The Mailbag: The real reason to believe in Spencer Martin, Boeser or Garland, and the Canucks’ true identity
10 months ago
Another week, another
The Vancouver Canucks are hanging on by a thread, our readers have questions, and we’ve got answers!
Let’s see what questions we got into the mailbag this week!
I’m likely more confident in Spencer Martin than most, but my confidence doesn’t stem from a three-game NHL stint where Martin put up flashy numbers in the midst of a miracle “Bruce there it is” fuelled storybook run for the Canucks.
Instead, it comes from something you don’t see much in games: Martin’s work ethic.
When you talk to those around the league about Canucks goaltending coach Ian Clark, the common theme is that everybody knows he expects his goaltenders to be harder workers than anybody on the team.
Clark himself will tell you this is the case, and while it may rub some goaltenders the wrong way and push them a bit too far, you don’t need to look much further than Sergei Bobrovsky, Jacob Markstrom, and Thatcher Demko to see what can happen to a goaltender when they work hard and buy in to what Clark is trying to sell them.
Martin has that work ethic, and he’s taken massive strides in his game since coming to Vancouver.
After being acquired in an offseason trade by the Canucks, Martin began his tenure with Abbotsford as the third-string goaltender behind Arturs Silovs and Michael DiPietro. He was brought in as a goaltending depth piece who Abbotsford goaltending coach Curtis Sanford saw potential in when watching Martin play against the Utica Comets in years past.
That potential was something Sanford saw and felt he could work with, and he appears to have been right.
Martin’s movement in the crease looks much better than it did at training camp, and he has the numbers to back up the theory that he’s greatly improved, too.
In a recent conversation I had with Sanford, he agreed that Martin has taken big steps, and that there is certainly still room to improve for Martin.
This is all to say, the confidence I have in Martin’s abilities to be a reliable NHL backup to Thatcher Demko next season doesn’t stem from his brief NHL stint — it stems from his willingness to work and the improvements that are already apparent in his game.
Martin could certainly improve further on his rebound control, his post play, and more, and we’re willing to bet he continues to improve on those things heading into next year.
We’re likely going to see a lot of questions like this in future mailbags as the belief remains that the Canucks will look to move one of Conor Garland, Brock Boeser, or J.T. Miller this offseason.
With respect to this user’s question, we’ll try to answer between Boeser and Garland (although the best case is likely to be made for trading Miller for a massive haul.)
Water gun to my head, and you’re making me pick between Garland or Boeser, I’ll say Garland.
First off, there’s the belief from Bruce Boudreau — who has much, much more experience in the game of hockey than I — that Garland will have a bounce-back year next season.
“When a guy gets traded, and he’s been on a team for a long time, his first year with that [new] team is an acclimation period. Once he gets used to them, he becomes the player he used to be,” Boudreau told me. “You see a lot of guys getting traded and in their first year and they’re [the new team] going ‘What did we trade for him? He’s not as good as I thought he was,’ but then they [the acquired player] become who they are.”
Additionally, there’s Garland’s ability to produce at 5-on-5 — even in a down year — and Boeser’s struggle to do so for most of this season.
Don’t get us wrong — Brock Boeser is a good player who is almost certainly capable of scoring 30 goals in this league, but that’s exactly why there are teams interested in him and why the Canucks could move him.
When you take into account Garland’s bounce-back potential, along with what the Canucks gave up to acquire him, and most of all, his cap hit for the next four seasons (just under $5 million), it probably makes more sense for the Canucks to keep him over Boeser.
The thing we’d warn of, however, is trading Boeser for below market value. Buying high and selling low is something fans and media alike desperately want to see this team do less, not more of, moving forward.
There are a lot of moving parts, and it will be interesting to see how the Canucks navigate this offseason.
Speaking of Myers, there has been a lot of chatter around him as of late.
The sense I’m getting from the conversations I’ve had over the past little while is that not only will the Canucks not have to retain salary on a Myers trade, they likely won’t even need to pair an asset with him, as teams are beginning to view him as having net-positive value.
Myers also becomes a lot more moveable in the final two years of his deal, as his full no-trade clause becomes a modified no-trade clause where he will submit a 10-team no-trade list to the Canucks on July 1st, 2022 — not to mention his base salary of $1 million in the final year of his deal.
For the most part, Myers has had a solid year playing top-pair minutes on a shutdown pair alongside Oliver Ekman-Larsson, and teams around the league have taken notice.
As you may know already, I’m widely known as Myers’ biggest supporter in the local media sphere, but even I can admit that if the opportunity is there to move him for fair value this offseason, the Canucks need to be exploring that option.
The results of this season are interesting, to say the least.
The Canucks performed like a playoff team under head coach Bruce Boudreau, and that has many fans hopeful that with a full season under Boudreau, the Canucks will be a surefire playoff team.
On the contrary, there are fans who think the team greatly overperformed, and will come crashing back to earth next season.
The truth is probably somewhere in the middle, and that’s just the problem.
The Canucks are — in a season where the past management regime went all in — a bubble playoff team.
Even if you just take their record under Boudreau, the Canucks have the 13th best record in the league (12th best points percentage) at the time of this writing.
This is all to say that, even when performing at their highest level, the Canucks still aren’t a top-tier team, which is what fans want to ultimately see the team become.
The problems Jim Rutherford identified when he first got here are still present, and they still need to be fixed. What this team did was impressive, but their second-half push shouldn’t dramatically alter the club’s thought process or decision-making moving forward.
So can the Canucks be a playoff team next season? Yes, maybe!
Do big changes still need to be made to this roster in order to bring them from a coin-flip playoff team to a true lock to make the playoffs? Yes, but now it’s up to this management group to get them there, and it’s not crazy to think they can take a step in the right direction this offseason, the same way they did at the trade deadline.
That’s it for the mailbag! To ask a question in a future mailbag, be sure to follow both Faber and myself on Twitter and keep an eye out for the weekly call for questions!
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