Puck Daddy Bag of Mail: Canucks' strategy remains puzzling

Jim Benning has done some dubious work, as the Canucks GM, but he has an extension in hand. (Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

It’s a bit of a grab bag this week, folks. Pretty healthy mix of people wondering what teams are going to do down the stretch, with respect to their playoff chances or what they might do at the deadline,

Alrighty, here we go:

Yamada asks: “Jim Benning extension: speak on that?”

Hoooo boy.

The number of times this team has moved the goalposts on the rebuild — one assumes entirely due to the whims of management — is pretty incredible at this point. This is a team seemingly dead set on vacillating between saying all the right things about rebuilding (which Trevor Linden did in a letter to season ticket holders before the Benning presser) but not actually following through on that. Which is only going to piss off smart fans and keep less-smart fans not-that-interested.

You really can’t argue that Benning isn’t doing a good job at the draft. You can very much argue he isn’t doing a good job in any other aspect of the job. He traded picks and prospects for Erik Gudbranson in a obviously-bad-on-Day-1 deal and years later is going to re-sign Gudbranson rather than trade him.

If you’re legit rebuilding, Benning’s job of finishing 28th, 29th, and probably in that same range again this year is pretty good! But the Canucks aren’t legit rebuilding. They’re spinning the tires and they’re going to do it for another three years behind this extension.

From management’s point of view, I get it. I don’t get it from any other point of view.

MDS asks: “Do you think the Jets making the Western Conference Finals is plausible?”

Yeah I mean, look where I’ve had them in the Power Feelings all year. If Nashville is now clearly the best team in the West (they are, and they’re gonna add at the deadline), it’s still tough to see the Jets as being too far behind them. That means even though they’re going to play in the second round, it’s very conceivable that Winnipeg comes out on top because, y’know, weird stuff happens in this sport.

That said, they have some obvious holes to address if they want to improve their chances of getting that far. I don’t trust either their forward or defensive depth as much as I do for Nashville, but this is a very good team that, if it gets even a little hotter, would be a tough out for any great team.

Borbay asks: “Should an intentional blow to the head result in a match penalty and an instant penalty shot by any player on the ice at the time of contact?”

I’m of the opinion that the NHL should take a real NFL-style approach to all this and just straight up penalize a guy for any contact to an opponent’s head that seems a little more than incidental.

Obviously you give the refs a little discretion to dole out those penalties as minors and majors, or even match penalties, based on the severity of the incident. So it should be automatically a penalty, but the extent of that penalty shouldn’t be set in stone.

The idea that you’d give away a penalty shot, which is basically worth a goal on every third headshot your team gives up, is interesting because that’s a pretty good deterrent, but that feels like it’s messing with the rules too much.

Aliza asks: “With the Rangers actually starting to try and tank now, how likely do you think that they’ll be able to get the No. 1 pick and Dahlin?

It’s very unlikely this year.

They almost certainly won’t be able to trade the only reason they’re any good this year — Henrik Lundqvist — and he’s not gonna drop off so much that they lose, I guess, six or seven of every 10 games down the stretch.

Plus there’s the fact that they’ve banked so many points already. They have 59 points, which isn’t a great total, but it’s also nine more than anyone in the bottom-five has. Even if the Rangers slow down a little bit and finish with 82 points, that probably puts them in the range of seventh to ninth from the bottom. And that’s assuming that all the teams behind them don’t sell off and get worse as well.

If they get into that area, they probably have about a 5 percent chance of winning the draft lottery, which isn’t great. Stranger things have happened, I guess, but the Devils winning last year was a shock and they had an 8.5 percent chance to win, having finished tied for third-bottom.

So, to answer your question directly: “Don’t get your hopes up.”

Tim asks via email: “What do you think about Jim Rutherford standing pat with Riley Sheahan?”

I mean I guess it’s fine because the Penguins are on right now.

The odds that they overtake Washington to win that division are looking pretty good. And Sheahan, after a slow start with the organization, has 10 points in his last 18 games, which is probably all you want to ask from a No. 3 center you’re playing 16 minutes a night.

Are there upgrades out there? Probably. Do they cost more than what Rutherford already gave up to get Sheahan? Almost certainly. So if you’re doing a cost-benefit analysis here, it’s fine that he’s standing pat. They’re still probably going to lose to whoever comes out of the Atlantic.

Krista asks: “What’s your all-time women’s hockey dream team roster?”

I really don’t know enough about women’s hockey to go 20 bodies deep on a roster but I can sure put together a starting lineup. Here they are with some of their international stats:

Up front, give me Hayley Wickenheiser, Cammi Granato, and Cassie Campbell. Conveniently, they all play different forward positions. This is a no-brainer, but there are so many good candidates who get left off: Jenny Potter, Cherie Piper, Meghan Agosta, Hillary Knight, Julie Chu, the Lamoreux twins, Marie-Philip Poulin, etc. You can go on for a while. But if you’re putting together a Women’s Hockey Mount Rushmore, it’s these three and then you pick someone else.

On the blue line, it’s gotta be Angela Ruggerio and Geraldie Heaney. I believe they’re the two defensive leading scorers in women’s international hockey history and they’re both in the Hall of Fame. I also can’t think of too many more defenders who even come close to staking up, so they gotta be the two.

And in net, three-time Olympic and five-time World Championship gold medalist Kim St. Pierre seems like a pretty good pick, but I think maybe you gotta go with Shannon Szabados. Szabados had a shorter international career but also was the first woman to play in the AJHL, WHL, and SPHL. Playing four seasons of men’s professional hockey, and being actually pretty damn good at it, is amazing; the game is a lot faster and the shots are a lot harder, and Szabados kept up with it pretty effectively for like 50 games.

I will, by the way, listen to an argument for Noora Raty in net for a lot of the same reasons as Szabados (she played in men’s leagues in Finland, etc.) but she doesn’t have the international resume the two Canadians do. Though, to be fair, Finland ain’t exactly Canada.

So yeah, those are my picks:

Cassie Campbell – Wickenheiser-  Granato

Ruggerio – Heaney


Dan asks: “What would be the most effective move Chicago could make for the future, either trade for someone or trade someone away or stay pat? And who?”

As I said yesterday, they should sell if they can, but they probably can’t. I’d put a for-sale sign on almost everyone over the age of 25 and see what kinds of deals other teams want to make. Most of the big-ticket guys probably can’t be moved until the summer, if at all.

They have a bunch of pretty good (not great) young players, and heck I’m even inclined to chalk the poor year for Brandon Saad up to bad luck — his on-ice shooting percentage is well below his career average, just as an example, while his underlyings are very good — but other than that if I’m Stan Bowman and you want to have a conversation about Toews or Crawford or Keith or Kane, hey, let’s talk.

Ryan Lambert is a Puck Daddy columnist. His email is here and his Twitter is here.

All stats via Corsica unless noted otherwise.

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