ballard was a good one (but see the above comment re: sucky asset management). Higgins. Lappy, for about 1.25 seasons.

> Has he supplemented this team with quality free agents?

Hamhuis, Tanev, Garrison, Malhotra. That's a yes.

Has he made bad decisions? Hell, yes. As I said before, his asset management sucks, unless you're part of "the core". Has he been snake-bit? Big yep. Overall, he has his strengths and his weaknesses. He's overly loyal to people & systems (he's hired one coach in 5+ seasons); he misread the 2011 loss and then over-reacted to it; he seriously misread the NHL's intention to punish contracts like Lou's (and I don't know how; it's not like Bettman was talking about it for months before the lockout--oh wait…). On the other hand, five straight division championships--yes, it's a weak division; but it's stronger than the Southeast, and Ovie, Green, Semin, and Backstrom were only good for 4 of 5 over the same span.

He's probably about average as a GM, or possibly a little above average (ranking between 15-11 of GMs out there). We'll find out better in the next couple years, when his drafts have to take the load for the team.

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#27 NM00
September 24 2013, 10:13PM
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@Neil B

1. If the team spends to the cap and is mediocre, how can the cap management be good?

2. There were a lot of good players drafted after CoHo in 2008. Namely Myers, Karlsson, Sbisa, Del Zotto, Eberle, Ennis and Carlson in the 1st round.

And the rest of the higher picks (Sauve, Schroeder & Rodin) are pretty meh to be generous.

We shall see if 2011 to the present is any better.

3. Ehrhoff was a steal no doubt. Though flushing down Grabner and a 1st rounder for Ballard more than cancels it out, in my opinion.

Booth...really? The guy who can't stay healthy enough to be bought out?

Also, uh, CoHo for Kassian, assets for rental Roy, Bernier and that Schneider trade...

4. Hamhuis & Garrison didn't choose Vancouver because of the GM. Same goes with Willie Mitchell.

And while Manny, Tanev & Sammy were solid free agent signings, there has also been Sundin, Demitra, Barker etc.

And on Sundin specifically, Gillis is pretty damn lucky he didn't take him up on the 2nd year of his dumb $20 million offer.

Otherwise there would not have been adequate cap money to retain the Sedins.

5. The Canucks won these division titles largely on the strengths of the "core" formed by Burke, Nonis and BC.

This could have easily been the core in 2011:

Sedin/Sedin/Burrows

Raymond/Kesler/Grabner

Hansen

Hamhuis/Bieksa

Edler/Salo

Mitchell

Luongo/Schneider

Gillis added Ehrhoff. Which was a steal. But it's been 6 years and this is still his lone significant contribution to the top of the roster aside from accepting gifts from BC born defenseman.

And it's all catching up to the Canucks...

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#28 GeezMoney
September 25 2013, 01:33PM
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@NM00

Ah HH... My hair is burning, my hair is burning!!!

Settle down. Life will go on. Gillis hasn't missed as badly as you claim. Plus, Burke keeps getting fired (because he's awesome, of course) and Nonis has benefited greatly both times from... Brian Burke! Ehrhoff isn't the only good find. and you have ZERO behind the scenes knowledge of what brought Hamhuis, Garrison and Mitchell (a Nonis signing by the by) to Vancouver. Frankie Carrado and Chris Tanev look pretty good (young, smart, good skating, good hands controllable defenders always do, though). Your opinions on these matters are greatly over appreciated and you would do well to find a balance in your take on all things Canucks. Right now, it seems like you are posting with an agenda to get Gillis fired. But i suspect Aquillini doesn't spend a lot of time looking at this site (no offense to this great site).

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#29 NM00
September 25 2013, 02:37PM
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@GeezMoney

"Right now, it seems like you are posting with an agenda to get Gillis fired."

Are the Gillis apologists posting with an agenda to keep Gillis employed?

If you feel he is better than I suggest, why?

I'm not sure what the counterargument is other than ghosts about magical powers over the win-loss record and cap wizardry...

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#30 GeezMoney
September 25 2013, 05:55PM
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@NM00

You don't give him credit for wins and losses? What exactly is he paid to do then? Tell me one GM who floors you with his creativity, success and infallible handling of the Cap. One GM who doesn't make a risky play at the deadline in hopes of giving his team a chance to win at playoff time? You blame him for the Roy trade. I would have made that trade each and every time. What did they give up? Kevin Connaughton and a 2nd round pick. Ooh, what will the Canucks ever do without those assets? Kassian for CoHo? I'm sure we all miss CoHo's Kyle Wellwood like production.

Bottomline is you dismiss what he does well as an "anyone can do that blindfolded" and slam him when he takes risks to improve the team. Booth, Roy, Kassian and the 9th overall selections are deals I would have made in this less than ideal world we live in.

The only deal I think he fouled is the Keith Ballard trade. But keep in mind, Florida didn't value Grabner anymore than Gillis did. Sometimes, trades fail you.

And if you bring up Luongo, all I can say (preemptively) is that I'm sure it is easy to trade a high priced 34-year old goalie with a spotty playoff record making $6 million per season for the next six years from the comfort four couch than it is to actually consummate the right deal.

And I'm certain had he unloaded Luongo you would have found fault in that too.

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#31 NM00
September 25 2013, 07:44PM
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@GeezMoney

"You don't give him credit for wins and losses? What exactly is he paid to do then?"

Do you give Marc-Andre Fleury credit for wins and losses?

Gillis didn't start a small business. He took over an organization that already had a lot of ingredients.

There have been a number of teams that have maintained or opened up a new window during the same time frame: San Jose, Detroit, Boston, Chicago, NYR, Anaheim, Ottawa etc.

I'd take some of these respective GMs or a new GM like Dallas and Columbus have recently hired.

As for Luongo, perhaps Gillis shouldn't have made him captain and signed him to a dumb contract.

Then, if Gillis desired, he could have transitioned to Schneider instead of trying to move the immovable object.

The organization hasn't drafted and developed an NHL regular since 2005 2nd rounder Mason Raymond.

For all intents and purposes, Gillis busted the 2006 draft by trading Grabner and may be on the verge of busting 2008, 2009 & 2010 depending on whether or not Kassian & Schroeder can become NHL regulars.

Scan the rosters of other teams such as San Jose, Detroit, Pittsburgh, Boston, Chicago, Ottawa, NYR, Anaheim, Washington etc.

There are very few teams struggling to draft and develop NHL players the way the Canuck have under Gillis.

Which is a large reason why the window has closed...

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