Vancouver Canucks President of Hockey Operations introduces Patrik Allvin as the 12th General Manager in Franchise history in a Zoom press conference. Screenshot taken from Sportsnet and the Vancouver Canucks.

*This was originally posted January 28, 2022*

Another week of sports, another Avid Thoughts column from yours truly.

What a week. The NFL final four is set, the Vancouver Canucks are building their front office for a new era, the Vancouver Whitecaps training camp is well underway and so much more. Believe it or not, January is almost over. That means the Super Bowl is near and so is the NHL All-Star Game. The January transfer window is closing and we are also still unsure if the MLB will even have a season.

Time flies. Wasn’t it Christmas last week? So let’s get into it.

Canucks are going All(v)in.

After almost two months since Jim Benning got fired, the Canucks have found his successor.

Patrik Allvin is the new Canucks General Manager. He was one of five candidates that were interviewed in person. The others were Mathieu Darche, Sean Burke, Scott Mellanby and one that was unnamed. (Though according to Frank Seravalli of Daily Faceoff, that was Ryan Johnson.)

I don’t love the hiring but I don’t hate it either. For weeks, it seemed Allvin was going to be the Canucks GM since he was reported to be the front runner. Allvin and Rutherford worked together in Pittsburgh and won three Stanley Cups there so it made sense that Rutherford hired his old buddy. 

However, Rutherford apparently thought long and hard about the new hire and was open to interviewing the other candidates. Apparently, Darche was a close second according to Matt Sekeres.

Did Allvin impress in his first press conference as GM? I would say so. The first Swedish GM in NHL history talked about the importance of being open-minded when it comes to scouting, drafting players outside the first round, European and college free agents and player development in the NHL.

Under the last regime, the Canucks didn’t do too well in these areas. Only two players under the Benning regime drafted outside of the first round became full-time NHLers and they are Thatcher Demko and Nils Höglander. They were drafted in the second round so no players outside of the first two rounds panned out.

The Canucks also haven’t had a skater that developed in the AHL and the last was Chris Tanev a decade ago. That’s not good. What was good was that Allvin plans on changing that as well as providing depth in the organization by signing free agents from college and Europe and nailing picks outside of the first round.

Rutherford even said that big decisions are coming up and it’s not ideal for a team not in the playoffs to be capped out. Gee, who would have thought?  

Let’s give Allvin a chance and see what he can do. What decisions will he and Rutherford make? Who is getting traded? We shall see.

I should also mention the hiring of Emilie Castonguay as assistant GM is also a big dub from the Canucks. Castonguay was a player agent to many players including former Canucks Antoine Roussel. She must have been a huge reason why Roussel got a lucrative payday. If she can do that, then the Canucks are in good hands. 

Castonguay will oversee contract negotiations and the cap which of course is something the Canucks need to be smart with. Hiring her was great, not just because she is a woman but she is pretty darn qualified.

There is hope in Vancouver once again.

Miller to New York for Lafreniere?

So the Canucks beat the struggling Winnipeg Jets 5-1 last night and one player stood out. That was none other than JT Miller.

Miller had a hat trick and an assist and Canucks fans were ecstatic because his trade value skyrocketed. At this rate, teams should trade the Canucks ten first-round picks, their entire prospect pool, all their star players, their city’s famous landmark and the Stanley Cup.

One of the teams that are interested in Miller is the New York Rangers. Miller was drafted by the Rangers in 2011 and spent six seasons in the Big Apple before being traded to the Tampa Bay Lightning in a blockbuster at the 2018 trade deadline. Seravalli was one of the insiders that reported that the Rangers would have an interest.

Larry Brooks of the New York Post threw out an interesting idea: Miller would be traded for Alexis Lafreniere.

So far, Lafreniere has not lived up to his potential as a number one overall pick. In 98 career games, he has 20 goals and 12 assists for 32 points. He has not been playing top-six minutes in New York mainly due to Artemi Panarin and Chris Kreider taking up the left wing spots. That obviously will hurt his development.

Lafreniere is a talented player and is only 20-years-old. If the Rangers get Miller back the other way, he could play at any forward position. I do think trading Miller back to NYC is ideal but I’m not sure if Lafreniere will go back the other way.

The Canucks need a right-handed defenceman and someone like Braden Schneider would be a good addition. A third line centre is also needed and Filip Chytil fits the bill. If the Rangers do decide to ship off Lafreniere, they could probably ask for a first along with Miller. Rutherford has said that the team is in no position to trade high draft picks right now.

For Lafreniere, this would be a fresh start for him. He has the chance to play top-six minutes in Vancouver. 

If Miller were going to the Rangers, I believe a first will go back, maybe a second, Schneider, Chytil or Morgan Barron. Seravalli reported that the Rangers are “all over Miller” and the return could be bigger. Could that include Lafreniere? Maybe.

Brooks reported that the Canucks trade demands for Miller are “astronomical” and TSN’s and The Athletic’s Pierre Lebrun reported this was the Canucks message to any team that wants Miller, “don’t wait until March 21st (The trade deadline.) to make your best offer or you might miss out.” In other words, you snooze, you lose and you will run out of time. 

If I’m the GM, I’m trading Miller for an offer I cannot refuse to the Rangers or any other team. If Lafreniere is included in the package, done deal.

The Arizona Coyotes Arena debacle

Do you want to stay? Pay your rent. 

Unfortunately, the Arizona Coyotes haven’t done that over the years due to mounting financial issues. So it looks like the Yotes will be leaving Gila River Arena in Glendale.

The team would be opting out of Gila River Arena after this season and they have plans to move to Tempe. However, the plans look like they will be rejected by Tempe’s city council as they are skeptical due to the Coyotes’ financial issues.

So the Coyotes plan to have a temporary home at Arizona State University. It’s next to the Sun Devils Football Stadium and it is a multipurpose venue that can host, wrestling, gymnastics, concerts, conferences and more.

The arena at ASU has a capacity of 5000 people. You know that seems fitting for the Coyotes. Their attendance has been poor for years and this season they have been averaging 11,646 people which makes up 68% capacity. That is only above the Ottawa Senators and Buffalo Sabres. 

 If you watched any Coyotes home games this season, they look like they have less than 5000 people in attendance. So it’s fitting that they will likely move to a 5000 seat arena. Find someone loyal to you as Gary Bettman is to the Arizona Coyotes.

They should just move to Houston or Quebec City.

The best Divisional Round ever

NFL playoffs are crazy. This year we got to witness the greatest Divisional Round ever. I’m not sure if Championship Sunday or the Super Bowl can top last weekend.

I didn’t watch all these games but they all ended with walk-off plays. I’m not sure if we will see an NFL playoff weekend like this again.

The first game ended with the up-and-coming Cincinnati Bengals upsetting the number one seed Tennessee Titans. Ryan Tannehill threw three interceptions in the game Joe Burrow did not have a touchdown pass and Joe Mixon got the only Bengals TD. Evan Mcpherson sealed the game with a last-minute field goal.

The Bengals won their first playoff game in 31 years against the Las Vegas Raiders and then they beat the Titans are in the AFC Championship game. They are the underdogs and obviously, I want them to go all the way.

Special teams defined the game between the San Francisco 49ers and Green Bay Packers. Aaron Rodgers and Jimmy Garoppolo did not throw a TD pass. The 49ers’ only touchdown was on a blocked punt. Robbie Gould kicked the game-winning field goal. It is crazy that Garoppollo had a poor game but still won. It is also quite the way for Aaron Rodgers to potentially end his time with the Packers.

Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers were looking to repeat as Super Bowl Champions but the Rams defence led by Aaron Donald was all over Brady and the offence for three quarters. The Bucs were down 27-3. That score was one point away from a score that gives Atlanta Falcons fans PTSD.  

Yet, the greatest of all time steered the ship and the Buccaneers tied the game thanks to touchdowns from Leonard Fournette and Mike Evans. The cannons were firing in Tampa. However, they couldn’t stop who I think is the NFL MVP: Cooper Kupp. 

Kupp brings fear in opposing defences and the Bucs had a hard time covering him all game. At some points, they left Kupp wide open. Matthew Stafford made a crucial throw to Kupp in the final minute and Matt Gay, who missed one earlier kicked the game-winning field goal. This game was bonkers. It had a comeback, game-winning field goal, great throws, turnovers (including one by each team on back-to-back sequences.) and controversial reffing decisions.

That looked like that was the best game of the weekend but the one between the Buffalo Bills and Kansas City Chiefs might be one of, if not the greatest NFL game of all time. I didn’t get to watch all of it but I managed to rewind my Telus box and watch the final two minutes and OT. 

Josh Allen and Patrick Mahomes both showed off their talents and this could potentially be the next Brady-Manning rivalry. At one point, it seemed the Bills were going to win but Mahomes displayed his magic with only 13 seconds left. The final two minutes actually lasted 30 minutes in real-time. 

The Chiefs ended up winning in overtime and you can’t argue about the NFL’s OT rules all you want. For me, I look at both sides of the coin. Yes, I think it is unfair that the game was decided on a coin toss and I think the Bills should have had a chance to respond. I also think that the Bills defence should have done better in stopping Mahomes and the Chiefs in the final seconds of the fourth quarter and in OT. (Tough task, I know but the Bills had one of the best defences in the NFL this year.) 

Walkoff wins provide drama and a great finish but that should happen in association football (soccer) not American Football. In the CFL, both teams get possession and if the trailing team can’t tie it, game over. The NFL should do something like that.

But that game in my eyes was the real Super Bowl and I don’t think the Super Bowl will even compare to the Bills-Chiefs game. The Chiefs are one of the NFL’s elites and the Bills only need a few more pieces (like a proper O-Line and running back.) before they can truly become a contender. The future is bright for the Bills Mafia. 

That game was the cherry on top of a great football weekend. I’m predicting we will get a Rams-Chiefs Super Bowl but I could be wrong again. I couldn’t imagine being a fan of either of the teams that played in the divisional round but as a neutral, that was the best football weekend ever.

So it’s getting late and I better post this article now. I meant to have this up earlier but I dealt with a headache that was a booster side effect. Check back next week for Avid Thoughts!