Replacing Ryan Kesler with quantity, not quality

After a couple incredibly busy weeks, the Canucks appear to have finished making moves for now. While it’s certainly possible that we’ll see another trade during the summer and an unsigned free agent or two might merit an invite to training camp, it’s reasonable to think that the current Canucks roster is the same as the one we will see in September when camp starts.

If so, the Canucks are left with a significant hole on the second line, approximately the same size and shape as Ryan Kesler. For years, the Canucks have relied on Kesler to shutdown the opposition’s best forwards, while contributing secondary scoring and playing a key role on both the penalty kill and power play. Although he has slowed down of late and will likely never again be the 70+ point player he was in 2009-10 and 2010-11, he’ll still be difficult to replace.

It looks like Jim Benning didn’t even try to replace Kesler. Instead, he placed a premium on having a proven goaltender, devoting significant capspace to signing Ryan Miller rather than going after one of the top centres available in free agency. By doing so, Benning left the second-line centre role up for grabs, banking on quantity over quality.

While the Canucks don’t have any surefire bets to replace Kesler, they do have several potential second line centres who are as yet unproven. The Canucks’ best bet at this point is to rotate players in and out of the position throughout the season until one of them secures it with his play.

The most obvious option to replace Kesler is the player that came back from the Anaheim Ducks in the Kesler trade, Nick Bonino. The 26-year-old has a lot of things going for him: he outscored Kesler last season, both at even-strength and on the powerplay. He also has the vote of confidence from Benning, who has said he expects him to be the team’s second-line centre.

There are also a lot of things working against Bonino repeating or exceeding last year’s breakout season. At even-strength, Bonino benefitted from favourable percentages, with the Ducks scoring on 9.4% of their shots when Bonino was on the ice, higher than any Canucks’ forward last season. If that regresses towards the mean next season, Bonino’ even-strength points will take a tumble.

On the power play, Bonino had the luxury of playing with Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry on the Ducks’ first unit. With the addition of Radim Vrbata, it’s unlikely he’ll play the same role with the Sedins, particularly since Vrbata shoots right like Kesler. The only way Bonino will play on the first unit is if he plays on the point.

It’s more likely that he centres a second power play unit featuring far less potent forwards like Zack Kassian, Alex Burrows, and Chris Higgins. That will take a significant bite out of his power play points.

What it boils down to is that the Ducks had Nick Bonino last season and were still desperate to trade for a real second-line centre. Still, Bonino has played the role before and, given sheltered minutes, could be a stopgap solution.

The next option is Linden Vey, who recently accepted his qualifying offer.

 

The 22-year-old is even less proven than Bonino, having played a grand total of 18 NHL games in his career. By all accounts, Vey is NHL ready, however, and his 48 points in 43 AHL games last season would seem to agree. In the season prior that, Vey was fifth in the AHL in scoring with 67 points in 74 games.

Vey has the offensive instincts, vision, and skill to be a second-line, playmaking centre, but he was unable to break into the Kings’ stacked lineup. The issue is his inexperience. We have no idea if Vey can produce points against NHL competition, though he had two highlight reel assists against the Canucks last season. Whether that counts as being against “NHL competition” depends on your individual level of cynicism.

The big question for Vey is where he fits best into the lineup. Ideally, he’s not a bottom-six forward, as he doesn’t have the size, physicality, or outstanding defensive ability to fill a checking line role. While he could skate on the third line, it would preferably be a scoring line rather than a checking line and the Canucks simply don’t have the right mix of players to give the the third line a sheltered, scoring role, as that will need to be the role the second line plays.

Fortunately, Vey can also play right wing, which opens up some options. He and Zack Kassian may rotate in and out of the second-line right wing slot, with Vey potentially also rotating with Nick Bonino at centre, pushing Bonino down to the third line at times. Vey seems to have more offensive promise than Bonino and may be a better long-term solution on the second line.

The third option would be Bo Horvat. That may be a surprising suggestion: there is an argument to be made that Horvat should spend another year in Junior and throwing one of the Canucks’ top prospects into a pressure-filled second-line centre role at the age of 19 may seem a little crazy.

The issue is that I think Horvat is ready to make the jump to the NHL and, unlike Hunter Shinkaruk and Brendan Gaunce, Horvat isn’t eligible to play in the AHL this season. If he’s sent back down to Junior, he’s gone for the entire season, even if the Canucks have injury troubles and could use him in the lineup.

The idea is to have options: I’m not suggesting that Horvat immediately plays on the second line. Bonino or Vey should be able to take that spot to start the season and the Canucks can always use Shawn Matthias on the second line if all else fails. I’m suggesting that the Canucks improve their depth next season by keeping Horvat with the team, perhaps on a third line between the defensively responsible Chris Higgins and Jannik Hansen.

With that set up, the Sedins and Vrbata can go power against power, taking on the opposition’s top lines, while Horvat’s third line plays a checking role against secondary opposition, allowing the Bonino or Vey line to have a more sheltered, scoring role. Matthias can push Brad Richardson to the wing on the fourth line, with Derek Dorsett on the other wing to form a very formidable fourth line that can soak up minutes against tough competition if necessary.

Then, in case of injuries or if Horvat outperforms expectations, he’s available to centre the second line.

Is any of this ideal? Of course not. It would be far better to enter the season with a solid second-line centre who can be relied upon to put up 20+ goals and 50+ points every season. But, without having that kind of certainty, it’s far better to hedge your bets. By having three centres who might be capable of being the Canucks’ new second-line centre on the roster, there’s a better chance that least one of them will actually be capable of filling the role.

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49 comments

  1. skyo
    July 14, 2014

    Well when Benning is forced to deal with basically two teams for Kesler, it’s kind of unfair to say “It looks like Jim Benning didn’t even try to replace Kesler.”

    imo we got the best center who can play right now from those two teams Blackhawks/Ducks.

    imo it’s good that there is not much is expected from Bonino, less pressure on him, so with lowered expectations, expectations can easily be broken.

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    • Daniel Wagner
      July 14, 2014

      I don’t think it’s unfair at all. Benning had options outside of the Kesler trade itself to replace him on the second line. There were centres like Paul Stastny, Mikhail Grabovski, Mike Ribeiro, and Brad Richards available in free agency and, by all accounts, Benning didn’t even try to get them. The one that we know he talked to was Dave Bolland and those talks stopped as soon as Benning found out how much Bolland was looking for.

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      • Andy
        July 15, 2014

        While your suggested second line centres sound like reasonable deals for the Canucks to sign, let’s review those players cited:

        Stasny took $7M per year for 4 years with an established contender. We are neither contending (as convincingly as STL) nor did we have $7M in cap space (you take away the Vrbata deal, we’re definitely not as appealing as STL.

        Grabhovski insisted on being signed with Kulemin, who ended up costing $9.2M over 4 years. We could sign them both, but that gives us 2 more forwards over 30 when their contract completes.

        Brad Richards took $2M because it was Chicago and he could be sheltered with stronger wingers than we could offer (less pressure, better teammates, better cup odds)

        Ribero would be intriguing. That said, the fact that the coyotes used a standard buyout suggests that there were some issues that even they didn’t want to deal with; I’d offer 2 years at $2M, as I feel we’re putting ourselves at risk for a player like that.

        Long story short, Free Agency is where players get paid, get cups or get to go home. Unfortunately, very few 2C Centers fit that criterion.

        Except Santorelli. Sigh.

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        • Daniel Wagner
          July 15, 2014

          All fair points. I think Grabovski and Kulemin could have been an interesting combination in comparison to Miller and Vrbata. I think Stastny was gettable, but it likely would have taken longer term and there’s good reason to avoid doing that right now for the Canucks.

          I’m not all that certain that Santorelli is a second-line centre or, at the very least, I’m not convinced he’s any better than Bonino. He had a nice run in Vancouver, but people forget that his point production had already started to slow down before he got injured.

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          • H
            July 15, 2014

            Starting to slow down? I think that may be a little presumptuous. I’m not saying that Santorelli would have been a point-scoring machine, but it’s very possible he could have maintained his pace somewhat and was in a bit of a slump.

            The thing that bugs me most about the Santorelli no-deal is that we payed out of the wazoo for Miller to come here (which in itself is not a bad thing; having a veteran in the crease is always a plus) at the expense of a guy like that. Would have rather found a cheaper crease option.

            Yeah, he probably isn’t a 2nd line centre. But if Santorelli shows up in Toronto the shape he was in at the beginning of last season I believe its very possible he’ll put up even better numbers than he did here in a disparate division, essentially becoming MayRay 2.0 (at least for the media). Pretty sure he’s gonna we worth every penny of the 1.5 million T-dot will be paying him.

            Gotta say though, I did really like what I saw from Matthias last season. This and the fact he’ll probably thrive in Benning’s model makes me less disappointed about Santo’s departure.

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  2. Brian
    July 14, 2014

    Would love to see Horvat get the 9 game audition at the least but if the Canucks decide to keep Horvat it does mean that they need to move a different forward. Vey is guaranteed a position whether he is ready or not. That leaves Sedin, Sedin, Vbata, Burrows Bonino, Higgins, Kassian, Hansen, Richardson, Matthias, Dorsett and Sestito as the 13th. If Horvat makes this team I imagine one of Hansen, Higgins or Matthias is gone. I think that the Canucks can give Horvat his 9 games before moving a forward if they wish by rotating Vey, Matthias, Dorsett in the pressbox and sending Sestito down but can’t see any forwards on the roster being regular pressbox guys for a stretch of time other than Sestito.

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    • Daniel Wagner
      July 14, 2014

      I’d much rather lose Sestito outright. In any case, the Canucks can carry two extra forwards on the roster and Dorsett and Richardson can rotate in the press box until injuries inevitably crop up.

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      • Brian
        July 14, 2014

        I was thinking that 2 extra forwards would mean one of Sbisa, Stanton or Weber through Wiavers but now realize that this is based upon having 3 goalies on the Roster. Once Markstrom is sent down and potentially lost via waivers or one of Lack/Markstrom are traded there will be an additional roster spot for Horvat or whomever.

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  3. Vincent
    July 14, 2014

    I kinda like the fact the canucks didn’t pick up a solid second liner. In terms of narrative its much more interesting to have a bunch of young guys go through the hockey equivalent of the heroes journey rather than plugging in a guaranteed good player.

    Seeing as playoffs rather than the cup is the goal this year some more side stories like player development will be nice.

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  4. Alan
    July 14, 2014

    In summary, don’t have high expectations for this version of your Vancouver Canucks and hope to be pleasantly surprised.

    In addition to the gaping hole that was created when Kesler was traded,
    - we have probably the lightest defense in the NHL with Alex “the turnover machine” Edler leading all of our defensemen at a momentous 215lbs (soaking wet).
    - a big question mark on whether Bo Horvat can be our Manny replacement in the 3rd line center position
    - a big question mark on our number one power play in terms of who will be quarterbacking it.

    All the issues that have plagued us since 10/11 season plus no Ryan Kesler.

    The Sedins deserve to be on a contender and thats not us unfortunately. :(

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    • laplander
      July 14, 2014

      The Sedins want to stay here; I’m sure if they wanted to leave to a ‘contender’ management would have been happy to trade them for future parts. For some people being part of the team is more important than ‘Fame, Fortune & the Cup’. Well, the Sedins are fairly famous, they have money, although not as much as they could have gotten if they anted to leave here. I think they’d love to have a Cup with Vancouver but aren’t really interested on chasing it somewhere else…

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  5. akidd
    July 14, 2014

    well maybe with the 4-line concept we’ll see a more even distribution of ice-time. at this point i don’t have high hopes for bonino, vey or horvat shutting down too many western conference top-sixers. vets like richardson and matthias might have more of a fighting chance in that regard.

    would love to see horvat stay up but with all the forwards signed(unless benning has a big trade planned) i could very easily see them giving horvat another year in junior.

    i think one of the big differences in administration is that benning wants to give ample seasoning to the young guys. he doesn’t want to rush anyone. despite the lip-serivce given to competing this year i’m pretty sure he’s looking a couple of three years down the road. probably the smart call. not sure i’d want to invest too much in canuck tickets this year but comet tickets otoh might be a decent entertainment buy.

    but high hopes i’ve got still in the future line-up. vey and foxe in particular will be interesting stories to follow.

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    • Origamirock
      July 15, 2014

      I just want to point out that Matthias and Bonino are the same age. Matthias can only be considered a “veteran” on the basis that he’s played 18 more games for Vancouver than Bonino.

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      • mike
        July 28, 2014

        I hope to see True competition for the Center positions. I wonder if Matthias will be given the same shot as Bonino. May the best player win the spot.

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  6. RocketShip
    July 14, 2014

    Great read.

    The biggest question one has when looking at this roster is “who’s gonna play the tough minutes”. Then “who’s gonna play the 2nd toughest mins?”. Ideally, someone other than Sedins get the toughest. It allows them to focus more on offence. But this season, it’s not gonna happen. They don’t have another tough mins centre, so it falls on who you posted above.

    Boninos a bust. Sorry, but lets face it. His stats are terrible in sheltered minutes last season. Not to mention his unsustainable PDO, high shooting %, etc etc. He’s gonna be the 3C, possibly 4C on this team. And HOrvats totally gonna take his job, which would be awesome for the young gun. But unless he’s Sean COutier_v2, he’s prob gonna have to play sheltered mins as well.

    Still not sure who’s gonna play the 2nd toughest mins on this team. Can hardly wait for bottom half of the league possession rankings next season :(

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    • Daniel Wagner
      July 14, 2014

      Calling Bonino a bust is going way too far, considering he’s just entering his prime. Yes, he had an unsustainably high PDO, but it was more on the SV% side than the Sh% side. His on-ice shooting percentage of 9.4% is high and unsustainable, sure, but it will likely regress closer to 8.4% rather than a drastic drop-off, unless he has a string of unsustainable bad luck. Keep in mind, last season was his first full season in the NHL.

      Will he score 40+ points this season? Probably not, for all the reasons I outlined above, but it’s still a possibility. It will help if Kassian has a breakout year and Burrows figures out who cursed him so he can sacrifice the appropriate number of chickens and/or goats to make things right.

      As for bottom half of the league possession, I honestly don’t see that happening. The Sedins are still elite puck possession forwards, even if they may no longer be elite scoring forwards. Burrows continues to put up great possession rates, even away from the Sedins. Higgins, Hansen, and the defencemen that weren’t traded out of town were all positive puck possession players last season.

      Add in Radim Vrbata, who faced tough competition with the Coyotes and kept a positive Corsi consistently year after year. He’ll either help the Sedins be a possession powerhouse or help carry the second line. I consider Vey and Horvat to be wildcards. The Canucks aren’t dependent on either of them to carry possession, but if they do, it’s an added bonus.

      Last season, the Canucks were 8th in the league in Fenwick Close. I don’t see them crashing to the bottom half of the league from losing one player. It won’t help, but I don’t think they’ll crash that hard. Kesler’s possession statistics last season were nowhere near as strong as in previous seasons.

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      • Big Jim Backer
        July 14, 2014

        Love to see a big bronze bust of Bonino and Benning beside the illustrious Roger “The Towel Guy” Neilsen. Of course, a Stanley Cup would have to be front and centre.

        Good write up, Mr Wagner; and I like your fair assessment of the middle/age crisis Canucks are in due to poor or no picks.

        Remember Derek Roy, the centre we gave so much up for only to receive so little? His numbers were on par with Bonino’s at that trade deadline.

        If Big Jim holds to merit, and Willie D knows Bo, maybe we have something. Like the Vey signing.

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  7. Brian
    July 14, 2014

    This year will be a “show me you can play” year. Vey has signed such a contract. Bonino will also show us where he will slot in long term. Burrows is also in this boat to some degree.

    Horvat is really interesting. Ben Kuzma threw out a suggestion that I hadn’t heard before on Team 1040, where he cohosted today. Why not put Horvat on the wing short term? This is what they did in his first year in junior. He would then be able to develop with the big club while not having the same responsibility as the centre position holds. He may also have some spot duty at centre if other players get injured etc. An interesting thought anyways.

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    • Daniel Wagner
      July 14, 2014

      It’s definitely an interesting thought, but then the question is “where does he fit?”

      The Canucks have weaknesses down the middle, to the point that it’s not outrageous for me to suggest in this post that Horvat could end up as the Canucks’ second-line centre. They’re a lot stronger on the wings. Here’s how I see the lineup at this point:

      Daniel – Henrik – Vrbata
      Burrows – Bonino – Kassian
      Higgins – Matthias – Hansen
      Sestito – Richardson – Dorsett
      Vey

      Vey, when he plays on the wing, plays on the right. Horvat, when he plays on the wing, plays on the left. Slot either one into the third-line centre spot, and you push Matthias to centring the fourth line, Richardson slides to the left wing, pushing Sestito to the press box, which I’m pretty okay with.

      Putting either Vey or Horvat on the wing means either putting them on the fourth line or pushing Higgins, Burrows, Kassian, or Hansen to the fourth line. Playing Vey, a 22-year-old, on the fourth line won’t hurt his development too much and he’ll get opportunities to move up the lineup. Putting the 19-year-old Horvat on the fourth line, however, doesn’t make sense.

      I like the idea of playing Horvat on the wing to start, where he’ll have fewer responsibilities, but I just don’t know where to put him. If he plays centre, there’s an obvious opportunity, but the opportunities just aren’t there on the wing.

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      • laplander
        July 14, 2014

        If we’re going for development why not try running a true 4 line team?

        Daniel – Henrik – Vrbata
        Horvat – Bonino – Vey
        Burrows – Matthias – Kassian
        Higgins – Richardson – Hansen
        Dorsett

        If Vrbata doesn’t make it on the first line maybe try Kassian there. We may not have a true 2nd line ( at least to begin with) but we would have 3 decent 3rd lines. Assuming (large assumption) that the lines would work together. I think we would have 4 lines that could actually play hockey, instead of 2 1/2 that we had last year.

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        • Daniel Wagner
          July 15, 2014

          It’s an interesting idea and one that’s been floating around. I’m just not sure how well it would work in practice. Minutes have to be distributed somehow and one of those lines is going to end up playing 9-12 minutes per game. You don’t want useful players like Higgins, Hansen, Burrows, and Kassian seeing that little of the ice, so it would inevitably be Horvat, Bonino, and Vey seeing minimal ice.

          Even good four-line teams like the Kings and Blackhawks are only getting their fourth line out on the ice for 9-12 minutes per game. That “second line” of Horvat, Bonino, and Vey would just be a fourth line in all but name, because no coach is going to keep a guy like Higgins on the bench for 50 minutes.

          I mean, it’s an option, and if the Canucks are comfortable with starting off Horvat slow with that kind of ice time, it might work. But judging from what Benning has said about Horvat and how they want to develop him properly, I don’t think that’s what the Canucks will do.

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          • laplander
            July 15, 2014

            I was drifting towards what Westcoaster is saying – not a 9-12 minute 4th line but a more even spread rotating 4 lines to keep them frsh – 17, 15, 14, 13 – depending on power plays, penalty kills and injuries. Last year we were burnt out by January. This would give us more depth, faster rotations and, maybe, fewer tired injuries.
            Also Id like to see a line moved up instead of just a player – if a line is doing well give them more minutes and take them away from the others. maybe go back to the offensive zone Sedin starts; if that doesn’t work the try another line. I think this year we have enough decent hockey players to do full 4 line rotations and see if we can make it work. If not we get a good draft pick; this is definitely the year for experimentation.

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            • Daniel Wagner
              July 15, 2014

              That’s what I’m saying though: even the teams that run four lines the most still only end up giving their fourth lines 9-12 minutes per night. It just seems inevitable. If you can get a good fourth line and get them in the upper range, around 12 minutes per game, then you’re in good shape.

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      • Wetcoaster
        July 14, 2014

        Are we talking Tortorella-style 4th lines? If not, then you should contemplate pushing Hansen or Higgins to the 4th line… and playing the 4th line more than normal. If you can’t over-match another team’s top-6, then why not over-match their bottom-6? Either their top guys end up playing too much or their depth guys get hemmed in.

        We’ve seen this play out from the other side in the Canucks and Leafs last season.

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        • Tedchinook
          July 15, 2014

          Why is it every time I see projections of the Canucks 2014-15 forward lines Nick Jensen is nowhere to be found? I thought he showed enough late last season to have the inside track on a job. At his age I would expect him to take the next step and be a productive top 6 forward.

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          • Daniel Wagner
            July 15, 2014

            I like Jensen a lot and think he has a lot of potential, but I think he’s best served starting in the AHL this season, given how tough a start he had last year. I’d like to see some consistency in his game at the AHL level before seeing him get a full-time promotion to the NHL. I definitely think we’ll see him in the NHL this season: injuries are inevitable and he showed that he can hold his own last season.

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            • tedchinook
              July 15, 2014

              I see your point, but we’re all guessing at whether Jensen would be better off in the AHL or NHL, and whether Horvat will be better off in the OHL or NHL. Obviously it’s just my guess, but I suspect as a skill guy Jensen will be more likely to take the next step at the NHL level.

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  8. bluemoonjones
    July 14, 2014

    Why why why would the team send Horvat back to juniors for the year in favor of keeping Sestito on the roster? Makes absolutely no sense. Unless its 1976 again and goons rule the world.
    I mean, this is an absolute no-brainer, especially since expectations for the coming season are kind of low. Most fans are clearly optimistic about what the Linden/Benning team is doing here, and hence are willing to wait it out and watch this thing grow for a couple years, but this move would put a dent in those good vibes…

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    • Brian
      July 14, 2014

      Well, the new management is committed to providing “meat & potatoes” players to the fans. In the draft, they skipped over skilled players in favor of size. So, to a certain degree, it is 1976 again. At least in Vancouver.

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    • ikillchicken
      July 15, 2014

      Horvat making or not making the team has absolutely nothing to do with Tom Sestito. The question is whether or not you want him to make the team if he isn’t going to play decent minutes. Prospects don’t develop if they don’t play. If Horvat makes the team only to be a 13th forward or perhaps even a 4th liner, it would probably be better to just send him back down to junior. Not because Tom Sestito is a better option in the short term but because it would be foolish to sacrifice Horvat’s long term development for a short term advantage.

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      • John in Marpole
        July 15, 2014

        I’m not convinced that 10+ minutes a night competing against NHL players isn’t a better way to develop Horvat than him spending the year playing, often, against 16 and 17 year old juniors.

        Sometimes players out-grow the value of development in juniors before they hit 20. Horvat looks, to me, to be one such player.

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        • Daniel Wagner
          July 15, 2014

          That’s a fair point. If they keep Horvat past 9 games, they may have to rotate him into the fourth line anyway, if he struggles.

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        • bluemoonjones
          July 16, 2014

          That’s where I’m coming from: I have a hard time seeing the value in Horvat playing in Juniors again over being on an NHL roster where even if he spends time looking down at the ice during games or gets less than 10 minutes a game on the 4th line, he still gets to practice with the big boys and gets an invaluable first look at playing in the league.
          If he was eligible to go play in the AHL in Utica, then fine. But he’s not. And I have a hard time wrapping my head around how another year in Juniors would be better than a year in the NHL for him, even with scant minutes…

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  9. Naturalmystic
    July 14, 2014

    Tony G, great article as usual. Maybe Wags and Zonday will invite Botchford over from the Province to do a guest blog. Thanks for the great column, mr. Gallagher.

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  10. T-Daddy
    July 15, 2014

    Very, very tired of the drone of your negativity…..delete….

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    • Daniel Wagner
      July 15, 2014

      Weird. I thought this was a pretty positive article, in all honesty. I’m basically saying that out of Bonino, Vey, and Horvat, they should be able to get at least one viable second-line centre. If I were to be negative, I’d be ripping Benning and the Canucks for leaving such a gaping hole in the first place, but since I understand why Kesler had to be traded and why they preferred to spend money on goaltending, it wouldn’t be particularly honest.

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      • nateb123
        July 15, 2014

        If I could interject, I don’t think it’s a matter of the actual content you write but how you present that content that makes it “negative”. The facts can be spun either way.

        Reading you and Harrison’s replies in the comments section for many articles shows you guys tend to be cautiously optimistic but both of you write with a black dripping sarcasm that, while I love, you seem unable to switch off fully. The end result in tone is a narrow range between sarcastic smugness and something vaguely more positive that reads like a teenager grumbling in his room. Then the sarcasm just gets grating.

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        • T-Daddy
          July 16, 2014

          Thanks Nate. That’s my problem exactly. Harrison writes that he was disappointed with what we got for Kesler, blah, blah blah and our drafts were less than impressive, Daniel writes that Virtanen is no Cam Neely and then cites a bunch of BS historical stats that are irrelevant. He compares scoring stats of Virtanen and Neely who played in different eras and yet Bill Derlago who played his last WHL season only five years before Neely had around 1.75x greater points per game in his last season. Does that mean Derlago was 1.75x better than Neely. No, what idiot would make that case….

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          • Daniel Wagner
            July 17, 2014

            Everyone was disappointed in the return for Kesler. EVERYONE. Anyone who is happy with the return is completely disconnected from reality. The return was poor, mainly because Kesler limited Benning’s options. Harrison’s article about Benning winning the Kesler trade by losing it was arguably the most positive take on the whole thing. It wasn’t negative at all.

            The Canucks draft was less than impressive, mainly because of the last couple rounds, in which Benning took two players that have next to no chance of becoming NHL players. Whether the Canucks did well before that is mainly a difference of opinion in drafting strategy. I would have preferred that the Canucks selected different players, but I’m happy enough with the likes of Virtanen, McCann, and Demko.

            The reason I wrote that Virtanen isn’t Cam Neely is because people were making that comparison, even on the Canucks web site. It’s an absurd comparison that raises insanely unrealistic expectations for a 17-year-old. I wasn’t being negative, I was being realistic.

            Yes, I used historical stats from different eras. I admitted that, but also pointed out how they compared to their peers and it’s night and day.

            As for Derlago, gee, it’s almost like Derlago was 5’10″ and so not at all a useful comparison for two players who are 6’1″ and play a completely different game. Besides, as a 17-year-old, which is the age when we were making the comparison between Neely and Virtanen, Derlago scored 103 points in 68 games, well short of Neely’s 120 points.

            Look, you can disagree with Harrison and me as much as you want, but try to understand the arguments first. If you read Harrison’s piece on the Kesler trade and came away thinking he had a negative view on the trade, then you just plain didn’t understand the article.

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        • Harrison Mooney
          July 17, 2014

          Why do you read us, then, Nate? We’ve had the same tone since day one. Cautiously optimistic, sarcastic, a little tongue-in-cheek… that’s how we’ve always been. It’s a balance we strike intentionally, both as writers and as fans. It insulates us against disappointment, allows us to be rational and consistent in our arguments, and provides a little levity when things are going rough. We like it.

          If you don’t, our apologies, but there are other blogs.

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          • nateb123
            July 17, 2014

            I’m not sure why you think you debating the feedback I provided is a useful course of action.

            The reality is that I’m part of your audience and apparently not alone in that I enjoy reading but am still sometimes irked by your approach. I did you the service of being articulate with my post instead of just saying “This sucks” because you guys have a good thing going but could arguably use a tweak in tone. You can take the feedback or leave it.

            And for the record, I know tons of well-informed fans who aren’t at all disappointed by the draft or the Kesler trade. Perhaps they weren’t as high on Kesler or as low on Bonino, Sbisa or McCann than you two, but to say that variance of opinion doesn’t exist is ignorant.

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          • T-Daddy
            July 17, 2014

            Well Harrison, I guess you are right, no point in reading. And to both you and Daniel, I understand the arguments. My example of Derlago was hyperbolic to make a point. What I am tired of is the choice made by so many in the hockey media and a segment of the fan base. We ALL knew Kesler had us by the short ones and gave us little option. I was thrilled with what Benning did with the cards dealt. So were a lot of pundits and fans. With Virtanen, you tell us why he is no Neely instead of telling us of a kid who would give his left nut to play for his hometown team, was the fastest skater in the combine, is a great finisher and can take over a game physically (all according to prospect rankings). You see, that is my point. No wonder the rest of the NHL market thinks we are nuts. We are so quick to dump on our own team instead of looking at the positives. You say you are positive, perhaps we have different dictionaries. And Harrison, telling Nate and I to take a hike because we challenge you, well, aren’t you just precious. Don’t worry, I am taking a hike right now.

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            • Daniel Wagner
              July 17, 2014

              T-Daddy, here are some direct quotes from the article where you claim I didn’t say anything about him being a fast skater, a great finisher, and physical:

              “All this is to say that Benning seems to look for tools over results and when it comes to physical tools, Jake Virtanen is near the top of the draft class. As I pointed out Friday, some scouts stated he had the best shot in the draft and was among the fastest skaters. McKeen’s Hockey had him ranked 4th in skating, noting his “raw strength and power” in his skating stride, 2nd in shooting, recognizing his hard shot and accuracy, and 3rd in bodychecking, thanks to his combination of size and speed.”

              “Virtanen, then, has all the physical tools you could ask for: he has the size, strength, speed, and shot to be a star player in the NHL.”

              I’m not trying to be a jerk here, but you’re seeing boundless negativity where we’re actually being pretty even-handed. You’re apparently looking for pure positivity, homerism, and optimism. Oddly enough, we’ve been accused of that too. In general, we’re positive about things we like and negative about things we don’t like.

              When it comes to the Kesler trade, there are things we like and things we don’t like about it, so we’re generally both positive and negative about it. Same with the Canucks draft and Jake Virtanen in particular. You’re choosing to only see the negativity, which reflects more on you than it does on us.

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            • Alan
              July 18, 2014

              If you want negativity, check out Gallagher’s article on July 11, 2014 titled:

              Gallagher: Lots of promising young Canucks, but will we ever see them?

              By and large, Mooney and Wagner are fair, not overly critical and also not delusional. This version of your Canucks is one big question mark at this point of time and it would be very easy to go head long into that negativity black hole.

              Kudos to the guys for not doing so. Keep up the great analysis. It’s great reading!

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  11. JDM
    July 15, 2014

    I do think your suggestion as to lineup is a version of the best alternative available (I had something similar in mind with a couple of tweaks). Really, it all depends on having Sestito not occupying a roster spot that could be used by someone useful.

    The problem is, here are the 2nd line centers for each team that made the playoffs last year: Richards, Carter, Spezza, Couture (or 40 goal Pavelski), Granlund, Mackinnon (or O’Reilly), Backes, Kesler. Bonino – our best option – is worse than all of them, and aside from MIN and CHI, it’s not even close. C depth in this conference is fairly absurd.

    Can someone please get Jim on the phone and tell him to make an offer to Peter Mueller? At the very least he has a reasonable shot at being capable in the 2C role. If he doesn’t work out or gets hurt for the millionth time, it’s not much of a loss. But aside from sticking Linden Vey there and hoping he exceeds expectations, I don’t see how this team even comes close to stacking up right now.

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    • Alan
      July 18, 2014

      The reality of the situation is that we do not even remotely “stack up”.

      We subtracted high end Olympic level talent in Kesler and Luongo and replaced it with some hopeful prospects that “may” or “may not” end up on an All Star team down the road.

      And our draft picks are at least a couple years away from making any significant impact.

      Temper yer expectations and you’ll be a much happier hockey fan.

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  12. Frank
    July 15, 2014

    I agree that the 2C position comes with the most question marks. Considering that Trader Jim has his hands tied behind his back by Kesler, we did okay with the full package in return (Bonino, Sbisa, McCann, Dorsett).

    I thought the best we could do was to get back someone like Perrault back in the deal. I’m happy that we were able to get Bonino instead. I didn’t hear any mention of his name in the trade deadline.

    So sure, we’ve got some question marks but I think on the whole, the roster is more versatile and will be better balanced than last year.

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  13. BBoone
    July 18, 2014

    PITB consistently write in well researched entertaining style. Almost always they are realistic in a way that in it’s serious discussion . Surely that is what a good blog should be. Put me in the camp that would like to see Horvat get his 9 games and go back to the OHL The upside for elite young prospects to play big minutes in a leadership role in a small Canadian city cannot be overstated . Almost overnight we have a potentially excellent top line and strong internal competition for the other 9 forward positions . Having that play out will begin to establish Canuck team pride and effort . Our AHL eligible prospects can play good minutes in a well coached system and then join Horvat in competing for NHL jobs next year by trying to crack a lineup that barring injury will be an effective well coached group. That is how winning progrs become established and stay established .

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  14. Netcrash
    July 18, 2014

    Canucks are stacked with young talent that is motivated. It may take 2 more years to be a strong cup contender but I do like the management and coaching team we have now. The Gillis era did some damage and wasted draft picks. We have made a good start towards rebuilding the team. I think we will see more entertaining hockey this season. I expect some good hockey from Jensen, Horvat, Mattias and Vey

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