There’s an old story, likely apocryphal, that Abraham Lincoln once recounted in a speech as he campaigned to be America’s sixteenth President:
It is said an Eastern monarch once charged his wise men to invent him a sentence, to be ever in view, and which should be true and appropriate in all times and situations. They presented him the words: “And this, too, shall pass away.” How much it expresses! How chastening in the hour of pride! How consoling in the depths of affliction!
It’s something we all ought to keep in mind as the season progresses.
The Canucks entered Los Angeles last night having lost eight consecutive games. In reality, they hadn’t played badly enough to deserve their record; much in the same way the underlying numbers suggested they were getting lucky early in the season.
The team will have stretches like the one they just went through. Elias Pettersson will go quiet now and then. But it’s looking more and more like we can also expect him to have nights like the one he just had in L.A. with relative consistency.
It won’t be enough to keep the Canucks competitive on most nights, but it will be enough to keep them watchable. It’s a nice change of pace.
1. In any other season, Nikolay Goldobin’s emergence as a top-six forward would be a big story. He’s first on the team in shot attempt differential, second in overall assist rate, third in points per 60 minutes, and third in overall points. The book on Goldobin has always been that he’s a liability defensively, but so far this season, he’s producing more than he’s giving up: Goldobin is just one of only four Canucks with a positive goal differential. Before adding an assist in last night’s game, he was producing at a rate of 0.6 points per game, which is better than Wayne simmonds, Jakob Silfverberg, and Mats Zuccarello. Detractors will point to the fact that he’s scored just four goals thus far, but he’s still on pace for 13 goals and 49 points. If he finishes the season in that ballpark, would you take that? I think I would, especially considering he was an early candidate for waivers before the start of the season.
2. Goldobin’s numbers have been juiced a little thanks to the fact that he’s played the vast majority of his shifts with Elias Pettersson. Of that there is no doubt. He’s also been racking up a lot of secondary assists, which are generally less indicative of offensive contributions than primary helpers. At first glance, you might assume that means that Goldobin’s production is about to go off a cliff, but thanks to the wonders of microstatistics, we can see that it appears to be completely sustainable.
Over the first ten games of the season, Goldobin was first on the team in primary shot contributions (passes leading to a shot on goal), and second in scoring chance rate, according to data tracked by Corey Snazjder. Considering Goldobin struggled to produce offence early in the season, this is an incredibly good sign.
And yet the market has been surprisingly quiet about it. Outside of Daniel Wagner’s must-read hype piece about why the data loves him, there’s been very little love for Goldobin in what’s been a breakout season for him. Why?
3. Goldobin’s chilly reception in media circles stands in stark contrast to the praise Jake Virtanen has earned. In many ways, their seasons have mirrored each other. Both are on pace to destroy career-highs in points, but Goldobin is on pace for just 13 goals, and Virtanen just 10 assists. Both have had some luck through the first quarter of the season, albeit in different ways, and both have undeniably benefited from stints with Elias Pettersson. But one has been a far bigger story this year.
Maybe it’s just because only one of them has an alcohol consumption-related campaign attached to their success, but something Jason Botchford said in his recent Q&A with the good people of reddit’s Canucks community got me thinking.
Botch was asked about players responding to so-called “stupid questions” Elias Pettersson has received over the course of a season:
Sometimes what you guys see as dumb questions are media’s attempt to have some fun with him. For example, [Jeff] Paterson asked last night about him calling the penalty. It was a fun question set up for a joke or a laugh from him. He didn’t take it that way, gave his death stare and so it goes. Either way, he can do what he wants. I’m not criticizing but I do think the media looks for way to lighten things up especially after 6 straight losses.
Goldobin’s not a native English speaker. Virtanen, on the other hand, has quickly established himself as a good quote. That matters more than you might think. Any player who’s willing to give you something you can use is probably going to get more favourable coverage than someone who stonewalls. That’s not a criticism, it’s just a fact of life.
If Goldy ever becomes a talker, watch out.
4. I mentioned Botchford’s AMA last week, so now that the event has come and passed I thought I’d offer an update. For those of you who aren’t aware, an AMA is an informal question-and-answer period between a public figure and the users of a certain community (in this case, the Canucks subreddit).
It was, to my disappointment, remarkably tame. /r/Canucks can be spicy even at the best of times, but they kept it PG for the most part, apart from a few notable exceptions.
The closest thing to a confrontation came over Botch’s change of heart on the subject of a potential Chris Tanev trade, of all things. It was kind of anticlimactic given the animosity the community has shown not just Botchford, but much of the Vancouver hockey media over the years, but it’s good to know I can still expect the trademark pedantry I’ve grown to love.
5. Here are some of the best tidbits from Botch’s AMA. (Responses edited for clarity).
Wish he was healthy all year. He’s been incredibly productive on the power play and i really see this year as a season where both his TOI and point totals get jacked enough to get a premium return. His side has asked for an extension but Canucks have said nah. They need to make room on the left side. I feel like currently we’re headed for a trade.
On Nikita Tryamkin:
I believe he wants to return but the Canucks are ambivalent about bringing him back. I hope Jim changes his mind but i heard they were leaning toward looking to deal his rights.
On Jim Benning acquiring more draft picks:
Honestly, I don’t think it’s in his nature. I think he’s a bit restless even now as it’s going to take some time for Gadj, Lind, Dahlen, Gaudette to develop. They’ve been told to/have agreed to not trade any picks but trading for them is still not a priority. Now, if he could get a first for Edler, would he? Sure.
On the Bobrovsky rumours:
I don’t think Jim is preparing a slide show presentation, but you can definitely see the seeds for this one to grow. You know the relationship he has with Clark and I think Clark is in Jim’s ear on this. Plus you know this D is going to get younger and needs stability and you know that Jim is big on paying for a goalie.
On moving to The Athletic:
I’m in 100% control of my time management. I can folo the stories i think are important. I don’t have “assignments” – I don’t have daily deadlines. For example, I did a section on Horvat the other day in the Athletties. I worked on that for 2 weeks and had multiple interviews with Bo and Travis. That wouldn’t happen in the pre-Athletties.
Not everyone is a fan of his style, but I think he’s made the media environment in Vancouver much more interesting than it was when I was growing up, if nothing else. If you haven’t yet, go give the thread a read. There’s some good stuff in there.
6. Brian Burke turned some heads this week with his response to the Carolina Hurricanes much-ballyhooed victory celebration, the “Storm Surge”:
"I don't think it's professional, I don't think it belongs in our league."https://t.co/ScVw7iO4sA
— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) November 22, 2018
He’s earned his fair share of “old man yells at cloud” jokes, which I have no issue with What I do have an issue with is how many people have buried the lede, which was Burke’s funny exchange with John Shannon at the top of the clip:
John Shannon: Why don’t you like the slow clap in Carolina?
Brian Burke: Cause I don’t.
JS: People are having fun!
BB: I don’t need a reason.
JS: Yes you do.
BB: No I don’t.
JS: You do in television.
BB: No, I don’t like it.
JS: In our business, you have to give a reason.
BB: Actually, I don’t. I’m a guest on this show.
Call me crazy, but it’s a breath of fresh air to hear someone in hockey just admit they don’t like something inconsequential without any attempt to reverse-engineer a reason why it’s actually really important. The media landscape, particularly the sports media landscape, would be a lot healthier if that happened more often.
For the record, you can like it when players show some personality and have fun and still think the Storm Surge is hokey pageantry.
In fact, you might say Carolina’s victory celebration qualifies as fun in the same way that Brian Burke on the Sportsnet panel qualifies as refreshing. It’s the closest we’re going to get in a league that presents itself in a boring and monotonous way, but it’s not quite grounds for celebration.