Welcome to my Summer Series, breaking down the Vancouver Canucks off-season moves and diagnostically evaluating the state of the franchise. No big deal.
a lifetieme ago last week I tried to calm some folks down in the aftermath of Vancouver Canucks: Scorched Earth Edition. It seemed to work. We had a nice chat, talked out our feelings, it was nice. For a minute there, everything was going to be okay.
Then the Canucks held their annual Summer Summit.
A 'meet and greet' event for season's ticket holders that culminates in a Q&A, the Summit is usually a pretty docile affair. Most established reporters don't expect to much to come from such events, even in tense times like these.
@Dignooi i doubt it myself, people are generally fairly chill at these things— Jason Botchford (@botchford) July 9, 2015
Oh, Botch. If you only knew...
Then there were those that weren't about to pass up on the opportunity to
yell at ask some questions to the Canucks brass.
Today I'm asking the questions for us fans. The honeymoon is over.— Tanbir From Surrey (@TRana87) July 9, 2015
He wasn't kidding.
Time to fuck shit up.— Tanbir From Surrey (@TRana87) July 10, 2015
Oh, that Tanbir.
Granted, it was a bit of a slow news day. A dead Racoon was also trending. Seriously. But still, Twitter was all atwitter for a while there. It was appointment viewing. Or clicking, or whatever.
All in all it was one of the better Thursday nights I've had staying home on my couch. Grady Sas penned a dynamite recap you can read here, so I'll skip the details. However there is one moment I'm obliged to single-out.
The moment Jim Benning dropped the mic:
"We could have moved Ryan Miller"
Thanks for that one Jim. I'd been planning a series of essays breaking down his moves lately to get to the essence of "The Plan", y'know, gettin' all diagnostic like, but when you say you could have traded your 34 year old goalie with 2 years left at $6-Million per but instead traded your 27 year old
heartthrob goalie making $1.15-Million and has the ability to surf the challenging waters of Vancouver's fickle fanbase and daunting media, I just- y'know, I... I just... I can't even.
Worst of all I actually had to put my mind to something and re-hash my notes. Nobody makes me think, Jim. You won't like me when I have to think.
So I'm not going to. But dammit, I
threatened promised you guys I'd do this series. I know you don't care and would probably rather not have me write anything, not even a grocery list, but I made a promise. So I'm gonna giver the ol' college try and cheat fake wing go for it.
Welcome to I Want to Know What Jim Benning Did This Summer.
Let's get to work.
PART 1: GOALIES (B-B-B-Benning and the 'Nets')
What we know:
The Canucks kept Ryan Miller and traded Eddie Lack and a Taco Bell gift card (I assume) to Carolina for 3rd and 7th round picks.
Because Benning is an idiot That's what we need to know.
Well let's figure it out then!
I'll start by saying that Eddie Lack was not traded because as a Canucks fan you've been condemned to a life of eternal pain. Now, that may be a thing, but that's not the reason Lack was traded.
Secondly, the return for a local celebrity slash excellent goaltender just about to enter his prime was underwhelming, true, Benning was noted to be visibly frustrated following the trade, shedding a little light perhaps on the difficulty in squeezing value from Lack in the current goalie market. There is a good assessment of that here, but before you say "yeah, but" let's just get the Robin Lehner and Martin Jones deals out of the equation as both were results of GMs who overpaid to get "their guy"; Tim Murray helped draft Lehner in Ottawa (GM's have a habit of staying attached to guys they're involved in drafting. See Miller, Ryan) and having already played over 80 NHL games at 23, many feel he is ready to assume a #1 role, fitting nicely with where Buffalo is at in their rebuild, supposedly justifying the (what I see as an) overpayment. As with Jones, well, first, Sharks' GM Doug Wilson has been doing weird things for a while now, and also went on record as saying he had wanted Jones all along and was willing to part with key assets to get him. (No kidding) Considering that Jones would be nearly impossible to acquire directly from LA, Dougie Doug went all in when Bahston landed Jones in the Lucic deal. It didn't hurt that Jones had 3 shutouts in his 4 wins last year. Let that sink in. Oh, and he's just 25. Okay, maybe Wilson isn't all crazy. Maybe.
That leaves Cam Talbot as the closest comparable to Lack. Both are 27 and have been backups for the past 2 seasons, and each carried the workload for their teams when their starters were injured. They have similar stats, but Talbot has the edge on most of the major metrics while Lack has a larger sample size with ~500 more shots faced which could give a little more reliability to his numbers.
Talbot also had the major bonus of playing behind a Ranger defence that finished 3rd in GA/GP in 2014/2015 while Lack played behind this guy:
Hint: Vancouver's defence was not very good last year.
That said, Talbot went to Edmonton for picks 57, 79 and a swap of 7th rounders while Vancouver got pick 66 and a 2016 7th, essentially meaning that an extra 3rd round pick is the difference between Lack and Talbot. Considering the stats in play, and the fact most observers figured Talbot would command more of a return to begin with, there's not much of an argument there that Benning undersold on Lack. There is a report that Lack almost went to Edmonton (for presumably a higher return), but c'mon, look how bad things are now, imagine Lack backstopping McMiracle & Co. for the next few years. Say whatever you like about his ability to stop pucks, having a lightning rod like that in your building 4-6 times per year, on a team that rebuilt via #theTank (which many Canuck fans would like to see) and could start winning soon.. yeesh.
That would not sit well. I don't begrudge Benning sending him to a
backwater Eastern Conference team. "Best let the fans forget and move on, no?"
So why do it then? One word:
Yeah, that guy. The least talked about element of Vancouver's goaltending controver- ahem, situation is THE reason why Eddie Lack now looks like this:
I'm sorry I had to do that.
So Marky Mark (Can I do that? I know it's a terrible nickname. I just can't help myself. Will Wahlberg come find me and hurt me?) is the new goalie of the future, until the next future comes along and we need a goalie for it. (hellllllloooooo Demko!)
Markstrom had a terrific year with Utica in the AHL, backstopping the Comets to 2nd place overall in the regular season sporting a 1.88GAA and .934SV%, then all the way to the Calder Cup Final where on many nights he was the 1st star for an offensively challenged team, finishing with 2.11 and .925, respectively. To put it in perspective, Cory Schneider posted a 2.04GAA and .928SV% during his best season in Manitoba (albeit behind a weaker team). It would appear that the extra work Markstrom has put in with Rollie Melanson and Dan Cloutier has taken effect, which, considering Rollie's recent history with goalies, is a very good thing. The former 31st overall pick and former "best player not in the NHL" appears ready to take the next step finally and earn back the reputation that made him the top prospect in all of hockey only a few short years ago. Jim Benning and Trevor Linden are banking on it, and judging by the tension in the audience at the Summer Summit it will be a long year in Vancouver if they're wrong.
So Ryan Miller was kept as the starter, but not over Eddie Lack, "The Stork" was moved to make room for Markstrom, and Miller is keeping his seat warm while providing a helping hand in "Marky Mark's" transition- (okay I'll drop the Marky Mark stuff. It's just so damn addicting. Please send Markstrom nickname suggestions to Taylorism, C/O Nucks Misconduct.) and while that fact won't prevent Miller from hearing his share of Bronx Cheers at Rogers Arena this year- one would hope that the faithful can set their frustration aside when Markstrom gets the crease. It's not his fault that Eddie Lack was traded, but he is the current best hope to be the next star goalie in Vancouver. The Canucks put their faith in him so it would behove the fanbase to do the same, regardless of any animosity towards the front office.
Linden and Benning have staked an awful lot on Markstrom (and Ryan Miller's knee) by moving out Lack, and while you don't have to like Miller, he was kept on to mentor the presumptive heir and hopefully provide at least slightly-above-average goaltending whilst doing so, and considering his Vezina Trophy winning, almost Olympic Gold Medal stealing career to date, he's probably got a lot more to teach Markstrom than Lack would in a similar situation. So keep that in mind.
So it would appear that this goaltending
fiasco situation was all the result of the Canucks focusing on the future at the cost of the present.
Hmmm.... Could that be foreshadowing? It could be! Tune in later in the week for:
I Want to Know What Jim Benning Did This Summer
Part 2: Trades, Trades, a Signing and 2 Non-Signings