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Photo Credit: Matthew Henderson

CanucksArmy Monday Mailbag: November 20th – Part Deux

I’ve had one hell of a week, so you’ll have to forgive me for taking my time to get to the Part Deux of the Monday Mailbag. Without any further adieu, let’s get to it.

I’d lean on some of the classics for evaluating defensive play. Corsi percentage can work in a pinch, but I prefer Fenwick because it leaves out blocked shots. If I want to isolate defensive impact (different from defensive value), I’ll look exclusively at a player’s Fenwick or Corsi against. If the sample is large enough, I’ll look at the rate goals occur against with that player on the ice, but only as a supplementary part of my analysis.

One of my favourite tools from back in the day (last season) was Fenwick against Rel. TM per 60 to evaluate how a player was performing defensively. Essentially, that metric aggregates a player’s impact on all his linemate’s ability to suppress unblock shot attempts per hour. It’s a good way to control for team or linemate effects.

I don’t see that being an issue, no.

Forcing a player to develop defensively isn’t going to harm their development, and if it does, that doesn’t bode well for that player. If you’re going to play in even a semi-regular role in the NHL, you have to be able to hold your head above water at the very least. That’s not an unreasonable expectation.

It doesn’t mean throwing the body or committing to the defensive zone or sacrificing offence to do it. It can be as simple as playing with as much urgency in the neutral zone when the opposition has the puck as your own team or closing gaps in the offensive zone to create pressure that leads to turnovers. Jake Virtanen, for example, is an incredibly average to below average player in the defensive zone but adds above average defensive value.

I wouldn’t ever force defensive responsibility on a player, but I’d certainly prioritize teaching him defensive habits in the neutral and offensive zone that will lead to creating positive defensive value.

I say that with the added caveat that I agree with your second point. I don’t want a player on my team who can’t add any value offensively.

Think about Chris Tanev, who’s a non-factor in the offensive zone, but adds offensive value for other reasons.

I think a lot of Virtanen’s ice-time discrepancies are related to the line he plays on, i.e. with the Sedin twins. That, and the fact that Virtanen doesn’t play special teams.

I don’t dislike the idea, but I’d also like to see Virtanen get a shot in limited minutes on the penalty kill.

Canucks head coach Travis Green has been as consistent with his message and coaching as you could ever expect an NHL head coach to be.

I do, and if you’re a Canucks fan, that should be a terrifying notion, especially if Canucks general manager Jim Benning doesn’t have a contract extension by that time. If the Canucks are even remotely close to a playoff spot and Benning doesn’t have a contract extension, I’ll be surprised if he makes any seller’s moves.

The way Markus Granlund has played means the Canucks won’t have to worry about him cashing in this off-season. It’s early, but Granlund’s not had a good a season. I wouldn’t trade Granlund. The Canucks wouldn’t get much in return, and I think he’s a genuinely useful bottom-six player.

Why not both?

I’m a fan of Virtanen’s work this season, but he’s not better than half the Canucks roster. I agree with the sentiment that Green is underusing him though.

Check back in a couple of months for CanucksArmy draft coverage.

I doubt Nikita Tryamkin will ever return to the Canucks, but that’s based on a hunch; I don’t have any intel or sources close to the situation. Dmitry Zhukenov’s had a disappointing, up-and-down start to his KHL career. Who knows, maybe Zhukenov wants to come back to North America? Zhukenov was hitting his stride before he left for the K.

As for Lukas Jasek, his development hasn’t warranted an entry-level contract in my estimation. One thing the Canucks could do is offer Jasek an amateur or professional tryout for the Utica Comets and go from there. That wouldn’t be the worst idea.

Chris Tanev should be able to get the Canucks a top prospect, a first-round pick and a roster player. If I were to hazard a guess, I’d expect the Canucks to get two of those three items if they tried to trade Tanev though.

I’d expect the Ottawa Senators, Toronto Maple Leafs, Colorado Avalanche, Dallas Stars and Edmonton Oilers to have interest.

Keystone Lager.

Green’s already benched Loui Eriksson this season (not a healthy scratch, but not that far off), so why not Brandon Sutter? Coaches do things that irritate their general managers all the time, but that’s just part of the working relationship they share. I doubt Benning would get upset, within reason.

It wouldn’t be that unreasonable to think that, no.

The New Jersey Devils have mostly played Pavel Zacha on the wing, as far as I can tell, so I don’t see how Nico Hischier or Michael McLeod make a big difference. If Zacha’s available, the Canucks shouldn’t break the bank to make it happen. I’m just not that big a fan of Zacha’s game.

It’s hard to say what’s a fair price for Zacha. It wasn’t that long ago that the Devils used the sixth overall pick to draft him, so you’d have to expect them to want a lot in return.

If I was the Canucks, I’d hone in on Sam Bennett and Sam Reinhart.

Too many for CanucksArmy’s tastes.

I’d put Elias Pettersson in the top three right now. Not sure where exactly, but he’s in that range.

The Canucks MVP is Brock Boeser. The Canucks best free agent signing is Thomas Vanek. The Canucks biggest disappointment is a toss-up between Sam Gagner and Markus Granlund.

It would be a dream come true to work for an NHL organization in any capacity. I’d love to learn the scout’s trade. I’ve been around hockey since I was about four and have a pretty good eye for the game, I think, but there are so many skills I could learn still. I’ve been lucky to have some great friends and mentors in the prospect analysis community, too. It’s a great fraternity, and I’d love to work my way into it.

I wouldn’t mind working in an office role, too. If that’s working in analytics, then so be it, though I’ve so, so much to learn in that realm.

Elias Pettersson.

The exact same way I felt about the Thomas Vanek signing at the time. He’s an imperfect player with a very one-dimensional skill set, who can still add value to the Canucks lineup. His real value will come at the trade deadline, when the Canucks can trade him for an extra pick or a prospect, should they go that route.

  • Me

    “Jake Virtanen, for example, is an incredibly average to below average player in the defensive zone but adds above average defensive value.”

    So he’s a below average player defensively who contributes positively to the defense?

    Uhm… wut?

  • Killer Marmot

    I do, and if you’re a Canucks fan, that should be a terrifying notion, especially if Canucks general manager Jim Benning doesn’t have a contract extension by that time. If the Canucks are even remotely close to a playoff spot and Benning doesn’t have a contract extension, I’ll be surprised if he makes any seller’s moves.

    It wouldn’t expect any manager — even one with a secure contract — to trade productive players for drafts or prospects at the deadline if the team has a reasonable chance of making the playoffs.

    • Dirk22

      Blues traded Shattenkirk last year at the deadline knowing they weren’t going to sign him and the Blues were a top 10 team in the league. Canucks won’t be within a sniff of that at this year’s deadline so the thought of them holding onto any players they could sell is terrifying, yes. Smart, proactive (and realistic) GM’s make these kinds of moves all the time.

      • TD

        There is a huge difference in making sure you don’t lose a top player for nothing (they got a big return for Shattenkirk) vs not trading a late signed free agent that no on wanted all summer for a low end prospect or later round pick.

        • Dirk22

          The way Vanek is playing you could probably do better than a low round pick. Also, Gudbranson (apparently) has some trade value out there. At least have a look at what Tanev can get you. Agree there is a difference in what Shattenkirk can get you vs. the first two I mentioned but the philosophy to use these guys to build for the future should not change.

      • I see a couple of differences between St. Louis and Vancouver. First, St. Louis knew all along that they would lose Shattenkirk to UFA so they waited until the trade deadline to extract maximum trade value. Shattenkirk had huge trade value which helped them get a 1st, 2nd and condition draft pick plus a decent prospect in Sanford. But the guys who would likely be traded (e.g. Vanek, Burmistrov) are one-offs to improve the team and help them make the playoffs. We’d be lucky to get a 3rd round pick for Vanek and a later pick for Burmistrov. They’re more valuable as a roster player than as a draft pick.

        Second, if we have a shot, we keep them and try to win, otherwise Benning is putting them in a position to fail with 25% of the schedule left. Benning has been stressing a “winning culture” since the beginning. We can see how a culture of losing can ruin teams with decent talent like Arizona, Buffalo and Edmonton. If Benning expects the team to not quit on him on the ice, Benning can’t quit on them on the roster sheet.

        • Dirk22

          “We can see how a culture of losing can ruin teams with decent talent like Arizona, Buffalo and Edmonton.”

          Worst argument in sports. How did Pittsburgh and Chicago manage to win despite having losing cultures? How have the Canucks improved this year despite having losing cultures for the last couple of years?

          Agree that Vanek, Gudbranson, Burmistrov are not going to get you a whole lot …most likely. Doesn’t change the fact that they should be traded if they’re not in the long term plans.

          • Billy Pilgrim

            Chicago’s rebuild of a decade ago actually looks a lot like Vancouver’s current approach. They had exactly 4 top 10 picks — Cam Barker (2004, #3), Jack Skille (2005, #7), then Toews and Kane. The draft lottery was not the problem for low ranking teams that it is now. Chicago did dump some veterans for mid to late round picks in 2003-04, but those draft picks did not impact their roster in a significant way (Hjalmarsson is the exception).

            What they did manage to do was hit a narrow competitive window — they had a roster that was ready to win when Toews and Kane were ready to lead the team and were still cheap. Traded for folks like Sharp, Vrbata, Havlat, Smolinski, Handzus and Versteeg to put them over the top.

    • Erik Lonnrot

      I guess it all comes down to what we mean by “reasonable chance”. If it looks like they’re probably in a playoff spot I wouldn’t be too bothered by Benning standing pat. If it’s a long shot but not an impossibility he should still be selling.

  • KCasey

    Cant say I would lose my mind over standing pat at rhe trade deadline however there is a few no brainers if the price comes right. 1. If an offer for Vanek anywhere in the realm of a low 3rd/high 4th or better is on the table, do it. 2. Gudbranson. While I am not as low on his game as the writers in general are, I do believe he will require to much to resign longterm and if we trade him for anything decent, say a second or better, we could easily fill his roster spot with another guy that could perform just as well or better…maybe not so much in the meat and potatoes role but at least keep his head above water. This rings even more true with Pouliot emerging as a steal as the games go on. 3. Less of a must do but Tanev. With next year still on contract his value will be at its highest this years deadline. I wouldnt at all be upset with him not getting traded as he is our best defenceman and has been one of my favorite players ever since Bieksa said he looks like he could play the game with a cigarette in his mouth lol. However if we dont trade him and than rumors start to circulate that there was an insane offer on the table….I will feel a little awkward abiut the situation. Other than those 3, I wouldnt say there are any other must be done or else players. At least not any that could garner a meaningful return to loss ratio.

    • If Tanev could bring in a similar or better haul than Duchene (because Top 2 D > Top 6 centres) which includes a blue-chip prospect or ELC player that can replace Tanev, I’d trade him. If I were Benning, I’d constantly be looking for teams in win-now mode to severely overpay. The Duchene trade showed that some GM’s are willing to overpay even for minor upgrades if the piece is right.

      • Erik Lonnrot

        Yeah, I’m not 100% aboard the trade Tanev bandwagon (I’m hoping he’ll still be good when the team is next competitive and don’t support burning it down 100% in the meantime) but if there’s a good offer (1st and a blue chip prospect or good young roster player as the minimum) they should do it.

  • If Burke was up to it, I’d see about a 1-for-1 trade of Virtanen for Bennett. I’d prefer Reinhart but I don’t think Botterill would do it without getting some significant additional assets, something that I would discourage.

  • Fred-65

    I know there’s a Virtanen Army out there crying for more and better opportunities for him, but I keep asking why. He’s been given opportunity, he’s been given a kick up the back side and yet he still is average to below average in my eyes. Fans keep talking of potential but for how long can you keep thinking potential is enough. He’ll be 22 to start next season and what point do you say potential is not enough. Is there enough meat on the bone to warrant pushing him. At some point ( IMO it’s the end of this season ) he has to put up some numbers or he becomes surplus to requirement. Horvat is a year older and Boeser is a year younger.

    • Freud

      The larger question is – is it a player problem or a management problem.

      In 4 seasons, the team has yet to develop even one player through their farm team that has even had a small impact with the team. If it’s a few players, maybe it’s the player, if it’s all the players, maybe it’s coaching/management.

      • Bud Poile

        Freud,it’s been three years.
        Gillis’ draft picks aren’t NHL quality and a large reason he was fired.
        It was a chore turning over Gillis’ marginal picks for assets(Shinkaruk,Jensen,Mallet).
        Benning’s trading for Pouliot which came from the development of Pedan in Utica is yet another master stroke deal.
        Gaunce has been developed in Utica.
        LaBate and Grenier have had NHL time,developed in Utica.
        Holm is next,coming from Utica development.
        Biega,Chaput and Megna are all Benning hires that have developed in Utica/AHL.
        Benning’s picks are in junior,Europe and the NHL.
        Maybe some fans don’t follow the team close enough.

      • Whackanuck

        Giving you Baertschi for one, Biega for another. Of others one would expect to start in the AHL, they mostly went straight to the NHL, Horvat, McCann, Tryamkin, Virtanen, Hutton, Stecher, (who did play a few AHL games) and Boeser. The last two years don’t really count as those players from sub-first round picks are now in their first pro year or still in college. Demko has developed nicely as well. Not bad considering Gillis left Benning a crap crop.

      • Dan the Fan

        2014-2017 draft picks total games played:
        Kings: 55
        Sharks: 146
        Ducks: 239
        Flames: 277
        Coyotes: 309
        Canucks: 350
        Oilers: 399

        So, as far as games played by picks, the Canucks don’t look too bad. If you’re talking “impact” players that make up large chunks of those games played, you’re probably talking about names like McDavid, Draisaitl, Bennett, Tkachuk, Chychrun, Keller. Those guys have a grand total of 6 AHL games between them.

        If you’re talking smaller impact than that, then you can’t ignore Virtanen.

        And if you’re going to point to AHL development as some sort of goal, then you’re just being foolish. Boeser was going to play in Uni until he was ready for the NHL, so there really isn’t much chance or need to develop him in the AHL. So in order to meet your goal of developing players in the AHL, you’d either have to draft someone else, convince him to leave school last year for a job in the AHL, or keep him down this year. The fact that Boeser didn’t need time on the farm team isn’t a reason to think the farm team isn’t doing it’s job. They seem to have done OK with Virtanen (who’s better than Green gives him credit for being) as well as Gaunce.

        Other than Virtanen and Demko, there haven’t been any high (top-60) picks sent to the Comets. Virtanen shouldn’t have been drafted where he was, but he’s on a good arc if you look at him as a Raffi Tores type player. And Demko’s been developing just fine, since it can take a while to get a goalie ready.

        If the Comets had been given a bunch of second rounders, then I’m sure we’d see some of them with the big club by now.

        And let’s not forget that Baertschi spent some time there too.

    • Dirty30

      It’s not like this team is in the playoffs and Jake is holding them back. He’s making progress — his stats look decent — he’s trying to improve his game.

      The fact COach TG is playing Jake with the Twins — albeit in a limited role — suggests he sees something there as well. If Jake ever makes that next step he could be a very interesting player. Right now he’s not blocking by some young talented guy from playing.

      This team needs depth and size/speed and JV provides both along with salary management. I’d rather play JV than Gagner.

  • Moderated Post

    Given Benning’s apparent prowess at the draft table and the depth in this year’s draft, what kind of haul do you think he could reasonably get for Boeser if and when he hits the 15 goal mark this season? I’m thinking that 1-5 teams in their Cup windows would be willing to empty their cupboards and then some to pick up Brock in an epic trade. Is there any chance Benning trades Brock, and why not?

    • jaybird43

      Ummm, I don’t understand who you think you’d get better than a young Calder trophy candidate with 10 years of elite hockey in front of him. Playing for the Canucks … oh wait, maybe the Oilers will do a straight up with McDavid and-or Draisitl … 😉

    • Cageyvet

      My reply will be as serious as anyone should take your suggestion.

      I think they should probably go the CA analytics route and look for some players like the Sedins, and it doesn’t matter what their ages are. Seriously, they dominate possession and don’t have an unsustainable shooting percentage like Brock. Over time they’re bound to get better results and he’s bound to regress to the mean, right? I like it. Two stats darlings for one guy who is just damn exciting to watch play, I’m sure the next CA round table will endorse this move. Except Petbugs. He trades Brock for Frank Corrado.

      • Moderated Post

        Obviously you don’t trade him for some magic beans. The Canucks are doing much better than expected so far this season, yet are in a standing’s logjam. Boeser’s worth far more to someone like Nashville and if you could pry one of their top C/D prospects plus a couple firsts and seconds then you really put the rebuild in overdrive… Unless you don’t trust Benning with those picks.

          • Moderated Post

            The point would be to swap him for another 2.5+ Boesers. The accepted wisdom is that Benning’s a draft guru, so why not give him twice as many picks in the top 50 next year and let him go wild? He can always buy Boeser back once he hits RFA if that’s the only gap left on the team.

        • LTFan

          Moderated Post – there is no logic to your argument. Finally the Canucks have a player who appears to be a bona fide goal scorer, they are rare. Yet you want to trade him for prospects and some draft picks. No GM for a team that is rebuilding would make that deal. Boeser is one of the players that is an integral part of the rebuild.

    • TheRealPB

      Even for trolling this is epically stupid. “I’ve won the lottery! I’ve won the top prize! But if I turn it all into more lottery tickets, I could haz more cheeseburgers!”

  • jaybird43

    JD, you are doing some fine work here, much of which I agree with. Having said that, here’s some areas I differ with …

    1) The whole concept or implied notion that the Canucks should consider trading their top D-man (Tanev), especially those still in their Top teams don’t do THAT. They are too hard to find and replace. Just like they don’t trade their top centres nor goalies of the same age bracket. The return (“2 of 3 of” … top prospect, first rounder, roster player) is usually too low and way too uncertain. Losing/poor GMs do desperate maneuvers like that.

    2. Thomas Vanek – as far as his play THIS year goes, he’s been a clear asset through all three zones and pretty much no matter whose line he’s on. So your comment, “very one-dimensional skill set”, is very quizzical. Perhaps you are referring to some different rendition of Vanek in years’ past? Not the man in front of us today?

    • DJ_44

      I also found this a bit off. Everyone slagged his defensive game. I think he may not always back-check with enthusiasm. But what I have been impressed with is how strong he is on the puck, and in the board battles. If the puck comes around the boards in the defensive zone, he will rarely outright loose a battle, more often getting the puck out of the zone.

      Also, he is a really, really smart player that can make great passes.

      • Cageyvet

        I couldn’t agree more, he has actually shocked me with his use of his strength. I don’t care what he did before, the player I see is as engaged as any skill-first forward of his ilk. He has produced at star (not superstar) levels in the past, and many of those players could be labeled with the same deficiencies.

        I was OK with the signing but worried that he’d provide limited value while blocking a roster spot for a young player. You can debate whether he’s blocked a spot from any truly deserving younger guy, but I defy anyone to say he isn’t delivering value. Gagner and Burmistrov are the free agent “blockers”, not Vanek, and while I expected nothing from Burmistrov, I freely admit I applauded the Gagner signing, was surprised 50 point came that cheap, and now think for 3+ million, Dorsett gets the nod. Of course I thought Dorsett was done and should have been waived…..this is why I don’t pretend to know more than Benning….he gets more of them right than any of us, except the lying trolls who post after the picks/signings actually play games and then of course they are hindsight geniuses.

  • JawKnee

    Keystone?! C’mon now. They’re definitely some kind of NWA. A bit murky, a few interesting and unique characteristics that you’re not entirely sure you like, somewhat bitter, somewhat sweet, and maybe you wouldn’t want a full six.

    • InternetRookie

      Totally agree!! Keystone is what you drink when you’re playing beer-pong early new years day after a night of partying.
      I think they’re something like Alexander Keith’s. Not a true IPA, but definitely still drinkable.

  • canuckfan

    Why would anyone want to sit Sutter, of course Green would sit whoever he thought was not putting in the effort. Sutter has been working his heart out. Hard to score covering the opposing teams top players.