In this week’s WDYTT, the only hockey column on the internet that doesn’t take vacations, we’re firmly shifting from Playoff Style to Offseason Mode.
Summer may be coming to an end elsewhere, but in the hockey world, it’s just about to begin.
And it’s going to be quite the summer for the Vancouver Canucks.
Jim Benning and Co. were headed toward some tough salary-related decisions pre-pandemic, and that’s only become more inevitable with the coming of the two-season flat cap.
The first of those decisions are likely to be related to the team’s bevy of upcoming free agents.
Pending unrestricted free agents include the oft-discussed trio of Jacob Markstrom, Tyler Toffoli, and Chris Tanev, with Josh Leivo, Oscar Fantenberg, and Louis Domingue also expiring.
On the restricted free agent front, the Canucks will have to qualify all of Jake Virtanen, Adam Gaudette, Troy Stecher, Tyler Motte, Zack MacEwen, and a multitude of players on the farm.
But before Benning gets the chance, we’re asking you to make the tough calls, because this week, we’re asking:
Which Vancouver free agents do you want to keep, and which ones would you let go?
Last week, shortly after the Canucks were eliminated, we asked:
Who was the Canucks’ playoff MVP in 2020?
Your responses are below!
(Winner of the author’s weekly award for eloquence)
Elias Pettersson. As good as Hughes is, as good as both Markstrom and Demko played, Pettersson is the straw that stirs the drink on this team. He had entire teams draped over him through three rounds and still sits among the playoff leaders in points. He showed consistency, intensity, perseverance, and leadership.
(Winner of the author’s occasional award for not answering the actual question)
Markstrom was not the playoff MVP this year. He played very well, may have been overworked, possibly causing some injuries by the time they played Vegas. The team defence in the playoff was the best it’s been in years. Not as many grade ‘A’ scoring chances. Markstrom needs to be re-signed and hopefully we can keep both him and Demko to split next season (50-32) and have them ready for playoffs.
Beer Can Boyd:
I’d vote for the goalie tandem. Without Markstrom they certainly would have lost to St Louis, and without the two of them they would have been swept by Vegas.
Captain Bo. He had ten goals and was everything you would want a captain to be, he won faceoffs, grinded it out, lead by his strong work ethic, stepped up his game, and was all around great.
Maybe he is not the flashiest guy, but he demonstrated willingness to carry this team on his back when needed, and to me that is a true MVP.
North Van Halen:
Ya know, it woulda been Markstrom, til the injury, It coulda been Demko, but he had to win the last one and play more than three. It mighta been Bo, who dominated in spurts, but at one point went five games without a point and wasn’t a consistent offensive force, or Miller, who looked a little hurt at times and wasn’t the best player out there. It oughta be Hughes who makes me giddy to think he’s only going to get better (50 years to find a franchise d-man – oh how I’ve prayed to Jeebus). I’d listen to arguments for him, but he’s my runner-up.
To me, it’s gotta be Petey, who was clearly the focal point of every team he faced, took as much abuse as every team could muster, and just kept coming. For a 21-year-old to be the number one center and drive the bus was impressive as hell.
As Demko only played three games – albeit three frickin’ amazeballs games – it’s gotta be Pettersson. Over a point-a-game, led every player (other than Juolevi’s one sheltered appearance) in Corsi, drew even in faceoffs, repeatedly risked life and shinbones setting up perfect screens for his teammates that led to goals, and broke up dangerous scoring chances on the back check. The guy does it all. And now he’s starting to push back physically. Once he adds another 15 pounds of muscle … yikes. We could be looking at Forsberg 2.0 here.
In looking for a playoff MVP, it makes sense to zero in on those who stepped their play up from the regular season.
On that front, three candidates jump out: Thatcher Demko, Bo Horvat, and Elias Pettersson.
No one performed better than Demko, who practically redefined the future path of his career this postseason, but three games is a little light to earn MVP for a team that went through three rounds.
Horvat’s goal-scoring was the best its ever been, but he didn’t score as consistently as one might have hoped for, and wasn’t used in as defensive a role as he could have handled.
Pettersson, on the other hand, improved his play across the board, and performed better than he has to any point in his career thus far. That’s especially impressive for a player who has already spent their first two seasons blowing expectations out of the water.
Pettersson was already well on the way to NHL superstardom before these playoffs. Now, it looks entirely possible that he’ll be considered a top-five forward in the league in the immediate future.