The Canucks Don’t Have Any Excuse Not to Play Reid Boucher

USATSI_9235728

Photo Credit: Ed Mulholland – USA TODAY Sports

The Canucks took a savvy, cost-free step towards infusing a blend of youth and skill into their lineup last week when they broke from the company line to place a successful waiver claim on Reid Boucher.

They’ve left us waiting for the second shoe to drop since, as the Canucks have kept Boucher from their lineup in the three games they’ve had access to the 23-year-old. Boucher is perfectly healthy, and unlike the situation that befell him and the Canucks ahead of last Wednesday’s game, he has a full compliment of gear with which to play. So what gives?

If we are to believe Canucks Head Coach Willie Desjardins’ commentary on the matter, the Canucks have a winning formula they’re neither comfortable nor wont to tinker with at this juncture. On its own, that’s a fairly innocuous thought process. The Canucks have won six of their last eight and secured points in seven of those matches. If ain’t broke, don’t fix it. And so on.

Winning and playing well are not one in the same though and that’s a concept the Canucks should share some familiarity with less than a week removed from a 13 shot victory over the Calgary Flames. Their machine isn’t breaking yet, but there are signs of rust that can slow it down if left unaddressed.

Screen Shot 2017-01-11 at 12.00.35 PM

And whether the Canucks were playing hockey worthy of the winning that marks this current stretch or not, there’s always room for improvement. That should be something to work towards daily. There’s a reason contending teams are among the most active at the trade deadline year after year.

The Canucks don’t have to make a deal to get better though. They added a player last week who’s point production indicates he’s a safe bet to provide secondary scoring for a song in their bottom six. And they did it without surrendering any tangible asset other than cold hard cash.

You’d think it obvious, then, that they do their best to put said player into their lineup. It’s not like Boucher makes the Canucks a contender, but it’s the exact kind of move on the margins that might add a point or two over the course of a season. For a team expected to be on the playoff bubble as the Canucks are, that has value.

Especially when you do a player by player comparison contrary some of the Canucks mainstays in the bottom six. No matter the metric, Boucher shows as an appreciably better option.

Where I can understand seeing the whole of Brendan Gaunce, Michael Chaput and Jack Skille’s parts as worth leaving alone, I’m struggling with Jayson Megna. It doesn’t seem to matter where the Canucks play Megna, he struggles. I’ve seen enough plays die on his stick to last me a lifetime and all it took was a handful of games with the Sedins to accrue them.

To put this in perspective, Megna has the single-lowest Corsi For and CF% Rel. Tm among every Canucks skater. He’s also the second least productive forward on the Canuck, ahead of only Gaunce.

Whether Desjardins has seen Boucher personally or not, the odds of him being worse for the Canucks are slim. Boucher would be replacing a player that, by every model available to me, is sub-replacement level. In fact, over the course of a full season, Megna’s play costs his team about half a win according to Dom Luczsyczsyn’s model. Using the same model, Boucher adds a quarter win.

The statistical case for a player like Boucher ahead of Megna should be obvious though. Doesn’t take much digging, and the further you go the more it hurts.

If Desjardins genuinely hasn’t seen enough Boucher, that’s entirely on him. Boucher’s played, by my estimation, close to 500 televised hockey games at varying leagues and levels. There is game tape on Boucher, and if the coach needs to see him play, the Canucks have access to it.

Players don’t start anew when they come to your franchise. If the Canucks traded for Steven Stamkos, they wouldn’t need to see him in their uniform to know what they’re getting. That same logic applies here, though we’re at admittedly a lower level of the totem pole.

This isn’t a decision that will sink or save the Canucks season. Enough of this kind eventually add up though. That should matter for a club bound to fight to the last for their playoff lives.

  • Friendly Neighbourhood Canucks fan

    I mean why not. This team doesn’t have the amazing chemistry that will lead us to the Cup this year. We are a middling team that would be better off losing more games (but that’s another discussion). So what’s the point of letting young players rot while our team isn’t exactly a juggernaut?

    Give Megna a benching. If Baertschi who was producing before he got benched, then why can’t “1 point in the last month” Megna. We know exactly what we have with our forwards. There are zero surprises. The only combos that shouldn’t be broken up is Horvat/Baertschi and the Sedins. Surely a 4th liner could use a game off. They’ve done well but not well enough to guarantee they start 100% of the remaining games with younger options with unseen potential.

    In summary, just play him. He has produced twice as much as Megna in roughly the same number of games in the NHL. We are not the best team in the league, we can afford to experiment with younger players now. Let’s try to do something to help the future. Anything. Just please Willie, don’t screw this team up. You have options, use them.

  • Braindead Benning

    I’m struggling with Jayson Megna. It doesn’t seem to matter where the Canucks play Megna, he struggles.

    Agreed, the same comments said by many people on these boards and further discussions i have had with others…still cant figure out what this player actually brings?

    He is basically just an injury call up type player for your bottom 6 so it really quite confusing why WD keeps inserting him with 2nd line minutes. Last game with over 14 minutes of ice time he was 1 of 3 players that didnt even register a shot on goal?

  • Roy

    Desjardins is a proven old-school, traditional coach and he believes in trust, not stats or video. This doesn’t surprise me one bit. Boucher and Rodin will play if and when there are injuries.

    Okay, so when I have time, I am going to argue with anyone who thinks tanking is a good idea (above regarding losing more games).

    1) tanking creates a losing culture, where losing is the purpose and accepted outcome. That is the opposite of competing and being an athlete.

    2) tanking means playing poorly for at least a quarter of the season. No one improves individually, and the team only forgets whatever chemistry they had, on actual purpose.

    3) there is no incentive to practice well, to work out seriously, or to work on set plays or breakouts or passing or any reason to score more goals and be better defensively…

    4) Edmonton, Buffalo and Arizona. Do you want to cultivate that brand of hockey? Do you want jerseys on the ice and paper bags in the few filled seats? Ugh

    5) Edmonton is worth citing twice: do you want to cultivate a losing culture on a team that is now filled with youth, and hopefully will get even younger at the deadline? Imprinting that on tradeable vets who dgaf is one thing, on 21-year-olds is vastly different.

    6) The draft lottery is a crapshoot. Edmonton, again, only got as many firsts as they did for losing on purpose for an effing decade. Anyone after the second or third pick isn’t a guarantee most years. Again, ugh.

    In short, tanking is stupid.

    • Andy

      Agreed that tanking is a foolish activity.

      I think the other problem is that many fans don’t acknowledge the difference between tanking and rebuilding.

      Tanking (as far as I see it) is about being bad enough to draft in the top 3-6.
      Good teams can easily end up ‘tanking’ with a few key injuries – it’s how TB ended up with Drouin, and MTL ended up with Galchenyuk and Sergachev.

      Rebuilding is about selling off older, valuable assets (expiring contracts, playoff pieces worth multiple picks) in exchange for cap space (offer sheets/dead contracts), contract space (waiver wire pickups, PTOs into player contracts), and draft picks (more prospects = better odds of impact players).

      I’ll give Benning credit – he did the first half (offloading older players, contract anchors like Bieksa and Garrison), but has failed to recoup decent value by signing middling players to oversized contracts (Suttee, Sbisa, Dorsett) and including draft picks in seemingly lopsided trades (2nd/4th rounder in Gudbranson/McCann, and the 2nd rounder in Sutter/Bonino)

      Given Benning’s scouting background, I’d argue that draft picks are even more valuable in our hands than another teams, as suggested by the success of Gaudette, Lockwood, and Tryamkin – they all represent better value than expected when they were picked.

      The Canucks are already tanking – they’re a few extra injuries away from the draft lottery. What I want them to do is keep turning over valuable pieces to other teams so we can get more late round steals – Sell Hansen, Burrows, or Miller, then buy them back at free agency if you really want them.

    • tyhee

      The article didn’t suggest tanking, though, even where it wrote that the Canucks aren’t going to win the cup.

      The article argues that Boucher is a better player than at least one forward currently seeing regular action. The argument against playing Boucher (and perhaps Rodin, though his injury complicates his situation part of the time) is that the Canucks have been winning lately and the coach trusts the player who have been winning.

      The counter-arguments to that is essentially that despite the recent wins the Canuck skaters have not been all that good and aren’t going to go far in the playoffs so there is little reason to avoid working the better players into the lineup to play in the system and see what they can do for the Canucks. Chances are good that they’ll be better than what is currently being put on the ice.

      But yes, Boucher would likely make a system mistake that Megna might not. It might even cost the team a game.

      Otoh, he might do something better than Megna and that might win the team a game.

      It is about the balance of risk vs reward. I tend to think the reward in playing Boucher over Megna outweighs the risk.

      Otoh, I think the headline to the post goes too far. There IS an excuse and even a reason not to tinker while the team is enjoying success. I’d do it, but to suggest there isn’t an excuse for leaving things as is goes too far.

  • wojohowitz

    The Canucks had some obvious weaknesses they tried to rectify last off-season. Team toughness, lack of speed, lack of depth and generating offense.

    Gudbranson helped improve team toughness. Eriksson helped improve the offense. Megna and Skille are both better than average skaters and along with Chaput, Stecher and Tryamkin helped improve depth.

    That`s seven new players or one third of the roster. We could say that Willie has integrated these new players very well into his system and compared to last year the team is marginally improved. Lack of talent is presently the obvious problem and that is not Willie`s problem but Bennings.

  • TheRealPB

    I think one or two articles questioning lineup decisions makes sense. But the flurry of posts about why we’re not claiming every waiver wire available or why marginal players are or are not playing in an extremely conspiratorial whisper makes little sense. Why are we still going on about whether or not Rodin plays? They’ve come out and said he’s rehabbing an injury and then fell and banged up his knee again. And is it that surprising that a brand new player in Boucher who is likely quite unfamiliar with the Canucks system might not be swapped in? All the hate for Megna I think is a little unwarranted — it’s not his fault he got put on the Sedins line. Yes he didn’t add much but honestly no one seems to be these days which is really the core of our problem. Shots and zone time are not that fantastic if you aren’t scoring and can’t figure out not to give up a 2-0 shorthanded in the last ten seconds of OT…

    Rodin might be a good player. Boucher might be a good player. At this point they haven’t proven that they’re much more than a decent player at lower levels — much as Chaput and Megna have, incidentally. I think Skille has been a cut above, though Gaunce has been pretty underwhelming. I don’t particularly love Chaput or Megna but again they’re not our problem, it’s our lack of a threatening first line anymore that is. I am sure that Boucher and Rodin will get their shots — the fact that Tryamkin and Stecher eventually earned the coaching staff’s trust despite not getting into the lineup initially should give some indication of that.

  • Bud Poile

    6 wins and one OT loss in eight games but Willie should play Rodin (with a re aggravated,potentially career-ending knee injury) and a kid picked up off the waiver wire that has spent three games with the team.

    Forget winning,team chemistry and loyalty.

    Forget the fact Gaunce has to be shipped to Utica and that may not be what mgmt. are wont to do right now.

    Just get those injured,waiver wire players on to the roster. We’re definitely not talking Stamkos here but J.D. still has a blog to write.

    • TD

      They are not a playoff team and Megna has been poor by the stats and the eye test. Leave the fourth line alone but sit !egna and try other options to create some offence. Benning made it sound like Rodin was healthy. If he is then play him over Megna, if he isn’t then confirm the injury. The second option to play over Megna is Boucher. I get loyalty, but it has to be earned and most of us can’t figure out Megna has done to earn such loyalty. Baertschi was producing and he got sat.

      • Bud Poile

        Re: Benning made it sound like Rodin was healthy.

        “In the Friday night game, he (Rodin) fell on his knee and got a bruise. It’s swelled up the last couple days, I think he’s going to be available to play Thursday so that’ll be coach’s decision whether he gets in the line-up or not.” JB

        Re: I get loyalty, but it has to be earned and most of us can’t figure out Megna has done to earn such loyalty.

        Megna has been with the team all season long.He is playing first line minutes while earning the praise of his line mate,captain and coach.

        Boucher has never played one game as a Canuck and has accrued zero loyalty points.

        • TD

          If showing up is all you have to do to earn loyalty points then everyone could be an NHLer. If you are playing first line minutes then you should be producing at some level similar to the ice time you were given. If you don’t produce you shouldn’t be gifted loyalty.

          The Canucks picked up Boucher on waivers, I think they owe him a chance. I don’t want the Canucks to do the same thing the Leafs did with Corrado.

          • Bud Poile

            You aren’t the coach and Boucher is not shutting down NHL first-line opposition as Megna has been doing.

            They owe Boucher little to nothing right now but he will get his chance,just not at the expense of the team.

          • crofton

            Yeah I wonder what exactly they “owe” him? His recent waived/claimed/waived record speaks a lot as to why they 1 don’t owe him any loyalty and 2 why he hasn’t earned any trust

          • sloth

            While Megna may (or may not) be shutting down NHL opposition, it should not be overlooked that he has undeniably been elite at shutting down NHL first-line TEAMMATES as well.

            Megna is getting buried in shot-generation metrics. He’s rocking a 42.5% fenwick and -5.8% FFrelTM this season, both worst on the Canucks. His -8.56 FF/60relTM is not only worst on the Canucks, it’s 575th out of 583 skaters (and 375th/380 forwards, 200+mins) league-wide, meaning there are only 8 other regular players who have been able to suppress their own team’s ability to direct pucks towards the opponent’s goal more than Megna. No surprise that translates to production too, as his on-ice 1.12 GF/60 is also lowest on the team.

            On the defensive side, he’s posted a -0.74 FA/60relTM this season, which is 7th best among Canucks forwards, so it should be noted he is indeed keeping his head above water in suppressing opposition shots as well. He’s also posted on-ice 1.56GA/60 (best on the Canucks) and -0.86 GA/60relTM (2nd behind Gaunce), so it appears he may be helping to prevent goals against, but his .945 on-ice Sv% may have more to do with that than his individual defensive contributions.

            As much as I’d like to see Boucher draw into the lineup, it doesn’t surprise me at all that he hasn’t and may not for a while. WD clearly values conservative, systems-based, low-event hockey. Jayson “Low-Event” Megna has both the lowest on-ice GF/60 and GA/60 on the team. Nothing happens when he’s on the ice – he’s a plug, and Willie loves that.

        • Well done, Bud. Making up a game night roster is as simple as swiping your Bud Poile Mastercard. You don’t make it into the line-up until you’ve earned your loyalty points but you can’t earn your loyalty points unless you’re in the line-up. Priceless.

    • Ragnarok Ouroboros

      The Canucks wins has more to do with the outstanding play of Miller lately, and to some extent Markstrom. Canucks are being routinely out shot, even by “weak” teams. Bottom line, the Canucks need to improve their talent level, and cannot rely on players like Megna to get them wins.

    • TheRealRusty

      Just because the team is winning doesn’t mean that one shouldn’t try to improve the lineup. Hard to imagine either Rodin or Boucher doing any worst than Megna with the twins so far. What is the worst that could happened? That they get dominated on Corsi and scoring dries up on the top line? Oh. Wait. It’s already there when Megna plays with them.

      What we are witnessing is a coach who is one his last legs with the team thinking that staying in playoff contention will save his job. Can’t say I blame him. But IMHO the only way for him to keep him from being on the unemployment line is bold and big moves. Can you imagine if we actually found 3 solid scoring lines? Safe is death. Repeat this to yourself as few times please…

    • TD

      My reference to Corrado was not that I was upset that we put him on waivers, but rather that the Canucks shouldn’t do what the Leafs did., pick a players on waivers and then not play the player and leave him in the press box. The time to see what Boucher can do is now, before Hansen comes back from injury.

      • TheRealPB

        Completely agree. Despite all the angst about Corrado and asset management here, the treatment of Corrado by the Leafs is an absolute disgrace. When he was lost on waivers, Benning and others openly wished him well and hoped he got a chance on another team (something you hear from other franchises — as SJ players and management said recently when Nieto got claimed). I find it pretty unprofessional to do with TO has. It’s likely that he will play for another half season if they somehow offload Polak again and need a D but it hasn’t exactly advanced Corrado’s career to be practicing for two half seasons. I can’t believe the NHLPA hasn’t filed a grievance over this year’s conditioning stint in the AHL. For all their “forward-thinking” in analytics, neither the Panthers nor the Leafs should be commended for their treatment of many of their employees.

      • crofton

        I know. The Leafs picked him off the waiver wire based on past performance and discovered it was just that…PAST performance. They were then in the position of being unable to demote him, and yes, if they had left him unclaimed he may still be playing in Utica. But that’s it. UTICA!

        My comment was for those that still feel Corrado was mis-managed by Vancouver, when all they did was try to slip him thru waivers.

  • Chris the Curmudgeon

    In the past, I think it’s been easy to sort of consider Megna and Chaput as a pair, since they were signed together and brought up at the same time from the AHL. However, I am with JD that this should no longer be the case. Chaput has serious limitations as a player, but with Gaunce and Skille that 4th line seems to have found a useful identity and there’s no compelling reason to break it up for now. On the other hand, Jayson Megna simply does not look like an NHL player in the role he’s been given. He’s completely out of sorts on the power play, he was a drag on the Sedins and he is a drag on Sutter and Granlund (who otherwise look like they would form 2/3 of a solid line). If anyone has earned a spot in the press box for a game or two, it’s Megna. Giving Boucher a look on that line simply needs to happen. “Not knowing what you have” is the stupidest justification I’ve heard in a long time, put the guy on the ice and you’ll find out.

  • Steampuck

    CA writers keep praising the Maple Leafs tank and rebuild. Part of that involved grabbing a guy off waivers and then not playing him. It’s part of the rebuild process.

  • DJ_44

    Look, I can see why Willie doesn’t, strike that, didn’t want to disrupt the lineup; they were (are) winning.

    I also thought the 4th line was pretty good in Nashville, however I agree they should spell off Megna. Is he responsible to WD’s system? Yes. Is he fast? Yes. But he just doesn’t have the hockey sense to play top 9. If you thought he was an anchor with the Sedins, he is worse with Granlund and Sutter, both who are smart players and need an equally smart player to work off of them. Louie obviously worked (not to mention they continually draw the shutdown assignments). Put Rodin in, let him make mistakes (I do not think there will be many once he settles in).

    Boucher, meh. I would want him to get in two or three practices before he gets thrown in, especially given defense has been a bit of knock on him.

  • Dirty30

    When there is little to be excited about on a team, sometimes the excitement is having a new guy come in and maybe make something happen. Maybe Rodin could spark the Sedins back to someplace exciting. I think he should be in Utica on conditioning until his knee fixes or fails. At least then he is playing.

    You have Skille, Chaput and Megan, all who are replacement players and bottom line fillers — that they are still in the line-up as regulars says something about management not doing their job. Yes, Hansen is hurt, but why is this team playing three guys who could be replaced by an orange traffic cone and be no less effective in accomplishing nothing.

    I’m not advocating picking up every waiver that rolls along, but the cost is nothing but salary and maybe the player is better than just a replacement.

    Does WD really believe just making the playoffs is sufficient to the fans? That being just good enough is good enough?

    Yes, the major problem is the top line isn’t producing– that’s not an easy fix. But if you can improve one to three of your other lines, that can be helpful too.

    Pittsburg won with a third line ( albeit a pretty amazing third line) that did most of its scoring in the playoffs.

    Is Boucher going to win you the cup? Probably not … but then the same could have been said of Bonino when he went to Pittsburg for our Foundational player.

    Ive had zero respect for WD since he played Vey in every situation and all the guy did was fall down. Megan is this year’s Vey. Learn something Willie, learn something.

  • Whackanuck

    Meh.

    Megna and Chaput would be busy helping Utica if not for lack of forward depth and injuries on the Canucks.

    One would have to be familiar with the Canucks rehab situation and watch their practices to really know what’s going on. The fact is that the Canucks are one decent healthy RW short, two if you slot Skille as a part timer. Even if Dorsett was healthy. They aren’t particularly deep at LW either despite Granlund’so performance there. At 4th line center, Gaunce has been underwhelming even if his possession numbers are decent-those numbers reflect his decent defense as his offense is Biega-like.

    The Canucks are lucky Tryamkin and Stecher have improved more than expected and unfortunate Virtanen hasn’t imoroved and Hansen has been repeatedly injured. Nothing to see here folks-move along, move along.

    • Cageyvet

      I’m pretty much with you, except for the fact that I viewed this season as critical for the evaluation of the youth group.

      It’s underway, but Willie is busy evaluating the players pencilled in for the farm team and sitting the players who were considered real options to make the team.

      I’ve seen enough of the Megna, Chaput, Skille show. It’s clear what they bring to the table, and it doesn’t scream “you’d be nuts to keep me out of the lineup.” Sure, they’re serviceable, but it’s about the style he has committed to playing and they suit that system nicely, unfortunately. Choke up the game, play low-event (that means boring) hockey, and go low-risk at all times.

      Willie won’t change. The longer it’s tolerated by Benning and Linden, the more blame I shift to them. The coach is old school, stubborn, and fighting for his job. This season will be a disappointment if we make the wrong personnel decisions, not based on the standings.

      I mean, the horror, should the Canucks lose these 3 guys that were easy depth signings this past season. Weren’t they all just free agents of little note? Who cares about this year’s Bartkowski and Webber? It’s the expansion draft and we had to sneak Pedan through waivers this year, do you think he’ll get by a Las Vegas waiver claim next year? Play our youth so we don’t F it all up and let a gem slip through our fingers.