I’m a pretty patient guy. I have two kids under 10-years old and waiting for them to finish a meal, or get ready in the morning, or even buckle their seatbelts is a test of supreme internal discipline. The same can be said for a Canucks Stanley Cup or a little more relevant these days, the rebuild.
We all sat through the first phase after 2011 which had a few flashes of brilliance but essentially fell flat on its face. The Canucks started the transition to the “Bruins Model” which failed and they moved along to the “Kings Model”, both of which didn’t pan out. With Jim Benning at the helm since 2014, there has been a roller coaster of good roster moves and we try to forget the bad ones.
Patience, it seems, is a virtue with the Canucks.
Whether it’s trading for Erik Gudbranson AND re-signing him, seeing the Luca Sbisa experiment through to the end, Linden Vey, Michael Chaput, Loui Eriksson, MDZ, and on and on and on.
I’ve left out players but it doesn’t really matter. Many of these players saw prime playing time and some still get the royal treatment despite their absolute lack of production. Little things only go so far and at some point, the rubber needs to hit the road. The current situation the Canucks are facing is staring them right in the face… and the pocketbook.
Big names with big contracts are getting priority over well, a pylon that could easily slide into the right position and be good for a few rebound goals a season.
The obvious sore thumb is Eriksson. He’s still on the books for three more seasons after this year and his point production currently sits at 67 points over his last three seasons including this year. Heralded as a 30-goal scorer, he just scored his 30th goal as a Canuck on Jan 18 against the Sabres.
Injuries have played a prominent role for Eriksson during his tenure in Vancouver but other than that he hasn’t sat a game. Not a game. In his time with the Canucks, he’s well behind Bo Horvat who has just over 2700 minutes at 5v5, but Eriksson is one game away from passing Daniel Sedin for 4th overall in minutes played since the start of the 2016/17 campaign.
He started off as an advanced stats example of “he’ll get better, the stats say he will” but that’s tailed off and now and many hope Vancouver can salvage the contract via trade in the offseason. Former CA chief J.D. Burke wrote a great piece on this a few years ago. Loui has six PPG in three seasons with the Canucks and for a guy brought in to score goals, heck, easy ones, that is not even registering on the radar.
Elias Pettersson has the same amount of goals on the man-advantage as Loui and he hasn’t even played in every game this season. Let that sink in. Should I also add the “Petey is a rookie, too” part?
So Loui gets a free pass because why exactly? If it’s just the money, that argument only works for so long. There are players that are younger and worth risking at this point in the rebuild that have a better chance than a guy floating around from game to game. Remember Reid Boucher? Brendan Gaunce? (OK, kidding on the last one).
But let’s not just bully Eriksson.
How have players like Erik Gudbranson or Tim Schaller gotten by Scott-free?
Schaller can probably be lost in the fray and buried in the minors but why go after maybes like Schaller when there are a handful of players that probably could fill that role from Utica?
Zack MacEwen is big in stature and size and is having quite the season with Utica putting up 16 goals and 20 assists through 45 games. His production has been detailed in the media recently so it would seem a season like he’s having hasn’t gone unnoticed and hopefully, the writing is on the wall.
Schaller isn’t the main issue but there is an opportunity to put point producer Nikolay Goldobin, who has spent a considerable portion of his season in Travis Green’s doghouse, back in.
He can’t be any worse than Eriksson and is easily an upgrade over Schaller. The Sam Gagner decision (sending him to the AHL) still feels awkward as this team is struggling mightily to produce points and he was never utilized properly after signing a three-year deal.
Benning was able to ship Del Zotto away but he still has arguably the worst defenseman in the NHL on his roster, Erik Gudbranson, for two more seasons.
There has to be a change here because if it continues the way it has, not only do the Canucks eventually lose a lot more regularly but they’ll bury themselves further into the beginning stages of the next iteration of a rebuild.
The hope is that Quinn Hughes will sign this year and Olli Juolevi will be ready to challenge for a spot once training camp begins but Alex Edler and Ben Hutton likely re-signing, Gudbranson remains and it’s been said almost everywhere including at Canucks Army that Gudbranson shouldn’t be anywhere near an NHL roster.
The thought process behind starting him night in and night out is mind-boggling and again, money can’t be the only factor. Alex Biega is a serviceable defender and can’t be any worse than Guddy has been, in fact, he’s played 34 fewer games than Gudbranson since 2016/17 and has three fewer points to show for it.
Luca Sbisa is six points back of Gudbranson and I honestly don’t even remember his last game with the Canucks. Looking at GA at 5v5, Gudbranson has played approximately 1000 few minutes than Edler, Hutton and, Troy Stecher and is 24 goals behind Edler and 23 behind Hutton and Stecher, with 102 GA.
Compared to Edler as the top GA target, in this case, Gudbranson would be at 155 goals against while on the ice if he played Edler’s minutes in that same time frame. Yikes! That number is among the league’s worst.
Vancouver is starting players every night that would make better popcorn servers than NHLers. Plain and simple, they’re sitting the wrong players and rewarding the wrong players for the wrong reasons.