Photo credit:© John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports
All-Star Notebook: Elias Lindholm’s Canucks debut, trade options worth pondering, and some NHL ASG thoughts
21 days ago
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The Vancouver Canucks arrived in Toronto for NHL All-Star Weekend with eight representatives — five players, Rick Tocchet, Fin the Orca and legendary PA announcer Al Murdoch — but they left with nine.
In a sequel to last year, Jim Rutherford and Patrik Allvin pulled the trigger on a major deal just a day before the All-Star celebrations began. On Wednesday, they sent struggling winger Andrei Kuzmenko with a backpack full of picks and prospects to the Calgary Flames in exchange for All-Star centre Elias Lindholm.
Lindholm wasn’t just the most highly sought after forward in the trade market, he was the only potential game changer on the board. The Canucks bringing him in not only helps solidify their standing at the top of the Pacific Division, it also cements them as a team the path to the Stanley Cup is going through.
Canucks fans’ introduction to Lindholm came on the ice in Toronto in a bright gold, Justin Bieber-designed jersey. But his official arrival will come on Tuesday night against the Carolina Hurricanes, and everyone will be watching to see what the Canucks do for an encore after their league-leading first half.
That’s why today’s notebook goes through Lindholm’s first days as a Canuck, how his new front office might try to add to the roster next, and some thoughts on this year’s All-Star weekend.
Elias Lindholm’s Canucks debut a fun one
Last season, Bo Horvat said goodbye to Elias Pettersson and Canucks fans by putting on one last show together for Team Pacific.
This year, Patrik Allvin decided to commit to being the sworn enemy of All-Star prep teams and brought Elias Lindholm to Vancouver, forcing some last-minute name-card swaps and jersey replacements.
For Lindholm, being traded during All-Star Weekend was probably a double-edged sword. During a more busy part of the season, he would’ve had to quickly pack his bags and fly out to meet his new team with as little adjustment time as possible. But even though the break gave him some extra time to adjust to his new situation, he also had to answer a lot more questions about it from 32 cities’ worth of media members in Toronto.
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Lindholm’s unofficial debut as a Canuck was relatively quiet, playing around 5:30 minutes for Team MacKinnon and earning a secondary assist on Oliver Bjorkstrand’s second-half goal. His new Canucks teammates on Team Hughes didn’t fare much better, losing their semifinal matchup 6-5 in a shootout to Team Matthews.
Our very own Dave Hall already broke down where Lindholm most likely belongs in the Canucks’ lineup — on the wing next to Elias Pettersson, which was where he skated on Sunday in his first practice — but I’d like to offer a bit of additional context why.
Lindholm is the perfect compliment to a player like Pettersson; willing to pass the last shot opportunity off but more than capable of taking it if the moment calls for him. In 2021-22, Lindholm scored a career-high 42 goals and 82 points, good enough for third-most on the Flames. The only two players in front of him? His then-linemates Johnny Gaudreau and Matthew Tkachuk.
Once Tkachuk and Gaudreau moved out east that offseason, Lindholm’s numbers took an understandable dip. But he still ended up as Calgary’s second-highest scorer, behind only new linemate Tyler Toffoli. Then Toffoli was traded to New Jersey in June, and it was back to square one.
It’s fair to say that Lindholm will never be the play driver for a team, hence why any talk of him being “post-Pettersson insurance” makes little sense. But he fits a perfect middle ground where he’s able to be a dangerous shot option and take faceoffs, freeing more time and space for Elias Pettersson in the offensive zone. Lindholm’s also able to take a few special teams reps off other players’ plates, working everywhere from the power play to the penalty kill.
It’s also worth noting that Lindholm’s Canucks debut will come on the road against another one of his former teams: the Carolina Hurricanes.
Where do the Canucks go from here?
Swapping Andrei Kuzmenko for Lindholm takes care of a couple different problems, but there’s still holes in the boat that need patching.
The Canucks’ defence could sure use some extra help with Carson Soucy out, and for a while, it looked like Chris Tanev might be coming back to Vancouver with Lindholm. But adding an extra player to the deal proved to be extra complicated, and the cost of an additional first-round pick to add Tanev might be a bit too rich for Allvin right now.
From Daily Faceoff’s Trade Targets board, Philadelphia’s Sean Walker and Nick Seeler both offer interesting options if the Flyers don’t want to consider them their playoff rentals, while the Blue Jackets’ Adam Boqvist and Andrew Peeke could help as a seventh or eighth man.
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But none of those four offer the same value as a shutdown defender that Tanev does, so maybe Allvin will try and circle back once the dust has settled.
On the offensive side of the puck, the Canucks might be looking to upgrade from some underperforming wingers like Ilya Mikheyev, but the ability to do so within cap constraints won’t be easy. One interesting name might be LA’s Arthur Kaliyev, who’s struggled to find a solid place in LA’s lineup. The 22-year-old has 18 points this season, carries an $895k cap hit, and will become an RFA in the summer.
Also, not for nothing, but I would love to see the Canucks kick some tires around San Jose’s Anthony Duclair, who played a valuable depth role in the Panthers’ President’s Trophy and Stanley Cup Final seasons.
Some thoughts on the new All-Star Weekend
It seems like we talk about the NHL revolutionizing their All-Star Weekend every single season just for the same issues to come up, like a chef at a McDonald’s test kitchen trying to make a better French fry by adding salt.
This year, the league brought back an old favourite from past All-Star Games in the player draft, mixed it in with the more recent 3-on-3 format, and completely revamped the Skills competition with help from Connor McDavid. And overall, it seemed to work better than the past few iterations.
So let’s go over the two most of the weekend’s events, what worked and what didn’t.
The Player Draft: I was all for the return of the player draft from the 2011 to 2015 events under the new tournament rules, In true NHL fashion, the concept was pretty great but the execution was rough.
First of all, Michael Bublé and Will Arnett absolutely carried the event with their jokes and crowd interaction throughout the draft. And if Bublé’s secret weapon was any indication, this event would’ve been a lot better if the players had more to do than just swing their skates under the benches. Or at least something to drink.
The actual essence of the draft is great. Getting the players involved and actually campaigning for their fellow stars to join their teams is always the most fun aspect, I just wish the proceedings left a little more room for banter. I also would’ve liked to see some more transactions between the four teams, but obviously Calgary’s Tate McRae wasn’t going to give up former Flame Lindholm for a low price.
Skills Competition: This year’s Skills competition got back to the basics of the event: Fastest Skater, Accuracy Shooting, and Hardest Shot, among others, without the more gimmicky events like the golf and dunk tanks in Florida. According to the NHL, Connor McDavid had a big hand in putting together this year’s format of having 12 superstars compete in the events, with a million dollars and bragging rights on the line.
The event was maybe one of the best Skills competitions we’ve seen in recent years, even if McDavid clearly rigged the whole thing in his favour (I kid, I kid). I thought the lack of more unique events would make it boring, but seeing the league’s undisputed best face off in eight competitions was undoubtedly a more enjoyable viewing experience. My one recommendation for next time would be to find a few new players who’ll be more… enthusiastic about taking part. Nikita Kucherov found his angle as the crowd heel later on, but in the early events he sure looked like a man phoning it in.
Elias Pettersson winning the Passing Challenge was an obvious highlight, as was seeing Thatcher Demko and his fellow goalies square off in the One-On-One challenge. Sadly Petey wasn’t able to defend his Hardest Shot crown, but J.T. Miller had himself a pretty decent afternoon, finishing sixth out of twelve. Not bad for someone who was described as the normal player among eleven elite players.
Overall, this year’s All-Star Game was more successful in capturing hockey fans’ attention than in other years, even if a lot of that was thanks to a great intermission performance by Tate McRae and Justin Bieber living out the Canadian dream of skating with NHL players in jerseys he helped make.
Who could’ve known that big name celebrities would garner this much publicity? But I’m certainly not complaining.
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