Photo Credit: Matthew Henderson

Monday Mailbag: Elias Pettersson’s Linemates, Young Stars, and the Salary Cap

To be honest, I’m not sure I can see Gaudette making the team out of camp given how many veterans will be filling out the bottom six. However, Tim Schaller underwent hand surgery in late May and it sounds as though he won’t be healthy in time for camp, so there’s a chance he makes the cut if the team decides to roll with 14 forwards.

If Pettersson plays the wing in his first season I maintain that the the best bet for the team would be to put him alongside Bo Horvat where Brock Boeser played for much of last year, and hope Boeser can create enough offence to prop up a player like Sam Gagner at even-strength. If he plays at centre, I’d imagine he’ll get a shot with just about any winger with offensive upside.

It’s way too early for this conversation. I lean towards Cozens but that will almost certainly change multiple times between now and June.

It’s hard to say, given that he has yet to play an NHL game, but my best guess is he’ll start at right wing, and if he plays on the first unit power play he can probably hit 40-50 points.

What’s commonly referred to as “analytics” is really just a series of outputs, whereas things like strength and conditioning are inputs. So, stats like Corsi or p/60 or expected goals don’t exactly take those elements into account so much as they are a reflection of being a good hockey player. Sometimes that means the player in question has excellent conditioning. Occasionally, it doesn’t.

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Injuries are inevitable. In theory, there’s nothing wrong with signing some extra depth players as insurance. It only becomes an issue when a team isn’t willing to sit veterans in favour of younger, more skilled players. I don’t think it’s outlandish to suggest that in many ways, the injury bug has been a blessing in disguise for the Canucks’ front office. It’s shielded them from criticism when the team has performed poorly, and it’s forced them to ice more youth than they may have otherwise.

If the Canucks finally put together a healthy season, it will be fascinating to see how the market reacts, and what the message from the team’s management will be. I don’t expect any of Jay Beagle, Brandon Sutter, Antoine Roussell, Sam Gagner, or Markus Granlund to sit in favour of Nikolay Goldobin, Brendan Leipsic, or Adam Gaudette. If the team performs poorly while icing a veteran-heavy lineup, it will be interesting to see how the front office responds.

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I’m not certain whether you’re talking about the 2017 or 2018 draft, so I’ll just cover my bases and answer for both.

2017: Aleksi Heponiemi

2018: Jonatan Berggren or Akil Thomas

The Alberta teams wanted to do something local. There was talk of moving the tournament to Red Deer in 2018, but the plan was scrapped (thankfully). The CIS teams are just there to pad out the schedule with some extra games over the weekend, they won’t be facing off against Vancouver or Winnipeg. The hope is that things will return to normal in 2019, but I wouldn’t be surprised if a compromise is reached and they rotate the tournament back and forth from Penticton and another location every other year.

I think the salary cap has absolutely made the game more competitive. Most teams can afford to sign their star players now, and the league doesn’t have issues with small-market teams becoming farm systems for the richer ones like we see in Major League Baseball. Sure, not all teams spend to the cap, but the difference between the salary cap and the salary floor is small enough that even teams with a shoestring internal budget can offer up a competitive product. If you sort by projected cap space for the 2018-19 season, you’ll see plenty of competitive and up-and-coming teams that don’t necessarily spend a lot of money.

I remember being a child in the early aughts and watching the New York Rangers become the place where superstars went to die while small-market teams couldn’t even field a remotely competitive roster. It was embarrassing and I’m glad fans aren’t suffering through that kind of excess anymore.

That’s not to say that criticism of the salary cap isn’t valid. It deprives fans of the dynasties and super-teams that were an essential part of the league’s history for most of the 20th century, and there are moral and philosophical issues that spring up from putting a cap on the earnings of the labourers who provide 100% of the entertainment. Its not a perfect system, but it’s absolutely achieved its goal. The league is more competitive now than ever.

  • Killer Marmot

    If the Canucks finally put together a healthy season, it will be fascinating to see how the market reacts, and what the message from the team’s management will be. I don’t expect any of Jay Beagle, Brandon Sutter, Antoine Roussell, Sam Gagner, or Markus Granlund to sit in favour of Nikolay Goldobin, Brendan Leipsic, or Adam Gaudette. If the team performs poorly while icing a veteran-heavy lineup, it will be interesting to see how the front office responds.

    It’s a reasonable assumption that all of those players will be on the roster when healthy, with the possible exception of Gaudette at the beginning of the season.
    Thus the only person who will be deciding how much ice time each player gets will be Green, and he has a huge incentive to win games.

    • I don’t think there are enough roster spots available for *all* those players.

      If there are 13 forward spots available, the team is going to have Horvat, Pettersson, Boeser, Baertschi, Sutter, Eriksson, Gagner, Beagle, Roussel, Granlund, and Virtanen in the line-up, which means two spaces open for Gaunce, Goldobin, Leipsic, Gaudette, and Schaller.

      It’s reasonable to think maybe one of those players gets into the lineup if everyone’s healthy, but it would be surprising if all three did.

      • Killer Marmot

        If we assume:

        1. 14 forward roster spots (the league norm).
        2. One forward on injury reserve.
        3. Schiller begins season on conditioning assignment in Utica.

        then there’s room for all but Gaudette in early October. In short, there will likely be room. By December there will most definitely be room.

          • Killer Marmot

            McDonald didn’t say “if everyone is healthy” for the very good reason that this is never going to happen for any significant length of time. He said “a healthy season”, which I take to mean that the Canucks have no more injuries than an average NHL team.

      • Ser Jaime Lannister

        Beagle > Gagner, Roussel > Gaunce. They need to waive Gagner immediately i cant see him having any value on this team. Send Gaunc to the AHL hes on his last year of his contract and i doubt hell be resigned theres more promising prospects waiting. As for Schaller he can be the 13th forward most nights and replace Granlund or anyone else who is under performing.

        • You and others have talked about waiving Gagner before. It’s not happening. Aquilini’s not paying him over $3 million to play in Utica, and despite his warts, Gagner is one of literally only three or four players on this team you can expect to hit 40 points.

          • Defenceman Factory

            For Gagner to get 30 points you have to give him the PP and sheltered ice time that could be allocated to someone capable of 50 points. Trade him for whatever draft pick anyone offers. He is horrible at centre and really just in the way.

          • Who on this team is honestly going to get 50 points, even with power play time? Horvat and Boeser. Hopefully Pettersson. The best Baertschi’s ever done is 35, and players like Goldobin and Leipsic have never come close.

            I would not want Gagner on a good team. This is not a good team. The idea that the Canucks have 13 forwards better than Gagner is straight-up laughable.

          • speering major

            Yeah I don’t understand this Gagner talk. The guy has two season at 3 Million + left on his contract. They aren’t waiving him. Unfortunately they won’t be able to move him at the deadline this season either. He will be a regular this season and then on the block next season. It’s possible he exceeds expectations this year and someone takes him but don’t hold your breathe.

            I actually think he would be a good fit to play with Petterson. Gagner is skilled and both guys need to be with skilled linemates and would benefit from a sheltered role. Gagner looked good with the Sedins last year (surprising). He isn’t a complete bum. If you want to focus on completely useless then you should turn your attention to Gaunce. The kid has heart but he produces less than an enforcer. He belongs in the AHL until he can produce a bit of offense.

          • Defenceman Factory

            You can’t play Gagner anywhere but in the top 6 and on the powerplay to expect 30 points. Further he has to be heavily sheltered with Ozone starts to avoid him being anything but a liability. He is a pampered marshmallow. Playing in the bottom 6 he’d be lucky to get 15 points.

          • Bud Poile

            “Who on this team is honestly going to get 50 points…
            The best Baertschi has done is 35…”
            Sven was on pace for a 44 point campaign.
            Ayear older,married and hopefully more dedicated and a little luckier…

  • TD

    Petterson is a lefty and Boeser shoots right. Could they put a line together with Horvat cantering them. It would give all of them their best chance to succeed. The other lines would be limited, but I’m more worried about the future succeeding than how the team does this season.

    • Kevlar73

      I’d bet that Petterson starts off playing centre. I think he’ll be given every chance to be our second line centre although still in a protected offensive zone usage.

      • TD

        I could completely buy into Pettersson replacing Henrik from last year. Protected minutes at evens with first unit pp time. Put him out with Eriksson and Goldobin or Leipsic and you have talent and defensive responsibility. The problem with putting Boeser in that situation is he has proven he can succeed without being protected. Boeser and Pettersson together would probably also draw tough defensive matchups that will be reserved for Horvat and Boeser.

        • argoleas

          Yeah, I have to go with that as well. That first line will get all the attention, which is why I expect the Killer B line to be intact. So Boeser at RW instead of Pettersson, and Baer instead of Goldy.

          With Sutter and Beagle soaking up more defensive starts, that leaves Pettersson’s line to get the most sheltered minutes. I entirely see the potential for Pettersson to be on a line with Eriksson and Gagner. This way, Gagner is also sheltered, and Eriksson with the good 2-way play.

          I do wonder who will be Sutter’s linemates, as Beagle takes a good chunk of Sutter’s matchup time. In a much less defensive and more balanced role, could he be with younger guys like Virtanen, Goldy and/or Leip?

  • Kneedroptalbot

    Let the kids play and develop in the NHL, personally I would only dress 2 of these veterans (Beagle, Roussel, Gagner, Schaller) at one time. Once injuries occur things could change.

    • Beer Can Boyd

      You could speed up that rotation by not dressing Gagner at all. As a power play specialist playing 8 minutes a game on a good team(Columbus) he was effective. As a 29 year old second or third line centre (or winger) on a rebuilding team like the Canucks, he is useless. Of all the forwards on the team, he has to go by the deadline.

      • Dahlenfan

        I could see gagner being a little successful on a line with Petterson and Erickson. Give them a sheltered role like the sedins had last year. I think that is the plan. I’d be surprised if that isn’t our 3rd line with Sutter being or 2nd center in a shutdown role. Put petterson on first pp unit with in Henriks spot. I would love to see gagner gone as well but don’t see it happening. If I’m a betting man. This is how I see the lines

        Baert, Bo, Brock
        Granlund, Sutter, rousel/virtanen
        Erickson, petterson, gagner
        Leipsic/goldy, beagle, virtanen/rousel

        Leipsic/goldy extra
        Schaller IR
        The rest in utica.
        I don’t see how we aren’t a bottom 5 team with that line up. Pray for a brighter future I guess

  • liqueur des fenetres

    Window lickers should check out Willes’ latest piece in The Province. He says that Linden was canned because he told ownership that the rebuild had to be slow and methodical, whereas Benning and Weisbrod had a view that was much closer to ownership’s and advocated trying to chase Tavares.

    Given this info you might as well resort that forward list by age and NHL experience to get your 12 skaters, and include EP because Benning has said so.

    That phone call from Benning to JT’s agent must have been pure comedic gold.

    • Ser Jaime Lannister

      Wheres the quote from TL saying this please?

      As for Tavares? lol every single team in the NHL should be pitching an offer for an elite C like him…i mean thats commen sense.

      • Bud Poile

        With Henrik done this team needed a #1 center like Tavares.
        Great mentor for the team’s young centers there.
        It’s too bad Trevor didn’t stay on and exercise his say instead of throwing in the white towel.
        I guess zero years of NHL experience in management,scouting or coaching left him looking in from the outside.

      • liqueur des fenetres

        You’re never going to see a quote because TL would have agreed not to talk _publicly_ as part of the agreement. But that doesn’t make what Willes is saying any less true. If you haven’t yet figured it out, the majority of the sports press works with sources. Willes isn’t a basement blogger, he’s legit.

        How much time do you think JT’s agent spent on offers from the likes of Vancouver, Carolina, Montreal, , Calgary, Minnesota, etc? Besides offering him equity in the team what could Benning have said to even get a call back?

        • DJ_44

          Willes isn’t a basement blogger, he’s legit.

          Willes is anything but legit; his column is “Willes Musings” …. which is thought or opinion (or weak thought and ill-informed opinions) about …. whatever squirrel crosses his path.

          Trying to keep a three week old non-story alive because he is too lazy to actually do journalism? Way to kept he wolves from the door, Ed.

          This is the journalistic equivalent of submitting a book report by plagiarizing the back cover.

          I never thought I would say this, but even Botchford’s entertainment piece (the Provies) is acknowledged to be purely entertainment and he uses mindless tweets as sources. That’s Pulitzer material compare to what Willes produces.

    • Defenceman Factory

      And real journalists know the difference between information confirmed by sources and just opinion. That article didn’t even pretend to have a source just opinion declared to be facts. Pure trash.

      I don’t know why Linden left and what disagreement, if any, led to it and neither does Willes. There is just as much information to support a theory Aquilini fired Linden for all the heat he is taking on the free agent signings and it was Benning begging Linden to quit bidding up those contracts. I don’t think that’s true but there are no facts to support either theory.

      • speering major

        I don’t know how everyone’s speculation leads to this theory that Linden wanted a slow rebuild and was alone in that. The team has 10 million in cap space, was a seller at the deadline, didn’t pursue goal scorers like Neal, JVR, Statsny, Perron, Bozak, and instead went after depth guys with leadership. Linden and Benning may have had differences of opinion on a rebuild but this looks nothing like a rushed effort so far. Benning is going to be making borderline prospects compete in the minors. He’s not rushing them at all. The Canucks lost two of their top scorers and haven’t even attempted to replace them, are icing the same weak D group, and will likely start the season with the same goaltending tandem. This is icing a tanked team. Maybe Linden had a vision of tanking harder and filling the roster full of rookies or something but this is definitely not any sort of rushed rebuild so far

    • Tedchinook

      Yah, Willes knows what he’s talking about…not. I don’t understand where this narrative that Linden wanted to go slow and Benning/Aquilini want to cut corners. It doesn’t fit with what they have both said, and more importantly it sure doesn’t fit with Benning’s actions. He hasn’t brought in top 6 talent to try and fast track the rebuild or traded away draft picks in the last couple of years. It makes me wonder if it was actually Linden who wanted to force feed the young guys onto the roster.

          • liqueur des fenetres

            Since Benning didn’t sign any top 6 talent he therefore must not have pursued any, as Vancouver is such a desirable destination for players in their prime.

        • Tedchinook

          You’re determined to be obtuse and see conspiracy theories where a logical answer is staring you i the face. Benning has said he didn’t pursue any of the scoring guys because he wants to have room for the young guys to develop. He got what he wanted in some toughness and veteran leadership.

          and on another note someone’s words and actions matching has nothing to do with solipsism..

  • kermit

    Their approach to Travaris was done informally through Gagner. More along the lines of what would it take? It’s still makes you question the organization’s stewardship, maybe ownership doesn’t really have the financial depth necessary to play the long game.

    • liqueur des fenetres

      It’s not a question of lacking financial means or even them not being in it for the long haul, but likely a far more pragmatic approach, one that tries to get the revenues growing much sooner than later.

      The best team rarely wins the Cup, let alone makes it to the semis. Financially it makes far more sense to build a team that can squeak into the playoffs where anything can then happen, than take the longer road and build an epic team.

  • RIP

    Why see people speaking of a Gaudette waive over Goldy? Given the projections and stats to date if Gaudette is better at camp he should make it over Goldy, even with the asset management implications.

    • Defenceman Factory

      One has very little to do with the other. Gaudette is competing for the 2nd/3rd line centre job against Gagner, Granlund and Gaunce . I expect Horvat, Sutter and Beagle to have the other 3 centre positions. Gaudette being waiver exempt makes it less likely he is on the starting roster. Granlund is pretty good on either wing and can play down the line-up and Gaunce could probably be waived without being claimed so it’s Gagner who is most in his way.

      Goldobin is competing for a top 6 Lwing position. He is competing with primarily Baertschi and Leipsic. There may be room for only one of them on the starting roster. Goldobin is probably the most talented of the 3 but his lack of commitment to defence and effort away from the puck have not endeared him to coach Greene.

      • argoleas

        I dunno if I classify Goldobin defensive miscues as lack of effort. Cull raved about his eagerness to take on as many of the defensive responsibilities as he could.

        Struck me more as a lack of awareness for a player mostly honed for offense in his career. He still needs more time to learn that, and putting him in more sheltered situations will give him the best environment to do that. But what Goldy brings in offense may be something this team lacks in spades, and that’s high-end skill. Turfing that just so Gagner can have a safe spot to me is madness.