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Travis Green has high expectations and "honest love" for Nikolay Goldobin

The Paper Feature is a weekly column and sidebars that appears in the print edition of the Vancouver Courier newspaper. Track it down! Snoopy may have turned his into a swinging pad, but, for most people, the doghouse isn’t where they want to be.
Nikolay Goldobin talks with the linesmen during a game with the Vancouver Canucks

The Paper Feature is a weekly column and sidebars that appears in the print edition of the Vancouver Courier newspaper. Track it down! 

Snoopy may have turned his into a swinging pad, but, for most people, the doghouse isn’t where they want to be.

That’s where Nikolay Goldobin finds himself halfway through his first full season in the NHL. The skilled playmaker may be fourth on the Canucks in points, but questions remain about his commitment to the defensive side of the game and his ability to put up points without Elias Pettersson as his centre.

As a result, Goldobin has been a healthy scratch for several games and has frequently found himself stapled to the bench in the third period.

On Sunday against the Florida Panthers, Goldobin was relegated to the worst part of the bench in the third period: in the middle, next to the defencemen. When you’re in that spot, the coach isn’t expecting anything more from you for the rest of the game. You’re not even on call to open and close the bench door for your teammates.

At Tuesday’s practice, Goldobin was the odd man out in line rushes, another healthy scratch likely to follow.

Canucks head coach Travis Green tends to take a tough love approach to his players. If you’re not playing up to the standards he expects or, worse, keep making the same mistakes night after night, your ice time will get slashed and you are likely to end up sitting in the press box for a couple nights.

“I wouldn’t say tough love, it’s just honest love,” said Green. “I like Goldy, I’ve said it all along...He’s got to improve, though. The onus is on the player, it goes back to the player all the time.”

“We’ve said from day one that we want to develop our young players into players we can win with and there’s certain qualities that you have to have to win,” he added. “[Goldobin] needs to improve in certain areas and, when we see that, we’ll be happier.”

Some of the Canucks can attest to Green’s “honest love”: guys like Ben Hutton and Sven Baertschi have been subject to it in the past.

“He expects a lot from everybody,” said Baertschi, “but if you’re talking skilled guys, he expects even more. He expects that skill side of the game to be great, but then on the other side you’ve still gotta play hard, and you’ve gotta compete, and you’ve gotta play well defensively.”

Baertschi ended up a healthy scratch while he was still producing points, but Green expected more out of the skilled winger. So, he sat in the press box for a game in mid-February.

“Goldy and I are fairly similar in the ways that we play,” said Baertschi. “Sometimes, maybe you forget about certain details in the game or you’re not quite as hard on pucks and obviously that’s going to stick out to the coaching staff.”

Baertschi was quick to say that there’s “nothing to worry about” when it comes to Goldobin.

“He’s still young and he’s such a talented guy. He’s incredible,” he said. “You can only ask for consistency. I think every single person in their life has days where things aren’t going as well and everybody can relate to that. It’s the same with hockey players, we’re just humans.”

Meanwhile, Hutton was a frequent healthy scratch last season and, when he was in the lineup, was relegated mostly to the third pairing, with limited time on special teams. By the end of the season, Green was blunt about his disappointment with Hutton, emphasizing that his six points weren’t enough and questioning his skating and conditioning.

“It’s tough on you mentally, it’s tough on your confidence,” said Hutton. “I’ve tried to talk to Goldy, just let him know that I’ve been there, and the biggest thing I thought was confidence. Don’t take away your confidence to make plays, to play your type of hockey.”

Hutton and Baertschi responded to the tough love approach, improving their game whether in-season or during the off-season.

The question now is how Goldobin will respond.

Stick-taps and Glove-drops

A tap of the stick to the Canucks’ continued commitment to promoting mental health. Wednesday’s game against the Edmonton Oilers was their sixth annual Hockey Talks night, encouraging open dialogue and awareness to reduce the stigma surrounding mental illness and to get people the help and information they need.

Michael Del Zotto deserves a stick-tap as he heads to the Anaheim Ducks. Del Zotto was a polarizing player with his play on the ice, but he was also a big personality in the locker room and well-liked by his teammates. With limited chances to play in Vancouver, it was a good move by the Canucks to get him to a team that might play him more and I wish him all the best.

Big Numbers

15% - According to hockey analytics site, the Canucks have a 15% chance of making the playoffs. Heading into Wednesday’s game, the Canucks were tied in points for the final Wild Card spot in the Western Conference, but now sit a point back of the Minnesota Wild and Edmonton Oilers.

44.35% - The Canucks currently have the worst scoring chance differential in the NHL according to At 5-on-5, the Canucks have had 44.35% of the scoring chances.