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Photo Credit: Matthew Henderson

Canucks Army Monday Mailbag: July 17th

Let’s be real — Adam Gaudette should be allowed to wear whatever number he wants.

¯\_(ツ)_/¯

I’ve heard nothing about this rumour from sources I trust, so I wouldn’t worry too, too much. Besides, it doesn’t make any sense based on the Canucks’ language. Canucks general manager Jim Benning said that they wouldn’t trade Chris Tanev unless they get a young defenceman who can step into his role. I don’t get the sense that the Canucks have any desire to trade Tanev, and if they do, it’s not going to be for a winger.

I think the Canucks roster isn’t going to change much between now and September, if at all. What you see is what you get.

Using the word “progression” implies he’s taken steps forward, but that’s really not the case. Cole Cassels is 22-years-old and has scored at a pace of 0.13 points per game in the AHL. When Cassels left the OHL, I thought there was a reasonable chance he could develop into a third line centre. Now, I think the Canucks would be lucky to salvage a player capable of filling a 13th forward role. My opinion of Cassels? I don’t think him worth an NHL contract to keep him in the organization at the expiration of Cassels’ entry-level contract.

Let’s not get carried away here. Thatcher Demko is a hell of a goalie prospect, and he’s likely the Canucks’ goalie of the future. I wouldn’t go so far as to suggest his ceiling is that of the best goalie in the world. Demko isn’t even the best goalie prospect at this stage of his career, so let’s just manage our expectations accordingly.

The reality of the situation is that Demko is more likely to be a bust than the world’s best goaltender. It’s just the nature of drafting and developing players from the draft onward. That’s why we preach a volume approach at Canucks Army. It’s also why we give the Michael DiPietro selection our stamp of approval, for whatever that’s worth.

I can’t remember when or where I heard this, but I feel like the Canucks have come out and said that they will handle the Sedin twins on a year-to-year basis following this contract. And, yes, I tend to think that’s the best scenario for everyone involved.

It’s hard to say what the Sedins are worth at this stage in their career, but they’re probably in line for something of a pay cut from the $7-million they made annually on their last deal. My best guess is something between $4-million and $5-million.

The Vegas Golden Knights will definitely best No Horvat’s point production. They’ll probably out-do the Canucks, too.

Yes, the Canucks should sign a veteran free agent to a one-year deal to add to their asset base at the trade deadline. And if I were in their shoes, I’d look at signing Jaromir Jagr to a one year deal to play him with the Sedin twins and flip at the deadline.

I wouldn’t offer John Tavares a max contract as the Canucks or any other team for that matter. If Connor McDavid can’t get a contract at maximum value and term for the prime years of his career, I don’t think anyone should.

Tavares is going to be 27-years-old when he hits the market. That operates under the assumption that he’ll even get to market period. I’m willing to bet Tavares stays on Long Island. If he doesn’t, then the Canucks, in this hypothetical scenario, are paying for years outside of his prime. I don’t know if John Tavares at his peak is worth the max deal, but when he’s in his 30s, he certainly won’t be.

I would just let the Sedins decide their fate. Offer them one-year deals at the end of each season starting this year and let them retire on their own terms. They’ve earned that right.

If I expect a surprise, is it still really a surprise? In this case, I think it’s Brendan Gaunce who’s going to surprise everyone. If he can become even an average skater, Gaunce is capable of putting up somewhere between 10-15 goals a season. He’s far too smart a player to remain this unproductive.

Olli Juolevi.

  1. Nikolaj Ehlers
  2. William Nylander
  3. Nick Ritchie
  4. Kevin Fiala
  5. Robby Fabbri

HockeyData’s DTMAboutHeart, the creator of the WAR (Wins Above Replacement) and GAR (Goals Above Replacement) metrics for players and teams, created a Coaching GAR, too. In fact, I saw some of the coaching data for the last few seasons after he was kind enough to send it my way.

Want a Canucks-centric observation? Of course you do! Former Canucks head coach Willie Desjardins was right around the league average in terms of impact on his team’s ability to win games. Go figure.

Nope.

I’d imagine this varies from owner to owner, and the situation each is in with their respective franchise. If you have the option to take a long-term approach — a luxury some ownership groups can’t afford –, then most owners will make sustainability a significant part of how they approach their hockey operations.

I’ve heard nothing but great things about Canucks head coach Travis Green. From what I can gather, he’s a highly intelligent coach who gets the most of his roster like clockwork. I wouldn’t put it past Green to improve the Canucks for next season.

It’s paramount that Green improve on Desjardins player deployment and usage. I tend to think we overstate how large the negative impact of a coach’s deployment decisions, but in the case of Desjardins, he was so significantly bad at utilizing his lineup that it probably did have a fairly significant impact.

Loui Eriksson: Scores north of 50 points and has the best overall impact of any Canuck forward.

Erik Gudbranson: Doesn’t score and continues to struggle at controlling play at even strength.

Jake Virtanen: Scores at a much better pace on an offensive powerhouse Utica Comets lineup.

If the Canucks have another year like last, and that’s a distinct possibility, I expect some changes in the front office. Specifically, I think Benning loses his job.

I hate to do this to you, but I’m going to make you snap. My ideal fourth line for the Canucks out of training camp is one that includes Brandon Sutter, Brendan Gaunce and Alexander Burmistrov.

It’s Jason Demers, apparently.

If the Canucks wanted to get a package of futures, though, I’m sure they could get a package similar to what they paid for Gudbranson in the first place. For reasons that escape me, Gudbranson has serious cachet among the league’s brain trust.

The deadline for a Bo Horvat extension is probably training camp. I wouldn’t worry about this stretching out.

I seem to recall the league flirting with the idea of implementing chips in the player’s jerseys to provide better live stats tracking, but I don’t think anything ever took off with that. There are companies out there, like HockeyData, who manually track player data in the most detailed ways imaginable, though. It’s not exactly what you described, but it’s in the ball park.

I’ve told my agent to reach out to the Canucks, and have yet to hear back. Weird, I know.

Yes.

In no particular order:

  • Joy Division – Unknown Pleasures
  • Eazy-E – Str8 Off Tha Streetz of Muthaphukkin Compton
  • Jane’s Addiction – Nothing’s Shocking
  • Kendrick Lamar – Good Kid M.A.A.D City
  • Manic Street Preachers – The Holy Bible
  • Nas – Illmatic
  • Pink Floyd – The Piper at the Gates of Dawn
  • Nirvana – In Utero
  • Smashing Pumpkins – Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness
  • New Order – Movement

*This list subject to change at a moment’s notice.

**I know I’ve probably forgotten an obvious album that should be there.

That’s just silly. First of all, you’re not even asking me to answer a question — you’re asking me to tell you what you want to hear. Sorry, that’s just not how this site operates. And Virtanen was legitimately terrible last year. The team adopted a far more structured system, and shockingly the player who struggles to process the game looked genuinely lost.

We’ve been fair to Virtanen in this space, so let’s not pretend this hasn’t been the case. I wrote at length in his first year with the Canucks about the way his speed positively impacts the game and how some of his underlying metrics reflect as much.

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  • Locust

    “For reasons that escape me, Gudbranson has serious cachet among the league’s brain trust.”

    That’s because the ‘leagues brain trust’ looks at everything that makes a hockey player – not just stats.

    • TheRealPB

      But even if you didn’t look just at stats – advanced or boxcars – I agree with JD that it’s a little baffling as to why Gudbranson is held in such high esteem. I am hoping it was just the injury holding him back and there was something more that made him such a fan favorite in Florida. But honestly when I watched him last year I was really surprised — his decision making seemed so poor in his own zone, with him much more likely to either clear the puck off the glass and out and give away possession than to make a crisp first pass, his gap control not particularly great, and especially with speedy forwards in our conference seemingly getting trapped in no-man’s land, not clearing the front of the net and not shutting down shots from the high slot either. Yes, the injury didn’t help and yes he and Hutton didn’t make a great pairing. I also didn’t love him (like Sutter) throwing a young player under the bus with his comments. That is NOT great leadership to me and it’s the exact opposite of what the Sedins or Miller have done even when they are all likely far more frustrated.

      • Bud Poile

        Defensive d-men that clear the net front,pummel opponents,create space for weak(er) teammates and create what they call a ‘good working environment’ is not measured by a statistic.
        That’s why scribes crunch numbers and Guddy makes 3.5 per.

        • TheRealRusty

          Kool aid Bud strikes again! 😂
          At no point watching him play last year that I can I say that
          1) he was our most physical crease clearing defenceman (honours go to Sbisa)
          2) he was a good teammate providing a good working environment for young players( throwing Hutton under the bus)

          Nice try though…

        • Dirk22

          Thanks Bud. You’re insight is once again spot on: a) Gudbranson is better at hockey than bloggers b) you’re hockey IQ caps out at cliches such as ‘clearing the net front’ and ‘creating space’ – essentially what you can learn from coaches corner!

          • Bud Poile

            Let’s tally,shall we?
            Benning and Tallon both willing to trade for Gudbranson.
            All three were junior all-star d-men.
            Tallon and Benning played between 600-650 NHL games each.
            Gudbranson has played 350.
            Tallon and Benning have Stanley cup rings managing,acquiring and developing NHL players.
            Tallon negotiates with Benning to reacquire Guddy now that the stats personnell are relocated.
            Dirk,PB and the author have no idea why.
            PQW/ENFORCER/PSYCH MAJOR will complete this ensemble.

        • TheRealPB

          By your logic I should take Milbury or Cherry’s rants seriously because they had pro careers. Experience is not a guarantee of anything — ask the teams run by Gretzky and Jordan about that. I’m not saying that experience doesn’t play a role, but the reason for trusting Benning or Tallon has to do with what they’ve done in management, not what they did in junior hockey or the pros as players. I also am not sure why this has to be an either-or proposition. I’ve clearly stated here that the eye-test with Guddy fails as much as the advanced stats do. I’m hoping it was a combination of injury and a bad fit with his partner. But just appealing to authority isn’t in any way a convincing argument that Gudbranson is any good.

        • You can measure that by a dozen different statistics. Defensemen who clear the net, create space, and effectively separate opponents from the puck typically have strong possession numbers, even strength goal differential, WAR and GAR, etc.

          If you’re showing below-average across the board on advanced stats, and you’re below-average in conventional/counting stats, then you’re below average, full stop.

          Gudbranson is fine as a third pairing guy, but he’s never going to anchor the top four. That’s clear by the underlying numbers, and it’s clear from the eye test.

      • Fred-65

        Funny I suggested to Benning that Gudbranson was a off the glass and out style D and He replied yeah I know what you mean, so they understand. We have to know who participated in making this decision/trade, which Pro Scouts give the recommendation

    • Dirty30

      Just for the fun of it — there’s a saying that if you can’t measure it, it doesn’t exist. In other words, the putative factors about a player that scouts/coaches and managers purport to ‘see’ are simply impressions, illusions, beliefs, opinions, and thoughts that can’t be objectively measured, replicated, or in the case of qualitative observation, independently triangulated.

      Gudbranson matches the prototypical ideal of what some people believe a defenseman should be but the reality is that there are many players who put up way better numbers than Gudbranson who have few, if any, of those characteristics except that they are better D by virtue of their numbers.

      My belief is that lots of people see what they want to see with Gudbranson and that includes their belief that he has all the characteristics of a good D-man … but then, so did Sbisa and a host of other ‘models’ that never performed up to expectations.

      • Peachy

        If you can’t measure it, either it doesn’t exist, or your measurement tools aren’t good enough. Given the poor quality of publicly available data (I’m as much a Corsi / Fenwick fan as anybody) there’s reasonable cases to be made on both sides sometimes. And appeal to expert authority (coach / GM decisions) isn’t necessarily the worst option.

        Furthermore, there’s a truism that you can’t measure something without changing it, and that market ineffiencies are generally rapidly exploited in competite markets. That’s a long way of saying that it is quite possible that Corsi has been sufficiently exploited (or perhaps even over valued) such that it’s predictive value from five years ago no longer holds quite as true. Perhaps this is what’s happening with the LA Kings (persistently high Corsi / low GF.)

        For the record, I think Gubby case falls into the “doesn’t exist” pile.

  • detox

    “If the Canucks have another year like last, and that’s a distinct possibility, I expect some changes in the front office. Specifically, I think Benning loses his job.”

    Isn’t this kind of crazy, likely though, but still crazy? Benning inherits a team full of ntc’s and no depth, tries to straddle competitive and rebuilding but gets poor results. Poor results turn into pretty good drafting. everyone is going on about the need to tank and that is what they are getting.
    So now is a good time to fire the guy. nuts.

    Is all the Benning hate because he signed a few ufa’s to multi year contracts?

    baby with the bath water.

    • Dirk22

      Canucks prospect pool is growing due to some high picks and finally moving veterans out for prospects. Problem is this should have started in 2014 not 2017. Too many moves aimed at trying to keep them competitive instead of building for the future. Leading up to this draft Canucks had only one 2 rounder in 3 years – brutal

      • defenceman factory

        I completely agree with you about starting in 2014. I have trouble believing Benning was hired and instantly created the whole retool on the fly agenda. It seems more likely this was ownership’s agenda to get right back into the playoffs. I don’t like the players signed during this phase and Benning’s moves failed but I don’t think he has sole blame for delaying a rebuild.

        A better power play and solid contributions from 3 or 4 more Benning acquisitions and he will get more time. I don’t think anyone expects (or maybe even wants) a big move up the standings this season.

    • I think that Benning deserves one more chance now that he’s refocused on a steady build through the draft. If Benning is truly an expert at extracting value through the draft, then I’d be interested in seeing him not only field a competitive team in 2-3 years but see if he can build a sustainable prospect pipeline that can keep the roster fresh (e.g. Detroit) and still have excess talent to flip (e.g. Chicago).

  • TheRealPB

    I think your top five should’ve drafted is way too based on the last five years and on players that have been good but not great and comparing them with players who we still don’t know how they’ll pan out. I think Kesler over Perry, Bergeron and Backes, Grabner over Giroux, White over Perron, Hodgson over Karlsson, Jensen over Rakell, and Gaunce over Pearson are all way more egregious. Your music list is pretty on-point though.

    • That’s not really fair – with the exceptions of Jensen and White, none of these are actually misses though – all those players have passed the 200GP mark (or in Gaunce’s case, likely will). Hodgson’s a bust for injury and off-ice reasons (and still topped the 200GP mark) and Kesler and Grabner have both had excellent careers. The only one of these that was a legitimately bad pick was White.

  • Killer Marmot

    My ideal fourth line for the Canucks out of training camp is one that includes Brandon Sutter, Brendan Gaunce and Alexander Burmistrov.

    I’m hoping to see Gagner on the fourth line. He’s a power play expert but weak defensively, so the fourth line is perfect.

    Another 4th-liner to consider is Molino. Very fast, solid defensively, was impressive in the prospects camp, and might find a place on the penalty kill.

  • “For reasons that escape me, Gudbranson has serious cachet among the league’s brain trust.”

    Dude, have you SEEN Gudbranson’s recent modeling photos? The reasons are pretty clear.

    I wish one Canuck would chose a piece of avant garde art/prog rock as a goal song. Some rhythmically complicated synth noodling with theatrical vocals is exactly what I want to hear at a hockey game.

  • livininvic

    Mr. Burke, I come here for the hockey analysis, and much of what you write gives you a lot of credibility, in my eyes… However, your desert island top 10 list has improved my opinion of you more than anything else you’ve ever posted 😛

  • Big D, little d

    Wait a minute.

    “Former Canucks head coach Willie Desjardins was right around the league average in terms of impact on his team’s ability to win games.”

    But then:

    “in the case of Desjardins, he was so significantly bad at utilizing his lineup that it probably did have a fairly significant impact.”

    Which is it? Either by objective, measurable results Desjardins was about average, or else you go with your own subjective gut instinct that he was terrible. It’s disingenuous to try to have it both ways.

    For the briefest of instants I thought we might get a rational assessment of Desjardins tenure with the Canucks but then you fell right back to the lazy “Willie was terrible” trope.

  • When you crunch the numbers from an owner’s perspective, it’s hard to argue for no playoffs in any year. If we ballpark some numbers, if the average ticket price is $250 @ 18,600 seats (nosebleeds to club seats), that’s $4.7M per home game without including extras like concession, parking and merchandise. Since players don’t get paid for their work in the playoffs (salaries are purely regular season), then a team with home advantage can gross $18.6M over 4 home games. And if they make it through to the next round, ticket prices go up. So if the decision is flame out in the first round 3x and earn $9.4M+ every year or earn nothing for 3 years and then maybe make up for some lost income by getting into rounds 2+, the numbers scream “make the playoffs every year.” Mike Ilitch must have loved owning the Red Wings.

    • Canuck4Life20

      I disagree because ticket prices go up for each round. One trip to a Conference Final even would be worth way more than three first round exits in my opinion. Not to mention an increase in merchandise sales. If you can sell to your ownership that three years of missing the playoffs means at least one trip to the second round and one to the third over the next three years you would be further ahead.

      • But that argument weakens when you consider that anything could happen once you’re in. If one factored in even one fluke round in Year 1 where they somehow got into Round 2, that makes the threshold even higher for the “tank now, be better in 3+” argument. We’ve seen that even relatively strong teams like Chicago or San Jose have a good chance of getting knocked out in the 1st round. Also, you have all season to make it into Round 1 so if you start strong when everyone is still sorting themselves out, you can still squeak into the playoffs. Getting into the playoffs is way more forgiving than getting into Rounds 2+, IMHO.

    • Just as follow-up, Forbes had an NHL 2016 valuation which showed the revenues and operating incomes of teams, those figures probably include playoff income. NYR, Montreal and Toronto had operating incomes of about $70M while the rest had operating incomes closer to $30M. Canucks came in around $29M in operating income. You can see how an extra $10M+ from Round 1 can make a huge impact on their bottom lines.

      https://www.forbes.com/nhl-valuations/#6f960c901b2e

    • Rodeobill

      This kinda lends itself to reconsidering the “more teams in the playoffs” question earlier in he bag. Profit is (not so)secretly the alpha and omega of it all in the hockey “biz.” You can see a scenario where the owners would definitely push for it.

    • Andy

      (Cont) – there’s quite a bit of hindsight bias involved in his success. CanucksArmy’s own prospect summary listed him as a big ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ in terms of rankings.

      More than anything, Ritchie’s success furthers the argument that Anaheim’s development program/system for prospects is above average, if not exceptional.

  • LTFan

    I agree with your assessment of JV. I would certainly like to be wrong but I cannot see him playing many games in the NHL this season. He has the physical tools but doesn’t seem to process the game the way he has to, to play in the NHL.

  • Gregthehockeynut

    I agree that Gaunce has untapped potential. Do the Canucks have a dedicated power skating coach? If not, they should hire the coach that helped Horvat progress so well.

    • I’m glad that VGK didn’t draft Gaunce, that’s who I would have picked if I was McPhee. Anyone who thinks that Gaunce is a nobody needs to look at his last AHL highlight package. In one of the earlier clips, Gaunce outskates Drouin for a breakaway, I think his skating is there. Gaunce failed last year because Desjardins did not put him in a position to succeed. I hope Green gives him middle-six scoring opportunities so we can see if he can translate his AHL scoring game into an NHL game.

      Brendan Gaunce AHL 2015-2016 highlights: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=84PKztRuaW0

  • Killer Marmot

    Within minutes I count 7 posts arguing with the writer’s points because they are points they don’t want to hear.

    I believe that disagreeing with the writer is allowed and even encouraged. Bonus points if it’s polite and well argued.

  • Canuck4Life20

    If you were anywhere near as smart as you and your multiple accounts seem to think you are you would understand that there is a big difference between Burke not being willing to tell people what they want to hear and him expecting everyone to agree with his points of view.

  • Canuck4Life20

    This comment doesn’t make much sense now that the original post was removed, but thanks to Canucks Army for finally doing something about this guy.