Why the Canucks Should Still Choose the Best Player Available

The Vancouver Canucks have all but given up on the playoffs. They’re all in on the youth movement and giving any prospect worth the title their sliver of the big league pie.

It’s about looking to the future now. Canucks general manager Jim Benning has alluded to as much, touching on the club’s plans going into the 2016 NHL Entry Draft on his most recent set of radio hits. More specifically, their philosophy and the players involved therein.

Benning kicked a hornet’s nest when he strayed from the script, suggesting that the club was interested in snagging a defenceman in the first-round. Although, to his credit, Benning acknowledged that the three forwards at the top of the draft, Auston Matthews, Patrick Laine and Jesse Puljujarvi are in a class of their own.

The Canucks may have a positional need at defence, but whether they should prioritize this route of player accumulation as the one-step fix-all remains a topic of debate. Just as contentious was Benning’s willingness to reveal draft strategy in March and the leverage surrendered in doing so, but that’s another topic for another day.

I can respect the thought process that pulls the cart down that path. Vancouver is at it’s weakest on the blue line this season, possibly next and looking at the prospect pool it’s entirely possible it’s an area of weakness that follows them well into the future. Hell, maybe even when the team as a whole is competitive again.

Intuitively, it makes sense that one would observe an area of weakness and look to find the most expedited path to fill that need. Benning is a scout by trade, building in a result based industry. You can hardly blame him if this is his favoured method of roster development.

That’s fine and good, but a draft pick isn’t an investment in the player itself but the wins you can reasonably expect that player to add over the course of a season, career. If player x (defence) and player y (forward) are separated by a half-win a season, it really shouldn’t matter what position they play – you take the extra win(s).

Players are assets and the team holds full control over the contractual rights of the player they pick. If that asset has run out of room it can just as easily be turned into an asset that does fit. The Columbus Blue Jackets and Nashville Predators executed that move to perfection, swapping Ryan Johansen and Seth Jones to fill a positional need. The Canucks thought they were doing that when they traded Hunter Shinkaruk for Markus Granlund.

Another factor is that the needs of today could very well be the surplus of tomorrow. The draft is one approach to player accumulation, but there’s also free agency, waivers and trades to consider. A lot can happen in a year. How dire are the Canucks needs on the back-end with Frankie Corrado in their system? Needs are fluid and subject to change on a day-to-day basis. 

If the Canucks are selecting between the 7th and 15th overall picks, odds are the earliest that player takes a shift is another season or two down the road. Potentially longer, or not even at all. Crystal ball withstanding, you cannot see that far into the future. There’s no telling how far their prospects on either side of game develop in that span, or what will become available to them in free agency or by trade.

The Canucks may not have drafted a defenceman in ten years, but they’ve certainly iced some of the best blue lines in the league over that span. With an expert scout like Benning running the show, there’s no reason they can’t repeat that feat. It just might require a little creativity.

  • JuiceBox

    “Just as contentious was Benning’s willingness to reveal draft strategy in March and the leverage surrendered in doing so, but that’s another topic for another day.”

    Straight up delusional.

    The team picking ahead of the Canucks in the 1st round is not going to alter their draft strategy because they know the Canucks are thin on defense…

  • Whackanuck

    The Canucks defense in this millennium have only had a few notable contributors come from the 1st round: Jovanovski, Allen, Ohlund, Hamhuis.

    Jovanovski and Allen were disappointing for where they were selected but Ohlund & Hamhuis were solid.

    None of Sopel, Salo, Bieksa, Mitchell, Edler, Ehrhoff, Garrison, Tanev & Hutton were 1st round selections.

    Impact defenseman often come outside of the first few picks so I wouldn’t worry if the Canucks don’t take one in the 1st round.

  • Whackanuck

    Yeah, the “draft strategy” comment is a bit off base. It doesn’t take a genius to see the canucks are thin on D. At any rate if there’s going to be any draft pick swapping up or down it generally requires telling the other team(s) involved who you’re picking as well.

  • JuiceBox

    You just can’t let this one go, can you?

    “How dire are the Canucks needs on the back-end with Frankie Corrado in their system?”

    Still just as dire because Corrado is nothing more than a replacement-level defenceman.

    Having him on the roster would not have helped the Canucks in any significant way, he couldn’t even crack the Leafs roster for god sakes. He would have spent most of this season in the press box (my how the fan base would be losing it over the damage to his development) and he will never be good enough to make an impact down the road.

    Let it go man.

  • JuiceBox

    Can this love fest for Frank Corrado please stop. We’ve seen highly regarded d-men (Gormley, Tinordi, Runbland, Tatar) all get thrown in the waiver wire, but this fawning over a 5th round d-man who got outplayed by Hutton is beyond ridiculous. He could not break the Leafs line-up and the only reason he’s playing is to help with the tank. What a joke of a team. Yes, Captain Hindsight is that he’s probably better than Weber and Bartkowski, but he lost his job and got punted. That’s asset management at its finest because the team did not deem him to be an asset. Period.

    • pheenster

      Botchford addressed this after the Leafs were in town in February.

      Corrado played with a separated shoulder and broken hand in the AHL playoffs last year and didn’t finish until June. He was unable to train properly this summer.

      In June, Vancouver told him to find a place for this season and had him penciled in as one of their d-men.

      They then used a poor pre-season for a young guy that couldn’t train as a reason to risk losing him to the minors.

      Toronto knew about his shoulder and lack of training time and shut him down for the winter, telling him to train only.

      Once he was fit, he’s been playing regularly and sporting a 60% Corsi on a bad team.

      So, your information is incomplete and this new info should lead to even deeper questions…

      • Ragnarok Ouroboros

        “So, your information is incomplete and this new info should lead to even deeper questions…”

        for some it was a terrible shame to lose Corrado, others not.

        I think many of the posters on here have moved on from the Corrado affair… and the only questions they have is why is it still being brought up?

        • Ragnarok Ouroboros

          Thank you. I’m just waiting for the articles/comments from people lamenting how they have missed the trainers and assistant managers that got fired as well. Botchford’s stories are as interesting as the sex forums in my Dad’s old hustler jet mags. Interesting reading, but you have to take it with a grain of salt.

        • Ragnarok Ouroboros

          Because it is a narrative. And writers love a good narrative. You may want to move on, but every time a local opinion writer has a chance to bring up Corrado, it will be brought regardless of Franky’s performance.

          • pheenster

            Why is it being brought up?

            Benning just announced his team will be targeting defence as it’s a weakness.

            Benning gave up defence for free. A defence he judged to be ready in June, then judged to be not ready 3 months later after a small sample size without taking into account injury.

            And arguably gave up on the better, younger defenceman with the smaller cap hit to keep the lesser, older defenders with bigger cap hits.

            Fans love narratives too. They want to hope and the questions make it hard to keep the hope up, so they “move on”.

          • Ragnarok Ouroboros

            BPA at the time was Hutton.

            Management said they would make way for the best players available and they have.

            More subtle Benning bashing looks obvious.

          • bigdaddykane

            “Because it is a narrative. And writers love a good narrative.”

            unfortunately yes… 🙁

            reminds me of when TL was hired and many of the media talking heads were talking about it being a no brainer to bring Quinn on as a consultant or some sort of special posting. It was too bad they didn’t do the research to find out he wasn’t well and passed away not too much later.

            would we still be out of the playoffs with Corrado still here? yes. would our defense lack grit with Corrado still here? yes. was Corrado part of the solution? we will never know, and I don’t miss him.

      • Whackanuck

        We only ever have Corrado’s version of this. The Canucks have a training regimen for their players and I can’t see why Corrado wouldn’t make his injury known to the team. This comes out months after the fact, just when the Leafs happen to come to Vancouver?

        Too incredible to be true.

  • JuiceBox

    I think people misunderstood to a degree what JB was trying to say.

    I interpreted it like this:

    They need to start drafting defenceman, but they will take the best player available if said forward is much better than the next best defenceman. If they are looking at two players – one forward and one defenceman – and the difference between the two is marginal, they will take the defenceman instead.

    • JuiceBox

      Wondering if JB’s draft order will much different from the consensus, prolly not for the first handful of picks?

      I guess he will be judged more for the later picks but I still can’t wait for the criticism. some is fine, just don’t understand why the media is always calling for someone’s head at every opportunity.

  • Dirty30

    I agree that if the Canucks fluke out and win one of the top three picks in the lottery, they should pick Matthews, Puljujarvi, or Laine. There may even be some separation between Tkachuk and Nylander and the rest of the first round prospects.

    The truth is that the Canucks aren’t really stocked with prospects at any position. They have a lot of needs.

    They have a few promising young wingers in their system with Virtanen, Boeser, and Baertschi. But Boeser hasn’t even played a game in the NHL yet, and it isn’t clear yet how good Virtanen will be. Horvat looks like a future solid second line center. McCann looks promising, but it isn’t clear where he will slot in. Even if McCann develops into a merely solid center with playmaking ability, putting him with a star winger like Puljujarvi, Laine, or Tkachuk could give the Canucks a strong first line.

    If the Canucks do pick somewhere 6-10, it’s likely that at least one of Chychrun, Sergachev, Juolevi, or Fabro will be available.

    The good news/bad news is that the Canucks are likely to finish in the bottom third again next year, and possibly the year after, which means another couple of chances at the draft lottery. And even if they don’t win a top pick, there are many good NHL defensemen who were taken in the mid first round and even later, so they should have many opportunities in the coming years to address their defense.

    Take the best player.

  • JuiceBox

    “That’s fine and good, but a draft pick isn’t an investment in the player itself but the wins you can reasonably expect that player to add over the course of a season, career. If player x (defence) and player y (forward) are separated by a half-win a season, it really shouldn’t matter what position they play – you take the extra win(s).”

    Wouldn’t playing a position where a team is weak (in this case defence) mean that there is more potential for a player to add wins than a forward of equal quality?

    If you’ve got decent forwards but are carrying a bunch of crappy defenders surely replacing one of those crappy defenders with a decent one would generate more wins than replacing a decent forward with another decent forward.

    • Whackanuck

      Yes! This isnt just about getting an NHL defenceman, it’s about a genuine shot at a top 2 defencean. What opponent is going to trade a top defence prospect to a rival, unless it’s the rare case where togethers first line forward back. Like the Canucks have a Johansen to trade away.
      Benning is stating the obvious Canucks strategy-unless there’s measurably better forward available, take a premier defence prospect. He’s always stated you get a premier defenceman by drafting one.

  • Dirty30

    Corrado has gotten more mileage on paper than on the ice! This endless return to the tragedy that is Frankie makes a Tale of two Cities look like a comedy.

    My only regret with all that has transpired this season is that Benning didn’t stockpile more picks. Simple reason, the potential to maybe trade up.

    Is a roster player plus some picks up and down now enough to move into Chyrchin (sp?) territory realistic? Should it be considered?

    Do you go all in and put up McCann plus to get the top D propect? Do you thrill fans by offering Miller, retain salary and something else to sweeten the deal?

    With the potential of Hamius, Vrbata, Weber, Bartowski, all going and maybe Burrows bought out, there should be some room to manage a deal to move up in the draft … assuming some other team is looking to trade.

    I’d be more interested in what could be done than rehashing old news about marginal players and what should have been done.

  • JuiceBox

    I swear, the amount of ink that gets spilled on this Web site about Frank Corrado, Hunter Shinkaruk, Gustav Forsling, and various other players who have either never played an NHL game, or remain marginal NHL players, is truly astounding.

  • Friendly Neighbourhood Canucks fan

    Take it easy on JD. Corrado may have gotten beat by Hutton but he was not worse than Bartkowski which is what irritates people. Bartkowski was scratched for most of the year by Bruins team who missed the playoffs. He didn’t earn his spot, it was given to him. Corrado is no offensive threat by any means but his steady defense was needed. Just look at last night’s game as a recent example.

    In the end it won’t come back to bite us in the sense that Corrado doesn’t really have all star potential, but you can’t deny he is better than Bartkowski, Biega and Weber (same number of goals for the Canucks as Corrado)

    Anyways, long live the tank.

  • Ragnarok Ouroboros

    Unless they beleve Hutton or Tyramkin will develop into a Doughty Keith Chara they need to stockpile d men. As a team that’s never won the cup it has to be the only goal. Making the playoffs year after is more for owenership than fans. Being constantly eliminated in rounds 1-4 only frusterates fans of a cupless team.

  • Not Dressed For Tonight's Game

    “How dire are the Canucks needs on the back-end with Frankie Corrado in their system?” Still pretty-dire!!

    “If this wasn’t an investment in the player itself but the wins you can reasonably expect that player to add over the course of a season” and if player x happened to be Corrado – how many extra wins would the Canucks have this year? ZERO.

  • pheenster

    “That’s fine and good, but a draft pick isn’t an investment in the player itself but the wins you can reasonably expect that player to add over the course of a season, career. If player x (defence) and player y (forward) are separated by a half-win a season, it really shouldn’t matter what position they play – you take the extra win(s).”

    This statement would make sense if mathematics won hockey games. But here in the real world players win hockey games, making this statement completely asinine.

  • bigdaddykane

    Hutton and Tanev will be on the team’s d-core 4 for many years. What we need is a PP qb and a net-clearing monster. Don’t know if we have that yet. But having Hutton and Tanev is actually a great start. Both are sound defensively and Hutton does have an offensive dimension to his game.

    Hey, if Chychrun is the guy at the pick we should take him. I am actually quite afraid of the forwards ranked 8 through 15.

  • Dirty30

    Corrado got rag dolled and beat up on by Burr. If he couldn’t even defend himself against the pesky frenchy what makes you think he could defend anything else. All of the asset management nonsense needs to stop. Yes we have too many waiver eligible 22-24 year old players signed for next year. This is a good problem to have, the cream will rise to the top. Higgins and Burr will be traded, waived or bought out and Benning will have successfully gone from one of the oldest teams in the league to one of the youngest in all of 2 seasons. In order to turn this team around we are going to have to operate up against it waiver wise because not every youngster is going to fit and it will take volume to find the gems. We can’t cry over each one we loose because that is part of the inner competition for spots on this team that will shape the future core. GM’s will know that we will have no choice but to waive good players and likely will offer very little or nothing at all for our tweeners knowing full well that they will likely be available for free if their patient. So lets relax get some pop corn and watch JB’s thunder dome for the next few seasons.

  • Dirty30

    You’re really reaching for a story here. As your article itself states clearly, Benning said if there’s a better F available he’ll take them. If there’s a better D, he’ll take them. What is unclear here?

    Also this is revealing about as much draft strategy as saying “On June 24 and June 25 we the Canucks are planning to travel to Buffalo, walk up to a podium, and announce our picks”. Or “we the Canucks are planning to draft players from a number of junior leagues”.

    In other words it doesn’t say anything at all. If you put out a story in which Benning published, you know, an actual draft board then we could discuss how stupid he is. This isn’t a story.

    Also:
    Corrado has 4 assists in 25 games.
    Clendening has 4 assists in 22 games.

    With them on our team we would have still been garbage. Different sweepers than Biega, Bartkowski, and Weber but we’d still not be appreciably better and watching them on the Leafs or Oilers/Pens doesn’t make me think we’d have been any better off this year with them since they’re not the core of what’s wrong with us.

  • Ragnarok Ouroboros

    Instead of moaning over Corrado, how about Dale Weise? Letting go of Weise was a poor decision by the previous management. I don’t recall a peep out of CA about Weise, wadcuddabeen.

  • bigdaddykane

    Before i get into my rant i want to first say I’m a big fan of CA and all the hard work you guys put in. Thank you.

    Now that that’s out of the way…..this is a silly article. File this one under the “if it rains, you should wear a rain jacket/bring an umbrella” level of Captain Obvious-ness. It also takes yet another CA run at JB and Canuck management. We wanted a scouting change, with a focus on drafting and better luck with our picks. We got what we wanted. Did JB mess up the Sbisa/Dorsett/Sutter contracts? Yep. Should he have kept Gillman? Yes. Did he get hosed on deadline day? Of course. Has he been less than stellar with asset management? Arguably yes. But……he has dramatically improved our drafting/scouting. All of his picks so far have been at worst okay and at best brilliant. Demko. Virtanen. Boeser. Baertschi i count as a pick because he cost a second rounder. Heck, even Vey has been better this year. That pass he feathered cross crease last night to Sven was a beauty. I hate the 2nd rounder a little less after that pass. I’m willing to forgive Benning’s crappy contracts and silly trades/assets etc for a brilliant drafter. Gillis/Burke sucked at drafting. Or Delorme did. Plus, Francesco might wear more of the blame on contracts/trades than we think. But drafting is all Benning. And that has been top notch so far

    • Cageyvet

      Thank you. The number of picks we have wasted in this team’s history is depressing.

      I will also take JB’s flaws and trust that he can learn from his management mistakes. Those skills would seem to be easier to learn than top level talent evaluation.

      It’s like choosing to be patient with the forward with crazy speed and hands, but who doesn’t yet read the game well. Some things that are of extreme value just can’t be taught.

  • Ragnarok Ouroboros

    Corrado makes more than Biega and is arguably the weaker of the two.

    Hutton makes $140k more than Corrado and is light years more valuable.

    Weber had a stellar season last year but did not repeat this season but he was kept to man the PP,which Corrado has no requirements for.

    Markstrom went through waivers as did Biega and Vey.Win some,lose some.

    Lamenting over the loss of a 6-7 d man when Pedan ,Tryamkin,Sautner,Fedun and Brisebois have been retained with Subban waiting in the wings is less than productive.

  • Dirty30

    Well after reading the posts bigdaddykane seems to have hit the nail right on the head! Benning may be a so so general manager who has overpaid on term/money for other teams 3rd/4th line players but he has drafted very well.

    Virtanen will be that power forward we have not had since Bertuzzi. Boeser may be the best goal scorer on the bigteam not too long from now and Demko may be a bigger version of Cory Sneider. And Pedan may be that big/nasty dman we have sorely been missing.

    But truth be told Benning should have headed scouting and we should have gone after an experienced gm or Jimmy Nill

  • bigdaddykane

    Frankie Corrado was sacrificed for the greater good and will serve as an example for every young player with a contract that comes to camp next year. either step up or get out. there are no guarantees. you earn a spot on this team starting day 1 no matter what your agent negotiates for you.

    Chris Higgins and Brandon Prust will be the example used for veterans.

    internal competition is the jumping-off point for any rebuild before they start winning games.