Canucks Army Postgame: First Line Forward Brandon Sutter

Photo Credit: Anne-Marie Sorvin/USA TODAY Sports

I’d like to say that it’s been something like two months since general manager Jim Benning did something that made Canucks fans cringe, but I just saw Brandon Sutter stuck on the first line as a winger with the Sedin Twins. 

I know the general manager doesn’t create lines, but Benning, I feel this one’s still on you. 

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There’s something about watching the Canucks get grossly outpossessed over the good chunk of a game by the Edmonton Oilers – even with franchise prospect Connor McDavid on the ice – that kind of hurts a bit. 

I’d like to blame it exclusively on Brandon Sutter, because there’s a lot of salt that comes from being a long-time Radim Vrbata apologist and seeing him on a line with someone other than the Sedins (especially when he’s being replaced by someone who probably works best in a middle six defensive forward role). Honestly, though, the entire team just kind of… scored first, then fell off the map and had to scramble back at the end: 

chart (1)

(This is what a hockey team looks like when they slave-worship score effects.)

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There were a few good things to point out about Vancouver’s barely-there 3-2 overtime victory over the Oilers, but I’ll get to that in a second. Let me first point out a few fun stats: 

  • 9: the number of Vancouver Canucks skaters (Henrik Sedin, Daniel Sedin, Jake Virtanen, Alex Edler, Christopher Tanev, Jared McCann, Jannik Hansen, Yannik Weber, and Alexandre Burrows) who finished regulation with a .50 CF% or better
  • 12: the number of shots on goal that the Canucks put up in the first two periods combined (the Oilers had 14 in the second period). 
  • 14: the number of shots on goal that the Canucks put up in the final period of regulation, when they apparently realized that they were about to lose to the Edmonton Oilers. 
  • 0: the number of Oilers skaters who put up possession numbers that were as poor as or worse than Sutter’s
  • 38: Brandon Sutter’s CF% throughout the game, despite playing on a line with BOTH SEDIN TWINS
  • 1: the number of breakaways that Jannik Hansen capitalized on
  • 1: the number of game-winning goals that the Sedin twins scored without Brandon Sutter’s assistance, because they play without him when playing 3 vs. 3. 
Now that I’ve gotten the ugly stats out of the way, though, let’s look at the good stats. 

For Starters, Ryan Miller.

I’ve never been a Ryan Miller fan. I’m a salty Buffalo hater who didn’t approve of his Olympic theatrics and thinks that he’s been regressing for a bit longer than he thinks he’s been. I think his game is slowing down, and he hasn’t adapted the way he plays to fit the way the league has evolved. I’ll get that out in the open right here, right now. 

That being said, this was a good game for Miller. He did a good job of holding off Edmonton over the first two periods, only allowing goals in the final frame in a way that just SCREAMED “I want to be the next Mike Smith, and you’ve paid me enough to make it possible”. 

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The way that Miller played in the first two frames suggests that he’s still got a good read on the game, and his team just kind of made it too easy to wear him down in the forty minutes that he looked superior. Give Miller fewer starts – and Jacob Markstrom has been making a good case for carrying those starts that Miller doesn’t get – and he’ll probably be just fine this year. 

Then, we’ve got Jared McCann. 

I really really really really really like Jared McCann’s game. 

I think he deserved the spot centreing Radim Vrbata in this game, which he did a few times (although I didn’t necessarily agree with that meaning that Sutter got some top line minutes as a result), and I think there’s a clear top six upside to McCann’s game already. He’s really making a push to see NHL action this year, although there’s no harm in sending him back to what’s looking like an extremely powerful Soo roster to finish off his major junior career. 

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Virtanen was also a strong possession figure in this game, and Vrbata and Tanev were quiet workhorses. It’s a game won (and really, that’s all that matters), and hey! Jannik Hansen actually finished and scored a goal! Things are going well in Canucks-land. 

Just don’t forget: Ryan Miller is getting old, not every team will bleed shots in the third period like the Oilers did, and Brandon Sutter needs to get as far away from the Sedins as he possibly can. Stop that right now. 

  • Larionov18

    I give up. Willie really liked Sutter with the Sedins. I thought they were awful. Jake looked wasted on the 4th line. Why not go back to the Sven, Bo and Jake line once during the game.

  • I don’t understand how it’s even possible for Sutter to put up possession numbers that poor when he’s on a line with the Sedins, who were ~15 percentage points (30-40%) better than he was. It just doesn’t make sense.

  • Vanoxy

    Everybody can relax about Sutter with the Twins.

    Willie needed to let McCann and Cracknell get in a game at C, as one of them will be cut today. And he wanted to see Horvat and Vrbata together.

    He just put three veterans on the top line to go for a skate together. He knows what those three bring to the table, just needed somewhere to get them some ice time tonight so he threw them out there. We will not see this combo again.

  • Larionov18

    Well done Canucks!

    Ever notice how McD usually skates behind the net and comes out the other side before he passes to a line mate. One way to take him out may be for the D-man to continue to pressure him towards the net, then have a winger break off their check early and head direct to the back of the net to meet McD against the boards.

  • andyg

    Who cares how they juggle the players around. The question is, do they have the guts to ice the best teem or will Mccann get sent down and Vey get a spot.

    If they keep McCann and jettison Vey then we have 4 very good centers.


    Not bad at all!!

    The future is here now and we get the pleasure of watching them grow up. I still think Cassels will be a good defensive Center at this level also.

  • Dirty30

    Sutter just joined Steve Bernier and Taylor Pyatt as the only dudes ever to play like crap when made an honorary Sedin.

    Even Anson Carter managed to go from okay to God to garbage … Sutter is simply garbage.

    This is the foundation that Jim Benning wants to build on? What’s he making? A garbage barge?

    And what’s Willie thinking? If he puts all his centers on the wing it will let Vey look good at center? Not in this lifetime.

  • pheenster

    If anything, this preseason has shown us the shortcomings of Jim Benning. Overpriced deal for Sbisa and the Sutter/Bonino trade look worse with each passing day. Final game of preseason and Sutter is playing on Sedin line as a right winger? Same guy who is supposed to bring us speed and defence through the middle?

    If these guys are serious about wanting to “retool” they can atleast make the hard decisions to do so. Hutton, McCann and Virtanen have stepped up and look ready to atleast start the season here. Shoulda traded Bonino+Clendenning package for a dman.

    Also, Willie doesn’t seem like he’ll ever be willing to give young guys a chance to step up. Too slow of an approach. Should have let HorVat-Baerschi-Virtanen stay together for today’s game. We could have seen if Horvat was right in that his two-way game, Baer’s skill, and Virt’s forechecking make for a great line.




    This lineup looks like it can be a playoff team to me

  • pheenster

    I can’t help but think of David Booth when I watch Sutter play. Sure, he can skate really good and has a bit of physicality but, hot damn, that dude couldn’t score even if it was a breakaway on an open net. I see zero offensive character like a Henrik Sedin pass, a Jared McCann wristshot, or a Yannick Weber slapshot. He’s totally vanilla in the offense department.

    • andyg

      hey, keep it clean. your mom’s reading over your shoulder remember. save those david booth references for the sailors. sutter is not a winger obviously. but he did get himself into position to squander his chances. booth otoh was too busy ending every play he got his stick on and then high-tailing it to the bench before the inevitable rush the other way. boy could he game that corsi…(sigh)… a legend.

  • andyg

    If McCann is to have a place in the starting line up, the best way would be between Higgins (when he returns) and Hansen, the pair who were so successful with Horvat in his rookie season.

    • Vanoxy

      Horvat did well thecsecond half when NOT WITH Higgins, but with Kenons and Hansen and before Kenins with Dorsett. He did not play much with Higgins. When Higgins returns it should be to be traded. He is superfl8us to the Canucks along with Vey

  • wojohowitz

    In my mind, you only get to rag on a players lack of size or muscle when he’s ineffective like Vey, but McCann has been effective in every pre-season game so far. I think sending him back to Junior would be holding him back.

    • wojohowitz

      I agree McCann’s been very effective. He’s played great. I’m just worried whether he can sustain it over 82 games given his current size. Heck, he’ll probably be 175 by the end of the season.

      Let him fill out. You risk ruining McCann by rushing him into the league before he’s grown into a man’s frame.

      Let’s not try and emulate the Oilers in terms of player development.

      • wojohowitz

        One big difference though, the Canucks can shelter McCann. The Oilers did not have the veteran depth to do that with their young guys. I think McCann can make it (with a couple nights off here and there).

  • andyg

    I’d say Sutter failed the triplet audition. Hutton made some mistakes, but less than Sbisa and Bartkowski. Miller was strong in net. McCann shows great promise, but needs to add some meat to that frame of his. I worry about his ability to physically weather an NHL season. Virtanen, by contrast has already filled out and played well, but is wasted on a checking line.

    I’d go with a Sven-Bo-Jake second line to start the season and send McCann back to junior with instructions to eat his Wheaties.

    As for Hutton, keep him. Sbisa should be sent down or traded.

  • pheenster

    Is it me or does the “sven bo jake” line look like the next coming of the West coast express? Call em the “Youth coast express”! These guys had so much chemistry and 10 points to boot in one game ya got Naslumd calling the nucks for season tickets! Bo and Jake are next dynamic duo that reminds me of Getzlaff and Perry,…and they get broken up??? Hutton…holy crap, I haven’t seen an offensive minded dman move a puck like that since Lumme and Erhoff. Keep this guy and send Pizza boy off and his fat “Benning must of slept with his mom contract” back to Dominoes! All I know is our prospects are playing harder and better than any of Bennings recent signings and aquisitions. His integrity as a GM who can admit he made a few mistakes in assessment and quickly repair his miscalculations (Vey, Lack, sutter and Sbiza signings) through the present talent available, rather than ride his mistakes till he’s replaced. Maybe he’s better as an assistant GM and scout, not an actual GM….or am I miscalculating 😉

    • andyg

      Me thinks yer onto something, lets see…
      Bo Scorevat…future captain and scoring machine/ Naslund
      Jake the hit man Virtanen, size/skill and strength ….Bertuzzi
      Sven, free to make plays from above compliment/ Morrison.
      Eerily similiar comparison my friend!

    • wojohowitz

      No kidding.

      Given a second chance by the Canadiens, Kassian just continues to behave totally irresponsibly.

      C’mon. Injuring himself by crashing a car into a tree with two drunk gals at 6:00 am?

      Where to start???

      Such a waste of talent due to laziness and plain old stupidity.

      I suspect this is – literally – the end of the road for Kassian.

      At least Benning got something for the boob before he completely self-destructed.

      • pheenster

        Can’t wait for the retraction of all the “this was the worst trade IN NHL HISTORY” posts, tweets, etc.

        What’s that you say? Not gonna happen? Funny that.

  • pheenster

    I figure they penciled in lines to try and Sutter was the odd one out but… you never know. He takes faceoffs better than Dank right? First line faceoff taking winger Brandon Sutter

  • pheenster

    How about we start complaining about sutter after he’s played 60 games and we have a better idea of the actual player we have. Holy bejeebus I’m sick of this websites complaint. It’s actually unreal.

  • pheenster


    No one said it was “the worst trade in history “, and I still don’t like it.

    More to the point: Eddie Lack signed a great 2 year deal worth less than one year of Miller. Sbisa and Sutter deals don’t look good. Seriously, why sign a guy to a 5 year extension with partial NMC before you see how he looks against centers out West.

    I’m glad that Benning is probably good at drafting, bc it looks like we’ll have some high picks.

    • pheenster

      I think you’re mischaracterizing things somewhat. Nylander was sent down because they’ve learned from Edmonton’s mistakes and have decided to shield the future from the carnage which will be the next couple of years in Toronto. I mean really, would you take a child to see the Hindenburg arrive if you already knew what the end result was going to be?

      I’m with you on the Benning-haters but let’s not twist a scenario to make a point.

      • pheenster

        my first thought was that nylander was sent down for his own good AND because the leafs are hoping to draft high again. look for reimer to get lots of starts as well.

  • wojohowitz

    Sbisa should be sent down or put on waivers anything to get rid of him, yes he has potential but Benning has made him basically untradable thanks to that ridiculous contract, Hutton has huge upside over sbisa, I think our downfall this season is definitely a weak D, we have nobody who can intimidate anyone in this league both physically and skill wise, I predict 88 point season at best but if Benning can manage to make a couple decent moves at trade deadline we will be back next season competitive for playoffs

  • pheenster


    I’m glad you know how to keep the level of discussion high. I guess that keeps you warm at night.

    Not @pheenster:

    I don’t think that this blog, or those commenters who agree with the kind of analysis done here, can be easily and simplistically separated into “Benning-lovers” and “Benning-haters”. Those who do haven’t understood the thought process this blog uses.

    There are a lot of moves Benning has made which looked smart at the time, because (using an analytical thought process ) they had a high chance of success: Vey, Baertschi, signing Weber and Tanev to reasonable deals, trading away Bieksa and Garrison, etc. Vey might not work out, but it was still a good risk of a second round pick.

    Then there are moves that don’t show evidence of the same careful analysis, AND they tie the Canucks hands with heavy cap commitments: signing Miller for 3 years at 6 million *with* a partial NMC, signing Sbisa, signing Dorsett to big money, trading for Sutter and then signing him for 5 years before he’s shown what he can do in the West (also with partial NMC). It’ll be a long time befode we can decide whether the Canucks madd the right choice between Virtanen and Nylander, but slagging those who said that Nylander was a better risk at the time shows you don’t understand probabilities. From all information we fans have at our disposal, Nylander was probably the better risk. This will always be true even if Virtanen turns out to be the much better player (and I hope he is! ). Information available is always imperfect, that can’t be helped. It doesn’t help to be simplistic about a complex thought process.

    The people who you are calling “Benning-haters” are just concerned about the moves he makes which look impatient and careless. As a fan, I still hope that Benning was right in those moves, bc Id rather root for a winning team.