Photo Credit: Matthew Henderson

Monday Mailbag: No worries on Markstrom, overvaluing players, and the Masterton Trophy

Another week, another mailbag. Let’s see what you wonderful people asked this week!

I’ve seen some people on Twitter — big surprise — getting ready to sound the alarm on the play of Canucks’ goaltender Jacob Markstrom through the first week of camp.

There have been moments of visible frustration from Markstrom, and from my count, two broken sticks through the first week of camp.

Actually, his stick appears to have stayed intact here, so make that one broken stick:

Head coach Travis Green was asked about his thoughts on Markstrom’s play, and as expected, Green is nowhere near ready to start panicking about his starting goaltender.

“I think he’s fine, he looks good… it’s hard to get a good grade on where a player’s at, where any player is at in practice, but Marky’s probably one of the guys that I’m least worried about. He’s fine, he’s been fine, he’s been a rock for us, and he’s going to continue to be one.”

To get a better understanding of what Markstrom could be going through, I talked to goalie guru Kevin Woodley of nhl.com, who echoed a similar tune. The interesting thing that I thought Woodley pointed out is that the Canucks have arguably the best goaltending coach in the league in Ian Clark. Woodley’s confidence in Markstrom to figure it out also comes from a confidence in Clark:

“What I saw on day one was a lot of practices that weren’t necessarily great for a goalie, with endless good looks but trust they’ll make it more game-like soon enough. Would normally raise an eyebrow at the visual frustration seen on social media from him but that’s who he is and it’s worked before. I’d trust the staff and Ian Clark will get to the work that makes him feel good about his game soon enough, and he was good in October (.932 save percentage in first 5 games) but it’s not like he has a long track record of it. If he’s still smashing sticks off crossbars and giving up 5 goals in scrimmages a week from now, it might be a conversation with having.”

I want to note that this answer from Woodley came before yesterday’s scrimmage, and that Markstrom’s shutout performance seems to suggest that the early struggles could very well be in the past.

He faced a heavy dosage of high quality shots and turned them all away. His puck tracking and timing looked great, and he’s starting to look like the goalie that fans know and love. No need to worry here, in my opinion.

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I talked a lot about Juolevi last week. He didn’t stand out, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. He didn’t stand out in a good way, but more importantly, he didn’t stand out in a bad way — which is more than some of the other players at camp can say at this point.

The big thing for him is obviously to skate hard and have no issues with his knee. He’s been able to participate in all the drills and performed fine in them, and he didn’t look out of place when defending NHL competition in the scrimmage. Again, these are just scrimmages and he still has a ways to go before making the NHL, but seeing him play even just okay is a welcome sight, especially if he can stay healthy while doing it.

He’s not going to be a top-pair defenceman, and he may never be a top-four defenceman either. It’s going to be an uphill battle for Juolevi to carve out an NHL career but the only way to start is by staying healthy, not being a liability when you’re out there, and continuing to trend in the right direction.

Through the first week of camp, that looked to be the case, at least to me.

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As for what he did well and what needs work, his defensive stick looked great in drills, scrimmages, and really, anytime he was given the opportunity to showcase it. On the other hand, his positioning at times was off, and I noticed him sometimes struggling to clear out forwards from in front of the net. I did, however, notice that he’s fairly crafty with the way he ties up sticks in front of the net while battling for positioning.

Chris Faber did a deep dive about a month back, looking at the positives and negatives in Juolevi’s game. If you want a better understanding of what Juolevi brings, give it a read here.

During last night’s scrimmage, Juolevi’s ability to make breakout passes was on full display. He doesn’t seem as confident in carrying the puck out himself, but doesn’t shy away from making a long stretch pass in the blink of an eye if given the opportunity. Even making short passes, Juolevi looked good.

Speaking of prospects, Vasili Podkolzin is a really, really good one. I’m working on a deep dive into his game and have been pouring over video, talking to scouts, and much more while I prepare it.

As you’ll soon find out, his hard-nosed two-way style of play is basically exactly what the Canucks would want in their top-six right about now.

Now, who knows what Covid-19 will do to impact both the KHL and NHL schedules for next season, but yes, Podkolzin is eligible to join the Canucks once his contract in the KHL expires.

Two Virtanen trade questions, wow! You have a tough first week of camp and the trade questions start pouring in, incredible. To be fair, trading Virtanen has been a topic talked about for a long time, so let’s delve into his value, and whether or not Canucks fans tend to overvalue their players.

I think Canucks fans have a history of this, sure. I really want to point back at a tweet from the late Jason Botchford which I think sums this up perfectly and should bring a chuckle to everybody (unless you still really believe this would have been enough to pry Jack Hughes from the Devils on draft day).

For those that don’t know, Botch is quoting a fan who presented this as a trade package the Canucks could cook up to unite the Hughes brothers in Vancouver. Obviously Jack Hughes didn’t have a great rookie campaign, but there is absolutely no way the Devils would have taken this trade.

What I see more fans talking about is trading Virtanen and one of the Canucks’ anchor contracts for a second or third, and that just isn’t going to happen.

When the Toronto Maple Leafs had to move out Patrick Marleau’s contract, they had to attach a first-round pick to it. They got a sixth-round pick in return. A sixth.

Is Virtanen anywhere near the same value as a first-round pick? Remember, the Canucks gave up a first and a third to grab JT Miller — who led the team in points this year.

When it comes to overvaluing players and trying to figure out potential trades, just keep in mind that a deal that you would do in a heartbeat almost certainly benefits your team, and likely gets an immediate no from all 31 GM’s. Someone should have told Paul Fenton that when he tried to get Brock Boeser for Jason Zucker one for one.

What do I think Virtanen’s value is, as of now? I’d say there might be a GM willing to part with a third-round pick for him, that being said, the Canucks may be able to use Virtanen’s draft pedigree along with the fact he would have scored 20 goals this year to their advantage in trade negotiations. There very well might be a GM who is willing to part ways with a late second to take a chance on him.

These kind of things are tough to pinpoint because values are always fluctuating, but to answer the question, I think some fans — any fans, not just Canucks fans — can overvalue a player who plays for their team, but I think this poll from Rob Williams of DailyHive helps prove the fact that most Canucks fans actually think Jake will be a third-line player on a good team in two years’ time. Which isn’t even a knock on him, it’s just what’s most likely going to happen.

Enough Virtanen talk, I’m sure we’ll have plenty of that as we head into week two of training camp, let’s get to the rest of the questions.

I think this is a great idea, but is an example of what I just outlined above. There is simply no chance the Canucks are using Tanner Pearson as a sweetener in a Brandon Sutter trade and getting anything of value back in return. They’d likely have to get either a late pick or some player that the team they’re negotiating with no longer wants in return.

This is an interesting one. The origin of the Masterton trophy comes from Bill Masterton, who is the only player in NHL history to die as the direct result of injuries he suffered in a game. On January 13, 1968, Masterton suffered a head injury that would prove to be fatal after two defenders converged on him while he was travelling at full speed up the ice.

Here is the full story of the play itself:

The Minnesota North Stars center, playing against the Oakland Seals, carried the puck across the blue line and cut to the right while Seals defensemen Larry Cahan and Ron Harris closed in. One of their sticks tangled with Masterton’s skates as he slid a pass to his wing, and he lost his balance, pitching forward. He didn’t see the other defender, who caught him with a clean check that knocked him backward. Masterton, who was not wearing a helmet, smacked the back of his head on the ice. “It sounded like a baseball bat hitting a ball,” teammate André Boudrias recalled.

Ken Lindgren, a fan watching the play about 10 rows up in the stands just above the blue line, can still visualize the impact.

“We watched his head bounce,” Lindgren said. “He didn’t move after that. It got deathly quiet.”

Boudrias helped the team’s trainer onto the ice to tend to Masterton. The team doctor soon joined him. They carried Masterton off on a stretcher, and an ambulance rushed him to Fairview Southdale hospital, seven miles away.

“His eyes were gray at the time — it was like a horror picture,” Boudrias says. “I knew he was done.”

A team of doctors at the hospital treated Masterton with steroids and diuretics, but the swelling in his brain was so swift and severe that they decided against operating.

Realizing he was already gone, Masterton’s parents, who had flown in from Winnipeg after they heard of the incident, and his wife, Carol, made the decision to remove Masterton from life support. At 1:55 a.m. on Jan. 15, 1968 — almost 30 hours after he struck his head on the ice — Bill Masterton died at the age of 29.

So to give this award out to someone who battled back from adversity and showed a perseverance to hockey — I think it’s nice to recognize that it’s not always easy to do what these players do. Whether that be playing after beating cancer, battling with an addiction issue, playing in the wake of losing a loved one, or something else, I’m not opposed to the idea of the award.

That being said, someone “winning” it is a little strange, given the fact that all three nominees have usually faced some sort of hardship to get nominated in the first place. Maybe a way to recognize more than just one player is something the league could explore down the line.

That’s all for this week! To ask a question in a future mailbag, follow me on Twitter @QuadreIli and keep an eye out for the mailbag tweet every Friday.