Photo Credit: Matthew Henderson

Monday Mailbag Part Two: Brendan Leipsic, Ben Hutton, and the CBA

I’m sympathetic this argument when it comes to their forwards. Apart from Elias Pettersson, the crop of young players that have yet to make the NHL is pretty uninspiring. On defense, it’s another story. By any objective measure, the Canucks had one of the worst crop of defensemen in the league last season and yet it looks like they may come back with the same eight players. That would be a little disappointing.

Assuming there are no trades, my best guess is that the depth chart will look something like this:

(Line combinations are obviously purely speculative)





Schaller Gaunce


Del Zotto-Gudbranson





It’s not what I would go with, but I think it’s what we’re most likely to see on opening night.

I think Leipsic has enough skill to maybe be a complementary player in a top-six role, likely on a second line. I also think that’s the best possible outcome one could realistically expect from a 24-year-old who’s struggled to make his mark at the NHL level thus far.

I would probably have to go with Bo Horvat.

For whatever reason, a large chunk of the city of Vancouver always seems to rush to belittle the accomplishments of young defenders who don’t play a sufficiently physical game in their eyes. It’s funny because most of these people are also the same who label any young defender who can make a decent first pass as the team’s saviour less than 10 games into their tenure here. I think expectations have a lot to do with it. Most fans just don’t have a clear idea of how rare it is to find an offensive, physical defenseman who is also reliable in his own zone. This city seems to oscillate rapidly between love and hate for its defensemen. Given the fanbase’s track record with other players, I actually think Troy Stecher has done a good job of avoiding criticism so far.

The NHL can choose to opt out of the current CBA in 2019, which seems like the most likely scenario at this point given the animosity that arose over the league refusing to allow its players to attend the Olympics. Either way, the good news is that the current CBA doesn’t expire until September 2022, while Seattle’s inaugural season is set to be in 2020-2021.

Precedents set in the past would seem to point towards the likelihood of another strike, but it’s unlikely it will affect the expansion process. The Canucks are probably in the clear.

To be honest, I don’t think there are many recent comparables. Hughes’ game is more in line with the freewheeling style of the seventies and eighties, but things have changed so much and as soon as you start to go back more than a decade or so you run the risk of making a comparison a young player can’t live up to. That’s a boring answer, but the truth is he’s incredibly unique.

The Devils would make sense, and I could see teams like L.A. or Chicago that have a lot of money locked up in a few players and are looking to extend their window maybe taking a risk. I’d imagine the market is pretty limited at the moment, otherwise we’d have seen a trade by now.

I’d be interested in splitting up the Horvat-Boeser combo to see if you can spread the offense across the lineup. I wouldn’t mind seeing Petersson play the right side with Horvat and Baertschi and seeing what an Eriksson-Gagner-Boeser line could do. I’d rather stick Pettersson with the team’s one proven offensive centre and hope Brock Boeser can carry his own line than see him play alongside someone like Brandon Sutter.

The team is better off waiting until they’re competitive to think about adding sweeteners to bad contracts to get them off the books. The Canucks look so far away from competing at the moment that it may not end up being necessary.

I definitely think the Canucks would be interested in a player like Reinhart. It’s tough to gauge what the price would be, though. He’s eclipsed 20 goals in two of his three seasons and has never finished a campaign with less than 42 points. The price should be high, but every time he’s discussed it seems to be in a negative light. The Sabres will be looking to make a quick turnaround now that they’ve added Rasmus Dahlin; maybe they’d have interest in someone like Chris Tanev to add a veteran presence to the team’s blue line?

A quick glance at Micah McCurdy’s shot tracking data would indicate that the Canucks’ PK was better at limiting scoring chances without Gudbranson on the ice. You may be on to something.

Nikolay Goldobin and Brendan Leipsic look to be competing for the same role as a scoring winger in the top-nine. That looks too close to call at the moment.

Right-side defense.

Given the state of the team’s offense, losing Goldobin for nothing would look extremely foolish. It would surely be a sign of poor asset management, if nothing else. But it probably doesn’t justify forming an angry mob. Losing Frankie Corrado for nothing was foolish too, but turned out to be no real loss. If he gets claimed and lights it up somewhere else, then maybe you can get your pitchforks out.




  • DJ_44

    Assuming there are no trades, my best guess is that the depth chart will look something like this:

    Gaunce over Gaudette or Granlund? Gagner? Hutton?


    • Nuck16

      I’m extremely confused why everyone assumes if we have too many bodies that we’ll waive one of Goldie, Leipsic, or Granlund, but not Gaunce. Gaunce needed to show more offensive upside by now…we can risk losing him on waivers…for the others, we need to see another year out of them before we can risk losing them for nothing.

  • TheRealPB

    I share your concern about coming back with the same group of D (especially MDZ and Gudbranson) but I am not sure why you think the solution would be to rush a couple of prospects. If anything, it’s more important for them to get acclimated to the speed of the NHL than forwards. If the lineup you’ve suggested is really what we are going with (and all indications is that it won’t be a big variation on it) then I do think we should keep the young players out of what will be a team struggling to score and to win and have them develop some camaraderie in Utica. Also, I can get on board with a sheltered offensive fourth line with Leipsic, Goldobin and Gagner (in fact that’s really the best utilization of Gagner), especially if you can just throw a defensive line out there in Beagle-Roussel-Eriksson. I’d move Virtanen onto the more offensive line; I’m assuming you put Eriksson with Sutter and Pettersson to increase his stats and maybe make him more palatable in a trade situation? But I think the better outcome would be to have Virtanen (re)discover some kind of offensive flair.

    • North Van Halen

      The angst over bringing back the same d-core is entirely blogger/Botchford created. The same guys that are begging for a rebuild, who know the best thing for the Canucks next season is a bad finish and Jack Hughes, for some reason are upset we’re bringing back the same awful d and only adding grinding forwards.
      So what do they want? A big push to get better this season? Is the goal 18th place instead of 30th?
      It must be nice to be a blogger where we can criticize management if they don’t do enough to improve this season but can still villify them if they don’t understand we’re rebuilding and trying to tank.
      What do you want? I know I wanna lose for Hughes while icing a team that works hard and makes the kids push for spots. Am I confused?!?!

      • TheRealPB

        You believe that the Canucks are intentionally tanking? You think that JB sold spending $12 million on fourth liners to the Aquilinis with “we will spend sixty million dollars this year so we have a 20% chance at landing the top pick when we host the draft”?

        I think the Canucks will be poor. But there are very few teams that I have seen intentionally tank. The only ones that did it by design (rather than accepting the inevitable and gunning for worst as the Penguins did for Lemieux and the Sabres and Oilers did for McDavid) were the Leafs for Matthews and (in a different sport) the Philadelphia 76ers. Getting a better draft position cannot be the reason for not improving your D. Yes, if we have more luck and full seasons out of Tanev, Edler and Stecher we won’t be as bad. But we would have been better served (including for mentoring younger players) by bringing in at least one UFA on D rather than 3 on F.

        • North Van Halen

          I think the Canuck’s know exactly where they are in their rebuild. This team is not ready for a playoff run and JBTL aren’t trying to make them. They lost the Sedins, arguably 2 of their top 3 best offensive players and replaced them with depth pieces, thus making sure no one was rushed into spots they’re not ready for while also not adding talent to push them higher up the standings. If playoffs were the goal, the Canucks would have tried to sign De Haan, Neal, Perron or Stasny. Instead they signed a bunch of guys to insualte and protect the youth while they learn.
          Bringing in more veteran presence on D?!?! They have Edler, Tanev, MDZ,& Guddy for that. There’s more than enough experience there, just not enouh talent. Is there someone out there that is better suited for the job of teaching the youth than Edler?! or Tanev?!
          I wouldn’t call this a tank, I would call this acceptance of reality and the right way to build given where we are.

          • TheRealPB

            What I would want is good veteran presence on D. Tanev and Edler are quiet but excellent players. MDZ and Gudbranson are not quiet and they are also not competent players.

            Let me put this another way. If you were to simply look at the results we’ve had the past three years, especially on defense, why would you NOT try to upgrade? The Canucks just threw a bunch of money at fourth liners (arguably addressing parts of the problem they could have spent far less money on and taken a better and more proactive approach to mentorship). So why not spend some money or make some trades to move out at least one of the core pieces of what has made the defense so bad the past few years?

          • North Van Halen

            Honestly, PB you’re Guddy hatred clouds your vision too often. I don’t understand mangement’s Guddy infatuation but I do get Green using Del Zotto and Guddy over lazy players with more upside.
            There are players on this team that haven’t been putting the effort (see Hutton & Pouliot) and they have been called out by both coaches and vets, don’t like it? don’t be fat and lazy!
            Both these guys with Edler and Tanev are more than enough to mentor players. You hate Guddy, you’ve made that clear but he’s here, we’re not going to give him away. Mangement clearly views his and MDZ’s leadership as valuable. Putting aside your repeated belief these guys are awful for throwing lazy players under the bus and using the forwards model, these 2 are placeholders like Beagle, et al. Guys who work hard, make us harder to play against, won’t get in the way when more talented replacements come along, might be worth picks when better players are ready to replace them, all while not improving us to a point where we come 18th.

          • TheRealPB

            I agree with you that Gudbranson has value. Whether it’s deserved or not, he’s still a valuable commodity. I don’t think the same can be said about MDZ. I also think it’s incumbent upon the management to provide something better on the back end. I may not agree with spending lots on the 4th line but clearly Benning decided that he needed more depth in the C position and while I don’t agree with the terms I think that Beagle, Roussel and Schaller are upgrades on the rotating cast of AHL tweeters we’ve had in the lineup most of the recent years. I remain, however, confused as to why there hasn’t been any attempt to upgrade the defense. If they don’t get rid of Gudbranson I suppose I understand, but to not change any of the D when it’s been so awful seems irresponsible to me. MDZ in particular seems cemented in the top four but I have seen no evidence that he deserves to be. And I think its unfair to lambaste Pouliot and Hutton for their fitness when the vets seem to have no real positive impact on the game either. Being fit and hardworking doesn’t mean much if you can’t actually stop opposition forwards from scoring at will.

          • Bud Poile

            MDZ and Guddy are here to be traded.
            Trade them from a position of strength,not weakness.
            As Jackson pointed out (and everybody knows) the Canucks have a very weak RHD pool which gives Guddy more short term security than MDZ.

          • NucksLifer

            I agree with Bud that the intention is to try to rehabilitate the value of Hutton, Pouliot, Gudbranson and, possibly, MDZ. Gudbranson was hurt at the TDL and Hutton had a down year. They aren’t worth anything now but could be worth something by the TDL – and one or more will be traded by then.

            As for the overall plan, I think North Van Halen has it right. The plan isn’t to tank but they have accepted that they won’t be competitive (for the playoffs) for the next year or two. The FAs were brought in to protect, mentally and physically, the young skill players. All of the contracts, even Ericksson’s, are structured to become easily moveable by the summer of 2020. Roussel and Beagle are at $2.2 million per the last two years, Ericksson it at $2.5 per (after his 2020 bonus). Gudbranson’s last year is at $3m. Even Baer and Bo’s contracts are front loaded.

            The way it is lined up, we can expect an improved product and a playoff push in 2020-2021.

          • North Van Halen

            Look dude, Pouliot & Hutton have more talent, MDZ & Guddy have more effort. At this point teaching those guys the importance of effort is more important than letting them think their talent will trump effort. Trading Pouliot & Hutton also makes no sense because both are worth more to the Nucks if they fullfil their potential than whatever they could get back for them. .
            So Hutton & Pouliot need to figure that out, then win their spot and the numbers in camp prove that. If they do, likely MDZ will be the first to go, hopefully by trade, if not to the minors. As guys like Juolevi, Hughes & Woo move up, after they’ve fully proved they are ready, others will be replaced.
            Change for change isn’t the answer, a proper succession plan is. Earn your spot, effort trumps skill. Vets will be replaced when a kid has taken it from them. Nothing is gifted.

        • liqueur des fenetres

          Kinda makes Benning’s talk about having vets mentor the youth ring a little hollow don’t it when in their final seasons he has Edler and Tanev mentoring Guddy and Pouliot.

          • North Van Halen

            I don’t search for negatives, nice try though. Come back when Hughes and/or Juolevi are actually on the team before we assume how they are going to be mentored.

          • liqueur des fenetres

            So why is Benning wasting all this premium mentorship he has signed on D? Or are you saying that these mentors are pretty much useless seeing the lack of impact they’ve had on lazy Hutton and Pouliot?

          • North Van Halen

            I am saying these guys play the game the right way, though each are limited by their skills/hockey IQ. Whether guys like DP & BH pay attention is up to them, they are grown-ups making millions of dollars, not teenagers in school.
            As Hughes, Juolevi, Woo, etc are ready to replace these guys, it will be up to Hutton & Pouliot whether it’s them that become expendable or them become the veterans and guys like MDZ, Guddy, Edler & Tanev get replaced.

          • liqueur des fenetres

            “play the game the right way” that’s a really interesting choice of words especially when it isn’t supported by data. How about “play the game the way management, that owns the worst combined record over the last three seasons, thinks it should be played.”?

          • North Van Halen

            don’t be obtuse. I didn’t say there were talented, I said they try hard. As more talented guys beat them out through a combination of work effort and talent they will be replaced. They won’t be replaced by soft kids that give a half effort.
            The Canucks are where they are because of not drafting a quality NHLer for 10 straight years. The only way back was to bottom out and get draft picks. Thats where they are.
            As the kids get older, they replace the crappy placeholders but they gotta earn it. This is what is being taught now. Where they finish in the standings (and the lower the better for now) isn’t near as relevant right now as learning effort, compete and motivation. Those that do move on and make us better, those that don’t won’t be gifted spots.

          • North Van Halen

            I’ve spelled it out as clearly as I can. If you still can’t figure it out, well the world needs ditch diggers too, don’t waste money on college.

      • Burnabybob

        Knowing the Canucks, they will get burned in the draft lottery again next year. If they finish dead last, count on them drafting 4th.

        Luckily, there appear to be several good centers, including Cozens and Lavoie. The Canucks can then target defensemen with their later draft picks next year.

    • Doodly Doot

      I can’t wait for Gaudette to play a regular role. He should be the 3rd or 4th line center this year, BUT it’s hard to see what the team looks like in September at this point.

    • Killer Marmot

      My prediction (worth everything you paid for it):

      1. Gaudette looks good in camp.
      2. Starts in Utica.
      3. Called up on October 21st after Eriksson suffers a broken ankle when he’s undercut by that nasty little dwarf Marchand.
      4. Centres the fourth line behind Horvat, Sutter, and Beagle.
      5. Has a very respectable 32 point season, playing with Leipsic, Virtanen, and sometimes Pettersson.

      • argoleas

        Apart from the specifics of point #3, I believe this is close to how it will pay out for Gaudette this season.

        But will dispute point #4, since it implies agreement with the suggestion that Sutter will center Pettersson. I do not believe that will happen. Sutter will still be charged with main shutdown duties. No way Pettersson is on that line.

    • Nuck16

      I don’t mind seeing Gaudette start the season in Utica where he’d hopefully have a lot of success and build his confidence, then call him up when we need him and when he’s hot….unless of course he kills it in the pre-season.

    • DogBreath

      Way too premature. 0 points in 9 games and he needs to be the 2LC? Play him to his strengths, likely in Utica with several injury call-ups. If he makes an undeniable case in training camp, then start him slowly and let his play dictate where he plays. (4LC, 3LC or 2LC)

      • truthseeker

        nope…you’re way too conservative. Every Hobey Baker winner for the past 4 years has stepped straight into the NHL and performed well to great. None of them needed AHL time. Guadette is turning 22 years old. That’s well beyond when top young players should be playing in the league. He had a higher point per game total than Jack Eichel did in his NCAA season. Yes Eichel was younger but still, Gaudette’s NCAA numbers are comparable to recent winners and he was dominant in the NCAA.

        It’s absolutely ridiculous to baby a guy like that. He needs to start learning the NHL game now. As I said…only if he fails miserably in camp, should he be sent down.

        • Bud Poile

          Four of the last 8 Hobey Baker winners never stuck in the NHL.
          They had a cup of coffee and that was it.
          Gaudette is too far down the depth chart to command a spot.

  • Defenceman Factory

    “Apart from Elias Pettersson, the crop of young players that have yet to make the NHL is pretty uninspiring.”

    This statement says more about the author that it does about the forward prospects. Jackson can’t seem to pass up an opportunity to throw a barb regardless of how seriously it undermines his credibility.

    Gaudette, Dahlen, Gadjovich, Jasek, Palmu and Lind may not be expected to be elite but that is a solid group of forward prospects.

    • Killer Marmot

      It was a very strange statement. But McDonald claimed in June that the Canucks prospect pool rated between 10 -15th in the NHL. Dobber Prospects, in contrast, rated the Canucks 4th after polling its writers.

      McDonald is not doing his credibility any good when he says stuff like that. He might be just trying to rattle the monkey cage.

      • TD

        I am not a Jackson fan, but my read of the 10-15 comment different. I believe he was referring to the prospects and young NHL players. The Canucks are near the top in prospects, but have few young stars in the line-up.

    • No kidding. Gaudette wins the Hobey Baker, Dahlen becomes a legend in Timra by singlehandly taking Timra to the SHL, Palmu wins Liiga rookie of the year, Gadjovich and Lockwood make their respective national junior teams, Jasek finally gets out of his Czech contract and scores 3 points in his first AHL game.

      Jackson McDonald: “Meh.”

    • Rodeobill

      Yeah, I am not one to criticize, but this one made me take a step back. Our prospect pool is until now, the saving grace for us fans holding on to any shred of positivity, maybe he just had a rough day.

  • Killer Marmot

    Given the state of the team’s offense, losing Goldobin for nothing would look extremely foolish. It would surely be a sign of poor asset management, if nothing else.

    There’s no reason that should happen. Although the roster looks cramped right now, one or two injuries ,means Benning doesn’t have to even consider sending Goldobin down. And if by some miracle there were no injuries, it would be preferable to send Gaunce or Gagner down instead, on the theory that they are not likely to be claimed (and if Gagner was claimed, that would not be an altogether bad thing).

  • wojohowitz

    Maybe they should just fast forward a couple of years and clean out the dead wood. Being young and inexperienced must be better than old, slow and bad.


  • Locust

    ” Losing Frankie Corrado for nothing was foolish too, but turned out to be no real loss. If he gets claimed and lights it up somewhere else, then maybe you can get your pitchforks out.”

    The CA Clown Show lost its mind when Frank (healthy scratch) Corrado left. It was almost as nauseating as your teenage girl hatred of Sutter and Guddy.

    Maybe use the facts to come to a conclusion instead of starting with a conclusion and trying to support it with “facts”.

  • speering major

    Moving Tanev for a guy like Sam Reinhart is a no-brainer home run. I would be very impressed if JB could pull something like this off even if he had to throw in another piece. They could sign an old vet like Hamhuis who is a downgrade but will take a short term contract and can give you steady minutes. Let’s not go crazy and jump on a guy like Roman Polak, but take what you can get I guess

    Gaunce being waived and sent down is an absolute no-brainer also. The kid has heart etc but you can replace him for nothing at just about any time you want.




    Goldobin-Gagner-Petterson -Heavily sheltered

    Schaller Leipsic

    • TD

      I like it, but would put Pettersson centering Goldobin and Leipsic as the last line. Look at 12 minutes of even strength time with extra time on the PP. Gagner is not good defensively, so I would let Pettersson learn the center position from sheltered minutes while playing with two young and talented wingers.

      • Rodeobill

        This might be good, but I wonder if Petterson may have a rookie year kin to what Boeser had last year, If he does, we will see him moving up the line up pretty fast. If he is able to hold the weight of the 2nd line offensive center that would change alot of lineup arrangement issues for the better and open alot of options.

  • wojohowitz

    I know how we can upgrade the defence with some free agent veterans who provide leadership. Offer one year, one million dollar contracts to Bieksa, Hamhuis and Garrison. Leadership, toughness and a lot less mistakes.




    Look at the list of players Benning can dump for picks and prospects; Gundbranson, Hutton, Del Zotto, Pouliot, Baertschi, Granlund, Eriksson, Sutter, Beagle, Roussel and Gagner…and the Canucks would be better off.

    • Bud Poile

      Bieksa: 0 NHL goals scored
      Garrison: 0 NHL goals scored
      Hamhuis: 3 NHL goals scored
      Bieksa is the only RHD ,he’s 37 and he scored 0 NHL goals.
      The logjam is LHD and trades have to be made in order to bring in Juolevi or Hughes,never mind losing Hutton and Del Zotto for nothing on waivers.

      • wojohowitz

        Bieksa: 0 NHL goals scored
        Garrison: 0 NHL goals scored
        Hamhuis: 3 NHL goals scored
        Hutton 0 NHL goals scored
        Gudbranson 2 NHL goals scored
        Pouliot 3 NHL goals scored
        Del Zotto 6 NHL goals scored

    • North Van Halen

      If I was betting man, I’d bet nearly almost all of those guys are traded before their contracts are up. Once better, younger replacements are ready, not before…

  • LTFan

    As this is going to be at the bottom of the comments – it relates to D. Everyone forgets about the guys who have been putting in time in Utica. McEneny was up with the Canucks in 2017-17 and was okay. Sautner came up at the end of last season for 5 games and played well. Both of these guys are 24 years old. Chatfield is 22 and a right D. Brisebois is only 20.
    I don’t know if they will ever be regular NHL D.men but they should not be overlooked.

    • Macksonious

      Of the Utica D men you listed, Brisebois is the most intriguing. Management seems pretty high on him. Potential wild card if he has a good camp and/or plays well on the farm.

      • Bud Poile

        Heard on radio today that mgmt. may be trying to trade one or two LHD’s to make way for Hughes (and Juolevi) to turn pro.
        THe LHD logjam is a good problem to have but retaining value in trade is looking to be a challenge.
        RHD depth is minimal with Chatfield,Brassard and Rathbone all years away from challenging for a job.

        • Bud Poile

          Should read: ….make way for Hughes to turn pro and potentially allow room for Juolevi on the roster,as well.
          Finding trading partners for LHD’s MDZ,Hutton and/or Pouliot should prove interesting.

          • Macksonious

            Interesting development, makes sense.

            Forget getting any significant value other than opening up roster space, but I guess they have to do their due diligence.

            Look forward to seeing how this unfolds.