Do you think that HNICs lack of knowledge about the Canucks’ market speaks to their lack of preparation, or is it motivated by friendship with the management and sources?
— Dylan Couture (@Dyl2000) March 10, 2019
Before I answer this, I just want to say that the HNIC panel have a tougher job than you might think. Having an intimate knowledge of all 31 NHL teams is hard enough as it is, but condensing that knowledge into easily digestible 30-second soundbites is even more difficult. So, it shouldn’t be surprising that the pundits who make up the HNIC panel might lean on easy narratives once in awhile.
With that out of the way, I think the simplest answer is that it’s a bit of both. A huge part of being a hockey media figure on the national stage is managing relationships with sources, and that’s obviously going to influence what you say whether consciously or unconsciously. That’s doubly true if you don’t have an intimate knowledge of the market you’re covering.
Does Lockwood get signed immediately and if so does he go to Utica with a chance to break camp with Canucks next year?
— Steve Conelley (@steveconelley) March 10, 2019
It sounds like the Lockwood camp is still mulling over the decision about whether or not to turn pro. He’s a legitimate prospect but far from a guarantee to make the NHL, so finishing his fourth year of college could be a defensible route to take. I think either way he won’t make the Canucks’ opening roster for the 2019-20 season. Even Adam Gaudette wasn’t a lock to make the opening night roster and he had a far more impressive college career. If he works hard and shows promise, he could earn a call-up at the end of next season, should he decide to turn pro. Hoping for anything more than that would be optimistic at this stage.
Just throwing this out there but it seems like Schenn Sautner at a very low cost bottom pairing is a smart play going into next year, are they not? This would also allow the Canucks to throw money at the big name FA.
— Stan (@lepage_stuart) March 10, 2019
Rolling with a Sautner-Schenn third pairing on opening night seems like a bad idea unless the goal is to be in the lottery pciture again next season, which I assume it isn’t if they’re going to go big game hunting in free agency. You could do worse with your seventh at eight defensemen, but I suspect the shallowness of the talent pool would become all too apparent as injuries inevitably hit if the team stood pat with them as a third pairing. That doesn’t mean they need to break the bank and sign a bunch of depth defenders by any means, but they need to be realistic about where they are. If you’re seriously considering icing a third pairing of Ashton Sautner and Luke Schenn, you probably shouldn’tbe chasing any big free agents to begin with.
Who should Hughes be paired with for the rest of this season? And who for next season (either someone in org already or FA)?
— Steve Conelley (@steveconelley) March 10, 2019
If he’s truly as comfortable playing both sides as he says he is, I’m not opposed to seeing him play opposite Alex Edler on the right side; but I don’t know how realistic that is. Chris Tanev is the safe answer, but I’m not sure their styles would complement each other and it’s unclear when Tanev is going to be back. If the goal is really to foster Hughes’ creativity and his offensive game, I think you have to at least try him with Troy Stecher. Make no mistake, Stecher can defend, but he can also move the puck and keep up with Hughes’ freestyling. It would seem to me that all signs point to Hughes-Stecher as the best potential first pair the Canucks currently have at their disposal, so you have to believe they’ll try it out eventually. There’s no time like the present.
Which forwards do you bring back next season?
— thirdlinewinger (@thirdlinewinger) March 10, 2019
Frankly, I’m in favour of testing the market on anyone not named Elias Pettersson, Brock Boeser, or Bo Horvat; but assuming the players that are currently on the roster carry the value on the trade market that I think they do, they may be tied to more than a few other forwards for the time being. I’d tender qualifying offers to Nikolay Goldobin and Josh Leivo, and let Tyler Motte and Markus Granlund walk in free agency. I’d do my best to find takers for Loui Eriksson and Brandon Sutter, and let Adam Gaudette and Zack MacEwen slide in in their absence.
Given the need for impact wingers, if the Canucks win the lottery wouldn’t they be better served to draft Kakko instead of Hughes?
— Coach Mike (@akacoachmike) March 11, 2019
Wingers are, by and large, the easiest position in hockey to replace, so it’s unwise to prioritize drafting one unless they are the best player available. Drafting based on positional need is almost always a bad idea, but it’s especially true in this case. Jack Hughes can be just as much of an impact player at wing, and Elias Pettersson has plenty of experience there, too. Or they could trade Bo Horvat for an elite first-pairing right-handed defender. Or, they could keep all three at centre and boast arguably the best depth at that position in the league in a few years’ time. If Hughes is there, take him. There’s no sense overthinking it.
Does it seem like Canucks lead the NHL in giving entry level contracts to NCAA players late in the NHL season?
— GLrebirth (@GLrebirth) March 11, 2019
The Canucks have just had a lot of high-end prospects come out of the NCAA in the past couple of years. Burning the first year of the ELC has become increasingly common with prospects out of college who project as difference-makers, I wouldn’t think too much of it.
Which house are you? pic.twitter.com/PBFHOoNIEu
— Darryl Keeping (@dkeeping) March 10, 2019
I’ve taken the test three or four times and it always comes back the same: Slytherin. I always saw myself as more of a Hufflepuff or Ravenclaw, but who am I to argue with the Sorting Hat?
The question of what house I belong in, however, is far less interesting to me than the concept of houses in general. By sorting children into separate factions (at eleven years old, I might add), Hogwarts encourages a deterministic view of skills and values. Bravery or intelligence are attributes you inherit via divine right rather than skills you can hone over time by working at them. It’s not the foundation for a solid education. So, any conversation on the topic should begin by pointing out that the house system is inherently reactionary and should be abolished.
Which Canucks RFAs don’t get qualifying offers this summer?
— Concerned (cat) parent (@cat_concerned) March 10, 2019
I would imagine that Brock Boeser, Nikolay Goldobin, Josh Leivo, Tyler Motte, Ben Hutton, and Thatcher Demko are all tendered qualifying offers at the very least before the real negotiations begin in earnest. I would guess that the Canucks will elect to move on from Derrick Pouliot and Yan-Pavel LaPlante, but Markus Granlund could go either way. He’s a cheap utility forward and if the Canucks make any big trades to open up room for a free agent or two you could do worse on your fourth line. It will probably depend on who’s in charge when it’s time for those decisions to be made.
Which will happen first: Canucks make the playoffs or Tool releases a new album?
— I'm the (@ManCalledIAm) March 11, 2019
I’m gonna go with the latter, since it sounds like most of the work is already done. Can’t say the same for the Canucks.
What do the players Benning traded for and acquired as UFAs over the past 4 years say about his vision for what a hockey team should be?
— Fred P (@Meerschaum529) March 11, 2019
I would say that based on the body of work, Jim Benning would appear to believe in pretty traditional blueprint for building a competitive team, where players have clearly defined roles, and the goal is to get the best possible player at that role. I think that’s basically the only way you can explain paying a premium for players like Jay Beagle and Brandon Sutter, rather than going bargain hunting or looking for more offensively-minded players to play in the bottom-six. It’s possible he’s deviated from that more recently, but that would seem to be the general theme going back through his transaction history.
Is there any value for the team to consider requiring Luongo? If he retires the team is on the hook for a large cap recapture. They may never have much influence on the decision but if were on the team they might be a bit more involved in retirement vs longterm IR decision.
— Mark Harrop (@mharrop71) March 11, 2019
Matthew Dolmage actually just put out a piece on this very subject this morning that’s absolutely worth your time if this question interests you. The short answer is yes… under the right circumstances.
How long does this management group last even if they make the playoffs next year?
— will yan (@thewillhouse) March 11, 2019
Some folks in this market seem to believe Jim Benning’s days as Canucks GM are already numbered. I’m less convinced, and would say the odds he’s still GM at the start of next season at around 50/50. I can’t see him surviving into 2020-2021 if they don’t make the playoffs next year, though. How many GMs can survive five straight years of missing the postseason?
I was honestly surprised by some of your (and others) recent comments on what Gillis left Benning. I think any honest analysis would show that Burke, Nonis and Gillis all inherited many solid players from their predecessor, but only the first two also added top end talent. 1/2
— Geordie (@geordiedent) March 10, 2019
Do you not feel that the last 5 years have been mostly predictable given that we’re only really seeing the fruits of Bennings first draft 5 years ago right now? 2/2
— Geordie (@geordiedent) March 10, 2019
Before I get to the actual question, I have to say that I disagree with your opening statement. Bo Horvat was acquired under the Gillis regime, so the statement that he didn’t add top-end talent rings false even before you factor in whether or not players like Dan Hamhuis, Christian Ehrhoff, and Jacob Markstrom qualify. I bring that up because I assume this is the statement that prompted your question in the first place:
Mike Gillis has been gone since the end of the 2013-14 season. He still provided this rebuild it's most valuable roster piece until *this* season. Get over it. https://t.co/IS4xGNPM4u
— J.D. Burke (@JDylanBurke) March 10, 2019
I’d say that assuming J.D. is referring to Bo Horvat, this statement is 100% correct and basically inarguable. Before the addition of Brock Boeser into the lineup last season, Bo Horvat was far and away the organization’s best building block, and it wasn’t particularly close.
With that out of the way, I can get to the actual question at hand. Do I feel that the last 5 years have played out predictably based on what Jim Benning inherited? No, not particularly. There were definitely some struggles that faced whoever was bound to take over from Mike Gillis at the end of the 2013-14 season, but that’s true for almost any incoming general manager. I don’t think the Canucks were somehow in a uniquely poor position to begin a rebuild, at least not any more so than other organizations who have managed to turn the corner.
It doesn’t take five years for a draft to bear fruit. Bo Horvat, Jake Virtanen, Jared McCann, Brock Boeser, and Elias Pettersson all played their first game in a Canucks uniform within two years of being drafted. The problem is that the draft isn’t the only way to acquire talent and this organization has done a monumentally terrible job of using those other avenues, in some cases even undoing the good work that occurred at the draft (Jared McCann being the most obvious example).
There were plenty of chances the Canucks had to advance the rebuild effort and they blew it. They drafted a project winger and defensemen with two of their five top-ten picks instead of taking legit first-line talents. They traded away high-value draft picks in deals for veterans designed to keep the team competitive in the short-term, and they spent too much money in free agency on players who haven’t moved the needle for the team at all. They were by no means forced into any of those transactions. It doesn’t take five years for a rebuild to begin heading in the right direction if it’s done properly.