Howdy, folks, and a most excellent Family Day to you all. Or, if you prefer, a belated Valentine’s Day!
Speaking of family and love and other such feels, our official content managing father here at CanucksArmy, David Quadrelli, had to step aside this week, which leaves everyone’s favourite older cousin, Stephan Roget, to handle the Monday Mailbag.
You’ve got questions? We’ve got answers.
You’ve got musings? We’ve got counter-musings.
You’ve got rants, rambles, and ravings to share? Buddy, you came to the right place.
This is the Monday Mailbag: Family Day Edition.
This is a fun one to start off with, but it’s also a tough one. The simple, short answer is that we really don’t know, based on our limited scope of player’s intellectual faculties, who will one day rise to prominence in the realm of management. But, hey, we wouldn’t be in the blogging business if we weren’t down for a little mostly-baseless speculation every now and again.
Kevin Bieksa is, of course, a fine suggestion. He’s obviously savvy enough to have climbed the media ranks faster than most, and charm is a quality that will get one far in the business world. One worries that his views are a little archaic to suit a role like General Manager, but Bieksa would likely be a fit in some sort of public-facing position, preferably in Public Relations. As to whether or not he’d take on such a job, you’d have to ask him — though we’d be sad to see him leave the Sportsnet broadcast team, and fear the return of other, less-palatable pundits.
We’ve all heard the rumblings regarding Roberto Luongo, and he’s already made a name for himself in hockey-related management, but we’d honestly be rather surprised if a return to Vancouver was high on his priority list. Now that his kids are older, Luongo might be willing to leave Florida, but he’ll have plenty of options to choose from if he does.
We’d actually focus our attention on another former Canucks’ netminder: Cory Schneider. Like Bieksa, he’s found success in broadcasting as his career has wound down, but Schneider also brings with him a strong academic résumé, having studied finance at Boston College and twice being nominated for the Hockey East All-Academic Team.
This is a question that this author has already written about a few times this year, but that’s a-okay, because the answer keeps changing.
The “7-3-1” is undoubtedly the one that the Canucks will be employing.
Up front, they will definitely be protecting Elias Pettersson, Brock Boeser, Bo Horvat, and JT Miller. That leaves just three spots for a whole host of options. Currently, we’d give those protection slots to Adam Gaudette, Tyler Motte, and Kole Lind, which leaves Jake Virtanen (hopefully traded by then) and Zack MacEwen free for the taking. At this point, Lind’s potential as a checking center is too tantalizing to give up, though we could definitely see MacEwen forcing his way back into protection status by the end of the season.
On the backend, decisions are significantly easier. Obviously, Thatcher Demko gets protected, which leaves Braden Holtby exposed. Though Mike is correct that Seattle is probably not going to take him, which may have been the plan anyway with Holtby’s backloaded contract.
Nate Schmidt and Olli Juolevi are definite must-protects. That leaves one spot open for either Tyler Myers or Jalen Chatfield, though the Canucks would be wise to pursue another defender in a trade from a team lacking protection slots. They’d also be wise to inquire as to what it would cost to have the Kraken select Myers. Anything less than a first rounder, and they should probably jump on it.
From a certain perspective, Francesco Aquilini IS listening to the fans, because there’s definitely a vocal minority of the local fanbase — including some semi-prominent members of the media — who believe that there is nothing wrong with the current situation, and that no organizational changes are needed.
But, pedantry aside, we know what you’re getting at, and the answer is a decided “maybe.” The Canucks are one of the few NHL franchises to have actually lost value over the past decade, and that’s no doubt been exacerbated by the pandemic. If fans start to voice their displeasure with their wallets — something they’re not currently able to do to any large extent — expect ownership to start listening a lot harder.
It’s not without precedent, either. Remember how quickly the Aquilinis responded to those “Fire Gillis” chants back in 2014. Fans can’t chant this year, but they can still get loud in other ways — and we imagine they will — if the Canucks’ downward spiral persists.
Many years ago, this author remembers extolling the virtues of a young Manitoba Moose/Chicago Wolves defender who didn’t have a very compelling statline, but had still put himself on the NHL radar through sheer willpower and competitive drive.
That young defender? Christopher Tanev.
Now, Jalen Chatfield is already older than Tanev was when he first broke into the league, and expecting him to carve out a career as a legitimate top-four option at this point might be a bridge too far. But he possesses many of the same traits, and those should translate into a medium-length career as a bottom-pairing defensive specialist.
Just like Tanev, Chatfield won’t ever post any eye-popping numbers, and that will also draw him his fair share of detractors. But Chatfield’s steadiness, if he’s able to translate it to the NHL, will grant more offensive freedom to his teammates, and that’s the sort of value you need to be in the know to really recognize.
So, congrats on being the wisest person in your group chat!
Shoutout to one of my most passionate Twitter friends, DSto!
The Canucks’ 2021/22 blueline is a difficult one to project.
One has to think that Quinn Hughes, Nate Schmidt, and Olli Juolevi are the only “locks” at this point.
Tyler Myers will also be there, unless the team can convince the Seattle Kraken to take him off their hands, which would be an ideal expansion outcome.
If Alex Edler wants to return, he probably will — unless a new, significantly more ruthless GM comes in and sends him packing.
Jordie Benn might stick around as an extra body. Jalen Chatfield will remain in the mix. Travis Hamonic is probably long gone.
Jack Rathbone will get much more of a look than he did this year.
Right there, you’ve got something like:
It’s a fine D corps, but nothing better than what the Canucks are icing in 2021. That’s why I sincerely hope they target a team lacking protection slots to pick up one more top-four-quality defender, preferably on the right-side, and then pop them in alongside Hughes. If Myers moves on to Seattle at the same time, all the better.
If the Canucks find themselves decidedly out of a playoff spot by the time the 2021 Trade Deadline rolls around, one has to assume that GM Jim Benning is already fired, or well on his way out the door. That means that the sell-off of expiring contracts might be the ONLY sort of transaction authorized by ownership, and there are definitely a couple of candidates to consider.
As this author covered a couple weeks ago, Tanner Pearson will likely prove too expensive to re-sign, and he’s a perfect rental for a team looking for an offensive upgrade. Maybe he’s that top-six player that the Toronto Maple Leafs reportedly have an eye on.
Braden Holtby’s contract would probably prevent too many teams from looking at him, unless there’s a squad that has its starter go down and has room on the books next season to accommodate him.
Nate Schmidt should stay, for the time being. He might be struggling a bit this year, but he’s proven more than capable of performing better with a better team around him, and thus he’s worth hanging onto.
Alex Edler would be an excellent rental, but it’d be up to him. Chances are good he won’t want to move, and will instead look to re-sign with the Canucks.
Brandon Sutter could also draw significant interest, especially in the midst of his strongest season as a Canuck. Aside from Pearson, he’s the most likely to move, and could bring in upwards of a second-round pick.
Same goes for Jordie Benn, albeit with a lesser return. Travis Hamonic probably has some value on reputation alone, but it won’t be much, and he probably doesn’t want to move, anyway.
One out-of-nowhere suggestion is Sven Baertschi. One can never have too much depth, and a team rich in cap space might just take a flyer on him as a last-ditch insurance policy. He’s still a skilled player, and a fresh start in someone else’s lineup could pay dividends for both him and whoever picks him up.
Shoutout to friend of the show and all-around good person L Barker!
Lind does have the sort of high-energy game that might give the Canucks a spark in the present moment, but he’d have to quarantine before he did it, and it’d only be a short-term play at best. In the long-term, Lind is helping the team most by doing exactly what he’s doing right now, which is developing as a two-way center in Utica. If he can slide into that long-vacated classic third-line checking center role, it would go a long way toward filling an important organizational camp. So far, he looks like a natural down the middle, and it wouldn’t be all that unexpected to see him challenge for an NHL spot next year, but for now, he’s right where the Canucks want him to be.