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The Canucks Should Bet on Markus Granlund

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NHL: Edmonton Oilers at Vancouver Canucks Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports

Ever since the influx of free agent signings on July 1st (forwards Antoine Roussel, Tim Schaller, and Jay Beagle), a favorite pastime of Canucks fans has been the mental gymnastics of configuring an opening night lineup. While the possibilities seem endless, the common names thrown around as possible waiver-wire fodder have been Sam Gagner, Brendan Gaunce, and Markus Granlund. It is that last name that more should be finding eyebrow raising.

Just a season ago, coming off a 19-goal season, people were hyping Granlund as part of the next core. The Hunter Shinkaruk-for-Granlund trade was heralded as some of Benning’s best work, after having been widely criticized just months earlier. However, the 2017-18 campaign was a flop for the Finnish forward, and has resulted in many writing him off. His point production was more than cut in half, from 32 to 12, but there is some reason to believe he could still be a productive NHL player for a team that could be starved for goals.

While it’s true Granlund’s breakout season was boosted by icetime with the Sedins, it is unfair to deem this the only, or even the primary reason why. Granlund scored 27.3% of his points with the Sedins, the highest rate of any line combination, but scored a notable 22.7% alongside the often-maligned Brandon Sutter and Loui Eriksson. The remaining line combinations accounted for two or less points each, and were comprised of players ranging from Daniel Sedin and Bo Horvat, to Brendan Gaunce and Jayson Megna. Evidently, while it’s true the Sedin twins did help Granlund’s case, he had a productive season even without taking that into account.

When considering Granlund’s success, whether one associates it with the twins or not, it is easy to understand why he is largely seen as expendable. His eight goals in 53 games this past year is hardly noteworthy, and speaks to someone who could be easily replaced. However, this underwhelming output could be the result of a misusage. Rather than allow Granlund to thrive in a more offence-driven capacity, head coach Travis Green chose to use him in a defensive role. While he was fine in such a role, it’s also fair to question whether that was truly the best course of action.

While playing with the Sedins is, of course, an advantage, it doesn’t necessarily altogether negate Granlund’s contributions. Many have tried to play alongside the twins, oftentimes to underwhelming results. The 25-year-old demonstrated a respectable amount of skill, offensive instinct, along with an effective shot that could make him a somewhat dangerous offensive talent given the right opportunity. Additionally, throughout Granlund’s breakout year in 2016-17, 16 of his 19 goals were at even-strength, suggesting his numbers weren’t boosted with the man advantage.

Over the past several years, the Canucks have routinely been among the league’s most offensively challenged clubs, and with the Sedins and Thomas Vanek no longer on the roster, it’s a problem that may not be rectified this coming season. In addition to looking for growth from the likes of Brock Boeser and the emergence of Elias Pettersson, any sort of offensive progression will have to come from someone like Granlund. Is it possible he fails to produce, and ends up with a middling season? Of course, and if that’s the case, the Canucks may be wise to cut bait with him next summer. However, there is reason to believe there’s some untapped potential in Granlund, and putting him in a position to succeed could enhance their overall offensive attack.