August 03 2016 11:00AM
We're nearly two months away from the Vancouver Canucks training camp in Whistler, but the mostly static state of the NHL right now suggests this roster isn't likely to change much between now and then. So with that in mind, we should have a look at what to expect between September 22nd to 26th.
Though the Canucks training camp and pre-season have, for the most part, been an exercise in conventional roster construction, last year's emergence of Ben Hutton, Jake Virtanen and Jared McCann suggest this time of year could hold more intrigue than ever. The Canucks have done a good job of filling the cupboards with as deep a set of prospects as they've boasted in ages. Another surprise might be on the horizon.
Knowing what we do now about Vancouver's team, let's take a look at their depth chart and where competition will be fiercest therein.
August 03 2016 09:00AM
Whatever the Vancouver Canucks lack in quality pieces up front, they just might make up for with their depth. They've not lost anyone of immediate significance and added a pair of players in Loui Eriksson and Anton Rodin who could figure substantially in their attack.
Something's gotta give. There was the belief that the club might buy out Alexandre Burrows to create room, but here we are in the beginning of August, and he's still a member of the Canucks organization. He's not going anywhere, and I mean that. His $4.5-million salary all but guarantees he's not getting the Brandon Prust or Chris Higgins treatment next season.
It's looking increasingly likely that Jake Virtanen will be the sacrificial lamb. Hell, the Canucks themselves happened up about the possibility of sending Virtanen to the AHL to play premier offensive minutes and develop with Travis Green.
Linden on Virtanen starting in AHL: "There may be a situation where his best place is Utica, but it's hard to tell." #canucks— Ben Kuzma (@benkuzma) July 26, 2016
So, my question to you is what exactly your plan would be for Virtanen. The world is your oyster. Hell, I'd even accept the possibility of a trade.
August 02 2016 01:19PM
The Vancouver Canucks are experiencing deja vu all over again, having reconnected with Jason King and hiring him as an assistant coach with the Utica Comets. King joins a staff that already includes Travis Green, Nolan Baumgartner and Rollie Melanson.
August 02 2016 11:00AM
The Vancouver Canucks have been trying to trade Luca Sbisa for a while now. It's the worst kept secret in town.
Summing up the Canucks plans in the wake of free agency, Jason Botchford of The Province had this to say on the handsomely compensated defenceman.
Some around the league suggested a possible Luca Sbisa trade was being discussed this weekend.
If true, it would make sense because Gudbranson is essentially an upgrade on Sbisa, who will be battling for ice time on the third defensive pair.
Which only confirmed much of what I heard elsewhere. The fact that every hypothetical trade the Canucks have been involved in features the Swiss rearguard doesn't really fan the fires, either. Vancouver's run out of room for Sbisa and don't have the time or space to afford him a chance to reward their once defiant faith in him.
Finding a partner has proven difficult, though. Think of all the question marks on the Canucks' blue line and consider for a second that Sbisa's future therein isn't guaranteed, even with the $3.6-million owed him for the next two season. It kind of makes sense.
I've seen worse players with worse deals in murkier salary situations dealt, though. So colour me unconvinced that this is an immovable player. It just might require a little creativity on the Canucks part. Let's look at three such ways they might accomplish this.
August 02 2016 09:00AM
The Vancouver Canucks were among the league's worst defensive teams last season no matter how you slice it. They finished in the bottom third of the league in every underlying shot-based metric worth paying attention to and 23rd overall in goals against per game.
Good luck convincing me they're not aware of this on Pat Quinn Way, too. The wealth of resources they've pooled into addressing this ill suggests addressing it is paramount to their short term vision of competing for the playoffs next season.
The addition of Loui Eriksson, though mostly remarked upon for the goals added, will plug the first hole ageing has wrought on the Sedins' game -- defensive play. Philip Larsen's zone exit and entry data would indicate he's a sound bet to stretch the ice better than those who filled his role in the season prior. Erik Gudbranson should, in theory, make the Canucks a tougher team to play against and slow the opposition in the neutral zone.
And all this says nothing of the players entrenched in the Canucks system. Barring the dreaded 'sophomore slump' players like Ben Hutton, Nikita Tryamkin and Andrey Pedan could figure every bit as prominently as some of the players purchased to insulate them. At the end of the day, though, the Canucks have to ask themselves if that's enough.