Facing Off is a weekly column debating five of hockey’s hottest topics each and every Monday. From current events like trades and hat tricks, to bigger-picture stuff like scandals and expansion — you name it, we’re debating it. Albeit, not always with a serious tone. We’re keeping this column light, so keep that in mind when reading, and feel free to join in on the fun by leaving a comment.
The Vancouver Canucks may be fading from the playoff race, but they’re not out of the news by any means.
The Canucks have been one of the NHL’s most talked about teams over the last month, from their inactivity at the trade deadline to the late-season arrival of much-hyped prospect Nikita Tryamkin, a Russian defenceman drawing comparisons to Zdeno Chara. Vancouver needs all the help it can get on the blue-line and this third-round pick from 2014 is being trumpeted into the lineup as part of the youth movement.
Tryamkin through his translator – "Everyone compares me to Chara, and I have no idea why. I want to be better than him." #Canucks
— Irfaan Gaffar (@sportsnetirf) March 10, 2016
Tryamkin stands nearly 6-foot-8 and weighs 240 pounds, a fluid skater with a heavy shot and four full seasons in the KHL already under his belt at age 21. His offensive upside is still up in the air, coming off a four-goal, 11-point showing over 53 games this season, with another assist in six playoff contests.
Now, he’s here in North America — thanks in part to a social-media buzz surrounding his signing — and he’s raring to go for his debut, which could come tonight at home against Winnipeg.
So what do I expect from Tryamkin? Not much, to be honest. I don’t expect a Chara-type impact in his debut or even in his rookie season, that’s for sure. There will be growing pains for this big fella, just as there have been for those crossing the pond before him and those who will follow in the future.
It’s a different game over here and Tryamkin’s reluctance to learn the ropes in the AHL could have him heading home out of training camp in the fall. That wouldn’t necessarily surprise me, in fact I feel it’s a more likely scenario than him challenging for the Calder Trophy or All-Rookie Team.
Sorry to rain on your parade, Canucks fans.
Living in British Columbia for the past eight-plus years and being limited to Sportsnet Pacific, I’ve certainly got my fill of Canucks propaganda. I’ll admit here and now that I was raised in the Prairies with a rooting interest in the Oilers, so I still pay close attention to the present and future of Edmonton’s franchise.
A few years ago, the Oilers brought over a big Russian blue-liner by the name of Anton Belov — he was 6-4, 218 pounds, and believed to be a late-bloomer after blossoming into a KHL all-star at age 26. That turned into a one-and-done failed experiment, with Belov barely able to stay afloat on this side of the pond. For comparison sake, Belov had posted nine goals and 26 points in 46 KHL games in 2012-13, but only managed one goal, seven points and a minus-12 rating over 57 NHL games in 2013-14 before returning to the Motherland.
Nikita Tryamkin is another Anton Belov, if he plays anymore than 40 NHL games before bolting for the @khl, I would be very surprised
— HockeyHeart (@CLeducab) March 10, 2016
Not to steal the spotlight, but Edmonton currently has another towering Russian defender in the pipeline who actually outperformed Tryamkin in the same league this season. His name is Ziyat Paigin, he’s 6-6, 194 pounds, and almost six months younger than Tryamkin. Paigin enjoyed a breakout campaign in the KHL, achieving all-star status for producing nine goals and 27 points in just 37 games. Not bad for the third-to-last pick in the entire 2015 draft.
Yet, the Oilers aren’t rushing him over. Nor are they pumping his tires as the next Chara. Perhaps they learned that lesson from Belov.
@HockeyLegion Tryamkin is made for the NHL, but Paigin's updside is much higher
— Igor Eronko (@IgorEronko) March 12, 2016
I’m not trying to paint Tryamkin, or Paigin, as probable busts. They could be the real deal. I’m simply suggesting Vancouver fans (and media) temper their expectations for this manchild. Brace for the worst, and you could be pleasantly surprised.
What did you make of the Dan Hamhuis situation? Should Jim Benning have traded him regardless of the return? Do you see a future for Hamhuis in Vancouver?
DAVIES: I think keeping Hamhuis around was the right move for Vancouver. Hamhuis is a B.C. native and he wants to remain a Canuck through and through. With Alex Edler injured long-term and Chris Tanev now missing time, it’s hard to imagine what kind of shambles the team’s blue-line would be in without a veteran presence like Hamhuis. Trading him for a lowball return to a contender would be a waste, as he’s still a hugely valuable player. The leadership he brings makes him even more of an asset on a Canucks team that’s trending younger.
Glad we kept Hamhuis. Solid performer, wants to play in Vancouver and big contributor to the community. #canucks
— Matt Stickney (@mattystick) February 29, 2016
As for a future in Vancouver, I think Hamhuis definitely has one. He’s from Smithers, B.C., his family’s out here, and he’s a co-owner of the WHL’s Prince George Cougars. Even with free agency looming this summer, I don’t think Hamhuis has intentions to leave Vancouver. When he was a more coveted free agent in 2010, Hamhuis signed for less money than what he’d been offered elsewhere when he took a six-year deal with the Canucks. I wouldn’t be surprised if he returns for another bargain of a deal this time around.
FISHER: It’s always nice when we can disagree right off the hop. I absolutely think Vancouver should have sent Hamhuis packing at the deadline, and I definitely don’t think he’ll be welcomed back for next season. I just don’t think there will be room for him on the roster, but more on that in a bit.
First, the trade deadline fiasco. To me, that was a blunder by Benning and I’ve already went off on his incompetence in a previous edition of Facing Off. Some of the Vancouver media held his feet to the fire, while the majority let him off the hook. I’ve heard all the excuses for not trading Hamhuis and some of them are reasonable enough, but I’m still of the mindset that anything is better than nothing on that front. If Dallas circled back with a lesser draft pick or a fringe prospect or a roll of sock tape, you take it — you take what you can get, in my opinion. Why would you want to pass on a future asset and hang onto an expiring asset when your team is a long-shot to make the post-season? I still don’t get it.
Wtf is Jim Benning doing in Vancouver? How do you not move Hamhuis and Vrbata for something? Anything?
— Lee Gaye (@Lunit19) February 29, 2016
If the Canucks wanted Hamhuis to remain in the fold beyond this season, that extension woulda/coulda/shoulda happened before the deadline. It didn’t and Benning sure sounded noncommittal in the aftermath. There’s a chance, he said, but I interpreted that chance as more like one in a million. I could be wrong — Colton and others may have a better read on Vancouver’s future plans — but the only way I see Hamhuis sticking around is if another defenceman, like Edler, is dealt in the off-season. That would seem counterproductive.
— Jeff Paterson (@patersonjeff) March 10, 2016
John Shannon tried his hand at projecting Vancouver’s lineup for next season during a recent Sportsnet broadcast and Hamhuis was a glaring omission. He listed eight defenders and also forgot about Andrey Pedan, who has a one-way contract for next season, and Philip Larsen, who the Canucks acquired from the Oilers just prior to the deadline for a fifth-round pick with the intention of luring him back from the KHL. Shannon had Tryamkin in his starting six, which might be a stretch, and I wouldn’t call Alex Biega a lock just yet either. Matt Bartkowski was mentioned there, but he’s another pending free agent that probably won’t be back. Jordan Subban still isn’t ready for primetime either. I can’t see Edler or Chris Tanev going anywhere — they are building blocks — and Ben Hutton has proved his worth as a long-term keeper too. Luca Sbisa’s contract is an immovable object there, so his spot is safe for the foreseeable future barring a buyout. That leaves three, maybe four roster spots for the likes of Tryamkin, Biega, Pedan and Larsen. If the Canucks were to select Jakob Chychrun in the first round of this year’s draft — a strong possibility — he’d be in that mix too. And they’d be saying ‘so long, sayonara’ to Hamhuis.
What about the Sedins? If the Canucks are going with a youth movement, should Henrik and Daniel be shopped this summer while they still have top-line value? What would Vancouver want in return? Or should they just retire Canucks?
DAVIES: Everything the Sedin twins do on and off the ice is admirable and, for that reason, I think they need to retire in Vancouver. There’s no better role models for all the young players on the Canucks who were only a few years old when Henrik and Daniel broke into the league and, therefore, it’s more valuable for the Canucks to keep them both as opposed to testing the trade waters.
If the Canucks are gonna be mired in a lifetime of sadness and failure, can we at least keep the Sedins here forever, to brighten our days?
— Cam #theflow (@tinfoiltuque) February 4, 2016
I do feel like the Sedins’ hearts are in Vancouver and that they likely want to retire as Canucks. The way they handle losing and the work ethic they both give day-in and day-out can only be inspiring to younger players. How do players earn NHL all-star nods and major awards, or guide a team to consecutive Presidents’ Trophies, or get past losing in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final? The Sedins have been through it all, and they each have a career’s worth of knowledge to pass on to the Canucks’ future core players.
FISHER: OK, fine, we agree on everything Colton said here. He makes a strong case for keeping the Sedins and you can’t refute the fact that they have been model citizens and ambassadors for that franchise. But — and it’s a big BUT — their on-ice skills are going to start diminishing in the not-too-distant future. They could be 40- to 50-point players within the next couple seasons, no longer capable of carrying the team or even keeping the Canucks competitive in the Pacific Division. They don’t really kill penalties and they aren’t likely to drop down the depth chart into checking roles at even strength. In other words, they could be rendered useless. Of course, I could be wrong there too — they could channel their inner Jaromir Jagr and remain relevant for another decade.
Did Sedin just say he could play until 40 but not with this much travel? is that our first offical hint they would accept a trade? #Canucks
— Malcolm Ert (@malcolmert) January 19, 2016
I wouldn’t want to chance that if I were the Canucks. I’d politely approach the Sedins in the off-season and explain that it’s going to get worse — possibly much worse — before it gets better. If they want any chance at winning a Stanley Cup to improve their odds of becoming Hall-of-Famers, then now is the time to consider moving on to a new chapter in their careers. I would have had that conversation with them last summer already, but it’s still better late than never, especially since their value hasn’t taken a hit yet. If the Sedins are remotely open to the idea of being traded — and it’ll be entirely up to them — then I wouldn’t hesitate in contacting the teams that interest them. I’d target another young but experienced top-four defenceman, along with a first-round pick and/or a top prospect, and would be willing to take back some forward salary to accommodate the deal if need be. The financials would probably be the trickiest part if the cap ceiling is coming down this summer.
Goaltending is always a fascinating story in Vancouver. What does the future hold, with both Ryan Miller and Jacob Markstrom slated for free agency after next season? Do you expect the Canucks to extend one/both, or lose them like Cory Schneider and Roberto Luongo? Is Thatcher Demko the next big thing there?
DAVIES: I’d say based on Miller’s age, he would be the less appealing to re-sign of the goalie tandem, as Markstrom is 10 years younger than Miller. After all the questions of whether or not Markstrom could translate his success in the minors to the NHL, he has been steady in the Canucks’ crease this season. I also get the feeling that Miller has never really enjoyed his time in Vancouver; his family is out east and at 35 years old, being in Vancouver and travelling as much as the Canucks do is something that probably affects him. But Benning and Miller go back as far as when Benning was a scout in Buffalo and the Sabres drafted him in 1999. He may not want to part ways with his old buddy Miller.
#Canucks prospect Thatcher Demko has been nominated for the Mike Richter Award as the most outstanding goaltender in the NCAA.
— Canucks Now (@CanucksNow) February 26, 2016
I would say in two seasons from now, we’ll likely see Markstrom and Demko as the Canucks’ goaltending unit. Markstrom should have the ability to be a starter while Demko gets used to pro hockey. Demko is the real deal, as he’s put up gaudy numbers with Boston College in the NCAA for the past two seasons. Benning saw lots of Demko as a scout in Boston before he took over in Vancouver — and Benning would make Demko his third draft choice as the Canucks’ GM in 2014.
Demko is proving he may even be a steal for a second-round, 36th-overall pick, and his progression has only made the “goalie of the future” tab sound more and more realistic. Unless he decides to stay at Boston College for another season, I wouldn’t be surprised if the Canucks try to make room for Demko next season by trading a goalie. Markstrom will surely have more value than Miller, so there’s reasons why you could move either goalie, but the ideal tandem would be Markstrom and Demko in the long haul.
FISHER: Colton hit this one out of the park — well said, top to bottom. That all makes sense in a perfect world, or a normal NHL market. However, Vancouver is anything but normal when it comes to goaltenders, so who really knows what happens next there between the pipes.
For once, though, the Canucks got it right by keeping Markstrom over Eddie Lack. They didn’t get as much as they maybe should have for Lack — just a third-round pick, that luckily turned into promising defence prospect Guillaume Brisebois, plus a seventh-rounder this year — but Markstrom is paying dividends going back to the Luongo deal. With Markstrom’s emergence, it takes the sting off Luongo’s all-star efforts as a Panther and Schneider’s shining ways with New Jersey.
From a Canucks perspective, Jacob Markstrom beat out Eddie Lack as the No. 2 behind Lundqvist on Team Sweden's preliminary WC roster.
— Mike Halford (@HalfordTSN) March 2, 2016
Like Colton, I’m excited to see what Demko can do as a pro — hopefully sooner than later. You can certainly see shades of Schneider in his style, so the Canucks should have another good, potentially great one there. The future should be bright, right? As long as they don’t screw it up . . . again!
Do you like Willie Desjardins as head coach going forward? Or would you make a change for next season? Any chance Travis Green takes over or joins Vancouver’s staff?
DAVIES: I do like Desjardins behind the bench — guiding the team to 101-point season last year was impressive as a rookie NHL coach. He’s experienced a lot of success between coaching the WHL’s Medicine Hat Tigers and the AHL’s Texas Stars, but how he handles this young group of Canucks players in the NHL will be his biggest test. I think he’s gotten more bad press for how he handles his lineup than he deserves — the Canucks really only have two proven scorers, and that’s Henrik and Daniel. At 35 years old, they simply aren’t as effective if they play too much, which is what we saw two seasons ago under John Tortorella.
Desjardins has definitely been given the benefit of the doubt behind the Canucks’ bench this year, based on the lineup he has to work with. While the team has struggled mightily at times and fingers have been pointed at the coach, the Canucks’ management doesn’t feel this way. Perhaps if the Canucks aren’t winning more next season, a change would be more realistic, but right now it isn’t.
— The Hockey Writers (@TheHockeyWriter) February 21, 2016
As for Travis Green, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him in an NHL coaching job somewhere next season — likely as an assistant. Green wouldn’t take a position he doesn’t feel ready for — as he’s said in the past, it’s never been a sprint for him to get to the NHL as a coach.
FISHER: Man, I’m starting to like this Colton kid. He really knows his stuff. I like Willie a lot too, but I’d be very afraid of losing Green. It’s no secret that he’s one of the top prospects in the coaching fraternity, and the vultures will be lurking if Vancouver doesn’t find a way to promote him for next season.
Travis Green has a year left on his contract and the organization would like to keep him, but could lose him to another NHL team. #Canucks
— Ben Kuzma (@benkuzma) March 6, 2016
Green got his coaching start as an assistant with the WHL’s Portland Winterhawks under Mike Johnston — yes, the guy Pittsburgh fired this season — but now that Green’s been a bench boss for a few seasons, I don’t know if he’d want to go back to being second-in-command. I’m not sure he’d have to, either. I think other teams would be willing to take a chance on him as a head coach right now. There are coaching changes every off-season following playoff disappointments and a bright young mind like Green could be a hot commodity this summer.
I think the argument for/against keeping Desjardins for anther year isn't about Desjardins. It's about Travis Green.
— Mike Halford (@HalfordTSN) March 8, 2016
Nothing against Desjardins, but if I were the Canucks, I’d convince Green to join the big-league staff as Willie’s right-hand man — give him the associate title, and tell him Willie’s leash is relatively short going forward. If the team overachieves like it did in Desjardins’ debut 101-point season, then great — it’s a win-win, and everybody’s hopefully happy. If the team bottoms out and Desjardins’ methods aren’t resonating with the younger group, then make the switch mid-season and give Green the reins. Even if the losses keep mounting from there, that might not be such a bad thing in the bigger picture.
Do you think the Canucks need to go down before they can go up again? Is it time to embrace a full rebuild like the Maple Leafs? Blow it up? Buy out Alex Burrows? Will ownership allow it? Would fans accept it?
DAVIES: Personally, I like the track the Canucks are on right now with the players who will be making their way up the lineup. The likes of Bo Horvat, Jake Virtanen, Jared McCann, Sven Baertschi and other young players are only going to improve as they gain more experience in their careers. Prospects like Tryamkin, Demko and Brock Boeser also project to be have bright futures with the Canucks. Throw in the likes of Cole Cassels, Subban, Brisebois, Tate Olson and other prospects, and there’s already ample young players in the system.
Demko with his 10th shutout. Boeser with 45 points in 35 games. The future is looking nice.#Canucks
— Steve Boddy (@Boddy604) March 12, 2016
So the answer is yes, they do need to go down before they can go up, because going down would mean many of these players getting opportunities to play in NHL and continue to develop there. The Canucks have already committed in some way to this as their future, proving they aren’t afraid to put older players on waivers like Adam Cracknell, Chris Higgins, Brandon Prust and Yannick Weber if it means creating roster space for younger guys.
I don’t think, however, that Vancouver needs to regress in the standings any more than they have. With the veterans holding the fort, the young guys will continue to take on more prominent roles. The fans may think they’d accept it, but a full rebuild would mean icing a very bad team, and the fan base hasn’t experienced a season amongst the bottom of the NHL standings in almost two decades. I think deep down the fan base wouldn’t be happy with a rebuild, and ownership would never allow it, as they want to sell playoff tickets every year (even if it’s not the best option for the team).
Burrows on #Canucks youth movement: "As an organization, they make the calls, they make the decisions."
— Steve Ewen (@SteveEwen) March 1, 2016
The Canucks are in a similar position with Burrows as they were with Kevin Bieksa a year ago. Burrows will have one year left on his contract and, well into his 30s, he’ll be owed another $4.5 million by Vancouver. He’s a heart-and-soul player on the Canucks — similar to Hamhuis or Bieksa — but Burrows has regressed in the past couple seasons, and his contributions on the ice aren’t what they used to be. I think Benning will explore his trade value this summer, and I think buying out Burrows is something that could happen. Burrows has only ever known the Canucks, but Benning has shown time and time again that he’s not afraid to make these tough roster decisions.
FISHER: I think Colton took the high road here, or at least took it easy on Francesco Aquilini — the Canucks’ hands-on owner, who may be delusional in what it’ll take to make this franchise a winner again. The current kids and whoever Vancouver selects in that No. 5-10 range in this year’s draft aren’t going to put this team over the top. The Canucks need a franchise player going forward and they don’t have one right now. They aren’t going to get one unless Steven Stamkos signs in Vancouver — highly unlikely — or unless they draft one by actually hitting the reset button, which might mean trading the Sedins for quality future assets.
That would probably be my plan of attack — and it might even be Benning’s preferred route — but Colton is right that Aquilini, nor the fans, would be willing to endure that kind of hardship. So, instead, the Canucks are destined for more mediocrity, to forever be also-rans. This young group that they are calling the future core — all those names Colton rattled off, plus perhaps winger Anton Rodin, who was named the Swedish league’s most valuable player — is average at best. I see a bunch of complementary players in their prime, but not a single elite talent. Granted, not every team lucks or sucks their way into a Connor McDavid, but you basically need to be picking in the top three to have a hope of getting those franchise guys — remember, the Sedins were selected second and third overall way back in 1999. That was a bold move by Brian Burke and maybe Benning could pull off some similar magic if he was allowed to trade away the Sedins, but I doubt that’s even an option. So, the only other way to get those top-end picks is to finish at the bottom end of the standings. Short-term pain for long-term gain.
The #Canucks continue with a quasi rebuild with only one foot in the water. Puzzling to say the very least. Jump in w/ both feet Trevor/Jim!
— PuckingOpinionated (@TBAOsborne) February 29, 2016
Aquilini interfering in hockey matters. Rebuild that isn't happening is on him #Canucks
— G. Justine G. (@Aviewfromabroad) February 14, 2016
Problem is, Vancouver has a fickle fan base — a bunch of bandwagonners from what I’ve seen in my time here. I’ve met some extremely passionate Canucks supporters, but it seems the general population only cares about them when they’re winning. In 2011, when the Canucks were in the Cup final, they were all the rage — so much so that people (not necessarily fans) rioted over that heartbreaking defeat. Nowadays, seats are sitting empty at Rogers Arena, tickets are reselling for token prices, and sports bars are fuller for wings night than Canucks game-nights. That isn’t the case in Edmonton, where the Oilers haven’t made the playoffs in a decade — set to tie an NHL record for futility this spring — and yet they remain the hottest ticket in town for the most part. Yes, even while McDavid was hurt.
So blame the owner, blame the fans, or take a look in the mirror, but the Canucks are going nowhere fast unless they accept the harsh reality of a rebuild. Mic drop . . .
Jonathan Drouin might be making nice with the Tampa Bay Lightning, but should the Canucks be targeting him at the draft? Hypothetically, would you trade Bo Horvat for Drouin straight up?
DAVIES: I would be shocked to see this trade. There’s no denying Drouin’s raw potential, but his character is not something that would benefit the Canucks, or likely any team in the league for that matter. Horvat shows a maturity beyond his years, and has grown leaps and bounds with the Canucks this year, although his stats don’t show it. Horvat played fourth-line minutes last year, and Brandon Sutter’s injuries this season have forced him into a top-six role playing in all situations. That’s a big ask from a 20-year-old, but Horvat has shown nothing but a willingness to fill the role. He bodes to be a great leader for the Canucks down the road, while Drouin has only shown selfishness thus far as a young player in his career.
FISHER: I couldn’t have said it better myself, Colton. I don’t have a whole lot to add here. Drouin could be a rich man’s Baertschi — he does have some of that elite skill, he was the third overall pick in 2013, six spots ahead of Horvat — but I’d be reluctant to make that deal too. Horvat is a centre with decent size, which is a must-have in the Western Conference. Drouin is a winger on the small, slight side — again, similar to Baertschi — so, after thinking it through, I don’t see a fit there. Benning came from Boston and would like to ice a bigger, heavier team — thus the reason he drafted Virtanen and traded for Sutter — so Drouin to Vancouver just doesn’t make sense.
Is Hunter Shinkaruk going to be the one who got away? Or do you think he’s on his way to being a bust? Isn’t it strange to see the Canucks trading with the Flames?
DAVIES: I think once Shinkaruk gets a fair crack at a roster spot in the NHL, then it’ll be easier to see how he ends up. He’s an undersized forward that plays a scoring role, and he’s continued to progress at the AHL level at least. Let’s not forgot that as a rookie in Utica in 2014-15, Shinkaruk wasn’t even close to the player he is now. He’s worked hard to round out his game more and play better in all zones, and has improved to the point of being an AHL all-star this season. Of course, the big question will be if he translates that to the NHL some day. He’s got the work ethic, but just simply may not have all the tools. It may take a couple years to be able to gauge if the Canucks lost out with Shinkaruk.
I don’t think it’s strange to be trading a player like Shinkaruk to the Flames. If anything, it’s stranger for Calgary, as now their former player Markus Granlund is guaranteed to square up against them every time these teams meet. I think it’s more likely that Granlund potentially beats up the Flames with his checking-role style than it is for Shinkaruk to potentially light up the Canucks — should he play his former team.
FISHER: Fair enough, but why not trade Shinkaruk out of the conference, or at least out of the division to avoid that potential embarrassment? Mike Gillis did that with his castoffs, sending Schneider to New Jersey even though Edmonton was reportedly offering more. The Canucks didn’t want to get stonewalled by Schneider on a regular basis and made the smart move there, taking less to get him as far away as physically possible. Out of sight, out of mind, right?
With Shinkaruk — and, conversely, with Calgary sending Baertschi to Vancouver last year — they must have been banking on them being busts. I bet the Flames are regretting that Baertschi deal, and it might have been their motivation to snag Shinkaruk from the Canucks in hopes they offset each other going forward.
I’m probably reading too much into it, but from my brief interactions with Shinkaruk in junior and at the past few Young Stars tournaments in Penticton, I really get the sense that he’s a determined, perhaps stubborn personality. A little bit like a young Theoren Fleury, perhaps? Being a Calgary product, I’m sure Shinkaruk will be doing everything in his power to make the Flames and, in turn, make Vancouver pay for giving up on him. I wouldn’t be shocked if he got the last laugh on Benning.
Shinkaruk is out, but Emerson Etem is in, which begs the question: Can the Canucks actually build a winner around all these former Medicine Hat Tigers? Which one will they acquire next?
DAVIES: Success starts at the top, and Canucks president and former team captain Trevor Linden once donned the orange and black with Medicine Hat. Desjardins also coached for the Tigers, while Etem, Linden Vey and Shinkaruk, now a former Canuck, all played a lot of major-junior hockey with the team — those three were even teammates in 2011-12 (all three had at least one season of 46 or more goals). Derek Dorsett also played in Medicine Hat under Desjardins, so that’s a lot of WHL alumni to play on the same NHL team.
I think it just comes down to who you’re comfortable with on your roster and as your team’s personnel. Any NHL coach would give their two-cents to management to bring in players who they’re already acquainted with, which Desjardins is with these Medicine Hat alumni. If coach Willie had his way, the Canucks may possibly put out offers for the likes of Tyler Ennis, Kris Russell and other high-profile Medicine Hat alumni. But beggars can’t always be choosers, can they?
FISHER: Don’t forget David Schlemko! He’s having a decent season for the Devils and is a pending free agent — a potential replacement for Bartkowski? I wouldn’t put it past the Canucks. And don’t forget Curtis Valk either — he was another of Medicine Hat’s leading scorers who Vancouver signed as an undrafted junior grad, but I doubt he has an NHL future. The trend is quite alarming and you have to wonder how closely the Canucks’ brass has been watching Trevor Cox, a former Tiger traded to the Vancouver Giants this season. Cox is an overager who will be looking to turn pro next season — essentially another Valk or Vey — but you like what you like. Everybody has their type.
All kidding aside, Russell would be a solid pickup and how ironic would it be if the Canucks chose him over Hamhuis this summer? Vancouver did claim Dallas chose Russell over Hamhuis at the deadline and Russell is five years younger, so I wouldn’t rule that out. If we’re throwing out names, Darren Helm, Joffrey Lupul and Clarke MacArthur are a few more candidates that come to mind from Desjardins’ time in the Gas City. Jay Bouwmeester and Jason Chimera were there before Desjardins, but they could be on the Canucks’ radar too.
Fun little Facing Off story for those still reading, I actually grew up playing against Dorsett — his older brother is my age, but Derek played up a lot of the time, being from small-town Saskatchewan. We hung out quite a bit as kids — my parents split and mom moved to their town — and I remember having a good time with Derek on the Blue Mile during the Oilers’ run to the 2006 Cup final, the last time Edmonton made the post-season. I’ve laced them up against MacArthur, Lupul and Bouwmeester on a couple occasions too, but those are stories for another day!
Who won this round of Facing Off? Feel free to weigh-in with your opinions in the comments below. We will be checking in periodically to both defend and expand on our initial answers. If you want to see us face-off over a topic, we’re open to suggestions as well.