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Photo Credit: Lindsay A. Mogle / Utica Comets Facebook

Report: Tom Nilsson Returning to Sweden

The great Tom Nilsson experiment has finally come to an end, as the Swedish defenceman has apparently signed with Djurgårdens IF of the SHL.

As Ben Birnell notes here, Nilsson was limited to just 17 games in 2016-17, all with the Utica Comets. A large chunk of that missed time was due to injury, as Nilsson began the season on the Injured Reserve after hurting himself in training camp. Missing all of the exhibition games, Nilsson had the honour of being announced as part of the opening night roster at the home opener back in October, though of course he wouldn’t ever play for the Canucks.

As soon as he was healthy enough to hit the waiver wire, the Canucks shuffled him to Utica, where he made his season debut on November 18th. After a handful of games, he became a regular recipient of the rotating healthy scratch, before missing all of December with another injury. Upon his return, he spent an awful lot more time being a healthy scratch than actually playing for the Comets.

By the end of the season, Nilsson had collected three points, averaging an estimated 12 and a half minutes of ice time. He received occasional time on the penalty kill and no power play time. By my counts he finished the season with 17 games played, 29 games missed due to injury and a whopping 30 healthy scratches. It’s no surprise at all that he wouldn’t be interested in a second season in the same organization.

Nilsson is a former Toronto Maple Leafs draft pick, and this was his second tour of the American League. He had previously played 44 games with the Toronto Marlies in 2014-15, collecting six points. I’m not exactly sure what Jim Benning saw in Nilsson when he signed him last spring, but it certainly seems that then-Comets coach Travis Green didn’t see the same things. As far as departing AHL defencemen go, Chad Billins was a far bigger loss for the Comets.

    • neal

      This Canuck organisation needs to get younger not only in Vancouver but also Utica.Today the NHL is about speed, talent, and grit. They may be working at speed and talent but are truly lacking at grit. You will never win the cup unless you have all three.

  • Killer Marmot

    This article would have been better had it begun with a short bio of Tom Nilsson and his relation to the Canucks organization.

    Putting the bio at the end leaves the reader wondering who this guy is for most of the article.

  • ManicSt

    A signing that had a slim chance of even being a regular in the AHL. Another decision by Canucks brass that I don’t understand, which wasted roster space and one of 50 contract spots.
    This regime really needs to make a plan, fast.

    • Killer Marmot

      Club managers have to make many dozens of roster decision every year in the face of considerable uncertainty. Not all of those decisions will look good in retrospect.

      That holds for every club in the league. By cherry picking the poor decisions, particularly low-level ones like this, you can make any manager look bad.

    • Walker

      Despite all the hand-wringing on this site over the 50 contract spots, the Canucks were never in any danger of going over. They will always need depth players just to fill out the roster on the farm. It seems a weird thing to criticize them for.

      • ManicSt

        So we all agree this was a poor decision. I suppose we could point to the Canucks’ winning record over the past three seasons to show how good management is? Or the plethora of well-used draft picks now become prospects?
        The 2014 draft had players like Gustav Forsling, drafted by the Canucks and then traded for a player who barely touched the ice. Blaming the coach doesn’t let the GM off, they need to communicate and be on the same page. Yes, this is possible, teams do it all the time. So the fact is that throwing up your hands and saying “ah well, depth players!!!!” is an unconvincing excuse for an NHL and an AHL club that both missed the playoffs which has consistently mismanaged assets.
        Maybe that’s not what you want to hear, or you think it’s been said too many times, but that makes it no less true.

        • Killer Marmot

          In retrospect, sure, a poor decision.

          But that’s part and parcel of being a manager. You’re going to roll the dice on depth signings, and some of them will be flops. I’m sure you can go through every club in the league and find similar situations.

        • Neil B

          No, it wasn’t a poor decision. It was a minor decision that did not work out. There’s a difference.

          Trading Forsling was also not a bad decision; it was a calculated risk. There is a difference there, as well. Forsling was, at the time, over-rated because he played over his head in one international competition (and he still is, in some corners; he was Chicago’s worst, or second-worst, D by nearly all metrics); Clendenning had a lower ceiling, but was considered to be NHL ready by many teams’ scouts. Turns out, the NHL-ready was right, but the ceiling was low. For whatever reason, he’s a replacement-level player, having only played 81 games in the intervening seasons. But JB wasn’t the only team that got it wrong; Chicago drafted him at #36, and we were not the only team interested in Clendening.

          Mismanagement is signing a 30+ scoring winger with a similar skill set & profile to Daniel for six years, when you know that your team ceiling for the season is bubble team. Harping on about minor-league signings and calculated risks that didn’t pan out does nothing but hurt your credibility when you bring up valid points.

          Which is why I do wish this site would just turn the snark taps off. There are valid criticisms of GMJB’s regime; but this website is positioning itself to be irrelevant in those discussions by being all anti-JB, all the time, and throwing up nonsense like 50-player limits when the team under JB has never been remotely close to tapping out.

          But it does get JD on the radio, so there’s that.

      • Whackanuck

        I agree, especially since the Canucks spent most of the season with only 45 players on the roster. Only in the last few weeks of the season did a few signings put them at 49. That will drop shortly as RFAs aren’t qualified.

  • Sandpaper

    Fully expected the article to be more about asset management & why we didn’t get anything in return.
    Jeremy used to write some decent prospect blogs, nowadays it is a hit and miss.