Tag Archives: Jake Virtanen

Canucks slip past Bruins, 2-1, in OT

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).

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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.

Danton Heinen remained on the left side of David Krejci and Jake DeBrusk, while Chris Wagner was moved to the fourth line with Sean Kuraly and Noel Acciari to begin the action.

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.

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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.

Vancouver Canucks 2018-19 Season Preview

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Vancouver Canucks

31-40-11, 73 points, 7th in the Pacific Division

Additions: F Jay Beagle, F Tanner Kero (acquired from CHI), F Antoine Roussel, F Tim Schaller

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

Re-signed: F Darren Archibald, F Sven Baertschi, D Troy Stecher, F Jake Virtanen

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.

The face(s) of the franchise shifts full-time to the likes of Bo Horvat, Brock Boeser and Jake Virtanen while the rest of the roster, umm, does stuff on the ice.

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.

Goaltending continues to be an issue for Vancouver since trading Cory Schneider and Roberto Luongo one year apart from one another.

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.

Never mind.

If The Hockey Guy sees this by any chance– ‘sup. Let’s be friends, friend.

2018 Offseason Preview: Vancouver Canucks

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.

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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.

Yes, Brock Boeser— the 2018 NHL All-Star Game MVP– emerged as a rookie sniper, but the faces of the franchise in Daniel and Henrik Sedin retired after almost 20 years in the NHL.

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.

Finally, the Canucks have a pair of pending-RFA defenders to re-sign this offseason in 24-year-olds Derrick Pouliot and Troy Stecher.

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)

Down the Frozen River Podcast #98- Do Or Donato, There Is No Try

Nick and Connor rambled about the remaining weeks of the regular season, who will finish last in the NHL, if Boston can catch Tampa, Columbus’s hot streak and more. They also previewed and predicted eight of the NHL’s annual awards. Anze Kopitar has 86 points on the season– get it right, Nick.

Subscribe to the podcast on Apple Podcasts (iTunes) and/or on Stitcher.

2018 Trade Deadline Preview: Pacific Division

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1. Vegas Golden Knights– 33-12-4 (70 points, 49 GP)

There isn’t really that much the Vegas Golden Knights need to do to improve down the stretch. Should they trade James Neal or Marc-Andre Fleury as some fans and media members alike wondered since the expansion draft last June? No. They shouldn’t.

These are the Golden Knights. They’re trying to win the Stanley Cup in their first season of existence. And they just might.

They’ve dismantled some of the league’s best teams on a night-to-night basis, while amassing a plus-38 goal differential through 49 games played– and oh yeah, they’re smashing inaugural season records by an expansion franchise. All of that has put them in position for making a stake as a leading horse in the Presidents’ Trophy race.

That said, if Vegas general manager, George McPhee, is presented with an offer he can’t refuse that would make his team better, by all means, he should pursue it. Addition without subtraction or whatever– they have roughly $8.100 million in salary cap space, they can afford it.

Potential assets to trade: F Cody Eakin, F David Perron

Potential assets to acquire: F Patrick Maroon (EDM), F Alex Galchenyuk (MTL), D Nick Holden (NYR), D Ryan McDonagh (NYR), F Mike Hoffman (OTT), D Ian Cole (PIT)

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2. San Jose Sharks– 26-16-8 (60 points, 50 GP)

The San Jose Sharks sit in an uncomfortable position. Yes, they’re currently 2nd in the Pacific Division, but it’s a four-horse race for anywhere between two and four playoff spots in the Pacific Division.

No that’s not counting out the Edmonton Oilers (spoiler alert– they’ll be sellers), but let’s assume the Golden Knights lay claim to the regular season division title. Then it becomes a Battle of California and Calgary for two divisional spots and either one, two or no wild card positions in the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Taking a look at the Central Division… yeah, odds aren’t great that they’ll be five teams from either the Pacific or Central clinching a playoff berth, considering the Dallas Stars (60 points), Sharks (60 points), Minnesota Wild (59 points), Kings (59 points), Ducks (59 points), Colorado Avalanche (58 points) and Flames (58 points) are all separated by a measly two-points.

There’s no room for error.

With only about $5.200 million in cap space currently and pending RFA forwards Tomas Hertl, 24, and Chris Tierney, 23, to re-sign along with pending RFA defenseman, Dylan DeMelo, 24, San Jose would be smart to lock up the future of their core while accepting that they’ll likely lose some guys via trade or free agency this offseason.

Joe Thornton, 38, is currently on IR and making $8.000 million on his soon to expire contract. Joel Ward, 37, has a $3.275 million cap hit on his deal that expires on July 1st.

Could this be a last hurrah?

Again, it all depends on how the Sharks approach everything moving forward– oh, by the way, backup goaltender, Aaron Dell, is a pending-UFA at season’s end too, but Troy Grosenick looks ready enough to settle into the backup role once Dell is either traded or probably makes a lot of money for the chance to be a starting goaltender elsewhere this July.

Potential assets to trade: F Mikkel Boedker, D Justin Braun, D Brenden Dillon, G Aaron Dell, D Paul Martin, F Joel Ward

Potential assets to acquire: Cap Relief, F David Desharnais (NYR), F Michael Grabner (NYR), D Ian Cole (PIT), F Klim Kostin (STL), F Jordan Kyrou (STL), F Thomas Vanek (VAN), F Nic Petan (WPG)

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3. Los Angeles Kings– 27-18-5 (59 points, 50 GP)

The Los Angeles Kings are set. They don’t really need to add as long as elite-starting goaltender, Jonathan Quick, is healthy. General manager, Rob Blake, should take a page out of Vegas’s book and sit on his hands come February 26th, that way he won’t be tempted to make any phone calls he might regret later.

It’s not like the Kings should really consider dumping what’s left of 35-year-old forward, Marian Gaborik, but they very well could– just to get $4.875 million in salary cap off of their hands. Gaborik’s 7-7–14 totals in 27 games played are pretty telling (albeit due to injury and being scratched other nights).

F Nick Shore, D Kevin Gravel and G Darcy Kuemper stand out as the only “big” names Los Angeles will have to re-sign this offseason with veteran forward, Torrey Mitchell, either working out as a long-term, year-to-year, rental or a short-term, Cup focused, investment.

Similar to San Jose, however, the Kings don’t have a lot of cap space as things stand. Los Angeles has about $3.600 million in wiggle room and really doesn’t have any holes that need to be filled.

Los Angeles should sit this trade deadline out and instead work on a plan for the 2018 NHL Entry Draft in June where they’ll have to make some moves (unless the cap rises, which it’s expected to). Then again, Drew Doughty ($7.000 million cap hit) will need a new contract in 2019…

Potential assets to trade: F Marian Gaborik

Potential assets to acquire: draft picks, maybe a prospect or two

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4. Anaheim Ducks– 25-17-9 (59 points, 51 GP)

Every now and then there are teams that seemingly destroy their opponents in more ways than one while quietly existing and carrying their own weight. Injuries amounted early, but these days the Anaheim Ducks are the ones handing out the bruises– and winning… significantly.

The Ducks are 6-3-1 in their last 10 games, which won’t mean anything by February 26th (unless they go on a significant winning/losing streak).

Anaheim might creep up in the standings, but what will set them apart from the rest of the Western Conference?

This is where the Ducks can shine at the trade deadline if they just add one more piece to the puzzle. It doesn’t have to be a permanent piece, but one that’ll hold them over in the event of injuries.

Let’s face it, regardless of the physical brand of hockey Anaheim plays, there will be an injury or two down the stretch that could impact their chances of postseason success.

The Sami Vatanen-for-Adam Henrique trade with the New Jersey Devils has paid off in much needed scoring throughout their lineup, but the Ducks could get more if they wanted to.

A return of Patrick Maroon to The Pond or a rental like Thomas Vanek or Michael Grabner just might put Anaheim on the fast track to the 2018 Stanley Cup Final. Filling out their bottom-six depth and scoring prowess, while continuing to center their game around size and skill is exactly what they could add at the end of the month.

With only about $3.100 million in cap space available, the right move might be hard to make.

Potential assets to trade: G Reto Berra, D Steve Oleksy, draft picks, prospects

Potential assets to acquire: D Cody Franson (CHI), D Mike Green (DET), F Patrick Maroon (EDM), F David Desharnais (NYR), F Michael Grabner (NYR), D Nick Holden (NYR), D Erik Gudbranson (VAN), F Thomas Vanek (VAN)

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5. Calgary Flames– 25-17-8 (58 points, 50 GP)

When the Calgary Flames are hot, they’re red hot. When the Flames are cold they’re cooler than being cool (shouts OutKast).

Of all the teams in the Pacific Division, Calgary is the most Jekyll and Hyde of the two Alberta teams. Goaltender, Mike Smith, has saved the season (literally) multiple times on nights where Johnny Gaudreau and the Flames’s offense hasn’t gotten going.

Conversely, Gaudreau has propelled his team on nights when Smith has struggled. Some nights the Flames are on their “A” game. Some nights their porous defense shows. A lot.

Calgary is too young to give up on. Guys like Troy Brouwer, Matt Stajan and Kris Versteeg provide a veteran presence both on the ice and in the locker room, but are harder to move given their modified no-trade clauses. Not that anyone’s in a rush to move them. Just being mindful of July 1st and the plethora of youth that could steal some roster spots next year, provided the Flames don’t do anything crazy in free agency.

The Flames have to get better if they want to play longer. Whether or not they decide to take action now or let things develop on their own, well, hasn’t it been long enough?

If they want to make a deep playoff run they have to manage their cap situation a lot better (and fix their defense with, say, six new defensemen?). With a little more than $2.200 million to play with in cap space come deadline day, Calgary isn’t doing this whole “let’s be buyers on February 26th” thing right.

Potential assets to trade: F Mikael Backlund, D Matt Bartkowski, F Michael Frolik, D Travis Hamonic, D Michael Stone

Potential assets to acquire: F Sam Reinhart (BUF), D Nick Holden (NYR), D Ian Cole (PIT)

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6. Edmonton Oilers– 22-24-3 (47 points, 49 GP)

If you had Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl, where would you expect to be in the standings?

It’s a trick question, because no matter how many Art Ross Trophies those two players combined win in their careers, you still need to fill out the rest of the roster so you can be salary cap compliant and thus able to compete in the first place.

Fortunately for the Edmonton Oilers, Peter Chiarelli is at the reins.

Check that. It’s pretty dire.

The Oilers aren’t the worst team anymore, so at least they have that going for them, but once again we’re approaching yet another trade deadline where Edmonton has a lot of cargo to jettison into the void that is the rest of the league.

While McDavid and Draisaitl will eat up $21 million in salary starting next season, the Oilers have plenty of pending free agents to sort out– which also means they have a lot of rentals to sell at the deadline.

With the right moves, Chiarelli can redeem himself in Edmonton. All it requires is a swift retool. Too bad there’s a couple of no movement clauses on the blue line, because they’re eating $9.500 million in salary that the team will probably need to re-sign Rasmus Dahlin in a few years after they win the draft lottery.

Potential assets to trade: F Mike Cammalleri, D Brandon Davidson, F Mark Letestu, F Patrick Maroon

Potential assets to acquire: F Zemgus Girgensons (BUF), F Sam Reinhart (BUF), F Luke Glendening (DET), F Alex Galchenyuk (MTL), F Andrew Shaw (MTL), D Nick Holden (NYR), F Derick Brassard (OTT), F Jean-Gabriel Pageau (OTT), F Klim Kostin (STL), F Jordan Kyrou (STL)

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7. Vancouver Canucks– 20-24-6 (46 points, 50 GP)

Similar to the Edmonton Oilers, the Vancouver Canucks had high hopes for this season. Okay, not that high, but still.

Things haven’t exactly gone as planned, thanks in part to Bo Horvat‘s injury, yet the Canucks have one of this season’s most pleasant surprises in the league– the emergence of Brock Boeser.

Vancouver has about $1.000 million in cap space currently. For a team that’s massively under-performing with a minus-31 goal differential through 50 games played, that’s horrendous.

Daniel Sedin and Henrik Sedin are both pending-UFAs earning $7.000 million through the end of this season. Their playing days are safe in a Canucks uniform, given their no movement clauses and the fact that the traditional “honorary” $1.000 million (with a bunch of bonuses tied to performance) year-to-year contract extensions forthcoming– if they choose to play another year in the NHL.

There’s a lot of youth in Vancouver, so that’s promising.

Guys like Thomas Vanek and Erik Gudbranson have been the subject of those expected to be on the move from the Canucks organization and surely at least one of them will be out the door come February 26th.

As much as Sam Gagner has turned around his game, he may fall victim to the tight cap situation with pending RFAs Jake Virtanen, Markus Granlund and Sven Baertschi on the cusp of seeing pay raises. Then again, maybe Gagner’s future with the Canucks will be saved by whatever the Sedin’s decide to do (take less money).

Short of some adjustments on the blue line and letting their young forwards gain experience, Vancouver really doesn’t need that much. Full health and finding the right starting goaltender should be the main focus going into the deadline and beyond.

Potential assets to trade: D Alex Biega, F Sam Gagner, D Erik Gudbranson, G Jacob Markstrom, G Anders Nilsson, F Thomas Vanek

Potential assets to acquire: F Zemgus Girgensons (BUF), G Robin Lehner (BUF), F Sam Reinhart (BUF), G Petr Mrazek (DET), F Jean-Gabriel Pageau (OTT), G Aaron Dell (SJ), F Klim Kostin (STL), F Jordan Kyrou (STL)

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8. Arizona Coyotes– 12-29-9 (33 points, 50 GP)

Just exactly how long will we go before recognizing that the Arizona Coyotes are in a state of denial?

The perpetual rebuild has hit its lowest point so far and general manager, John Chayka, has nothing to show for some of his seemingly brilliant acquisitions in the offseason (namely, Derek Stepan and Antti Raanta from the New York Rangers, as well as Niklas Hjalmarsson from the Chicago Blackhawks).

Look, neither of the trades the Coyotes made around the 2017 NHL Entry Draft were going to make them contenders for the Cup, but they should’ve at least made them move out of the basement and onto the first floor of the league.

Arizona will be selling once again and unless your last name is Hjalmarsson, Raanta or Stepan and you’re over the age of 24, there’s a good chance you could be packing a bag out of the desert (unless you get traded to Vegas, in which case, you’ll still be in the desert– only cooler because of all of the attractions around T-Mobile Arena, oh and the whole “Cup in one” mentality currently for the Golden Knights).

Potential assets to trade: F Brad Richardson, F Tobias Rieder, F Jordan Martinook, F Nick Cousins, D Oliver Ekman-Larsson, D Kevin Connauton

Potential assets to acquire: Draft picks, F Zemgus Girgensons (BUF), F Sam Reinhart (BUF), D Tyson Barrie (COL), G Petr Mrazek (DET), F Alex Galchenyuk (MTL), F Max Pacioretty (MTL), D Nick Holden (NYR), D Ryan McDonagh (NYR), F Mike Hoffman (OTT), F Jean-Gabriel Pageau (OTT), G Aaron Dell (SJ), F Klim Kostin (STL), F Jordan Kyrou (STL), F David Perron (VGK)

Colby’s Corner: Incompletes

report-card incompleteAt the midway point of the season, a lot of people want to give out grades. Well, due to our busy schedules and the fact that we skipped a podcast, I am going to discuss the teams I think deserve an incomplete and why.  So, while all of you are handing out grades, consider these teams for incompletes.

First up

The Ottawa Senators Unknown-2

The Ottawa Senators are 11th in the Eastern conference with 50 points. This is a team who had a strong run at the end of last season, and with help from goalie Andrew Hammond, snuck into the playoffs. The team is currently only three points out of a wildcard playoff spot again.

The Senators are a streaky team and I personally don’t think you can insult the team with a C rating. Obviously, Ottawa’s biggest player is defenseman Erik Karlsson and he is living up to it as he leads the team in points with 51 in 48 games played. This man is a beast, and they play him like it too. There have been a few games this season where Karlsson has played over 30 minutes in a game; that’s more than half the game! From a coach’s perspective, it has to be great to have a player who can play at all times.

However, if you look closer, this could be part of the issue. A stat that scares me for this team is Erik Karlsson’s plus-minus rating: it’s only even. This man is responsible for about 40% of Ottawa’s goals, and he’s been on the ice for 51 goals against average. To me this means his partner on D isn’t correct. Now, people will argue that if he would stay home and not play so offensively, or if he would play less, maybe his plus minus would be better. This may be true, but he is also without a doubt their best player. You play the best player as much as possible as long as he can handle it, which Karlsson can.

Now, with the trade deadline around the corner, you have to wonder what trades the Senators might be considering. If I were them, I would be looking for some defensive help, and, more specifically, a partner for Karlsson. Some big names out there for D help would be Kevin Shattenkirk and Travis Hamonic.

To finish with Ottawa, I would tell people not to write them off yet, by any means. They have a lot of winnable games coming up, including my Buffalo Sabres at the end of the month. If their coach can figure out his D-pairs, I would say Ottawa has the ability to go on a run similar to Florida and jump into the division spots.

Next up

The Vancouver CanucksUnknown-1

Not going to lie to you, I have never been a fan of the Canucks, but this team has surprised me a little bit this year. I felt the Canucks would have a rough year, but they are currently 8th in the Western conference with 51 points. They are in the 3rd division spot in the Pacific. Now, we all know the Pacific division is the weakest in the league, but I think it would be wrong to give Vancouver a grade when they have 2 players who have played in all 49 games this season. This stat tells you that nothing is set in Vancouver, and they have had many injury problems this season.

The Sedin twins are leading the way in points, like usual, as Daniel has 43 and Henrik has 37. It seems the twins have started using their twin powers again, and thus have this team in a playoff position. Ryan Miller, the current #1 goalie in Vancouver, just missed 10 games with an injury, and that may not be a lot, but when Jacob Markstrom is your backup, it doesn’t help in the winnable games.

Another advantage Vancouver might have going down the line is their young kids. Bo Horvat and Jake Virtanen are kids who will get better with the more games they play. If both of these kids can continue to improve, I feel the Canucks will be in the playoffs, and if Miller can stay healthy, they might be looking at the second division spot.

If I were the GM of Vancouver, I would not be big sellers, but I would be looking for a veteran center to help them in the final push for the playoffs. A name that could come up could be Patrick Marleau, who at the start of the season requested a trade.

Other teams who don’t deserve grades would be the Edmonton oilers, Buffalo Sabres and Toronto Maple Leafs.

These teams all knew they would have a rough year before the midway point. Edmonton lost Connor McDavid early and had the same team as last year. The Sabres weren’t going to go from last to playoffs this soon, as many as some hoped. Toronto fans should know by now the rebuild is in full effect. Toronto should be hoping for Auston Mathews and hope for a Stamkos miracle, but that’s for another post.