Canucks Army Monday Mailbag: March 6th


Well, how was that for a week? The Canucks are now two blue chip prospects richer and have spent, at least, the one week operating as something of a rebuilding franchise.

Mostly, things are on the up for the Canucks. That fact seems hard to reconcile given they’re essentially at the same spot now that they were last year, but it’s about the process. They dealt veterans for futures; they made a sensible waiver claim. They won’t use the word rebuild but their moves last week indicate they’re creeping up on that reality — the one that hit home for most people two seasons ago.

By that same token, for every shred of positivity that Canucks general manager Jim Benning is taking in, the coach, Willie Desjardins, is suffering the opposite. With that, let’s get into your questions.

I wasn’t lying when I said that Desjardins was a hot topic in my intro blurb. That’s very much a thing. Since Desjardins related questions account for half of your queries, I’ve grouped them together, for the most part, so that this isn’t just a post about the coach.

Before we get too far into this, I don’t think I’ve ever advocated for someone losing their job in this space and I think I’m going to keep it that way. I know I have previously — at least a few times on Twitter and perhaps the odd occasion in conversation. I just don’t think I should, though, and regret that I ever have. It’s uncouth, I dare say.

Ideally, I’d just rather people get better at their jobs. That extends to the Canucks.

As for Desjardins, I understand wherein fans are getting frustrated. He’s not improved one iota as a coach from the minute he joined this franchise. In some respects, one could reasonably argue his development as a coach in the NHL has been a consistently downward trajectory.

Whereas the Canucks were a fairly progressive team in Desjardins’ first season, they’re the opposite now. Vancouver used to pull the goaltender with significant amounts of time remaining in games, and now they don’t; they used to use four forward and one defenceman sets in the last five minutes of games they trailed, and now they don’t; they used to emphasize pace through the neutral zone, and now they don’t.

So they’re not entertaining anymore and it’s not like that added emphasis on trap style hockey is having any appreciable impact on winning hockey games. In fact, one could handily argue the contrary.

To make matters worse for Desjardins, his deployment is significantly worse than the average NHL coach. That and it’s so painfully predictable. To quote one executive, ‘there isn’t an easier team to game plan for than the Canucks’.

Deployment is the low-lying fruit for fans. It’s so easy to point out, and in so many cases it’s painfully obvious what one can do to address it. Playing Derek Dorsett more than any other Canuck when trailing is absurd. So, too, is benching Nikolay Goldobin after he scores the go-ahead goal in a game that doesn’t really matter. Brandon Sutter is a player who, on a good night, is something that resembles a third line centre, and they deploy him like Patrice Bergeron.

At the end of the day, I think Desjardins knows his back is against the wall and is reverting to trusted habits as a defence mechanism. And it’s not working in his favour. Worst of all, it’s impeding the progress this club is trying to make towards a better tomorrow.

I don’t want the Canucks to fire Desjardins. That doesn’t mean I have to shed a tear if and when it does happen, and frankly, I don’t know if I blame fans for hoping for exactly that. Whatever the case, I wouldn’t expect it to happen before the season ends, barring some wild developments.

As for a replacement, I tend to think the Canucks owe it to Utica Comets head coach Travis Green to give him a chance if and when that time comes. He’s earned a shot.

I don’t have a damn clue. As an aside, I quite like the snow. I just hate that we get three or so days of winter wonderland get to suffer weeks of black ice and slush thereafter.

Regarding hockey moments that invoke the strongest response from me, I always go back to the Canucks’ series against the St. Louis Blues in the 2003 Playoffs. The way Todd Bertuzzi just bullied the Blues after Vancouver fell 3-1. It was one of the most dominating performances I’ve ever seen from a hockey player in my entire life. That trumps Ryan Kesler against the Nashville Predators in ’11 for me, even.

I like Timothy Liljegren a fair amount. He has potential to have a Jacob Chychrun like drop and then become the biggest steal of the draft. For right now, though, I have Owen Tippett at three. Then again, a lot can change between now and the draft.

The best player available to them relative to where they draft.

Jayson Megna’s favourite colour? Willie Desjardins.

I remember when fans were chanting ‘Fire Gillis!’. That hasn’t aged well. It’s my favourite, for all the wrong reasons.

If the Canucks can get Jonathan Drouin for Chris Tanev, then yes, make the trade. If they can only get Tyler Johnson, I’d suggest they take a hard pass. Whatever the case, I haven’t heard anything to indicate such a trade is in the works.

I don’t really know how to answer this. Benning just parlayed this deadline into his best week as a general manager, but it’s still just one week. I’ll say this much: Benning’s late round wins aren’t enough to make up for his bad-to-average record in the first round.

I don’t know if ‘let’ is the appropriate verbiage. 

I can’t say I’m one-hundred percent certain of this. Management’s done nothing but espouse the virtues of playing ‘competitive hockey’ in March all season. To that exact end, he’s aligned with their mandate. Either way, I tend to think he’s coaching for other jobs at this point, and all they’ll evaluate Desjardins on is his wins and losses.

I think at this stage he’s more trusting that they eventually will then banking on the fact that they have. Think of an extremely low-rent Alain Vigneault and that whole process thing he was always on about.

It’s not fair to blame this entirely on Desjardins, no. In fact, I’m still convinced he’s the least of the Canucks problems in terms of management, etc.

That’s not even a remote possibility, no.

There likely won’t be, and I’m absolutely onboard with that plan. Let him develop in Utica. If he comes back up and struggles mightily, then there’s a serious problem at Pat Quinn Way. At that point, the word ‘bust’ is going to creep into the conversation, and the situation has the potential to snowball.

Virtanen’s never going to be a top of the lineup player, but nothing about his career pre-draft suggested that was the case anyways. They can still secure a middle-six player here. I think it best for everyone if they work towards that.

It’s about who is the better player, and from where I’m sitting, that’s still Nolan Patrick.

3. Tippett

4. Liljegren

5. Vilardi

6. Pettersson

Be wary of how much stock you place in Green as someone who’s positive for the development of younger players. I’m not certain that’s the case. If anything, I lean in the opposite direction. It’s not like many Canucks’ prospects go to Utica and leave hardened pros ready to contribute in the NHL.


    • apr

      No matter what CA or the underlying stats say, Bennign values Sutter. See his playing time. I do think the Canucks will protect Gaunce, and they will ask Louis Erickson for his permission.

      There is something about Gaunce that reminds me of Burrows 06/07 season when he just got 9 points. Who would have thought then that Alex would go on a tear and be a 30 goal scorer. It takes time, and at times, I see Gaunce flash potential to be a solid 2-3 line player.

      As far as coaching, I understand where WD is coming from – but Mark Crawford proved you can still try to win and get young players playing time. Its not the Goldy getting minimal minutes that kill me, its the Boucher can’t even get in the line-up over Megna and Chaput that is so frustrating, and will ultimately cost WD his extension. The sad, sad thing is when WD is forced his hand (Stecher, Tryamkin, Granlund, and Gaunce recently, and Bachman yesterday (though not relevant)) – he blends the line-up really well when he is forced to put players in. But enough of Megna.

  • HockeyTruther69

    Vilardi at #5 are you kidding me. Have you never seen Kostin or considered either of the Sault Saint Mary hotshots?

    Also not sure why you value Tipett so high, he has major off-ice issues

  • Killer Marmot

    With Benning having redeemed himself by trading Hansen and Burrows at the deadline, the scalp hunters have turned their attentions to Desjardins.

    But at the beginning of the season, almost every pundit predicted that the Canucks would be at or near the bottom of the league. The points predictions ranged between 60 to 70.

    Now it appears the Canucks are going to end up with points in the high seventies. They might even — wait for it — make the playoffs.

    If getting the most with what you have is the measure of a good coach, Desjardins deserves more credit.

  • JuiceBox

    Have the Canucks painted themselves into a expose/trade corner with Jacob Markstrom by playing Ryan Miller too much?

    $3.67M is too much money to pay an untested “starter,” too much money to pay a back-up goaltender, and too much money to go out and get a veteran starter to share or cover the workload. I think it was a mistake to sign Markstrom to a “starters value deal” without knowing with 100% certainty that he could actually take the reigns; and the mistake has been compounded by a coach that has not been willing to give the player a chance to prove himself or give management the chance to evaluate the player. Now they have to pay Markstrom $3.67M for a role they aren’t even sure he can handle and (unless they want to spend $8.0M to $9.0M in goaltending) can’t afford to go out and get a reasonable insurance policy.

  • TD

    JD, I get that ou don’t agree with the way TLJB have rebuilt this tea and I agree with you that I would have done some things differently. However, go write down the roster and current age of the players that were on the team when Benning took over and beside those names wrote down their current roster and ages. Almost no one is left and the team, especially the ones currently carrying the play are new and younger. If you can’t see the rebuild then you are deliberately not looking. It is fair to say they have not protected assets as well as they should have at the previous two deadlines, but this team is dramatically different. They were a 104 point playoff team two years ago which usually means you don’t trade away players at the deadline.

    Craig Button predicted they will be competitive in 24 months. Not sure if I agree or even agree with the rebuild plan that Benning has done, but a blind man could recognize the changes.