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Vancouver Canucks: The ‘Perfect’ Defence is Within Reach

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Vancouver Canucks, Oliver Ekman-Larsson
Vancouver Canucks defenceman Oliver Ekman-Larsson.

So often so many of us are heard saying, “the Canucks need to shore up the right side of the D”. Well, aren’t we brain surgeons.

So what exactly does that look like? If we’re keeping our eyes on the prize, what exactly does that prize resemble? Well I’m gonna tell ya.

Here’s the D-Corps for the Stanley Cup winning Colorado Avalanche in all six games of the Stanley Cup Final, with helpful notes.

Devon Toews – Abbotsford’s own, left shot, 6-foot-1, 190-pound stable all-around partner.

Cale Makar – All-world puck mover, Norris Trophy winner, still growing into his 5-foot-11 frame at age 23 and the sky’s the limit.

Bowen Byram – Youthful poise, 6-foot-1, 190-pounds, the creative kid turned 21 this summer; simply put he’s was a plus-15 in 20 playoff games.

Erik Johnson The 34-year-old former 1st-overall pick (2006) is a big boy, 6-foot-4, 225 pounds, compliments nicely.

Jack Johnson – The 6-foot-1, 227-pound 35-year-old saw the fewest minutes, but used them wisely and physically.

Josh Manson – A big near-trade deadline pick-up, literally, at 6-foot-3, 218 pounds, who may have put the Av’s over the top.

There was mild panic initially when little lefty Sam Girard went out in the 2nd-round to injury, until people remembered, ‘oh yeah, it’s the playoffs.’

Big boy hockey. Violent. Exactly where the Canucks want to be.

The Avalanche ended up with perfect left-right balance, size, durability, physicality. Jack Johnson only played 10:40 in Game-5 of the six-game Final but he delivered eight hits. That was a theme for him throughout the playoffs.

Avalanche GM ‘Burnaby’ Joe Sakic has done one hell of a job building depth. (** How they were acquired down below).

So how do the Canucks get there?

They’ve got their version of Makar-lite in Quinn Hughes, but on the left side. He won’t get much bigger, but could get a hell of a lot better and he’s already elite.

The Canucks have a durable, talented second pair lefty in veteran Oliver Ekman-Larsson. Fine for a little while longer, and the cost isn’t completely unreasonable when you look at elite NHL D-corps price tags.

An acquisition last season, lefty Travis Dermott is only 25-years-old, has some upside, decent size and can play the right.

The hope is Jack Rathbone eventually takes OEL’s spot, but for now could serve as a third pair puck mover; a Girard north of the border. Rathbone and Girard are almost the exact same size.

Now to the troublesome right.

in a perfect world, two spots need to be filled. Presently the Canucks have veteran size and toughness in Luke Schenn and Tyler Myers. Ideally, only one of them would remain, preferably the less expensive one and lower in the line-up.

In the non-perfect world, as in October 2022, you need to fill at least one spot, preferably as high in the line-up as possible. Find him. At this point, it would require trading an asset or assets.

The other options include moving Dermott over, moving one of the higher end lefties over, and/or hoping that Brady Keeper, Noah Juulsen, Jett Woo or the more experienced Kyle Burroughs can provide valuable minutes on their natural side.

Tucker Poolman¬†is a big, but we’re not considering him an option at the moment. The Canucks will require an upgrade regardless.

Universal Size

Think it’s the Western Conference that requires those bigger, non-waterbug D-men?

Guess again. The Tampa Bay Lightning, winners of the two previous Stanley Cups, featured a blueline of behemoths, Ryan McDonagh being the shortest at 6-foot-1, and Zach Bogosian, believe it or not, the lightest at 200 pounds. Four of the five D-men were 6-foot-3-plus while four of them weighed 215-plus. Erik Cernak 230, Victor Hedman 240.

The Canucks have a balance to discover, talent to uncover, and plenty of work to do. You’ve seen the models above, and with two or three exceptions, “they ain’t pretty”. Nor should they be.

**

Toews came over in a trade from the New York Islanders in 2020 for two 2nd-round picks.

Makar was the 4th-overall pick in the 2017 draft. (one pick ahead of the Canucks taking Elias Pettersson)

Byram, a Cranbrook native, was the 4th-overall pick in 2019. Sakic had traded Matt Duchene to Ottawa in 2017 for Byram’s draft rights, plus some.

E. Johnson. Then GM Greg Sherman picked up E.J. in a trade with the St. Louis Blues at the deadline in 2011.

J. Johnson was a free agent signing just before the start of last season. He signed with the Chicago Blackhawks two weeks ago.

Manson was acquired a week before the 2022 deadline from the Anaheim Ducks for a 2nd-round pick.

Girard was acquired when he was a teenage in 2017 from the Nashville Predators as part of a deal for Kyle Turris.

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Zach Bookman

Burnaby Joe… what can you say…