Vancouver Canucks-Season Preview

Vancouver Canucks: est 1970

GM: Jim Benning

Coach: Willie Desjardin

Arena: Rogers Center

2015/16 Results: 31w 38l 13otl for 75 points.

Playoff Results: Did not qualify.

The Canucks enter the new season stuck in the same quagmire that has gripped them for the past few seasons. Do they try and add players for a potential playoff run or feel the current core of players has run its course and work towards a rebuild in the style of Toronto or Buffalo. Club President Trevor Linden states their goal is to make the playoffs, which I find troubling. The stated goal of every team should be to win the Stanley Cup and to do whatever they can to achieve that goal. Vancouver returns several veterans with a mix of decent young prospects added to the lineup. Daniel and Henrik Sedin along with new linemate Louis Eriksson will lead the offensive charge. How many more seasons the twins can continue to pile up points remains to be seen. Vancouver is going to be hard pressed to score goals and will need the youngsters to show some flair and touch with the puck. The defence is suspect with Alex Edler, Lucas Sbisa, Chris Tanev and Ben Hutton returning to anchor the defence. Hutton was a pleasant surprise last year while Sbisa was the punchline to too many jokes. Newcomer Erik Gudbransen is a monster at 6’5″ and will add much needed size and muscle to the defence. Goaltending is the Canucks strength. Veteran Ryan Miller and Jacob Markstrom give the Canucks solid netminding.

Coach: Desjardins will need to get the Canucks out of the gate fast this season. There is a noose around his neck and it will tighten if the losses pile up early. In Desjardins defence he doesn’t control injuries or who is on the roster but it is his head that will roll first should things go awry.

Forwards: As mentioned above, the Sedins will once more be expected to carry the load offensively. Off season signing Louis Eriksson, the latest winger signed to play with the twins will blend well with the Sedins if their play at the World Cup is any indicator. The Canucks are going to need an increase in output from former first round pick Bo Horvat and Jake Virtanen. Virtanen recently injured his shoulder at training camp fueling worries his body may not hold up to his style of play as it is a repeat of an injury suffered in junior hockey. Horvat is going to have to find his way to 60 plus points this season. Alex Burrows and Yannick Hansen will be counted on for mentorship and depth scoring while Sutter will fill the penalty killer role and with luck add a few goals to the team totals. James Sheppard in camp on a professional tryout is going to be hard pressed to crack the lineup as the Canucks try to infuse youth onto the roster.

Defence: Alex Edler, Chris Tanev, Lucas Sbisa and Ben Hutton are returning with additions Erik Gusbransen, Nikita Tryamikin and Philip Larson expected to add some sandpaper and offensive flair. Unspectacular and often bailed out by their goaltending tandem the defence must play tighter in their own end for the Canucks to succeed. To many misplays or giveaways spelled doom for the Canucks last season and cannot be repeated. Tryamikin gives the Canucks a strong physical presence which has been sorely lacking since Kevin Bieksa was pounding opponents in front of the crease. The Canucks do have a little depth on defence and have some options to round out their top seven. I was surprised Subban was demoted so quickly but Stecher could surprise and be playing opening night. The extra size of Tryamikin and Gudbransen will only make life easier for Miller and Markstrom.

Goalies: in Ryan Miller and Jacob Markstrom the Canucks have one of the best pairings in the NHL. Not flashy or brilliant but solid and steady the duo kept Vancouver in many games last season allowing the team to win or steal an otl point. Miller is 36 and will require more frequent breaks, the good news is Markstrom has proven more than capable of carrying the load when needed. Thatcher Demko is bound for Utica and is a year or two away from securing the top job between the pipes.

Prospects: For years a point of irritation for fans the Canucks have finally begun to stockpile excellent young prospects. Thatcher Demko is the goalie of the future. Not NHL ready but a gem of a prospect. Defenseman Troy Stecher from Richmond is one youngster that could suprise and make the opening night roster. Smallish at 5’10” but an excellent skater with advanced puck sense, Stecher is the future of the Canucks defence.  Brandon Gaunce and Emerson Etam will be hard pressed to make the roster and seem destined for Utica as the Canucks roster depth shows signs of deepening. The additon of young talent through the draft or signing college fre agents has turned Vancouvers prospect pool from one in dire need to one of strength and the reward for this should have several prospects plying their trade in Vancouver over the next couple of years.

Predictions: 37w 39l 6otl for 80 points.  7th in Pacific Division and headed for a lottery pick.

Willie Desjardins will need a quick start to keep his job. Struggling out of the gate will only fuel the calls for him to be fired. GM Jim Benning is also on a short leash I suspect. Next to the dynamic duo running the Canadiens in Montreal the Linden, Benning and Desjardins trio is the worst management group in the NHL. The continual indecision of whether to retool or rebuild catches up to all three at some point this season leading to a complete management overhaul. Vancouver needs depth, they cannot rely on the Sedins forever and as 2011 gets further and further in the rear view mirror the urgency to find an offensive solution only grows. Adding pieces is great for a Cup contender, Vancouver is far from that and is in dire need of a rebuild. They have the prospects to do it, tradeable veterans to move out for prospects or picks and Canuck fans deserve a contender. While the immediate future is far from rosy there is light at the end of the tunnel for Vancouver. The sooner they form a management team dedicated to rebuilding and not tinkering the sooner the Canucks will contend again.

Vancouver fans want a winner, they deserve a winner. The we want to make the playoffs mentality has to go and be replaced by a Cup or Bust strategy.  Canuck fans have earned that and should demand no less of their team.

That’s how I see it, from the bleacher seats.

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10 thoughts on “Vancouver Canucks-Season Preview”

  1. Oops! The auto-correct function put in “machete playoffs” for “make the playoffs” in my post a few minutes ago. I posted without checking.

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  2. I am not one of those fans who think that completely tearing the team apart to re-build is a good idea. I do not want to wait 4 or 5 years to see the team machete playoffs. I have a feeling that the Canucks will make the playoffs this year. The Loui Eriksson signing is huge! Also smart was bringing over the Swedish League’s MVP Anton Rodin. I also believe that Jacob Markstrom will end the season as the team’s Number 1 goalie – he will have a very good season. (I am not Swedish, but I applaud this team’s focus on acquiring lots of Swedes.) Brandon Sutter, if he stays healthy, will contribute nicely. Horvat and Baerstchi should be even better than they were last year. The Gudbranson-for-McCann trade was a major steal for Vancouver. The Top 4 on D are set (Edler-Tanev, Hutton-Gudbranson), and there are many good D-men fighting hard to be on the 3rd pairing. Barring injury to their top players, things look good for the Canucks to make the playoffs this season.

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  3. Yes, Vancouver’a stated goal to retool on the fly and make the playoffs is questionable, but you clearly don’t have a clue about the team for the following reasons:

    1: It’s common knowledge that Benning has been hamstrung by ownership when it comes to doing a total tear down. The goal of making the playoffs while rebuilding on the fly was not his call.

    2: You mentions Sbisa will be part of the group anchoring the defence, but it’s Gudbranson who will be logging top 4 minutes with Hutton. Sbisa is on the bubble to be top 6. He’s penciled in for the third pair, but that’s only because of his salary. In reality, there is a big group competing for third pairing minutes, including Larsen, Tryamkin, Pedan, Stecher and Biega. Sbisa is not a lock to be top 6, and will not see big minutes. He’s an afterthought.

    3: Spelling several names wrong damages your credibility.

    4: Virtanen is not part of the young group that the Canucks believe can provide scoring depth this year. They’re hoping Horvat and Baerstchi can build on their productive second half, and get some help Swedish league MVP Anton Rodin. You didn’t even mention Baerstchi or Rodin. Virtanen will get spot duty, but at this point he’ll mostly be used as a grinder and may start the year in the AHL, as he can still be sent down without being exposed.

    5: There’a almost no chance both Gaunce and Etem end up in Utica. Etem has to clear waivers, which probably won’t happen. The only likely scenario that the Canucks take that risk is if Gaunce outperforms him and makes the team.

    6: Sheppard is an afterthought. You didn’t mention PTO’s Skille and Ruutu – they are also unlikely to stick, but Skille has shown the most so far.

    7: Subban being sent down was not surprising, given his continued poor play and Stecher’a eye opening performance. With Stecher, Juolevi, Tryamkin, Pedan, Biega and Desjardins in the system now, Subban has tumbled way down the depth chart and is unlikely to get a call-up.

    8: There is almost no chance the while management team gets the axe. Linden is a god in Vancouver. His job is safe this year, unless something crazy happens. And Benning is probably safe too. If the Canucks implode, Desjardins will likely take the fall alone.

    Overall, this preview is poorly written and researched. You obviously don’t follow the team closely and need to put a lot more effort into it if you want to be taken seriously!

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    1. The mantra chanting of management to rebuild on the fly is simply not feasible, nor fair to the fans, nor is the stated ‘goal’ to make the playoffs an abysmal goal. The goal of any team is to win championships, that is the legacy you want. They don’t call Green Bay “Title Town” because they make cheese in Wisconsin. Sbisa is Benning’s error, however somebody thought well enough of LS to take him as a 1st Rd Pick. Granted, JB turned Kesler into Luca and Bonito who begat Sutter and got Jared McCann at 24 and Tryamkin in the 3rd round. The NHL hockey writers have Vancouver with 5 of the top 100 prospects with Virtanen (who could get demoted) checking in at #30 and of course McCann is gone for Gudbranson who is solid, but…..of course Shinkaruk rated at 82 retrieved Granlund and nobody drafted after Shink has set the nhl world on fire, so he was a safe pick at the time. Unless Sbisa gets traded and JB loses again on a untradeable contract, he’s on the team. Cole Cassels rounds out the top 100 at 96 and Boser at 61. Goalies were not included in the rankings but Nucks have a good prospect in Demko. If there has been a silver lining its been Vancouver’s scouts able to unearth defencemen in later rounds that have been serviceable players for them. They have a decent top 4 pairing and time will tell if the rest of them pan out and if Stecher can handle the 82 game grind. The game has changed somewhat as far as smaller Dmen being able to find a spot in the league, but guys like Biega, et al will always be on the bubble, serviceable guys who can fill in on injury duty, but not quite ready for the top 6 even. Subban wants to be like his big brother and i emphasize big as PK has pounds and inches on him, but I don’t think his high risk high reward game is suited to the league. The bottom line in Vancouver is simply this and its always been, they have never had a true franchise player, granted Burke was able to land the Sedins, who have served the various regimes well, to build a team around. The present roster and the present prospect pool lands them about smack dab in the middle of 30 teams, which puts you about 15th-16th or the last team to make the cut for playoffs. Who is on the roster come opening night is open to a fan’s speculation. Willie seems to like his medicine hat boys and has shown more than ample favoritism as in Linden Vey and now, Etem who is already on his 3rd team which should tell you something. He’s had ample time to show he belongs and he’s done nothing during this training camp to convince many he does. For a variety of reasons, players simply don’t make the grade and one only has to look to the past of poor Vancouver drafting to reinforce that. If the Oilers can get only a ECHL prospect and a 3rd round pick for a number one overall, what’s that say for Vancouver’s mishmash of talent?

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  4. The retool on the fly mantra isn’t simply going to work. Case in point back in Bennings first draft you could see the frustration in JBs face as he watched from the sidelines teams like the Bruins, pens, flames trade moveable assets and pucks for players and move up positions. Granted he was hamstruck by the Gillis regimeand had little to dangle. However in that time he’s still traded away two second round picks something that is discouraging from the past. The franchise twins are really at their age, untradable, and their still is not a “franchise” player to build around, whether it’s a forward or high level DMan. The assets they do have and tried to trade, nobody wanted, Higgins, Burrows and Hamuis. Signing Miller was a waste of cap space if only a face saving to show the fans, er, ticket buyers that management was serious about getting to the playoffs, course they got dish ragged by the flames in spite of a good season, but lots of warts were exposed in that series, too soft, too slow, one line reliance. To just make the playoffs is simply a ridiculous statement by TL and JB only to get bounced out in the first round. Yes sometimes a team catches lightning in a bottle, hot goaltending, a key player acquisition and the other guys catch on fire and you go on a tear to the cup final, ’94 Canucks, 06 Oilers etc, but it’s rare. I think many people preferred to see a tear down, granted VC got the shaft in the draft lottery, bud what’d we expect, this franchise got out the door in 1970 missing Perraulr, although Tallon was nothing to sneeze at as he was a solid prospect, but the Managers back then failed to build a team around him. Not being in position to draft certain players, they’ve missed gems who grew up right around them, Benn, Johnson, Lucic for example, but that’s been their story forever.

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  5. Your overview lacks credibility when there is not one mention of Erik Gudbranson, who along with Eriksson, is a key addition the Canucks this season. Your description of Tryamkin actually pertains more so to Gudbranson. He is the real replacement of Bieksa although he Erik actually has the size that Bieksa lacked. Additionally, you have obviously bought into the media hype surrounding the Toronto re-build being the one and only option for any non-playoff team. Have we not watched Edmonton flounder for the last decade with an all-in youth approach. Fact is Benning began his re-build as soon as he was hired. The Canucks are already younger, faster and bigger. Their prospect pool, left empty by the Gillis regime, is now more fully stocked in two years under Benning as compared to six years Gillis. The only area I can agree with you is regarding the coaching situation where Willie needs to show that year one of his tenure was not a fluke. That probably means finishing somewhere between 85 and 90 points. Enough to save his job, but probably not enough to make the playoffs. I look forward to your next hatchet job.

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