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Canucks Management Roundtable: Part 2

The bright minds of your favorite Vancouver Canucks blog talk rebuilds, whether an emerging new core is good enough and who might take the fall for a second straight lost season.

NHL: Vancouver Canucks at Calgary Flames Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

Note: This is a lot later than I intended it to be. I owe my fellow contributors a very large apology for not getting this up much, much earlier. And I apologize to the readers for the delay as well. I still felt I owed it to everyone to finally get this post up, but some of the responses are almost a month old.

The conventional wisdom among Canucks-watchers says Mike Gillis recommended a tear-down rebuild but was overruled by ownership. Why do you think Mike Gillis’ lack of rebuild gets blamed on ownership, but Linden and Benning are blamed for the lack of a rebuild under their watch?

BaileyMeadows: I think the fans who believe ownership stopped a Gillis rebuild are the same ones who believe that also could be happening with Benning. If a report came out tomorrow about meddling Canucks ownership, I would not be surprised by the news.

jimmi.cynic: First, because Trev claimed on the day of his Presidential inauguration that he had total control for ALL hockey related decisions. He said the ownership would not fetter his plans in any way. We believed him. Second, he was lying - and it's still the Aqua Agenda. Or worse he wasn't. Maybe in his heart of hearts he still believes that with a few more tweaks of the supporting cast, the Twins will lead us unto the path to the holy grail again. But, with a better outcome. I want to believe that. There's probably a special secret spell and potion that will make 29-30 other teams believe it too.

OffthePost: I still blame the ownership for the lack of a rebuild and think Benning and Linden are just doing the best with what they've been asked to do.

gmonk: Lindenning came in saying that they would do whatever it took to re-establish the Canucks to the glory of year’s past. Since these guys had never lied to us before, we believed that it would be true. It’s hard to say whether or not ownership involvement is at play here, but with the rumblings of the team being available for purchase you have to wonder if seat sales are part of regular conversations about the on-ice product.

Westy99: How could anyone answer this? I do blame Aquilini for this and for of other crap on the team and in the league.

Do you think a tear down rebuild is the best kind of rebuild? Does a team need to bottom out to eventually contend again? Are there other ways for a team to build itself?

VanCityDan: No, it is not. Teams have had success in a variety of ways, and it becomes the “blueprint”. The Hawks got some generational talent ( Toews and Kane, etc ) but had to be smart enough to draft them. Jim Benning’s first draft ? It looks like all of them will be in the NHL eventualluy, at least through the first five rounds. THAT is excellent for this long time Canuck fan. We have not had a GM with that kind of player evaluation smarts since the Big Irishman ( RIP Pat Quinn ) . I lived through the Jason Herters, the Patrick effing Whites. I saw Josh Holden. I remember Jagr being the best Czech when we took Nedved. We have a bonafide Superscout, a talent savant, in Jim Benning. If they want to give him a better publicist, or a guy to be the “trade” guy ( and his trades have been OK. I love Granlund over Shinkaruk, for instance ) to assuage the #CanuckTeaParty , with their own facts, and their “backseat coaches” in the media ( we see you Botchford and McIntyre. Sometimes you too Kooz’ ) that egg them on for clicks, then fine. A lot of that “rebuild” talk is semantics as well. We have good young players, in a system way deeper than before, and owners and management that want to win and contend. We have a coach those players love, are learning from, and playing hard for. In this city, that is only enough for EVERYTHING to be a story. Coach read his team right in the Caps game, and Skille was a live wire that made the Bo line better than they had been in their mini slump. I know Botch et al will tell you different. But that stuff happens on a team. #LetWillieCoachDamnIt

BaileyMeadows: Rebuilds always depend on the current state of your team, but as a blanket statement - yes. It's possible to get good players later in the draft, but a successful team is built around at least one elite talent, and elite talent can usually only be had in the first 3-5 picks of a draft.

jimmi.cynic: It depends - if a Chicago style tear down - then sure. If an Edmonton/Toronto style down, down and down some more, not so much. If there was a guaranteed formula in the cap era for a tear down or tweak up rebuild, pretty sure we and 29-30 other teams would be following it. The beauty of a full on tear it down to the AHL level team is that it becomes a hope you can believe in. The catch is, only teams with Cup blood in their soiled stories can play the future greatness again card. The Canucks and the other old Cupless expansion teams have to create a different sort of fairy tale to sell.

An other way to build? Sure. Blow the f****** cap! Out freakin' spend the other owners. We and few other money-making teams could do it. But, the Betterman would extend his super-weasel cape of parity around the have-not teams, who are the majority, and his corporate socialist Occupy movement would continue to keep the haves from having.

OffthePost: I don't really believe in a "tear down" rebuild. First overall picks don't necessarily translate to success and struggling teams can't always rely on the talent of a single player to fix them. That being said, I do believe in the value of high draft picks. I also believe in trading players with value to increase the teams chances for future success when the team isn't in a position to succeed. A prime example of this is seeing teams bring in free agents with strong potential for a successful season and flipping them at the deadline for a pick within the first 3 rounds.

gmonk: Tear down rebuilds are crapshoots! Especially with the draft lottery being a deterrent for tanking. If you want to curse a bit, think about what the lottery did to us this year given our 3rd best odds to win the top pick resulting in us picking 5th. Buffalo and Toronto are working on their tear downs right now, in time we will know how successful their efforts were. But really, how long were the Oilers hoarding top 6 picks before they finally got a generational player who might turn the franchise around?

Over time you can build an organization that can sustain itself without the need for a roster gutting. Chicago did their rebuild in the mid 2000’s, and haven’t looked back since. Every year they find a couple of new players who play so well that the team has to trade away an asset to make the salary cap work for them. Obviously, Kane, Toews, and Keith will move on eventually and they might need to retool but remember they’ve also dealt away Sharp, Saad, Ladd, and Versteeg (he was great for them wayyyyy back).

Westy99: There are very few teams that want to tear down and “start” again. They always some pieces and might be lucky enough to get a superstar at the draft, but drafts are no guarantee of future success either. It takes drafts, some good FA signings (not necessarily stars) and the right mix of players and the right coach. Unfortunately it also takes some patience from the fans. Every success story of a team drafting a star or two also includes quite a few years of sucking.

Do you believe Vancouver would support a tear-down rebuild?

VanCityDan: Like I inferred above. No. We talk a good game there, but Rogers Arena would be half full if they did that. And I agree with the management. The Sedins are lifers. They have earned the respect, and the desire to be competitive. But mostly, that is a welcome ( not excuse, but public “reason” perhaps ? ) thing to do what they know from living and being in this market for four decades plus. After coming that close to a Cup three times, the fanbase in this city want to win too bad to commit to a five year wander in the wilderness that may or may not work out. The lottery makes that a total crapshoot now. We should have had Laine instead of Joulevi ( I like both players ), but that is the way the lottery balls bounce.

BaileyMeadows: I believe the fans would welcome it with open arms. The owners... not so much.

jimmi.cynic: Not just yet. A couple more seasons in the basement and the Twins contracts expire it will be a defacto tear-down rebuild. It's a question that answers itself given enough time.

OffthePost: Long story short, I do. Vancouver fans deserve more credit than they're given and I think the hockey world is prone to identify them with the more dramatic fans they're exposed to.

gmonk: I wish I could believe it, but I think that the city needs a competitive organization to draw fans. It seems that there are too many amenities in Vancouver to captivate the more affluent fanbase that purchase seats in the rink. Why pay $XXX to go watch the Canucks lose (again), when I could go to (whatever) instead. It’s also unlikely that ownership will cut the price of tickets down enough to fill the rink, which leads to lower profitability.

Westy99: No. I don’t know where Canuck fans get off thinking they deserve a quick rebuild without having to lose. Even the ones asking for a tank last year were complaining after losses last year. You can’t have it both ways. I think management knows that if they said they wanted a full rebuild, they would have lost a large portion of ticket holders who only want a winner. Toronto didn’t have that problem

Do you think management's messaging is the only thing that has been confused? Have their actual moves shown they have a strategy in mind?

VanCityDan: I think the media in this town controls the messaging, and that they are naturally negative. Listen to the language and the message sometime ( if you can stomach it ) on the rights holder, TSN1040, for instance, around the announcement of the not trading NTC’s unless they asked. Nevermind that the only two that really means is Burrows and Miller. One is a consummate Canuck, and while he has value at the deadline, is also valuable to the team as it is right now. Look at Bo Horvat and the chemistry he is developing with Burrows. Look at how fast Burr’ is now that his hips feel healthy. Don’t get hung up on the Cap hit, of either player. I mean, Miller, for the other, is a vet who has, when not played too much, been excellent. The thinking there might be to have him do exactly that as Markstrom and Demo move forward. Both players, that is nuanced. In a city where the media caters, almost exclusively, to the loudest, shrillest minority, the #CanucksTeaParty . Shit, Botch’ populates his “Provies” ( and I read them too, the man is, for all the other things, a fine writer ) with them almost exclusively. Nuff said on that.

BaileyMeadows: The moves the Canucks have made have been extremely perplexing. They don't add up. The only way it makes sense - and I've seen this rumour out there - is if Benning is secretly tanking while creating this image of "remaining competitive" for the owners, but that is quite far-fetched.

Also, Benning really needs to stop doing interviews.

jimmi.cynic: No, I've been confused too. Possibly more than management. And their plans.

OffthePost: I think the moves we've seen so far are reflecting an attempt to build for the future and stay competitive at the same time. With such a confusing end goal, it's not hard to see why it's a confusing message from management.

gmonk: Looking back at the two plus seasons of trades, and we see a defined attempt to rebuild the 22-25 year age group. During the latter GMMG years, that pool was depleted to try to push us over the edge and take home the cup. That age group is now covered off nicely, and we should focus now on getting additional talent under age 22 into the organization. This will likely be part of the deadline day strategy where we move out an aging player or two for some middling picks (3rd round).

Westy99: Rebuilding on the fly is a very tough thing to have success at because you may have an idea of what you need but the market may not provide it. The Canucks got younger. They also signed players who were projects. I think Linden and GMJB both realize that until the Sedins retire, there is no rebuild. There are only 8 contracts on the books for 2018-19 (one is Luongo). That is a lot of change in a short amount of time. Strategies change as the environment changes, so it makes little sense to get pissed if management adjusts based on what the player market looks like.

If MacIntyre is correct, do you see an emerging core of Tamev, Stecher, Hutton, Gudbranson, Horvat, Baertschi, Granlund, Sutter, and Markstrom, complimented by Boeser, Joulevi, Demko, as a team that is ready to compete?

VanCityDan: There will be others. Of the 2014 draft, Virtanen just has to learn a bit. He was one of those players that was dominant in junior, because he was bigger and stronger. But his skills are still extraordinary, and just need to be honed now that everyone is “bigger and stronger. McCann, even though traded, is an NHLer. Demo ? A damn good one. Tryamkin ? Playing well. Forsling ? It is for the Hawks, but he is playing NHL minutes. Kyle Petit was a 6th rounder, but he is still 6’4” and 200, and if he and Mackenzie Stewart ( one of my fave stories. He was deaf until 12, but the long view on him could be a physically imposing and skilled defenseman if given time ). If those last two can break in in the coming years, that would be unheralded in this team’s history. I trust Superscout to shake the trees and get the players. But yes, that core is competitive, and will be supplemented in the coming years anyhow.

BaileyMeadows: That core lacks any game-changing players, and like I said in #4, successful teams need elite talent to build around. The core Vancouver has right now is a very good supporting cast, but they need elite players, specifically up front.

The goaltending and defense looks solid for the future, but the Canucks need a couple top offensive producers if they want to be successful moving forward.

OffthePost: I think there's a lot to like in that lineup, especially on the blue line. However, the team still needs some proven goal scoring in the top six. We still have to see how Boeser's play translates to the NHL and I wouldn't mind seeing us bring in another sniper or two via trade or free agency.

gmonk: It’s close! It looks to be one or two pieces away from being on the upswing. There is still a bit of work to do up front, but Demko looks like a long term solution in net; Horvat is becoming a solid top 6 C, Boeser needs to turn pro next year because he is outclassing the NCAA; and there are many dmen developing in the organization (one or two of them must work out, right?)

Westy99: I don’t see this group of players being around in 2-3 years’ time. I wonder Guds will be here at all next year…..or Tanev for that matter.

I can see Horvat, Hutton, Boeser, Juolevi, Demko being around. The rest really depend on their play this year and next.

Linden says a full rebuild would be unfair to the Sedins. Do you agree? What, if anything, do the Canucks owe the Sedins?

VanCityDan: The Canucks owe the Sedin Twins. They have been the best players here. Ever. They never bitch, they come to camp the most physically fit ( seriously, two 36 year olds are testing at the top of the list against guys half their age. That is incredible ). They have done everything and more in the community, including putting their money where their quiet, classy mouths are. In the cutthroat world of big business sports, players are commodities. But these two are tied to this city, and this city loves them. Honestly, I think the unspoken plan is to get them signing one year deals as long as they are close, and still can play, after the current deal. To give them one last shot in the playoffs. It is not about them producing either, as their production is still fine for their ages, thank you very much. It is about giving them the sendoff they deserve. Getting their name on the chalice might be a step slightly too far right now. But they will damn sure go down swinging to get there, and they deserve it in the only city they really should play in, Vancouver.

BaileyMeadows: Simply put, a full rebuild doesn't exist if the Sedins are still on the team.

The Canucks owe the Sedins the right to do what THEY want. The Sedins have kept this franchise relevant for over a decade, and so they deserve the right to decide whether they want to play out their career here or try to win a cup.

OffthePost: I think Linden said this as a means to delay the rebuild and buy time for the team to find lightning in a bottle. The Sedins are Canuck legends and practically royalty in Vancouver. If a team has ever "owed" a player (or players) anything, this would be one of those situations. This makes them a great crutch to carry on with the current state of the team and give management some breathing room.

gmonk: We owe the Sedins a lot of gratitude! They have given the organization the best hockey of their careers; been amazing brand ambassadors; and been great citizens of the city. With that said, the last thing the Canucks owe them is an opportunity to win a Stanley Cup and cement their positions in the HHOF (where they go in as Canucks). This situation is very similar to Jarome Iginla in Calgary. It was a very difficult thing for the Flames to move the face of their franchise, but it needed to happen to have to organization move on. Granted, Iggy hasn’t won a cup but he has been on a team with Cup aspirations.

Westy99: I don’t know. I think an honest discussion with the Sedins should have taken place. But do you balk at re-setting a franchise because $14 million says they want to win now?

Benning says he won't as players with NTC’s to waive this year. Do you see a way that players in Vancouver would ask to be moved? If so, who?

VanCityDan: If they want to be moved. That is the whole point of the clauses, which are negotiated in lieu of money, usually. They earned those clauses. If Miller wants to get back to SoCal, that is one guy. But I think the hysteria as far as this goes is a bit much. Hamhuis, last year, used his clause to stay with his family, at the time. That was his right. The entire league watches these things too. A team that does what it says, and says what it does has a value you cannot determine in 140 characters, you know ?

BaileyMeadows: First of all, Benning saying that about NTCs is foolish. Why even say that to the media? All that does is handcuff you if you change your mind later. Personally, I would love to see Alex Edler traded at the deadline.

I don't see any players asking to be traded unless they are older (Sedins/Burrows/Miller) and want a legitimate shot at winning a Stanley Cup. I'm not predicting much action from the Canucks at the deadline this year.

OffthePost: I don't see any players asking to be moved this year. The current roster knows where they stand and no one has played well enough to think they deserve to be moved to a contender.

gmonk: Not sure there is a market for Miller, but he could be a guy who asks for a chance to win elsewhere. He may not be the player he used to be, but he could definitely solidify a goaltending situation that is somewhat weak (Dallas comes to mind).

Burrows could also ask to be sent to Florida or Anaheim… seems like those teams like former Canucks.

Westy99: Kreskin, I am not. I really think players like playing and living in Vancouver. And so, I don’t think any players will openly say they want to leave.

If the Canucks fail to make the playoffs this season, who pays the price: 1) Desjardins only, 2) Desjardins and Benning, 3) everyone.

VanCityDan: It depends. In this city, it may be Willie, because this city is more a coach graveyard as a reputed goalie one. I will say again. If the team is playing heard and learning, I don’t get it. They are playing a system a lot of other teams play, the high pressure that depends on the third man high making decisions, and the defensemen pinching aggressively as the forwards are aware of that and cover. Sometimes that gets beaten because of relative talent and experience levels, but it is not like Willie is speaking Russian while the rest of the NHYL speaks English. And my feelings on Benning and his value as a talent evaluator are known by now. Lose him at your peril.

The team, and the fans, need to take the longer, more rational view. I get we are all passionate. I tell my TV what they should have done, or turn to the guy in the bar and say “WTF was he doing there”? as much as anyone. But hockey is a game of mistakes, and I have been a fan, and other things to do with the game I love, long enough to know it is not that simple. There is no cut and dry. “X happened, so Y must occur”. Let us see what happens when it does.

BaileyMeadows: Desjardins goes for sure, and at that point you have to assume they at least consider about cleaning house. If they are going to start again with new management (which IMO they should), this offseason is a good time to bring them in. The Sedins and Edler will each have a year left on their deals, and could potentially be traded for some much needed value for the future.

OffthePost: If the Canucks miss the playoffs, I think Benning will be given another year or two to see how his moves turn out. Meanwhile, Willie Desjardin is already in the hot seat. At this point, I don't know if he'll make it to the end of the season.

gmonk: It’s likely that Desjardins and his staff are the fall guys here. If the organization wants to continue to create a deep prospect pool they can’t continually be changing upper management. If Willie is the fall guy and things don’t improve, Benning is next!

Westy99: When the Canucks don’t make the playoffs, Willie will pay the price and GMJB will get to hire one more coach before he is canned.