Canucks’ Micheal Ferland: A Postseason Difference Maker?

Today, the news for the Vancouver Canucks about Micheal Ferland is good. During a TSN podcast yesterday, TSN’s Jeff Patterson and Farhan Lalji talked together about whether they believed — based upon what they saw during the training camp — Micheal Ferland could become a factor during the Canucks’ play-in series against the Minnesota Wild. They answered in the affirmative.

Ferland’s Progression Throughout Training Camp Has Been Surprising

Both Lalji and Patterson believe Ferland has a chance to play. Patterson specifically noted, “At the outset of camp, I really saw Micheal Ferland as a long long-shot, he hadn’t played hockey anywhere since Valentines Day. That was in the American hockey league and that lasted one period.”

Related: Canucks News & Rumors: Ferland, Sutter, Hughes, Rathbone & Boeser

As the camp went on, Patterson noted that things got better. In fact, “I’m not sure this second week of (camp) could have gone any better for Ferland.” Ferland played physically, scored, and to Patterson’s eye, “I think he’s put himself back on the map.”

Lalji added that Ferland clearly was testing his own personal limits of what he could handle physically, both in giving and receiving. All signs pointed in the right direction and the Canucks gave him time with the team’s second power play unit.

Micheal Ferland Vancouver Canucks
Micheal Ferland, Vancouver Canucks (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

My The Hockey Writers colleague Matthew Zator wrote that Ferland’s training camp was a bit confusing, “No one really knew what to expect from Ferland when training camp began. He was skating and appeared ready to go, but then he was declared ‘unfit to play’ at the outset, which obviously was concerning after his concussion history. Fortunately, he returned to the fold after missing just the first scrimmage and has been noticeable in camp ever since.”

This Was Not the Season the Canucks Hoped for from Ferland

I’m sure when general manager Jim Benning signed Ferland, he expected to watch a gritty, pounding, scoring winger who added physicality to the team. Everyone who knows Ferland knows he risks injury because he plays bigger than his body, which leads to his concussion history.

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However, it wasn’t a concussion that got his season off to a slow start with his new team. Instead, a cold he caught from his four-year-old daughter put him behind. Then, a fight with the then Los Angeles Kings’ tough guy Kyle Clifford on Oct. 30 sealed the deal. (from Canucks notebook: Ferland’s feeling great, just like his play at training camp, Patrick Johnston, The Province, 25/07/20).

Vancouver Canucks Micheal Ferland
Vancouver Canucks Micheal Ferland (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito)

As a result, Ferland only played 14 games for the Canucks all season and only scored five points in those games. If the season had played out as expected, there wasn’t a chance he’d be back skating with the team, but the NHL’s regular season suspension opened the door of possibility. Then two weeks ago, Ferland was cleared to skate and became a possible active addition to the Canucks roster during the NHL’s planned 24-team play-in tournament.

Canucks Fans Might Be in for a Treat

Canucks’ fans who haven’t seen Ferland play during the playoffs might be in for a treat. The team’s done well enough without him, but Benning signed him specifically for the postseason. Although the script hasn’t been exactly what the team wanted when the season started, there’s a chance it might work in the end.

Who would have guessed? Because Ferland was injured during the season, when it was announced in mid-February that he’d be out for the remainder of the 2019-20 season after a concussion, he became next season’s project. But, the COVID-19 break gave the 28-year-old time to heal. Now, there’s a chance he’ll be out there banging on the Wild in August.

Canucks Fans Recall a Healthy Ferland

Some Canucks remember what a healthy Ferland can do during the playoffs. They recall too well that, during the first round of the 2015 playoffs, the Calgary Flames stomped the Canucks four games to two when a young Flames rookie tilted the series outcome towards the Flames. That rookie was Ferland.

Ferland, who only made that Flames lineup because of an injury, skated hard, disrupted the Canucks, and made the difference for the underdog Flames. When his own coach Bob Hartley saw what he could do, he threw him out to harass the Sedin twins. Ferland’s physical battle against Canucks’ defenseman Kevin Bieksa became the tipping point.

Kevin Bieksa
Kevin Bieksa (Jerome Miron-US PRESSWIRE)

Ferland’s play reshaped the course of that series in Game 6 in Calgary. The Canucks took a 3–0 lead less than 10 minutes into the game and seemed in control, but Ferland scored twice. His first goal, late in the first period, made it 3-1. His last goal made the final score 7–4, and the Flames eliminated the Canucks.

What Could Ferland’s Play Add to the Canucks During the Postseason?

Although Canucks fans have yet to see it, a healthy Ferland has a high-offensive upside. He can be a regular 20-goal scorer with the right linemates. And the Canucks have a lot of players who could compliment his play. He can also benefit the team because he’s an old-school power forward who creates space for teammates.

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But his physical play erodes his ability to stay on the ice. Ferland’s a 6-foot-1, 217-pound prairie boy from Manitoba. Although he has size, he isn’t the biggest player on the ice. His physical style has tested his durability. In fact, likely that injury history helped the Canucks to sign him for “only” $3.5 million per season.

That’s Ferland’s down side and the side that’s been evident so far with the Canucks. Because he’s a wrecking-ball of potential, his play often proves unsustainable for an entire NHL season. That’s been his problem this season.

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Can he remain durable enough to help his team over the long run? That’s a question the Canucks might get an answer to this postseason.

A week ago, head coach Travis Green noted, “It’s been a long process for him (Ferland). We’re going to have to make some hard decisions on our lineup. The next couple of weeks here are going to be important for a lot of guys. When we signed Ferly, there was no secret that we signed him for this type of game and this type of scenario. When things get heated in the playoffs, his physical presence is well known.”

If Ferland Plays, What Should Canucks Fans Look Forward To?

It’s amazing how far Ferland’s progressed this training camp. Two weeks ago, there was doubt he’d even play. On Friday, it was reported he was the best Canucks forward on the ice. (from Canucks scrimmage: Quinn Hughes dominates and Micheal Ferland’s statement game, Harman Dayal, The Athletic, 24/07/20).

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What should Canucks fans expect when the team takes on the Wild on Aug. 2 in Edmonton? They can expect a Ferland who plays full out. If he can avoid injury, and that might be a big “if,” he could potentially take over a game or series. He’s done that before with the Flames and the Carolina Hurricanes earlier in his career.

Ferland’s style is something the Canucks have needed on their roster for a long time and, if he’s healthy, he should bring it in spades. It’s what I think the team hoped for with Jake Virtanen.

Jake Virtanen Vancouver Canucks
Jake Virtanen, Vancouver Canucks (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Personally, it’s encouraging to see Ferland concussion free. You can tell he’s a young man who loves to play hockey and gives his all on the ice. Having a concussion isn’t a joke and being symptom-free is good news to both his team and his family.

As a hockey fan, I hope he finds his game during this play-in series. As a father and grandfather, I hope he’ll stay healthy enough to play with his four-year-old daughter when the postseason is over.