Photo Credit: Matthew Henderson

Mailbag Part 2: Prospect Talk, Benning’s Future, and a Lot of Out-Of-Date Questions

The story with Juolevi is complicated and requires more than a little nuance, but I’ll try to sum it up as succinctly as possible.

There were a lot of signs that Ollie Juolevi was perhaps a bit of a reach where the Canucks selected him. He played on the OHL’s most offensively dynamic team, but his offensive totals lagged a bit behind what you might expect from a defender of his pedigree on such a good team. He plateaued in his second year with the Knights, and was starting to look like he might turn out to be a bit of a disappointing selection relative to where he was picked.

Following his stint in the OHL, he was loaned to Liiga, where he had an encouraging season, before heading over to America last fall to play in the AHL. During the summer, he had back surgery, which ate into his summer training time; but he was able to recover in time for opening night. He was having a quietly impressive season with the Comets before suffering a season-ending knee injury that once again required surgery, and that brings us to where we are now.

The way I feel about Olli Juolevi and his position in the Canucks organization is similar to how I feel about Jake Virtanen: he’s probably not going to be what the Canucks envisioned when they drafted him, but that doesn’t mean he’s not useful or that the team shouldn’t try to extract as much value as possible out of him.

I can hear the comment section screaming about patience and how it takes some players longer to develop already, but the fact of the matter is that he’s now had two major surgeries in the span of a few months, and will have lost a year or more of development at a very young age. Most players struggle to come back from that, and even if Juolevi is one of those players, the odds are stacked against him becoming a legit first-pairing defenseman at this stage.

Having said that, I’m still fairly confident he can play an important role on this team once he’s ready. I had the opportunity to watch Juolevi up close in Penticton for three years in a row, and I have a hard time believing someone who’s that poised and confident with the puck on his stick won’t have a future in the NHL. His value is at an all-time low right now, so I would just hold on to him and bank on him figuring things out. He’ll probably never be a Matthew Tkachuk-calibre player, but the team needs more young talent, not less, and I’d be surprised if they get a player with as much potential in return if they decide to move on.

I’ve been asked similar questions in the past and honestly I feel like the people who are worried about this are getting ahead of themselves. It’s absolutely possible it might happen, but I don’t think Travis Green is any more risk-averse than the average NHL coach. While he hasn’t been as patient with Nikolay Goldobin as someone like myself might have wanted, I think a number of coaches would have given up already. I think a number of coaches would have started Elias Pettersson on the wing. I also think he knows better than anyone how deprived the back-end is of talent, and he’s not going to have a ton of other options.

If Hughes seems like he’s not committed to defending or takes unnecessary risks- not the kind needed to be creative and produce offense, but forcing plays or getting sloppy with the puck – then maybe we’ll see some friction. But to be honest, I think those concerns are greatly exaggerated based on what I’ve seen from him at the college level.

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I would like to see the Canucks go off the board and pick somebody outside the realm of usual candidates like the Toronto Maple Leafs did with Kyle Dubas. I don’t know who that guy is, because I’m not privy to what happens behind closed doors, but I’d like to see the team caught up in a bidding war for a bunch of guys who weren’t able to keep their last job.

I would think so. He’s shown enough to be worth a contract and I don’t think they’d risk letting him go back to college for a fourth year and losing him for nothing. Worst case scenario, he gives Utica some depth, which they could always use more of.

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I addressed the shelf-life on Benning as GM in the last mailbag so I’ll just move on to the second part of the question. I would not be surprised if Aqualini goes big game hunting if and when the time comes to find a new GM. It seems like Chris Pronger is at the top of the “next in line” list for potential General Manager jobs, but if we’re talking about former Philadelphia Flyers, I’d prefer he look to Ron Hextall.

Erik Gudbranson drew so much ire because most of the numbers, from the most advanced to the most pedestrian, indicate that he’s been the worst defenseman in the league this year. It’s that simple.

I think maybe you’ve misunderstood what the case is against Gudbranson was. No one realistically expected Gudbranson to be a point-getter or play on the man advantage. The issue isn’t that he’s a “stay at home physical D man”, it’s that he’s been a tremendously ineffective one in terms of both playing a physical game and keeping the puck out of the net, which would seem to be the goal for a physical stay-at-home defenseman. As far as his contract is concerned, he’s the 42nd highest-paid right-handed defenseman, which would mean he’s being paid at the level one might expect from a slightly above-average second-pairing right-handed defenseman. I get that it’s beating a dead horse at this point to talk about it, but the ire was warranted.

As far as Ashton Sautner is concerned, I would be in favour of moving someone out and giving him an audition for the rest of the year. He’s looked comfortable, and it gives them a long look to see what they’ve got. If he doesn’t look like a long-term option, there’s always free agency.

I will be surprised if the Canucks miss the playoffs next season and Jim Benning remains GM heading into 2020-2021. Make of that what you will.

Jason Botchford floated the idea of getting Horvat back to playing below the goal line, bringing back the bumper spot, and putting Boeser back in the Ovi spot where he had so much success last year. I’m going to co-sign that idea until someone comes up with something better. The Canucks ought to have the pieces to make their first unit effective at this stage.

I really wish the Mailbag and Trade Deadline didn’t have to be on the same day, because it quickly makes questions like these seem a bit dated.

Obviously, it sounds like Dahlen was the one who wanted out, so you can’t blame them for pulling the trigger. We’ll have more on how to feel about this trade up in the near future. I think they mismanaged Dahlen to some degree and bear some responsibility for damaging the relationship. At the same time, the player is responsible for how things went down as well, and if he were lighting it up in the American League this year we wouldn’t be having this conversation.

I’ll skip part one of this question, for obvious reasons.

I think at this point we have to accept that Jim Benning just isn’t interested in making player-for-pick trades, either because he genuinely believes they aren’t as helpful to the team as acquiring players or because they aren’t available to him for whatever reason. Why you wouldn’t want to play to the organization’s biggest strength is beyond me, but it seems to be where we’re at.

It has to be Jonathan Dahlen, even if the Canucks have dangled in him as a trade piece. He’s had a better offensive season than any of the other players and has built-in chemistry with Elias Pettersson, so he has the least obstacles in his path. The chalk bet is that none of them make it, though. The roster looks pretty much set and none of those players have shown enough in the minors yet to earn a spot.

I didn’t watch a ton of Brayden Point in his draft year, but I don’t remember thinking his skating was an issue when I did. My guess would be it’s a little of Column A and a little of Column B. I think the biggest knock against him was his size, which was a much bigger deal five years ago than it is now, even if things were beginning to change. I think teams have wised up to some degree since then and a player like Point would be unlikely to slide that far again.

The short answer is yes. If it’s based solely on his on-ice contributions, Kesler was one of the best players to ever put on the jersey, and that’s what the Ring is supposed to honour in the first place. I know the market has soured on him since he left, but time heals all wounds. I’d imagine every core player from the 2011 run will make it in eventually.

Uh, no. Not remotely. Frankly, I’m a little surprised at this line of questioning. I thought the market mostly agreed that Hutton had come into his own this year after a struggling last season. He’s been at his best playing with Troy Stecher in the absence of Alex Edler and Chris Tanev and when he hasn’t been paired with Erik Gudbranson he’s been one of the team’s best defenders this year.

An appropriate return would be another player with offensive potential who hasn’t been able to put it together at the NHL level and could use a change of scenery, like Josh Ho-Sang. I don’t know if there’s an offer like that out there, though. I would hold on to him unless they can get a player with similar upside in return.

Okay, so obviously the deadline has come and gone, and it turns out that Edler was approached and declined to waive his NTC. The best bet would have been to get going on contract talks as early as possible and get out in front of the situation if it was clear they couldn’t afford his next deal. It’s an example of why fans are often quick to harp on the organization for not being proactive. Reports are still trickling out about how exactly everything went down with Edler, so I don’t want to rush to judgment before we have all the facts. If Edler signs to a palatable deal, this won’t be the end of the world. I don’t see it going well for them, though.

  • Jim "Dumpster Fire" Benning

    Question: Would the fact that none of Linden/Benning/Desjardins/Green had an ounce of experience in their respective roles at the NHL level before joining the Canucks not worry you as to the possible ramifications of going off the board when potentially looking for the next GM?

    I would be worried also, but if they could find a bright mind out there that is open to new and creative thinking, and is 100% onboard with maximizing his options (ex: acquiring bad contracts for picks, not waiting til 2 yrs past players’ best before date, ect) I’d be all for it!

    • Captain Video

      It’s not just Linden/Benning. Gillis had no GM experience, either. Ownership seems to have a problem with hiring front office professionals who know what they’re doing.
      We can only guess as to why.

      • arjay

        While MG had no GM experience, as a player agent he sat on the opposite side of the desk for years. Plus he possesses one of the strongest hockey resumes around….from a 1st round pick as a player to one win away from a Stanley Cup.

        Think your snipe was poorly taken in regards to MG

      • It’s also poorly directed at Benning – he has years of hockey experience including being head of scouting for a fantastic Buffalo team and assistant GM to a Stanely Cup winner. That’s exactly the kind of person who should be given a long hard look for a GM position. I don’t think Benning has been *good* as a GM, but he is unquestionably *qualified* to be one.

        • Bud Poile

          WHL’s best d-man award 1980-81.
          League record 111 assists.
          #2 NHL Central Scouting ranked N.A. prospect behind Hawerchuck in his draft year.
          Drafted 6th overall.
          1 season in the AHL.
          9 years playing in the NHL.
          610 NHL GP. 243 points.
          5 years-NHL amateur scout for Ducks and Sabres.
          7 years-Director of Amateur scouting for Buffalo.
          2 years-Bruins Director of Player Personnel
          6 years-Asst. GM Boston Bruins. Stanley Cup winner.
          5 years-NHL GM
          25 years managing/scouting for NHL franchises
          10 years pro career.

          • Freud

            Bud, you forgot to mention

            “completed high school (we think) by correspondence while playing hockey ”
            “has no know post secondary schooling or training”
            “has no know record of business training”
            “has such limited self awareness that he dyes his hair and doesn’t think people will notice.”

            and or course

            “had one Bruin on the Stanley Cup roster that he/Chiarelli drafted, he then chose to publicly advocate to trade Seguin for pennies on the dollar due character issues””

            After all, it was your brave model that shows us it’s the GM who was drafting 6-10 years before you that is responsible for your success.

          • TD

            Bud, I generally like your over the top positivity, but 37 years of experience including his playing time does not mean much if he can’t change with the times. He was a good scout, but has yet to prove he can trade well. Moreover, hockey has changed dramatically over the past 5 years. Can Benning recognize and adapt to the changes? In some areas it seems he can, but at best you would have to say its inconclusive.

    • Freud

      Any bright mind would turn Vancouver down if Aquilini continues to meddle. No strong, bright person with any type of future would agree to be an idiot’s yes man as their first GM job.

    • Beefus

      I remember that Craig Button was one of the few prognosticators to have Brayden Point ranked as a first round selection in 2014. He also did not project Jake Virtanen as first-round worthy that year.

  • Question for the next mailbag:

    Should we start getting concerned about Utica? The Canucks acquired an AHL team so they could manage prospect development, but we’ve had two highly-touted prospects in Dahlen and Palmu leave Utica mid-season because they were unhappy, citing lack of opportunity and lack of communication, and other high end prospects like Kole Lind don’t seem to be getting much opportunity either. What’s going on?

    • Jim "Dumpster Fire" Benning

      I would also thoroughly like a solid dissection of whatever the hell Trent Cull and co. have been up to down on the farm that has clearly annoyed young prospects to the point of demanding out. Very concerning…

      • Freud

        Historically Detroit and currently Tampa have many young guys piping through their farm.

        None of their prospects ever ask to be traded or leave for Europe.

        There is a clear plan to put them in good positions to succeed and then bring them up. Foote and Katchouk are good examples of how to utilize 19/20 year old on the farm.

        Weisbrod stated yesterday they look to make the player “earn it” (ffs) to see if they can overcome the adversity.
        The good teams support, Vancouver looks to create barriers to test the youth.
        The good teams are good, Vancouver is not.

        • MattyT's Mom

          Oh Freud… didn’t Drouin ask to be traded out of Tampa, and refuse to report to their AHL team? Now they did kiss and make up, to facilitate an exit as quickly as possible from Tampa. So maybe when you say “None of their prospects ever ask to be traded or leave for Europe”, you’re referring to last week? You should stick to counting change and commenting on hair styles, tiger

    • Defenceman Factory

      How much insight do you think Jackson can bring to the Utica question? Despite Hergott being clear (based on actually having watched all the games) that Lind has performed his best playing on a line with gritty veterans JD Burke concluded his talent is being wasted playing with unskilled face punchers.

      I don’t claim to know how well prospects are being managed on the farm but fans may need to accept some prospects may have been hyped a bit too much and are just further away than we hoped. What does look to be happening is that hard work is being demanded and ice time must be earned.

      If someone told you a 5’7″ winger drafted a month short of his 20th birthday in the 6th round was having trouble cracking an AHL roster would you really be surprised? Dahlen asked for his trade. It sounded from Benning like he and his agent felt he was deserving of a call-up. Obviously he wouldn’t kill penalties or play a match-up role so did he expect Goldobin to get sat more so he could play? Smaller players who aren’t great skaters and score a lot more than Dahlen (Boucher) have trouble making an impact in the NHL. Good luck to him. Hope he enjoys his time as a Barracuda cause the Shark line-up won’t be any easier to crack.

      • This just seems like hand-waving to me.

        It was this management group’s decision to bring Dahlen and Palmu over from Europe in the first place, when they were also graduating a number of other young players like Lind and Gadjovich from junior to the AHL. It seems likely they promised Dahlen and Palmu ice time in Utica and the prospect of an NHL call-up as incentives to get them to come over to North America. If the team wasn’t going to give them lots of playing time, clear communication and instructions for how to improve and earn more ice time / call ups, and a shot on the big club, they should have sent Dahlen to the SHL and left Palmu in the Liiga where they’d get lots of ice time in two of the premier pro leagues in the world.

        Maybe when players are unhappy and looking for reasons to get out of this organization, we should start looking at the organization instead of blaming the players.

        • DJ_44

          Palmu was not god in utica. Dahlen was given top six minutes and played the left side on PP1. Dahlen’s complaint was that he was not in the nhl. The Canucks thought he needed to work on aspects of his game. I watched him close. His skating needs to improve.

          • My argument isn’t that Dahlen or Palmu needed to be in the NHL. My argument is that it seems like the organization was making promises to these players and telling them they were going to get a certain amount of playing time and a crack at the NHL roster to entice them to come to North America instead of staying in the European pro leagues, and these players were unhappy when these opportunities didn’t materialize. It clearly would have been better for both the organization and the players for these players to spend another year maturing in their respective European pro leagues than to come over to North America only to be misled and mishandled.

        • Kootenaydude

          Maybe they were homesick. Wanted to be the big fish in the little pond. Instead of the little fish in the big pond. Dahlen thought he was NHL ready. The coaches didn’t. Goodbye Dahlen

        • Defenceman Factory

          No Goon it’s not hand waving. I distinctly said I don’t know how well the prospects are being handled. The possibility is certainly there it is on the players. You have zero clue what expectations the Canucks actually gave Palmu and Dahlen but like all of us you are certainly entitled to your own speculations. Just don’t expect Jackson to provide anything more than a modestly informed opinion.

    • KGR

      I think some questions are fair Goon; but, players drafted in the second round or lower are not “highly touted” prospects. They are projects with at best a 25% chance of having an NHL career of a 100 games or more. I think we the fans, the media and the team have hyped many of these players as much more than they are. Palmu is small and a 6th round (?) draft pick. Even cracking Utica’s roster was going to be hard. Are the prospects mishandled? Perhaps. I had hoped many of them would get lots of playing time and thrive. Perhaps I am naive. They as a collective may not be good enough. Joulevi strikes me as the only sure thing in the bunch; but he needs to get healthy. I would like an unbiased view of how our system rates against a team like San Jose. And how San Jose may approach things differently. Cheers

  • Kanuckhotep

    Before you discuss the “firing of Benning” shouldn’t it at least happen first? I’m not a cheerleader by any stretch but he did get rid of Gudbranson like everyone wanted him to and the Sam Gagner contract. He did draft Petey and Brock and got rid of all those crappy FA signings he made last year. Would you be happier if he had kept all those stiffs? I just wish Benning’s pro scouts were as good as his amateur scouts then you’d have something. but the Canucks are young as we’ve seen the Kings and Ducks get old over night. And IMO the Hawks are giving their last push with that player group before turning geriatric themselves. Like it or not Vancouver is on the right track and Benning is learning from his mistakes.

    • Yes he got rid of the crappy FA signings, but he also made the crappy FA signings in the first place. He isn’t learning from his mistakes, as showcased by signing Jay Beagle to a contract that almost everyone immediately saw as an overpayment for an aging depth player. Crappy FA signings have been the hallmark of his tenure and show no signs of stopping.

        • MattyT's Mom

          And you LOVE Jim bringing Jay here too right Trump? But not as PQW though, right? What are YOUR credentials for being a troll, besides running away and changing your name every couple of weeks hiding behind a VPN?

    • Fred-65

      To my way of thinking, a rational view stating that Pettersson and Boeser were drafted by JB has at the same time add that he also drafted Virtanen, Juolevi and McCann ( and please no more give them time JV fan club ) and if you want to give JB a pat on the back for getting rid of crap FA signing then you have to add that JB made the crap FA signings. Right now I’d think if we’re fair we would rate JB as average at best. We’re young you should admit because we were a bad team, coached by a bad coach and hired by JB. IMO the best thing that has happened is when JB promoted Brackett to head of amateur scouting, but then again he wasn’t the one that hired Brackett either

      • DogBreath

        The record shows that JB is a really good evaluater of draft eligible talent (and no, not all 18 year olds mature as they should and become professional level players). I don’t see how one be good at evaluating younger talent and terrible at evaluating talent in their 20’s. Sorry, this doesn’t make sense. JB has probably been average at trades and he’s had some poor UFA signings (though I don’t mind how he built up the bottom half of the line-up this year).

        Most qualified observers suggest TG is an excellent coach for this team now. Given how they’ve performed, its difficult to argue with it.

        Now that they’re in their annual swoon, people will pull out the knives (its easy to be critical). We’ve got another year or two of this until all of the draft picks are in-house and then everyone will be back on the bandwagon.

        • Fred-65

          I concede I’ve been a JV/OJ/McC disillusioned fan from the 1st season I watched them and they haven’t done any thing to chnage my mind. We’ve had 5 first round selection since JB took over ( excludes Hughes who we have yet to see ) but that mean 6 picks and 50% are doubtful. First round picks are the foundation of the clubs future and a 50% success rate doesn’t blow any one socks off. I’m not getting out the knife now I’ve been saying this for a couple of years.

          • DogBreath

            Alright, I’ll bite. True, those picks are weaker than we would like, but that does happen with drafting. JV and McC are regular nhl players (but far from elite). OJ has been injured but will one day be a top 4 (and not a top 2 as we had hoped). Where Benning makes his money is after the first round. He’s had an impressive run of successes. That said we need him to hit a few out of the park to fill some of the gaps.

  • Beer Can Boyd

    “If Edler signs to a palatable deal, this won’t be the end of the world. I don’t see it going well for them, though.” Agreed. 3 things to consider when it comes to Edler. 1) he’s about to turn 33 and has averaged about 60 games played per season over the last 10 years. 2) He refused to waive his NTC for the 2nd straight year. 3) He’s been average to crappy for 4 of the previous 5 seasons, yet is having a mysterious renaissance in his contract season. Now watch Benning reward him with a 3 year deal at 5 million with a NTC.

    • Kootenaydude

      Probably a NTC til the trade deadline of the second season would be palatable by both the Canucks and Edler. That would give him security regarding family issues. Would allow the Canucks to get something for him at the trade deadline

    • What’s wrong with a 3 year x $5M deal? He handles Top 4 assignments, mentors Juolevi and Hughes, retires as a Canuck, and we’re not stuck with an anchor contract like Seabrook. Edler has been a solid Canuck for over 12 years, just let him retire as a Canuck like the Sedins, unless he wants to be traded.

      • Beer Can Boyd

        Whats wrong with a 3 year x $5 million deal? Just what I posted above. He’s almost 33, 4 of his last 5 years have been mediocre to poor, he averages 60 games played per season, and he’s mysteriously experiencing a renaissance in his contract year.

        • KGR

          Won’t argue with your numbers Mr. Boyd. Personally, I would project where he fits in the lineup and pay him accordingly. As a #3 or #4 defenseman I think he has a few more years left in the tank. The third year is likely a question mark. Benning has not had to face a cap crunch and I think that is reflected in his contract signings. An extra million or two here and there is not affecting the cap currently; but, I do agree with many other posters that in a couple of years he will have to have a harder line with salaries. I expect Edler will be a bit of an overpay.

        • Well, the team has been playing poorly since 2014 so it’s not a surprise that his stats are down. Even though he’s on a decline, he’s still an all-round defender that can handle Top 4 minutes at EV, PK and PP. To have a defender from the age of 33-36 isn’t immediately a bad thing. Injuries…well, that’s Edler…but at the same time, guys like Spurgeon, Byfuglien, Barrie, Fowler, McAvoy, Lindholm and Theodore played about 65 games last year. He’s pretty close to what he was getting last year in terms of PPG (0.53 this year vs. 0.49 last year). His Corsi/Fenwick is below his 2014-2015 stats but it closely mirrors the overall team play from 2015-present (~47%), can’t blame that totally on him. The UFA market is looking pretty thin. All in all, I still think Edler would be worth a 3 x $5M final contract.

          • Beer Can Boyd

            Edler better not be on the power play when Hughes arrives. That was the whole reason for drafting a 170 lb defenseman wasn’t it? That he could quarterback the anemic power play? Or do we really have 3 more years of the drop pass to look forward to?

        • B_Rad77

          I agree, Edler’s points have taken a bump in his contract year, and we can probably expect his numbers to drop significantly in the next contract years. Am I the only one who has seen his foot speed slow? The rise in the number of lazy hooking / holding penalties because he cant keep up. Coupled with the number of injuries that keep him out of the lineup, Edler is not the answer. Its ok to have some loyalty towards a long serving player, but it seems that loyalty only runs in one direction. The skill level that Edler brings could be replaced in the off season.

    • Fred-65

      Any one can throw a player under the bus, doesn’t take a lot of thought. Every coach that’s been here other than Torts has praised Edler. If he goes who do you replace him with … some kid right out of junior/NCAA. You need vets on the team and trying to find a experienced D is not easy. I think they may well be in the chase for Myers but at what cost ?? he’s 29 and currently paid $5.5 mill and how much term will he demand. Fast approaching 30 he’s going to ask for a long term deal. I hope they give Edler 3 year with the last year having no NTC.

  • Kootenaydude

    I don’t have a problem with Benning since the owner gave the okay to do a rebuild instead of a retool on the fly. Could use some help in the pro scouting department. Besides Eriksson and his boat anchor contract. Benning hasn’t been afraid to move underperforming veterans in favour of youth. Its pretty easy to be an armchair GM where you can just crap on the real GM for making moves you don’t understand.

    • TheRealRusty

      Key here is not handing out a NMC since the Seattle expansion would mean that we can only protect 4 defencemen (Juolevi, Hughes, Hutton, Stecher). NTC is less of a problem since it still allows for us to expose him (or send him to the minors), while a NMC means we have to protect him.

  • bushdog

    looks to me like we’ll pick between 6th and 15th or so. can you give me 3 names we should target? also, there is so much bellowing about picks not being as good as projected. where do we sit in comparison to the other teams successes? i don’t think we’re as bad as some think

  • copey

    Question for next week’s mailbag:
    Is there a way to know how much Patrick Wiercioch is getting paid to play for Minsk Dinamo? I’m curious, because he had a pretty stellar season in the AHL (10G, 27A) for Utica, and you would think they’d try to keep him around. I understand not giving him a 1-way contract, but surely he was worth something more than jettisoning, especially with all the injuries. He’s got 268 games played in the NHL; should make him equivalent in value to Schenn, no? So just how much would he get in the KHL to give up on NHL dreams?