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Photo Credit: Matthew Henderson

WWYDW: Jake Virtanen

JD hit the airwaves earlier this week to talk about some of the Canucks’ young bubble players and what the opening night roster will look like. JD and fill-in host Jason Botchford found a lot of common ground, but disagreed on the future of former first-rounder Jake Virtanen.

Virtanen looked good in his rookie season but has faltered since then, failing to make an impact even at the American League level. His boxcar stats indicate that he’s a player who needs seasoning, but he also brings a physical element to his game that the Canucks are sorely lacking. Where would you like to see him start the season?

Last week I asked:

What would you do with Gudbranson? Extend him, trade him, or let me him walk?

Chungus:

I’d evaluate Gudbranson’s upcoming season and determine near the TDL whether to trade, resign, or let him walk.

Betty:

Given that before his injury, Gudbranson and Hutton were one of our more effective defensive pairings, I’d find room for him. If you look at the stats from season start to Nov 30 (a couple weeks before he was removed from the lineup because of his wrist problem which had been bugging him for a couple of weeks), he and Hutton are 2nd and 3rd in SAT, 1st and 2nd SAT ahead, 1st and 2nd SAT tied.
Not to mention, he’s a big defensive guy, the kind who can crush players along the boards, which is extremely helpful in the playoffs (I’d say the only reason Ottawa pushed the Pens as far as they did was because they kept injuring Pens players with big hits.) When he’s healthy, he’s one of our better defenders. Maybe not a top pairing guy but a fantastic 2nd pairing guy.
Gudbranson is a young guy, entering his prime years, Tanev won’t be around forever etc. Let him play this year, see if we can sign him to a 4.5 sort of deal.

Ragnarok Ouroboros:

I don’t think any decision regarding Gubrandson can be made now. He looked really bad last year, but how much of that was due to injury, line mates, and coaching.
Gubrandson needs to be re-evaluated at the trade deadline to see if he fits in with the new system under green. We need to consider how all the young players are affecting the team as a whole since defence is a team game. Gubrandson needs to be healthy so he is performing at his peak abilities and we can get a decent sample size of his play in order to collect some useful analyitic metrics.
Bottom line is we should know at the trade deadline whether we should fish or cut bait with Gubrandson. Given his analytic history to date I’m leaning towards trading him, but I want to see what he can do when healthy.

natevk:

For some reason it sounds like Gudbranson is in the rare position of being valued more by other teams in the NHL than he is worth to the Canucks (although you might argue that he may assist in a tank for next year, which makes him quite valuable to Vancouver…). For that reason, he should be traded and such a trade should be given higher priority by management than a play to move anyone else on the roster, even Tanev (given the perceived vs actual value realities for the two dmen).
Trading Gudbranson isn’t even really about next season, but rather the years down the road when we hope the Canucks will be competitive again. Having $5million or so locked up in a player that maybe will be an effective 3rd-pairing dman on a contender is not a prudent use of resources. If his value is unlikely to improve (which seems to be the case), then the Canucks should cut-bait now and take the pick+prospect that is rumoured to be his potential return.

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  • Canucks Realist

    Once again, ignorant armchair fans not being able to comprehend the true facts.

    Jake was told by management to bulk up (isn’t every young Canucks player) but neglected to keep a careful eye on his off season training regime. After stuffing down all those extra carbs and hitting the weights as told, all the extra weight resulted in a loss of speed and mobility and Jake was then told he was out of shape and summarily thrown under, or on, the bus to Utica by Benning and co after they blew it for themselves and the player.

    Everything about this franchise under LinBenning is shady and inept. It’s a total disgrace.

    • Killer Marmot

      Virtanen showed up at camp 228 lbs last year. That’s huge for a 6’1″ forward. I doubt that management told him to do that, especially with the modern emphasis on speed.

      What’s more it wasn’t all muscle. His teammates kidded him for being fat.

      • Moderated Post

        So you’re saying that management either didn’t tell him how much weight he should put on, or that he ignored what they said because the burgers were so good?

          • Moderated Post

            So you’re saying that Virtanen has character issues then, since he took it for granted that he’d be on the team and really slacked over the summer bulking up +10%. You’d think a drafting guru like Benning would have skipped such a problem child, or maybe paid someone to keep an eye on him.

          • Moderated Post

            So it’s kind of like one big guessing game then, eh? Like, you agree to give a kid a milly a year for 3 then just hope he stays hungry? Oops, bad pun.

          • Killer Marmot

            Moderated Post: When you’re drafting 17 year olds, guessing how disciplined they will be as they mature is an inexact science. Nor can management force anyone to make the right decisions.

            Having said that, all is not lost. Virtanen had a rough 2016, but he has the talent to play in the NHL, and he may well have learned a few things. He has a chance to fight his way back onto the roster this fall.

    • There’s little you can do to your body in a couple of months that can’t be undone in a couple of months (fitness-wise, at least). This may be an explanation for Virtanen’s slow start, but it doesn’t explain his season from December on.

      • Ron

        yeah agreed Rolland. I have long thought Killer Marmot is a serial troll and look how many times he posts on one thread with his condescending nonsense. Real weird.

        Hopefully the mods here are doing a much needed cleanup campaign as i haven’t seen a post from Bud Poille and many of the trolls all day – it’s refreshing to see tbh. Let’ get bck to hockey plz.

        As for Virtanan he’s obviously a bust after being picked at 5, and is not the power forwrd he was drafted to be. Cut bait and move on, players come and go, especially on the Canucks.

        • Juice

          Dude, how could he not be a troll with a username like killer marmot (wtf!). You’re right man, this thread has awesome comments for a change with just the one troll ruining it (marmot) but hey, he’s easy to scroll past. Great work mods, i may even be able to let my 9 year old son read the board again after all the foul mouthed diatribes of the last few months.

          Anyway, let’s see if Jake can light it up in the A by Xmas and if so call him up! That’s all the incentive he should need.

          • Beef jyrki

            Killer marmot is just stating true facts. Virtanen was over weight and played himself on to utica. He is big, tough and talented. Lets see if he can earn himself a spot on this team, if not, another year in utica at his age doesn’t hurt. He is worth holding on for another year to see how he matures

      • crofton

        My comment…”he does, you’re right” was in response to Rolland calling the Canucks Realist the troll. If that was wrong, I take it back, and will say it here…Canucks Realist sounds just like the troll who has been frequenting this site. And to Ron and Juice…..please explain to me how Killer Marmot’s comment was trolling…and if indeed you’re “going to let your 8 y/o son read the board again” because all the “foul mouthed diatribes” are gone…..I suggest you find an Alternate Fact for your term (wtf!). That’s the only foul mouthed diatribe I have seen here today.

        • RoCkFaThEr

          I have a feeling why we keep seeing the same new named poster pop up on these boards is because the person is too dumb to remember their password to go along with their username so they have to create a new account.
          How’s it hanging “Ron” ….
          Yeah….Marmots the troll..lmao

  • Gregthehockeynut

    If this is the last year for the Sedins then 2 top six spots will suddenly be available. Utica makes the most sense for Jake this year. Ideally he will progress and end up on Horvat’s wing. Perhaps even Gaunce on the other side for a reincarnation of the legion of doom line from the Lindros era.

    • truthseeker

      Why would it be the last year? What happens if the Sedins pull a Jagr and have a good to great season? I for sure want them back on yearly deals.

      Why is it that many of you seem to think that if they bring the Sedins back it will be at the same contract value and same “first line” placing? There is room for them on the team in other configurations.

  • Killer Marmot

    Last year, Virtanen showed up in training camp overweight and out of shape, and his season never recovered from that. Sometimes young players don’t understand what it takes to make it in the big leagues. But the good thing is that they can and do learn.

    So what to do? If Virtanen shows up at camp lean and fit then wipe the slate clean and assess him precisely as you would any other promising prospect.

    And if he doesn’t then cut him early and start putting out trade feelers. The Canucks had many flaws last year, but lack of effort and dedication wasn’t one of them. That needs to be maintained.

  • Ragnarok Ouroboros

    When I look at the number of Canucks that are signed to one way contracts, I would say that the decision regarding Virtannen has already been made. He will be playing in Utica. How many players are potentially exposed to waivers if Virtannen is kept with the club? I think Virtannen will and should be playing for Utica this year. He needs the minutes to build his confidence and to learn to play better. People talk about his great possession numbers in the NHL as a justification for keeping him in the NHL, but in this instance I would say the statistics don’t pass the smell test. I remember watching Virtannen in the NHL and pucks would die on his stick. He was never able to make a pass in the offensive zone that didn’t get turned over. Virtannen runs a very high risk of being a bust and he should be given all the time he needs to develop in the AHL. Only bring him up when he is ready, and hope he can eventually be good enough to play on the third line.

    • ManicSt

      Goldobin, Boeser, and Molino are all waivers exempt – it’s the games played and not the contract that determines waiver (in)eligibility. You still have a good point though, management might want him to play in an offensive role while they take a chance on guys like Rodin and Boucher. If Burmistrov would clear waivers, I could see him centering a first line in Utica w Goldobin and Virtanen; lots of speed, and it gives the two 21 year old wingers a chance to develop some chemistry and get experience being go-to guys.

  • Lemmy Kilmister

    Keep him down in Utica and call him up if there is a rash of injuries and if his performance is warranted, another year away from the media spotlight will probably help as well.

  • Burnabybob

    Unless Virtanen shows DRAMATIC improvement at training camp, he should start the season in Utica. I would be far more inclined to give a roster spot to Goldobin, who looks much more NHL-ready than Virtanen does. Virtanen did show some improvement in the second half of last season, and hopefully he can build on it. But putting him in the crosshairs of the Vancouver media would not be in his or the team’s interests at this point.

  • We are going to like this years version of Virtanen. I just hope Green makes room for him. Jake is waiver exempt, so it’s easy to have him start in Utica and be available for call up, when needed.
    Waiver requirements put guys like Jake at a disadvantage to make the big team.

  • detox

    call me crazy, but Gudbranson and Hutton struggled at times last season. looked really out of sync. Gudbranson even said some stuff to the media about Hutton having to improve. and not long after Gudbranson shut it down for the season.

  • Sandpaper

    No gifting of spots to anyone. If a player does not perform then they should not be on the team.
    Whether it be Jake, Brock, Reid or even the anchor Loui, you don’t perform the role that is assigned to you, then you sit in press box or sent to minors.
    Pretty simple. Although I hope Jake makes team.

    • Killer Marmot

      Eriksson has a no-movement clause which means that you can’t send him to the minors, although you can have him piloting the press box as a healthy scratch.

      • Holly Wood

        I think Eriksson has proven over the course of his career to be a solid 2nd or 3rd line winger. His play without the puck is solid, unfortunately his offence fell off a cliff after he was awarded first line salary. Hopefully he gets a few early goals and gets started off on the right foot

  • ManicSt

    A big part of JV’s problem last year was his workout regime – he was too bulky and didn’t have the cardiovascular conditioning to play a shift at a high pace. If he’s thinner and spends more time on his stamina, I don’t see any reason why he can’t get back to where he was as a rookie. The biggest question to me isn’t whether he can make the team this season, but whether he’s got the ability to be anything more than an energetic third-liner in the future.

  • Billy Pilgrim

    Honestly evaluate him. It would be wise for Green to define the role that they expect him to play right off the hop. As a high draft choice who had a decent rookie season, those expectations should be more than 4th line grinder. Green knows him well, and probably has a good idea of what his ceiling is. I expect 3rd line winger who provides energy and secondary scoring would be the goal for this year. If he can’t do it better than another roster player, then send him down.

  • Virtanen should start in Utica. Even if he has an impressive training camp, I think he still needs to prove himself in the AHL first. But I hope that Cull puts Virtanen in the Top 6 with his offensive peers / prospect group (e.g. Molino, Dahlen, Goldobin, Carcone) rather than keeping him on the 3rd line with AHL veterans Bancks and Hamilton. He had all season plus this offseason to change his work ethic, I’d like to see if he’s really learned anything. Can he can stay in the Top 6 or if he needs to be put back with other veterans for more mentorship? We’ll only find out if Cull gives him a chance.

  • Son of a son

    Virtanen reminds me of Curtis Lazar, began his career as a hot commodity but eventually slowed down. Maybe a trade could help rejuvenate his career, but otherwise I see more value in keeping him with Utica and hope he improves.

  • TheRealPB

    JD’s suggested a few times that the main problem with Virtanen wasn’t that he was out of shape (though that didn’t help) but rather his inability to process the game meant that a more structured system was beyond him. It’s hard to know how much of that is true — he didn’t look out of place on many occasions his first year but he did bounce around the lineup a fair bit and by last year he really did seem to be sent to some kind of remedial program. It’s hard to know how much of that really took hold but we’re just two years removed from when he looked so good on Horvat and Baertschi’s wing — can he really have become that much worse? It seems popular here to say that he’s no better than Raffia Torres but Virtanen hasn’t lost that exceptional shot (though the speed wasn’t helped by the weights workouts) which I think set him above the 3rd liner he is so quickly dismissed as. I have also seen Horvat described here as no more than a 3rd liner a few years ago and Gaunce as unlikely to make the NHL. It seems far too early to write Virtanen off — as others have noted, it comes down to how he does in training camp and what space there is for him. I’d still rather see him get a top six role in Utica than a fourth line one in Vancouver (though I would take him in a 3rd line role for now).

    • truthseeker

      Again, it’s examples of people viewing stats and projections as conclusions. And then they act all surprised when a kid becomes more than those stats and projections.

      Horvat was a 9th over all pick. Nobody should be surprised by what he’s achieved. Not only that….they should be surprised when he becomes an 80 point player. Cause he probably will. He’s showing a very “Jamie Benn” type career arc.

      As for Virtanen…..we’ll just have to wait and see. I hope he puts it together, but you never know.

    • Dirty30

      There was some speculation that Jake might have injured his shoulder and/or been told to change up how he finished his hits which seemed to introduce a hesitation to his game that seemed to affect his positioning on the ice. He seemed at times to want to go for a hit — hesitate — and the play went past him. Hard to determine whether he was protecting a shoulder or trying to interpret directives from the coaching staff or both.

      Yeah, he had a bit of a crap year in Utica, and having a better year in Utica would likely do him a lot of good, particularly if he can progress his game in way that allows him to sustain it. It seems like his first year in Utica was about showing his commitment to being a pro — this year would be a good time to show that he can be a role-player and make something out of it.

  • jaybird43

    Clearly Virts needs to show up reasonably strong, and fit for sure. 205-210 is my guess. Then he needs to play goid hockey and be a difference maker, somehow. If he’s good enough, then give him appropriate minutes. If he’s not, and follows last year’s AHL regime, then he’s gonna skate his way out if the pro’s and far away from the promise he showed when drafted. 90% of this is in Virt’s hands; if he wants it bad enough, it’ll show. We’ll see in September.

  • Doodly Doot

    Let see what happens in training camp. Whether he makes the big club or heads to Utica, both are excellent. I think the key is that he plays… a lot! He’ll be 21 in August. Still so young! I wish someone would start calling these guys journeymen. None of our prospects should ‘expect’ to make the big club. Ever. I feel like JV should look carefully at the journeyman paths of Bear and Granny, to understand that everything you did ‘before’ getting drafted is merely prep for the real work necessary to transform into a real NHLer. If his desire and hunger for the real work grows and becomes natural, he’ll make himself into an excellent teammate on the big club. Go for it Jake. Head down and out-work everyone around you. Every day. The Cup is calling. Never forget.

  • Fortitude00

    A lot of opinions here and I don’t get it because training camp hasn’t shown us any of the prospects. JV should start where he deserves to play after he proves himself in training camp or shows he isn’t ready.

  • chris16w

    I agree with JD that he should start in Utica, and no matter what. He shouldn’t be evaluated exactly the same as other prospects because he’s already endured multiple failures and is likely rebuilding his confidence. That’s not the kind of thing that a franchise can navigate more than once per player (eg. Kassian, Baertschi). Bring him up only if/when he is consistently excelling in Utica.