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Photo Credit: Matthew Henderson

Papa’s Got A Brand New (Year’s Day Mail)bag

New year, same old mailbag. I’m sorry to be tardy to the party, but this weekend was one of the most hectic of my entire adult life and there just wasn’t a spare moment to answer your questions.

Onwards, to 2019 and beyond!

It’s still early to draw any strong conclusions, but so far the Canucks are getting exactly what they paid for this summer. Believe it or not, I’ve generally been a big fan of Roussel since he established himself as a full-time NHLer 4-5 years ago. His underlying numbers have always been strong across the board, he’s underrated offensively, and his pesky, shit-disturber style of play is a genuine asset when it doesn’t cost you in other areas of the game.

The issue with that contract always came down to committing four years to player with a history of concussions who was coming off his worst season in five years. That was a valid concern, but at this point, I have to concede that he looks like he’s at least a couple years away from slowing down and might be able to maintain the level of play we’ve seen so far for the duration of his contract. I wouldn’t go so far as to say it’s probable, and it looked like a bad bet at the time, but it certainly seems more and more possible with each passing game.

If you dig deep into how the Canucks have been winning games, all the red flags are there. Even if you think Jacob Markstrom is turning a corner, I don’t think anyone believes he can be the best goaltender in the league, which is exactly what he’s been over the past month. No team in the league has played more than the 42 games the Canucks have appeared in, which goes a long way towards explaining why they’re currently three points out of a wild card spot despite being a bottom-ten team in points percentage. They’re also 26th overall in shot share, which is less than ideal, to say the least.  As teams evolve and take shot shares into greater consideration, Corsi becomes less of a market inefficiency and thus less predictive of future success than it was a few seasons ago, but it’s still hard to win games when only five teams are getting outshot worse than you are.

There are good signs, too. This team can actually produce offence on a consistent basis now and in that respect they’re at least a marginal improvement on the teams of years past. That being said, I think the success we’ve seen over the past month is more of a look into what the team could be in a few years than an accurate reflection of where they’re at right now.

I have no idea. Theoretically, one could get the mouthguard back in place if a big hit is coming, but you also run the risk of choking on the damn thing if something goes wrong. A better question is why even have one in the first place if you’re gonna just chew on it? Those things are gross, I would want it as far away from me as possible if it’s not in use.

You can probably get away with having one guy on your back end who’s not a great skater if the other areas of his game are strong enough, but if your defense as a whole is relatively immobile that’s going to cost you. In Bouchard’s case, I think the big question marks are how much he can improve his skating, which isn’t anywhere near good enough at this stage, and whether or not the other elements of his game are good enough to make up for poor skating if he can’t make huge improvements.

It’s harder to teach what Bouchard brings to the game than it is to improve his skating, so I still think he was probably worth the risk where the Oilers took him, even if I might have preferred someone like Ty Smith or Noah Dobson.

I do. In fact, I’d go as far as to say that if the Canucks somehow manage to make the playoffs, he will win the Jack Adams.

I wouldn’t bet on it. The coaching position is notoriously difficult to evaluate, and is perhaps more results-based than any other job in the league so it’s hard to speculate as to what the team might look like with a different bench boss; but the difference in how the team played in its last year under Willie Desjardins versus how they looked last season with similar rosters speaks for itself.

He’s that good. If you get the chance to select him, you don’t pass it up. Instead, you can start looking at other forwards that could maybe be made available for the right price.

Sutter has a full no-trade clause, so moving him this season would prove very difficult. A team would have to come along and not only make an offer that would interest the Canucks, but also be an attractive enough destination for Sutter to be willing to waive his NTC to go there. Gaudette has played well enough to make Sutter expendable in the long-term, but it’s going to be hard to make it work in the immediate future. I think he’ll get traded eventually, but it won’t happen until after July 1st, when his full NTC expires and becomes a limited NTC. Gaudette looked comfortable, but didn’t exactly force their hands, so I think they’ll be patient when it comes to making a trade to accommodate his return.

To be completely honest, I haven’t been able to watch as much of the WJHC as I normally would. The holiday season is a hectic time for all of us, doubly so for me because I also went through the process of moving over the month of December as well. When I have been able to sit down and watch the U.S. team, Tyler Madden has stood out the most, largely because he’s found his way onto the scoresheet consistently through the preliminary round. Hughes hasn’t stood out quite as much, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing on team as strong as theirs. He’s looked comfortable transitioning the puck and leads all defensemen with a whopping 18 shots on goal over 4 preliminary games, so I expect he’ll be finding his way onto the scoresheet with more frequency in the near future.

Since Tim Schaller has been in the press box for the past couple of weeks, the only player that really makes sense is Markus Granlund. Everyone else is more or less doing what’s been asked of them, and Granlund has been noticeably bad on the penalty kill. I’m not convinced he’s bringing anything to the lineup that can’t be replaced.

My best guess is the team didn’t want to lose anyone for nothing, and since he can technically play the middle they made the choice to put him in as the 3C so they could send Gaudette down. I don’t think he’d be playing centre with any regularity if they had other options. They just happen to be in kind of a tough spot at the moment with players coming back from injury and not a lot of roster space. Personally, I’d prefer to see Sam Gagner play spot duty on the third line, but Granlund is a fair bit younger so I can see the justification. I’d hold off on getting too upset about it until the team has its full compliment of centres back.

  • Kanuckhotep

    The last wildcard spot In the west will come down to the Stars, Ducks or Canucks grabbing it. The Canucks could do it mostly because of the kid wearing Maxim LaPierre’s old # 40. I’m not Kreskin enough to predict either way if the VC can pull it off or not, given the usual intangibles of injuries and how other clubs fare down the stretch. It’ll be damned close but if they do this city will go nuts, me along with it. Then they’d be under dogs which is always great in pro sports’ post- seasons.

  • LACANUCK

    Mouth guard questions? Really…

    Helmets,face guards, mouth pieces…. it’s up to the player as far as I’m concerned. It’s a violent sport that you get paid well to play. If you don’t like that, then go to the biz sector or become a coach or a teacher.

    Biega went to Harvard, has a biz degree and turned down LOTs O $ from Hedge Funds to be a NHL tweener. I respect that! Commit, do your best then move on. The players that pissed their money away and come back with concussion lawsuits make me sad.

    ” You didn’t know?” Can’t do nothin’ for you man. Flavor Flav gots problems of his own!

  • truthseeker

    I think it’s pretty reasonable to assume Roussel can be effective until he’s 32. He’s been an excellent addition to the team.

    How many seasons ago? Can you tell me which seasons consistently show a strong positive correlation between corsi and points in the standings? After running it for last season and getting an r2 number of .16 or so (depending on which corsi number) I couldn’t be bothered to run it for any other season because I don’t believe there was ever a season that would have been much different than that. Has there ever been an NHL season where the correlation was greater than even 20%? I think what’s evolving might juuuuust be the advance stats people “extracting” themselves from corsi. Sounds like a “fade out” rather than just admitting it was never a decent statistic in the first place…lol

    The mouth guard thing is probably because they saw some NHL’er do it when they were young and now they all copy it because they thought it was “cool” but now it’s become a habit. Kind of like all those morons who ride street bikes and started hanging the leg because they saw Rossi doing it on a track. I guess if the kids are stupid enough to do it then they deserve losing their teeth.

    Time will tell about Bouchard. I certainly liked and wanted him for the canucks. And Bo’s certainly proved that skating is an easily “fixable” issue. Still…no complaints about the canucks choosing Hughes over him. I could see the appeal in each.

    Green over all has done a very good job. It’s funny because I think coaching maybe the most important part of the modern NHL. Every team has good talent. Sure some have more than others but there isn’t much separating players these days, which makes systems and the “buy in” all that much more important. Green does seem to be building that “buy in”.

    Only problem with that is canucks have no “other forwards” who would bring back a “top D can’t miss prospect”, unless you offer up Boeser. Of course it would depend on the prospect, but I don’t think it would be that unreasonable to trade a “franchise center” prospect for a “franchise D” prospect. Value is about equal, and right now we need the D more. Hypothetical: We get the number one and Buffalo offers Rasmus Dahlin. (let’s call him still a ‘prospect’ for the sake of argument). You don’t make that trade?

    Maybe. I suspect it wouldn’t be too hard for Benning to get Sutter to waive. Pure speculation on my part though.

    Yeah probably Granlund. I like him, but he’s basically luke warm water.

    • Erik Lonnrot

      As a former power skating coach I have to take exception to the “skating is an easily fixable issue” take there. There are lots of things that affect skating performance, some of which can be improved with a bit of coaching and practice or conditioning, some of which can sometimes be improved with a huge amount of work and willingness to change how the skater moves, and some of which are physiological and pretty much impossible to fix beyond a certain point. By the time you’re looking at possible NHL draft picks (and especially potential first rounders) it’s pretty safe to say that almost all the easily fixable issues have already been fixed.

      The fact that Horvat improved his skating as much as he did is remarkable and absolutely not something that anyone can do. I haven’t watched enough of Bouchard to have an opinion on what his specific skating issues are, but if he’s gotten to where he is now without fixing them it is far from a sure thing that he can get significantly better.

      • truthseeker

        What do you think are the physiological factors that “can’t” be changed?

        Maybe it’s just because Horvat does have that work ethic? Maybe most other guys don’t? So it’s not that they couldn’t, but they’re just not willing to put the work in? I don’t think it’s much of an extreme statement to say lots of guys make it all the way to the first round with issues in their games simply because they excel somewhere else.

        • Erik Lonnrot

          I 100% agree that Horvat’s work ethic and character are a big part of why he was able to improve his skating the way he did. It’s super discouraging for people to try and make big changes to their skating because for potentially quite a while it feels like you’ve gotten worse. It’s hard to get people to change like that and many give up and go back to what’s familiar. It takes both humility and work ethic to get through things like that to the point that you actually start seeing improvement. This example of Horvat’s skating is my go to when I need to defend the value of character to more hard line numbers people who in some cases downplay it too much.

          I also agree that outside of the top few picks everyone has weak spots in their game. I was more trying to make the point that, for skating issues at least, most of the things that are easy to fix have already been fixed by that point leaving only the more difficult ones. That being said I’m sure you get people coasting on other superior attributes and not putting in the work on their weaknesses, which again speaks to character (or at least maturity).

          • truthseeker

            I think we pretty much see it the same way. I was just getting the impression you might be implying there is something “natural” about skating skills that’s unteachable. Of course, that’s not to say some people aren’t blessed with more or better fast twitch muscles or body styles that give them an advantage. Like Usain Bolt in running. But in the end pretty much anyone can be a “great skater” if they work hard (and work correctly) at it. And like you said, in the end it comes down to maturity and work ethic.

            Thanks for the post!

      • Defenceman Factory

        Thanks for the post Erik. When talking about a Dman’s skating issues there is obviously a lot more to it than speed and stride. When defenders get beat wide not sure speed is a big factor but rather gap control and the ability to turn and accelerate quickly.

        I haven’t seen Bouchard a lot but he doesn’t look slow, neither does Joulevi. Both seem to be poor at defending against a rushing player. Fixable? Interested in your insight.

        • Erik Lonnrot

          In that gap control example I think it’s a combination of skating and for lack of a better word “hockey issues” that would contribute. Some of it would be things like edge work (even more important in backwards skating than forwards) and lateral movement as well as the ability to vary your speed or change direction quickly. I’ve got to think that hockey IQ has to be part of it too though, i.e. knowing what that gap should be given what else is going on the ice, knowing how much you can get away with cheating to one side or the other etc. Hell, there’s probably some systems stuff in there too about how the coach wants them defending against different rushes. I don’t know enough about that side of hockey to weigh in on it.

          In my experience (which I don’t want to over-represent here, I never coached any pros or anything) the physiological stuff is more a limit on potential top speed and explosiveness (which can certainly affect gap control too) than edge work or lateral movement which are more technique.

    • Robby-D

      SMH. Nobody’s chewing on their mouthguard because they think it’s cool, it’s probably just a habit, like chewing a pen. Also, FYI, mouthguards don’t protect teeth, they’re for concussion protection. Selfishly, I don’t care much about their teeth but I’d rather not see them concussed.

  • El Kabong

    “He’s that good. If you get the chance to select him, you don’t pass it up. Instead, you can start looking at other forwards that could maybe be made available for the right price.”
    Ok, lets say the Canucks win the lottery, have the first over-all pick which is of course Jack Hughes. Where does he fit in our lineup? Would a line up with the centre icemen being Hughes, Pettersson, Horvat and Gaudette make sense? Out of the top three who would you trade?

      • El Kabong

        Balance, what’s better to have; loaded down the middle or using one of the three to trade ie) RHD and LW and have a more balanced line-up. The big question is who would you trade of the three centres?

        • Tezza

          None. Those centres would be among the best top three in the league and you can never have too many good centremen imo.

          You can then roll three/four lines and balance out ice time during a long season. Also the option is there to put EP on a wing if necessary. It’s a win win for me.

          • Tezza

            I personally wouldn’t throw Hughes straight in as number one centre straight from the draft so i would have Horvat, EP and Hughes as my 1.2.3 but i would balance out their ice time and develop some healthy competition between the three and see who impresses accordingly.

            If Bo ends up at three on paper’ ‘though that is still a sweet deal for our hockey club and keeps the lines loaded, balanced, fresher and highly competitive. Win-win for me.