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Nucks Misconduct Round Table: The Kuzmenko Konundrum, Lotto Winnings and more...

January 10, 2024
- Kent Basky

It's the return of the 11th most popular Canucks panel discussion! Our first round table of 2024 discusses what to do about Andrei Kuzmenko, the Lotto Line, what the Canucks need to do to prepare for this thing called 'playoff hockey', and some around the NHL nonsense. As a reminder, the opinions shared are of the individuals and not the blog itself, and those of Westy and Jimmi should be taken with a grain of salt, followed by a shot of tequila and some lime. Let's go!

1- Andrei Kuzmenko has a rotating door on the ol' doghouse right now. What should the Canucks do about the struggling Russian?

Kent- There's a number of people who think that they should be exploring a trade to try and get something for Kuzmenko right away, but I'm not sure that now is the time. We're hearing both he and his agent are committed to sticking with the Canucks and trying to work through this. And it may well be that he can do that. As far as trading him, he definitely makes an attractive piece of trade bait at the deadline, and with teams already asking about him, they could use him to solidify any deficiencies as they look at a post-season appearance.

jimmi - Just last year some wanted to trade Brock as well. Goal scorers can be streaky. And when the streak is not streak we seek... trade 'em! With his 8 goals and $5.5M contract, uncertain his trade value is worth the deal versus letting him spinoff the sophomore funk, marinate in the Taco teachings and come out the other side with 50 goals and +15 next season. Or this season. That would be good as well.

Westy - Kuz was not coached last year by Boudreau. He was allowed to float around and shoot and then not come back on defense. The last games of the year were spent with Taco, trying to learn a new system and this year Kuz is struggling to realize that both sides of the system are being looked at. He will last the year in Van, just do to his contract and lack of production this year. He is also needed in case the injury....sorry, when the injury faeries show up.

2- To try and kickstart the top 6, Canucks head coach Rick Tocchet reunited the Lotto Line, and to say it worked is a mild understatement. Do they keep Petey, Boes & Millsy together, or do they have to split them out of necessity because of the need for a legitimate 2nd line centre?

Kent- Obviously the way the Lotto Line clicked on Saturday in New Jersey was encouraging, and we'll have to see how they continue to play to see if this pans out, but if they can get Pius Suter, Kuzmenko and Ilya Mikheyev rolling there won't be a need for it. Suter's been fantastic since his return, and if there's any chemistry with them, they ought to explore it for as long as possible.

jimmi - Hope Taco keeps the Lotto Line together - despite Pete disliking the label. It sure seems like Kuz will thrive being with Suter. As Kuz took the most shots (6) of any Nucks forward last game. With increased shooting percentage, increased confidence and goals will not be far behind.

Westy - Keep'em going this month, get as many points as you can against non-divisional opponents and then split them up again after Feb 21. The Canucks don't see another Pacific team until then. Save the Lotto Line for the first round of the playoffs.

3- So get this: After the season ends, there's this whole new season, right? And like, only some of the teams get to be in it, and you play the same team until one of them wins four games, then you play someone else. And there's this big trophy and everything. Anyway, it looks like the Canucks are gonna do this thing. What should they do to like, you know, be better for this thing?

Kent- Heading into this season, just to have this team compete for a wild card slot would be considered success given the way the last decade has gone. We knew, and were prepared for time and the accompanying frustration of trying to undo the damage of the previous regime. So for them to still be legit contenders not just for the top spot in the Pacific Division, and not just the Western Conference, but their first Presidents Trophy since they won it back to back in 2010-11 and 2011-12? There wasn't anyone who was saying this that wasn't taking the piss.

As far as making changes, I can't see anything drastic happening, but a better option down the middle for the second line could be worth exploring, as well as one more solid top 3 defenceman. Are they a legit threat to win it all as is? No. So they'd need to upgrade if they're gonna go for it. The question is: How much of the future are they willing to wager to do this? I might be in the minority, but I'm going to be happy with playoff hockey regardless of what happens. Lose in the first round? I'm good, because it's a step forward instead of the constant falling back down the stairs we had gotten used to with the Benning regime.

jimmi - Playoff hockey?! Such a foreign concept. And yet here we are staring deep into that free revenue hockey season played without rules. Will the Nucks make it through the 1st round? I'm with Kent on this. It's all icing on the bonus hockey season. If and it's that Nucking big IF... if the Nucks can keep playing the straight ahead Taco game - play every shift like it's their last of the season... then... who knows.

Westy - First off, I would like to say that Kent is a filthy liar. The moment the Canucks make the playoffs and then when we know who they play in the 1st round, Kent will be telling you how the Canucks can win that series. He will take his heart and hold it out for the Canucks to crush again. "Happy with playoff hockey..." Bullshit.

The question the I have, and Taco has for sure is, "Can this team really buy into a 200 foot system for 60 minutes a night?" There is a big difference in good team when it comes to the playoffs. There top scorers look to make defensive plays and special teams become even more special. The Canucks seem capable to be able to score their way into the playoffs, but it may take another appearance of "Playoff Demko" to get them past the 1st round.

4- Anyone else think Thatcher Demko's kinda not spectacular at the moment? I mean, he's winning games, but he's been giving up some stinkers over the last month. Just a hiccup, or should we be concerned?

Kent- Demko's been great this season, though his numbers have taken a noticeable dip since the start of December. Part of that could be tied to injuries on the back end that saw the defence's play struggle in front of him. But I do worry about his ability to get rest given how intense their schedule has been. And with the way Casey DeSmith's performed in his appearances this season, why not give him a couple more here and there? Yes, you want your number one starter in goal for big games, but DeSmith's earned the chance to get more than the other half of back to backs. A well rested Demko is key to success the rest of the way and beyond. Naturally, after I write this he turns in what was likely his best performance of the season in the win over the Rangers, even though he let in 3 goals. I just want him healthy and rested, and as we saw in the win over the Islanders, the Canucks can lean on DeSmith to help with this. They have the best goal tandem since Luongo/Schneider back in you know when...

jimmi - Demmers has had some meh games in the past few weeks... but if he can win a game in Jersey with a measly .840, it doesn't matter, does it? Agree that he needs his rest and DeSmith could grab a few extra wins while Demmers prepares to be Bubble Demko in that mythical 2nd season. But still... maybe Demmers needs to have his blocker re-calibrated by a goalie whisperer.

Westy - Stats first. So far Demko has the best save %, lowest GAA and highest quality start % of his career.

Demko was struggling before Christmas and the wonky schedule was beneficial for him. The last game was not his best and yet he made some monster saves against the Devils to get the win. I think Taco has stated he always has a number of games he wants Demko to play and the rest of the season lends itself to having DeSmith playing probably every third game.

5- In case you missed it, it appears that Connor Bedard is going to still be out of the lineup when the Chicago Blackhawks make their only visit to Vancouver this season on Jan 22. Should we feel bad for the kid, or is this some kind of punishment for not going full Lindros and refusing to report to the garbage organization he plays for?

Kent- I know that sounds mean, but let's face it: I am the last person who's going to feel any sympathy for the Hawks after the shit they've pulled. And with the catastrophic injuries they've had this season (along with having to jettison Corey Perry early on in the campaign), they're destined for the basement again. And that means they're sure to, like the Edmonton Oilers a decade ago, have top odds to win the draft lottery again, and be given another legit superstar that will lead them to glory down the road. There's no team as undeserving of this than Chicago, and it's because of this that the rest of the hockey world can't even enjoy a little schadenfreude over their current situation. I suppose it's sad for him that he can't play at home in front of friends and family. There was a way out, to go full Lindros and refuse to sign with this vile band of scumbags, but they chose not to take it. All we can hope for now is they lose the lottery. Also, I love that in the first game they played post-injury for Bedard, they beat Calgary in regulation. Brilliant.

jimmi - Feel horrible for Bedard. Not just for his injury, but for signing with the Fawks. That lottery win for the most shamed team in hockey still smacks of old boy slimy manipulation. But, it's the NHL, pretty much invented slimy old boys. Agree with Kent, the little Fawkers losing this year's lotto would be the best thing for hockey. Next to Bedard walking - running - away from that douche-built franchise.

Westy - I refuse to speak about that organization.

6- We're almost at the halfway mark of the season. We'll discuss the Canucks and how they've done in the first 41 later this week, but let's have your hot takes on what we've seen thus far. Who's for real? Which team is fraudulent? Possible award winners?

Kent- I am sure no one will catch Auston Matthews for the Richard trophy, but this year's MVP is likely to be Nathan MacKinnon, though Quinn Hughes deserves some serious consideration. Which teams are for real? In the East, Boston, Carolina and the Rangers are the teams to beat, while Florida and the Leafs are destined to fall flat. In the West, Winnipeg really appear to be the real deal, and as much as it pains me to say this, but in spite of their goaltending woes, the Oilers appear to have things sorted out, but they'll need to stay healthy. Vegas and LA aren't as good as their records suggest, and I'm still not convinced Colorado can go the distance.

jimmi - Awards are for losers. Or the media. Or both. Don't care about individual awards. There's only one team award that counts - the Prez Trophy. And that other free revenue one. The real teams? Winni does seem to be on track - but as we know - being #1 in the league before June is just another statistic. The Oilers are on an astonishing atonement streak. It's fun to watch a one-player team rise back up the standings, only to be swatted away in the early rounds. I don't watch eastern hockey - their nets are smaller and the hits are harder. Maybe they should form their own league. Oh wait... they already have.

Westy - I know this will come as a surprise, but I disagree with Kent when it comes to MVP. It amazes me that he lives in the Eastern Time Zone and and doesn't see the easy choice for MVP....no, not that moustached duffus in the CotU. I am speaking of David Pasternak. Top 3 in scoring with no one else on his team in that list...unlike MacKinnon who has Mikko and Makar, and he is on a team in the top 4 of the league. I won't mention the team as I would have to shower after doing so. That team being near the top is a surprise after Bergeron retired and the 1st round tanking last year. The Rangers look good as a team and it wouldn't surprise me to see them go the final. I look forward to the dismantling of Tampa if they can't get into the playoffs. As for the West...Fucking Vegas has a lot of weapons and if Colorado can stay healthy, watch out. I would love to see Edmonton bomb, but they will probably find 97 ways to get into the playoffs.

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