How I Would Fix the Vancouver Canucks: Part One

There are a lot of sports fans who sit at home and watch their favourite team suck it up year after year and believe that if they were in charge, they could do a hell of a better job than Jim Benning whoever is in charge. As somebody who is not at all qualified to become a General Manager of an NHL team (besides the hundreds of hours playing hockey video games), I’m going to work my way into fixing the Vancouver Canucks by making a series of decisions that will eventually lead to this team becoming a dynasty. Part One will include finding a new head coach, making decisions on the Expansion Draft and the NHL Entry Draft.

APRIL 24th/2017 – NEW HEAD COACH:

Travis-Green
As the new General Manager, I waste no time in naming a new coaching staff. There are some interesting names floating around for the next head coach of the Vancouver Canucks: Ralph Krueger, Marc Crawford, Lindy Ruff (Krueger will stay in Europe, Crawford will stay in Ottawa and Ruff will be the new coach of the Buffalo Sabres). There is only one coach that makes sense for the Canucks, and that will be Travis Green. Dave Lowry, head coach of the Victoria Royals and another name in the head coaching mix, will join the team as an assistant. The third assistant hired will be from Green’s staff in Utica: Nolan Baumgartner. The three of them will join the only assistant coach left from the Desjardins days, and that is Doug Jarvis. The new coaching staff will be a mix of veteran voices (Jarvis entering his 29th season as a coach, Lowry his 13th) and an infusion of youth (Green is 46 and this would be his first NHL job, Baumgartner is 41 and this would be his 6th year as an assistant).

APRIL 29th/2017 – NHL DRAFT LOTTERY:
The Canucks finished 2nd last in the NHL and with that, have a 12.1% chance of winning the lottery and drafting 1st overall, 11.8% chance of drafting 2nd and an 11.3% chance of drafting 3rd (or something like that, it all depends). Since they have the best chance to draft 4th overall (a whopping 34.1%), for this exercise (and because I’ve been a life-long Canucks fan) I am going to assume they lose the lottery and will draft in the 4th spot.

It will be a disappointment but at 4th overall there are still some pretty good players available. The fan base will recover.

JUNE 21st/2017 – VEGAS EXPANSION DRAFT:

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A big decision to make as a GM this offseason is which of your players will be protected in the Vegas Expansion Draft. Although the list will be released to the Golden Knights – and the public – three days earlier, this will be a big date because the Canucks will be losing one player.

As GM, I would be protecting:
– Daniel Sedin (NMC)
– Henrik Sedin (NMC)
– Loui Eriksson (NMC)
– Brandon Sutter
– Sven Baertschi
– Bo Horvat
– Markus Granlund

– Alex Edler
– Chris Tanev
– Erik Gudbranson

– Jacob Markstrom

The players that will be available for the Vegas Golden Knights to select will be:

– Derek Dorsett
– Jayson Megna

– Luca Sbisa
– Alex Biega

– Richard Bachman

Not a whole lot to choose from, but I would assume that Vegas will pass on Dorsett (injury and contract problems), Jayson Megna (he’s not all that good, is he) and Richard Bachman (could probably find a better goaltender or four elsewhere). It could be a toss up between Alex Biega and Luca Sbisa, but I feel like they’ll take Luca Sbisa. He will only have one more year left on his contract ($3,600,000 is a digestible cap hit for one year) and he is the best option out of these five players. Could be very effective as a #5/6 defenseman for Vegas and at the end of the season could re-sign cheap. If not, the Golden Knights could trade him this summer, or at the deadline and get something for him. A low-risk pick if the team has plenty of cap space. Alex Biega could be a strong #6 defender but if we’ve seen anything this year, he’s more of a bottom line winger.

As GM of the Canucks, I like Sbisa but don’t mind them taking him from me. Hasn’t exactly been worth the money in his three seasons in Vancouver.

JUNE 23rd/2017 – NHL ENTRY DRAFT:
The Canucks did not win the lottery in my world, which means that we will be picking 4th overall in the 2017 NHL Draft. We are going to work on the assumption that the 1st overall pick will be Nolan Patrick and the 2nd overall pick will be Nico Hischier, based on all the draft rankings that have them 1-2. The 3rd overall pick will be Gabriel Vilardi, which means that with the 4th overall pick, the Vancouver Canucks will select, from the Green Bay Gamblers of the USHL (and starting school at the University of Minnesota in the fall)…

CASEY MITTELSTADT

This is another name that the Vancouver Canucks fans probably do not want compared to the other big three centers in the top 4, but if they pick in that fourth spot, they’ll be lucky to grab Mittelstadt. The first three guys are players (especially Patrick or Hischier) who could be in the lineup on opening night in October. “Quick fixes”, unlike Mittelstadt who may be years away. But, he is another big scoring forward from Minnesota who is going to University right after being drafted? It’s worked out for them before. This is a long-term rebuild of the Canucks, and the best player available is going to be Mittelstadt (and not the 6’5 Surrey-born Michael Rasmussen).

Since who knows what other GM’s are thinking and the draft is a crapshoot mostly, I’ll just be picking the rest of the players around where they are slotted in some of the mock drafts/rankings I have seen (if you click on their name, it will go to their Elite Prospects page).

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2nd Round (33rd Overall): ROBERT THOMAS (Center) from the London Knights (OHL)
We pass on Matthew Strome because we fear of the Jared Staal syndrome. Our scouts would have seen enough of this playmaking center while scouting Olli Juolevi.

*2nd Round (57th Overall): UKKO-PEKKA LUUKKONEN (Goaltender) from HPK (FIN-Liiga)
Columbus will give up this 2nd round pick to Vancouver instead of next years, and the Canucks take a goaltender because with Thatcher Demko and Michael Garteig the likely duo in Utica next season, there are zero goaltender prospects in the pipeline.

3rd Round (64th Overall): LUKE MARTIN (Defense) from the University of Michigan (NCAA)
Best players available at our pick will be a mantra for us going forward, and Luke Martin could fit at bill at 64th overall. He’s more of a stay at home defenseman with a lot of US National Team experience.

4th Round (94th Overall): JOEL TEASDALE (Center) from Blainville-Boisbrand Armada (QMJHL)
A smaller, skilled center with Canada U-17 experience. Seems like a good pick.

4th Round (114th Overall): TOMMY MILLER (Defense) from US National U-18 Development Program, going to the Michigan State University in the Fall.
A tall, lankier defenseman who may have offensive tendencies. Could be a younger Troy Stecher. Another American defenseman who just recently won Gold with the US U-18 team. This pick came in the Jannik Hansen trade.

7th Round (188th Overall): EMIL WESTERLUND (Winger) from Linkoping HC J20 (SWE SuperElit), going to University of Maine in the Fall.
He’s been toiling in the Linkoping system for his whole hockey career, but finally made the decision to jump to North America and attend the University of Maine (Ben Hutton’s old home). He was passed over in the 2016 NHL Draft, but a team, my new team, will be taking a chance on him. Westerlund scored 28 goals in 44 games this past season, and heading to the NCAA will only improve his game. He is a guy who could take the full 4 years but could be worth the wait.

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So, in conclusion…

The 4th overall pick is the pick that the Canucks have the best odds to get.

Luca Sbisa is the player we figure that the Vegas Golden Knights will select from the Canucks, over Dorsett, Megna, Biega and Bachman.

With the 4th overall pick, we will select Center Casey Mittelstadt from the University of Minnesota and have 6 more picks to make before the draft is done, where we hope to select a goaltender, two defenseman and three more forwards.

In Part 2, we are going to delve into who to re-sign, who to let go and who to pursue in Free Agency.

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