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Photo Credit: Vancouver Canucks/Facebook

The Flying Take: The Edler Dilemma, Revisionist History, and Why Isn’t Anyone Talking About Kole Lind?

Alex Edler is quietly on pace for his best offensive season in seven years, and yes, that’s even accounting for the fact that he missed 15 games.

It can easily get lost in a season like this one when the young players are outperforming expectations, but after a resurgence last year on the power play and a hot start this season, he appears to have found his offensive game again. It’s a welcome development to be sure, but one that may present a dilemma for the Canucks in the near future. That dilemma is something John Shannon alluded to during a radio hit on Sportsnet 650 earlier this week:

While the offensive numbers look as good as they ever have, Edler’s underlying shot-based metrics and overall two-way profile has been steadily declining for the past three seasons. He’s been able to stave off a steep age-related decline in play so far, but it’s coming.

Given where the Canucks are at in their rebuild and their need to overhaul the defense, the obvious thing to do would be to flip Edler at the deadline. Playoff teams are always looking to add a top-four defender and are usually willing to pay a hefty price for the opportunity.

The fact that Edler has no desire to waive his no-trade clause is Vancouver’s worst-kept secret, and while this is something we’ve heard many times about players who were eventually moved anyway, the truth is that he may refuse a trade and there isn’t much anyone can do about it. It would be another example of failure to get full value for what should have been a highly-coveted asset, but the current regime didn’t sign that contract and so it’s tough to hold them to account for it.

Perhaps the most pertinent matter, then, is what to do with him at the end of the season when his contract expires. With the way he’s played in the last two years, he’ll have earned a multi-year deal with a big pricetag. And Even if he takes a sweetheart deal, there’s the question of making room for the team’s young defenders. It would be a mistake to move on from Ben Hutton after the year he’s had, and even the most conservative projections have Quinn Hughes making the squad in 2019-20. Olli Juolevi’s injury has set him back a year, but considering the expectation leading up to his injury was for him to get some games this season, he’s still a part of the team’s near future. How much longer can the Canucks afford to have their entire left side locked up long-term?

1. The truly scary thing about that John Shannon quote isn’t the revelations about Edler. It’s that ownership is going to “push hard” for the GM to make the playoffs. Sure, you can always hope the team makes the post-season, but “pushing” implies not only holding on to the assets you already have, but possibly acquiring some additional ones as well. With the way they’ve handled some of their contracts, there’s a case to be made they’ve already sacrificed a bit of their long-term outlook for increased success now. Can you imagine what things will look like if the mandate from above is explicitly to win now?

2. The league announced yesterday that Erik Karlsson would be suspended two games for his hit to the head of L.A. Kings forward Austin Wagner.

For those of you that haven’t seen it:

Let’s compare that to the Danick Martel hit on Troy Stecher from the other night.

The two hits have a few things in common. They both targeted the head, and both involve players who sound like their names were made up on the spot. But what are the differences?

Well, one guy saw the hit coming and the other didn’t.

And one received a two-game suspension. The other got a two-minute interference penalty.

3. There were some familiar faces in the press box on Tuesday night when the Canucks faced off against the Lightning. CanucksArmy managing editor Ryan Biech and contributors Jeremy Davis, Harman Dayal, and Darryl Keeping were all spotted in press row by Patrick Johnston, reporter for the province and CA alumnus. Given the team’s prior hostility to online-only media outlets, their appearance turned a few heads. All four played coy about their reasons for being there, but according to Jason Botchford it was more than just a random visit:

“The Canucks wanted to reach out to some of the main analytics guys in the city to try to start having connections with those guys…they were all at the game to meet with the Canucks analytics crew. That was pretty neat. I think that the relationship between the Canucks and that component of the market that analyzes and follow the team…I thought that connection was cool because it hasn’t always been that relationship between the people who do analytics for the Canucks and the people that do it for the Athletic and CanucksArmy.”*

If it is indeed the case that the team is reaching out to some of the top analytical minds covering the team, it’s a welcome development. The Canucks’ front office has been more open to incorporating data into their decision making in recent years, and this looks like another step in the right direction. I would imagine the decision to hold the meet-and-greet had a lot to do with Canucks’ Senior Director of Hockey Operations and Analytics Jonathan Wall. Wall has a longstanding relationship with the hockey blogosphere in Vancouver, appearing at the Canucks-sponsored Vancouver Hockey Analytics Conference in 2017 and 2018.

4. The crown jewel of the Canucks’ data-driven decision making would appear to be the 2017 draft, when they leaned on the numbers to draft Petrus Palmu in the sixth round as well as selecting a few pGPS favourites in Elias Pettersson, Kole Lind, and Jonah Gadjovich.

Those players have had mixed results at the pro level so far. Pettersson has obviously exceeded the expectations of even his biggest supporters and insured the draft will be viewed as a success regardless of what happens to the other seven players who were selected; but the other three have struggled to find their way in the AHL. Petrus Palmu made headlines last week when he elected to returned to Finland rather than play out the remainder of the AHL season. Palmu’s struggles to get in the lineup. get consistent minutes, and contribute have been well-publicized this season, but the story’s been very much the same for Kole Lind and Jonah Gadjovich. They’ve combined for just 6 points on the season and have also sat in the press box on a few occasions.

The Comets aren’t without their success stories – the development of Zack MacEwen, Lukas Jasek, and Olli Juolevi prior to his injury has been laudable- but the trio of rookies’ struggles this season does call into question the relationship between the Comets and the Canucks’ front office. The limited ice-time and healthy scratches may very well be warranted, but these players are by no means required to play in the minors this year. Palmu understandably made the decision to return to Finland, while plenty of players of Lind and Gadjovich’s age return for another season of junior hockey.

It’s not just on Utica to do do the whims of its parent club. They have a business to run, too. But if these players simply weren’t ready or either organization had an inkling they’d struggle to play on a consistent basis, that’s something that ought to have been foreseen and accounted for.

5. All that having been said, it’s fair to wonder what exactly happened to Kole Lind.

Sure, it’s probably just a slow start. The AHL is a tough league, especially for a rookie, and doubly so for one who’s struggled with injury.

Still, it’s hard not to see it as a disappointment. There’s an alternate universe where Kole Lind is selected just a few spots higher, in the first round, and is considered a potential sleeper to make the NHL in 2018 after a stellar season in the WHL.

Instead, he’s riding the pine in Utica and has two points on the season. It makes you wonder.

It hasn’t come close to be a story this year, either. Don’t let anyone tell you Vancouver is too negative.

6. With the way the team has played over the past few games, it comes as a surprise that so much time online has been devoted to dissecting alternate histories.

There are a few problems with this line of thinking. The first is that it lets management off the hook for their mistakes. No matter how you slice it, it’s never a good thing to whiff on a top-5 pick, regardless of whether or not it put you in a good position at the following draft.

More importantly, Tkachuk wasn’t having that kind of rookie season with the Vancouver Canucks. If the Canucks pick him, there’s almost no way he plays the next year, and even if he does, there’s no way he gets the opportunities he got in Calgary under Willie Desjardins. And finally, even if Tkachuk did improve their fortunes enough to move down in the draft, they likely still could have had Pettersson anyway.

7. That brings us to our second bit of revisionist history.

Why do people keep asking how Pettersson fell to fifth? There’s a pretty simple, obvious answer there for anyone who was paying attention at the time.

There was never any chance Pettersson was going higher than where the Canucks picked him. Here’s where he was ranked by some of the most notable draft publications in the spring of 2017:

Player Bob McKenzie THN Corey Pronman Craig Button Steve Kourianos Dobber Prospects Hockey Prospect ISS McKeen’s Future Considerations Jeff Marek
Elias Pettersson 7th 9th 17th 8th 7th 8th 5th 20th 11th 8th 15th

In Jeremy Davis Consolidated Rankings of the scouting community for 2018, Elias Pettersson came in as the ninth-best prospect.

A few publications, including CanucksArmy, were wise to what Pettersson was capable of, but none had him going higher than where the Canucks picked him.

The selection was considered a reach at the time. Based on industry consensus, the Canucks swung for the fences. It was the kind of brass-balls move you rarely see from any front office, let alone the quiet and conservative Jim Benning.

And it paid off.

 

*Edited and condensed for clarity

  • El Cid

    Come on the Martel hit was shoulder to shoulder and he was trying to play the puck before he was viciously attcked by a pack of cowards, the league has ruled so that should be that don’t be a homer. The Karlsson hit was a head shot and for a first time offence 2 games is sufficient but I am in the group that the player should be suspended until the the other player can return to play. Dunn should have been given a penalty for the same crosscheck on JJ before JJ retaliated once again poor officiating and Dunn is lucky it was just a crosscheck and JJ didn’t drop the gloves!

  • Steampuck

    “It would be another example of failure to get full value for what should have been a highly-coveted asset, but the current regime didn’t sign that contract and so it’s tough to hold them to account for it.”

    In order to reflect on what “value” and “asset” mean, we need to look at this historically and not only through a forward-looking lens. Let’s back up a minute, and acknowledge that the Canucks have gotten exceptionally good value out of Edler and this contract already. A NTC means the player has left money on the table in order to ensure some geographical security over the tenure of the contract: Gillis/Gilman got that and then some with Edler. When Edler signed his current contract in 2013, he was the 25th-highest paid Dman in the league. That same $5,000,000 cap hit now ranks tied for 49th among Dmen. That’s a pretty team-friendly kind of number—and has had the subsidiary effect of controlling D salaries across the team.

    Yes: it would be lovely to flip Edler for some prospects and picks in March. But I don’t think you blame GMMG for what has been a more than serviceable and manageable contract. It’s not like the contract has been an albatross around the current regime’s neck. And it’s not like Edler hasn’t played out full value of that number over the past five years, even if he hasn’t been at his best. In hindsight, the one weakness of the contract is that it wasn’t long enough. There’s no question that Edler’s played his best hockey already and some decline is imminent, but there’s equally no question that a top 4 spot on this team has his name on it for next year if he wants it.

    • Goon

      I’m starting to think CanucksArmy should do away with the cheers & jeers system. Loading up the comments, El Cid’s stupid obvious troll comment was 1/2 and this very reasonable, well-written, insightful comment was 2/1.

      Makes sense to me.

      Anyway, you’re absolutely right that Edler’s contract was reasonable and the Canucks have received full value for it. It’s up to Benning to convince Edler to waive his NTC – I understand Edler’s made it clear he doesn’t want to, but there are two very obvious arguments to present Edler with and I can’t imagine a reasonable person rejecting either – you can either say “We’re not re-signing you, so you might as well go take a run at a cup since you’re moving anyway” or you can say “we want to re-sign you, so help us make this team better by taking a 3-month run at a cup and netting us a solid pick or prospect, and then we’ll make you a totally reasonable offer on July 1st”.

      • kermit

        Steampunk doesn’t post often, but when he does it’s smart and well written. It’s quite possible that the trashing is just another trolling tactic being carried out by the usual suspect, using his multiple accounts. It’s a passive aggressive way of trying to sow contention. I agree, get rid of the trash button. Keep the cheers though, maybe change it to an upvote, getting a lot of upvotes means people agree with your comment, getting none, or just a few, means they don’t.

          • truthseeker

            You can’t. It only looks like it from your computer. The numbers go up but nobody else sees it because it only registers one.

            One of the usual morons, probably the cockroach, tried it on me one time. In a response he was like “you’ve got 15 thumbs down!” (all from him) but it only showed to everyone else as like 2 or 3 or whatever. Needless to say it was an easy response and cutting insult opportunity for me.

    • Killer Marmot

      I completely agree that the Edler’s NTC is nothing to complain about. It worked out well for both sides.

      Management MUST avoid full NTC’s for the couple of years or so, however — particularly for older players — to give the team the utmost flexibility going into the expansion draft. An unwise contract could cost them a valuable younger player.

    • B_Rad77

      If management can get Edler to waive the NTC, then the length of th the contract would be just right. IMO the return value on trading Edler now would out weigh what he can give us as an aging veteran. This year, even though he is scoring points, has shown he is slowing down and taking more hooking/holding penalties. The speed of the game has passed him by.

  • Kanuckhotep

    Edler is here until the 82g schedule is completed minimum. After that he might be offered a deal of some sort for reasonable term(2 years) and reasonable coin that does not eat in the cap too severely, unless Benning gets a great offer for Eddie. When will be the next time the Canucks get 800 games from a D they’ve drafted?

    • canuckfan

      The Canucks should look at resigning Edler and treat him well. We don’t need to piss off Pettersson we need to be the team Swedes want to play. Let Edler retire here two more years and I would think he will be ready to retire. Edler still has a lot of game in him and can help the team we should be looking to keep our players as long as we can the no trade gave Canucks a discount pay him for 2 more years with a no trade will be about right. One more year of big minutes then take him down as the young guys prove they can eat up the minutes.

  • DJ_44

    Still, it’s hard not to see it as a disappointment. There’s an alternate universe where Kole Lind is selected just a few spots higher, in the first round, and is considered a potential sleeper to make the NHL in 2018 after a stellar season in the WHL.

    Instead, he’s riding the pine in Utica and has two points on the season. It makes you wonder.

    This is not quite accurate. Lind was injured for half of Utica’s season so far. Like Gadjovich and Palmu, there were healthy scratches at the start of the season, partly due to the temporary glut of players, and more importantly due to learning the professional game.

    Watching Lind over the last 5-7 games, you can see his game starting to come around. He is starting to get it. Gadjovich is as well, albeit to at a slower pace (figuratively and literally). Moves and habits that played in junior don’t play in the AHL. They will both figure it out.

    Juolevi was playing very good, and it sucks he has bad luck with the knee.

    • Bud Poile

      Juolevi is 20 years of age and will miss 3 more months of this AHL season.
      Ohlund began his career as a Canuck at 21 years of age.13 NHL seasons.Ring of Honour inductee.
      Salo’s NHL rookie campaign began at the age of 24.He played in 15 NHL seasons.
      Lidstrom’s NHL career began at age 21.
      Weber’s first,full NHL season began at age 21.
      Again,Juolevi is 20 years of age.

        • Tedchinook

          Spoken like someone with absolutely no knowledge of the Canucks history. Number one, at age 20 nobody is a bust. And second, he’s clearly has never heard of Dan Woodley, Jason Herter or even Patrick White.

        • timmay

          Agree. Juolevi had knee surgery at 14 and the problem is still there. Where was the due dlligence background check before this kid was drafted when Sergachev, McAvoy and Tkachuk were all vailable to us?

          NHL Hockey players rarely recover some serious knee issues, ask Bure and Orr

        • TheMoustacheofDaveBabych

          If you were an actual hockey fan with a knowledge of team history you would know this is wrong. Or maybe you do and just don’t care.
          Either way . . . you’re due a midnight visit from the Canucks Ghosts of Christmas Past: Snepts, Odjick and Williams. Merry Christmas ya crusty ole troll.

    • Defenceman Factory

      I haven’t seen any Utica games this year. Thanks for the update, glad to hear Lind is finding his way.

      Anyone who thought Lind would have an easy time turning pro didn’t watch him in Junior very much. In their D+1 year Lind was 5-8 lbs heavier than Pettersson with a fraction of the skill, speed and hockey sense. He was bound to struggle and will have to put in a lot of hard work to ever make the Canucks. At this point he is well back of Jasek and MacEwen and probably behind Lockwood on the depth chart for right wingers.

  • Defenceman Factory

    Wow that is a lot of words based on John Shannon retreading some worn out takes on things. He has no new information, these are statements he surmises based on his take of history. It’s amazing how often this happens around the Canucks. A media guy puts out an opinion and everybody reports on it like its fact.

    Edler has an opportunity to showcase himself during a playoff run and in doing so add term and value to his next contract. Being asked to waive last year or the year before is not the same as in the last couple months of the contract. Edler isn’t getting trade protection in his next contract. He should get used to the idea of playing somewhere else because he will get moved at some point. Right now he has some control over where. Once he signs his next contract he will have no control. I don’t know if he will waive and neither does John Shannon.

    Who would tell John Shannon that Aquilini is going to instruct Benning to push for the playoffs. No one. It is just an opinion. Could happen but at this point it is pure speculation. More likely there will be a meeting where ownership and management take a realistic look at where they are at and set out a plan. That plan needs to include consideration of what they could get in return for their vets at the deadline. That information is not known yet. Too much season left to make that call.

    The Canucks are getting very close to finishing this rebuild. With a couple of shrewd trades at this years deadline or at the draft, some extra picks this year and the focus can shift to winning. It would be a shame if the Canucks decide to cut short the rebuild when they are this close to finishing it.

    • Defenceman Factory

      No I think you still blame management for relying on flawed analysis and failing to properly scout and develop players. The pGPS analysis is interesting but it is deeply flawed in its ability to accurately predict a players success. The system hated MacEwen and loved Lind.

      pGPS only tells you what similar players did in the past. How it determines the comparable players and the relative strengths of the different hockey leagues are a work in progress. It’s a worthwhile to look at but sure doesn’t replace proper player evaluation.

      • tru north

        You make a lot of good points elsewhere … and here also but I think you miss the real reason … and you’ve used the previous poster/Sandpaper’s word, “blame”. This infers an unnecessary negative.
        You can hope that analysis, scouting and development give roster players or better, but historical records of draft positions show that these players probability of a successful NHL career is limited. My recollection is flawed but I think it’s less than 10% … Not panning out is the norm … no harm, no foul, no blame. Except maybe unreal expectations.

      • Killer Marmot

        Every draft pick is a crap shoot. Nobody has a flawless system. As such, management should be judged for its overall results over many years, not for a few picks which may (or may not) have gone south.

  • truthseeker

    “It would be another example of failure to get full value for what should have been a highly-coveted asset, but the current regime didn’t sign that contract and so it’s tough to hold them to account for it.”

    Uhhh….no it wouldn’t. It wouldn’t be any kind of failure at all. Precisely because they didn’t sign him. It’s not just “tough to hold them to account…” it’s impossible by the very nature of logic. This is such a badly thought through argument. I’ll spell it out clearly. Benning will have zero responsibility for not being able to trade Edler. Good?

    The “push hard” thing? What evidence is there of that? Pure, useless speculation on the part of someone outside the organization. Click bait. Straight out BS.

    Yep…the league and the PA are useless when it comes to caring about the players. Nothing will ever change until players are taught to respect one another.

  • TD

    Statistically, the odds are against Lind or Gadjovich playing in the NHL. That’s the same reason they are struggling in the AHL. Between growing pains and the emergence of Jasek and Dahlen, both started slow but have steadily improved, it’s not a surprise Lind and Gadjovich have had limited opportunities.

  • BBoone

    If you get 10 years of 20 min per game top 4 D then that is reasonable. Oli J has had two major injuries now but is still slated to be an NHL regular at 22. Most GM would have taken Juolevi as the top D that draft . Lind and GJ have been injured . A limited NT on the final year of contract should have been the policy of GMMG . Lastly after collecting vast sums of money from the Canuck fans these players , and I include the Sedins , should man up and accept the trade for prospects proposal to a contending team there bye helping the future. They don’t have to of course. Just saying…

    • truthseeker

      That’s exactly right. He was the highest ranked D in that draft. The canucks wanted a D man and the got the highest ranked one. Even if he ends up being a complete bust, it wasn’t a “mistake” to pick him.

      Can’t disagree more on your final point. Players don’t owe teams or fans a damn thing aside from honoring the terms of whatever contract they are currently under. In the case of all of those Gillis era canucks, they all took way less than they could have made on the open market. The twins, Edler, Kes, Beiksa, Hamhuis. Think about it. Ehrhoff basically made double what Vancouver was offering. All those guys could have made that kind of money. Edler doesn’t have any responsibility to help the canucks “build for the future” and I think it’s totally selfish of fans to expect that if they do.

      • Dirty30

        If Edler wants to accept the best contract offered by any team then you’re right, he doesn’t owe this team anything. If, as he has explicitly stated, he wants to stay here and be part of the rebuild, and enjoy his home and family in Vancouver, then it is very reasonable of this team to ask for consideration moving forward.

        1. Take a temporary trade for picks to help improve the team — that benefits Edler too.

        2. Accept a reasonable contract — if it has another NTC it should have a hometown discount.

        The logic is simple … if Edler isn’t helping the team and they don’t resign him then he will have to play elsewhere anyway.

        • truthseeker

          Yes, but I was talking about his prior contract, not what might happen after this year. The argument was that Edler should have to put the “team and fans first” right now, under the terms of his current contract and that he should be open for a trade. Or what others here have said that it’s Benning’s responsibility to make him accept a trade or that would be considered a failure on Benning’s part, which is just ridiculously illogical.

          Maybe he doesn’t want to move, even if it helps the team by getting picks and even if it’s “only” for a few months. It’s a right he’s earned and I for one wouldn’t blame him at all if that’s how he feels.

          Plus there are a few risks/problems with that. One, is that it could be collusion and against league policy. A risk for both sides. Second is that, if I were a player anyway, I would never in million years accept a verbal, or hand shake agreement with any manager no matter how much I felt like I trusted them. You just never know. Put it in writing or forget it. Simple as that. So many things could change from trade deadline to next season that might make the team back out of any promise to bring him back. Not worth the risk if he really wants to stay.

          As for his next contract, of course. The team can offer whatever they want and he’s free to demand whatever he wants. If they can’t agree then yeah…I’m sure he’ll go somewhere else. Can’t see him retiring, but you never know.

      • crofton

        I believe you are wrong about Erhoff. Vancouver and Buffalo offered damned close to the same dollar amounts total, but Buffalo’s offer was far more front loaded

        • truthseeker

          nope. They (the sabres) gave him 10 years. Canucks were only going to commit to a 5 years (as they had given to Beiksa) at 4 to 5 million per. That’s 20 to 25 million dollars vs 40 million dollars. Nearly double. You can’t just look at the dollar amount and say it was the same. The term is equally as important. Canucks were no where close to going 10 years on him.

      • truthseeker

        lol…I appreciate the moderation and understand it’s not about how I feel about it but honestly I don’t care at all. I’d happily let you leave it up there. The quality of the insult was so poor I had about a tenth of a second desire to respond to it but ultimately it was so boring I couldn’t be bothered to do anything.

        I see you deleted his other message too where he called me “loserseeker”…haha (yeah…that’s the level of “creativity” we’re dealing with here), and insulted a few others.

        I guess when I didn’t respond to that one it must have made him so angry that he couldn’t contain himself and he responded directly to this one.

        Anyway….I thanks for this, but suspect with someone willing to VPN like crazy it’s always going to be a losing battle. Good luck. lol.

  • Jim "Dumpster Fire" Benning

    There’s absolutely ZERO point in trying to make the Kole Lind bit a story. Why? Cause word is that the AHL is NOT the primary development league for the NHL (at least according to all the comments relating to Trent Cull and his Masters degree from the Willie Desjardins school of how to coach boring hockey to win now and not develop.