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Photo Credit: Matthew Henderson

Mailbag Part 2: Quinn Hughes, Prospect Targets, and the Truth About Canucks Twitter

I’m going to lump these two questions together since they’re very similar. I think it’s about 50/50 at the moment, but if Quinn Hughes comes in and really lights things up it could be enough to keep the wolves at bay for awhile. My gut tells me there’s no way Jim Benning can survive another losing season after this one, but I’m not quite sure how long the leash is at the moment. My best guess is that if Francesco Aquilini does decide to move on, it will be at the end of the season.

This question was obviously asked before the Canucks announced they had signed Josh Teves, but I think that addition makes any more signings pretty unlikely. In this instance, I don’t think there’s really enough there to justify taking up the contract slot. I’m not an expert scout by any means but there’s nothing about Lukosevicius that screams “future NHL regular” to me.

I think Lockwood basically holds all the cards in this scenario. It sounds like for him, the decision is mainly between turning pro and finishing college. I think if burning the first year of his ELC was a huge concern he’d have signed by now, so I won’t really be surprised if he either doesn’t sign until the NHL season is over or if he returns to Michigan. I’m certainly not against Utica signing him to an ATO but I haven’t heard it discussed as an option so I’m going to assume it’s unlikely at this point.

I’m feeling much better, thanks.

I think they have about as good a shot as anyone else, but it’s going to come down to money. The Canucks are probably going to have to pay him more than a contending team, or a team in a world-class city, or a team in a state with no income tax. So, you might say they’re at bit of a disadvantage. It’s within the realm of possibility but I definitely wouldn’t consider them to be a front-runner.

It’s a good bit, but I don’t think Derrick Pouliot is uniquely bad. Is he an NHL defender? I lean towards no, but there are lots of other defenders in the league who are struggling, and he isn’t the worst among them. Hell, he wasn’t even the worst defender on the Canucks until a couple of weeks ago.

I feel like Adam Gaudette is essentially the 13th forward in a healthy lineup until he really proves he deserves a spot. In the event that they need to free up another spot, I could see Markus Granlund or Nikolay Goldobin coming out of the lineup; but to be honest I’ll believe the Canucks have a full complement of NHL forwards when I see it.

Stranger things have happened. It seems odd to me that he would be the guy given Thomas Gradin’s history and the nature of his position within the club; but it seems even weirder that they’d make it all up as some sort of conspiracy to make Ron Delorme better, so I guess I believe it.

I think it’s a failure because all the losing hasn’t been in service of any real overarching goal. They’ve just been bad and lost a lot of games. If I felt really confident about the way players like Nikolay Goldobin, or Adam Gaudette, or any of the bevy of young players in Utica were developing, then maybe I could see the season as a success. Or if the Canucks made even one legitimate “rebuild trade”, selling off a veteran for futures, but that hasn’t happened. Instead, they basically tried to be competitive in a really bad Western Conference and failed. I’m not seeing a ton of positives (other than Elias Pettersson’s fantastic rookie season, but to be honest I expected him to be fantastic regardless of how the rest of the team performed).

Obviously I don’t have the time or the means to give a really in-depth answer to this question, but I’ll do my best to give a general overview. I think you need to put a lot of resources into the tracking the data, but more importantly you have to put it to good use. Having a diverse panel of consultants to interpret the data is probably the single most important element of incorporating it, including having people around whose job is to pinpoint what the limitations of the data are, and how the numbers might be lying to you. Ideally, I would want my analytics department to be made up at least in part by people who can look at tape and identify what processes are leading to better underlying numbers and what the players and coaching staff can do to put those processes into action.

The big market inefficiency right now pertaining to analytics as I see it is in amateur scouting. There is such a limited amount of data available on draft-eligible players in the public sphere. If I had unlimited money and resources my first priority would be getting eyes on every major league that supplies talent to the NHL and tracking as much data as possible on them. It’s crazy that in this day and age we don’t even know what a prospect’s shot rate is in his draft year in many cases. It would seem to me that the first team that’s really able to determine which players are legitimately driving play at the junior level beyond simple boxcar stats is going to have a huge competitive advantage at the draft table.

I think his injury might keep him out of action long enough to make any questions about the expansion draft irrelevant. If he’s completely good to go, I wouldn’t be surprised if the organization plays him in every game he’s eligible to play in, but I have a feeling it may be beyond their control regardless of what their plan for him is.

I guess it would have to be Olli Juolevi. As a side note, this is a great example of why grading a prospect pool in its totality is a pointless exercise. Who qualifies as a prospect changes so quickly that it basically doesn’t tell us anything.

I’ve been somewhat suspicious of how much patience Francesco Aquilini has had with the current regime, but it’s equally possible that he’s just trying to be mindful of the fact that he’s perceived as an overly meddlesome owner. I think he’d prefer not to add fuel to the fire and that may be why he’s been more patient than many would have expected.

It should be obvious. The Canucks are going to have the opportunity to protect more players in the expansion draft if they don’t give Hughes more than ten games, and more protected slots is better. It’s not an especially complicated argument.

To be honest I haven’t been able to pay as close attention to the draft this year as I have in the past, and it seems as though there’s still a lack of consensus around who are the best prospects after Jack Hughes and Kaapo Kakko, so I can’t really say who is going to realistically be there in the 5-9 slot.

I would say that after Hughes and Kakko, I think there’s a second tier of talent that includes Dylan Cozens, Kirby Dach, Peyton Krebs, and Bowen Byram, and then a third tier that includes a wider list of players like Ryan Suzuki, Matthew Boldy, Vasili Podkolzin, Alex Newhook, Cole Caufield, Trevor Zegras, Arthur Kaliyev, Alex Turcotte, and Raphael Lavoie. I haven’t really reached the point where I feel comfortable differentiating between individual players in those tiers and likely won’t be until the season is over, but based on my answer I think you can guess who the ideal candidates are. Obviously, if the Canucks miss out on the lottery, drafting one of Cozens, Byram, Dach, or Krebs would be the ideal scenario.

I get this question a lot and I could honestly go either way. Given that they’re currently edging close to the contract limit after signing Josh Teves, I’m leaning towards no, but only mildly so. Whatever they choose to do, it won’t come as a great surprise to me.

I think it’s more likely that Francesco Aquilini will just clean house when the time comes.

If it looks like Hughes is going to play that eleventh game, ownership should step in and veto the decision. That doesn’t necessarily mean taking a scorched-earth approach and firing everyone involved, but the option of losing that extra protected slot in the expansion draft shouldn’t be on the table.

To be honest, I basically don’t game. I could get all fire-and-brimstone about why, and get on my high horse about how I think gaming is a net negative for modern society, but to be honest it’s mostly just that I have to many other interests and not enough time or money to pursue another hobby. I have an old N64 I play sometimes and beat Super Mario 64 to 100% completion in the spring, but haven’t touched it since then. If I had an opportunity to score some more cheap used games I’d probably take the opportunity but it hasn’t come up. As far as recent games go, RDR2 looks cool, but I don’t really keep up with what the kids are into these days. Sorry I’m such an old man.

I don’t keep up with the European hockey leagues very well so I’m going to lean very heavily on Cam Robinson’s piece for Dobber Prospects on this subject. Besides Oliwer Kaski, he pinpointed Ilya Mikheyev and Otto Leskinen as having the highest upside. Taking a cursory glance at things like age, role, league, team, and production, I’d add Vladimir Tkachyov, Jacob Lilja, Ville Leskinen, and Teemu Turunen to the list of players who might be worth a look. You can check out his piece here.

I would say that it’s average or even better than average, but I also think that you have to be careful about where that logic takes you. The logical conclusion to most of the discourse around draft pick value is that you should basically trade every pick after the first round for a below-average NHL player because on average, you’ll be getting more value. There will be plenty of instances where you’ll be right, but you’ll just end up with a glut of below-average NHLers and not much to show for it.

The reason some people really harp on the organization for not acquiring or even just keeping their own draft picks is because of where the organization has been at over the past 5 years. They were never really in a position to compete, so what would have made the most sense would have been for the organization to acquire a bunch of lottery tickets and hope they hit the jackpot. It’s true that most second or third-round picks don’t become elite players, but at least if you actually hit on the pick you’ll make you’ll be getting the player’s best years when the team is ready to compete again, rather than a few years of Andrey Pedan mucking things up for 10-20 games a season while the team flounders at the bottom of the standings.

I think in the cases of Baertschi and Vey, there was enough there to justify taking the risk, but it’s honestly hard to make the case that they were better off taking a chance on Pedan/Pouliot/Larsen/Etem rather than just keeping their pick.

I’m assuming it’s because they didn’t want to burn through their remaining call-ups. I would have at least papered Gaudette down, but I can understand the thinking behind it I suppose.

No. There’s absolutely no reason for him to take anything more than a minor discount, especially given the contracts the team has given to some of its other players. I think anyone hoping for less than th

The whole narrative of “Vancouver is negative” basically comes from a few out-of-market media guys who don’t really have their finger on the pulse giving way too much credence to their own twitter mentions, which they shouldn’t even be reading anyway. This is true in many walks of life, but I think everyone could use to remember that Twitter is not real life. If you take a step back fro it you’ll find a ton of people who are still willing to give this management group time to figure things out.

I don’t buy for a second that Vancouver has some uniquely negative sports fanbase. Just this week Toronto Maple Leafs fans were booing Jake Gardiner, a player who would probably be the Canucks’ best defenceman. I haven’t heard boos for the home team at Rogers Arena once this season. Vancouver isn’t uniquely negative, we just have a lot of guys with twitter accounts who like to yell at pundits from Toronto and people use that as their barometer for what the entire city is like.

Honestly? I think it’s great. People talk about how awful their mentions are or whatever, but the mute and block buttons exist for a reason. I generally find most of my interactions to be pretty pleasant, and I think Canucks twitter is generally funnier and more well-read than its east coast counterparts. We’ve had to watch a lot of ugly hockey over the past half-decade, and there have been plenty of times where reading the commentary has been more entertaining than following the product on the ice.

Obviously, there’s lots of bad stuff, too; but that’s just the internet. For the most part, I think it’s a blast.

  • Kootenaydude

    I’m going to give the real answer to question 1. Yes Benning will 100% still be the GM of the Canucks. Don’t listen to a few negative media writers. Don’t listen to impatient fans. The team is exactly where everyone said they would be at the beginning of the season. Some good games. Some bad games. Some games full of mistakes. Some games with flashes of brilliance. If you ask any hockey analyst not in Vancouver. They will tell you the future in Vancouver is bright. Unfortunately Journalists get more click bait with negative material than with positive stories.

    • Dirk22

      Kootenay – this is so off the mark.

      The fans for years have wanted a rebuild with draft picks galore and building asset piles that can be cashed in when they’re competitive. In other words a slow patient rebuild.

      Signing Eriksson or trading for Gudbranson or trading any draft pick when the cupboards are bare is what impatience is.

      • Kootenaydude

        You make that Gudbranson trade every day of the week. We needed and still do need a RHD. We all seen how well Eriksson gelled with the Sedins on team Sweden. Other teams wanted Eriksson as well. So Benning had to give Eriksson that extra year to get him to sign in Vancouver. Everyone thought it was a great idea. Til he played. Now, like most teams. The Canucks have a player not earning his contract. No more. No less.

        • MM

          Woah.. I agree with the Ericksson deal at the time. Everyone knew he was going to be overpaid, but most thought he’d still get 20 goals for the first 3, and then be bad. No analytics guy was supporting the Guddy move. I think it highlights how poor the Canucks Pro-scouting is, and how dire an overhaul is needed. I shudder to think what GMJB will toss at UFAs this summer.

      • kablebike

        To be fair, this team commenced a 10 year rebuild long before the “R” word was uttered. There is the odd market trade or free agency signing to entertain season ticket holders.

          • Bud Poile

            Cory Hirsch pointed out on 650 that the Leafs were a 9 years rebuild and
            that includes the Lottery gift of a generational talent.Six top-ten picks since 2008.
            Edmonton has had 4 -1sts in the last nine years.Throw in four more top ten picks like third overall Draisatl with his 42 goals.
            8 first rounders in eight years.
            Benning has had 4-top ten picks,not one higher than fifth overall.

          • Goon

            Weird, comment posted before I was done writing.

            That’s complete nonsense. In ten years, players drafted in the first year of the rebuild will be 28-years-old and UFAs – in some cases will have been UFA’s for two full seasons. The players from Benning’s first draft are not 23 or 24 years old, with multiple years of professional experience in the NHL, AHL, and KHL. These are not prospects. The *entire* prospect pipeline is Benning’s and has been for at least a full season now, if not longer.

            Bud:

            Toronto changed management *six times* in that period, from John Ferguson Jr. to Cliff Fletcher to Brian Burke to Dave Nonis to Lou Lamoriello to Kyle Dubas. You can fairly drop Fletcher (interim, only managed the team a couple months) and Lamoriello > Dubas as they are effectively a continuation of the same management group, but even then, you have three failed rebuilds and three management groups fired before the team hired a group that got it done.

            Likewise, in Edmonton, since they began their “rebuild” they’ve had Kevin Lowe, Steve Tambellini, Craig McTavish, Peter Chiarelli, and Keith Gretzky. That’s *five* different management groups that couldn’t get it done. And the Oilers (and Leafs) were right to fire these management groups each time – they couldn’t get it done.

            Competent management groups do not take a decade to rebuild a team. Suggesting otherwise is the definition of carrying water for incompetent management.

          • Macksonious

            Shane Malloy (XM satellite radio) stated a while back (on TSN 1040), that to properly rebuild the Canucks farm system (from what it was in 2014), it would take 10 years. That’s how poor of a state it was in, according to his opinion.

          • Macksonious

            Malloy is very educated on this subject matter and his opinion shouldn’t be dismissed as “complete nonsense.”

            He explained (in that interview) why it can take such a long time to replenish a depleted farm system (unfortunately, can’t find the link for it. It took place approximately 1 year ago with Donnie and the Moj).

            Worthwhile listen, if you can find it.

      • Kootenaydude

        I’ve seen a lot of positive trends from the Canucks this year. Even in losses, the Canucks usually showed up and competed hard. Most of our guys are so young. You know they’re going to get better. Pettersson will put on a few pounds and be in NHL shape for an entire season. Boeser will be able to train in the summer instead of recovering from surgery. Horvat will still be a beast, but Gaudette will improve, and take a little bit of the workload off him. Goldy and Virtanen will both be in compete mode. Much like our offence this year. I think we will see moments brilliance followed by rookie mistakes. Edler and Tanev will play less. Mostly killing penalties. Unless Tanev is trades of course. Our goaltending will remain strong. Benning will focus on defence. I’m also pretty sure he will overspend on a UFA as he knows this team has to compete. This signing will have a lot to do with Benning keeping his job or not. I see a few roster changes as we have too many middle 6 forwards. I see Pettersson in the top 30 of scoring. If Boeser can learn get his shot off quicker. I see him with 35 goals. I see the Canucks fighting for a playoff spot right til the end of the season. No doom and gloom. This is my bright future for the Canucks next season.

    • IF

      On top off that you have the Ontario centric media whose job security requires that they pander to leafs fanbase and rarely stay up late enough to watch a west coast game if they can watch the highlights.

    • Goon

      This is a pretty myopic view. Yes, the team is more or less where most reasonable fans and media folk expected them to be, this year. But look at what Benning & Co were saying a few years ago – they expected to have built a contender by now. If you go back and look at what many fans were saying two or three years ago, they expected this team to be back in the playoffs, if not a contender, by now.

      • Macksonious

        That overly optimistic projection was likely a sales pitch for ownership’s “retool on the fly” plan. Therefore, some those statements should be taken with a grain of salt.

  • Burnabybob

    Dayal made a good point in his podcast yesterday- that firing Benning wasn’t going to somehow make it easier to fix the team’s defense. It might feel good to some people in the short term, but the team still has a long slog ahead in improving the back end. He pointed out that good defensemen are generally developed through the draft, with time and patience. And to his credit, Jim Benning has drafted and signed about half of a top six- Hughes, Juolevi and Stecher. Juolevi likely would have seen action now if not for his injuries. Jett Woo has a good chance of making the NHL.

    If I were FA, I would put my money on Benning finishing what he started. He clearly has a strong draft record, and he’s gotten smarter about holding onto his picks.

    • Jim "Dumpster Fire" Benning

      Question: is acquiring picks not important?
      Why are so many fans completely content to gloss over or not even mention the fact that he has been absolutely putrid at acquiring additional draft picks. Are draft picks not literally the most important part of any rebuild?

  • TheRealPB

    I’d be surprised if Benning got fired right now or even at the end of the season. It would be pretty counterproductive given what his basic strengths have been — he should and will get a shot at the draft. If FA was to fire him it would make sense to do it before he splashes money on UFAs (given his middling record on that). If the Canucks haven’t made an appreciable improvement by mid-season next season he’s gone and same with if they miss the playoffs.

    And I’m surprised that you only list Pettersson as the only positive for the season. The other really big one I’d say is the clear emergence of Markstrom as a viable NHL #1 goalie. A third would be Horvat being a two-way beast even if he’s burnt out now. A fourth would be the re-emergence of Stecher and Hutton. Roussel, Motte and Gaudette are also good positives.

    The list of minuses of course outweighs those for this season, though hopefully not for the future (the continual underperforming vets, the losses, the injuries, all the rest).

  • Bud Poile

    “Or if the Canucks made even one legitimate “rebuild trade”, selling off a veteran for futures, but that hasn’t happened. ”
    Hansen -Goldobin
    Burrows-Dahlen/Karlsson
    Lack-3rd(Brisebois)+7th(Olson)
    Bieksa-2nd
    Garrison-2nd
    Vanek-Motte (22 years old/33 NHL games)
    Holm-Leipsic (6 NHL games)
    “If I felt really confident about the way players like Nikolay Goldobin, or Adam Gaudette, or any of the bevy of young players in Utica were developing, then maybe I could see the season as a success.”
    Particularly Goldobin is a developmental success story.He has finished strong after floundering as a floater.
    Brisebois,Demko,MacEwen and Sautner have all developed to the NHL.Gadj and Lind are reported to be surging since New Years.
    It appears you don’t follow the team all that closely.

    • MattyT

      It appears that you are a trolling f-ing idiot.

      REAL fans love their team and therefore hold management accountable for their years of lies, ineptitude and inability to WIN and deliver playoff hockey as consistently promised by this redundant, loser, Benning charade.

      Trolls – like you – write utter contradictory garbage pretending that everything is just fine and dandy as the losing seasons continue on and on.

      CA, time to muzzle and ban this mocking clown once and for all… this is a site for true Canucks fans, not trolling retards desperately looking for attention who insult both the integrity of the hockey club and indeed the Poile name. *spit*

      • Bucket

        Ahh here comes the most repetitive and predictable boredom generator in Vancouver. Your posts are just the same old stuff, day after day, nothing new, same wording, same guy you are attacking…. yawnnnnn. Let me say this though, whatever Bud said to you way back whenever it was that makes you obsess over him on a daily basis I find absolutely hilarious. Bud is a legend for getting into your head the way he has. Think about it, you wake up every day thinking of Bud but he wakes up every day thinking about his life and in no way affected by you or what you think. That means bud is handing your a$$ to you on a daily basis and the funniest part is how you can’t even see it! You aren’t a troll, you are just special needs and you look silly. Well done Bud, pat yourself on the back for every comment he makes about you like this that is your sign that you just beat him like a rented mule!

    • FairPM

      Great details!

      Personally, I think the RE-vamp of the draft lottery system (and the Canucks bad luck of consistently drafting a few spots below where they finished) is a huge factor in the pace of the rebuild. Drafting 2nd or 3rd vs 5th or 6th is a huge difference. Rebuilds will take longer as a result. Unless you win the lottery, then it speeds up the rebuild…

    • Cageyvet

      I don’t see how this piece twice ignores Gaudette’s improved play, he’s more than ready to replace Sutter. Far more offense is starting to flow through him, and while I’m not a Sutter-basher, the plan was always that Gaudette supplant him and it’s time. Grab a draft pick or 2 for Sutter, any rounds, and give Gaudette his job.

  • Burnabybob

    I still wouldn’t necessarily fire Benning if the Canucks miss the playoffs next year. There are too many vagaries involved with the draft lottery, and whomever they pick this year probably won’t even make the lineup in 2019-20. That’s just a fact. Juolevi and Hughes are the only likely rookies for next season, and as inexperienced rookies they probably won’t move the needle much on their own. Pettersson and Boeser will hopefully produce more, but the team still lacks offensive depth.

    If I were FA I would be happy with improvement, and continued growth from the young players in the system, wherever they might be playing. Pressuring Benning to make the playoffs next year will only encourage him to make desperate free agent signings or dumb trades.

  • Holmes

    All the yapping about firing the Benning regime I think is so fickle. Great young core of players – check. Manageable salary cap – check. Another layer of prospects coming up – yes, check. Solid number 1 goalie – yes. Take a chill pill, this team is in very good shape.

    • DogBreath

      Agree that people need to chill. Winnipeg is a great example of the benefits of chilling. Fans were calling for cheveldeve (sp) head during the similar phase we’re in now. Not sure people are doing that now I’m Winnipeg.

      That said, we need to hit on some of those level 2 prospects for the rebuild to work. Looking for some big steps forward next from current Utica prospects.

  • Bud Poile

    From the ‘five year rebuild’ to the ‘ten game Quinn issue’ to ‘Delorme finding Pettersson’ is bizarre.The lack of correct information in this piece is hopefully just a result of lack of research.

  • TD

    I agree that the poor team and the tax situation make it harder to attract free agents, but I will take issue with Vancouver not being a world class city. Vancouver always rates very high when cities around the world are compared. The biggest issue is the cost of housing, which isn’t an issue for NHL free agents.

    • Bucket

      I’m from Vancouver but I’ve lived in the UK for 20 years. I can assure you that you are correct. Vancouver has a beautiful reputation around the world as one of the most desirable cities on the planet. The BBC had an article last year about how amongst Canadians, Vancouver was rated the 43rd best city in Canada and then the article pointed out how globally it was ranked as the 2nd best city in the world next to Vienna. So other Canadians are jealous of Vancouver but the rest of the world sees it how it is. It ranks higher than London, New York, Sydney, Tokyo, Hong Kong, Singapore… well every city not named Vienna and definitely ranks higher than Toronto. When you live there you take it for granted but when you move away you realise it truly is the best place on Earth!

  • Gored1970

    IMO there is no way Gaudette should be taken out for Spooner. Gaudette (5g, 12 pts in 47 games and -4) is learning the pro game and would gain more experience from playing in these last meaningless games. From what I’ve read, he’s our third line centre going forward. On the other hand Spooner (3 g, 8pts in 47 games and -10) has been gifted a top role where he has been totally underwhelming. He’s on his4th NHL team and I think we’ve already see what he has to offer whereas Gaudette is improving.

  • Jim "Dumpster Fire" Benning

    “The reason some people really harp on the organization for not acquiring or even just keeping their own draft picks is because of where the organization has been at over the past 5 years. They were never really in a position to compete, so what would have made the most sense would have been for the organization to acquire a bunch of lottery tickets and hope they hit the jackpot.”

    How dare you declare that the org has not acquired draft picks…Stud Poile will be quick to mention that his lord and saviour Jim Benning has acccumulated a grand total of 10 draft picks in his time here.

    He just won’t tell you that Benning has also traded away 11 picks in that same time ha ha ha. Stud, always good for a cheap laugh and eye roll.

  • Kanuckhotep

    With the draft being held here in June I seriously doubt Benning gets fired. Too negative IMO. Have said before and will say again that if JB and his pals do not make the post season in 19-20 that’ll be it for this management group. Next year: time to make noise or make changes at the top.