Willes’ Musings: Juolevi is a good, safe pick, at least

 

 
 
 
 
Olli Juolevis looks like a player.
 

Olli Juolevis looks like a player.

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With the B.C. Lions sitting in first place, here's something else you might not expect to be good: the Monday morning musings and meditations on the world of sports.

— Given the delicious possibilities that were open to the Vancouver Canucks prior to the NHL draft lottery, the selection of Olli Juolevi registers as something of an anti-climax for the organization.

Had things gone better in the draft lottery, for example, that pick could have been Auston Matthews or Patrik Laine. Had things unfolded differently on Friday evening, that pick could have been Jesse Puljujarvi or Pierre-Luc Dubois. Even Matthew Tkachuk, the player Jim Benning ultimately passed on for Juolevi, represented name recognition and potential star power.

Juolevi, on the other hand, is a low-risk pick, and given what Canucks fans endured this past season, they might have expected more.

For what it's worth, I thought Tkachuk, who could become a dynamic scorer, was the pick for the Canucks. But let's take out the wide-angle lens and look at Juolevi's potential impact on the lineup.

Given that he was the top-rated defenceman in this draft, it stands to reason the Finnish blue-liner should be ready for a starting job in 2017-18. At that point, he'll be 20. As for the rest of the Canucks' blue-line, Alex Edler will be 31, Chris Tanev 27, Ben Hutton 24, Eric Gudbranson 25 and Nikita Tryamkin 23.


It's all over in Buffalo.

Jeff Paterson and Jason Botchford take a look at the ups and downs for the Canucks at the 2016 NHL Entry Draft on the latest episode of the Pat-cast. (To subscribe, click here.)


OK, a lot of things can happen between now and October 2017 but if Juolevi is that top-pairing D-man, the Canucks blue-line will have a completely different look and feel in two years. They went into this off-season seeking to rebuild that position and they've added Gudbranson, who'll play in the top-four next season, and a potential star in Juolevi.

Don't know how this will play out but, after Friday, this traditional problem area for the Canucks doesn't seem as problematic.

Top Prospects Alexander Nylander, Pierre-Luc Dubois, Matthew Tkachuk and Auston Matthews talk prior media availability for the 2016 NHL Draft Top Prospects.
Sharp-looking kids

— Heading into the draft, Columbus was going to trade out of the No.3 spot, Calgary was going to move up., Edmonton was going to trade out of the No. 4 spot and Montreal was going to rock the NHL by trading P.K. Subban.

So much was promised before the draft. So little was delivered. That said, every team with a lottery pick seemed to land a blue-chip prospect and Phoenix did well to move up a couple of spots and grab defenceman Jakob Chychrun with their second first-rounder to go along with seventh-overall pick Clayton Keller.

But Toronto and Calgary look like the big winners. The Leafs drafted a franchise centreman in Auston Matthews and addressed their goaltending need with the trade for Frederik Andersen. Tkachuk fell to Calgary with the sixth pick and the Flames fixed their goaltending with the acquisition of Brian Elliott.

Edmonton was also thrilled to have Puljujarvi land in their lap with the fourth pick, which creates an interesting scenario in the Western Conference. Laine, the second overall pick to Winnipeg, Puljujarvi, Juolevi and Tkachuk will be competing against each other for the next decade. Fans in those markets will know soon enough which teams made the best selection in 2016.

PHILADELPHIA, PA - JUNE 27: Jim Benning, General Manager of the Vancouver Canucks is seen prior to the first round of the 2014 NHL Draft at the Wells Fargo Center on June 27, 2014 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Tampering. Really?

— Let's see if we've got this straight. Benning said the Canucks might be interested in trading for Subban and signing Steven Stamkos as a UFA, and this qualifies as tampering in the NHL?

Give me a break. For starters, Benning saying the Canucks would be interested in Subban and Stamkos is like saying he'd be interested in lunch. Of course he's interested. Every other GM in the league would be interested in those two players.

How, moreover, does that constitute tampering? It's not like the Lightning were about to sign Stamkos to a huge deal when his camp said, 'Wait a minute. The Canucks might be interested. Let's ask for more money.'

But it's the hypocrisy that sticks out here. Virtually every GM in the league has a well-trained media source who'll get the message out for his team. The NHL also uses those "insiders," to further its agenda. Evidently, it's OK for them to whisper news about players and potential deals in a few select ears, but Benning is tampering if he says the Canucks might be interested in Stamkos.

He is guilty of giving an honest answer to a question of interest to Canucks fans. I just wish I could afford to pay his fine.

Joe Jackson opens the Vancouver Jazz Festival at the Queen Elizabeth theatre Vancouver June 24 2016.
Joe Jackson

— Lost track of Joe Jackson about 1982 but saw the singer-songwriter on opening night of the Vancouver Jazz Festival Friday and he just killed it.

Formerly an angry, young rocker, he's matured into a craftsman who writes sophisticated, intelligent pop songs. That's a journey we can all relate to, but here's one other thought about Jackson.

For millennials, I hope there are artists they're listening to now who'll still be relevant in 30 years, who'll take them back to a time when they were young and the world was a different place but who'll still speak to their adult selves. That is the magic of music.

I wonder if that magic will still exist in 2046.

B.C. Lions' head coach Wally Buono carries a challenge flag after throwing it during the first half of a pre-season CFL football game against the Calgary Stampeders in Vancouver, B.C., on Friday June 17, 2016. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck ORG XMIT: VCRD119
Back to the future?

— And finally, Wally Buono began his 23rd season as a CFL head coach on Saturday night so it stands to reason the old Lion isn't going to start planning the parade route after one win.

"It all depends on how (the players) take it," the Lions new/old head coach said shortly after his team's gritty but complicated 20-18 win over the Calgary Stampeders. "I know what it means to me and I know what it means to the organization. How the players take this, how they grow from this, is up to them. We celebrate tonight, enjoy it on Sunday and forget about it on Monday."

Which is prudent advice. But for a team that's trying to reconnect with its fan base, trying build an identity and trying to erase 2015 from its hard drive, Saturday night's victory was meaningful.

For starters, it conferred the leadership mantle on Jonathan Jennings. The second-year quarterback was making just his ninth CFL start and, like most of his teammates, was imperfect against the Stamps.

But when the game was on the line, he delivered the goods. Over the final quarter and a half he went 10 of 15 for 131 yards and ran six times for 27 yards. He also orchestrated a final drive that consumed the last three minutes and 23 seconds of regulation, largely because the Lions offensive line laid waste to the Stampeders interior defence.

"This is all part of his growth," Buono said of Jennings.

But here's the larger meaning to this victory. In one game, the Lions showed more toughness and resiliency than they did over the entire 2015 season under Jeff Tedford. They played through three blocked punts. They came back from a 17-6 deficit in the second half against a good Stampeders team. The offensive line surrendered three sacks and far too many hits on Jennings through the first 2 1/2 quarters but dominating in crunch time.

"Think of how many games we lost in the second half last year," said veteran defensive back Ryan Phillips. "Think of all the games we couldn't finish. This is huge for us."

And huge for those fans who were waiting for a sign from the Lions. Where they go from here is unknown but, at the very least, Saturday night felt like the start of a journey those fans can take with this team.

ewilles@postmedia.com

twitter.com/willesonsports

 
 
 
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Olli Juolevis looks like a player.
 

Olli Juolevis looks like a player.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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