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Photo Credit: Matthew Henderson

Mailbag Part 2: Prospect Talk, Draft Pick Value, and More Trade Target Questions

It depends on the player. Kole Lind had had some struggles this season, and the way he’s been handled has been rightly criticized at times, but I still think spending the season in Utica was the right call. Petrus Palmu, on the other hand, was pretty obviously mishandled. Overall, I think NHL teams tend to overrate the strength of the AHL as a development league and underrate the strength of the European professional leagues. One of the most important things in a young player’s development is to get ice-time. If that can’t happen in the American League, then there’s no reason to see riding the pine in Utica as a better alternative to playing big minutes in Europe. Petrus Palmu probably should have stayed in Finland for another year, and I wouldn’t have been opposed to seeing Jonathan Dahlen get loaned to an SHL team either if it meant making more room for a player like Lind.

Where it gets tougher is when the decision comes down to turning pro or spending another year in the CHL. That’s a huge jump in the quality of competition, and a player is likely to be eager to start collecting a salary; so it’s not fair to criticize the team for not sending Jonah Gadjovich back to Owen Sound. That having been said, I wouldn’t be opposed to seeing him spend some time in the ECHL this season if it means he’ll get playing time.

I’m generally opposed to sending players back to junior for the reasons I already listed. In DiPietro’s case, it’s easier to defend spending another year in the CHL because goalies are unique and each one needs to be handled differently; but I’d still like to see him in Utica next season. The Canucks currently lack goaltending depth at the minor-league level and I’m pretty convinced he doesn’t have anything else to learn at the junior level.

I could never defend picking a winger because of positional need because they’re the easiest players in the game to find and replace. If the Canucks desperately need a left winger, they can have their pick of any of the dozens that make it to free agency every summer. That means my preference would be for a right-handed defenseman, but the only two right-handed defenders that are getting any serious first-round buzz at the moment are Anttoni Honka and Victor Soderstrom, so that’s not looking very good either. My preference would be for them to wait a round and start targeting right-handed defenders as the draft becomes more of a crapshoot. They snagged Jett Woo in the second round last year, and he’s taken a step forward. Perhaps the same thing could happen with a player like Lassi Thomson?

The Canucks have no business adding. They’re not a good team. They don’t have to hold a fire sale by any means, but they should look to move at least one major piece out by the deadline, and then look to move Brandon Sutter and Loui Eriksson after the summer when their contracts become easier to move.

I think Fleury could be had for a small price. Carolina is always looking for scoring, so perhaps they could be convinced to part with him in return for someone like Nikolay Goldobin or Kole Lind? To be honest, it’s not something I’d pursue. Haydn Fleury should have never been taken in the top 10 in 2014 and if he didn’t have that draft pedigree I don’t think he’d generate much interest at all. He’s a player, but doesn’t look like he’s going to move the needle for the Canucks, and I wouldn’t be moving out a young player or a pick unless the defender they get in return is right-handed.

Brett Pesce would be of interest to me, because he’s still young and is arguably the most underrated defender in the game. I suspect the Hurricanes know this, however, and wouldn’t be willing to part with him unless they’re getting a comparable piece back. There were rumours the Leafs might be willing to deal William Nylander in return for Pesce back when contract talks between the leafs and Nylander were still ongoing, and I don’t think the Canucks have a comparable piece they can afford to give up. (And before the comments section chimes in to let me know Nylander sucks now, this was before he entered the worst slump of his career, and after he’d had back-to-back 60-point seasons.)

I’d be happy to see the Canucks get their hands on Jake Bean, but I’m not sure there’s a clear fit in the organization at the moment with Quinn Hughes and Olli Juolevi expected to make the roster within the next year or so and the likelihood that they re-sign one or possibly even both of Alex Edler and Ben Hutton. As far as Carrick and McKeown are concerned, they’re both entering “they are what they are” territory and appear unlikely to develop into much of anything at the NHL level. I’d be interested in McKeown as a buy-low candidate, but I’m not sure if the Canes would be willing to part with him for a meagre return.

To be honest, I’m not nearly enough of an Xs and Os guy to answer this question with the insight it deserves. They struggled mightily with Pettersson out of the lineup, so my guess is that perhaps they’re over-reliant on one player to create, which has been a problem at even-strength, too. Adding Quinn Hughes next year will help them enter the zone and get set up. I’m not against the drop pass, but I think the Canucks use it too frequently and it’s become predictable. Hughes is dynamic enough to keep the opposition guessing and won’t rely so much on one thing to be successful. I wish I could provide a better answer but it’s not really my area of expertise.

Every year it seems like there are more matinee games. I’m not sure if that’s actually true, but I agree it seems that way. The Canucks have had an abnormal schedule this year, though. That much I can say with confidence. I’m not sure how much the schedule actually matters when it comes to winning games, though. They have a better record at home than on the road, so maybe you could argue they’d have a few more road wins if the schedule had been more in their favour.

Winning a playoff series. Lottery balls will never go Vancouver’s way. Of this, I am absolutely certain.

I guess I’d have to go with Jared McCann. I don’t think he’s a world-beater by any stretch but he’s young, plays a premium position, and would be a cheap upgrade at centre over a lot of their current options.

Kovalchuk would be an interesting player to take a chance on, especially if the Kings retain salary. He’s got 22 points in 40 games this year, but he’s been criminally misused by Willie Desjardins- hard to believe, I know. My gut instinct is to pass, though. They can’t allocate that kind of cap space to a 35-year-old player unless they’re absolutely sure he’s going to work out and that’s far from the case. At least Gagner is only here until next summer.

I don’t like plus/minus. There’s a lot of noise involved in any goal scored when a player is on the ice, and plus/minus doesn’t even measure that properly since it arbitrarily counts some game states, but not others. (If you want a measure of how a player has fared in terms of on-ice goals, you’re better off just looking at 5v5 GF%.)

Sutter’s been having a low-key terrible season so far, though, and it’s possible his bad plus/minus is a symptom of that. The hockey men were happy to point to it as proof he was having a good season in 2017-18, so I think it’s only fair that we apply the same logic when his plus/minus is bad.

In all seriousness, I wouldn’t be concerned about his plus/minus. His CF%, FF%, GF%, and zone entry data are all terrible, too. I’d be more worried about that.

I think if I actually lived anywhere near downtown Vancouver my interest level would be high since I like Lacrosse and I imagine tickets will be cheap. Since that’s not the case, though, my interest is pretty low. I’d love to see them succeed, but since I live in Victoria I can’t get very invested.

Unfortunately, that data isn’t available right now. I can tell you that Pettersson is third on the Canucks in entry percentage  at 5-on-5 after Nikolay Goldobin and Bo Horvat according to data tracked by Darryl Keeping, so I would imagine losing him has had a significant effect.

I think the value of missing the playoffs hits a point of diminishing returns once teams start picking outside the top ten. If the Canucks are going to pick in the middle of the draft either way, then I agree with you, I’d probably rather just see them make the playoffs. That’s not the biggest reason I would like to see them miss again, though. Bad teams that go on PDO-driven runs into the playoffs have a tendency to poorly evaluate where they’re at in their life cycle. If you look at the 2013-14 Colorado Avalanche or the 2014-15 Calgary Flames, both rebuilds were set back a few years because of the decisions they made after making the playoffs. I can almost guarantee the same would happen to the Canucks. When they make the playoffs again, I want them to be the real deal, and I want it to be the start of something special. We’ve all been waiting for a few years now. We can wait a little longer.

 

  • Bad teams that go on PDO-driven runs into the playoffs have a tendency to poorly evaluate where they’re at in their life cycle.

    First, quit calling the Canucks a “bad team”. They’re average or a bit below average. Second, I’m skeptical that Benning and Green are going to declare the rebuild over because they’ve slipped into the final playoff spot with 86 points and got blown out in the first round. Neither of them seem that dumb.

    • While I’m less bullish on this team than you (I think it’s fair to call them sub-par), they’re definitely NOT on a PDO bender as Jackson suggests. They are in fact bang-on 100 for the season.

  • “That’s not the biggest reason I would like to see them miss again, though. Bad teams that go on PDO-driven runs into the playoffs have a tendency to poorly evaluate where they’re at in their life cycle.”

    Uhmm …. PDO-driven run? The Canucks currently have a PDO of 100.1. To suggest their current record is based on luck is not supported by statistical facts.

    I also smile when the “worst Canucks team ever constructed” crowd suggest schedule is why they are a playoff team. The Canucks got through a brutal three, injury filled months around .500, and are now in a position to take advantage of their great, often unrewarded efforts during that stretch.

    • I took Jackson’s comment differently, not to say they have gotten where they are on the basis of luck so far but that if they make the playoffs that’s what he expects it to take.

      Right now, with the games of Jan 23 in the books, the Canucks have 52 pts, tied with Dallas and Colorado for 8th in the West, but the Stars have two games in hand and the Avalanche 1. Dallas has won 53% of the available points, Colorado 52% and the Canucks 51% so to date, the Canucks should be considered to have played to a level about two points outside the playoffs bar.

      From Dec 6 to Jan 23 they’ve won 27 of a possible 42 pts (.643). I calculated their PDO during those 21 games and came up with an above-average PDO of 101.6. Excluding empty net goals (which imo makes more sense) gives a PDO of 101.1. After their PDO being below average early in the season, they’ve now made up the difference.

      • I took Jackson’s comment differently, not to say they have gotten where they are on the basis of luck so far but that if they make the playoffs that’s what he expects it to take.

        Evidence doesn’t support this opinion. They are tied for a playoff spot currently, after a difficult schedule including travel, not to mention injuries. They had no “benefit” from PDO during that stretch. There strength of schedule is now dramatically in their favour in February and March. They need to play better than against Carolina, for sure, but stats do not indicate they need a PDO-driven run to win.

  • I want the Canucks to make the playoffs by adding from within. Trade Sutter and bring up Gaudette, trade Gudbranson and bring up Schenn, maybe other trades to open up a spot to try MacEwan and Hughes, etc. If they make those moves and still make the playoffs great, if not they will only be better long term by the moves.

  • Why all the cynicism concerning the Canucks? Benning clearly won the 2017 draft acquiring Petey. They’ve won 23 of 50 already this year but won only 31 of 82 last year. In all reality to make the playoffs they have to beat out basically only the injured, aging Ducks and that team in northern Alberta. Is this a reach, Canucks fans? Benning said on 650 today he won’t flog decent talent just to make a run to the playoffs and would stay with this group for now. If you’re a proponent of Team Tank I wonder why you’d call yourself a Canuck fan or even a hockey fan in general.

    • In regards to your last sentence I couldn’t agree more. Winning does more than losing for building a teams culture, and as you’ve shown they have been doing more of that this year

      • They got 8 out of 12 points not bad but was on the backs of the goalies. The team has had a real hard tough start to the season as far as number of games played with 3 long tough road trips. Hoping that the break will get them some rest as they look like they are skating in cement.
        If the effort level isn’t there and they are still having bad starts to games then they won’t make the play offs and will start dropping in the standings. If they come out of the gates on a roll after the all star break could be an exciting finish. If they drop the majority of the first five games it could still be a fun finish to the season as the team brings up prospects from the farm to show what they have. If they need to make room I think we may see players who are on the last year of their contract will be waved as won’t matter if we lose them on waivers as likely the team couldn’t trade them and didn’t plan on resigning them.
        Either way it will be fun watching the rest of the season whether it is a playoff push or seeing what some of the prospects can offer.

  • “I think the value of missing the playoffs hits a point of diminishing returns once teams start picking outside the top ten.”

    I agree to a point, but another benefit to missing the playoffs is the draft lottery. The Canucks at least have a chance of picking 1-3 if they miss the playoffs. Canuck hockey fans are rightfully cynical about their chances in the lottery, but mathematically their odds of picking in the top three if they finish 12th from the bottom are 8.8%. Those are far better odds than the Canucks winning the Stanley Cup.