The Canuck Way Mailbag: Flying banners, expansion and Miller’s leadership

VANCOUVER, BC - MARCH 22: JT Miller #9 of the Vancouver Canucks skates during NHL action against the Winnipeg Jets at Rogers Arena on March 22, 2021 in Vancouver, Canada. (Photo by Rich Lam/Getty Images)
VANCOUVER, BC - MARCH 22: JT Miller #9 of the Vancouver Canucks skates during NHL action against the Winnipeg Jets at Rogers Arena on March 22, 2021 in Vancouver, Canada. (Photo by Rich Lam/Getty Images) /
facebooktwitterreddit
Prev
1 of 3
Next
J.T. Miller of the Vancouver Canucks. (Photo by Rich Lam/Getty Images)
J.T. Miller of the Vancouver Canucks. (Photo by Rich Lam/Getty Images) /

As the Vancouver Canucks gear up to take the ice for the first time in close to a month, there is no shortage of drama surrounding the club. Without further ado, let’s dive into this week’s edition of The Canuck Way mailbag.

Okay, this is a pretty loaded query, so I’ll try and unpack this question as best as I can.

First, we’ll discuss the trades. The Canucks’ first deal shipped centre Adam Gaudette to the Chicago Blackhawks for Matthew Highmore.

At first glance, this trade looks infuriating. After a season where Gaudette scored 12 goals and 33 points, why trade him amid a four-goal, seven-point campaign? Further, why would Jim Benning trade him for a player who has a mere 10 points in 73 games?

While both are true, two things need to be said.

First, while Gaudette is rocking an egregious 0.940 PDO (the “luck” statistic – combining a skater’s on-ice shooting and save percentage), overall, he is a low-impact player. His defensive abilities aren’t excellent, so he doesn’t provide much else if he isn’t scoring.

But, as a fan, it’s frustrating to see such an electrifying player traded for someone who’s shown much less at the top level, after a career year. While in the midst of a slump, no less. Put simply, it’s bad asset management.

With that said, Highmore is an intriguing player in the sense that he’s scored at the AHL level and looks like he will replace Gaudette’s energy in the lineup with aggressive forechecking and defensive play.

Also, Highmore carries a measly cap hit of $725,000 for another season. If he proves himself to be reliable on defence, Highmore could provide cost-certainty for a cap team such as the Canucks.

Regarding the Jordie Benn trade, his tenure in Vancouver was pretty ‘meh’ overall. During his time in the blue and green, Benn recorded a 44.63% shot-share at 5v5, second-worst amongst all defencemen.

While perceived to have versatility playing on both sides of the ice, head coach Travis Green didn’t give him many looks on the right-side, and thus Benn shuffled in and out of the lineup frequently.

Considering the Canucks got a sixth-round pick from the Winnipeg Jets, the deal is beneficial for both sides; Canucks recoup assets on a free-agent signing, and Winnipeg acquires bottom-pairing depth for their playoff run — it’s a win-win.

In the Canucks third and final deal, they acquired defenceman Madison Bowey and a 2021 fifth-round pick from Chicago for a fourth-round selection, also in 2021.

While Bowey looked promising as a prospect with the Washington Capitals, he hasn’t strung together a consistent NHL season thus far. He’s only featured in two NHL games this season, waiting in the wings with Chicago’s taxi squad for the most part.

This is mostly a pre-emptive move ahead of the expansion draft, as Bowey fulfils the Canucks exposure requirements on the backend, allowing them to protect Tyler Myers, should they choose.

But, as he joins a Canucks team that lacks any sort of stability on defence, even before the team’s shutdown, Bowey has an opportunity yet again to prove himself as an everyday NHLer. Much like Highmore, Bowey carries a $725,000 cap hit for another season.

So, if Bowey can step into the lineup and make a difference, it will provide much-needed competition for the Canucks’ third pairing.

Regarding the deal’s value, it’s another one of Benning’s patented reclamation projects, which have seen varying levels of success over the years.

Best case scenario, Bowey becomes a solid bottom-pairing, cost-controlled defenceman, and worst case, he’s another iteration of Andrey Pedan. Don’t look into this deal too much, though. The long-term impact of this deal will likely be non-existent.

On J.T. Miller, I cannot express how much more respect I have for him as a person after his comments ahead of the team’s now rescheduled game.

Clearly, the players, staff and their families have already gone through a lot during their absence from game-action, and so to throw them right back into the fire with back-to-back games after only one practice and a pre-game skate is absurd.

Since he arrived in Vancouver, Miller has brought a fiery leadership presence to the locker room; whether through his expletive ad-libs on the ice, or courageous demonstrations such as this, he brings much more to this team than even his play would dictate.

So, kudos to Miller for putting his teammates’ health first, even when the NHL wouldn’t.