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Under Further Review – 

Canucklehead Confidential – As the Canucks season draws to an uneventful close this weekend in St. Louis, it’s time to ponder what may happen in the off-season. The first order of business should be filling the vacant role of Club President. The position has been empty since the ouster of Trevor Linden so let the speculation begin! My first call would be to Ken Holland whose contract is up in Detroit.  Holland is a BC native and has a summer home in Penticton. The Canucks front office is far too thin and they desperately need someone capable at the top to oversee the organization. Holland would be a great add.

In terms of the roster, the Canucks are right at the 50-contract limit and need to start shedding bodies.  They have too many forwards under contract and must start shipping guys out. Pick from along Eriksson, Schaller, Spooner, Motte, Granlund, Sutter, Baertschi and get the purge underway. They also need to get serious about rebuilding the defense corps.  With Cale Makar arriving in Colorado, I would find out if the Avalanche have interest in moving Tyson Barrie, a BC native who would be a nice addition on the right side of the Canucks defense.

There has been renewed speculation that the Canucks may have interest in acquiring PK Subban from Nashville.  You will remember that Benning was fined by the NHL for showing interest in Subban before he was dealt by the Canadiens to the Predators for Shea Weber.  The Canucks were reportedly prepared to send the 5th overall pick in the 2016 draft (Olli Juolevi) along with Chris Tanev to Montreal.  The deal fell through when Columbus grabbed Pierre-Luc Dubois third overall, the player the Habs had in mind with the Canucks selection.

There isn’t a hope in hell I would consider going after Subban.  He carries a cap hit of $9 million for three more years and if you have watched him lately, he definitely shows signs of losing a step. Subban doesn’t fit into the Canucks core age group (he’s now 29) and his ‘look at me’ personality wouldn’t mix with the Canucks whatsoever.

Highs and Lows of the Canucks 2018-2019 Season

Here are five positives that stand out from the Canucks 2018-2019 season:

  1. The arrival of Elias Pettersson and the rise of EP40 as a potential franchise cornerstone
  2. Troy Stecher emerging as a solid piece for the future
  3. Jacob Markstrom establishing himself as a bonafide #1 goaltender
  4. More youth injected into the lineup in the form of Adam Gaudette, Zack MacEwen and Quinn Hughes
  5. The overall performance of the team – more speed, more consistency and the lessons learned during an unexpected playoff chase, albeit brief

And the negatives!

  1. The lack of growth and progress from some of the younger players most notably Nikolay Goldobin
  2. Another injury-plagued season for Sven Baertschi, Alex Edler and Chris Tanev
  3. Washed-out injury-filled season for top D prospect Olli Juolevi
  4. Disappointing power-play performance – 25th ranked in the NHL
  5. Still no secondary scoring – Canucks offence is ranked 24th in the league and they have been shutout a league-leading 10 times

NHL Notebook – Boy Blunder John Chayka continues to make a mess of things in Arizona. Has he not learned to stop making deals with the Black Hawks?  How many times does he need to be fleeced or are the Coyotes just a Chicago farm team?

Back in the fall, Chayka traded two former first round picks, Dylan Strome and Brendan Perlini, to the Black Hawks for centre Nick Schmaltz. Strome was selected third overall in 2015. Perlini was chosen 12th overall in 2014 yet Chayka was ready to give up on both of them. Strome quickly found a home in Chicago and has put up 49 points in 56 games.  Perlini has scored 11 times in 44 games. Meantime, Schmaltz had five goals and nine assists in 17 games before going down for the season with knee surgery. He had only two goals in 23 games in Chicago before being dealt.

In an apparent effort to justify the trade, Chayka announced that the Coyotes have signed Schmaltz to a seven-year extension through 2025-2026 for close to $41 million. How can you possibly justify extending the guy when Schmaltz has had only one 20-goal season? Brutal!  Signings like this one can only further damage the NHL salary structure. GM’s around the NHL must be fuming!

We shouldn’t be shocked that the Canadiens missed the playoffs. They overachieved for a good portion of the season but fell short thanks in large part to a woeful power-play which may end up at the bottom of the league. Marc Bergevin chose to do nothing at the trade deadline and the Habs paid for it. If Geoff Molson knew one end of a hockey stick from the other, he would can Bergevin the minute the season is over.

Fans of the Winnipeg Jets (and I count myself among them) have to be very concerned about how the team is playing heading into the playoffs. The loss of Josh Morrisey on the left side of their defense has been alarmingly devastating. They need to get him back and fast. If you were trying to identify potential first round upset victims, the Jets would be one of them. The best thing that could happen to Winnipeg right now is for the Jets to slip down further and meet Nashville in the first round, another team that looks surprisingly vulnerable.

From my vantage point, the two best teams in the West are Vegas and Calgary and it’s not even close.  In the East, it’s Tampa and Washington. If I had to pick the two survivors when the long road to the Stanley Cup is over, I would go with Vegas and Tampa Bay but don’t hold me to it.

The Pain’s Just Starting – To say it’s going to be a long season in Toronto is a gross understatement. If you were projecting 75 wins, it may have to be adjusted down. The house-cleaning is pretty much complete now that Kendrys Morales and Kevin Pillar have been shipped out of town so let the painful rebuild begin.

The starting pitching has been outstanding to start the season but you know that won’t last. The hitting has been brutal and you wonder if this will change substantially as the season moves along. At last glance, the Jays were hitting .190 as a team and get this – they have been no-hit once into the ninth inning, once into the seventh and twice into the sixth and that happened in the first eight games of the season. When light-hitting shortstop Freddie Galvis is the toughest out in your lineup, you know you’ve got problems. The Jays lineup has been served up a steady diet of breaking pitches and so far, they have not had the patience to lay off and adjust.

The Blue Jays last home crowd was in the eleven thousand range and that may be commonplace this season. The crowd for the Buffalo Bisons home opener was twelve thousand so it’s pretty sad when your Triple A’ affiliate is outdrawing you but that’s the reality. The Bisons are trying to attract fans from north of the border by offering the Canadian dollar at par. It’s probably a good strategy because Blue Jay fans may be more interested in watching the kids on the farm than the current edition of the big club.

It’s obvious Blue Jay fans are simply sitting back and waiting for the kids to arrive. Vlady Jr. is already getting into games down in Dunedin before heading off to Buffalo. Cavan Biggio is off to a great start in Buffalo and it won’t be long before Bo Bichette arrives in Toronto. Once that happens, interest should spike.

I really question the signing of Randal Grichuk to a five-year, $52 million dollar deal. Grichuk is a fine outfielder with a strong, accurate arm but he’s a notoriously streaky hitter. He shows flashes but then his approach doesn’t last. What I don’t like is the high swing frequency and the overall lack of plate discipline. His career .298 OBP is a huge red flag.  Perhaps he will live up to the contract but I would not hold my breath waiting.

It took only half a dozen games for Troy Tulowitski to hit the disabled list with a strained calf muscle. I guess Ironman Tulo won’t be challenging Cal Ripken’s streak anytime soon. The Yankees are lamenting all their early season injuries.  They’ve got 10 guys on the DL which accounts for about $80 million in payroll.  The Red Sox are also stumbling out of the gate.  Both teams had better get their act together because they don’t want to create too much separation from Tampa Bay.  The Rays are a definite threat and their pitching so far has been lights out.

March Madness – It’s rather refreshing to see some new blood in the NCAA Final Four. Auburn, Texas Tech and Virginia join Michigan State in the Final Four and I kind of like the idea that the likes of Duke, North Carolina, Kansas and Kentucky are on the sidelines for a change.

It was very disturbing to see the vitriol directed toward Canada’s RJ Barrett following Duke’s ouster at the hands of Michigan State last weekend. Barrett’s missed free throws prevented Duke from sending the game into overtime and the uninformed hordes were quick to bury Barrett in Twitter-ville.  He’s not the first great player to fall short in the clutch and he won’t be the last. Kobe Bryant shot just 31% for his career when firing up game-tying or game-winning shots in the final 30 seconds of games.

Barrett played every second of the final game and finished with 21 points, six rebounds and six assists.  What was concerning were the seven turnovers. But hey, the kid is only 18 years old and is far from a finished product. He will definitely have to improve as a shooter to dominant in the NBA and justify being taken second or third in the upcoming NBA draft behind teammate Zion Williamson. Considering his intelligence and team-first attitude, I would not bet against Barrett having a tremendous NBA career.