Camp Cuts: Frank Corrado and Brendan Gaunce get the axe, Zach Hamill gets double-axed

When the Canucks finished their final game of the pre-season against the New York Rangers, John Tortorella wasted no time making the final cuts of training camp. By the time he took the podium at the post-game press conference, he had already met with each of the players and delivered the bad news. Contrary to what Cat StevensRod Stewart, and Sheryl Crow may say, the final cut is the deepest.

Brendan Gaunce got shipped back to junior with the Belleville Bulls, while Frank Corrado and Zach Hamill were reassigned to the Utica Comets. For Hamill, it was his second time getting cut this training camp, as he initially got sent down to Utica a week ago, only to get called up again when Jordan Schroeder suffered a hairline fracture blocking a shot. The reasons for Hamill getting sent down haven’t changed.

The most important part of these last few cuts is that the Canucks’ final roster is pretty much set. Assuming Schroeder gets put on the Injured Reserve, the Canucks now have a 23-man roster, though it includes the suspended Zack Kassian. The biggest news is that both of the Canucks’ first round picks from this year’s draft are still with the team: Bo Horvat and Hunter Shinkaruk. We’ll have more on this development later, but for now let’s look at the final cuts.

It’s a little surprising to see Frank Corrado get cut, as many had him pencilled in to the opening night roster, including myself. Corrado finished off his pre-season in the best way possible, scoring a goal and adding an assist against the Rangers. It was a fine capstone to what looked to be a fairly strong pre-season, but Tortorella wasn’t quite satisfied.

“Frankie had a goal and an assist and we just send him to Utica,” said Tortorella, appropriately enough, frankly. “He played much better tonight. I thought his camp started off really well, but in the middle part it looked like he just lost a little bit of  the confidence. He has to go play. We’re not going to keep a young guy here to be a sixth or seventh guy and, if he’s playing, it’s 8 or 9 minutes. He can go down there and play 25-30.”

That’s the key for understanding this decision. Tortorella likes to ride his best defencemen and give them a lot of minutes. It means the depth defencemen aren’t going to see a lot of ice time and, at this point, Corrado would be one of those depth defencemen. Instead, the sixth and seventh defencemen will be Yannick Weber and Andrew Alberts.

It’s worth noting, as well, that both Weber and Alberts would have had to pass through waivers in order to be sent down to the AHL. Though the risk is minimal that they would get picked up, they’re both on very cap-friendly contracts, which might have made them attractive to teams looking to add defensive depth.

In any case, it’s not a bad thing that Corrado will be starting the season in the AHL, where he’ll get the opportunity to develop his game by playing big minutes in all situations. It’s disappointing that we won’t see him in the lineup on opening night, but he’ll be the first call-up on defence, so we’re likely to see him in a Canucks sweater again before the season ends.

Heading into camp, Brendan Gaunce was one of the top candidates for the open third-line centre position, competing with the likes of Brad Richardson, Mike Santorelli, and Jordan Schroeder. After a disappointing Young Stars Tournament, where he played it safe instead of asserting himself, he got off to a great start in the pre-season, scoring in each of the Canucks’ first two games.

Beyond those two goals, however, Gaunce didn’t have much of an impact and seemed to lack the foot speed to compete at a high level. More importantly, he was outplayed by his competition in camp. Horvat and Shinkaruk showed why they are more highly regarded as prospects than Gaunce and Richardson and Santorelli showed their experience and skill. Gaunce just wasn’t at that level.

“He had a good camp,” said Tortorella after the game. “I think the tempo and the pace of his game needs to improve. But they’re kids…they need to go play.”

Gaunce is still just 19-years-old, so there’s certainly no need to rush him to the NHL or to be disappointed that he’s not quite ready yet. He’ll return to captain the Belleville Bulls and will be relied upon in every facet of the game. Another year in junior, where he’ll play big minutes and make a case to be on Team Canada for the World Junior Championship, is probably best for him.

After two point-per-game seasons, the Canucks will be looking for him to take the next step and dominate at the OHL-level this year, as well as developing his skating. Gaunce tended to look a little passive during the pre-season, and he’ll need to learn to assert himself more. Belleville is likely the best place for him to do so.

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18 comments

  1. Chris the Curmudgeon
    September 27, 2013

    Sorry to see Corrado go, but it seems like he figures prominently in the Canucks’ future plans, and for both cap and developmental reasons they’re far better off with him as the #1 in Utica and not the #7 in Vancouver.

    I should know this, but I’m forgetting: what’s the deal for Horvat and Shinkaruk with regards to keeping their junior eligibility, entry-level contract year burning, etc? I remember that there’s a certain number of games they can stick in the NHL after which they can be returned to junior as if it never happened. It’d be neat to see those guys get a taste of NHL action, but I strongly doubt the team plans to keep both guys in the NHL for the whole season, especially after Kassian’s suspension is up and Schroeder is healthy.

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    • Harrison Mooney
      September 27, 2013

      It’s 9 games. At game 10, they burn a year of their entry-level contract. That in mind, they’re still on a tryout, effectively, and it’ll take a really good first stretch for either to make it and justify the Canucks doing that. They did it with Corrado late last year and I think they probably regret it.

      Wouldn’t surprise me if one does survive the early-season cull though, especially since it would stagger the expiry dates on their ELCs and help the Canucks manage the cap a little better in the future.

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      • Chris the Curmudgeon
        September 27, 2013

        Perhaps, but then one would hope that guy would be able to stick in the top 9 in order to get him the most minutes possible. Figure that after suspensions are up and if Schroeder can get back in too, we’re likely looking at:

        Sedin-Sedin-Stojanov
        Booth-Kesler-Burrows
        Hansen-Schroeder-Higgins
        Weise-Santorelli-Richardson
        Sestito

        Who do you bump to make room for Bo or Hunter? Booth? Though I think being on a Bo-Hunter line would make David Booth drool.

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  2. BBoone
    September 27, 2013

    I would prefer they send Booth to Utica for a conditioning stint while they keep the two remaining
    juniors for a few games .

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  3. tom selleck's moustache
    September 27, 2013

    “I think being on a Bo-Hunter line would make David Booth drool.”

    Well played, sir. Well played.

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    • Chris the Curmudgeon
      September 28, 2013

      Thanks, was hoping someone would pick up on that one.

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  4. akidd
    September 27, 2013

    i get the point with corrado. gillis is terrified of injuries to dmen and for good reason. so he can’t risk alberts and weber. he’s gonna see who gets injured and then bring up corrado. if there’s a healthy d-corps corrado comes up mid-season with still 30-40-50 games to rev up. it’s the smart move.

    but it sure puts to bed though the idea of the best man earning his spot out of training camp. cause corrado surely outplayed both alberts and weber.

    and shinkaruk and horvat are pretty much guaranteed to play 9 nhl games each and that’s it, unless they really twist some big arm. it was all pretty much a foregone conclusion. as much as we might have enjoyed the concept of training camp being purely meritocratic it’s really now mostly about cap and cba and injury contingencies and trying to peak for the playoffs(?.)

    basically the only thing that happened was jensen lost a spot. richardson’s probably got the 4th-line spot and santorelli is likely to be keeping the 3rd-line spot warm for someone else.

    not much of an open tender for ‘tender either.

    all very prudent. maybe too prudent? is a little swashbuckling required?a little jump off the commitment cliff?a little flirting with lady momentum? mike? mike? stop counting those beans and maybe start thinking about icing the best team right now that you can. maybe…probably not….a good idea….

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    • Daniel Wagner
      September 28, 2013

      I’m a little more optimistic on the Horvat/Shinkaruk front, though actually for the same reasons you cite regarding Corrado. Keeping the two of them around for at least a nine-game tryout (perhaps with a game or two in the press box once Kassian returns from suspension) allows a window of time where a forward might get injured, necessitating one of the two 18-year-olds sticking around longer. Keeping two players around that you can’t get back once you send them down is actually, well, prudent.

      Might be worth a post, actually, since it’s something I’ve been thinking about for the last week.

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      • akidd
        September 28, 2013

        I hear ya, daniel. i think if one steps back out of the cap glare they would see this team as having a skill deficit. santorelli and richardson might not get scored on so much but they’ve probably reached whatever skill potential they’re going to reach. horvat and shinkaruk however….

        this team is competitive on d, in net and through the first two forward lines. with the right mix and matching i think it’s possible to fit bo and hunter in there, give em decent minutes and not sacrifice too much defensively.

        how about:

        sedin, sedin, kassian
        kesler, burrows, shinkaruk
        horvat, hansen, higgins
        richardson, weise, booth

        that’s not too shabby. horvat and shinkaruk would be shielded by playing with very solid defenders and they would increase the skill quotient on their lines. win, win. they’d get enough minutes to learn quite a bit on the job.

        that would make four lines that could score. otherwise it’s just two competitive lines and each team will stack up their defense accordingly. it’s not that hard to beat half a hockey team.

        sometimes you gotta take a chance. this might be one of those times. worse comes to worse and the canucks get another decent draft pick next year. best case and the nu kidz development is fast-tracked in a way it never could be in junior. sure you burn a year of entry level but that doesn’t really mean that much with the cap going up. if the canucks find themselves having to pay a lot of money down the road for bo and/or hunter they should consider it a good thing. it would mean that they had developed into valuable players.

        and business-wise it makes sense. it wasn’t that long ago when i could pick up a 20 buck scalper ticket on game day. a couple more lacklustre seasons and it could revert to that. it’s already on the wane. who wants to pay to see pluggers? win or lose, this isn’t minnesota.

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        • Chris the Curmudgeon
          September 28, 2013

          Little bit of a downer today AKidd. Don’t let those trash-talkers get to you, the Canucks might not win the President’s Trophy but the Cup window is definitely not closed.

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          • akidd
            September 28, 2013

            hey chris, hope i’m not coming off as a downer today. i’m actually pretty optimistic if gillis/tortorella ices the right lineup. give the kids a chance, i say. to heck with being too careful and measured. providing they are strong enough not to have their shoulders dislocated every other week, like the young oiler stars, i think that the sooner you get bo and hunter into the nhl the better they will be down the road. these are formative years. going back to junior would just stagnate them at this point imho.

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            • Chris the Curmudgeon
              September 28, 2013

              A year or two from now, I’d agree with you. And I agree there’s some precedence for this team perhaps letting the fruit wither on the vine a little bit in the past. However, both of these guys would have the chance to go back to their junior teams and play a ton of minutes in a leadership role, all the while getting stronger and faster without wasting their affordable years. It’s tempting to try and see a Patrick Kane in Hunter Shinkaruk, ie: a smaller quick skating guy who can contend for the Calder right out of his draft year, but I don’t think he’s as NHL-ready and the team would be better off not rushing him at the expense of icing a team of NHL-ready guys. But, I might be wrong about that.

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              • akidd
                September 28, 2013

                hopefully you’re wrong about that:)

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  5. akidd
    September 28, 2013

    a lot of the really good players started young in the nhl. were they good so they started young? of course, but starting young also got them going sooner, raised their game early by playing against the best competition, i think.

    there’s a credo now where companies don’t want to train. they want maximum efficiency from their workers right from the get-go. i understand but also see that you have to give a little to get a little. nothing wrong with grooming a potential future big player for the team. AV held the opposite philosophy, probably partly because like so many he knew the bottom line was his security and future value and that he’d better watch it. so little coho didn’t get a sniff, among others.

    so many folks just trying to cover their *sses these days. the hockey world is no exception. but in the bigger picture what’s the point of giving all that valuable icetime to pluggers? sure you get an extra few wins(not that they were really needed over the past five years) but you’re not investing in the future. you’re in fact squandering a uniquely valuable experience. the ahl and junior are a different fish. so is ‘earning’ ice time skating with the sesitos of the world on the 4th line.

    so you groom the right guy. you give him more ice time than he’s ‘earned’ you skate him with good players and put him in important situations. you might lose an extra game or two but if you’re right, not to far down the road he’s gonna pay you back in spades.

    and 18-year-old brain is an amazing thing, fast like a cat. feed it early. see what happens.

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    • Chris the Curmudgeon
      September 29, 2013

      I’d say it’s a clear sign the team views itself as a legitimate contender this year. Usually plugging the youngest of the young in to fast track their development is done when the team thinks it’s a year or two away from really challenging for the Cup. And I tend to agree: while a lot of people seem to have written the team off as past its prime, I think there could still be a run or two in these guys. The Sedins are aging but are clearly not done, Kesler is apparently healthy, the D looks really good and perhaps Luongo can harness the chip on his shoulder. How often were we all complaining that AV’s act was tired, that Newell Brown’s PP had stagnated and that the team could use a new voice, well I’m willing to wait and see if Tortorella can be that guy. Far be it from me to be overly optimistic, but this roster still looks pretty strong to me, at least on paper.

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  6. akidd
    September 29, 2013

    looks like we got our own private thread going here, chris. so horvat has been sent down. thought that might happen. there’s probably too much responsiblity for a young centre. a winger is more easily shielded thus shinkaruk is the guy i really hope sticks. goalscoring is what is needed and he looks like a pure scorer. i think shinkaruk would make the team better not worse. youthful enthusiasm goes a long ways for team spirit too and he’s got that.

    young guys go up and down. what i’m saying is that a little patience in those down periods is something i hope that tortorella can bring. it was something that AV did not have at all.

    if shinkaruk skates with kesler and burrows i’m pretty dam sure the goals will come. and goals will be needed.

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  7. Chris the Curmudgeon
    September 30, 2013

    Yeah, I actually do agree, if one of the two gets rushed into the NHL this year I’d rather see Shinkaruk. Horvat’s probably the more complete of the two, but will be counted on in a two way role that he’s probably not ready for yet. In comparison, Hunter’s goal scoring ability will really help (maybe 2nd unit PP as well?) and I think the team can really cover for his defensive shortcomings. Though I also used to feel that way about Cody Hodgson :(

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  8. Chris the Curmudgeon
    September 30, 2013

    Well, it now appears that it was much ado about nothing for the two 2013 first rounders staying up with the big club.

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