Photo Credit: Matthew Henderson

Canucks Army Monday Mailbag: May 15th

In general, I think the Canucks’ best options for cheap depth, or career resurrection, type deals lie in net. With the likes of Jonathan Bernier, Steve Mason and Darcy Kuemper all set to hit unrestricted free agency, a plethora of goaltenders with starting experience are going to be available for naught but the cost of their contract. I could see any of these goaltenders recapturing their game and working their way to the top of a team’s depth chart if they ever get the chance.

If the Canucks want to find a few players that fit this mould from outside the crease, though, there are a few intriguing options. Full marks for bringing Jordan Weal into the conversation — he’s at the top of my list. I like Dylan McIlrath and Jordan Oesterle, too.

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I don’t think any of these players — the goalies especially — have the chance to turn into a 30-goal scorer overnight. They can develop into useful middle of the lineup pieces, though. That counts for something.

I wish I could provide a definitive answer to this question. Goaltenders are, in general, something of a blind spot for yours truly. That’s why you’ll note I don’t talk them up a tonne when I get into my draft coverage. I’ll say this much: I don’t hate the idea of Thatcher Demko getting a game or two this season.

Why do the Canucks have to follow any one specific blueprint? The NHL is constantly changing. What worked one year is obsolete the next depending on who you talk to and when the discussion takes place. I remember when the Canucks needed to get bigger and tougher to match up with the Boston Bruins and Los Angeles Kings. How’s that strategy look now?

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I don’t care which position they prioritize, truthfully, as long as they’re all taken care of in due time. When you start to prioritize positional needs, that’s when you get into trouble. That leads teams down a dangerous road, where they pass on the best player available to fill a positional weakness that might not exist by the time that player’s developed into an NHL’er.

I touched on this topic this week, writing about the Canucks unique situation and how they can leverage that to secure future assets by relieving the Stars of one of their netminders. I lean towards Kari Lehtonen, while we’re on the topic — he’s better than Niemi and more expensive, too, which works in the Canucks’ favour. That’s what the Canucks should do to deal with their goalie situation.

Will they do that? I highly doubt it. It just doesn’t fit their modus operandi. Expecting them to take on close to $6-million in a year’s salary for a future asset which may or may not pan out is a tall ask, too. I want them to make that trade, but I could certainly understand why they wouldn’t. It’s not my money they’re spending.

Assuming they don’t take on a bad Stars’ contract, I would go with what I said earlier and target one of the many young goaltenders with starting experience on the open market. Of those goaltenders, I most prefer Bernier. I’d be more into Mason, if not for the fact that he’s adamant about not wanting to split starts, and that’s a distinct likelihood with Jacob Markstrom already in Vancouver.

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Draft rankings aside, I’m not a huge fan of doing rankings, if for no other reason than I always seem to forget someone and regret their exclusion almost immediately as an article goes live. With that said, I’m going to provide my list of the five best defencemen outside of Erik Karlsson, P.K. Subban and Victor Hedman territory

In no particular order, here are the next five best defencemen in my estimation: Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Mattias Ekholm, Drew Doughty, Oskar Klefbom and Jacob Trouba.

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I think I’ve made clear my stance on splitting up the Sedin twins in previous instances, but again, for posterity, I think it’s a silly idea in the mould of doing something different for the sake of doing something differently. The sum is better than the whole of its parts with these two. It always has been and always will be. Why would anyone mess with that?

The job of a coach is to get the most out of his team. I don’t see how splitting the Sedin twins helps in that regard. Maybe if the Canucks are #TeamTank? That said, I could definitely see Travis Green doing something along those lines. I just hope he doesn’t.

It’s even money that the Vegas Golden Knights ice a roster as good or better than the Canucks. This Canucks team is so bad; I have serious doubts about anyone being bad enough to negatively impact their ability to tank their way into a bottom-three finish.

If I’m trading Chris Tanev, which I think the Canucks should, then I take the best offer available in whatever form it is available to me. This team can’t be picky right now. Their prospect pool isn’t nearly rich enough at the high-end and not nearly deep enough in aggregate. Take help for the future in whatever way it’s available.

Should the Canucks decide to prioritize any of these future assets, though, I lean towards draft picks. As a player gets older, it becomes less likely that they can break out and really shatter expectations. Start with 18-year-olds and see what happens.

Losing Dan Hamhuis was probably more significant a loss than anyone gave credit. It might not seem like it, but Hamhuis put in work for the Stars this season. That loss alone probably puts last year’s defence ahead, if only so slightly — Ben Hutton taking a step back doesn’t help, either.

I watched a lot of London Knights games this season, and that means I was exposed to a fair amount of Olli Juolevi. In my estimation, he would be better than a handful of defencemen the Canucks played this season. If he doesn’t make the roster next season, in some capacity, I don’t think it will be by virtue of readiness.

Jordan Subban probably won’t get one game. He should, but he probably won’t.

  • wojohowitz

    Suppose the twins are both minus 20 by November 1st and the season looks to be lost ten games in. Do you (A) Park them in the press box. (B) Park them on the bench. (C) Keep putting them out there – like Willie did – and watch the whole season turn in to a disaster or (D) Put them on separate lines and let them compete against each other and lessen the damage from having only two working lines – Horvat`s and Gaunce`s – which again is what Willie did.

  • DJ_44

    JD. While you hammer on about taking on a bad contract for Dallas in the form of one of their goaltenders, you neglect to mention that they both have M-NTCs, that can kibosh 15 teams and 8 teams. It is easy (and lazy) to say they “should”, but offer no suggestion as to an acceptable value in return for the dump.

    • Donald's Hat Trick

      With Bishop signed those NTCs are essentially moot. Dallas can even play them off against each other if they both dig in their heels hoping for a buyout, because the consolation prize will be sitting on the bench for 65 games.

      All that being said, Dallas isn’t really over a barrel either with 3 goalies on the roster. Buying one out is probably the worse case scenario, while Vegas is out there in need of both a goalie and meeting the salary floor, so could be encouraged to grab one of them by tossing in a pick or some expendable roster player. I think Benning has missed the boat on potentially getting value from Dallas by taking on one of the two.

    • TheRealPB

      Additionally, while they have a couple of guys coming in for raises, they have a number of big contract vets coming off the books (Sharp, Hemsky, Hudler) as well as the retained salaries for Oduya and Garbutt. This “weaponizing” cap space argument only makes sense if the Stars are really over a barrel. They aren’t — they just have an obscene amount of money dedicated to two bad and one decent goalie. It makes more sense to simply buy one out or swallow the money if their ownership is willing. If not for the get-out-of-jail-free card of the no-cap-charge buyouts there might be an awful lot more teams in their shoes (Islanders and Flyers for example).

  • TrueBlue

    No Brent Burns? I dig the hipster pick of Ekholm though. Nashville is like those crazy Weird Al junk planet dudes from the one true Transformers Movie… doesn’t matter how many they trade away, more D pop out of nowhere to take their place.

  • Sandpaper

    I would take a chance on Mason in net, as he should be a decent tandem with Markstrom.
    Hope the duo, whatever it may be, doesn’t perform lights out, as another high draft pick would be welcome.

  • Double U Tee Eff

    Re the Sedins…..”The sum is better than the whole of its parts with these two. It always has been and always will be.” I’m not sure how JD can be so certain about this when its never been tried. Henrik flourished with different linemates when Daniel was hurt a couple seasons ago. I see splitting them up as a necessity if they continue to play slow, stale, predictable hockey as they did this past season. Right now together they are easily checked and a defensive liability in my view.

    • Seth

      I agree with your sentiment.

      Not just that, I have seen many games last season when they did tried to force some fancy pass only to be picked off and turned around the other way. They have been predictable such that the decision tree for either of them is to pass to their brother 90% of the time. I think even splitting them up for a game or two when things are not working (ie a bad stretch) can already be a sufficient wake up call for them. When they are on their game, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

      JD, you got it reversed.

  • Ragnarok Ouroboros

    If Vegas can sign any RFA without paying compensation to a team, does that mean the Canucks have to worry about Vegas signing Horvat out from under them?

  • TheRealPB

    It’s a little deceptive to pretend that the Vegas teams’ competitiveness and the Canucks’ woes this year are somehow just indicative of the poor makeup of our club. If this team weren’t crippled by injury both of the past two years (and I will allow that the lack of depth and steep decline of the core players don’t help) it wouldn’t have been nearly so bad. And Vegas gets a WAY better starting position than the last two expansion teams and an infinitesimally better start than the ones that preceded them. Remember when we lost Ken Hammond and Rob Murphy in 1992? Or that the first two picks of that expansion draft were Peter Sidorkiewicz and Wendell Young? Yeah, Vegas is pretty lucky they don’t have to deal with that.

    • Donald's Hat Trick

      Crippled by injury last season? Dorsett, Gudbranson and Rodin accounted for the majority of missed games, and in the case of two of them it was addition by subtraction, while Rodin showed promise in preseason but was an unknown. The team did have injuries to key players (Edler, Tanev, Hansen, etc) but the absences were fairly typical as far as injuries are concerned. The team was crippled by poor coaching for two seasons in a row.