Hockey

The Hawks careen in into the All Star break hosting the Canucks and Wild tonight and Wednesday respectively, with their date last night against the Blues having been rescheduled as a part of the NHL revamping its schedule on the fly to accomodate COVID postponements and the resultant lack of participation in this coming weekend’s Olympics. Coincidentally, the not so dearly departed Jeremy Prinze, Jr is now tasked with coaching Team Canada after Claude Julien sustained a freak eye injury, so it will be utterly hilarious to watch the Canadians try to chase puck carriers above the circles on the extra wide ice. And even with the NHL not sending players, that doesn’t mean the Canadian citizenry won’t feel entitled to gold and nothing less, so those hockey-birthright jingoistic psychos should be in full froth by the medal round. But back to more pressing matters on this side of the International Date Line, where the Hawks only have two more regulation wins than the laughable Habs and Yotes, and one of the Coyotes’ SEVEN wins cam against them.

1/31 – vs Canucks

Game Time – 6:30PM CST
TV/Radio – NBC Sports Chicago, SportsNet Pacific, WGN-AM 720
Ever Heard Of The Knife Alien? – Nucks Misconduct, Canucks Army

After the obligatory Boudreau Bounce, where the Canucks went 8-0-1 after he replaced Travis Green at the beginning of December, but have gone 3-4-3 since, and still find themselves well outside the final wildcard spot, even with Edmonton absolutely shitting all over itself for like six weeks straight now. As is always the case when Gabby takes over, the pace quickens and players skate like their asses are on fire, but most of the time in every direction at once. Boudreau’s limitations have been well documented over the years in this space so there’s no need to rehash them again when this particular roster won’t get him anywhere near the top of the conference playing his signature style. The thought was that Boudreau could maximize the floundering offense of Elias Petterson, who to this point only has 24 points in 44 games, which is well off his basically point-per rate his first three (truncated) seasons. Since Boudreau took over, Petterson only has 12 points in 20 games, so things have yet to pick up for him, and it’s not as if his shooting percentage has absolutely cratered – he’s at 12.2%, but that number has been trending downward since his rookie rate of 19.9% to 16.7% to 15.9% to where it is today. Even if he were shooting his career rate (this year included) of 16.6%, that’d still only result in 4 more goals on his 90 shots. His shots on goal are only down .2 a game from his career rate, so something is off here. Considering that he’s locked up for two more years and that this season likely is going result in a sell-off prior to the deadline (where the most attractive piece might be leading scorer JT Miller who is at a point-per and plays a great two way game and has another year left), it’s probably not cause for riots in the streets, but is certainly worth monitoring,

2/2 – vs Wild

Game Time – 8:30PM CST
TV/Radio – TNT, WGN-AM 720
Doublewhiskeycokenoice – Hockey Wilderness

This will be the third meeting in two weeks between these two teams, and not really much has changed since the first two other than Jonathan Toews being out of the lineup in the concussion protocol. It’s anyone’s guess when he’ll return, and the continued presence of Lukas Reichel in Rockford makes even less sense now that the Hawks are down a center and apparently Kirby Dach has given up trying to score 120 games into his career leaving the Hawks with really only one guy with any finish, and he’s headed to Vegas once this game ends. The Wild dong-whipped the Hawks on UC ice two weeks ago in a game that was never close, and then the Hawks at least kept things interesting for a bit in St. Paul before blowing multiple leads and losing in OT. In both games the Hawks suppressed shots well enough on this Wild team, something they’ve been fairly good at since the aforementioned Coach Kelvin Gemstone got whacked, but with little to no finish, and lacking the team speed the Wild have, there’s only so much that’s going to impact actually good teams, as was the case twice against the Avs last week. This game is once again on national TV, but at least this one is the late game that a national audience won’t have to be subjected to it. After this it’s the all star break, where we’ll probably take a breather here too, because this new writing schedule is so exhausting.

Hockey

vs.

RECORDS: Hawks 18-17-6   Canucks 21-15-4

PUCK DROP: 9pm

TV: NBCSN Chicago

GARBAGE THROWERS: Canucks Army

The Hawks start 2020 in Vancouver, which in some way was where everything started. Not only was it their biggest rival and site of some of their biggest wins, but it’s where Seabrook, Keith, and Toews won a Gold Medal before they’d won a Cup, which you could argue only set off their appetite for more silverware. Now they’re just barely alive in the playoff race. Tonight they’ll see another one chasing the postseason after an absence, which hasn’t been something that’s gone well for them in the past.

The Vancouver Canucks have won five in a row, which actually has them in the third spot in the Pacific but only one point above the trap door in the West with the Flames, Jets, and Oilers right on their ass. You’d think the Flames will get their act together soon, which probably means the Canucks are still looking at a wildcard spot. The Hawks claim they’re looking at those two. Which would make this something of a four-pointer. But the Hawks have biffed pretty much every one of these when they’ve had the chance. You remember games against the Avs, Stars, or Coyotes last year where they couldn’t even manage a point that they needed. If they’re serious, a regulation win is needed and then to be backed up with a bunch more.

So how did the Canucks get here? Mostly goaltending. Jacob Markstom has been great in December, with a .927 SV%. The Canucks mostly have been getting domed in games of late, but Markstrom has seen them through. They don’t do anything particularly well other than the power play, which is just an extension of their magnificent top line. The trio of J.T. Miller, Elias Pettersson (WHO WANTS TO WALK WITH ELIAS?!), and Brock Boeser has some of the best metrics in the league, and has been murder in both zones. Earlier in the year they were some of the best defensive marks in the league, though that’s slipped of late.

But beyond that, the Canucks have the common problems of not enough depth. Jake Virtanen has done what he does which is score goals you’ll never remember, and Bo Horvat is much more comfortable as a second center behind Pettersson. But beyond that there isn’t much, and that’s something the Canucks will have to improve in the near future.

There is a genuine star on the blue line in Quinn Hughes, who has 25 assists. Tyler Myers sucks, has always sucked, and will always suck, but the Canucks were hard-ons to sign him as a free agent for years so he’ll be polluting their third-pairing for the next five years. Christoper Tanev and Alex Edler are still here, though one might think moving both at the deadline will improve the Canucks long-term. But the long-term has never been their priority, and if they’re in the thick of it–given the nature of the Pacific they probably will be–they’ll never justify stripping their blue line of the two dependable veterans they have.

For the Hawks, nothing much should change. One would think Robin Lehner will continue to ride the roll he’s been on, though they won’t want Corey Crawford to go stale. Sikura has earned another game, there’s not much more he can do honestly. Maybe Koekkoek comes in for again but you’d tend to doubt it.

As stated above, the Hawks have utterly sucked in games against direct competitors at the bottom of the picture. They won’t get anywhere if they can’t change that. As we’ve said, the schedule is a little light right now. They’ve won three in a row, but they’ll need more. They need weeks of this, not days. So keep it going.

Hockey

We comment on it every time the Hawks and Canucks get together of late. It’s just still so jarring how little you think of the Canucks now, given what they used to mean around here. Then again, Canucks fans probably don’t think about the Hawks much either anymore, aside from Duncan Keith. Even if the Hawks outlasted the Canucks relevance in ’14 and ’15, they’ve both faded from the scene in the past three or four years.

For the same reasons? Maybe. While it’s always fun to laugh at Jim Benning, and you should, the real obstacle in Vancouver is the Aquilino family that owns the team. They have never sanctioned a full rebuild, and strive to make the playoffs every season. There’s a feeling amongst the ownership that the fanbase would never accept a total teardown, even though most of the fanbase was screaming for one for a while now.

And perhaps that window has passed. Benning has done an excellent job of providing Elias Pettersson, Brock Boeser, and Quinn Hughes as the building blocks of the future. There was even a nifty trade for J.T. Miller. With just the first three, you’d say that’s a great base to build a contender down the road with.

But because of the playoffs-or-fuck-you mantra from above, the Canucks are saddled with comedically bad contracts. Now, it’s Benning after all who chose those players and deals, and he gets most of the blame as he should. But he still has bosses to answer to, and they’ve sent out this directive.

Which is why the Canucks have only $30K in cap space this year. It’s why they’re dragging around Loui Eriksson, who was finished four years ago, or Antoine Roussel, or Tyler Myers. Even Jay Beagle is overpaid, as is Brandon Sutter. We could dig into the past and find more bad deals, but we’re not trying to be cruel here.

Which leaves the Canucks on a funky path. There’s some cap space next year, with only Jake Vrtanen an important piece to re-sign though how important is hard to gauge. Maybe Chris Tanev, but that’s not vital either. But they need a second line. They’ll need a long-term partner for Hughes, and it’s not going to be Tyler Myers no matter how many drugs they take to delude themselves. They probably need a second pairing. They’ll also need to either re-sign Jacob Markstrom or find a new goalie, which is going to cost a hell of a lot more than $3.6M they’re paying Markstrom now.

With Boeser, Pettersson, and Hughes, the Canucks are past doing a total rebuild. If they’re not stupid, they can buy out Eriksson or just pray that he retires early (he won’t). Another complication is that they’ve got $3M in cap-recapture penalties from Roberto Luongo retiring for another two seasons. Edler has one more year left. Sutter has one more. Beagle two. There’s some light at the end of the tunnel, but they can’t afford any more impulsive mistakes, otherwise they’ll be what they’ve been for the past five seasons, just sitting outside the playoffs with no clear direction.

But will the Aquilini’s finally show some patience? The Canucks haven’t seen the playoffs since ’15, even though that’s always been the stated goal. They have an outside shot this year, though you wouldn’t bet on it. Will they see that six or seven years without the playoffs is no different than five? Or will they go all in for more free agents next year? It feels like if they do, they won’t go anywhere again.

Hockey

vs.

RECORDS: Canucks 9-3-3   Hawks 4-7-3

PUCK DROP: 7:30

TV: NBCSN Chicago

THEY FILMED DEADPOOL THERE: Canucks Army

We’ve had to do this the past couple years now. Whenever the Hawks meet up with the Kings or Canucks, we have to do something of a “Remember when these mattered?” comment. This used to be the the fiercest rivalry in the league. That stopped some seven years ago. With the Kings and Hawks, there just isn’t much more to discuss because both teams are lying face down in the muck. Sadly, that might not be the case for the Canucks anymore.

The Canucks find themselves one point out of the lead for the Pacific Division, behind the Oilers and one ahead of the Coyotes, just to let you know how backwards everything is and how many different teams seem to have better ideas than the Hawks right now.

Is it real? The numbers suggest it might be. The schedule does not. The Canucks have seven regulation wins, and they’re over the Sharks at home (some teams can do that, in fact a lot of them have), the Kings twice (some teams do that), the Red Wings twice, the Rangers, and over the Panthers at home. Only the last one is a team that’s probably good and playing well at the moment. But hey, you can only play whom the schedule says you do, and the Canucks have made hay against that.

And they haven’t just squeaked by, as their metrics are pretty glowing. They’re one of the best teams in the league in terms of Corsi and expected-goals, and they’re doing some explosive work in the offensive end. Most of that comes from the top line of WHO WANTS TO WALK WITH ELIAS?-JT Miller-Brock Boeser. They’ve combined for 52 points in 15 games, with Elias Pettersson on track for a 109-point season. That’ll play.

Coach Travis Green has taken the training wheels off this line, starting them in any zone against any opponent, and pretty much doing the same with his second line centered by Bo Horvat. This has freed him up to put his plugs in more advantageous spots, which is maybe why you’ve seen scoring spikes from the likes of Brandon Sutter and Tim Schaller. What a time to be alive…to cut yourself.

That doesn’t mean Lady Luck isn’t waving her ass a bit at the Canucks, too. Again, the soft schedule helps, and they’ve ground up the chuck they’ve been served (is that how that works? Let’s just go with it). But this is a team with a 102 PDO that’s getting a .918 from Jacob Markstrom and a .938 from Thatcher Demko. The latter has been the hope for the future for what feels like 17 years now, but he’s not a .938 goalie. The Nucks are also shooting at a team-rate of 9.4% at evens, and while Pettersson and Boeser are most certainly top-level scorers, the rest of this outfit most certainly is not.

That said, they’re a top-10 specials teams outfit on both sides, with an excellent penalty kill, and with the possession they’ve gotten at evens and what they’ve done with it, you can’t really ask for any more.

And they have hope on the blue line. Somehow, and this for sure won’t last, Tyler Myers has been a possession-driving monster, with a Corsi of 56.5% while just shading most of his zone starts in the defensive zone. Should you expect that to continue? Cue Russell Westbrook:

Still, nice to have for now. That has freed up Quinn Hughes, who is going to be a thing, to take easier assignments, and he’s dinging opponents upside the head to the tune of a 57 xG% while getting third-pairing minutes and 67% of his shifts in the offensive zone. Must be nice to be able to bed in a young, dynamic d-man like that so easily. We’re looking longingly at Vancouver, folks. Eat Arby’s, puke it up, and then eat that.

Right, the to Hawks. Corey Crawford will rotate back in to the starter’s net after Lehner once again did enough to keep the Hawks from getting utterly embarrassed. This is starting to be like the end of “Little Miss Sunshine,” where Paul Dano is trying to convince Toni Collette that she has to keep Abigail Breslin from getting embarrassed by the actual pageant girls. I think Lehner is Collette in this metaphor, but I’m not entirely sure as the Hawks have basically broken my brain.

Coach Kelvin Gemstone, in his infinite wisdom, has decided to scratch one of the Hawks’ best two-way and fastest forwards tonight in Dominik Kubalik to give us more Zack Smith. Because all the kids out here with their skateboards and backwards hats have been demanding more Zack Smith. The world needs more Zack Smith. Zack Smith is the key to salvation…

…I’ve just had a brain bubble.

Everything is fucked.

Anyway, the Canucks can do pretty much whatever they want here. They can try and out-skate the Hawks, which they can. They probably have the defensive structure to use the “advanced trap,” that the Sharks used to strangle the Hawks into paste, which is just a trap but ahead of the red line. Or anything in between. And the Hawks will probably still try and dump the puck in and get it back with their not-fast-enough and not-strong-enough forwards.

I’m going to go look for a strong tree branch. You folks enjoy the game.

 

 

Hockey

If the Canucks had a true plan, you’d look at Elias Pettersson, Brock Boeser, Quintin Hughes, and Bo Horvat and think, “Hey, that’s probably the start of something, with a long way to go.” But these are the Canucks, who have surrounded those young stars (stretching in Horvat’s case) with a litany of incomprehensible contracts and decisions, all in the name of not rebuilding. Which means the rebuilding that they’ll be doing anyway is going to take longer. It feels like an entire organization spinning one wheel and wondering why it’s not going anywhere. Let’s get to the heart of it.

2018-2019

35-36-11  81 points (5th in Pacific)

2.67 GF/G (26th)  3.02 GA/G (18th)  -29 GD

48.0 CF% (24th)  45.9 xGF% (28th)

17.1 PP% (22nd)  81.1 PK% (11th)

Goalies: We’ve heard about Thatcher Demko for roughly 17 years now, and it might finally be the time for him to take the Vancouver net so he can be treated to having garbage thrown at him and his every move, thought, and essence debated nonstop in the Vancouver media which has all the subtlety of a hungry and deranged jackal (and about the same IQ). At least he can hold that off until the Canucks play games that matter again, which could be a while. Demko looked all right in a brief cameo of nine games last year, but missed most of the campaign in the AHL with injury, which is kind of his thing.

He’ll have to work hard to unseat Jacob Markstrom, who had a huge second half to the season last year. Well, he had a big February, and ended up with a .912 SV% overall, which was a tick above league average. Markstrom is 29 and headed into unrestricted free agency, so you can expect that or better. But you can also expect that the Canucks desperately want Demko to prove he can take the job on from here out so they don’t have to cut another moronic check to Markstrom, which they probably will anyway given their nature.

Defense: It starts with Quinn Hughes, who will get his first full season in the NHL. He got a brief sniff last year after Michigan had one of their worst seasons in recent memory, which begs the question how could they be that bad if Hughes was so good? Let’s save that one for another time. Hughes promises to be the quick, suave puck-handling d-man the Canucks have never really had, aside from when Alex Edler’s elbows were down, he was healthy, and younger. So never. Edler and his elbows are still here, by god.

But as it is with the Canucks, wherever there is a promising youth there is also a wildly overcompensated, wildly overrated veteran taking too much of the oxygen. BY GAWD, THAT’S TYLER MYERS’S MUSIC! Myers to Van City seemed a fait accompli for years, and it did indeed happen. Apparently the Canucks simply never noticed that Myers sucks to high heaven, as he’s not that offensively skilled and doesn’t play anywhere near to his size and his own zone is the Bermuda Triangle to him. All they noticed was that he was from there.

If you moved Myers out of the way, you certainly could get solid enough play from Troy Stetcher and Chris Tanev (before yet something else falls off of him) to shield Hughes. Jordie Benn was brought in to do more of that, but mostly to glare at people while they’re getting behind him to score. Tanev should be a deadline piece to be sold off, but we keep saying that and it never seems to happen. Anyway, the blue and green clad throng will certainly be in love with Myers as he charges out of position for the 164th time in December to let in yet another forward down on an odd-man. God it’s so beautiful.

Outside shot of Olli Joulevi to somehow scratch out a role. He could have if Myers and Benn weren’t here, but again, these are the Canucks. Logic and reason were beheaded in the town square long ago.

Forwards: You certainly have a great top line for a while with Boeser and Pettersson to anchor it. JT Miller is the kind of player you get when you’re a piece or two away from really competing, not barely scratching to get in a playoff discussion Fine work here. Horvat is a good second center to have when you already have Pettersson. That’s all fine.

But it’s balanced out by still having Loui Eriksson and his confused gape wandering around the ice in some indiscernible pattern. Or Antoinne Roussel doing just about the same, just yappy-ier and stinky-er (because he’s French, y’see). Or at least until the Hawks trade for him because they like that element, and don’t deny that it’s going to happen. Brandon Sutter makes $4M a year. I can’t stress this enough. Michael Ferland will find a home on either of the top two lines and get a fair share of goals, and you won’t remember any of them. After that it’s a big bag of suck and anonymous punters with stupid numbers. It’s actually a good thing that Podzolkin can’t come over for another two years, because the sight of him having to share the ice or lose time to the likes of Jay Beagle would probably send the seven remaining Nucks fans who still care throwing themselves of the Rogers Arena upper deck.

Prediction: Since the Hawks-Canucks rivalry died, it’s been hard to think of the Canucks at all. And it’ll stay that way. Their games are late, they don’t matter, and no one there seems to think they’ll do anything worth mentioning. There’s certainly some young talent to keep an eye on, but you know it’s pretty plain when even those fans don’t have the energy to bitch about conspiracies against them. The Canucks won’t matter until they clear out the dead wood around their promising kids, and even then there’s no guarantee they won’t just shuffle in even deader wood with bigger contracts because they can’t help themselves. Stuck in second gear, miles behind the Flames, Sharks, Knights, and probably tussling with the Yotes to see who can finish outside the playoffs by the least.

Everything Else

Every so often when the Hawks and Canucks meet, we’re lucky enough to get to talk to The Hockey Dipshit (@HockeyDipshit). Today is one of those days. 

The Canucks playoff chase seems to have died out, such as it was. Sitting in fifth for the lottery. This was always the better outcome, no?
Oh, absolutely. Next year is when they should start maaaybe thinking playoffs. This year was a combination of Pettersson being unreal and the West being a big pile of burning, stinky trash. People are going to paint this season as a big step forward for the team, and in certain ways, it was. But they’re still spinning their wheels with what seems like dozens of faceless replacement-level players. I’m just glad I don’t have to see Markus Granlund get completely caved in by the Flames or the Sharks. And hey, [In extremely exhausted tone of voice], maybe they’ll get lucky in the lottery this year.
 
Are the last couple weeks dependent on Quinn Hughes and Will Lockwood signing up and coming over?
Hughes is up and if I had to guess, he’ll make his debut later this week against Calgary. He’s been battling a foot injury, and as much as I’d love to see him play, I also don’t want to see him hurt himself in a completely meaningless game. I can’t see Lockwood signing before the season is up, and even if he did, I doubt he’d get any playing time. Which is too bad, because it would have been nice to see what he could do with, let’s see here… Tim Schaller? Ah… never mind.
 
Elias Pettersson, the one bright spot, has stalled out a bit over the past few weeks. Is that anything more than playing so many games and being the main and perhaps only weapon?
I think it’s a combination of it being a long season and other teams keying in on him more. He’ll still do at least two totally bonkers things a game regardless of whether or not he actually hits the scoresheet, though. He recently said he had to try to be more selfish on the ice, and then proceeded to rip home maybe his most ridiculous shot of the year against the Devils… so hopefully his selfish streak continues!
 
We asked this of Petbugs last time, but with Pettersson and Hughes and maybe Demko and one or two others and a ton of cap space, how are they going to fuck this up?
I am 100% sure the Canucks are going to sign Tyler Myers to a massive, franchise-crippling deal. Possibly Wayne Simmonds as well. And they’ll be picking 7th overall. Looking forward to it!

 

Game #72 Preview Suite

Preview

Spotlight

Q&A

Douchebag Du Jour

I Make A Lot Of Graphs

Lineups & How Teams Were Built

Everything Else

 vs. 

RECORDS: Canucks 24-24-6   Hawks 21-24-9

PUCK DROP: 7:30

TV: NBCSN Chicago

THE BENNING WARRIORS: Canucks Army

First off, I realize it probably doesn’t square up to keep using the train-wreck picture when they’ve won five in a row, but I also don’t want to mess with what’s working. So there.

So this is stupid, and with pretty much everyone playing tonight it could shake out any number of ways, but the Canucks currently hold the last playoff spot. And with a regulation win over them, the Hawks will honest-to-god be one point behind them. In fact, should the Blues not win tonight–and they’re in Tampa so you wouldn’t count on it–a regulation win would see the Hawks no more than a point out no matter how the other results go. Sure, they might still have to climb over five goddamn teams, but it’s all a fucking mess so let’s do our best to enjoy it.

And getting one over on this Canucks team at home shouldn’t be that big of an ask, but the Hawks have whiffed on easier exams. Vancouver is at the end of a four-game Eastern swing, so they could have the bus running. Since the turn of the year they’re a middling, at best, 5-5-2. They’re coming off two-straight losses, where they scored three goals total. They have five division games after this, which they’ll consider more important. This is the donut-hole, as it were.

What the Canucks are doing here at all is another question. This is not a team that should even think about a playoff spot, and should really be more concerned with another top-five pick to line up next to Quinn Hughes next year. Sure, it has Elias Pettersson (I SAID WWE STANDS FOR…), who is the runaway Rookie Of The Year and the main reason anyone is paying any attention to the tears-blue and puke-green these days. He’s made Bo Horvat somewhat useful, which is a real trick, and Brock Boeser is still scoring at a decent rate when he’s upright. Jacob Markstrom has been good enough in net to not get them killed.

But much like the Hawks, this isn’t a good team and there’s no number to suggest they are. They’re fifth-worst in possession, third-worst in expected-goals percentage. They’ve shot an ok percentage, but even their special teams are nothing to notice. In fact, since a barely-hot start that had them at 10-6-2, they’re 14-18-4. Much like the Hawks, they’ve profited from a middle and bottom of the conference that can’t separate or distinguish itself in anyway, and hence everyone gets to be a hanger-on like a late night at a casino (believe me, I know).

The Canucks offer a decent top-six through Pettersson (with a record), Horvat, Boeser. Nikolay Goldobin and Jake Virtanen have not lived up to any expectation, and in Virtanen’s case it feels like the 17th straight year we’ve said that. The top pairing of Ben Hutton and Troy Stecher has been under-the-radar good, but the rest blows and you know that because it has Erik Gudbranson on it. Alex Edler is out because he tried to bob for apples on an ice surface, and he’s past his sell-by date anyway. So might be Chris Tanev, who the Canucks have refused to trade for what seems like a decade and now no one would want him. This is Canucks management at its best.

Surrounding the admittedly promising talent are some of the most hilarious contracts in the league. Go to their CapFriendly.com page and just marvel at Eriksson, Gagner, Beagle, Sutter, and a few others. It’s like something out of the modernist wing of your local museum. It has shapes and colors but no discernible statement or plan other than “I put this shit on a wall.

For the Hawks, they’ll be without David Kampf for the next month, and that’s a bigger deal than it might first appear. Kampf had become Kruger II, and you could start him against top lines in his own zone and he’d find a way to come out on top. He and Brandon Saad had combined to form a pretty hellacious combo on the third line, and the Hawks will miss that. Maybe the original Marcus Kruger can roll back the clock for a couple weeks, but you wouldn’t be the house on it. He’ll slide to center and Brendan Perlini will come in at wing there.

The only other changes are Gustav Forsling in for Carl Dahlstrom, which makes all the pairings muck, and Collin Delia will start.

This is a matchup game for CCYP. The Canucks bottom-six is a toxic waste dump covered in dogshit and seasoned with squirrel carcass. He should try and get his top lines out against them as often as possible and watch the havoc ensue. See if Kruger can deal with Pettersson like old times, and if not you can always change the plan. For once the Hawks won’t have the worse bottom lines, and should try and maximize that.

It doesn’t make any sense, and it’s probably worse for the organization that it is this way now, but let’s see how far this dumb, silly, but fun ride goes. Six is better than five.

Game #55 Preview Suite

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@Petbugs13 is one of the stranger Canucks characters floating out there in the internet. Which is saying something. Check out his work as Graphic Comments on Canucks Army

The Nucks appear to be in a similar spot to the Hawks, in that making the playoffs wouldn’t really be as beneficial as getting another top five or three pick, right?
Oh my God yes. There are some in Vancouver that think the rebuild is over and that this team will soon return to the good old days when they would be battling toe-to-toe with the Hawks in search of the ultimate prize. Now, to be fair, they aren’t wrong. Except this time around, the ultimate prize is named Jack Hughes, not Lord Stanley.
But seriously, there really are people that think this. And unfortunately, those people happen to own/run the team. Now, I’m sure that for business reasons, they would love the revenue from a few playoff games and hope that getting back in would boost season ticket sales for next year. But from a hockey perspective, you’re absolutely right. This team needs at least one more top 10 pick, and for another one or mid round picks to turn into solid NHLers if they hope to compete.
Beyond that, the real danger of getting back in to the playoffs prematurely is that they’ll then continue down the Edmonton Oilers’ path. Making the playoffs two years ago was the worst thing that could have happened to Edmonton. It’s not just missing out on another pick, it’s how the team then reacts to thinking everything is fixed.
Pettersson, Horvat, Boeser are at the top of the marquee, but is there anyone beyond that who has looked promising for the future?
Not at the NHL level. Those are the three guys they are building around at this point. Virtanen and Goldobin are both struggling to live up to their promise, each in their own way. The rest of the roster is filled with guys you could pick up for $250 on the waiver wire at least once or twice during a season, or role players you go after for depth when you want to fill in gaps for a Cup run. And don’t get me started on the blue line…
If there’s any real help for the future, it’s going to come from the prospect pool. Adam Gaudette and Jonathan Dahlen look promising, and last year’s 7th overall pick, Quinn Hughes, could finally bring a true offensive threat to the Canucks’ defense corps. He is expected to join the Canucks once his season at University of Michigan finishes up.
When is it Thatcher Demko time?
Realistically, I think we can expect to see Demko as a full time NHL goalie next season, but I suspect it will still be in a backup role but with the opportunity to play himself into a bigger share of the net. It will be Markstrom’s last year under contract, so the timing is right for Thatcher to get acclimatized to playing in the league.
That means learning to watch out for a number 97 flying at him out of nowhere when he’s playing in Edmonton. You know, just in case it lands on his head and then he can’t see the puck. And, since he plays for the Canucks, he’s also going to need to eat, sleep, shower while wearing headphones playing Chelsea Dagger on a loop. There’s no way that song is going to rattle another Canucks’ goalie, dammit.
The Canucks have a ton of cap space for next year, and a bunch of RFA’s that wouldn’t appear to be urgent to re-sign. So I guess our question is how are they going to fuck this up?
I think you just answered your own question. Jim Benning has not met a ton of cap space he couldn’t turn into a lump of lead or two. Actually, scratch that. He would overpay and definitely only be able to afford one lump of lead.
I mean, here’s a guy that dodged a bullet when his old boss, Peter Chiarelli, outbid the Canucks for Milan Lucic three years ago, but he still managed to throw the inadvertent win away by signing Loui Eriksson to an untradeable six year, $36 million deal! He signed Brandon Sutter to a five year extension and gave him a retroactive no-trade clause for the one year he had left on his existing deal!! He is paying Sam Gagner $3 million to play for Toronto’s farm team!!!
Have no fear. Jim Benning has no shortage of ways to burn Francesco Aquilini’s money.

 

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 vs. 

RECORDS: Hawks 6-3-3  Canucks 7-6-0

PUCK DROP: 9pm 

TV: WGN

THEY DON’T THROW GARBAGE ANYMORE: Nucks Misconduct

It still doesn’t feel right. This trip is supposed to take place at the end of November. That’s when the Hawks go to Western Canada. That’s how it always was. It was understood. There was a rhythm to this.

But thanks to Rocky Wirtz making the (correct) decision to do away with the circus (though maybe not for the right reasons but whatever), the “Circus Trip” is no more and the Hawks are headed to the land of darkened arenas and misplaced Olympic bids now instead of on either side of Thanksgiving. They’ll kick it off tonight in Vancouver, where the memories of past epic battles and triumphs are starting to fade and yellow. That wouldn’t be a bad way to describe the opponent, either.

The Canucks will tell you they’re in a rebuild, and that’s partially true. The Children Of The Corn have toddled off to wherever strange twins go (Argentina, boss?), and the Canucks are moving into a new era. And they have found some young players where you can see the foundation of something at least useful could be built upon. The new toy is Elias Pettersson (WHO WANTS TO WALK WITH ELIAS?!), 2017’s first-round pick. He joins last year’s phenom Brock Boeser. So does Adam Gaudette, who made Dylan Sikura look like something we should care about last year at Northeastern. Bo Horvat continues to have an upward trajectory that no one really saw coming. Troy Stecher on defense is at least a piece if not a big one. Quinn Hughes likely is that big piece on defense when he joins next year. They’re not bereft of hope.

But those kids are surrounded by some of the dumbest-ass signings and trades which make you wonder what it is exactly they’re trying to do here. Here’s a tidy list: Loui Eriksson, Brandon Sutter, Jay Beagle, Antoine Roussel, Sam Gagner, Erik Gudbranson (twice!), Michael Del Zotto. And none of these guys were just one-year signings that they hope turn into gold at the deadline. These were part of a plan, or something they thought was a plan, or maybe just part of a ton of shit being thrown at a wall (which is how Canucks fans celebrate and court the opposite sex, as we know).

Not that if the Canucks used all that money wisely they would be a contender. But they’d be better positioned when they are one, that’s for sure.

Anyway, for tonight the Canucks also come in pretty beat up. Baertschi, Beagle, and Sutter are all out, depriving them of a whole line. Christopher Tanev and Alex Edler and his amazing rising elbows are both out as well, taking their top pairing away. Which means Ben Hutton and Gudbranson have to fill in there. Might have something to do with them losing three of their last five, and one of those wins was a shootout.

For the Hawks, there don’t appear to be too many changes other than Marcus Kruger might pay the price for his penalty-happy ways lately. This seems a touch short-sighted, as Kruger is just about the only one not giving up better chances than he’s on the ice for, especially given the dungeon zone-starts he gets. But it’s one game, so we’re not going to sweat it too much. Perhaps Jan Rutta slots back in after being banished to a timeout on Sunday after his magic show for a confused cat on Saturday, replacing Brandon Davidson. EAT ARBY’S.

The Canucks only threat is Pettersson and Boeser. And they are heavily sheltered, starting 80% of their shifts in the offensive zone. Q might be loathe to do it, but it would make sense to use Toews in his own end more than most of this season to keep the two kids quiet. It’s certainly beyond SuckBag Johnson or David Kampf. If you can keep the Vancouver’s top line off the scoresheet, it’s hard to see where else they’d get it unless you really fuck up and Corey Crawford has a full-body dry heave in net.

It was a disappointing weekend for the Hawks, and they’ll need to make up for it on this trip. While we’ve been slightly encouraged by the Hawks’ start, it still leaves them behind four teams in the Central and you’d have to think this is the pace that’s going to be necessary all season to be relevant. The Oilers and Flames don’t suck out loud but can be had. The Canucks very much so. Get it while you can.

 

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You get the feeling the Canucks never really planned for the post-Sedin era. Maybe Bo Horvat was envisioned as something that could, possibly, if everything went right and a few cracks in the Earth swallowed some other centers could be that guy. But that didn’t seem like much of a plan. Maybe they thought the Sedins would play forever, and given how creepy they were that wasn’t a totally ridiculous thought. What else were they going to do? They can’t play with their toy cars that much.

Good thing the Canucks got lucky and Elias Pettersson fell to them at #5 in the 2017 draft.

Not that any of the four teams ahead of the Canucks that year are complaining about Nico Hischier, Nolan Patrick, Miro Heiskanen, or Cale Makar. But Pettersson was either considered a fall or a reach by scouts, they couldn’t agree. Anyway, Pettersson looks like he might end up being the best player in that draft. Y’know, if we’re judging after seven games. Then again, in those seven games he’s already almost halfway to Patrick’s goal-total from last year.

While Pettersson is a center, he has a lot of Patrick Kane in his game. You won’t find a pair of better hands anywhere on the Canucks, and some of his stick-handling looks like it came from that online game of NHL ’18 you lost by six goals to some kid in Germany who doesn’t even go to school anymore. And don’t worry, thanks to E-League or whatever he’ll be making more money than you in the next few months. Life was never promised to be fair.

Like most Swedes (has anyone bothered to study how they develop players and emulate it?), Petterss0n’s game isn’t just on one side of the ice. He knows where to be and is determined on the defensive side of the puck and ice. The one problem he faces at this level is that he’s in desperate need of a sandwich. Yes, he’s 6-2 but he’s claiming 176 pounds and that’s if he’s carrying someone’s dog at the time. So while he may be willing and in the right spot, some nights he’s just going to get knocked around and over. But that’s correctable, and you can be sure the Canucks will have him one of Vanvouver’s dispensaries soon to give him a non-stop case of the munchies.

Pettersson could have gone top three in that draft if he didn’t have a weak ’17 World Juniors. The Canucks must have been beaming when he corrected that in ’18 and led Sweden to the silver medal, including PWNing the host US in the semifinals. Needless to say their fans were pretty pumped about it.

Pettersson continues a really strange record for this particular Canucks regime. They’ve drafted well, and you can see the makings of another good Vancouver team through the fog here. Quinton Hughes next year will join Pettersson, Brock Boeser, Adam Gaudette, Thatcher Demko, and Troy Stecher as a pretty good nucleus. Not great, but good. But that has been so shrouded in just god-awful contracts to free agents and bewildering trades (or not trades) that you wonder when they can extricate themselves. Antoine Roussel is around for three more seasons. Loui Eriksson for four, and no one’s coming for that. At least in the next two years they’ll clear out Erik Gudbranson and Michael Del Zotto, and Sam Gagner is in the AHL at the moment. Jay Beagle? Brandon Sutter? It doesn’t give you a lot of confidence that they can surround the young talent they have discovered with the necessary pieces.

But at least they don’t have to worry about the #1 center slot. And that can be the hardest one to fill.

 

 

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