Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Catching Up on Things

First, apologies for the lack of updates lately, let's see if I can catch up on things...

Mike Gillis' First Mistake

Today the Canucks lost Matt Pettinger on waivers to the Lightning. Pettinger was re-called along with Kyle Wellwood (who cleared re-entry waivers) to replace some injured players (more on that in a minute). You'll recall that Pettinger was sent down at the end of the pre-season in order to keep Mike Brown who was originally on his way to Manitoba when the Canucks had a change of heart over fears of losing him on waivers. On October 6, I had this to say...

I'm very interested to see how Gillis manages this situation. Trading someone away in order to keep someone who was essentially cut isn't a great message to send to your team... I'm also really not sure how keeping Brown makes the Canucks a better team. Can you really keep him around just because you don't want to lose him as an asset? It's a strange situation and it will be interesting to see how it all works out.

Well, it has been worked out and the end result is that the Canucks have lost a useful asset (Pettinger) for nothing, at the expense of keeping a player with dubious potential (Brown). Now don't get me wrong, Pettinger is not a key piece to the puzzle, however he was a useful player... he could skate, kill penalties, possessed solid size & grit, and had the skill to play in the top-6 on a short term basis (something Mike Brown cannot do).

There are also other ramifications to the "Mike Brown saga". The Canucks have very few forwards who can be re-called without being subject to re-entry waivers, Jason Krog and Michael Grabner being exempt. Interestingly Michel Ouellet, who was acquired from Tampa, is probably someone who they would like to bring up but would likely lose. The question has to be asked... did Gillis explore the possibility of including Pettinger in the deal instead of now being on the hook for half his salary?

With all that said, this situation isn't going to have huge ramifications to the outcome of the season, but it is a mistake by a rookie GM... let's hope he has learned from it.

The Road Trip So Far

The Canucks embarked on a tough 6 game road trip to start the season and find themselves with the possibility of coming home with a .500 road trip, which you would have to consider a success. The team has looked great in their two wins, terrible in Washington, and not so great in Chicago and Buffalo.

Overall the team has looked pretty solid, but special teams and discipline have been the major problems. The power-play has been absolutely terrible (a dismal 6.9%) and the penalty kill hasn't been good enough statistically (75%), which could be the just be the result of a little bad luck. The Canucks have also taken the 3rd most minor penalties (39) in the league. If the Canucks improve on those numbers they are looking pretty good. Now a few notes...

  • The Kesler line has been a huge success so far. Burrows and Kesler have started right where they left off last season and have shown that they are the engine of this team. Hansen has been a nice compliment to the line adding a touch of skill.
  • Taylor Pyatt is really struggling. Not only does he only have one assist in 6 games he also leads the team with 5 minor penalties.
  • Henrik Sedin needs to stop the hooking and holding penalties, especially in the offensive zone. You can live with a grab when you are trying to keep the puck out of your net, but not when you are are trying to score.
  • Shane O'Brian has been a mediocre addition so far, too many penalties and suspect mobility. He does however pass the puck pretty well.
  • We all heard that Ryan Johnson was a great shot blocker, but seeing it is another thing entirely. He is currently averaging two blocked shots a game!
  • Luongo is off to a slow start... eerily similar to his first season with the team... he was nominated for a Vezina that year.
  • The Canucks look to be a better team in the faceoff circle this year... only Ryan Johnson (44%) is struggling.

The Injury Situation

  • Darcy Hordichuk (knee)
  • Pavol Demitra (ribs)
  • Rick Rypien's (viral infection, sent home to Vancouver)
  • Sami Salo (groin, might be the closest to returning)

With 3 regular forwards out the Canucks should have Kyle Wellwood, Jason Krog and Mike Brown in the lineup tonight in Columbus. The Sedin and Kesler lines will have to lead the way if the Canucks hope to salvage the road trip.

Enjoy the game.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Canucks Sign Alex Edler to 4 Year Extention

The Vancouver Canucks have locked up defenseman Alex Edler for 4 more years.

The deal is reportedly worth $13m over 4 years, a $3.25m cap hit. At first glace the number seems high, especially considering the Kevin Bieksa contract and his struggles since signing the deal. But that's just the way it is in the "New NHL", players are now payed based on their potential as much as their performance.

Alex Edler would have been a restricted free agent at the end of the season, meaning any team could have swooped in and offered just under $4m (1st and 3rd rd pick compensation range) or maybe more. Not many people would trade Edler for a 1st and 3rd round pick, so the money is right even though it's more than you would comfortably give to a still relatively unproven player. All signs point to Edler as being a very good, maybe even great, defenseman for years to come... of course the same could be said of Bieksa, who is coming off a terrible season and is making his contract look a little worrisome.

That said, this deal is a no-brainer for the Canucks as Edler should easily live up to the money.

Canucks 6 - Flames 0

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Roster Set - Pettinger and Krog Clear Waivers

Both Matt Pettinger and Jason Krog have cleared waivers and will report to the Manitoba Moose. Meanwhile, Jeff Cowan has been assigned to the Peoria Rivermen, the St. Louis Blues AHL Affiliate. Due to AHL veteran rules, there was no place for Cowan in Manitoba.

The Canucks also officially placed Lawrence Nycholat on the injured reserve bringing their roster down to the required 23 players.

So all is set for the season opener against the Flames... all except for the Vancouver Canucks Hockey Blog Season Preview! I had hoped to finish it before the opener, but it's turning out to be more extensive than previously thought. It may be up tomorrow, but the weekend is more likely... stay tuned.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Getting Down to 23

It's nice having some depth isn't it? On the other hand, it's not much fun losing players for nothing as the Canucks found out as Nathan McIver was snapped up by the Ducks, and promptly scored an overtime winner against his former team. Right now Mike Gillis is in a bit of a predicament...

With Cody Hodgson returning to junior, there are currently 26 players remaining on the Canucks roster, 3 of them have to go by Wednesday's noon deadline. In an interesting development, the Canucks have decided not to put Mike Brown on waivers due to fears of losing him. So where does that leave them?

The Fowards (16)

  • Steve Bernier
  • Mike Brown
  • Alexandre Burrows
  • Pavol Demitra
  • Jannik Hansen
  • Darcy Hordichuk
  • Ryan Johnson
  • Ryan Kesler
  • Jason Krog
  • Matt Pettinger*
  • Taylor Pyatt
  • Mason Raymond
  • Rick Rypien
  • Daniel Sedin
  • Henrik Sedin
  • Kyle Wellwood

The Defense (8)

  • Kevin Bieksa
  • Rob Davison
  • Alexander Edler
  • Willie Mitchell
  • Lawrence Nycholat*
  • Shane O'Brien
  • Mattias Ohlund
  • Sami Salo

The Goalies (2)

  • Roberto Luongo
  • Curtis Sanford

Coming out of the pre-season it appeared that Jason Krog and Mike Brown were on the outside looking in and that Lawrence Nycholat would have a very hard time knocking anyone out of the top 7 on defense. However, all 3 of those players must clear waivers and it appears that Gillis doesn't want to lose any of them. The situation on defense could sort itself out as Nycholat is scheduled to undergo an MRI to find out how serious his back injury is, but this is only a temporary resolution as the Canucks will have to do something once he is healthy. Up front an injury to Matt Pettinger may help relieve some of the roster pressure, but his injury does not sound serious, so again the Canucks will be stuck in the same position. They appear to really want Krog to go to Manitoba, but there may be another team willing to take on his salary and give him a shot at the NHL level.

So the conclusion to draw from all this is that two things will happen: 1) The Canucks make a trade; 2) The Canucks take their chances with the waiver wire; Considering the unusual step they have taken in keeping Mike Brown I have a feeling someone else is on his way out... maybe Matt Pettinger.

I'm very interested to see how Gillis manages this situation. Trading someone away in order to keep someone who was essentially cut isn't a great message to send to your team. On the other hand maybe Brown was cut because they thought they could sneak him through waivers rather than a Pettinger who would likely be claimed and lost for nothing.

I'm also really not sure how keeping Brown makes the Canucks a better team. Can you really keep him around just because you don't want to lose him as an asset? It's a strange situation and it will be interesting to see how it all works out...

Canucks Trade Krajicek to Lightning for O'Brien

The Vancouver Canucks have traded defenseman Lukas Krajicek and prospect Juraj Simek to the Tampa Bay Lightning in exchange for defenseman Shane O'Brien and Michel Ouellet.

It was pretty clear that Lukas Krajicek was not a favourite of Alain Vigneault, so the fact that he has been traded shouldn't be a surprise to anyone. Quite simply, Krajicek was an offensive defenseman who didn't produce (only 27pts in two seasons with Vancouver), while in his own end of the rink he was routinely pushed around and out-muscled in the corners and in front of the net. That combination (and to a lesser extent the emergence of Edler) put him in a position where he was in a genuine battle with Rob Davison for a job as the 6th defenseman.

In return the Canucks have beefed up their blueline. Shane O'Brien is listed at 6'3 - 224 lbs and brings a lot more grit than Krajicek. The question marks surrounding O'Brien revolve around his mobility, which was often criticized in Tampa Bay, however the move to the Western Conference and into Vancouver's tighter system should help in this regard. Offensively O'Brien managed to put up 21pts, which interestingly enough is 5 more than Krajicek's career high. So where does he slot in? It's hard to say right now, but he will likely be battling with Davison for the #6 spot.

The Canucks also picked up an intriguing player in Michel Ouellet. Ouellet has shown an ability to score at the NHL level putting up 116 pts in 187 career games. However, the fact that he has already cleared waivers this season means that the Canucks would have to place him on re-entry waivers and risk losing him to someone else while also being on the hook for half his salary ($1.2m). Canuck fans should also keep in mind that every team took a pass on this guy when he was on waivers and that there are now two teams who have walked away from him in his short career. Nevertheless, if they can sneak him through waivers there could be room on the second line if Taylor Pyatt fails to produce.

Overall, this move certainly helps add some muscle to the backend, but it also raises some concerns about the overall ability of the defense to rush the puck. That said, the blueline got a lot tougher to play against which is a good thing. Just take a look at the current top 7... Kevin Bieksa is the smallest guy at 6'0 205lbs. Speaking of the top 7, this moves still leaves the team with a surplus of defenseman with Nycholat still on the team (albeit injured at the moment) and needing to clear waivers to be sent down. It's unlikely that they will carry 8 defensemen so something has to give...

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Pre-Season Power Rankings V5

Updated Rankings After 6 Games...

  1. Mayson Raymond (1) - Spot on second line guaranteed.
  2. Jannik Hansen (2) - Should start season on 3rd line
  3. Kyle Wellwood (3) - Held pointless, no shots on goal, didn't see the game, but the word is he had a solid game.
  4. Rick Rypien (7) - Another entertaining fight, pushing hard to make the cut, Coach V likes him, played 4:05 on the PK! I think he's in.
  5. Matt Pettinger (4) - According to Ben Kuzma, Pettinger has hip-flexor injury. Hard to say what's going to happen with him now, depends on the roster options available to Canucks.
  6. Jason Krog (5) - "In the replay" on Sharks goal resulting in a -1 on the night, played on both PK & PP, will likely have one last chance to give the Canucks a reason to keep him. The Canucks are probably looking at sneaking him through waivers and assigning him to Manitoba.
  7. Mike Brown (8) - Vigneault likes him, chances have improved with subtraction of Cowan and injury to Pettinger. Update: Brown is heading to the waiver wire. Vigneault: "Brown was close but we think Rypien right now is just a little bit ahead of him"
  8. Cody Hodgson (9) - May make it to Sunday, but he is heading back to junior. Update: Also according to Jason Botchford, Hodgson will not play on Sunday.
  9. Jeff Cowan (6) - Did not play against San Jose, he's in real trouble (Edit: Placed on waivers as I was writing this post)
  10. Michael Grabner (10) -
  11. Jason Jaffray (11) -

Rankings are a combination of how they've been playing and how coaches have been using/commenting. Five forwards should make the team assuming Canucks carry 14 forwards. Last rank shown in ().

Previous Pre-Season Power Rankings:

McIver lost on waivers, Cowan also waived

The Vancouver Canucks depth on defense took a bit of a hit today as Nathan McIver has been claimed by the Anaheim Ducks. McIver was a decent option as a callup to fill in at the #7 hole, but let's face it, the chances of him having a career as a regular NHL defenseman aren't that great. If everything goes well for McIver he could be a decent bottom pairing defenseman who adds toughness to the lineup. It's unfortunate that the Canucks had to lose him for nothing, but in the end it's not going to have any affect on the outcome of the season.

Meanwhile, Jeff Cowan's quest to make the team is over as he has been placed on waivers. Cowan simply hasn't been the same player as the one who earned the knickname "Brabarian." Last season he struggled through injuries and was asked to play the role of enforcer something for which he wasn't well suited. The jump in his skating was noticeably absent and because of it, he was not effective. The Canucks gave him a fair opportunity in the pre-season, but he was never able to show that he could do any one thing better than those competing for his job.

In other waiver news, both Nolan Baumgartner and Zack Fitzgerald have cleared waivers. They have been assigned to the Manitoba Moose.

Around the Web (Oct 4 Ed.)

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Canucks Roster Down to 31

The Vancouver Canucks have made another round of cuts.

Cory Schneider, Alex Bolduc and Shaun Heshka are packing their bags for Moose camp while Zack Fitzgerald will be on his way after(if) he clears waivers.

No surprises here. With only two pre-season games remaining Luongo and Sanford are likely to split the duties between the pipes, so there wasn't much point in having Schneider stick around. It's time for him to get prepared for his season with the Moose.

All of the other cuts had pretty decent camps, in particular Alex Bolduc, but none of them had any real chance of making the team.

The Canucks take on the Sharks tonight. Unfortunately the game is not televised, but will be streamed live on Canucks.com.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Pre-Season Power Rankings V 4

Updated Rankings After 5 Games...

  1. Mayson Raymond (1) - Great game against Calgary, locked up his spot if it wasn't already.
  2. Jannik Hansen (2) - 2 Goals, looked very good with Kesler and Burrows, locked up his spot.
  3. Kyle Wellwood (4) - Continues to showcase his offensive skills, rest of his game improving... still where does he fit on a regular basis?
  4. Matt Pettinger (3) - May be in trouble, but I still don't see two others who can take his job. Had a strong effort, still lacks finish.
  5. Jason Krog (5) - Did not play against Calgary, must have strong performance in his next game.
  6. Jeff Cowan (6) - Got the message after his 3rd period benching, it's between him and Krog now, do they want a faceoff/shootout guy or another gritty guy?
  7. Rick Rypien (7) - Did not play against Calgary
  8. Mike Brown (9) - Not doing enough to unseat anyone who must clear waivers to be sent down.
  9. Cody Hodgson (8) - Simply not ready to play on a team with playoff ambitions. Needs to improve his skating and strength to compete in the NHL.
  10. Michael Grabner (10) -
  11. Jason Jaffray (11) -

Rankings are a combination of how they've been playing and how coaches have been using/commenting. Five forwards should make the team assuming Canucks carry 14 forwards. Last rank shown in ().

Previous Pre-Season Power Rankings:

Canucks 6 - Flames 1 - Game Notes

The Canucks had their most impressive outing of the pre-season, outplaying a Flames team who looked like a pre-season team despite dressing a fairly strong lineup, particularly on defense. On to the game notes...

  • The first goal was an encouraging sign for Canuck fans as Demitra made a great pass to Edler as Pyatt drove to the net opening up the ice.
  • Lukas Krajicek has the pressure on him, with others playing very well he cannot afford to make poor plays as he did on a 1st period power play breakout, missing the first pass coming out from behind his own net. Those are the types of plays that he should excel at, as he is supposed to be an offensive defenseman.
  • Mason Raymond was simply great, making Phaneuf (who somehow did not take a penalty on any play on a night where there were some pretty weak calls) look like an average NHL'er. His spot on the roster is secure.
  • The Canucks "3rd line" has officially taken shape. A pretty first period goal, followed by another one in the 3rd period. Hansen has locked up a spot and looked very good with Kesler and Burrows.
  • Lawrence Nycholat had another good game, perhaps his best. He made a few minor giveaways but he carried the puck well, threw a nice hit, scored a nice goal and perhaps most importantly, didn't shy away from taking a hit... one of the week points in Krajicek's game.
  • The naming of Luongo as captain had an obvious effect in the first period, as the Canucks were not taking any sh*t in the crease. Luongo also had a great game. You could almost "feel his presence as captain"
  • It's only the pre-season, but this team looks like a team... nothing to do with the six goals, just the way the entire team supported each other.
  • Ray Ferraro did a pretty decent job (especially considering his new location), often sloppy and talking too much, but the analysis at times is a step above 90% of the guys out there. Give him another 2 years under his belt and he is going to be one of the best analysts, something sorely lacking in sports broadcasting.
  • Johnson has better wheels than thought, nice job coming back on early 2nd period PK
  • Kyle Wellwood just made the team on a great pass by Nycholat. The big question is still where does he fit?
  • Right now Cody Hodgson doesn't have the speed and strength to compete at the NHL level.

All around it was a very strong game by the Canucks, albeit a very weak effort by the Flames. It's easy to get excited when your team has the only perfect record in the NHL pre-season, but there are a lot of things looking really good. Two games to go and it's off to the real thing...