2020 NHL Playoffs, Canucks Roundtable, Column, Judd Brackett, Return to Play, Vancouver Canucks

Hello, Canucks Nation, and welcome to our June edition of the roundtable! Join the Vancouver Canucks staff of Matthew ZatorSartaaj Bhullar, Aidan Battley, Tyler Halsey, and The Old Prof as we discuss how the Canucks match up against the Minnesota Wild, potential X-factors in the 2020 playoffs, Judd Brackett leaving the team and much more!

Analysis of Canucks Matchup With the Wild

Aidan

The Canucks’ speed and skill will be an exciting combination with the Wild’s grit and experience. Due to an unprecedented hiatus, this series will be a toss-up as neither team will genuinely be in playoff shape when the series arrives. With all of that being said, the Canucks have the edge skill-wise, and I would be surprised if they didn’t make the next round.

Related: Canucks Roundtable: Team Awards, Memorable Moments & the Playoffs

Tyler

This one will be a close series. Overall, I think it will really depend on Minnesota’s goaltending, be it Alex Stalock or Devan Dubnyk. The Wild still play like the Wild of old; very structured, sound defensively, stifling offence. The issue with that has been their porous goaltending. If Vancouver can keep control of play and play a more wide-open style, I think they have a really good chance at making the playoffs. If the Canucks, and Elias Pettersson in particular, are contained, they may have a problem.

Sartaaj

I believe they match up well against the Wild. This matchup reminds me of the Canucks and Flames series from 2015. Canucks have a younger and more skilled team, while the Wild have experience. Canucks are getting a lot of players back from injuries as well, so they’ll likely be better. It’ll be the first time we see our roster healthy with Tyler Toffoli on the team.

Elias Pettersson Vancouver Canucks
Elias Pettersson will have to be in top form for the Canucks if they hope to move past the Wild (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck)

The Old Prof

The Canucks match up well against the Wild. They will be speedy and pressuring on offence.

Matthew

The Canucks definitely have more youth and offensive depth than the Wild. Not to mention better goaltending with Jacob Markstrom. If he can play like he did all season long, they will have a good chance at moving on to the actual first round of the playoffs. However, don’t count out Stalock as he had a monster second half of the season, leading his team to where they are today. If not for him, the Wild are not in the play-in round.

Potential X-Factors in the Playoffs

Aidan

I’m going to go slightly off the board for this one with Jake Virtanen. If the whole team (besides Ferland) comes back healthy, he will be in a depth-role, but I still have a gut feeling that he will make a significant impact. Finding patches of scoring form this season, if he can come out of the gate strong, he will be a difference-maker for the Canucks. If he can treat this as the beginning of the season, he will provide the depth-scoring the team needs to win.

Tyler

A healthy Micheal Ferland will make a world of difference. Minnesota is a strong, physical team – Vancouver really isn’t. He would add a completely new dimension, be it in a top-six role or on a secondary scoring line. He can match up with some of the bigger bodies like Marcus Foligno or Ryan Hartman.

My eyes will also be on Bo Horvat. He had 11 points in the final 20 games before play was stopped, not close to his typical pace. The Canucks will also need more than Pettersson and JT Miller going if they have any hope to win the play-in. Scoring depth will be key to not only the series versus the Wild, but if they have any hope of making a playoff run.

Sartaaj

Markstrom will be the most important player just as he was during the season. He has the ability to carry the team to a win. Pettersson is the other player as he is the most skilled forward on the team, I expect him to lead the team in points.

The Old Prof

I think Markstrom could stand on his head and hold out goal after goal. I think Pettersson will be rested and that’s good – I thought he was beat during the season and suffered because of it. How he stands up to the grinds of playoff hockey is a key question.

Jacob Markstrom Vancouver Canucks
Jacob Markstrom, Vancouver Canucks (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Matthew

I am going with Virtanen on this one. He’s a forward that’s built for the playoffs with his size, physicality, and most of all speed. He showed it many times in his junior career with the Calgary Hitmen and should be motivated to prove that he can continue his breakout season. The big question will be his conditioning after the long layoff. If he comes to training camp in shape, he can be a definite X-factor in this series and hopefully the rest of the playoffs.

Bold Predictions for the 2020 Play-In/Playoffs

Aidan

My bold prediction is not particularly profound, but something that needs to be discussed more nonetheless. In the unique circumstances the league finds themselves in, this naturally changes the nature of the competition. Due to many external factors never seen before, these playoffs become far different from the regular season. As such, I believe that the seeding this year will have little impact, and whether or not teams should be considered favourites for the round depends less on regular-season performance and more on who can prepare the best during training camp. Aspects like experience, and hockey intelligence will also have more of an impact, as I expect the game initially to be played at a slower pace than the hockey we saw during the regular season.

Tyler

I’ll do two here, one Canuck-themed and one general prediction. I’ll call this the Brandon Sutter Redemption Arc. I have a feeling he’s going to have a good playoff/play-in, proving the haters (myself included) wrong about his play in a Canucks uniform. I have nothing to substantiate this at all – it is supposed to be a bold prediction. I can see Sutter leading Vancouver’s checking line and scoring a clutch goal against the Wild. Book it.

Brandon Sutter #20 of the Vancouver Canucks
Brandon Sutter will have a chance to make a difference against the Wild (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)

As for the rest of the playoffs, I think the Winnipeg Jets are going to go on a run, upsetting numerous contenders along the way. Conner Hellebuyck had a monster season; he was a legitimate Hart Trophy candidate in my mind, nevermind the Vezina Trophy. They would have been a bottom-feeding team had it not been for their star netminder. Hockey is inherently random – all it takes is a goalie to get hot in the playoffs and they end up lifting the Stanley Cup. Canucks fans can attest to this (thanks Tim Thomas). I wouldn’t be surprised if the Jets ride to victory on Hellebuyck’s shoulders.

Sartaaj

Canucks will sweep their first round series against the Wild.

The Old Prof

The Canucks will win a round – but the Toronto Maple Leafs will win their first Stanley Cup in more than 50 seasons.

Matthew

Sven Baertschi will come out of the shadows and play a role sometime in the playoffs. Hey it’s called a bold prediction right? He’s still a skilled forward that’s capable of providing offence and he has existing chemistry with Horvat and Adam Gaudette. If the Canucks need a spark, he should be motivated to give it and show that he can still contribute in the NHL.

Sven Baertschi Canucks
Could Sven Baertschi get a chance at redemption in these playoffs? (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

As for a general prediction, I think the Jets are going to surprise a lot of people, especially if Hellebuyck plays as he did during the regular season. If the defence can play a little better, they have the offence and the goaltending to win some games.

Opinions on the NHL Return to Play and 24-Team Format

Aidan

Evolution is never a bad thing, especially considering the NHL. The extra revenue this brings in, the more hockey it gives to fans, and the fact that players get a warm-up round before the actual ‘playoffs’, are all massive wins for me. I am a fan of many leagues with more extensive playoffs, and I’m excited to see the NHL temporarily go down that path as well.

Related: NHL Announces 24-Team Playoff Format

Tyler

As a one-off, sure! It’s something different, and there would be hockey, so it’s better than nothing. I don’t think it’s an ideal format though. Assuming a regular season, playoff seeding should just be the eight best teams in each conference, with reseeding after each round. It makes more sense that way, although I understand why this format was picked.

Sartaaj

Its good just because of the fact that we get to see some hockey. It’s weird that teams that were unlikely to make it get a shot like the Montreal Canadiens. On the other hand, we do get an extra round of playoff hockey.

The Old Prof

Financially, it’s good – I suppose. I hear that there was a clause that if the NHL didn’t finish the season – that local revenues would not have to be paid next season – although I don’t know for certain if that’s true.

Matthew

It’s definitely unprecedented and an interesting way of deciding things. It gives all the teams a fair shake at making the playoffs and it gives us some hockey. As for it being an annual event, I am going to reserve judgment until we can see how it all plays out in about a month. For now, I think it should just remain in 2020 and return the playoffs to its regular format next season.

Impact of Judd Brackett Leaving the Canucks

Aidan

The impact of Brackett leaving is something that, at the very least, will take a few years to fully flesh out. There is no doubt that he was a tremendous asset to the organization, but if he left because he felt like he didn’t have enough control, then you have to wonder if he even believed that he was making a significant impact. Nonetheless, with Pettersson among others being credited to Brackett instead of Jim Benning, he was an incredible asset to the organization.

Tyler

From what I’ve seen on social media, the fanbase has never been more divided over a scout leaving the team, albeit it was the director of amateur scouting in Brackett. I’m of the mindset that the Canucks should have done everything in their power to keep him in the fold. From his point of view, it’s understandable that he wanted the same degree of control he had when Trevor Linden was team president. With Benning and John Weisbrod wanting to be more involved, it makes sense that he would want to leave.

Elias Pettersson
Judd Brackett was believed to be influential in selecting Elias Pettersson (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

The impact will be greater than I think most fans realize. Weisbrod being more involved isn’t necessarily a good thing – he has a history of making questionable moves and draft picks. Brackett made an impact on the drafting of American-born players; players like Gaudette, Brock Boeser, Tyler Madden, Aidan McDonough, and Jack Rathbone have all been linked to him in one way or another. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Canucks stray away from picking out of American leagues and rely more on Canadian junior hockey or the European leagues for now.

Sartaaj

I think it’ll have an impact on the team for sure. Look at the drafts before he was promoted to the head of the scouting department. There have been some bad picks. There were reports that Brackett and the scouting staff had to fight to draft Pettersson, which was a game-changer of a pick.

The Old Prof

I don’t know the impact, as I am not privy to how the Canucks’ inner-workings are engaged, I’m unsure how important he was to the Canucks’ success in drafting – which has been really good. It might be that Benning is confident without Brackett or just wrong in his impact. I simply don’t know.

Adam Gaudette Vancouver Canucks
Adam Gaudette is just one of many NCAA graduates to be selected during Brackett’s tenure (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward)

Matthew

The impact will be felt throughout the organization, especially if all the rumours are true about his overall influence on the draft’s later rounds. The level of talent the Canucks have acquired from the third round and later (especially from the NCAA level) has been nothing short of amazing. Granted, we haven’t seen how Rathbone, Lockwood, and McDonough will take to life in the NHL yet, but the early indicators look very good. It will be interesting to see how many players are drafted from the college ranks after his departure. As Tyler said, the Canucks probably should have fought a bit harder to keep him in the fold.

Related: 3 Teams That Should Be Interested in Judd Brackett


That’s all for the latest roundtable. Now that you have our thoughts, let us know yours in the comments below! How do you think the Canucks will do in the play-in round against the Wild? Who are your picks for the X-factors? What do you think the impact of Brackett’s departure will be? And, as always, see you next month where we will have plenty to talk about with the playoffs hopefully just around the corner!


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