The Skate: Missing the playoffs again

The Canucks keep missing the playoffs, because they kept trying for quick fixes but only kept pilling mistakes on top of mistakes. Time to break the cycle.

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Yes, the management has changed.

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Yes, there was a fun and thrilling burst down the stretch.

Yes, it does look like Elias Pettersson is the No. 1 guy and Quinn Hughes is a No. 1 guy and Thatcher Demko is a No. 1 guy and those are really, really important.

But this team is missing the playoffs again. They’ve been in the playoffs once since 2015. And that took a bit of luck to happen.

It’s much harder to make the playoffs than it used to be, but this remains a franchise that’s mostly mired in futility throughout its history.

Ticket prices are going up next year. Will fan interest track up as well?

You talk to season ticket holders and some aren’t that fussed by their tickets going up next year, but there are others who aren’t sticking around.

There’s lots of stuff to sell in the current shop window and some fans will be enticed by that. But durable, long-haul customers may not be so pleased.

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This isn’t a quick fix.

As ever, it demands a big, focused effort to make the right decisions in the off-season. What went before, as Jannik Hansen pointed out to me on Friday, can’t happen again. Mistakes in player selection just compounded upon previous mistakes.

The cycle has to stop.

Not so many injuries this year

It was such a recurring theme just about every year Jim Benning was GM: he would delcare the Canucks had enough depth to survive injuries this season…

But the Canucks really haven’t had issues this year.

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One of the things that’s been clear over the years is that teams that are chasing the play in games tend to get injured more, partly due to the simple truth that when you don’t have the puck you’re at risk of being hit by the puck, but also due to the physical strain you put yourself under when you’re chasing the game. The more you chase, the more strain, and that can become a bit of a feedback loop.

Of course, under Boudreau they’ve not been chasing games as much. They’ve been throughly dominant in many games. And that’s surely a huge part of the decline in their injuries.

Ironically, too, having a mid-season break due to their COVID-19 cases may have helped too. Teams generally start to see players breaking down over the final quarter of the season. But the fact they did get some rest mid-season may have helped lessen the grind.

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Analytics hire

So the photo that rolled around Canucks Twitter two weeks ago led to an interesting revelation: the Canucks added another person to their analytics department this season.

Before the season we knew they’d added Miles Hoaken to their small performance analysis department, working with Aiden Fox and Ryan Biech. Jonathan Wall, who was dismissed along with assistant general manager Chris Gear by chairman Francesco Aquilini, had added Hoaken and all three are seen as key players by new president Jim Rutherford and general manager Patrik Allvin.

They were leaned on heavily by the previous leadership too.

And Rutherford has since added Rachael Doerrie to the department as well.

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But between the hiring of Hoaken and the dismissal of Wall, there was another face added to the department, the mystery man from Canucks photo day, who served as a stand-in for Nils Höglander: Martin Rabanser.

Originally from Italy, he played for the Pursuit of Excellence hockey academy in Kelowna in his teens before playing junior hockey all over the place and then U-Sports hockey for Laurentian University in Ontario.

I have played a little professionally in Italy. But his real story about him is what he’s done since his playing days, even though he’s still in his late 20s.

He and his sister started a marketing agency. Along the way he started a hockey school which has grown into a serious enterprise. He also went to work for the Graz 99ers in Austria.

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According to his LinkedIn, “On top, I used my time to enroll in multiple courses to broaden my knowledge in hockey training and player development. I am now in Vancouver to work as the hockey operations coordinator for the Vancouver Canucks.”

The team never officially announced his hire but he’s been a full-timer since he arrived in October. He’s said to have been a very positive influence.

He was also involved in setting up the big section in the lower bowl for the Larscheiders last Tuesday vs. Ottawa.

scouting hire

The Canucks made another quiet hire at the end of the summer. After the death of Patrik Jonsson in August, the Canucks needed to find a new scout in Sweden.

Enter former Calgary Flames scout Bobbie Hagelin. He worked for the Flames from 2013 until last summer, when the Canucks brought him onboard. He’s the older brother of Carl Hagelin.

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Why his hiring was never officially announced isn’t clear, but he’s been doing the job all season.

Death by a thousand cuts

In the end, this team showed plenty of good things but as Jannik Hansen pointed out to me on Friday, there were just too many holes to fill.

To make your team truly successful, you can’t keep missing on things. And the Benning regime did a pretty good job drafting in the first round — but we mustn’t forget the complete failures that were the Virtanen and Juolevi picks.

They talked lots about drafting and developing and while there were some very astute picks made after the first round in recent seasons, the record of bringing players to the NHL via the team’s AHL club just isn’t good.

Some of that may be down to the coaching focus, but it’s also about a complete lack of support for the development staff.

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And then there were the endless mis-fires in free agency, which Hansen highlighted.

Here’s a series of memories:

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(“because” is the end of the sentence here.)

As ever, hope is not a plan.

Chasing revenue

Tuesday’s game vs. the Senators were originally scheduled for Jan. 8, but would have had limited capacity because of the Omicron wave.

By having it rescheduled away from the half-capacity date, the Canucks were able to have a full crowd…but it also created a hellish week for them.

And that lost point in Ottawa hurt them badly in the standings, on top of adding physical exhaustion ahead of two very tough games in Minnesota and Calgary, games that they were in late before they seemed to lose their legs.

And because of all this, they’re going to miss the playoffs.

Surely there was more money to be made in a playoff run that would have counter-balanced for the half-gate they’d have had in January.

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a funny story

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Back on the ice

Antoine Roussel played his third game on Saturday since returning from a broken leg suffered in early March.

It was a surprise to see him in Vancouver when the Coyotes visited just over a week ago.

But it turned out he was on the road trip to rehab from his injury. He’s a free agent this summer. He’s hoping to stay in the league. And being able to play in the season’s final few games would be a chance to prove he still has something to show to potential teams.

Injured players don’t usually go on road trips. Usually they stay home and work with skills coaches or similar, the guys who don’t travel.

But it seems the Coyotes don’t have enough staff to do that. This is an organization that’s claimed “rebuild” but it’s clear they have no money.

They’re moving to a tiny arena next season.

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Who is going to sign to play with this team?

Is this it?

Carey Price has had his family around watching his games.

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It hasn’t been an easy run for him.

It’s hard not to think this isn’t a bit of an effort to simply go out on his own terms.

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