The goal is the playoffs, always. At least that’s what GM Jim Benning said going into the 2015-16 season. And as far as he’s concerned, in the public light that is, the team is in no hurry to tank their season in favor of a high draft pick. Changing the landscape of the Canucks roster just wasn’t worth it to him.
“[W]e have too much pride in this organization…that’s just not an option for us.” ~ Jim Benning
I’d tend to agree with that. Vancouver is too proud of an organization and city to just let go of the control panel, embrace chaos and wait for natural order to take place. It’s just not what should or will happen in Vancouver. With that said, there are plenty of fans in British Columbia who have been begging the team to get younger and move on from their longtime corps group of players.
Well, they did it. Goodbye Ryan Kesler, see ya’ later Kevin Bieksa. Bon voyage Eddie Lack. Do you even remember Max Lappierre, Sami Salo, Raffi Torres or…that one Italian sounding goalie?
There’s a new brigade of names in Vancouver, one that signals a bright future…but realistically a distant future, and the question that remains is whether or not longtime Canucks fans have the patience for a long term rebuild.
Ben Hutton, Jared McCann, Jake Virtanen, Bo Horvat, Sven Baertschi, Jacob Markstrom, Brendan Gaunce, Andrey Pedan. Let me catch my breath… Alexandre Grenier, Ronalds Kenins, Jordan Subban, Thatcher Demko, Brock Boeser, Hunter Shinkaruk, Linden Vey… No one on that list is over the age of 25. That’s quite impressive.
The complicated nature of that list lies in the following question: which one of those players has proven, on consistent basis, that they are bonafide franchise player?
Jared McCann has shown flashes of what’s to come and it’s exciting. He’s got offensive instincts that many players don’t. But his defensive side of the game is troubling and as a rookie he has eleven points in 38 games. There’s nothing wrong with that, and it still leaves him with plenty of potential growth, butportland it just solidifies the reality that McCann is a project player with NHL ready skills. At this point not bonafide.
What about Jake Virtanen? Judging that Virtanen has been a healthy scratch in many a games this year, has just one goal and spent the last few weeks with Team Canada’s World Junior squad, It’s safe to say that whatever Virtanen’s potential is (which is very high, of course), he’s on a route that will take a considerable amount of patience and a careful developmental strategy to build him into a regular on the Canucks roster. So again, at this point not bonafide.
Bo Horvat? Maybe. Brock Boeser? Nobody has a clue yet. This could go on forever. The idea here is that Vancouver lacks any substantial piece as a transition accelerator (no that’s not a Star Trek reference) between an era past and a new age.
Why Ryan Johansen Would Have Been Worth It For Canucks Roster
Ryan Johansen was born and raised in the lower mainland of Vancouver, British Columbia. He played in the BCHL before spending time with the Portland Winterhawks of the Western Hockey League. And because of his burgeoning talent he was drafted 4th overall by the Columbus Blue Jackets in 2010. He’s now played in over 300 NHL games and won’t turn 24 until the 2016 off-season. He’s had two 60-plus point campaigns and has already broken the 25 and 30 goal marks. The kid’s a whiz.
Most probable is that Columbus was asking Benning for the following: One of either Jared McCann (19), Bo Horvat(20) or Jake Virtanen (19), A blue-chip defensive prospect like Ben Hutton (22) or Jordan Subban (20), and a high draft pick. So let’s assume for a minute that the trade went down like this:
Vancouver gets: Ryan Johansen (23)
Columbus gets: Ben Hutton (22), Jared McCann (19) and a 2016 secoind round pick
Now hold your horses before you lose your mind.
At 22-years-old Ben Hutton is a wonderful prospect with an obviously pro-ready game. It seems nuts for the Canucks to let someone like Hutton go, but here’s the thing – nobody has any idea how he’s going to develop or if he really has the potential that people are giving him credit for. He had a stellar training camp and has been a solid player for the Canucks this year. I wouldn’t put him in the same page as Ryan Johansen though.
The same goes for Jared McCann. He’s been great for a struggling Canucks team and he’s absolutely earned himself a spot in the NHL. However is McCann really going to have the same impact on his team that Johansen can and does? Doubtful. Johansen is a franchise, first-line center with size, speed and skill. Those three features just usually don’t come packaged all together.
A Canucks Roster Re-imagined:
Now that the Canucks have acquired Emerson Etem for essentially nothing he will most likely be wearing a Canucks uniform for the rest of the season. It probably pushes a guy like Adam Cracknell or Linden Vey out of the lineup. Here’s what the Canucks could feature for the second half of the season:
Daniel Sedin – Henrik Sedin – Jannik Hansen
Alex Burrows – Ryan Johansen – Radim Vrbata
Sven Baertschi – Brandon Sutter – Emerson Etem
Brandon Prust – Bo Horvat – Derek Dorsett
It’s disappointing that this won’t be happening.
But imagine if it had. The Canucks could have taken a huge step towards rebuilding a reliable future. Until next time.
I cover all things Vancouver Canucks, the NHL’s player conduct policies and anything else exciting about the league.