Enticing list of free agents ahead
Will Canucks consider making a move on Karlsson or one of the available elite forwards?
ou can look at the Western Conference playoff race a couple of ways: One, there are five teams within five points of the Canucks and the last playoff spot in the conference, or, two, the Canucks are just 17 points back of Calgary for first. While you’re trying to decide which is more realistic, here are the musings and meditations on the world of sports after an eventful weekend.
The list of this summer’s potential unrestricted free agents is the most attractive in the NHL’s recent memory.
As of this writing, there are at least five elite forwards who are 28 and under, a secondary group of four who are 29 and under and would fit into the top six of any team in the NHL, a Norris-Trophy defenceman in Erik Karlsson, a Vezina-winning goalie in Sergei Bobrovsky, and a couple of other enticing baubles.
Now here is today’s homework assignment: Look at that list, look at the Canucks’ lineup, and factor in this organization’s history of chasing big-name UFAs. Now, try to imagine a universe where the Canucks don’t make an attempt to land at least one of those players this summer.
Given this administration’s track record with free agents, that’s a scary proposition.
But this time, it actually makes sense.
This season, the locals have demonstrated they’re trending in the right direction. We can argue about some of the specifics, but, big picture, they’re in the middle of a playoff race, they’ve identified three foundational pieces upfront in Elias Pettersson, Bo Horvat and Brock Boeser, there is some depth on the team and within the organization, and Quinn Hughes is on the way.
In short, they seem to be close to, well, something. Now, ask yourself this: What would one of the big fish — Artemi Panarin, Mark Stone, Jeff Skinner — do for the Canucks? What about Karlsson? What about a player such as Micheal Ferland or Jakob Silfverberg?
It’s an enticing proposition, and if the average fan can imagine the impact of a difference-maker or two in the Canucks lineup, you can be sure the front office is going through the same exercise.
The next two months sets up as an exciting time for the faithful who’ve had precious little to sustain them for three full seasons. But here’s the thing. This off-season might be just as exciting.
Canucks GM Jim Benning on what a playoff race means to his young team: “I think it’s invaluable. There’s a big difference between playing meaningful games in February and March when you’re competing for a playoff spot versus a bottom-six team that’s playing out the string. Our young players are going to learn how hard you have to play to have success.”
On a related note — for those past three seasons, the stated goal of Benning’s administration has been to provide a competitive environment for their young core.
It finally looks like the Canucks have arrived at that point, which raises the question: How can they trade Alex Edler and/or Chris Tanev and maintain their credibility?
Edler and Tanev were huge in the third period of Sunday’s win over Detroit, shutting down the Wings’ best players after the Canucks took the lead. Edler, moreover, has been the heart of the defence for the past two months and has played his best hockey since that disastrous season under John Tortorella.
As it happens, the Canucks have scheduled contract talks with the defenceman’s agent over the All-Star break. As always, the question for a blueliner who is about to turn 33 is term, but you’d gamble an extra year or two on Edler based on the way he’s playing.
Before Friday night’s win over Buffalo, Boeser had one goal in seven games, an empty netter against Florida.
The issue wasn’t scoring chances. The issue was he was just missing on the ones that came his way.
In a different life, Boeser was a high-level baseball prospect in Minnesota before he concentrated on hockey full-time as a 16-year-old.
He was asked if there were similarities between a scoring slump and a hitting slump.
“It’s the same thing,” he said.
“You feel like you’re hitting the ball hard and doing everything right. You’re just not getting the results. Then you get a hit and things start rolling.”
Against Buffalo on Friday, Boeser scored on a set up by Horvat and followed that up with a two-assist performance in Sunday’s win over Detroit. He now has four points in his past two games. Just saying. And finally, I hate it when CFL coaches challenge pass interference and go fishing for a call that has the potential to turn around a game.
But I hate it more that this year’s NFC title game will forever be remembered for the non-call on Rams defensive back Nickell Robey-Coleman that cost the Saints a berth in the Super Bowl.
As a result of that one officiating error, the NFL seriously will have to consider adding pass interference to the list of plays that can be challenged under video review.
The Dark Star can’t afford another nightmare like this.
Quinn Hughes shows every sign that he’ll soon be considered a foundational player on the Canucks.