With a tightly condensed schedule down the stretch, tis the season for load management in the world of the Vancouver Canucks — and that even applies to those of us here at CanucksArmy.
That’s why our intrepid editor, David Quadrelli, is healthy scratching himself this week and calling up Stephan Roget from the taxi squad to answer all of your questions and queries in the Monday Mailbag.
Let’s get to it!
At first, I was against the idea of JT Miller at center. Having lived through the era of Jayson Megna in the top-six, it seemed ludicrous to me that the Canucks would luck into a dynamic scoring winger, watch him develop chemistry with their best two forwards, and then move him elsewhere in the lineup.
However, the realities of the flat cap — and the team’s mismanagement therein — now has me thinking differently. Ideally, you’d love to keep Miller on the Lotto Line and sign or acquire a de facto third line center in the offseason, but there really isn’t enough cap space left to bring in anyone who would be a major difference-maker.
If some unexpected cap space shows up — perhaps via the unexpected departure of Loui Eriksson, or something like that — I still say finding a true 3C should be a summer priority. If not, slotting Miller there seems like the best bet for at least 2021/22.
Last time I was on Mailbag duties, Patrick Johnston stopped by, and now we’ve got a Wyatt Arndt cameo. The joys of being associated with the likes of Quadrelli, Faber, and Sabile!
The popular answer here is probably going to be Tyler Myers, and he’s probably the right answer, too. He’s playing his best hockey in Vancouver at a time when the team needs him the most, and he deserves plenty of accolades for it.
But I’m going to go slightly against the grain by naming Nate Schmidt, if for nothing more than argument’s sake.
Schmidt hasn’t been pulling down the same sort of jaw-dropping minutes as Myers, but where he’s lacking in quantity, he makes up for in quality. After missing the first game back, Schmidt has put up two points in three games, all the while maintaining mostly positive possession stats.
Numbers aside, Schmidt has also made some highlight-reel defensive plays, tracking down opponents on breakaways and taking the puck off their stick without incurring a penalty — not bad for a player still clearly suffering the aftereffects of an infection.
I don’t have any inkling as to the vaccination status of any Canuck, and that’s the way it should be. At a time when we don’t even know what sort of injury Elias Pettersson is currently suffering from, we really have no need or right to know the private medical history of any player.
All I can say is that I hope the Canucks, like all reasonable people, take the first vaccine that is offered to them at the moment that they become eligible, and not a second before.
It’s fair to suggest, though, that any player currently playing in the United States is likely to get a vaccine before any player currently playing in Canada. That’s just one more reason to be happy that Mike DiPietro is finally headed to Utica!
Goalies are always voodoo, always. You won’t find a position more heavily determined by luck, happenstance, and the whims of the universe than that of an ice hockey goaltender, and I’ve long since given up on trying to predict a goalie’s performance.
Could Braden Holtby keep this up well into next season? For sure! Heck, this could be the start of a late-career resurgence that brings Holtby back into the Vezina conversation. It’s happened before, and it’ll happen again.
The general trend of his career, however, would suggest that this is probably just a temporary uptick. Hope for the best all you want, but maybe don’t put money on it (and don’t expect the Seattle Kraken to put their money on it, either).
This is a tough one to answer, because there’s a wide gulf between what I would like to happen and what I think actually will happen.
Most reports on the ongoing negotiations are troubling at best. If Travis Green and Co. are able to rally the team and get them anywhere near a playoff position after all the trials and tribulations they’ve faced, most would want them to return — but actually convincing them to do so after being left to twist in the wind all season is another matter.
I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see Green and most of his staff depart for Seattle this offseason, if Ron Francis is able to wait that long before hiring a coach.
Under no circumstances does it make sense to part ways with Ian Clark, but it sure seems likely to happen. That’s unfortunate, no matter which way you slice it.
As for replacements, that’s also pretty tough to answer. Gerard Gallant seems like far and away the best option to replace Green, but he’d arrive with a big price-tag and a reputation for not always marching to the beat of his ownership’s drum — two traits that will make him unattractive to Francesco Aquilini. Trent Cull would be a predictable choice, and quite the wild card.
Clark’s replacement would, indeed, probably be Curtis Sanford, but, really, there’s no replacing him.
I’m just going to straight-up ignore those suggestions about Julien and the Sutters.
Finally, another nerdy question!
I absolutely loved the vast majority of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, and am willing to attribute almost all of its shortcomings to the realities of filming during a pandemic. It’s clear that the showrunners didn’t get to include everything they had planned on, but they made sure to fully flesh out the theme of a black man becoming Captain America, and that was important. If they were going to focus on anything, I’m glad it was Sam Wilson’s personal journey.
The Isaiah Bradley story is one of my favourites in comic book history, period, and to see it done justice — and maybe even improved upon — in the Marvel Cinematic Universe was something special.
Without getting into spoilers, if you didn’t cry during that museum scene, you might just be lacking a heart.
At this point, you have to feel like the answer is just “time.”
The Canucks are going to suffer from exhaustion, and probably some injuries, as the strain of their unreasonable stretch run schedule begins to compile. Even without injuries, load management is going to be essential.
Getting Kole Lind, Jack Rathbone, and others into some games is an opportunity too tempting to pass up. Not only does it provide a break for some of the veterans, it also allows the Canucks to see what they might have in store for next year — and to give Lind and Rathbone a first-hand glimpse of the new standard of play they’ll need to maintain going forward.
Plus, we all just really want to see them play, and it’s been a tough season in this market, so what’s the harm in giving us what we want?!
When someone asked about a new GM a few weeks back, I answered with Eric Tulsky of the Carolina Hurricanes and Chris MacFarland of the Colorado Avalanche, and I’ll stand by those choices.
They’re two forward thinkers on the cutting edge of analytics, and they’ve helped build two long-term contenders from behind the scenes.
For President and Assistant GM, I’m tempted to answer with a couple of retreads in Mike Gillis and Lawrence Gilman, respectively, but I know how well the former will go over in the comment thread. Instead, I’ll just throw out some stipulations.
A President of Hockey Ops should be someone who has been around for a while, especially if the Canucks do end up going with a younger GM. Ideally, this is someone who has some ties to the league’s front office, because I think we’re all sick of the clear anti-Vancouver bias shown by Gary Bettman and Co. over the last couple of decades. This President should remain largely detached from the team, especially in the emotional sense, so as to provide a sober second thought to any choices being made by the GM.
An Assistant GM should probably be someone we’ve never heard of. A total geek with expertise in playing the salary cap, manipulating LTIR, and finding those bargains the pro scouts might have missed. Someone who isn’t a household name in hockey quite yet, but who one day will be.
If I have to nominate anyone, I’m picking CanucksArmy’s own Brett Lee.