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Ethan Bear’s healthy scratch shows a disconnect between management and the coaching staff

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Photo credit:© Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports
Noah Strang
1 month ago
During the AM’s morning skate, the Vancouver Canucks hinted at some interesting lineup decisions for tonight’s game against the Seattle Kraken. Ethan Bear — the 25-year-old defenceman acquired from Carolina this season — stayed on the ice late to put in extra work, a good indicator that he will not be playing tonight.
And after warmups just moments ago, those suspicions were confirmed, as Riley Stillman and Kyle Burroughs will form the team’s third defence pairing.
Bear has recorded six points in 22 games so far this season for the Canucks. His removal from the lineup is a bit of a shock as he has straight up just been one of this team’s best defencemen. As a right-handed player, there also isn’t much competition on that side of the blue line for title of “best defenceman”.
Acquiring Bear and Lane Pederson for a fifth-round draft pick has perhaps been the best move of the new management’s tenure thus far. Bear is rocking the best expected goals percentage at 5-on-5 of any regular Canucks defenceman.
He’s been one of the team’s better defencemen, and at just 25-years-old, feels like the type of player that could be a solid complementary piece for years to come. The decision to scratch him at this moment is puzzling and raises questions about the communication between the coaching staff and the higher-ups in the organization.

A disconnect between management and the coaching staff? 

Overhauling the defence group has been a goal for Jim Rutherford and Patrik Allvin since they got the job. That is a monumental task as NHL-caliber defencemen are one of the NHL’s most highly valued assets but Rutherford and Allvin have made some smaller moves to make progress toward this goal.
Acquiring Bear has been their biggest achievement. For the lowly cost of a late-round draft pick, the Canucks received an NHL defenceman and an additional forward in Pederson who has been tearing up the AHL. Earlier this week, a report came out that the organization is going to be trying to extend the right-handed defenceman.
For Bear to be sitting out of games — while seemingly fully healthy — just a few days after that report came out is very strange. Players like Riley Stillman and Kyle Burroughs, who do not factor as heavily into the Canucks’ future plans, are getting minutes instead.
There is a massive opportunity for young Canucks defencemen to play large roles and further their development. To leave Bear on the sideline and give those minutes to players like the two mentioned previously instead, is a very puzzling decision and speaks to a larger issue the Canucks are dealing with.

The lame-duck factor

When the Canucks cleared house last season, they hired head coach Bruce Boudreau before Rutherford or Allvin. This has clearly caused some friction between the two parties. On multiple occasions, Rutherford or Allvin have made comments that undermine Boudreau’s position as head coach.
In fact, it was revealed that when he accepted the job, Rutherford was not fully aware of Boudreau’s option to return to the club this season.
“It was my understanding that he was going to get a contract for just last year. He got a contract really for two years, and so he’s still got his contract. It wasn’t that we extended him one year, it was that we just lived by the contract he had,” Rutherford said on After Hours earlier this season.
Boudreau has no extension beyond this season and clearly is not management’s top choice as head coach. He’s fighting for his life every game as one more prolonged losing streak could result in him losing his job. This means that he’s going to make decisions that help the team and the organization tonight, even if they aren’t necessarily the best moves in the big picture.
As a lame-duck coach without a contract past this season, Boudreau can’t be blamed for doing what’s best for his job. This is an issue of different interests between the two groups and it’s creating negative consequences for the Canucks organization.
For the Canucks to execute a swift and effective turnaround, everyone needs to be on the same page.
If Bruce is their guy, then come out and say it. And if he’s not, then why allow this to continue?

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