Canucks Army Roundtable: Halfway Home

Matthew Henderson
January 06 2017 03:00PM

roundtable

The Canucks have reached the midway point of their season, taking on the Flames in Game 41 of the season tonight in Vancouver. The Canucks have actually performed better than must expected, compared to those who pegged them as a last-place team by a lot. However, stellar goaltending, great performances from Horvat, Baertschi and Granlund to mention a few, as well as some surprises on the back-end have kept the Canucks in more games than they expected. With that in mind, I asked our writers what their biggest take away from the season thus far was. Here are their answers.

J.D. Burke

Biggest takeaway: This isn't necessarily a Canucks related observation in and of itself, but I think I underestimated the extent to which a decaying Western Conference would keep them competitive well longer than I'd initially expected. The Canucks are right in the thick of the playoff chase, and we're into January. Whether that's in the club's long-term interests or not (it isn't) that's kind of caught me off guard.

Biggest surprise: Has to be Markus Granlund. I was skeptical of Granlund as even an NHL player, but here he is playing on the Canucks' nominal second line and looking one of its better parts. He's proven me wrong so far.

Biggest disappointment: Probably Erik Gudbranson. I wasn't fond of the trade that brought him here. I thought that, at the very least, he'd improve the Canucks in-zone coverage. He looked just _terrible_ before he left the club with a wrist injury and his underlying data backs that up.

Taylor Perry

I will be honest and say that I did not see Bo Horvat taking over for the Sedins, at least offensively, this soon in his career. Sure, Henrik and Daniel playing with Sutter and Megna has not helped their even strength point totals, and they still face the toughest matchups, but watching Horvat take the next step in his development (and have Sven Baertschi alongside him) has been the most pleasant surprise, in my opinion, for the Canucks to date.

Always90Four

For my self, Troy Stecher. Where are the Canucks without this kid? He is already a triple A staple on the blue line and as much as we all love Ben Hutton, Stecher is getting it done just as much. His booming slap shot will eventually start felling opposing teams defenders and it's only a matter of time before GOAL, STECHER! becomes a regular thing.  Disappointment for me comes in the form of poor line management. How Loui Eriksson hasn't been put on a proper line yet is beyond me. I hope they figure that out soon.

Vanessa Jang

The play of Bo Horvat and Sven Baertschi has been a pleasant surprise. Obviously I was expecting them to improve off of last season, but their work  ethic is so evident and it that's translating on the ice. I had a feeling the Sedins were going to begin their decline this year, so that's not much of a surprise to be honest. The strides that Bo & Baertschi have made lead me to be cautiously optimistic about the future. Sure they're not bonafied superstars or 1st-line players yet, but at least we have an idea of who will be replacing the Daniel & Henrik when they retire. Stecher and Tryamkin have also played well, and that's refreshing because our lack of defense prospects was honestly laughable. Alex Burrows has also surprised me because I thought his play and production would plummet from last season. It looks like Bo & Baertschi have given an extra jump in his step.
As for disappointments, Loui Eriksson is the clear winner for obvious reasons. Erik Gudbranson also hasn't lived up to expectations, but I still believe that he can improve with time.

Jackson McDonald

I don't know if it's the biggest takeaway, but the prospect cupboard is looking pretty bare. The good news is a big part of that is due to young players like Gaunce, Tryamkin, and Stecher making the jump to the big leagues. The bad news is that those players were all around the age you'd expect a prospect to be ready to take the leap, and they have virtually no one in the 18-20 age group that can step in when the veterans retire or get traded. Juolevi, Boeser, and Demko will all make the show, but after that it gets dicey. Adam Gaudette is looking pretty good, but the team appears ready to cut ties with Pedan and Subban, so after that it's pretty much a barren wasteland. You want to have an abundance o good young talent because some prospects will inevitably surprise you, while others will disappoint. The Canucks are counting on each one of their prospects to hit their ceilings if they want to be competitive in 3-4 years. If that doesn't happen they'll be forcing kids to play out of their depth or overspending on free agents to fill that talent gap.

Matthew Henderson

This season's biggest surprise for me has been the emergence of Bo Horvat as a strong offensive player, I definitely didn't expect him to take over as the offensive power on the team. The defense is also a surprise so far, as Tryamkin and Stecher have outperformed expectations. I'm not a huge fan of how Willie has utilized players to this point, as I'd like to see younger guys getting a better shot, but I am surprised by where the team is at so far.

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Matthew Henderson was born and raised in the outskirts of Vancouver and is constantly finding ways to blend his love for puck with his love for graphic design. Find him at @MHenderson95 on Twitter.
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#1 Big D, little d
January 06 2017, 04:46PM
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Biggest surprise - offensive performance. Before the season I said that if Megna played more games than Rodin it would be another lost season for the Canucks. But here we are at the half-way mark essentially without Rodin and the Canucks are on pace for about 15 more goals than last year. Assuming the Canucks don't have another stretch where they get shutout four times in five games, they should finish with around 20 goals more than last year. That's still a long way from "offensive powerhouse" but it's at the upper range of what was reasonably expected from this group.

Biggest disappointment - defensive performance. If the offense was only going to create 20 more goals then the defense needed a similar improvement in order for the team to stay in the playoff conversation. Despite all the happy feels about Stecher and Tryamkin, and the grudging acceptance that Sbisa isn't as terrible as everyone said he was, the team is on pace for only 5 fewer goals allowed this year. Arguably the defense isn't any better than last year. That's disappointing.

Biggest quibble about the article - Stellar goaltending? Ranked by save percentage, Markstrom and Miller are 34 and 35 out of 61 goalies with more than 3 starts this season. That doesn't scream "stellar" to me. That quietly says "league average". If the Canucks were getting truly stellar goaltending (say 0.930 save percentage, Price and Bobrovsky territory) they would have 21 fewer goals against. There may be reasons why the Canucks are staying in the playoff hunt but stellar goaltending isn't one of them.

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#2 Cageyvet
January 06 2017, 07:52PM
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The biggest surprise for me was Granlund for sure, so many people were down on him. I'm not just happy with his play, I like his on-ice vision and think he has more to give than we've seen so far. He's also rung a few posts and had some unfortunate missed points like the wave-off of the goal with Sutter impeding the glove the other night. I think he has already shown he's a Hansen in the making - a solid 3rd line player with some skill who might continue evolving but even where he is at today, he's is not totally out of place if he has to fill in on the top 6.

The biggest disappointment is the coach's vision for this team. I was hoping to see him evolve as well this season, and I'm not convinced. From putting Bo on the 4th line to start the season, to the fact that Megna seems unable to play himself off the Sedin line, I'm constantly second-guessing him. He's far more qualified than me to make the decisions, but it leaves me feeling there are others far more qualified than him.....

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#3 Bud Poile
January 07 2017, 01:02AM
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On track for 86 points or four wins above .500.

This halfway point success also encompasses serious time lost from the Edler,Tanev and Hansen injuries.

The Canucks are much better than some here opined prior to the seasonal puck drop.

It's one thing to be a critic and be wrong,it's another to be so wrong and yet still make feeble excuses as if you got it right.

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#4 Big D, little d
January 07 2017, 12:59PM
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@Big D, little d

Sure, right after I kvetch about "superior goaltending", Miller plays out of his mind and outright steals a game for the Canucks.

Nice way to blow up my argument, Ryan.

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