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.”
“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.
McKenzie: #Canucks are not trading Chris Tanev, he’s their top pairing guy. McKenzie floated Ben Hutton’s name out as more likely option.
— Grady Sas (@GradySas) November 16, 2016
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.