Bob McKenzie on the Canucks, Evander Kane and Jake Virtanen

The Canucks aren’t letting their recent spat of offensive output get to their heads. They’re a team that, as currently constructed, isn’t going to produce anywhere near the offence they need to on a nightly basis.

According to TSN’s Bob McKenzie, that’s a reality the Canucks are facing headlong. McKenzie confirmed on Insider Trading that the Canucks inquired on Buffalo Sabres forward Evander Kane’s status in the off-season, then took it another step further, suggesting they’ve circled back on the troubled winger.

That wasn’t all McKenzie had to say on the Canucks. He discussed them at length on TSN 1050 Overdrive, too. That’s a hearty helping of Canucks content from The Bobfather. Let’s break it all down.

To start with the Kane rumours, those aren’t going away. If anything they’ve taken on a second life with the Canucks toothless offence limping through the season and an acknowledgement from McKenzie.

“In the summer, [Vancouver] went to the Buffalo Sabres to find out whether Vancouver native Evander Kane might be available for trade. For a variety of reasons, that didn’t materialize – at all.” McKenzie said. “It Is believed that Vancouver, amongst its many other options [they] are considering, are going back to Buffalo and checking on the availability of Kane.”

McKenzie continued…

“For those that would love to connect dots and say ‘well, hey, Jake Virtanen’s been in LimboLand with the Canucks maybe he could be part of any package for Evander Kane’ keep in mind, if the Buffalo Sabres want to move Evander Kane, their number one and primary target is to try and bolster their blue line.”

If the Canucks want Kane, and we have every reason to believe as much, it’s going to cost them more than Jake Virtanen. It would likely cost them one of their premier young defenders, which makes sense, given the Canucks strength in that area long-term and the Sabres need.

On a micro level, it’s telling to some extent of how far Virtanen’s star has fallen. Here we are, two years removed from the Canucks selecting Virtanen sixth overall, and they can’t secure an oft-injured, generally unwanted and abusive top-six scorer with that player. It’s not a glowing endorsement of what Virtanen brings as a player leaguewide. Or even what he could bring, for that matter.

McKenzie added on TSN 1050 that “at that time, the Buffalo Sabres weren’t interested in moving [Kane] and secondarily, Evander got himself into some legal entanglements”. That indicates the Canucks made their first pitch prior to Kane’s incident at a Buffalo night club, where he was caught on camera physically assaulting multiple women and a bouncer. It also indicates the Canucks were put off by those issues, at the time.

That’s clearly not the case now, less than six months later. Whatever illusion of propriety the Canucks maintained, whether cost or social, is clearly secondary to their stated goal of winning now. Those tapes haven’t evaporated, and the victims of those incidents are still very much real.

From a hockey perspective, this move scratches every one of the Canucks’ itches. Kane is still relatively young, good for 20-plus goals in any given season and because of his status won’t cost them a fortune.

Even so, one wonders how far the Canucks are willing to let the pendulum swing. They spent an entire off-season investing long-term capital in their blue line. How far they swing backwards with that newfound depth to fill the void in their top six is a worthwhile question.

Though McKenzie doesn’t think the Canucks are wont to part with their first part, Ben Hutton’s name came up as a piece of interest for the Sabres. Hutton’s struggled immensely alongside Erik Gudbranson on the Canucks’ second pair, but remains the club’s second-best option on the left side all the same. Without Hutton, the Canucks are an Alexander Edler injury away from Luca Sbisa on the top pair.

Virtanen wasn’t brought up solely regarding the Kane sweepstakes. McKenzie broached on Vancouver’s plan for Virtanen “it doesn’t look good from the outside looking in”. McKenzie continued “I’m sure [Virtanen] is probably confused to some degree. Yet, at the same time, it’s the national hockey league – they expect you to figure it out”.

“The [Canucks] have a lot invested in him”. McKenzie added “any elite pick – and he was an elite pick – doesn’t like that notion of ‘hey, I’m not where my peer group is, they’re starring in the league right now, and I’m in Utica’ if that’s the case. Sometimes that’s what it takes to deliver the wake-up call, to deliver the solid work ethic to go along with the tools that you’ve got”

I don’t know about the “elite pick” bit, but the rest makes sense. Virtanen isn’t keeping pace with his peer group. Not even close. There are no less than seven forwards producing more in higher leverage roles from the first round of the 2014 NHL Draft. Count Jared McCann among them. That would be a difficult pill to swallow. Especially when the player in question doesn’t feel they’re afforded the opportunity to even show he can hang with his peer group.

McKenzie went on to add that maturity has come into question with Virtanen, saying “maybe [mental makeup, maturity and the ability to cope with adversity] aren’t where his skating and skill level are at”. A fair assessment, given what we’ve heard to date about Virtanen.

One thing’s perfectly clear. Whether the Canucks are good or bad, you can always count on them to be interesting. Maybe one day it will be for the right reasons.

  • GLM

    Why even bother mentioning McCann doing better than Virtanen? McCann has 2 points, a 43.9% faceoff percentage, and has played less than 10 mins a night in 8 of 15 games this season. And in terms of overall points, Virt has a career ppg average of 0.22 vs McCann’s 0.24.

    There are plenty of valid criticisms to go after in this whole situation, but comparing McCann’s NHL development to Virtanen’s isn’t one of them. The Florida bias is real.

    • Fred-65

      What happened to Jim Benning is the master of the draft ….seems like those days have past. And the trading journeymen players is worse still.

      Virtanen, McCann, bad choices. Forsling good but he gives him away. Please bring back Lawrence Gilman and a voice of reason and intelligence

  • wojohowitz

    This is just more trash talk from Toronto like last weeks story about Linden quitting. Trading for Kane would mean Benning waking up every morning and looking at the headlines to see if Kane got thru the night without getting arrested for doing something stupid. He makes Kassian look intelligent.

  • Burnabybob

    Kane is damaged goods. Forget about him. I’d rather the Canucks just tank for another high draft pick this season than bring in a player with as much baggage as Kane. What if he ends up assaulting somebody in Vancouver? Why risk bringing someone like that into the community and into the dressing room.?

    Virtanen is a sad but familiar story in Vancouver, which has never had a great draft record. Maybe he’ll be decent, but it seems doubtful he will ever be a first line player.

    On a brighter note, it looks like Boeser was a steal in last year’s draft, so hopefully these things will all even out in time.

    On a second positive note, Granlund looks like a good acquisition. At least he’s playing and producing regularly in the NHL, which is more than can be said of Hunter Shinkaruk.

  • Dirty30

    If the Sedins were smoking over Jake hanging with his bestie Bieber, can you imagine their response to Evander smackin’ his way through the Vancouver night life?

    The Canucks may have to give up someone on the blue-line and if it’s not Tanev then send Gudbranson to get back a decent scoring forward.

  • I am Ted

    Well, one of the dumber articles of the week. I think anyone thinking Benning would deal Virtanen + for E Kane is delusional. If Buffalo wants a D man then maybe send them Sbisa. Yes, I am sure Buffalo would reply with a big no and that’s fine. Kane has too much baggage, his troublesome pals seem to be in Van as well and he is a cancer. Too big a risk. I’d rather Benning look elsewhere.

    FYI – Kane hasn’t scored over 20 goals since the 2011-12 season. Some of that has to do with his constant injuries. So, who the hell would give up anything of high value for this guy? He’s a gamble and the Canucks are desperate. Anyway, buy-low or not at all.

  • Bud Poile

    If the Nucks can dump Hutton or Sbisa for Kane you do it in hopes for a blue chip return at the trade deadline.

    Sbisa is riding high right now and Benning and Co. might attempt to keep a tight reign on Kane until March.

    The Canucks have to bring in some offense and Stetcher/Tryamkin just freed up a d-man.

    • Dirty30

      Right now this team could bring in Patrick Kane and still lose.

      God Bud, put away the Pinterest Parade Planner and your bedazzler and join reality.

      This team sucks! One more middling player will not change thar fact. Even Loui Erickson isn’t pulling this team out of the basement.

      Yes, there’s some good players and some ‘potential ‘.

      But mainly it’s old, soft, slow and predictable. Likely stale too. Coaching is futile and about as innovative as punch cards to computing.

      They might luck out and change a few players and get better, but the idea that one guy will change this team is a stretch.

      Final word– after spending a fortune to get Linden as the poster boy to rebrand the Aquilini’s image do you seriously believe they would sign off on the gong-show that is Evander Kane? Can you imagine what this media would do with every thing that Evander did and how they would put it on the Aquilinis with glee?

  • Smyl and Snepsts

    Everyone is too hard on Virtanen. It seems to take effect while for the big power forwards to get there game going. Bertuzzi had been in the league for a few years doing little before he figured it out after Vancouver got him. Give the kid some time.

  • Pat Quinn Way

    Although Bob McKenzie is usually a decent source, I actually find it hard to believe that Buffalo wants more D as a priority when its goals against are an impressive 10th in the league, PK and PP both top half yet their offence is even worse than ours at dead last!

    The downside of a Kane trade (aside from the personal issues) for us are that he is having a nightmare year already. No goals or points in five since returning from broken ribs and demoted off the top line with a minus five rating. In my opinion the Canucks would be mad to pull the trigger on a deal besides which, they don’t have the offence or offensive Defenceman that Buffalo are desperately in search of either.

    Pass!!!!!!!

  • When you ignore the single 30 goal season, Kane is a $6M player that can barely score 20 goals per season. We already have one under-performing $6M player, why add another? At least Eriksson didn’t cost us assets. And after next season, Kane is a UFA too.