Photo Credit: Matthew Henderson

CanucksArmy Monday Mailbag: November 13th

I would keep Sam Gagner around right to the end of his contract. It would be difficult to do given Brandon Sutter’s no-trade clause and the $4.375-million owed to him annually for another three seasons after this one, but his is the contract I would look to move for a fair return.

I’m unsure of which of the two would secure the better return in a vacuum. Sutter is playing huge minutes, is getting remarkably lucky at even strength and is on pace for 24 points over 82 games. And yet, Canucks head coach Travis Green seems to be a big fan of Sutter’s, a year after Willie Desjardins deployed him like a first line centre. Whether it’s the Sutter brand or otherwise, Sutter’s reputation seems to consistently outweigh his actual on-ice value, which would bode well for the Canucks if they were to try and move him, in theory. The only problem is those on-ice results are hard to ignore.

The league, rightly or wrongly, I tend to think, sees Gagner as a dime a dozen player. Gagner’s career path seems to suggest as much.

In no particular order: Elias Pettersson, Kole Lind, Olli Juolevi, Adam Gaudette, Thatcher Demko

Nation Network Radio, hosted by Jon Abbott and me, is the CanucksArmy Podcast of this season, and we’re on TSN 1040 most Saturdays from 3-5 PM. You can download both hours of the program on iTunes or go to the blog post that follows each episode.

I could see a scenario where the Canucks keep 14 forwards with a rotating cast at the bottom of the lineup, i.e. Jake Virtanen and Brendan Gaunce coming in and out of the lineup depending on the makeup of the Canucks opponents. If the Canucks need to send a forward down, I’d have to think they’ll send Virtanen down just because he’s waiver exempt.


I don’t think you need to worry about “over-ripening” Thatcher Demko in the AHL. This is literally his second professional season. He’s young. Time is on his and the Canucks’ side.

And yes, Chris Tanev will probably be a Canuck at the end of the trade deadline, whether he should or shouldn’t be one.

I would be surprised if Pettersson played centre for Sweden at the Olympics. If he’s there, it’s almost certainly on the wing.

I’ll answer this with the five players I’d want on the first unit, and avoid getting into the details of how I would use them. Thomas Vanek, Bo Horvat, Sam Gagner, Brock Boeser, Derrick Pouliot.

Derrick Pouliot’s game is really starting to grow on me. There’s been a lot to like. I think the same thing about Alex Biega that I’ve always thought: he’s a useful sixth or seventh defenceman, and nothing more.

I expect he’ll get there around mid-season-ish.

First of all, you’re most welcome. Second of all, I watch very little compared to Ryan Biech or Jeremy Davis, so let’s clear that up. I’d say that Biech especially is almost always watching hockey. As hard a working person as you’ll find in the industry.

Sven Baertschi – Bo Horvat – Brock Boeser

Daniel Sedin – Henrik Sedin – Thomas Vanek

Jake Virtanen – Alexander Burmistrov – Markus Granlund

Brendan Gaunce – Brandon Sutter – Loui Eriksson

Alexander Edler – Derrick Pouliot

Ben Hutton – Alex Biega

Michael Del Zotto – Erik Gudbranson

Anders Nilsson

Be careful what you ask for — it just might happen at this rate.

Yes. Fighting has no tangible, worthwhile benefit to the game of hockey. It alienates a lot of people who the game should be marketing itself to and forces people out of the game who’d otherwise like to stick around. It’s hard to watch. And with good reason. It’s needless violence that has a real, tangible negative impact on the quality of these fighter’s lives. Watch “The Last Gladiators” on Netflix. You’ll want fighting out of the game, too.

If the Canucks are bent on using Sutter as a defensive, shutdown forward, why not go all the way? Put Loui Eriksson on one wing and Brendan Gaunce on the other. That line might stand a chance. Maybe. And move Granlund up to the third line with Alexander Burmistrov and Jake Virtanen.

Will Lockwood is a far better prospect than most gave him credit for at the time he was drafted, but I think that the way people reacted to his first university season is still hilarious. His draft-plus-one year had a 10% xSucc by pGPS, if memory serves. Lockwood just isn’t that good of a prospect. He might be a third line player one day. Maybe.

One year for $1-million.

The long-term cap space that the Canucks save by not signing Gudbranson to a long-term contract extension. This is to say, just about anything would be a win for the Canucks. Hell, even Alex Petrovic, one-for-one, is a win for Vancouver.

By a lot of metrics, Pouliot is just that, yes.

I don’t hate the idea. And it would be hard for them to perform any worse than the current shutdown line.

It wouldn’t be unreasonable to think Pouliot could be a competent second-pair defenceman at this stage.

I’ll assume that you’re asking this question from the perspective of someone looking at a healthy Canucks blue line and wondering where Nikita Tryamkin would fit. Where should he fit? On the third pair, in Gudbranson’s stead. In reality, he’d probably be the seventh defenceman, bouncing in and out of the press box.

Man, I don’t have a damn clue.

It’s funny, I’ve been asking myself this same question with alarming regularity of late, and honestly, I find myself leaning towards Luca Sbisa.

I don’t see that as a possibility, no.

Stubbornness. There isn’t any other field except sports where data is so scrutinized and generally feared. It isn’t like this in any other field, of which I am aware.

I’ve thought about this many, many times. I used to think a lot of it stemmed from his inability to create offence off of sustained zone time, instead opting for one-and-done rushes that more often than not went right back to the Canucks’ zone. I’m starting to think it’s just that he’s far, far too aggressive in the defensive zone. He’s so easy to take out of position. Horvat bites on the first move, and bites hard, every time.

It misses Chris Tanev.

I might be writing about Jake Virtanen, who knows?

I think it’s personnel and tactics. Mostly tactics, though.

I’d rather expansion if I have to choose between these two options. I’d hate for a fan base to lose their favourite team. That can’t be a lot of fun, frankly.

Pavel Datsyuk, Ilya Kovalchuk, Nigel Dawes, Linden Vey, Elias Pettersson… and Andrew Mangiapane as an honourable mention.

Best pick: Adam Gaudette

Worst pick: Jake Virtanen

The Colorado Avalanche have a tonne of cap space for the foreseeable future. Don’t rule them out.

Most don’t, but from what I can gather, there’s one who does every now and then. I remember Anton Stralman being interested in that sort of stuff.

We’re getting there.

    • clutch fan

      Just my opinion, Hopefully Sedins retire, their past performance still greatly influences their current usage- to the teams detriment, their now poor offensive output can no longer compensate for lack of foot speed, general weakness on the puck and lame (mostly hooking) penalties. I’d consider keeping them if they didn’t always have to hold hands and were fine playing on different lines/power play units.. even so, we need to get youthful players in the line-up, Sedins are slowing down the rebuild. Could try and upgrade on Hutton, Gudbranson, Biega, Edler on d, forwards- Sutter, Dorsett, Burmistrov – these guys seem to be weak (also considering cap hit for some) links

    • Locust

      I do hope they retire and tell management on the QT before the trade deadline, leaving them room to operate.
      Announce it publicly with ten games left, have fun bringing it one last time.
      Go away with your head held high and spend your millions with your family.
      Canucks solidify the rebuild next year and then contend for the next five.

      • If Pettersson, Gaudette, Lind, Juolevi and Demko are the Canucks Top 5 prospects, not including guys like Boeser or Horvat, that’s a pretty competitive core. Just need another 1-2 Top 4 defensive prospects and we’re back in the running.

        • Geriatric Mushmouth

          Another ignorant fantasist in denial… ‘IF’ these kids were good enough to be our core they would be in the league delivering NOW… like Tkachuk, Nylander, Larkin, Ehlers, Sergachev, Keller, Ritchie and McAvoy are right here, right now! – and EVERY ONE of these awesome young NHL studs were passed on by Benning ffs… can’t you SEE THAT?

          It’s like a dumb and dumber fan convention in here, it really is.

  • TK Smith

    If Gudbranson publicly retired from hockey on your TSN podcast, donated his remaining salary to a charity of your choice and then personally delivered all his hockey equipment to your home along with a heartfelt apology would that be enough to appease you or is there something more you would need to be satisfied. BTW, thank you for dismissing Cat Silverman but the martyr twitter handle does not flatter you.

  • Laxbruh15

    At this point you shouldn’t be talking about hockey if you think fighting should be banned. Fighting’s a fundamental element of the game and prevents injuries. When you talk about it pushing people away, is it people or is it you? Can your fragile constitution not handle the rough and tumble of fighting hon?

    • truthseeker

      nonsense. Fighting has never once ever in history ever prevented a hockey injury. That’s just such ridiculous nonsense. The fight ALWAYS happens after the rat injures someone. And the fight does nothing, cause the rat doesn’t care. Just ask Cam Neely how fighting saved his knee. Back in the era of “keeping the rats accountable” no less. There is no evidence whatsoever to back up your claim. And you acting all superior because you think “liking” fighting makes you….I don’t even know…what…do you think it makes you more of a man or something? Grow up you ignorant child.

        • Erik Lonnrot

          That lots of people like it doesn’t say anything about how it helps/hurts the game.
          I stopped playing young enough that I’ve never been in a hockey fight myself, but I’ve been in lots of actual fights (sport and training). Fighting is fun and exciting, even watching. I’d be lying if I said that hockey fights don’t get my blood pumping sometimes too, but that doesn’t change the fact that I think it does the game more harm than good.

          Also from a purely fighting point of view, wildly swinging away while wearing skates is a stupid way to fight. It is Canada’s most popular martial art though.

    • Roy

      You are stupefyingly unintelligent if you are still bashing your keyboard arguing for fighting in hockey in 2017, when it is all but thankfully absent from a skill based athletic competition. Could anyone imagine a 200 meter sprint interrupted by a fist fight? It’s willfully insane and only deeply ignorant mouth-breathing toxic men think fighting somehow belongs in hockey, because bush league morons, whether fans or owners, have tolerated it for so long because of the blissful stupidity of mere precedence. If you like fighting so much, go find others of your ilk and take turns punching each other in the groin until you’re unable to procreate. No one will be sad to see your sociopathological and barely sentient genes leave the pool.

    • Bud Poile

      ” I think the same thing about Alex Biega that I’ve always thought: he’s a useful sixth or seventh defenceman, and nothing more.” JD

      Really? You wouldn’t give the Bulldog a 7th-8th d rating just two weeks ago:
      Oct. 30th Mailbag
      Is Biega the perfect 7/8 defenceman? robbie forrest @robbie4est
      “Not even close.” JD Burke the jerk

      • Bud Poile

        You know what’s hard to watch,JD the jerk?
        Edler getting three fingers broken.No penalty.
        Raymond getting his back broken.No penalty.
        Marchand speed-bagging Daniel’s head .No penalty.
        Bieksa being felled by a two-hander on the back of his legs.No penalty.
        Messier chopping down an injured Linden. No penalty.
        Scott Stevens targetting the heads of opponents,causing irreparable damage and ending the careers of many men.

        • Geriatric Mushmouth

          WTF… You’re still watching those ancient games saddo? Your smelly old VHS tapes must be chewed upand losing their COLOR, especially the Messier/Linden one… what a sad life you lead eh Yank.

  • jaybird43

    I’m a bit curious JD; one of us is suffering cognitive dissonance perhaps. You say Elias Pettersson is one of the top 5 players outside if the NHL (I agree he’s a high quality prospect), but say that Guadette is best pick and Virtanen the worst. I assume this is value-weighted to draft position then, e.g. 8th versus 150th, vs 5th?

    • Erik Lonnrot

      That’s how I read it. Pettersson is undoubtedly the better player, but he was bound to be taken in the top 10 so the pick, while good, isn’t a amazing. Guadette at 150 on the other hand really looks like a steal.

  • Cageyvet

    “It would be hard for them to perform worse than the current shutdown line.” More like JD the Visually and Cognitively Impaired. I can’t even begin to properly express my disdain for that comment.

    As for fancy stats, I actually enjoy them, but I despise those who are slaves to the data they produce. The NHL is very different from the other major sports in the statistics they use, their accuracy, and their tangible impact on the game.

    NHL stats are still in their infancy compared to baseball, and while Moneyball had value, it didn’t deliver championships. The CA staff should explain the shocking lack of results in Florida and Arizona with the best and brightest from their world helping chart the course.

    • Freud

      Jezzus, Epstein brought World Series titles to Boston only 2 years after Moneyball began. And he was more Moneyball than Beane was.

      NHL teams also track and use their own data of which you have no knowledge. How can you tell us they are in their infancy, different, inaccurate or lack impact if the tracking and usage is unknown to you? To have such a strong opinion of something of which you have no idea is laughable.

      New Jersey hired Mehta and Carolina hired Tulsky. Toronto brought in Charron and Dubas. Brian Burke laughed at Lombardi when he gave him a giant analytical package on Bobby Ryan for the 2010 Olympics. Lombardi won multiple cups right after that. For you to pick and choose teams like Florida and Arizona is laughable, ignorant and self-serving.

      • Dirk22

        Not to mention the Penguins, Blackhawks, Lightning etc……pretty much every team in the NHL actually makes use of analytics. Pretty widely accepted in some form except on this forum for some reason…..hmmmm. Tough one to figure out.

        • KCasey

          The difference being that all those high calibre teams ’employ’ analytics to certain degrees….Arizona and Florida ’embody’ analytics and use it as a religion in most cases…or used. They seem to be peddling back in regards to full force stats for all decisions. Also in the case of Epstein winning championships using the moneyball approach….news flash, he was working in the Red Sox organization while doing so, which is to say that everyone and there grandmother wants to play there so they got to hand pick the statistical darlings to come in and could still afford the superstars to compliment them. They were more of a hybrid approach with ‘celebrity’ appeal.

          • Dirk22

            what a load of garbage….

            “Chayka uses analytics as a tool in his decision-making process and as a resource in dealing with players, coaches, agents and opposing GMs. But he also relies on the eye test. He had written the Coyotes’ lines in a leather-bound notepad, and at various points during the first period, he scribbled ideas and thoughts on the page.” ESPN, 2017

            Florida? Really? Dave Tallon analytics guru?

            Also, you want to quibble with the use of analytics outside of hockey. How about the Golden State Warriors…or the Chicago Cubs….or the Houston Astros?

            Why so much resistance to analytics? They don’t tell us everything. Everybody knows that. They’re just a tool. Everybody knows that. You can’t rely solely on analytics. Everybody knows that.

        • KCasey

          As I said, Tallon in Florida has taking major steps back in pure stats as the previous regime made some errors along the way using that model.

          Chayka works for a rather finacially unstable franchise and in a way has no choice but to try the moneyball approach in finding gems as he works under a dreadful internal cap system and cant really bring in respectable free agents to bring them over the top. Im both teams defence I will say they have both drafted rather well and quite possibly due to the underlying numbers they saw on the players on the draft board.

          As to the analytics approach for other sports its not even related to how useful they are for there models of the game. Baseball has a 162 game season. The average starting player gets 3 at bats per game with an average of 5 pitches per at bat, take into account they will miss some games and you end up at around roughly 2250 pitches seen in a season. Than you add into the mix that until the ball is hit, it is an entirely isolation game, batter vs pitcher, so when you look through this lens that is an insanly massive sample size, stats can actually be very helpful but even than they can be murky and stray you away. Case in point Justin Smoak. Bad stats last year but than made a few minor tweaks and blew people away with the numbers this year.

          Basketball is different but still not comparable to hockey. 5 guys play 60% of the game. They play those minutes almost completely in isolation or in the scenarios of superstars they get double teamed and someone is left unguarded.
          In short anytime isolation is played for most of the game action stats can be directly applied to that isolated scenario.
          Hockey is entirely a team sport lacking constant isolation and therefor the stats can be difficult to use accurately. Everytime the puck is passed all the stats change. Everytime theres a line change, every turnover, players are constantly change what the stats need to be applied to, sometimes at such a rapid rate theres just not enough time to reapply analytics to use for the next series of events.
          Dont get me wrong though Dirk, I totally see the value in stats and think they will continue to advance and become even more useful but it wil never get to the extent of baseball or basketball due to the nature of the sports.

          • Tom Selleck's Moustache

            “Hockey is entirely a team sport lacking constant isolation and therefor the stats can be difficult to use accurately. Everytime the puck is passed all the stats change. Everytime theres a line change, every turnover, players are constantly change what the stats need to be applied to, sometimes at such a rapid rate theres just not enough time to reapply analytics to use for the next series of events.”

            Everything you’ve mentioned here applies just as much to basketball, rugby, and soccer; they all use analytics. So to claim that hockey analytics can’t be used to comparable extent just doesn’t hold water, imo

      • Cageyvet

        Freud, there have been responses since that speak to my point that NHL stats are not like baseball, primarily because of their black and white nature (on base, walks, hits) and 1 on 1 matchups that extend to performance vs. lefties, etc.

        Epstein’s 2004 and 2007 teams had the 2nd highest payrolls in the league. How is it Moneyball if you pay top dollar? Even if statistically you are finding great players, obviously the market, through whatever mechanism, is also recognizing their value and forcing up the cost.

        Finally, laughable and self-serving is the comment that NHL teams use data I don’t have access to, therefore can’t judge. I never suggested otherwise, I’m speaking to the stats that are lauded here and pulled from easily available websites, but the fact that NHL teams are hiring these guys throws some doubt on your assertion that they have anything that’s much better.

        I also chose Florida and Arizona as much-ballyhooed examples of teams changing their approach based on the hirings of people to whom the CA cast are essentially disciples.

        I’m not anti-analytics, I’m against the lack of context and balanced interpretations of the stats. Self-serving is exactly how I’d describe many interpretations that are dished out to us here to support an agenda.

        I haven’t personally checked the stat about Pittsburgh and other Stanley Cup champions having team Corsi percentages in the bottom half of the playoff teams. I will trust in the many before me who have posted this, I’ve seen it many times in the comments but have yet to see CA respond to this or tackle it in an article.

    • I think that the analytics vs. old-school debate simply clouds the fact that Chayka is simply not a good GM. In my mind, he got fleeced on the Datsyuk trade. Detroit needed help badly and instead of getting a great player like Bowman did in Teravainen, Chayka actually gave up a 2nd rounder to move up just 4 spots in the first round. For the other salary dump, his analytics darling Lawson Crouse isn’t panning out. Thought Chayka did well in getting a 1st and 2nd for Hanzal and then he gave away the #7 pick for Stepan. As bad as Mike Smith is, Chayka forgot that teams need goaltenders and now he’s scrambling with 3rd string AHL goaltenders. Terrible, terrible GM.


    The best 160 16 year old players in the world just played in the U-17 World Hockey Championships in Fort St. John last week. I hope Jim Benning had a scout there. At last years draft he missed taking Timothy Liligren, best D-man at the 2015 Chamionship. Because Liligren had mono last year his stock dropped from # 3 all the way to #17. Canuck fans, remember that name when he is the stud on the Maple Leafs blue line next year and then for the next decade.

    • defenceman factory

      Yes the Canucks should have had multiple scouts up in the Peace region for this tournament. Beyond that I don’t understand your point. Are you suggesting Benning should have picked Liljigren instead of Peterssen or Glass? Liljigren may well turn into a good defenceman and his ranking may have slipped more than it should have but why do you think he is a better pick than Peterssen who, by all accounts, is a very good player.

    • crofton

      Canucks picked 5th? So 12 other GM’s also passed on Liligren. Viewed in another way, 16 Gm’s passed on him. I mean they should have known better, right?

        • crofton

          7 cups for management while playing. Fine. How many did McTavish have when he said he was the one that won cups so knew a few things about to construct teams. How’d that work for him and Lowe? You could say the Leafs haven’t had any valid brain trusts since 1967. It remains to be seen if the current crop will be any different

          • Geriatric Mushmouth

            NO… FOUR as management actually, Lou has 3 as Devils GM and 1 for Babs as Red Wings coach. Shanny’s three as a player make SEVEN total, and that’s more than enough nouce to school the rest in stealing a blue chipper at the draft like Tim Liljigren, especially over the ‘credentials’ of a nameless, faceless keyboard loser like you who has won… NOTHING… in hockey, EVER… isn’t it?

        • Geriatric Mushmouth

          Until he is playing and delivering in the NHL like MANY top picks already are, lots straight form the draft, this undersized wimp is doing absolutely NOTHING for us tyvm!

          PS – Pettersen is playing wing for CLUB and COUNTRY… we needed a legit top line CENTRE and failing that, a legit elite puck moving OFFENSIVE DEFENCEMEN… neither have been delivered in FOUR DRAFTS!