-Vintage Canuck- Posted May 10, 2017 Share Posted May 10, 2017 Quote The Vancouver Canucks finished with the second-worst record in the league, missing the playoffs for the third time in the past four seasons, and are facing major challenges to get back to playoff contention. Off-Season Game Plan looks at a Canucks team that has some young pieces in place, but lacks elite talent, as they try to move forward. The task of finding elite talent usually comes with a high draft pick, and Vancouver finishing in 29th this season would often qualify for such a high-end pick, but this year’s draft is reportedly not blessed with premier prospects and having the fifth instead of second pick doesn’t improve the odds. Canucks fans don’t need to be told that the top end of the draft is important, because they’ve had trouble finding first-round talent over the years. Since 2006, their best first-rounders have been Bo Horvat (9th), Michael Grabner (14th), and Cody Hodgson (10th). Now, Vancouver needs to find a way to acquire more high-end skill so that they have players capable of taking the reins when the Sedins are done. As it stands, Horvat, Sven Baertschi and Markus Granlund are the top returning scorers under the age of 25, so there isn’t a suitable young core in place for a long-term building plan. There could be, if Vancouver continues to move out veterans for prospects, but it’s going to take some work. With Travis Green taking over as head coach, Vancouver should also be in position to give young players a real chance to develop. The challenge for GM Jim Benning is to provide Green with adequate resources, especially over the long term. HEROES Bo Horvat – The 22-year-old centre has steadily improved through three NHL season, going for a team-leading 52 points in 2016-2017. Markus Granlund – When the Canucks acquired Granlund from Calgary, for Hunter Shinkaruk in February, 2016, it looked like they might have overpaid. After Granlund tallied 19 goals and flipped his previously poor possession numbers, it looks like the Canucks made out okay. Troy Stecher – The 22-year-old rookie blueliner played nearly 20 minutes per game and held his own. There is room to improve, but that was a good first impression. ZEROES Loui Eriksson – Signing Eriksson to a long-term deal last summer was a bizarre decision, one that didn’t reflect Vancouver’s reality, and it was made that much worse when he went from 30 goals and 63 points in 2015-2016 with Boston to 11 goals and 24 points in Vancouver last season. Jake Virtanen – The sixth pick in the 2014 Draft lasted 10 games with the Canucks and was demoted to the AHL, where he had just 19 points in 65 games. Erik Gudbranson – There is plenty of competition for this spot, but the bruising blueliner had a rough transition to Vancouver, on the wrong end of shot and goal differentials while playing a top-four role before getting hurt. HOCKEY OPS/COACH Jim Benning/Travis Green The Canucks are about to embark on a fascinating season when it comes to the Sedins. They have been fixtures in Vancouver, seemingly forever, but they are entering the last year on their current contracts and it could be challenging to rebuild a team while retaining a couple of core forwards heading towards their late thirties. Henrik Sedin has recorded at least 50 points in every full season since 2003-2004 and the Canucks still control play when he’s on the ice, but the percentages went south last season and that left the goal differential on the wrong side of the ledger. The big issue when it came to percentages was that Daniel Sedin shot a career-low 6.9%. It’s the fourth time in the past five seasons that he’s finished on lower than 9.0% of his shots, perhaps an indication that he’s not getting to the scoring areas quite as efficiently as he did earlier in his career. The move to Vancouver was supposed to bring a great opportunity for Loui Eriksson to have a big year while playing in the plum spot on the wing with the Sedins, but it didn’t come to fruition, at all. He turns 32 this summer and is still under contract for five more seasons, at a cap hit of $6-million, so the Canucks probably don’t have much choice but to hope that Eriksson can bounce back. The problem isn’t so much that Brandon Sutter fills the third-line centre role for the Canucks, it’s more that Vancouver felt the need to invest significant long-term money in a player who has never surpassed 40 points in a season and played nearly 19 minutes per game last season. Though he does have room to improve his all-around game, winger Sven Baertschi did go for a career-high 18 goals and 35 points last season. The 24-year-old needs to generate more shots if he’s going to be a consistent offensive threat, because he’s been relying on a 15.5 SH% in 140 games since he arrived in Vancouver. Markus Granlund took advantage of an opportunity to play a more significant role in Vancouver and scored 19 goals in 69 games. He also had uncharacteristically strong puck possession numbers, so the 24-year-old could be on the upswing. The Canucks gave Jayson Megna a contract extension through next season, but with 20 points in 112 career games, the 27-year-old is on the roster bubble. One of the few positives to come out of last season, 22-year-old centre Bo Horvat continued his career ascent and was the first non-Sedin to lead the Canucks in scoring since Markus Naslund in 2005-2006. Horvat has improved steadily through his first three seasons and should continue on that path, but he’s also looking at a heavy dose of responsibility as a leader for the next generation in Vancouver. A first-round pick in 2012, Brendan Gaunce doesn’t look like he’s going to score enough to make a major impact in the league – he has one goal in 77 career games – but he’s put up strong possession stats with more starts in the defensive zone to this point in his career and teams can do worse when filling out a fourth line. He might be expansion fodder for Vegas. Scooped off waivers from Anaheim, Joseph Cramarossa provides a physical presence no the fourth line, but he was crushed in possession terms as a rookie, so he’s likely facing a battle for an NHL job. Reid Boucher has reached the point in his career at which he has to prove he can stick in the league. The 23-year-old has an offensive pedigree, and has 17 goals in 112 career games, but was waived by New Jersey and Nashville last season. If he doesn’t stick in Vancouver next season, he could be up for grabs again. 26-year-old Drew Shore has been a fringe NHLer for a handful of years, but hasn’t been able to build on what looked like a positive rookie campaign with Florida in 2012-2013. He had a strong year in Switzerland last season before a late-season look with the Canucks. Like so many other forwards on the bottom of the Vancouver depth chart, Michael Chaput has struggled to establish a foothold in the NHL. He did play in a career-high 68 games last season, but he’s likely to be battling for a job again next season. How can the Canucks get better up front? Brock Boeser is an exciting prospect who scored four goals in nine games with Vancouver after leaving the University of North Dakota, and there’s always the chance that Anton Rodin could recover from knee surgery and get another look. Maybe some trade acquisitions, young players with upside, would make some sense, but this doesn’t look like a group that should be pursuing significant veteran free agents. Alexander Edler has been a solid top-pair defenceman for quite some time, and the 31-year-old is still effective, though with two years left on his contract, he could be a trade candidate if he’s at all inclined to waive his no-trade clause. Another steady veteran blueliner, Chris Tanev excels in a shot suppressing role. The 27-year-old doesn’t contribute much offensively and has missed 72 games over the past four seasons, so durability may be an issue, but his ability to play effectively in hard minutes has value, both for the Canucks or on the trade market. In an ideal world, the Canucks might hope that Tanev could be part of a package that yields a skilled forward like Jonathan Drouin or Alex Galchenyuk, but that may require teams to place undue importance on the value of a top-four right-shot defenceman. It happens, but that may not be the most likely result. Though Luca Sbisa played in all 82 games for the Canucks last season, he’s been on the wrong end of possession stats for virtually his entire career, so it’s difficult to put any significant expectations on him. With one year left on his deal, the Canucks can use Sbisa in a depth role. Signed as a free agent out of the University of North Dakota last spring, Troy Stecher had a fine first season in the NHL. He’s undersized, so that can present some challenges, but Stecher pushes play and should be part of Vancouver’s rebuilding process. A smooth skater who could play with a little more bite to his game, Ben Hutton has been a solid top-four defenceman in his first two NHL seasons. That might be where his ultimate value rests, and there’s nothing wrong with that. 29-year-old right-shot blueliner Alex Biega has been on the lineup bubble, playing 87 games over the past two seasons. He’s been okay as a seventh defenceman and, at this stage of his career, it’s getting kind of late for any kind of breakthrough. The Canucks wanted to get nastier on the blueliner and acquired Erik Gudbranson from Florida last summer, and while Gudbranson is physically imposing, he was on the wrong end of shot and goal differentials before suffering a season-ending wrist injury. He’s a restricted free agent this summer, and while it would be fine for the Canucks to give him a longer look next season, they ought be cautious about throwing big long-term money his way. Vancouver lost a couple of last year’s defenceman, Nikita Tryamkin and Philip Larsen, to the KHL. 22-year-old Tryamkin has potential and the 6-foot-7 blueliner could still be part of Vancouver’s long-term plans (if they can get him back at some point), but Larsen had a modest impact in his return to the NHL. Top prospect Olli Juolevi may have a chance to make the club next season, but internal improvement is also necessary. With Ryan Miller headed for free agency, the opportunity is there for Jacob Markstrom to take on the starter’s role in Vancouver, though if that is the decision, they will have to bring in a strong backup, because Markstrom has never played more than 33 games in a season and his .911 save percentage in 66 games with the Canucks isn’t the kind of performance that demands a starting role. There will be some options available in free agency. Brian Elliott, Peter Budaj, and Darcy Kuemper are a few of the free agent goaltenders that could be worth considering in a tandem with Markstrom. EXPANSION DRAFT TARGETS Brendan Gaunce – He may not score much, but the 23-year-old can fill a checking role, either at centre or on the wing, at a reasonable price. Anton Rodin – There is the risk that he could return to Europe, and he missed most of last season with a knee injury, but excelled in Sweden (37 points in 33 games) in 2015-2016. Alex Biega – He may not have much upside at this point, but the 29-year-old would be an inexpensive depth option on the blueline for Vegas. TOP PROSPECTS The Canucks made some good moves to boost their prospect class, acquiring Nikolay Goldobin and Jonathan Dahlen at the trade deadline last season, and there is reason to be optimistic about top prospects Olli Juolevi, Brock Boeser and Thatcher Demko. DRAFT 5th – Gabe Vilardi, Cody Glass, Casey Mittelstadt FREE AGENCY The Canucks have approximately $55.6M committed to the 2017-2018 salary cap for 16 players. NEEDS Elite talent, two top-six forwards, one goaltender WHAT I SAID THE CANUCKS NEEDED LAST YEAR Two top-nine forwards, one top-four defenceman, two more defencemen THEY ADDED Loui Eriksson, Jack Skille, Michael Chaput, Jayson Megna, Troy Stecher, Erik Gudbranson, Philip Larsen TRADE MARKET Alexander Edler, Chris Tanev, Ben Hutton, Erik Gudbranson http://www.tsn.ca/off-season-game-plan-vancouver-canucks-1.747958 Link to comment Share on other sites More sharing options...
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