RETOOL, REBUILD, POTATO, POTAHTO....
I think I have seen enough of the debate over whether Jim Benning is retooling or rebuilding the Canucks. First of all, let's go to Merriam-Webster for assistance on what those two words mean.
To make changes to (something) in order to improve it. To revise, reorganize or modify.
1. To build something again after it has been damaged or destroyed. 2. To make important improvements or changes in something.
Ah geez. #2 under "rebuild" kinda throws a wrench into an overall black and white difference between the two verbs, but screw it, let's stick with #1, because I believe that is the context the vast majority are using anyway.
And in that we can say that Benning is "retooling." The Flyers blew up their team several years ago.
Jim Benning traded away Ryan Kesler and Jason Garrison, bought out David Booth and let Mike Santorelli, Jordan Schroeder, Zac Dalpe go to unrestricted free agency. He then added free agents Ryan Miller and Radim Vrbata, and got Nick Bonino, Luca Sbisa, Derek Dorsett and Linden Vey back in trades made. Yep...retooling. He's not blowing this team up and starting over.
Another way of putting it is that Benning is "changing on the fly." Given the less-than stellar crop of free agents this summer, I'd say he's doing a solid job.
He wanted a top-tier goaltender to push Eddie Lack, who clearly wasn't ready to take on the #1 job yet. So he had to spend big bucks ($6 million per season) to get Ryan Miller on day 1 of free agency. In general, Miller is an excellent NHL goaltender. His brief stint in St. Louis didn't go so well, and in Game 6 of Round 1 notably, this happened:
Yikes. But I am the eternal goalie sympathizer. That looked like a weak goal, but really, it was flukey as well. I mean, who knew Sharp was gonna get slapped in the face with a stick by the Blues defender and not go through with his breakaway attempt of choice? Miller was playing that with a poke check and a pad stack to back it up. Shit happens. Coach Hitchcock called that the backbreaking goal, as it made it 3-1 and the Hawks cruised to a 5-1 win. But the coach also said this:
"I’m sure there are some goals that he’d like to have back, just like any goalie would. But ... we win as a team, we lose as a team. My God, we gave up a breakaway for the third goal and we got seamed on the second goal. That’s not the goalie’s fault. Those are big errors."
Good man Hitch gets it. Goalies always get blamed first don't they? Why am I bringing this up? Hmmm..oh right, because there was question about how much interest there actually was out there for Ryan Miller on July 1 and perhaps Benning overpaid for his services. Well here is what I think. I'm not gonna completely judge Miller for his time in St. Louis. It's too small of a time frame in what has been an excellent career for him, playing in front of the shitty Sabres et all. Miller is worth the price paid in my opinion because he was the number 1 goalie out there in free agency and by god (as Jim Ross would say) pay him the bucks before someone else does because, at some point, somebody would. It's Ryan Miller for shit's sakes. HOWEVER, as always, this debate will be settled with Miiler's performance as a Vancouver Canuck in this god-damned goalie graveyard.
Here's a Miller save compilation:
See the poke check saves? Watch for those this season.
Do your best to block out the media and idiots in the fanbase, Ryan. I believe in you!
First of all, when I first heard about the 2 year, $10 million deal Benning gave Vrbata I cringed. But the first thing that brought me to reality was:
The Canucks were trying to land right-winger Jarome Iginla, but lost out to Colorado reportedly over contract length, not dollars. The Canucks didn't want to offer Iggy 3 years. That's ok! So, the next best right winger on the market was Radim Vrbata. I knew he had ability but had to do some research, as he is not exactly a spotlight kinda guy (helps that he played for Phoenix, I mean..Arizona.
-20 goals and 51 points in 80 games last season in Arizona.
-12 goals and 28 points in 34 games in the lockout season prior.
-35 goals and 62 points in 77 games the season before that (in Arizona). Wow! Wanna see something amazing? How about ONE YouTube clip of all 35 goals he scored that season:
I see a lot of common themes there:
1. Ray Whitney fed him a lot of passes. He needs a solid setup centerman. Hello Henrik Sedin!
2. Sweet hands. Silk hands. Beauty.
3. Shifty. Doesn't play big (he's listed as 6'1", 170 pounds) but he is smart and creative and seems to be in the right place at the right time.
4. The right-handed shot. Alex Burrows played right wing but was a left-handed shot. Anson Carter and Trent Klatt, the 2 previous successors to be successful on the Sedins' line were right handed. Smell what I'm cookin?
VRBATA'S "Real Time" Stats
-10 of Vrbata's 20 goals last season came on the power play. Dave Tippett employed Vrbata a LOT on the power play and rightfully so. Vrbata will aid the Canucks' PP woes and I'm sure this was a big factor in signing him.
-Not a penalty killer.
-Not a hitter.
-Not a shot-blocker.
-Shoots the puck a lot. I like that.
-10 minor penalties taken last season. That's it. Not a bad thing.
-5 shootout goals in 12 attempts last season. He's better than any current Canucks player in shootouts.
Bonino is the apparent successor to Ryan Kesler's #2 slot at center on the Canucks. At 26 years of age, is he the younger replacement of Kesler?
-From a faceoff standpoint? No.
-Bonino scored 7 power play goals to Kesler's 9 in 2013-14, but I don't think he'll get the same power play time in Vancouver as he got in Anaheim unless Willie Desjardins puts him on the wing. The Sedins gobble up PP time and I don't see that changing (mostly because I have given up on any coach not playing them for 1:30 of the PP time).
-3 for 8 in shootouts last season. Good! Check out this beauty.
-So does he play any shorthanded minutes? Some, yeah. 3rd amongst Anaheim forwards last season. Nice! I smell what JB is cookin'. Bonino really is the heir successor to the KesLord's throne.
Bonino's "Real Time" Stats
-Does he hit a lot? No. Listed as 6'1" and 186 pounds.
-Does he block a lot of shots? No.
-Does he shoot the puck a lot? Yes. Not as much as Kesler...but had a better shooting percentage than Kesler last season.
Apparently you can't say that Bonino and Kesler are the same type of player.
Let's look at Bonino's play:
Sweet hands, hey?
Bonino kills the Stars in Round 1:
Ryan Miller and Radim Vrbata were signed to shorter contracts. Why? Because Benning is a firm believer in bringing in the kids to push for roster spots. You HAVE to love this notion. It is the key to success in today's NHL. If Lack outplays Miller he will get more starts. If Shinkaruk, Horvat, Fox and company outshine anybody on the current roster...they will play. If that creates a problem the problem gets traded. This is a serious bonus of having an experienced general manager in place. I say that not entirely knocking Mike Gillis, who did a lot of great things for this organization that Benning inherited. Let me count the ways.....
The Current Canucks' Lineup
Daniel Sedin - Henrik Sedin - Radim Vrbata
Alexandre Burrows - Nick Bonino - Zack Kassian
Chris Higgins - Brad Richardson - Jannik Hansen
Derek Dorsett - Shawn Matthias - Tom Sestito / Linden Vey
Kevin Bieksa - Dan Hamhuis
Alexander Edler - Ryan Stanton
Luka Sbisa - Chris Tanev / Frank Corrado / Yannick Weber
Clearly, Jim Benning's moving and shaking are not over yet. What is the fate of Markstrom? Sestito? Tanev or Weber? Who knows? Honestly, I find Tanev's future here more in doubt than that of Zack Kassian. The Canucks have about $6,750,000 in cap space left so a lot hinges on what Kassian and Tanev (and Weber) seek through the arbitration process.
Is Benning Done Moving Players?
I have no idea, and neither do you. My guess is no. We have a training camp to go through still and if by chance one or more of the Canucks rookies earn a spot on the Canucks' roster, Benning will adjust accordingly. Benning gets shit done, doesn't he?
IS THIS GROUP OF CANUCKS GOING TO MAKE THE PLAYOFFS?
Too soon to judge, really. I don't believe the Sedins are "done" due to the aging process. I do think Burrows will rebound as well as the other Canucks that stunk it up in 2013-14. When your core rebounds from an anomaly shitty season and your GM "retools" the roster to inject needed change, things can only look up from here.
My projection is the Canucks DO improve but not significantly. Playoff spot? Hell yea! But barely. Hey at least this guy agrees with me.
Enough of what I think. what do YOU think?