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Photo Credit: Matthew Henderson

Monday Mailbag: Are the Canucks Good?

I’d imagine the Canucks would match up favourably against most teams in the Pacific, save perhaps for the @Vegas Golden Knights, who have always been a thorn in the Canucks’ side, even as they’ve improved. I’d give them roughly an even chance against the Flames, and they may even have the advantage over Arizona and Edmonton, depending on who has home ice advantage and how the games are called.

If we turn our attention to the Central, however, it’s tougher to see them coming out ahead. Even the teams that are faltering right now like the Winnipeg Jets have historically matched up well against the Canucks, even this season. If they end up in the second or third spot in the Pacific, I like their chances, but if they end up on either end of a wildcard matchup, I think their weaknesses are likely to get exposed by a Central Division team.

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That’s a really great question. The Canucks are going to need to make room to accommodate extensions or replacements for Virtanen, Gaudette, Stecher, and Tanev this offseason, and to extend Pettersson and Hughes the year after that, and it’s unlikely that they’ll be able to retain all those players. It won’t be a popular answer, but I don’t hate the idea of using him as a trade chip, provided there’s a strong return on the table. He’s riding some extremely favourable percentages this year and looks like a prime candidate for regression next season, so deciding to sell high would be defensible, if nothing else.

Having said that, I don’t think promising seasons from Lind and Madden are enough to warrant trading Virtanen simply to make room for one of those players. They’re both a long way off from providing any kind of guarantee that they can replace what Virtanen has to offer.

Ultimately, I think the smart, middle-ground move would be to sign him to a bridge deal and try to find another way to clear cap space. He looks like he can at least be a valuable support piece at this stage, and I think the Canucks would be wise to see if he has another gear before making any rash decisions one way or another.

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There’s a fairly strong case to be made that it’s the right decision. As a group, Pettersson-Miller-Virtanen has fared better by expected goal share than the Lotto Line over a small sample size, albeit by a very small margin. It remains to be seen whether that trend will hold up, but overall, I would say that if it does, there isn’t much difference between the efficacy of both combinations. Where the real difference is felt is on the third line. The sample size is still very small, but in the limited amount of time Boeser has played with Roussel and Gaudette, that line has an xGF% of 57.1%, a vast improvement over the 44.2% mark the Roussel-Gaudette-Virtanen line has boasted.

While I think moving Boeser down to the third line reduces his effectiveness, it also gives the team at least one legitimate high-end scoring threat on each of their top three lines. That strategy was enough to propel the Pittsburgh Penguins to two Stanley Cups, and their defence was arguably more flawed than Vancouver’s. I can’t say with any certainty that the trends each line is on will continue, but if they do, it could be a major boon to the forward group’s overall performance.

 

 

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I don’t think the question is whether or not they should, but whether or not they can.

They have about 30 million in space for next year and 9 roster spots to fill at bare minimum, and basically every player they have on an expiring contract is due for a big raise. I’d imagine the team would really like to retain Markstrom, and ha virtually no interest in trading @Jake Virtanen or @Adam Gaudette, so that pretty much leaves Tanev and/or Stecher as the only remaining pieces that can be moved out to keep the team cap-compliant.

I also just don’t see how the situation you’ve proposed here is in any way realistic. Myers isn’t in that group, and I don’t see how the Canucks can make that happen, nor do I believe they’d be interested in ridding themselves of Myers if given the opportunity.

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Are we sure Seattle wouldn’t just take Myers outright? He’s an attractive enough defenceman to a franchise that doesn’t have to be all that careful when it comes to cap space, and if the team finds goaltending elsewhere, he could legitimately turn out to be one of their better options when selecting from the Canucks. They might have to add a sweetener to make it certain, but I don’t imagine they’d have to break the bank.

Besides, I don’t think the team really wants to lose Myers. For better or worse, they like him.

Moscow Mule, assuming I have all the ingredients. I don’t drink much anymore, but my fiancée got me couple of copper mugs for my birthday last year so that’s usually what I go for if I decide to imbibe.

“Genius” might be pushing it, but I actually think Travis Green is a pretty good coach. A lot of NHL coaches would have been much more reluctant to hand the keys over to players like Pettersson and Hughes in their rookie year, and by the same token, he’s only given lesser young players like Gaudette and Virtanen as much as they could handle. When you look at the forward group, it’s hard to argue that he could be getting any more out of his players than he’s getting right now, and I think the improvements that have been made to the roster serve as proof that his overreliance on players like Beagle and Sutter were out of necessity. Even limiting Stecher’s ice time, a decision I don’t really agree with, makes sense when you consider that it gives the team three passable defence pairings. Ultimately, the only real issue I’ve had is Sven Baertschi’s demotion, which is a fairly minor quibble in the grand scheme of things, and we can;t even be sure that that was up to Green.

Not particularly? They’re getting strong goaltending and production on the PP, but there’s no way to put it nicely: they’ve been ugly at even strength, and luck has played a huge role in accounting for why they are where they are in the standings right now. No matter how you slice it, a team that is 24th in expected goal share and 21st in shot share is not a good team, even if they are legitimately excelling in a couple different areas.

If you look back on the Canucks season so far, it’s hard to point to an area where things have gone wrong, or they’ve been unlucky. Their goaltending has been solid, their division is bad, they’ve been as healthy as one could reasonably expect, and they’re getting elite-level scoring from their top-six. All that good fortune has landed them in the 11th overall spot in the league in points-percentage, and they had to trade a first round pick to get there. I really don’t think it should be all that controversial to anyone paying attention to say that, given all these factors, they’re much closer to a middle-of-the-pack team than a legitimately good one.

That should be enough, given how legitimately bad they’d been for the previous five or so years. The rush to crown the Canucks a good team is at best an overly generous definition of what “good” means, and at worse a massive overreaction to what’s ultimately been a very small stretch of games, wherein the Canucks haven’t performed the way a good team should based on their underlying numbers. It’s okay to be just okay. In fact, it’s a pretty major step forward for them.