My first reaction when hearing about the Canucks signing of Thomas Vanek was: “What the hell happened to giving the kids a chance?” Just looking at the potential roster right now, it looks something like this:
Daniel Sedin-Henrik Sedin-Thomas Vanek
Sven Baertschi-Bo Horvat-Markus Granlund
Loui Eriksson-Brandon Sutter-Sam Gagner
Brendan Gaunce-Alex Burmistrov-Jake Virtanen/Brock Boeser/Derek Dorsett/Jayson Megna/Reid Boucher/Nikolay Goldobin/oh what the frick is going on here?
So really, 10 out of 12 of those spots are already taken by guys that I would consider shoe-ins. The chances of kids cracking the opening season lineup is so slim, barring injuries to the shoe-in players in preseason. In an NHL that is getting younger and faster, the Canucks picked a weird one in acquiring Vanek. More on that later.
What coach Travis Green and Bossman Trevor Linden will tell you is that they want that internal competition / fighting for jobs, and I do agree with that strategy. But what if more than 3 guys are NHL-ready after an impressive preseason? They will get sent to Utica regardless because of all the older UFA signings and that ain’t right. The management and the nurturing types will say that those kids need to gain more experience in the minors and not have too much pressure put on them. Bullshit I say! If you are watching the current NHL the teams are getting younger and younger.
Green recently said:
“Whenever you say ‘This guy is on the team no matter what. This young guy or this vet is on the team no matter what,’ you aren’t promoting the necessary ingredients for the right culture to have a really competitive group.”
But really though, Travis team is currently full of those types of players.
So I Did Some Homework On This Vanek Guy....
Height And Weight: 6’2” 214 pounds
Born: January 19, 1984 in Vienna, Austria
Plays: Listed as a left wing but is a right handed shot
Vanek has twice scored 40 or more goals in a season, both times as a Buffalo Sabre back in 2006-07 and in 2008-09. In 2006-07 he was a +47, which was best in the NHL. I believe his main linemates for many of his glory years in Buffalo were Jason Pominville and Derek Roy. Remember Derek Roy? Me too. After that 43 goal season his entry level contract expired and some bastard team called the Oilers did the dirty and offered Vanek a 7-year $50 million contract. The Sabres matched and Vanek remained a Sabre until 2013-14, where he was traded to the Islanders in exchange for Matt Moulson and a first and second round pick.
Vanek was not going to sign a similar long term deal with the Islanders for particular reasons so they traded him to Montreal. He maintained his near point per game status with the Habs but struggled at times in the playoffs and the Habs decided to let him go to free agency. Vanek is quite a candid speaker. When he spoke of his struggles in Montreal he said:
“I’m a big believer in chemistry. I started in Buffalo and I went to the Island, where I got comfortable with Johnny (Tavares) and (Kyle) Okposo (with the New York Islanders) and our line took off and then your game takes off. When I first got here, I struggled a bit and then I got moved to Davey (Desharnais) and Patch (Max Pacioretty) and I think as a line we were great, one of the best lines.
“Then I got taken off and I struggled to find myself with a new line. I played with (Tomas Plekanec) for most of the playoffs and it didn’t work. We are, I believe, both very good players, but it didn’t work. We’re not on the same page, just different games.”
Vanek was a high commodity at free agency season in July 2014 and he chose to sign a 3-year, $19.5 million contract on July 1 with his hometown Minnesota Wild. He put up 39 goals and 93 points in his two seasons with Minnesota, which was a continued drop in his production, but the Wild bought out the third year of his contract because they were too tight up against the cap and needed more wiggle room.
With his production on the decline and again becoming an unrestricted free agent, the Red Wings signed him to a 1-year $2.6 million contract on July 1, 2016. He scored 15 goals and 38 points with the Wings before he was traded to the Panthers to try and boost their offence in a playoff spot push, which didn’t work (2 goals and 10 assists in 17 games.) I’m not blaming Vanek for the Panthers’ fail. It was a collective team fail and I’m sure most Panthers fans agree with that. It was reported that the Red Wings were interested in bringing Vanek back this summer but I had read somewhere from a fan writer that it wouldn’t be a wise idea because signing Vanek would “be taking away a roster spot from one of the numerous forwards in the AHL who are chomping at the bit to get going for the Red Wings.” Well doesn’t that sound familiar. But I won’t get into that again.
The Pros And Cons Of The Canucks Signing Vanek
- Vanek scored 17 goals and 48 points in 68 games last season, and we got him on a short term deal at $2 million. But...it still takes away another roster spot of one of the kids.
- Puts up power play points, which is something the Canucks sorely lacked last season.
- Smooth hands. Great shot. Likes to go to the front of the net or in that vicinity to bang in goals or tip in shots. You will see that on VanekTube below. But.... he is not a fast skater. I read multiple times today about Vanek drifting or not skating back hard to back check. As PITB pointed out:
That offensive prowess comes at the cost of his defensive game. According to Goals Above Replacement, only three forwards had a worse even-strength defence rating than Vanek: Jason Chimera, Jarome Iginla, and Jay McClement. At even-strength, he costs you almost as much defensively as he gives you offensively.
But....when he’s in the offensive zone he can make magic happen. He can score, but he can also dish out some sweet passes as well.
- After watching numerous clips of Vanek and reading what I have read, and I hate to say this because I have been burned so many times (ahem f### you, Lou Eriksson and Jason King) but Vanek may be the answer to the Sedin line revolving door problem. He is a big guy, likes tipping in shots, hanging out in front of the net. Why hell Vanek could be the next Anson Carter! But...can you imagine the slug skating techniques of Sedaneks? A back checking hell on ice. But....whenever they gain control in the O-Zone...sweet Danaerys there is a lot of beauty there waiting to be beheld.
- How or why in the blue blazes did Vanek remain a UFA all the way until September 1? It’s not like he was asking for a lot of money. I probably have already answered all of those questions above.
- Vanek is a shootout wizard.
My Final Rating Of This Signing
7 outta 10. I see Vanek/Sedinery happening. If that does occur expect production boosts from all 3 players. I’d give the signing an 8 but GM Jim done gone and f###ed up by signing Louie Eriksson last summer and he needs to be erased. For me, I want Brock Boeser and several other speedy and skilled kids on this roster on Day 1. I’m not all for tanking, but giving kids a chance, even if it’s 5 or more of them is the new cool. Benning has seemingly drafted well and those picks should not be held back if they are ready.
VanekTube! Hell Yea!
Ok now watch these vids and see how many times:
- Vanek doesn’t gain control of the ozone, but once he gets there get him the damned puck.
- He’s not a quick skater, but does he ever sneakily get into position to tip in a point shot
- He likes to shoot from all over the place, which is a good thing, and man, does he have an accurate shot.
- He quickly releases his shot.
- He may become the third Sedin.
Ready? Let’s get this party started.