Canucks Army Postgame #50: 50/50 Hindsight

Postgame

If the Canucks embark on a long cold streak, remember tonight’s game. When the Canucks lost their first game of the season against Anaheim, I wrote that we might look back and say in hindsight that that was when the wheels finally came off the wagon. In a sense, I was correct, as the Canucks were on the verge of losing nine in a row. 

Of course, they also came back and went on a tear in December and January, and now find themselves hanging in there with the playoff-bound teams in the western conference. Tonight, however, much like that other game in California, could be a harbinger of bad things to come. The Canucks schedule is going to be hell for the better part of the next two months, and the Canucks can’t expect to win many games if they’re consistently out-gunned in the manner they were tonight.

STATS

chart (5)

HIGHLIGHTS 

GAME NOTES 

  • The effort was there, but the Canucks were simply outclassed tonight. After a soft-as-cashmere schedule to begin the year, it will be very interesting to see how they fare against stronger teams. If tonight’s game was any indication, my money is on “not well”.
  • One of the things I’ve found so consistently irritating about the Benning-Linden regime is the way they consistently set sky-high expectations for many of their players. Nikita Tryamkin? Could be better than Chara. Markus Granlund? “Reminds me a bit of Patrice Bergeron.” Olli Juolevi? Plays like Niklas Lidstrom. Dmitry Zhukenov? Reminiscent of Pavel Datsyuk. You can add Philip Larsen to that list as well. Larsen’s been the subject of a lot of unfair criticism in this market this season, mainly for not coming as advertised. That’s not his fault. Larsen was never going to be a good trigger-man in a 1-3-1 power play formation, nor was he going to fix a 5-on-4 unit that’s been struggling for the better part of half a decade now. In actuality, Larsen’s been a perfectly fine third pairing defenseman this season, and tonight was no different. That’s why it was karmic retribution to see him put the Canucks within two early in the third period. Hopefully that’s enough to silence the peanut gallery, at least for one night.
  • On a related note, I quite like Tryamkin-Larsen as a third pairing. Tryamkin can make up for Larsen’s lack of physicality, and Larsen provides a better puck-moving presence than Tryamkin has been afforded an opportunity to play with. They may be a bit high-event for Willie Desjardins’ liking, but they finished +8 and +6 in even-strength corsi, so there’s evidence to suggest it could work long-term.
  • The Sedins continue to show signs of aging. They’re getting knocked off the puck much easier than we’ve seen in many years, but they’re still generating chances. They look better than they have in some time with Loui Eriksson on their wing, who put 4 shots on goal, and finished +7 in even-strength Corsi. Eriksson’s had awful luck this season, but you have to believe that will turn around. He’s consistently their best two-way player, night in and night out, but is shooting 4.5 percentage points less than his career average. You have to believe his luck will turn around eventually.
  • I hope the coaching staff isn’t wasn’t discouraged from playing Eriksson with the twins due to their lack of production tonight. The line finished with 8 shots on net and the Sedins looked as dangerous as they have this season
  • Patrick Marleau came into tonight’s game with 499 goals, so you just knew he was going to score tonight. Couldn’t fault anyone on the goal, though. It was a beautiful pass from Joe Pavelski and an even better shot by Marleau. Ryan Miller had no chance.
  • The Canucks’ third line has been absolutely on fire since Alex Burrows was placed on Horvat’s left wing. They’ve been succeeding mainly due to the quality of the chances they generate, but have struggled at times to win the shot battle. That wasn’t the case tonight, as each player finished well above 50% in shot shares. Jim Benning has stated he has no desire to move players with NTCs, but you have to wonder if Alex Burrows will make him reconsider. His strong play this year could help the Canucks land a hefty return at the trade deadline. 
  • David Schlemko had the primary assist on Chris Tierney’s first of the night. I highly doubt that’s important to anyone, but J.D. Burke put a clause in my employment contract that states I’m required to mention any time he does anything noteworthy.
  • TheRealPB

    I managed to last through two periods. The Canucks didn’t look terrible other than the first ten minutes or so, but they simply cannot hang with the better teams in the league, certainly not through a full playoff series. In that sense this stretch in February is likely to give the management exactly what it needs — most likely a series of reasonably hard-fought losses, likely a record of 4-8 at best but perhaps as low as 2-10 — and license to actually try and sell off an expiring contract or two (of course I thought that was the case with the Hamhuis debacle). I would imagine Miller would be open to a move, especially as an UFA with no real ties here and his play has no doubt got him more attention than anticipated. Burrows might also be amenable to a move to get him one more decent-sized contract with a good playoff run somewhere. I don’t think we’ll get a ton for any of them but if ever we were to recoup a few draft picks this would be the time, in addition to the one we’ll get from CBJ. I think Calgary and Winnipeg will end up treading water more than us as they battle it out at the bottom of the conference to try and get into the playoffs.

    • Big D, little d

      >> likely a record of 4-8 at best but perhaps as low as 2-10

      Hmm. Depends on what narrative you want to put on this. Twelve games in February and one loss on the board already. Two against teams no better than the Canucks, Buffalo and Detroit, that you want to win. Two against teams more or less equivalent to the Canucks, St. Louis and Calgary, that you’d like to win. Three mid-tier teams, Nashville, Philly, Boston, that you’d want to be 50-50 in. And four left against top teams, Minny, Columbus, San Jose and Pittsburgh, that you’d like to get lucky in.

      So yeah, with no luck at all you might go 2-10. And yeah, likely a record of 4-8 assuming everything balances out, but that shouldn’t be characterized as “at best”. With a bit of luck, nothing extraordinary, you might go 6-6.

      Even if you accept the most likely result of 4-8 you still have to account for Bettman points. About one-quarter of NHL games go to overtime, so from the 8 losses the Canucks still probably pick up two points. Odds are that the Canucks pick up 10 points in February; let’s set the over/under at 10.5.

      Since the Canucks probably need 13 points to stay on the cusp of the playoffs, with a little bit of luck they could still be in the discussion at the end of February. The real hammer comes in March.

  • I am Ted

    Sharks are looking good. They added team speed and it showed. They were flying a lot. Speed does kill and generates chances – probablt why WD has Megna in there more often than not. Canucks have decent speed but the Sedins, who get lots of minutes, lost a step and they used to be good skaters but not great. Now they’re easily caught and that makes it easier to push them off the puck.

    This is definitely a team in transition that’s trying to teach the kids what it takes to win. I don’t want them to blow it up or deal all the vets. Benning just needs to add a couple of key pieces for the future and part with a couple of vets and flip them into young, blue chip players. The D will be a log jam soon so someone should get dealt from there.

    Again, I’d look at dealing one or two of Hansen, Tanev or Edler (hopefully he OK’s a trade after he sees this team isn’t contending for a few years). I’d also look at moving Burrows and Miller at the deadline if the Canucks are out of the running by then.

    Anyway, I am quite curious to see what Benning does with the D situation. There isn’t enough room for them all. Soon it’ll be:

    Edler Stecher

    Hutton Tanev

    Sbisa Gudbranson

    Tryamkin Larsen

    Biega

    I don’t think Biega will start with the Canucks next season and will be expansion draft material. Larsen is fine at the third pairing but there are too many players there so he could be gone/dealt – either way he shouldn’t be back next season. Benning won’t deal Gudbranson or Tanev. Is Sbisa the guy they deal? Where’s that leave Subban? Juolevi should be here in 2 years. Yes, somebody needs to be dealt for a forward and/or picks.

  • TD

    After a weak start, I though the difference through 2 periods was Martin Jones. He stoned the Canucks and kept them off the scoresheet. If the Canucks score on a couple of their chances it’s a different game. Of course the counter argument is that the Canucks made Jones look good. Better goal scorers may have capitalized on the chances.

  • Burnabybob

    This season has already been a success, based on what should be the club’s top priority: the development of its young players. Horvat, Baertschi, Granlund, Tryamkin, Stecher, and others have all given cause for optimism.

    I know this position is unpopular, but I would still rather see the Canucks have a decent place in the draft lottery than gain a playoff spot. I just think a high draft pick is more valuable to the team in the long term than a short-lived playoff run. They need to stock up with offensive talent if they’re going to compete with the likes of Edmonton and San Jose, and those players are generally found near the top of the draft.

    I see the Canucks competing for the playoffs in another year or two. For the time being, the focus should be on drafting and development.

  • Pat Quinn Way

    “This is a team we can turn around in a hurry.”

    “Sutter and Gudbranson are foundational pieces”

    Watching the Sharks beat us like a red headed step child last night without even shifting outta third gear reminded me of those cringeworthy quotes from Benning.

    After we beat SJ to reach the 2011 final, did the Sharks self implode like we have since Boston b*tch-slapped us. No they did not, they kept faith with core vets like Thornton and Marleau (both older and outperforming the twins) along with Couture, and Vlasic. They drafted a top young centre in Hertl and the icing on the contender cake, they traded for elite goalie elect Martin Jones and the NHL’s best offensive defenceman Brent Burns.

    No rebuild, no bogus moves, no drama and look at them now!!! Cup finalists last year and tops in the Pac, 2nd in the West this season. Very impressive organisation.

    Why can’t we be this good, it’s not rocket science is it?

    • Burnabybob

      It’s not rocket science, but it isn’t easy, either. Otherwise every team would be as good as the Sharks.

      And if you look at the teams that have actually won the cup the past few years, almost all of them have included at least one or two high draft picks (as in top 2 or 3). The best Canuck teams of the past have as well, think the Sedins, Bure and Linden. Admittedly, Bure was a late draft pick, but his situation was strange, as other GM’s didn’t know he was eligible and scouting in Russia wasn’t as thorough or routine as it is today.

      • Pat Quinn Way

        “It’s not rocket science, but it isn’t easy, either. Otherwise every team would be as good as the Sharks.”

        Yes Bob, it would appear not to be easy, but maybe that’s because clubs like us knee jerk into blowing everything up instead of just making a few smart moves like Chicago, Pittsburgh and San Jose have done to remain a contender.

        Looking at the Sharks I ask myself, was there any need to get rid of AV, Hammer, Luongo, Schneider and, through blowing it up, losing Kesler in the process…

        The Sharks have done it the right way. We have not…

        and i agree with you mate, we need a top draft pick or two not one-n-done playoff humiliation against the ‘hawks or… Sharks!

        • Dirk22

          The ‘right way’ isn’t the same for every club – it’s about recognizing the situation your club is in. The difference between the Canucks and the Sharks is that they drafted Couture and Pavelski. Simple as that. On top of that they added Burns. That layer of elite talent below Thornton and Marleau makes for a completely different situation than the Canucks. Even if they had kept all of the players you mentioned they would not be in the same class.

          • Pat Quinn Way

            I must say what a pleasure it’s been reading through this thread without the usual drivel from the humiliated Benning brigade who have thankfully crawled back under their rocks after last night’s drubbing from the Sharks.

            Dirk, enjoy reading your comments mate but not so sure we’re on the same page here.

            The year the Sharks drafted Pavelski we got Kesler so not much disparity there. In between that and the Couture pick in 2007 we got (of note) Schneider, Grabner, Hansen, Edler, Raymond (and Bourdon rip). They drafted Torey Mitchell, Setoguchi, Vlasic, McGinn and Bonino. Again no massive disparity there, though i think the nucks edge it.

            My main point is the two teams were fierce division rivals of excellence and parity for quite a few years until this club decided to nuke everything from GM down after the Boston final, which I believe was too drastic a measure.

            The Sharks stayed the course, made the right moves and are still challenging while we are in freefall. They sure made us look beer league last night!

            “Sutter and Gudbranson are cornerstones” umm okayyyy

          • DJ_44

            “My main point is the two teams were fierce division rivals of excellence and parity for quite a few years until this club decided to nuke everything from GM down after the Boston final, which I believe was too drastic a measure.”

            They did not nuke everything down after the final. 2011-2012 they won the President’s trophy…followed by another first round exit. The cupboards were bare and nothing could support continuation, especially with the boat anchor contracts that Gillis/Gilman handed out.

            …..were you not the bright-light that had a list of points you bowed down in front of Gillis ?

            Markstrom – our next number one goalie
            Tanev – our top shutdown defenceman
            Horvat – our top ‘all star’ centre
            Hutton – equal top offensive defenceman prospect
            all Mike Gillis signings
            two presidents trophies
            one western conf championship
            five division titles in five years
            playoff hockey five years straight
            stanley cup final (seven games)
            These are the only ‘stats’ and facts that matter to me.

            …Perhaps you wish to reconsider after your latest reflection and add a few more points to the list.

            Benning is cleaning up the mess.

          • DJ_44

            The Canucks were not “drubbed” by the Sharks; they were outplayed in the first, but outplayed the Sharks easily in the second and third.

            The difference in the score last night was the play of Martin Jones: he was outstanding for the Sharks. The Canucks could not finish their chances.

          • Pat Quinn Way

            Oh dear, spoke too soon, it’s another Benning fantasist who cannot accept the facts, trying to ruin a decent thread with the same tired old rhetoric.

            Yes, Markstrom, Tanev, Hutton and Horvat are being touted as the new ‘core’ and all are Mike Gillis guys not Jim Benning’s. Simple (like you)

            “The Canucks were not “drubbed” by the Sharks”

            Drubbing – synonym: beating, thrashing, walloping, thumping.

            What part of a four – one score to the opposition on your home ice don’t you get as being a drubbing, idiot. FOUR goals to ONE is a drubbing, no ifs, buts or maybes.

            “Benning is cleaning up the mess.”

            Hahaha pathetic. If cleaning up the mess is bringing in the likes of Sutter and Guddy as ‘cornerstones’, signing Sbisa, Dorsett and Eriksson to outrageously overblown contracts and padding out the team with AHL calibre plugs like Skille, Chaput and Larsen then this franchise really is in deep deep trouble.

            Even the ‘genius drafting’ is proving to be a dud – Tkachuk, Ehlers, Nylander all passed over in favour of ifs n maybes and Benning busts like Virtanen, McCann and Juolevi, who isn’t even progressing in the minors whilst Matt Tkachuk is already kickin ass in the NHL!

            This GM is doing nothing to bring us back to the level of the once rival Sharks and ‘hawks, Last nights drubbing and the standings prove it.

            End of.

          • Bud Poile

            ‘Even the ‘genius drafting’ is proving to be a dud – Tkachuk, Ehlers, Nylander all passed over in favour of ifs n maybes and Benning busts like Virtanen, McCann and Juolevi, who isn’t even progressing in the minors whilst Matt Tkachuk is already kickin ass in the NHL!

            This GM is doing nothing to bring us back to the level of the once rival Sharks and ‘hawks, Last nights drubbing and the standings prove it.

            End of.”

            Thank God.

            Spoiled and petulance comes to mind.

            Benning has been here 2.5 seasons,was saddled with 10 NTC’s and inherited two kids of significance from the previous regime’s six years at the draft table.

            Oli is a very,very good-great d-man. Virtanen is 20 years old.

            You remind me of a silver spoon fed child.

          • Pat Quinn Way

            Ahh look, old Bud tries to quietly sneak back into the fray – tail between legs

            Bud – could you tell us if you were a Vancouver Canucks supporter between 2008 to 2013 and also, were you cheering for the Canucks during the 2011 Stanley Cup Final…?

            PS How about them Sharks eh Bud… 4-1??!

          • DJ_44

            Face-palm.

            “Benning fantanist”??

            Gimme a break. As I have stated numerous times…the Canucks are rebuilding….I want them to be competitive in every game. They were definitely competitive last night, apart from the brutal first period.

            They are not the Canucks fo 2011 or 2012; there was nothing in the prospect pool to sustain the unsustainable mess of contracts and NTC that littered the aging core.

            ….and now Virtanen, McCann and Juolevi are busts? with not one reaching a 21st birthday?

            the bright light shines brighter.

          • Dirk22

            Yeah not so sure. Even if we say Pavelski and Kesler are/were a wash the scale gets tipped very far with Couture and Burns – two Canada players. Shows you the impact that elite players can have though.

          • DJ_44

            Exactly this.

            The Sharks have a mix of age class/talent in their line up that allows them to do this. Long term planning. Pavelski and Couture.

            The Blackhawks to not have this. Their core matured young and has/will allow them to be Cup competitive. When Hossa goes, there will be a huge gap to fill. When Kieth and Seabrook breakdown, they will be searching.

            The simple-minded “why did the Canucks to this” statements belies the obvious facts. Benning has tried to fill the younger mid-tier that will support the Sedins at one end, and Bo and the ones coming up at the other.

    • Dirty30

      Every season 30 teams think they have the right pieces in the right combination and every year 29 of them are wrong.

      I’ve said it before that Benning is his own worst enemy and those statements are why.

      Had he come in with a simple “We have good pieces for success but a lot of hard work ahead of us” and then shut up, he might have gotten a bit more benefit of the doubt.

      I wonder if Benning was looking at the 2011 Canucks and not the team in front of him. And I still wonder if he actually sees the team that is on the ice or if he honestly believes Brandon Sutter will ever hoist the Cup!

      At this point JB should look for every advantage he can gain without blowing things up. Gillis was accused of creating a country club atmosphere but Benning’s refusal to ask vets to move is no different and patently ridiculous when they are not a contending team.

  • wojohowitz

    Ed Willes wrote an interesting analysis on the Sharks. In the last nine years only two first round draft picks in their lineup. A couple of smart trades (Burns ans Jones), brought the young guys along the right way and built around their core players and have remained competitive over the long term. An excellent example of the `rebuild on the fly`.

    It highlights the Canuchs weakness; they don`t have a core group going forward – except for Horvat – or that elite defenceman that means so much for stability.

    • JuiceBox

      EXACTLY

      If you look at the Blackhawks they have done things similar. They identified their core of Toews, Kane, Hossa, Seabrook, and Keith and kept them in tact, and thanks to timely trades for draft picks and great development they have been able to completely re-build twice around that core group. They are the model organization in that regard.

      However, like the Sharks and Hawks a team needs that high end core to build around and that is something the Canucks are not even close to having at the moment. We have Horvat and that’s it. Sure other players have made strides (Granlund, Baertschi), and couple have potential (Stecher and Tryamkin) and a couple of players on the way that we have high hopes for (Virtanen, Boeser, Demko, and Juolevi) but it’s not enough. Sutter, Gudbranson, and Eriksson are all just bandaids that are designed to cover up and hide the real wound. If this team hopes to get back into contention soon they need more high end talent in the system, period.

    • TheRealPB

      I think we’re engaging in a lot of revisionist history with the Sharks. They are good now — really good. But this is their window, quite likely their last. Burns, Pavelski and Vlasic are 31, 32, and 29. Thornton and Marleau are 37 and 36. Even Couture is 27. Wingels is 28. Jones is 27. And while they far outclass us, I have a hard time seeing them as good as some of the other elite teams. The lower half of their lineup is certainly better than ours but not nearly as strong as those of the other top teams.

      It’s great that they are 4th in the league right now but this is a team that fired their head coach two years ago, stripped their former C of that captaincy and had all kinds of questions about a crisis of leadership, that for all its regular season success has since losing to us in the conference finals has lost in round 2, round 1, and missed the playoffs before making the SCF last year. They’ve looked very good the past two years but it’s now or never for them — much as it kind of was for us in our window.

      Rather than looking at LA or Chicago or SJ as “perennial” contenders, I think they’re more indicative of the cyclical nature of most sports franchises. Detroit is really the only example we have of a more sustained rebuild. Who does SJ have in the pipeline that speaks to a longer term competitive team? Hertl looks good but not really the same since that injury. Meier is ok. Most of their prospects are kind of meh. Who are their top end young players in the system or at the NHL level? Mueller, Goldobin, Roy, Meier, Leblanc, DeMelo. They do not look like they’re stocked for a while; instead the cost of acquiring a Jones and a Burns (worth it) or on the flip side a Polak, a Reimer, a Dillon, heck, even a Mike Brown in recent years (none of them worth it) has meant they’ve hemorrhaging a lot of picks. You know, like contending teams seem to do. It’s almost as if the philosophy of extracting a decade’s worth of contending out of your top players weren’t so much a SJ thing but more of an NHL thing…

      • Dirk22

        Not sure where you’re going with this one PB?

        Sharks may be at the end of their run but have had way more justification in ‘going for it’ in the last few years.

        • TheRealPB

          Just responding to a few of the earlier comments that seem to be suggesting that the Sharks have a model rebuild. They don’t. Just a couple of years ago we were talking about what a mess the team was but at least their core seems to have righted the ship — for now. They are perhaps a year or two behind the Canucks (and overall I think they’ve been a better team during the same period at least when it comes to regular season dominance). Like the Canucks their ascendency was also a combination of good drafts (Marleau and Pavelski) and incredible trades (Thornton and Burns). My point was simply that they haven’t really restocked for the future. I don’t blame them for it, but to suggest that they’ve rebuilt on the fly is inaccurate.

          • Dirk22

            I think all the semantics of ‘rebuilding on the fly’ or ‘retooling’ can skew people’s view – as if those phrases actually mean anything concrete. As I said earlier, the big difference is they had a layer of talent below Thornton and Marleau…a really good layer which has allowed them to remain a contender. I agree they are getting really old and the window is closing but they’ still have a year or two left – then maybe they’ll resemble what we see here in Van?

          • TheRealPB

            It may well be. One of the earlier CA posts got me thinking about the unintentional part of Chicago’s rebuild — that their successes led to them having to turnover parts of their roster due to cap issues and that they made really good choices in that regard as to who to stick with and who to let go. I think you see the opposite with an LA for example, where you throw in your lot with Brown, Gaborik, Richards, and even Kopitar and then they don’t really pan out. SJ has been relatively lucky in that regard as they haven’t really been saddled with terrible or unproductive contracts. I guess we haven’t really either, though I suppose depending on one’s view Sutter or Eriksson could be seen as such. I actually think both of those have been relatively good value; my real fear is if we sign Gudbranson for an undeserved $5 million AAV. That would be a boat anchor that would set any prospective rebuild back multiple years.

          • Andy

            You bring up a really good point.

            Chicago’s luck in shedding ‘solid’ players (Bolland, Bickell, Ladd) for multiple draft picks and prospects, combined with exceptional scouting of cheap talent willing to play for a contending team (Panarin) has allowed them to sustain an uncharacteristically good team despite exceptional turnover.

            For all 29 other teams that don’t win the cup, their non-core players don’t fetch as much return, because they don’t have that Winner’s shine.

            Jeremy Davis’ article on Gillis drafting shows the obvious answer that we haven’t mentioned in regards to building a prospect pool – more picks tends to equal more success. Easy as that.

            So let’s get us some picks!

  • JuiceBox

    All the people who are on team “tank for high draft pick” must be licking their chops with their “I told you so’s” ready and waiting. The Canucks are only 3 points away from 28th place and judging by the schedule from now to the end of the year, it’s looking more an more possible that Canucks will land right there.

    This team reminds me of the Canucks teams from 96-2001/2. Playing up and down to their opponents, winning most of their games against bad teams but playing down and losing games they should win, and playing hard against top teams winning some but losing most not due to a lack of effort but due to a lack of skill. The more I watch them the more I see that era of hockey in them.

  • andyg

    We are looking at a club that started to rebuild last year. There is some real bright spots this year but we can all see that they have some holes to fill. The next two weeks will be make it or break. If they stay in the race then they will do nothing. It is more then likely that we see them slide down into the bottom of the league.

    At that point Benning needs to move a D man for futures. He would be wise to just prepare for expansion.

  • leo101

    When we get outstanding goaltending, we have a chance against a good team. Good goaltending is not enough.

    The problem would seem to be we have too many average players. Not good enough to make a difference but also not bad enough to get rid of. It’s bad enough that Benning overpays most players but to throw in no-trade contracts should have Linden and Aqulini looking for a replacement. They should have opened the vault for Lamoirello.

  • apr

    The biggest question for me is what do the Canucks do with WD next year? Clearly the team runs through the wall for him; its also clear that the team does not have enough talent and size to compete in the West. Henrik and Daniel are clearly on the back nine of their careers. Does Hitchcock, Gallant, Green make that much of a difference? Will the team play as hard for them as they have for Willie? What happens when the Bruins fire Julien before season? Will JB jump the gun?

  • Roy

    Why on earth would we trade Hansen or Tanev? “We need a top scoring winger!” Um, Hansen? He’s right there, on the IR.

    Tanev is a responsible, intelligent and incredibly fit, and young top-2 lifer. But it is a seller’s market and he is not worth a one-for-one.

    Plus, we are probably going to lose a top-four defenceman to the expansion draft, ntm a valuable winger.

    The only assets worth moving are Burrows and Miller and I doubt they trade Miller – that would be a high risk move and Benning is just not that guy. Yet.

  • Copperfinch

    Judging by the all fawning over the Sharks it seems the bar really is that low in Vancouver. Just a reminder – they’ve never won a cup. Yes, they made the finals last year but were never in it. And didn’t they miss the playoffs entirely the year previous? Doesn’t sound like a very stable organization to me.