Vancouver Canucks: New additions will only insulate losing

WASHINGTON, DC - MAY 21: Anton Stralman #6 of the Tampa Bay Lightning and Jay Beagle #83 of the Washington Capitals collide in the first period in Game Six of the Eastern Conference Final during the 2018 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Capital One Arena on May 21, 2018 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Patrick McDermott/NHLI via Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - MAY 21: Anton Stralman #6 of the Tampa Bay Lightning and Jay Beagle #83 of the Washington Capitals collide in the first period in Game Six of the Eastern Conference Final during the 2018 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Capital One Arena on May 21, 2018 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Patrick McDermott/NHLI via Getty Images) /
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Jim Benning and the Vancouver Canucks may tell you that their additions on July 1st are meant to insulate the younger players. He’s wrong and here is why all these players are going to do is contribute to the same losing effort Edmonton has suffered prior to drafting the best player in the league.

The excuses are sure running wild for the questionable moves made by the Vancouver Canucks. Yes, the team was going to be awful next season, but blowing almost $28 million on fourth liners is no less stupid. Honestly, I would have preferred nothing to happen. It’s not as ideal, but it beats any scenario were bottom of the lineup players command term and limited no-trade clauses.

We heard this same falsehood out of Edmonton when they signed Darcy Hordichuk, Eric Belanger, Zack Stortini and Ben Eager. These guys were supposed to look out for Edmonton’s new core. I mean, Jordan Eberle and Taylor Hall look fantastic…playing for the New York Islanders and New Jersey Devils, respectively. And sadly, the Oilers at least had the common sense to pay these players very little. There were no four-year deals, no buyout-proof contracts and for the love of God, no NTCs!

Those veterans did nothing to help Edmonton. They still finished at the bottom. But they had grit, right? The Canucks are making the same mistakes as the Oilers and as they did in 2015. This sounds all too familiar to signing Brandon Prust. How did that go again? Terribly.

These veterans won’t insulate anything. In fact, quite the opposite. They will take up spots from young players and be along for the ride to lose. This goes beyond Jay Beagle and Antoine Roussel. It also includes some familiar faces like Markus Granlund, Sam Gagner, Loui Eriksson and even Sven Baertschi. But hey, don’t take my word for it. Let me show you why Adam Gaudette won’t start with the Canucks in October.

Forward Depth

Left Wing

Centre

Right Wing

Sven Baertschi

Bo HorvatBrock Boeser

Brendan Leipsic

Brandon Sutter

Elias Pettersson

Antoine RousselJay Beagle

Loui Eriksson

Markus Granlund

Tim Schaller

Sam Gagner

Nikolay Goldobin

Adam Gaudette

Jake Virtanen

Brendan Gaunce

Before any of you throw a conniption, these aren’t what I think the lines will be next year. No, this is how I believe the Canucks view their forward depth chart at the NHL level. Except for Jake Virtanen, everyone on this list has an NHL contract and played at some point in the league last season.

I could have made the list longer, but for players like Tyler Motte, Reid Boucher, Darren Archibald and Tanner Kero, I don’t think there’s a hope for them on the roster. Is that fair? Of course not, but few Canucks have made it to the roster on merit alone in the last four years. I won’t be expecting anything different now.

As you can see, we have 16 forwards on the depth chart. Brendan Gaunce, Granlund and Gagner can play centre, but were relied on more as wingers by Travis Green last year. Especially in the case of Gagner, he is not a centre. There are seven players I would put ahead of him down the middle. Tim Schaller was deployed as a winger last year, but since we have so many of them, I think Green will try him at centre.

If the Canucks are serious about creating a roster spot for one of Quinn Hughes or Olli Juolevi, it means they will carry 8 defenders. That leaves 13 forward slots, forcing three of the above out of the lineup. Do you see why I didn’t bother with AHL forwards now?

Like I said earlier, there is no such thing as a meritocracy in Vancouver. Beagle and Roussel could theoretically skip training camp altogether and still have a spot on this team. I’m being facetious of course, but don’t expect either of those two scratched if Gaudette or another younger Canuck plays far better in the preseason.

The younger guys out

Can we just take another look at that depth chart? I would classify around 10 of those forwards to be bottom six players and only three are being pulled out. Well, two of them. Bleak is a gross understatement for that forward group. It’s almost nauseating to think we are going to suffer that all season. You have to feel for the few good players near the top.

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So, three forwards have to come out. Let’s start with the easy one. Adam Gaudette will be sent to Utica because he will not require waivers for assignment. It will not matter how well he plays because the Jim Benning is not risking the loss of one of his new signings on waivers.

This sucks for Gaudette since he looked comfortable in that small sample this season. He will bring skill and speed to the lineup, something half the players on that depth chart can’t offer. It’s bad for the Canucks because that’s one less piece of the future to market next year. This won’t sell tickets.

Next, I can see Gaunce being waived. Ultimately, it will come down to Granlund and Gaunce because of contracts. Green can dodge the question all he wants. I know he won’t scratch players based on performance and will slot people in because of age and contract.

Gaunce could be lost on waivers, but since Jim is so attached to Granlund for some reason, he will be protected. Personally, I think Granlund could clear unclaimed. He makes too much money for a replacement-level player and Gaunce is a more efficient defensive forward.

Nikolay Goldobin and a similarity problem

I wanted give a whole section to the third forward pushed out of the lineup. Nikolay Goldobin looked good down the stretch last year. I think something was there with Bo Horvat and Brock Boeser and given the choice, I would rather see him there over Baertschi.

For me, what you see is what you get with Sven Baertschi. A smallish, oft-injured, skilled forward, who can chip in 40 points in a complimentary role. Honestly, Goldobin and Brendan Leipsic could possibly be the same, but they are younger and cheaper than Baertschi. Granlund and Gagner fit in this mould, albeit to a lesser degree.

The point is, none of these guys are impact players. However, if the goal is to acquire picks and build through the draft, it makes more sense to me the trade the oldest player from this group, since he carries the most value. Iain McIntyre made it clear that he doesn’t see Goldy in the lineup. Considering he’s the mouthpiece of the team, this is essentially coming from Trevor Linden.

I fully expect the team to start shopping Goldobin, but the Canucks won’t get great offers. That’s not a slight on Goldobin, it’s a direct salvo on the man that couldn’t negotiate his way out of a paper bag. If Benning can get a draft pick, great. I just find that hard to believe unless I see it. Instead, I’m guessing they will try to sneak Goldy to Utica and lose him on waivers. We will get the annual discussion about asset management and then the Benning supporters will move on to bury Goldy, saying he was never going to make it anyway.

You do have to ask yourselves, how do you think Nikita Tryamkin will react if that’s how it plays out? Those same supporters have him on our 2020-21 defence, but Tryamkin is a smart guy who is keeping an eye on the Canucks. I’ll just let that marinate for a bit.

Conclusion

Remember when Trevor Linden said this in April?

It’s difficult to be extremely young when you can’t incorporate any of young players into the lineup. Elias Pettersson is the only young player with a guaranteed spot unless Travis Green gets a little too much say. This team continues to make mistakes. These kinds of moves are the final steps contending teams make. You don’t add these fourth liners until a strong team is established.

The Canucks are trying to skip ahead past the rebuilding part to where they are a playoff team. And it doesn’t work like that. For the whole season, I warned you that the team is masquerading as a contender. This isn’t something new. Every year since that fluke trip to the playoffs, they have been nothing but pretenders.

There’s that old saying that those who fail history are doomed to repeat it. For the Canucks, the scary thing is that they seem to repeat this with each year, slightly modifying each mistake. Not learning from them, just making a new variation of the same error.

Next: It's time to trade Brandon Sutter

Linden and Benning are not learning from the past and their room full of “yes” men are too scared to say anything. Or they are giving good advice, and Canucks management is just ignoring them. Either way, it’s the movie Groundhog Day in Vancouver and I don’t know when it’s going to end.