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Photo Credit: Matthew Henderson

Monday Mailbag: Less Anthem Singers, More Baby Yoda

 

Stephan Roget is filling in for the Monday Mailbag this week, and hoping not to get ventilated by Evgeni Malkin in the process.

Antoine Roussel’s return and Adam Gaudette’s emergence have definitely made this the most likely time for a Loui Eriksson demotion yet. At this point, though, it’s more about roster space than cap space, and it wouldn’t be entirely surprising if the Canucks waived Tim Schaller instead after a pointless November.

Zack MacEwen and Tyler Graovac will go down to Utica before either of them, and further injuries could very well make any further demotions unnecessary.

 

I think a limited form of load management is an inevitability for the NHL, unless it reduces its total number of regular season games. Hockey fans are already familiar with a form of load management when it comes to goaltenders – and nobody complains all that much about paying big money to watch a backup play in net.

There’s really no reason that high-minute players – especially those nursing minor injuries and ailments – shouldn’t take games off with more frequency to maintain their overall health and performance level. Maybe a game or two off in November would have helped Alex Edler avoid injury.

 

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The Carolina Hurricanes could potentially be interested in trading Dominik Bokk for Jake Virtanen, but I’m not sure the Canucks should be. Virtanen is having his best season yet and is popular with the fanbase. Bokk, meanwhile, has four points on the season. If anything, Bokk seems to have benefitted from the presence of Elias Pettersson and Nils Hoglander, rather than the other way around.

Canuck fans should be plenty wary of the prospect of acquiring players based on past chemistry elsewhere – they’ve got a $6 million cautionary tale on their roster right now.

 

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The best anthem singer is no anthem singer. The singing of anthems before sports games is an outdated practice that should be saved for special occasions. Replace them with a greater variety of pregame features and ceremonies – or, even better, with nothing at all.

 

Tanner Pearson has produced at a top-six level – albeit bottom-end – for most of his career, and that’s definitely true of his time in Vancouver. He’s absolutely streaky, but so are most 20-ish goal scorers – typically, they’ll score in bunches rather than a uniform goal-every-four-games.

That doesn’t necessarily mean that Pearson is the long-term answer for the Canucks in the top-six, however. His streakiness goes hand-in-hand with inconsistencies elsewhere in his game. He doesn’t always mesh well with the type of minutes expected of a Bo Horvat linemate, and has yet to find consistent chemistry with his captain. Vancouver should still be on the lookout for an upgrade – one who could better elevate Horvat’s game from the wing – at all times, but Pearson is adequate in the role for the time being.

 

According to stats kept by MoreHockeyStats.com, Travis Green has a record of seven wins and six losses in his time with the Vancouver Canucks – a winning percentage of 53.8%. That’s actually an above-average rate of success, as NHL coaches typically lose more challenges than they win.

 

Congrats on the big scoop, Ben. Of your two proposed nicknames, I think Insider Steiner is the obvious winner – but if I may be so bold, I’d like to suggest an alternative.

The Bensider.

It’s got brevity going for it, it rolls off the tongue, and portmanteaus are totally in this season.

 

This one might be too close to call. Right now, I’d lean towards Elias Pettersson based on his lengthier track record and three straight seasons of enormous individual progress, but a team already loaded with forwards would be perfectly justified in selecting Cale Makar.

 

If he can perform anywhere close to as well as he did in 2018/19, I think Antoine Roussel could be the “missing piece” the Canucks are looking for. He’s the sort of player that can work on a number of lines, including alongside the struggling Bo Horvat, and his energy is absolutely infectious. No one else on the roster can singlehandedly increase the compete level of their teammates like Roussel.

 

I wasn’t a fan of Sven Baertschi’s initial demotion, but I’m now less convinced than ever that there’s anything untoward with it. The Canucks are loaded up with middle-six wingers, and in that case it comes down to a coach’s preference – and Travis Green clearly prefers Tanner Pearson and Josh Leivo in that role on the left side. Baertschi has no business on the fourth line, and so he’s caught in an awkward position until further injuries or a trade occurs.

 

I was going to say Troy Stecher based on appearance alone, but really he’s more of a Teen Yoda. Quinn Hughes is a good call, but Nils Hoglander is also a strong contender with his fresh-faced looks and physics-defying stickhandling.

 

I get the temptation to get caught up in the joy of seeing Loui finally score a goal, but even CanucksArmy’s resident optimist isn’t going to hold out much hope for an Eriksson resurrection. He’s done at the NHL level, and should be headed to Utica in the near future – if the Canucks can ever get healthy enough to get him out of the lineup.

As for your other question, the answer is an equally definitive yes. Quinn Hughes is the best defenseman on the Vancouver Canucks on the merit of being miles ahead of any other blueliner offensively while being nowhere near the defensive liability some expected him to be. While Hughes has occasionally been outmuscled or forced into gaffes, his skating and positioning have allowed him to log minutes against top-tier opponents without being overwhelmed – and he’s only going to get better from here under the steady guidance of veterans like Chris Tanev.

Hughes has already bettered even the most optimistic predictions about his rookie performance, and it won’t be surprising at all to see him land a spot on the Pacific Division All-Star Team in January.

With Tyler Graovac seemingly injured and both Jay Beagle and Brandon Sutter still out, I could definitely see the Canucks snagging the next depth center to hit the waiver wire. As a random guess, maybe Curtis Lazar or our old friend Brendan Gaunce.

Thanks for the question, Mike. I’m looking forward to answering it – and I’ll have to do so in several parts.

I started freelance writing online in an attempt to find a summer job that didn’t involve physical labour in the hot sun, which I am absolutely not built for. It took me far too long to figure out that I could convert my many years of research and writing experience from university and my unrepentant nerdery into paid work, but I’m certainly glad I did. You can look for my non-Canucks-related writing on Ranker.com, and I’ve also written for Cracked under its previous management.

As far as writing about the Canucks goes, it first started as more of an idle hobby and practice for my other freelance gigs than anything – but after finding success sharing my various anonymous blog pieces on Reddit, I started to think that I might have a somewhat unique voice to add to the mix. I’ve got a pretty relentlessly positive outlook when it comes to hockey – and I find optimism to be the path of greatest enjoyment for following the Canucks, even if it frequently leads to disappointment. I will easily trade a few brief moments of letdown for endless months of being hyped up, however, and so I started to write more and more as a way of giving other fans like me more reason to get excited about the Canucks.

That’s why it’s easy for me to keep on writing even when the team isn’t performing well – there’s still always something to feel positive about, even if it’s only in the long-term. Some fans absolutely hated the last few seasons, but I greatly enjoyed them – because they served as the “origin stories” for players like Brock Boeser, Elias Pettersson, and Quinn Hughes, and a new era of Vancouver hockey.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t take time here to express my gratitude to Ryan Biech for giving me the opportunity to write for CanucksArmy. It’s still a little surreal at times that anyone wants to hear what I have to say, but I’m happy that they do.