Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Shinkaruk for Granlund

Thought I'd summarize my tweets from last night on the Shinkaruk trade. So here they are...

- Keep coming back to the fact Granlund was diminishing asset in Calgary & Benning still forked over one of his best chips for no reason.

- There was no reason Shinkaruk needed to be traded today. You had 2 more years of waiver exemption. Also 7 days until the deadline, where many situations could potentially develop. (Maybe Shinkaruk is a chip that could have put you over the top on a player you really want)

- Granlund has to be in the NHL next year. His NHL track record is not good at all. Why the urgency to get him now, or at all?

- I’m skeptical of Shinkaruk’s chances of panning out and I think there’s a decent chance Granlund becomes useful middle 6 player… 

- But the thought process behind this trade demonstrates a lack of competence. It’s not 2005, management standards in professional sports are a lot higher in 2016 

- Finally, I’ll ask: has Benning come out ahead on any of his trade or contract negotiations? 

So there you have it. My thoughts haven't changed much today. This trade could be absolutely fine, or it could be nothing, or even a disaster. None of that really matters though. Sometimes trades work out, sometimes they don't, nobody has a crystal ball. 

The problem with the trade is the thought process behind it. It's yet another transaction where this management group failed to maximize an asset or leverage a situation. This has been summarized by many as "death by a thousand cuts."

This is just one more cut for a franchise that can't afford to keep bleeding.

Thursday, February 11, 2016


For the first time in my life I find myself not cheering for the Vancouver Canucks. It started gradually - even subconsciously - not cheering a goal here, indifference there. It feels weird. A loss to the Calgary Flames on a Saturday night would normally get me right pissed off. Last Saturday? "Meh"

My first taste of Canucks playoff hockey was back in '89 when an underdog Canucks team took the powerhouse Flames 7 games. Mike Vernon's glove save and Otto skate were the cause of heartbreak and tears. In '92 the Canucks came back from down 3-1 to beat the Jets, I still remember the "Seventh Heaven" headline in The Province. The early 90's of course culminated with the '94 run.

This era was where my belief - that all you have to do is get in - was born. Just make it and you've got a chance at a Cup. When Harold Druken ended The Dark Days and put the Canucks back in I thought "yes they have a chance!"

A lot has happened since then, some great moments followed by soul crushing disappointment. Each year the hope of "just getting in" and going on a run has eroded. The landscape has changed, the game is different. (Hell I'm not getting any younger dammit!) Smothering shotblocking defenses and dominant possession teams destroy the hopes of Cinderella teams. The days of riding a hot goalie and some puck luck to the finals are over. You have to be great just to get out of your own division.

So that brings us to 2016 and #TeamTank

I don't need to detail it, we all know this team is not good. There is no hope of somehow getting out of the 1st round,  beating the Kings, Ducks, Blackhawks or whoever else stands in the way. None. Hell, the Canucks had their dream matchup last year and still lost.

There is some hope though. For the first time in a long time there are young players to be excited about. They're not all going to make it, but some of them will. There is hope and this fanbase, who is sick of one and done's, is ready to embrace it.

That is why this is the year to take a step back. The timing is perfect. The fans are ready for it, but more importantly the talent available at the top of the draft is tremendous. The Canucks desperately need an elite piece for their next core and other than an enormous stroke of luck, the only place to find that is at the top of the draft. It's easy to forget that while the Canucks are assembling a nice group of prospects, so are their future rivals. Even ignoring the perpetual lottery winners, you have the Flames, Coyotes and Jets all with a group of prospects to rival Vancouver (and more high picks on the horizon). That's just another reason why an elite piece is so important for the Canucks.

This doesn't have to be a 5 year tear down rebuild. Get your piece now and you can go back to the rebuild on the fly with cap space and the Sedins still leading the way. Do everything you can to make it next year, but for the love of long suffering Canucks fans, PLEASE take advantage of this season.

It's kind of ironic that the Leafs are in town on Saturday for another 4:00 PM HNIC game. Like many I hate the Leafs and have probably rooted against them in every single game I've watched them play. But a funny thing has happened this year. In a weird way a small part of me likes THEM! It admires what they're doing. The losing isn't admirable, but the acceptance of where they're at, the smart decisions they're making - that's something to like. They have a plan and they are fully committed to realizing it.

(As a quick aside, it's frustrating to see the Leafs assemble a diverse intelligent management group, while the Canucks ignore and then fire arguably the best in the biz in the area that is so obviously their biggest weakness.)

Meanwhile in Vancouver there's an organization, with only 18 regulation wins in 52 games, run by a GM who is not only talking about the playoffs, but also considering transactions with that goal in mind. Insanity.

Sure, maybe it's posturing, but so far Benning's been an open book.

In any case...

This season is already lost, there is no Stanley Cup at the end, so make something from this. We can handle the losing. After all, it's inevitable.

A loss Saturday night versus the Leafs?


Wednesday, October 02, 2013

A Blog Post

Yes, it's a rare blog post!

Going to try something different and see what happens this year. Anyway, to start things off, here are some random thoughts on the eve of the Canucks' season opener...

- Like the new aggressive forecheck that Tortorella has implemented. So far, so good, but we'll see if they can keep it up in the regular season without giving up too many odd man rushes.

- A lot of whining about the lack of youth in the lineup. Did people really think any of the teenagers were going to get more than a handful of games before being returned to junior? One of them would  had to have been exceptional - none of them were.

- The youth was supposed to come from Schroeder (injured), Kassian (suspended), Corrado and Jensen (injured & shitty camp). 

- You can make a case for Corrado deserving a spot, but in this CBA your going to end up sending waiver exempt players down in order to keep a "lesser" player. Canucks need as much depth on D as they can get and right now that means Corrado is the odd man out (for now). Besides, getting top minutes in the AHL can only help his development. He'll be in Vancouver soon enough.

- The same reasoning applies to the Horvat & Shinkaruk decisions. Why pass up on the opportunity to add forward depth (Dalpe) just to give 9 games to a player who isn't ready for an 82 game NHL schedule?

- Finally, it's so nice to see Garrisson on the first unit power play. One less thing to bitch about on twitter :)

Monday, February 27, 2012

Canucks Trade Cody Hodgson for Zack Kassian and Marc-Andre Gragnoni

After the 2012 Trade Deadline the Vancouver Canucks are a different team, whether they are a better team is a question of some debate.

The look and flexibility of this team has been significantly altered. Gone is Cody Hodgson's offensive production from the 3rd line and 2nd unit power play, in it's place is a more a more traditional checking line, a young power forward and a defenseman who can help the power play and transition game, but has some question marks in his own end.

Most, if not all Canuck fans were stunned when Bob MacKenzie said Cody Hodgson was no longer a Canuck. Arguably the team's top prospect, Hodgson had come into his own this season and had produced several clutch goals. Hodgson's future is very bright and no one was really expecting to see Hodgson dealt at the deadline. There were always questions about how he fit in the Canucks long term plans, but in the short term the Canucks had to be happy with the secondary scoring he was providing.

So what led the Canucks to deal Hodgson?

It's obvious that the Gillis wanted to get tougher and when the price for Steve Ott became too much - Dallas rightly asked a lot - Gillis had to look at other avenues. The first domino was the acquisition of Sami Pahlsson. Immediately there became a log jam up front, my initial reactions on twitter...

11:14am Pahlsson acquisition gives #Canucks upgrade on Malhotra at centre. Lots of interchangeable parts from the 2nd line down.

11:18am Hodgson likely to see games up on 2nd line and down on 4th line, depending on the type of checking line AV wants. #Canucks

11:22am and of course Hodgson will continue to centre the 3rd line. Point is #Canucks have lots of flexibility up front.

I'll be honest at this point the thought of trading Hodgson hadn't popped into my mind at all. I figured the Canucks would give him a shot on the 2nd line wing, but I assumed that by the time push comes to shove in the playoffs Hodgson would likely be seeing 4th line ice time and 2nd unit PP duty while Lapierre and/or Pahlsson took over 3rd line ice time on a defensively reliable unit.

Obviously Mike Gillis and Alain Vigneault were well aware of this scenario. People have bitched and complained about Hodgson's ice time all season, but the bottom line is Alain Vigneault expects players to be strong in their own end. If you are any kind of a liability defensively, you're going to have a hard time finding the ice. Can you really argue with that philosophy? Clearly Vigneault is a very successful coach. People are free to nitpick with who "his guys" are or should be, but you can't argue with the end result.

So, getting back to Hodgson, he was never going to play ahead of Kesler or Henrik at centre ice. That leaves third line ice and power play time. While Hodgson produced very well for his ice-time, his defensive game is no where near as mature. You saw that on display in the Detroit game where, after scoring a big goal, Hodgson could not handle Abdelkader in his own end and Detroit immediately responded with a goal of their own. Those are things you're going to get with a young centre iceman. The question is can you afford that when you are trying to win the Stanley Cup?

Today the Canucks answered that question.

Canucks Get Tougher

A lot has been made of the Canucks toughness, probably too much, but you can't deny the Canucks need for more size and grit was significant. When the game gets tight and it's hard to get the puck to the middle, it becomes really hard to score goals when your power play goes into a funk or run of bad luck. We saw that against Boston. And it's not just Boston the Canucks need to worry about. First they need to get out of their own conference against some big physical teams like St. Louis, San Jose and Nashville. Then in the East you have the team's trying to emulate the Cup Champions. Remember the past few meetings vs the Rangers? Shutout because the Canucks struggled to get pucks to the middle of the ice (also known as playing on the perimeter).

So how much is Zack Kassian going to help in this department?

That really depends on how the Canucks plan on using Kassian, so far we haven't heard much on this other than they think he is ready to contribute now. So does that mean he starts on the 4th line, or is he going to get a legitimate shot on Kesler's wing and the opportunity to park himself in front of the net on the power play?

Most out west don't know all that much about Kassian so we're left to rely on statistics, media and other fan opinions. The most important thing to keep in mind with Kassian is that this is his first professional season. At just 21 Kassian is nearly a point a game in the AHL where it's not exactly easy to score. He obviously hasn't lit it up in the NHL, but he's managed to hold his own. On a better team with stronger linemates, Kassian may be able to produce more offensively. The future is bright for Kassian, but is it now?

The Forgotten Piece

Marc-Andre Gragnani seems to be the forgotten piece of this trade. He's not just a throw in. Gragnani has struggled defensively in Buffalo, but he was very good in the playoffs last year. At 24, he's just entering the age of when defensemen start to really come in to their own. Gragnani has outstanding AHL numbers which obviously show he has offensive skill. Playing on the 3rd pairing he has the potential to improve his NHL numbers, especially when you consider that AV likes to "hide" his weakest pairing by throwing them out with the Sedin twins. He will also get a chance on the power play where the second unit will need to find a way to replace Hodgson's production.

He's not the top 4-5 guy the Canucks could have really used, but I wouldn't be surprised if he finds himself as a regular in the lineup.

Final Thoughts for Today

The weirdest thing about this trade is that it doesn't really hinge on Zack Kassian. It's really about the new identity and style of the third and fourth lines and whether the Canucks ultimately win the Stanley Cup this year. Oddly, the performances of Sami Pahlsson and even Gragnani may be more important than what the Canucks get out of Kassian this year.

So is this a good trade or a bad trade? It's definitely a ballsy trade. Ultimately the Canucks are deeper and more balanced then they were Monday morning and they're likely a stronger playoff team. Will they miss the odd Hodgson goal, maybe, but there will be opportunities for others to step up and perhaps a free'd up Kesler will negate Hodgson's lost production.

Bottom line, overall I think the Canucks are a stronger team after the trades. It's tough to see a player like Hodgson leave, but ultimately it's about giving yourself the best chance to win the Stanley Cup. Mike Gillis went out and made his bold move, hopefully it will be remembered as the one that led to the Stanley Cup.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Canucks Trade Samuelsson and Sturm to Florida for David Booth

While watching the Lions game yesterday I hear a TSN Tradecentre alert go off on my phone. I wonder "Hmmm which mediocre player was traded for a mid-round pick today." Needless to say it was a little shocking to see that the Canucks had traded away Mikael Samuelsson. Even more surprising was the player they received in return.

The Canucks sent Samuelsson and Marco Sturm to Florida (yes Florida again) in exchange for F David Booth, F Steven Reinprecht and Vancouver's 3rd round pick in 2013.

It's obvious the Canucks felt they were lacking a speed element on the wing. Samuelsson was off to a very shaky start following off-season surgery and Marco Sturm was completely ineffective. Neither player had settled into the lineup and with Mason Raymond still on the shelf for the foreseeable future Gillis obviously felt the need to make a move.

David Booth

Booth is only 26, but brings a hefty contract ($4.25m through 2014-15) and some concussion concerns. He has yet to regain his 2009 form which saw him score 31 goals and add 29 assists in 72 games. While he returned to play all 82 games last season there has to be some concern over the risks of another concussion. There are also reports from Florida observers that Booth no longer plays as physical as he did prior to his concussions. Last season's -31 is also troublesome, but then again Florida had only two plus forwards last season. Playing almost 19 minutes a night on a team who's 5on5 goals for/against ratio was 6th worst in the NHL isn't going to help your plus minus. Playing with Steve Bernier also doesn't help.

Those concerns aside, Vancouver fans have to be pretty excited with the acquisition of Booth. Guys in their mid 20's who have scored 30 goals aren't easy to come by. Booth has great wheels and a quick heavy shot. A lot of people consider him to be similar to Raymond. Booth is however bigger and more physical while Raymond is much better defensively. Booth has also shown that he can finish and play in the dirty areas.

Check out some highlights of Booth on NHL.com

Playing with Kesler

While Kesler and Booth have a history together, you have to wonder how they will mesh on the same line. Kesler isn't exactly a great puck distributor and is often a shoot first guy. That could have a lot to do with his past linemates not exactly being top quality players, but there has also been a lack of chemistry between Kesler and Hodgson. Booth is a guy who likes to shoot the puck a lot (he was 12th overall in shots on goal last year) so it will be interesting to see how two "shooters" play together.

It will also be interesting to see whether Chris Higgins will remain on the 2nd unit or whether Hodgson will continue to play on the right wing. Hodgson has struggled since the return of Kesler, but it's only been three games. I don't see Hodgson being demoted to Chicago, mainly because he has single handedly improved the effectiveness of the 2nd unit power play. I'd like to see him stay on the 2nd line a little longer and if that doesn't work out he could centre the third line. Manny Malhotra hasn't been very good and you have to think his days as the number 3 centre could be coming to an end. Max Lapierre has been great and Hodgson has demonstrated he's capable of holding his own at this level. If the 4th line had not shown so much chemistry Lapierre would already be the 3rd line centre. However it shakes down the Canucks have a lot of flexibility up front.

Samuelsson and Sturm

This trade has to be pretty disappointing for Samuelsson. He's going from a contender to a team in a perpetual rebuild. Chances are he will be moved to a contender at the deadline, until then he'll have to enjoy the Florida sunshine. His leadership may be missed in the dressing room, but you have to give up something to get something.

Somehow Mike Gillis got out of his $2.5m mistake by trading away Sturm. Sturm was clearly a step behind the play and didn't show many signs that he can still play at this level.

This is an awful hockey trade by Florida, but it obviously helps their bottom line. Who knows maybe they can parlay Samuelsson and Sturm into some usefull assets at the trade deadline, but if you're a Florida fan you have to be pretty disappointed that you moved a 26 year old forward and didn't receive a young asset in return. You would think there are other NHL team's out there who would have taken a chance on Booth while offering up something of more use in the long term.

Steven Reinprecht

The other component to the trade is Steven Reinprecht, or more accurately his $2.05m salary. At 35 Reinprecht's NHL days may be behind him, but he is only 2 years removed from a 38 point season with Florida. He's unlikely to be recalled during the season (the Canucks would not want to add a million to their cap hit should he be claimed on re-entry waivers) but he could provide some injury insurance should the Canucks need a 4th line centre in the playoffs.

It's not often you see a significant trade in October, but Mike Gillis saw an opportunity to acquire a top 6 forward without giving up a part of the core. The Canucks got younger and faster and saved a little cap room in the process. Booth carries some risks, but there's a lot of upside to this trade. The Canucks are a better team today. What's not to like?

Thursday, October 06, 2011

2011-2012 Opening Night Lineup

The Canucks open the season tonight against the Pittsburgh Penguins (7:00 CBC). Here's your opening night lineup...


  • Sedin Sedin Burrows
  • Sturm Hogdson Samuelsson
  • Higgins Malhotra Hansen
  • Volpatti Lapierre Weise


  • Hamhuis Bieksa
  • Edler Salo
  • Ballard Tanev


  • Luongo
  • Schneider

It was reported today that Mike Gillis expects Ryan Kesler to return in 5 to 6 games, or roughly two weeks. The return of Kesler will force some interesting lineup decisions, especially where it concerns Cody Hogdson. Hogdson now has a smaller than expected window to show what he can do when the games are for real. Barring some kind of injury up front Hogdson will have to force his way into the lineup - I don't see the Canucks keeping him around if he isn't in the top 9.

Hogdson has his work cut out for him, but he's not the only one with question marks. On the wings newcomer Marco Sturm will get a good opportunity on the 2nd line, as will Mikael Samuelsson, but both will be expected to produce. If they don't Higgins, Hansen and even Hodgson will be ready for their chance to play on the 2nd line. At centre, the top two positions are obviously set, but Manny Malhotra doesn't have "3rd line centre" written in his contract. It wouldn't be a surprise if Maxim Lapierre ends up supplanting Malhotra on the 3rd line. There is also the possibility of Hodgson sticking as the third line centre and Malhotra moving to the wing, The Canucks will have plenty of internal competition this season.

With so many versatile forwards vying for ice time Alain Vigneault will be doing a lot of line juggling as he evaluates what he has in the 2011-2012 version of your Vancouver Canucks. A month from now tonight's lineup may be a distant memory.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

A New Season

Well it's been a long time since my last post. Quite frankly, after such a crushing disappointment I needed to take the summer off from all things Canuck. I was going to do a review of last season and "what went wrong", but really whats the point. We all know what went wrong. The Canucks power play floundered, Tim Thomas was amazing and Luongo wasn't good enough (again). Sure you can throw in the fact that the Bruins "pushed them around", but really, the Canucks lost because they couldn't score. That's what it came down to. Anyway it's time to move on, the 2011 pre-season is under way and the Canucks are starting back at the bottom of the mountain. Do they have what it takes to get back to the summit?

It was a quiet off-season for Mike Gillis. As expected the Canucks lost Christian Ehrhoff to free agency along with Tanner Glass and Raffi Torres. Ehrhoff will certainly be missed, but the Canucks had no interest in matching Buffalo's contract. Instead the Canucks will hope to replace Ehrhoff's production with a healthy (for now) Sami Salo, a better season from Keith Ballard and a more experienced Chris Tanev. The Canucks lost some grit in Glass and Torres, but both players will be easily replaced. Glass was a solid 4th liner, but when the pace picked up in the playoffs he wasn't able to keep up. Torres was effective at times and provided a physical presence with the odd goal. The Canucks are auditioning several players who can keep up with the NHL pace while playing a physical game and any offence Torres provided will easily be replaced by a full season of Chris Higgins.

The big addition to this year's roster is of course Marco Sturm. Many were surprised at the signing, Sturm after all has battled injuries and doesn't exactly address the perceived lack of grit/toughness that most thought the Canucks needed to address. That said, a healthy Sturm provides Vancouver with some impressive depth in their top 9 forward group. So far, Sturm has looked bigger and faster than expected and should be an excellent fit.

Pre-Season Auditions

While Sturm is obviously a lock to make the roster, there are numerous players vying for some openings in the forward group. Injuries to Ryan Kesler and Mason Raymond mean that there are two jobs available on the second line and questions surrounding Malhotra's readiness also create some interesting possibilities in the bottom 6.

Cody Hodgson
With Kesler out the door is wide open for Cody Hodgson to make the team. After two pre-season games it's pretty clear that he is ready to make the most of the opportunity the Canucks are giving him. (Yes the Canucks are giving him an excellent opportunity, despite what a few whiners in the media seem to think.) Hodgson has looked great in his first two appearances. He's made a Sedin like improvement in his skating ability. There was one play in Edmonton where the Oilers were rushing up ice and Hodgson was racing back on the backcheck - amazingly Hodgson kept pace with the young Oilers. In addition to his improved skating, Hodgson has also improved his strength and his shot. It's pretty clear that Hodgson is ready to be an NHL regular, there will be some growing pains, but physically he's ready.
Owen Nolan
What does Owen Nolan have left in the tank? After the first pre-season game I would have said not much. He looked slow and sluggish. However he had a much better showing in his second game. Sure he scored a goal, but more importantly he skated much better and was much more assertive and involved in the play. Still, the deck is stacked against him. With Burrows, Samuelsson and Hansen on the right side and numerous right handed shooting wingers vying for a job (see below) the chances of Nolan snagging a job are pretty slim.
4th Line Wingers
The Canucks have a very interesting group of wingers who are battling for the two slots available on the 4th line. It's clear the Canucks are looking for a combination of grit, toughness and speed. With the exception of Todd Fedoruk several players fit those criteria: Steve Pinizzotto, Mark Mancari, Victor Oreskovich, Mike Duco and Aaron Volpatti.
Add Nolan and Fedoruk to the mix and you have 7 players fighting for 2 jobs. The battle for the right wing spot appears to be the most competitive as you have 4 right handed shooters. So far Pinizzotta and Mancari have been very impressive, both have shown an ability to skate and make plays. Incumbent Oreskovich has been quiet so far and will need to show a lot more if he wants to avoid starting the season in Chicago. On the left side Mike Duco had a strong game in Edmonton, with his ability to contribute on the PK he appears to be the leading candidate to take over Tanner Glass's role. Aaron Volpatti will really have to step up if he hopes to jump a head of Duco. And of course there is always the possibility of one of the right handed wingers playing the left side.
Jordan Schroeder
Perhaps the most pleasant surprise of camp so far is Jordan Schroeder and the strides he has taken in his game. It's highly unlikely that the Canucks would keep both Hogdson and Schroeder, but Schroeder has definitely shown that he is a lot closer to the NHL than he was last season. His competitiveness in the defensive zone has improved dramatically. He will in all likely hood start the season in Chicago where he will be expected to be a top player. If he stays healthy he'll receive a callup at some point.

This weekend's two home games will be the last chance for several players to make an impression. The 4th line battle is particularly interesting, Expect some cuts on Monday. Hard to believe that the regular season is less than two weeks away...