Our first question comes from “Koltsov”, who writes:
What are your Canuck player awards for this year?
A loaded question, and the answer is simply that I have both prospect awards and active roster awards. Prospect awards will be posted after the season.
Biggest Disappointment: Daniel Sedin.
Okay, folks, I am officially disappointed with the development of Daniel Sedin. In nearly three seasons here, he’s done virtually nothing to deserve the ice-time he’s recieved, despite a recent surge. While his overall game has improved slightly, the ‘better’ Sedin’s offensive totals have gotten progressively worse since his first season, as he’s needed streaks to bring them back to par. Skating has improved marginally, but not enough to overshadow the uneven performances of this and last seasons.
“Dangerous dan” writes:
Which of our prospects are closest to being NHL ready?
Well, if his outing against Nashville was any indication, Brandon Reid is awfully close to being ready for the big show. He looked great against an obviously inferior and overmatched Predators team, and I’d like to see what he can do against a tougher opponent. Jason King has looked okay playing with the Sedins, and they’ve developed a little bit of chemistry, but King needs to put on some serious muscle before he will get an NHL job, anywhere. Alex Auld is close to taking over the back-up job, and a few more stinky performanced by Peter Skudra next season might force Burke’s hand in that regard. Mikko Jokela may also get a chance sometime next season if there is a depth problem on the blueline, and there is an outside chance of Fedor Fedorov seeing any time in the big show next year.
Do you see either R.J. Umberger or Kirill Koltsov signing in the off-season and playing next season in Manitoba?
I hope both sign this off-season, but realistically, I think only Umberger will come to terms. Another year in Russia will do more good than harm for Koltsov, as he will be facing top competition over there, rather than languishing in the AHL should he come across the pond. Kirill is still rough-around-the-edges, so rounding out the corners of his game will take time and patience, neither being elements the Canucks have large supplies of.
On the other hand, Umberger basically has little or no choice whether he signs or not. Vancouver holds his rights until one year after he graduates (or so is my understanding), so it’ll be here or bust for this youngster. Personally, I think R.J. is growing tired of playing college hockey, and needs a new challenge; the AHL, perhaps? Basically what I am saying here is that Vancouver has no leverage in contract negotiations. He could either sign and play next season with Manitoba, or wait, graduate, and then sign. Either way, R.J. gets paid. I’d love to see him in camp next year, and he probably will be.
How important is it to the organization to give young players a little taste of the NHL? How will the games played this season by players such as Reid, King and Jokela affect their development?
If I were running an NHL club, my first concern would be to get the young players quality NHL icetime, rather than just stick them in for a few games here or there. Luckily, most of the guys the Canucks have brought up this year (with the exception of Jokela) have received ample icetime in their stints with the club.
Once you get a taste of something great, it’s human nature to come back for more, so the players promoted by the Canucks this season (Reid, King, Baumgartner, and to a lesser extent, Kavanagh) will be even more motivated going into next year to cement their statuses with the club.
What issues do you see the Canucks attempting to address in the draft this year?
My hope is that the Canucks are able to trade up in the draft and nab a scoring forward. Last draft, Vancouver picked up three goaltenders and three defensemen, along with four forwards. However, none of those forwards look to be impact players in the future, so perhaps pooling together a pick and an asset will help Vancouver move into the top ten to get something of substance.
A guy I would really like Burke to take a flyer on if he moves up into the top decade is Dustin Brown. He will be either a boom or bust player, but the Canucks are a good enough team now to roll the dice with their first rounders every so often, as they’ve gone with the ‘safe’ pick in ’00 and ’01 (Smith, Umberger). Or, we could just lay back and go with another safe guy, such as Kevin Klein from Toronto-St. Mikes. Burke and his staff hold all of the cards.
Burke’s Evil Spirit asks:
Who do you view as the most tradeable assets on this club?
Of our prospects, the only player I can think of who has value and could be traded is Fedor Fedorov. In his first full professional season, the younger Fedorov has been nothing but a tease, and has alienated even Brian Burke (imagine that). He’s now out for the season with an injury, but rest assured, if the Canucks can move him for a decent pick or package him with a pick to move up in the June draft, they will do it. He won’t see NHL ice again in Vancouver.
What do you view as the Canucks’ weakest area, and what steps do you believe will be taken to fill that void?
Like some other hockey fans and pundits, my main worry for the Canucks lies within Dan Cloutier. In the past two years, he has been unable to bring home the bacon in the playoffs, and should he fail again this season, where does that leave the Canucks? This year, the Canucks will be the favourites in their first round series, no matter who they play, and as long as Cloutier plays like he can, getting into the second or third round should definitely be a possibility.
There is also the pressing need for secondary scoring on the Canucks, but I’m not as worried about that. Even though Trevor Linden is declining, he’s always been an excellent playoff performer, scoring at a point-per-game clip throughout his playoff career. In limited action thus far, both Sedins and Matt Cooke have also been clutch in the playoffs. Provided the big line lights it up like they should, secondary scoring should not be a hot button issue. That is my hope, anyway.
Which player(s) do you see taking a step forward next year, whether they be pro, farm or prospects.
Taking a step forward next season into the lineup full time will definitely be Brandon Reid. Like few before him, this little waterbug has impressed me a great deal. He’s quick on his skates, with fantastic speed, control and balance. His offensive skill is very good, but he’ll top out at around forty points at the NHL level because of size constraints. He will be one to watch next season for the Calder.
With the likely departure of Murray Baron, I can see Nolan Baumgartner moving up into a full-time role with the Canucks next season. In his time up in the NHL, Nolan has looked quite good. Not flashy at all, but he gets the job done, and would make a fine sixth defenseman for the Canucks next season.
Which player(s) do you find may trail off next year, whether they be pro, farm or prospects.
Personally, I think Rene Vydareny is done in this organization. He’s worn out a lot of welcomes with his inconsistent, irresponsible play. In three seasons, his defensive play is still atrocious, and his offensive game has not progressed at all, as he’s been limited to a fill-in player down on the farm. His confidence is shot, and it’s time for Rene to move on to another organization.
With Brad May likely back next season, Jarkko Ruutu is also on the outs. He’s done nothing this season, save for one pretty goal. He still takes silly penalties (although this has improved greatly), and has just not taken advantage of opportunities handed his way. The arrival of May basically signalled the end of the Ruutu era in Vancouver (har-har).
Which players do you see Brian Burke adding/subtracting from the lineup?
Easy. Jarkko Ruutu is gone. Murray Baron is history, and Trent Klatt will most likely not be back, as they can replace him for a much lower cost. Trevor Letowski has not had a good season thus far, and might also be gone.
Who will replace them? Well, my gut feeling says that the replacements will be Brandon Reid, who has impressed me more than any rookie to slide through the Canucks organization in years; Nolan Baumgartner, who has been a solid call-up, and can chip in some offense; Brad May, who is already here, but hasn’t been given the opportunity to strut his stuff just yet; and finally, a free-agent signing will likely replace Klatt.
Do you think Fedor Fedorov will ever get his act together and play hockey?
Honestly, not in this organization. Only halfway through his first full season with Manitoba, he already drew the ire of Brian Burke, and usually once you’re on the outs with Burke, you don’t come back. His numbers this season have been unimpressive, and his work ethic has been nonexistent, which is really too bad. Why? Simple. Fedorov is a player with remarkable physical tools and great skills, but will he ever put them together in this organization? No. He’s buried on the depth chart now, and will need to fight his way back up, and I just don’t think he has the heart to do it.