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Season of Transition

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As we limp to the end of a this season of change, the Canucks are showing signs of life. Here is why I think they are destined to turn it around quicker than, say, that team from northern Alberta who seem to win every draft lottery.

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It is funny.  Like everyone else, I participated in the "they can be this good" talk like everyone else, even as I remember writing about, and cautioning about getting too high or low.  It truly has been a season of transition.

Basically, it was all blowing smoke, as none of us had any idea how this one was going to go.  After Willie coached last year's team to a playoff spot, above projections, it was surprising to see the experts and bobbleheads pick the Canucks for the bottom of the NHL.  Never mind that there is a sizable chunk of the fanbase lamenting that they did not do just that.

Now, that very same media is writing stories about whether the coach is going to get fired, because in their eyes, that is what happens. ( You never know, but I doubt that happens ) But not all the media go for the easy stories.  Some just do interviews and craft stories around what the person said, like Iain McIntyre here.

Even just a factual story will get differing reactions, as the media AND the fans are hardly homogeneous groups, especially here.  I liked this story, but I did notice the twitterati were all over it as an example of Mr Benning making "mistakes".  Whatever.  Like the man himself mentions in the story, they don't have time for that shit, when there is work to be done.

The big takeaway for me was something that reinforced my own thinking on the question of the "rebuild".  This is not to say that #TeamTank has not worked for some teams, as L.A and Chicago were both bigtime losers for a few years before astute drafting and trading built up Cup winners.  But for every one of those teams, there is an Edmonton or Columbus.  At least the Leafs seem to have a plan !

Jim Benning explains it pretty astutely, when he says

"You lose your culture if you’re bad for three or four years," he explained. "We’ve had good teams here in the past. There’s a lot of pride in our players. Our older players, they teach and hold the younger players accountable to what it means to be a Vancouver Canuck. That’s our culture. That’s what we value.

"If you lose that culture, it’s too hard to try to figure out how to get it back. So we’ve kept some older players who have been around for a while — the Sedins (Henrik and Daniel) and Alex Burrows and Hammer. We need them to teach our young kids what it means to play the right way and play winning hockey. If you lose that culture completely, then all you have is a bunch of young players with no direction."

...that is pretty much it.  McIntyre adds "Like the Edmonton Oilers", and it is hard to argue that the team from Edmonton has lost it's "culture".  As we near the deadline, some players may not be here as predicted, but let's see later how many stayed.  A quick run through the roster :

Culture Club

No, not the gender bending band featuring Boy George, the guys that are main architects and builders of "the culture".  Ones that I hope are here in a week ( or ones that will be back soon...) ;

- Wonder Twins.  Daniel and Henrik Sedin are first and first on the list.  Scoring at near a point a game clip for their careers while being classy on and off the ice.  The way they have handled themselves throughout their careers is definitely something we will miss in 3-4 years ( yes, 3-4 years, Captain Hank said as much in his interview at Dice and Ice this year that, for the life of me, I could not find on Google.  But he said it ! )

- Alexandre Burrows.  You guys know I am a fan.  His scoring touch seems to have deserted him this year.  If a deal makes sense ( say, a young guy JB wants is involved ), then I could see him going somewhere, as his other "Mr Everything" skills would make him dealable.  But that would require keeping some of the 4.5 million 2016-17 salary, and I really think that they might think him part of the culture, and keep him into next year.  If his numbers experience a resurgence then. they can deal an expiring contract much easier at the next deadline.

- Jim Benning mentioned "Hammer" in his interview above for good reason.  Dan Hamhuis is a very good, low maintenance, all around defenceman, and those are always guys of value.  But he also a "good guy", something the team values.  Honestly ?  I think he goes somewhere at the deadline, and resigns here in the offseason again.

- Jannik Hansen.  This is a tough one.  Since he has been with the Twins, he has given them that same "off the rush" attacking option that makes them more dangerous as Burrows once did, and he has, by all accounts, become a more vocal leader in the room.  But by his very good play, he might be the most valuable trade chip JB has this year.  My thinking is, if you have a guy signed for 2.5 million for the next two years who is performing like that, it is going to take something pretty good to pry him away.  And he does have a NTC.

RFA Stays and Maybe Goes

- Sven Baertschi.  You don't hear much from the Calgary media types who crowed about this deal at the time any more.  Early in the season, they might have been cawing a bit, but since he and Horvat got together, he has earned his Top 6 minutes.  I like him on the power ( less ) play too.  Will get a raise on his 900 K deal.

_ Linden Vey has often been the whipping boy for the fanbase.  Not to pass judgement on that, as we all have our opinions, but he has been better since they picked up Etem, and while his presence on the PP might seem indulgent, at his best, he is a player.  50 / 50 on whether he comes back.

- Emerson Etem was a man in search of a home when he came here.  He seems to have found it with his old junior linemate, and if he keeps up what he has shown next year, acquiring him will end up in the JB pluses column.  He'll be resigned, even if Vey is not.

- Markus Granlund came to the team with the fans already ( irrationally.  Sorry folks.  I get the Shinkaruk love, but if you trust the "hockey people", there was a real question as to whether he could score the same in the NHL as in the AHL ).  While that debate raged before, there is no doubt that, in his first game at least, he goes to the net.  I liked his instincts and nose for the game, and Willie raved about his defensive game.  Of course he resign !

UFA Outta Here !

- Of Brandon Prust and Chris Higgins ( both in the minors ) and Yannick Weber ( already waived, but back here as insurance ), the "Outta Here" might have already occurred, and it may be a question of whether the team can find them a home now.  With Radim Vrbata ( what happened man?  If he was really pouting because he did not play with the Twins all the time, when Hansen has clearly been more productive there, then whatevs' man, thanks for last year ! ), there will be a taker, and maybe less so for Adam Cracjnell, who has shown well in his times in the lineup. ( and is my pick of the forward UFAs that Mr Benning actually resigns ), and is definitely able to get around better than Higgins or Prust are able to now.

- It is a game for the young now, and with that speed comes the inevitable shipping out of players.  That is why there is another guy I am on the fence about.  Matt Bartkowski has speed to burn ( at least going one way, Valk made a great point about his lacking of lateral speed, and why the puck turns into a grenade at times with him ), and is still young enough that maybe one of the 29 other NHL clubs might grab him off the Canucks For Sale Shelf.  I honestly don't know which way it goes, though, logically at least, it is more likely than not that Beth Bartkowski's little boy might be on his way to another team.

The Rest Of The Guys Are Pretty Core Too...

- The guys at the top are where they are in the culture hierarchy, but of course Alexander Edler ( signed until 18-19 ) is a core player.  His loss to the team was felt in that 2-7-1 swoon earlier this month that effectively submarined the season, as was Brandon Sutter's ( until 20-21 ) , longest on the roster ) Season of Injury.  And yes, Derek Dorsett ( signed until 18-19 ) ia core too.

- To a lesser degree, Luca Sbisa was also noted positively ( or negatively, depending on the POV ) when his absence from the lineup coincided with the team struggling.  Two more years at 3.6 ( let the debate begin ! lol ).

- Christopher Tanev is resigned at $4.450.000 until 19-20.  Let that sink in the next time you get on JB about Dorsett's number.  In today's NHL, a guy who eats up top line minutes against the best of other teams, night in and night out, and he is at that number ?  Damn !

You can see all of the Cap hits and the roster makeup here at my new favorite site,  They also include the AHL roster !

New Hotnesses

- Bo Horvat.  He is an RFA the year after next, and already a core player.  JB will resign him in the summer.  You resign your possible future captains early.

- Ben Hutton is an RFA in 17-18, but you have to think that his resigning this summer is going to be a priority.  He has been a revelation in his first year.  For both he and Bo, I have 5 years in the pool.  Screw the bridge deals.

- Jared McCann.  He is an RFA in 18-19, as is Jake Virtanen.  Alex Biega is an UFA that same year.  All three should be around longer.  The two forwards especially, but Biega worked his way into the conversation with plain ol' hard work this year too.

The Net Protectors

- You can call goaltenders core b y the very nature of the position, but of Ryan Miller and Jakob Markstrom, it is probably the older guy who moves on when Thatcher Demko ( sign him as soon as you can JB ! ) plays in Vancouver.  So, unless it is a special deal, no on moving Miller in this offseason either, season ticketers.  Feel free to boo if you are so inclined !

While this will be two of the last three years without the playoffs, and not being able to get out of the first round since 2011 ( the hard truth that started the changeover in the roster ) , you can see where the GM has given himself maximum roster flexibility going forward.  While that article above may quote him as pointing to how youth has taken over the league, I think that is just what he has to say.  They knew that was coming, but also knew that guys like Higgins were going to struggle getting around the ice.  Brandon Prust might be a different example, as he was fast enough before the ankle injury, and not fast enough afterwards.  Luck sometimes comes into play, it seems.

Feel good about your team folks.  It seems that they will continue to play hard, and let the draft stuff fall where it will, and it may be that the Leafs, CBJ and the Oilers may have a big enough lead in the race to the bottom anyhow.  They will get a good pick, and #SuperScout can find good players.  With the culture that will continue here next year, perhaps the fans that are howling and kvetching about, well, everything ( and that is totally fine.  We pay a lot for our puck addiction here, and this market is used to, at least in the regular season, winning at a Top 5 in the NHL for at least the past decade ), will see that this might be more of a quick turnaround than a prolonged walk in the wilds.