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[Article] Canucks: How injuries, salary cap concerns, cement 'defence by committee' mantra


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Canucks: How injuries, salary cap concerns, cement 'defence by committee' mantra


Let’s pretend it’s still Sunday.


Who had the recalled Akito Hirose and depth defenceman Noah Juulsen as a possible Vancouver Canucks’ third pairing for the season-opener litmus test against the high-octane Edmonton Oilers on Wednesday at Rogers Arena?


Head coach Rick Tocchet said Hirose “might be an option” because of his ability to play a cool, calm game and help trigger the transition. However, injuries, waivers and salary-cap gymnastics put the Canucks in a place where they’re hoping for the best and bracing for the complexities of containing their Pacific Division nemesis.


On Sunday, Hirose looked like a good roster bet. On Monday, he was assigned to the AHL affiliate in Abbotsford along with rookie blueliner Cole McWard because they’re waiver exempt and because there’s a puzzle to figure out.


The Canucks also recalled winger Vasily Podkolzin on Monday. The transactions were about the dance of being cap compliant by opening day and getting to an optimal situation in long-term injury recapture with defenceman Tucker Poolman on long-term injured reserve.


The opening roster of 22 active players — 13 forwards, seven defencemen and two goaltenders, with winger Ilya Mikheyev on injury reserve — is US$2.72 million over the cap ceiling, according to PuckPedia. However, by exchanging forward Nils Aman for Podkolzin on the NHL roster, the Canucks were $28,000 shy of optimal LTIR capture with Poolman. But Podkolzin is destined to grow his game in Abbotsford, not here.


The Canucks can add additional space by placing defenceman Carson Soucy (knee) on LTIR, but the club believes the defenceman might only be sidelined for two weeks. Going on LTIR means missing 10 games or 24 days.

It’s why the opening-night roster looked like this Monday:


GOAL: Thatcher Demko, Casey DeSmith.


DEFENCE: Quinn Hughes, Filip Hronek, Ian Cole, Tyler Myers, Guillaume Brisebois, Juulsen, Soucy (injured).


FORWARDS: Brock Boeser, Conor Garland, J.T. Miller, Sam Lafferty, Nils Hoglander, Pius Suter, Phil Di Giuseppe, Elias Pettersson, Teddy Blueger, Anthony Beauvillier, Dakota Joshua, Andrei Kuzmenko, Podkolzin.


Brisebois is on the roster but was banged up in a pre-season game last Wednesday in Abbotsford.


If he isn’t a lineup option Wednesday, an emergency recall can be invoked when an NHL club’s roster has fewer than two goalies, six defencemen and 12 forwards healthy. The recalled player will have to be returned promptly after the game and can be recalled again in time for the next game, which is Saturday in Edmonton.


Defenceman Christian Wolanin and winger Jack Studnicka cleared waivers Monday for the purpose of being assigned to Abbotsford. Could Wolanin or Hirose return to Vancouver, if Brisebois can’t play? Maybe that’s why there was the Hirose hype.


“Hirose might be an option because against Edmonton you have to have some clean breakouts and intelligence and I think Hirose has that,” Tocchet said Sunday following practice, before the club took Monday off.


“Hirose played for us last year (seven games) and that helps. He’s comfortable. We’re not afraid to throw him in there.”


“Wolanin is still in our plans and he’s been OK. A couple of (pre-season) games against Seattle, I shouldn’t say I didn’t like him, but I felt the pressure kind of hit him.


“But he could be in there. Who knows?”


Exactly. Especially if Brisebois can’t go. If he can, then it’s one less headache.


Tocchet had touted experimenting with a defence by committee before the injuries, but now he’ll likely lean on Hughes and Hronek as his top pair and then deploy Cole with Myers.


“That’s why I talk about a committee,” stressed Tocchet. “People are going to have to step into that right now, whether it’s Wolanin or Hirose. We’re playing Edmonton back-to-back and you need puck possession. We keep giving the puck back and we’re in trouble.”


While Juulsen, 26, has the 6-foot-2, 201 pound frame to frustrate the Oilers — he also paired with Hughes last season and logged a dozen games — it’s escaping trouble and triggering the transition that could work in favour of the 24-year-old Hirose when the lineup is set.

Hirose made his NHL debut April 2 against the Los Angeles Kings in a seamless 14:01 transition log from the NCAA. He then added two assists in his third outing. It’s quite the journey from switching from forward to defence in the BCHL and turning up the hype meter in the NHL.


Then again, you also have to admire Wolanin’s moxie.


At 28, he has seen and endured a lot and also excelled. He led AHL defencemen scoring last season with 55 points (6-49) in 49 games with Abbotsford and made a rejuvenated transition back to the NHL.


He managed three assists in 16 games with the Canucks, but just 86 career games with Ottawa, Los Angeles and Vancouver have tested his mettle.

“Everybody has a different form of it (adversity) with hardships they’ve had with the game or people in the game,” Wolanin told Postmedia. “I’ve had a few who tried to shut me down and the older I get, I’m thankful for the ones who have given me opportunities. And I’m less resentful of the ones who didn’t.”




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25 minutes ago, Drive-By Body Pierce said:

When was the last time an NHL team violated the salary cap and was penalized? Has that ever happened?


...I don't think it has, or at least I can't find an instance.

There were a few games where teams had to play with less than full compliment of players. 
Can’t fine them when they won’t let it happen. 

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Basically they play a player short for a few games until the per game amount gets them below the salary cap.

I hate to say it, but it would be funny to see Auston Matthews have to sit out 2-3 games to get the Laffs compliant.

Dangle and Leaf fans would blow a gasket.

Edited by Ghostsof1915
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1 hour ago, Drive-By Body Pierce said:


Sure, but they didn't have to forfeit and pay fines, etc.

they didn't have to because they were never non cap compliant.. pittsburgh did it back in 2014-15 when letang was hurt for like the final 10 games they played with less players.. coz they didn't have cap to call up a player and they didn't place letang on LTIR so he was technically still on the rostered. no team in the NHL have ever played a game while over the cap with their active roster. hence there's no fines to pay or games to forfeit.

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Just now, Sophomore Jinx said:

Running the defense by committee, eh? 


They should form a - "Don't Get Injured In Preseason" committee, that would be nice.

Well to be fair they did…and some folks here freaked out about it thinking that it was a wasted exercise and that chemistry needed to be immediately built and the real roster rostered early in preseason. That only heightens the risk of injury early on, prior to players getting into a groove/routine and makes them susceptible to injuring themselves (rather than being injured due to physical play against an opponent). 

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1 hour ago, RWJC said:

Well to be fair they did…and some folks here freaked out about it thinking that it was a wasted exercise and that chemistry needed to be immediately built and the real roster rostered early in preseason. That only heightens the risk of injury early on, prior to players getting into a groove/routine and makes them susceptible to injuring themselves (rather than being injured due to physical play against an opponent). 

so there's a difference between getting injured in preseason vs getting injured in game 1 or 2 of the season because they didn't get enough reps in during preseason compared to others that are fully warmed up? if anything preseason games allows you to take things in slowly playing minimal minutes to slowly get prep and warmed up for the regular season vs going straight into regular season with minimal game time and have to go straight into your regular minutes the 20+ mins etc

Edited by wai_lai416
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the difference is that if someone is going to get injured, at least try to have it occur when the games being played have meaning. By the time reg season puck drop occurs you at least have the strongest sense of roster makeup and who can fill gaps or be called up. From a mgmt perspective, the assets are being paid to perform during the season, not be lost to it prior to. So yeah, it’s easier to digest when a player may be injured during real competition rather than preseason practice. 

tell me, would you rather risk seeing an accomplished vet like EP suffer a broken wrist from an errant slash by an anon AHL player in preseason and us suffer out the gate trying to make roster adjustments and find chemistry, or would you at least have relatively preserved him through what is basically a sorting period in order to ensure our opening night roster remains as intact as possible. I know my preference.


you can’t prevent injury but you can sometimes improve the odds of it ever occurring in the first place. 

There is no sense in pushing veteran players early in camp and in early exhibition. It’s a recipe for disaster. The internal scrimmages within the org are enough reps to legitimately prep the known roster players for the season while also sheltering from most incidental injuries that would occur in a more physical environment. 

last couple games of exhibition? Sure.

but to roster the main roster for 5-6 meaningless games against often lower skilled opposition,

that you don’t have a book on and who might just be looking to make a name for themselves, is just flirting with disaster and I’d prefer the team to be risk averse that way. 

there’s also a major difference in mentality at the pro level with regard to exhibition. To you and I it would seem wholly appropriate that camp offers what we both are discussing, but to the pro player it’s often just a technicality to go through before the real season begins. The mental prep for that doesnt occur through exhibition games…that’s mostly to trigger reaction time, “vision” and physical and skill coordination. And not so much against another team, but within the player themselves.

Again, that can be achieved in intra-squad scrimmage for the majority of camp. Most players will tell you they can’t wait for camp to be over and that preseason is too long to begin with. By deduction, that could mean that the real “camp” occurs within the first 10 games (at most) of the season. That’s when the vet players are really putting it out there anyways. Not in the preseason circus. 

Edited by RWJC
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