39
Photo Credit: Matthew Henderson

Monday Mailbag: Third Line Centres, Josh Leivo, and State Income Tax

Brandon Sutter was a -0.4 WAR player by Evolving Hockey’s wins above replacement model, while was +2.3. Theoretically, this would mean that swapping out Brandon Sutter for JT Miller would be enough to add almost two full wins to the Vancouver Canucks’ lineup, which would seem to pass the sniff test based on my observations of both players. Assuming the development of players like Elias Pettersson and Brock Boeser unfolds in a linear fashion, those two wins could be the difference between sitting in the playoff picture late in the season and being completely out of it. I would call that a significant upgrade.

There are a few teams with a need at centre and the cap space necessary to take on his contract that seem at face value like the kind of team that would value the defensive acumen, ability to win faceoffs, and name recognition that Sutter brings. The issue is that I don’t necessarily see them as playoff contenders, and I’m not sure Sutter would hold a generate a lot of interest from a team that isn’t a good bet to make the postseason. Anaheim seems like an obvious candidate because they’re thin down the middle and have reportedly made calls on Sutter before, but I expect them to be at the bottom of the standings next year and after the Ryan Kesler debacle, I’m not sure how much interest they’ll have in taking on a player with a recent history of long-term injuries.

At this point, Montreal and Minnesota seem like the best bets if the Canucks don’t want to take back a player of similar salary. Both teams have a need at centre and could potentially see Sutter as able to provide some stability in the bottom six to help them back into the playoffs, and they both have enough room for Sutter’s deal. (Montreal would have to send back a little bit of cash to stay under the cap or ask Vancouver to retain salary, but nothing major.)

J.T. Miller seems like a strong candidate, considering the price the Canucks paid for him. He’s quite good, but it remains to be seen if the addition will be enough to make fans forget about the first round pick. Nikolay Goldobin could continue to be a polarizing figure if he continues to produce but can’t limit his gaffes or endear himself to the coaching staff.

Only if one of myself, Rhys Jessop, Ryan Biech, Garret Hohl, or J.D. Burke reveals what Thom threatened to do to J.D. while we were in Penticton for the 2016 Young Stars Classic. I don’t think that’ll happen, though. We all swore a blood oath.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

Thomas Williams wrote a good piece the other day that explores this topic in-depth, but I’ll give you the CliffsNotes. Basically, he was one of the Canucks best goal-scorers based on ice time, had a glowing analytical profile based on expected goals and wins above replacement, and kept his shot share well above 50%. According to Evolving Hockey’s metric, Leivo had the seventh-best WAR of any Canucks player, and since he’s young and cost-controlled, that makes him a better option to jump around from the top six to the bottom six than many of the Canucks other wingers. I don’t think he’s a special player by any means, but I do think he bring more to the table than some of his peers.

It’s certainly possible, although I don’t think there would be nearly as much appetite for it. The Blazers don’t exactly have the winning history the Millionaires did.

If some of the Canucks’ prospects who joined the Comets last season don’t take a major step forward, or the Comets can’t put together a winning campaign, I don’t see how Cull survives the season, regardless of what happens with the parent club.

Advertisement - Continue Commenting Below

Arguing with Canucks fans on Twitter is already irritating enough without having to deal with a hundred insane bootlicking Elon Musk fanboys who are all Dutch for some reason coming to his defense every time he does something dumb. I don’t think Elon Musk is an especially evil billionaire, but he is deeply fucking corny, and he wants desperately to be seen as cool, which is already enough of a problem with the current owner.

I doubt Elon Musk would be any more of a malign influence on hockey operations than Aquilini is, but the chances that a team bus or plane spontaneously explodes would go up about 5000%, so this is a hard no for me.

I wanna see the Hillary Clinton statue that had to be rapidly converted into a Donald Trump statue after he won the election at the Hall of Presidents in Magic Kingdom because I have been irreversibly damaged by irony. I’m also excited for the food and to ride Splash and Thunder Mountain because I remember enjoying them a lot when I went to Disneyland as a kid.

To be honest, I have a hard time seeing how any of my selections could beat Chris Tanev using “Hot in Herre” back when the team introduced individual goal songs in 2016. It would be truly amazing if they played the Anthem of the U.S.S.R. every time Goldobin scored, but that’s not really a party jam.

This topic has been broached before, and honestly I just can’t endorse the idea of the NHL trying to undo the policies set in place by state or provincial governments. The people who populate the income bracket of a star NHLer are already afforded far more opportunities to hide their money or engage in creative accounting than the average Joe, and I don’t really see any reason why the NHL needs to try to level the playing field just because some states don’t have income tax. There are advantages and disadvantages to playing in every market, and that’s always going to be the case regardless of the tax situation.

I’m also not 100% convinced that lower state income tax is that significant of an influence on where players choose to sign. The tax situation in Florida has certainly helped the Tampa Bay Lightning, but it doesn’t seem like the Panthers have gained any sort of unfair advantage over the rest of the league from it.

There are all kinds of reasons players might be dissuaded from signing somewhere. I wouldn’t advocate for the NHL to allot more cap space to teams with higher state income tax rates any more than I’d advocate for them to hand out earthquake insurance for teams in the Pacific Northwest, or to waive mandatory drug tests for Oilers players because the only fun thing there is to do in Edmonton is cocaine. My position is that it’s not the NHL’s business, and they shouldn’t get involved.