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Photo Credit: Matthew Henderson

Mailbag Part Two: Predictions, Lineup Decisions, and 2019 Free Agent Targets

I have to be honest, I don’t care for either of these ideas. Sutter’s only offensive weapon is his shot, and he struggles to use his linemates effectively. In contrast, Boeser’s release makes him most effective in a duo with a playmaking centre. It’s hard to think of a worse fit.

In the case of the Horvat-Baertschi line, while they’ve struggled in every area of the game so far, I still think the biggest issue is that they haven’t been creating anything offensively. Adding a recovering Antoine Roussell isn’t going to help them in that area. If anything, I’d like to see Eriksson and Baerstchi switch places. Pettersson and Goldobin have excelled together, and looked good with Beartschi in the preseason. Adding Eriksson to the Horvat and Boeser line pairs him with a shooter, which has traditionally been something he’s needed to be successful, while also adding a two-way presence to a line that’s struggled defensively.

Nikolay Goldobin has earned a spot on this team for the time being, and I would argue Brendan Leipsic has shown enough to keep him on the roster for now, too. That means the most likely candidate to end up on waivers has to be Markus Granlund. He obviously had a breakout performance two years ago, but Travis Green did not utilize him in a way that indicates he thinks much of his offensive capabilities. He’s also the least likely forward on the roster to get claimed if the Canucks try to sneak him down to the AHL.

Traded: Michael Del Zotto, Sam Gagner, Ben Hutton

Extended: Brock Boeser, Nikolay Goldobin, Tyler Motte, Alex Edler, Brendan Leipsic

Let go: Markus Granlund, Derrick Pouliot, Anders Nilsson

It’s still too early to say who they’ll sign as a free agent, but I could see them being in on all of the big-name forwards and defensemen that make it to July 1 without an extension. Out of the players that are currently set to be free agents next season, I think Sergei Bobrovsky and Tyler Myers would make the most snese given what the team has done in the past.

I think there have been times where the Canucks have managed their call-ups poorly, but the issue is also exacerbated by geography. The Comets are obscenely far away from their parent club and that can definitely cause trouble when injuries occur.

In general, I’m not a fan of asking a defenseman to play forward, even on your fourth line. Players have positions for a reason, and asking someone to play out of position seems like a bad idea. The reverse would seem downright absurd.

I don’t see any problem with putting them on the same line. I don’t think Boeser’s issue is that he’s playing passively. I think the issue is probably a physical one. He’s returning from a horrific injury and needs time to re-adjust. If anything, I’d think putting him with a dynamic player like Pettersson would help him get back in the groove offensively.

While he’ll undoubtedly go cold at some point over the season, I think Elias Pettersson has proven he can come in and be a difference maker at even-strength. I also think Brandon Sutter will still play more minutes than him at even strength. You can’t win ’em all.

29-45-8

To be honest with you I only have a cursory understanding of how the different expected goal models work, but my guess would be that it’s impossible to know the effects of smaller gear until we have at least a season-long sample size to draw from. If and when adjustments occur, they would probably have to come next season.

Loui Eriksson is never going to be worth the contract the Canucks gave him, but it was always my belief that he was capable of more than we saw over the last two seasons. For a number of reasons, his effectiveness was limited over the past two seasons, and he was pushed down the lineup. I’d imagine that if he can stay healthy, we could see a stark improvement in his production given the right linemates and an increased offenisive role.

For a deeper look at Eriksson as a player, I recommend taking a look at this article I wrote during the offseason:

Deep Dive: What Happened to Loui Eriksson?

Can Elias Pettersson eclipse 407 points over three seasons? No.

That Panarin has all but ruled out a return to Columbus next season indicates that he probably has a destination or two in mind. If he were only after a big paycheque, I would think he’d more open to remaining a Blue Jacket. So, my guess would be that Vancouver isn’t a likely destination for him.

Bobrovsky is much more intriguing to me. For better or for worse, the Canucks under Jim Benning have always looked for shortcuts over the process of rebuilding the roster. Benning has also emphasized the importance of the position when speaking with the media, and chased a big-name goalie in free agency successfully once before.

By most accounts, time is running out for this front office to prove they can take the team to the next level. They have some legitimate talent up front, but with the exception of Quinn Hughes, they still look pretty barren on the back end. Nothing can disguise those problems quite like a superstar goaltender. I’m sure in a perfect world they’d prefer for that goaltender to be Thatcher Demko, but unfortunately he looks further away from taking the reigns than many had hoped he would be a year ago. I would not be surprised if the Canucks break the bank to acquire Sergei Bobrovsky in July.

  • Kneedroptalbot

    Derrick Pouliot and Erik Gudbranson have played really well in the 1st 2 games. They lead the Canucks Defence in plus/minus. Pouliot carries the puck well and makes a good 1st pass on breakouts. Gudbranson plays with an edge and is physical along the boards. They complement each other, certainly hope Travis keeps them together.

  • “Demko looks further away than many had hoped”

    You know, that’s a good point, but it’s still early. Schneids started the same way. Demko had a slow start in Utica , however he turned it around in a big way. His recent concussion certainly killed any momentum going into this season. He just has to fight through it and keep on going.
    Will the Canucks go big game hunting to fill this position? Much depends on Markstrom. This has to be the year he turns into an elite goaltender. He’s in his prime years and this is the year.

  • Defenceman Factory

    I would be shocked if the Canucks went after Bobrovsky this off-season. Despite the mindless bleating of many the Canucks have not tried to take any shortcuts since the signing of Eriksson. If anything they have taken a painfully slow path back to respectability. They have held onto veterans, signed placeholder players and drafted based on perceived ceiling rather than instant impact.

    The Miller or a comparable signing was essential after how badly Gillis mishandled the goaltending resources. Benning took one look and knew he didn’t have any NHL calibre goalies ready to be starters.

  • speering major

    I think Benning should push hard for Panarin if they win the lottery. If the Canucks just pick up another solid player then they should stay the course. Adding J Hughes and Panarin next season would make the team an offensive force. They would still need to add a solid RHD to be a serious contender but that’s not too much to ask

    Having the following on entry level contracts along with Boeser, Horvat, and Panarin would be amazing : J. Hughes, Q. Hughes, Petterson, Oli, Dahlen, etc

    IMO it all hinges on the lottery though. Once you have a core of young stars, there’s really no need to hold back on building around them. Once the Leafs got Mathews, Marner, Nylander, Kadri, and Reiley they had a young core to build around. There’s no reason not to pursue players like Marleau and Tavares. If the Canucks added Jack Hughes to this young core, they should be off to the races. That doesn’t mean you blow your wad on players like Eriksson, Lucic, Neal, Brouwer, etc, but Going after a stud like Panarin makes perfect sense

      • speering major

        The only player under contract once ELC’s expire would be Horvat. Not an issue at the moment

        Also this absolutely does not stop Benning from pursuing D

        • Jim "Dumpster Fire" Benning

          The fans have already gotten a pretty good taste of “Benning’s pursuit of D” (this past summer) and it tastes gross. He’s just not good at trading.

          • speering major

            He didn’t pursue anyone this summer. I’m not saying you should have full confidence in his ability to get a top pairing RHD but I don’t think it’s fair to pretend he tried either. He has two top 10 picks on D in the system. The team is in no rush. Hopefully they win the lottery and that changes

          • Gino's 3rd Cousin

            When this team turns it around under GM Jim Benning’s watch I will looking forward to you changing your moniker. Maybe start with ‘Adequate Benning’ and build from there

        • Exactly. It’s not an issue at the moment. But once Boeser, Pettersson, and Hughes’ ELC’s expire, we should pay market long-term to lock them up. By that time, Panarin will be in his 30’s and on the downside of his career but with 4-5 more years to go. Already made that mistake with Eriksson, not happening again.

          However, if we pursued a solid Top 4 RHD to replace Tanev/Gudbranson long-term, I have no problem with that. The new D’s salary comes from the $8.5M that’s freed up when their contracts expire. That’s not the same situation for Panarin where you are adding to your forward salaries, rather than replacing.

          • speering major

            You’re inventing a timeline and making comparisons that don’t make sense. Panarin will be 27 next year. That’s 6 seasons until he’s 32. Having him in Vancouver with Petterson, J Hughes, Horvat, and Boeser who are all going to be in their prime together is nothing like the Eriksson situation. Eriksson is not and never will be the player Panarin is. On top of that, he signed at 30 to play with the Sedins in their mid 30’s. The comparison makes no sense. If you can’t justify signing a 27 year old star to play along with a group exceptional young talent, then you can’t really ever justify it. The leafs are one of the best teams in the league and had 3 players on ELC. They added Marleau and Tavares for 17 million.

            There is also no reason to assume you couldn’t also pursue a D-man. They are going to be replacing MDZ and Hutton with Hughes and likely OJ on ELC. They will also likely move Tanev. They will have plenty of cap space. Again, when Hughes ELC expires the only Canuck under contract at this point is Horvat. The team has room to spend at each position. They just have to choose a route.

          • Using your Toronto example, do you think Nylander would be training in Sweden if Tavares wasn’t signed? That signing created a massive problem for Dubas. He’s down a top six winger because he signed a 1C that would probably inflate Matthews’ next contract.

            We’ll overpay on more likely a 7 year deal. I don’t think Panarin will be worth his contract when he’s in his 30’s. You think the deal is okay but I simply disagree. Maybe if we didn’t have bad contracts like Eriksson, I’d have a different position since we’d have that play in salary but that’s not the case.

          • speering major

            The nylander situation is because they signed Tavares which they certainly weren’t expecting or counting on when they signed Marleau.

            In the situation we are talking about, only Horvat will be under contract once the ELC’s expire. There is no surprises here. You would have your core and the ability to sign them. Yes, Laine might become available and signing him might create problems, that is the Tavares situation. Ok they signed him and now have an issue with Nylander, but the team is better off and its a good problem to have. If they had full knowledge in advance, they wouldn’t have signed Marleau

            Again Horvat is the only player under contract at that point in the future, they can plan accordingly. Tavares was a massive upgrade and piece, not a problem.

          • Sorry, I still don’t see it that way. Going back to Tavares/Nylander, that’s the exact situation that we should be avoiding. Toronto signed a big UFA which rocked the boat salary-wise. Nylander is holding out because of what Marner may get, because what Matthews may get, which is anchored by Tavares’ $11M AAV. Adding Panarin will inflate our salaries because the UFA overpay sets a new internal benchmark. Horvat’s salary was arguably a slight overpay as an RFA (I disagree, I think his salary is in line). But if we throw big money at another UFA again, especially one that I feel will not have performance meet pay in the back-half of the contract, it will be a big mistake. I wouldn’t have a problem paying Boeser money and term because we’ll have him for the full duration of his prime. That doesn’t happen with a UFA unless he’s the rare exception like Hossa or St. Louis.

      • Cageyvet

        Maybe, maybe not, but he’s also worth the paycheque. If you could get a talent like him as a free agent, I think you have to try. He’s only 26 and damn near a point per game player, and plays LW where we are still thin. Money well spent IMO if we could do it.

        • speering major

          I’m only in favor of the signing if they win the lottery. Why wouldn’t you pursue Panarin? What exactly would you be waiting for?

          Panarin is a special player. You don’t pass up on a guy like that because it might interfere with your hopes for players like Goldobin, Dahlen, Lind, Leipsic, Baertschi, etc. Teams like the Hawks and Pens committed to a core. They had to ship out a lot of players they didn’t want to but that’s kind of a nice problem to have when you’re winning cups and in the hunt year after year with a stellar core locked in

          If you win the lottery and have Hughes, Petterson, Horvat, and Boeser, you absolutely go after a stud like Panarin. The only reason the leafs are having trouble securing their big 5 up front is because the Marleau contract + Mathews and Tavares will be the most expensive 1-2 punch in the league

  • wojohowitz

    I could dissect the Horvat line like this; Baertschi missed a couple of shifts and it motivated him. Horvat slips into an old bad habit of ignoring his wingers and trying to beat defensemen one on one rather than passing to an open winger. Boeser is a step slow and struggling to find open space. Moving him to the Pettersson/Goldobin line should increase his SOG. Replacing him on the wing with more speed should help the trio. Leipsic, Virtanen or Granlund might be the solution.

    • Holly Wood

      Unfortunately, with Bo, he has blinders on from the top of the circle on in. How many times have we seen it so far when he puts his head down and tries to bull his way to the net? If we can see it, don’t you think the pro scouts have picked up on it by now ffs.

  • Kanucked

    I don’t understand the hate for Granlund. He had a good year and hasn’t been given another offensive opportunity. Green had him playing with grinders during training camp and the preseason.

    I’m not suggesting he’s a super star, but I don’t know that he’s that different from Baerstchi.

    • canuckfan

      Granlund has been doing a great job defensively killing penalties and playing on the 4th line. It was good to see him in the first game on the powerplay. He is a really good 2 way player and will have value at the trading deadline for the teams looking to improve penalty kill

    • Baertschi has shown more drive, a development over the last few seasons. Although he lacks in size, you can see he’s learned that he needs to fight for space in the slot and crease, and will do board battles. Granlund doesn’t show the same level of intensity. Based on his pre-season and this season, I’d say that Baertschi is nudging into 1LW territory whereas Granlund is still bottom 6.

  • Kanuckhotep

    Goalie Bob and Panarin no doubt could help the Canucks and certainly constitute the most attractive FAs happening next July 1st. The eternal question though. Would these guys want to play in Vancouver? That’s been an issue for the VC since all the continents were still connected. Bobrovsky would raise the bar but can’t see it happening unfortunately.

  • “In general, I’m not a fan of asking a defenseman to play forward, even on your fourth line. Players have positions for a reason, and asking someone to play out of position seems like a bad idea. The reverse would seem downright absurd.”

    Brent Burns and Dustin Byfuglien would like a word with you.

      • Jackson McDonald

        Right, sorry. I forgot. All the Canucks need to do is get one of their many Dustin Byfuglien or Brent Burns-calibre defensemen to play forward and I’m sure it’ll go great! Boy, do I feel stupid!

        • Bud Poile

          “By most accounts, time is running out for this front office to prove they can take the team to the next level. ”
          JB inherited no starting NHL goaltenders,no exceptional young d-men and but one good NHL forward from the previous regime.
          Three years of rebuilding have passed AND in that short period the Comets and Canucks had to be rebuilt.
          With historic rebuilds as examples three drafts builds a base,which is what has now occurred.
          After 6 drafts what did Gillis hand to the next Canucks front office to justify such lofty expectations?

  • Kootenaydude

    Here’s a question for Jackson. I was wondering do you have any video of Boesers release from this year and last year? It would be interesting to see the difference.