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“Win-now” mode Canucks send Podkolzin and Rathbone to AHL

Is this the right decision?

Vancouver Canucks v Philadelphia Flyers
Vasily Podkolzin #92 of the Vancouver Canucks celebrates his second period goal against the Philadelphia Flyers with teammate Jack Rathbone #3 at the Wells Fargo Center on October 15, 2021 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The goal was the first of Podkolzin’s NHL career.
Photo by Len Redkoles/NHLI via Getty Images

So much for learning at the National Hockey League level.

On Monday night in a somewhat surprising move, the Canucks sent both Jack Rathbone and Vasily Podkolzin down to the AHL.

There are a couple layers to this surprising move, but let’s start with where the Canucks are currently at as a team.

“Win-now” Canucks lack patience for youngsters

I’m not necessarily saying this is a bad move for the Canucks.

Teams like the Tampa Bay Lightning (and the Detroit Red Wings before them) were both maestros at letting young players marinate in the AHL before getting their opportunity.

The Canucks, on the other hand, have had their current assistant coach and former AHL bench boss, Trent Cull, call out the previous regime for rushing players to the NHL.

In general, letting your young players soak up as much playing time as possible is what’s best for their development, especially if they aren’t ready for the NHL.

Podkolzin is NHL ready, but...

He’s clearly lacking confidence right now.

For the past few weeks, Podkolzin has looked tentative with the puck. He seems laser-focused on avoiding mistakes instead of being aggressive and disruptive on the forecheck, something that earned him the trust of Boudreau last year.

I’m not sure Podkolzin has much to learn at the AHL level aside from getting an increase in special teams’ time. He’s already better than most Canucks in terms of his two-way game at even strength.

This demotion should be more about helping Podkolzin rebuild his confidence with the Abbotsford Canucks.

Rathbone’s lack of playing time is frustrating

New regime, same old problems.

Rathbone has been a healthy scratch in 16 of the Canucks 22 games so far this season. He had a stretch where he played four games in a row, with the fourth of those games being a 5-1 Canucks win over the Pittsburgh Penguins.

It looked like Rathbone might finally get the chance to play with the Canucks for a consistent stretch, which is really what he needs to help his NHL game progress.

However, he was scratched after that victory, and the Canucks were waxed 5-2 by the speedy New Jersey Devils the following night.

You know what the Canucks probably could have used in that matchup? Rathbone’s speed.

This isn’t to say Rathbone has been perfect. Far from it. However, his on-ice vision and playmaking ability is evident. He just needs to learn how to hone in his creativity while avoiding big mistakes.

Things have changed since Rathbone started the season in Vancouver. Kyle Burroughs has been more reliable as a bottom-pairing d-man. The team also acquired a similarly small & skilled defenceman in Ethan Bear.

With Travis Dermott presumably coming back at some point, it is probably worth just letting Rathbone dominate once again in the AHL and wait for injuries before he gets his next opportunity.

That still doesn’t excuse the Canucks for once again botching his development.

Poll

What do you think of the Rathbone, Podkolzin demotions?

This poll is closed

  • 7%
    Wrong move. They should still be with the big club.
    (10 votes)
  • 6%
    Rathbone should have stayed, Podkolzin should be in AHL
    (8 votes)
  • 10%
    Podkolzin should have stayed, Rathbone should be in AHL
    (14 votes)
  • 75%
    Good move. They both need the playing time
    (101 votes)
133 votes total Vote Now