Monday Mailbag: A rebuild vs. a retool, Miller at centre, and Canucks fans voice their displeasure

Photo credit:Matthew Henderson
David Quadrelli
1 year ago
Faber is away this week, so I’m back on Monday Mailbag duties!
The Vancouver Canucks played just two games since our last mailbag, and yet, it feels like we have a plethora of topics to get into.
With that in mind, let’s get into the questions for this week’s mailbag!
Well, this is going to take up most of today’s mailbag.
Let’s operate with the idea that the Canucks are operating within the parameters that recent reports have suggested they are.
That is, that they’re not interested in a rebuild, but also recognize that the players they have right now aren’t able to get the job done as a group. Also, for our purposes, we’re going to play into the idea that Elias Pettersson is the club’s only untouchable.
Now, the difference between a rebuild compared to a retool is simple.
In a rebuild, you’re getting rid of your core players — often ones who are good, but can’t help your team in its current form — by trading them to contending teams looking to push themselves over the edge.
Now, because of their young stars’ ages, it’s not impossible for the Canucks to rebuild their team by rebuilding around Elias Pettersson and/or Quinn Hughes.
In both a rebuild or a retool, Elias Pettersson — and likely Hughes too — are the players the club is building around, and rightfully so.
The Rebuild Approach
In the rebuild approach, the club unloads their current roster outside of their two young stars in exchange for draft picks and prospects who are likely still 2+ years away from helping out at the NHL level. In doing so, the club prides itself on their compete level and loads up on cheap players who will at least help build a good culture while not expecting the club to make any sort of long-term commitment to them.
We’re talking about players like Curtis Lazar, Kyle Burroughs, and Luke Schenn. These three players all take up $1 million or less each on the Canucks’ cap hit and are solid people to have around a young up-and-coming team.
Then after a year or two of not winning many games, the Canucks use all the draft capital they acquired in those trades of their current roster, and start to see some of the prospects they accumulated along the way begin to emerge.
It’s at this point that they enter the retooling, building, or whatever you want to call it phase of the rebuild. This is the part where you start to give up assets to get young players in return who can help you in the here and now and hopefully still have potential to improve.
Examples of teams like this are all over the National Hockey League. After a Stanley Cup Final appearance in 2021, the Montreal Canadiens were far worse than they expected to be last season, and offloaded as many assets as possible while still rebuilding around their young core, and have moved into this phase we’re talking about, henceforth known as the “retooling phase” of their rebuild.
They gave up a first and third-round pick to the Chicago Blackhawks in exchange for Kirby Dach, a 21-year-old centre who the Canadiens want around for a long time.
This came after they identified Nick Suzuki and Cole Caufield as their next wave of core players, and after they traded Tyler Toffoli to the Flames, Brett Kulak to the Oilers, and Ben Chiarot to the Panthers, obtaining two first round picks, a second round pick, and other future assets in the process.
This allowed the Canadiens to not only draft first overall because their team wasn’t good enough to push up the standings last year, but the assets they acquired helped them make six draft selections before the third round of the 2022 NHL Draft came to a close.
And because of the moves they made, they were also able to take on Sean Monahan’s contract from the Calgary Flames while adding yet another first round pick in the process.
And just like that, the Canadiens are in the “retooling” phase of their rebuild. They’ve got the core pieces, and are now developing them while keeping a keen eye on the future.
They’re also one point ahead of the Canucks — who were built to do the opposite of what Montreal has been built to do — in the NHL standings.
The Retool approach
Now, skipping the rebuild portion and going right to the retool phase seems pretty self-explanatory.
In this scenario, the Canucks feel they have the wrong players in place and that they need to move some bodies out to build around Elias Pettersson and Quinn Hughes, just like they would in a rebuild scenario!
The difference is that in offloading the players currently on their roster, the Canucks aren’t looking to acquire first round picks and clear up cap space.
Rather, they’re looking for younger players that can help them in the present and down the road as well. The Canucks are looking for a “hockey trade” in this scenario.
It’s where the Canadiens find themselves right now, after just half a season’s worth of offloading players for future assets. The Canucks skip this step in this scenario, and instead look for impact players.
Now, the Canucks’ ability to identify talent under this new regime does actually inspire some confidence. So far, they’ve targeted players like Ethan Bear, Ilya Mikheyev, and Andrei Kuzmenko, all three of which have worked out quite well in Vancouver.
Historically though, making these types of trades without going through some sort of rebuild stage in which you’re acquiring high draft picks just isn’t all that common.
It feels like most people want the Canucks to go through the rebuild phase, especially if it means acquiring picks in a draft as deep as this upcoming one.
Instead, it seems as though the team may add a pick or two, but that the main pieces they covet are a young centre and right-handed defenceman. This likely means the pick they add are going to be in the second round or later.
Hey, it’s still something.
And as I said earlier, the track record of talent this new Canucks management group has chosen to target does instill at least some level of confidence that they can successfully retool this team better than the last regime did.
It’s still not ideal, sure — fans are certainly afraid about the prospect of seeing this team end up in the mushy middle for another ten years while they try to compete — but at least this regime has shown some level of competency in that department. And at least this regime seems to recognize that Elias Pettersson is the only player who should be completely off-limits in their attempt to retool.
That’s a good place to start if you’re not going to start at the rebuild stage, right?
Anyway, let’s get to some quick questions since it feels like I spent 1000+ words answering that one question.
I genuinely don’t know the answer to this and I’m not sure how to bring it up to a player, or who it’s appropriate to bring it up to. Maybe I’ll ask Tanner Pearson if he’s ever considered subtracting one from his jersey number.
Callahan Burke, Samuel Fagemo, and Mike Hoffman are the only three players to wear 68 this season, and it’s hard to believe that their answers won’t involve respect and admiration for Jaromir Jagr.
But you’re damn right that still going to ask the question if and when those three come to town.
This is an interesting question because despite their best efforts this season, JT Miller has just been unable to stick at centre.
They’ve tried on numerous occasions this season and it’s been unsuccessful each time.
We’ll see at morning skate today if the Canucks continue their efforts of late to get Miller back at centre.
Cam Charron wrote a great piece over at The Athletic outlining why Miller has been so much more effective at wing this season than he has at centre. He also explained why this is a major problem for the Canucks, who just signed Miller to a seven-year extension worth $56 million this past offseason.
Essentially, Charron explained that Miller turns over the puck less on the wing than he does at centre, and creates more offence at wing than he does at centre.
That’s not doing the article much justice, but you get the idea.
The Canucks better hope that Miller figures it out at centre, because if and when Bo Horvat is moved they’re essentially going to need Miller to do the job they paid him to do, and that’s to be a top six centre for this team long term.
Our own Lachlan Irvine did a great job yesterday of capturing the mood of the fanbase after GM Patrik Allvin’s uninspiring After Hours interview.
Allvin managed to say a lot without saying anything at all, and for a fanbase that’s been pushed so far and just wants answers more than anything, that just isn’t good enough.
This isn’t WDYTT, but we’re going to take this Monday Mailbag in a different direction. We’re going to pull some of the comments that readers left on the site over the weekend to help illustrate where some fans are at.
Keep in mind this is only a small number of the comments we’re seeing from fans lately. Hearing from the fans, the folks who invest their time and money into this team, seems like a fitting way to close out today’s Monday Mailbag as we head into the week ahead.
Calvin Stewart
Is this all part of a sick experiment to see how far fans that have followed this team through thick and thin, and good and bad (mostly bad) can be pushed? I have not seen one positive sign of any possible moves or decisions being made to tell me otherwise. Crickets. Is Jim Rutherford still with the team? Sign Horvat!
Canuck Dog
So glad I never paid to watch that garbage tonight. Another night off for the millionaire club. Getting paid vacations night after night. When are they going to earn their wages and get to work?
This season is playing out pretty much exactly as was predicted. The defence is woefully inadequate, and worse still, it’s badly underpaid. But as long as the team is within striking distance of the playoffs, ownership/management will refuse to do what needs to be done.
Tear it down. This team has no drive, passion or conviction. Playing like crap in front of a national audience two weeks in a row is unacceptable. Boring.
I’ve loved this team thru thick n thin… but this is the worst. Thing that really guts me is that we’re poised to waste EP’s best years. At this point I’m almost hoping EP pulls a Tkachuk and goes somewhere where he can win 5 cups and builds a HOF career. He deserves it. He won’t be able to do it here. 🙁
I didn’t watch this game, but did watch Friedman’s 32 Thoughts and Allvin’s interview. It’s a really bad sign that 2 consecutive management groups cannot articulate the team’s direction. What is the BS about brick by brick? WTF?
Just say we will not take a step back and will only compete for the cup if we get lucky in the playoffs. Very flawed strategy, but at least it’s honest.
I am not for a scorched earth rebuild at this stage, but I do think they need to sell this year to be competitive in 2 years. The only way this management and ownership group will do the right thing is when no other option is available. So I hope the team loses. Loses and loses again until there is a realization that building brick by brick only leaves you with a bunch of bricks.

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