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Photo Credit: Matthew Henderson

Monday Mailbag: After Dark

What happens when J.D. Burke hands off the Monday Mailbag to someone who is already midway through their fourth beer?

As they used to say on my favourite T.V. show, let’s find out.

For the first time since 2014-15, the Canucks had at least two lines who could be relied on to produce offence on a semi-regular basis and even had a top-10 power play. With Henrik and Daniel Sedin gone, that doesn’t look likely to happen again. So no, I don’t think it’s a realistic thing to aim for.

The question of their cup window is an interesting one because the team’s best young forwards are entering their prime within the next few years but the help they need on defense is just so, so far away. I would say you’re in the ballpark but they’ll really need to figure out their back end within the next couple of years if it’s going to happen at all.

Adam Boqvist scares the shit out of me. “Boom or bust” prospects aren’t nearly as common as some people think, but boy does he fit the bill. If I remember correctly, his most recent season in the SuperElit had 4 matches. Three of them never made the NHL. The fourth was Erik Karlsson. There’s a real risk associated with selecting him, but you could say he’s an intriguing gamble. He can probably iron out the defensive issues but the concussion history is not, as you say, easily fixed.

I definitely lean towards Wahlstrom but you can’t go wrong with either player.

Who knows, man. It’s June. Any answer would be a complete shot in the dark. I’d like to at least know what the Canucks do in free agency before I take a stab at answering this one.

Yes, but it would involve moving one of the few assets they have that’s more valuable than the 7th overall. They’re not moving Boeser, Horvat, or Pettersson, so if they don’t move their pick that’s pretty much the end of it. The only thing I could see happening is something involving Thatcher Demko, but even that seems like a stretch.

I feel like we get a variation of this question every week but here’s a brief list of guys I have way higher than consensus, ranked based on how high I expect them to be selected:

Jonatan Berggren

Jake Wise

Rasmus Sandin

Alexander Alexeyev

Calen Addison

Sean Durzi

Nicolas Beaudin

Markus Karlberg

Jakub Lauko

Jerry Turkulainen

I’m usually a “pump the brakes” guy, but honestly, I don’t see why he can’t be an impact player right away. He was the best player in a men’s league this season. It’s not that much of a stretch to think he could be at least above average in the NHL next season. That being said, I think it’s likely he will be sheltered like crazy at evens and get a ton of power play time, at least at first.

I think Hanifin is a special case. Setting aside whatever you think about Hanifin or the team’s rumoured interest in his services, the front office wouldn’t be doing their job if they weren’t at least taking calls. Other than that, I think the only D the Canucks would target would be prospects in return for one of their veteran pieces. I’m not against acquiring Hanifin (if the price is right), but in general I don’t think trading for a defenseman would be prudent.

It’s not really the same thing. One broke into the league at 18, the other at 22. One was selected in the fifth round, the other at fifth overall. Also, unlike Hutton, I really don’t think Noah Hanifin is damaged goods. He’s coming off his best season yet. I’m not really sure why he gets talked about as if he’s been a massive disappointment.

When looking at their contract situation, Andre Burakovsky seems like the obvious answer. That would be an interesting move, although I can’t really speculate as to what a trade between the two teams might look like.

Kristoffer Gunnarsson has played parts of three SHL seasons and a total of 69 games now and still hasn’t earned as much a single point. That seems impossibly difficult to pull off. That selection is definitely looking like one of the more notably puzzling selections of the Jim Benning regime. The 2017 draft was otherwise a great performance by the team’s scouting department overall, however; so I think they can get a pass this time.

It’s really tough to answer questions like this one because after Buffalo selects Rasmus Dahlin, all bets are off. If Oliver Wahlstrom and Quinn Hughes are gone by seven, I lean towards Jesperi Kotkaniemi as the best bet to be an impact player available.

It almost always makes sense to trade down in the middle rounds, but teams are also less likely to be targeting a specific player after around the second round or so. But yes, I would explore trading any of the team’s picks down.

This is just silly. That would be a tremendously lopsided trade. You don’t just give up a player like Jacob Markstrom for nothing.

Los Angeles and Anaheim seem ripe for the picking. Rumours are floating around that both teams called asking about Brandon Sutter, too. Your move, Jim.

 

  • For the first time since 2014-15, the Canucks had at least two lines who could be relied on to produce offence on a semi-regular basis and even had a top-10 power play. With Henrik and Daniel Sedin gone, that doesn’t look likely to happen again.

    I hope they put up big bronze statues of the Sedins along False Creek — when they do, I will be sure to pay my respects. But in their last two years the Sedins were liabilities. While they were still an offensive force, their defense was horrendous. Henrik’s goal differential at even strength was -16, and this despite an offensive-zone start percentage of 74. Sure, the Sedins had decent possession numbers, but the aim of the game is to score more goals than your opponents, and for the last two seasons they were deeply in the red.

    Green will say all the right things about the Sedins, but secretly he may be relieved that he has a chance to ice a more competitive team.

  • Hi Jackson, I don’t have a Twitter account so hopefully you see this and you are able to respond. So some of the teams you mentioned that would be interested in Sutter are fairly tight against the cap. So the question is can a trade include ‘buyout contracts’’? With the cap space the Canucks have it seems like they should be looking to utilize it to get more draft picks.

  • How do you reconcile these three thoughts:
    1. “the team’s best young forwards are entering their prime within the next few years but the help they need on defense is just so, so far away”
    2. “in general I don’t think trading for a defenseman would be prudent”
    3. “If Oliver Wahlstrom and Quinn Hughes are gone by seven, I lean towards Jesperi Kotkaniemi as the best bet to be an impact player available”

    In other words, how do you get a defenseman if you don’t trade or draft them? If the team already has some potential impact forwards, and defenseman take longer to develop, according to your rational, shouldn’t they take the best defenseman available?

    They will be bad again this year and draft in the top ten again next year. There appears to be many more impact forwards then

      • The Markstrom crack was a joke. Hannifin is a young, quality top 4 NHL Dman. No trade for him starts with Markstrom.

        I didn’t interpret what Jackson said as a recommendation to draft Kotkaniemi. His answer was about who will have an impact next year.

        I don’t agree trading for a Dman isn’t prudent. It will be difficult however. Top 4 Dmen cost a lot and the assets most teams would want back should not be traded. What the Canucks do have to work with is; cap space, extra back-up goalies, Tanev, Guddy, extra bottom pairing left side Dmen, Sutter and several wingers including Baertschi, Goldobin, Granlund, Gagner and Guance. I would also consider Lind as part of a trade. If Benning can land a young, top 4 Dman using these assets good for him. Easier said than done though.

    • I don’t want to speak for Jackson, but my guess is that the issue is the Canucks lack the forward depth both to make trading for a defenceman feasible, and to pass up on the best player available. The advantage of drafting BPA every year is that if you end up with a surplus of impact forwards at one position, you can then trade from that position of strength to fill an area of need.

      For example, look at the current Leafs – with the exception of Liljegren, they’ve been taking forwards in the first round for the past five years or so, and are absolutely stacked on the wings. They have some defensive holes, but they can afford to trade a genuine impact forward (not a Baertschi or a Leipsic) to fill in that gap. The Canucks can’t.

      • The only problem with this scenario is that for multiple reasons defensemen still command a disproportionate cost. It simply isn’t easy to flip stockpiled forward prospects for defensemen and defensemen; if it was, the Leafs would’ve made this trade already, no? Or signed someone beyond Zaitsev as a free agent. It still seems better to draft and develop your D core than to try and sign or trade for it.

      • Again….D is worth more than forward. So it does not work well in that direction. Until GM’s start to think differently it will cost more value in forwards for what you get back on D. Hall/Larsson, Jones/Johansen, Shattenkirk for a ton of picks and prospects etc.

        If you keep drafting forwards, especially wingers, then you end up just like toronto. Early exits in the playoffs because you over value them and won’t trade for decent D.

        In my opinion,BPA is not the correct strategy if positions have inherent value by their very nature. And they do. So it’s not an even sum game. If the position of D is just worth more than the position of wing then that affects the value of your BPA. A slightly lesser D man will have more value than a better winger.

    • The question was who has the best chance to be an impact player not what player best fits the Canucks needs. What Jackson says makes a lot of sense. He believes the Canucks desperately need defensemen but he also believes after Hughes, none of the other available defensemen are true ‘impact players’ like Wahlstrom or Kotkniemi. It’s also logical to assume JM believes any trade for an impact defenseman would come with a prohibitive cost (should Van give up the 7th + Baertschi and/or Markstrom cuz given recent trades thats the cost).
      It doesn’t mean he’s right, he was just asked how he sees the available players and answered the way he sees it. Canuck management may see Dobson or Bouchard as better prospects than Kotkanieimi and draft as such and they could be proven right or they may find a reasonable trade.
      Drafting based on need at the 7th spot is dumb. You have to take the best available and address positional needs in different ways.
      BTW 4 beers, little snark, even with a Sutter comment. More beer may be the answer in the future…

      • Completely agree that drafting based solely on need would be foolish. BPA in my mind is a misnomer. If two players are in the same range, then position should be a factor.

        My point is how do you plan to address defense needs? JM seems to indicate that they shouldn’t trade for one. Maybe I misunderstood, but I would think the strategy would be to take BPA and then use your strength in one area to trade for need.

        • I think Vegas proved this year there are some really good defensemen out there that are seriously undervalued, it’s up to the Canuck’s to find them.
          I think most of what Jackson said is valid. if you believe the forwards have higher ceilings take them. Also, trading for a dman with pedigree is extraordinarily cost prohibitive, especially if you consider the Canucks area of strength is wing which isn’t valued the same as a quality d.
          There are many ways for the Canucks to end up with a quality backline (drafts, trades, or free agents) but they all boil down to the same thing, Benning & Co need to make some really good decisions. They literally have about 1&1/2 years to get the defence moving in the same direction as the forwards & goalies or someone else will be making those decisions.

          • I buy your argument until now. The Vegas situation doesn’t apply. The expansion rules punished teams who wanted to protected defensemen over forwards.

            This meant that there were quality defensemen that were available who otherwise would not be.

            Of course, there will always be players who are undervalued and good management will try to find those players. But, this is not a plan. This is being opportunistic. You need a plan to build the team and in the Canuck’s case, a solid defense.

            BTW, I can also buy the argument that a team doesn’t need game changing defensemen if it has elite forwards (i.e. Pittsburgh last year).

          • Kanucked – almost every defenceman Vegas picked was a depth player on their previous team and would have been available for trade at a fairly low price, with the possible exception of Nate Schmidt.

            The fact that those players have come galvanized as a group and played way above what they were projected to doesn’t change the fact that none of them were particularly valued by their teams (again, excepting Nate Schmidt) and would have been easy acquisitions.

          • I never said JM was right, I’m just pointing out what I believe he was saying. Since I haven’t watched near enough of the prospects to know if Dobson is better than Bouchard is better than Wahlsrom etc. but if management believes one of the forwards available to them has the highest ceiling, thats who they should take. If not, then take your dman of choice.
            I’ve also never studied Hanifin game tape to know if I think I would give up the 7th plus for him but I’d have to be sure he was a top 2 guy to make that move.
            I do know that each team could protect 3 dmen plus prospects so every dman selected by Vegas was a minimum of the 4th dman on any given team. I think most of those guys could have been had for much less than the 7th overall pick plus roster players.
            In other words, I’m sure Vancouver has a plan to address their defensive issues. Could be they love Bouchard and a guy they draft in the 2nd. Could be they plan on selling the farm for Hanifin. Could be they plan on trading Tanev for Lilligren. Could be they see the next Nate Schmidt and can get him for Baertschi & a 3rd. Or a hundred other scenarios and each of them fluid depending on how the draft unfolds in front of them.
            I guess this is my long winded way of saying, I was only trying to clarify why Jackson was within his right to believe what he does though I can’t agree or disagree without more information. I do disagree though that Vegas shouldn’t be looked at in terms of being able to find solid players valued as 4th or worse options on teams. If the Canucks are actually able to assess which are capable of more, then they may be able to acquire them without losing major pieces like a Hanifin would cost.

      • This year there will likely be little conflict between best-player-available and drafting-for-need for Vancouver. There are three solid right-shooting defensemen rated between fifth and tenth in the draft.

        It is possible, though, that a highly ranked players like Tkachuk is inexplicably passed up in the first six picks. Then Benning has a tough decision to make.

        • I disagree – the draft can go many ways but there is going to be a hard decision to make no matter what. It’s very likely that 1 or 2 of these forwards will still be available (Tkachuk/Kotkaniemi/Wahlstrom) to go along with 2 or 3 of those right-shooting d that will still be left (Hughes will be gone by 7).

          Canucks desperately need d but will have to leave at least one potential ‘impact’ forward on the board if they do pick one. There will be conflict here.

          • To add further intrigue there’s talk that Detroit is willing to deal the 6th pick, meaning that another team could swoop in at the last minute based on who’s available. Canucks should flip picks with Detroit to improve their control of the draft board, and it likely would only cost the 7th plus a guy who’s on the outs.

        • I posted at Flames Nation about trading our 7th if Tkachuk was still available, thinking they’d want both Matt and Brady. It was a resounding hell no, we don’t want Tkachuk because he hasn’t proven anything and they don’t think he’s as good as the hype. I see the dilemma if Wahlstrom is still available. In that case, I certainly hope that Wahlstrom and Tkachuk go in the Top 6 so that we get a selection of good defencemen (less one).

      • This is always a key debate. Wahlstrom may prove to have (way) more ‘impact’ than a Dobson, but in 4 yrs, if both reach their ceilings, a hypothetical trade at best would see a 1-1 swap, maybe even the team trying to get a Dobson having to sweeten the pot. As such, there’s an argument to just drafting that RD now.

        • But if you’re sure of Wahlstrom but not sold on Dobson? Wahlstrom can be traded for your needs in the future. A stiff defenseman will still be a stiff defenseman.
          I personally don’t know what the right answer is but Benning needs to get this right cuz he’s outta mulligans as far as I’m concerned.
          As for trading up one spot to control their fate, Vegas was offering a 2nd before they backed out last year. This team cannot afford a 2nd or even a 3rd for one draft position. That would be incredibly dumb.

          • Yes, if they are not sold on Dobson (or any other RD), then in the scenario you outline, Wahlstrom is the clear BPA, and you take him. Then in the future, you indeed trade surplus from a position of strength a la Johansen-Jones.

            Yes, IMO this draft could be one of the most pivotal drafts in team history, at least since 1999. They MUST get this one right. That 7th MUST be a stud (be he a RD Dman or otherwise).

      • If Benning doesn’t believe in any of the D left on the board, then Kotkniemi or Wahlstrom may make sense. Kotkniemi fills an organizational need at centre which also makes sense. This may be unpopular, but Wahlstrom is supposed to be a bigger version of Boeser. If they draft Wahlstrom, maybe Boeser would be traded for a D man when his value is high. I don’t like it, but they HAVE to address the lack of impact D men on the back end somehow. If they don’t do it this year with a D rich draft, when are they going to do it? I’m not sold on Quinn Hughes like everyone at CA, but would you trade Boeser for one of the top picks and take Hughes and then draft Wahlstrom? Boeser may command more than just the pick. Personally, I would keep Boeser and draft Bouchard or Dobson, but there is so many different rankings on the players that I don’t really know where the players project.

    • In fairness to Jackson, the third question and answer was just about the best impact player at #7. He didn’t actually advocate (at least in this article) picking Kotkaniemi over a closely-ranked defenceman. It’s the whole BPA vs. position debate.
      Personally I would like to see the Canucks use high picks on defencemen to address their weakness at that position, and also look to trade for defencemen over the next couple of seasons.

  • I’m actually positive on Benning overall but I think his handling of the Tanev situation is going to hinder the rebuild in a very serious way. The Canucks have had the chance for two drafts (If you include this one, time will tell) to move Tanev for a D prospect. This is a D-heavy draft. People are talking about the trade value of Hanifin being a #7 +. Ok then, it’s clear the Canucks need to draft D, and it’s also clear that Tanev has/had a ton of value to use for the rebuild. Do that.

    The Canucks will have a ton of cap space to use on a D to plug a hole with the right fit. The situation you clearly don’t want to be in is the oilers. They never drafted D and had to go out and get some because they had a great team up front that couldn’t compete with the D they were icing. They then had to pay a terrible price for quality D. Columbus had to give up Johanson for a quality D. The price is high, so the Canucks need to use the picks and assets they have to get some high picks in a D heavy draft.

    If you look at the last 5 or 6 drafts, the odds you select a better D than Hanifin are in your favor. The number of busts that aren’t your Gudbranson type 90’s denfensmen are very low. D drafted in the top 10 that have skill and can skate are having a very high success rate. I think Bennings goal should be to take get two picks in the top 20 this year. The second pick (and probably second round pick also) should definitely be used on a D and the first pick should be used on the best player available (hopefully a D)

    • Agree that if there’s a a good Tanev deal to be had, then they should pull that trigger. Sure, their D will suffer in the short-term (although there’s a question how much lower can it go), but that’s the crux of the argument: Need to load up on D prospects to ensure the pipeline is healthy when their ascent results in lower drafting order.

      IMO, both Oilers and Flames short-circuited their rebuilds, resulting in an insufficient prospect pipeline, which could force both teams to mini-rebuilds, thus wasting the prime years of their top-end talent. This fate Canucks must avoid at all costs.

      But back to Tanev, can’t force a trade unless there’s a good one on the table. Perhaps his injury history is playing a factor (likely), and a healthy and productive season could result in a better deal in February.

          • Yeah, so like… last draft? when they probably could have done a deal that included the leafs first pick?

            Also we can speculate on if or when the Canucks are being low balled but only Benning knows. If they are offered a nice deal that includes a #1st round pick this draft, take it.

          • I listened to a Benning interview where he specifically said Edler,Tanev and Sutter would remain Canucks to help the kids transition.
            So,Benning is saying no but if some GM is going to overpay he might be persuaded.

        • Who knows what other GMs are going to do. Explore trading him at the draft, but only do it if the value is high. Tanev can mentor Juolevi (if he makes the team) for the first half of the season and be traded at the deadline. With another year on the contract he would still have good value.

    • Where are you getting this from?

      First off…how do you know what Benning was offered in terms of a D prospect for Tanev?

      Second, how are the odds in “your favor” of drafting a better D man than Hanifin?

      Depending on source he is their number three D man (by minutes), or maybe number 4. So he’s a top 4 D. He is exactly what the numbers predict.

      https://www.tsn.ca/statistically-speaking-expected-value-of-nhl-draft-picks-1.317819

      D drafted in the top 5 average out as slightly below what Hanifin is right now. He would be ranked a 7 by that scale and average is 6.85. The odds are saying Hanifin is pretty much exactly what you’ll get from a top 5 D pick. Implying it’s easy to get a better one in the draft isn’t supported by the numbers at all.

      If there is some other, better source you have for ranking the performance of draft picks that you know about please post it.

  • So Anaheim and L.A. express interest in Sutter but J.D. would give him away (with picks) and unload him.
    After last week’s fiasco it’s pretty clear why he’s passing on the Mailbag.

    • Only reason I’m here is no JD. I’m on a month sabbatical from him. I’m still trying to figure out if he only believes half of what he says or if he really knows next to nothing about hockey.

  • Not A fan of the Markstrom dis-
    Braden Holtby is a Conn Smythe candidate with a weaker regular season than Markstrom.
    The guy is only 28 and is best years are clearly ahead of him.
    He let in some puzzling (Luongo style) goals this year, but proved he can handle starter minutes, and took the heat for his play.
    No need to suggest he has no value- The guy is certainly worth a 2nd rounder.

    • You’re joking right?

      Holtby had half a bad season as part of an elite career (.922 save percentage over 300 NHL games, a .929 in 80 playoff games). This was Markstrom’s first year as a starter and he posted a .912, four points higher than his career average .908, and a full ten points lower than Holtby’s career average.

      And no, Markstrom’s best years are not ahead of him. He is what he is – a good backup or a below-average starter. In today’s NHL, that has little value.

      • Not really.
        This season, Markstrom played more games with a better average (than Holtby) and more importantly, a significantly weaker defence in front of him. That doesn’t devalue Holtby- it affirms Markstrom has value.

        Nobody in their right mind would suggest he has the same value as Holtby, or that Markstrom is a goalie to build a franchise around. But this regular season was a big step for any goalie.
        In trade:
        Lack got a 3rd and a 7th (Fans were livid- not enough)
        Talbot got a 2nd, a 3rd and a 7th (completely sheltered in NY)
        Elliott got a 2nd, and a 3rd (Over 30, playing 30-40 GP)

        Given his term his contract and age, and a 60GP season- its not a stretch to suggest Markstrom is worth a 2nd.
        Suggesting he’ll have 2-3 better seasons after a 60GP at age 28 is not a stretch. Especially if he gets actually gets a few nights off. He might not be in the company Holtby/Schneider, but he could be easily be a Dubnyk or a Thomas.

  • I believe the consensus from most on here is that the Canucks should pick a D. man unless there is a substantially better forward still available. That being the case, it seems, if a D.man is picked it will be one or more years before we see him in Vancouver.

    At the moment there are a couple of guys who have been in Utica for a couple of years and are close or ready for a shot at the Canucks. Sautner who played 5 games at the end of last season and IMO acquitted himself quite well. A +4 in 5 games.

    McEneny who was injured for much of last year, was touted as a player who could be with the Canucks for part of last season. If he can stay healthy should get a look. Both Sautner and McEneny are L.side players and 24 years old.

    On the right side there is Jalen Chatfield who was in his first pro season in Utica. Another season in Utica and he could be ready for an NHL job in Vancouver.

    The point is our D won’t be much different than last season. What the Canucks need are for the starting D. to play better than last year and stay healthy. We are still a couple of years away from having a D. that will make us competitive and move into the top 10 teams in the league.

    • The Canucks have lots of candidate D who can fill out the 5-6 spots. They lack (in a big way) D in the pipeline who project to carry this team in future. Let’s hope the BPA is one of the hotshot D.

      • What us fans have to hope for is that one of those expected 5/6 prospects excels into a solid top 4 guy. It’s surprising how many really good D have come out of nowhere. Many of the top D were not first round picks. I think the drafting has gotten better, but the development curve on many d men is delayed compared to forwards.