The Battle For Gloria rages on with the Boston Bruins and St. Louis Blues tied 2-2 in the 2019 Stanley Cup Final. Nick and Pete also discuss the latest coaching moves (Dave Tippett, Bob Boughner, Marc Crawford), trades (Kevin Hayes) and rumors (Patrick Marleau, Nikita Zaitsev, Phil Kessel), while Nick introduces a new game segment that has Pete stumped.
We’re less than a month away from the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs, so let’s take a gander at how things should shape up for the Central Division.
The Tampa Bay Lightning clinched the first postseason berth this season, Quinn Hughes signed his entry-level contract with the Vancouver Canucks, Shane Wright was granted exceptional status and the DTFR Duo presented the first few individual season awards.
*Zach Boychuk wasn’t actually on… …this time around, anyway.*
Nick and Connor talk the latest trades, Torts drama (and latest record), Casey DeSmith’s extension with the Pittsburgh Penguins, as well as a tribute to the careers of Rick Nash and Josh Gorges who both announced their retirement this week.
Additionally, what’s up with the Edmonton Oilers and St. Louis Blues this season and why can’t they just pick a side? Plus, it’s time to hand out awards for being slightly more than halfway through the 2018-19 regular season. #FlamingNotToFlamingHot
A bunch of minor trades were made in the last week, the 2019 Honda NHL All-Star Game rosters were released, as well as the 2019-20 outdoor game schedule. Nick and Connor also discuss the legacy that was the 2019 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic and the 2019 IIHF World Junior Quarterfinal upsets.
*Editor’s Note: Of course, after recording this week’s episode, the Philadelphia Flyers claimed G Mike McKenna off waivers from the Vancouver Canucks.
The Original Trio reunites to talk recent trades, recent coaching changes, the Buffalo Sabres current winning streak, a haphazard review of the Dallas Stars and Edmonton Oilers, as well as a look at the division standings as of American Thanksgiving.
Craig Berube is now in charge behind the bench of the St. Louis Blues and Ken Hitchcock is back from retirement to coach the Oilers after Mike Yeo and Todd McLellan were both fired respectively from their clubs.
Rasmus Dahlin continues to emerge as a star in Buffalo as the team rises in the standings– can the Sabres keep this up? Will Dahlin get some votes for the Calder Memorial Trophy as rookie of the year and does Phil Housley deserve credit for the team’s turnaround?
One more goal and the Vancouver Canucks dressing room could’ve been singing Dolly Parton’s “9 to 5” after Thursday night’s win on the road.
Jaroslav Halak (4-1-2, .936 save percentage, 1.96 goals against average in 9 games played) got the start in goal for the Boston Bruins, but was pulled after allowing five goals in favor of Tuukka Rask (4-4-0, .901 SV% and 3.05 GAA in 8 GP).
Halak stopped 14 shots out of 19 shots faced (.737 SV%) in 34:53 time on ice in the loss, while Rask made 11 saves on 14 shots against (.786 SV%) in 25:07 TOI.
Jacob Markstrom (7-3-1, .921 SV%, 3.28 GAA in 11 GP) made 23 saves on 28 shots faced for an .821 SV% in 60-minutes played en route to the, 8-5, win for the Canucks.
11 players recorded at least a point for Vancouver in the victory, while eight players recorded points for the Bruins. David Krejci had a team-high three assists and Jake DeBrusk also had three points (2-1–3 totals) for Boston.
As a result of the loss, Boston fell to 4th in the Atlantic Division with an 8-5-2 record (18 points) on the season. The Canucks maintained possession of 1st place in the Pacific Division, improving to 10-6-1 (21 points) so far.
Vancouver waltzed to sweep the season series against Boston, 2-0-0, with a 2-1 win on home ice at Rogers Arena in overtime on Oct. 20th in addition to Thursday’s 8-5 win at TD Garden.
Thursday night also marked the first time Vancouver scored eight goals in a game since doing so on Nov. 14, 2009 at Colorado.
Bruce Cassidy kept his lines the same from Monday’s matchup (and 2-1 win in overtime) against the Dallas Stars, while only three Bruins remained out of the lineup due to injury (Charlie McAvoy, upper body, Kevan Miller, hand and Urho Vaakanainen, concussion).
Miller and Vaakanainen have been skating on their own at practice, while McAvoy’s status remains shrouded in mystery (other than being on the injured reserve).
With Alex Edler out of the lineup for the Canucks Thursday night, only five players from the 2011 Stanley Cup Final were in action for both teams– incidentally, all of them still on the Bruins (Patrice Bergeron, Zdeno Chara, Krejci, Brad Marchand and Rask).
Horvat’s goal was unassisted and gave Vancouver a 1-0 lead at 2:46 of the first period.
The Canucks entered Thursday night 4-0-1 when scoring first this season and they would improve to 5-0-1 by the final horn. Meanwhile, the B’s were 3-4-1 when allowing the first goal against so far this season and are now 3-5-1 when doing so.
But for all the blunders that built up to giving up the game’s first goal, the Bruins regathered themselves and fought back in a strenuous first period.
Matt Grzelcyk (1) slapped one past Markstrom for his first goal of the season from the point at 13:41 and tied the game, 1-1.
Krejci (9) and DeBrusk (2) picked up the assist’s on the goal and the score remained tied, 1-1, heading into the first intermission.
After 20 minutes of play, the game was tied, 1-1, and Vancouver was leading in shots on goal (8-5), as well as face-off win percentage (57-44). Boston had the advantage in blocked shots (5-4), takeaways (5-2), giveaways (7-2) and hits (12-8). Neither team had yet to see any action on the skater advantage.
Just 36 seconds into the second period, Bergeron (8) gathered a rebound and pocketed it behind Markstrom to give the Bruins their first lead of the night, 2-1.
Torey Krug (3) had the only assist on the goal as a result of purposefully shooting the puck to generate a rebound with Bergeron standing right in front of the goal ready to collect the garbage.
Bruins defender, Steven Kampfer, checked Vancouver forward, Antoine Roussel without the puck and received a minor penalty for interference at 3:58 of the second period, sending the Canucks on their first power play of the night.
Vancouver was not able to convert on their first power play opportunity, but set the tone for the remainder of their skater advantages for the rest of the game with some quality chances.
Former Bruin, Loui Eriksson (2) struck go[aled] adding a tally at 7:02 of the second period, tying the game, 2-2, when Boston failed to clear the puck out of their own zone and couldn’t even come up with possession as Brandon Carlo was without a stick.
The Canucks smashed a shot wide off the end boards and capitalized on the carom with Halak out of position, thereby letting Eriksson tie the game.
Nine seconds later, Grzelcyk cut a rut to the sin bin for high-sticking Vancouver’s Brendan Leipsic at 7:11.
While on the penalty kill, Bergeron and Marchand almost perfected a break-in with a one-timer opportunity from Bergeron to Marchand, but the puck went wide of the goal and the Canucks pounced back the other way.
Ben Hutton (4) sent a wrist shot past Halak from the blue line after the Canucks moved the puck quickly in the attacking zone while on the power play. Hutton’s power play goal gave Vancouver two unanswered goals in 1:26 and the lead, 3-2, at 8:28 of the second period.
Horvat (5) and Nikolay Goldobin (7) had the assists on the goal.
Vancouver’s lead wasn’t for long as the Bruins struck back 32 seconds later, with DeBrusk (4) tipping the puck past Markstrom to tie the game, 3-3, at 9:00.
Krejci (10) and Joakim Nordstrom (1) recorded the primary and secondary assist’s, respectively, on DeBrusk’s first goal of the night.
Kampfer couldn’t get enough of Roussel after his first penalty moments earlier, so he reached out and got just enough of a hold on him to be assessed a minor infraction for holding at 11:30, sending the Canucks back on the power play at 11:30 of the second period.
Eriksson (3) continued to get revenge on his former team by adding his second goal of the night– this time on the power play– with a tip-in goal at 13:23. Hutton (2) and Leipsic (2) had the assists on the goal that put Vancouver ahead, 4-3.
90 seconds later, Roussel (3) added a goal to make it a two-goal lead for the Canucks at 14:53 of the second period. Granlund (5) and Michael Del Zotto (2) had the assist’s on Roussel’s wacky redirection past Halak to make it, 5-3, Vancouver.
Having surrendered five goals against, Cassidy replaced Halak with Rask after Roussel’s tally.
Late in the second period, Horvat was sent to the penalty box with a two-minute minor penalty for slashing Bruins defenseman, Torey Krug, at 16:13.
Boston converted on the ensuing power play by working the puck to the dashers and sending a saucer pass to DeBrusk (5) for the redirection past Markstrom from right in front of the net.
DeBrusk had his second goal of the night– his first on the power play– and entered his name in the hat trick watch competition with his opponent, Eriksson, though neither player would complete the rarity of a three-goal game Thursday night.
Krug (4) and Marchand (12) had the assist’s on DeBrusk’s goal at 17:18 of the second period and the Bruins pulled to within one, 5-4.
There was little cause for celebration as Gudbranson (1) notched his first goal of the season for Vancouver moments later on yet another embarrassing effort by the Bruins brass on defense and in goal.
Horvat (6) and Eriksson (6) collected the assist’s on Gudbranson’s goal at 19:28 and the Canucks led, 6-4.
Through 40 minutes of play, Vancouver led, 6-4, on the scoreboard and, 22-16, in shots on goal. The Canucks outshot the Bruins, 14-11, in the second period alone, while the B’s held onto an advantage in blocked shots (9-6), takeaways (8-7), giveaways (10-3) and hits (22-9). Vancouver maintained an advantage in face-off win% (53-47).
The Canucks were 2/3 on the power play heading into the second intermission, while Boston went into the dressing room 1/1 on the skater advantage.
Horvat tripped up David Pastrnak 38 seconds into the third period, putting Boston on the power play, but it would be a short-lived extra skater advantage as Marchand retaliated with a slash on Hutton at 1:32 of the third.
Both teams would play 4-on-4 for 1:06, then have an abbreviated 5-on-4 power play for Vancouver.
Horvat went back to the penalty box for the third time of the night when he caught Krug with a high-stick at 7:27 of the third period.
The B’s ended up with a 5-on-3 advantage about a minute later after Hutton slashed Pastrnak at 8:52, but Boston’s power play was powerless on the 35-second two-skater advantage and in the vulnerable minute after when Horvat lucked out with a shorthanded goal of his own individual effort at 9:40.
Rask tried to clear the puck, but sent it awry off of Horvat’s stick as the Canucks forward was pressuring the Bruins netminder. While Rask scrambled to make a last ditch effort play, Horvat buried the puck in the empty twine to make it, 7-4, Vancouver.
Through 10 road games this season, Horvat now has eight goals.
After a stoppage in play at 9:49 of the third period, Troy Stecher and DeBrusk exchanged some words and DeBrusk wound up with the take-down. Both players were assessed roughing minors and went to the penalty box to serve their infractions.
Jake Virtanen (6) added the final goal of the night for the Canucks on a crazy changeup shot that deflected off of Bergeron’s stick and past his own goaltender at 11:12 of the third.
Goldobin (8) and Elias Pettersson (7) had the assists on the goal that made it, 8-4, for the Canucks.
Hutton went back to the penalty box at 11:50 for slashing Bruins veteran, David Backes, and Boston responded on the ensuing power play with Danton Heinen (1) redirecting a slap pass from Grzelcyk past Markstrom at 13:38.
The Bruins once again trailed by three-goals, 8-5, and Grzelcyk (6) and Krejci (11) recorded the assists on Heinen’s first goal of the season– ending his goal-scoring drought at 13 games.
Darren Archibald and Krug mixed things up with an unequal (in size) fight at 17:48 of the third period, as Krug expressed his frustration with a disappointing effort.
No. 47 in black-and-gold picked up an extra two-minutes for instigating and as a result was charged with an automatic ten-minute misconduct.
Anders Bjork served Krug’s minor infraction for instigating, while Krug was sent to the dressing room early. Archibald, meanwhile, was charged with five minutes for fighting.
At the final horn, the Canucks had beaten the Bruins, 8-5, in a high-scoring, wildly all-over-the-place effort form both teams– with only slightly more sparks of brilliance from the team from Vancouver than unfortunate, unlucky, odd bounces and misplays for the team from Boston.
Vancouver finished the 60-minute effort ahead of the Bruins in shots on goal (33-28), despite being outshot in the third period, 12-11. Boston held onto an advantage in blocked shots (12-9), giveaways (14-6) and hits (23-15), while the Canucks led in face-off win% (52-48).
Both teams finished Thursday night 2/5 on the power play.
As a result of the loss, the Bruins faltered to 1-1-0 on their current four-game homestand with the Toronto Maple Leafs in town Saturday night and the Vegas Golden Knights paying a visit on Sunday.
Toronto is 6-0-0 on the road this season, while the Golden Knights are 3-6-0 away from T-Mobile Arena so far this season.
Boston wraps up their homestand against Vegas on Sunday before heading off to begin a four-game road trip with a matchup on the road against the Colorado Avalanche on Wednesday, Nov. 14th.
Saturday night at Rogers Arena, the Vancouver Canucks defeated the Boston Bruins, 2-1, in overtime thanks to a little puck luck all night.
Brandon Sutter snuck the puck past Jaroslav Halak early in the first period to give Vancouver a 1-0 lead. Joakim Nordstrom tied the game in the third period and Bo Horvat worked a little magic to ding the post and trickle the biscuit past Halak in overtime for the game-winning goal.
Halak (2-0-2, 1.74 goals against average, .933 save percentage) stopped 20 out 22 shots faced for a .909 SV% Saturday night in the loss, while Jacob Markstrom (2-2-0, 3.22 GAA, .903 SV%) made 30 saves on 31 shots against for a .968 SV% in the win.
The Bruins (4-2-2, 10 points) were looking to end a two-game losing streak and instead came out of Vancouver with a three-game skid. They are now 0-1-2 on their current four-game road trip which ends Tuesday night in Kanata, Ontario against the Ottawa Senators (4-2-1, 9 points).
Vancouver improved to 5-3-0 (10 points) on the season, good enough for 2nd place in the Pacific Division behind the Anaheim Ducks by one point in the division standings.
Urho Vaakanainen made his National Hockey League debut for Boston after being recalled on emergency basis when the Bruins announced that they had sent defenders Kevan Miller and Charlie McAvoy back to Boston for further evaluation pertaining to Miller’s hand injury sustained while blocking a shot against the Oilers on Thursday and McAvoy (undisclosed, though likely upper body).
The 19-year-old, Vaakanainen was drafted by the Bruins in the 1st round of the 2017 NHL Draft (18th overall) and played for the Providence Bruins (AHL) on Friday before hopping on a flight to Vancouver prior to Saturday’s action. He wore No. 58 for the black-and-gold and played 12:26 time on ice, recording one shot on goal while being paired with Steven Kampfer and Matt Grzelcyk at times.
Kampfer returned to the Bruins lineup for the first time since being re-acquired in the Adam McQuaid preseason trade with the New York Rangers. Kampfer last played for Boston in 2012 and had three hits in Saturday’s action.
David Backes wasn’t feeling well and became a late scratch, having not participated in warmups, so Bruce Cassidy planned on having Nordstrom center the third line with Ryan Donato to his left side and Anders Bjork at right wing.
Wagner, Nordstrom and Bjork would later become an effective matchup of their own in the game– leading to Nordstrom’s game-tying goal in the third period– while Cassidy juggled the lines.
With Miller and McAvoy out on the blue line, Zdeno Chara laced up alongside Brandon Carlo, with John Moore starting the game with Kampfer on the second defensive pair. Vaakanainen and Grzelcyk filled out the remainder of the top-six.
Of note, only Patrice Bergeron, Chara, Krejci, Brad Marchand and Tuukka Rask remain on the Bruins roster from the 2011 Stanley Cup Final against the Canucks. Alex Edler is the only connection to that series against Boston for Vancouver.
Brandon Sutter (3) kicked off scoring early in the first period when he snuck the puck underneath Halak for a soft opening goal to give the Canucks a 1-0 lead. Jake Virtanen (2) and Troy Stecher (2) had the assists at 3:40.
Erik Gudbranson was penalized for tripping Kuraly at 11:13 of the first period, but the Bruins brass was unable to convert on the ensuing power play.
Chara went to the box to serve a tripping minor of his own for pulling down Brock Boeser at 13:37 and the Canucks failed to convert on their only power play of the night.
After one period, Vancouver held on to a 1-0 lead, while also leading in shots on goal, 8-5. The Canucks also led in giveaways (3-2) and hits (9-4), while the B’s led in face-off win percentage (54-46). Blocked shots were even (3-3), as well as takeaways (2-2) after 20 minutes of play and both teams were 0/1 on the skater advantage.
Noel Acciari took exception to a clean hit by Bo Horvat delivered on Joakim Nordstrom as Nordstrom was attempting to play the puck out of mid-air and the two exchanged fisticuffs at 2:14 of the second period.
Acciari and Horvat were handed fighting majors, while Acciari received some slight medical attention for a cut on the left side of his face.
It was the second career fight for Horvat and fourth fight of the season for the Bruins.
Markstrom made a spectacular save without his stick moments later, while sprawling in the crease to recover the puck from going past the goal line, then rolling away on his back to keep it out.
Despite Canucks head coach, Travis Green‘s best intentions, Vancouver was called for too many men on the ice at 5:19 of the second period and Virtanen served the bench minor while the Bruins went on the power play.
Boston did not convert on the advantage.
Markus Granlund committed the final penalty of the game by slashing Bruins forward, Jake DeBrusk at 16:07. Once again, Boston’s power play was power-less.
Through 40 minutes of game action, the Canucks held onto a 1-0 lead, while Boston was outshooting Vancouver, 20-13 (and 15-5 in the second period alone). The Canucks had an advantage in blocked shots (9-6), takeaways (8-2), giveaways (7-2) and hits (18-7), while the Bruins maintained dominance on the face-off dot, winning 54% of the face-offs entering the second intermission.
Vancouver was 0/1 on the power play and Boston was 0/3 entering the third period.
The quest for the Canucks first regular season home shutout against the Bruins in franchise history continues as Joakim Nordstrom (2) sniped a snap shot past Markstrom at 7:45 of the third period to tie the game, 1-1.
John Moore (1) collected the primary assist– and his 100th career NHL point– on the goal, while Matt Grzelcyk (4) notched the secondary helper.
Nordstrom’s goal was high-glove side off of a solid breakout through the neutral zone and matched his total goal-scoring output from last season (two goals in 75 games for the Carolina Hurricanes) in just his seventh game this season.
With the score tied, 1-1, at the end of regulation, 3-on-3 overtime was to commence at Rogers Arena late Saturday night.
The Bruins were outshooting Vancouver, 30-19, after 60 minutes of play– including a 10-6 shots on goal advantage in the third period alone.
But the Canucks got the last laugh as Boston was unable to generate any sustainable pressure in the offensive zone in overtime, especially after Brandon Carlo bungled a play to stay onside and lost the puck to Brock Boeser in the neutral zone.
Boeser moved in with Horvat on a two-on-one with Carlo in desperation to get back, while Patrice Bergeron attempted to make a last-ditch effort.
The Vancouver forwards toyed with the puck long enough for Carlo to stumble to the ice in front of his own net and let Horvat (5) deke and send one off the iron and bouncing past Halak for the game-winning goal in overtime.
Boeser (3) had the only assist on the goal at 3:12.
The Bruins finished the night leading in shots on goal, 31-22, though the Canucks led in shots, 3-1, in overtime. Vancouver also ended the night leading in blocked shots (14-9), giveaways (8-4) and hits (26-11), while Boston led in face-off win% (56-44).
Among other stats…
Krejci, Acciari, Marchand, Carlo and Vaakanainen were all minus-one for Boston in the loss, while Bjork (plus-one) and Moore (plus-one) were the only positive plus/minus skaters for the Bruins.
Kampfer led the B’s in the physicality department without Backes, McAvoy and Miller in the lineup, with three hits on the night, while Nordstrom and Kuraly were the next closest (each with two).
Wagner and David Pastrnak led Boston in shots on goal with five each.
Chara and Nordstrom each had two blocked shots as Nordstrom was the most complete all-around skater for Boston Saturday night.
Boeser, Horvat, Virtanen and Chris Tanev were all plus-one for the Canucks. Edler and Gudbranson recorded a team-high four hits apiece for Vancouver in the victory, while Edler also led in blocked shots with three.
Sven Baertschi led the Canucks in shots on goal with three on Saturday.
The Bruins fell to 0-1-2 on their current four-game road trip, swinging through Ottawa on Oct. 23rd before returning to TD Garden in Boston for a matchup against the Philadelphia Flyers on Oct. 25th.
31-40-11, 73 points, 7th in the Pacific Division
Subtractions: F Cole Cassels (signed, DEL), F Michael Chaput (traded to CHI, signed with MTL), F Nic Dowd (signed with WSH), F Joseph LaBate (signed with Belleville Senators, AHL), F Jayson Megna (signed with WSH), F Griffen Molino (signed with Toronto Marlies, AHL), F Daniel Sedin (retired), F Henrik Sedin (retired), D Patrick Wiercioch (signed, KHL)
Still Unsigned: D Anton Cederholm, F Jussi Jokinen, D MacKenze Stewart
Offseason Analysis: We all knew this day would come, but didn’t want the telepathy to end. Yes, both Daniel and Henrik Sedin retired at the end of the 2017-18 regular season, leaving the Vancouver Canucks with an identity crisis– well, almost.
Does Jim Benning know the definition of a rebuild?
The Canucks General Manager signed veteran forwards Jay Beagle and Antoine Roussel to matching four-year, $12 million contracts (worth $3.000 million per season). Beagle, 32, and Roussel, 28, are not top-six forwards. One’s past his prime, despite winning the Cup with the Washington Capitals last season and the other, well, $3.000 million a year for not just one fourth liner but two is the definition of insanity.
Doing the same thing and expecting different results, Benning keeps patching a non-playoff contender with grizzled veterans on long-term contracts.
It’s one thing to fill some roster holes with veteran players while you rebuild in the short term, but four-year deals? Four-years!?! Especially when this seems to be a trend up and down the lineup since losing to the Boston Bruins in the 2011 Stanley Cup Final.
That should be enough to convince Vancouver’s ownership group (Canucks Sports & Entertainment) that they should hit the reset button on their current front office.
One good signing– and the only good signing– made by Benning at improving the Canucks bottom-six depth was the addition of former Buffalo Sabre and Boston Bruin, Tim Schaller.
Schaller’s respectable two-year deal at $1.900 million per season is right about what you would expect to pay a top-notch fourth liner that can play third line minutes when called upon.
His 22 points in 82 games with Boston last season matched Beagle’s output in 79 games with the Capitals and was five-points better than Roussel’s 5-12–17 totals in 73 games for the Dallas Stars in 2017-18.
Schaller’s cap hit is a little more than half of Beagle and Roussel’s.
Thatcher Demko isn’t ready for a full-time NHL role yet– either in the starting capacity or as a backup netminder. Anders Nilsson had his worst season as a backup in his first year as a Canuck, amassing a 3.44 goals against average and .901 save percentage in 27 games played.
Meanwhile, subpar starting goalie, Jacob Markstrom worsened from 2016-17 to 2017-18 in GAA (going from a 2.63 to a 2.71), but improved in SV% (.910 in 2016-17 to a .912 in 2017-18)– all while making the jump from being a backup himself in 2016-17 (playing in 26 games) to being Vancouver’s starter in 2017-18 (and playing in 60 games).
There’s hope to be had in 2018-19, however, in standout prospects Elias Pettersson and Jonathan Dahlen. Both should make the Canucks NHL roster and be implemented in the lineup for added flair, coupled with the Horvat, Boeser and Virtanen regime that’s now in full swing.
Despite the rumblings of a young core, Vancouver’s still in a tough spot given the strength of the Pacific Division.
The San Jose Sharks look to be a Cup contender on paper, Los Angeles is seeking one last chance at completing a trifecta this decade and Anaheim rounds out the annual California hockey powerhouse.
Meanwhile the Vegas Golden Knights certainly aren’t slowing down.
Between the Edmonton Oilers, Calgary Flames and Vancouver– anything can happen. Edmonton should be better than they were last season, but should and in reality are separate things. Calgary, despite their revamped roster, has Bill Peters behind the bench (enough said).
So if the Canucks are looking to make any ground from 2018-19 to 2019-20, it very well might be on their Pacific Division Canadian counterparts.
What about the Arizona Coyotes, you ask?
They won’t be in last place in the division this season, so Vancouver better watch out. Unless, of course, Benning and Co. are starting to come around to the idea of tanking for a high-end 2019 1st round pick. That’d probably do them a lot of favors.
Offseason Grade: D
It’s hard to track progress when you let yourself get in the way of whatever you’ve got going. I don’t know what that means other than trying to say that the Canucks should continue to pursue a youth movement, decent depth signings (like Schaller) and abandon all hope on– oh wait, they signed Beagle and Roussel to matching four-year contracts.
If The Hockey Guy sees this by any chance– ‘sup. Let’s be friends, friend.
It’s the third day of our 2018 offseason previews for all 31 National Hockey League teams and today kicks off with the Vancouver Canucks.
Nobody expected the Vancouver Canucks to be a mid-pack team in 2017-18 and well, what do you know, they weren’t. The Canucks finished 7th in the Pacific Division this season with a 31-40-11 record and 73 points on the season.
Vancouver was second-to-last in Western Conference standings, behind the Chicago Blackhawks by three points in the standings and just ahead of the Arizona Coyotes.
Chicago was the only team in the Central Division to not reach the 90-point plateau, while Vancouver was one of three teams in the Pacific Division to amass less than 80 points on the season.
Other than that, Vancouver still has two fringe starter/backup goaltenders, 32-year-old Loui Eriksson under contract with a cap hit of $6.000 million through the 2021-22 season and a lack of apparent depth throughout the lineup.
At least Bo Horvat is part of the core and the team has gotten younger (due, in part, to the Sedin’s retiring).
2018 NHL Entry Draft
There’s no reason to sound all doom-and-gloom regarding the Canucks, because they’ve managed to establish a small pool of productive prospects in Thatcher Demko, Michael DiPietro, Olli Juolevi, Elias Pettersson and Jonathan Dahlén.
Another down year can be expected, but there’s plenty of room to grow and turn a lot of heads in 2018-19.
Thankfully, in the deep draft that is the 2018 NHL Entry Draft, Vancouver won’t miss out on a decent top-10 prospect with the 7th overall pick as long as General Manager Jim Benning doesn’t mess things up.
It only makes sense that Benning goes with the best available player by the time the Canucks are on the clock– whether it’s (not listed in any particular order) Brady Tkachuk, Oliver Wahlstrom, Evan Bouchard, Quintin Hughes, Adam Boqvist, Rasmus Kupari or Joel Farabee– since there’s no immediate need on the NHL roster that can be filled by a player in this year’s draft.
Pending free agents
What it all comes down to for Vancouver is sticking to the plan. Now is the time to implement more youth with the likes of Demko, Juolevi, Pettersson and Dahlén in expanded or new roles altogether on the NHL club.
However, Demko’s path to stealing a job in net for the Canucks is currently crowded by Jacob Markstrom and Anders Nilsson as 1A and 1B solutions to the fact that Vancouver does not have a true number one, starting goaltender.
Markstrom, 28, has two-years remaining on his current contract with a $3.667 million cap hit. That’s a friendly value for any team that’s looking for a temporary placeholder in net as a low-cost, potentially high-reward, starting goaltender– as long as that team has a defense to limit shots against.
Nilsson, 28, has one-year left on his contract and a $2.500 million cap hit. Again, also a bargain in the grand scheme of things, where top-notch goaltenders run organizations around $7.000 million in cap space.
Both are in their goaltending prime, which is different from a skater’s prime in that it’s usually delayed in comparison by a few years, but neither Markstrom nor Nilsson have shown they are going to get better than their 2.71 and 3.44 goals against averages in 60 and 27 games played, respectively.
That’s not just a case of a bad defense.
Average is still average and below average is still below average. For the Canucks to get better, they almost have to get worse, which sounds horrible to diehard fans, but might not actually be that bad.
Sure, Demko doesn’t have the level of experience that Markstrom and Nilsson have, but for a team that’s truly committed to a rebuild, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to let him get more playing time to help bring his NHL game up to speed.
Aside from goaltending, Vancouver has six pending free agent forwards to assess. Three of them (Jussi Jokinen, Nic Dowd and Darren Archibald) are pending-unrestricted free agents and three of them are pending-restricted free agents (Jake Virtanen, Markus Granlund and Sven Baertschi).
Of their pending-UFA forwards, Dowd should get a callback, while the priority remains on re-signing the 21-year-old Virtanent and 25-year-old Granlund this summer.
Baertschi has only passed the 30-point plateau once in his career, but fills a role as a third line forward that the Canucks desperately need. Anything more than a bridge deal for the 25-year-old forward could come back to bite the organization if his offense doesn’t improve.
Once expected to change the course of Pittsburgh’s blueline, Pouliot was the 8th overall selection in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft and only just played his first full NHL season with Vancouver in 2017-18. Plus/minus aside (he was a minus-22 in 71 games played), Pouliot is worthy of keeping around, so long as Erik Gudbranson is considered expendable.
Stecher, on the other hand, has shown signs of being a puck-moving defender with flashes of a decent transition game, but had 1-10–11 totals in 68 games played as part of a sophomore slump.
While the Canucks may have higher expectations for Stecher, given his homegrown development, Pouliot outplayed his teammate with double the production (22 points).
If Vancouver is serious about moving Gudbranson and convinces Alexander Edler to waive his no-trade-clause for a transaction, then both Pouliot and Stecher have bigger roles and a proving ground to make the most of what should be bridge contract extensions.
The Canucks have a little more than $22 million to work with in cap space this summer.
Other pending free agents throughout the organization include:
Joseph Labate (UFA), Anton Cederholm (RFA), Cole Cassels (RFA), Griffen Molino (RFA), MacKenze Stewart (RFA), Patrick Wiercioch (UFA), Jayson Megna (UFA), Richard Bachman (UFA), Reid Boucher (RFA), Michael Chaput (RFA)