Friday, May 06, 2016

Pool Outlook for Vancouver

In the 2015 season, the Canucks didn't play with the utmost of urgency on any given night, but they also had very little trouble scoring goals, which helped them slide through a very slack Pacific Division that year and they jumped into the playoffs.  Urgency wasn't there again in the 2016 season, but neither was the goals and what they lacked in both departments, helped them sink from 2nd in the division to 3rd-last in the league.

The Canucks were very much about changing the culture in the room in the off-season, to which they did, but those changes didn't bring them improvements up front, on the blueline or any more luck throughout their lineup, as they dealt with all kinds of injuries throughout the season as well.  Although the results may not reflect it very well, their goaltending was one of the few constants that kept this team afloat in more games than they deserved to be in, so there is a plus in there somewhere.

Again, looking at silver linings on a poor season, they were able to get some real good looks at some of their prized youth players, giving Bo Horvat more responsibility through necessity, Jared McCann making the team, Ben Hutton raising eyebrows on the blueline and their investment in Sven Baertschi showed some flashes.  Still, it wasn't a point of getting to see their youth, it was more of a point that they had to use their youth and that played a huge role in their overall success.

At the hockey pool draft, the Canucks were pretty well represented, having 13 players taken among the first 378, divvied among our 27 teams.  Some higher expectations at the beginning of the year, helped their cause, but injury and disappointment led to four of them being dropped in Week Nine, compared to three being picked up, including a goon for the PIM pool.  Week Eighteen saw the goon being dropped, while two previous drops were added for depth, so the Canucks were fairly active in the pool this year.

Daniel Sedin was the better of the twins this season, staying healthy all year and playing in all 82 games, finishing with 61 points, well down from some previous years.  The lack of scoring depth on the team really helped the opposition key in on the top line, which really anchored the twins and their numbers.  Daniel finished the year, ranked 52nd overall, just barely worthy of a 2nd round pick in the draft.

When all the numbers were tallied, Henrik Sedin, Bo Horvat, Jannik Hansen, Sven Baertschi, Radim Vrbata and Alex Burrows were all among the top 378 in pool scoring, arbitrarily making them pool worthy in the year, but in varying degrees.  Ben Hutton was the only Canucks defensemen among those worthy, finishing with a blueline-high, 25 points.  For the most part, Ryan Miller and Jacob Markstrom shared the net, which got them both into the ranks, but neither were very high at all.

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

The new Hockey Ops team for the Canucks has shown some moxie in the off-season and the regular season, trying to slide through some deals that may seem unassuming at the time, come back to pay some dividends. Without another Summer like that, I think the Canucks can certainly regress, especially with the Flames catching fire with their revamped system and the Oilers winning the draft lottery, while the Kings rest up a little longer for a new push. With the group that they have on today, the Canucks can make the playoffs in 2016, assuming the unexpected doesn't give us drastic situations. The framework is still there, they could use a few tweaks, including some quality leadership.

What did the Canucks do in the off-season last Summer?  Did they show some moxie?  Nope.  Did the Canucks regress in their progress?  You better believe they did.  This group did have the potential to make the playoffs, but that lack of urgency and even that lack of leadership that needed to be addressed last Summer, really showed its face.  There were flashes of good, but there might be a lot more work to do than waiting for the youth to blossom.

2017 Pool Outlook

Forwards Cap Defense Cap Goalies Cap
Daniel Sedin 7.000 Alexander Edler 5.000 Ryan Miller 6.000
Henrik Sedin 7.000 Christopher Tanev 4.450 Jacob Markstrom 1.550
Jannik Hansen 2.500 Ben Hutton 0.896
Bo Horvat 0.894
Alexandre Burrows 4.500 Luca Sbisa 3.600 Thatcher Demko 0.925
Brandon Sutter 4.375 Nikita Tryamkin 0.925 Michael Garteig 0.925
Derek Dorsett 2.650 Ashton Sautner 0.925 Richard Bachman 0.575
Chris Higgins 2.500 Troy Stecher 0.925
Anton Rodin 0.950 Mackenzie Stewart 0.925
Markus Granlund 0.900 Jordan Subban 0.755
Jared McCann 0.894 Alex Biega 0.750
Jake Virtanen 0.894 Anton Cederholm 0.667
Brendan Gaunce 0.863 Evan McEneny 0.584
Joseph LaBate 0.680
Cole Cassels 0.598

The carry-over of pool-worthy talent into next season is a bit weak here at the moment, as nine players are already signed on for next season, but there is some potential in there somewhere.  The biggest question is how the Canucks plan to fill a few of those gaps for the coming season, if they're looking to compete right away.  Kids like Jared McCann and Jake Virtanen have some upside and now have some experience, but will a guy like Markus Granlund pan out for them?

With the team's goaltending virtually already set for the 2017 season, we'll be waiting just a little bit longer for the prime prospect, Thatcher Demko, to really step up and be a hockey pool goalie, but next season, I think there could be a good push coming from a kid like Jordan Subban on the back end.  He may not be ready to put up pool numbers, but he'll definitely be one to watch, as we get closer and closer to puck drop next year.

Needs at the 2016 Entry Draft

In terms of really making a good go of this rebuild for the Canucks, they are in desperate need of a franchise defenseman and that has been said from the upper-management and it was glaringly obvious in their games this season.  Sure, drafting one this Summer won't help the team immediately, but it won't hurt them moving forward.  Much like the Oilers yesterday, the Canucks could trade their way down and then pick up Olli Juolevi from the London Knights, as he has been rated quite well and could be the guy, a few years down the road.

Free Agency and the Salary Cap

Unrestricted free agency holds a lot of questions for the Canucks, as Radim Vrbata and Dan Hamhuis are viable options to re-sign, assuming all parties are into it, while Brandon Prust, Ronalds Kenins, Matt Bartkowski and Yannick Weber may be allowing for a bit more flexibility underneath the cap ceiling.

Sven Baertschi, Emerson Etem and Linden Vey highlight the restricted free agents, who may or may not have a place in next season's lineup.  The money will have to be right, but their leverage isn't very heavy, so it shouldn't be a huge concern moving forward.

The salary cap ceiling, whatever it might be, is a little bit of a concern, heading into the off-season, as they have a lot of cap space tied up in players in key positions, including some that were not pool worthy in the year.  The collective above are coming in at $67.6 million and they have lots of gaps to fill in their roster.

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.
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