Month: April 2018

Heading into game three between the Boston Bruins and the Toronto Maple Leafs, all eyes were on the newly formed shutdown line of Mitch Marner, Patrick Marleau and trade deadline acquisition Tomas Plekanec. After being acquired from the Montreal Canadiens for a second round pick, Plekanec has done less than impress with only two assists in 17 games in the regular season.

Through the first two games of the playoffs, he was virtually unnoticeable as the Bruins racked up 12 goals in two games in Boston. Game three was back Toronto and little was expected from the marginalized center. However, head coach Mike Babcock’s newly formed line would carry the Maple Leafs to victory in game three and put them back in the series.

Patrick Marleau scored twice, both times via a Mitch Marner pass. Plakanec made a great defensive play to lift David Krejci’s stick and turn the puck up ice. He joined Marleau on a two-on-one and provided enough of a decoy for Marleau to net the insurance goal and put the Leafs up 4-2.

Plekanec may have been the third wheel to Marner and Marleau, but Plekanec allowed for his linemates to have some extra space, something sorely missing in the first two games. The former Hab was praised by Marner following the game. “Plakanec is a hell of a player, he’s very good at shutting down the other team’s best player. He’s always above people and always above the puck and when he gets it in his hands he makes smart plays.”

The 5’11” pivot will have his hands full once again in game four. After taking 21 draws against the Bruins top center Patrice Bergeron, it’s expected he’ll see more of the same. Boston will no doubt adjust for game four, and it’s incumbent on the Leafs and Plakenec to continue shutting down the top line. Continuing to win defensive zone draws like Plakenec did in game three will be crucial.

The Maple Leafs take on the Boston Bruins on Thursday at 7pm EST.

Henrik & Daniel Sedin have been a staple in Vancouver for the last 17 years. After a combined 631 goals, 1475 assists, and 2106 points, the Sedin twins have announced the 2017-18 season will be their last in the NHL. Henrik & Daniel leave the Vancouver Canucks as their first and second highest scorers respectively in franchise history. The second and third overall picks in the 1999 NHL Entry Draft won back-to-back Art Ross Trophy’s and Henrik won the Hart for league MVP in 2009-10 (which it’s fair to say could have had both their names on it that year).

Whether or not one cheers for the Canucks, it’s impossible not to appreciate what these two brothers did for the sport and the city of Vancouver. We may never again see two players more in-sync than the Sedin’s. It’s unfortunate that they were never able to win the Stanley Cup, but that won’t change the fact that these two are Hall of Famer’s. We’ll look forward to Sedin night next season. Until then, it’s time to pontificate on what is next for these Canucks.

Vancouver has been the worst team in the NHL the last three years. No, that’s not an opinion.

2015-16 2016-17 2017-18 Total
Vancouver 31-38-13 75 points 30-43-9 69 points 30-40-9 69 points 91-121-31 213 points
Arizona 35-39-8 78 points 30-42-10 70 points 28-40-11 67 points 93-121-29 215 points
Buffalo 35-36-11 81 points 33-37-12 78 points 25-42-12 62 points 93-115-35 221 points

That’s pretty unbelievable for a team that has been trying to remain competitive while “re-tooling” rather than completely tearing everything down and starting from scratch. The possibility remains that GM Trevor Linden has intended for this all along, and the idea of being competitive during a rebuild was just lip service to a fan base not ready to watch their team tank. Plus, the Sedin’s were never going to willingly let this team fall off a cliff.

Perhaps in his evil genius plan, Linden allowed the Sedin’s to operate and sell the team, while behind the scenes management knew this team couldn’t make the playoffs or come anywhere close to it. We’ll just give everyone the benefit of the doubt that they knew what they were doing in order to tank properly.

Now that the Canucks have properly tanked, that leaves us with the off-season and moving on without the Sedin’s.

All of a sudden Vancouver has 21 million dollars in cap space, 14 of which is freed up with Daniel & Henrik’s contracts coming off the books. Several teams have 20+ million in cap space, but most of those teams have key pieces to re-sign. Good or bad, the Canucks could do just about anything in free agency. The question is what should they do?

First off, John Tavares isn’t coming to Vancouver so let’s just stop with that chatter now. Why would Tavares sign with the Canucks when they’re probably two to three years behind the New York Islanders in terms of development? It won’t happen. It’s silly to entertain the idea. Don’t go down that road.

Instead, it’s time the Canucks truly commit to a youth movement. Alex Edler will be a UFA at the end of the 2018-19 season. The draft is the perfect time to flip him for legitimate assets. Edler is a more valuable commodity than Travis Hamonic when he was dealt from the Islanders to the Flames at last year’s draft. It’s important that Canucks GM Jim Benning make the most of his most valuable veteran asset.

Teams coming off a disappointing playoff run, or missing entirely, would all consider Edler an upgrade to their top four. Jim Benning is supposed to be a scouting genius, so why not give him extra first round picks to show off his expertise?

The second player that should be moved is Sam Gagner. He’s one season removed from a 50 point season. It’s clear he just needs to be in the right role in order to succeed. Gagner has two years left on his contract with a $3.15 million dollar cap hit. Again, acquire more draft picks to let Benning go to work at this year’s draft.

The next step should be convincing Elias Pettersson to come play in North America for 2018-19. He’s already set the record for most points by a U20 player in the Swedish Elite League. His development will only be delayed by remaining in Europe. The hope would be that he can impress head coach Travis Green enough to keep him up with the Canucks. At worst, he’s sent down for some seasoning with the Utica Comets and he makes his way onto the pro roster later in the year.

The same goes for 2016 first round pick defenseman Olli Juolevi. Playing in North America, on the smaller ice surface, should be a priority. Worrying about burning one year of a player’s entry level deal is incredibly short-sighted in terms of development.

2018-19 cannot be another year where the Canucks go out and sign more Del Zotto’s, Vanek’s and Gagner’s. The patchwork is failing, the playoffs will not be in reach next year, so give the kids in the organization a chance to shine. Hope and excitement come from seeing the future develop before one’s very eyes. The Canucks finally have the chance to do that if they’ll just admit and commit to being in a rebuild.

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