Evaluating the Vancouver Canuck’s offseason moves
By Davie Wong, Sports Editor
After a lacklustre year of hockey, the Vancouver Canucks have made it to the offseason. I’ll be looking at what they’ve done since the end of their season and grading it on a scale on 1–5, with 1 being the worst move imaginable, and 5 being a move that wins them a Stanley Cup.
Firing Willie Desjardins (2):
After the end of a tough season, the Canucks announced that they would be parting ways with fan-favourite coach Willie Desjardins. The emotional man shed a few tears, as did the fans who loved him, on his way out. From a spectator standpoint, letting go of Willie was awful. With not much to be hopeful about lately, the character and energy Desjardins brought to the organization will be sorely missed next year. Ticket numbers will prove that.
From an organizational standpoint, the Canucks had reached an impasse at the end of this year. They had to decide to either rebuild, or to continue struggling as they were. After years of that struggle, it seems as if the Canucks have made the choice to part ways with sentimentalism and commit to a rebuild. Unfortunately, to do that, they wanted a fresh face in the locker room to symbolize the new era. This meant that Willie got the boot. It’s tough, but it’s understandable why Desjardins was let go.
Hiring Travis Green (2):
I’ve always been one to promote the training and promotion of in-organization staff, but the Canucks hiring Travis Green as their head coach was a decision that left me shaking my head. Sure, the team is rebuilding, and yes, Green has had experience with the up-and-coming youth in Utica. However, if you take a moment to look at his numbers while coaching in Utica, you would see that Green has struggled to coach at an affiliate level. Utica has done worse in every season Green has coached them. Yes, there have been a number of outstanding rookies that have moved up the system, but that really speaks to the team’s stance on youth development.
In that sense, Green is likely just a stepping stone. Perhaps he was hired to help the youth transition to the NHL level while the team is rebuilding, and the overall record really doesn’t matter. But in due time, when the Canucks are deemed competitive again, they will probably show Green the door.
The Canucks Draft Class (4)
Elias Pettersson (4):
When the Canucks called Elias Pettersson’s name out at the NHL Rookie Draft, there were a number of confused fans. Why had they not taken the highly-rated defender Cody Glass? Well, let’s start out by looking at the kid from Europe, Pettersson.
Pettersson is from the familiar country of Sweden, where he plays professionally. As a centre, his style of play could be compared to that of Ryan Kesler—a hard two-way forward with a lot to give. In terms of statistics alone, he put up 41 points in 43 games. Not bad.
Now take in the rest of the equation. Pettersson plays on Timrå IK in Sweden. It just so happens that his line partner and good friend is Canucks prospect Jonathan Dahlen, so there’s already chemistry there. He looked up to the Sedins growing up, and now has a chance to learn under them. That’s huge. He also has room to grow, and he will likely be allowed to play in Sweden for another year before making the jump overseas, which pairs perfectly with the Canucks rebuilding scheme.
As for choosing Pettersson over Glass? It all has to do with the situation. Glass was ready for the NHL. He doesn’t need the minors for training; he’s ready now, and the Canucks just aren’t there. They don’t need a player who can make an immediate impact. They need multiple players who can make huge impacts down the road. A great pick by the Canucks here.
Kole Lind (3.5):
It’s no surprise that the Canucks needed a winger, and they prioritized that position in the draft. With Jake Virtanen struggling to make the jump to the NHL, the Canucks needed other options. In comes Kole Lind. A Canadian out of Saskatchewan, Lind is a playmaking winger who can score and assist. A BC prospect, having played with the Kelowna Rockets in the WHL, Lind will eventually make a great addition to the Canucks. Like Pettersson, Lind is a pick for the future. Having just played one year with the Kelowna Rockets, it’s highly likely he’ll be sent back to the Rockets for another year before really having a chance to crack the Canucks roster.
Jonah Gadjovich (3):
Look out, Jake Virtanen! There’s an angry shooter skating down your lane, and he’s shooting for your spot! Gadjovich is a talented two-way winger who can hit, skate, and score. He plays a very Alex Burrows-like role on his current team, Owen Sound Attack, and just recently came off a campaign where he scored 46 goals in 60 games.
Make no mistake, this draft pick was very much a wake-up call to Jake Virtanen. Find your game, or we’ll find someone who can find it themselves. However, it could also just be a warning. Gadjovich has only had one successful season in three attempts. This could be a fluke breakout season, in which case he may drop to a third or fourth line role for the team. If he does pan out for the team, though, it’ll be scary to see both Virtanen and Gadjovich skating down the wings beside Horvat or Pettersson.
Michael DiPietro (3.5):
Before you jump to conclusions, no, there is no relation to NHL con artist Rick DiPietro. However, similarly to Rick, Michael is a monster goalie in the little leagues. Tearing his way through the OHL with fantastic numbers, DiPietro still has tons of room to develop. More than anything, this was a backup pick. While Thatcher Demko’s season in Utica wasn’t necessarily bad, it wasn’t good. Now the Canucks have another prospect to be excited about when they inadvertently turn Demko into a goaltending god, then trade him to rot his career away with a garbage team. Yeah, I’m still upset about that.
The rest of the draft (3):
The Canucks picked up defenseman Jack Rathbone, a player with real potential but who is still several years out, before turning to drafting for the present. They picked up Kristoffer Gunnarsson from Sweden, Petrus Palmu from the OHL, and Matthew Brassard. All three will have a chance to crack the roster before they are likely sent down to Utica for the year. While each has their own strengths and weaknesses, it’ll be interesting to see if any can crack that Canucks roster. I mean, the bar isn’t that high…
Now all we can do is wait and see what free agency brings to the Canucks this summer. With the team finally committing to a rebuild, It’s curious what the team will put together to ensure that they don’t get blown of the water this year.