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Photo Credit: Matthew Henderson

Mailbag Part Two: Jack Rathbone, Cap Trouble, and Playoff Hopes

It’s unlikely the Canucks would trade a big piece if they’re in a playoff spot, even if it’s a pending UFA. This is a team that didn’t even really consider Shawn Matthias the last time they were in such a position, and Edler has been a much more important part of this Canucks team that Matthias ever was. Then again, that was a long time ago, and it’s possible their M.O. has changed given the mandate has changed a fair bit over the past three years.

He’s off to an impressive start, but unfortunately I can’t comment too much on his play since I’ve yet to see Harvard play this season. His numbers so far certainly would suggest that he has considerable upside, though.

What I will say is this: I don’t think you pick a relatively unknown player out of high school in today’s day and age unless you feel pretty confident there’s something there. The Canucks have made some counter-intuitive selections out of the U.S. before that seem to be working out, although Rathbone is the only high school player they’ve selected so far. I’m hoping to get a closer look at him over the course of the season (it’s just a matter of finding the time), but I’m very intrigued based on his hot start in the NCAA.

It’s not that size doesn’t matter so much as that there are probably a dozen or so attributes that matter a lot more. Elite NHL players are able to think the game two steps ahead of the competition, have high-end puck skills, and can skate like the wind. Occasionally, they might also happen to be built like a truck, but those players are rare.

I think the reason we’re seeing less emphasis on size in the modern NHL is that it’s nearly impossible to find a player who checks every box and size ends up being an area teams are willing to sacrifice for the right player. It will always be a factor, but I expect the days of NHL GMs fixating on Jarred Tinordi-types are probably a thing of the past.

By my count, their are about ten defenders getting serious first-round buzz so far, and eight of them are left-handed. The two exceptions are Victor Soderstrom and Anttoni Honka. Both look like very good prospects, but so far it may be shaping up to be a very thin draft when it comes to right-handed defensemen. I suspect we’ll get a better idea of who some other options could be as the season progresses.

If they continue to struggle I don’t see him getting re-upped at the end of the season. That’s a team that desperately needs to shake things up and Willie Desjardins just isn’t really that kind of coach. It’s not that I don’t think he could be an NHL-calibre coach under the right circumstances, it’s just that at this stage of their life cycle the L.A. Kings look like a bad fit.

I’m not sure if I agree with your assessment. I haven’t been able to catch many Utica Comets games this season but Cory Hergott assured me that to the extent that Juolevi has struggled, it can mostly be attributed to getting used to the AHL game. Every time I’ve watched Juolevi in person, I’ve always been impressed by how poised he is, and I think he can be a good two-way defender at the NHL level. I don’t think he’s going to be as good as some of his peers from the 2016 draft, but I suspect he’ll have a long NHL career nonetheless.

The Canucks are another Elias Pettersson injury away from being possibly the worst team in hockey so I don’t think so. I think the world of Quinn Hughes, but they need more help on defense, and unless all of Jonathan Dahlen, Jonah Gadjovich, and Kole Lind all hit their ceilings, they’ll probably need some help on the wing, too.

Also, can you ever have enough talent? I can’t imagine many teams in the league would turn down an opportunity to draft a skilled player.

I don’t think we’ll see him continue to get that kind of ice time. He’s feeling it right now, and Travis Green is making adjustments accordingly (to his credit). 22 minutes a game is probably overplaying him, but it’s still way to early to jump to conclusions.

Any ceremony honouring the Sedins would obviously have to include Markus Naslund, Matthias Ohlund, and Alex Burrows. I would love to see some lesser known guys like Jason King and Trent Klatt get an invitation too, but it would have to be up to the team. As far as execs go, Brian Burke would be the obvious candidate, but I think you could make a strong case that Mike Gillis and Alain Vigneault should be there as well, although that might be difficult to pull off.

As far as Linden is concerned, I think everyone involved can suck it up for one night, if only for the twins’ sake.

That’s a pretty big if (although he’s built himself a nice cushion so far), but it would likely depend on whether or not the Canucks make the playoffs. It’s pretty silly to consider team performance for an individual award, but historically it’s been something the PHWA takes into account. If somehow Elias Pettersson can put up a 70+ point season and the Canucks can make the playoffs, then I’d say it’s definitely possible. I’m not sure how likely a scenario it is, though. Given he’s only nine games in to his career, it may be tad early to award him the Hart Trophy, but stranger things have happened.

I’ll lump these two questions together since they’re very similar. One of the biggest reasons I’ve been critical of the Canucks’ UFA signings is because they’re going to need lots of money to lock up their young core long-term. It’s perceived by many as being negative, but it’s really not. I fully expected Elias Pettersson and Brock Boeser to be good NHL players almost immediately, and I expect the same for Quinn Hughes. If they’re all as good as I think they’re going to be, they’re going to command a lot of money, and I don’t want to see some of the Canucks other young players on the block because they can’t unload Loui Eriksson or Jay Beagle’s contract.

They’ve got awhile before they end up where Toronto is, but it’s not too early to keep an eye on the situation. If you have good young players your cap space disappears quickly.

I have absolutely no idea. My guess would be that the only time players get too bent out of shape about the salaries of other players is in contract negotiations.

The Toronto Maple Leafs.

I don’t mind it. I think the team needs to make getting out from under that contract a priority and the best way to get his totals back to the realm of respectability is to put him on the power play with some guys who can generate rebounds. There are other players I’d rather see there, but if they can use the opportunity to get him going and eventually get a trade done (with some salary retained, obviously), then I can get behind it.

I’d love to see the team make the playoffs this year if only because of how fun it would be to see Elias Pettersson and Brock Boeser in some postseason action, but I actually think it would be bad for their rebuild in the long run if they do. They might be good enough to sneak into the playoffs, but unless something changes, they aren’t yet good enough to deserve to make the playoffs. If you look at what happened to the 2014 Colorado Avalanche, you’ll understand why that’s a concern. Sometimes when teams overachieve it gives them a false sense of security. The Canucks still need pieces, and unless their underlying numbers improve significantly over the course of the season it will be too early to declare the rebuild over, even if they can secure a postseason berth.

You’ll have to take that up with the owner. He’s very active on twitter now, you can follow him here.

I don’t think Artemi Panarin is going to be coming to Vancouver any time soon, but the Canucks will have some money to work with in free agency next summer and may look at a group of relatively young wingers that includes Mark Stone, Jeff Skinner, Micheal Ferland, and Ryan Dzingel, among others. They could also look to the draft, which has a forward-heavy first round this year. It’s hard to know where their pick will be come late June, but if they end up with a pick in the mid-to-late top ten as they have for most of their recent history, Vasilli Podkolzin, Peyton Krebs, Cole Caufield, and Raphael Lavoie all project as skilled wingers that could be available when they select.

There’s also the trade market, but it’s still early in the season to speculate and the Canucks don’t really have the pieces to get a deal done for an established scorer. Maybe they could pry Jesse Puljujarvi from the Oilers and hope he finally breaks out, but I don’t see the Oilers giving up on him so quickly.

Are you trying to get me in trouble?

I’m assuming your question has something to do with his comments on Elias Pettersson from the other night:

Let’s just say that maybe he has an interest in slowing down the Pettersson hype train.

I feel pretty confident the Canucks will come back down to earth eventually, but unlike in years past they finally have the talent to make things interesting. I still feel pretty confident with my prediction that they’ll finish the season somewhere in the mid-twenties, but the Pacific Division is really soft this year and I wouldn’t be completely shocked if they snuck in.

Harman Dayal wrote an excellent piece on what the Canucks would have to do make the playoffs that explores this topic a bit more deeply, for those interested.

I’d argue the opposite. The fact that the Canucks are blocking as many shots as they are is a symptom of the fact that when Pettersson’s not on the ice, they’re spending way too much time in their own zone. I’m not sure how much Brendan Leipsic would help in that regard, but I do feel confident that he’d be more helpful than some of their other options.

A wise man once said, “There’s an old saying in Tennessee — I know it’s in Texas, probably in Tennessee — that says, fool me once, shame on — shame on you. Fool me — you can’t get fooled again.”

Okay, maybe not “wise”, but you get the idea. You’re not crazy. I think there have been a few nights so far this year where Erik Gudbranson has looked as good as we’ve ever seen him, but given his age and prior history, I don’t think he’s suddenly found a new gear. If anything, I think it has more to do with the fact that Erik Gudbranson has spent much of his career stapled to Ben Hutton, and until recently, that arrangement was working poorly for both players. Now, Hutton seems to be finally putting things together and looks like he could be an everyday NHL player. I think the good games we’ve seen have more to do with his improvement than anything Gudbranson is doing. You could take the charitable view and say that Gudbranson is playing a more confident style now that he can trust his partner, or the cynical one, and say that Hutton is carrying him. Either way, both players are looking better than they have in some time and we might as well enjoy it while it lasts.

 

  • Enjoyed the mailbag bag but have to take issue with a couple things:

    While I definitely think the Canucks are overachieving and, outside of a crazy run of puck luck, are not making the playoffs, even without Pettersson they’re far from the dumpster fire of Ottawa or Detroit, so maybe dial back the histrionics on “worst team in hockey”.

    Also, where the Leafs are is with over $12 million in cap space and doing their diligence in avoiding a cap crunch in the coming 2-3 years. That’s an enviable position to be in, and one that, giving the Canucks’ willingness to throw big money at marginal players, the Canucks aren’t likely to find themselves in, which is a *bad* thing.

      • On paper, at least, the Kings are significantly better team. They’ve been awful in practice so far, though.

        Florida’s been godawful as well, but I think this can be attributed to bad luck as much as anything for both teams. We’ll see.

    • Killer Marmot

      Also, where the Leafs are is with over $12 million in cap space and doing their diligence in avoiding a cap crunch in the coming 2-3 years.

      The reason that the Leafs have not signed Nylander yet is likely because they are NOT in a good place with their future cap space. Matthews and Marner are in for big paydays at the end of this year, and Dubas is scrambling to find ways to pay his talent.

      • The Leafs could easily pay Nylander $8 million, Marner $9 million, and Matthews $12 million, but they’d then be in tight to re-sign other players like Kapanen, Kadri, Johnsson, etc when they are due new contracts over the next couple of years. The risk isn’t losing one of their stars, the risk is losing their depth.

        To put it another way: If the Leafs end up in cap trouble, it’ll be because they’re paying their top players like top players. It won’t be because they’ve got a bunch of boat anchor contracts to aging, mediocre players weighing them down. This is a completely different situation from one the Canucks may find themselves in in a couple of years, when they will still have over $20 million tied up in Loui Eriksson, Jay Beagle, Erik Gudbransson, and the ghost of Roberto Luongo.

    • TD

      They have to be regretting the Marleau contract. They are paying him 6 mil this year and next. That 6 mil for next year when they also need to sign Marner and Matthews is why they can’t sign Nylander.

      • The Marleau contract is structured in such a way that it’s entirely salary bonus in the final year, paid out on July 1st. The reason they did it like that is that the Leafs can then trade Marleau to a cap-floor team after July 1st – the team that receives him will take 100% of his cap hit, but owe him zero actual dollars.

        In other words, Marleau’s going to be on Arizona or Florida next year, and that was always the plan.

    • This is a distribution issue. The Pacific Division is mediocre from top to bottom, with no great teams and no truly awful teams, so you get an average record, but I’d say that makes the division soft – any mediocre team could finish in first place in the Pacific. You’re not climbing past Nashville and Winnipeg in the Central by being mediocre.

      • Killer Marmot

        If McDonald wanted to say that the Pacific Division is evenly matched this year then that’s what he should have said. “Soft” is not the right word.

  • I don’t know who wants a do-over more: The Ottawa Senators players trash-talking their assistant coach or Rob Blake for hiring Desjardins the day before Quenneville got fired. LA is going from bad to worse with Desjardins.

  • Bud Poile

    “The Canucks are another Elias Pettersson injury away from being possibly the worst team in hockey….”
    Following Elias being can opened and dumped on his head October 13th until his return the Canucks went 4W2L.

  • Matty T

    The over-hype on this board about Petterssen is frankly delusional, embarrassing and hypocritical…

    So, let’s clarify this. It’s ok to judge Petterssen as a generational, other worldly Gretzky 2.0, Hart trophy winner after TEN games… but it’s not ok to judge Juolevi as a disaster after THREE YEARS of failure and still zero NHL games when he was chosen at the same spot as EP in the draft? What is wrong with you clowns… eh!

      • Matty T

        Yes they are mutt – this is his THIRD season, “but-but-but it’s too soon to judge”. However EP is a Hart winner, Gretzky 2.0 and better than Bure… TEN games in. No wonder Canucks fans are such a laughing stock around the league!

    • Bud Poile

      The disgrace and laughing stock of CA is your troll act and Jackson,who has refused to do anything about you for five years,in spite of the fact you have been banned by Ryan Biech in just weeks of becoming editor here.

      • Matty T

        wah, wah, wah, little whiner – no idea what you are talking about. I haven’t broken ANY RULES… but how about this…

        “Bud has generally served to make the comment section an unwelcoming place not just for the authors but also for a lot of the commenters as well. ” – Jackson McDonald

        ”the least I could do is occasionally remind Bud that CA’s readership is constantly growing and if all he is going to do is be rude to other readers he doesn’t need to come back especially because this isn’t Tim Hortons and I don’t get brownie points for smiling and being polite while someone makes the work area a nuisance to be in for staff + customers. ” – Jackson McDonald

        run along now, tail between legs AGAIN

  • Kanuckhotep

    The bottom line for any coaching staff when it comes to the line up is if they hurt the team defensively or not, forwards included. This may be the big difference this year for the Canucks other than Petey or course. Gaudette, Motte, Roussel and similar guys don’t score much but Green trusts them out there to not cost them in their own zone. it’s a work in progress no doubt but is headed in the right direction.

    • Fred-65

      The three players you mention Motte, Gaudette and Roussell are playing good/solid hockey. I have no complaints. It’s impossible to expect every rookie to be a Boeser of Pettersson but it’s reasonable to expect a solid intelligent game and that’s what those three are doing. I might also mention Schaller who board possession skils are very good for the role that is expected of him. He had a poor game a couple ago but for the most part is as advertised. As to Matty T comments it’s nuts to argue about 2,3, 2.5 season when we understand the gist of his comments and the intent. Get over the Mathematics and think philosophy

    • SISMIM

      Rathbone stayed at Dexter for an extra year to be closer to his younger brother, Teddy, who has autism. It’s a really sweet story and there’s a great 2017 article from the Boston Herald that details Jack’s special relationship with his little brother. Hopefully this link works: https://www.google.ca/amp/www.bostonherald.com/sports/bruins/2017/06/west_roxbury_nhl_prospect_jack_rathbone_has_priorities_in_right_place%3famp

      • SISMIM

        A bit more on Rathbone:

        He’s discussed in the mailbag as a “smaller” defenceman, but I think it’s worth noting that Jack is already up to 5’11” and 190 lbs (as listed on Harvard’s website and also confirmed by Rathbone himself when interviewed this summer at development camp), so while he’s not tall, he’s also not exactly a small guy. He also has a reputation as a bit of a gym rat, and his summer training videos can attest to this. As can his early showings this season with the Crimson, where he’s looked plenty strong enough dealing with some much older and larger players, even managing to knock a couple bigger guys on their butts.

        He’s a strong kid, and he actually has a bit of a physical edge to his game. And he will likely only get stronger as he matures and continues to work hard in training. He’s already packed on a lot of muscle, and seems to have the type of frame that can handle even more. And he hasn’t lost any of his speed and agility in the process. He looked like a different player at this summer’s camp, compared to his draft year. Much leaner in his face, and clearly having added some significant muscle to his frame.

        I’ve been able to watch a couple of his games already this season, and a few more when he played with Dexter and Cape Cod, and from what I’ve seen, he really doesn’t play like a “smaller” defenceman. He has the elite wheels, shiftiness, and escapability of some of your smaller, offensive-minded defencemen, but he also has the strength to handle himself quite well in his own zone, even when defending against some of the NCAA’s more sizeable attacking forwards.

          • Puck Viking

            He has way more offense to his game. Many thought he would be the break out player of the year in the NCAA. I read he would have gone in the 2nd round if not letting it be known he wasnt going straight to college.

        • Fred-65

          What draws my attention in the case of Rathbone ( by all accounts,although he paired with an excellent D partner….Fox ) is it strikes me he may be a “find” in the 4th round because he was still at high school and turned down Harvards offer to play right away. The question is, it highlights scouting frailties by many top end amateur scouts to over look him for those reason. I have no idea when Brackett picked up on this kid or others (Madden) but he stated already he’s been watching Rathbone for a “long” time I get the idea too many scouts have out dated rules for reviewing propects. Thankfully Vcr has Brackett. They should be signing Mr Brackett to a long term contract because frankly his drafting will become apparent to other clubs in the near future

  • Fred-65

    For the first time for a long time Vcr is substantially below the Cap. So, as to long term FA signing, I’m wondering if the accountant types are preparing a war chest for buy out LOL

  • Puck Viking

    “By my count, their are about ten defenders getting serious first-round buzz so far, and eight of them are left-handed. The two exceptions are Victor Soderstrom and Anttoni Honka. Both look like very good prospects, but so far it may be shaping up to be a very thin draft when it comes to right-handed defensemen. I suspect we’ll get a better idea of who some other options could be as the season progresses.”

    Honka will be a 3rd round pick. His numbers are not great and his play in his own end is horrible. Mikko Kokkonen is a LHD who is great all around player putting up way better numbers and is bigger, he is actually putting up better numbers than Miro Heiskanen from Dallas in his draft year.

    Kaeden Korczak from Kelowna, Moritz Seider from Germany(havent seen play but many have him ranked high) and Drew Helleson USDP are all better options at RHD than Honka especially with us having Hughes, stetcher and Rathbone in the system.

  • Rodeobill

    I think Ian Clarke will be equally to blame as EP if we play ourselves prematurely out of our rebuild, our tending has been much better this year and saved us some wins.

  • Chris the Curmudgeon

    Hold on, he can watch Pettersson play and still tell me that Necas and Rasmussen are better? Oh boy, I don’t know how much stock I want to be putting in that guy’s opinions. Seriously 10 goals in 10 games to start his NHL career, and he likes a bunch of guys who got sent back to the AHL or who are scuffling to stay in the league? I know it’s early, but that’s the take of someone who either doesn’t watch or doesn’t see.

    • Chris the Curmudgeon

      Oops, I see that the ranking is an older post. However, he clearly whiffed and whiffed big time, and would be better off admitting rather than doubling down on his mistake.

  • unplugged

    “Maybe they could pry Jesse Puljujarvi from the Oilers and hope he finally breaks out”

    What in a trade do you think the Canucks can offer to make this happen? Juolevi package? Baertschi++?