Photo Credit: Matthew Henderson

CanucksArmy Monday Mailbag: Merry Christmas!

From all of us at CanucksArmy, a very Merry Christmas and happy holidays to you and yours. Thanks for your continued readership.

Since the start of last season, Nic Dowd’s first full season in the NHL, he is a 48% faceoff man. If that’s the reason that he’s in the lineup, well, that doesn’t hold up under further scrutiny.

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Apparently, not very long at all. Ben Hutton was in the Canucks lineup last night for their loss to the St. Louis Blues and had a mostly alright game.

When I came back to Canada from living in the United States, I had to take two full years off from hockey. For whatever reason, during that time, I’d decided whenever I did return to the game, that I would be a goaltender. Martin Brodeur was my neck-and-neck with Todd Bertuzzi as my favourite player, and I’d always played goalie in street hockey, so it made sense on some levels.

Anyway, at 13-years-old, being a goalie isn’t exactly cheap. Through a combination of working my ass off at a summer job, the help of my old man and birthday presents, we were all able to cobble together a set of goalie gear.

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Getting a proper goalie helmet at the time was decidedly low on the priority list, though, so I went on with my Bauer player’s helmet. I hated it. I felt such an embarrassment being the only goalie in the entire league (who knows if that was true at the time, but it certainly felt that way) not to have a proper goalie helmet.

So, I put a goalie helmet at the top of my Christmas list. Lo and behold, there it was under the tree at Christmas. I put that helmet on for at least a good 15 minutes — I was so excited! It was an Itech helmet with a devil design on the front. I can remember how it looked like it was right in front of me.

I know this isn’t the popular opinion, but Jake Virtanen has followed a roughly similar arc to what I expected from him at the time of his draft. I always thought he’d be a Raffi Torres or David Booth type, which isn’t a knock on Virtanen in a vacuum, just his draft day billing and placement, perhaps, though that’s more on the Canucks than him.

Based on what I’ve seen from Virtanen this season, I’m probably a bit more optimistic than I was going into the year. That combination of power and speed could be deadly if Virtanen coupled it with a better read of the play, and a willingness to take the puck to the net (though he’s starting to get it).

A successful season for Virtanen is still probably a 20 goal, 20 assist year with great underlying shot numbers. That’s probably what peak-Virtanen will resemble.

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I mean, I guess?

I don’t know if the Sedins are “taking” spots. They have so much to offer, even at this stage of their careers, that they’re not just impediments or placeholders in the lineup. Of the three prospects you mentioned, I’d expect probably two of them to make the NHL in a full-time capacity next season anyway.

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They could replace the likes of Thomas Vanek. Beyond that, perhaps the Canucks make a move with one of their pending RFA’s to make space. Either way, let’s not put the cart ahead of the horse. The situation you’re speculating on is a long ways from happening and is contingent on a lot of hypotheticals.

I’m a big fan of the Granville Island Winter Ale. You know what I don’t like? Eggnog.

I don’t think Troy Stecher is struggling. I just think he’s playing less often and still doesn’t have the trust of Canucks head coach Travis Green yet.

I’d bet if the Canucks similarly used Stecher to last season, he’d look just fine.

Alex Biega.

Not without tracking the micro-statistics, and sorry, I’m not going to spend my time on that.

I have no clue. Honestly, I haven’t thought that much about Mike Green’s status beyond the trade deadline.

Because coaches, risk-averse as always, know what they’re getting from those players for better or worse.

I’m going to assume this question is in reference to the draft. The Canucks have so many holes in their system. They can’t afford to be picky. They should just keep taking the best players available to them.

It’s way, way too early for that, my friend. Ask me again in April.

Kris Russell.

They shouldn’t be looking to pick up anything. The Canucks should be selling and offering great Boxing Day deals on Erik Gudbranson. The situation on their blue line is already starting to get crowded, and everyone knows they’re going to move him sooner or later. Why delay?

I lean towards Thomas Vanek, though, Virtanen and Markus Granlund have pretty great wristers of their own.

Go back in time and sign him to a one-year deal. Or trade him.

I don’t think anyone in the Canucks front office thinks that. I certainly hope none of them think that, anyway.

Will Lockwood did make Team USA! I wrote about it!

The conversation probably starts in the $5-6-million range.

That seems like a stretch.

That’s a wide-ranging question if I’ve ever fielded one.

Most overrated player: Kris Russell

Most underrated player: Dominik Hasek


It seems fairly realistic that we could expect both of them in the Canucks lineup as early as next season. If they’re NHL-ready, I can’t see it hindering either of those player’s development. Then again, how to properly develop players is such a dynamic question that I’m not sure I’m entirely qualified to answer.

I don’t get to skate or play as often as I’d like, but I actually started going to pick-up hockey in November again, after a two-plus-year absence.

Nowhere near what the Canucks paid for Gudbranson, unfortunately. Maybe they can get a first-round pick or a grade-A prospect, but probably not both.


I have a few funny ones, but they’re mostly at my expense, so I’ll spare you.

That’s one area of the game where Brandon Sutter’s absence is profoundly felt. For all his deficiencies at driving play at five-on-five, Sutter is really good in the defensive zone. On the penalty kill especially. Sitting Ben Hutton didn’t help either.

Snepts to Bossy?

A brand new MacBook Pro so I can keep delivering content to you, the people.


That’s all for today folks! Now go back to enjoying time with your friends, family and loved ones, as it is the season. Come back tomorrow for full coverage of the World Junior Hockey Championships, including day-to-day recaps!

  • Killer Marmot

    That’s one area of the game where Brandon Sutter’s absence is profoundly felt. For all his deficiencies at driving play at five-on-five, Sutter is really good in the defensive zone. On the penalty kill especially. Sitting Ben Hutton didn’t help either.

    That came dangerously close to complementing Sutter’s play.

  • RandomScrub

    Merry Christmas JD and all!

    I enjoyed this: “Kearns scored on himself, or Snepts to Bossy, or Lafayette hit the post?”

    What’s the question there, which was the worst moment? The biggest blunder? Snepts to Bossy expedited a SCF loss we all know the Canucks were headed for anyway, but man, he must’ve felt bad. I think Lafayette hitting the post is more haunting, because it was that close to taking game 7 to overtime and a flukey half an inch was the difference. On one hand I think poor Nathan, to be remembered for that one moment, although to be honest were it not to have happened his Canucks career may not be remembered much at all (not a knock on the guy, but he was only in 58 games in a Canucks uniform… although, he notably had 9 points in 20 games in that playoff run). Anyways. Some Canucks history for y’all. Merry Christmas!

  • CanuckleheadOz

    Good to see that there has been some appreciation for JD today – and by extension the rest of the CA staff. My thanks too for all the content and hope all the readers around the world have/are having a good Christmas and have a great 2018 capped by a stud pick at the draft!

  • Dirty30

    Merry Christmas JD!

    May the Granville Island Brewery truck break down in front of your house with a full load and you and your friends get free beer to have a huge party to raise money for your fave charity and the brewery gives you a custom-designed goalie helmet as thanks for your good work!

    It’s Christmas and it’s a time to dream big! Hope all yours come true!


  • LTFan

    Like others on here, I would like to thank you JD for your articles and especially your replies to the Mailbag on Mondays and Wednesdays. I also note that your articles and replies are less “shooting from the hip” but are now with a little more tact. Merry Christmas to you and family.

  • truthseeker

    “That’s probably what peak-Virtanen will resemble”

    Sounds like the same mentality used to describe Horvat as a 3rd liner with maybe 2nd line potential at best. Not sure what it will take for this modern crowd of seemingly “stat” based thinking to pull their heads out of their “predictions as conclusions” type thinking. You guys are proved wrong all the time and yet you still continue to make statements like that. Here’s to hoping Jake develops into a player and goes on to a couple 30 goal 50 point seasons.

    I would usually agree with the “take the best player” approach but I think at this point they are so obviously weaker at D than with the forwards that it would be fine to choose a kid who is an NHL ready D over a winger who shows more NHL “potential” but isn’t ready to go for a year or two. And again, because there is no evidence to suggest that the value of D is falling anytime soon, it still makes more sense to draft D over wing unless the wing is a Liane type game changer. Decent D can, at this point, always be flipped for a better winger. Now if there’s a really good C available the decision becomes more difficult.

    geezus I hope we can get Boeser signed for 5 to 6. I doubt that’s going to happen though. Boeser’s quickly becoming an 8 million dollar player. And that’s a huge problem for the canucks if they want a deep team.

    Why does that seem like a stretch? Eichel is a center so that gives him more value just by position but in terms of talent, Eichel hasn’t even broken 30 goals yet, doesn’t look like he will this year, and hasn’t broken 60 points yet (but probably will this year). Boeser’s already on pace to break both those numbers easily in his first year. Seems to me Brock easily has the potential to be as good or better than Eichel.

    OK…that’s a bit better of an expectation for a return on Guddy. One of the two….I still hope you’re right about that. I’m thinking he’s not even going to bring back that at this point. Can only hope the D market for playoff teams is dry this year and they’ll have to over pay, in which case you might be right.

    Was that “snepts to bossy?” as in you don’t know what that means? lol.

    And yeah…I’m with you on eggnog…..awful vile stuff IMO.

    • Bud Poile

      Rum and/or brandy eggnog makes a fine drink.
      This team has a RHD hurt in Tanev,another that is labelled a 7th/AHL’er in Biega, a third in Stetcher (that is young and small) and a fourth in Guddy that nobody values or wants.
      Between the four of them combined they (Tanev) have scored two goals.
      I wholeheartedly agree about drafting a D-man or men but the selected player{s} have to be able to play both sides or is/are RHD.
      With LHD Olli in the mix next September and LHD Pouliot added this season there will be six NHL LHD battling for roster space.
      Add Holm,McEneny,Wiercioch,Brisebois and Sautner-all LHD.
      If an offensively-minded RHD they covet is available near where the Nucks pick that’s great,otherwise BPA,please.

      • truthseeker

        ugghh…sounds like a recipe for a serious case of mung mouth. lol..

        I do agree they shouldn’t go too far “off the board” in terms of trying to get a D player if it’s not the right fit. I mean more if there are a group of guys you have all ranked very close to one another, and there isn’t an obvious “better” player, then go with the D man who’s hopefully close to being ready.

        Nothing wrong with drafting for need. Like last year, after the top 2. You had a bunch of guys all roughly in the same place. We took the center because that was our most pressing need. Even if we were picking 3rd over all I bet Benning still takes Pettersson as he should have. But this year if the situation is the same and there are guys roughly ranked all about the same, they should go with the D cause we need it.

    • J.D. Burke

      I think you’re missing the point here. I used the word “probably” to describe what I see as Jake Virtanen’s most likely career outcome because that’s what seems most probable to me based on the available data and what I’ve seen from him thus far. I’m not saying he can’t surpass those expectations. I’m describing probability, not destiny. In much the same way that a third-line centre seemed like Bo Horvat’s most probable outcome for a while.

      • truthseeker

        No, I’ve got the point. I’m taking issue with that kind of subjective probability thinking in the first place. Too many variables involved for the stats that you do use, to be meaningful.

        Again, for me this is about proof. If you want to use stats to make your points then you must show me your evidence of the stats working. What is your accuracy with these types of predictions? Do you peg a player’s “peak” career with 90% accuracy historically base on your measurements?

        Otherwise all we have is fancy sports talk. Just opinions. And there is nothing wrong with that. But if that’s all it is, it shouldn’t be presented as some measurable phenomenon with accurate outcomes, and too often that’s what it comes across as being.

        • J.D. Burke

          I really don’t get what you’re arguing. The metrics that I rely on are tested to have high predictability, and in many instances, they’ve been tested and peer-reviewed publicly, sometimes more than once. With all respect, I don’t think I owe it to you to point you in the direction of that work at every turn. It would be a touch redundant, no?

          As for your “just opinions” comment, again, I’m not sure what the critique is. I’m a writer/analyst. It goes without saying that what I’m saying is an opinion, especially if I qualify it with the word “probably”. I shouldn’t have to add that I’m just describing my opinion; who else’s opinion would it be?

          I probably wouldn’t get so defensive the next time.

          • truthseeker

            Sourcing information is redundant? lol. Pretty much one of the essential tenants of proper writing. Maybe you need to set up a page linking to the “proof” of these metrics working as a reference for the site and all your future arguments. Cause I gotta tell ya…finding proof of these “tested” and “peer reviewed” metrics is a real pain in the rear.

            Every time I ask for a link to direct correlative evidence supporting these types of claims not a single person provides it. Not saying it’s your job or you have to or whatever. But it doesn’t do much for your point if you don’t.

            Funny you mention peer review because the first thing I find when I do a google search for “peer review” and “hockey metrics” I get a fairly convincing study against shot based metrics.


            Your second point is an interesting one. The wording used in things like this is exactly what I mean. I’m not putting this specifically on you but as a general observation of the language used I’ve seen many times in articles by people using metrics. It will often be along the lines of…

            “if we take a look at player/team’s (insert stat) we can predict that player/team will (insert predicted result).”

            Those types of statements are objective not subjective and they imply by their nature that the stat used is evidence based and conclusive. If the stat has correlative evidence to support it then fine. But if it does not, then it’s being presented as an objective truth when it isn’t.

            The word probably implies degrees of uncertainty, not opinion.

            It’s not about being defensive. It’s about clarity.

          • Freud

            The smart guys have all found the information years ago.

            The truthseeker is too dim and lazy to find it?

            But of course she has an opinion on it.

            I guess if the truth is too hard to seek, you make it up and look dim in the process.

          • Dirk22

            Truthseeker – he was asked a question about Virtanen’s potential and he gave his opinion based on probabilities. You could pick any player and say he’s ‘going to score 30’ and that would be your opinion and you’re allowed to do that but what are you basing it on?Because some players defy expectations for good (Horvat) and for bad (Shinkaruk) doesn’t change what the most probable outcome would be.

            If someone told me Virtanen could score 20 + 20 One day I would take that in a heartbeat.

          • truthseeker

            right. It’s funny how this line of argument is coming from you. “you can’t find it’s your fault…” lol…

            Same logic used by global warming deniers and conspiracy theorist when presented with a challenge to prove their point. I just provided you with a study that says shot metrics and what did you do Freud? You ignored it and attacked me personally. They have a name for that fallacy. Go look it up.

            I’d take it too Dirk.

            If the statement were made in a bubble and I didn’t know any thing else about the way JD writes I might agree. But the fact is, he often uses writing like I described to make his points in a way that comes across as a completely objective conclusion based on his chosen stats. I don’t think it’s unfair to conclude he’s using the same methodology when presenting this sentence which is not qualified as an opinion, about Jake.

            Wording matters. Especially when one claims their numbers are “tested” and have “high predictability”. That by it’s nature means you are not thinking it’s just your own opinion. You believe it to be objective.

            The “it’s just my opinion” is the fall back position when the stats fail to support your point. It’s not proper writing, nor is it anything close to being scientific.

    • Braindead Benning

      Well if there is one thing that I can say I agree with you is the Boeser and Eichel comparison. But anyone with half a brain would have noticed that considering Eichel is a self serving cancer