Photo Credit: Matthew Henderson

Monday Mailbag Part 2: Nikolay Goldobin, Assistant Coaches, and Stealing a Roster Spot

I’m not entirely sure I agree with your assessment. Nikolay Goldobin’s defensive impact isn’t quite as bad as many think it is, but it’s still pretty bad. What’s keeping him from realizing his offensive potential is that three coaches haven’t been prepared to incur the defensive risk that comes with putting him on the ice. Whether that’s a fair assessment is debatable, but NHL coaches are notoriously risk-averse and I don’t see that changing in the near future. So, to stick in the lineup, Nikolay Goldobin is either going to improve his decision-making and cut down on defensive lapses, or take a significant enough step forward offensively that the coaching staff will be more willing to live with his risky style of play.

If I’m in the Canucks front office? Nothing. The Canucks probably aren’t making the playoffs this year even with Erik Karlsson, so I wouldn’t be remotely interested in his services if they don’t come with an extension. If I’m the GM of a contending team? I’m probably willing to pay whatever the asking price is. He’s still the best defenseman in the world, even if you’re only getting him for a season.

For better or for worse, I think Jim Benning is a pretty straightforward guy. I don’t think he’ll be looking to make any drastic changes just because Trevor Linden isn’t around anymore. Jim Benning’s fingerprints are already all over the good and bad of this team, he doesn’t need to rush into anything for the sake of it, and I don’t imagine he will.

I would start by saying this: don’t feel bad. Evaluating defense at the NHL level is hard for everyone. If you’re looking to better understand how players work within a system, Ryan Stimson’s series on systems for the Athletic is a great starting point. He makes use of the book Hockey Plays & Statistics by Mike Johnston, which I’ve heard nothing but good things about. Those are both good places to start.

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I only went to one game last year, it was versus Nashville. They were a blast to watch, even though the Canucks lost. If you’re looking to go to more games, I’d look at smaller-market or Eastern Conference teams because those tickets are usually dirt cheap on the secondary market. Then you can use the extra cash you save to go to more games! Or not, and spend it on something useful. Whatever floats your boat.

One team that always gets overlooked is the Blue Jackets. They have a ton of great forward talent, as well as two of the best defensemen in the world, and a Vezina-calibre goalie. Plus, they don’t play in Vancouver until late March, People will be practically giving tickets away at that point.

I feel pretty confident that when the time comes, the team will clean house all at once, probably during the offseason. That could change if they have a truly dreadful start like the one you described. Coaches tend to get fired in the midst of losing streaks, so I guess I would say Travis Green would be the first to go in that situation. Ironically, I also think he’d be the most likely one to survive an organizational purge in the offseason. At any rate, I doubt we see any terminations before summer 2019.

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The best way would be to determine what that coach is in charge of and look at how well the players are performing at doing their job. If they’re doing better than expected given the personnel, that’s a good sign, if they’re doing worse, not so much. It’s not particularly scientific but unfortunately it’s difficult to know what discussions and decisions are happening internally, and coaching is already one of the toughest elements of the game to accurately analyze.

Troy Stecher seems to be the most likely candidate. Travis Green utilized Stecher in a very different manner than he had been used under Willie Desjardins, but he began to earn his trust towards the end of the year and it seems likely that he’ll see a lot more power play time this year. He had 24 points in his rookie season, so I’d imagine he could get to around 20 again if he plays a full season.

At the very least, I think we’ll start to see it referenced for context on a more regular basis. The only issue is that dollar figures are more memorable, so I don’t think that’s going away any time soon. Getting accurate numbers in terms of percentage of cap also takes a lot of digging and some simple calculations, which probably explains why we don’t see it as often. Most analysts use CapFriendly for salary cap information, and it doesn’t have a feature for percentage of cap; at least, not yet. If they ever make it happen I’d imagine you’ll see it referenced more often.

I doubt it. Teams generally have more bodies than they know what to do with at the beginning of the season, and the Canucks don’t really have a lot of coveted assets that they’d be willing to move. I’d give it until at least November before we see a big trade.

The Canucks have an incentive to put Adam Gaudette and Olli Juolevi on the opening night roster given that both are prized prospects that are supposed to be a big part of the team’s future. They’re also both probably capable of playing at least a depth role at the NHL level. As far as who is expendable, I’d imagine Alex Biega, Derrick Pouliot, Ben Hutton, Nikolay Goldobin, and Brendan Leipsic are the players most likely to lose their spot. Whether they should be is another story.

  • Killer Marmot

    Which Canucks defenseman will improve his point total the most and by how much?

    Hutton is going to show up at camp a new man and improve a full 27 points over last season. It’s going to be awesome.

        • truthseeker

          That’s exactly what I think. And it wasn’t just the points. He looked very good that rookie year from what I remember. Seemed to be a bit of a mini Tanev in terms of looking comfortable with positioning, taking away pucks etc….

          Even though Pouliot has the much higher ceiling, Hutton has shown he can perform on a more consistent basis.

          Basically both of these guys are proof (to me anyway) that at the top level, the difference between the top guys and guys like these is probably 80 to 90% mental.

        • PQW

          “Hutton/Gudbranson FEELS like a great pairing – Dud Poile

          Make your mind up bi-polar bud, you keep chasing your own tail like an old flea-ridden dog with a firecracker tied to his tail. nexttttttttt

    • jaybird43

      I’d love you to be right. Both Hutton and Pouliot could be a quality #3 defenceman, as they have the skills. Whether they will show up in top shape, and use what’s between their ears fully, that’s an open question in my books.

  • Bud Poile

    With Horvat,Sutter and Beagle as mainstays and Gagner /Granlund/ Gaunce as centers that could be traded for picks if deployed successfully, I don’t see a spot for Gaudette out of the gate.
    It’s possible but with the draft in Vancouver the emphasis should be about showcasing /shedding roster tweeners.

    • Defenceman Factory

      I think Granlund is a useful guy to keep around. He can play both wings and fill in at centre if needed. He is fine in the bottom 6 and can keep up in the top 6 if called upon. You can’t use Gagner in the bottom 6 and almost need a bomb shelter to use him anywhere but on the power play where he is somewhat useful. Gaunce can hold his own as left wing on the 4th line but not much more. Granlund, Roussel, Schaller, Ericksson and Archibald are all better bottom 6 left wing options.

      Baertschi, Goldobin, Liepsic and probably Dahlen are all pushing for top 6 LW jobs. A year from now I think it likely Baertschi proves to be the 4th best of that group. Dahlen can play in Utica this year but one of the other 3 guys need to get moved. Schaller may not start on the roster but I doubt he is more than a conditioning stint away and something has to give.

      • Giant-Nation

        I know it’s really tight with waiver situations, I just think Gaudette has to be in the starting line up. I see so much I like about this kid, he has been working out like a beast this summer. Outside of EP I think he will be the rookie that really establishes himself with a roster spot. His power game and engine along with the compete level he brings with his offfensive tool box will come to life once he gets to 8–10 games.

        • Sandpaper

          With Petterson probably playing wing to start, there is an opening for 1 more centre, as Gaunce Gagner and Granlund have proven they are not very good at that position.
          It is basically Gaudette’s position to lose.

          • DogBreath

            Don’t get me wrong, I’d love to see him in the opening day line-up. However, with their leadership vacuum, those with more games will make it. Gaudette will play 20-40 games with the Canucks this year, most of which will happen in 2019. He will be in the starting line-up in Oct 2019.

    • LTFan

      Canuck … – There is a reason, poor defensive play and not ready to play at the NHL level, ie. conditioning. Goldy is one of those players who tantalizes you with his offensive skill, but when the other team has the puck he loses the player he is responsible for checking. That is the main reason his plus/minus was so high last year. If he can put the defensive part of his game together, he should be here. It will be up to him.

  • liqueur des fenetres

    Props to Benning for chasing JT while lining up EK and trying to complete the retool as promised. It was never going to happen, but it was Pinky and the Brain worthy. Now Benning finds himself in his own little “prisoner’s dilemma” as without an EK he won’t be signing a top tier UFA. But if he pays too much for EK first and no UFA comes along he won’t have anything left to trade for scoring help…

    • Kevlar73

      I don’t see a problem in Benning inquiring about Karlsson. It would be disheartening if he traded four pieces of our future core for him though. It’s too bad there was no chance that Tavares would come to Vancouver because that’s a jersey I would have bought.