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Photo Credit: Matthew Henderson

Monday Mailbag: Early Concerns, the Bottom-Six, and Bringing Back Baertschi

It’s a little early, yes. It’a hard to justify letting panic set in before the 10-15 game mark. While the team has not looked good over its first two games, it’s important to remember that Horvat, Boeser, and Pettersson have been total non-factors offensively thus far. That won’t last. If the team gets solid performances from those players and continues to lose, then it will be time to be concerned. For now, we can afford to be patient.

Assuming J.T. Miller stays in the top six, I’d like to see something like this:

Baertschi-Gaudette-Virtanen

Sutter-Beagle-Leivo

This would give the team some offensive punch on their third line, and the flexibility of swapping Leivo and Virtanen depending on matchups and who has been more productive.

It’s hard to give any answer other than San Jose, but it feels like at this point no one is really expecting them to do any better than third in the Pacific, so it’s hard to say whether or not they would count. They’ve lost some key players and are still going to rely on arguably the worst goalie tandem in the league, so it’s hard to see them improving on last year. If San Jose doesn’t fit the bill, I guess I could also see Calgary failing to meet expectations. They’ve got questions in goal too, and relatively weak centre depth, so I could see them slipping to third or even fourth in the division if the team runs into injury trouble.

Because he kills penalties. That’s the answer. I’m not saying it’s a good one, but I can virtually guarantee it’s the team’s justification.

I’m trying to think of NHL players that are boring, have an unnervingly childlike appearance, and have a seething hatred for all life on earth lingering just below the surface. Markus Granlund?

I have a bit of a bias when it comes to answering this question, given that I live in Victoria and have never been to an AHL game in Abbotsford. I love the idea; Victoria is crying out for more cheap entertainment, and the Royals usually draw a decent crowd. The issue would be whether or not there’s enough of an audience out here to sustain two hockey teams. My gut says Abbotsford is probably a better bet simply because the city doesn’t have another high-level hockey team to compete with, but I would definitely be open to it.

I don’t think it’s a matter of being allowed. The Green Men retired because they didn’t want to do it anymore. If they decide they want to return, I would imagine they’d be greeted with open arms.

I don’t mind this idea. Pearson has probably been the Canucks’ best player through the first two games, and he could give that line the spark it’s needed. Ultimately, I’d like to see Horvat and Pearson together as much as possible given the chemistry they’ve generated together, but I think shuffling the lines around until they find a combo they like is justified.

He should have never been sent down in the first place, so obviously I would be in favour of bringing him back up. At this stage, Baertschi is what he is. He’s a decent middle-six scorer when healthy that would give them some flexibility in the top nine. If the coaching staff wants him out of the lineup against heavier teams, then he can sit in the press box, but I find it hard to believe the Canucks are going to make it through the entire year without needing the offense he provides. Hell, it’s only been two games and they already look like they could use him.

It’s hard to come up with a good reason why, in 2019, a team would choose to deploy two lines that aren’t likely to score. I can understand the impulse to maintain one hard-checking defensive line of PK specialists, even if I’m unsure as to how useful it is in the long run, but I can’t justify the decision to clog up half your forward lines with players who don’t produce offense.

As far as penalty killing goes, plenty of skills that make a player good at even-strength – speed, stickhandling, gap control, etc.- are transferable to the penalty kill. One of the most effective penalty killers in Canucks history was Pavel Bure, who for whatever reason is still viewed as a one-dimensional offensive player by forgetful fans outside Vancouver. There are lots of players on the roster that are probably going to need to learn how to kill penalties in the near future, and it never hurts to experiment. If Gaudette, Virtanen, and Horvat really can’t kill penalties, then we can have the conversation about keeping Baertschi in the AHL over a guy like Tim Schaller. The ostensible PK benefit of dressing all four of Schaller, Beagle, Sutter, and Eriksson on a given night seems to be outweighed by how much they handicap the team at even-strength. A player like Schaller or Eriksson would make it through waivers anyway, so I don’t see the harm in experimenting with a more offensively gifted third line and some different looks on the PK.