Game Day: Canucks face tough questions, Islanders in wake of trade deadline

Dec 19 2017, 8:28 pm

After a shockingly quiet trade deadline, where pending unrestricted free agents Dan Hamhuis and Radim Vrbata were not moved, Vancouver will forge on through the remainder of the 2015-16 season, beginning with the New York Islanders tonight.

Game Time: 7:00 p.m.

TV: Sportsnet Pacific

As has been the case for much of the past several weeks, much of the discussion around the Canucks has been related to off-ice activities. Sure, they had another disappointing outing Sunday night against the Sharks, but even then people were talking about it being the last game for some players.

It was a foregone conclusion that the Canucks would make some moves as the deadline approached, at the very least moving Hamhuis and Vrbata. Well, somebody didn’t tell Jim Benning and his negotiating partners that. Let’s just say people aren’t exactly happy with how yesterday unfolded… We’ll get into it, don’t worry.

At the other end of the ice tonight, the New York Islanders also remained fairly quiet (most of the NHL did for that matter) during proceedings yesterday.

Thought to be possibly loading up for a deep playoff run, nothing materialized and while they’re not being admonished to the same degree as the Canucks, some folks in Long Island/Brooklyn aren’t happy with their home team either. They did acquire Shane Prince from the Ottawa Senators, but many expected more from Garth Snow and Co.

The Islanders were on a decent run before losing 3-1 to the lowly Oilers on Sunday evening. Even with the loss, they’re 7-2-1 in their last ten games.



1. Hamhuis & Vrbata Stay Put

Image: NHLPA

Image: NHLPA

As mentioned, almost everybody assumed Dan Hamhuis and Radim Vrbata would be moved before the clock struck noon yesterday, but when the dust cleared and the various trade calls ended, both veterans remained under contract with the Canucks.

Seemingly locked in a dead heat with Calgary Flames defenceman Kris Russell to be dealt to the Dallas Stars, it appears Jim Nill and the management group ultimately preferred Russell. The debate regarding the perceived value of Russell and Hamhuis leading up to the transaction was fairly heated, but regardless of which side of the argument you find yourself on, Jim Benning was ultimately left holding the bag.

As for Vrbata, he provided Canucks management with a list of teams he’d waive his no-trade clause for, but that too proved fruitless. The talented winger has not experienced the same amount of success as he did in a Vancouver uniform last year, leading many to believe it was a lack of interest from other teams that kept him from being traded.

Nothing to show for two pending UFAs is not a good look for Jim Benning and his management team. While his best asset as a GM is his scouting and drafting, he could have set himself up nicely for this year’s draft had he managed to secure a few picks through trades yesterday. We may be left wondering “what if” when Dallas and/or Chicago take the stage at the entry draft in June.


2. Cracknell Claimed

It was certainly not a trade deadline day to write home about. Nary a deal to be had and when all eyes were on the Vancouver Canucks, nothing ended up happening.

Well… that’s not entirely true.

Adam Cracknell, a native of Victoria, was claimed off of waivers by the Edmonton Oilers after less than a season with the team he grew up cheering for.

While it is too bad to see the hometown kid go, you can expect rookie Jared McCann to see some more playing time in Cracknell’s absence. By all accounts, Cracknell was extremely grateful for his opportunity with the Canucks and he’s happy to remain in the NHL, albeit on the worst team in the league. 

Adam Cracknell amassed 5 goals and 5 assists in his 44 games with the Canucks this season.

3. What Now?

So… Where do the Canucks go from here?

Well, without much choice, they will have to carry on with the tools that they do or do not have. Young players have already been featured heavily this year and one should expect that to continue. Horvat, Virtanen, McCann, Hutton may soon be joined by names like Gaunce, Pedan, Grenier, and maybe even Subban (Jordan, that is).

It’s hard to see yesterday’s inactivity as anything less than a failure. However, this team still has twenty-one games left until the end of the season. Players can show coaches and management alike a heck of a lot in that time, especially in meaningless games.

For Jim Benning, he’ll have to answer some difficult questions, but I believe that is something he is prepared to do. The notion that he isn’t doing what he can to improve this team is preposterous. At a certain point, I think incompetence does factor in, but surely Benning hasn’t already reached rock-bottom, has he?

Some players have the rest of the season to prove themselves on the ice and Jim Benning has the draft and early part of the summer to redeem himself in some small measure. At this point, we can only sit back and watch. That begins tonight against John Tavares and the New York Islanders


Radim Vrbata, after not being traded, was at today’s optional skate. He’s likely a game-time decision.

Willie Desjardins switched up his lines at yesterday’s practice, as Bo Horvat and Markus Granlund swapped spots. With Adam Cracknell dispatched to Edmonton, Jared McCann will draw back into the lineup. After missing last game with the flu, Matt Bartkowski is back in as well.

Jacob Markstrom will start in goal.

D. Sedin H. Sedin Hansen
Etem Horvat Vey
Baertschi Granlund Virtanen
Burrows McCann Dorsett
Hutton Tanev
Hamhuis Bartkowski
Sbisa Biega


It’s been a rough couple weeks and an especially trying 48 hours for the Vancouver Canucks. Things may not have unfolded as many expected and/or desired, but there is no time for these players and coaches to stop and ruminate.

The New York Islanders are a good team with speed and top end talent among their forward corps. As mentioned, they’ve been hot as of late, but wouldn’t it be nice to see this group come together and magically pull one out of the hat amidst all of the negative publicity? If you can’t tell, I’m doing my utmost to be optimistic. Canucks win 3-1.