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Photo Credit: Matthew Henderson

Mailbag Part 2: Zack MacEwen, Trade Talk, and the Playoff Race

I’m not sure the comparison between Chatfield and MacEwen is entirely fair. MacEwen has been knocking on the door for most of the season and finally earned a call-up when the big club couldn’t ignore him any longer. Chatfield’s been successful in Utica in his own right, but hasn’t generated the same level of praise.  I agree with your general line of thought, but I think the intricacies of the position and the organization’s loyalty to Gudbranson make scratching him in favour of someone like Jalen Chatfield a tough sell.

As far as Alex Biega as concerned, I’m not sure where he fits in the lineup of a true contender; but he’s undeniably one of the Canucks’ best six defenders, especially on the right side where the organizational depth is weak after Troy Stecher and Chris Tanev.

Asking for more than a 15-goal, 30-point third line player seems like looking a gift horse in the mouth to me. The fact that he’s playing in the NHL means he’s already exceeded expectations. I don’t think there’s ever been a player who’s development I’ve been more surprised by since I started writing for Canucks Army, so hats off to the organization for unearthing him.

It certainly doesn’t seem like an optimal way to structure your lineup. Defining who the “third line centre” is is going to vary from team to team, but for the purposes of giving a simple and straightforward answer, I just took a look at the centres that rank between 62nd and 93rd in production and looked at their assist totals. Players in the third line centre-range had between 13 and 18 assists, and 117 centres in the league have at least 10 assists on the year. Even Nic Dowd, who struggled mightily to produce offense in Vancouver last year, has 10 assists so far with with Washington this season. Brandon Sutter can be a useful player, but I don’t think it should be controversial anymore to say that to play in a team’s top nine you need to provide more than just defensive value.

I think you hit the nail on the head. The only thing holding him back other than his lack of foot speed is organizational depth at the position. He’s good enough to be in the Canucks’ lineup right now, and was reasonably effective defensively for the Canucks last season, but he’s just not fast enough for his offense at the AHL level to translate to the NHL. With the glut of centres ahead of him on the depth chart I think it’s doubtful we’ll see him in a Canucks uniform again for some time unless a trade or injury occurs.

I think any deal involving Jacob Trouba would begin with a first-round pick and a prospect, with possibly another asset thrown in as well. For that reason, I’d pass. Jacob Trouba would make the Canucks a better team immediately, but he’s not the difference between contention and irrelevance so it’s not worth mortgaging the future to get him.

I’m far from an expert on special teams, but having Brock Boeser as a net-front presence seems like a bad idea. Having a defenseman with a shot the opposinng team has to respect might also potentially create more gaps in coverage, but even when Edler was healthy the man advantage still had some struggles. At this point, it shouldn’t be a personnel issue, so I’d assume their system likely needs some adjustment but I’m not really qualified to speculate as to what that might look like.

I would not be the least bit surprised if the teams that currently sit in wild card spots (Minnesota and Saint Louis) are the teams we see in the final two spots when the playoffs start. Based on talent alone, I would think that Colorado probably should be in that second wild card spot over Minnesota,  but their underlying numbers are stgrikingly similar and the Avalanche have frankly played some pretty bad hockey over the past few weeks. I won’t be surprised if those three teams start to pull away and create some distance between themselves and Vancouver and Anaheim as we reach the end of the season, but it’s too close to call at the moment. There are really only a couple of teams in the west that are truly out of it.

I don’t think there’s anything wrong with trading someone you signed as a free agent if they didn’t work out. If anything, it shows you’re willing to do right by the player and find him a new home even if there isn’t a clear fit anymore in your organization.

I’m not sure the reluctance to move on from Edler necessarily stems from a lack of confidence in Ben Hutton. The issue is basically that they don’t have much else in their system now that Olli Juolevi is injured and the free agent market is uncharacteristically thin on the left side.

This is a tough one to answer because draft year production and draft+1 production are apples and oranges. If Jett Woo were a point-per-game player last year he would have undoubtedly been a first-round and possibly even top-ten pick, but that’s very different from being a point-per-game player as a first-time draft-eligible player.

As far as the second question goes, this year’s draft is a little thinner, so it’s possible he may have snuck into the late first round, but my best guess is there wouldn’t have been much of a difference.

If the Canucks are poised to run with a Demko-DiPietro tandem then the best option would be to trade Jacob Makrstrom if the return is there, and I imagine it would be for a goalie that’s kept up a .920+ save percentage for the past 18 months or so, as would be the case in this scenario.

Reasonable or likely? The reasonable return for all of them would probably be a mid-to-late round pick, but I think it’s probable that Gudbranson could still fetch the 2nd and 4th the Canucks were reportedly offered at last year’s deadline.

I think there’s a market for Erik Gudbranson, and they could possibly find homes for the other players if they start working the phones now. There are teams that are interested in Sam Gagner but I think they’ll have to wait out the remainder of this season before he becomes a movable asset.

I think Clark has helped, but I also think he’s just on a good run that will come to an end eventually. 29-year old goalies

I don’t necessarily disagree, but I think you and I both know why they don’t sit him. He makes too much money and it would look bad. Plus, the coach does genuinely seem to like what he brings, even if he’s overpaid.

There are rumblings that the Leivo trade was as much about the Leafs trying to do right by Leivo and find him a good landing spot as they were about the Canucks targeting a player they liked. The Leafs were also in a bit of a bind, everyone knew they had to lose someone and that there was a good chance if they couldn’t find a trade partner interested in Leivo a lot of teams would get a chance at him for free when he hit the waiver wire.

None of that matters, though. The Canucks were in the right place at the right time and it resulted in maybe the best value-for-value trade of Jim Benning’s tenure as GM. It’s a big win, and he deserves credit for it.

MacEwen and Goldobin are very different players, so I don’t think the success of one has much effect on the state of the other. The Virtanen comparison is interesting, though. MacEwen doesn’t have the same kind of speed, but he naturally brings the sandpaper in his game that the team has been trying to instill in Jake since he made the jump to the NHL.

For the moment, the team would be wise to bet on their youth and keep all three. I’d much prefer to see him make someone like Markus Granlund or Tim Schaller expendable. Ultimately, I think Jake and Goldy have more upside, and MacEwen looks like he could easily a cheaply fill the role of a utility forward.

It depends on the definition of a third-line player. Ray Ferraro took a lot of heat for saying he saw Jake Virtanen as a Jannik Hansen-type player, but I think the comparison is about as reasonable as a one-to-one comparison can get. At the height of Hansen’s effectiveness, he scored 22 goals, finished the season with 38 points, andplayed on the team’s top line at evens for much of the season. I think that’s close to a best-case scenario for Jake, but Hansen would still be described as a third-line player for most of his career. I would say that Jake’s ceiling is as a middle-six forward, the kind of player who might be able to play on your top two lines under the right circumstances, but not someone who consistently drives offense on his own.

My gut feeling is that the team is closer to moving on from him than they’ve ever been, but that doesn’t mean he’s definitely going to be traded. The Canucks are making a playoff push, and be surprised to see him go at the deadline unless it’s in a so-called “hockey trade”.

When I said that, I didn’t mean he’s unmovable by any stretch of the imagination. I just don’t imagine there will be a ton of teams lining up to pay premium assets for his services. Players like Granlund do regularly get moved at the deadline, because they generally come cheap and can give a contending team some depth. The cost of a player like Markus Granlund is, at the highest, a mid-round pick. The Canucks have generally been the type of organization to telegraph their moves ahead of them being made, so my instinct is that they would not be interested in a trade of that sort unless they fall out of playoff contention. Maybe if they don’t intend to re-sign him, they’ll make a move, but I’m not sure how many “hockey trades” will be out there with Granlund as the primary piece going the other way. I won’t exactly be surprised if he’s not on the team come the end of the month, but I wouldn’t bet on it either.

  • Just going to point this out again because I think it’s hilarious – Jay Beagle, Adam Gaudette, and Brandon Sutter have a combined 21 points on the year and are a combined -16 (not that that says much, and most of that is Sutter’s -12 in 26 games) in 91 games played. Jared McCann has 20 points and is -9 in 52 games.

    I do love hearing the Gudbranson apologists talk about how McCann is a bust who will never stick in the NHL, though.

    • I like it when people like to make fun of Sutter’s stats when he’s only played half the games and was hurt for a good chunk of the games that he did play…Beagle and Sutter combined have played a full season.

    • It’s the intangibles. Mcann won’t stick in the NHL. Not skilled enough for the top two lines and not enough grit for the bottom two. He’ll be in the KHL in a couple of years. Say what you will about Gudbranson but when your lining up and you look over and there’s a guy 6’5″ 235lbs lined up in front of you, giveaways or not, you’re going to get hit that night. The Nucks lack that in their lineup especially on the back end.

      • That would be true only if he were to demonstrate he has a mean streak in him. Personally I’m thinking if the Canucks fall from realistic contention he’s gone and maybe replaced by McQuaid in the summer or who know maybe Chatfield may show some thing assuming he would replace EG after a trade. There are two UFA’s this summer who are both big RHD, Meyers and McQuaid the former likely a longer term signing, McQuaid more a replacement for EG …. and then there’s Tryamkin of course.
        I’m wondering EG has become a Quaker or a Ba’Hai …who knows a Budhist because frankly he’s certainly not what you’d call an aggressive player. He seems to Westcoast tree hugger mentality …. hey maybe he’d be aggressive on a team like Chicago or Philly LOL

        • WTF are you talking about? Him and Edler are the only guys who crunch people back there and stop the cycle. You lost all credibility at Chatfield. Replace a big physical D with a small unphysical one. Myers?

    • I’m not going to defend the trade, but I think it was a little inconsequential overall. Guddy will hopefully be traded this year, but McCann has now been traded a second time. He is a young player that a rebuilding team traded away for an upcoming free agent. That certainly seems to back up all the character issues he allegedly had in Vancouver. As for the differences between them on the ice, Sutter has less offensive talent but plays against way harder competition. I hope Sutter is traded to make room for Gaudette to build around going forward. With Bo’s defensive development and how strong Pettersson is defensively, hopefully the Canucks will finally be in a position to match top lines against top lines and can get away from the need to play a shut down line.

      • Hoooold on a minute, pardner.

        McCann may or may not have “character issues” but you can’t argue with the fact that this is the second trade where he’s moved on to the better team. And he’s joining a team trying to lock up a playoff spot, ironically the same one that jettisoned Sutter years ago and could have had him back right now if they wanted, and at reduced salary to boot.

        • He’s probably happy, but why did Florida, in the midst of a rebuild while sitting in 25th spot overall, trade McCann and Bjugstad for two pending UFA’s. Florida is expected to trade away the players they acquired for future assets, but why trade away the young players in the first place. Bjugstad is having a bad season and not worth the money, but 10g and 10a for McCann on a 1.25 mil contract seems a bargain. He’s also young and could continue to develop. He seems to be just the type of player Florida should want to acquire as they rebuild, not the age and profile to trade away.

      • The new paradigm is Top 9 scoring with a shutdown/energy 4th line. I don’t think you’ll ever run a team without a shutdown line, especially when you get to the playoffs and you draw a first-round team that’s based on a dangerous one-line offence (e.g. Colorado, Edmonton) or you have to stop *that guy* who gets on a hot streak and propels a team through the playoffs.

        • I agree with the 3 scoring lines and a fourth line that is referred to as a shut down line. They tend to be more defensive and have penalty killers, but the top teams don’t try to hard match their fourth line against the other team’s top line. The top teams have scoring lines that also play great defense, such as Bergeron in Boston, Toews in Chicago, Datsyuk in Detroit, Kessler in Vancouver, etc. The fourth line may get some shut down minutes defending a lead at the end of a game, but not as a hard match for 60 minutes.

  • Asking for more than a 15-goal, 30-point third line player seems like looking a gift horse in the mouth to me.

    Brave words, considering MacEwen’s a point-a-game man. With that prediction, you’ve may have clinched him getting 30 goals a year.

    • Brian Boyle would seem to be a better comparison. Big frame, 4th line centre but he could be played situationally (e.g. PP). For example, over the last 3 seasons, Boyle got 4th line minutes (13 mins TOI) but 15% of it was PP (net front presence) and 8% was PK. In contrast, 4th liners on the Canucks get zero PP time. Boyle was good for about 20 points or a dozen goals per season.

  • Sure, you could trade Gudbranson. But who would replace his size and experience, such as they are? The reason Guddy is still here is because the Canucks do not have sufficient depth on the back end to “just unload him.” His fate quite likely will hinge on what happens July 1st. Until then and for now #44 will be here, like it or not.

      • Hutton has been developing a mean streak and has been doing what it takes. I was on the dump Hutton group but have been my place as Hutton has really redeemed himself this year making it hard to look at trading away a good defender just because. Hutton will get resigned this summer and is finally earning the money he is being paid.

        • Markstrom, Tanev, Hutton, Bowie Horvat… all core players, all Gillis guys.
          Edler… a core Nonis player
          Elias Pettersson scouted and recc’ed by Gradin and Judd Brackett, hired by Pat Quinn and Mike Gillis respectively.

          DiPietro, Demko, Juolevi, Eriksson, Sutter, Guddy… all Benning ‘CORE’ guys – all busts… time for change, it ain’t rocket science. This is a results business.

        • The mean streak isn’t inherent with Hutton. He’s been forced to play more like that to keep his job. Gudbranson has many warts to his game, but no other D on team can rattle the boards like he does when he gets his check lined up. I am really hoping Woo’s development continues. The nastiness is natural in his game.

  • Jett Woo was a very young draft pick with a July 27 birthday. If he was born 7 weeks later he would be in his draft year. His young age compared to his draft year makes his numbers more impressive this year.

  • Demko is proving to be injury prone and is far from a sure thing. I can’t see the Canucks moving to a Demko/DePietro tandum for a long time. The smart move would be to re-sign Markstrom for a few more years until there is an established backup at least.