With no David Quadrelli or Chris Faber around to open the letters this week, we’re down to the backup’s backup, Stephan Roget — here to answer all of your Canucks-related inquiries in the Monday Mailbag.
If I were Jim Rutherford, my first roster priority would be to do nothing with the roster quite yet. The team is 4-0 under Bruce Boudreau, so what they have now is clearly working for the time being, and Jim Benning already went fairly “all-in” this past offseason. At this point, I think the smart money is to ride that bet without doubling down on it.
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With a little patience, JR and Co. can afford to coast on Boudreau’s good will for another month or two as they search for a new GM, all the while making minimal roster moves at best. If someone useful gets placed on waivers, or becomes available for a very reasonable price, then maybe a move makes sense. But I wouldn’t be seeking one out.
Going to lump these two similar questions together.
The last answer was what I would do if I were JR, but I’m not JR. And, yeah, as one questioner noted, Rutherford is not exactly known for his patience. With that in mind, I could see a roster move or two occurring before a new GM is secured, and Rutherford’s history suggests that he could seek out a former player of his that has become available.
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One very intriguing name that might be on the market is John Marino, whom Rutherford acquired as an unsigned prospect from Edmonton and almost immediately turned into a top-four defender. Marino has struggled since his rookie campaign, however, and the Penguins could be looking to give him a fresh start. He’s a capable right-handed defender even if he never returns to his freshman point totals, so he would be a fit if the price were right.
Anything bigger than that will probably have to wait for a new GM.
Our third Rutherford-related question of the day.
Rutherford is signed on as President of Hockey Ops through the 2023/24 season. I do think that the plan is for the Canucks to be competing for at least a lengthy playoff run at that point, but I don’t think that would constitute any sort of “rushing” on Rutherford’s part.
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It’s fairly obvious that the Canucks are not interested in a full-on tear-down rebuild at this point, and it’s hard to blame them. The current core arguably contains a 1C, a 1D, and a 1G. That’s the kind of scaffolding that can be built upon, and that’s what will happen over the next two-and-a-half seasons.
Make no mistake: Rutherford was brought in to turn this team into a Cup contender. But, unlike the outgoing Benning regime, he’ll be able to chase that goal without the weight of eight long years and an imminent firing hanging over his head. By 2024, most of the Canucks’ top talent will be at the peak of their primes, and three years is plenty of time to get the rest of the roster ready to take advantage of it.
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You knew the Canucks’ new hires would feature prominently in this week’s Mailbag, and so we’re off of Rutherford and onto Bruce Boudreau.
It’s hard not to have fallen hard for Boudreau already. The charm, the endless possibility, the chants. He’s breathed fresh life into a franchise that had grown troublingly stagnant, and he’s made Canucks hockey fun again. He’s 4-0. What is there to possibly complain about?
All that being said, the team is definitely still in a honeymoon phase with its new coach. Whatever Travis Green was selling, it was clear that the team was no longer buying it in 2021/22, and so any new voice was probably going to be well-received in the room. The Canucks’ play right now is partially due to the immediate changes Boudreau has made to their system — most notably their penalty kill — but those changes have also been somewhat limited due to time constraints. Full buy-in of Boudreau’s system will take a lot longer, and a lot more practice sessions, to achieve.
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Still, SO many of the Canucks are playing better under Boudreau that his impact really shouldn’t be short-sold. His optimism and good nature clearly have the players feeling better about themselves, and that’s made all the difference. Hockey is an emotional sport, and its players are emotional beings. The fact that they like playing for Boudreau has more of an impact than any analytical chart could ever properly capture.
We’ll take a break from the serious stuff for a blast from the past.
You’re asking this question to perhaps the least-suitable member of the CanucksArmy stable, because I rarely take any notice of goalie masks.
But when I picture Luongo as a Canuck in my head, he’s wearing the Johnny Canuck-style mask with the faux toque and the big moustache on the front.
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Although that could just be because Ryan Hank asked this question, and I automatically associate him with powerful moustaches.
Back to business.
The short answer to this question is “I don’t know.” A lot of names have been thrown around, and there’s no real way of separating the serious candidates from the self-inserted rumours.
Chances are very good that the Canucks will avoid another first-time GM like Jim Benning, which would lean the odds more toward a George McPhee or Jason Botterill type.
The more enticing names, however, are those who have been GMs-in-waiting for awhile now, like Lawrence Gilman, Scott Mellanby, Chris MacFarland, or Eric Tulsky. The Canucks have already got the experience angle covered in Rutherford, so they can afford to take a risk on an inexperienced but innovative general manager.
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On that note, if they’re going to go with a GM J. Botterill, why not talk to Jennifer?
Dumb and disappointing.
The Canucks have been riding a wave of good PR after making some long-overdue changes to the organization. But just when you might have been thinking that the changes were well-thought-out and diligently-considered, here comes Francesco Aquilini to remind everyone that he can still be a reactionary hothead who pretty much makes all this up as he goes.
It doesn’t bode well for those who were looking forward to an end of the soap opera era of Canucks hockey.
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Faber would definitely be better qualified to handle this one, but I’ll take a shot at it anyway.
On the Jack Rathbone front, my understanding is that he is battling an injury, so we can take him off the list.
Danila Klimovich watching a few games from the pressbox as an 18-year-old isn’t all that surprising, but one would hope that it’s only a very temporary measure. If it continues much beyond this point, it would probably be best to re-assign him to the QMJHL.
Jett Woo is the most troubling case here by far. His development appears to be going backward, and he’s in danger of sliding way down the depth chart. However, at this point, he’s being scratched largely in favour of AHL veterans, and that’s cause for concern. As one of the few legitimate prospects in Abbotsford right now, one would hope that Woo would get every possible chance to turn his game around, and it’s tough for that to happen from the sidelines.
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Going big picture, this is more of the same from the Canucks’ farm system, which hasn’t produced a non-goalie full-time NHLer in at least the last eight years.
Hopefully, coach Trent Cull’s position is one of the ones that is currently being closely evaluated by Rutherford and Co. as the organizational reshuffling continues.