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Photo Credit: Matthew Henderson

Monday Mailbag: Ring of Honour Criteria, Expansion Draft Concerns, and Bad Draft Picks

Jersey retirements should be reserved for truly special players. That means guys who led the team in a number of statistical categories, won individual awards, or, in very rare cases, guys who are just so synonymous with the team that not retiring their jersey would seem like a slight. In the Canucks case, that means the Sedins are the only obvious candidates, followed by Linden and Bure, who each have strong cases. I don’t think Naslund and Smyl really belong in the rafters, and I think the team will likely regret the decision to retire their numbers if they ever win a Stanley Cup.

The Ring of Honour is another story. Anyone who has been a huge part of Canucks history, but maybe hasn’t had a hall-of-fame career should be a candidate. Most of the people who have been inducted were great choices, and I’d add other significant figures like Ryan Kesler, Dan Hamhuis, and even Kevin Bieksa to that list. Since adding players to the Ring of Honour isn’t a league-wide practice, I’m in favour of a big-tent approach, especially if it keeps the team from retiring too many numbers in the future.

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Ellington, and it’s not close. Mallet was at least a point-producer in the year he was drafted, and the thought process that led to his selection at least had some sort of logic to it, even if it was misguided. I can’t for the life of me figure out why they chose to take Ellington so high in 2007. He had a reputation for being hard to play against, but that didn’t really come about until his final WHL season, when he posted 130 PIMs. It was a complete head-scratcher.

Based on the way Travis Green has deployed a number of the team’s big-ticket acquisitions, I feel fairly confident when I say that I don’t think salary arbitration factors into his lineup decisions. For better or worse, Green has generally taken a merit-based approach to ice-time, and while I’ve certainly disagreed with him from time to time, I don’t think he has much on his mind when making in-game decisions other than winning.

I genuinely believe that the reason Stecher hasn’t seen much ice this year is that Green sees him as the third-best right-handed defenseman. Chris Tanev remains a fairly strong defensive defenseman when he’s healthy, and Tyler Myers is a mobile 6’7″ defender who has put up decent counting stats for much of his career, so you can see why he might feel that way. Stecher is criminally underrated, but his offensive totals don’t jump off the page and he plays a fairly quiet game, so I can understand why he hasn’t been utilized as much, even if I disagree with it.

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To be honest, I think it’s just to prevent things from getting a bit ridiculous. It’s hard to imagine 2 defenders taking on 5 attackers with any level of success whatsoever, and I imagine the players would throw a fit if they ever tried to implement it. I know the NHL wants to increase scoring, but I’d prefer to see them look at more holistic ways of achieving that, rather than just devolving into a series of sideshows.

Young, inexperienced goaltenders like Thatcher Demko don’t generally fetch much on the trade market, so I wouldn’t expect a potential return to satisfy many Canucks fans. The smart play from a value standpoint would be to deal Markstrom at this year’s deadline, but doing so would come with considerable risk. The Canucks are on the verge of win-now mode, and can’t really afford to run with an inexperienced goaltending tandem.

The word on the street is that the Canucks are going to keep both goaltenders and let the chips fall where they may. To be honest, that may not be the worst idea. If the team re-signs Markstrom and protects Demko, there’s a decent chance they come away from the expansion draft with both goaltenders. If Markstrom gets selected, then they’ll just have to go out in free agency and sign someone who can help hold down the fort while Demko/DiPietro get settled.

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I’m going to assume you mean the prospects, since I think most people are in agreement that Sven Baertschi is at the very least an NHL-calibre player and that Reid Boucher and Nikolay Goldobin are AAAA players who could maybe play spot duty in an NHL lineup but probably aren’t cut out to be NHL regulars. I’m also going to omit some of the older players and the guys on AHL deals since they don’t really facto into the team’s future. I would say in order of most to least NHL potential, it would look something like this:

Olli Juolevi

Michael DiPietro

Kole Lind

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Brogan Rafferty

Lukas Jasek

Jonah Gadjovich

Francis Perron

Guillaume Brisebois

Ashton Sautner

Mitch Eliot

Jalen Chatfield

Josh Teves

Of all these players, Rafferty’s potential is the hardest to gauge. His numbers are genuinely impressive, but he’s closer to a full-grown professional hockey player than a prospect. He’ll be 25 in May, which make him older than a significant chunk of the Canucks’ roster. For him to have any chance of cracking an NHL lineup, he’d have to dominate at the AHL level at his age. To his credit, that’s exactly what he’s done. I think he has an NHL future even if it’s just as a seventh defenseman, but I’d caution anyone who’s getting too worked up about his gaudy counting stats.

This has always been a problem for the NHL. The only real exception was immediately post-lockout, in 2005-06, when the officials were calling virtually everything by the book. That was one of my favourite overall seasons of hockey to watch from an entertainment perspective, so I can’t say I disagree with your assessment. Putting the whistles away isn’t “letting them play”, it’s quite the opposite. Why does the league punish its stars by having to put up with obstruction? Shouldn’t it be punishing the players who can’t compete without bending the rules instead?

There are couple of guys on the Columbus Blue Jackets, Vladislav Gavrikov and Eric Robinson, with glowing underlying profiles who could likely be had for a song. I think Oskar Sundqvist would probably be a nice bolster to the middle-six, too. If they’re looking for a bit more upside, I wonder if the Avs would be interested in dealing Tyson Jost for immediate help. To be honest, though, I’m not seeing a specific player whose situation screams “buy-low candidate” for the Canucks right now. They don’t have a ton of cap space– or roster space, for that matter, and they have surprisingly few glaring weaknesses. The issue is that most of those weaknesses are either locked up long-term or making a lot of money, so I don’t see the team trading them anytime soon.

I think it has to be Pettersson, based on the fact that his counting stats are more impressive and his play has more of a “wow” factor to it. Hughes has been excellent– maybe even better than Pettersson was in his rookie year– but his game is also surprisingly quiet, in a lot of ways. As good as he’s been offensively, his impact has been felt even more on defense. When we look back on their careers, it may turn out that Hughes was the more valuable player, but I think Pettersson has the superstar package, whereas Hughes is more likely to go down as an unheralded #1 defenseman.