Make some room on the fridge.
With the All-Star festivities all wrapped up, the Vancouver Canucks are set to resume the second half of their season. But first, let’s hand out some midterm report cards to the boys in blue and green.
While the Canucks are beyond the midpoint of the season – they’re eight games past the halfway mark – the All-Star break is a logical spot to reflect.
Like many expected, the Canucks are a bottom-five team this season – and at this point it would take more than a miracle to make the playoffs. They currently sit 13 points behind Colorado for the final wild card spot in the West.
With that in mind, you might be thinking these grades are a little lenient for certain players. That’s because the grades here are based on expectations of the player prior to the season, rather than strictly results. ‘C+’ represents an average grade.
In other words, a player with an ‘A’ isn’t necessarily better than a player with a ‘C’. The list is sorted first by position and then alphabetically by last name.
I made a minimum games requirement of 10, so Michael Chaput, Reid Boucher, and Jayson Megna just get a “good job” sticker and a pat on the back here.
Also, no grade for retired players, so no Derek Dorsett (who would definitely get an A+) or Alex Burmistrov.
With that out of the way, let’s dive into these report cards.
Sven Baertschi: C+
It’s been a pretty average season for Sven Baertschi. Slowed by a jaw injury, the 25-year-old has 21 points in 38 games, only a slight uptick (0.55 from 0.51 points-per-game) in production.
The concerning thing with Baertschi in his career has been his lack of consistency, and this season is no different. After producing 17 points in his first 22 games (a 63-point pace), Baertschi has just four in his last 16 games.
Brock Boeser: A+
His initials may be BB, but it’s an A+ for Brock Boeser. How could it not be?
The 20-year-old rookie leads the Canucks in goals (24), points (43) by a wide margin, and also leads the team in power play points (18) and shots on goal (137). It’s crazy he was a healthy scratch for the first two Canucks games this season.
Boeser has brought hope back to the Canucks fan base after some dark years. Even though the Canucks are trending towards a bottom-five finish, the mood is much lighter in Vancouver, and a lot of that is thanks to Boeser.
Nic Dowd: C-
Nic Dowd has only had 19 games here so a lower grade would be a bit harsh, but I really haven’t liked what I’ve seen.
Acquired in a midseason trade for Jordan Subban, Dowd has just one point in 19 games. I haven’t been fond of his defensive play either, although his 52.6 face-off percentage is a nice benefit.
Loui Eriksson: C
Only five more years!
Sam Gagner: C
Sam Gagner’s high expectations hurt his grade a bit here, as he was signed to a three-year deal coming off a 50-point season in Columbus. The change in usage and linemates from a year ago has led to a drop in production, as Gagner is on pace for just 36 points this season.
For what it’s worth, his defensive play was better than expected, based on his reputation as a bit of a soft player.
Brendan Gaunce: C+
Brendan Gaunce continues to do what Canucks fans have come to expect of him – rarely score and rarely get scored on when on the ice.
He has managed to score two goals this season – one off his foot and one where his stick broke on the shot – though he is still in search of his first ‘normal’ NHL goal.
Nikolay Goldobin: C+
Nikolay Goldobin didn’t look stellar in his call-us from Utica this season, but it’s hard when you’re only playing five minutes a game on some nights.
He did manage to score this highlight-reel goal against the Kings.
— Ryan Biech (@ryanbiech) December 31, 2017
Markus Granlund: C+
Markus Granlund’s drop off in production this season is directly in connection with his usage. Willie Desjardins utilized him as an offensive weapon while Travis Green puts him on a checking line.
Granlund has been just fine. Not great, but not any worse than last season as his numbers might suggest.
Bo Horvat: A
Despite an ankle injury that kept him out of 18 games, Horvat has continued to improve this season. His points-per-game pace is up from a year ago (0.71 from 0.64), but his most noticeable strides have been in the defensive end.
There’s a reason he averages the most ice time among Canucks forwards.
Daniel and Henrik Sedin: B+
For the sake of space I put them together here, and both Daniel And Henrik deserve credit for continuing to produce.
After starting slow, the Sedins picked up the scoring when Horvat and Sutter went down with injuries, and are both on pace for another 50+ point campaign.
Let’s not talk about their defence, though.
Brandon Sutter: B
Similar to Granlund here, I like Brandon Sutter much more playing in a shutdown role that suits him.
He isn’t putting up the points, but he’s been more effective than he was last season under Desjardins.
Jake Virtanen: C+
Virtanen routinely gets the least amount of ice time among the regular Canucks forwards, averaging just over 11 minutes-per-game. We’ve been able to see his tools on display (speed, shot, physicality) but not consistently enough to say he belongs in the NHL.
Offensively, he needs to drive the net more to get more production.
Thomas Vanek: A
A late one-year signing by the Canucks, Vanek has proven to be among the best bang-for-your-buck players in the league, and has shown chemistry with Boeser.
It may not be long in a Canucks uniform for Vanek, as teams should certainly be interested in the 34-year-old as a playoff rental.
Alex Biega: B
Alex ‘Bulldog’ Biega continues to exceed expectations simply due to his strong work ethic. I’d like to see him get an extension and be a 6/7 defenceman for a few more years with the Canucks, hopeful that his work ethic could rub off on the younger players.
Michael Del Zotto: C+
Del Zotto has brought about what was expected of him to the table, the problem is the coach is playing him over his head.
MDZ is averaging the second-most minutes on the Canucks at 21:12 per game (more than Tanev!), and that’s something you just shouldn’t expect from a player like Del Zotto.
Alex Edler: B+
Statistically, Alex Edler is enjoying his most productive season since 2011-12, but that’s mostly due to playing on the top power play unit with Boeser and company.
His 23:17 of ice time per night is a heavy workload, so you can forgive him if he has a few defensive lapses in all those tough minutes.
Besides Tanev, Edler’s the best they got.
Erik Gudbranson: D
He quite likely won’t be a Canuck after this trade deadline, which is good news for both the player and team.
Erik Gudbranson just hasn’t worked out in Vancouver.
Ben Hutton: D
It’s been a rough year for Ben Hutton. His offensive numbers have steadily declined since his rookie season, and there have been some rough patches defensively as well, leading to him being a healthy scratch a few times this season.
Derrick Pouliot: C
It’s been a tale of two halves for Derrick Pouliot. He had 10 points and a +2 rating after his first 25 games, but it’s been downright ugly since then.
Troy Stecher: C
Like Hutton, Troy Stecher has taken a step back offensively from his rookie season. However, Stecher isn’t getting the power play time he saw last season and he still wins his share of defensive zone battles, so his grade isn’t too poor.
Chris Tanev: A-
It’s been a tough season for Tanev in terms of injuries, but he has played through many of them and continued to deliver elite defence for the Canucks in spite of that.
Limited to 33 games this season, Tanev leads all Canucks with a plus/minus of +6. That’s significant when you consider that he plays tough minutes and every other defenceman is a minus.
He’s the most valuable piece of the Canucks defence by a mile.
Jacob Markstrom: C
It’s hard to rank the goaltenders when the Canucks’ defensive play is very poor on many nights, but I think most would agree that – as a whole – Jacob Markstrom has performed below what people hoped of him.
With Ryan Miller out of the picture, this was Markstrom’s chance to grab the starting reigns. In 36 games, he has a .908 save percentage and 2.74 goals against average.
It’s hard to be too critical, but Markstrom doesn’t help his case by letting in soft goals fairly regularly, which can be deflating for the team in front of him.
Anders Nilsson: C-
After starting the season strong with two shutouts in his first three games, Anders Nilsson has fallen all the way to a .906 SV% and a 3.39 GAA after getting shell-shocked in a few December games, and frustrations boiled over one game where he smashed his stick over the cross bar.
Neither goalie is capable of carrying a bad team, but Markstrom seems to have more potential to steal a game here and there, so he gets the higher rating of the two.