Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Bertuzzi and Jovanovski Heading to Turin

The Olympic Men's Hockey Team roster has been announced and both Todd Bertuzzi and Ed Jovanovski have made the team.

More to come...

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Canucks - Flyers Start Time Delayed

According to Dan Murphy the start time of tonight's game is being pushed back by half an hour due to a snow storm in Philadelphia. Catch the game on Sportsnet, and the replay at 7:30(assuming the delay doesn't change their plans.)

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Thoughts on the Cloutier Injury

Yesterdays news was a definite blow to the franchise and of course Dan Cloutier's career. The potentially season ending injury leaves Vancouver in a serious dilemma and may mark the end of Cloutier's tenure in Vancouver.

This season was supposed to be the one in which Vancouver was to make another run at the Stanley Cup with a core of players who have been together for many years. Dave Nonis had two options in the off-season: 1) Stick with the core that has been one of the best teams in the NHL. 2) Use the opportunity of an unprecedented free agent crop to move in another direction. Nonis could have gambled and took the team in a new direction, but when Markus Naslund re-signed, he made the decision to stick with the core group. With Naslund in the fold there was little salary cap room. New deals for Matt Cooke, Brendan Morrison and Dan Cloutier along with the signings of Anson Carter and Richard Park, put Vancouver near the $39m. By going in this direction Nonis knew that the team that took the ice in September would very likely be the same team going into March. That all changed yesterday.

With the remaining portion of Dan Cloutier's $2.45m off the books, Vancouver now has roughly $2.5 in cap space.

Where to go from here?

There are many options for Dave Nonis. Currently, Alex Auld is playing well enough for the team to win. The Canucks are saying all the right things, they don't have to make an immmediate move. However, don't buy into this too far. Vancouver will need to get another goaltender sooner rather than later. While Alex Auld has been solid, the more he plays the more his shortcomings will be exposed. Teams have already picked up on some of those weaknesses, most noticeably his poor rebound control. As Auld plays more, and teams develop scouting reports, things are going to be more difficult. Like a rookie baseball player going through the league for the second time, there his a huge difference between being successful playing 1-2 times a week and playing every game. That's what separates the good goaltenders from the average ones. I'm not saying Auld can't be the guy, but the odds of him taking the reigns and leading this team through the playoffs aren't great.

Of course, while he has been forced to play every game, Auld has for the most part gotten the job done. His teammates feel comfortable playing in front of him, Crawford has confidence in him(unlike Skudra and Hedberg) and Vancouver's December schedule does not contain any back to back games. These factors give Vancouver some leeway, but not much. The combination of Alex Auld and Maxime Ouellet is not going to cut it for long. So, Dave Nonis has a few options to consider...

  1. There is a guy by the name of Wade Flaherty playing in Manitoba. Now that the cap situation isn't as dire, Vancouver can afford the scenario of paying half of Flaherty's salary should he be claimed on waivers by another team. Still, Flaherty only has 120 career games in the NHL and fewer then 30 this decade. He has played very well for the Manitoba Moose, but the AHL is a lot different than the NHL. Wade Flaherty would be a band-aid solution at best.
  2. Flaherty or another similar veteran opens up option number 2, waiting until closer to the deadline before acquiring a legitimate NHL starter for the playoff run. The longer they wait, the more cap room they save.
  3. They make a move now for one of the current veterans who have recently fallen out of favor with their current clubs. This group includes the likes of Jocelyn Thibault and Patrick Lalime. Expensive guys who have not played well, but have had success in the past.
  4. Another option is to go for the big stopper. With the cap room guys like Olaf Kolzig are now a possibility. The cap room now gives Nonis the option of trading for guys like Luongo, Kolzig, Biron and others. This of course is going to cost some significant assets. Also, Cloutier is still under contract for next season, so that is an important fact to keep in mind. You can't have two veteran number 1's in a salary cap world.
  5. Lightning in a bottle. Every now and then a guy like Mikka Kiprusoff comes out of nowhere, is there a younger backup out there who could catch fire and become a dominating goaltender who can take you to the finals?
  6. Finally, there is another less obvious option. Spend the money elsewhere. There's no rule stating that Vancouver must spend the free cap space on a goaltender. The free cap space gives Nonis the option of upgrading the much maligned blueline. Upgrading on Steve McCarthy would be a big help to the team. Nonis can add some extra parts and another cheaper goalie rather than blowing it all on one goalie.

This team is built for a Stanley Cup run this season. The window of opportunity is small, can you gamble on Alex Auld?

Currently Nonis is doing the smart thing, he doesn't have to make a move right now, he can wait for the right deal. As long as Auld continues to play well Nonis can be patient and more importantly, not look desperate.

This is Nonis' first real test as General Manager of the Vancouver Canucks. What he does will likely define this season and potentially his tenure in Vancouver.

Personally if I was in charge there is one guy I would be going after, Dwayne Roloson. The Wild are slipping out of the playoff race and one of their goalies will not be returning next season. Acquiring Roloson would give Vancouver an excellent goalie who is cheap, meaning they would have money to shore up the blueline and add some depth up front. That's what I would like to see.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Cloutier Out for the Year?

Dan Cloutier will have surgery on his ACL and could be out for 4 months, potentially ending his season.

More to come...

Cooke Returns vs Rangers

A few quick notes on tonights game...

  • Vancouver Canucks forward Matt Cooke will be back in the lineup tonight against the New York Rangers. Cooke has missed 17 games since breaking his jaw in practice. He'll be wearing a full shield.
  • Also new to the lineup tonight will be goaltender Maxime Ouellet who will be backing up Alex Auld.
  • Markus Naslund missed another practice yesterday, resting his injured groin, but he will be in the lineup tonight. I hope the Canucks are being careful with this one, Markus might be trying to play through something he shouldn't.
  • The Rangers are 10-2-2 at home, which includes five straight victories, they have only lost 4 games since the beginning of November.
  • This is another one of those games in which the Canucks shouldn't have a problem "getting up" for. Back to back solid efforts would be a refreshing sign.
  • Should be interesting to see how Bertuzzi plays after his little interview and coming off one of his best efforts of the season.

TV: RSN 4:00, also you can catch the replay at 7:30

Friday, December 09, 2005

The Measuring Stick?

So, the best team in the NHL is in town tonight and the Canucks are finally back in action after a long layoff. Tonight's game is probably the most anticipated of the season and has been hyped ad nauseum by the Vancouver media.

Since their six game winning streak in late October, the Canucks have had a long run of inconsistency and, at times, mediocrity. Vancouver is 9-8-1 since that winning streak. One game above .500 over six weeks is simply not good enough for this hockey club.

There are several contributing factors to the inconsistency, but there is one recurring theme and that is a lack of work ethic. I hate to harp on this fact, but it's unavoidable. The Vancouver Canucks do not work hard enough.

Tonight they'll have to bring their work boots or it will be a very long night. The Ottawa Senators have been dominant, routinely embarrassing teams. They are a powerhouse and Vancouver will have to be at the top of their game, somewhere they have rarely been this season.

This is a big test for Vancouver. They need to play a 60 minute game and they need some goaltending out of Alex Auld. Tonight we find out how they measure up against the league's best.

  • Vancouver has been nearly perfect on home ice at 12-1, while the Senators are 9-2 on the road.
  • Markus Naslund and Henrik Sedin have both been nursing groin injuries, however both will be in the lineup tonight.
  • Unfortunately for the Senators they will be without Wade Redden who is still out with a knee injury, and of course they begin life without Martin Havlat who is out for the remainder of the season.
  • Rob McVicar will be backing up Alex Auld. McVicar is being re-called from Victoria
  • No other players will be re-called, so that means both Wade Brookbank and Lee Goren will be in the lineup.

TV: SNET 7:00

Notes from Nuckland (and Mooseland)

Time to catch up on a few things...

  • Jason King is on the road to recovery from his concussion problems. He is now participating in full contact practices and could join the Moose soon.
  • The Canucks have one less option from the farm as Josh Green is out for 6 weeks after injuring tendons in his hand. Tough break for Green and the Canucks as he was playing rather well, especially considering the amount of travel he's had to endure.
  • Rob McVicar was assigned to the Victoria Salmon Kings of the ECHL, rather than the Manitoba Moose. This is a move to reduce the travel for McVicar while Cloutier is out. Victoria is not an affiliate of Vancouver, but there is strong speculation that Vancouver will change their ECHL affiliation (currently with Columbia) next season.
  • Newcomer Maxime Ouellet is 2-0 with a 2.61 GAA and .907 SvPct in 3 games with the Moose.
  • Jozef Balej had a good showing in his one game callup and now has 12 goals and 9 assists in 27 games for the Moose.
  • Sven Butenschon has been great for the Moose with 7 goals and 11 assists and a +10 rating in 24 games.
  • Tomas Mojzis has 8 points in 10 games since returning from his broken jaw.
  • Nathan Smith may be out for the remainder of the season after undergoing knee surgery.
  • According to Crawford, Matt Cooke could be ready to go next week.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Canucks Acquire G Maxime Ouellet

The Vancouver Canucks have acquired goaltender Maxime Ouellet from the Washington Capitals in exchange for a 5th round pick(2006).

Ouellet was drafted 22nd overall by the Flyers in 1999 and was involved in the Adam Oates deadline deal back in 2002. Ouellet has obviously not lived up to his potential, as demonstrated by the 5th rounder going the other way.

Here's the Canucks Press Release

One interesting note is that the draft pick heading the other way is likely the one included in the Fedor Fedorov trade. Fedorov for Ouellet and Balej doesn't sound too bad. I'll have more thoughts later.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Game Report: Vancouver 5 Colorado 2

The Vancouver Canucks got the monkey off their back. After losing four straight to the Avalanche, including a couple ugly first period blowouts, the Canucks got their act together and responded.

It didn't look good early as Joe Sakic scored quickly while the Avalanche also generated several early chances off the rush. But unlike past first periods, Vancouver responded right away and in the span of 90 seconds they had the lead. There was a small bump in the road when Colorado tied the game at 2, but Brendan Morrison's breakaway goal would give the Canucks the lead for good as they went on to a 5-2 victory.

Game Notes

  • It's amazing what happens when you work hard. The Canucks were winning the battles for pucks and generating penalties. They would end up with 8 power plays and 44 shots on goal.
  • I've often criticized Ed Jovanovski this season, but I thought he had one of his stronger games of the year. Jovo had the legs going and played very well defensively.
  • Speaking of legs going, Daniel Sedin was buzzing around all night long. While he didn't get a point, he managed 3 shots on goal and generated several scoring chances.
  • Todd Bertuzzi came to play, skating well and finishing with an assist and 6 shots on goal. So which Bertuzzi shows up in Edmonton? If I was a betting man (who am I kidding, I am), I wouldn't put my money on the one from last night, but I'd like to see Bertuzzi prove me wrong.
  • Anson Carter took a high stick in the third and while he looked like he would be all right I don't believe he returned to the game.
  • Brendan Morrison scored the game winner and added 5 shots on goal... Vancouver needs to see more of that from Mo.
  • I thought Trevor Linden had a very good game, he seems to have more jump in his step since he scored that shootout goal.
  • Steve McCarthy was the only Canuck not to register a shot on goal, yes that means Wade Brookbank had a shot on goal in his 3:48 of ice time.
  • Rob Blake was great. He got off to a slow start this season, but if that game is any indication he is still a lock for the Olympic team.
  • Finally, wasn't it great to see Mick McGeough again! If I was bored I would tally up the number of Canuck games he has officiated(I would guess at least a dozen), but I'm not, so I won't.

Vancouver is now 16-8-2, 3 points ahead of Calgary for the division lead. They head into Edmonton(who they have a 5 point lead on) tonight. Edmonton is coming off a loss to the Avalanche on Tuesday. Catch the game on Sportsnet at 6:00 pm.

Finally for today, the November report card is in the works, hopefully it does not take me as long as the October Report Card.

The Thornton Trade

While waiting for the Canuck game I was half asleep listening to the Leaf/Lightning game when I hear a breaking "major" news update... Joe Thornton traded to the San Jose Sharks for Marco Sturm, Brad Stuart and Wayne Primeau.

First thought: "That's like Morrison, Allen and Ruutu." Second thought: "WTF is Boston thinking."

The Boston Bruins traded their best player, the face of the franchise and one of the best young talents in the NHL without getting an impact player or top prospect back in return. Quite frankly this is a terrible trade.

  • First, while Marco Sturm and Brad Stuart are pretty good players they aren't the type of players you build your team around. Sturm's upside is essentially a second line forward. Brad Stuart has, in the opinion of many, plateaued and it does not appear that he will live up to the potential that saw him drafted 3rd overall in 1998. Stuart will likely remain a 2nd pairing guy on any type of contending team.
  • Short term this deal gives Boston some much needed depth, especially on the blueline, but it does not help long term.
  • The Bruins have just pissed away their biggest asset. They had one of the most desirable young centre's in the NHL and they failed to maximize their return.
  • This move is an act of desperation by an incompetent ownership group and a GM solely interested in saving his own skin. This notoriously cheap organization failed to get an adequate return on their biggest asset, but hey, they save a few bucks.
  • If the Bruins were so intent on getting rid of Thornton they should have been smart about it. They could have dealt Thornton in the summer for assets and used the saved money to acquire one of the numerous quality free agents available.
  • Finally the fact that they did not shop Thornton only adds to the ridiculousness of the trade.

There is simply no way to defend this move.

Could the Canucks have got Thornton?

I'm sure a lot Canuck fans thought, "hey we could have matched that deal!" Vancouver certainly could have matched the talent quite easily, but that talent comes with large dollars attached.

Any deal for Thornton would require the equivalent of Thornton's $6.6m going back to Boston, something which Boston would not be interested in. But for arguments sake let's see who could have gone the other way:

  • Jovanovski($3.99m) & Morrison ($3.2m) - This would certainly be an upgrade up front, but that would be offset with a gaping hole on the already weak backend. This simply would not make the Canucks better.
  • Bertuzzi($5.27) & another $1.4m of salary - You could send Matt Cooke or Sami Salo to make up the salary difference, but either way it is unlikely that Boston would be interested in Bertuzzi's contract.
  • Morrison($3.2m) & Allen ($941k) & Cooke ($1.5) & more salary - This is probably the closest match to the San Jose deal, but even if you are willing to move those players and Boston wants them, you are still over the cap with Thornton by about a million dollars.

I could demonstrate other combinations, but it would be redundent. Simply put, any move for Thornton would require us moving the equivalent of Thornton's salary and one of our top defensemen. Since Boston is not likely to be interested in salary and the Canucks cannot afford to lose one of their top 4 defenseman(and would have no cap room for a replacement) there isn't a deal to be done.

Thornton would look great in a Canuck jersey, but in the salary cap world Vancouver was not a viable trading partner.