While the Canucks are in the midst of a much-needed bye week, there are still an abundance of storylines surrounding the team. In fact, there are so many that I’ll probably make a second segment for my weekly thoughts by the end of the weekend. For this edition, we go over Boeser’s Calder chances, Canucks related trade talk, and Nikolay Goldobin’s demotion.
Did Goldy deserve a demotion?
The biggest arguments I see against Goldobin’s demotion was that he never really got a fair shot and that his point production pace(7th on the team in P/60) was decent enough to warrant an extended look.
While it’s true that he was producing offence at a decent rate, Goldy’s poor defensive play mitigated this factor with the Canucks bleeding goals, scoring chances, and shots against with the Russian on the ice.
Goldy is worst on the team in every metric featured in the chart. What particularly stands out is the goals against rate and goals for % with Goldy on the ice. I’m usually not a big believer in offensive players being forced to play a “200-foot game,” but it’s come to the point where he’s a major liability to the team.
Demotion will allow Goldy to go back to Utica and play big PK minutes and refine his defensive game. It makes even more sense when you consider the hockey he can play during this bye week.
Lots of trade deadline uncertainty for Canucks
The Canucks have two pending UFAs in Erik Gudbranson and Thomas Vanek that look to be valuable trade chips leading up to the February 26th trade deadline.
As it pertains to Gudbranson, there’s a lot of division on how much value the rugged 6’5 defenceman holds. On the one hand, a player like Gudbranson is the ideal rental defenceman for many GMs. He brings a physical presence, responsible defensive game, and strong leadership in addition to a multitude of highly sought after intangibles. This is exactly the type of player GMs typically love to add to a contending team.
On the other hand, there have been whispers around the league that even traditionalists have taken note of Gudbranson’s subpar play.
Throwing another wrench in the works has been the developing rental market for defensemen. Elliotte Friedman has reported that names like Dion Phaneuf, Jack Johnson, Paul Martin, and Mike Green have already come up within the past week as prime rental candidates. A saturated defence market would undoubtedly hurt Gudbranson’s value at the deadline.
TSN insider Frank Seravalli was also on-air recently to comment on how there doesn’t appear to be any interest at the moment for Gudbranson.
.@frank_seravalli: I really have not heard of any market at all for Gudbranson. I think part of that is due to the way he's played, part of that is that there are a lot of guys on the rental market that can fill the role Gudbranson does. Paul Martin, Jack Johnson... #canucks— TSN Radio Vancouver (@TSN1040) January 16, 2018
There are definitely a couple of counterpoints one could make. Firstly, we’re still more than a month away from the deadline itself. At the time of this writing, only five points separate the 8th place Dallas Stars and 21st place Islanders. The parity of the salary-cap era NHL means that teams have to wait longer than ever to decide whether they’re going to buyers or sellers at the deadline. Therefore, it’s completely reasonable that teams have yet to make serious offers for Gudbranson.
The second thing to consider is that it only takes one GM to overvalue the physicality and intangibles that a player like Gudbranson brings. There was once a time in the not too distant past when the Leafs got a 2nd round pick for Roman Polak. Even the best GMs can become enticed into costly deadline moves- Steve Yzerman traded Radko Gudas, a 1st round pick, and a 3rd rounder in 2015 to get Braydon Coburn.
Obviously, a return like the latter is unrealistic unless the GM in question is Don Cherry, but it proves nonetheless that it only takes one GM to take the plunge and overpay.
With another month left of hockey, inevitable injuries for contending teams, and a dynamic defence market, nobody really knows what’s going to happen to the trade market come the February 26th deadline. Apparently not even the GMs themselves know.
Trade deadline uncertainty Part 2
During that same on-air appearance, Frank Seravalli also mentioned that he sees a decent market for Vancouver’s other pending UFA in Thomas Vanek.
The question I have is do the Canucks even have intentions of trading him? A lot of people think it’s a foregone conclusion that Vanek will be dealt at the deadline, but I’m not so confident. I could definitely imagine a scenario where Benning extends Vanek on another short-term deal while citing the veteran’s impact on keeping the team competitive and helping mentor the younger players.
The second point is definitely valid, but at the end of the day, a mid-round pick would be a nice addition to a rebuilding team like the Canucks. It’s encouraging to see prospects like Elias Pettersson, Kole Lind, Adam Gaudette, and co taking the next step, but I’d argue that it’s still not deep enough long term, particularly on the back end.
It’s harsh to call two points in seven games a slump, but I guess that’s the reality when you’re carrying an anemic offence like Brock Boeser. The encouraging thing to consider though is that his actual on-ice performance suggests that this is more than likely Boeser just regressing to the mean.
What’s this mean I’m talking about? Have a look for yourself.
Here's a list of players in the cap era who have shot >15% while taking over 2.5 shots/game, with at least two full seasons played. Kucherov falls back off the list if a goalie stops his next shot. I wouldn't bet that Boeser, or anyone, will remain **6% better** than this. pic.twitter.com/VZDc4M3XfA— Jeff Veillette (@JeffVeillette) January 7, 2018
Prior to this cold stretch, Boeser’s shooting percentage was up near 21%. Like Jeff pointed out, regression was inevitable. The key, however, has been that Boeser continues to create even strength chances.
Boeser's on-ice rates for unblocked shot attempts, high danger attempts, and shots for are all above his season average in the past 7 games.— Harman Dayal (@harmandayal2) January 17, 2018
It suggests that his recent stretch with 2 points in the last 7 games is a regression to the mean, not a slump #Canucks pic.twitter.com/ztaxOJoxnM
The chart from the Tweet shows that Boeser’s on-ice rates in the last seven games for unblocked shot attempts, shots, and high danger attempts are all higher compared to his season average. There’s no need to start worrying.
Calder race update
If there is an area to start worrying about when it comes to Boeser it’s definitely his Calder chances. Islander’s rookie Mathew Barzal has put up 10 points in his past 4 games to leapfrog Boeser in the rookie scoring race by seven points.
Context is something a lot of people point out and rightly so. Barzal has the luxury of easier quality of competition, better teammates, and the benefit of being able to play with Tavares on the man advantage. Unfortunately, these are all things I believe Calder Trophy voters will overlook. Unless Boeser gets close to 40 goals or retakes the point lead, I see Barzal having the clear Calder advantage.
The other thing holding Boeser back is that he’s not the most important rookie for his team either. That would be Charlie McAvoy who has singlehandedly stabilized Boston’s blue line. The 20-year-old has logged nearly 23 minutes a night and is on pace for 45 points.
More impressive though has been his stellar defensive play. McAvoy is top 14 in the entire league for shot attempts against(CA/60 and FA/60), Corsi for(54.9%), scoring chances against(SCA/60), and goals against rate(1.6/60).
Both outlooks show that Boeser has some serious work to do in order to catch up in this dynamic Calder race.