Canucks 2016 Entry Draft

The NHL Entry Draft has come and gone, and many projections have been made by the experts about who “won” or lost” the draft.

I worked for Hockey’s Future (RIP) for a number of years so I know it takes about five years until you know if it was a good draft day or not.  Furthermore, I haven’t followed this year’s draft class close enough to speak to the prospects themselves in great detail.  However, I do have some concerns about the approach the Canucks appear to have taken at the draft this year.

First Round: Olli Juolevi

In the NHL, I firmly believe you do NOT draft for need. And that seems to be what the Canucks did here. Insistent on getting a new top defensive prospect, the general consensus is that Matt Tkachuk was the better pick here.  I tend to agree. Whenever you have the chance to draft an 18 year old who scored 20 goals in 18 OHL playoff games, it seems foolish to pass it up. Juolevi may turn out to be a great NHL player, but in the moment, the right pick was Tkachuk.

Second Round: Traded

I’ve already ranted about the Jared McCann/Gudbranson trade before.

The NHL officially confirming Las Vegas expansion next year is just further evidence of why that trade didn’t make sense.  The Canucks gave up an asset in McCann who didn’t need to be protected for one that does need protection in the expansion draft – meaning they’ll have to risk losing a better player as a result. Fortunately (in twisted logic), the lack of quality players on the team makes it unlikely they’re going to lose a relevant piece.

Third Round: William Lockwood

A small player destined for Michigan in the NCAA, the general consensus is that Lockwood doesn’t have much upside, and that you’re projecting him as a bottom six player.  Teams do need depth forwards, but  I personally prefer to aim for higher reward, higher risk players in the top half of the draft.  Worth noting that Central Scouting had him rated considerably below a third round grade.

Fourth Round: Traded

Also part of the Gudbranson trade.

Fifth Round (124th overall): Traded

Was moved with Zack Kassian to acquire Brandon Prust.  Oops.

Fifth Round (140th overall): Cole Candella

Unsurprisingly the Canucks continued to add d-men to their organization. Candella is an interesting pick. He played a fairly prominent role on Hamilton (OHL) until an injury ended his season early. We’ll see a bit more of what they have next year.

 

Sixth Round: Jakob Stukel

An overage forward who went undrafted in 2015 after a poor season with the Vancouver Giants, Stukel is a good skater who stepped up his game after a WHL trade early this year.  I don’t love drafting overagers philosophically, and there seem to be some concerns that Stukel’s offensive numbers are inflated by powerplay minutes.

 

Seventh Round (184th overall): Rodrigo Bols

This one just doesn’t make a lot of sense.  A 20 year old who couldn’t put up a point per game in the WHL does not typically project to be a quality pro, furthermore a NHL prospect. I know it’s the seventh round, but I’m opposed to drafting guys for your ECHL roster.

 

Seventh Round (194th overall): Brett McKenzie

Another overager, McKenzie has size and was mostly unranked. There isn’t much evidence that professional talent evaluators consider him to have NHL potential. Once again, I don’t like the pick from a process perspective.  I’d have rather they go with the legacy option and take Ty Ronning, Cliff Ronning’s kid.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Farmhouse Fest 2016

Farmhouse Fest, the best BC beer event of the year, has come and gone.

You know what's nice? Getting a glass at a beer festival that you actually want to keep.

You know what’s nice? Getting a glass at a beer festival that you actually want to keep.

Today, beer nerds from around the Lower Mainland are likely nursing hangovers and fried palates from the abundance of sharp sour beers that were pouring.

Last year’s inaugural Farmhouse Fest as a huge success. It was a great event.  And it was great to see that the organizers appear to have learned from the previous year and successfully made this an even better event despite the constant rainfall throughout the afternoon.

The biggest and most notable improvement was the quality and diversity of food available.  For me, the collection of food trucks this year was an enormous improvement over 2015. The variety also helped to keep food lines down, which is a big plus when everyone’s standing outside getting wet.

I don’t know if this is actually the case, but it seemed like there was more seating and covered areas.  This could be a byproduct of hazy recollections.  Then again, last year I don’t recall sitting down at all, so my perception could be warped.

Best in Show

Admittedly, I didn’t try every single beer there…because I’m not insane. But between my own samples and sharing with the rest of our group, I did get to try a pretty good cross-section.  Here are my personal top 3:

3) Cantillon Rose de Gambrinus – I’ve had the good fortunate to try this traditional lambic with raspberry a number of times before, and brought back some of it from my wife and I’s visit to the Brussels brewery last year. But none of that takes away from the quality of this powerfully fruity, sharply sour beer.

2) Dunham Assemblage No. 1 – Described as a barrel aged blend of their pale with Propolis and brettanomyces yeast, I’d characterize it as tasting like an almost perfect saison.  Brasserie Dunham, a Quebec-based brewery, recently landed in BC and with offerings like this, I think they’re going to be a huge hit. Their saison game is on point.

1) Almanac Blueberry – Many times I’ve stood at the shelf at my favourite US beer stores like Chuck’s Central District in Seattle or Elizabeth Station in Bellingham contemplating whether or not to spend the money on an Almanac beer.  The Blueberry sour, aged in wine barrels, was the first beer I had, and one of the later ones as I went back a few hours afterwards.  Super, super sour with a healthy amount of fruit, my second glass was near the bottom of the keg and much, much cloudier/thicker – and might have been even better than my first taste.

Special mention: Main Street Brewing’s controversial Brett Reifel.  I don’t know if this is the same beer as “Red Reifel” last year, but the name and flavour are very similar. Last year it was a highly divisive beer with some finding it undrinkable and others like myself really, really enjoying the extremely unique “cheese beer” as my friends dubbed it.  I’m told bottles of this will be available at the brewery in a few months and I, for one, am super excited about that.

Other Observations

Let’s be clear, this event was awesome. I’ll buy tickets for it next year, no question. But it wasn’t completely perfect and there were a few items that struck me as a bit odd. I’m sure there are perfectly valid reasons for everything (and let’s be clear, the organizers obviously busted their asses to put on this great event).

  • More bathrooms, please. Waiting in line for beer sucks. But waiting in line to use a bathroom sucks more.  I know this is a calculation of cost, attendance levels, peak usage, etc, but I’d happily tack a few extra bucks onto my ticket cost to knock down wait times.
  • Where’s Driftwood? Storm Brewing may be the Grandfather of Sour Beer in BC, but for my money it was Driftwood who broadly popularized the style. Their absence seemed odd.
  • US breweries: There were a few there, but not as many as I’d think. I know space and cost are major limiting factors, but there are a few breweries who seem tailor-made for this type of event, who are widely-available in BC already, like Cascade ($$$, I know) and Logsdon.
  • The Location. I gather from social media that the organizers are big fans of the UBC Farm for this event.  I am not.
  • The People: Awesome.  Apparently around 950 people rolled through the event during the six hour duration.  And I didn’t see a single people-caused problem, if you know what I mean.  We’ve all been to beerfests that get out of hand. Not at Farmhouse Fest. Great job, everyone.

Beer Geek Confession…

I don’t care who makes good beer.firestone-duvel

That may seem like a strange statement.  But with the increasing number of acquisitions of “craft” breweries by larger beer/alcohol conglomerates, it’s become a common topic.  Particularly with the online beer community (which I realize is a bizarre thing to type), you’ll find a good number of people who refuse to drink brand “X” because they’re owned by (Anheuser-Busch InBev, Molson Coors,  whomever) now.

In January 2015, InBev acquired popular large Seattle craft brewer Elysian. The backlash from some members of the public was immediate.  People now claim they have boycotted Elysian beer, no longer visit their pubs, and generally cast scorn on the Elysian brand.  Notably one of Elysian’s brewers left shortly after the sale and opened his own (awesome) brewery, Cloudburst Brewing located just two blocks from Pike Place Market in downtown Seattle.

10 Barrel, Ballast Point, Lagunitas, Redhook, Pyramid, Magic Hat, Kona, Goose Island, Founders and Widmer are all examples of breweries either wholly or in part owned by “big beer.”  Firestone Walker also has some sort of partnership/ownership arrangement with Duvel.  Firestone Walker is one of my favourite breweries. The selling of a stake of the brewery did nothing to change that.

None of it matters to me.

I want to drink good beer. The name on the label, or who owns that label, doesn’t matter.

And based on the enthusiasm in which many of Vancouver’s craft beer community was UnTapping, tweeting and Instagraming their thoughts on Goose Island’s #MigrationWeek recently (albeit, much of it appeared to be gratis, it looks like it doesn’t make a difference to many locals either.

Sure, I am more likely to pick up or try a beer if it’s from a brewery I know I like.  But that’s a matter of brand recognition – i.e. I’m basically going to try anything I see from Yellow Dog Brewing, but might not pick up a beer instinctively from a different Port Moody brewery.

But the grandstanding that happens around some “big beer” owned brands is tiresome, in my opinion. If you like the beer, enjoy the beer.  I simply don’t believe that making money doesn’t mean you aren’t capable of making good beer.

 

 

 

 

The Canucks’ McCann-Gudbranson Trade Thoughts

Ugh.  It’s so bad, it brought me out of blog-tirement.  Yes, I’m talking about the McCann-Gudbranson trade.

Yes, Jim, we’re sad and confused, too.

I should preface this all by saying that I think Erik Gudbranson is a good hockey player. He’s an above-average 2nd pairing d-man in the NHL.  This isn’t about the player, per se, it’s about the value the Canucks chose to assign him, and the situation the franchise is in.

To recap, the Canucks received Gudbranson and a 5th round pick for Jared McCann, the 33rd overall pick (2nd round) and a 4th round pick. All the picks are in the upcoming 2016 NHL Draft.

Gudbranson is 24 years old with five NHL seasons under his belt in Florida. While he is young, something Benning stressed today, he’s also probably developed as much as he ever is.  And he’s just two years away from unrestricted agency (I believe) and reportedly previously turned down a 4-year, 4.5M per season contract from Florida.  He also has a pattern of injury issues.

McCann played a full season in the big show at 19 and seems to be a lock to be a solid 3rd line centre and might have 2nd line potential by the time he’s Gudbranson’s age.  McCann also has two more seasons of very salary cap friendly $925,000 years, compared to $3.5M for Gudbranson this season, with a raise to come after.

Based on all this, a swap of the players could have made sense for Vancouver.  I could have tolerated the swapping of the 4th and 5th picks even in recognition of Gudbranson’s status as a proven commodity.

But to include a 2nd round pick  – in a season where the dismal Canucks have the 33rd pick overall (virtually the same value as a very late 1st round pick) is very questionable asset management in my opinion.  That’s basically a free, high, pick for Florida.

The other problem is the timing of this deal.  The Canucks stink.  As a half-time season ticket holder I went to enough games last year to not be fooled into thinking the team was a few good breaks from the playoffs, furthermore contention.  This franchise needs to be collecting young assets, not rapidly shedding them in favour of slightly better pieces. The Canucks are not a 24-year old Erik Gudbranson away from competing.

Having Jared McCann and a quality prospect taken early in the 2nd round in 3-5 years when this team might start to think about contention makes a lot more sense.

I know it seemed probable that McCann either didn’t have a spot on this team at centre (Sedin-Horvat-Sutter-Granlund) and was either going to have to shift to the wing or play 2016-17 on the farm with the odd pro call-up…and that would have been fine.  The Canucks appear to be many pieces away from being a formidable squad. Allowing homegrown talent to develop while continuing to draft well is basically the only successful model to build a champion in today’s NHL.

I accept that this trade makes the Canucks better next season, but why are we stressing about which non-playoff spot in the standings the team occupies?

 

 

 

 

 

Guest Blog: Musings on the Grey Cup by Matt Holme

Attending Grey Cups means bad beer in ugly cans. And so much fun.

Attending Grey Cups means bad beer in ugly cans. And so much fun.

For four of the past five years I have attended the Grey Cup in person. Growing up I was a huge BC Lions fan. My parents have had BC Lions season’s tickets for over twenty years. I have seen a lot of CFL games – experiencing its no-lead-is-safe brand, oddball rules and unique terminology. I have also heard a lot of criticism on how it simply doesn’t stack up to the NFL (another league of which I am a fan). CFL players are not as talented as NFL players. CFL players aren’t paid as much as NFL players. The list goes on. And honestly, CFL fans don’t care. On this point, being a fan of the CFL is like some sort of bizarre inside joke. The fans on the inside love and understand the game regardless of what others think. They will try to explain it to those on the outside who upon learning a bit about it still don’t get it, seem slightly annoyed about it, and are left feeling it makes no sense in any context.

All of these criticisms are put aside each November as the entire country tunes in for its annual football championship. And the diehard fans descend on the host city to party. And I mean party. If you have not attended a Grey Cup weekend in person you are missing out. Fans wear their team’s jersey around town whether their team is playing in the big game or not. Each team hosts a hospitality suite with a variety of fun and games. The funny thing about CFL fans is there is no animosity between each other (see previous re: inside joke). Everyone shows up for Grey Cup weekend and you feel like you stumbled upon thousands of quirky friends you didn’t know. There are fans that come from Baltimore every year and carry around a flag representing their defunct Baltimore Stallions team – despite the fact they haven’t had a team since 1995. There are fans that come from the Maritimes representing the Atlantic Schooners, set up a booth and serve lobster sandwiches. The Atlantic Schooners were a conditional expansion franchise in the early 1980’s that failed to materialize. These fans are representing a team that never existed. I was at the Saskatchewan Roughriders hospitality suite in Regina in 2013 when Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall showed up. Just with a friend or two. No pretention. He was just there.

And then there is the game. If you are a football fan the game is usually a pretty good one. If you are not you might watch and still have memories as well. Rocket Ismail scoring a touchdown and subsequently having a beer thrown at him in Winnipeg in 1991, Eddie Brown catching a ball off his foot in the snow in Hamilton in 1996 and the infamous too many men call on the Roughriders in 2009 in Calgary have been replayed a thousand times. My personal highlight was seeing the BC Lions win the 2011 Grey Cup at home in BC Place. Attending a game outdoors in frigid conditions takes a whole other level of commitment. I sat close to the top row in Commonwealth Stadium in Edmonton in 2010 and on a cold steel end zone bench at Mosaic Stadium in Regina in 2013. Both times I bundled up and left frozen solid.

Say what you will about the CFL – its talent level is second-rate and it is perhaps not as entertaining as other professional sports leagues. My own personal interest has diminished over the last year or two as well. I don’t watch it nearly as much and I only attended one game this year. But it is as Canadian all get out – friendly, quirky, unpretentious, gutsy, fun and downright cold. I won’t be in Winnipeg this year, but be sure I wish I was. You can’t figure out why? Well, it’s cause you aren’t in the joke.

 

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