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Nucks Misconduct Roundtable: Confidence check & Demko’s Vezina Case

As the Canucks head out on the road, we discuss the good, bad and the ugly of the first homestand of the season.

Dallas Stars v Vancouver Canucks Photo by Jeff Vinnick/NHLI via Getty Images

It’s time for another edition of the Nucks Misconduct Roundtable. Each week we get our writers together and ask them a number of questions about the state of this team we’ve been cursed to follow. Sometimes they play it straight, sometimes it’s Westy and Jimmi, but you’ll always get the unvarnished opinions on the Canucks here. This week we’re going to discuss the Canucks performance at home over the past seven games, as well as some other issues around the NHL.

Anaheim Ducks v Vancouver Canucks
J.T. Miller #9 of the Vancouver Canucks is congratulated by teammate Quinn Hughes #43 after scoring during their NHL game against the Anaheim Ducks at Rogers Arena November 9, 2021 in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.
Photo by Jeff Vinnick/NHLI via Getty Images

1- A lot of losses, but none of them blowouts. Should we be looking at this stretch of games (and the season so far) with a glass half full, or half-empty mindset?

Beggsy - Moral victory SZN, right Kent?

Kyle Bhawan ripped me for my glass-half-full mentality on The Morning Practice. I see his point. This franchise has sucked for nearly a decade, and it seems like making the playoffs is the bar now, not winning a Stanley Cup.

But hey, watching sports is supposed to be about escapism and entertainment, right...RIGHT?

In terms of the season so far, I can’t say I have a ton of confidence in this team, but you can still pretty clearly see a path to the playoffs. The goaltending has been rock solid, and the defence is improved. We’ve seen some life from the power play as well. If the offence can get their mojo back (which I believe they can) and the penalty kill can stop being atrocious (not sure about that), then the Canucks should be a playoff team.

Westy - The glass half/half empty doesn’t work for me. I want to know what’s in the fucking glass, so I know if I should drink it. This year’s Canucks team, with it’s PK issues is a new thing, but the falling behind every game is like a warm blanket.

I still don’t see a team that can dominate a game.

Kent- A decade, Beggsy? I can remember this team sucking in all 217 different jerseys they’ve had in their 51 years of existence. I’m tired of having to be negative about this team, but trying to find positives is excruciating sometimes. The US Thanksgiving cutoff is approaching, and if they haven’t caught up to a wild card spot by then, they’re not going to and then we need to start talking about regime change, friends.

Markus - Half-empty for sure. We were told this team would be fundamentally better, and I’m just not seeing it. Without amazing goaltending, they’d be even worse off. I'm tired of coddling mediocrity, and frankly I won't be impressed with being around the playoff bar at Christmas. It’s been so long, and they made so many changes that being a solid playoff team should be the absolute minimum expectation.

jimmi - Should we be looking at either/or (drinking) metaphors when considering the endless rebuilding of the Benning era? Or might we consider employing lottery-style comparisons? And do we feel lucky?

I guess we need to feel lucky that the league let us into the bigs at all. And be happy with 1 game home win streaks, however infrequently they break out. I’m so happy now I want to empty that half empty glass and chew on it.

Nashville Predators v Vancouver Canucks
Thatcher Demko #35 of the Vancouver Canucks makes a save against Philip Tomasino #26 of the Nashville Predators during their NHL game at Rogers Arena November 5, 2021 in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.
Photo by Jeff Vinnick/NHLI via Getty Images

2- It’s pretty clear the Canucks MVP so far is Thatcher Demko and it’s not even close, but is it time to start pondering Demko as a front runner for the Vezina trophy?

Beggsy - Love me a little Demko-Vezina hype.

I think he’s going to stay in the conversation throughout the season. Unfortunately, the Vezina is voted on by my GMs, who seemingly just look at wins and save percentage.

By more advanced metrics, Demko still plays in one of the league’s toughest environments, even with the defence improving. If the Canucks do make the playoffs, I think there’s a good chance that Demko is a nominee.

That being said, as great as Demko has been, he might not even be Top 10 if the season ended today. Guys like Sergei Bobrovsky, (FLA), Ilya Sorokin (NYI), Igor Shesterskin (NYR), Frederik Andersen (CAR), Jacob Markstrom (CGY) and Elivs Merzlikens (CBJ) would certainly be ahead of him.

Westy - Demko is the team MVP. He won’t win a Vezina due to East coast media. Simple as that. Send all complaints to Thomas Drance for not promoting Demko.

Kent- The big thing keeping him out of the Vezina conversation? Wins. It’s not on him, but unless this team drags its collective asses outta the Pacific basement and go on a run here, it’s just not gonna happen this year.

Markus - A frontrunner? I don’t know about that necessarily, but he should definitely be in that conversation. He’s been their best player, just as he has been since the bubble. And frankly, if he keeps playing like he is and this team is even remotely in the playoff conversation, I don’t know that you can keep him out of the top three.

jimmi - As Westy has predicted, I sort of agree - but still staunching the bleeding gums of the first period question.

San Jose Sharks v Calgary Flames
Jonathan Dahlen #76 of the San Jose Sharks in action against the Calgary Flames during an NHL game at Scotiabank Saddledome on November 9, 2021 in Calgary, Alberta, Canada.
Photo by Derek Leung/Getty Images

3- There’s a lot of criticism being hurled at Jim Benning over the performance of Jonathan Dahlen for the Sharks so far this season. How much of this is fair, and if Vasily Podkolzin continues to play as well as he has, will it even matter?

Beggsy - I think he deserves some criticism. Many will talk about Jonathan Dahlen being entitled and not wanting to pay his dues. To me, he didn’t sound all that entitled when he talked to our pals at Fear The Fin following the trade.

This wasn’t a Cody Hodgson situation. The Canucks should have found a way to make it work, or they should have targeted a better return. Imagine if the Oilers gave on on Jesse Puljujarvi, who was in a similar situation? They’d be missing a guy who’s registering a point-per-game for them at the moment.

Podkolzin’s performance might mask the issue but I find it irrelevant. Trading Dahlen was bad asset management. One caveat is that Linus Karlsson has been developing nicely in Sweden.

Westy - I sometimes wonder if Kent drinks heavily when writing these questions. Benning has nothing to do with Dahlen’s success or failure. People forget the time issue when it comes to player development. At the time Dahlen was traded, he was not NHL ready...and there was no space for him. He might have been a 3rd line winger for the Nucks, but even in his own words there were issues in Utica.

We had a little stuff down there in Utica where I really wanted to feel good about myself and have confidence in my game and play well. I don’t want to say anything bad about anybody, but I didn’t feel too good about my hockey game there.” — Fear the Fin interview

I actually think Pods is a more dangerous player with his speed, shot and willingness to take the body.

Kent- Asset management is asset management and the AHL franchises are not autonomous entities. Benning, the master scout, did not read what he had in this player, did little to actually develop the talent, and then got a return that wasn’t great at the time, and is even worse in hindsight.

With that being said, Dahlen has to prove he can keep this up, or else the whole conversation is moot and Teflon Jim gets away with another bungle. I think not everyone’s wise to Podkolzin yet, but he continues to make the most of limited minutes, learning the intricacies of the North American game. He’ll be far more valuable to the Canucks than Dahlen is to the Sharks in the long run.

Markus - I think the criticism is half fair. I think you can say that someone screwed up with the development process. Maybe that’s on the staff in Utica, maybe that’s on Benning, maybe (probably) it’s a bit of both. But at the same time, it could just be that he needed a change of scenery, and it’s entirely possible he wouldn’t have broken out in Vancouver. So it’s (another) bad look for Benning, and another thing to add to the pile, but it’s not all his fault.

jimmi - Wait! We’re critiquing a minor foible in the Benning era? The bubble hockey era and magnificent Loui trade has made us soft and forgetful. Sure this stings a little, because prospecting was JB’s motherlode - next to his pay cheque.

Vancouver Canucks v Buffalo Sabres
Jack Eichel #9 of the Buffalo Sabres skates during an NHL game against the Vancouver Canucks on January 11, 2020 at KeyBank Center in Buffalo, New York.
Photo by Bill Wippert/NHLI via Getty Images

4- The Eichel trade happened in between Roundtable editions, so let’s have your opinions on the biggest deal of the season so far. Did Buffalo get enough for the star center?

Beggsy - No, but they didn’t deserve to get enough after how they botched that entire saga.

Bad news for the Sabres, and bad news for the Canucks with Eichel in the Pacific.

Westy - We should table this until Eichel plays again. Right now, Buffalo wins.

Kent- A wretched franchise whose owners are truly among the worst this sport has to offer (and that’s saying something) so for them to get hosed on this deal is karmic to say the least. I feel sorry for the fans. We are truly joined at the hip in misery with them.

Markus - In terms of raw value, of course they didn't. That’s not even a discussion. When he’s healthy Eichel’s a top five centre in the game. The Sabres just managed the asset so pathetically that, realistically, this is probably as good as it was going to get. So considering context, I guess they did okay, but it was also all their fault!

jimmi - Buff won the trade. For now. And won’t help them, because as Kent states, wretchedness. That’s all we need to know. For now. Until Happy Jack pots 10 on us next spring. If there is one.

Edmonton Oilers v Vancouver Canucks
The Edmonton Oilers are currently the top dog in the Pacific Division. Yuck.
Getty Images

5- It’s still early, but it looks like the predicted demise of the Pacific Division isn’t what we were led to believe. Is it a tougher division than the Central?

Beggsy - I still think the Central is better, but the whole Western Conference is a bit of a crapshoot.

Expect Anaheim and San Jose to regress. Both are plucky teams with good goaltending, but the underlying numbers don’t suggest long-term success. We saw how mediocre that Ducks team was against Vancouver on Tuesday, and San Jose is now generating even less at even-strength than the Canucks.

I see four good teams in the Central (Minnesota, St. Louis, Winnipeg and Colorado) along with three in the Pacific (Edmonton, Calgary, Vegas).

Westy - Apples and Gorillas. With the playoff system the way it is, a Pacific team will only have to worry about the Central team at the conference final. If the Pacific teams all lose to Central teams during the regular season, it’s moot.

Kent- I’m not entirely sold on Colorado this year, because injuries may have already sunk them this season. They’ve underwhelmed so far, and without Nathan MacKinnon for the next three weeks, will be hard pressed to make up ground. Overall, I think the Pacific is a little better out of the gate, but I think the divisions are far closer than most give them credit for.

Markus - We’ll see. I want to see how some of these teams hold up. I don’t buy the early Ducks or Sharks success at all (though I do somewhat with the Kings). Will Calgary be this good all year? Maybe. Will Vegas be this bad all year? Maybe. I think it’s too early to draw real conclusions still, but at the very least it’s not boding well for Vancouver.

jimmi - Wait! What?! Last season we were in tough in the Canadian division. This season we’re in tough in the ‘weakest’ division. It’s not fair.

Think we should start scouting for a better division to be in. When I say better - better for us, with worse teams. Maybe a new division with just the Yotes. Even if we lose, we’re still second in the division - that’s not so bad.