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Photo Credit: Matthew Henderson

Monday Mailbag: Coaches, competition, and the Canucks’ 2021 NHL Draft wish list

Mike DiPietro remains stuck on the taxi squad, but Dave Quadrelli is activating CanucksArmy’s own third-stringer on this pleasant Monday morning. That’s right, Stephan Roget is stepping in to the figurative crease to answer questions from this metaphorical mailbag on the symbolic world wide web — for real!

Thanks to all those who hit us up with questions on Twitter, starting with…

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Extremely likely. With fans on their way back to arenas next season, Francesco Aquilini and the ownership group will be on the lookout for good PR, and firing an unpopular GM after a disappointing season is a great way to get it, regardless of Jim Benning’s performance.

That said, Benning’s performance alone is probably cause enough to can him. He hasn’t gone an offseason without making a move or two that is currently hurting the team, and this past summer’s Tyler “Timeless” Toffoli debacle should be the last straw.

Speaking as a writer that has always leaned pro-Benning and occasionally bordered on outright Bro status, there’s long been a line of thought that Benning was the right GM for a rebuild but the wrong one to put the team over the top thereafter, and we’ve definitely reached that point. That any new GM will have a host of messes to fix upon taking the job is all the more reason to let them start sooner, rather than later.

With Elias Pettersson and Quinn Hughes probably headed for bridge contracts, almost all of the Canucks’ onerous contracts are survivable for the one remaining season left on them. Eat another year of Jay Beagle, Antoine Roussel, Braden Holtby and even Loui Eriksson, perhaps buying out one of the three and leaving the rest.

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Tyler Myers is another matter entirely. Though he’s been more effective this season, he’s still not playing anywhere near to his $6 million cap hit, and at age 31 he’s probably not improving much from here. With rumours abound that the flat cap is going to remain relatively unchanged for some time, Myers’ contract is going to become an increasingly apparent problem for a team trying to make the transition to contention.

So, in my first move as GM of the Vancouver Canucks, I’d allocate whatever resources are required in order to get the Seattle Kraken, or any other team, to take on Myers. I probably wouldn’t trade an unprotected first rounder along with him, or a Vasily Podkolzin-level prospect, but anything else goes. Even if the price paid is a tough pill to swallow, the wisdom of the transaction will only become clearer as the remaining three years on Myers’ deal roll by.

Answering the second question first, pro scouting has been an obvious weakness of the Benning regime, as evidenced by his terrible free agent record, but it has improved of late. Acquisitions like Tyler Motte and Tanner Pearson are reason for hope that, if NHLers or near-NHLers are targeted in any deadline trade, that they’ll be of reasonable quality.

As far as actually making deals at the 2021 Trade Deadline, I’d recommend cautious pessimism. Recent trades for Eric Staal and Brendan Lemieux suggest a heavily depressed market, which will mean less-than-tantalizing offers for “premium” rentals like Pearson and Brandon Sutter, and next-to-nothing for the likes of Jordie Benn and et cetera. As we’ve said before, Alex Edler remains the trade chip with the most theoretical value, but the ball is entirely in his court.

Some trades will be made, if for nothing else than to open up space for players like Olli Juolevi to re-enter the lineup, but that’ll have to be small consolation for lacklustre returns.

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I must admit to not paying all that much attention to the 2021 draft class, mostly because I, like many, made the foolish assumption that the Canucks might be beyond first rounders being a primary focus. Alas…

I agree with DSto’s take that defence should be the priority, and right-side defence at that. The temptation of getting a second Hughes brother is obviously strong, but I’d personally favour one of the big-name RHDs like Scott Morrow or Brandt Clarke.

Another good option is to target a center with two-way sensibilities to slide into the 3C spot while Pettersson and Bo Horvat are still in their primes — maybe North Vancouver product Kent Johnson.

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That said, the Canucks don’t exactly have a great history with targeting “safe” forwards in the first round.

More than anything, I trust Benning and Co.’s ability to identify talent in the first round by now. I’m probably going to be optimistic about whoever is chosen. Even if a new front office is brought on, they’ll still be relying on the Benning regime’s scouting reports.

None and no.

Heck yes. Sam Wilson’s run as Captain America is one of my favourite runs in recent memory, and to see it play out onscreen is very gratifying.

I’ve always been a big believer that superheroes represent our idealized selves, for better and for worse, much like the pantheons of old, and are thus an excellent lens through which to examine social issues. That was the strength of Nick Spencer’s Captain America: Sam Wilson, and I think it’s going to be the strength of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, too.

Plus, it’s as cool as it gets, with action scenes reminiscent of The Winter Soldier film. I’m all-in.

Two comic book questions, what a treat! I purposefully lumped them together here for the convenience of all those who’d rather skip on the nerdery.

In this case, Ryan, the caveat was not needed. I’ve been a Marvel-head since my early youth and, although I’ll always love the Dark Knight, all of my favourites are Marvel characters.

It’s a vanilla answer, but Spider-Man was important to me as a youth without many strong male role models, and I like to think he played a big part in me turning out alright. I still read his comics monthly, and I think Tom Holland’s portrayal of him is truly iconic. Spidey is my all-time and sentimental favourite, with The Thing coming in as a close second. No catchphrase gets me quite as pumped up as “It’s clobberin’ time!”

If you want some more obscure picks, I’d probably go with a couple of New Mutants in Sunspot and Magik.

If you want some even more obscure picks, then I’m calling out Quentin Quire and Boomerang. No, not Captain Boomerang, just Boomerang, as in Fred Myers.

Personally, I hope they team up to squish the humans.

To riff on the semi-fictional Thomas Jefferson, “Can we get back to hockey talk, please?!”

(Okay, if you insist. But if you enjoyed hearing me rant about comics and other geeky stuff, you can always check out my work on Ranker!)

The always-inquisitive Geordie Dent brings us to a close with a real thinker of a question.

My first blush instinct is to blame personnel. Quinn Hughes is meant to be a lynchpin of the team’s offence-to-defence transition, and he needs to be on the ice as much as possible, but there’s just not enough support on the right-side for him to do what he needs to do without bleeding goals against. From there, the team as a whole suffers — but that’s not to say that Hughes and others bear no individual blame.

Simply put, Hughes needs to pay more attention to detail when it comes to his defensive responsibilities, as do many of the team’s key forwards, with emphasis on JT Miller. Overall two-way play is a concern, but the turnovers, bad coverage, and other unforced errors are too apparent and costly to ignore. Clean those up, and the entire squad’s goal differential is probably back to respectable.

With all that on the table, we have to turn our eyes to the coaching staff. One or two players seeing their defensive game crumble might be on those players themselves, but it’s happened to too many this season to avoid placing some blame on the coaches. One has to think that players of the quality of a Hughes, Pettersson, and Miller are coachable; and if Travis Green and Co. can’t do it to maximum effectiveness, maybe it’s time to let someone else have a try.

Hmm, that’s not a very positive note to end on.
Let’s try this instead…

Great question, Stephan.

I’ll say it’s the prospect of having a handful of players dealt away, and the subsequent jockeying for position of the depth chart that will ensue. The Canucks have a ton of players on the periphery of the roster who are waiting for their chance to make an impact, and some of them will when the opportunity strikes.

Who of Olli Juolevi, Zack MacEwen, Jalen Chatfield, Jayce Hawryluk, Travis Boyd, Jimmy Vesey, Marc Michaelis, Brogan Rafferty, Kole Lind, and more are going to vault their way up the Canucks’ positional rankings?

We don’t know!

And that’s what makes it fun.