A popularity contest has sprung up at Rogers Arena over the past week. Kevin Bieksa was rightfully welcomed with a large applause by the Canucks faithful on Friday night (Ryan Kesler, not so much).
On Wednesday night, the Canucks will welcome back another fan favourite as Eddie Lack will start in goal for the Carolina Hurricanes against Vancouver.
It was a tumultuous offseason in Vancouver as general manager Jim Benning made a couple of unpopular moves as he continued to put his stamp on the organization. His most unpopular move was trading the 28-year-old Lack for a 2015 3rd round pick and a 2016 7th round pick. The return was miniscule considering what other similar goaltenders (Cam Talbot, Robin Lehner, and Martin Jones) fetched on the open market. That anger was further broadened when Benning told Canucks season ticket holders in the summer that he could have traded Ryan Miller.
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Obviously with Lack in a contract year, Benning did not want to invest in him long-term. However with Miller faltering and currently on the shelf, you could easily argue that Benning would have been better off shedding Miller’s $6 million/season salary.
Whether you loved or hated Benning’s offseason moves, there were an abundance of them as nine different players have made their Canucks debut this season. With all of the new bodies in Vancouver, here’s a look at some other players that the Canucks bid adieu to in the offseason.
Lack struggled in the early going of the season, and his numbers are still worse than both Ryan Miller’s and Jacob Markstrom’s. He registered just one win in his first eight starts, but has turned it around with a 4-0-2 record and a .923 save percentage in his last six games.
He credits his turnaround to simplifying his game and playing deeper in the crease. In an interview with Sportsnet’s Thomas Drance, Lack said “I kind of went back to the basics, playing a little deeper in the paint, that’s what I’ve been comfortable with before.”
While Benning was roasted by most for trading Eddie Lack, the departure of another fan favourite, Kevin Bieksa, was largely seen one of Benning’s best offseason moves. The Canucks GM shipped the declining Kevin Bieksa to Anaheim for a 2016 second-round pick.
Bieksa’s struggles with the Canucks last year have continued in Anaheim. He was supposed to replace the departed Francois Beauchemain as a veteran staple in the Ducks top four. Were the Ducks not watching Bieksa struggle on the Canucks bottom pairing with Luca Sbisa last season?
Bieksa said he was humbled by the fan reaction. Recalled how Mats Sundin felt when he went back to Toronto. #Canucks
— Farhan Lalji (@FarhanLaljiTSN) January 2, 2016
Bonino’s surprise exit from Vancouver in late July showed he was not the second-line center that Benning coveted when he traded Ryan Kesler during the 2014 NHL draft. He acquired that center, Brandon Sutter, when he shipped Bonino and Adam Clendening to Pittsburgh.
The trade was originally seen as a win for Pittsburgh. The Pens shed some salary by trading Sutter, which allowed them to sign Eric Fehr. Unfortunately Bonino has taken a step back with less goals than Brandon Sutter despite playing in 20 more games than the ex-Penguin.
Bonino averaging 15:37 of ice time, 11:30 of ice time at even strength and .26 pts/GP. All are career lows since he became full-time NHLer.
— Bob Grove (@bobgrove91) January 2, 2016
Clendening was another piece in the deal for Sutter, although he hasn’t quite made his presence felt on a weak Pittsburgh defence. He was recently sent down to Pittsburgh’s farm team, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton on a conditioning assignment, where he has registered three assists in four games.
Although Clendening has not capitalized on his opportunity in Pittsburgh, his departure should be questioned considering Vancouver’s appalling lack of defensive depth.
Everyone knew the Canucks could not afford Shawn Matthias as he entered unrestricted free agency after setting a career high in goals (18) and points (27) last season. Enter the Toronto Maple Leafs, who signed Matthias to a savvy one-year, $2.3 million.
Matthias has been an adequate depth player for the Leafs, although he has not been as productive offensively after he led the Canucks with 16 even-strength goals in 2014-15.
Both Benning and Canucks head coach Willie Desjardins admitted that they had Corrado penciled in their opening line-up during the offseason. However after he was passed by rookie Ben Hutton on the depth chart, Benning exposed Corrado to the waiver wire.
Corrado was initially thrilled to be picked up by his hometown team, but that excitement is likely long-gone now that Corrado has only played three games, averaging 10:22 ice time.
Another salary-cap casualty, Richardson signed a three-year deal making just over $2 million annually. He continues to be an underrated depth player, registering 16 points in 39 games with the Coyotes so far.
#Canucks with 8 sellouts, 10 non-sellouts at home so far. Last night's game was the highest attended non sellout. Brad Richardson night?
— Sir Earl (@Sir_Earl) January 5, 2016
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The season started out rough for Kassian, as he was placed in Stage Two of the NHL’s substance abuse program. Following that, he was traded to the Edmonton Oilers for goaltender Ben Scrivens. He made his debut this month with Edmonton’s AHL affiliate in Bakersfield, where he scored a goal in his second game for the Condors.
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Ryan Stanton was not re-signed by the Canucks in the offseason, even though (as mentioned before) their defensive depth is rather thin. He performed better for the Canucks during 2013-14, but still was a useful depth defender with his stay-at-home style.
He has not played a game in the NHL yet this season, but earned a call-up to the Washington Capitals on January 2nd.
Remember when Desjardins praised Sestito during his first training camp of Canucks head coach? His glowing reviews of the hulking winger never amounted to anything. Neither did Sestito’s vow to exact revenge on the Canucks.
Sestito signed a PTO contract with the Penguins in the offseason, and has played nine games for their AHL affiliate, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.