Canucks 2013-14 Season Preview: Forwards

Thomas Drance
September 30 2013 12:20PM


All images in this post courtesy wikimedia commons.

Meaningful(-ish) regular season hockey is almost here! The Canucks will open the 2013-14 NHL season on Thursday night in San Jose, so of course we're kicking off our detailed Canucks season preview. We're beginning today with a preview of Vancouver's centre group, and we'll roll through some predictable topics between now and Thursday (defense, goaltending, the new Pacific Division). 

Let's get to Vancouver's forward group on the other side of the jump.

Overview

During the lockout-abbreviated 2013 season, the Vancouver Canucks' forward group was incredibly shallow. For the first time in the Mike Gillis era, the Canucks were the definition of a one-line team.

With Ryan Kesler and David Booth out of the lineup for the majority of the 2013 season, Vancouver was impossibly reliant on the Sedin twins and Alex Burrows - both for offense, and for control of the game. You probably know from watching that it was a fire drill whenever Vancouver's depth players were on the ice last season, but let's waste some time quantifying that anyway. In score close situations in 2013 (so whenever the game was played at five-on-five while the score was within a goal) the Canucks outscored opponents by 19 with Henrik Sedin on the ice. Without the twins on the ice at even-strength with the result in doubt, the Canucks were pummelled and outscored by 5. 

The Canucks jettisonned centermen Derek Roy and Maxim Lapierre in free-agency this offseason, and replaced them with Brad Richardson, Zac Dalpe and Mike Santorelli. All due respect to Richardson, Dalpe and Santorelli, but it seem probable that Vancouver's "bottom-9 issues" could linger into this season.

Really the biggest change the Canucks made this offseason was behind the bench, with John Tortorella taking over for Alain Vigneault. Tortorella is a zone-matching coach like Vigneault was, so some forward deployments are likely to seem familiar to Vancouver's group. But the coaching change will still have a significant impact on the responsibilities of Vancouver's forwards in other areas.

In New York, for example, Tortorella generally played his top forwards more than Vigneault did when he was in Vancouver. Last season Rick Nash averaged a full minute more than Daniel Sedin did at even-strength on a per game basis. With the sleep doctors and the travel demands in Vancouver, that's a trend we could well see reversed, but it's certainly worth watching for.

I suspect the "Tortorella effect" will be felt (literally felt) most keenly by Canucks forwards in the realm of shot blocking. Tyler Dellow broke this down wonderfully last week, but Vancouver blocked a whole whack of shots by defenseman last season while executing Alain Vigneault's system. The big difference between the Tortorella Rangers and the Vigneault Canucks was the number of shots by forwards that Tortorella's Rangers blocked. The Canucks actually blocked a higher percentage of shots from defenseman. 

The downside of Tortorella's obsessive shot-blocking system is the potential for injuries. Expect to hear the term "meatwagon hockey" whenever another forward does down with a hairline fracture (as Jordan Schroeder did this preseason). The upside is that there may well be some "unseen value" (as Dellow described it) to what Tortorella preaches, as it appears to discourage forwards from shooting as often. 

Beyond laying out and taking one for the team more often, Tortorella uses his top forward to kill penalties. Kesler did that anyway with Vigneault at the helm; but for the Sedin twins, spending a good deal of time at 4-on-5 this season will represent a significant change from the Vigneault-era.

Centremen

Henrik Sedin 

Henrik Sedin had the best two-way season of his career last year. The Canucks captain started a higher percentage of his shifts 200 feet away from the opposition's net, and spent more evenings chasing around the likes of Jonathan Toews, Anze Kopitar and Logan Couture. Not that any Eastern scribes noticed, but more often than not, Henrik came out ahead in those matchups.

Sedin's production was below a point per game for the second straight season, and it's unlikely that he'll return to his Art Ross trophy levels of production at 33-years of age. At least not without some extremely favourable percentages.

But that won't matter if Henrik can continue to drive play and on-ice shooting percentage against top-competition. The Canucks controlled 62% of all shot attempts with Henrik on the ice in score close situations last year, while shooting at a 10.4% clip. Those marks are probably unsustainable, but Henrik's line should be able to manage somewhere in the high-50s and somewhere in the neighbourhood of 9% on-ice shooting. Henrik's continued presence among the five best centreman in the world is the single main reason that those folks counting the Canucks out as a playoff team are dead wrong.

Ryan Kesler

Breaking: Ryan Kesler's health and performance is critical for the Canucks this season. Also breaking: Ryan Kesler at some point this season.

Not to belabour this but Kesler "broke" into the league as a relentless checker who could drive play and be relatively productive in spite of a limited offensive skillset. Since then he's spent years maniacally sharpening his wrist shot to make it the dangerous weapon that it is.

So it's an odd twist for me to suggest this, but it's possible that age and a myriad of injuries will catch up to Kesler, and begin to restrict his ability to control play and dominate games. It's possible that could occur even as his offensive ability is now good enough to allow him to continue to fill up the stat sheet (this is basically what happened to Jarome Iginla in his early-thirties). In fact, it's possible that process is already underway. 

At his best, Ryan Kesler plays the game unencumbered by physical limitations. Anyone who has watched his career closely knows that he'll be finishing checks with playoff ferocity in game fifty-something against the Calgary Flames come early February. He can't even help himself.

But in 21 games last season (including the playoffs) Kesler' offensive contributions served to obscure a dirty little secret: the Canucks were routinely buried when Kesler was on the ice.

Admittedly Kesler's performance last season came in a small sample of games. And that performance was out of line with his career norms. It definitely might just be noise, or a short term atrophying of Kesler's two-way skill as a result of injury.

Or maybe Ryan Kesler has reached a point in his career where he's a good enough shooter to drive offense, but limited in his ability to drive play. I think the former possibilities are more likely, but not by much and unfortunately for the Canucks, it was Kesler's ability to control play that has made him so valuable in the past.

If a summer of rest and exercise has served to restore Ryan Kesler to his previous form, then I'd expect him to get the brunt of the defensive responsibility from Tortorella. Outside of Henrik Sedin and Kesler, there just really doesn't appear to be a credible "tough minutes" option on the roster. So Kesler may well draw that assignment. 

Between age and the likelihood of his playing some very taxing minutes, Kesler's days of scoring 30 goals and 70 points might be behind him. But if the aging two-way ace can return to his play driving ways, soak up tough assignments and defensive zone-starts, and add some offense (say 50 points?) the Canucks will be in much better shape than they were a year ago. As always: Kesler is the wild card for Vancouver.

Brad Richardson

When Brad Richardson was signed, and advertised as Vancouver's possible third-line centre it seemed a bit odd. After all Richardson is a player who can only be described as a centre if you're being very generous. The same goes for the third-liner tag.

Richardson has posted some very auspicious underlying numbers over the past several seasons, and even spent some time in Los Angeles' top-six skating with Dustin Brown and Anze Kopitar. I'd suggest to you, however, that Richardson wasn't exactly the straw that stirred the drink for the Los Angeles Kings.

Still, Richardson's WOWYs look promising. Of the 13 skaters with whom Richardson has spent more than 200 even-strength minutes playing with since 2010-11, 10 of them did better (in terms of controlling attempted shots) with Richardson than they did without him. The other three were Drew Doughty, Anze Kopitar and Dustin Brown.

Richardson has also posted an impressive penalty differential, which is a good example of unseen value and usually an indicator that a player is able to outskate, out-battle or at least out-act the opposition with some regularity. Richardson has also been solidly productive offensively in the past, at least for a bottom-six player.

Add it all up and if Richardson is your fourth-line left wing and fifth option at centre, then you're sitting pretty. In other words he's a good fourth-line forward. But if he's your third-line centre, well, you clearly have a problem.

Mike Santorelli

Mike Santorelli had a forty-point season in Florida three years ago, but expecting him to re-find that form is a bit much. 

He's 28-years old and a forward at the NHL fringes. He's probably better suited to filling that Jeff Tambellini, Andrew Ebbett 7th scoring forward role than he is to replace Derek Roy (who replaced Jordan Schroeder, who replaced Samme Pahlson, who replaced Cody Hodgson, who replaced Maxim Lapierre, who replaced Manny Malhotra) as the clubs third-line centre. He might be forced into that role, however, as a result of injuries and sheer lack of depth.

Santorelli is at least a decent face-off man with some offensive pop, but there isn't much else to recommend him. His underlying numbers are unspectacular and seven of the thirteen players with whom he's spent at least 200 minutes at even-strength over the past three seasons did better without him (in terms of controlling attempted shots). 

Santorelli had a very strong training camp. He reported fit, and he outperformed (or in Schreoder's case out-healthed) his competition in the preseason. I'd imagine Santorelli will get a look on the club's third-line with former linemate David Booth to begin the season. Whether he can grab that opportunity and run with it is anyones guess, but I'd bet against him being a medium-term answer to the club's perpetual third-line centre question.

Jordan Schroeder

Schroeder, who spent the summer recovering from a shoulder injury, is out with a hairline fracture and won't be in the lineup until late October at the earliest. When he returns it'll be very interesting to see where he fits in on a John Tortorella team.

Vancouver's first round pick in 2009, Schroeder was probably Vancouver's best depth option at centre last season, which says more about the Canucks roster than it does about Schroeder. He came out ahead against relatively soft competition and he only did a bit better than his circumstances dictated. Certainly he wasn't productive enough offensively in those minutes, even if some of that was percentage based.

Schreoder turned 23 this weekend, and he hasn't scored enough at the NHL or AHL levels to suggest that he's a future top-six forward in the league. While his defensive awareness is solid, and he has the chops to be a plus possession player, it's very rare for 5,9 centremen to be considered for bottom-six jobs in the NHL.

Compounding the issue: Jordan Schroeder is waiver eligible this season. So if he's not going to play in Vancouver, every team in the league will get a chance to claim him before he can be assigned to Utica.

So is Schroeder an NHL player? The underlying numbers suggest he is. But common sense suggests he's probably not. In determining that question one way or the other, I'd imagine this season will be critical for Schroeder.

Zac Dalpe 

Newly acquired forward Zac Dalpe has played at centre and on the wing at the NHL and AHL levels over the past few seasons. After a dynamite rookie season in the AHL, Dalpe's prospect stock has come crashing down over the past few seasons as the Paris, Ontario native failed to earn a permanent NHL job with the Carolina Hurricanes.

With the Checkers last season Dalpe played second-line minutes and faced secondary competition. He was reasonably productive, but he certainly doesn't look like a serious "tough minutes" option at this point in career.

In fact, generally speaking, Dalpe has been run over throughout his limited NHL time. This past season that changed a bit as Dalpe played in ten games with the Hurricanes and spent much of his time on a line with Jordan Staal. That line showed some promise and Dalpe posted some stellar underlying numbers (despite some cruel percentages).

If Dalpe has found another level, that's great news for the Canucks. But it's worth remembering that Dalpe was playing on the wing, and alongside one of the league's better two-way forwards throughout last season. The Canucks will be moving him back to centre, and whle Dalpe may play with a solid play-driving winger like David Booth or Chris Higgins, he's a long-shot to provide even average production as a third-line centre.

Still, Dalpe's a legitimate prospect I think, so to acquire him for a song was a neat trick from the Canucks front office. Maybe not quite as neat as finding an everyday NHL third-line centre. But... Yeah I have nothing.

Left Wing

Daniel Sedin

Daniel Sedin is aware that he had an off-season last year, and he's aware of the impact shooting percentage had on his production. Daniel's a smart guy it seems, even if his expectations (he says he won't be satisfied with a 30 goal season) remain a bit high.

The good news is that Daniel's shot rate increased in 2013 from where it was in 2011-12, even though he started less often in the offensive end of the rink and was matched up against stiffer competition. The percentages will probably regress in the former Art Ross trophy winner's favour, but as the 33-year-old winger gets longer in the tooth, it's probable that he'll begin to incur some diminishing returns in terms of his overall utility and offensive production.

With Daniel taking on increased penalty-killing responsibility this season and with no credible "enabler" present on the roster to create easier circumstances for Vancouver's top-line, it seems unlikey that Daniel will manage to produce at a point-per game rate this season. But Daniel remains one of the better two-way left wingers in the NHL, and with Henrik feeding him the puck 30+ goals and 70+ points seems reasonable if he can stay healthy.

David Booth

It's a bonafide miracle that David Booth will be in Vancouver's opening night lineup. The real life sharpshooter and on-ice shooting percentage drag only managed 12 games last season, and missed 20 games the year before. Booth's inability to stay in the lineup has been far more damaging to the Canucks than his inability to beat goaltenders, frankly.

Booth remains an elite ice-tilting forward, and that's a very rare skill for a winger to possess. If he's healthy he can help an otherwise unimpressive line hit 55%+ control of attempted shots, and that could be especially useful if Kesler's days as a play-driving force are behind him.

Consider that last season the Canucks controlled 62.9% of shot attempts with David Booth on the ice in score close situations. That's impressive on it's own, but it's a herculean accomplishment when you remember that his most frequent linemates were Maxim Lapierre and Zack Kassian. Yeah the Canucks were outscored five-to-one with Booth on the ice at evens and the result in doubt, but that was mostly bad luck. The point is: regardless of what offense he can provide, Booth's neutral zone play and ability to win puck battles still has significant value.

If he's healthy. But that's a huge if at this point. It'll be important for Booth personally to stay in the Canucks lineup this season, but if he can't, then it'll be important for the Canucks that Booth is healthy during the compliance buyout window this summer...

Chris Higgins

Chris Higgins enters the first season of his four-year, $10 million contract extension this season. It's a deal that carries some risk when you consider Higgins' age, and the way his underlying numbers plummeted last season.

The hope for Vancouver is that Higgins was simply tasked with too much responsibility last season. In 2013 Higgins played often on a line with no real center and heaps of defensive responsibility. In the past Higgins has been a puck-winning machine and a fine puck possession player, and the Canucks will need him to show that form again this season (and for three subsequent seasons).

If Kesler bounces back this season, Higgins could be a useful wingman on a swashbuckling line that Tortorella is sure to grow fond of. If that cheery scenario doesn't play out, however, Higgins may spend an awful lot of time the way he did last year: playing defense in the Canucks end of the rink.

Tom Sestito

Tom Sestito was picked up off of waviers last season and he fought a bit, played some below average hockey and mocked Nail Yakupov once. Sestito is big and has some skill but he's generally not quick enough to be a punishing hitter, and Tortorella called out his fitness level this preseason.

Basically Sestito won't play much for Vancouver this season, and may end up as waiver fodder.

Jeremy Welsh

Jeremy Welsh was productive in college, but his offensive game hasn't translated at the professional level. The Canucks acquired him as the cost of doing business in the Zac Dalpe trade, and Welsh is expected to start the season in Utica. I haven't seen him play much and Welsh doesn't have much of an NHL track record to analyze, but one could imagine that he may be a modest upgrade on Sestito.

Working in Sestito's favour, however, is his lower cap-hit and the fact that Jeremy Welsh is ineligible for waivers, while Sestito would have to be exposed were the Canucks to return him to his hometown Comets.

Right Wing

Alex Burrows

Alex Burrows has been one of the leagues most reliable even-strength goal producers over the past five seasons. Obviously he's the beneficiary of playing with some excellent players in the Sedin twins, but he's demonstrably made them better for the most part

Last season Burrows' offensive production slipped pretty significantly. Some of that was lady fortuna and her devilish percentages, and some of that was the way Burrows was used as a "Mr. Fixit" by Vigneault. Whenever Vigneault needed to shore up one of Vancouver's unimpressive depth forward lines, he'd drop Burrows down the lineup to drag the rope. At one point in the season Burrows scored a lovely game winning goal while skating on a line with Andrew Ebbett and an out of position Keith Ballard. That actually happened.

Burrows was expected to start the season with Ryan Kesler, while Zack Kassian rode shotgun with the Sedin twins. That plan never made sense to me, frankly, and the Canucks may have got a bit lucky that Kassian's suspension threw a wrench in that design. Burrows with the twins has been one of the best lines in hockey over the past five seasons, and the Canucks incur a marginal opportunity cost whenever they push Burrows done the lineup. As Handel well knew: if it ain't Baroque, don't fix it.

However else Tortorella chooses to use his forwards, Burrows should be a staple in Vancouver's top-six and on their penalty-kill. He should almost never, at this point, spend time on the power-play however.

Jannik Hansen

Jannik Hansen signed a 4-year, $10 million contract extension this week and it was well earned. The Danish winger has proven himself to be a very useful defensive player, and a sneaky productive offensive presence as well. 

Hansen has consistently placed among Vancouver's most efficient point-producers. He manages to be productive utilizing his speed, his forechecking ability, his very under-rated playmaking ability and his high-velocity slapshot (which, he really began to fall in love with last season).

Ideally, I'd imagine the Canucks would prefer to use Hansen with Booth and one of Richardson, Santorelli, Schroeder or Dalpe on a quick third-line that can hold the puck in the offensive end while the Sedins and Kesler take a breather. He's well suited for that, but he's also the second best candidate to play with the Sedin twins (who've actually scored more efficiently with Hansen than with Burrows) and a very credible top-six winger at this point in his career.

Zack Kassian

It's tough to know what the Canucks have in Kassian. Kassian's offensive instincts are solid, his skillset is occassionally dazzling, and he's not reluctant to use his size to protect the puck. Kassian has improved over the past two years - with his fitness level and defensive awareness taking a big step forward since he was first acquired in the Cody Hodgson deal - but his overall consistency and discipline just isn't there at this point. 

Kassian was all set to begin the season as the designated triggerman and protector of the Sedin twins on Vancouver's top-line, but a slash to Sam Gagner's mouth resulted in a broken jaw for the Oilers centre and a long suspension for Vancouver's wannabe power forward. 

The young, toolsy forward still has room to grow and a bit of time to figure it out. But as each season goes by without Kassian establishing himself as a useful top-nine forward, he begins to look more and more like a slightly better and significantly meaner version of Steve Bernier. There's some value in that, admittedly, but it's not what the Canucks were hoping for when they acquired Kassian back in 2012.

Dale Weise

Dale Weise is a safe, reasonably useful fourth-line forward with solid wheels. He's not the most popular player among Canucks fans and he's not the most intimidating fighter, but he's probably Vancouver's best fourth-line forward at this point.

I'm curious to see how Tortorella and Weise, who was in the Rangers organization until the Canucks claimed him off of waivers in the fall of 2011, co-exist. Weise has often been criticized for trying to play an east-west game despite his north-south job description. Will that pass muster with Tortorella behind the Canucks bench?

 

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Thomas Drance lives in Toronto, eats spicy food and writes about hockey. He is an NHL News Editor at theScore, the ex-managing editor of CanucksArmy.com and an opinionated blowhard to boot. You can follow him on twitter @thomasdrance.
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#1 NM00
September 30 2013, 12:34PM
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"For the first time in the Mike Gillis era, the Canucks were the definition of a one-line team."

That's what happens when Burke/Nonis forwards age, are traded for a contract dump (Grabner) and have been poorly replenished.

"Without Kassian establishing himself as a useful top-nine forward, he begins to look more and more like a slightly better and significantly meaner version of Steve Bernier."

The comparison to Bernier is interesting. I've used it before myself.

Of course, Bernier actually scored at a fair clip during the first 2 years of his ELC before bouncing around the NHL.

On the bright side, the organization has utilized their last 8 first round picks on forwards (Grabner, White, Hodgson, Schroeder, Jensen, Gaunce, Horvat & Shinkaruk).

So if one is looking for a reason to be optimistic, there's always internal growth...

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#2 antro
September 30 2013, 01:51PM
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Fantastic article, TD!! Can't say I've ever read a better preview. I think you did a really good job of enumerating the many question marks for this year's team, and they are many. Hard to be too optimistic, but there's some potentially good bets there too (maybe Kassian starts playing a bit smarter, maybe Jensen comes up at some point and starts showing some skill, maybe Dalpe is ready to move play). I'll actually admit publicly that NM00 and others has made me temper my support of Gillis, but I would like to say he's had some bad luck (if we can call it that) with injuries and the falling salary cap in the last two years.

One thing: you don't mention Shinkaruk. Now, we've all assumed that he would be sent down, but I can't find any mention that it was actually done. Maybe just a matter of time, or is there some tricky roster move that is going to give him a game or two?

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#3 antro
September 30 2013, 01:54PM
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PS: little typo: "Handel" rather than "Handle". Funny how sometimes when you're typing fast, you can lose the ...

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#4 dan
September 30 2013, 01:57PM
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Strong preview.

1.(Glad someone finally reported my Hansen stat with Twins!:) Argument can be made he would be as successful with them as Alex - considering his #fancystats & scoring without a playmaking center?!

2. Your point on Kes is a good one However. The biggest question for me is WHY did the Nux drop off so radically while leading last yr (9th to 18th)Was it because AV changed the style & had them sit back (due to compressed sched/injuries & wanting to win 2-1?) I feel this change of style clearly had a impact on the team & Kes Fenwick Close

3. The year that Kes lit it up he had Sammuleson & Ehroff whom he played alot with It was a speed/attacking game - It is very rare for ONE player to drive play. Hockey IS a game of synergy. The Twins prove this.

IF Kes were to play with Booth & Higgins & one of Tanev or Hammy...His strong poss. numbers would return (~55%).The Twins with Hansen or Burr come in at ~57.5%.

The KEY is to have a third line that doesn't get swamped. (~50-51%)Hansen, & Richardson or Santy but then they are one strong poss. # Center/winger short.

I would have gone after a Boyes or Goc? But there is slim pickings 3C ave 18 G and 47 pts. very hard to find! (CODY where are you) (or A. Vermette :(()

The Nux are a 3C and a physical 6th D (Alberts if he could play) from having a Top 5 cup contender. providing there top guys stay healthy - ALWAYS a necessity with CUP winners.

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#5 NM00
September 30 2013, 02:20PM
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@antro

" I'll actually admit publicly that NM00 and others has made me temper my support of Gillis, but I would like to say he's had some bad luck (if we can call it that) with injuries and the falling salary cap in the last two years."

1. Because the falling salary cap has only affected Vancouver...

2. Gillis has had plenty of good luck.

Aside from the bounty he inherited from Burke/Nonis, he was extremely lucky Mats Sundin didn't take him up on the 2nd year of his dumb $20 million offer.

If Sundin accepted the 2nd year, as was his right, it would have been next to impossible to extend the Sedins and have adequate cap room to acquire Ehrhoff.

Because it's always such a smart idea to make a guy the most expensive player in the league from age 37-39 as opposed to taking care of the homegrown stars first.

But let's all drown our sorrows in delusions of Clarkson, Horton, Gordon, Cullen, Grabovski and Luongo for Dipietro plus...

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#6 Unknown Comic
September 30 2013, 02:29PM
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The Kesler question is interesting and the season largely hinges on the answer..

Does he return to his Selke season form or is he on the other side of his apex.

Most of us will have to wait and see... the pretentious few already know.

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#7 NM00
September 30 2013, 03:00PM
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@Unknown Comic

"Most of us will have to wait and see... the pretentious few already know."

I think you meant the pretentious 'one'.

Henrik/Kesler/Roy was arguably the best centre depth the Canuck have ever had for a playoff run.

And it ended in 4 games...

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#8 van
September 30 2013, 04:05PM
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I'd like to see Higgins and Hansen as Kesler's wingers. He could use a playmaker like Hansen. Leaves our 3C with play-driving Booth and Kassian who looked alright with Booth last year.

If Schroeder etc. don't work out, why not use Burrows as a centre? He's our best defensive forward and could face tough comp. Charron's made the point that face-offs aren't that important. The value of having a quality player at 3C is surely greater than the upgrade he provides over Hansen/Kassian. Can someone at least tell me why this wouldn't work?

At least our 4th line will be more interesting this year. Richardson/Santorelli/Dalpe at full strength

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#9 antro
September 30 2013, 05:45PM
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I think the salary cap reduction affected the teams that spend to the cap much more--I think the nasty little rule about recapturing the benefit of circumvention, nicknamed the "Luongo Rule," turned Luongo from difficult to trade to next to impossible. New CBA twists like that are difficult to predict--though you are welcome to try for the next one!

Kesler in the condition that he was in last year, see Thomas' description above, probably doesn't qualify as the best centre depth the Canucks have had for postseason.

Which also goes to show that Gillis did really well to add the seven players he added for the 2011 year and SC run, since depth players are pretty important.

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#10 argoleas
September 30 2013, 06:24PM
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Boy I miss a healthy Malhotra!

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#11 JCDavies
September 30 2013, 07:05PM
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@NM00

Is White a forward? ... don't remember seeing him.

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#12 Peachy
September 30 2013, 08:18PM
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Rockin' preview. Love the rigour, realism and thoroughness.

One question: what does statistical analysis say about the likelihood that Booth is a on-ice shooting percentage outlier versus that he has experienced a long run of really bad luck?

Follow up: what does this mean in terms of his value as a player?

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#13 NM00
September 30 2013, 09:01PM
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antro wrote:

I think the salary cap reduction affected the teams that spend to the cap much more--I think the nasty little rule about recapturing the benefit of circumvention, nicknamed the "Luongo Rule," turned Luongo from difficult to trade to next to impossible. New CBA twists like that are difficult to predict--though you are welcome to try for the next one!

Kesler in the condition that he was in last year, see Thomas' description above, probably doesn't qualify as the best centre depth the Canucks have had for postseason.

Which also goes to show that Gillis did really well to add the seven players he added for the 2011 year and SC run, since depth players are pretty important.

The new CBA allows the Canucks to retain a large portion (half) of Luongo's salary if they want to trade him.

The new CBA is much more trade-friendly.

I'm not sure why people still can't grasp this...

And if you're wondering how Gillis added the players he did for 2010-2011, go back and look at how he could afford to spend around $17.5 million on Sundin, Demitra, Bernier & Wellwood.

The cap space created for the 3 years leading up to the SCF was largely based on the work of previous management teams...

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#14 Tegeresz
September 30 2013, 10:34PM
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@NM00

@NM00

I like your bringing an alternate view to the discussion, but in this case you've lost your perspective.

Hank-Kes-Roy looked good on paper, but the actual play was nowhere near Hank-Kes-Manny-Lappy (even with two of them playing hurt).

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#15 NM00
October 01 2013, 08:44AM
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@Tegeresz

I guess we'll see if Hank/Kes/Santo/Richardson are any better this year.

But don't hold your breathe...

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#16 JCDavies
October 01 2013, 10:20AM
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@NM00

"And if you're wondering how Gillis added the players he did for 2010-2011, go back and look at how he could afford to spend around $17.5 million on Sundin, Demitra, Bernier & Wellwood.

The cap space created for the 3 years leading up to the SCF was largely based on the work of previous management teams..."

Is that the Burke management team that didn't operate in a salary cap environment or the Nonis management team that routinely left cap space underutilized so that the team could load up at the trade deadline with the blockbuster trades that brought the Canucks the likes of: Weinrich, Carney, Smolinski, Pettinger and Sean Brown?

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#17 NM00
October 01 2013, 10:32AM
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@JCDavies

It was the Burke & Nonis management teams that acquired Sedin, Sedin, Burrows, Kesler, Hansen, Raymond, Luongo, Schneider, Bieksa & Edler.

Along with Grabner & Bourdon (RIP).

You think you can actually sign players to discounts if you don't have good players that are amenable to discounts?

Just consider the team in Gillis' first season.

The main changes occured to the forward group by acquiring (Sundin $10 mil apx), Demitra ($4 mil), Bernier ($2.5 mil) & Wellwood ($1 mil).

Where do you think Gillis found the money to make Sundin the richest player in the NHL?

None of those players were particularly successful in Vancouver relative to their pay and none were on the SCF team...

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#18 JCDavies
October 01 2013, 10:55AM
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@NM00

I feel like I've seen that post somewhere before...

Those deadline deals by Nonis were great by the way. It's good thing he made good use of all that cap space.

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#19 NM00
October 01 2013, 11:05AM
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JCDavies wrote:

I feel like I've seen that post somewhere before...

Those deadline deals by Nonis were great by the way. It's good thing he made good use of all that cap space.

Are you suggesting a management team's tenure be judged solely on deadline deals?

As though they are more important than the transactions that set up the team to be good enough on deadlne day in the first place...

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#20 NM00
October 01 2013, 11:08AM
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@JCDavies

To add to my previous post, how many of Gillis' deadline deals have worked out?

Vaananen (waivers)?

Alberts?

Higgins & Lapierre?

Kassian, Gragnani & Pahlsson?

Roy?

Am I missing anything else noteworthy?

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#21 JCDavies
October 01 2013, 11:14AM
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@NM00

I'm not defending Gillis' moves, I'm criticizing your portrayal of Nonis' record.

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#22 JCDavies
October 01 2013, 11:24AM
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"Are you suggesting a management team's tenure be judged solely on deadline deals?"

The comment was not about trades, it was about cap-space utilization.

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#23 NM00
October 01 2013, 11:27AM
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JCDavies wrote:

I'm not defending Gillis' moves, I'm criticizing your portrayal of Nonis' record.

Then let me repeat:

It was the Burke & Nonis management teams that acquired Sedin, Sedin, Burrows, Kesler, Hansen, Raymond, Luongo, Schneider, Bieksa & Edler.

Along with Grabner & Bourdon (RIP).

Of course, you know this.

The players you mentioned (Weinrich, Carney, Smolinski, Pettinger and Sean Brown) were bullpen pieces not unlike Pahlson, Vaananen, Alberts, Lappy, Higgins, Hordichuk, Barker, Johnson etc.

It's nowhere near as impactful as flushing Grabner and a 1st rounder down on an expensive utility defenseman...

And it's nowhere near as impactful as missing on White & Ellington AND not making up that value later in the 2007 draft.

If you want to criticize Nonis' record, start there...

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#24 NM00
October 01 2013, 11:34AM
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JCDavies wrote:

"Are you suggesting a management team's tenure be judged solely on deadline deals?"

The comment was not about trades, it was about cap-space utilization.

The problem with this kind of thinking is that you're treating cap-space utilization as though it's entirely based on the work of the current GM.

Which is ridiculous...

As an example, consider the hypothetical that Gillis were fired following this past playoff disappointment.

The next GM would be left to clean up Gillis' mess.

At minimum, two big ticket items had to be exiled (Gillis chose Ballard & Schneider).

And, as you know, there were scant resources to upgrade the roster and acquire Clarkson, Gordon etc.

Say what you want about Nonis' tenure.

But he didn't leave a mess for Gillis to clean up.

In fact, he left enough money for Sundin, Demitra, Bernier & Wellwood as well as extensions for the core, money for Ehrhoff etc.

If you want evidence that Gillis isn't a cap wizard, pay attention to the "cap management" from 2013 through 2015...

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#25 JCDavies
October 01 2013, 11:35AM
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@NM00

Nonis missed the playoffs two of the three seasons he was GM in Vancouver. Perhaps he should have better allocated his cap space during the off-season.

"And it's nowhere near as impactful as missing on White & Ellington AND not making up that value later in the 2007 draft."

I agree. those were awful.

"It was the Burke & Nonis management teams that acquired Sedin, Sedin, Burrows, Kesler, Hansen, Raymond, Luongo, Schneider, Bieksa & Edler.

Along with Grabner & Bourdon (RIP)."

Do you have a template for that thing? How do you type that so fast?

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#26 JCDavies
October 01 2013, 11:39AM
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"The problem with this kind of thinking is that you're treating cap-space utilization as though it's entirely based on the work of the current GM.

Which is ridiculous..."

Which other GM prevented Nonis from using all of the cap space available?

"But he didn't leave a mess for Gillis to clean up."

But he did miss the playoffs 67% of the time...

"If you want evidence that Gillis isn't a cap wizard, pay attention to the "cap management" from 2013 through 2015..."

I'm talking about Nonis ... not really sure what Gillis has to do with this.

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#27 NM00
October 01 2013, 11:49AM
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@JCDavies

"Nonis missed the playoffs two of the three seasons he was GM in Vancouver. Perhaps he should have better allocated his cap space during the off-season."

Ah yes. The old faithful argument.

And let me complete the thought for you:

"Mike Gillis is the best GM in Canucks history because he has the best W-L record in Canucks GM history."

I don't believe you need the above to be deconstructed for you...

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#28 NM00
October 01 2013, 11:56AM
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@JCDavies

"Which other GM prevented Nonis from using all of the cap space available?"

For some fallacious reason, you seem to believe that organizations are small business that "reset" every time a new GM comes to town.

Perhaps you've been listening to Gillis too much...

Nonis was GM when the Canucks were transitioning out the west coast express; he brought in Luongo and the Canucks had a strong org depth chart.

Everything was set up to add offense to compliment Luongo and the core 4 defence as contracts to Naslund & Morrison were expiring and the cap increased.

Again, where do you think Gillis got the salary cap room to spend $17.5 mil on Sundin, Demitra, Bernier & Wellwood?

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#29 JCDavies
October 01 2013, 12:07PM
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@NM00

Well played.

I guess Nonis' W/L record isn't open to criticism then?

Attempts to connect the underutilized cap space to the poor W/L record are unfounded?

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#30 NM00
October 01 2013, 12:22PM
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JCDavies wrote:

Well played.

I guess Nonis' W/L record isn't open to criticism then?

Attempts to connect the underutilized cap space to the poor W/L record are unfounded?

Not at all.

I'd love to hear an argument that Nonis didn't utilize his cap space well during his 4 years and 3 NHL seasons as Canuck GM.

But I'd like it to be more than "misses playoffs 2 of 3 times therefore he mismanaged the cap".

And I'd like it to be more than a list of bullpen misses that mirror Gillis and every other GM in the league.

In his favour, Nonis didn't do any short-term-gain-long-term-pain contracts like Luongo's and some of the others that may become hard to move as they age...

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#31 JCDavies
October 01 2013, 12:23PM
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@NM00

For what is essentially a Nonis conversation, there is a lot of Gillis in this:

""Which other GM prevented Nonis from using all of the cap space available?"

For some fallacious reason, you seem to believe that organizations are small business that "reset" every time a new GM comes to town.

Perhaps you've been listening to Gillis too much...

Nonis was GM when the Canucks were transitioning out the west coast express; he brought in Luongo and the Canucks had a strong org depth chart.

Everything was set up to add offense to compliment Luongo and the core 4 defence as contracts to Naslund & Morrison were expiring and the cap increased.

Again, where do you think Gillis got the salary cap room to spend $17.5 mil on Sundin, Demitra, Bernier & Wellwood?"

Not sure why.

When Nonis was making the decisions, he had no idea he was going to be fired.

He had assets (money) available to improve the team and didn't make very good use of them.

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#32 JCDavies
October 01 2013, 12:24PM
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NM00 wrote:

Not at all.

I'd love to hear an argument that Nonis didn't utilize his cap space well during his 4 years and 3 NHL seasons as Canuck GM.

But I'd like it to be more than "misses playoffs 2 of 3 times therefore he mismanaged the cap".

And I'd like it to be more than a list of bullpen misses that mirror Gillis and every other GM in the league.

In his favour, Nonis didn't do any short-term-gain-long-term-pain contracts like Luongo's and some of the others that may become hard to move as they age...

He left the asset unused isn't good enough?

What value is he getting from an unused asset?

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#33 NM00
October 01 2013, 12:44PM
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JCDavies wrote:

He left the asset unused isn't good enough?

What value is he getting from an unused asset?

I'm not sure what you mean here and with the above post.

What cap space did he leave on the table in his 3 years and on what could/should it have been spent?

You may be discussing Nonis. I'm discussing the work of the last 3 GMs as well as how the org is set up for the next GM...

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#34 JCDavies
October 01 2013, 12:56PM
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@NM00

"You may be discussing Nonis. I'm discussing the work of the last 3 GMs as well as how the org is set up for the next GM..."

Yeah, I can see that you are trying to steer the conversation in that direction but none of my comments have been about about Gillis and certainly not about some "future" GM.

Let me know if you want to discuss something that isn't Gillis...

If not, we can end this here.

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#35 NM00
October 01 2013, 01:03PM
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@JCDavies

You can end it whenever you want...

If you want to talk strictly about Nonis, it goes beyond how he managed the cap from 2005-2006 through 2007-2008.

You have to look at what he left for the next GM.

And you have to look at the assets Nonis inherited from Burke even though he didn't inherit "cap space" per se.

So if you want to make the claim that Nonis "had assets (money) available to improve the team and didn't make very good use of them", what are these assets?

Organizations don't start and end with a new GM...

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#36 JCDavies
October 01 2013, 01:29PM
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@NM00

Not every decision a GM makes needs to be discussed in that framework. It is perfectly reasonable to discuss short-term decisions without considering other administrations.

Nonis easily could have signed a free agent or two to short term deals that would come off the books before another GM takes over.

Or, maybe, he is actually good at his job and he uses the cap space to sign an asset that is actually valuable to the next GM.

His strategy was to save cap space and try to pry a good player from a desperate team at the trade deadline. He tried and failed for three consecutive years to do this and wasted what he used to call his "cushion" in the process.

Your desire to make everything about Gillis is all-consuming.

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#37 NM00
October 01 2013, 01:38PM
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@JCDavies

"Not every decision a GM makes needs to be discussed in that framework. It is perfectly reasonable to discuss short-term decisions without considering other administrations."

So what are these short-term decisions? Give me some names, to what degree they affected the team in its playoff pursuit and maybe I'll agree with you.

Though I certainly won't agree if we're merely talking about bullpen arms...

"Nonis easily could have signed a free agent or two to short term deals that would come off the books before another GM takes over."

Did he not sign Naslund, Morrison & Ohlund among others after the lockout along with Carter for a year, Mitchell and Luongo for 4/27 after pilfering him from Florida?

Or does it once again come down to bullpen arms?

"Or, maybe, he is actually good at his job and he uses the cap space to sign an asset that is actually valuable to the next GM."

Such as Naslund, Morrison, Ohlund, Sedin, Sedin, Kesler, Mitchell, Luongo, Bieksa, Bourdon (RIP), Burrows, Hansen, Raymond, Grabner, Schneider...

"His strategy was to save cap space and try to pry a good player from a desperate team at the trade deadline. He tried and failed for three consecutive years to do this and wasted what he used to call his "cushion" in the process."

How much cap space was he saving each season and on what could/should it have been used?

"Your desire to make everything about Gillis is all-consuming."

I haven't mentioned him in two posts now...

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#38 GeezMoney
October 01 2013, 02:00PM
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It's not always possible to improve a team during the off season, but I think a GM needs to be credible with his players, his coaches and most of all the fans. The whole reset angle was simply a ploy to sell season tickets, and try to inject some enthusiasm in a fan base whose losing it's Mojo.

This Canucks team can surprise, but it's now a surprise rather than an expectation. That's too bad. Hopefully Gillis will actually speak truthfully about his team going forward.

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#39 NM00
October 01 2013, 02:04PM
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GeezMoney wrote:

It's not always possible to improve a team during the off season, but I think a GM needs to be credible with his players, his coaches and most of all the fans. The whole reset angle was simply a ploy to sell season tickets, and try to inject some enthusiasm in a fan base whose losing it's Mojo.

This Canucks team can surprise, but it's now a surprise rather than an expectation. That's too bad. Hopefully Gillis will actually speak truthfully about his team going forward.

Gillis isn't doing his job if he isn't selling hope.

Which, in Vancouver's case, requires lying...

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#40 JCDavies
October 01 2013, 03:21PM
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""Not every decision a GM makes needs to be discussed in that framework. It is perfectly reasonable to discuss short-term decisions without considering other administrations."

So what are these short-term decisions? Give me some names, to what degree they affected the team in its playoff pursuit and maybe I'll agree with you."

OK, now you're being unreasonable, you know this is going to be a list of hypotheticals .

If you don't think that he would have been able to improve the team by using the unspent cap space to bring in players to help the team, then perhaps we should question whether he was the right GM for the team.

If he is a good GM, then he should be able to use that cap space to find useful players.

""Or, maybe, he is actually good at his job and he uses the cap space to sign an asset that is actually valuable to the next GM."

Such as Naslund, Morrison, Ohlund, Sedin, Sedin, Kesler, Mitchell, Luongo, Bieksa, Bourdon (RIP), Burrows, Hansen, Raymond, Grabner, Schneider..."

Congratulations on completely twisting what I said into something completely different. Well done.

"I haven't mentioned him in two posts now..."

I think we both know who "the next GM" is referring to.

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#41 JCDavies
October 01 2013, 03:23PM
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"So what are these short-term decisions? Give me some names, to what degree they affected the team in its playoff pursuit and maybe I'll agree with you."

Are you questioning whether short-term decisions exist or whether they exist in this case?

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#42 NM00
October 01 2013, 04:29PM
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JCDavies wrote:

"So what are these short-term decisions? Give me some names, to what degree they affected the team in its playoff pursuit and maybe I'll agree with you."

Are you questioning whether short-term decisions exist or whether they exist in this case?

To this and your previous post...

"If you don't think that he would have been able to improve the team by using the unspent cap space to bring in players to help the team, then perhaps we should question whether he was the right GM for the team."

How much unspent cap space are we talking about?

I need some sense of how much he left on the table, realistic options of how the money could be spent an idea of the upgrade would be marginal or less.

Otherwise how can I agree with you that Nonis managed the cap poorly?

As for the short-term decisions thing, of course they exist.

But you aren't providing any examples.

Luongo was a medium term asset after his 4 year extension.

All of the players I mentioned were assets with which the next GM could wheel and deal.

You seem to be taking all of these assets for granted, though.

If you're legitimately wondering why the team missed the playoffs twice in three years, I'd suggest there are three pretty simple reasons.

1. The WCE core aged quickly after the lockout

2. The Sedin core had not yet fully emerged

3. Cloutier was Cloutier in year one and Luongo couldn't do everything in year three with defenseman dropping like flies, a difficult first time pregnancy and, most importantly, Naslund/Morrison aging and the Sedin/Kesler/Burrows group not yet fully emerged.

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#43 NM00
October 01 2013, 04:33PM
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@JCDavies

"If he is a good GM, then he should be able to use that cap space to find useful players."

Aside from being a non-sequitur, this is something I'd expect to hear on the TEAM 1040

"Where are my good players!"

Free agency isn't a grocery store and perhaps there weren't any realistic trades out there after using 3 assets for Luongo.

Gillis hasn't been finding useful players recently.

I take it he's not a good GM...

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#44 JCDavies
October 01 2013, 04:54PM
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"Gillis hasn't been finding useful players recently.

I take it he's not a good GM..."

I knew you couldn't leave Gillis out of this.

I really don't want to defend Gillis, but did he repeatedly (and intentionally) leave unspent cap space on the table?

"How much unspent cap space are we talking about?"

If you're looking for specifics you can look here: http://nhlnumbers.com/ http://www.capgeek.com/

"As for the short-term decisions thing, of course they exist.

But you aren't providing any examples."

There you go trying to force me into hypotheticals again. I don't know what options Nonis passed up but I do know he left money unspent.

Why? Because he told us he would do it, then he followed through.

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#45 NM00
October 01 2013, 05:58PM
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JCDavies wrote:

"Gillis hasn't been finding useful players recently.

I take it he's not a good GM..."

I knew you couldn't leave Gillis out of this.

I really don't want to defend Gillis, but did he repeatedly (and intentionally) leave unspent cap space on the table?

"How much unspent cap space are we talking about?"

If you're looking for specifics you can look here: http://nhlnumbers.com/ http://www.capgeek.com/

"As for the short-term decisions thing, of course they exist.

But you aren't providing any examples."

There you go trying to force me into hypotheticals again. I don't know what options Nonis passed up but I do know he left money unspent.

Why? Because he told us he would do it, then he followed through.

"I knew you couldn't leave Gillis out of this.

I really don't want to defend Gillis, but did he repeatedly (and intentionally) leave unspent cap space on the table?"

You are creating a parochial conversation about Nonis' record without looking at what he inherited how he left the organization for the next guy.

It does not work that way in any industry...

"There you go trying to force me into hypotheticals again. I don't know what options Nonis passed up but I do know he left money unspent."

How much money did he leave on the table and was it significantly more than other cap teams were leaving at the time?

If, for example, he left $5 million in any given season on the table - money that the owner was allowing him to spend - then, yes, he absolutely should be criticized for not attempting a short term upgrade.

But I have no idea that he did that and you aren't giving me a reason to believe he did it to such an extreme extent.

"There you go trying to force me into hypotheticals again. I don't know what options Nonis passed up but I do know he left money unspent.

Why? Because he told us he would do it, then he followed through."

From a game theoretical standpoint, providing free truthful information to the people you are competing against is a ridiculous position to take. As fans, we shouldn't expect or want the GM of our team to willingly give away credible information...

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#46 JCDavies
October 01 2013, 06:21PM
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"You are creating a parochial conversation about Nonis' record without looking at what he inherited how he left the organization for the next guy."

No. I am criticizing one aspect of his overall record where it is reasonable to question his moves without considering the impact of other management groups.

Any cap space Nonis left on the table in 2007, for example, would be an expiring resource that has nothing to do with Gillis.

There are absolutely other aspects of his record where it would be difficult, if not impossible, to evaluate without considering the organization left by Burke and received by Gillis.

""There you go trying to force me into hypotheticals again. I don't know what options Nonis passed up but I do know he left money unspent.

Why? Because he told us he would do it, then he followed through."

From a game theoretical standpoint, providing free truthful information to the people you are competing against is a ridiculous position to take. As fans, we shouldn't expect or want the GM of our team to willingly give away credible information..."

This part of the sentence is kind of important: ...then he followed through.

But yeah, that was stupid of him to say.

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#47 NM00
October 01 2013, 06:37PM
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@JCDavies

"No. I am criticizing one aspect of his overall record where it is reasonable to question his moves without considering the impact of other management groups.

Any cap space Nonis left on the table in 2007, for example, would be an expiring resource that has nothing to do with Gillis"

As a general principal, I agree with this 100%.

Whether or not Nonis did this to an extreme degree, I'm still not sure.

If any GM leaves (significant) cap space on the table, working under the assumption that his owner has greenlighted the money, it warrants criticism.

And I'm not talking about a million or so that many cap teams leave on the table to maintain flexibility...

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#48 JCDavies
October 01 2013, 07:42PM
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@NM00

I agree with those points.

I will add that smaller amounts of cap space can become more significant when used in combination with a trade.

Also, I would like to take this statement back:

"But yeah, that was stupid of him to say."

Obviously, lying 100% of the time is no better than always telling the truth. This was as good a time as any to tell the truth.

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