Photo Credit: Matthew Henderson

Canucks Army Monday Mailbag: July 31st – Part Deux

I can’t say with any certainty whether the Canucks will pursue Will Butcher when he fits unrestricted free agency. They should consider putting the full court press on Butcher, but that’s not my call to make. One could imagine the Canucks looking at their blue line and the inherent lack of size and snarl — to say nothing of the lack of openings — therein and wondering if there’s room for an undersized left-shot offensive defenceman in the group.

As for whether the Canucks should be put off by Butcher’s decision to invoke his CBA rights to hit unrestricted free agency at the end of his collegiate career, the answer is a firm no. It’s common practice for a team to draft a player, before eventually opting not to sign them, and one needn’t look any further for a Canucks example than Tate Olson and Carl Neill as examples. Teams walk away from players all the time, and nobody thinks twice of it. That one would demonize the player who just wants to choose where he plays rather than the team who so often decides on a whim whether a player has what it takes or not is a peculiar phenomenon.

As a general rule, one should usually take the player’s side in these matters.

Jared Bednar of the Colorado Avalanche.

Perhaps Ken Hitchcock’s defensive systems are the yin to the Dallas Stars unfettered offensive yang? I don’t hate that marriage. There’s no denying that the Stars needed to improve drastically on the back end, and I think Hitchcock is as sound a bet for improvement in that department as any coach on the market. I expect the group of young defensive prospects in Dallas to benefit tremendously from Hitchcock’s tutelage, and that’s going to help with transitioning play to the high-end offensive stars that have carried Dallas these last few years.

Well, let’s be fair to Canucks general manager Jim Benning. If there’s one thing we shouldn’t take issue with, it’s the volume approach he took to this off-season. I’m a huge believer in internal competition pushing the cream of one’s organization to the top, and if you go through the history of sport, you’ll find all the most successful teams share that commonality in approach. I don’t agree with a lot of what the Canucks have done — and haven’t done — this off-season, but I don’t think one should question the amount of low-risk flyers they took on players in free agency. It’s a win-win for the Canucks. If their prospects can’t beat out retreads like Alexander Burmistrov and Patrick Wiercioch, well, they were never worth the time of day on an NHL roster anyway, and it likely means you’re getting more than you might have initially expected out of those players. Alternatively, their prospects rise to the occasion, and the Canucks suddenly possess one of the deepest farm teams in the league.

Another thing to consider is that the Canucks have a handful of quality young players set to his restricted or unrestricted free agency, and almost all of them require new contracts. Oh, and the Sedin twins. That cap space might evaporate before the Canucks have the opportunity to drop a dime on the open market.

That season has a pGPS of 69% and Exp. Points per 82 of 42.0

  • Josh Misfeldt

    JD, you make some good points but also some really odd conclusions. As much as the newly signed players might increase the internal competition, they all have one way contracts. The prospects don’t have a chance to play for Canucks and that is little bit concerning when you look at how Boeser played in those 9 games last season. There are currently 12 forwards on one way deals. That is nothing to be positive about. I feel like you lean too much on visual aspects over analytics and underlying numbers. The leafs never had internal competition when they were terrible and now nobody cares because they are good. The internal competition saying Is very relatable to other old man terms such as Bennings centre iceman comments.

    • Billy Pilgrim

      Why the concern over one-way contracts? You can still send them down, you just have to pay them. Losing a free agent signing on waivers is not the end of the world if a prospect beats him out. Trades are possible as well. Roster are not set on July 31.

    • DJ_44

      The one-way contract argument is the typical strawman; one-way contracts mean prospects do not have a chance to play. Nonsense. One-way or two-way only affects what they get paid if they are playing in the AHL. I does not mean they have to stay with the NHL club.

      This whole comment could be the script of a Tony Gallagher TSN radio hit …..like verbatim.

      Competition means that the prospect has to be good enough to beat out another professional hockey player to make the club. It also means that they do not remain with the club if they are not performing or struggling at the NHL level.

      I have little doubt that Boeser will be on the starting NHL roster when the season begins. Not because he is a prospect, because he is a excellent player, that showed not only offense in his 9 game stint, but also a pretty good awareness of the play and defensive positioning. Rodin, if healthy, will get a shot. Megna, Chaput, Boucher, Burmistrov, and to a lesser extent Gaunce, have to play very well or they will be down in Utica. Same with Biega and Wiercoch on defence.

      Injuries happen, and then those playing well in Utica will get the call. I am also rooting for Virtanen to make the lineup, however if he is sent down, with a Chaput, Megna or Burmistrov, then he will have quality offensive players in the AHL to play with.

      • Moderated Post

        It’s total fantasy to think that roster decisions are made during 2 week preseasons when half the team (and coaching staff) is in China on some NHL gimmick. The roster is made in the offseason, and Green even said it during his first press conference, the kids will shuttle back and forth.

        Sure, a guy can lose his spot if he takes the summer off, but you’re not going to be signing many free agents if you start waiving them subjectively before they have even played a real game.

    • The_Blueline

      I agree with JD about internal competition. For it t work, JB should not be hesitant to put older players on waivers if they are outplayed by prospects (e.g. keeping Biega over Stecher). There are Biegas and Chaputs on waivers every week, so one should not be afraid to waive them if they do not make the cut.

  • Dan-gles

    My understanding is We can start a player on a one way in the minors if we put him there before the end of the last day of preseason. So if a player like virtanen beats out a guy like Rodin for a roster spot we could start Rodin in Utica without him having to clear waivers. Should virtanen underperform in the NHL and require a demotion we could still call Rodin back up without virtanen having to clear waivers. But now if you want to send Rodin down he would have to clear waivers. If I am correct then why would you have an issue with a volume approach to the cheap free agent signings. If one of them has an adequte season it’s a win. (Please light it up gagner!)

    • DJ_44

      That’s not how waivers (or waiver eligibility works). If a player is waiver eligible based on games played or age, or not on a ELC, then he must clear waivers whenever he is sent down to the AHL. That is why there is a glut of players on the waiver wire as the preseason draws to a close and the NHL team cuts down to the 23 man roster.

      Exceptions are being sent down for conditioning stints, and also if a player has already cleared waivers in a season and is brought up and does not play 10 games or thirty days (collectively over the season) — like Pedan last year.

      • Neil B

        On the exceptions front, it’s worth noting that Rodin could, thanks to his off-season knee surgery, qualify for a conditioning stint, should he be willing to accept it. Not sure why we’d need to do that; if he’s not playing in the NHL this year, I suspect he’s back to Sweden.

  • truthseeker

    Excellent point about taking the players side in the majority of cases. You’re absolutely right. I can’t believe how many people are management stooges. Taking the side of the billionaire over the worker. Yes, the players make a lot of money, but if you take median wages and career spans, they don’t make as much as everyone thinks. Plus they enter into a system of virtual slavery at the beginning of their careers. Who would accept that in their own lives? Being told where you have to work and how much you’re allowed to work for even though you know there is way more money in the system that could be going to you.

    Corporate propaganda works. It convinces people to support the very ones who are kicking them in the face. Pro sports is a mirror for that when the public sides with management.

    • Canucks Realist

      Listen to this twerp truthseeker/pheenster/I Am Ted boring us to death with his unfounded drivel. Slavery he says, as these guys live the pampered dream literally rolling in dough.

      Get off your communist/socialist high horse pal – the minimum wage for an NHL player, many still teenagers, is $650,000 per and rising, many are on a $925,000 three year ELC and with bonuses, endorsements, numerous ‘perks’ and a generous NHL pension for life when they are done these guys are set forever and a day. Most reading this will never see half a million in their lifetime… sucks to be you stuck on the vancouver Island welfare dime in comparison doesn’t it !!

      • Saanich

        Yeah well said. My heart bleeds for these multi millionaires, especially poor old Loui Eriksson only making 36 million over six years or Dorsett banking 2.5 million a year for the next three seasons whether he suits up or not!

      • Neil B

        $1 mill over a 35 year work history is averaging $28,600 per year. Most of us reading this will, in fact, work longer than 35 years, and most of us will earn within spitting distance of median wage, which is roughly $49,500 ($1.7 mill over 35 years). So the vast majority of us will see $500K, over our careers; just not all at once.

        If you want to see $500K in a big lump in your lifetime, invest $125 per paycheque at 6%. After 35 years, that’s $533K.

        • TheRealPB

          It’s also true that less than 2% of junior hockey or NCAA players will make the NHL, similar to that of NBA, NFL and MLB success rates. And even those who will will have an average career of less than 3 years. People look at the superstars and think that they are the rule; they’re not. One of the other things that the NHL is increasingly moving towards is something like the NBA and NFL where you have some highly paid superstars and a lot of guys on league minimums for a short amount of time, setting up tremendous disparities amongst players.

        • jaybird43

          Yes, except that inflation erodes by about 1/3, and getting half a mill (or $335,000 when inflation is factored in, and after 35 years instead of right away is a huge huge difference.

      • truthseeker

        why don’t you just use my user name again? That creativity’s still letting you down huh? Still as BOOORING as usual.

        So f..king stupid you can’t even figure out where I am…..lol Sucks to be you, with your boring existence.

        Do yourself a favor. Calculate the median income of an NHL player and then the median career length, then do some simple math. You know…Taxes, Agent fees, escrow…..etc….lol.

        You really don’t like to think things through do you?

      • LTFan

        Yes players who play in the NHL are well paid, but they do not bank the amount they signed for. Lots of deductions including but not limited to Income tax, agents fees, union dues etc. etc. Still do very well for the years they play in the league. The point being it is good pay for most, but their “life expectancy” in the league is short.

    • Perhaps another way of looking at it is to imagine if you were subjected to a “draft system” in your own industry. Let’s say you were an award-winning doctor and you want to work for the Red Cross but you can’t because a for-profit HMO owns your “rights” (an ironic term) to work as a doctor for the next 10 years. The HMO (NHL team) did absolutely nothing to help you when you were in medical school (junior hockey / NCAA) but you’re obligated to work for them at a reduced salary when you graduate. If you want to work outside of the system, you need to leave the continent. If there was a loophole to improve your situation in the system, you’d take it.

      Also, last year the Hockey News did an article where they estimated that an NHL player keeps about 24% of their pay ($240,000 on a $1M contract). Now imagine a player gets a 1 year contract at the league minimum ($650k), that’s about $150k in exchange for a lifetime of dedication and foregoing other opportunities (e.g. earning a degree for non-NCAA players). That’s a pretty risky career choice.


      • Bud Poile

        “For basic living expenses (food, clothing etc.) Simon budgets $3,000 a month and he budgets another $3,000 a month for miscellaneous expenses (entertainment, gifts etc.). That works out to a combined $72,000.”
        My budget for both is $4-$500 and that’s in $CAD. Basic NHL players got it pretty good.
        When they’re done ‘playing’ they should work like us common folk and see how it’s like.

      • TheRealPB

        This analogy doesn’t entirely work though — the team that “owns” your rights does in fact invest in you and your development, often for 5-10 years or more. That is not just salary but also advanced medical treatments and much more. I think players are certainly constrained and it’s definitely an imbalance between players and owners (and between superstar players and those many who are just trying to eke out a living). I think it’s way too far to call it slavery. Interestingly in the NFL it’s been called that but it has little to do with the draft, much more so the institutionalized racism that players have to endure through high school and college in the US for the very small shot at making it. Even there I think the term is inaccurate, but it does make you realize that there’s a lot more to the making of these sports than the finished product we see.

        • But they only invest in you once you’ve signed a contract and are part of their system. At which point, you’re locked in until you hit UFA. Attending a development camp is like a doctor getting a free ticket to a medical conference. You may get some training for a few days but it’s a far cry from the time, expense, and sacrificed incurred without help from the NHL club. Butcher played USHL/USDP before going to the NCAA which is even more restrictive for NCAA prospects compared to drafted junior players.

    • DJ_44

      Do players, who voluntarily want to play in the NHL, implicitly (or probably explicitly) agree to a set of rule negotiated through a Collective Agreement? Yes.

      Who would accept that in their own lives? Being told where you have to work and how much you’re allowed to work for even though you know there is way more money in the system that could be going to you.

      The vast majority of people happily accept it. Any work that is bound to a collective agreement does, and other professions as well. Apprenticeship, whatever is next, and a journeyman’s ticket. University degree, professional in training (or resident or whatever), junior professional, intermediate professional, senior professional.

      Like NHL players, these occupations can choose to ply their trade elsewhere, but it will probably be no where as good a deal working in the NHL. Or they can switch occupations. The choices are there.

      To suggest it is slavery (or even indentured servitude) is insulting; to suggest it is unique is incorrect; to suggest that owners have an advantageous position during the riskier, early career of players sure. The tables turn when UFA status is achieved.

      • truthseeker

        You’re right. They go in voluntarily. But what choice do they have if they want to be a pro hockey player? Europe? Russia?

        Once they choose that NHL system they go in as a piece of meat with very little control. Into a system they had NO say in designing. So once they are in, they very much are like a slave in terms of their negotiating power. They have to go where the NHL tells them and earn what the NHL and PA say they should earn. Bet you wouldn’t accept that in your life.

        If you’re a Connor McDavid you have to pray you don’t get a career ending injury in your first three years, knowing that in your first three years you’re EASILY a 6 – 8 million dollar player in terms of performance. How’s that fair?

        And Dirty30 your comment is typical of sports fans complaining about salaries. There is a simple solution if you don’t like it. Stop watching. Stop going to games, stop buying merch, don’t watch on television. They you don’t have to complain.

        Seems like many people think if players made less then somehow the money would trickle to the fans or some weird idea like that. The owners would simply pocket MORE and you’d still be paying the exact same thing. I for one, would rather see the players get more than the owners considering I don’t really enjoy watching old billionaires do…well…anything.

        • Braindead Benning

          WTF do you anything about anything you arrogant stupid idiot… do you have any idea how to run a company or 2 and what it takes to make it successful besides posting your never ending stupidity..
          Please elaborate instead of posting your BORING never ending rhetorical garbage.

          • truthseeker

            lol…now you’re copying my insults huh?

            Well…if I were an NHL owner, I guess I’d probably be a giant welfare queen looking for government handouts for new arenas. And when it came time to deal with the NHLPA I’d claim financial distress while never showing my financial books to anyone…because…you know….they’re “private”. I guess I’d cry like a little baby whenever my profits weren’t as high as the year before and threaten to move the team unless I did get all that public money.

            Or maybe I’d simply be a slumlord like Aquilini. Pay off city council to look the other way on regulations.

            But yeah….let’s celebrate the “great businessmen” of the NHL…..they’re real heroes. lol

        • This is such a weird conversation. As truthseeker says, if you cut players’ salaries, it’s just more money in the pockets of owners. We’re talking about millionaires vs. billionaires here, not millionaires vs. the common working man.

          The fact is, special exemptions have been carved out for professional sports teams. What they do with the CBA and the draft would be flagrantly illegal in other industries. You have thirty independent businesses engaging in otherwise-illegal collusion, anti-trust practices, price fixing, and racketeering, but we’ve decided as a society it’s okay because it’s professional sports.

          The entire draft / prospect system should be junked. Everyone’s a free agent, anyone can sign a contract whatever major or minor league team they like at 18.

        • JimmyV1965

          Comparing pro athletes to slaves is truly offensive. There are still actual slaves in this world and making comparisons to anyone in Canada, esp those in the top 1% of income earners, illustrates a truly staggering lack of insight of the world around us.

          • truthseeker

            OK mister literal….relax….you’re right…..NHL players are not “slaves”. Excuse my use of hyperbole.

            And Goon I’m with you. It’s funny how most people in N. America would claim to be supporters of “capitalism” and the “free market” but when it comes to pro sports they show their true colors and demand a near totalitarian system that could be compared to fascism or communism.

            I’m the exact opposite. Pro sports is the ONE area of N. American society I want to see as a totally free market. Survival of the fittest. But in the end pro sports is the perfect metaphor for why capitalism can never work. The greed would ruin it. We all know if sports were a true free market, the league would probably have 14 teams and only about 4 or 5 of them would ever win cups.

            Again though…it’s funny how so many people criticize what players make, but yet claim to be “free market” types….I’m not sure how they don’t see their own hypocrisy.

        • DJ_44

          Once they choose that NHL system they go in as a piece of meat with very little control. Into a system they had NO say in designing. So once they are in, they very much are like a slave in terms of their negotiating power. They have to go where the NHL tells them and earn what the NHL and PA say they should earn. Bet you wouldn’t accept that in your life.

          First, you continue to make a losing bet, stating people do not accept that in their own life. You are wrong, a form of this is accepted in all professions.

          Second THEY had a big say in designing the system. The THEY is the union of professional hockey players (NHLPA). Where on earth would you have to join a union, or an association, to work in your choosen profession? Let me think.

          McDavid was making $ 2.3M per (not counting endorsements) as an 18-20 year old. Some level of cost certainty in any business allows it to run, and everyone benefits. Got complaints about your system as a kid (like an RFA). Go to arbitration.

          You sound like the kid that is complaining when they start at the bottom of the ladder in a job….”I can’t believe I have to work on weekends and only get three weeks holiday …… the guy next to me who has been working here 20 years gets 7 weeks and he works 4.5 days a week….how is that fair?”

          • truthseeker

            Really? What professions are run by one entity that tells you where to go and how much you can be paid no matter what happens? And if you don’t choose that company you basically have zero other job options in that field?

            Actually no…the kids coming into the league have no say. They weren’t a part of the last bargaining agreement because they weren’t in the league yet. So they have to join the union and accept the agreement put into place. They are not free to bargain a contract of their choosing.

            OK…with his bonuses he was making 2.3 million per. That’s still WAY less than he should be making for that kind of production. Even the performance bonuses are capped. lol. You’re not “winning” your point by bringing that up.

            Players are not eligible for arbitration until their 4th year. So how does that help a kid like McDavid get what he’s worth?

            So arbitration does nothing for them.

            The union itself is a whole other issue. The NHLPA definitely has its flaws. They lack the will power to really bargain with the owners, precisely because the owners are still so powerful. Missing any significant amount of time affects the players way worse than the owners so the players cave in, every single time.

            The NHL isn’t a “bottom of the ladder” type job. It’s a performance based job. McDavid doesn’t need to “learn his craft”. He already knows it and excels. Yet he has to look at guys on his team who aren’t even a 1/4 as good as he is, who make WAY more money. How is that fair?

            Or do you not think job performance should be rewarded? You know…actually being good at what you do?

          • DJ_44

            Really? What professions are run by one entity that tells you where to go and how much you can be paid no matter what happens? And if you don’t choose that company you basically have zero other job options in that field?

            How many do you want me to list? I will give you two for starters:

            the medical profession in BC. It is run by one entity (the provincial government); the compensation is established; an in order to get to the big bucks of specialists, you do you two years(or more) as a resident working brutal hours and getting paid very little. Many doctors entering the province must practice in designated areas, and if you are a specialist, they may limit where you practice(geographically).

            The teaching profession in BC. Pay is based on time served and quals. If there are no jobs, you move to where there is one.

            Furthermore, there are options available to each profession …. doctors can follow big buck by going to the states (think of it as the KHL); teachers my find a private position or tutor. For the most part, it is not as attractive as option of staying within the system.

            The kids in the league did have a say. Not the exact kids, but one who were in their exact same position at the time the agreement was signed. This is the same with any professional or labour contract. The paying entity (league, or company, or government) has no time or interest in negotiating individually. In fact, the players are in a much better position bargaining collectively and a part.

            And to your final point; the crying about being paid for performance. McDavid is getting paid for his performance. He was paid $2.3M per for the audition, and $13M for eight more year, whether he performs or not. Many would argue that UFA contracts are more heavily weighted to paying for past, not future performance. McDavid will make more than any of his contemporaries. Short term vs. long term view. The NHLPA has taken the longer term view, for the health of the industry, and so as not to kill the goose that continues to lay the golden eggs.

          • truthseeker

            OK fair enough…but, the medical profession is not a performance based job. Nor is teaching. There are no individual contracts in the same way there are in pro sports.

            That’s the point. The kids coming in had no say about the system they are going into.

            But they do negotiate individually. Every single contract is hammered out between team and player. Yes the kids coming in go under a sort of scale. But it’s not like a regular union job. And then after that it’s all about performance.

            I agree that the players are much better off in a union, but they are a very weak union. They are also very divided. The Vets who make a lot basically ruin it for those that come after. They have no will power to hold out for a better deal.

            And riiiight…..the oilers are paying McDavid for what he did….lol…as I said before…during his entry level deal, any career ending injury would have been the end of any money coming to him. The Oilers (or any other team) wouldn’t “honor” the 13 million for what he had done for even a second. They would wipe their hands and say tough s….. kid. So they most certainly aren’t being rewarded for “what they did”.

            Seems to me all that “goose” ever does is whine and complain about what hockey players make while still funneling their money to those hockey players…lol. Again I have to ask, why would these people rather see the owners get a greater share of the money? It’s cheering for billionaires (who don’t even do anything) over “millionaires”. But at least the millionaires are providing you what you want to see.

            The players lost 7 percent in the last agreement. That’s 300 million dollars base on last season’s revenue. Are these fans happy that’s in the pockets of the owners?

            I don’t get it. I don’t get why anyone would side with management over the players. And I don’t get why people who support the NHL complain about the money that the NHL makes. It’s really weird.

          • DJ_44

            I don’t get it. I don’t get why anyone would side with management over the players. And I don’t get why people who support the NHL complain about the money that the NHL makes. It’s really weird.

            I am not siding with Owners. I am however, in favour of many of the provisions put in place through the CBA. Not because Owners or players make more money; because in provides a reasonably level playing field for all teams in the league. The Draft, holding a players rights, cost certainty for players on ELC. It works very well for all parties, which is usually the case when all parties are complaining about something.

          • truthseeker

            Well, what you are in favor of is socialism then. (In terms of sports)

            And in some ways I agree with you. As I mentioned somewhere else, pro sports is a perfect metaphor for why a true “free market” system would be a disaster. If you want parity then the NHL is the league for you.

            At one time I wanted to see exactly this. Parity throughout the league. But frankly, I’ve changed my mind on it. Parity has made the NHL boring. It’s made the Stanley Cup less of an achievement in my opinion. Of course, non Vancouver fans would say I’m just saying this because the Canucks have never won a cup, but I know myself and the way I think about sports. I don’t view winning the cup as some significant part of my existence. After all, I’m just watching….I really don’t have anything to do with it.

            For example….can you name, without looking it up, The Stanley Cup champs from…say, 98, 00, 03, 05, 06, 09, 11 (haha…couldn’t resist)? I can’t. I’m sure if I wrack my brain I’d get a couple, but there have been so many winners that just don’t even matter. Nobody outside the city that wins the cup even cares anymore.

            I would like their to be a bit more competition with regards to how teams can be designed. We’ll have to agree to disagree on that.

      • Dirty30

        Not to mention, how many professions pay a minimum $650,000 ‘entry-level contract’ salary? Even if the player only clears $150,000 of that, not many professions pay even that for an entry-level salary.

        Unpaid internships, restricted work hours to avoid benefits, minimum wage with no benefits, no raises, no O/T, no safety measures, etc., those can be demeaning, dangerous, and definitely dead-ends, but not one instance where one has a choice should be equated with slavery by any poster to this discussion.

        Lets not forget that no matter how poorly these players may be treated, they are being paid to play a game, not clean toilets, or wash windows or flip burgers.

        Even the worst off still gets more than most people. It may not be fair within their ‘profession’ but they have choices. Sacrifice to chase a dream or walk away and join the rest of us in simply making a living best we can.