Jannik Hansen

Goldobin leaves Canucks signs in KHL
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Goldobin heads to KHL, moves on from Canucks, NHL

Nikolay Goldobin signed with CSKA Moscow of the KHL, ending his time in the Canucks organization. Naturally, this also ends his time in the NHL. At least for now.

Sports-Express’ Igor Eronko first reported that Goldobin signed a two-year deal with CSKA. TSN’s Rick Dhaliwal caught up with Goldobin, 24, who explained the move.

“The Canucks did not want to sign me,” Goldobin told Dhaliwal. “I was disappointed how it turned out in VAN but I am happy to sign in KHL and will try (in the) NHL again in two years.”

Ultimately, it seems like Goldobin couldn’t quite earn the trust of the Canucks, making his departure to the KHL easy to understand.

After generating 27 points in 63 games during the 2018-19 season, Goldobin appeared in a single NHL contest this season.

Otherwise, he spent his season with the AHL’s Utica Comets. Much like in 2017-18 (31 points in 30 games), Goldobin played well in the AHL, generating 50 points in 51 contests for the Comets.

While Goldobin is far from a world-beater, it’s a touch surprising that he couldn’t find a spot somewhere in the Canucks lineup. Failing that, you wonder if the Canucks might have been better off trading him for something.

One wonders if we’ll hear about more Goldobin-like tweeners leaving (or debuting in) the NHL soon.

Goldobin joins Slepyshev in KHL; quick thoughts on his Canucks departure

The Canucks acquired Goldobin from the Sharks during the 2017 NHL Trade Deadline. Jannik Hansen went the other way to San Jose, failing to make much of an impact during the rest of 2016-17. Hansen then played one more season with the Sharks in 2017-18. He wrapped his hockey career with (wait for it) CSKA in 2018-19.

Speaking (again) of CSKA, the KHL team also signed Anton Slepyshev. Slepyshev’s coffee barely got cold at the NHL level before things fell apart during the Vegas Golden Knights’ inaugural season. So Goldobin can commiserate with Slepyshev, if nothing else.

Ken Holland told the Edmonton Sun’s Jim Matheson that there was an opportunity for Slepyshev, but the forward would’ve made less (at least in the short term) than Slepyshev will earn in the KHL.

“I met with Slep at a coffee shop in Russia just before Christmas and talking to him he thought he could play on a third line, and I felt for sure he could be a bottom-six forward,” Holland said. “I think he had a point in 20 straight games over there and the team obviously wanted to keep him. I feel very comfortable with the offer I made that it was fair based on where he was going to play in the NHL.”

Holland paints kind of a funny picture there, huh?

Anyway, it’s sometimes a shame to see things not work out for players like Goldobin and Slepyshev in the NHL. At least they have what seems to be an acceptable alternative in the KHL, though.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Vancouver Canucks ’15-16 Outlook

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It was another eventful offseason in Vancouver, the second under GM Jim Benning, and it left both fans and media asking the same question:

What exactly are the Canucks doing?

To hear Benning explain it, the plan is simple in theory, yet difficult to execute — rebuild while staying competitive, giving young players a winning environment in which to grow.

“From the time I took the job (14 months ago) until 10 days ago, I went at it hard,” Benning explained, per the Vancouver Sun. “It hasn’t been easy. I’ll admit it — it’s been hard. I’ve had to make hard decisions to try to remain competitive while building for the future. It’s not an easy thing to do.”

“But for the most part, we’ve been able to accomplish that this summer.”

Some will argue with that last remark.

This summer, Benning took heat for a variety of his moves, most notably his trade of popular (and relatively successful) backup goalie Eddie Lack to Carolina for a third-round pick, which many saw as a middling return. After tiring of the Zack Kassian experiment, the Canucks cut bait and got what they could in exchange — 31-year-old Habs tough guy Brandon Prust — then paid a tidy sum to acquire third-line Pittsburgh center Brandon Sutter, paying him an even tidier sum to be their second-line center ($21.875 million over five years, specifically).

In the end, it’s tough to say the Canucks got any better this summer. It’s tough to say they stayed even. Most say they got worse.

And that makes next year’s outlook kinda bleak.

Sure, the same old suspects remain — the Sedins, Alex Burrows, Radim Vrbata, Chris Higgins, Jannik Hansen, Dan Hamhuis and Alex Edler — but they’re all a year older, and now surrounded by kids. Bo Horvat, 20, projects to be the No. 3 center while winger Sven Baertschi, 22, will get a shot at the top-six. Former first-round pick Jake Virtanen (18) figures to get a long look in training camp, and Frank Corrado (22) will likely be in on defense. Other prospects like Hunter Shinkaruk, Nicklas Jensen, Brendan Gaunce and Jared McCann could all get looks, too.

Which makes for an odd dynamic, especially since the Canucks were competitive last year, registering 101 points and a playoff spot. But their opening-round loss to Calgary only confirmed what most suspected — Vancouver was a flawed team, nowhere close to contending.

Now, the club heads into this season minus the services of veteran contributors like Kevin Bieksa, Shawn Matthias and Brad Richardson — jobs that will be filled by (the aforementioned) inexperienced players. And should injuries strike the team’s aging core, it could be grim; at no position is this more concerning than in goal, where 35-year-old Ryan Miller, who missed extensive time with a knee injury last season, is backed up by a total wildcard in Jacob Markstrom.

Oh, and lest we forget, the Canucks play in a tough Pacific Division in which the Ducks, Kings, Flames and Oilers all made significant upgrades this summer.

If you believe Benning, though, his moves weren’t designed to make the Canucks less competitive.

The way he sees it, the club is more versatile than ever.

“What we’re trying to do is build a team that can play whatever style the game dictates,” he explained. “So we’ve made some changes this summer. I thought maybe in the playoffs we didn’t play with the intensity and emotion to step up in a playoff series and win.

“We’ve got some good, young, skill players coming up. But we want to surround them with players who fit.”

Here’s a chart that shows which teams have been good/bad at drafting

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Via TSN.ca’s Travis Yost, here’s a chart showing draft success (or lack thereof) for all 30 NHL teams:

source:

A team that’s done well at drafting will be in the top right. A team that hasn’t will be in the bottom left.

To be considered a “successful” draft pick, Yost determined that the player would have to play 100 games in the NHL. He adds that sorting by other metrics, like points or time on ice, yields “similar results.”

Yost was focusing on the New Jersey Devils’ lack of success in the draft; hence, the bold.

Now, obviously, a team like Columbus (which the chart shows has done well at drafting) is going to have an advantage in the first three rounds over a team like Vancouver (which hasn’t), since the Blue Jackets had much higher picks than the Canucks enjoyed from 2000-2012.

In fact, the Jackets had 11 top-10 picks over those 13 years, including Rick Nash going first overall, along with notable busts Gilbert Brule, Nikita Filatov, and Alexandre Picard. The Canucks, meanwhile, never drafted higher than 10th.

Of course, that doesn’t excuse Vancouver’s inability to find players in the later rounds. The last “successful” players the Canucks took after the third round were Mike Brown, who was a fifth-round pick back in 2004, and Jannik Hansen, who went in the ninth round that same year.

In contrast, the New York Rangers have been extremely successful in those later rounds, having identified the likes of Henrik Lundqvist, Marek Zidlicky, Ryan Callahan, and Carl Hagelin as worthwhile gambles.

Hamhuis, Vrbata will not sign extensions this summer

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With many predicting the Vancouver Canucks will be hard-pressed to get back to the playoffs next season, will defenseman Dan Hamhuis and winger Radim Vrbata be up for grabs at the 2016 trade deadline?

As of today, it’s certainly possible. GM Jim Benning has confirmed that both veterans — the former a 2014 Olympic gold-medal winner with Team Canada, the latter an NHL all-star last year — will enter next season as pending unrestricted free agents.

“We’re going to go into the season and see how it goes,” Benning said, per The Province. “We’ve touched base with their agents a little, but we’ll see how it plays out.”

The Canucks have other pending UFAs — Yannick Weber, Brandon Prust, and Matt Bartkowski — that could fetch them draft picks or prospects at the deadline. Alex Burrows, Chris Higgins, Jannik Hansen, and Nick Bonino could all theoretically be moved too. Such is the outlook in Vancouver that some are wondering if the Sedins should be traded.

As Benning said, it will all depend on “how it plays out.”

One more time, with feeling: Flames stage yet another comeback, eliminate Vancouver

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The Calgary Flames made a name for themselves this season with their third-period comebacks.

So it was fitting, then, that they won their first playoff series in 11 years in that very fashion.

Calgary beat Vancouver 7-4 on Saturday in Game 6 of their opening-round matchup, winning the series four games to two. The dramatic, come-from-behind win came after the Flames erased the Canucks’ 3-0 first-period lead, then rallied again in the third, much to the delight of a delirious Saddledome crowd.

“What a comeback, look at this crowd,” Flames head coach Bob Hartley said afterward. “We’re a big team, 20 [players] on the bench, but this crowd is unbelievable and those guys are just amazing.”

The series was bookended by comebacks. Calgary also won Game 1 courtesy a third-period rally, scoring the deciding marker with 30 seconds left.

Tonight’s heroics happened a bit earlier than in Game 1, though not by much. Matt Stajan scored the game-winner with under five minutes left, snapping home a wrister above the shoulder of Ryan Miller:

Stajan’s goal came after Jiri Hudler evened the score at four early in the frame, capitalizing on the power play after an interference call on Canucks forward Brandon McMillan.

Prior to Calgary’s third-period magic, the game was a dramatic affair. Vancouver looked to be in cruise control in the first after scoring three goals in just over seven minutes, but the Flames quickly replied with three goals of their own, including two in under five minutes from Sean Monahan and Johnny Gaudreau early in the second period.

Shortly after the Flames tied things up, Luca Sbisa scored his first goal of the playoffs to give Vancouver a 4-3 edge, which it’d carry into the third — paving the way for Stajan to become the man of the night.

“We’ve worked so hard all year,” Stajan said after the game. “To come back like we have all year, it feels so good. We deserve it. We never back down. We’ll enjoy this, but we don’t want to stop. We want to keep going now.”

“We just felt in our room that we were going to come back. We found a way. That’s what we’ve done all year.”

As mentioned above, the win moves Calgary into the second round for the first time since 2004 — the same year they made it all the way to Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final, before losing to Tampa Bay. The Flames will now take on Anaheim in Round 2.

As for the Canucks, losing the series — and the way they lost — has to be viewed as a major disappointment. While the club did well to bounce-back from last year’s disastrous campaign and make the playoffs, Vancouver failed to win a game on the road, saw its second-ranked penalty kill surrender five power-play goals over the series and lacked the killer instinct to put Calgary away in Games 1 and 6.

“The first couple of games, I felt we could’ve taken both at home,” a dejected Henrik Sedin said afterward. “[But] they came home tied 1-1.”

Of course, the Flames would argue they’re just not the kind of team you just put away.

Comebacks are kind of their thing.

Notes…

Karri Ramo replaced Jonas Hiller in the first period and fared well, stopping 17 of 19 shots… Miller finished with 26 saves on 31 shots… The Flames potted a pair of empty-net goals, which inflated their stat totals a bit, but still got great production from Stajan, Sean Monahan, Johnny Gaudreau, David Jones, Michael Ferland (three points each) and Jiri Hudler, who finished with four…Jannik Hansen led all Canuck scorers with two points; Vancouver got points from 10 different skaters.