Friday, May 05, 2017

Pool Outlook for Vancouver

The Vancouver Canucks were going into the 2017 season, on paper, as the worst team in the NHL, according to many of the pundits, but that wasn't exactly the case... they finished second-worst.  Who knew that the Colorado Avalanche were going to be so bad?

Indeed, the Canucks were pretty bad, but only in places... key places.  Goaltending was actually quite good and the new and emerging talent that is supposed to carry this franchise into the future wasn't bad either, but the aging veterans and the lack of direction was really what cost them their respect in the league.

The Canucks won 30 games this year, the same as the Coyotes, but the dogs of Arizona lost one more game in extra time, which sent the Canucks to 29th overall in the league and cost their coaching staff their jobs, possibly acknowleding that this team didn't have to be this bad, but they were.

The Canucks have acknowledged that they are in the midst of a rebuild, so patience is going to be a virtue for their franchise and their fans, but with some pieces already in place, it might not be as bad as some of the teams that emerged (finally!) in the 2017 season.

The hockey pool did seem to be on point with a lot of these teams that were not going to fare very well in the regular season, as the 25 teams in the pool only selected eight players in September and it was mostly the favourites and the up-and-comers that were selected as a whole.  No 1st round picks to speak of, Ryan Miller was taken in the 3rd round, he was the top Canucks player at the draft.  Injuries cost the Canucks a player at the first Waiver Draft, but two players were taken at the same time, so it wasn't so bad.  The second Waiver Draft was two in and two out, an even switch altogether.  Then, when the NHL trade deadline hit, one player did move, leaving the pool with only eight players.

Bo Horvat is the face of the franchise after the 2017 season, as he finished atop the team's pool scoring table with 20 goals and 52 points, good enough for 107th overall in pool scoring, good enough for a 5th round pick in the hockey pool draft this season.

Miller was a pool worthy goalie and they nearly had two, as Jacob Markstrom finished 51st among all goalies this year.  The Canucks fared okay among their forwards after Horvat, as the twins, Henrik Sedin and Daniel Sedin finished among the pool worthy forwards, as did Sven Baertschi, Brandon Sutter and Markus Granlund.  The Canucks blueline was anchored, pool-wise, by a rookie, Troy Stecher, followed by Alexander Edler and Ben Hutton, adding a couple of new names to their overall list of pool players, possible for the 2018 season.

What I Said Last Year, At This Time...

Today, there isn't a great deal to indicate that things are going to get better immediately for the Canucks and the playoffs look like a long ways off.  Of course, the big concern is on the blueline and unless they have a huge win in the free agency market or they manage to hit a grand slam at the draft.  Management has picked up a lot of good pieces up front and their goaltending was hardly to blame for their year, but it looks to be a lot more of the same and in Ryan Miller's last year of his deal, his leash will be extra-short.  My expectation is that they are in the lottery again next season, but that experience will go a long ways for their youth.

I was pretty happy when the Canucks drafted Olli Juolevi in the 1st round, using my mock draft pick for their pick, but as much as that could be a home run in the future, it wasn't a home run pick in the 2017 season.  The Canucks tried their hand at the blueline, acquiring Erik Gudbranson, but a major wrist injury sidelined him midway through the year.  The Canucks, for the most part, met expectations set last season and we'll see what they can do to improve for the 2018 season.

2018 Pool Outlook

Forwards Cap Defense Cap Goalies Cap
Henrik Sedin 7.000 Alexander Edler 5.000 Jacob Markstrom 3.670
Daniel Sedin 7.000 Ben Hutton 2.800
Brandon Sutter 4.375 Troy Stecher 0.925
Sven Baertschi 1.850
Markus Granlund 0.900
Loui Eriksson 6.000 Christopher Tanev 4.450 Thatcher Demko 0.925
Derek Dorsett 2.650 Luca Sbisa 3.600 Richard Bachman 0.650
Brock Boeser 0.925 Olli Juolevi 0.925
Griffen Molino 0.925 Ashton Sautner 0.925
Jonathan Dahlen 0.925 Mackenzie Stewart 0.925
Jake Virtanen 0.894 Jalen Chatfield 0.765
Nikolay Goldobin 0.863 Jordan Subban 0.755
Zack MacEwan 0.848 Alex Biega 0.750
Yan-Pavel Laplante 0.837 Andrey Pedan 0.750
Jayson Megna 0.675 Guillaume Brisebois 0.703
Michael Carcone 0.675 Anton Cederholm 0.667
Cole Cassels 0.598

Is it safe to assume that it can only get better for the Canucks or do they still have room to fall?  The real disappointments that were both Loui Eriksson and Jake Virtanen not reaching the ranks of pool worthiness is rather concerning, but there are some positives, as a kid like Troy Stetcher made the move up from the blueline and he will likely be joined by a couple other youngsters next season.  Unfortunately, the downward trend of scoring for the Sedins really isn't helping their cause, but if they can line up with Eriksson again, for the whole season, maybe something good will come from it.

Potential Losses in the Expansion Draft

The twins and Eriksson are all locked in as protected, under their no-movement clauses, while the youth movement will likely prevail, in terms of those players that will be protected on top of those three.  The strength of the remaining assets is not terribly high, but a defenseman like Luca Sbisa has seen his name tossed around quite often, as his cap hit has some meat to it and he does take a regular NHL shift, which may be something that Vegas looks towards.

Free Agency and the Salary Cap

The off-season will have its fair share of tests for the team's management, including having to re-sign their best forward, Bo Horvat, coming out of his entry-level deal and into restricted free agency, while they are still pondering the future of unrestricted free agent-to-be, goalie Ryan Miller.

The cap situation for the Canucks isn't rosy, but it isn't that bad either.  With an influx of youth to their roster, the entry-level cap hits should keep this team afloat around the cap ceiling, wherever that decides to land for next season, but the team may still need to be somewhat creative.

The Vancouver Canucks are taking steps in the right direction for the future and they have already lured Brock Boeser out of the NCAA ranks, knocking a year off of his entry-level deal to dress in the blue and green.  He started off with a bang, scoring 4 goals in his first five games of his NHL career and he'll definitely be one to watch next season, assuming he can still lineup with some of the team's emerging youth.

Needs at the 2017 Entry Draft

The Canucks were snake bitten again at the draft lottery, unable to retain the 2nd overall spot and losing out on some of the top end talent in the shallow skill pool this year.  Now, they choose from the 5th overall spot and they are in need of a home run pick to keep this rebuild on track and this may be the time for US high school centre Casey Mittelstadt to get taken, but he'll be a project pick, likely to play through a year or two in the NCAA before going pro.

The term rebuilding is an anchor that is going to hold this team down for a little while, but the youth movement is showing some early promise, that it might not be as long as other franchises.  Nevertheless, the diminishing numbers from the Sedin twins and inconsistency on the blueline are the major hurdles that this team has to overcome, somewhere and somehow, in this off-season, before they can be considered a playoff team again.  A blockbuster deal or a small miracle could turn this one around, but with some of the team's best prospects in need of the maturation process, I think it is going to be another long year in 2018, but we'll certainly see flashes of what they could be.
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