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Photo Credit: Matthew Henderson

Monday Mailbag: Leadership and Lines

I rarely if ever drink beer, believe it or not. It just doesn’t agree with me. Cider and wine too. Maybe I’m allergic to sulphites?

In other words, my go-to summer beer is bourbon and soda. Coincidentally, my go-to winter beer is also bourbon and soda.

Gaunce and Leipsic earned praise from Travis Green after the bag skate on day one. Tyler Motte also fits the bill, I think he’s pretty much been an afterthought since the end of last season, but he had a nice goal in the first scrimmage and landed a big hit on Jake Virtanen. Petrus Palmu was probably the biggest standout on day 3, but he’s more of a longshot than a bubble player.

I honestly have no idea, but I’ll give it a shot anyway:

Eriksson-Horvat-Boeser

Baertschi-Pettersson-Goldobin

Granlund-Sutter-Virtanen

Gagner-Beagle-Leipsic

That’s assuming Roussel and Schaller won’t be ready to go on opening night.

Jay Beagle?

In past years, they’ve generally carried 8 defensemen and 13 forwards, which makes sense given how many defensemen the team usually goes through in a season. This year I could see things being different, at least at first. They’ve got a lot of forwards on the bubble and may want to keep room open for them on the active roster, although with Roussel out I’d say that’s beginning to look less likely.

I’d really like to think so, but they just don’t have room for him right now. He’s still pretty young, obviously quite small, and has no experience playing the North American pro game. (He does have experience playing in North America and playing pro in Finland, though. That gives him a leg up on some of the Canucks other youngsters.) I think an optimistic projection would be for him to go to Utica, play his way into the top six, and maybe earn a call-up at the end of the season. Even that is pushing it. I’d say it’s more realistic that if he has a really good year in the AHL he may get a shot next year.

The thing I’m most excited about is getting to see Elias Pettersson play in a Canucks uniform and see how he handles the challenges of being an NHL rookie. I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say he’s the best prospect the team has ever had, so it will be fascinating to see how his game translates.

A close second would be seeing if Brock Boeser can match his impressive totals from last season. He was the beneficiary of some ungodly percentages last year, and teams will be keying in on him now that he’s established himself as arguably the team’s best player. If the pictures that surfaced the other day are any indication, he looks up to the challenge.

A distant third will be seeing other young players finally get an opportunity to play in offensive roles now that Henrik and Daniel Sedin have retired. This organization has been notably behind the rest of the NHL as far as incorporating young players into the lineup, but they’ll be forced to move in that direction this year and that should provide some intrigue.

I’m inclined to believe that if the team had wanted to trade Brandon Sutter he’d no longer be a Canuck. If they’re lucky enough to land Jack Hughes at next year’s draft, or Adam Gaudette continues to aggressively knock on the NHL’s door, that may force their hand; but the truth is they could have traded him at the deadline and they didn’t. So I don’t expect him to be moved any time soon.

As far as the Edler-Gudbranson pair goes, I’m not sold. They rocked a sub-45% Corsi while on the ice together, and Edler’s getting a little long in the tooth to carry a pair at this stage. I’d much rather see him play with Troy Stecher or try to regain his chemistry with Chris Tanev.

I know this is a bit, but the role of “leadership” in an NHL organization is something I’d love to see someone explore in depth. Max Pacioretty earned a lot of eye-rolls with his “23 captains” comment, but I think there’s some truth to that idea. On a fundamental level, any team working together towards a common goal needs every member to be on board and invested in the success and well being of the entire organism. For that reason, I’m not sure how necessary or wise it is to appoint certain players as leaders. They’ll step up over time but it should be allowed to happen naturally. That’s why I’m not chomping at the bit for the team to name a captain in the near future.

I sort of touched on this when I did the projected lines, but I’m going to say that Roussel’s absence means the team won’t immediately have to make a decision on which of Nikolay Goldobin or Brendan Leipsic draws out of the lineup, assuming it’s down to those two.

  • A prevailing thought is they are planning on two offensive lines and two defensive lines. That puts Gagner and Leipsic on either the top two lines on not in the lineup and possibly replaced by Gaunce and Motte with Beagle. Sutter with Granlund and Virtanen looks like a black hole with or without the puck.

  • I’ll go even farther and say the whole “captaincy” thing in the NHL is really kind of stupid. I mean I get it from a sense of “talking to the ref” to clarify things. That the NHL doesn’t want 5 guys crowding around the ref every time a call happens. But they could easily get by that by just having nobody allowed to talk to the ref and the ref could consult with the coach. Which is what they do most of the time anyway.

    In terms of “locker room”, I’m sure sometimes it works and other times nobody on the team gives a sh….

    The guys who “lead” will lead. Regardless. So it really doesn’t matter.

    Having said all that….Bo should be the captain. lol.

  • Actually Jackson I think your take on Elias being the Canucks best prospect ever is a reach. ever hear of Pavel Bure? You know him, the only Canuck to ever win the Calder and went into the HOF on the back of the great years he had with the team.

    • The Sedins and Trevor were kinda big deals too but, to be honest and personally, I’m excited as hell about Quinn Hughes too!!
      50 effing years it took for this franchise to draft, sign or acquire a defenceman capable of bringing people out of their seats. 50 effing years.

        • nope it was well before Keenan. It dated to the days of the 94 playoffs when rumour had it Bure was going to hold out for a new contract mid-playoffs and management never set the record straight. Bure never forgave them.

          • It dated to when Bure and his father defected and ended up in LA with no support. Neither spoke English well if at all and the Canucks left them there for a couple of weeks on their own. Then there was the contract where the Canucks tried to negotiate in Canadian dollars when all players were getting paid in US$. Yeah there were a few dumb ass moves on the team’s part.

    • Pavel had the speed, the skill, the scoring but he was only one way and never back checked. Always cherry picking at the center ice not to mention his poor attitude. Unlike Sakic, Yzerman or even Lindros you couldn’t build a team around him.

    • Well, if you frame the “best prospect” ever, with emphasis on the word “prospect”, Jackson has a point. (OMG, did I just agree with Jackson?). When Bure came over, back in the day of the printed newspaper and rotary telephones, there was some hype but not a lot. DeL, you were spot on about Bure and how he was initially treated so you would remember. There was a lot of buzz about Bure and his electrifying speed but he didn’t come with tons of awards (though he had very impressive Soviet and WJC/WJC-20 points totals). Most people had no idea who Bure was because he was holed up in California and there was all of the controversy about how he was drafted.

      Pettersson, on the other hand, just dominated a national professional league single-handedly. He won national and international praise and is in the Top 3 of just about every non-NHL prospect ranking that I’ve seen. So in terms of hype (which helps in the age of the Internet), pre-NHL accolades, and overall expectations, Pettersson > Bure.

  • “This organization has been notably behind the rest of the NHL as far as incorporating young players into the lineup”

    This organization has been notably behind the rest of the NHL in as far as HAVING young players to incorporate into the lineup.

    There fixed it for ya Jackson, unless you have some list of young guys they’ve been hiding form us and denying a spot in the lineup. Or are we talking about Jordan Subban?

        • I asked a very legitimate question. Pavel played during the steroid era and had a personal russian coach. The first time I saw a shirtless picture of him it made me suspicious.

      • age of drug testing? you’re joking right?

        The NHL has always been a total embarrassment when compared to other leagues in terms of drug testing and still is today. Their standards are about 30 years behind all the other leagues and they don’t even care.

        Drug cheating in hockey is way more rampant than people think. The NHL has this image of being “the clean league” but that’s a bunch of bs. It only looks that way because the standards for testing are pathetic. Stimulants are all over the place in the NHL and steroid use is not uncommon.

        The NHL is by far one of the most dirty of the pro sports. But hey…we all want to live in our little bubbles of denial.

    • That would be an interesting debate. Bure was the only player I can recall that could bring fans out of their seats on a consistent basis with his high speed rushes and puck control. The Sedins consistently brought fans out of their seats with Sedinery. And he wasn’t a prospect, but in the best player category, I’d have to toss Mogilny’s name out as well.

      • He had a couple of great seasons for us to be sure, but if we’re going to talk about just the all time best players who have played some of their careers for the Canucks, that list is probably topped largely by guys whose peaks were elsewhere (along with Pavel and the twins): Mats Sundin, Cam Neely and potato chip guy.

          • Thanks, I know, and I said exactly that, see “guys whose peaks were elsewhere”. If Mogilny (who had a few good seasons with us but whose career would have to be mostly assessed for what he did elsewhere) is mentioned, then it’s only fair to acknowledge that some of the best players to ever wear a Canuck uniform were actually guys whose names were made elsewhere.

          • yes but to bring them into a discussion of most exciting Canucks or best prospects or best Canucks is wrong. They were none of the above.
            Kinda like bringing Jerry Rice into the conversation as greatest or most exciting Seahawk or Bronco. He was the G.O.A.T. but no one form those fan bases care about his tenure there.

          • Yeah, Mats Sundin. Who couldn’t even bother to sign at the beginning of the season and left everyone hanging for half the season before being massively overpaid. We paid $5M (pro-rated from $10M in 2009!) for 28 points. What a loser.

      • All this from Jackson’s comment about Pettersson being the best “prospect” in Canucks history. I tend to agree with him. Of course we have no idea if Pettersson will be the Canucks best player but I don’t remember a prospect ever having the accomplishments or getting the coverage Pettersson has. He is a huge talent.

        I hope the fan base and media can be a little more patient than they were with the Sedins. The kid is making a huge move in his life never mind being a rookie in the best league in the world, learning new systems on different size ice and doing it all in a foreign language.

        • There was less press and ‘instant analysis’ back in the day but both Linden as a 2nd pick and the Sedins as 2 & 3 had up pretty frickin excited. I couldn’t wait for Linden, our 2nd ever top 3 pick and he was touted as future star.
          There couldn’t be as much ‘hype’ because there wasn’t anywhere near as much coverage to hype these players, nor the internet to discuss these matters for that matter but those guys were ‘hyped’ as much as the day would allow.
          Bure was kind of a big mystery. No one really knew what to expect, there wasn’t really any coverage of Russian players other than the WJC and that was limited to maybe seeing the Canada game. But his crazy draft and weird signing and debut made the buzz for him one of a kind.

          • I don’t want to belittle the stars of the past. They were obviously great prospects. They were not however rated as the best prospect not in the NHL nor did they have the records and awards Pettersson has. Being the best prospect in Canucks history is an accolade that pales in comparison to the professional accomplishments of the others mentioned.

      • In terms of players, I don’t think we have a “best” but a small group of “best” players. The Odjick/Bure cycle game was atrocious and let’s face it, I need a grandfather clock to time Henrik and Daniel’s best breakaways. (Yes, that was sarcasm.) Bure gave us incredible high-speed highlight goals and the Sedins gave us a cycle game that the league had never seen before and never will again. I consider myself very lucky to have seen both in person and all Canuck fans are lucky to have that as a part of our team history.

    • Bure was an exceptional offensive talent and absolutely abysmal on defence and from what I was told years ago, he was not a good teammate, half the team hated him. I can understand people that don’t understand ALL aspects of the game may think he was the greatest – but he wasn’t. As an all around player, barely breaks into the top ten. As a highlight reel taken out of a complete player/game context, number one by a mile.

      • Ya, I was thrilled they traded him, as unpopular as that opinion is with anyone under 40 who only remember the thrills he brought. Dude, was as far from a team guy as ever existed in the NHL.
        I’ve always said about Pavel, he was the most talented individual player to ever play in Vancouver, unfortunately it’s a team game. He never got that.

  • I have a couple questions about how players looked at training camp. I read most of the coverage available but didn’t get much insight into these questions. Maybe someone was there who could shed some light.

    Virtanen is listed on the training camp roster at 229. That sounds pretty heavy. Has he regressed from where he ended off last year?

    I haven’t seen even a mention of Gagner. How did he look in Whistler?

    • Virtanen, the enigma. You hear conflicting reports. One says he was at the roxy (hopefully a one-off) and others say he was killing his line in the skating drills at camp (which you’d expect given his speed). He didn’t stand out in my brief watch of camp.

      He’d better have it figured out though because if he’s not mature now, i’d say it’s time to move in from him. Will be watching him in the preseason- hopefully he’s ready to go.

    • I was at training camp for each of the four days and here are some observations. Virtanen looked very engaged and I thought he showed well. I don’t know what he will turn into but he is extremely entertaining to watch. He didn’t look like he was that heavy to me. Gagner looked fine. He was engaged but didn’t standout in any of the scrimmages. He was playing centre as was Granlund who actually played very well. Hutton looked very good and looks quite fit. Goldobin was on fire today in the scrimmage and was the best player today. Juolevi was probably the best defenceman today (only the bubble players, AHL and kids played including Virtanen and Goldobin). Juolevi looked more confident the last two days but in my view he should start in Utica. He tailed off today in the scrimmage and I simply don’t think he is fit enough to start in the NHL. Brisebois looked solid all amp as did Chatefield. The other young defenceman who looked good was Graham who I know nothing about. Gaudette played well but to be honest I kind of expected more. The same goes for Lind who didn’t stick out at all. Boeser was nearly invisible for the entire four days. On the other hand Palmu was all over the place. This kid has skill and speed. Pettersson’s offensive game showed in flashes. Overall, I got the impression he was focusing on his defensive game. I have some concerns that he won’t put up the offensive numbers early in the season (should he start in the NHL) and people will start riding him for it. Asked on what I saw at camp I think we could expect him to start cautiously, focussing first on being defensively diligent before building up
      some confidence to pursue more offence. Even today I got the sense that Goldobin was driving the offence on his line.

        • Glad to hear Virt was engaged. I saw him 4 weeks ago and he was overweight…hope he dropped some lbs since then.
          I agree on Petterson…he’ll get his points but they’ll likely mostly be on the powerplay and whenever he gets random scoring chances, but I don’t think he’ll be a game changer this season in terms of creating scoring chances out of nothing.

  • I think it would be a very wise decision to try Eriksson and Petterson on the same like, and mostly for psychological reasons and by that I mean to get the most out of Eriksson. You have a young star from the same country coming in, and someone that looks up to him…that will inspire Eriksson to play at his best level.