Your weekly roundup of what they’re saying about the Vancouver Canucks around the hockey world:
The shot heard round the hockey world
It wasn’t what he said; it was how he said it that set Canucks fans aflame.
When Sportsnet’s Anson Carter picked the Oilers as the most likely Canadian team to win the Stanley Cup this season, the former NHLer turned commentator could have made a reasoned argument to open and inquiring minds.
After all, the Oilers are piping hot with 14-straight wins, two of the best players in the game and appear better structured now than the team the Canucks outscored 18-6 earlier in the season and went 3-0 against.
What’s caused Canucks fans to take out the proverbial pitchforks and torches for two days running was Carter’s empty explanation — one that had the rest of the panel quick to disagree.
“In order to win championships you need to have elite level players,” Carter said, during Monday night’s Canucks-Blackhawks broadcast.
“Vegas never took that next step until they had Jack Eichel. Edmonton has two guys. Plus it’s a lot deeper than just the two horses they have up front. Stuart Skinner is playing well. Their backup is playing well too. So I’m going with the Edmonton Oilers.”
Former NHLer Luke Gazdic pointed to the complete package the Canucks bring to the rink, from coaching on down, while fellow panelist Justin Williams cited Vancouver’s recent 5-1-1 swing through the East.
“That really showed something to me. They can go on the road and they can do it and they’re for real,” said Williams.
Host David Amber pretty much summed up his opinion in two words: Thatcher Demko.
Carter’s comments were so off base, so unversed in Vancouver’s elite talent, depth and goaltending, they left some Canucks fans questioning the motives of the former Oiler and Canuck.
Carter, who had a good run with the Oilers from 2000-03, has shown some resentment toward the Canucks in past interviews, saying the organization “never really offered me a raise there” — among other things — after a successful spin with the Sedin twins during the 2005-06 season.
To his credit, Carter did say he thinks Canucks captain Quinn Hughes is the front-runner to win the Norris Trophy.
Former All-star and ESPN commentator P.K. Subban had his own take on proceedings on Tuesday, one that elicited its own response in Oil Country.
In a Greg Wyshynski-like “don’t get cocky” warning to Oilers fans, Subban told them to not get before themselves as their team enjoys a historic winning streak.
“The Edmonton Oilers aren’t doing anything spectacular, they’re doing what they should be doing,” Subban said, pointing out the bottom-tier teams the Oilers are mostly beating.
“My question still remains for the Edmonton Oilers — when the stage gets bigger, and the bright lights come on — can these horses raise their level of play?”
Subban, however, may have pulled an “Anson Carter” of his own, saying it’ll be the L.A. Kings, Dallas Stars and Vegas Golden Knights challenging the Oilers, not your hometown Canucks.
Tough crowd, I’ll tell ya.
The numbers don’t lie, and the points pace trajectory the Canucks and Oilers are on make it more than likely the Pacific Division rivals collide at some point in their pursuit of the Cup.
And no matter what happens, we’ll have memories of bad takes along the way.
PDO deep dive
Regression? What regression?
For the first half of the season, we kept hearing that the Canucks’ historically high shooting percentage would come back to league averages.
But TSN hockey analyst Travis Yost is telling the hockey world not to hold its breath.
In a piece titled ‘Resurgent Canucks are so much more than puck luck’, Yost assesses Vancouver’s playmakers and higher-end snipers and concludes a slowdown may only happen on a relative basis.
“We might not expect Vancouver to continue scoring on a staggering 13.4 per cent of the shots they generate, but regressing them all the way toward league average (around 10 per cent in all situations) also seems specious, considering what they have been able to do over more than half of the regular season.”
In order to drive his point home further, Yost looks at another team with top-end talent whose long-term conversion rates are higher than league averages: the Edmonton Oilers.
“The Canucks may be one of the few other teams in the league, at least at the top of the lineup, that can compare to the Oilers,” Yost concluded.
You hear that, Anson Carter?
And new …?
Edmonton’s streak has caused a changing of the guard — at least according to one outlet.
In TSN’s latest power rankings, released on Monday, it is the Oilers, who are 10th in league points percentage, atop the table.
The Canucks, for the second straight week, are in third, while the Winnipeg Jets dropped to second overall.
The Seattle Times also has three Canadian teams at the top of the podium, with Winnipeg in first, the Canucks second and the Oilers third.
Over at ESPN, it’s the Jets in first place and the Canucks in second. Same thing with The Athletic, who also named Rick Tocchet the team’s MVP.
Sportsnet, meanwhile, ranked the head coaches a few days ago and Tocchet came in third, behind Boston’s Jim Montgomery and the Jets’ Rick Bowness, who took top spot.
The Canucks have played some sound, structured hockey in winning the first three games of their five-game homestand.
It hasn’t been lost on opposing coaches in their post-game testimonials.
“We played hard, we played solid,” said Arizona head coach Andre Tourigny after a tight 2-1 loss to the Canucks on Thursday. “They’re fast, they’re good … my feeling, after the (first) period was that’s the best team we’ve played.”
Blackhawks head coach Luke Richardson was frank in his assessment of the Canucks, after being shut out 2-0 on Monday at Rogers Arena.
“That’s the best team in the league,” he said, while giving his outgunned team credit for keeping the game close. “When you look at it, if we open up … they’re just waiting for that. That’s what they did against the Toronto Maple Leafs last game, ate ’em up in the third period by doing that.”
Maple Leafs head coach Sheldon Keefe thought the Canucks outcompeted his team around the net, although he claimed Toronto was “the better team.”
But even he relented.
“You can’t spot a team three and expect to come back and win. Especially the top team in the league.”
Keefe, meanwhile, took some heat from TSN’s Craig Button, who slammed him for not having his team prepared against the Canucks and questioned whether Keefe should keep his job.
Back on the West Coast, with the Blues in town Wednesday on the second half of a back-to-back, and with a Saturday date against the struggling Blue Jackets, all five opposing coaches may be singing the praises of the home team by the time the homestand is done.
It wasn’t too long ago that players were primed to play in Vancouver.
We had a winning environment, an organization using New Age techniques to get the best out of the roster and a loud and proud fan base, making Vancouver among the most attractive hockey markets for players.
That changed over the past decade, but the city is starting to feel different with the team on the rise again.
Said Leafs defenceman Jake McCabe after that Saturday night slugfest at Rogers Arena: “That’s a team that’s obviously succeeding this year. It’s a good atmosphere in their building with the fans chanting. A physical game, every battle meant something.”
And while players may not be willing to take pay cuts anymore to play here, Vancouver is once again becoming a destination market around the league, said Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman in his latest 32 thoughts Podcast.
“Good players will want to play there,” said Friedman. “Now that they’re winning, it’s very clear the players … elite players will respond to a coaching staff that has a plan for them. We talk a lot about Tocchet, but the assistant coaches get a lot of credit from the players. Players like them.”
TSN insider Kevin Weekes said the same thing on a recent Overdrive podcast.
“I can’t undersell the value … of having Sergei Gonchar and Adam Foote on the bench, as well as Tocc. I think it goes a long way for those young players.”
What this means, says Friedman, is that while Vancouver will have to “put out this fire” with all the Elias Pettersson contract talk, it shouldn’t be an issue resigning the superstar.
“I get the real sense that Vancouver is real confident they can keep the players they want to keep — and the panic level is not high with them right now.”
TSN’s Darren Dreger said Tuesday on Insider Trading that Pettersson just doesn’t want the distraction right now.
“He is a restricted free agent at the end of the year. So there’s time. There’s no elevated sense of urgency here.”
If Pettersson wants to play for a winner in a world-class hockey market, he’ll be resigning on the dotted line when he’s ready.
Movers and shakers
The consensus around the league’s pundits is that the Canucks should be buyers before the Mar. 8 trade deadline.
And the same few names keep popping up.
Friedman is certain the Canucks are going to get a top-6 forward, with a couple of teams telling him Vancouver has a list of around four or five guys they’re looking at.
According to Friedman, Pittsburgh winger Jake Guentzel is “very real as a possibility,” while Calgary’s Elias Lindholm “makes sense because he can play centre or wing effectively.”
Daily Faceoff’s Frank Seravalli looked at potential suitors for Montreal Canadiens centre Sean Monahan on Monday, and Vancouver was at the top of the list.
“A complementary centre would make a ton of sense,” Seravalli writes.
And over at Sportsnet, a story analyzing how the Canucks should approach the trade deadline identifies Guentzel, Monahan and Anaheim Ducks centre Adam Henrique as the top targets.
“Henrique wins over 54 per cent of his draws, is averaging 17 minutes of ice time for the Ducks and has produced 14 goals and 14 assists in 45 games,” writes Jason Bukala.
“Henrique would add depth to the Canucks’ second power play unit, where he’s contributed four goals and four assists for Anaheim this season. He’s also the kind of player a coach can trust. Henrique’s even plus-minus rating on a rebuilding team is, all things considered, very solid.”
So what could Vancouver give up? The pundits agree the Canucks shouldn’t trade a top prospect, but next year’s first-round pick should definitely be in play.
To think that suggestion would have caused a furor around these parts just last season shows how far this team, and this organization, have come.
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