Ask it to Bulis: Top-20 centre Jay Beagle and an ideal Canucks lineup

Also, the Canucks' captaincy, and the possibility of the playoffs.

Pass it to Bulis

It’s time once again for Ask it to Bulis, the feature where the world’s handsomest and most intelligent blogger answers your Canucks-related questions.

Unfortunately, he wasn’t available for this edition, so I’m answering your questions instead.

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I got enough questions for a couple different Ask it to Bulis posts, so let’s call this part one with more questions to be answered in a future edition. Without further ado, let’s get to the questions.

How did the Canucks nab the 20th best center in the NHL at such a bargain?
- Jyrki21

This may surprise you, but Jyrki is referring to Jay Beagle. No, seriously.



I checked on the legitimacy of this list and it does appear to be real. This list of the Top-20 centers in the NHL wasn’t compiled by experts, by any means — the NHL Network’s actual list of top-20 centers has Leon Draisaitl as the 20th-best center, without a glimpse of a single Canuck. Instead, this list was the result of a fan vote, which explains a lot.

Jay Beagle has a lot of support among fans of the Washington Capitals, who could have been motivated to stuff the ballot box for Beagle while on a high from winning the Stanley Cup. Beagle was beloved not only for his effort on the ice, where he was the epitome of a meat-and-potatoes grinder, but also for his connection with Capitals fans off the ice.

It shouldn’t be too surprising, then, that fans sent him off with one last, odd tribute: voting him up into the top-20 centers in the league.

Speaking of Beagle…

Could Beagle be deployed the same way Vigneault used Malhotra in 10-11? How would they compare, and would this still be an effective strategy in Green's system?
Scott Penner

Jay Beagle could absolutely be deployed like Manny Malhotra was in 2010-11. In fact, he already was by the Washington Capitals. Back in 2010-11, Malhotra started his shifts in the defensive zone 24.07% of the time as compared to his offensive zone starts. Beagle, last season, had 25.74% defensive zone starts.

Is it likely Beagle will get the same treatment under Travis Green? Considering how he used Brandon Sutter, it’s certainly possible. Sutter’s defensive zone start percentage was 22.65% last season, as Green put him on for as many defensive zone faceoffs at 5-on-5 as possible.

With both Sutter and Beagle available, it’s possible that both will actually start in the defensive zone a little less often, as they split those starts between the two of them.

As to whether Beagle can be as good as Malhotra, I don’t think so. Despite the difficult usage, Malhotra still put up a respectable 45.10% corsi, better than Sutter last season (43.26% corsi) and way, way better than Beagle (39.15% corsi). That’s while Malhotra was playing third-line minutes against more difficult opposition, while Beagle played fourth-line minutes.

Suffice it to say, I think the 2010-11 version of Malhotra was significantly better than the current version of Beagle.

Do you think the Canucks will name a captain this season or hold off for a bit?
Sarah Laug and several others

This is a great question, and one I touched on a few months ago.

Basically, the Canucks have four options: give the C to an experienced veteran, rotate the captaincy between a few players, go without a captain, or just give the C to Bo Horvat, because who are we kidding?

I think it’s pretty obvious what I think the Canucks should do: Horvat is the obvious choice as the next captain of the Canucks. He’s a hard-working leader on the ice, he’s comfortable speaking up in the room, and he’s good with the media. If the Canucks pick anyone else as the captain, there will be an outcry from the fans.

With that said, what I think should happen and what will actually happen are frequently very different things. I suspect they’ll go without a captain in this coming season, with Horvat having one of the A’s as an alternate captain. Then, with another year of experience under his belt, he’ll be named captain for the 2019-20 season.

Is there any chance of Canucks making the playoffs if the prospects and young players step it up this season and perform above and beyond expectations?
Canucks Universe

There’s always a chance, but a lot has to go right. Remember, the Canucks need to do more than replace the 146 points scored by Thomas Vanek and the Sedins last season; after all, they had that scoring last season and were still terrible. With the Canucks getting only bottom-six forwards in free agency, that puts a lot of pressure on the Canucks’ youth to produce.

But the biggest obstacle for the Canucks making the playoffs is that there’s very little chance that the defence takes a step forward. The Canucks have the same defence corps returning this coming season that they had last season. The only difference is that Olli Juolevi might make the team or at least be available for a call-up.

In order for the defence to significantly improve, you have to believe that younger defencemen like Troy Stecher and Derrick Pouliot can be a lot better, while simultaneously hoping that Alex Edler doesn’t continue his slow decline and Chris Tanev remains 100% healthy all year. Also, you have to hope that Michael Del Zotto and Erik Gudbranson don’t end up playing 20+ minutes per night.

Let’s just say I’m skeptical.

What’s your ideal Canucks lineup right now?
- A whole bunch of people

This isn’t going to be a realistic lineup, but it’s one that gives young players a chance to succeed, while also being fun to watch. This isn’t necessarily a good team, but it’s an interesting team that might bring fans in the door.

Baertschi - Horvat - Boeser
Leipsic - Pettersson - Granlund
Roussel - Gaudette - Virtanen
Schaller - Sutter - Eriksson

This might sound crazy, but top-20 centre Jay Beagle doesn’t fit into my lineup.

Quick reasoning here: Baertschi, Horvat, and Boeser are a safe bet as a first line, but this lineup has several options available to play with Horvat and Boeser.

Granlund is capable of slotting in at centre if Pettersson isn’t ready yet, and also has a strong two-way game to support the Swedish rookie. Leipsic has the speed and vision to hopefully keep up with Pettersson.

Gaudette and Virtanen both play a straight-forward, north-south game, and should complement each other well. Roussel plays a similar game as well, with some agitating to go with it. And Schaller, Sutter, and Eriksson can be a checking line with options for the penalty kill.

The extra forwards, Goldobin and Gaunce, can slot in the top-six and bottom-six, respectively.

Edler - Stecher
Hutton - Tanev
Pouliot - Gudbranson

There are fewer options on defence. I’d love to get Juolevi in there, but I’d be comfortable with him getting some time in the AHL first. These pairings betray my biases: I believe in Ben Hutton and think he works well on a pairing with Tanev. Edler and Stecher can soak up minutes and move the puck. And Pouliot and Gudbranson were surprisingly good together in sheltered minutes last season.

Biega is fine as a seventh defenceman.


I think it’s time to give Demko a chance in the NHL this season, so I’d love to see him start with the Canucks out of camp.

This all leaves Sam Gagner, Michael Del Zotto, and Anders Nilsson out of the lineup, as well as newcomer Jay Beagle. Let’s face facts: those four players are going to be on the roster. So, a question for you: who do you take out?


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