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NM Roundtable: Troublesome Tryamkin, winger crunch & the best coach in Canucks history

Come join our roundtable, where we’ve been practicing social distancing since the inception of the internet.

Toronto Maple Leafs v Vancouver Canucks
The choice for best head coach in Canucks history boils down to a couple obvious options. One would include the legendary Pat Quinn.
Photo by Jeff Vinnick/Getty Images

Do you need a break from anything related to COVID-19 or Tiger King? We’ve got you covered in our latest edition of the Nucks Misconduct Roundtable, where we’ve been practicing social distancing since the debut of the website.

1. Nikita Tryamkin’s agent Todd Diamond recently said that he expects The Big Friendly Giant to return to the Canucks. After watching CambieKev’s video compilation on the former Canuck, how do you feel about him returning to the line-up, and who would you like to see him play with?

Beggsy - I was a fan of Tryamkin’s play in Vancouver, and I thought he had a point for believing he was underutilized by Willie Desjardins. Nonetheless, I was skeptical of his drop in production in the KHL since the beginning of the 2018-19 season.

However, watching him play reaffirms the notions that he’s a relatively smart defenceman who is imposing, and who is unafraid to jump in on the rush. Tryamkin is as good as bet as any defenceman who would come in on a cheap contract and slide into a bottom-pairing role. I think the most likely scenario, which I’m a proponent of, would have him sliding into a bottom pairing role on the left side, while Jordie Benn gets a shot at redemption on the right side, where he’s traditionally had more success.

westy - Having both Groot and Myers would definitely make the Canucks taller. I’m not sure how much value Groot adds to the defense besides being tall? He was unwilling to provide the physical presence we want him to be. He wanted more minutes, but slotting him into the third line won’t fulfill that need he has.

He hated the marijuana smell in Vancouver and that’s not going away anytime soon. He quit the team once....I think he would do it again when he doesn’t get his way.

Rob - I’ve watched Tryamkin play most of his games in the KHL over the last two seasons. In my opinion he is an immediate improvement on Stecher, Benn and Fantenberg. I see him as a good fit with both Quinn Hughes and Tyler Myers going forward. I think he will be in the Canucks top 4 D group by the end of next season.

He is defensively sound. A very good penalty killer. He also has a lot more to give offensively. He has played in a defensive first system in Russia the last two seasons. He will fit nicely into Travis Green’s more offensive system approach for defencemen joining the rush.

Los Angeles Kings v Vancouver Canucks
How do you think Nikita Tryamkin fits with the Vancouver Canucks?
Getty Images

Bailey- I’m definitely a Tryamkin fan and like the others see him as a viable option in the top 4 should he come back over to Vancouver. Imagine a “Twin Towers” pairing with him and Myers. Absolute nightmare fuel for other teams, 13-and-a-half feet of man greeting forwards as they cross the blueline.

I could also see him becoming a more physical presence after building up more confidence in the KHL. While I would love to see Stecher stay, Nikita coming back would make Benn or Fantenberg expendable, especially with Rafferty and potentially Juolevi or Woo being ready for a call-up in the near future. So it’ll be interesting to see what happens but I’d be a fan of the big Russian coming back.

jimmi - How old will he be when the re-federated NHL is back playing games in 2025? Assuming Myers is still skating away from the play, perhaps Groot can cover for him.

Kevin Wong (@CambieKev) - Having analyzed his play, there is no question that the Canucks should allow him, at the very least, to showcase his abilities at the NHL level. He offers a different dimension and gives the team an additional option on the blue line. There is very little risk involved in offering him an opportunity to prove his value to the club. The team loses nothing of consequence by evaluating his play.

Arizona Coyotes v Vancouver Canucks
Jake Virtanen might want to skip our answers to the question below...
Getty Images

2. So Canucks nation was likely robbed of Jake Virtanen hitting 20 goals — unless you enter the Canucks Twilight Zone. Jake was clearly the best season of his career before the Canucks gave up assets for Tyler Toffoli. If you’re the Canucks GM and you could only choose to re-sign Toffoli or Virtanen, who would you choose considering the impending cap crunch?

Beggsy - The Virtanen story is great, and I know he’s only 23, but I’m choosing to re-sign Tyler Toffoli between the two of them. Toffoli is likely to command at least $5 million with longer term, as opposed to Virtanen who could likely command around $3 million.

Regardless, Toffoli is a smarter player at both ends of the ice, and he’s proven he can slide into the Canucks top-six seamlessly, albeit in a short sample size. Even if we factor in decline, I still think Toffoli at 31 years old (or four years from now) is probably a more complete player than Virtanen in his prime.

westy - Toffoli everyday and twice on Sunday. He hits, scores, passes, willing to drop the gloves and plays defense.

Rob - Toffoli is a player you win with. Jake is a player you party with.

Zack MacEwen makes Jake expendable. I see Zack slotting into the 3RW spot after Boeser and Toffoli.

I think Virtanen has trade value and will be dealt this summer. Zack is bigger, better, tougher and cheaper in the long run.

Bailey- It’s totally Toffoli. I love Jake and think he’ll be a 20-25 goal guy for his prime, but Tyler has the championship pedigree and experience that the Canucks need to complement Pettersson and Hughes as they transition into being a playoff team.

jimmi - Totally agree with all of the above. Total agreement at the NM Roundtable? Never happened before. Probably confirms the end of pro hockey for this century. Oh well... those were 10 memorable games, Cupcake.

Kevin Wong (@CambieKev) - As much as I appreciate Virtanen’s speed and forechecking ability, Toffoli’s responsible two-way game and offensive instincts, which I analyzed in February, are too valuable to lose. In the few matches we saw of him as a Canuck, he played exactly as he did in Los Angeles. He was one of the best Vancouver players during his brief stint and gelled instantly with Elias Pettersson and J.T. Miller.

Tyler Toffoli became an integral member of the Canucks’ top-six forward group and provides much-needed offensive support. It would be a shame for him to be gone so soon.

Boston Bruins v Vancouver Canucks - Game One
JUNE 1: Kevin Bieksa #3 of the Vancouver Canucks skates in front of the Boston Pizza sign that has been temporarily re-named to Vancouver Pizza for the playoffs in Game One of the 2011 NHL Stanley Cup Finals against the Boston Bruins at Rogers Arena on June 1, 2011 in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.
Photo by Jeff Vinnick/NHLI via Getty Images

3. Kevin Bieksa was on the Spittin’ Chiclets podcast recently, and he says, contrary to how he felt early in his career, Alain Vigneault was the best coach he ever played for. When it pertains to the best coach in Canucks history, who would be your choice?

Beggsy - I think there are arguments to be made for Pat Quinn and even Roger Neilson or Marc Crawford, but I have to go with Alain Vigneault. The winningest coach in Canucks history helped turn the Sedins into two of the NHL’s best players. They had the skill but their heavy offensive zone usage was critical to the Canucks success.

He was more of a players coach than the fiery Crawford, and he helped the Canucks make the playoffs in six of his seven seasons behind the bench. If Vigneault helped the Canucks win the Cup in 2011, this wouldn’t even be a debate.

westy - Coaches are judged by the success of the players they had under them. Some players respond to some coaches better than others. Some coaches have to deal with mediocre players. Some coaches don’t know how to change their style of play because the players change. I can’t tell you who was the best coach, but a guy like Neilson got an average group of guys to play out of their league for a playoff run was pretty awesome. AV had the Sedins in their prime. Crawford had the west coast express.

I can’t do this, I’m out.

Rob - John Tortorella. He won a Cup baby! Neilson, Quinn and Vigneault all fell short.

All kidding aside, Captain Video, the Big Irishman and Giggles all are in a three-way tie for me.

Boston Bruins v Vancouver Canucks - Game One
Head coach Alain Vigneault of the Vancouver Canucks walks to the Canucks dressing room before Game One of 2011 NHL Stanley Cup Finals against the Boston Bruins at Rogers Arena on June 1, 2011 in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.
Photo by Jeff Vinnick/NHLI via Getty Images

Bailey- I have to go with AV here. Jack Adams winner, 2 President’s Trophies, and a Stanley Cup Final appearance. Yes, the team had some insane talent on it, but it’s tough to imagine them achieving all that they did without Vigneault behind the bench.

jimmi - If I said Willy, would the NM section of the internet break?

No, but I’d hate myself in the morning. So... it’s AV, Quinn and Crow. Semi-3-way tie.

Kevin Wong (@CambieKev) - To be fair to Pat Quinn, he was a motivator and he inspired his players, often elevating their game in ways that his successors in Vancouver could not. Both Rick Ley and Tom Renney failed to recapture Quinn’s sense of team spirit. He gave Geoff Courtnall and Cliff Ronning an opportunity to play first-line minutes and guided Trevor Linden’s metamorphosis into a two-way centerman. He was a mentor and a dressing room leader.

He often rolled his four lines in a predictable sequence, but such was the coaching norm of that era. He was the Jack Adams Trophy winner in 1991-92, led the Canucks to the 1994 Stanley Cup Finals, pushed them all the way to Game 7, and then promptly stepped down from that role, returning only briefly as their coach in 1996 against the soon-to-be champion Colorado Avalanche. His years as the team’s coach were successful, especially when one considers the overall talent discrepancies between the Canucks and some of their opponents — the New York Rangers, for instance.

The 1994 team was less talented overall than the 2011 team but achieved greatness through their determination and heart. That is Pat Quinn’s legacy, and so my choice is Quinn as the greatest coach in franchise history.

4. Of course, when your franchise hasn’t won a Cup in 50 years, you’re bound to have a number of unsuccessful coaches. The Canucks have had their fair share of coaches with losing records, but who do you think the worst coach in team history was?

Beggsy - There is a wider array of choices here, but I’m going with Bill LaForge. He is the shortest-tenured Canucks head coach (discounting Mike Sullivan’s six game stint filling in for the suspended John Tortorella), lasting only 20 games, going 4-14-2 in the process.

That record could have been much worse if he was kept on much longer. During his tenure, the Canucks lost by scores of 13-2 to the Philadelphia Flyers, 7-0 to the Edmonton Oilers and 10-3 to the Los Angeles Kings. It turns out his mantra of having a PhD in hockey (pride, hustle and desire) wasn’t a recipe for success. The overly-aggressive Canucks were the most penalized team in the league at the time, and then injuries and losses piled up. Those ended up being the only 20 games that LaForge ever coached in the NHL.

westy - John Torterella was pretty bad, in the sense that he was the wrong person at the wrong time with the wrong players for his style. The Canucks had been scoring pretty well under AV and Torts was brought in to bring some defense style to the team. Back fire. The team was too slow for the uptempo, banging style he tried to get them to play. The team was soft.

Rob - Bill Laforge. It is quite the accomplishment to last only 20 games. But he has had a lot of competition.

Looking back I think Willie Desjardins is a close second. Mike Keenan’s brief tenure as a coach in Vancouver was awful. Rick Ley as a Pat Quinn appendage was pretty bad. Bob McCammon talked a good game but failed. Tom Watt and Tom Renney didn’t get results. I now barely remember the early coaches Laycoe, Stasiuk etc. but it was a coaching dead zone early on.

Edmonton Oilers v Vancouver Canucks
Willie Desjardins was mentioned among Rob’s murderers row of bad Canucks coaches.
Getty Images

Bailey- I’m tempted to go with a coach from the 70s or 80s here, but the talent disparity between contenders and bottom-feeders at that point was too great to justify coaching being the main issue as to why the Canucks sucked.

I’m gonna go with Torts here. Like Westy said, I think he’s a great coach if he has the right personnel to carry out his style, but the Canucks were far from that at that point. We were a finesse-first team on the downswing with not enough toughness or speed to play a hard-nosed style. Once the team tired out around January, no adjustments were made by Torts and the coaching staff and Vancouver nosedived. Also looking back, the team was more dysfunctional than ever that season off the ice with the Torts fight and the unfortunate end to the Luongo era.

jimmi - Iron Mike. For reasons that are too messiy to reveal at a safe social distance. Torturella’s brief brush with doom is a bottom 3 contender. LaForge is definitely qualified to sit at the bottom, but his multi-game tenure was before the internet coach rating system was established so he slides down to mere Nuckie ignominy.

Kevin Wong (@CambieKev) - The answer is Bill LaForge. His antics were offensive to his players and his conduct was borderline unprofessional. His Pride-Hustle-Desire drills allegedly injured Darcy Rota and ended his career. His teams were forced to run great distances in full hockey gear. His on-ice tactics were amateurish, and he once attempted to have the Canucks sing an apparently ridiculous fight song after the first of the team’s four wins in his twenty games as coach, according to the Canucks’ former long-time public relations director Norm Jewison. The Globe and Mail’s Al Strachan wrote about LaForge in November 1984 with some additional insights:

“In training camp, he divided his team into three squads — Pride, Hustle and Desire. The players wore T-shirts emblazoned with a single letter indicating their allegiance. At the end of the day, the losing team had to doff skates and run a mile back to the motel in full gear. LaForge made the players practice wrestling — on the ice — and alluded to the possibility of having them practice punching.” - Al Strachan, journalist, The Globe and Mail, November 24, 1984

The team promptly fired LaForge before any more damage could be done.