“Hey Lach, where was the Sunday Crease last week? I wanted immediate analysis on preseason hockey, something we all care very deeply about!”
Yes, the Sunday Crease didn’t go up as planned last week, and that’s due to a couple different issues; a larger work schedule and poor time management on my own part led to that. But preseason problems are exactly what this article is about, and the Canucks had a whole lot of them.
Vancouver was never going to blow anyone away this month, but a 1-6-0 record caught everyone off guard. The team being outscored by a 3 to 1 margin is an incredibly scary statline for a team who has some of the best young stars in the game. Aside from a few players, like Swedish saviour Elias Pettersson, the whole team underperformed.
But with only three days until opening night, there’s no time for the Canucks to dwell on those mistakes. The final cuts are going to be made, the practices are going to be tough and working those bad decisions out of the team’s game is going to be Travis Green’s most pressing concern. If they play their cards right, the Canucks will be able to put their disappointing preseason out of their minds by the time the puck drops against the Oilers on Wednesday.
Since the preseason is done like dinner, I’m gonna try something a little different this week and give my thoughts on nearly every Canucks player that we saw. Obviously I won’t go too in-depth for all of them, but at the very least we can get some insight on what the final roster might look like.
Darren Archibald: Archie was one of the best stories of the preseason last year, but his four games this September were a more accurate depiction of his ceiling. The tough truth for Archibald is that his grinder role has already been filled by a guy who’s yet to make his Canucks debut in Antoine Roussel, and it’s likely back to the minors for him. I frankly think the team would be better with Archibald in the lineup than Roussel, but he’s not making $3 million a season.
Sven Baertschi: Illnesses aside, the Swissly Baer was the best returning Canuck in the preseason. If he can just stay healthy this season (which is a bigger ask than you’d think), I’d say there’s a good chance he beats his personal high of 35 points in 2018-19.
Jay Beagle: He didn’t put up any points, played on the penalty kill and won a few faceoffs, but wasn’t very noticeable overall. Sadly if he plays that way for the next four years, it’d be the best case scenario. Twelve million dollars, guys.
Alex Biega: He was…there. Next!
Brock Boeser: Yes, the rumours are true; Brock Boeser looked human during the preseason. His two assists in five games are cause for concern, even for a guy who was recovering from back and wrist injuries during the summer. But that might not be necessarily due to injuries or even a sophomore slump.
Regardless of how well a certain rookie did in the last two weeks, as far as other NHL teams are concerned, Boeser is the Canucks’ lone scoring threat to start the season. Teams are going to play their best shutdown lines whenever they see that blonde flow fly past their bench, and it’s going to affect his point totals until his teammates improve and force opponents to make hard choices. In other words, Brock Boeser’s season rests on the shoulders of Elias Pettersson. No pressure, kid.
Reid Boucher: He played in one game and then got sent to the minors. That’s more due to the amount of guys trying to earn a left wing spot, but it still means Bouch is falling down the depth chart and out of favour with the team.
Michael Del Zotto: MDZ was neither good nor bad; he was simply “meh”. But with Del Zotto heading for free agency in the summer, it’ll be in the Canucks’ best interest to give him every opportunity to succeed and push his value up; that way they might be able to move him before the trade deadline for some extra picks and/or prospects.
Alex Edler: His first three games were pretty good, but he was a disaster last night in Kelowna. I highly doubt he’ll take three penalties in one game at any point during the regular season, but it does make me worry that the speed of the game is starting to pass him by. Or maybe they just need to move him to goalie. Only time will tell.
this is the holy grail of edler playing goalie, it will never be better than this pic.twitter.com/75ktXGpioG
— Jason Botchford (@botchford) September 30, 2018
Loui Eriksson: *agonizing, painful crying noises*
Sam Gagner: Poor Sam Gagner. He may have gotten a goal in Utah, but no matter what management does with him it never seems to work out for long. Gagner isn’t necessarily a bad player, but he seems to be a bad fit for Vancouver’s system. It might be in the team’s best interest to cut their losses on him and start to look for a buyer before they tank his value.
Adam Gaudette: It was a rough September for Adam Gaudette, but tempering people’s expectations might actually be the best thing for him right now. He’ll go down to the Comets, get the extra development time he needs and then return to Vancouver a polished gem. Give him time in Utica, and he’ll prove he’s worth the wait.
Brendan Gaunce: I talked about Gaunce likely being one of the odd ones out when it came to the Canucks’ forward depth chart at the beginning of the month, and for once I was right about something. Gaunce has simply been passed by better players in the system, and it wouldn’t surprise me if he ends up on the trading block at some point this season.
Nikolay Goldobin: His point totals might not show it, but Nikolay Goldobin took a major step forward this month. Goldy’s biggest problem has always been his play in his own end and the “one game on, one game off” streak he’s never been able to shake. But after the last two weeks, both those problems seem to be disappearing.
Goldy was rarely a liability, behind the blue line or otherwise. Even his play away from the puck improved, and seemed to play consistently good hockey every shift. Travis Green’s decision to play him in six of the Canucks’ seven games is proof that he’s finally earned the trust of his coach, and it’s all but a guarantee we’ll see him in the top six on opening night.
Markus Granlund: Granlund? Doesn’t he play for the Wild?
Erik Gudbranson: Guddy did better than I expected, but he still hasn’t shown proof of being the shutdown wizard that management touted him as. Regardless of that, until the Canucks actually find a solid shutdown defender, he’ll keep his reserved parking space in the top six.
Bo Horvat: Bo Horvat is a player who seems to exceed expectations in every scenario. The Canucks could put two beer leaguers on his wings and he’d still find a way to have a multi-point night. What makes Bo so unique is that he’s never the most talented player on the ice, but he’s always the smartest. He rarely makes any sort of gaffe and makes every teammate on the ice a little better thanks his quick thinking hockey IQ. But we already knew that, didn’t we?
And to any Canucks’ management who might be reading this: just name this man captain already.
Ben Hutton: Here’s a fun fact; Ben Hutton actually led the Canucks defence in shots on goal with 14 during the preseason. This is the make or break season for Hutton; if he can get back to playing like he did in his rookie season three years ago, he’ll be back to a team regular in not time. But if he loses the favour of Travis Green again, his NHL career will be in serious jeopardy. Make us proud, B-Hutt.
Brendan Leipsic: He had his moments, but pretty disappointing overall. If there’s any surprise cuts from this team, it’s going to be him.
Jacob Markstrom: Markstrom was pretty mediocre, but he was also hung out to dry by his teammates on a far-too regular basis. I’d call it a wash for now, but if it keeps up in the regular season, then there’s a problem.
Tyler Motte: Easily the most pleasant surprise of the preseason was the work of Tyler Motte. If he wasn’t able to be sent down to the AHL without risking waivers, I’d say he’s made the team for sure. But that little asterisk might be his undoing, since Jim Benning won’t want to risk losing an extra player like Tim Schaller or Brendan Leipsic. Either way, he’ll definitely play in Vancouver again at some point this season.
Anders Nilsson: Things have gone from bad to worse for Anders the Giant. Any ideas that he could beat out Markstrom for the starting job disappeared a while ago, but his two starts this month might’ve cemented that.
Derrick Pouliot: Pouliot wasn’t good, and that sucks. He seems to have taken a few steps back from the defender he was last season, and if he doesn’t find that game again quickly it’ll be back to the press box for him.
Elias Pettersson: Oh. My. God. The legends were true.
Pretty sure Elias Pettersson ended Ryan Strome’s life at the end of the first period tonight pic.twitter.com/pflbgrKj78
— Jeff Veillette (@JeffVeillette) September 19, 2018
Elias Pettersson is arguably the sole reason the Canucks weren’t a total failure this month. He led the team with six points in five games and easily cemented his status as the second line centre behind Bo Horvat. His hockey sense at both ends of the ice and his ability to end careers thanks to his silky dangles are something Vancouver desperately needs right now. If he keeps playing at the level we’ve seen so far, he’ll bring the whole team up with him. THAT’S how good he is.
I’d better get some “Pettersson for Rookie of the Year” buttons ready to go.
Antoine Roussel: [GAME NOTES NOT FOUND. PLEASE TRY AGAIN LATER. TWELVE MILLION DOLLARS, GUYS.]
Tim Schaller: His disappearing act was on-par with most magicians, but I don’t think that should earn him a spot on this team. This might be the biggest test for management when it comes to the final roster; if Benning is unwilling to cut his latest free agent signing at the expense of Goldobin or Motte, that’d be a massive red flag.
Troy Stecher: Stecher was the best defender this weekend. He didn’t make many mistakes, got a lot of shots on goal and even got an assist. Stech is going to have a lot more responsibilities on his plate this year, and if he plays anything like that the blue line will be in good hands.
Brandon Sutter: Brandon Sutter was Brandon Sutter. Just be glad we don’t have to hear Baton Rouge anymore.
Chris Tanev: Oh boy. Chris Tanev was really bad, and considering that he’s usually the steady rock on defense, the alarm bells are going off in my head. Let’s hope that’s just him getting the mistakes out of the way now rather than later.
Jake Virtanen: Virtanen was unnoticeable, which isn’t want you want to see from a former 5th overall draft pick. Maybe “okay depth piece” is his ceiling now, but I hold out hope that he can at least beat out Loui Eriksson for the second line spot on right wing. It’s now or never Jake, make your move.
I won’t mince words; this season is probably going to stink. But the Canucks have 82 chances to prove me and everyone else wrong, and with players like Brock Boeser, Bo Horvat and Elias Pettersson leading the charge, they might do just that.
Thanks for reading! Which Canuck impressed you the most during the preseason? Leave a comment below!