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Photo Credit: Matthew Henderson

Monday Mailbag: Finding a President, Trading Up, and Sorry To Bother You

All signs seem to be pointing to the Canucks hiring a President of Hockey Operations for the 2019-20 season. The rumour that they’ve approached a couple of candidates and were rebuffed has been going around for months now and I tend to believe that where there’s smoke, there’s fire. The Canucks front office is one of the smallest in the league, and the fans are starting to feel restless after four straight years of losing, so it makes sense that hey’d be looking to add to their executive group. It’s not as if Francesco Aquilini can’t afford it, either.

The real question will be if there is mutual interest between the Canucks and any of the possible candidates for the presidency. Based on the rumours that they approached Dean Lombardi multiple times and were potentially interested in Ken Holland if he were to step down in Detroit, I’m under the impression they’re looking for someone with name recognition. Guys like Lombardi and Holland don’t become available very often, so I won’t be surprised if Aquilini exercises patience in finding a replacement for Trevor Linden. I’m certain it’s coming, though.

Oddly enough, the Canucks don’t have many UFAs on the roster. Edler will likely return, assuming both sides can agree on a deal. Schenn will probably be back, too. Tom Pyatt, who never played as much as a single game for the Canucks and was immediately signed to the Comets after being acquired, will obviously be gone.

The only RFA on the Canucks’ roster I can see being allowed to walk for nothing is Derrick Pouliot. but It’s possible they may also part ways with Markus Granlund, but I’d expect them to look at the trade market first. Reid Boucher and Brendan Gaunce have formed the core of reasonably effective forward group for the Comets and won’t cost the team much of anything, so I suspect they’ll return. They’ll also make calls about Ben Hutton and Nikolay Goldobin. If there’s no market for Goldobin, he’ll get a qualifying offer, and Hutton will too if they don’t like the offers they’re getting on the trade market.

I’d expect everyone else will at least receive a qualifying offer. Obviously, Boeser will get a significant raise.

Since Sorry To Bother You is primarily a story about class and the class interests of NHL players are not aligned with the views the movie espouses, you can pretty much exclude about 99% of the league from appreciating the movie. When you consider that the experiences of the film’s central character are in many instances unique to African-Americans, that makes the list of possible candidates even smaller.

When I think about Sorry To Bother You, the scene I always think of is the one where Cassius is asked by Steve Lift to rap for him and his new ultra-rich friends, despite Cash’s protests that he’s never rapped before in his life. Eventually, the situation devolves into Cash essentially shouting the n-word to the rapturous applause of his bourgeois all-white audience. It’s clear that what writer-director Boots Riley is trying to get across is that even at the top of the economic ladder, people of colour will not find peace or comfort in a system that was built on their exploitation.

I would think that this element of the film might hit home for some of the NHL’s black players. Based on previous statements and actions, I would say J.T Brown is the most likely player to see and appreciate the movie. Since Ryan Miller appears to both know what the word “neoliberalism” means and think it’s bad, I’ll say he comes in a close second.

By all accounts, Eriksson is healthy and willing to play out the remainder of his contract here, so that rules out LTIR. While the Maple Leafs have made it seem like you can just stick any player you don’t want to deal with anymore on the injury reserve, the player does actually need to have a health issue. Eriksson played 81 games last season, and was a healthy scratch for the one game he missed. Even if his play hasn’t indicated it, he’s fit as a fiddle.

Trading him, on the other hand? That’s a viable option. While I’m generally skeptical of anyone who hand-waves cap concerns under the assumption that cap floor teams like Arizona will fix their problems, I do think Eriksson could be attractive to budget teams. Most of the actual money on Eriksson’s deal will be paid after July 1st, and he’s still a somewhat effective player in a vacuum.

I’ll be honest, I don’t really get this line of thinking. Poking fun at a team that didn’t do well in the playoffs when your team couldn’t even qualify is basically the same as an AHL player making fun of an everyday NHLer for not being particularly good – at the end of the day, they made it and you didn’t. You’re the loser in that scenario no matter which way you slice it. It just comes across as sour grapes.

Yes and yes, assuming the price is right. I’m agnostic on whether or not Miller is a bonafide top-four defender on a cup-winning team, but he’s young and certainly more capable of holding things down than most of the Canucks’ defense, so he’d be a worthy trade target. I hate to say it, but I’m not convinced Chris Tanev is anything more than a replacement-level defenseman at this point in his career, and even if he is, he’s only healthy for 75% of the season, and that’s if he’s lucky.

If the Canucks want to trade up to the first overall in this or any other year in the near future’s draft, that conversation starts at minimum with this year’s pick and Bo Horvat, assuming they won’t give up Elias Pettersson, Brock Boeser, or Quinn Hughes.

You just aren’t going to get that kind of pick by trading away secondary or tertiary pieces. It hasn’t happened before and won’t any time soon.

If I have to pick one, I would go with moving up to #1 to pick Jack Hughes; but my preference would be not to trade any first round picks.

I do. We’re about to enter Jim Benning’s sixth season as general manager, and if the Canucks fail to make the postseason, it will be his fifth straight season without a playoff berth. There just isn’t an executive in the league who’s capable of spinning five straight years of losing as a success. At some point, you have to actually turn the ship around, especially when the selling point at the time you were hired was that you could do so in a hurry.

I think five years is plenty of time to take a team from the basement to the playoffs. Jim Benning inherited a difficult situation, of that there is no question; but that’s always the case when GMs get fired. I don’t think there was anything about the Canucks’ outlook that made the team so uniquely different to turn around as to render 5 years an unreasonable timeline to become a playoff team again.

The core of the 2011 team is now completely gone, save for Alex Edler, whose contract expires this summer. The Canucks now have a group of players that includes a likely Calder Trophy winner, a 2018 runner-up, and another player who is likely to be a candidate next season. The West is also uniquely vulnerable at the moment. If the Canucks can’t be one of the top 8 teams, then that will and should be viewed as a failure.



  • Killer Marmot

    While I’m generally skeptical of anyone who hand-waves cap concerns under the assumption that cap floor teams like Arizona will fix their problems, I do think Eriksson could be attractive to budget teams. Most of the actual money on Eriksson’s deal will be paid after July 1st, and he’s still a somewhat effective player in a vacuum.

    Why do writers keep overlooking Eriksson’s No-Trade Clause? Eriksson negotiated it, and has every right not to waive it.

    • The_Blueline

      It’s a no-trade not a no-move clause, so management can threat moving him to Utica. It is my understanding that this would mean quite the threat of insecurity for a family father like Loui. So in theory, Canucks might have some leverage, in the sense that Loui would prefer agreeing to a trade destination than having the risk of being claimed on waivers by a random team.

  • speering major

    Benning has been with the team for years but the rebuild just started really. The Sedins retiring was the end of an era. You could say the writing was on the wall in the prior season. Aside from that, ownership wasn’t willing to rebuild when Benning was hired and they just embraced the R word

    I think Benning needs to draft well again and show progression with building the org this year or else the fan base will get restless. It shouldn’t be about the standings next sesason. In 2020-2021 the team should be considerably better or Benning deserves the axe. I’d give him a pass next year if the prospect pool improves.

    • Killer Marmot

      I think the Canucks understood that they would have to rebuild — not reload — by the start of 2016. The problem is that when Benning took over in 2014, there was almost nothing in the prospect pool. Two or three decent players — that was it. It has taken a couple of years to draft and develop some talented young players which are the foundation of any rebuild.

          • MattyT's Mom

            Here’s Fraud showing his mad skills with manly hair colorings and styles. It’s like he’s the CA Perez Hilton. All done slurping on your Tampa Bay bois Fraudster?

          • truthseeker

            Yeah that was a ridiculous statement. I’m sure there are some out there that somehow feel better about the canucks because those teams lost, but they would be stupid. The reason I enjoy seeing the Leafs and Flames and Jets, and the other favorites lose is simply because I have a mild dislike for some and the others I just enjoy the upsets. It’s got nothing to do with the canucks. It’s not like I don’t know the canucks are a bad team right now….lol.

        • Killer Marmot

          Not much. I am referring here to the realization that this was going to take longer than Benning had hoped coming into the job. A rebuild while staying competitive wasn’t going to happen.

          But the idea that “the rebuild has just started” doesn’t wash.

          • canuckfan

            Seems that things had changed when Trevor had left. Now they are looking to build through the draft, where Trevor wanted to sell tickets and knew if they flat out went through the pain of losing the building would be empty so they put the best competitive team on the ice trading away draft picks as they did not have any assets that would get them better players. Just all starts to change once Trevor left.

        • Replaced his terrible coach, stopped signing bargain bin UFA’s, stopped trading draft picks for stop-gap players, drafted core impact players in all key positions, started to filter in draft picks that needed time to mature.

          • Beer Can Boyd

            “stopped signing bargain bin UFA’s,”. Really? What about Schaller? And what about giving a 32 year old 4th line centre a 4 year deal for 3 million per? Those were both terrible moves.

          • truthseeker

            https://sports.yahoo.com/andrew-ference-suggests-oilers-party-culture-wasted-final-seasons-155913084.html

            “You had a group of players that talked about how they wanted to make the playoffs, and talked about how sick they were of losing, and then by Game No. 3 after losing 6-1, they’re straight out to the bar to three in the morning, lighting up the night life scene in Edmonton,” Ference said.

            “Like, come on, give me a break. It was to the point where it was ridiculous where the lifestyle was way more important than actually playing the game and making the playoffs.”

            He later added: “You could have had any kind of defence or any kind of system, if you go on a Western swing and your guys are out every single night until 5 a.m., you’re not going to win too many games.”

            The scene in Edmonton, he suggested, was a stark contrast to his time with the Boston Bruins, and more specifically the Stanley Cup winning roster from 2011 that was taught to work hard and in turn improve every day in practice under the guidance of captain Zdeno Chara and Patrice Bergeron.

            “You’re going at each other, like game intensity — and that is how you get better. That is how you be a playoff contender. That is how you be a champion. And you try to instil some of those values. We had some other guys who had been on the playoff teams and they had the same frustration. They’d come and practice hard and there was a group of guys there that had like, it was too cool to try hard.

            “Derogatory terms for trying too hard in practice. That’s the culture, right. So how do you break that?”

            As captain, it was Ference’s job to bring those lessons from Boston and impart his wisdom on the developing core with the Oilers.

            While he tried, he said, he was unable to command the room.

            “You come in as an older guy but far from being one of the better players on the team. So you can be a leader with experience but I’m not a game changer. I’m like a No. four or five defenceman. So your voice only goes so far with people that only respect how good your toe drag is and whether or not you’re out partying. So your voice doesn’t carry much weight with people that don’t put value on those aspects that I was bringing from Boston.”

            While Ference doesn’t name names or incriminate anyone, he begrudges those responsible for prioritizing partying over winning.

            He said his final seasons in Edmonton were a “waste,” and time he’ll “never get back.”

          • Dirk22

            Forever – that’s a really interesting history. It’s almost like you’re being willfully ignorant.

            Since the beginning of 2016, they traded their 19 year old first round draft pick (who potted 19 goals this year) and a 33rd overall for Gudbranson.

            They signed Eriksson, Del Zotto, Gagner, Burmistrov, Beagle, Schaller, Larsen, Del Zotto etc. in free agency – in return they’ve received Spooner, Schenn and a 7th rounder.

            They’ve lost Hamhuis, Miller, Vrbata, Weber without any compensation.

            The only time they traded veterans for futures they received Motte, Goldobin and Dahlen. This was the best work they did and it hasn’t pushed the needle one iota – one fourth liner who’s replacement level, one player who’s out of the organization and one player who will be soon.

            They’ve watched Tanev’s value decline into nothing. They’ve watched Sutter’s value decline into nothing.

            As for the draft: They’ve had the number 5 overall pick twice and the number 7 overall – excellent draft positions obtained through being a terrible team…go figure. They’ve drafted 20 players. That’s one below the average amount of 7 per year. That includes an extra 2nd the league gave them for Torterella compensation.

            Ken Holland was on the radio yesterday. He was criticized for not rebuilding earlier (much like Benning), however, he had this to say: “After we missed the playoffs the 1st time, I made a decision that it was time to go into rebuild mode. Over the last couple of trade deadlines, we made some decisions to acquire a lot of draft picks.”

            After this draft Detroit will have made 31 picks over the LAST THREE DRAFTS. That’s almost two extra draft classes compared to the Canucks from 2016-2018. That includes one extra 1st, three extra 2nds, and four extra 3rds. In contrast, the Canucks have made no extra picks in those rounds when you consider they had no 2nd rounders in 2016 and 2 in 2017.

            THAT is what rebuilding looks like. Every team makes draft picks. Canucks have operated like they have since Benning took over. Chasing their tail.

          • Beer Can Boyd: Yes, I agree that Schaller has not worked out and Beagle was way too long in term (I’m okay with the salary because we currently have the cap space). But what you didn’t pick up on is that TeamTank’s strategy is to sign bargain bin UFA’s. You want to go back to the Megna/Chaput/Skille years? I don’t because I had to sit through those games in person. It sucked. Every GM will make bad signings: Neal, Johnson, Ladd, Manning, Brouwer, etc. How come you pointed out Beagle but ignored Roussel even though they were the same contracts? There is a difference between attempting to improve the team by taking a gamble vs. sabotaging your team intentionally.

          • Dirk22: “It’s almost like you’re being willfully ignorant.” Well, let’s highlight one glaring point that you missed. Looking at some of the more recent trades that you highlighted, Holland traded Nyquist (40 pts over last 5 seasons), Tatar (45 pts over lsat 5 seasons), and Petr Mrazek (starting goaltender). The Canucks, outside of Horvat and the Sedins, didn’t even have guys that could put 40 pts together in a single season. We didn’t even had a starting goaltender, Benning had to sign Miller in free agency. So you can’t compare Benning to Holland because Holland actually had producing players of value. Holland traded Vanek for an AHL player and a 3rd round pick, Benning traded Vanek for a UFA and a fourth line roster player…what’s the difference? I guess by your measuring stick, Holland is the failure because he didn’t trade Vanek at the trading deadline.

            Oh, let’s also point out how Detroit got to the point that they were in. Build through the draft and player development over the last 2 decades while always trying to make the playoffs (25 years in a row). Did you forget that? Detroit is THE model for a sustainable competitive franchise. So if you want us to be like Detroit, hell yeah. I’m all for not tanking, internal development, and trying to make the playoffs every year.

          • Goon

            Forever:

            They had Dan Hamhuis, who was far and away the best defenceman available at that deadline, and they did nothing with him – didn’t trade, didn’t resign (and despite getting older, he would have remained a top-4 defenceman on the Canucks without question). They had Miller who was having a solid season in 16-17, and they did nothing with him. They had Edler this year, they’ve had Tanev in the past – all players who held significant value and could have been traded for significant return, including 1st round picks, and Benning did nothing with them. They also had Radim Vrbata, one season removed from scoring 30 goals, who continued to be productive after he left Vancouver, and did nothing with him.

            Suggesting that Benning didn’t have the chips to move to acquire assets is just wrong, and that’s only looking at players who would have brought back a 1st or 2nd round pick in trade.

          • Beer Can Boyd

            Because Roussel was 4 years younger, had way more upside, and actually addressed a franchise need, grit paired with skill. The deal was still too rich for my liking though.

          • Dirk22

            Forever – before your argument was that selling veterans “would have cut the legs out from under the team and sold them and the fans down the river” – your words. You have been vehemently against TeamTank (although once again you show you have no idea what it actually is). Detroit did exactly what any other rebuilding team in any sport outside of Benning’s Canucks have done – sell off veterans for draft picks. Today you’re back on the ‘blame Gillis’ agenda that they had nothing to work with which is just an excuse that is not true…see Goon’s post.

            So which is it a) Trading off veterans for picks is bad? ….or b) they didn’t have any veterans to trade?

            The original point was that ‘if’ the Canucks recognized in 2016 that they needed to rebuild (about a year or three after everybody else did), there has been no strategic change to how they have run the organization. You can’t say the strategy has been ‘draft and develop’ when there has been zero attention put to actually making draft picks a priority! ….not to mention the ‘development’ part of the equation which is obviously in questions. That’s like saying “we’re going to get healthy through vegetables” but actually eat less than the required amount. The only saving grace is that they’ve been terrible and have been afforded high picks because of it.

        • Kootenaydude

          Got rid of Burrows and Hansen. It’s been so long. It was Hansen I think. I do believe Benning started trying to get NHL guys in the early twenties when he started trying to rebuild. Getting rid of Burrows and Hansen was the start of the rebuild in my eyes.

  • “It’s clear that what writer-director Boots Riley is trying to get across is that even at the top of the economic ladder, people of colour will not find peace or comfort in a system that was built on their exploitation.”

    I find this comment interesting because at one point, were not the Irish brutally oppressed by the English? And today, would we consider the Irish unable to find peace of comfort in a system built on their oppression? Are there other (or any, if you disagree with the example above) examples of the oppressed winning their place in the society that formerly oppressed them? If that statement by Riley Boots is true, then does that mean tearing down Western society and starting again from scratch is the answer? Or is it possible for society to morph and change and grow and learn? If it is not possible for society to learn and grow, then what would tearing down society to start from scratch accomplish, other than a sum-zero game of constant destruction?

    • Goon

      Haven’t seen the movie, but it sounds painfully simplistic and on-the-nose… kind of like the beliefs of people who use the word “neoliberaism” when discussing politics.

      • Jim "Dumpster Fire" Benning

        This kind of thinking…the “what if this and what if that” is the nonsense that Benning employs as his logic year in and year out re: Tanev, Edler, Sutter, ect….

        I mean, what if Dorsett hadn’t had his career derailed. What if Bourdon hadn’t passed away. Stuff happens and teams need to adapt or die. This GM is just the slowest moving turtle with his meat and potatoes type thinking.

  • Kootenaydude

    I hear a lot of Vancouver media state that the Canucks are a long way from making the playoffs next season. Well I watched the Stars eliminate the Predators last night. I don’t think the Stars are that good. Watched the Canucks outplay them this season. Yet the Stars are on to the second round. I’ve come to the conclusion that Vancouver media is mostly half glass empty media.

  • liqueur des fenetres

    With Columbus knocking off Tampa, and Calgary falling to Colorado the Canucks’ brain trust is likely even more convinced that it’s all about squeaking into the playoffs.

  • wojohowitz

    It`s amazing how a young guy like Heiskanen can lift a team. He`s like the second coming of Nik Lidstrom and the Stars know this guy will be leading them for the next 15 years. That`s what Benning was hoping for with Juolevi – a guy to build around.

    • Bud Poile

      Benning on Juolevi:
      “We didn’t really see him as a top-end offensive guy,” Benning said. “We just saw him as a three-zone player who is solid in all situations. In the offensive zone, he can walk the line and distribute the puck well and gets his shot through and on net. In his own zone, he’s smart defensively with his reads and has a good stick.”

  • Mike Bossy

    “– at the end of the day, they made it and you didn’t. You’re the loser in that scenario no matter which way you slice it. It just comes across as sour grapes.”

    Well sour grapes eh? So be it. I, for one, am very glad that the teams I hate have been eliminated. What am I supposed to do, cheer for Calgary? That’s ridiculous. BOS vs TOR is a tough one, though… 😛

  • Mike Bossy

    “There just isn’t an executive in the league who’s capable of spinning five straight years of losing as a success.”

    I think Aquilini has given Benning a longer leash because he knows that *he* meddled in any sort of full rebuild early on (re-tool on the fly). Now that he has let go of that and we’re finally in the middle of a real rebuild, he may give Benning a couple more seasons.

  • Bud Poile

    “They’ve watched Tanev’s value decline into nothing. They’ve watched Sutter’s value decline into nothing.”Dirk
    Much drama when tossing “nothing” around.
    Sutter and Tanev could both have strong seasons next year and bring back healthy returns.

    • Goon

      Maybe, but were I a betting man I definitely wouldn’t put money on it. They’re in their age-30 season, both have struggled mightily with injuries, and have both seen significant declines in performance over the past two years.

      • Locust

        Their injuries are a direct result of having to play 1) too much, and 2) in too many unfavourable conditions. Once the team starts playing better and has an actual NHL roster, they wont be spending anywhere near as much time in the infirmary. Both are key players in this transition as the roster is turned over.
        Don’t be an Edmonton Tanker and develop a no try loser culture. Need to work hard and be competitive (which they both are) every game and lead by example.

          • Bud Poile

            Edmonton have had ten-top 10 picks and 13-1st round picks since they drafted Sam Gagner in 2007.
            13 first rounders should have provided talented depth for the next generation,yet here they are the top ten in the draft for the 11th time since 2007 !

        • Goon

          I mean, Edmonton’s captain during their worst years was Andrew Ference, for christ’s sake. That guy’s a hard-working veteran leader if there ever was one.

        • Kootenaydude

          Good call Locust. Canucks were 7 games above 500 when both healthy. They get used too much. Always put into terrible situations. How do you expect them not to get injured? If our defensive core was better. Tanev and Edler would be injured a lot less. Any defenseman that got thrown into the situations Tanev does, would be injured also.

    • Kootenaydude

      Perhaps you can tell me about Sutters NTC. Also do you believe in having a veteran defensive presence to help our young defencemen? Or do you believe we should just ice 6 rookies on the blue line?

  • Burnabybob

    I would pick the Canucks to finish roughly in the same place next year. They could make the playoffs just through the improvement of their younger players and the addition of Hughes and Juolevi later in the season.

    But if they do pick around 10th again in the 2020 draft, they should target Drysdale or Barton. Both are RHD, and would complement Hughes nicely.

  • Kootenaydude

    Nashville 0-15 on the powerplay. Gone in the first round. Can’t expect anything from the Canucks next year if Green doesn’t figure out how to run a powerplay.

  • Bud Poile

    Jackson,regarding your endless speculation on Lombardi:

    Francesco Aquilini
    ‏Verified account @fr_aquilini
    now 38 minutes ago
    I want to correct erroneous media reports that I tried to hire Dean Lombardi. In fact, I’ve never spoken to Dean Lombardi in my life.

  • bushdog

    why not let edler walk? his options are limited. retire because moving somewhere else he said he won’t do. sign a real team-friendly deal with no trade restrictions. you tell Me…

    • DogBreath

      because if you let him walk you’re letting a top pairing D leave the organization, with a bunch middle pairing D to replace him. likely, this forces you to the open market for another D, meaning an overpay. good luck with the team friendly, no trade restrictions piece – he has a say in the negotiations too. best guess is you get slightly below market value and no (or limited) trade restrictions.

  • Point taken on Hamhuis. I forgot about him and would agree that Benning botched that situation by not discussing a trade earlier and then proceeding. I’m on the record saying as such. Yes, not trading him and then not resigning him for youth (which ended up as a disaster) was clearly a series of mistakes by Benning.

    However, I will contest trading Miller and Vrbata. Both had modified NTC’s and both handcuffed Benning for various reasons. Miller was wanting to stay on the West Coast and Vrbata was his new baby and not wanting to move. It’s hard to move a player when they pick teams that won’t be able to facilitate a trade.

    That being said, I pondered a Vrbata trade several times after his first good season with the Canucks with the idea that if we could have picked up a 1st round pick, prospect, and/or player, it was essentially like buying assets since he was a UFA. Note that a trade in the offseason is different from trading a player during a playoff hunt. I believe I was using a different handle on the old comment system and was weighing a Vrbata trade against discouraging other UFA’s from signing with us. I can’t find it at the moment but I will look and post it if I can.

    With Tanev, I’m still waiting for someone to post a source for this 1st round draft pick that we would have received. And again, the value that Tanev provides us as a proven, cost-effective RHD is ignored.

    With switching from a retool to rebuild, yes, it would have helped if they recognized a year earlier that it was a deadcat bounce but even then, Benning changed course the next season. Draft and development isn’t about making draft pick acquisitions your only priority, it’s about drafting well and making it your primary source of value rather than filling core positions through trades or UFA.

  • To you, it’s “squeaking into the playoffs”. To me, it’s believing in your team and giving them control over their future by giving them a shot at the Cup every year rather than sabotaging their efforts and wasting their time.

  • Jim "Dumpster Fire" Benning

    Probably because people see a player who looks as unhappy being here as he is hated for being so unproductive relative to his contract.

  • Jim "Dumpster Fire" Benning

    To continue doing the bare minimum right? Not to accumulate those draft picks that so many claim he’s actually good at… Nah, bare minimum sounds good.