Monday, August 03, 2020

IWTG: Canucks can't crack the Wild's defensive shell in Game 1

Canucks fans have been waiting a long time for this.

I’m not just talking about the four and a half months that the NHL season was on hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic, though that was certainly a long time to go without Canucks hockey. Even a normal off-season is punctuated by various hockey ephemera, like the draft, prospect camp, and free agency.

But Canucks fans have been waiting particularly long to get back to the playoffs. While this technically isn’t the playoffs — it notably doesn’t count for trade conditions like the one attached to the first-round pick in the J.T. Miller trade — this play-in qualification round still counts as the postseason.

That’s something Canucks fans haven’t seen since 2015, when they faced the Calgary Flames in the first round in the first year of Jim Benning’s tenure as general manager. The Canucks haven’t made it to the playoffs since — technically, they still haven’t.

It's been even longer since the Canucks won a playoff round. For that, you have to go all the way back to the powerhouse 2011 Canucks, who of course went to the Stanley Cup Final.

In other words, such as those sung by Aaron Lewis, it’s been awhile.

That made it a doubly-painful gut punch when the Canucks played one of their worst games of the year. There was an inescapable “I waited that long for this?” feeling to the game. It was like waiting 16 years for the next Star Wars movie after Return of the Jedi and camping out for tickets to opening night, only to see Jar Jar Binks traipse about the screen, the mystical force reduced to what a scanner says about his power level, and the terrifying villain Darth Vader turned into a catch phrase-spewing ten-year-old.

That wasn’t podracing. And neither was this game, which, like the Phantom Menace on opening night, I watched.

Thursday, July 30, 2020

I Watched This Awkward Pandemic Exhibition Game: Canucks can’t ground the Jets

So we’re actually doing this, are we?

You have to give the NHL credit for getting games going seemingly without major incident. A few positive COVID-19 cases were reported back in Phase 1, but the NHL’s strategy seems to have worked: putting everyone in a bubble like Jake Gyllenhaal to create individualized hypoallergenic environments for each player, then sending them out on the ice like bubble soccer players.

Wait, that’s not what they did? The “bubbles” they’re talking about are just two quarantined areas in Toronto and Edmonton? Well, that’s way less fun.

After a training camp redux in Vancouver, Wednesday’s exhibition game against the Jets was a chance for the Canucks to get back up to game speed in a ridiculous hurry. Starting Sunday, they’ll face a five-game play-in series against the Wild. Win that series and they’re in the playoffs; lose and they have a 12.5% chance at the first overall pick, ceded to one of the play-in teams by the draft lottery.

It’s an absurd situation for an absurd time.

The results will matter against the Wild; this game was a lot more about testing the waters, albeit by jumping in with a massive cannonball rather than dipping a toe in. There’s no time to fiddle with line combinations, experiment with power play set ups, or mess with defence pairings. The Canucks need to play like a playoff team immediately.

Expecting playoff-caliber hockey after a near five-month layoff is a tough ask, and we certainly didn’t get it on Wednesday. But absence makes the heart grow fonder and any Canucks hockey is good hockey after that much time without it. It was a balm to the soul when I watched this game.

Monday, July 06, 2020

Despite Pettersson, Horvat, and Gaudette, the Canucks are not set at centre

Embed from Getty Images

There’s a sentiment floating around the Canucks fandom that I find concerning. It’s the idea that the Canucks are set at centre for the foreseeable future and shouldn’t worry about acquiring more young centre prospects, either at the draft or via trade.

It’s why many Canucks fans were fine with the team moving Tyler Madden to the Los Angeles Kings in the Tyler Toffoli trade, even before Toffoli quickly clicked with Elias Pettersson and J.T. Miller on the top line. It’s why many Canucks fans are eager to see the team draft defencemen and scoring wingers ahead of centres when the NHL Entry Draft finally arrives.

On the surface, it’s not an unreasonable stance. At the NHL level, Pettersson is a legitimate franchise forward, Bo Horvat is a strong two-way second-line centre, and Adam Gaudette is an up-and-coming scoring threat from the third line. With that youth up the middle and a veteran fourth-line centre, the Canucks should be set for years, right?

The truth is, the Canucks depth at centre is nearly nonexistent.

Friday, May 29, 2020

Why Judd Brackett was let go as the Canucks' Director of Amateur Scouting

The Canucks announced the departure of Judd Brackett on Friday, the generally accepted day of the week for burying news, but the writing has been on the wall for months.

Patrick Johnston at The Province was the first to report on the issues behind the scenes between Canucks GM Jim Benning and Director of Amateur Scouting Brackett. The Canucks' recent success at the draft table has turned Brackett into a bit of a folk hero in Vancouver, but his contract was set to expire at the end of the season.

Benning said that he had offered Brackett a two-year contract extension, but it was rejected. There was speculation as to why, but it narrowed down in recent months to an issue of autonomy. Brackett wanted to be able to run his own department, while Benning and Assistant GM John Weisbrod had expressed their desire to be more heavily involved in scouting.

On a conference call with the media on Friday, Benning confirmed that autonomy was one of the primary issues, but suggested that Brackett was asking for too much.

That statement seems at odds with Brackett's approach to drafting, however, which has always emphasized collaboration. He has never taken sole credit for drafting any player. In many ways, Brackett's success as Director of Amateur Scouting has been more about his emphasis on a collaborative process than on his own keen eye as a scout.

Brackett's own statement on his private Twitter account made it clear that the issue of autonomy wasn't about who gets credit for draft picks, but about "personnel and process."

Saturday, May 09, 2020

Judd Brackett, Star Wars, and the importance of disagreement

Judd Brackett at the Canucks' 2019 scouting meetings. photo: Canucks/YouTube
If the hockey season hadn’t been canceled, there’s a possibility that the Canucks would be in the playoffs right now and the off-ice, front-office drama of the last few days would have been a minor subplot or footnote.

Instead, there’s nothing else going on in the world of the Canucks, so the ongoing question of Judd Brackett’s future with the team is not just a story — it’s the story.

As of right now, Brackett is still the Canucks’ director of amateur scouting, a role he’s filled since he was promoted in the summer of 2015 after playing a key role in the scouting of Brock Boeser and Adam Gaudette. He’s been in charge of the Canucks’ drafting for the last four drafts, which have resulted in two true superstars in Elias Pettersson and Quinn Hughes, along with a handful of other intriguing prospects that could play a large role in the team’s future.

Since amateur scouting and drafting have been the primary strengths under Jim Benning’s tenure as general manager of the Canucks, it’s surprising that Brackett’s future with the team is in doubt.

Actually, it wouldn’t be surprising if Brackett’s future with the Canucks was in doubt because another team wanted to hire him to give him a bigger role with more responsibility and higher pay. After all, that was the path Jim Benning took to becoming a general manager. He was first a scout, then the director of amateur scouting for the Buffalo Sabres before the Boston Bruins hired him as Director of Player Personnel, then promoted him to Assistant General Manager.

What’s unusual is that Brackett seems likely to lose his job despite being very good at it and with no other team headhunting him.

Thursday, April 30, 2020

The 2019-20 Canucks Top Meme Awards

Guest Post by Natalie Hoy

It may be a shortened Canucks season, but there's been no shortage of meme-able Canucks content. Here is a top 8 in honour of defenseman Chris Tanev’s first full season in the NHL.1 We are all very proud of you.2

8 | Hockey hugs (of quality)

Will Graham wrote an entire article on the tangible intangibles of hockey hugs, and it goes to show how embraced they were by the fanbase this season. There was a lot of skill on display, but a lot of camaraderie also.

7 | Yep, that’s me, Jacob Markstrom

The *record scratch* *freeze frame* meme is an amalgam of several 80s/90s film clichés and one of my favourites, because everyone knows the best memes are the ones derived from sheer panic.

On Nov. 5th, the Canucks and St. Louis went to overtime and Tyler Myers shot wide, lost an edge, and took J.T. Miller down with him. It was a rare 3-on-0 heading the other way, and you gotta love Markstrom’s aggressive goal post tap as he readied himself for the challenge. The team’s social media even used the still in their dos and don’ts of social distancing, so it’s nice to know someone is laughing about it now.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Oh yeah, we're at the Vancouver Courier now

So, we apparently forgot to tell you this: we have signed on with the Vancouver Courier, clearly the best newspaper in Vancouver. Also, happy belated birthday. We forgot that too.

The blog can now be found at

Alternately, you can just bookmark, which should always lead to the right place.

Have a puppy.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Canucks trade Nick Bonino for Brandon Sutter, throw in Adam Clendening for kicks

Canucks fans have had to cope with the loss of several fan favourites this season, so it was nice change of pace when the team announced on Tuesday that they had traded Nick Bonino instead.

Save for two weeks in late October, when we entertained the idea that he was better than Ryan Kesler, the man he replaced, Nick Bonino didn't accomplish much in his time in Vancouver. And in the playoffs, he was arguably Vancouver's least effective player. It was enough to wish that Jim Benning had a do-over on the deal.

Benning must have felt the same way, which is why Bonino is outbound, and centre Brandon Sutter, now formerly of the Pittsburgh Crosbies, is the newest Canuck. Sutter was, you may recall, the centrepiece of a collapsed trade deadline deal that would have sent Ryan Kesler to the Penguins.

But, alas, time travel comes at a cost. Doc Brown warned us about paradoxes; Trader Jim didn't listen. The full deal sends Nick Bonino, Adam Clendening and a second-round draft pick to Pittsburgh for Sutter and a third-round pick.

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