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Vancouver Canucks NHL Mid-Season Report Cards, D-Men

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Vancouver Canucks, Luke Schenn
Vancouver Canucks defenceman Luke Schenn.

Time to grade out the Vancouver Canucks defencemen through the midway point of the NHL season, plus a few games. The team’s record sits at 20-20-and-6 coming off the 4-2 loss to the Nashville Predators on Tuesday.

You can read and compare the full description of the quarter-mark grades from November 27th here.

Upside and realistic expectations factor into this. It’s more about whether or not the player is living up to his potential, coupled with relative NHL capabilities and performance.

Quinn Hughes – Grade at the quarter-pole, B-minus – Grade now, A-minus. Mistakes happen of course for everyone, but his have been greatly reduced since we last checked in.

These two sentences from November still apply: “Hughes is the Vancouver Canucks minute-muncher. That’s as important as anything, and indicates a defenceman’s true value.” He topped out at 31:07 last Saturday against the Calgary Flames, more than half the game. The match ended 29-seconds into overtime.

To use some old-school vernacular; “dude is money”.

‘Huggy’ pretty much gets it done. The break-out passes are often things of beauty which is the second most important quality for a D-man besides skating. He’s above average moving the puck and his passes are at times exquisite. Not to mention he’s the team’s second leading scorer with 34 points, half of them coming on the power play.

One of the great NHL Draft errors of the last decade, maybe it’ll turn out to be all time, was the Detroit Red Wings, yearning for defenceman, taking winger Filip Zadina 6th-overall just ahead of Hughes, who oddly enough played his college hockey just up the road from Motown in Ann Arbor. The 2018 gift that keeps on giving.

Oliver Ekman-Larsson – Grade at the quarter-pole, B – Grade now, B-minus. I would have kicked him up just a wee bit for overall effort and physical consistency except for the fact he’s not scoring. OEL is still a delight to watch at times because of his grace under pressure. He’s patient with puck decisions and occasionally he’ll make a highlight-reel outlet pass.

I believe I predicted before the season he would have a 30-to-35 point campaign. He’ll have to kick it up a notch in the second half to get there that’s for sure, as he’s only tallied nine points. Three total points on the power play is glaring, but during the first quarter of the season he wasn’t getting as much ice time on the man advantage under head coach Travis Green.

He gets shots through, 104 of them, most among the Vancouver Canucks defenceman, but they just haven’t done damage. “Send the puck to the net and good things happen” might start to pay off for him in the second half. So far he hasn’t created rebounds.

His Corsi is 49%, a number you want north of 50, and none of his fancy offensive numbers are very impressive as you might expect. His on-ice goal percentage is awful compared to what’s expected.

That said, still a calming influence.

Tyler Myers Grade at the quarter-pole, C – Grade now, B.

The big fella is much, much better than he was the first two months of the season. With the coaching change to Bruce Boudreau, Brock Boeser up front and Myers on the back-end saw the biggest change for the better. Better decisions, quicker decisions, it’s hard to believe that all it took was someone to point it out.

He did have a couple of coronary-inducing passes late in the game against the Florida Panthers at home on January 21st and maybe another couple four nights later against the Edmonton Oilers, but for the most part the improvement has been startling. He’s calmer.

He still leads the team in overall giveaways with 30.

Mainly because of his work on the penalty kill, he has a ginormous team lead in blocked shots with 96. Tucker Poolman is next with 73, then OEL at 41.

You can’t teach size. Myers seems to be using it and his accompanying reach more to his advantage lately. He’s goalless this season and has tallied 11 assists. His last goal came last May 18th against the Calgary Flames in one of those late-season make-up games.

The 32-year-old is dangerous when he’s angry and I’d love to see him angry more often.

Travis Hamonic – Grade at the quarter-pole, Incomplete – Grade now, Incomplete.

Apparently “Hammer” is stuck in detention. I’m not even going to go back through all of the non-vaccination crap. After that, he was injured on December 8th at home against the Boston Bruins and hasn’t been heard from since.

We did see him in the press box the last couple of home games. Prior to that, the last time I saw him was the night he got hurt walking out of the rink after the game carrying a gym bag.

My favourite Vancouver Canucks quote of the year is associated with Hamonic. November 18th, then General Manager Jim Benning on Hamonic getting his second Covid shot: (?)(?)

“As I came in to talk to you guys, I talked to Travis before I came in to talk to you guys, and he was on his way to get vaccinated. He was, so he was, he was just on his way to go get the vaccination. He, you know, he went over to the pharmacy, you know, and he had, you know, some second thoughts I guess, and then he went through some other struggles, issues that he was dealing with, he took a leave of absence from the team to deal with those issues and then he got the one vaccine and now he’s got both vaccines and he got the second one a couple days ago, so it’ll be a couple weeks yet and then he’s classified where he can go across the border.”

Wait … what? Just to review: “As I came in to talk to you guys, I talked to Travis before I came in to talk to you guys, and he was on his way to get vaccinated …” 🤔🤔

Tucker Poolman – Grade at the quarter-pole, C-minus – Grade now, B-minus. Maybe a smidge kind, but then again I said that two months ago. Poolman also seems to have benefited from the arrival of Boudreau.

Early in the season I used to say, “Could someone please tell Tucker Poolman that he’s not Bobby Orr.” I think Boudreau must have told him.

Poolman’s forays into the offensive zone with no end result other than the team scrambling back to cover an odd-man rush were not entertaining. He practically stopped doing it in December, at least to the point where any rushes became fewer and farther between and much more reasonable and manageable.

He’s not an offensive guy. Period. He has three points. He’s also not overly physical for a big guy.

Know your role, know your limits; here’s your poster boy. He’s bought in to that with the regime change.

Here’s a quirky bit. Poolman left the December 14th game at home against the Columbus Blue Jackets after one period due to a positive Covid test. His next game was December 29th at the Anaheim Ducks. He played every game after that until January 27th at the Winnipeg Jets when he again left the game after one period feeling ill.

I reckon we’ll see him coming out of the All-Star break but that hasn’t been confirmed.

Luke Schenn – Grade at the quarter-pole, B – Grade now, A-minus. Why? He knows his limits and does his best to stay to within them. He’s calm, big and collected. Lately he’s been a hit machine, tying his own team record with 12 hits in the game against the Chicago Blackhawks on Monday night and then doling out seven more the next night in Nashville.

I guess I can repeat exactly what I said two months ago: Probably the Vancouver Canucks defenceman most comfortable in his own skin. There’s a certain confidence, a positive mental intangible that comes from back-to-back Stanley Cup championships. Big, not afraid, a bit old school, and recently looking solid playing with Quinn Hughes to his left. He knows his role, he knows his limitations, he knows he’s 32-years-old. For some, knowing your role and accepting it can be half the battle. He’s way past that.

He’s handled bigger minutes during all of the Covid mess with better decision-making and puck movement skills than I expected.

He’s also the team’s heavyweight. He will drop the mitts with anyone if it’s in defence of a teammate.

Kyle Burroughs – Grade at the quarter-pole, B – Grade now, incomplete. His appearances are down and so are his minutes. I can’t do justice to a grade at the moment. I do appreciate the fact that the 26-year-old will also drop the mitts with practically anyone and has a high hit-to-minute ratio.

The hometown kid is not afraid. He’s played 31 of his 36 career NHL games with the Vancouver Canucks. If he’s slipped a bit it’s mostly because of the reduced opportunities.

Brad Hunt – Grade at the quarter pole, C – Grade now, C-plus. So I decide to be mean with the last guy. Could actually get him into the B-range based on the fact he’s been thrown into some difficult situations. Not the largest or speediest guy, seeing him matched-up against on January 25th Connor McDavid seemed more than nerve-wracking. It turned out positionally and sticks-in-lanes-wise, he’d did pretty well that night.

By the way, the penalty against Hunt for holding McDavid in the first period was a $%#@& call, one of those Michael-Jordan-esque type calls that superstars get against players of a lesser pedigree.

The 33-year-old from Maple Ridge never gives it less than everything he’s got. Otherwise, and I don’t like to use the over-used unless it’s absolutely necessary, but it fits here: He is what he is. When Hunt’s career is over, he should make a boatload of money as a motivational speaker.

Vancouver Canucks Bottom-6 forwards next.

VHN Managing Editor Rob Simpson has been covering the NHL for three decades on live TV, radio, and as a journalist. He worked his first ever game getting postgame sound as a teenager; it was Vancouver vs. Detroit.

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