Vancouver Canucks ownership knows change is needed. It’s time to bring home the computer boys

Photo credit:Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports
David Quadrelli
2 years ago
On the most recent “31 Thoughts” podcast, Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman dropped a few interesting tidbits, one of which has to do with some royalty that used to write for this very website.
“I think what the owners have decided is, we can’t come back the same way, but they don’t know what to do,” Friedman said. Ownership seems to understand that some sort of change is needed, and this doesn’t necessarily have to include letting go of Jim Benning, which they are clearly reluctant to do.
Enter the computer boys.
For those that don’t know, two of the computer boys — Cam Lawrence and Josh Weissbock, both of whom used to grace CanucksArmy with their analysis — were poached from our site by the Florida Panthers to work in the hockey operations department. With a new management regime taking over in Florida, they’ve now been let go by the Panthers and are currently free agents.
When Vinnie Viola took over as the Panthers’ owner in 2014, he was almost instantly skeptical of GM Dale Tallon. Viola began to lean more heavily on Eric Joyce, a former West Point hockey player and Steve Werier, a young Canadian lawyer.
Both Joyce and Werier were made AGM’s and it was Werier who brought in Lawrence and Weissbock — the computer boys. They made a data-driven draft board, built as an alternative to the conventional board built by Tallon’s trusted scouts. Among other major differences from Florida’s board under Tallon, this one recommended Mat Barzal, Kyle Connor and Travis Konecny in the top 10, each far above Lawson Crouse, who Tallon selected at 11.
“Those guys kind of grew up with Vancouver ties,” said Friedman of Lawrence and Weissbock. “I wonder if you’re the Canucks if you should be looking at that.”
The answer is yes. Yes, the Canucks should absolutely be looking at bringing the computer boys home.
As Andrew Harris so eloquently put it: the guys who found Anthony Duclair, Carter Verhaeghe (two free agents the computer boys flagged, playing a big role in Florida’s current playoff run) and Marchessault at a combined lower cap hit than Tyler Myers should get a look from the Canucks.
The computer boys are proficient at looking for cheap, hidden talents, and are the perfect targets for an organization trying to save money in every way possible while still competing.
Joyce, Werier, and the computer boys were essentially given free rein by Viola for the 2015-16 season, the season the Panthers got back to the playoffs.
In that time, the computer boys pushed hard to move out bad money contracts in order to sign the Alex Barkov, Jonathan Huberdeau, Vincent Trocheck, Reilly Smith, and Aaron Ekblad core to team-friendly long-term contracts, while building out the Panthers’ depth by bringing in Jonathan Marchessault, Jared McCann, Keith Yandle, Mark Pysyk, Jason Demers, and James Reimer.
Their time behind the wheel was short-lived though, as some in the organization expressed anger about the trades that sent Dimitri Kulikov and Erik Gudbranson out of town — two moves largely facilitated by the computer boys.
How do those moves look now?
Unfortunately for the Canucks, they were on the wrong end of one of those deals, and a few more deals in the following years, as well.
The computer boys aren’t perfect by any means.
They are, however, forward-thinking individuals with a proven track record of success in this league.
And at a time like this, the Canucks need as many of those as possible working in their hockey ops department.

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