In many hockey circles, the teams in the playoffs at US Thanksgiving are destined to remain there and those who aren’t in a playoff spot are doomed! We’re very close; to both a playoff spot, and last in the NHL… how exactly is that possible? Oh yeah, that Bettman mantra of #parity.
To try to understand how the Canucks have fared so far this season, I reached out to some great hockey minds… and when they all rejected me I was left with only one outlet: the Contributors! The writers responded by giving us an in depth look at how our team has performed so far this season. Today we explore the minds of CaptainAzzy, KentBasky, Jimmi.Cynic, Westy, and yours truly.
Azzy: B- After that terrible run, we've picked up in recent games; with the Sedins both on pace for 55pt seasons, Horvat continuing his growth, pleasant surprise from Markus Granlund and a resurgence from Burrows, I'm inclined to say they've done all right.
Gmonk33: C There’s a lot of room for improvement here, but it should have been seen coming given the balance of unproven scoring and aging talent up front. The team has been plagued by some ugly puck luck this year. Maybe Linden-ning need to invest some money from Horvat jersey sales into a bringing in a Shaman or a Priest to cleanse the locker room of bad luck… Or something!
Kent: Offensive, In one of the least shocking developments this season, the Canucks have struggled to score goals. The lineup is littered with guys that just aren't able to score, and it's hurting the Canucks. This isn't a team that can hang with the big boys right now, and they're struggling to score against their peers. They've faced the opposition's backup goaltender something like 9 times in 19 games. They have 7 wins. While there are some very encouraging signs from Daniel and Henrik, Bo Horvat, Brandon Sutter and Markus Granlund, to see Loui Eriksson with just 3 goals at the quarter mark is just demoralizing. Add in a whopping 4 goals from the back end, and it makes you see why the Canucks are where they are. Only Colorado and Buffalo have scored fewer goals. If only they would, you know... try and put the guys that are scoring on more to try and give them more chances to succeed, but hey gotta roll those 4, right? This team is not going anywhere with guys like Jack Skille and Derek Dorsett getting nearly even ice time with guys like Horvat and Eriksson.
Jimmi: D- Gets an 'A' for recent efforts to improve the most dismal Goals-For performance in the league. Ok, 5th most dismal - couldn't even hang onto the most dismal stat lead.
Westy: This area feels like a disappointment even though we all wondered if the goals would show up this year. The defense really isn’t doing much to help that total as they only have 4 goals combined. Throw in a PP that has 7 goals and I am amazed that the Canucks have 7 wins. Add in the fact that the highest point total is Daniel Sedin’s 13 and I am flabbergasted that the team has 7 wins.
Azzy: C Defensively the pairings are starting to gel; no surprise that it came after Troy Stecher made the team. Sbisa and Tryamkin both look steady (I know, right?) and overall we're in okay shape. I don't like the way we capitulated against the Hawks, and I don't appreciate the lack of scoring from the blue line, but again, passable play overall.
Gmonk33: C+ Call me an optimist, but I enjoy what we’re building on the back end compared to some previous incantations of our defense. Hutton is young and able to move the puck; Tryamkin is massive and showing the coaches and organization that he is best motivated by being called out; Edler is what he will be: consistently inconsistent; Gudbranson shows glimpses of his high draft status and will get better as time goes on; Tanev IS the new Hammer; and Stecher is a very solid UFA signing who’s done everything he can to make it impossible for the Canucks to send him back to Utica (it can’t be that bad in Utica, can it?!?!). Add to the mix Juolevi and Subban and we’re starting to get some nice mid-long term stability.
Kent: Depressing- Thank dog for Troy Stecher and Nikita Tryamkin. While they've had moments where they've been exposed, for the most part these two have looked pretty dynamic for the Canucks. Alex Edler has been Alex Edler: their best D some nights, and a true head scratcher others. Erik Gudbranson is pretty much what many said we were getting: a large, somewhat overrated Dman with some holes in his game. While I don't think we can say just yet that his pairing with Ben Hutton is hurting Hutton's development, it does appear to have him spinning his wheels a bit. Chris Tanev was playing well before getting banged up, and the Canucks spiral coinciding with his injury is hardly a shock. Luca Sbisa and Philip Larsen are garbage. I would love to see the management of this team put their money where their mouths are when it comes to wanting to make this team younger and call up Jordan Subban for a look. Overall, watching the Canucks D for me is just passing time til Sbisa gets claimed by Las Vegas.
Jimmi: C- It's been (almost) better than our offense - right at the (mid) top of the bottom six in the league. So that's pretty good - in a sad sort of way. Impressed with Troy, Groot and Hutton is starting to improve from a dismal start. And fresh pizza deliveries are far lower than pasta season. Killer Ed and Special Ed are locked in special combat.
Westy: The Canucks as a team are 8th when it comes to shots against, but 25th when it comes to GA/game. They have allowed 4 goals or more against 8 times already. When you have a team that continuously play from behind, things can turn ugly very quickly. Not having a healthy forward core and a young defensive core that needs time together leads to a fun time in your own end.
Azzy: C- Things were going so well. Both goalies have had their moments. But that stats don't lie, and while Florida's ancient goalie still steals games, ours does not. Markstrom-Demko cannot come soon enough for me.
Kent: Troubling- This is the spot that was a little surprising for me. At the start of the year, both goalies were pretty damn phenomenal. Even in losses, Ryan Miller and Jacob Markstrom were giving the Canucks a chance to win every night. Lately though both goaltenders have been getting lit up, and if they can't get back on track, the rest of the Pacific Division (as lousy as it is) is gonna pass them by.
Gmonk33: B- It’s pretty hard to pinpoint just how the team has been so mediocre, but the Goalies need to share the blame here. Yeah the D tends to make some questionable decisions, but they need to stop the puck at all costs. If the team has the lead, the netminder needs to hold the fort on the back line with the same fervor that they do when the score is tied. Neither tender has been great or terrible for any length of time, but they need to steal more games through the rest of the season if the team is going to compete for a playoff spot! It’s not an epically bad situation, it just needs to be a little bit better...
Jimmi: C+ Miller's .899 and Markstrom's .897 save% says you can't fault the goalies. Holy crap! They're terrible. It's all their fault! If only they played better D and scored more goals we wouldn't have to resort to the 'team game' excuse. But we do. Goalie stats when bad, are team stats. When goalie stats are great, it's solely the goalie. Double standards were invented behind the safety of thick padding.
Westy: Both goalies have GAA above 2.80 and sv pct below .900. Thank their teammates for those crap numbers. I can only recall one truly bad game from each of the goalies and many times they have been left hanging out to dry. I think Markstrom still needs work on his positioning, movement and remembering he is 6’5. Every team is trying the spot just above his glove hand as he drops down to play 4’6.
Azzy: Canucks = F, Comets = B The whole Tryamkin is fat, Jake is lazy, Baer is unlucky story throughout this season has me seriously disillusioned with Willie. Travis Green on the other hand has Grenier scoring, Subban doing well, and is single-handedly filling out our bottom six while injuries take away forwards.
Gmonk33: C This is a hard one for me to really wrap my head around our success or failure. On the plus side: the team has developed Bo slowly and it’s worked; Baerschi is getting some quality ice time and it’s making him look good; Gaunce is an actual fringe NHLer instead of a ‘pretty good’ AHLer; On the negative side: Virtanen has lost his mojo (hopefully Travis Green can get him straightened out); Utica’s next man up at forward hasn’t been a young prospect (outside of that 48 hour trip for Virtanen to get his ‘stuff’) which speaks to a lack of development in the 19-22 range up front. Yeah, kinda murky here in my opinion.
Kent: Rage Inducing- Remember when the #CanucksGoaltendingControversy was the biggest problem we faced? Good times. Now, we have coaching and management making decisions on players that are driving the fanbase crazy. From trading away prospects like Gustav Forsling and Hunter Shinkaruk, to the guys they passed over in the draft going on to have success, to the whole mess with Jake Virtanen, the Canucks look like they just don't have a damn clue about what they have and how to use it. Bo Horvat on the 3rd line is another thing that jumps out, but considering the hard push that Virtanen was their man, and you glance at William Nylander, Dylan Larkin and Nikolaj Ehlers, it makes you wonder about the supposed strength that the Canucks tout in GM Jim Benning. Yes, Brock Boeser and Thatcher Demko are coming, but there's going to need to be more if the Canucks don't want to find themselves in an Edmonton Oilers-like state of suspended animation.
Jimmi: F (to A) - it's a sliding scale which is better than a sticking scale. Will give them an A for Stecher (Troy alone probably deserves the big marks) whereas they get an F for Virt - either he's hurt or he needs more development. Or both. Gaunce is looking stronger this year. And Chaput looks ready for that 2C role we've all been hoping for. Ok, not all of us. Probably not even some of us.
Our on ice performance has been uninspiring through 20 games. We’ve won some games we shouldn’t have, we’ve lost some that we should have won. Luckily, the team has an opportunity to get back in the mix over the remaining 62 games. If the Canucks front office needs some advice, I think I know some folks who can guide them to right!
We’ve said a lot of stuff here, what do you think? Let us know how you grade out the Canuck’s season so far, but please keep it to the topics we hit upon today... the next part of this round table will talk about other organizational matters (and you’ll definitely want to save your best shots about the organization for that piece)!