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Photo Credit: Matthew Henderson

Monday Mailbag: Fair Price for J.T. Miller, Goaltending Woes, and Jason Botchford

I’ve dissected the J.T. Miller trade dozens of times this summer, asking myself each time if I’ve been too hard on the Canucks. After all, they can’t stay bad forever, and they can’t be expected to improve without shaking things up and taking a risk.

Still, no matter how hard I try I can’t find a way to justify it. The Lightning were desperate to shed salary and needed to deal Miller, even at a discount, and the Canucks paid sticker price.

I think the nicest thing I can say is that J.T. Miller is a good player, and if he had fetched that price from a contender I probably wouldn’t have been too surprised. It would have still been an overpayment, but not a significant one.

Unfortunately, the Canucks are not a contender, so that makes the overpayment look worse than it is, and considering that the team is far from a lock to make the playoffs in the next two years, the deal has the potential to look catastrophic in the near future.

Puljujarvi is oozing with potential, but at this point I don’t see how you can justify moving out two flawed but reasonably productive wingers for a wild card who has yet to prove he’s capable of being an offensive force in North America. A Goldobin-Puljujarvi swap makes sense, and I could see the justification for a Baertschi-Puljujarvi swap, but dealing both and getting only Puljujarvi back would be an overpayment. Puljuarvi’s value is at an all-time low, so if I were an NHL GM there’s no way I would give up a proven asset and a promising young winger for what essentially amounts to a project 21-year-old winger at this point.

It would seem unwise to me for a team that’s best years are three or four years down the road at the very least to pin their hopes on a 30-year-old goaltender who had performed at below league-average until midway through last season. Then again, Demko is still totally unproven at the NHL level, and the 2020 free agent class looks unimpressive at the goaltending position.

I could see a situation arising where Demko struggles and the Canucks, entering win-now mode, elect to move on next summer. I can also envision a series of events that would lead to him taking over the starting role by Christmas. At this point, it’s going to be very hard to predict what the Canucks will do until we see both players in action.

I think it’s reasonable at this point to say that Jake Virtanen is not a playmaker and probably never will be. That puts a ceiling on his offense the same way a lack of goal-scoring ability does for a pure playmaker. I’d be very surprised if he ever surpassed 20 assists in a season, and that’s being fairly generous considering he’s about to turn 23 and has yet to surpass 10. That puts a hard ceiling on Jake’s offence of about 40-45 points a season, and that’s being optimistic. If he gets 30 points next year, that would be a great success. I think the days of imagining Virtanen as a future top-line winger are a thing of the past, but he’s a useful role player with room to improve.

Believe it or not, I don’t really keep a running tally of my internet arguments. I also don’t put a ton of weight into the opinions of anonymous twitter users, so I can’t really think of an instance where the sheer logic and reason of an online sparring partner left me dead in my tracks. I’m not saying I’m always right, I just don’t change my mind at the drop of a hat. I’m going to have to see some real, sustained success before I change my tune on the Canucks’ front office.

Also, can we please never say “Benning Bro” again? It sounds too much like Bernie bro, which is a cool and good thing to be, the opposite of what these guys are; and it implies that the mindset it describes is somehow unique to Canucks fans who have an affinity for Jim Benning, which it absolutely is not. There’s already a word for people who defend every mistake or transgression by a person with more money, power, and influence than them: bootlicker. Let’s try that one on for size. It’s punchier, more accurate, versatile, and won’t need to be retired at the moment the Canucks hire a different general manager.

Before I answer this one, I have to admit I’m pretty burnt out on comics and superheroes. The last time I saw a comic book movie in the theatres was Black Panther, and there were probably two or three years separating the last one I saw before that one. So, I’m not really the best guy to ask. Like what you like, I’m not stopping you, but I’m tapped out.

Objectively, I think you can make the case that Marvel has the best roster. I used to watch the animated Spider-Man and X-Men shows when I was a kid, and I can’t say I really enjoyed any DC property other than Batman. Having said that, I still have a lingering affinity for DC because I enjoyed both the animated Batman series and the original live-action series with Adam West as a child; as well as a good number of the movies before I grew out of them. So, I don’t really have a preference, both because I no longer care enough about either to form an opinion, and because my prior associations with both companies as a child sort of cancel each other out.

To the best of my knowledge, no such data is available. I wish it were, though. The ability to make data-driven decisions on things as minute as gear would be a fascinating development. I would imagine the introduction of player-tracking technology would be a step towards making it happen.

Hutton’s in the second or third tier of free agent defensemen, and they often don’t get signed until late August or early September. He may have to settle for a camp invite at this point. There was a time when his underlying numbers hinted that he was an underrated puck-moving defensive defenseman, but that was some time age. For most of the past two years, he wasn’t particularly good and it’s possible he’s run out of chances.

I don’t really read short-form print media anymore, so you’re out of luck on that one. As far as Ho-Sang is concerned, I think the Islanders just weren’t a good fit for the unique set of obstacles he had in his path to the NHL. Were he to take his talents to Vancouver, I think he’d be a great fit on a line with Bo Horvat, but after the flurry of free agent signings that came this summer, he’d likely be stuck in the same boat as he was in Long Island, fighting for a spot in the top six with more established wingers.

As far as Botch goes… there’s no filling that void; at least, not right away. He was a truly unique figure in hockey media and his absence is going to be felt for a long time. I actually have a piece I’m working on about him and what we’re going to do in his absence, but it’s been slow going. I want to get it right, for obvious reasons.

If there’s one person in the market who I could see sort of taking on some aspects of his role as an aggregator and inquisitor, it would be Thomas Drance, who’s rumoured to be returning to media this fall. There’s no replacing Botch, though. He was one of a kind. A true individual in an industry that spawns precious few. He will be missed.

  • It would seem unwise to me for a team that’s best years are three or four years down the road at the very least to pin their hopes on a 30-year-old goaltender who had performed at below league-average until midway through last season.

    Markstrom’s save percentages over the last four years have been 91.5%, 91.0%, 91.2%, and 91.2%, meaning he has consistently performed around the league average since was 26. That makes him a sound but not brilliant starting goalie, no small feat. He certainly is not below average to any significant degree.

    • I know it is the middle of August not much news coming out but making comments like Markstrom has been below average, then saying could see Demko being dropped after next year and then could see Demko taking over the number one spot. Wow talking about covering your bases or does the writer want to be able to say that they were first to predict by predicting every scenario even though they were wrong more than being correct.

      • McDonald seems to be saying that the future is fraught with uncertainty. Well yes, the future is always fraught with uncertainty. But once we get past that trite remark, the Canucks’ goalie situation seems reasonably solid.

      • Calm down canuckfan. You should sign up for Gino’s half sister’s psychological therapy class down at the Learning Annex. I hear the first 20 people to sign up get a free membership card into the fabled ‘Benning’s Bootlickers’ club. The new member gift backet includes an autographed Jim Benning wall poster and a can of his midnight black hair dye absolutely free!

        • Haha, it seems I’ve struck a chord with the Head Turd of Jackson’s Bootlicker Army. The Altar of Dubas/JD/Gilman is waiting for your next booger offering. Didn’t mean to disturb you from collecting your own farts in a jar.

          • I can see why he calls himself “Dumpster Fire” surely cannot understand any facts but whatever looking forward to rushing down to get that gift basket with the Benning poster.

        • You have also exposed yourself as a woman hater by implying that my gender has some sort of adverse affect on my opinions of this team. You’ve said it all for me. You are lonely for love….I get it.

    • It struck me that if Vcr does not make the playoffs this season there’s a good chance Markstrom will be traded. If he has another good year he might bring a high pick.Frankly Markstrom is not old at 29 for a goalie, likely has 4 maybe 5 years left enough time for DiPietro or ? to make their mark in the organization. JB seemed non-plussed about losing his pick in the Miller trade. I might well be wrong but it seems to me that JB has a backup plan/agreement in mind. Similar to JB’s lack of concern about Cap space for Boeser he seemed just too confident about the “we’re not worried about Cap space”. I don’t believe you’ll get a lot for Demko although he might show differently after a summer training schedule. The one thing that Demko surprised me was his lack of rebound control and I suspect that’s fixable

    • What’s to get North Van?

      There is no opinion. This has been the worst team in the NHL over the last 5 years. And 5 years ago the clearly stated goal by the team was to be the opposite.

      Now the same group that created the mess are going with the same philosophy as they did in year one.

      A real bootlicker who’s feelings were hurt would ignore the evidence and instead argue about “opinion”

  • So someone has a different opinion than Jackson and out comes the MattyT/Freud Bootlicker label. Cuz only they ‘get it’.
    This is the problem with children writing and thinking they’re opinion is somehow more relevant, smarter or important than those that differ. Maybe some of those that have a different opinion are just as smart and correct as you. Maybe!?! Nah, nobody’s as smart
    as a JD Burke jock sniffer, to each their own.

    • LOL The guy is “data driven” and thinks it’s cool to be a “Bernie Bro”. Being a Bernie Bro is the epitome of following your feelings and using zero scrutiny of his positions to see if they come within a galaxy of realistic. If you consider yourself analytically minded, have thought about Bernies politics, and conclude he’s not a clown, take yourself behind the barn.

      If you don’t pay attention to politics and see Bernies idealistic agenda as a nice aim, fair enough

  • JT trade has the potential to be catastrophic? And some sentences have the potential to be hyperbolic!
    Miller is a big play maker that should fit well with EP and Brock giving the Canucks a true first line. He also can play center which gives the team depth if god forbid an injury occurs to Bo or EP. AND he is signed to a very reasonable 5.5 for 4yrs, which gives cost certainty.
    Next years first is protected and if the don’t make the playoffs the next, which they definitely should, the pick won’t be top 10. Who knows if there were other teams in in Miller or not?
    Slight over pay for a good player maybe, but potentially catastrophic?

    • Um, if the Canucks fail to make the playoffs for two years (an entirely reasonable concept) and then win the draft lottery in 2021, then yes, that trade absolutely has the potential to be catastrophic. “They definitely should” based on what exactly? The fact that you like them?

      • You honestly believe that with the improvement of the defense, which has been dregs the last 4-5 years, And additions of top six forwards that the Canucks will be the worst team in the league?
        Last year the Canucks were picked to finish last and they were in the playoff hunt until injuries hit.
        Predicted to be the worst team in the league, picked tenth. Thanks to improved play by Markey and the addition of one top player, EP! Well there is another top player coming Quinn Hughes along with Benn, Meyers Ferland JT Miller.
        Nope this team will be worse. The evidence is there. {sarcasm} for Chris’s sake. Look it up in a dictionary

      • You remind me of JD ‘dumpster’ – he hated it when the Canucks made positive moves, won games and were successful as people. People like you are just hemorrhoids in human form.

  • I agree it just isn’t rationale to believe every decision made by the Canucks under Benning was the right one. Many were predicted to be bad and have also turned out that way. I don’t think labelling Benning supporters as bootlickers is appropriate. This quickly degenerates into any defence of a move made by Benning makes someone a bootlicker. It is possible to defend some moves made under Benning while being critical of others.

    What do you lick if you are highly critical of a management decision that turns out to be a good one? The MacEwan signing comes to mind. The Miller trade and 2019 UFA signings could also turn out very well. There were even a few critical of the Pettersson and Hughes draft picks.

    Given the rationalizations I’ve read on this site of the Ballard trade, Sundin signing and Hodgeson draft there are a lot of Gillis “bootlickers” around too.

    • As the saying goes, Haters gonna Hate.
      Fact is that 1st round picks in the top ten have a generally high chance of having a good NHL career, but once you drop outside, the chances drop significantly! My point was using the term “catastrophe” to describe a potential #15 pick 2 years from now is hyperbole.
      Canucks won’t be drafting #1 next year or the year after. The hate for whoever is GM is easy. Gillis formed a Stanley Cup team but was awful at drafting and gave out NTCs like they were candy at Halloween. He mortgaged the future. GMJB trading a protected pick next year is not Gillis going for the Stanley Cup

      • There is a possibility the Miller trade ends up catastrophic. Miller could have a career ending injury or just never mesh with the canucks. The Canucks miss the playoffs both years and then win the draft lottery and miss the 1st overall pick who goes on to become a hall of fame superstar.

        Opinions will vary on the probabilities of everything going wrong but regardless those probabilities are not very high. Far more likely the Canucks end up with a very good winger and give up a 15th to 20th overall pick

        • You are correct about a career ending injury, which no one can foresee. My points about Miller are that he has been a productive player for two teams playing on staff studded first lines and bottom nine mins because of forward depth.
          This opportunity to play with two young guns like EP and Brock should have JT excited as H. E double hockey sticks.

    • I have mixed feelings about Benning’s performance, but often end up defending him in response to the overwrought criticisms by the trolls and even a few of the CA writers. I wonder if that makes me a “bootlicker” in JM’s book.

    • Name calling is the lowest form of argument. If one does not have a rational position, the response is typically to deflect or insults. Take it as accomplishment that even some one as esteemed as Jackson still cannot form a rational thought most of the time.

  • There’s already a word for people who defend every mistake or transgression by a person with more money, power, and influence than them: bootlicker. Let’s try that one on for size. It’s punchier, more accurate, versatile, and won’t need to be retired at the moment the Canucks hire a different general manager.

    McDonald, up your game. That is not worthy of a writer for CA.

      • Nicely said KM, Gino’s 3rd Cousin. I too find myself defending JB (and cringing every time he opens his mouth).

        JM has been called out a few times for willful ignorance, so this may just be who he is (or he’s trying to generate clicks).

        On the new format, the good side is it generates more productive debate, which is most of us are here. If you’re considering future tweaks use the old approach of posting hours since the comment was posted and insert the ‘like’ option only. This adds an element of entertainment to gage support for opinions (whatever those opinions may be).

  • Re: the trade for Jonathon Tanner Miller;
    I offer that somewhere hidden in the woods of BC is a horse. The horse is likely closer to the lower mainland and the media hubs of the province. This horse is dead however, on a regular basis an individual finds the horse through a secret geo cache reference point. Once found, this horse gets beaten repeatedly and then is left to be found again by the next media person’s geo cache trek.

  • Jackson,

    I have no idea if you’ll read this, and I have to apologize up front if you do that my first comment directed at you is a negative one. I generally really appreciate the work you and the other tenured authors on this site do in providing we Canucks fans with objective, data-driven analysis of the club. It is much appreciated and I’m genuinely sorry that the loudest and most frequent commenters on here are generally critical ones. I know from experience that hard work in the pursuit of something that you are passionate about often draws vociferous negativity from others that are not capable of doing the same, but I hope what has been true for me is also true for you, that the work itself in the long run is its own reward and often produces unforeseen benefits and opportunities.

    That said, it has bothered me for awhile as someone formerly with progressive and now with centrist political leanings the way you present your political views in these pages. I completely understand that you are passionate about your beliefs and that you probably feel it is your moral obligation to voice them without reservation. I hope it doesn’t sound too condescending when I say that I too, at your age, would have done the same. I can only draw your attention toward some very thoroughly researched, and in my opinion profound literature: Jonathan Haidt’s “Righteous Mind” and Daniel Kahneman’s “Thinking Fast and Slow” which illustrate the powerful ways in which very intelligent people allow their unconscious biases to further entrench previously held political beliefs (among others) and cloud objective judgement about the facts.

    I grew up in Vancouver and have lived in Liberal bastions like Vancouver, Santa Fe, NM, and LA, CA for my entire adult life. I know from first-hand experience that it is incredibly hard to encounter intelligent conservatives who are able to articulate their views in a thorough and thought-provoking manner. But I assure you they do exist, and not all conservatives or people who disagree with Bernie Sanders are evil.

    I would implore you to approach politics with the same objectivity as you seem to approach hockey analysis. If and when you are able to do so I believe you will find that the major issues that divide Liberals and Conservatives are as complex and nuanced as the game of hockey, if not moreso, and that viewing one side as essentially obstructionist, wrong-headed or evil is not only false, but counter-productive in humanity’s efforts to solve the truly intractable problems we are faced with.

    At the very least I would love it if you would find it in your heart to temper your desire to discard political views you disagree with as ignorant, such as when you write comments like these:

    “Also, can we please never say “Benning Bro” again? It sounds too much like Bernie bro, which is a cool and good thing to be, the opposite of what these guys are; and it implies that the mindset it describes is somehow unique to Canucks fans who have an affinity for Jim Benning, which it absolutely is not. There’s already a word for people who defend every mistake or transgression by a person with more money, power, and influence than them: bootlicker.”

    It is lonely and frustrating enough to be a rational actor in politics, constantly having one’s pleas to approach political issues from a rational, balanced perspective instead of allowing emotionally charged rhetoric to demonize the opposition and further entrench in vs. out-groups in order to soothe one’s hubristic, self-righteous urges. These are emotions I know you can relate to as a hockey blogger on the vanguard of pushing fact-based analysis over gut-based “old-boy network” thinking.

    I really appreciate the fact based analysis of the site. I just really appreciate sports as an avenue for escaping the incredibly discouraging partisanship of our age for brief spells.

    • Yeah Haidt is a wizard… and like all social scientists, left leaning. There is considerable work done on personality categories, morality, and political belief. It truly is people with different perceptions and values. These values are different but equal. You can conceptualize them as maternal and paternal. You can’t say one is good and one is bad. They are both required. As a hockey analogy, a coach will try to encourage and nurture certain players in certain situations to get the best out of them. In other situations tough love is required. Similar dynamics play out in politics. You can’t empathize or spend your way out of every problem. (Bernie)

      If anyone pays attention to politics and is analytical, there’s just no way you could be a Bernie bro. Sorry, his policy prescriptions, budget, and desired outcomes are absolutely laughable. Having good intentions or some feel-good philosophy is wonderful as an idealistic high school kid who has no clue about the world. “but why can’t we all just….” because you can’t and I don’t have 50 hours to sit down with you and tell you how the world works.

      Fun fact, as people age they move to the right. You start off overly idealistic and then you shift as you gain experience and understand the world. Ignore rabid Trump fans or Bernie fans, listen to sensible people in the middle criticize them both, learn some things, and then come up with your own POV. Until then, try to squash the hubris

        • Or Sweden, Denmark, Finland, or the Netherlands. All perennials on the top 10 list of countries with the highest quality of life. All countries that practice the same brand of democratic socialism that Bernie espouses.

        • Norway litterally has a Trillion, yes with a T, dollar wealth fund. 6 figures per citizen. On the contrary, the USA debt is sky rocketing out of control. Re read my last sentence. There isn’t a snowballs chance in hell you would type out the word Norway if you were well informed. You’re not. Be aware of that. Carry on with some humility

          • Norway has a trillion dollars because the socialized their oil industry. The value of oil produced in Norway is comparable to the production in Alberta. Norway doesn’t actually spend oil revenue to support its social programs. They are used to amass huge savings so they will be able to continue affording their programming through difficult economic times.

            Moving the United States to a Scandinavian level of democratic socialism isn’t feasible given the polarization, diversity and corporate influence into government but there is certainly benefits to move in that direction, starting with health care.

            Assuming people who disagree with you are uninformed is a trait of the truly ignorant.

  • Baer and Goldy for Pulijarvi. I would make that trade in a heartbeat. Baer is one hit away from retirement and Goldy is a couple bad games away from a low return trade. Pulijarvi will have a chip on his shoulder and want to make the Oilers look bad…which is enough motivation for him to finally break through. Worth the risk.

    • Yeah I think it’s a trade where you could even ask for a conditional pick in return based on Baertschi’s health. The Canucks need less forwards and to dump a bit of salary. That trade would also give JB flexibility next season

  • 34 comments deep. People are taking issue with many things Jackson has said. His politics. His take on the Miller trade. His thoughts on Markstrom. Why is no one holding Jackson accountable for calling Virtanen a useful role player? Can one be considered a useful role player when you play in the bottom 6, don’t play either special teams, aren’t a centre and don’t intimidate? Exactly what role is he playing? Take the puck wide with speed in to the corner? Shutdown your linemates with awful hockey IQ? I might accept that that is a ‘role’, but I wouldn’t call it useful.

    • I suspect in this context, a role player is one who brings a high element of speed to the team, is big and hits hard and is a reasonably effective two-way player. Someone who is effective on the third line, who may yet have some upside (if we’re stretching it) to play on the second line in a pinch. People have generally accepted that he was a reach at 5th overall but still brings these somewhat unique elements to the team.

  • Yeeeeeeeeeeah, sorry, Jackson. Tiny Drancer doesn’t have much personality and lacks wit. He wouldn’t be close to Botch. Also, Tiny Drancer seems to lack a sense of humour which would be a huge issue.