The Canucks returned from their bye week in the same way we all do after a vacation; with a jarring shock of reality.
Both of Vancouver’s weekend losses to the Oilers and Jets were cases of a superior team showing its strength against a clearly outmatched team. The Canucks were unable to keep up with either opponent and looked out of it right from the get-go. Without some solid performances from Jacob Markstrom and Anders Nilsson, the score could’ve been a lot worse in both games.
There’s honestly not much good to take out of either game, other than the big return of Bo Horvat. Horvat didn’t miss a beat, bringing an instant upgrade to the team’s compete level. But it wasn’t enough.
Accepting the season’s outcome might be in the Canucks best interest right now, and it starts by planning the course for the Trade Deadline and beyond. Moving out some veterans and calling up some players from Utica could give the last three months of the season a new flavour.
First and foremost, Reid Boucher needs a call up. With 37 points in 33 AHL games, Boucher is clearly deserving of another chance at the NHL level, and he would bring a quicker, more offensively charged pace that the Canucks sorely need. Nikolay Goldobin and Philip Holm have both had an excellent campaign with the Comets, and if another few roster spots open up the call should go to them.
These changes aren’t massive, and certainly won’t make the Canucks more competitive overnight. But giving them more opportunities to prove themselves at hockey’s highest level will give fans an entertaining end to a season that, like any job after a pleasant vacation, seems to be losing its luster fast.
Tough Defense Decisions
For more than a calendar year, the biggest question surrounding the Canucks has been “When are they going to trade Chris Tanev? His value is at its peak, they should move him while he still has some. I’ll bet we can get Liljegren and a second rounder for him from Toronto.”
But while Tanev certainly has the most trade value of any Canucks defender, trading him could actually hurt Vancouver more than it helps.
Naturally, the main argument people have for trading a defensive stalwart like Tanev is that it would help the team’s chances of getting a high draft pick, and they’re right about that. But as we’ve seen with all the injuries he’s had this season, the Canucks are truly lost without him.
Tanev isn’t the only defensive chip Jim Benning has at his disposal for the upcoming Trade Deadline, either. Erik Gudbranson’s upcoming free agent status gives him some decent value as a playoff rental, and is arguably more likely to get moved.
If both Tanev and Gudbranson were dealt before the deadline, it would leave the Canucks without a serious shutdown man since most of the remaining players lean towards the offensive side of the ice. Alex Biega would likely welcome these moves for that exact reason, but his contract also expires July 1st, which could leave the Canucks completely devoid of solid defensive blueliners.
The Canucks biggest asset on the blue line is easily their incoming youth, but as the 2009-15 Oilers taught us, trial by fire isn’t usually a great way to develop defensemen. Having a safety net in Tanev might slow the rebuild process down, but an overwhelmed defense may set Vancouver back years.
Sedins: One More Time?
According to Sportsnet’s Chris Johnson, the Sedins are interested in playing another season in Vancouver. With their contracts are set to expire July 1st, and a new deal is sure to be a discount from the $7 million they’re each making this year, it’s worth questioning what a fair price would be.
The Sedins on-ice role has definitely decreased under Travis Green, but their impact in the locker room is as important as ever. The presence of the twins will be crucial as the Canucks continue to get younger, especially with highly touted fellow Swedes Elias Pettersson and Jonathan Dahlen potentially making their debuts in Vancouver next year.
Having Daniel and Henrik return would be great, but how much would it cost? I’d assume the price would be in the ballpark of $3-$5 million each, but any more than that might outweigh the potential rewards.
Around the Rinks
- Injuries haven’t been kind to the Canucks this season, but three other NHL clubs were hit hard this week by various ailments. The Oilers will lose leading goal scorer Ryan Nugent-Hopkins for five to six weeks due to cracked ribs he sustained on a hit by Vegas defensemen Brayden McNabb, a pretty crushing blow to an Edmonton team already fighting for their playoff lives. The loss of Nugent-Hopkins will undoubtedly mean splitting up Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl, further hindering Edmonton’s offense. At this point it’s likely going to take a miracle for the Oilers to get into the postseason and while they might be a rival, a playoffs without McDavid and Company is one where all hockey fans lose.
- The Blackhawks have likely lost goaltender Corey Crawford for the rest of the season due to vertigo-like symptoms. His injury has been a sort of mystery ever since his last start on Dec. 23 against the Devils, but Mark Lazerus of the Chicago Sun-Times was able to clear things up a bit on Tuesday.
I just spoke with Scotty Bowman and he said he was “guessing,” not sharing inside info. “I think he got a concussion,” he said. “I have no confirmation that it is.”
— Mark Lazerus (@MarkLazerus) January 18, 2018
Crawford dealt with similar issues back in 2016, but this bout interrupts what has been one of the best seasons of his career. Hawks backup Anton Forsberg and feel-good story third stringer Jeff Glass have performed admirably in his absence, but the loss of Crawford will really be felt in the locker room. Chicago sits only five points behind Colorado for the second wild card spot, but without their starting goalie, the danger of missing the playoffs for the first time since 2008 is now all too real.
- The Rangers have a playoff spot to protect, but they’ll be doing it without defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk, who’ll be out indefinitely after surgery to repair a torn meniscus. What is a torn meniscus, you ask? I don’t know, but Dr. Google might.
The loss of Shattenkirk might not make or break New York’s playoff hopes like the injuries we discussed earlier, but it does weaken the Rangers chances of walking away with the Cup in the spring. It might be time for New York’s management to go in a different direction. The team has good young nucleus with guys like J.T. Miller, Mika Zibanejad and Jimmy Vesey, and starting to rebuild around them could make New York a much bigger threat than they are now. Waiting until they hit their peak only means they’ll have a smaller window to contend in. Better to start sooner rather than later.
- Staying in Edmonton, Hall of Fame defenseman Paul Coffey may be joining the Oilers management team in an unknown role within the next few weeks, according to TSN’s Bob McKenzie.
Hall of Famer Paul Coffey joining the struggling Edmonton Oiler organization? Sounds like it is in the works. Details still a little sketchy on precise role — coaching staff has been rumoured — but expectation is he will be in EDM sooner rather than later.
— Bob McKenzie (@TSNBobMcKenzie) January 20, 2018
It’s become a bit of a running joke with Edmonton that the routinely hires based on history over qualifications, and while Coffey does have some experience managing in the Ontario Junior Hockey League, this feels eerily similar to the promotion of Craig MacTavish to Oilers GM in 2013. Good luck with that, Oil Country.
- To anyone who bet on the Golden Knights being first in the entire National Hockey League, can you pick my lotto numbers?