Canucks Army Monday Mailbag: August 29


We’re another week closer to the pre-season, which is great because frankly, I’m running out of inane small talk to fill this space before I answer your questions.

I mean, some stuff happened. Nothing of real consequence, though. Brandon Pirri is off the market, having signed with the New York Rangers for one year at $1.1-million. That’s a thing. I wouldn’t have minded the Canucks taking a flyer on Pirri, but I’m not losing sleep over them not.

Oh well. You’ve got questions, I’ve got answers. You know the drill.

The Canucks could do a lot worse, I am sure. Seriously, though, Josh Donaldson for MVP.

At this stage in the game, I think it’s best the Canucks stand pat. They’re already facing a serious roster crunch, which could force otherwise useful depth players onto the fringe of their lineup or into the AHL. In a vacuum, that’s an awesome problem to have. That is, of course, until one considers the players ahead of the Canucks’ depth pieces. A tonne of depth, but not an awful lot of talent leading the charge.

They could find a useful depth pick up. I have a few players in mind, even. Justin Fontaine is intriguing, but again, who do you remove from the lineup for him to play? I’m not sending Jake Virtanen to the AHL to accommodate Fontaine.

Well, I’d have to preface my answer with the fact that I’m just pulling a name out of thin air. The teams play about four games apiece, and the lineups change from game-to-game. Which is to say that it’s hard to predict who will stand out. But, were I pressed as I am now, I would lean towards… Guillaume Brisebois. Because, hey, why not?

A lot can happen between now and the beginning of the season. That said, I don’t think it’s very likely at all. A stagnating cap and the looming expansion draft have, for now at least, quieted the market. At least that’s what I’m sensing. Could be way off on that. Whatever the case, there hasn’t been much, if any movement of late.

Regarding which Canucks’ prospects are expendable, though, I’d say almost all of them for the right deal. The Canucks don’t have a succession plan for the Sedins. That’s a fact. If the Canucks can package the right prospects to find that succession plan, then all bets are off. Make it a centre, though. Can’t win without a high-end centre in the West. 

I’m sure this is imprinted in my brain, and I’ll live both scenarios out in my nightmares. I’ll report back next week.

Nolan Patrick. And that’s a very realistic possibility, too. One can dream, anyways.

I like the premise of this question. The old five-man-unit, first perfected by the USSR. Now, for the purpose of the question, unfortunately, I can’t really give an answer. I’m sure every forward line will play a heavy amount of minutes with every defence pair. I don’t see there being a tonne of variability there. Especially given Willie Desjardins’ four-line system.

Well, if Rodin is healthy he’s getting a spot in the opening night lineup. That’s something I can guarantee you. Barring anything crazy, of course. Now, if Rodin is unable to play and that leaves me choosing between Brendan Gaunce and Nikita Tryamkin, I’m going to lean towards Tryamkin. He can play both sides on defence and uprooting Luca Sbisa shouldn’t be that difficult.

Jordan Subban.

I’ve spent a lot of this off-season trying to convince myself the Canucks could be competitive for a playoff spot. Probably not good enough to make the dance, but good enough to fight it out right to the bitter end. Realities sunk in, though, and it’s not painting the Canucks in a favourable light.

I don’t begrudge fans who defiantly think this club can compete for the playoffs. I don’t even think they’re kidding themselves. I think they’re just being fans. That’s what fans do. They cheer for their team and defend it to the bitter end. All they care about is winning. It’s totally natural. In fact, I think it’s admirable and kind of cool. Seems fun, even.

But realistically, this team hasn’t taken nearly enough steps to close ground on the teams that finished ahead of them last season. And the teams that finished near the bottom with them generally did. The Canucks are one injury away from being a 30th place team. And I mean 30th place team by a sizeable margin. There just isn’t a lot of high-end talent on this roster. And the players that you might consider high-end are all on the wrong side of 30. This season could get ugly. Really, really ugly.

  • EddyC

    “Canucks are one injury away from being a 30th place team.”

    I’m of the half full group thinking we have a good shot at a wc spot.

    If there are a bunch of injuries then we could be one injury away from 30th place. just like last season, but I don’t know how we could be any worse than the Leafs.

    • Dirty30

      If by “WC” you mean ‘crapper’ you’re dead on.

      Let’s be honest, how much longer can the Sedins really carry this team?

      Last year saw Vrbata, Higgins, Prust just crumble for no apparent reason and Burrows just lose a step in every direction.

      What happens if this year the Sedins have the same happen?

      Bo is good, but is he your first line centre now? How about Sutter?

      I think the team has improved drastically simply by dumping some dead bodies and getting some live ones back from injury.

      But sadly, as the Sedins go, so goes this team.

      I’m not going to say the team is one injury away from 30th unless that injury is to Hank.

      At that point you can start playing with your lottery balls again.

      • wojohowitz

        Okay, the Sedins are a year older and slower, but are you expecting the team to do worse than last year? (we were a playoff team for the first half of the season)

        If the club stays relatively healthy, I really think we have a good chance at being a wild card team.

        but if I’m wrong, and we miss, I hope we miss big and JB can make lemonade out of lemons.

        • Dirty30

          Not expecting them to do worse if everyone stays reasonably healthy.

          However, Hank is a key part of this team, and while Centre depth is improved with Sutter’s return, I wouldn’t turn down a stud Centre for the right price.

          There’s a good goalie tandem in place, a better D that should give the team a decent chance to win. But they need to win face-offs, strengthen puck possession and score more goals.

          And Willie needs to take some yoga, loosen up and maybe read the Art of War or listen to some Tony Robbins tapes and start adapting!

          The old coot had a winning season because he wasn’t Tortorella and the team responded. But rolling four lines when it can be advantageous to match lines or put out key personnel during an icing call needs to be part of his strategy.

          I hope JB takes WD aside and says “if I see Dorsett out there in the final two minutes when we’re down a goal, I’ll break your other hip!”

  • TheRealPB

    I don’t think the Canucks are going to be terribly good but I do think they’ll be in tough to make the playoffs. You’re right about injury not to mention if the Sedins finally start to actually substantially regress. But I also think you’re way off base if you think we’re so much worse off than a lot of other teams. Is Arizona so much better with the $18 million in ghost dollars to Bolland, Datsyuk and Pronger? With Martin Hanzal and Brad Richardson as their first two Cs? Boston’s players are a year older and a year crappier with no real succession plan either. Columbus is paying some serious cash to some seriously bad players. The Marlies might be ready for prime time but no real evidence of that yet.

    We might be worst. But there’s a lot of other crappy teams out there.

  • EddyC

    Juolevi is not expendable under any reasonable circumstances. He is the team’s best prospect at this point, possibly a future #1 on a team that has never really had a true “The Guy” back there. When you think about stud defencemen, like the Karlssons and Keiths of today, the Lidstroms and Prongers of yesterday, or the Bourques or Coffeys of the day before yesterday, I don’t know if Vancouver has ever actually had one. CA voted Ohlund the best defenceman in Canuck history (I agree), but even he was never a real Norris contender or anything. The team would be absolutely stupid to even consider moving Olli.

  • “The canucks are one injury away from being a 30th place team.”

    Injuries are to blame for last seasons loss. We had more than one. In a salary cap era every piece has to fit, and work out just right. There is no room for mistakes. The days of teams like the Rangers buying their way out of trouble are gone. So, injuries to key players are a concern, not only for Canucks, but all NHL teams. Just look at the impact Carey Prices injury had on the Habs last season.

    I think we can handle “one injury”, but not multiple like last year. Especially for extended periods. Also, our depth is better now.

    Re-tooling on the fly, while being competitive is a delicate dance, as per Trevor Linden.

  • wojohowitz

    I see reality is starting to sink in. The Canucks with their present roster will be a disaster, but there is hope. At least three teams need help on defence; the Rangers, Capitals and Wings. Could Benning manage to pick up Rick Nash? I think he can and will as Nash will sell tickets and give us all hope.

    • EddyC

      The Canucks made the playoffs under WD in his first season, how much better was that team than the one we will see this season?

      or is it more the level of competition in the division?

  • OMAR49

    I will start out by saying I really don’t listen to management when they say they want to make the play-offs. They have to say that. The only alternative is to say we are currently re-building, so there is no reason to spend you money watching the games. Check back in a couple of years. Not the smartest thing to do if you’re trying to maximize revenues.

    I think this years team will be better than last year for a variety of reasons. I think the D is stronger, despite the loss of Hamhuis, for no other reason than we don’t have to rely on Bartowski and Webber. You won’t see a lot of goals scored by the D but they should be stronger in their own end. I think the Offense will also show improvement because of the addition of Eriksson and Sutter returning to play for a full season. I’m also looking for better years from Horvat, Virtanen and Baertschi for no other reason that they are more experienced.

    Will this be enough to make this team a contender. No, I’m a fan, not delusional. Maybe they make the play-offs but that would be a bonus. What I am looking for in this team is hope. I think management is taking the proper steps to make us better in the future and that is all that we can ask for.

    So, I look forward to watching this team play in the near future. Despite what all the pundits have said using their stats I think management is on the right track. We can’t expect a long play-off run but if we have hope for the future then that will be enough, for now.

  • Dirty30

    I’m one of those naive but proud true believers who think the Canucks have a credible (if not overwhelming) chance to make the playoffs.

    Last year, due to injuries and the disappointing play of Vrbata, the Canucks did not have a bona fide second line. The Horvat line was thrown into the deep end, and often sank defensively.

    This year the Canucks may have a decent Sutter line and an improved Horvat line. They could go from no proper second line to two. That would make a huge difference.

  • wojohowitz

    It`s the competition. Making the playoffs is all about winning within the division. Lucic in Edmonton. Brouwer in Calgary. Forget about California. Can the Canucks beat out Arizona for last place.

    • wojohowitz

      I’m with Killer Marmot when it comes to the optimism, the Canucks have improved. I think the addition of Gudbranson is key to the team identity.

      as per the competition, we hear every year the Oilers are going to make the playoffs, maybe it is different with the addition of Lucic.

      anyway, we all have to wait to see how it unfolds.

  • LTFan

    Hmmm. JDB as usual, is negative. I see it a little differently. Last season we had a lot of injuries,for example, Brandon Sutter only played 20 games, Edler 52 games and on it went. The defense was woeful a lot of the time.

    IMO the team is deeper in talent overall than it was last year. There are a number of spots open and if management is true to their word, the best players will be on the team.

    On the up side we could be in the top 1/2 of the League, on the down side, in the bottom 10.

    I firmly believe that JB has laid the foundation for a better season this year and the future looks brighter than it has for some time.

  • wojohowitz

    This season will be much better than last from a ‘watching hockey’ perspective. We will score more goals. We wont have as many injuries. We will see some of the young’uns get quality minutes. I think our goaltending will continue to be above average.
    Playoffs…???…. No.
    I predict six more overall points.
    Once all the draft nonsense is done – we pick seventh.

  • Whackanuck

    What I see is the Canucks improving from goal through defence and through the bottom 6 forwards so far, plus maybe Ericsson. Add Boeser down the road in the top 6.

    So yes, more work in the top 6 but overall, progress. The team finishes 20th OA. IMO.

  • Dirty30

    Seems like I watched a different season to most of you last year.

    Firstly we had a strong start, which is not typical of the Canucks. October saw only two losses and 14 points which is on track to a 100+ point season and then the injuries started.

    Take away critical injuries and we would have made the playoffs. I remember working out the maths last season to figure out when we were actually out, a different Feb/March would have kept us in (March we had a record of 4-11-1, but also had a good chunk of our veterans out with injury or playing through them). The tank was in full effect by then.

    This year Eriksson will put up at least 10 more goals than Vrby did, and going by how many 1 goal games we lost last season (and how bad at 3 on 3 we were) we would win a good chunk of those games this year.

    • detox

      Good post NZNuck.

      I have to admit, with some of the analytics articles I want an opinion and then we get the mailbag and I want some analytics tied to JD Burke’s opinions…

      Maybe I’m never satisfied but you were right on with the hot start and perspective.

  • Dirty30

    There is just so much to like in the Canucks system right now, so much improvement in the roster. One notices the difference in tone on Canucks-related web media, reasonable optimism is gaining ground. A lot of us are conservatively impressed with GMJB, looking forward to seeing this new roster develop.

    And that’s great. Feeling pretty good about the roster and the GM is great. But I notice we haven’t been looking in much depth at the coach. It seems to me there is less consensus on Willie D than on management and roster issues.

    What’s the deal with this coach? What’s been his effect on performance? How do we feel about him going forward?

    Where are the modern analytics for assessing coaching? Is anyone working on that?

    Still plenty of downtime to do some analysis of Willie D, Smylosphere.

    • Dirty30

      Finding a measurable analytic for coaching may be difficult but things like wins, losses and loser points have some reflection on the coach overall.

      More specific are things like TOI, zone face-offs and penalties. A specific penalty on the coach is too many men on the ice.

      Things I like about WD is that he rolls four lines, builds relationships with his players, and will give line combos and players time to work things out.

      Those are also damning criticisms — his tendency to roll four lines regardless of opportunity; favouring players he knows regardless of their futility; and sticking to line combos that end up on milk cartons with the caption “Have you seen these guys since preseason?”

      Given that ownership just signed some big cheques and will be signing more very soon, I don’t see WD getting a lot of rope if this team lumbers out, stumbles and fans start pining for Linden Vey.

  • OMAR49

    I believe WD is a good junior coach, Not an NHL coach. Give Green a chance to see what he can do. No matter though,this team will fighting for a playoff spot for the next few years. I think we have some very good potential with our young players. Time will tell.

    • EddyC

      If the Canucks struggle, while healthy, I’d guess we will see Green before the end of the season.

      WD has a record of success up to the AHL level. Can’t blame him for injuries and limited options last season.

      Give the Climax Shakes a little rope. I think the players like him. But if he isn’t getting the job done, show him the door.