Graphic Comments: Nobody saw it coming


Well, it’s now been a week since the Canucks’ season finally, mercifully came to a conclusion. But while their last game was a week ago, the season was really over a few weeks earlier as they careened wildly down the NHL standings during a nine game losing streak to close out March. And despite the dead cat bounce that was the three wins against the playoff-bound California teams, the Canucks finally came a complete stop with the third-worst record in the NHL this season.

I would say they hit rock bottom, but not quite. They landed on the Leafs and Oilers.

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Now, you might think that those of us that have been calling for a rebuild through the draft would be satisfied with a finish that leaves the Canucks with a 33% chance of picking in the top three. And you would be right. That might literally be the only thing many of you have been right about all season, but you would be right.

However, the fact that the Canucks wound up in the bottom three despite trying their best to make the playoffs does not inspire much in the way of confidence. Being bad while trying to be good is a sign of front office ineptitude. It reminds me more of the Oilers over the last 10 years, than the Leafs in the last two, and it doesn’t bode well.

The problem is one of decision-making and there is little to no evidence that this group is capable of making sound decisions. So while it’s great that they find themselves in a position to add another top prospect to the organization in June, I remain unconvinced that they can develop them well and surround them with enough solid pieces to actually build a team that can eventually compete for the Stanley Cup.

Sure, the more vocal among you will tell me I should wait and see. That Benning is restocking the prospect pool. That the contracts he has given out aren’t that bad and he has a lot of cap room to work with. That he should get the benefit of the doubt. But I’ve already spent more than enough time cataloging the failures of this management team. What more is there to see?

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Or maybe you’re thinking hindsight is 20/20. After all, the team was decimated by injuries and nobody could have seen them finishing this poorly, right?

Well, actually…

The problems with the Canucks went well beyond their injury woes, but lets start there.

The lack of depth on the blue line was needlessly exposed this season and, ironically, so was Frank Corrado:


As Thomas Drance wrote right here on Canucks Army at the time:

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There’s been a lot written about Vancouver’s lack of depth along the blue line in recent months, and one might reasonably argue that the club couldn’t afford to lose a promising 22-year-old defender. If we’re discussing asset management, it’s probably also worth noting that the club has now dealt Gustav Forsling for Adam Clendenning, traded Clendenning this summer, and have now lost Corrado on waivers – further depleting an area of need in the system.

And a week later, Money Puck spelled it out even more clearly:

But the thing is, we know what happens to the Canucks blue line over the course of a season. They get decimated. Over the past few season, the Canucks top 6 defensemen have averaged close to 80 missed games between them. Last year the team iced 10 different defensemen. The year before that? 11. With that fact pattern, it is critical you not only have defensive depth, but preferably cheap depth.

So yeah, nobody saw this coming. 

And just in case you still don’t think they could have used Corrado, let’s see how he did (on a horrible Leafs team) in comparison to the Canucks’ blue liners:



But hey, at least they were able to sign Tryamkin. That should give them some depth. Only, as Ryan Biech pointed out in early March, they almost couldn’t sign Tryamkin because of the unnecessary cap woes they found themselves in this year. 

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But that’s another galling thing about this team. Not only were they the third worst team in the league despite trying to actually make the playoffs, they were the third worst team in the league and they had huge salary cap issues all season long! If anything, all those injuries actually helped them out by providing a little bit of cap relief.

I bet nobody saw those cap problems coming either:

Unfortunately, as a result of the Lindenning administration’s allocation of $12.2M to Miller, Sbisa, and Dorsett, the Canucks have not only lost an opportunity to exploit their competition, but they’ve put themselves in a bind if they still plan on fielding a competitive roster next fall. It’s going to be tough to improve when you have no money to spend on getting better.

Well, I guess we didn’t call him Money Puck for nothing.

You know what else nobody saw coming? The Canucks’ scoring woes:

If the publicly stated goal of making the playoffs is the actual goal of the organization and not just some feel-good PR spin, then Vancouver is really in a bad place offensively going in to next season. Their core offensive contributors are more probable than not to take a step back, their depth scorers have been gutted through trades, cap mismanagement, and free agency, their best and most promising young player is likely to regress himself, and it doesn’t appear like the team will be able to clear enough cap space to bring in some free agent help, if there’s even any left on the market.

That was Rhys Jessop back in July of last year, and sure enough here are the bottom 10 teams in goal scoring this season:

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But there were some bright spots in the lineup. I mean, nobody saw Sven Baertschi as a viable option after the first month of season, right?

I have seen hardly anything from this management team over the last eight months that gives me confidence that they can just squeak into the playoffs and actually accomplish anything.

And so, I am torn on a nightly basis.

I’m torn when I see them dressing Adam Cracknell instead of Sven Baertschi…The puck is almost always in the offensive zone when he is out there. Sure, you can pick on his play and say he’s not strong on the puck, but the fact remains that the puck is in the offensive zone more than not.

I could go on and on, but let me conclude with a final word on asset management and the disastrous trade deadline that saw the Canucks finish the day with two unrestricted free agents still on their rosters. Much has been made of Dan Hamhuis and the various almost trades that just couldn’t quite get done. But what about Radim Vrbata? Why was there such little interest in a guy that scored 31 goals just one season ago?

Probably because he only managed 13 this season, largely as a result of spending twice as much time paired up with Horvat or McCann instead of with Henrik Sedin. It’s too bad nobody thought of pairing him with the Sedins in order to boost his trade value heading into the deadline.

But hey, who am I to talk? I’m just a nobody writing on a website with a bunch of other nobodies:

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That being said, I wish we were wrong more.


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  • Canucksfan1616

    As a lifelong, original and loyal Canuck fan whose seen our team’s every move since the early 1970’s, I am FINALLY starting to fill with some real confidence about the Canucks and the future. For the first time in a many, many years the Canucks are truly building from the draft and building a new, solid, talented and motivated foundation and core. With so much impatience in our city its super fruterating to always hear the negative blah blah from a bunch of wagon jumping idiots that dont know jack sh*t what theyre talking about. Only the true loyal Canuck fans and hockey fans understand just how hard it is to truly rebuild a team, especially in a city that expects 100 point seasons every year and never-ending Cup runs. They need to look at the Montreal Canadiens and their recent decades of average seasons to see how hard it is to reign on top even for a team with all the history and championships as the Habs. They spent years getting to where they are now and all of a sudden the French fans are crying out for change and to dump some of their players that they just spent years obtaining. The Oilers spent 10 years chasing their tails and damn theyre brutally bad still, but along comes their saviour McDavid and boom they finally have some solid real hope for the near future. The Canucks just went thru 10 years of pretty damn good hockey and if only for a few better moves made by a couple of failure GM’s, we Fans might just have finally claimed our long awaited first Cup. Gillis had his chance and blew it bigtime, sadly after all the Canucks growth and successes it all ended pretty fast. Now with a new President and new GM, new coach we can finally start to see what our new, young core’s potential might be and if the Hockey Gods smile on us we just might land a #1 pick in like ohhh FOREVER !!!!!
    Regardless of a #1 pick or 2 or 3 or even 4, the Canucks are going to pick a great young player and he will be suiting up next season pretty much guaranteed. (Unless of course we slip bigtime somehow and dont end up with one of the top 5 prospects. But barring that we WILL land a young stud like Mathews, Linne, Pujiarvi ( spelling?),or even Tkachuk. All of which are top skilled, top ranked, nhl ready, awsome young players that will end with long nhl careers more then likely. Add to this new draft pick Bo Horvat, McCann, Vertanen, Hutton, Baertchi,Tryamkin,and possibly 2-3 of our newly signed college studs like Demko ( if he signs, PLEASE!!!) and then add to these kids the Sedins for a year or two, couple FA’s, and competent goalies, we should be in ok shape and should only get better and improve yearly. And once we rid ourselves of some pricey contracts, and lose Miller’s over-priced cap hit, we’ll be looking good. But in saying all this I just hope the majority of Vancouver Canucks Fans can handle allowing our team to grow properly and I hope the Canucks ownership kicks back and also allows it. If not then more stupid decisions will be made, more dumb FA signings, more bad trades and above all else more bad pressure on our young new core players that dont need that while they develop for a year or two. We will see IF this current managment group gets it or not with the moves they make this offseason and over the next year. If they do it right, which i believe they will, then soon enough all of us Canuck Fans will be glued to our tv’s, selling out Rogers arena again, and above all else, enjoying this time of year with the other playoff teams fans and hoping we get our hands on Lord Stanley’s hard earned and beautiful shining Cup…….
    We just need a little patience……

  • pheenster

    One could argue that all of the “we’re going to make the playoffs” talk was just propaganda to keep fans coming through the turnstiles. But that rings a little hollow when you realize that the team spent to the cap and held onto all of their veteran players. It’s one thing to say it, but when you’re actively hampering roster turnover to do it, it seems clear that Desjardindenningbrod actually saw a playoff team with this group this year. If only “Franchise Second Line Center” Sutter had played more games I guess, right?

    • bigdaddykane

      That may be true in a vacuum but if you were to hold the same logic to other playoff teams why aren’t they held to the same standard? Edmonton spent to within $3.5 million of the cap to finish second last. Calgary and Columbus did the same to finish so low. Toronto, for all of its vaunted forward progress, spent to the cap to finish dead last and while they did flip a bunch of dead weight forwards for picks, they also have crappy vets like Laich, Greening, Michalek, Lupul and Robidas on the books for next year on substantial deals costing $20 million towards the cap. Boston, Montreal spent to the cap to miss the playoffs and not get appreciably better.

      I actually think that what the Leafs management did makes a lot of sense — used its economic advantage to make the necessary turnovers: absorbing bad contracts to gain higher picks, using their ability to pay a no longer active player in Horton as a way of getting away from the Clarkson mistake and so on. But I think it’s shortsighted to see what the Canucks are doing as being somehow incompetent or out of the norm of what NHL teams on a regular basis do or are doing. There are teams that miss the playoffs and spend very little — but that’s because Arizona, Buffalo, New Jersey or Ottawa have internal caps and constraints and are arguably no better positioned than the Canucks to make a comeback.

      • bigdaddykane

        I see your point but it needs to be evaluated on a case-by-case basis. Montreal is a team built to contend now and which has played in 5 playoff series over the previous two seasons, albeit with a few significant roster flaws and overreliance on their Hart Trophy goalie, whose injury was what cost them a playoff spot. Boston is where the Canucks were a couple of years ago, trying to extend a closing window for an aging core. Edmonton, Calgary and Columbus are all chronically mismanaged teams, and the fact that they are our closest comparables speaks badly of us. The Leafs’ approach may be a good one, long term, that remains to be seen.

        My main qualm about the “it was all just talk to soften the blow of the rebuild” was that Benning didn’t just inherit bad contracts, or take on overpaid veterans as accompaniment to picks or prospects from capped out contending teams. He actively dished questionable deals out, blocking young players along the way. Sbisa, Bartkowski, Dorsett, even Sutter…these are guys that were given market value or higher contracts (and aside from Bart, for term) to fill out the bottom of the roster, instead of allowing prospects to do that or signing bargain basement guys as stopgaps. This to me says that Benning either views them as part of a rebuild (ugh) or thought he was bolstering a contending core. Neither interpretation is particularly flattering.

  • pheenster

    I think a lot of fans saw all of this coming when Benning started signing Miller, Dorsett, Sbisa, Sutter to their contracts… Not a lot of confidence on this management team.

  • pheenster

    @petbugs13 aka Graphic Comments

    Please stick to your day job. Please go bash another Canadian team like the Flames, Oilers, Leafs… (we don’t need or want you here)