Three Things About The Opposition
This season we figured we’d reach out to our friends in the Pacific Division and ask them to tell you and us three things about their team for the upcoming season. It could be any three things, but we wanted them to inform you about the Flames biggest rivals in the NHL.
In this installment we reached out to Kent Basky of SBN’s Nucks Misconduct to talk about the Canucks in 2019-20. They’re having an anniversary and despite us asking not mention Micheal Ferland, they mentioned him four times. You are now dead to us.
It’s the 50th Anniversary of the Vancouver Canucks entry into the National Hockey League, and there will be a lot of time devoted to celebrating this occasion. Sure, the team’s had little to celebrate over the years, and having missed the playoffs in the last 4 seasons is not something they should be happy with. There are some signs that better days are ahead, however, and the days of the Canucks being a contender may be returning (eventually).
1- New Faces: Canucks GM Jim Benning has been busy since the trade deadline, and while it’s too early to tell how these tweaks are going to play out, the fact that they made wholesale changes to try and make this team more competitive and address actual issues the team had is encouraging.
They made a splash in the free agent market, bringing in JT Miller, Tyler Myers, Jordie Benn and some guy named Micheal Ferland (he played in Carolina, I think), to help bolster the top 6, give them a player who can play a decent offensive game and hopefully keep the cheapshots on Elias Pettersson down (Ferland). And the back end, which has been dreadful over the past couple seasons has a much different look. Having dispatched Erik Gudbranson, Derrick Pouliot and Ben Hutton for Myers, Benn, the much-heralded rookie Quinn Hughes and possibly a surprise 7th Dman like Brogan Rafferty, who has been extremely impressive this preseason, or Ashton Sautner.
2- Familiar Faces: One of the biggest issues that plagued the Canucks last season was the lack of goal scoring. With JT Miller expected to help boost this (and the instant chemistry he’s shown with Bo Horvat one of the best things about the Canucks preseason so far), there’s still some unanswered questions. The top line is essentially set, with Pettersson, Ferland and the recently re-signed Brock Boeser, though Ferland may get switched out from time to time. The 2nd line with Horvat and Miller will see either Sven Baertschi, looking to just get through a whole season after a couple devastating concussion related issues over the last 2 years, or Nikolay Goldobin. Goldy was given a one year contract to try and prove himself, but has had a very short leash from coach Travis Green. The bottom 6 will see some big changes too, most notably on which players will be starting the season in the AHL. First, they need to do something about the dead weight, and that means guys like Tim Schaller, Tyler Motte and yes, Loui Eriksson heading off to upstate New York to help the Comets. With Brandon Sutter and Jay Beagle ahead of him on the depth chart at Center, Schaller’s as good as gone to start the year. It also could see Adam Gaudette heading back to Utica unless the Canucks somehow either make a deal for Sutter or Beagle, which seems unlikely, or sends one of them down to the AHL, which could see them get claimed on waivers. On the wings, there’s a real log jam. Left wing, for example with Baertschi and Goldobin, but you also have Tanner Pearson, Josh Leivo, and the not yet cleared to return Antoine Roussel, who was a pleasant surprise free agent signing for the Canucks last season.
On the right wing, Jake Virtanen’s likely to be safe, but that 4th line slot could be filled by Zack MacEwan or Lukas Jacek, both of whom have played well.
The Defence seems set in Myers, Benn, Alexander Edler, Hughes, Troy Stecher and Christopher Tanev, though I wouldn’t be surprised to see Tanev moved at some point this season, possibly to make room for Olli Juolevi to get a look after rehabbing from hip surgery last season. The Canucks have a fair amount of bottom 3 defensive depth right now, which with the way this team goes with injuries will likely come in handy again this season.
3- New look, New core, New attitude: As the Canucks have continued to rebuild, they haven’t just pared away players that were part of that early decade team that made the Cup run. There’s been what looks like a concerted effort to bring in players that not only can help this team win hockey games, but are the kind that draw admiration from those outside the fan base. Pettersson and Boeser are literal poster children for the league, and with Quinn Hughes starting his first full season as well as guys like He-Who-Should-Be-Captain Bo Horvat and the eternally smiling Goldobin, it’s not as easy for people to hate the Canucks as it used to be. In spite of missing the playoffs last season, they were definitely a far more entertaining team to watch than they had been in years, and it’s going to be a blast to see the evolution of what Jim Benning has put in place. I will be honest, seeing him get his contract renewed this summer, when it should have hinged on the team’s performance this season was a jaw dropper, but maybe this all works out. The team and it’s fans have suffered through a lot of bad hockey over 50 years, so if the Canucks can be the team it looks like they might be, that’s a hell of an anniversary present.