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Windows of Opportunity -- Hughes, EP, etc.


JamesB

Timing the Window of Opportunity  

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There is a lot of talk in the NHL about "windows of opportunity" -- the period when a team is one of maybe half a dozen legitimate Cup contenders in the league. Sometimes a team makes a Cinderella run, as Vegas did last year in getting to the SCF, but usually the Cup contenders are not a big surprise. Teams like Tampa, Toronto, and Winnipeg (along with defending champ Washington) are in that window now, along with maybe 2 or 3 other teams.

 

At the beginning of this year, most people thought the next window was a ways off for the Canucks, but EP has changed a lot of opinions. Even though the Canucks are only slightly ahead of where they were at this time last year, there is a lot more optimism around the team.

 

EP illustrates a point that has been made before -- the key to building a Cup contender is having two or three elite players. A team can make a lot of moves to bring in fringe players or upgrade the bottom D pairing or the bottom 6 forwards, or even the second pairing or second line. And those might be good moves, but they don't move the dial much. It has become popular to say that a draft pick who struggles a bit will be "fine". But "fine" does not generate Cup contenders. Elite players do.

 

Without EP, the Canucks would be thin at the center position. Horvat would be 1C, and the other 3 centers would be some mix of Sutter (when healthy), Beagle, Gaudette and Granlund--not nearly good enough for a Cup contender.  Horvat is an excellent player but he is not a 1C on a good team. (I checked 5-on-5 scoring per 60 minutes for NHL centers who have played at least 200 minutes. The top three are Matthews, Giroux, and Bergeron. Crosby is 7th. EP is 11th, just ahead of Stamkos, McDavid, and MacKinnon. Horvat is 73rd.). Horvat is a world class 2C who does a lot of heavy lifting defensively in a matchup role and taking D-zone faceoffs, but that is the role you want him in, not as 1C.

 

With EP, the Canucks have a legitimate 1C (who is, by the way, the youngest guy in the group of top 1Cs), a world class 2C with Horvat, and Sutter and Beagle are very good at the 3C and 4C slots, with Gaudette in the mix. That is a center line-up for a Cup contender.

 

Goalies are important. With Marky having found his game and Demko and DiPietro on the way, the Canucks have a decent shot at having solid goaltending for a while.

 

The other key is defence. I think the biggest key to whether the Canucks enter a window of opportunity in the next couple of years is Quinn Hughes. At the left D position, right now the Canucks have Edler, Hutton, Pouliot, MDZ, and may have Juolevi on the way. That is not good enough. Edler is, in my view, the Canucks best D and I hope they re-sign him. But he is not a top-of-depth chart guy on a Cup contender. Hutton has made a lot of progress this year. He has shown himself to be a legitimate NHL D, but he is slightly overmatched on the second pairing. He would be excellent in the third pairing. Pouliot and MDZ are, in my view, not good enough to be more that 7th man on a good team. Juolevi is a big question mark, especially given his current injury. And, frankly, I think it is very unlikely that he would ever move to the top of the depth chart on a good NHL team.

 

But if Hughes comes in and does an EP -- moving to the top of the depth chart at LD and QB'ing the PP, suddenly the D looks very good. Hughes, Edler, and Hutton could be an LD lineup on a Cup contender.

 

That still leaves RD, where ideally the Canucks could use someone to move to the top of the depth chart, or maybe to the second pairing, allowing Guddy to move to the 3rd pairing.

 

WIngers are easiest position to fill. Boeser is a legitimate top line talent and there is a reasonable hope that some mix of Baertschi, Goldy, Virtanen and the guys in Utica might fill out the top two lines at the wing position, leaving guys like Roussel and Eriksson as very good third liners.

 

My view is that if Hughes turns out be an elite player, like EP, the Canucks' window could open as early as next  year and should open the year after.

 

With two elite players (EP and Hughes) and two near-elite players (Horvat and Boeser) and a solid supporting cast, that is a team that could contend for a Cup.

 

Frankly, I would prefer to have more talent in the prospect pool before making the move into contention, as that would increase the chance of finally winning a Cup, but obviously the Canucks want to take the step of moving into contention as soon as possible -- an apparent source of conflict between Linden and FA.

 

But I see Hughes as the key piece of the puzzle right now. If he really is elite, great. If not, and if the Canucks cannot find a legitimate top-of-depth-chart D soon, I see a long road ahead.

 

 

 

 

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You don't need all-star goaltending to really ultimately win. You need "good enough" goaltending.

 

Markstrom has been "good enough" thus far this year.

 

You need depth, and extremely strong defense. Crawford in Chicago, Quick in LA; they aren't "elite" goaltenders, they were made to look that way by playing to their strengths, and having exceptionally good defencemen on, at LEAST the first pairing, usually "3 top-pairing defencemen" and a solid #4 guy. The last pairing is... who cares, they get 9-11 minutes a night in very easy situations.

 

We have Derek Pouliot and Mike DelZotto.

 

That... won't do it. Prime Patrick Roy or Marty Brodeur... That ain't getting it done no matter who is in the pipes.

 

 

So our window of opportunity depends extremely heavily on whether Juolevi wakes up from his Salo-esque injury coma and is instantly an all-star (probably not), Hughes decides that yes, he does like passing it up to Boeser. Contract or not, we don't have any opportunity if we can't sort out the defence.

 

 

All bets are off if Benning goes up to Karlsson and is like "hey man... we have a team but we cant pay you for a long term deal... here's $15 million for one year... want to make a run with it?"

 

That would be interesting. Never, ever gonna happen, but it would be interesting.

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I think next year, we either just barely miss the playoffs, or barely sneak in.

 

In 2020-21, I think we hit a wildcard or #3 spot in the Pacific but don't make it past the 2nd round and likely lose in the 1st. I think starting in 2021-22, we'll actually become very good and start to be considered contenders.

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I voted 2021

 

I have long been saying that we will not be contenders until after 2021.  That this year would still be a top 10 pick and next year would be a top 15/bubble year 

 

We will still need two years of solid drafting before we have a solid rotation of youth into the AHL and from the AHL to the bigs.  Ensuring ELCs on skilled young players, players on the team on bridge deals and hopefully signing players like Boeser/Petterson/Virtanen to quality contracts that will look like bargains over the next 3-6 years as the cap increases.

 

If it wasn't for Petterson we'd be in the hunt for a top 10 pick.  If it wasn't for Markstroms oddly amazing play we'd be in the hunt for a top 10 pick.  The deficiencies of this team are still very easy to pick out, from lack of depth to lack of quality D and a lack of a quality 3rd line.  But we're close.  So close that most people can see it.

 

2021/2022 is our first year where I say no playoffs is an absolute failure.

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Personally feel the rebuild started(albeit slowly) the very second we got Bo Horvat. He's a broad shouldered, honest ox, perfect to lay down a lasting foundation.

 

Also feel turnarounds can happen more quickly in this cap era.

 

The key is good contracts(or few poor ones), once you have a number of great young pieces(thru draft or trade).

 

so franchises like TBay are given preferential treatment, with lower tax rates. Easier to acquire, and/or keep key players. Dipped down to bottom(Stamkos, Hedman) then shot back up, in no time.

 

^ Pointing out the TBay example, because I don't think a "timeline" applies evenly for all teams. Fortunately I think Van has a similar advantage. This is not based upon tax advantage, but rather the benefit of being located in one of the world's most beautiful cities. For working class, it's prob a financial burden. For pro athletes(well paid), it's a slice of paradise.

 

 

 

 

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1 hour ago, Bure_Pavel said:

The last year of EP40's entry level contract will be a good year to take a swing at it. 

That’s two years from now.  It’s possible but a lot would have to go right for that to happen.  If Markstrom is becoming the MarkBeast like he’s been playing the last ten games almost, I will become a believer.  Otherwise I really don’t see it happening that soon.  As a long time fan I have a lot of doubt this core can do it, we have some big holes that are not yet filled...but the way they’ve been playing is very encouraging, and that’s without the young guys that are developing.   You could be right and I hope you are...

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1 minute ago, IBatch said:

That’s two years from now.  It’s possible but a lot would have to go right for that to happen.  If Markstrom is becoming the MarkBeast like he’s been playing the last ten games almost, I will become a believer.  Otherwise I really don’t see it happening that soon.  As a long time fan I have a lot of doubt this core can do it, we have some big holes that are not yet filled...but the way they’ve been playing is very encouraging, and that’s without the young guys that are developing.   You could be right and I hope you are...

If we could sign a Top 6 forward or Top 4 Dman for a high money 2 year deal this offseason it would be ideal. Maybe 7 million x 2 years. 

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Earliest could be next year??  Really depends on whether Hughes and Demko make it, and if Marky shows he can really hold down the fort.

As per OP, centers (Pete, Bo, Sutter, Beagle), goal (Marky*, Demko/ DiPietro), wingers (Brock, Sven, Jake, Goldie, Leivo, Eriksson, Roussel, Motte, Granny/ Schaller) and left D (Hughes*, Eddie/ Hutton) should be just fine.  I think I might also be viewing the right side too lowly, but it would be good to upgrade the top pair (Stecher's responsible and mobile but small; Tanev's the same; Guddy is responsible and physical but does not have much offensive upside; in fact I'd think the scoring potential might be the biggest issue, hopefully Woo or Tree can be our guy).

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1 minute ago, Phil_314 said:

Earliest could be next year??  Really depends on whether Hughes and Demko make it, and if Marky shows he can really hold down the fort.

As per OP, centers (Pete, Bo, Sutter, Beagle), goal (Marky*, Demko/ DiPietro), wingers (Brock, Sven, Jake, Goldie, Leivo, Eriksson, Roussel, Motte, Granny/ Schaller) and left D (Hughes*, Eddie/ Hutton) should be just fine.  I think I might also be viewing the right side too lowly, but it would be good to upgrade the top pair (Stecher's responsible and mobile but small; Tanev's the same; Guddy is responsible and physical but does not have much offensive upside; in fact I'd think the scoring potential might be the biggest issue, hopefully Woo or Tree can be our guy).

Just heard today a guy on 650 say he talked to plenty of NHL scouts who say Quinn Hughes (as soon as he puts on our sweater and steps onto the ice to play for us) will be our best D man.  He’s on our team next season.

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3 minutes ago, Bure_Pavel said:

If we could sign a Top 6 forward or Top 4 Dman for a high money 2 year deal this offseason it would be ideal. Maybe 7 million x 2 years. 

That would shore things up for sure.  Right now it’s an absolute pleasure to watch these young and vets do their thing. Proud to be a fan always but right now it does have the feel that we are part of history in the making.

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5 minutes ago, Alflives said:

Just heard today a guy on 650 say he talked to plenty of NHL scouts who say Quinn Hughes (as soon as he puts on our sweater and steps onto the ice to play for us) will be our best D man.  He’s on our team next season.

This was also true at the beginning of the season, that’s exactly what they were saying then.   How old is he again?

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10 minutes ago, Phil_314 said:

Earliest could be next year??  Really depends on whether Hughes and Demko make it, and if Marky shows he can really hold down the fort.

As per OP, centers (Pete, Bo, Sutter, Beagle), goal (Marky*, Demko/ DiPietro), wingers (Brock, Sven, Jake, Goldie, Leivo, Eriksson, Roussel, Motte, Granny/ Schaller) and left D (Hughes*, Eddie/ Hutton) should be just fine.  I think I might also be viewing the right side too lowly, but it would be good to upgrade the top pair (Stecher's responsible and mobile but small; Tanev's the same; Guddy is responsible and physical but does not have much offensive upside; in fact I'd think the scoring potential might be the biggest issue, hopefully Woo or Tree can be our guy).

The interesting thing is we beat the best of the best when the teams healthy.  When it’s not we are one goal away from getting to OT for the most part...and we are getting better because the youth in our team is not yet in their prime years.  What I see happening this year is just missing out on a wild card spot...and that losing streak keeping us out.  Next year will be entirely different though, we will beat almsot everyone on a regular basis, Benning will win GM of the year, TG the Adams, and the team will win a round or two.   

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