Alex Biega

Looking at the 2019-20 Vancouver Canucks

With the 2019-20 NHL season on hold we are going to take a look at where each NHL team stands at this moment with a series of posts examining their season. Have they met expectations? Exceeded expectations? Who has been the surprise? All of that and more. Today we look at the Vancouver Canucks. 

Record: 36-27-6 (69 games), fourth in the Pacific Division, ninth in the Western Conference.
Leading Scorer: J.T. Miller – 72 points – (27 goals, 45 assists)

In-Season Roster Moves

• Acquired David Pope from Red Wings for Alex Biega
• Traded Tyler Toffoli to Kings for Tyler Madden, Tim Schaller, a 2020 second-round pick, and a 2022 conditional fourth-round pick.
• Acquired Louis Domingue from Devils for Zane McIntyre.

Season Overview

The Canucks ended last season with the question of general manager Jim Benning’s future unanswered. But the pressure was taken off when he was given a three-year extension in August. That allowed the focus to be on the young core of the team taking a big step forward.

Captain Bo Horvat has his fourth straight 20-goal season. Brock Boeser has battled injury but is in striking range of a third-straight 20 goal, 50-point campaign. “ShotgunJake Virtanen has career highs in goals (18) and points (36). Adam Gaudette has double digit goals and 33 points in his second full NHL season. Elias Pettersson has followed up his Calder Trophy winning season with 27 goals and 66 points in 68 games. And Quinn Hughes‘ play (8 goals, 53 points, 21:53 TOI) is making it appear as if the franchise will add another rookie of the year to the trophy case.

Benning has brought in three veterans since last summer to bolster his roster. Miller, acquired from Tampa in a draft day deal, has been phenomenal, leading the team in goals and points. Tyler Myers, who signed a five-year, $30 million contract in free agency, has been a steady, veteran presence on the blue line. Even trade deadline pickup Tyler Toffoli has transitioned nicely with 10 points in 10 games with the Canucks.

One of Vancouver’s biggest bright spots, and a huge reason they’ve flirted with a playoff spot all season, has been goaltender Jacob Markstrom. This is a massive season for the 30-year-old, who can become an unrestricted free agent whenever free agency takes place. He’s posted a .925 even strength save percentage, a 6.66 goals saved above average, and an 84.61 expected goals against, via Natural Stat Trick. He’s not only been the Canucks’ MVP, but you could make an argument for him to not only be in the conversation for the Vezina Trophy, but also on a long list of Hart Trophy candidates.

Markstrom said last week his focus is staying in Vancouver and he has no plans on leaving. That’s good news for this team if both sides can make the numbers work.

The Canucks have made the Stanley Cup Playoffs once since 2013, and the fanbase was getting restless for some time and Benning’s job was certainly on the line. But the 2019-20 season has shown there’s reason for optimism.

Benning’s next big challenge will be keeping the main pieces together. Markstrom can be a UFA this off-season and Pettersson and Hughes will be restricted free agents in the summer of 2022 (Hughes will not be eligible for an offer sheet) and if the salary cap ceiling stays flat or does not increase by a large amount, the GM will have to get creative.

For now, the Canucks sit on 68 points and tied with the Predators for the last Western Conference wild card spot but also one point behind the Flames for third in the Pacific Division. Should the NHL choose points percentage as a way to decide the 2020 playoff format, that’s good news for them. At .565, that would put them in the second spot in the division and a Round 1 matchup with the Oilers.

Highlight of the Season

Kevin Bieksa used his time during the Sedins’ number retirement ceremony to wonderfully roast just about everyone.

As for a game highlight? Here’s Petey just being Petey:

MORE CANUCKS:
Biggest surprises, disappointments
Long-term outlook

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

PHT Morning Skate: Bruins’ free-agent decisions; Would Rangers have made playoffs?

Welcome to the PHT Morning Skate, a collection of links from around the hockey world. Have a link you want to submit? Email us at phtblog@nbcsports.com.

• The Bruins have some big decisions to make with some potential free agents. (Stanley Cup of Chowder)

• Boston needs to re-sign Jaroslav Halak this summer. (Causeway Crowd)

• Todd Reirden’s son, Travis, has an immunodeficiency that prevents his immune system from defending against bacteria and viruses. That makes things complicated for the family during this Covid-19 pandemic. (NBC Sports Washington)

Travis Zajac weighs in on the new Netflix documentary “Tiger King”. (NJ.com)

• If the NHL decides to give teams a compliance buyout or two, who would the Hurricanes move on from? (Cardiac Cane)

• A shortened season could benefit some of the young New York Rangers. (Blue Line Station)

Sergei Bobrovsky talked about giving financial support to the Florida arena workers. (The Hockey News)

• Claude Julien is trying to remain positive about the season resuming. (Sportsnet.ca)

• Sheldon Keefe expects Alexander Barabanov to be an important part of the Maple Leafs next year. (TSN)

Darnell Nurse wouldn’t mind playing hockey in empty arenas. (Oilers Nation)

• Pushing the Olympics to 2021 means that the NHL has a bigger window to finish their season. (NBC Sports Philadelphia)

• Would the Rangers have made the playoffs? (Blue Seat Blogs)

Alex Biega sees the importance of life after hockey for all players in the NHL. (Detroit News)

• The 1995-96 Red Wings needed just a little more seasoning before they were ready for primetime. (The Score)

• What’s next for the Blackhawks and Corey Crawford? (NBC Sports Chicago)

Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.

What is the Detroit Red Wings’ long-term outlook?

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With the 2019-20 NHL season on hold we are going to review where each NHL team stands at this moment until the season resumes. Here we take a look at the long-term outlook for the Detroit Red Wings.

Pending Free Agents

The Core

This is kind of an odd situation at the moment because the players with the longest contracts and biggest financial commitments are players that probably do not actually fit in with the long-term direction of the team.

For example, here is the list of players that are actually signed to contracts beyond this season: Dylan Larkin, Filip Zadina, Frans Nielsen, Justin Abdelkader, Darren Helm, Valtteri Filppula, Luke Glendening, Patrick Nemeth, Alex Biega, Danny DeKeyser, and Jonathan Bernier.

Out of that group, Larkin and Zadina (who is still on an entry-level contract) are the only ones that are under the age of 28.

Nemeth (who is 28) is the only other player under the age of 30.

Mantha, Bertuzzi, and perhaps Fabbri all figure to stick around for a while and are still under team control as restricted free agents this summer, but they are not technically signed yet.

All of that leaves general manager Steve Yzerman with a fairly clean slate to build from. He also has a couple of really interesting building blocks in Larkin, Mantha, and Zadina.

Larkin and Mantha may not be superstars, but they are still very good top-line players in the prime of their careers, and in Larkin’s case signed to a long-term deal. Mantha will need a new contract this summer but has blossomed into a potential 30-goal, possession driving power forward. Zadina is still a bit of a mystery, but he probably has the most potential of any young player in the organization and has flashed the ability that made him one of the most sought after goal-scoring prospects in his draft class.

Long-Term Needs

When you miss the playoffs four years in a row and are having one of the worst seasons in the modern history of the sport it is safe to say that you have a lot of needs at pretty much every position.

That is the case with the Red Wings.

More specifically, they need impact players.

They need a superstar forward they can build around and make the centerpiece of this entire thing. Maybe they will get some draft lottery luck and get the top pick, which is always a good place to start. It would also be helpful if Zadina blossomed into the top-shelf goal-scorer he was projected to be (and you should not give up on that possibility).

They also need a lot of long-term help on defense.

Moritz Seider, the No. 6 overall pick in 2019, is their best defense prospect, but he is probably a ways away from contributing as a top-pairing player.

Perhaps the biggest long-term hole in the organization though is in net. Howard and Bernier are both over the age of 31 and neither is likely to be standing in the crease for the Red Wings’ next playoff team. That goalie is also probably not in the organization right now.

Long-Term Strengths

It might just be the simple fact that they have a very successful and very good general manager that has a lot of resources to work with.

The salary cap situation is not perfect, but it is also not as bad as it looked a year or two ago. They have a couple of contracts they might like to shed (Nielsen, Abdelkader, DeKeyser) but it is nothing that is crushing them at the moment and there is some long-term flexibility there.

Along with having the best odds for the top pick in the 2020 NHL Draft, they also have 18 draft picks over the next two years, including seven in the first two rounds (two first-round picks, five second-round picks) in those classes.

That comes after making 11 selections in the 2019 class, including four in the first two rounds.

The best way to find NHL talent in the draft is to give yourself more chances at finding a player (more picks) and the Red Wings are overflowing with them. That helps increase the odds in your favor a bit.

Larkin and Mantha should also be viewed as strengths because both players are good enough and young enough to stick around in Detroit and play in meaningful games for the team. Larkin is one of the league’s fastest players, has great underlying numbers, and has become a 60-point player every year. The only thing that has stopped Mantha from being a 30-goal player the past two years has been injuries. There are a lot of positions that need to be addressed, but they have the right person in charge to do it and some pieces to work with.

More:
• Looking at the 2019-20 Detroit Red Wings
Biggest surprises and disappointments 

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

WATCH LIVE: Bruins visit Red Wings on NBC

NBC’s coverage of the 2019-20 NHL season continues with Sunday’s matchup between the Boston Bruins and Detroit Red Wings. Coverage begins at 12:30 p.m. ET on NBC. You can watch the game online and on the NBC Sports app by clicking here.

After beating Buffalo on Thursday to snap a nine-game losing streak, the Red Wings lost 2-0 at Columbus on Friday. Detroit was outshot 44-16 against Columbus, the second time in the past three games that the Red Wings have been held to just 16 shots. They have now been shut out in three of their last four games.

The Red Wings, perennial contenders during their recent 25-season playoff streak, are headed towards missing the postseason for the fourth straight year. They are currently in their longest playoff drought since 1979 to 1983, when they missed the postseason in five straight seasons.

The Bruins have won six straight games, outscoring their opponents 21-7. It is their third winning streak of at least six games this season. They have the best defense in the NHL this season, allowing 2.38 goals/game. They have allowed two or fewer goals in each of their last six games during this current winning streak.

David Pastrnak has 38 goals this season (3rd in NHL). However, Pastrnak has just one goal in his last six games as he looks to become the first Bruin to score 40 goals in a season since Glen Murray in 2002-03 (44 goals). Pastrnak, who held a four-goal lead over Auston Matthews as the top scorer in the league on January 12, now sits two goals behind both Matthews and Alex Ovechkin (40 goals).

With Tuukka Rask playing against Arizona on Saturday, Jaroslav Halak is set to start against Detroit. Halak has been excellent as Rask’s backup, going 14-6-6 with a 2.36 GAA and .921 SV% this season.

[COVERAGE BEGINS AT 12:30 P.M. ET ON NBC]

WHAT: Boston Bruins at Detroit Red Wings
WHERE: Little Caesars Arena
WHEN: Sunday, Feb. 9, 12:30 p.m. ET
TV: NBC
LIVE STREAM: You can watch the Bruins-Red Wings stream on NBC Sports’ live stream page and the NBC Sports app.

PROJECTED LINEUPS

BRUINS
Brad MarchandPatrice Bergeron – David Pastrnak
Jake DeBruskDavid KrejciKarson Kuhlman
Sean KuralyCharlie CoyleAnders Bjork
Anton BlidhPar LindholmChris Wagner

Zdeno CharaCharlie McAvoy
Torey KrugBrandon Carlo
Matt GrzelcykJohn Moore

Starting goalie: Tuukka Rask

RED WINGS
Justin AbdelkaderDylan LarkinRobby Fabbri
Tyler BertuzziValtteri FilppulaBrendan Perlini
Taro Hirose – Andreas AthanasiouLuke Glendening
Adam ErneChristoffer EhnGivani Smith

Patrik NemethAlex Biega
Madison BoweyFilip Hronek
Trevor Daley – Gustav Lindstrom

Starting goalie: Jonathan Bernier

Mike Emrick and Brian Boucher will call the matchup from Little Caesars Arena in Detroit, Mich. Kathryn Tappen hosts studio coverage with Mike Milbury and Keith Jones. 

WATCH LIVE: Flyers visit Red Wings on NBCSN

NBCSN’s coverage of the 2019-20 NHL season continues with Monday’s matchup between the Philadelphia Flyers and Detroit Red Wings. Coverage begins at 6:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN. You can watch the game online and on the NBC Sports app by clicking here.

The Flyers currently occupy the second Wild Card spot in the Eastern Conference under new head coach Alain Vigneault. Vigneault, who has led each of his previous two teams (Canucks and Rangers) to the Stanley Cup Final, is turning around a Flyers team that finished 16 points outside the playoffs last season.

Starting goaltender Carter Hart remains out with an abdominal strain that has kept him sidelined since mid-January. While Hart is back skating and could return to action later this week, Brian Elliott and Alex Lyon continue to fill his spot in net. Lyon earned his first win of the season on Saturday, while Elliott has earned points in each of his last five starts (3-0-2). The Flyers are 4-1-1 in their last six games since Hart went down injured.

The Red Wings, perennial contenders during their recent 25-season playoff streak, are headed towards missing the postseason for the fourth straight year. They are currently in their longest playoff drought since 1979 to 1983, when they missed the postseason in five straight seasons.

Detroit has lost 41 of their first 53 games this season, which includes four separate losing streaks of six or more games. Their 28 points on the season are 15 fewer than any other team.

[COVERAGE BEGINS AT 6:30 P.M. ET ON NBCSN]

WHAT: Philadelphia Flyers at Detroit Red Wings
WHERE: Little Caesars Arena
WHEN: Monday, Feb. 3, 6:30 p.m. ET
TV: NBCSN
LIVE STREAM: You can watch the Flyers-Red Wings stream on NBC Sports’ live stream page and the NBC Sports app.

PROJECTED LINEUPS

FLYERS
James van RiemsdykClaude GirouxTravis Konecny
Joel FarabeeSean CouturierJakub Voracek
Scott LaughtonKevin HayesTyler Pitlick
Michael RafflConnor BunnamanNicolas Aube-Kubel

Ivan ProvorovMatt Niskanen
Travis SanheimPhilippe Myers
Robert HaggJustin Braun

Starting goalie: Brian Elliott

RED WINGS
Tyler BertuzziDylan LarkinAndreas Athanasiou
Robby FabbriValtteri FilppulaBrendan Perlini
Darren HelmLuke GlendeningAdam Erne
Justin AbdelkaderChristoffer EhnGivani Smith

Filip Hronek – Dennis Cholowski
Patrik NemethAlex Biega
Trevor DaleyMadison Bowey

Starting goalie: Jonathan Bernier

John Forslund and AJ Mleczko will call the action from Detroit. Paul Burmeister will anchor studio coverage alongside Patrick Sharp and Mike Johnson.