Photo Credit: © Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports

The Potential Whipping Boys Of Your 2018/19 Vancouver Canucks

The term “whipping boy” comes from potentially apocryphal reports of young servants being raised alongside European princes for the sole purpose of absorbing that prince’s corporal punishment. After all, the prince is meant to represent the entire country, and one can’t go around whipping entire countries. In terms of hockey, the phrase is used to refer to those players who seem to absorb the majority of a fanbase’s wrath and take most of the blame for a team’s shortcomings. The 2018/19 Vancouver Canucks seem poised for a season full of shortcomings, and that means that one or more whipping boys are all but certain to absorb some “corporal punishment” from the fans. After all, one can’t go around complaining about entire franchises.


Erik Gudbranson

How They’ll Infuriate The Fanbase: Gudbranson became a potential whipping boy a week before the 2018 Trade Deadline, when fans who had been expecting a trade instead saw Gudbranson re-signed for three years and $12 million. Gudbranson’s on-ice struggles have been well-documented by all manner of analytics, and he’ll continue to be a target of the advanced stats crowd unless he can turn those numbers around.

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How They Can Win Fans Over: Players like Gudbranson thrive on the “eye test,” but he hasn’t exactly been passing that with flying colours, either. Fans need to actually see more of the things that Gudbranson is supposedly valued for—physical play, crease-clearing, and holding opponents accountable—and less of the things he’s criticized for—boneheaded passes, getting beat one-on-one, and being turned around in the defensive zone.


Sam Gagner

How They’ll Infuriate The Fanbase: The injury to Loui Eriksson has temporarily solved the issue of Vancouver’s forward glut, but it’s only a matter of time before the team must choose between Gagner’s veteran presence and that of younger players like Nikolay Goldobin and Brendan Leipsic. If sticking with Gagner costs the Canucks one of those players, and if he ends up taking powerplay time away from more promising forwards, the fanbase will turn on him more than it already has.

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How They Can Win Fans Over: If Gagner has any hope of winning Canuck fans over, he has to produce more offense than he did in 2017/18. A return to his career average of 40-50 points, along with some reliable powerplay production, will go a long way toward justifying Gagner’s roster spot—though even then some fans would prefer a younger player were in his place.


Brandon Sutter

How They’ll Infuriate The Fanbase: Sutter has an unfortunate history of calling out his younger teammates publicly—see his comments on Nikolay Goldobin and his “balls”—and that sort of thing will always rub this fanbase the wrong way. If Sutter dares to speak ill of Elias Pettersson at any point in the upcoming season, it would undoubtedly result in his effigy being burned on the steps of Rogers Arena. If he takes powerplay time away from Pettersson, the response could be nearly as angry.

How They Can Win Fans Over: Sutter can win the fanbase over by single-handedly sheltering Elias Pettersson’s transition to the NHL. Between Sutter and Jay Beagle, there’s really no reason for Pettersson to take a single faceoff in the defensive zone this season—and if Sutter can play a dedicated checking role without complaining, most fans will appreciate it.


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Antoine Roussel

How They’ll Infuriate The Fanbase: As the recent recipient of a large UFA contract, Roussel is already under the spotlight as he begins his career in Vancouver. He also has an unfortunate habit for taking ill-timed penalties, and that’s not ideal for a player in his position. It’s the sort of thing that made Derek Dorsett a frustrating player for many fans, and Roussel could draw similar ire if he can’t curb the minor penalties.

How They Can Win Fans Over: While minor penalties will be a problem for Roussel, fans aren’t going to be all that upset if he picks up a bunch of majors. In other words, if Roussel can provide a consistent physical presence on the Canucks while simultaneously standing up for their multitude of young players, he’ll endear himself to Vancouverites rather quickly.


Loui Eriksson

How They’ll Infuriate The Fanbase: In short, by continuing to produce like a $3 million player on a $6 million contract. The response to Eriksson’s preseason injury says volumes about how the fanbase already feels about him and, if his offense can’t rebound, it’s going to be a long four years before his deal expires.

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How They Can Win Fans Over: Eriksson doesn’t need to return to the 70-point seasons of his past, but putting up 50-ish like the Sedins did last year would go a long way toward rehabilitating his image. If Eriksson can also fill some of the gap in Swedish leadership left behind by the Twins and mentor Elias Pettersson and Jonathan Dahlen, he might even end up a fan favourite.


Olli Juolevi

How They’ll Infuriate The Fanbase: If Juolevi makes the team, he’ll be joining one of the statistically least-effective defenses in the league, and that will mean he’s on the ice for plenty of goals against—something that isn’t ideal in a city that likes to put young defenders under the microscope. Juolevi’s understated game might not translate to NHL production immediately, and that will only lead to more attention being paid to any defensive shortcomings he might have.

How They Can Win Fans Over: If Juolevi spends the season stapled to Chris Tanev, it will put him in a much greater position to succeed—especially when it comes to winning over fans. Juolevi would benefit from a steady partner to help minimize the consequences of his mistakes, and Tanev is probably the only defender who still qualifies as “steady” on this roster.

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Alex Edler

How They’ll Infuriate The Fanbase: If Edler continues to refuse to waive his no-trade clause heading into the 2019 Trade Deadline, it’s going to cause some fans to turn on him. In reality, Edler is well within his rights to enforce his NTC, but the Dan Hamhuis situation has demonstrated pretty clearly how Vancouver fans will react if they feel a player is preventing the team from scoring a big return at the deadline. 

How They Can Win Fans Over: If Edler can continue his solid level of play from last season, build up his value, and then land the Canucks a good pick and/or prospect at the Trade Deadline, he’ll be a hero in the eyes of most fans. Vancouver loved the Sedins for sticking with the franchise ‘til the end, but Edler doesn’t quite have the same caché, so a trade is his best bet to stay in fans’ good graces.

  • PQW

    Guys, Juolevi is the numero uno whipping boy – he is a massive BUST as I have said ever since he FAILED to make an immediate impact after being drafted at FIVE – he is light years away while Sergachev, McAvoy, Keller and Tkachuk are already legit NHL studs… we could have had ANY of them.

    Also for those crowing about Petterssen… if McDavid cannot get his team into the playoffs alone there are only TWO HOPES for the 160 pound lighweight WINGER to do so – NO hope and BOB hope… keep sucking on those sour grapes boys and i will keep you HONEST!

  • Jamie E

    Jake Virtanen should lead that list. He’s looked like a lazy, overly comfortable passenger so far in the pre-season. This is the year the patience of the Canucls fan base runs out.

  • Locust

    The BEST title for an article in CA history.
    Explains the teenage girl angst that (still) drives CA to a tee.
    It would actually be funny if you were trying to be sarcastic, which you weren’t.

  • Jim "Dumpster Fire" Benning

    Erik Gudbransson has a PhD in sucking at being a professional hockey player in todays game. He would have been a stud 20 years ago when big, slow and crappy were actually good qualities.

  • bobdaley44

    So calling out a one dimensional, soft play of Goldobin gets the fan base upset? I’m good with Sutter calling him out. Guy plays one good shift of offence and we should overlook his lack of will and compete? You can’t play in this league if you never win puck battles.

  • truthseeker

    Personally I don’t feel that way about Edler. He’s earned his right to do whatever he wants. If he walks from the team at the end of the year and we don’t get a thing for him, then good for him. I won’t hold it against him at all.

    I hope they resign him though. It’s clear he wants to stay and on a decent term and number he’d be an excellent veteran D man.

        • Wanda Fuca

          Right on, Killer Marmot. I see a few new names writing decent articles here, but it appears no one at CA gives a *&%# about the verbal abuse. Unacceptable. Amateurish. Insulting, even, because it’s an indication of how little CA values its readership base. The deterioration that began under JD shows no sign of changing course when clowns like PQW are given license to spew their toxic thoughts in the form of abuse.

      • truthseeker

        awww…come on! I didn’t even get to see what moronic boring predictable insult he threw at me! lol.

        Of course….the people who run this site have every right to keep the comments section looking whichever way they want but personally I’d rather have his comment remain up. I’m a big boy. I can take it. And I’ll always give it back to him 1000 times worse than he could ever dream of due to our obviously huge gap in intelligence.

        PQW was just angry because he knew he couldn’t get to me. I never fell for any of his bait, because his bait was consistently boring. The few times he took me on, back under his old names, I so logically destroyed and insulted him he stopped responding to my posts for ages and ages, because he knew he was in for a kicking every time. Must have drove him nuts…lol. He finally started to crack recently and take a few shots at me, trying to get me to respond. Such a predictable, simple little mind.

        And the absolute best thing is….he’s somewhere right now reading this, knowing absolutely EVERYTHING I just said is totally 100% true. Hahahahaha…probably just fuming.

        It’s OK PQW. lol. I know you’ll be back under some new boring name, and you’ll work reeeeally hard to pretend to be someone different next time. And we’ll see how long that lasts before you crack and expose yourself. How long was it last time? 5 days? Hahaha….shouldn’t be hard to top that….but then again….it is you…

  • North Van Halen

    As I recall both Hamhuis and Vrbata were virtually unscathed by using their no-trade clauses to avoid deals(Vrbata selecting 6 non-playoff teams and Hamhuis limiting the teams to 2). The brunt of the criticism was laid squarely at the feet of Benning if memory serves.
    He was vilified and the blogger community was universal in their condemnation of management while almost ignoring the fact there was little he could do, so I think if fans turn on Edler this season, that won’t be the reason. It’ll just give the Benning haters more fodder – can’t negotiate, more he coulda done to get Edler to waive, etc.

  • Killer Marmot

    The injury to Loui Eriksson has temporarily solved the issue of Vancouver’s forward glut, but it’s only a matter of time before the team must choose between Gagner’s veteran presence and that of younger players like Nikolay Goldobin and Brendan Leipsic.

    That’s only a concern if there are no more injuries — that is to say, it’s not a concern at all.

      • Killer Marmot

        Stephen Pinker, the famous intellectual, wrote a book called The Sense of Style. He dedicated a couple of pages to this question. Answer: “They” for a single person is perfectly acceptable, particularly as it avoids awkward constructs like “he/she”.

        • truthseeker

          While you are correct, is this really the big issue in your life to worry about? It’s OK to turn off the Jordan Peterson videos once in a while and relax. You’ll quickly realize it’s not that big a deal. Just like in this thread, nobody is taking away your right to say “he”.

          Funnily enough…did you stop to realize it’s now you who is trying to force others to use the term you think should be correct? I thought that was what the anti “gender neutral” people were fighting against. You know…being told they have to say a certain pronoun?

  • myshkin

    how about ian clark? the goal tending seems to have taken a step backward and no one mentions the new goalie coach. how many different goalie coaches has demko had since joining the canucks?

  • Chris the Curmudgeon

    I’d say Beagle is as much of a possible whipping boy as “guy who got a huge contract at the deadline”. However, his path to win fans over is a very familiar one for him: blocking shots on the PK. In that sense, he’ll be fine.

    Your take on Eriksson pretty much says it all. Loui is hurt? Oh well that’s a good thing because it means that some other players won’t get cut from the team. I hope he can get the chance towards redeeming himself somewhat, but my God does that contract have some odor to it 2 years in.

  • Defenceman Factory

    that’s a lot of potential villains for a season that was predicted to be bad.
    Juolevi shouldn’t be on this list. He needs to be in Utica unless injuries or trades give him a spot.
    Virtanen should be on this list as this could be the year the fan base turns on him. He has a top 6 skillset and a WHL brain. If that doesn’t turn it around things start getting ugly. There is a limit to people’s patience.
    Ericksson gets a short rope playing in the top 6. If he performs great but more likely he gets moved down and remains a decent bottom 6 guy who will always be overpaid. Not a whipping boy more of a BTW Ericksson gets paid too much.
    Gagner is flat out in the way. The only way to save him from ridicule is to move him anywhere else.
    Biega gets a pass as he isn’t in anyone’s way and expectations are relatively low given his contract. The rest of the Dcorps will get whipped for every error just like last year. Hopefully there will be fewer injuries and some increase in performance. Otherwise ridicule will be harsh.
    Canucks must have scoring from their top 6 and power play. If that doesn’t happen they will not be spared the lash of impatient fans.

    If performances like last night come in bunches Green gets a big share of the whoopings. If it becomes the norm Benning doesn’t survive the year.

  • ASeattleCanuckFun

    GMJB isn’t on the list? I’d be surprised given the way this team has been constructed (particularly bringing basically the same defense back this year that played so poorly last year) if he wasn’t a whipping boy by the end of the season…

  • Kanuckhotep

    In the c. 4400 games the VC have played since avidly following them since 63-64 in the old WHL I’ve watched and/or listened to close to 3500 of them. It’s woefully easy to use player X or player Y as Whipping Boy and be cynical because, believe me, Ive been there and done that as much as anyone. Having said that though I remain a loyal Canuck fan because I hate two things in life: band wagon jumpers and front runner rooters. You know those guys you grew up with who were Montreal Canadiens/Dallas Cowboys/NY Yankees/Boston Celtics fans. Annoying and unimaginative. We all know what band wagon jumpers are all about and this concept speaks for itself. As for 2018-19 there will be many discordant comments made about this year’s version of the Canucks and I can’t blame anyone for this. Just so long as you truly know what to expect of the hockey locals then it might not be so bad. And it’s realistic at this point to dream of Jack Hughes in the Blue, Green and White at this point. Agree?

  • Jim "Dumpster Fire" Benning

    “Erik was influential in the Panthers’ incredible run in 2015-16, leading by example on the defensive end with an outstanding 150 hits and 73 blocked shots, in only 64 regular season games. His presence was largely felt on the ice, as he provided instant stability to the back end and contributed by dropping the gloves when necessary.
    Guddy, as nicknamed by Cats’ fans, was a fan favorite due to his imposing style of play and his leadership on/off the ice” What happened to this guy?

  • Sedin33

    Benning should probably be added to the list. He could easily infuriate the fan base by losing a a young player like Golodbin or Leipsic on waivers; not trading MDZ at the TDL; or having the team under perform for the year. Conversely, if he was able to trade Sutter for a good return/ accumulate draft picks/or the young players performed like Boesser last year, he would be heralded.

  • Kanuckhotep

    What about the ownership of this team? I realize these billionaires cut the big cheques and have a right to critique their operation. Having said that I think a good owner should either hire the right hockey professionals to run their organization or simply butt out which I don’t think Aquilini has done nor does. I remember when someone asked the late Frank Griffiths about the state of the Canucks he replied, “Ask Jake(Milford), he’s the GM.” More than picking on Benning shouldn’t ownership be the true whipping boys? After all it was Orca Bay ownership who were responsible for the highly questionable Messier signing and Pat Quinn did not want the guy. But, again, who writes the cheques?