Photo Credit: Matthew Henderson

Monday Mailbag: Offer Sheets, a Winger for Horvat, and Staying Positive

The Maple Leafs currently have about 3 or so million dollars in cap space with another 8 million or so coming off the books this summer. I’d imagine most of that space is going to be taken up by Mitch Marner, who will need a new contract that ought to be in line with the $11 million dollars they’ll be paying Matthews and Tavares. If the Canucks are interested in getting Kapanen or Johnsson their best bet would be sign each of them to 3-4 million dollar offer sheets under the assumption that the Leafs can’t afford to keep them both. Another strategy would be to look at taking back an ugly contract like Patrick Marleau in addition to Johnsson or Kapanen as a way to drive the price down. Winnipeg’s situation is more complicated because essentially half their roster are going to be RFAs or UFAs this summer, but I think the Canucks could pry some decent talent from both teams if they get creative.

  1. Whatever happens with the front office, if they stay, if they go, or if someone is added.
  2. Whatever the team does in free agency.
  3. Prospects, the draft and/or how the Comets will handle the influx of another crop of rookies.

It’s a bit of a cop-out answer, but I think it depends on who his partner is. I’m convinced Hutton can keep up with any high-end right-handed defender in the league, but he’s probably not going to carry a pair on his own. He’s never going to be an elite puck-moving or shot-suppressing D, but his play with Troy Stecher and Chris Tanev indicates that he’ll be able to play with guys that are.

Ideally, he’s a number 3 or 4 when paired with a good partner, or a number 5 if he’s tasked with carrying a pairing.

To be honest I can see the next 18 months or so going a thousand different ways. I’m going to assume that the current management group remains intact and make an incredibly bold prediction: the Canucks will overspend in free agency on someone like Wayne Simmonds or Micheal Ferland, the team will sputter out of the gate, and Bo Horvat will be floated in trade rumours as a chip to kick off an honest-to-god rebuild before the end of the season. I doubt he ever gets moved, but if the Canucks have another bottom-ten finish people will start to talk about it.

I’ll be completely honest, I don’t see anything in Jim Benning that would indicate to me that he’s the kind of executive you really want to hold on to in the midst of a regime change. Most of the organizations biggest successes can be traced back to Judd Brackett and Thomas Gradin, and aside from the draft (upon which the influence of the general manager is greatly exaggerated), I just don’t see what exactly it is you’d be afraid of losing if you decide to change directions in the front office. I think if and when changes happen, completely cleaning house (aside from the scouting department) is what would make the most sense.

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I think it’s important to keep in mind that it’s never one or the other when it comes to concussions. A concussion is, simply put, an injury to the brain and thus a mental health issue by definition. We tend to focus a lot on the most obvious side effects of post-concussion syndrome such as dizziness, nausea, loss of memory, sensitivity to noise, drowsiness, and trouble concentrating; but anxiety, depression, and irritability are also incredibly common. I would imagine having issues with brain function coupled with being unable to return to the game you love would be enough to send even the happiest people into a depressive spiral. So, I think it’s impossible to untangle one from the other. Baertschi is struggling with post-concussion symptoms, and if they’ve predominantly manifested as issues with anxiety or depression, it would still be 100% accurate to say he’s dealing with the effects of his concussion.

It depends on your definition of “decent”. I’m convinced the Canucks are going to target a winger to play with Horvat in the offseason, but how good that winger is is going to depend heavily on what the Canucks are willing to commit and what players are interested in signing with Vancouver. I’d be willing to bet that Horvat’s options on the wing will look better next year, but we might be looking at a Micheal Ferland or Ryan Dzingel as opposed to an Artemi Panarin or Jeff Skinner.

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  1. Obviously, as you stated, the most positive story has to be that Pettersson has quickly adapted to the NHL and has already become arguably the team’s best forward and has a decent chance to be the first player to sweep the Calder vote since Teemu Selanne.
  2. Bo Horvat continuing to develop into a legitimate top-six centre and increasing his total output for the third straight year.
  3. Jacob Markstrom playing like a Vezina-calibre goalie in 2019.
  4. Getting out from under the Erik Gudbranson contract.
  5. Antoine Roussel’s career year.
  6. A renaissance season from Alex Edler
  7. Significant improvements from Jake Virtanen, Troy Stecher, and Ben Hutton.
  8. Quinn Hughes’ NHL debut (TBA).
  9. Adam Gaudette’s NHL debut (TBA).
  10. Surprise breakout seasons by Tyler Madden and Jett Woo.

I’d add that the Leivo trade was definitely a win for the organization, but I’m not sure how much of a feel-good story that is. Who says we can’t be positive?

      • Robby-D

        When watching I can usually identify (most) players by how they skate. I often find that Gaudette’s stride and skating style and how he carries himself on the ice is surprisingly similar to Petey’s. I remain hopeful that this is a good sign, as he also sometimes shows brilliance in how we can move the puck around

  • Bud Poile

    Brackett and Gradin were both with the Gillis regime and that tenure is among the worst draft records in Canucks history.
    The scouting department was totally revamped by Benning and he singled out Brackett and promoted him,hiring,firing and demoting other scouts.
    Both Weisbrod and Benning were professional scouts so the regime is top to bottom focused on prospects:

    “Jim has a tremendous scouting background and he and (assistant GM John Weisbrod) have been together before and built teams,” Brackett said. “What they’ve really done for us as a scouting staff has been to really outline what types of players we’re looking for, what we’re looking to build and really given us a sound direction when we’re out at games: what types of players we’d identify as ‘a Canuck.’ So that’s been the most refreshing part.
    Jim is out seeing games as well and he’s a big part of the dialogue and encourages a healthy discussion about players. Giving us direction and being heavily involved in the process has been the biggest change (during my time with the club),” Brackett said.

      • Bud Poile

        I pointed out the history,so your association is the acknowledgement of it.
        I posted those two pieces to enlighten the author who considers himself a Canucks fan but is a wee bit short on historical data AKA facts.

  • Bud Poile

    Benning relieved director of amateur scouting Eric Crawford of his duties last summer, promoting Judd Brackett in his stead.
    Brackett, 39, is young, well spoken and has a progressive reputation. Hired by the previous Canucks regime to bring new blood and a fresh perspective to the club’s amateur scouting department, he spent six years with the organization as an area scout focused on the USHL prior to this season.

    “We saw his potential to be a head scout — with his communication skills, his work ethic, his ability to get on the road and that desire to know all the players — and gave him the head scouting job,” Benning said of Brackett. “He’s just completing his first year and we think he’s done an excellent job for us.”

    • liqueur des fenetres

      “We saw his potential to be a foundational player — with his communication skills, his work ethic, his ability to get on the road and that desire to know all the players — and gave him the Centre role on the second line,” Benning said of Sutter. “He’s just completing his first year and we think he’s done an excellent job for us.”

  • 51Geezer

    In the top three storylines of the off-season you rank the draft at 3B. Really? We in my branch of the Army think the draft will be story #1 if the Canucks pick first or second, even if it is second behind Edmonton’s first. It might also be story #1 if, in a couple of weeks, we start arguing about who is the BPA at eleven or twelve…

  • truthseeker

    The canucks should be looking to trade Horvat in the 21/22 season. By then he will most likely be a point a game player and his raise will be huge. He’ll get in the 10 million per year range. Trading him a year before his “contract year” will make the return higher than if they wait until 22/23 when teams might try to offer less because of the contract uncertainty. If the team is clearly on the cusp of a cup run, then maybe you keep him for that and sacrifice the value, but if the team is still middling or worse then trading him in his prime is essential to keep the pipeline coming with great young talent.

    • Goon

      If the team isn’t competitive in 21/22, there should be hell to pay. Nor should they be trading Horvat – the goal is acquiring players of Horvat’s caliber so you can build a contending team. They’re not a collection you stash in a cabinet.

      • truthseeker

        Competitive and cup run are two different things. Plenty of teams are “competitive”.

        As for trading him, you’re entitled to your opinion on the matter, but in mine, in a cap world, hanging onto players on the verge of FA is what kills competitiveness soon after. I’d rather have a team that’s constantly recycling good talent when they become too expensive and represent too much of a percentage of the cap space. Trading Horvat in his prime will bring back 3 to 4 high quality pieces easily. Which would include a young ELC level established NHL player on the way up, a grade A prospect, and a first rounder. And I believe that would be minimum.

        If things change, and cap considerations were not an issue, I’d love the team to sign these guys for whatever they can get, but that doesn’t look likely anytime soon.

        • Goon

          No team has a guaranteed cup run. Your best bet is to build a team thats competitive over a wide window so you can put a great team in the playoffs for multiple seasons in a row, like the Canucks did from 2009-2013, or the Sharks have done for a decade straight, or the Lightning have done for several years now.

          Yes there’s a cap. But there’s a cap floor too. If you just give away your best players for prospects and picks, you won’t hit the floor (and you’re also trading a very good player for a couple of chances at finding a different very good player, which is just… dumb).

          There’s *no reason* to think the Canucks can’t easily fit Horvat’s next contract under their cap unless the team is grossly mismanaged over the next two seasons.

          • truthseeker

            Where did I say “guaranteed”?

            And right…that’s what I’m talking about. But not just for a 4 year span. I want a team that always remains competitive. The sharks have done a good job, that’s true. They do seem to be a team that’s not afraid to move on from players.

            And come on…are you seriously suggesting the cap floor is an issue with regards to what I’m talking about? Are you even reading what I’m saying? I’m trading the player because I don’t want to pay 10 million per season for any one single player not because I don’t want to pay them 5 to 7 per on their second deal. And I made that point very clear. The return on the player is simply one of the benefits so you’re not left with nothing.

            Of course they can “fit” him in at 10 million. But can they fit Huges, Boeser, EP and Horvat in at over 10 million each and still have enough left over to have quality depth? No. They won’t in my opinion. And my proof is all the top heavy teams that become non playoff teams after their moment in the sun. Hopefully they are lucky and they get a cup or two out of it like Chicago. But you think Hawks fans are happy with this season? They’re not looking good for years to come either unless they make drastic changes. Seabrook, Keith, Kane and Toews are a huge part of that problem. Or you could end up like Winnipeg. Cap crunch facing them. They’ve got this year to do it with this group. After that they lose key pieces with the potential to have nothing to show for them, along with no cup, and glaring roster holes.

          • Goon

            You’re creating a problem where none exists. Yes, they should be able to fit all those players just fine if they manage the situation prudently and don’t have a bunch of Erikssons on the books.

            And no one is paying $10 million for a second-line centre who scores 50-60 a year.

          • TD

            The Sharks have remained competitive, but is that the goal? I would rather have Chicago’s 3 cups or LA’s 2 cups followed by a rebuild. Hell, I’d take 1 cup followed by a rebuild. This would be much more palatable if they had won in 2011.

          • truthseeker

            fair enough. If that’s your position I understand. Frankly I don’t really care about the cup that much. Of course I want the canucks to win it, no doubt about that. But I watch hockey to be entertained. I’d much rather see consistent winning over the long term. Who do you think has enjoyed watching hockey more? Sharks fans over the past decade or Hurricane fans who got their cup that basically nobody remembers and have been garbage for over a decade?

            We get out of hockey what we want. There is no rule that says one must think the cup is “the only thing that matters.” So I choose not to think that way.

          • truthseeker

            OK…Erik Karlsson

            Chris Tierney, Dylan DeMelo, Josh Norris and Rudolfs Balcers a first round pick and a second round pick.

            That’s six pieces. Ottawa threw in a 7th round prospect. So even if you cancel Balcers (a 5th rounder), that’s still 5 pieces for one.

            Those five pieces were 2 established young NHL players, (a center and a D man no less) a prospect who was a first round 19th overall pick and then the picks obviously.

            This is where you’ll claim that “Horvat isn’t Karlsson..blah blah blah” to which I will remind you that 3 or 4 pieces are less than the 5 that Karlsson brought back. But if that’s not enough go have a look at the Ryan McDonagh trade.

            So yes, it does happen. Quite a lot actually.

          • bobdaley44

            Thats the best offensive D in the league and you never got a first liner. We’ll see in three or four years what this deal looks like. They filled their roster and got some chips but wouldn’t Ottawa fans prefer having both Chabot and Karlsson logging 25 plus minutes a night? Ya maybe something good will come out of that trade but you traded a top D in the prime of his career.

      • Holly Wood

        Don’t bother debating anything with that guy. He could argue black is white just to get some sort of satisfaction. Although Horvat isn’t a #1 centre, it has taken several years for him to get to this level so why would anyone consider trading him. Troll job by Truthseeker, now watch him bash my comments

        • truthseeker

          no need to “bash” your comment. Ad Hominem is simply ad hominem.

          If you’d care to point out what part of my argument is flawed with detailed reasons as to why, I’d be happy to respond.

          • Holly Wood

            I disagree with your position that you would deal Bo near the end of this current contract because I hold a high value for proven veteran players. You would trade away a player the club has invested a lot of time and money into for future pieces. As we continue to see, a lot of picks or prospects flame out and can amount to nothing. Generally speaking it would be too much of a gamble for me. If things change and there were to be a couple of young can’t miss centres in Utica and more in their draft plus one year in junior then I might re look at it.

          • truthseeker

            You do understand that what you are doing here is simply pointing out that you disagree with my opinion on how to handle an asset, and not giving a reason why my argument is flawed, right?

            See, you can disagree with what my point is, but that doesn’t mean my point is not logically sound.

            If you had just addressed my comment like this rather than the emotional rant you gave in your post prior, it would have been a proper discussion.

            Now that you’ve given a proper response I can address your points.

            I value proven vets too but there is always a line that can be crossed when you have a cap situation. Would you pay Horvat 13 million a year? 15 million a year? The point being, that you probably have a number that you don’t think Horvat is worth, right?

            So yes, as I said, if Horvat continues to improve, and I see no reason to believe he won’t become a point per game player, then he will be nearing 10 million per when he hits FA in a few years time, and I would want to trade him because that’s too much of a cap hit in my opinion.

            Of course there are other factors. If the cap went up a proportional amount to offset that kind of salary then of course that might change my opinion. But the cap increases recently have not matched the escalation in salary.

            And you’re right, there is a serious risk in giving up NHL talent for prospects which is why I said it would need to be a multiple piece return with one of those being a young established ELC player who’s put up a season or two of decent numbers in the NHL. So I’m taking into account you don’t just trade him for only unproven talent. I mentioned that in my second response to Goon.

  • Dirty30

    If Benning signs Ferland or Simmons he should be fired and get Honorary Lifetime sOilers seasons tickets when he gets run out of town. Who needs more aging has -beens on luxury retirement plans like he handed Loui Eriksson.

    Panarin? Awesome! Karlsson? Okay (it’s going to be a killer contract). Take Marleau to get a top prospect plus (and hope TO retains some salary) could be okay.

    Actually grow a pair and toss some offer sheets at TO or the Jets? Great idea!

    Or pull off a Mike Gillis miracle and have a team offer a player of Christian Erhoff’s caliber for a couple warm bodies! Incredible.

    Bumble around aimlessly and bring home more garage sale garbage with the intent of fixing it one day? Highly likely.

    • Goon

      Depends what he pays. $3-4 million for Simmons on a two-year contract? Sure. Ferland at 5×5? Great. But Benning’s never scored a good deal in free agency in his entire tenure, so that’s probably not happening. “Bumble around aimlessly” is definitely the most likely outcome.

  • DJ_44

    f the Canucks are interested in getting Kapanen or Johnsson their best bet would be sign each of them to 3-4 million dollar offer sheets under the assumption that the Leafs can’t afford to keep them both. Another strategy would be to look at taking back an ugly contract like Patrick Marleau in addition to Johnsson or Kapanen as a way to drive the price down.

    Jackson has long advocated that the reason why offer sheets are not more prevalent is due to the ole’ boys club. This answer reveals a lack of understanding of the process. Unless you are going to make an offer that is substantially higher than the player is valued, the Leafs will match and then trade, since they should be able to recoup more value than the required compensation.

    As for taking back Patrick Marleau — one small point not acknowledged: he has a full NMC. Why would he opt to leave a “contender” that made promises when he signed, for Vancouver that while on the rise, ain’t going to be there in his career?

    Better idea would be to offer the Leafs a fairish trade package if they are really interested.

  • Burnabybob

    “Will Horvat have a decent winger?”

    I hope the organization can use its drafting talent to pick a good winger in the first round this year, as Suzuki, Boldy, Krebs, and Newhook will likely be available at around 8 or 9. It’s going to be very dicey, with some of those players having marginal careers or not making the league at all, and some having stellar careers. It’s a tough situation for the Canucks right now, as they are still a really bad team, but they aren’t likely to pick in the top 5 this year. This is where the scouts really need to earn their money.

    • Holly Wood

      There will always be exceptions to justify drafting a winger with a top 10 pick, but hopefully Canucks use their high pick on a defencemen or another centre.

      • Burnabybob

        I’m using the term “winger” loosely. Both Suzuki and Newhook are listed as centers, but I assume they could play on the wing, at least to start their NHL careers.

        I’m not convinced that good wingers are so easy to find, though. There aren’t many defensemen at the top of this year’s draft, and I would rather pick a good winger than reach for a defenseman.

  • Holly Wood

    So Jackson…..in your reply to Grant’s tweet. It appears you give credit to Gradin and Bracket for their drafting, please tell us why Benning gets the blame for missed draft picks but Thomas and Judd reap the reward for the hits

    • North Van Halen

      It is truly amazing. The guys who pine for the days of Gilman and Gillis always completely blow off his awful drafting record while minimizing the role of Benning in the new found drafting successes. Gradin and Brackett were both employed by Gillis yet he couldn’t draft his way out of a wet paper bag.
      Clearly something changed, hmmmmm…..what could it be, what could it be?
      Must be that when leaving, Gilman & Gillis bestowed their brilliance upon Brackett and Gradin, enlightening them to the point, they suddenly became very good at their jobs. Sigh, why can’t the bloggers of this town ever give credit to Benning when it’s due. This was a 45 year issue. 45 effing years the amateur scouting/drafting for this team has been below average to abysmal. Clearly Benning has been a huge influence in this area and it’s one his detractors do themselves no favours by diminishing. Using this same logic absolves Benning for the trades & free agent signings since guys like Sutter & Guddy were scouted by their 4 man Professional Scouting staff, those scouts were clearly to blame for those decisions.
      The same faulty logic applies.

        • North Van Halen

          Yes, Gaudette, Forsling, Tryamkin, Madden, Rathbone, Woo, Palmu, Lind, Gadjovich, Demko, Dipietro, Lockwood, McCann, Jasek & finally Boeser were all due to draft position.
          You are more than welcome to go back 45 years and find a 5 year stretch where this number of players drafted outside the top 20 have made or could make the NHL.
          When you come back and find the answer is there’s never been anywhere near that level of success regardless of how the picks have been handled, you may actually learn something about how good Benning has been in relation to his predecessors. It’s not even close.

          • Dirk22

            This is absurd. There’s one impact player on that list as of now! Some good looking picks (Gaudette, Madden, Forsling) but virtually every team in the league could put out a list like that looking back at the last 5 drafts! It’s a list of prospects – most of who will have zero NHL impact…maybe a depth role. Lind, Woo, Gadjovich and Demko are all fine prospects – at this point none of them are exceptional picks though. They are the norm for 2nd rounders…good but not amazing prospects. You can’t compare that list to predecessors because at this point it means nothing. Cody Hodgson was one of the top prospects in the world, dominated the World Juniors, and he didn’t even work out. There’s not even a comparable for him on that list.

            I made this point yesterday – Canucks have had the 4th best draft position over the last 5 drafts – their picks have accumulated the 8th most points in that time (including the ones traded). That seems reasonable, maybe even good…..certainly not amazing.

          • North Van Halen

            I only referred to previous Canuck regimes ..were did I say this is better than the rest of the league. You sure put a lot of words in my mouth when we debate.

          • Cageyvet

            NVH I like your comments and your band. Ignore the halfwits that permeate this site. There are many fans who have lived through far worse than Benning’s performance, and we appreciate strides taken without demanding perfection. I’m going in total agreement, even if you turf a GM at some point, if he drafted well he gave your franchise a chance to build a contender. Time will tell on JB putting all the pieces together, but firing him now would be a large mistake.

          • Dirk22: As I pointed out in another post, the Athletic’s article talking about the Canucks’ draft position has flaws. Some of the other teams that ranked higher include generational players like McDavid, Eichel, Matthews, Dahlin, etc. Benning has drafted exceptionally well and the Athletic’s article doesn’t account for other players like Hughes. It’s a matter of timing…the article includes Dahlin’s current point production but because Hughes stayed an extra year in the NCAA, the Canucks are penalized by the methodology. As NVH says, we actually have a real scouting department that can find players. I would restate that Benning’s ability to consistently find players or promising prospects outside of the 1st round is a major advantage that other teams don’t have.

        • Freud

          The dim are like Trump supporters. When presented with overwhelming evidence the person they are supporting is a boob, it’s Obama’s fault.

          Trump’s gonna build that wall and make Mexico pay for it. Benning is going to be hangin’ with the elites by the last year of the Sedins’ contract and Sutter is a foundational player you win in the playoffs with. Gosh, that’s just talk, we know they really didn’t mean it and stop bringing it up, that’s hindsight….

          The media is presenting overwhelming evidence against your boy? We have no evidence to the contrary, and only think in absolutes, so, so, so the media is biased and being too negative! FAKE NEWS!

          All the support people around your boy that don’t agree get fired or quit? They just don’t understand Trump or Jim’s brilliance or business acumen. They’re better making all the decisions without any input from anyone. Just look at the drafting/economy!

      • ClassOF2011

        When will you and the Benning cheerleaders get it through your thick skull NVH that NHL GM of the year Mike Gillis was not hired by ownership to focus on rebuilding or drafting – he was employed to get us over the playoff hump during the franchises SC window because Nonis and Burke couldn’t… and he did that in spades, coming within one game of immortality whilst owning the regular season for years.

        NVH – get a clue… the Canucks were so good under GMMG he NEVER had a top nine first round pick **10th, 22nd, 115th, 29th, 26th**,… until he was finally given the nod to start rebuilding in 2013… where he then pulled Captain elect BOWIE HORVAT out of the hat with a franchise changing draft day trade. Outstanding. The End!

  • Kanuckhotep

    There has definitively been positives and negatives this season as per the Canucks and all is not gloom and doom.Positives include Petey’s hockey IQ, Marky proving himself as a #1 goalie, Brock finding the lanes appreciably playing with EP and the additions of Rous, Leivo and Motte. Negatives include Pouliot, Gudbranson (since rectified), all the injuries and being shut out 12 times. (The 70- 71 Canucks NEVER got shutout until well into their 2nd season vs the North Stars) The management group will still be here I think through next year but ownership probably won’t tolerate another season with no playoffs. It’s make or break for Benning next year, a good draft guy, but has to bring an A game to all areas of his GM position to stick IMHO.

  • Rodeobill

    I guess we hold on to JB as a GM because, as a rebuilding team, it is of vital importance we focus on drafting well, but EP aside, has he really done well in comparision? it would be interesting to see an article on this, my guess is that he would be some where in the middle, but improving. Quinn “fell” to us and was the obvious choice, even without our situational needs to draft at D. Would be an interesting dive into it, but what variables would you look at to base it on? I dont know.

  • Fred-65

    If I’m to look at the club from a owners perspective this summer I tend to think I’d be doing a review. Is there another option. It looks like Vcr will not get a player from the draft to join the club immediately ie not a top end prospect ( good prospect but not a difference maker ) I’m not sure how Aquaman actually does that but I tend to think that a review of who is around and a chat with thier agents is the starting point. JB has been around for … 5 years come May and although we can all get into a lather over the prospects, that can’t be the lone criteria we use. Utica looks like a fire drill and players that we were salivating over this time last year are not doing it. Of course this summer will be distracted by new prospects from the draft to salivate over once again. I don’t see Green as a flexible sort of coach and it seems Cull is much the same. I could agree with their philosophy about how to treat prospects if we were an estabalished team powering along but we’re any thing but. We’re a team in a state of flux and a time to experiment. Loosing Dahlen is symptomatic of a problem, the Palmu situation would not be alone a major issue but the two combined cannot be overlooked. We have Boesers new contract followdd by Pettersson in two years and Hughes the year after, so while we may have Cap space now in a couple of years that will not be the case, so caution is important this summer. Bringing in a “star like” FA might bring excitement but it won’t solve a fundamental problem of quality depth. The roster is thin and I don’t see an easy solution. IMHO there has been a fair amount of waste with poor FA signings. The question is does JB take responsibility of does he chnage up the pro scouting team. There has to be some one to oversea the budget concerns of the roster, we don’t want to send good money after bad. This an area that must IMO be addressed and I tend to think Aquaman will do just that