Monday Mailbag: Brent Sopel’s take on the state of the Canucks, Malhotra’s departure, and is this year salvageable?

Photo credit:Matthew Henderson
David Quadrelli
2 years ago
Another week, another mailbag. At the time of this writing, the Canucks have lost four straight and are a disconnected group playing some truly abysmal hockey. But the mailbag must go on! So with that in mind, let’s see what you wonderful people asked this week!
Manny Malhotra left the Vancouver Canucks this offseason because he was offered a bench position with the Toronto Maple Leafs, something the Canucks couldn’t offer him.
Although fans may not have seen Malhotra during games on the TV broadcast, those in and around the team know his impact was one felt by many within the organization.
Malhotra could often be seen on the ice during practices working with the centerman on faceoffs, and as the original question asker points out, was someone the players talked to one-on-one quite often.
I’m not sure if losing him is something that can be attributed to the Canucks’ poor play. What can be attributed to him leaving, however, is the Toronto Maple Leafs’ potent power play, which burned the Canucks numerous times over the first two games of this three game series.
Malhotra is a smart guy and someone widely respected around the league. His success as the Leafs’ power play coach shouldn’t come as surprise.
Additionally, Leafs head coach Sheldon Keefe revealed to media ahead of the series with the Canucks that the Leafs decided to assign each North Division opponent to a coach in order to help them prepare for each opponent.
Malhotra was an obvious choice to scout the Canucks, and while a lot of the pain the Canucks’ are going through right now is self-infilcted, one has to wonder how much of an impact Malhotra’s preparation had on the back-to-back blowout wins for his club.
First of all, there is no way I’m trading Brock Boeser if I’m the Vancouver Canucks. He’s finally healthy and has looked like one of the few bright spots on this team at various points this season.
Additionally, there’s been a lot of talk about how the core players were upset by the lack of communication from management about how the offseason unfolded.
Some — including a former Canuck who we will get to later — have suggested that this is causing the team to quit on the GM and lowering morale.
Want to know how to lower morale even more and piss off your core players even more? Trade Elias Pettersson and Quinn Hughes’ best friend on the team!
Hypothetically speaking, however, the return the Canucks would get from trading Boeser would certainly include a top 4 defenceman. Boeser’s value is presumably less than Patrik Laine’s, and we just saw him get traded — along with a pretty darn good young center (I really need to stop writing these at 2 AM) in Jack Roslovic — for a young top six center.
I can certainly get behind trading J.T. Miller more than I can trading Boeser, but still, concerns of shaking up the core when Miller’s value is presumably at the lowest point it’s been in the past two years just doesn’t seem worth it at this point in time.
Miller’s attitude and composure have been talked about quite a bit to begin the new season. Perhaps it was because he was so dominant last year and didn’t have much reason to be as a result, but we haven’t seen Miller get as animated as he has been at various points this season.
He’s yelled at officials, broke his stick over the Canucks’ net in frustration, and on Saturday, he chose not to even pretend to backcheck, which led to a fiery Braden Holtby glaring at his team’s bench with a look that can only be described as dumbfounded by his team’s lack of defensive effort:
“What was said on the ice stays on the ice,” Holtby said after the game. “I think it’s not just that play, a lot of things, it’s just trying to get on the same page. It’s hard to take losses like this. They’re piling up on us. That’s frustrating. The only way to get out of it is to get back to work and find a way to get on the same page. We’re a disconnected group right now and it’s showing. We need to find a way to fight through that.”
The craziest part about the criticisms of Miller is that he’s doing just fine from a point-producing perspective. He has 13 points through 12 games, but isn’t driving play anywhere near the same way he did last season.
The tweet above is from February 1st, but you get the point.
Some people have even gone as far as suggesting the Canucks should scratch Miller to send a message to the team about what can happen when you decide to take your foot off the gas pedal.
While that’s great in theory (and could be applied to numerous players on this team right now) the Canucks simply cannot afford to scratch Miller and put somebody else in the top six. He makes them a better team, and personally, I’ll take Miller at 50% effort over what some of the guys in the press box put in on a nightly basis.
All in all, Saturday night — when Holtby was brutally honest about the current state of the team — can either serve as a wake-up call for the club and for Miller, or they can continue to play with a lack of urgency and continue to make it harder and harder on themselves.
There’s certainly value in all three of these, but according to former Canuck defenceman Brent Sopel, who you would think has a pretty good idea of what the players are going through, it’s the GM who the players have given up on, and that’s who needs to go:
That sure is interesting to hear from a former player.
P.S., go check out Sopel’s work raising awareness for dyslexia, he’s doing some great things.
I think it’d be foolish to suggest that 15 games into a season in which four of the seven North Division teams will qualify for the playoffs that the Canucks are out of the race.
But they better hurry.
The thing is, it’s not so much about the record, it’s more about how the team is getting completely dominated by the top teams in the division. It’s been a rarity to see them put up any sort of fight against the Montreal Canadiens, and through two games, they haven’t been able to do anything against the Leafs, either.
Look, this division has the Ottawa Senators in it, so at the end of the day, the Canucks only need to beat out two teams in the division to qualify. That is certainly doable, but this team needs to find an identity fast if they hope to compete.
Currently, the Canucks have more games played than any team in their division, and are tied for fourth place with the Edmonton Oilers. The Calgary Flames, who have played four fewer games than the Canucks, are trailing the Canucks by just one point.
They’ll need to play around .600 hockey from here on out if they want to make the dance.
Is it salvageable? Yes.
Is it going to be easy? No.
Do they need to figure it out quickly? Damn right.
That’s all for this week folks! Thanks to everybody who asked a question. To ask a question in a future mailbag, be sure to follow me on Twitter @QuadreIli and keep an eye out for the weekly mailbag tweet. Stay safe out there!

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