Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Canucks November Report Card

A week late on this one due to computer problems, but here it is anyway...

The Forwards

Mason Raymond A (Oct B+)
Raymond had a strong October and that continued into November, however this time his strong play was reflected on the scoresheet. With 5 goals and 8 assists, Raymond had a point in 8 of 12 games. November was by far the best month of his career.
Henrik Sedin A- (Oct A-)
Once again Henrik Sedin leads the way up front for the Canucks. Henrik netted 8 goals and 4 assists in 12 November games, was a plus 4 and managed nearly 2 shots on goal per game. What happened to Henrik the playmaker?
Steve Bernier B+ (Oct B-)
Despite missing a couple games and spending most of his time with offensively challenged linemates, Bernier finds himself on pace for almost 25 goals and is already nearly half way to his career high in points. The Canucks will be very happy if they keep getting a goal every 3 or 4 games out of Bernier.
Tanner Glass B+ (Oct C-)
Following a great camp Glass was a non-factor in October, but he found his game in November. Bouncing between the 3rd and 4th lines, Glass managed 4 goals and was a +7 while bringing a much needed physical element to the table (leading the team in hits). If only the Canucks could clone him and replace Hordichuk.
Jannik Hansen B+ (Oct INC)
After breaking his hand in the pre-season, Hansen finally made his debut and put up 4 points in 7 November games. Last season Hansen struggled to finish chances, so far things are looking better this season.
Daniel Sedin B- (Oct B)
Daniel finally returned late in the month to post 3 points in 4 games
Alexandre Burrows C+ (Oct C+)
The return of Daniel Sedin rejuvenated the scoring touch of Alex Burrows, but it was a little too late for his November report card. While the points weren't really there, Burrows appeared to have put the "edge" back into his game after a unremarkable opening month. As I wrote last month, 3 goals a month isn't enough for Burrows. The good news is that he already has 3 goals in 3 December games.
Ryan Kesler C+ (Oct B+)
While Kesler managed to put up 13 points in 12 games, only one of those was a goal and that was on November 1st. The lack of forward depth certainly didn't help Kesler. Since Grabner went down the effectiveness of the second line has slipped significantly from their great October. Kesler needs to find some consistency in his offensive production and pressure. Without Kesler putting the puck in the net the Canucks will struggle to make up ground in the standings.
Mikael Samuelsson C (Oct A-)
After a great start with the Canucks Sameulsson has shown the lack of consistency which prevented him from becoming a key part of the Red Wings. His point total dropped in half this month to 6, while he also took 7 minor penalties in 12 games. The good news is he is still getting a lot of shots on goal, but the Canucks need more consistency in the effort department.
Kyle Wellwood C (Oct C-)
What to say about Wellwood... he finally found himself back on the scoresheet later in the month after a terrible start. Remarkably, for such a soft/small centre, Wellwood was a +7 on the month so he and his line do deserve some significant credit for keeping the puck out of their own net and for staying out of the penalty box.
Rick Rypien C (Oct C+)
The Canucks need more out of the 4th line and more out of Rypien. Two points and only 5 shots in 9 games isn't enough.
Matt Pettinger C (Oct INC)
Pettinger wasn't bad, but he wasn't good either. Two points and 5 shots in 7 games is a decent contribution for a bottom 6 callup, but it wasn't good enough for him to stick. He might be able to find a role somewhere in the NHL, but he just doesn't have that one above average skill to be a regular on the Canucks.
Ryan Johnson D (Oct C)
Ten games, 4 shots. How many good shifts did the 4th line have in November? I bet you could count them on one hand. I don't care how many shots he blocks or how many faceoffs he wins, Ryan Johnson is a problem. Points in only 2 games and only 7 shots on goal this [em]entire season[/em]. The Canucks 4th line might be the worst territorial line in the NHL and it's costing them points in the standings.
Darcy Hordichuk D (Oct C)
Hordichuk actually scored a goal this month... too bad it was his only good shift of the month. Surely there's a goon out there somewhere that can actually skate without falling down? Somewhere... anywhere...

The Defense

Christian Ehrhoff A- (Oct B+)
Every time I see the number 5 I have this brief sinking feeling until I remember that Lukas Krajicek isn't on the ice. Instead it's Ehrhoff, who has been a huge success for the Canucks. While he had only 6 points in November his overall game has improved steadily this season. He moves the puck up the ice as good as any Canuck defenseman since Jirki Lumme, does a great job at getting pucks on net and has improved his defensive coverage down low. It's hard to imagine where the Canucks would be without his presence.
Alexander Edler B- (Oct C+)
After a very disappointing October, Edler finally started to put it together in November. Offensively he stepped it up a bit with 10 points in 12 games and he also improved his defensive play somewhat. Still, for every great blue line to blue line pass he makes there's a play that makes you scratch your head. For a guy who plays 20+ minutes a night the Canucks need more consistency.
Kevin Bieksa C+ (Oct C+)
Only 4 assists for Bieksa in a month which saw him play up front for a few games. Did a better job at avoiding minor penalties and was a minus only twice. That said the Canucks need more offense from the back end and Bieksa needs to be a large part of that. As the highest paid defenseman Bieksa needs to be better.
Willie Mitchell B (Oct B+)
Another solid month for Mitchell. What can you say really, he does his job
Mathieu Schneider C+ (Oct C-)
While his numbers aren't terrible (3 points, 9 shots, +3 in 9 games) defensive mistakes at key times have magnified his underwhelming offense. Schneider needs to be better in his own end and he needs to produce more... if he doesn't he will find himself in the pressbox more often than not.
Sami Salo C (Oct C+)
Only 1 assist in 12 games isn't enough from Sami Salo. It's obvious that he has been playing through an injury, so he does deserve some credit for battling through that. The offense hasn't been there, but defensively he has been solid and was a minus only once in November
Shane O'Brien C (Oct C)
O'Brien was a victim of the addition of Schneider as he saw only 4 games in November. His only memorable moment was earning a one game suspension for poking his stick across the benches in New York. The fact that he couldn't do enough to get himself into the lineup earns him a C
Aaron Rome INC (Oct C+)
The debut of Schneider has pushed Rome down the depth chart and as a result he saw only about 35 minutes of ice in 3 games.

The Goalies

Andrew Raycroft B+ (Oct A)
Raycroft was 3-1 with a 2.10 GAA abd .917 SvPct in November. Raycroft was superb up until the St.Louis debacle. Three out of four ain't bad for your backup.
Cory Schneider B+ (Oct INC)
It was only one start but Cory Schneider was tremendous in a 45 save losing effort.
Roberto Luongo B (Oct C-)
Luongo was 4-3 with a 2.23 GAA and .921 SvPct in November, much better than his 6-6-1 2.79 .902 October. Still, 4 wins isn't enough no matter the peripheral statistics. The bottom line is that Luongo needs to find a way to put up more W's, that's what he's paid the big bucks for.

* All grades are relative to expectations

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Canucks October Report Card

Well, it was an interesting first month of the season. After a near perfect pre-season expectations were high heading into the regular season, but as people tend to forget, pre-season don't mean jack.

After a brutal first week the Canucks managed to put things together during the middle of the month just as a bizarre number of injuries began to set in. Not many thought the Canucks would merely be a .500 hockey team coming out of October. The poor start was a direct result of some inadequate goaltending, poor penalty killing and a lack of goal scoring away from GM Place. Sure you can blame injuries, but they really weren't a significant factor (every team has to deal with injuries) until the pathetic lineups that were iced down in California. Anyway, let's take a look at the individual players and how they performed in October...

The Forwards

Henrik Sedin: A-
Despite playing all but 4 games without his brother, Henrik still managed to produce at a point a game level and leads the team in goals with 6. He has also done a good job at shooting the puck more, increasing his shot per game average from 1.7 last year to about 2.3 this year. He has also done the job in the faceoff circle, winning 53.6% of his draws. The only blemish on Henrik's record are the dumb hooking/holding penalties he continues to take.
Mikael Samuelsson: A-
With 12 points in 14 games, including 3 power play and 2 game winning goals, Samuelsson has delivered. It's hard to imagine where the team would be without his production. It will be interesting to see if he can increase his production when Daniel Sedin returns.
Ryan Kesler: B+
After a slow start Ryan Kesler picked it up after the first week. His numbers are solid, but his biggest contribution to the team has been his ability to anchor the second line at a time where the Canucks desperately needed it. While Henrik's line has produced, on a shift by shift basis it has been Kesler's line who has consistently generated offensive pressure.
Mason Raymond: B+
While Raymond's point totals aren't great his play has been. Along with Kesler he has given the team a strong second line at a critical time and he has done a solid job on the PK. Needs to up his point totals, especially in the assist department.
Michael Grabner: B+
After failing to make the team out of camp, and being ripped (undeservedly IMO) by the coaching staff, Grabner got his chance after Daniel Sedin went down and he delivered. Grabner's contribution of 5 points in 9 games along with a bunch of shots and chances was just what they needed. Unfortunately it looks like he won't be back for a while.
Daniel Sedin: B
Four points in 4 games, I'll give him a B.
Steve Bernier: B-
Bernier has managed to put the puck in the net a few times and is on pace for about 40 points which puts him ahead of last season. He looks quicker this season and hopefully he continues to gain confidence and gets himself into the 20 goal range. If the injuries continue they're going to need at least that many out of him.
Alexander Burrows: C+
It's been a slow start for Burrows. Don't expect Burrows to hit 30 goals, but he needs to produce more than 3 goals a month especially with the injuries to other offensive forwards.
Rick Rypien: C+
Offensively Rypien needs to produce a little more, but he brings some much needed grit and physical play to the 4th line without sacrificing speed. May just be the best pound for pound fighter in the league. Needs to improve in the faceoff circle if he wants to increase his value by playing in the middle.
Alex Bolduc: C+
Hasn't produced any points, but before his injury was starting to look more comfortable. He's got good wheels and could find an NHL career as a checking centre. Didn't hurt the team when he was called up, exactly what you want out of your injury callups.
Ryan Johnson: C
Offense isn't expected out of Ryan Johnson, but you need something out of the 4th line every now and then. With his hand healthy his faceoff numbers are great, but as the leading PK'er up front he has to share some of the responsibility for the poor PK numbers. Not a bad month for Johnson, but not quite up to expectations.
Darcy Hordichuk: C
Hordichuk plays his enforcer role well enough, but the Canucks need more impact out of the 4th line. It doesn't have to be much... one good shift a game... have an impact on one game a week... that's all you need out of your 4th line. One or two games a month isn't enough.
Tanner Glass: C-
Coming out of camp I was excited to see what Glass could bring to the lineup. He looked very good in the pre-season, but has been a complete non-factor in the regular season.
Kyle Wellwood: C-
One point ain't good enough. The only thing keeping Wellwood out of the D or F range is that he has done a solid job defensively, at least in terms of +/-. Unless Wellwood finds a way to produce, the Canucks will need to upgrade the 3rd line centre spot.
Sergei Shirokov: D
This year's version of Steve Kariya was Sergei Shirokov. Great pre-season, terrible against the big boys. Shirokov hasn't done anything at the NHL level, no points in 6 games, and a -4. His biggest problem so far at the NHL level is that he doesn't have the speed to do the things he is used to doing. Can he find a way to produce against NHL calibre players? I think we'll be waiting until next year to find out.
Guilaume Desbiens & Mario Bliznak

The Defense

Christian Ehrhoff: B+
Ehrhoff has come as advertised, good skater and puck mover who sometimes struggles defensively. His offensive contribution has been great. Defensively he hasn't been bad, but he does tend to get beat in one on one battles.
Willie Mitchell: B+
Mitchell can be frustrating to watch at times (due to his lack of puck skills), but he does his job. And surprisingly this year he is actually producing some points, 2 goals and 4 assists have been a pleasant surprise.
Kevin Bieksa: C+
Solid contribution offensively, but two minor penalties every three games is too much. Needs to find a way to stay out of the penalty box.
Alexander Edler: C+
Edler teases you with his talent. Often it looks like he is poised to be a number one defenseman in the NHL, however too often you wonder if he will ever achieve enough consistency to be more than a second pairing guy. He struggled during the second full week of the season (where he was -5 in 3 games) and his numbers haven't really recovered.
Sami Salo: C+
Surprise, surprise, Sami Salo out again. Still the Canucks' best defenseman, the Canucks can only hope that he's healthy at the right times.
Aaron Rome: C+
As the 7th defenseman Rome has done a solid job filling in on the blueline and up front. He's also done a nice job staying out of the box which is a pretty good indication that he isn't getting caught out of position in the defensive zone.
Shane O'Brien: C
Sometimes it looks like O'Brien has the tools to maybe be a number 4 guy someday, but unfortunately he doesn't put it together on a consistent basis. Hasn't been bad this season, but he can be better.
Mathieu Schneider: C-
Perhaps too early to give him a grade, but a -5 in 4 games is too ugly to ignore. Sure most of that was in one game against Anaheim, but hey, they all count. Will be interesting too see where he's at in a couple weeks.

The Goaltenders

Andrew Raycroft: A
Other than a blip in Anaheim, Raycroft has been as near perfect as a goalie can be. He's done the job and then some. I don't like his size, but if he can keep stopping the puck and controlling his rebounds I won't complain.
Roberto Luongo: C-
Perhaps a little harsh, but Luongo was brutal to start the season and was directly responsible for losing some pretty important points in the standings. Got it together in the second half of the month, but the first was brutal.
Cory Schneider: Incomplete
Yikes. I didn't watch the 3rd period of the Anaheim game, but is Cory Schneider ever going to stop the puck at the NHL level? At this point I don't care what his AHL numbers are, if I'm an NHL GM I'm not giving up anything for him until I see him stop the puck in the NHL.

* All grades are relative to expections: IE: A "B" for Ryan Kesler isn't the same as a "B" for Alex Bolduc. Kesler is expected to get 60pts, so the 60 pt range puts him in the B to B+ range, whereas Bolduc is expected to play well defensively and not hurt the team, offense is a bonus.

So there you have it, finally some content. Look for things to pick up in November as I finally have some time to dedicate...

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Canucks Roster Set - Here We Go...

The Vancouver Canucks have finalized their 2009-2010 roster and will start the season as follows:

The Forwards

  • Daniel Sedin - Henrik Sedin - Alex Burrows
  • Sergei Shirokov - Ryan Kesler- Mikael Samuelsson
  • Mason Raymond - Kyle Wellwood - Steve Bernier
  • Darcy Hordichuk - Ryan Johnson - Rick Rypien
  • Tanner Glass

No real surprises up front. With Demitra out, Sergei Shirikov was a no-brainer (and may have even made the team if Demitra was healthy). Tanner Glass had a great camp and finds himself on the team due to the injury to Jannik Hansen.

As for the guys who didn't make it...

Cody Hodgson is the obvious story here. Watching Hodgson last season, the main concerns with him were his footspeed and lack of physical strength. One summer was not enough for him to overcome those deficiencies and at 19 Hodgson just isn't physically ready to compete at the NHL level.

Michael Grabner gets the runner up nod for the biggest disappointment at camp. While he showed some flashes (most noticeably his hard shot and great speed) he just didn't make enough happen.

The Defense

  • Willie Mitchell - Sami Salo
  • Christian Ehrhoff - Alex Edler
  • Shane O'Brien - Kevin Bieksa
  • Aaron Rome

The most noticeable development on defense has to be Aaron Rome landing a job over veteran Brad Lukowich. I did not get to see Lukowich play much, so I don't know if this has much (if anything) to do with his play on the ice. This is all about the salary cap. Lukowich simply makes too much money to be a 6th/7th defenseman.

Lukowich has cleared waivers and will reportedly play with the Texas Stars (AHL) as the Moose are at their veteran limit. Speaking of the Moose, Lawrence Nycholat and Michael Funk have also cleared waivers and will report to Manitoba.

The Goaltenders

  • Roberto Luongo
  • Andrew Raycroft

There was only one battle here and in the end Raycroft outperformed Cory Schneider. The organization has to be disappointed that Schneider didn't push harder for the backup job.

Other Notes

The Canucks have named Henrik Sedin as an alternate captain, replacing the departed Mattias Ohlund. (It was strange to type up the Canuck pairings and not include Ohlund.)

For those who have asked, I will be updating the blog with the 2009-2010 schedule and the "Next Game" ticker (and maybe some other things) sometime this weekend. In the meantime, enjoy the season opener in Calgary (7:00pm CBC HD).

Monday, September 14, 2009

Islanders VS Canucks from Terrace BC on Sportsnet

The Canucks will make their pre-season debut tonight in Terrace as they take on the Islanders. Not only will the game be televised, it will also be available in HD (at least according to the Bell TV guide). It looks like there will be a half hour tape delay as the game is set to get underway at 7:00 and the broadcast is at 7:30.

Here is the Canucks roster according to Canucks.com (Terrace is really getting shafted... looks a lot more like the Manitoba Moose than the Vancouver Canucks)

  • Grabner - Wellwood - Desbiens
  • Bolduc - Rypien - Hansen
  • Labrie - Bliznak - Walsky
  • Shirikov
  • Mitchell - Bieksa
  • Lukowich - Baumgartner
  • Rome - Sauve
  • O'Brien - Oberg
  • Raycroft
  • Schneider

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Canucks Re-Sign Luongo to 12 Year $64m Contract

The deal that most assumed was already in the bag finally got done today and it's a big one. 12 years and $64 million dollars ($5.33m cap hit) will keep Roberto Luongo in Vancouver for the remainder of his prime.

The cap hit is a great number for the Canucks, especially for the next 6 to 7 years. The extra million and a half in cap room (compared to other high paid goaltenders) will allow the Canucks some significant flexibility to address other areas such as Ryan Kesler.

The end of the contract will be interesting, nobody really knows what the salary cap or CBA will look like in 10 years. Considering that Martin Brodeur is still going strong at 37, theres a strong possibility that Luongo would still be worth his cap hit in years 8 to 10. That said, if there is still a salary cap in 2020, it would be unlikely that a team would want a $5.33m cap hit on a 40+ year old goaltender. Considering the front loading of cash in this deal, it's likely that Luongo will either be retired or bought out by the time that scenario pops up.

The deal obviously means that Cory Schneider is no longer the future between the pipes. It will be interesting to see how Mike Gillis handles Schneider. When will his value be at its peak? Do you take the risk of adding to his value by giving him some NHL time and hoping he delivers and does not struggle like last year, or do you keep him in Manitoba and try and sell teams on his superb AHL numbers?

It's been a great week for Canuck fans and things are about to get really interesting as camp approaches.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Canucks Sign Mathieu Schneider and Acquire Lukowich & Ehrhoff

The Vancouver Canucks have signed free agent defenseman Mathieu Schneider and have traded Daniel Rahimi and Patrick White to the San Jose Sharks in exchange for Brad Lukowich and Christian Ehrhoff.

The backend just got a whole lot better. More to come later...

... Well, today was certainly a big day for Canuck fans. After a quiet summer all of a sudden the Canucks find themselves with 3 new defensemen in one day.

Mathieu Schneider
Schneider has reportedly signed a 1 year deal for $1.5m and he also told his agent that Vancouver was the only place he wanted to play and never entertained offers from other teams. You have to like the fact that he wanted to come here. At 40 years old, it's hard to judge what kind of an impact Schneider will have, but he is sure to improve the Canucks power play. Last season, split between Montreal and Atlanta, Schneider had 32 pts in 67 games. Considering the new found depth on defense I would expect Schneider to slot in on the third pairing and on the power play, likely playing less than 15 min per game at even strength, he will also see some time up in the press box (I highly doubt he plays more than 65-70 games).
Christian Ehrhoff
I honestly don't know too much about Ehrhoff as I haven't seen him play all that much, but from reading various scouting reports and opinions (and of course looking at the numbers) he looks like a top 4 guy who has the potential to improve. At 27 he should be entering his prime and will add some offense to the backend. Like all offensive defensemen there are question marks surrounding his defensive game, but we'll have to wait and see how he adjusts to the Canucks system. With a $3.1m cap hit for the next two seasons the Canucks will be depending on Ehrhoff to produce. After being buried behind Rob Blake and Dan Boyle, Ehrhoff will likely have a better opportunity in Vancouver.
Brad Lukowich
My first thought is that it will be interesting to see how Lukowich will fit in to the Canucks lineup. At a $1.5m cap hit, Lukowich will have to really earn a roster spot as a #7/8 guy. At the moment I have a hard time seeing him beat out Shane O'Brien, but that assumes a healthy defense coming out of the pre-season (which is unlikely). Lukowich will bring some much needed experience (specifically Stanley Cup experience) and is still only 33 years old. He has his work cut out for him, but he is a nice addition to the depth chart.

As for the trade and the departing players, this is clearly a steal for Vancouver and a salary dump for San Jose. Patrick White has had a disappointing (to say the least) University career, but I wouldn't quite write him off yet. While he looks like a bust, an NHL career isn't out of the question. Daniel Rahimi is a player who might turn in to a third pairing, stay at home defenseman, but doesn't look like a significant asset. Basically the Canucks gave up two prospects from the prior regime who are no longer in their plans. In return they received a top 4 defenseman and a solid veteran. Can't argue with that.

Training camp just got a whole lot more interesting. Is there another trade in the works (Demitra?), will the Canucks go with 8 defensemen? The fun is just beginning as another season is just around the corner...

Monday, July 06, 2009

Canucks Re-Sign O'Brien and Sign Andrew Raycroft

The Canucks took care of some business today re-signing defenseman Shane O'Brien and replacing Jason Labarbera with Andrew Raycroft.

Shane O'Brien and the Canucks agreed to a 1 year $1.6m contract, avoiding salary arbitration. O'Brien had an up and down season last year, the low point being the whole mess or "misunderstanding" over management wanting him to drop the gloves more. O'Brien is only 25 and certainly has some untapped potential. He kinda reminds me of Jovanovski in a way. By no means does he have Jovo's wheels or offensive skills, but he does have confidence in carrying the puck. Unfortunately he also share's Jovo's propensity to make mental mistakes. It will be interesting to see how he develops, he will never be a top pairing guy, but I think he has the potential to be a solid #4 defenseman.

Considering the increase in pay it is likely the Canucks will also hope to increase O'Brien's role. With the loss of Ohlund, O'Brien currently sits fifth on the depth chart.

As for Andrew Raycroft, this has "depth move" written all over it. Raycroft has (reportedly) signed for the minimum $500k and will have to beat out Cory Schneider for the backup job. You could do a lot worse and spend a lot more money filling the backup goaltender position. Raycroft's chances of playing a game for the Canucks likely ride on whether Cory Schneider is traded or not.

Friday, July 03, 2009

Canucks Sign Mikael Samuelsson to Three Year Deal

The Vancouver Canucks have signed RW Mikael Samuelsson to a three year $7.5m contract.

I'm not sure about this one yet. Considering how little cap room the Canucks will have over the next few years (assuming Luongo is re-signed) $2.5m seems like a big chunk of cap space for a 40 point player who will be 35 at the end of the deal. Of course there are also some positives, Samuelsson is a versatile two-way forward who will bring some much needed playoff experience to the Canucks.

The main question mark about Samuelsson is weather his offense (19g 21a) was a product of playing with talented players in Detroit's system, or is he capable of producing more given more opportunity, specifically more even strength ice-time. Samuelsson picked up half his points on the power play last season (I believe he played the point fairly often so that should help the Canucks) while he was limited to only 12:37 per game at even strength. It's likely he will play more for the Canucks, maybe even with the Sedins, so it's not out of the realm of possibility that his point totals could increase to the 50+ range.

The Canucks are either going to get a solid 3rd line player who will contribute 30-40 points, or if things work out they could get a guy who gels with the Sedins or Kesler and puts up 50-60 pts. A solid addition at a questionable price.

It will also be interesting to see how this affects some of the other forwards like Raymond and Hansen...

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Vancouver Signs D Aaron Rome

The Canucks have made a big splash, signing household name Aaron Rome to a 1 year, one way, $525k deal.

All kidding a side, this is a minor signing to add depth on the blueline. Rome will likely be battling it out for the #7-8 slot on defense. Rome is a fairly big guy (6'1", 225lbs) who is willing to drop the gloves. He has shown some ability to put up points at the AHL level, scoring .58 pts per game in Syracuse over the past two seasons, but has been limited to only 26 games at the NHL level.

From Hockey's Future's Aaron Rome Profile:

Rome is a self-described stay at home defenseman who can add a little offense. He is a strong skater with great positioning and solid puck-handling and passing skills. With his exceptional vision and awareness he can anticipate the play. His offensive game and shot from the point has improved as he has seen increased powerplay time. He can be physical when necessary and plays with a bit of an edge.

Rome is only 25 so there is certainly still plenty of time for him to develop into an NHL defenseman.

Mattias Ohlund Signs with Tampa Bay

Not surprisingly Mattias Ohlund is no longer a Vancouver Canuck. Ohlund has signed an eyebrow raising 7 year contract for $24.5m. Congrats to Mattias, he got a boatload of cash and way more than he ever would have found in Vancouver. He should also enjoy the anonymity of playing in Tampa (not to mention the weather).

Interesting deal for Tampa. I would be pretty surprised if Ohlund plays out all seven years of the deal. The cap hit is reasonable and I suppose they have the option of buying him out, but I don't see Ohlund as a very good defenseman at ages 37-39. His game has fallen rapidly over the past few seasons to the point where he is pretty much a #4 guy on a good team. He's still a very solid blueliner, but the clock is ticking...

Canucks Re-Sign the Sedins for Five Years

The Vancouver Canucks have re-signed Daniel and Henrik Sedin to 5 year contracts worth a reported $6.1m per year. The deals also include no-movement clauses.

Throughout the year it seemed logical that a deal would get done at somewhere between 5 and 6 million over 3 to 5 years, I just didn't expect talks to go down to the last minute. First thoughts on the deal are that it's is for slightly more money than I would like, but not much. The no movement clause is a little disappointing, but if that's what it took to bring the cap hit down... you gotta do what you gotta do.

More to come as the day progresses...

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Decision Day for the Sedins

According to TSN, Mike Gillis has made his final pitch to the Sedin twins and is returning from Sweden as the Sedins contemplate the offer.

The ball is in their court. With NHL free agency opening tomorrow, the direction of this franchise could be significantly different should the Sedins decline the Canucks offer.

Will they sign? What's Gillis' plan B?

A Roberto Luongo extension appears to be in the bag, but who's going to put the puck in the net?

It's going to be an interesting couple of days...

Monday, May 11, 2009

Game #6 - Blackhawks 7 - Canucks 5

Well, at the moment I don't have much to say about this one other than the obvious... Roberto shit the bed. Simple as that. The game was there to win numerous times and in the end the guy at the other end of the ice got it done, Luongo didn't.

I'll have some proper game notes tomorrow, but for now, this one stings too much and I don't won't this to be a rant fest...

Game #5 - Blackhawks 4 - Canucks 2 - Game Notes

A little (well a lot) late on this one, but here's some quick thoughts on game 5 as we get set for the do or die game 6...

  • Pass the goat horns around, in game five Willie Mitchell was the goat, in game six Kevin Bieksa and Ryan Kesler got to share the honor. Bieksa took one of his patented over aggressive high sticking penalties which led to the winning goal and was also in the box for the tying goal (although that was one of those mysterious pick one guy to get the extra penalty calls; the Hawks were a victim of that on the Canucks first goal so it evened out in the end). While Kesler made a brutal play on the PK, weakly passing the puck up the middle, leading to the tying goal. Then late in the game Kesler took an absolutely terrible holding penalty behind the Hawks net, which essentially killed the Canucks chances of a comeback. But it wasn't quite over, the Canucks still had a minute and change to make a push with the goalie out, however another Kesler miscue ended the game as he came off the bench and collided with Salo leading to the empty net goal. Needless to say, the Canucks with the help of #3 and #17 did themselves in on Saturday night.
  • Lately I've had a lot of praise for Mason Raymond's work on the PK, however it was his mistake that was responsible for the winning goal. While Kane had the puck on the half boards Raymond was over aggressive, cheating out to the point man, instead of "making sure" and containing Kane on the boards. That miscue led to a great player taking advantage of an odd man situation down low.
  • If there was a positive for Vancouver it was in the second period where we finally got to see the Sundin everyone expected. He was skating way better than he has at any point since arriving and his goal was vintage Mats Sundin. Hopefully the vintage Mats shows up for game 6.

Well here we go. Backs to the wall, do or die... break out all the cliche's. Game 6. Let's go boys!

Saturday, May 09, 2009

Game #4 - Blackhawks 2 - Canucks 1 - Game Notes

That one hurt. I haven't been that choked after a loss since game seven against Calgary in 2004. The Canucks decided to sit back on their one goal lead and in the end one mistake cost them a chance to be one game away from the Conference Finals. The instant Willie Mitchell coughed up the puck I knew it was going to wind up in the net. It was just one of those strange plays where you can see the goal coming before it happens. After sitting back for most of the third the Canucks couldn't ramp up the offense in time as the Hawks ended it on a simple "get the puck to the net" play. I had to take an extra day in order to make sure these game notes weren't just a rant fest...

  • In all honesty I had made a mental note that Willie Mitchell was struggling handling the puck during the game. He had made several miscues that he does not normally make and sure enough late in the game he made two huge ones. One ended up in his net the other should have resulted in a penalty shot or a penalty.
  • I haven't read the papers or checked out any online forums, but I'm sure the debate on the Canucks decision to sit on the lead is raging. I tend to lean to the side of it being a sound decision. The Hawks were generating nothing and were stubbornly refusing to change their game plan. In overtime when the Canucks started to use two forecheckers Chicago finally started to get more opportunities, so while it didn't work out, not aggressively forechecking was the right way to go about protecting the lead. The real problem with the strategy was that they didn't do enough in the offensive zone when they had the puck in deep...
  • ...which leads me to the play of the Sedins and Burrows. As much as Mitchell gets the blame for the loss the top line deserves it's fair share. They simply were a non factor for most of the night. I don't know if Burrows is hurt, but he sure hasn't done much in this series. No shots on goal in game 4. Not good enough. These guys need to step it up in game 5.
  • For most of the playoffs the Canucks have been dominant in the faceoff circle... that was until game 5 where they were a brutal 42%. Sundin 2 of 9, Kesler 2 of 5, Sedin 6 of 15, Wellwood 5 of 13. Only Johnson was good at 7 of 11. It's no wonder sitting on the lead didn't work out.
  • Mason Raymond continues to have a very strong series, his work on the PK has been especially strong.
  • I was very critical of Alex Edler in the first round, but he has really stepped up his game in round 2, especially in the last two games in Chicago. Edler was great in almost 30 minutes of ice on Thursday.
  • I don't think I've yelled as loud in the playoffs as I did when Hordichuk scored. It's too bad his goal didn't hold up as that would have made a great story.
  • Roberto looks to be back into top form. That bodes well for the rest of the series.

Game 5 Tonight!

Down the stretch and into the playoffs the Canucks have shown a strong tendency to bounce back from defeats. They will need to have a huge bounce back in this pivotal game 5. Obviously whoever wins tonight will likely take the series, here are some keys to keep an eye on...

  • The Canucks need to find a balance between their home and road games. They need the defensive responsibility of the road team and some of the offensive flair of the home team. They also have to find a way to channel the energy of the crowd without getting overly aggressive. Something both teams have been guilty of at home.
  • The Canucks special teams have been great all post season and they will need to be again tonight. I have a strange feeling that not much is going to get called tonight and both teams are likely to only get a few opportunities on the power play.
  • No word yet on the Sami Salo front, but it would sure be nice to have him back in the lineup. It's hard to tell for sure, but looking at the blurry/stuttery live feed on Canucks.com, it looks like Salo is on the ice for the morning skate.
  • Finally, the Canucks need to keep playing hard on the Hawks young stars.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Game #3 - Canucks 3 - Blackhawks 1 - Game Notes

After suffering their first post-season loss the Vancouver Canucks came up with their best game of the playoffs in game three defeating the Hawks 3-1. Everything they didn't do in games one and two they did in game three. They got the puck in deep, they got traffic in front of Khabibulin, they played physical against Chicago's star players and they were air tight in their own end.

Full game notes to come later tonight...

Some delayed game notes...

  • Without Sami Salo the Canucks needed someone on defense to step up and Kevin Bieksa was that man. Bieksa was a presence all night, playing physical in almost 28 minutes of ice time. He also made a great pinch to start the play on the Canucks first goal.
  • Outside of his delay of game penalty Mason Raymond played one his best games of the year. Adding some speed to the second unit Raymond scored the first goal on a great play from Kesler and Bieksa and followed it up with some great work on the PK.
  • Speaking of penalties the Canucks started the game with the "good" variety. Ossi Vaannanen layed out Kane after he was in the crease wacking away at Luongo. If the refs aren't going to take care of business their you have to. The next two penalties were both "hard" plays and interestingly the Canucks killed off the first three penalties... until their first "soft" penalty, Daniel Sedins dumb trip of Campbell on an icing play.
  • It was great to see Taylor Pyatt back in the lineup.
  • Ossi Vaananen had a pretty solid game in only 8:47 of ice time.
  • It's funny how the home crowd can often be a disadvantage. In game 3 the Hawks were often guilty of being over aggressive trying to get hits. The same was true for Vancouver when they were at home. Instead of taking them when they're there the home team seems to get caught out of position a little too much.
  • Mats Sundin is obviously not right. There were several times in game 3 where Sundin could have hit someone, but instead chose to do a fly by. Anyone who has watched Sundin in the past knows that's not the way he plays.
  • What can you say about Ryan Kesler? 22 minutes of great hockey. The Canucks needed him to step up his play and he certainly did that in game three.

Game four goes tonight and the Canucks should get a boost with Sami Salo back in the lineup. Vancouver needs to keep doing the things they did in game three. Play physical, get traffic, get the puck in deep and keep the Blackhawks to the outside. Should be a good game...

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Game #2 - Blackhawks 6 - Canucks 3 - Game Notes

Well that was ugly. Things were looking pretty good for the Canucks when they took a 1-0 early in the first on a Sami Salo rocket... that was until Salo left the bench and never returned. Playing with 5 defensemen for the remainder of the game, the Canucks simply couldn't handle the offensive skill of the Hawks. The disjointed blueline struggled with their down low coverage and Shane O'Brien was badly exposed in the extra minutes he had to play against more skilled Hawk forwards than he had to face in game 1. In the end though, the ultimate difference may have been Nikolai Khabibulin who came up with some huge saves at the right time to keep his team in the game. On to the game notes...

  • While the loss of Salo had the most significant impact on the game, there was a key sequence of events in the second which really changed the game. After Luongo allowed a juicy rebound he came up with a save which should have been the save of the playoffs, unfortunately a few mistakes negated what could have been a huge momentum builder for Vancouver. As pointed out on HNIC by PJ Stock, Luongo chose to play the puck instead of freezing it and allowing his team to settle down, but that wasn't the biggest mistake. That came a few moments later when Pavol Demitra needlessly iced the puck. Simply a brutal play. What followed was the Hawks first goal and their opportunity to take over the game. If the Hawks go on to win the series you can look back on this key moment.
  • It was a frustrating night for armchair coaches and it started with a mistake by Ryan Kesler on the PK. Down 2 men Kesler's stick broke and while it's pretty difficult to get to your bench during the 2nd period without icing the puck, Kesler had the opportunity to get a new stick when he was at the blueline and the Hawks initiated a change. Despite me yelling "Get a damn stick" at the TV, Kesler chose not race to the bench and instead sat back and futilely tried to defend the 5 on 3. Tie game.
  • If you've read this blog for long enough you'd know that I'm not a fan of having a forward on the point on the power play while you are leading or tied. Sure enough a few minutes after the Kesler incident I found myself again yelling at the TV (or AV to be specific) when Raymond was on the ice playing the point on the PP. Sure enough Raymond got caught not paying attention to his defensive duties and David Bolland was wide open for a shorthanded goal which put the Hawks ahead for good.
  • While Khabibulin was better than Luongo in game 2 one thing that was very noticeable was the contrast between the traffic in front of the two goalies. The Hawks were all over Luongo all night long, while I don't think the Canucks even bumped Khabibulin at all. The Hawks were excellent at generating traffic while the Canucks were not. The Canucks will have to change that if they hope to win the series.
  • Interestingly, there were two delay of game penalties for putting the puck out of play... both resulted in goals on the respective powerplays.
  • The Sedins and Burrows were not good enough. Way too much time in their own end.
  • Darcy Hordichuk played again and again the 4th line was mostly ineffective. They did manage a good shift which drew a penalty and Rypien was robbed of a goal, but they spent too much time in their own end and not enough time forechecking and getting on the body. Without the benefit of last change the Canucks will need more out of the 4th line in Chicago and that should start with Pyatt replacing Hordichuk.
  • The third line had an awful night, combining for a -6. Failing to pick up his check in front of the net, Steve Bernier looked like the goat on the Eager goal, but it was Alex Edler who made the brutal turnover at center ice when he simply banged the puck against the boards instead of advancing it up ice.
  • As I mentioned earlier, Shane O'Brien was badly exposed in his extra ice time. He was on the ice for 3 even strength goals and was clearly over matched by the speedy Hawk forwards.
  • Luongo needs to stop Kane on that 5th goal.
  • What can you say about Ryan Johnson. I was begging Vigneault not to put him on the ice for the late Chicago power plays. No point in him breaking a hand or foot when you've already lost the game.
  • Where has Alex Burrows been? He's been awfully quite in this series.
  • The Hawks were better in the faceoff circle in game 2, finally breaking even.

So what's in store for game 3?

The Canucks will likely be without Salo again, so they are going to have to find a way to compensate for his loss. That starts with getting the puck in deep and generating more of a forecheck. As AV said post game, the Hawks D were facing the play most of the night and were able to hit their forwards with speed.

Game 2 could be the kick in the ass the Canucks need. So far they haven't had to face any adversity in the playoffs and it has shown in their play. The intensity level isn't quite where it needs to be and their was too much of a calmness or even a feeling that everything is going to go their way eventually. The loss should put some much needed urgency into their game as so far we haven't seen that in the playoffs. We'll see how they respond on Tuesday night...

Saturday, May 02, 2009

Game #1 Canucks 5 - Chicago 3 - Game Notes

From the better late than never file...

Aided by powerplay time, the Canucks were the better team for most of the game on Thursday, that was until the third period where they blew a three goal lead. Everyone could see it coming. As soon as the Blackhawks got one you knew they were going to get right back in it and the game would go down to the wire. Sure enough, Darcy Hordichuk took a bad penalty which gave Chicago the opening they needed. Fortunately, Sami Salo saved the day with the winning goal at 18:47 of the third. On to the game notes...

  • Heading in, the key to this series was going to be the ability of the Canucks to stay out of the box and to kill off penalties like they did against the Blues. In game one the tables were turned as it was the Hawks who had trouble staying out of the box. Fortunately for them they managed to do a very good job on the PK and kept themselves in the game. The Canucks on the other hand failed to put the Hawks away as they scored only once in nearly 13 minutes of powerplay time.
  • The reasoning behind having Hordichuk in the lineup is certainly understandable, but after game one Vigneault should seriously reconsider his options on the 4th line. Hordichuk's penalty wasn't a "dumb" play, it was just a symptom of his shortcomings. The guy simply doesn't have the wheels to be an effective forechecker. The Canucks should take advantage of the quality of Ryan Johnson's play and dress Taylor Pyatt on his wing. Chicago's 4th line plays a fair amount and the Canucks are probably better suited dressing a 4th line that is capable of playing up over 10 minutes.
  • One positive (or negative depending on how you look at it) for Vancouver is that Roberto Luongo was not at the top of his game A.K.A Superman Mode. Don't get me wrong, he was very good, but you could tell that he wasn't quite as razor sharp as he was against the Blues and in the final week of the season. I expect he will be better in game two now that the long layoff is behind him.
  • Speaking of the much talked about layoff, the Canucks responded pretty well as they had their legs fairly quickly and didn't look sloppy.
  • Kyle Wellwood continues to be a big factor for Vancouver. He now has 4 points in 5 games and has done a great job anchoring the third line. Credit should also be given to his linemates, Bernier and Raymond, who have also been playing very well.
  • Ryan Kesler had one of his best games of the playoffs finally getting on the scoresheet. It had been a slow start offensively for Kesler
  • Mats Sundin was back in the lineup and looked as he has for his entire tenure with the Canucks. Slow, at times a defensive liability, but also great on draws and dangerous with the puck and dangerous behind the net. When it's all added up, the Canucks are still a better team with him than without him. The Globe and Mail is reporting that Sundin is suffering from an MCL sprain.
  • Sami Salo's return was definitely a welcome sight. The Canucks best all around defenseman ended up with the game winner, but was also a calming influence to the blueline.
  • Finally, the Canucks dominated in the faceoff circle winning 63% of the draws. Expect this to play a key role as the series continues.

Some other notes...

  • In an interesting bit of news Jeff Cowan, yes the Brabarian, is back with the Canucks. Obviously he won't play unless there are some injuries up front, but it's nice to have a little more physical depth up front.
  • The Manitoba Moose opened their second round series against the Grand Rapids Griffins with a 2-1 victory Friday night. The Canucks don't look to be getting Moose reinforcements any time soon.
  • Cody Hodgson continues his great year as earlier last week he was named the OHL's most outstanding player, ahead of John Tavares. Unfortunately, Brampton looks to have met their match in the OHL final as they trail the series vs Windsor two games to none. Should Brampton be eliminated I believe Hodgson can join the Moose or if not, you will see him in Vancouver (although not likely in the lineup).
  • Oh, and in case you didn't already know, Ryan Kesler was nominated for the Selke trophy. Obviously he's not going to edge out Datsyuk or Richards, but it's nice to see Kesler get some recognition.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Round #2 - Vancouver Canucks VS Chicago Blackhawks Schedule

Here we go, round number 2!

  1. Thursday, April 30 at Vancouver, 6:00 p.m. CBC, VERSUS
  2. Saturday, May 2 at Vancouver, 6:00 p.m. CBC, VERSUS
  3. Tuesday, May 5 at Chicago, 5:00 p.m. CBC, VERSUS
  4. Thursday, May 7 at Chicago, 5:00 p.m. CBC, VERSUS
  5. *Saturday, May 9 at Vancouver, 7:30 p.m CBC, VERSUS
  6. *Monday, May 11 at Chicago, 6:00 p.m. CBC, VERSUS
  7. *Thursday, May 14 at Vancouver, TBD CBC, VERSUS

* If Necessary

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Game #4 - Canucks 3 - Blues 2 - Game Notes

The Vancouver Canucks have swept the St.Louis Blues, the first seven game series sweep in franchise history.

It took a little luck and even a little controversy, but in the end the Canucks were just too deep and too experienced for the Blues. The Blues had their best game in game four, but it wasn't enough as Alex Burrows ended the series in the final seconds of the first overtime. On to the game notes...

  • The Canucks penalty kill was the difference throughout this series and that continued in game four. Ryan Johnson and Willie Mitchell were outstanding and when the Blues found a scoring chance Roberto Luongo was there to close the door.
  • Mattias Ohlund really stepped up his game in the playoffs and played his best hockey of the season.
  • Shane O'Brien's playoff honeymoon ended in a hurry on the first Blues goal. First he gave the puck to the Blues when the Canucks had possession, then he gambled and lost trying to intercept a pass and finally he failed to come back and pick up Brad Boyes. He also took a terrible cross checking penalty early in the game. O'Brien had a very strong series overall, but he needs to step up his game for round 2.
  • Jannik Hansen had his best game since his injury. Every facet of his game was much better and he was within an inch of ending the game in overtime.
  • The Blues may have caught a bad break on the disallowed goal, but they only have their power play to blame for losing this game and series. The Blues had a whopping 12:22 of PP time, almost 4 times as much as the Canucks.
  • More to come later...

Monday, April 20, 2009

Game #3 - Canucks 3 - Blues 2 - Game Notes

Another game, another playoff victory for the Canucks. This one wasn't pretty, but the Canucks got it done on special teams and came out on top. This series kinda reminds me of the 2001 playoffs where the Canucks were swept by the Avalanche. The Canucks were in each of the first 3 games, but in the end it was the experience and depth of Colorado that made the difference. On to the game notes...

  • As in game 1, the key to game number 3 was the huge effort on the penalty kill. The Canucks managed to kill off yet another lengthy 5 on 3 which really turned the momentum around in game 3. I'm amazed that the Blues haven't made an obvious adjustment, their point men are playing down at the top of the circles and it's making things a lot easier for the Canuck PK. This was never more obvious then when the Canucks scored on their 5 on 3. The contrast between the two PP units was pretty striking.
  • Ryan Johnson was outstanding. Great job on the PK and in the faceoff circle.
  • Mats Sundin's absence had a much greater impact than I think most would have predicted. Without Sundin the second line looked lost and the Canucks at 5 on 5 felt really disjointed. I wouldn't expect him to be back for game 4, simply because there's no reason to play him and risk further injury with a 3-0 series lead.
  • What's happened to Jannik Hansen? I don't know how healthy he really is, but Hansen just hasn't been the same player that he was earlier in the year.
  • Shane O'Brien had another strong game.
  • Alex Edler did not. Simply a brutal play on the Blues first goal. Edler was out hustled and out worked by the much smaller McDonald.
  • Speaking of McDonald, he has been the only dangerous Blue all series long. Who would have thought that? Boyes, Oshie and company have been a complete non-factor.
  • Despite some botched defensive coverage by Kyle Wellwood on the second Blues goal, the third line had another strong game. Steve Bernier has really stepped up in the playoffs, his ability to control the puck on the boards has been huge for Vancouver.
  • I'm gonna have to cut this one short... should be back with some more thoughts later tonight.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Game #2 - Canucks 3 - Blues 0 - Game Notes

Wow, what a difference it makes when the referees actually let the players play some playoff hockey. That was a very entertaining game, especially in the first period. On the Canucks side of things Roberto Luongo was simply outstanding. The Canucks gave up more opportunities than they would like, but whenever they did, the captain was there. On to the game notes...

  • Roberto Luongo is very good most of the time, but there are games when he shows why many consider him to be the best in the world. The final game against the Flames was one of those games as was last night's affair in Vancouver. Luongo made the types of saves that few goalies can. His ability to track the puck and react is a treat to watch. You add his sound (there's an understatement) technique and you get an amazing goaltending performance.
  • While Luongo was great, the Canucks cannot be too happy with the number of opportunities they gave the Blues. Unlike game 1, where St. Louis' offensive chances were limited to power plays, the Blues managed to generate numerous scoring chances 5 on 5.
  • What did Shane O'Brien ever do to Stephen Walkom? That slashing penalty had to be one of the lamest calls I've ever seen in a playoff game.
  • Mattias Ohlund had one of his better games. Good positioning for most of the night and most importantly he avoided taking any penalties. His days as a top defenseman are over, but the Canucks need him to play solid every night.
  • Ryan Johnson had a great game. Some great work on the PK and another 4 blocked shots to add to his total. This is the Ryan Johnson the Canucks were expecting when they signed him as a free agent. It looks like he has put the injuries behind him.
  • As they head out on the road the Canucks need to be much better in the faceoff circle. 45% isn't good enough. In particular Ryan Kesler (1 for 7) and Henrik Sedin (9 for 19) really need to step it up. Gaining possession of the puck will do a lot to limit the Blues scoring opportunities.
  • The Canucks so called third line had another strong game, generating a good forecheck and some scoring opportunities. Without the benefit of last change the third line will be a key component to the Canucks success in St. Louis.
  • Shane O'Brien had a strong game in limited ice-time. His play in the first period was particularly notable. He was strong positionally and was throwing his weight around.
  • It will be interesting to see if Darcy Hordichuk will remain in the lineup on the road. I suspect that the only reason he is currently in the lineup is because of Jannik Hansen's (and Rypien's) inexperience playing the left side. Without Taylor Pyatt (who is unlikely to return for the games in St. Louis, if at all this series) there is a hole on the left side. The 4th line could be much more effective and less of a defensive liability if that hole was plugged. Now that the Blues have the benefit of last change they should be able to exploit Hordichuk.
  • If the Canucks can continue to keep the Blues power play off the score sheet this series will be over quickly. The PK has done a great job so far this series.
  • On the other hand the power play hasn't been good enough. For the Canucks to keep winning the PP has to start scoring.
  • On the broadcast front games 3 and 4 will be broadcast in HD thanks to some kind of donation/sponsorship by Save on Foods to rent an HD truck in St. Louis. If you enjoy HD, go shop at Save On this weekend. It would have been a shame to not have these games in high definition.
  • Speaking of HD, the HD PVR may just be man's greatest invention. Unable to get home until around 8:00 I somehow managed not to hear the score of the game and was able to watch the game from the beginning just as if it was live.

Overall it was another solid game by the Canucks, but they can and will need to play better if they want to make this a short series.

Game 3 goes Sunday at 4:00pm

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Game #1 - Canucks 2 - Blues 1 - Game Notes

The Vancouver Canucks opened their 2009 playoff drive with a solid 2-1 victory over the St. Louis Blues in what was a penalty filled affair. The Canucks took the lead mid way through the first and after killing a 5 on 3 Blues advantage they were never really in danger of losing the game. On to the game notes...

  • Willie Mitchell was arguably the best player on the ice. He was outstanding in the defensive zone, the highlight being the huge penalty kill in the first period. Mitchell was excellent at boxing out players in front of the net and was a force all night.
  • Led by Mitchell, the Canucks defense as a whole was top notch. The Blues never threatened outside of power play opportunities. The Canucks kept them to the outside and there were no second chances.
  • Roberto Luongo was named the first star as he was on top of his game. Great rebound control and he was tremendous at following the puck through traffic (something his counterpart had some trouble with).
  • Even though they got a goal, the Canucks power play was not very good. They struggled moving the puck up ice and getting into the offensive zone. They were also an abysmal 4 for 13 on faceoffs. Special teams are going to decide this series, the Canucks power play must be much better.
  • Steve Bernier had a great game, playing a large role (literally) in both Canuck goals. It looked like he may have tipped Salo's goal, either way his presence in front of Mason was a key to both goals.
  • Anyone hoping that Mats Sundin could magically flip a switch when the playoffs started is probably... well it ain't happening. Sundin looked slow and was not particularly effective.
  • The CBC HD broadcast was top notch, especially the great 5.1 audio which really captures the atmosphere of the building. It's a nice treat to have the A team calling Canuck playoff games. Milbury and Hrudey were very good as usual. The only downside to CBC's coverage was the awful "I-desk". We really don't need to see some goof typing away on a laptop.
  • Darcy Hordichuk serves no purpose in the playoffs. He just isn't good enough to play.
  • There were many questionable calls in the penalty filled contest, the worst of which was that awful charging call on Rick Rypien.
  • Speaking of penalties, the Canucks have to be much more disciplined. They cannot afford to take penalties like the one Ryan Johnson took at the end of the first. I specifically pointed out the Sedins taking offensive zone penalties a few weeks ago and sure enough an offensive zone penalty put the game in jeopardy.
  • Mason Raymond had a strong game finishing with 4 shots on goal, although he did fail to pick up Boyes on the penalty kill.
  • Other Canuck standouts included Sami Salo, Kyle Wellwood, the Sedins and of course Ryan Kesler.

Overall it was a very solid effort by the Canucks. They got the job done on the PK and when there was finally some 5 on 5 play in the third, the Canucks stepped it up and had a dominant period to close out the game.

Game #2 goes Friday at 7:00pm

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Canucks First Round Schedule

Vancouver will face the St. Louis Blues in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

  • Wednesday, April 15 at Vancouver, 7:00 p.m. (PST) CBC, VERSUS, RDS
  • Friday, April 17 at Vancouver, 7:00 p.m. (PST) CBC, VERSUS, RDS
  • Sunday, April 19 at St. Louis, 4:00 p.m. (PST) CBC, VERSUS
  • Tuesday, April 21 at St. Louis, 5:00 p.m. (PST) CBC, VERSUS
  • Friday, April 24 at Vancouver, 7:00 p.m. (PST) CBC, VERSUS, RDS
  • Sunday, April 26 at St. Louis, 5:00 p.m. (PST) CBC, VERSUS, RDS
  • Tuesday, April 28 at Vancouver, TBD CBC, VERSUS, RDS

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Canucks Win Northwest Division

Who would have thought back in January that the Vancouver Canucks would enter the playoffs as the number 3 seed in the Western Conference? Many of the local bandwagoners were ready to blow the team up, fire Alain Vigneault and jump right into the Tavares sweepstakes. Fortunately Canuck management has more intelligence than your average Canuck bandwagoner.

Not only have the Canucks made the playoffs they have done so as one of the hottest teams in the NHL and as arguably one of the most dangerous heading into the second season. Roberto Luongo is at the top of his game. The Sedins have found their missing triplet. The second line is dangerous. Even the third line is producing regular shifts in the offensive zone. Things are looking pretty darn good at the moment.

Another bonus for the Canucks right now is that they will not have to face the Anaheim Ducks. A series against the Ducks would certainly be very winnable, but the physical toll could have become a large burden to any hope of a Cup drive. The Ducks play a physical, often dirty style of play, and a 6 or 7 game series would not have been fun. Of course that's not to say Columbus or St. Louis will be easy, but at least you know you won't be going up against players like Pronger and Perry.

As for the Blues and the Jackets we will find out today who the Canucks will face in the first round. A win by the Blues against the Avalanche and it will be St. Louis, otherwise it will be Columbus. While the Canucks should beat either team, I would prefer to face the slumping Jackets. While Columbus has the always dangerous Rick Nash and the Calder favourite in Steve Mason, they have little playoff experience. Throw in their league worst 12.7% power play and you have a team that should be handled in 5 or 6 games. Of course anything can happen in the playoffs.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Six Games to Go

With only 6 games remaining in the regular season the Canucks find themselves leading the North West Division after an amazing turn around. Surprisingly to some, the sky did not fall, the Canucks managed to get things back on track and now the bandwagon is once again full.

No matter what happens over the final week and a half, there will be playoff hockey in Vancouver. Not only will there be playoff hockey, but the Canucks have a legitimate chance to go on an extended Stanley Cup run. To do that though, several things will have to go their way. Here are a few things to keep an eye on over the final 6 games...

The Second Period (long) Change
One thing the Canucks have struggled with is the long second period line change. The Canucks have allowed 12 more goals in the second period than either the first or third. As the result of poor changes they are also tied for the league lead with 13 bench minors. The Canucks need to do a better job of moving the puck up ice so that they have enough time to make the line change during the 2nd.
The Canucks have taken 405 minor penalties, 4th most in the league. Obviously that has strained the penalty kill. The Canucks cannot afford to take penalties if they are to succeed in the playoffs. In particular they need to eliminate offensive zone penalties (I'm looking at you Daniel and Henrik!) Penalties will happen, they are a part of the game, but you need to eliminate the unnecessary ones.
One of the more overlooked aspects of the Canucks is how successful they have been in the faceoff circle. The Canucks currently sit 7th overall at 51%. That is a huge improvement on last years 48.7% (24th). The improvement in the faceoff circle should be a significant bonus in the playoffs.
The Bottom Six
For most of the season the Canucks have received very little out of the bottom two lines. The fourth line has rarely been effective and the third has not contributed enough. However, over the past month both have been much better. While it is not an ideal third line, the Wellwood unit has at least played strong defensively and has not been a liability. More offense would be welcome, but they need to continue their strong defensive play. Ryan Johnson's improved health has resulted in a more effective 4th line and with a full complimented of healthy forwards, the 4th line should be able to contribute those "momentum changing" shifts that are so important in the playoffs.
The Power Play
The power play may be the single most influential aspect of a team's play. As the PP goes, so does the team. In the playoffs the power play is often the difference between winning and losing. If you don't capitalize on your chances you're going to have a tough time winning especially if your opponent capitalizes on theirs. The Canucks' PP has been middle of the road for most of the season, however since the addition of Sundin they have always been a threat no matter which unit is on the ice. It would be nice to have another defenseman to play the point (I've never been a fan of using a forward unless you are trailing in the game), but the Canucks PP looks poised to be an effective asset during the post season.
Team Toughness
Team toughness has often been a problem for recent editions of the Canucks, however I believe any question marks surrounding toughness were answered in the Canucks 4-0 win over the Blackhawks.
Perhaps the biggest factor in the Canucks success has been their remarkable health. Since Luongo and Salo have returned to the lineup the Canucks have avoided injuries to key players. Hopefully this trend continues. While there is some decent depth on defense and up front, a few injuries could seriously jeopardize any hope of a Cup run.
Individual Players
  • While most of the team has been playing well, Alex Edler has been struggling. This season Edler has been great at times and awful at others. The Canucks really need Edler to step up and play some strong consistent hockey.
  • Mayson Raymond really stepped up his game in March. His play improved about a week before the deadline and has been much better than most of the season. Raymond will likely be in and out of the lineup for the rest of the year, but he should be able to contribute something.
  • Rick Rypien's return to the lineup is a welcome sight. He may not play every night, but his speed and physical play will be a nice asset to the 4th line. Hopefully he can stay healthy.
  • Mats Sundin. What to say? You can't argue that the team hasn't been better with him, but at the same time his consistency has been a disappointment. He needs to have an impact every night, not just once or twice a week. Still, he has managed 25 points in 35 games which puts him on pace for 29 points, or only 1 off my prediction of 30 points in 41 games
  • Jannik Hansen has returned from injury, but has not looked particularly strong. Hopefully he can find his game over the next week, as he could potentially be a big contributor in a post-season run. I'm sure he wants to make up for his mistake on the goal that eliminated the Canucks vs the Ducks the last time the Canucks were in the playoffs.

I haven't posted much in the past couple months, but I hope to ramp things up for what should be a great spring for Vancouver Canuck fans...

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Canucks Stand Pat at Deadline

Despite appearing to be involved in serious talks for Jay Bouwmeester the Vancouver Canucks walk away from the 2009 trade deadline with no additions to their roster.

While Bouwmeester was an exiting (and risky) possibility, Canuck fans have to be pretty disappointed that the Canucks will be heading down the stretch and into the playoffs with Kyle Wellwood as the third line centre and the potential of Darcy Hordichuk playing regularly.

No Jeff Halpern, no Reinprecht, no Pahlsson, no Marchant, no Moore, no help for the 3rd line.

Gillis was unwilling to move a second round pick and obviously couldn't find any takers for anything else.

So much for a bold move. Gillis was unwilling to take any risk despite an obvious weakness in the bottom 6 forward group. Vancouver still has a very solid team, but with this window of opportunity to make some noise in the playoffs it's tremendously disappointing to have a weakness that could be improved with "lesser" assets.

With that said, disappointment doesn't equate to disaster. This team is pretty solid and is capable of beating anyone in a seven game series. Their chances would have been better with an addition or two to the bottom 6, but we'll have to be content with the status quo.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Alex Burrows Signs Extention

Alex Burrows has signed a 4 year $8m contract extension with the Vancouver Canucks. More on this after the game...

... and what a game it was for Alex Burrows. Two big goals on a night where he becomes a multi-millionaire

This is a very good deal for the Vancouver Canucks and Alex Burrows. Burrows could have received more on the open market, but obviously he likes Vancouver and knows he's a good fit here. From a front office perspective this is very good value even if Burrows happens to regress a bit offensively. Right now it's probably more likely that he continues to improve as a hockey player.

This deal was a no-brainer for Mike Gillis.

Congrats to Alex. He deserves it and it's refreshing to see an athlete who's number one priority isn't going after the money. I look forward to having Burrows in the lineup for the next 4 years.

Nycholat Claimed by Flames

The Vancouver Canucks have lost defenseman Lawrence Nycholat on waivers to the Calgary Flames.

Not a huge loss, but it is a hit to the Canucks depth on defense.

Other Waiver News

Some interesting players are hitting the waiver wire...

  • Miroslav Satan
  • Gary Roberts
  • Brendan Morrison
  • Aaron Voros
  • a bunch of other minor guys

It's going to be an interesting couple days...

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Return of the Ripper?

An interesting bit of news emerged from the Canucks skate today... Rick Rypien is back skating

There is yet to be any indication that he will return this season, but he would be a welcome addition to the Canucks bottom 6.

It will be interesting to hear some of the details of Rypien's personal problems, there has been speculation that Rypien was unsure of continuing his hockey career due to his numerous injury problems. Hopefully he can find a way to stay healthy and he can continue his career.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Canucks Claim Ossi Vaananen off Waivers

The Vancouver Canucks have claimed defenseman Ossi Vaananen off waivers from the Philadelphia Flyers.

This is a very nice depth pickup for the Canucks. Vaananen was made available on waivers due to the salary cap problems of the Flyers, who needed to make room for Daniel Briere's return.

I don't know much about Vaananen, but he does bring very good size (6'4" 215lbs) and will fit in ahead of Davison on the depth chart and could even bump O'Brien from the number 6 spot. Vaananen averaged 18:27 a game for Philly, but has seen his ice time drop in half during the month of February.

If I'm remembering correctly from his days in Colorado, Vaananen is a fairly physical defenseman down low, similar to how a guy like Ohlund plays (ie: he's not going to fight or take a lot of roughing penalties). Looking at his numbers... the guy throws a lot of hits (85 - same total as Bieksa and Ohlund) and blocks a fair amount of shots (75 - would rank him 3rd beside Edler). He was also among Philly's top 4 PK defenseman, averaging 3:11 shorthanded. However, judging by his total of only 18 shots on goal and no power play time, his offensive skills appear limited.

Basically we're probably looking at a similar player to O'Brien, trading SOB's fighting and offensive upside for a more stay at home/less mistakes guy.

The best part about this move is that the Canucks are no longer one or two injuries away from having Rob Davison and Lawrence Nycholat playing regularly.

Overall a nice free pickup for Gillis. The move also opens the door for the possibility of moving O'Brien at the deadline. From the Flyers perspective this was very poor asset management. At this time of year a guy like Vaananen could easily fetch a 4th round pick, probably more.

Vaananen makes $1m and will be an unrestricted free agent after this season.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Trade Deadline a Week Away

The NHL's trade deadline is next Wednesday and the Vancouver Canucks have managed to pull themselves firmly back into buyer's status. So what do the Canucks need and what can they give up? Let's take a look...

Team Needs

The first thing the Canucks need to figure out is if Ryan Kesler is going to be a permanent fixture on the second line with Sundin. Kesler may have been the guy who single handedly turned this team around with his determination and play on the ice, however that was two weeks ago. In the past 3 games in eastern Canada, Kesler's play has been uninspired and the second line has been a complete non-factor. Maybe he's playing hurt or has caught that mysterious flu which Sundin was reported to have last week. But if he's not, you have to wonder if the Canucks wouldn't be better of dropping Kesler back to more of checking centre roll.

Once the Canucks figure out what they're going to do with Kesler they can take a look at adding to the top 6 and shoring up the bottom 6.

The Canucks would like to find a better fit for the Sedin line, as Burrows is most likely not a long term answer, however they will be more concerned with making sure that they have a productive second line. As long as they are getting production out of the second line, they can afford to get by with the revolving winger with the Sedins.

The Bottom 6

Now, with Burrows and Kesler up in the top 6, the bottom 6 has been exposed and is extremely weak right now. Kyle Wellwood cannot be the third line centre heading into the playoffs. Ryan Johnson has been a huge disappointment and is not a guy you want playing any more than 12 minutes a night (I'd prefer 0). His speed and shot blocking is nice, but he isn't big enough or strong enough to be a very effective checker (at least for this season he has yet to show that he has that ability). Darcy Hordichuk is another guy you don't want as a regular in the playoffs. Mason Raymond has been pretty much useless. That leaves Taylor Pyatt, Steve Bernier and Jannik Hansen (currently out 3-4 weeks) as the only truly effective bottom 6 players.

The Canucks need more options in the bottom 6, particularly down the middle. If Ryan Johnson ever needs to step into the third line, or if Hordichuk & Raymond are regulars with some Moose Meat on the 4th line, the Canucks will be in tough.

They need a couple sandpaper guys. Those guys that really step up their game come playoff time.

The Defense

Perhaps the biggest challenge for Mike Gillis is figuring out how he can improve the defense core. The Canucks would love to find a puck rushing power play quarterback, but that's going to come at a very high price. Other than that, the Canucks defense core is solid, not ideal, but solid nonetheless. They could use a depth improvement on Nycholat or Davison, but that wouldn't be a priority.

I wouldn't be entirely surprised if Shane O'Brien is swapped for another defenseman, but other than that I'm not expecting much to happen on defense. Part of the reason is that two of the pieces they may be interested in moving (Salo and Ohlund) have no trade clauses. Another two guys are young and under contract, and Willie Mitchell isn't going anywhere.

The Chips in Play

So what does Mike Gillis have and what is he willing to move?

The most likely guy to move is Mayson Raymond. I would honestly be shocked if he is still a Canuck on March 5th. Raymond simply hasn't found a role on the team despite getting an opportunity on nearly every line and the Canucks can't send him down without losing him on waivers. Raymond's speed will make him an intriguing option for teams looking for a young player who can play now. He's far from a blue chip asset, but he is still a solid asset nonetheless.

Gillis' two most valuable assets are probably the 1st round draft pick and Cory Schneider. Don't expect the 1st rounder to be moved unless it's for a player with term remaining on his contract or an impact player like Jay Bouwmeester. On the other hand Schneider is a guy that could be moved under the assumption that Gillis is confident that he can get Luongo under contract. Like the first rounder, Gillis won't trade Schneider unless it's for an impact player or a guy under contract next season.

After that there's not much left. If the Canucks are truly in the Bouwmeester sweepstakes, Bieksa or Edler could be in play. Cody Hodgeson is pretty much untouchable unless something falls into Gillis' lap. On the farm, Grabner is pretty much the only asset of value and could be moved, but that would really deplete the high end talent depth of the organization. Other than that you're looking at fringe prospects and draft picks.

As for current roster players, there isn't anyone who's going to fetch you much. Someone might be interested in Wellwood, but he won't get much of a return, if any. Pyatt's a useful player who is still young and has a decent contract, but he would probably only fetch a player with a different skillset who plays a similar role. Steve Bernier has value, but he's the type of player you want to keep around for the playoffs. Shane O'Brien could be swapped for another #6 defenseman.

And there you have it. The Canucks have a few assets, but not much. Considering the price tag on top end rental players usually starts at a 1st round pick, it will be tough for Gillis to do much without mortgaging the future.

Up next I'll take a look at who the Canucks could be after...

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Some Random Thoughts

Some random thoughts after the Canucks shootout win in Calgary...

  • The Canucks still have a ways to go in the Getting the Puck Out of the Zone Department.
  • Darcy Hordichuk isn't getting it done. The guy just isn't a very smart hockey player. Whatever strengths he may have are outweighed by his lack of hockey sense. It's nice to have that tough guy in the lineup, but I think that's a luxury the Canucks don't need right now. They have enough toughness in the lineup. On the other hand they could really use an effective 4th line and with the way Hansen is playing that shouldn't be that hard to put together. Even a guy like Jaffray could really improve the effectiveness of the 4th line.
  • Willie Mitchell is really struggling right now. What happened to the guy from October who was arguably playing the best hockey of his career?
  • Fortunately Alex Edler really has his game together. While the rest of the defense has struggled with their consistency Edler has picked up his game at just the right time.
  • Ryan Kesler is the engine running this team right now.
  • Despite a really bad goal in Calgary, Luongo looked "on" for the first time since November.
  • The Canucks played their worst game of the month and yet still found a way to win against a red hot Kiprusoff. That is a very good sign.
  • With the toughest game of the road trip out of the way the Canucks now have an opportunity to get a little separation in the playoff race. If they continue to play well there is no reason why they can't pickup at least 4 out of a possible 6 points.
  • I guess the sky didn't fall did it?

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Mike Brown Traded for McIver

According to the Team 1040, Mike Brown has been traded to Anaheim for Nathan McIver.

Finally, Gillis' biggest mistake is no longer wasting a roster spot and somehow Gillis managed to get a useful player in return.

McIver of course was lost on waivers to Anaheim before the season. Ironically the loss of that asset prompted Gillis to keep Mike Brown on the roster because of fears he would be claimed on waivers. Because Brown was kept, the Canucks eventually lost Matt Pettinger on waivers when they tried to call him up. Pettinger is a much more reliable and useful player then Brown, yet Brown was kept around. The move was even more puzzling because at the time Rick Rypien was healthy and providing that physical element on the 4th line, so Brown was redundant.

Mike Brown was awful for most of the year. This culminated in his last game when Brown was directly responsible for a critical goal against. Brown made more than one mistake on the play and found himself on the bench for the rest of his Canuck career.

The Canucks finally have some flexibility to call a forward up from Manitoba. It should be interesting to see if Nycholat (who has failed to contribute as an "offensive defenseman") continues to tie up a roster spot on defense. With McIver back in the system, fears of losing Nycholat on waivers may be lessened.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

At a Crossroads

I wasn't going to make another post until the Canucks broke this ridiculous streak, but I'm going to break from that to post this...

Beginning with tonight's game against Carolina the next week will have a major impact on the next few seasons.

If the Canucks continue to lose Mike Gillis will have no choice but to fire Alain Vigneault. It may even happen tonight if they lose outright. There are 3 days before the next game, enough to get a new guy in. Barring that it could happen before the Canucks hit the road a week from now.

We will find out a lot about the state of the team tonight. If the team mails it in then they have quit on AV. If they continue to play with the effort they have in the past week, then they have not quit on AV. As silly as it sounds, the players can decide whether they want AV as a coach or not.

I'm betting on the Canuck players to come out and play another strong game. I've seen no signs that they have quit on AV.

Mike Gillis does not want to fire Vigneault, but he will be forced to do so if the Canucks lose tonight and against Chicago. These two games are likely to decide the direction this franchise goes.

With that said, I think the Canucks are going to come out of this and play well down the stretch. They are still positioned to make the playoffs and if they play like they have the past two games they will.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Back on Track

Heading into the final two games before the all-star break the Canucks needed to rebuild their game from the ground up. While they were desperately in need of points it was more important to correct the issues in their play. To make the final two pre-break games successful they needed to find their game again and (considering one of the games was against the Sharks) they needed to find a way to come away with a couple points.

They accomplished both goals.

While last nights game was crushing, it was a huge step forward.

They were successful in doing the little things to get the puck out of their own end. There were some nervous moments, but for the most part they did an excellent job of supporting the puck and making the right decision. It often wasn't pretty, but considering where their game was, getting the puck out of the zone quickly was their number one focus. As their confidence improves you'll see a lot less of a "just get it out" philosophy, but last night that was exactly what they needed to do.

The only thing missing last night was a forechecking presence. However once they were up a goal I think Vigneault made the right decision to try and shut down the Sharks. They were not going to be successful trading chances and giving up odd man rushes. Ya you want more of a forecheck, but that will come. Last night was all about playing well in their own end and frustrating the Sharks. In the end, the breaks didn't go their way and the game slipped away, but it was a very successful game.

Friday, January 16, 2009

The Sky Isn't Falling

Yikes. The Canucks are playing absolutely horrendous hockey right now and many, many people are hitting the panic button. Honestly I don't really blame them. The Canucks are playing as bad as they possibly can, quite frankly their play with the puck is bizarre. The giveaways are unbelievably bad... often stunning. They've been so awful that I've found myself laughing rather than getting angry and yelling.

The Canucks are in a very dangerous place right now. The Canucks are perilously close to falling over the cliff and entering that zone which consumes teams like the Senators and Lightning, once great teams now floundering as bottom dwellers.

That said, the sky isn't falling. There is plenty of time to reign this in and get back on the right track. This is the same team that was dominant in November. Right now their confidence is shattered. They need to find a way to put that confidence back together. They can turn this around. Here's what they have to do...

1. Confidence With the Puck
Right now the Canucks are handling the puck like a live grenade. They need to calm down and start playing like the NHL players they are. Instead of trying to get the puck to the guy standing behind the net they need to move the puck quickly up the ice to a forward because right now teams are being extremely aggressive attacking on the forecheck. This aggressiveness is compounding the puck handling problems, more pressure = less time = more mistakes. By moving the puck crisply and quickly they will force the forecheck to back off a little and the defensemen will have more time to make decisions and will gain their confidence back. But you can't do that without...
2. Puck Support
Every time a Canuck has the puck he needs at least one option on where to go with it. That seems obvious, but it takes focus and hard work. There was a play last night that exemplifies this: Bieksa had the puck in the corner and was pressured, he decided on a bank pass up the boards to the point. While it wasn't the greatest of plays it shouldn't have been a problem. Darcy Hordichuk wasn't in position to properly support Bieksa and he was outmuscled/outworked by the Phoenix defender resulting in a turnover (and I think a goal, but can't remember exactly).
You're not going to gain confidence with the puck when bad results occur every time you make the slightest of mistakes. The Canucks need better puck support so that these little mistakes don't turn into big ones. And puck support doesn't mean just standing in the right spot. You need to own your space of ice, you have to work to make sure you don't give up that space to your opponent. Right now the Canucks haven't been winning the battles for that space of ice. Without that space, you are not supporting your teammate with the puck, you're not an option for your teammate.
3. Forecheck\Getting Through Neutral Zone\No Odd Man Rushes
This one is obvious, you have to find a way to get through the neutral zone and establish a forecheck without giving up odd man rushes. It starts with the previously listed confidence with the puck and puck support. If you're doing that you're going to be able to get through the neutral zone and establish a forecheck.
Of course once your there you can't give up odd man rushes. There needs to be focus and most importantly effort in making sure there is always a forward supporting the defensemen at the points.
4. Specific Individuals Must Step Up Their Game/Effort/Focus
To a man every player needs to step up mentally and physically, but there are specific individuals who need to step up their game...
Alex Edler. Edler has been atrocious. He isn't doing anything right and should be sent to Manitoba to work on his game. Unfortunately Vancouver doesn't have enough options on defense to make such a move, so Edler is going to have to work through his problems at the NHL level.
Mattias Ohlund. Ohlund has been inexcusably bad of late. Poor decisions with the puck and a lack of general effort. Ohlund barely moved his feet against Phoenix. He needs to start leading this defense group. Right now his leadership resembles Naslund's (ie: non-existant).
Kevin Bieksa. Bieksa needs to start playing like he was a few weeks ago. Take that puck and move it like you mean it. Start being mean again. If Bieksa looks confident, plays mean and starts handling the puck the way he can, the confidence of the entire defensive core will rise.
If three of your top four defensemen are struggling you're going to be in trouble. These guys need to get it together.

The Canucks need to focus on these 4 things and build their game shift by shift. Forget about wins and losses, forget about goals for and against. Focus on making good passes and working to give your teammate some help/options.

The Canucks aren't going to get through this by acting emotionally as fans tend to do. No coaching change, player benching, or player addition/subtraction is going to flip the switch. The Canucks need their confidence back and the only way to do that is to get back to basics.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Curtis Sanford on Waivers

The Vancouver Canucks have placed goaltender Curtis Sanford on waivers.

With Luongo ready to return tomorrow, someone was going to have to go and the Canucks decided on Sanford. Really it wasn't much of a decision. Sanford had over a month to take the reigns and he failed to gain any confidence with the coaching staff, players or fans. While LaBarbera struggled in his final two games he still managed to put up 4 games that were as good or better than any 4 games Sanford started.

Should Sanford clear he will likely be sent to Manitoba with the Canucks exploring trade options to find him a job somewhere (he may even have to settle for a starting job in the minors).


Curtis Sanford has cleared waivers and has been assigned to the Manitoba Moose.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Luongo's Return Imminent

Roberto Luongo has declared himself 100% healthy and could return as early as Thursday against the Coyotes.

Luongo's return comes after the Canucks lost yet another game in which Curtis Sanford let in a bad goal. The record without Luongo (9-11-3) has put the Canucks playoff chances in jeopardy. The Canucks are still comfortably in the mix, but a prolonged slump could make things very dicey as we found out last season. Still, it's hard to imagine this year's team going in the tank like that.

The Difference Between Luongo and Mediocre Goaltending

In Luongo's absense:

  • Shootout Losses: 3
  • One Goal Losses: 5
  • Two Goal Losses: 4*

* Of the 4 two goal losses, one included an empty net goal and in the other three the insurance goal was scored late in the third period.

Add it all up and in 12 out of the 14 games the Canucks failed to win, they were either tied or within a goal late in the third period.

That's nine losses and three OTL's that could have gone the other way had Sanford and company not given up that one bad goal or had made that one extra save.

Conservatively, if Luongo wins 3 out of those games and turns two of those shootout losses into points the Canucks would have 8 more points.

That's the difference between being in the playoffs by 5 points or by 13 points.

That's the difference between Luongo and all those terrible goals we saw against Schneider and Sanford.

Friday, January 09, 2009

St. Louis Lots - Canucks Not As Much - Game Notes

Another two points pissed away...

First Period

  • Awful period by Vancouver, I thought the first against Edmonton was bad... this one was just terrible. The fact that Vancouver is up a goal says a lot about how bad St. Louis is.
  • I guess Hansen got the message.
  • Terrible play by Nycholat leading to the Blues' goal. LaBarbera didn't help matters by letting out a couple bad rebounds.
  • Even when Sundin isn't playing well he is still dangerous.
  • It was also a terrible period by Sportsnet and John Garrett. The audio was brutal, Garrett wasn't much better... rambling on about Sundin winning a draw that was actually won by Wellwood after Sundin was tossed out. Even with a replay Garrett still didn't catch it. Paying attention there John?

Second Period

  • The sloppy, lackadaisical play of the first period carried over into the second and the Canucks find themselves trailing after two.
  • I think it's time for the "takin it easy" Mats Sundin shifts to come to an end. Sundin needs to be more focused on the timing of line changes.
  • Mason Raymond and Kyle Wellwood are sure skating better with their new linemate. Perhaps Raymond took note of the organization's willingness to send Hansen down.
  • The Canucks need a much better effort in the third. They need to start forechecking hard in order to draw some penalties and give themselves the opportunity to take this game.

Third Period

  • Ugg, that was such an uninspiring game that I don't have the motivation to say anything about the third period other than the fact that the Canucks deserved to lose and put themselves in a position where a bad break (literally) cost them a win against the worst team in the West.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Johnson Back, Hansen Re-Called

Ryan Johnson is expected back in the lineup friday night after missing 20 games with a broken foot and finger.

In addition, Jannik Hansen has been re-called from Manitoba after a short 2 game stint with the Moose. Alexander Bolduc has been sent back down to make room for Hansen.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Sundin to Debut Tonight


Over 6 months after the Vancouver Canucks made a contract offer to Mats Sundin Canuck fans will finally get to see Sundin in action. Sundin will play tonight against the Edmonton Oilers, likely on a line with Kyle Wellwood and Mason Raymond.

It's hard to gauge exactly how good Sundin will be, he's a great player but at 37 and coming in half way who knows how he will play. Still, the guy is extremely talented and will make a strong contribution whether he is a point a game guy or not. He should at the very least be a boost to the Canucks dreadful shootout record or even end the games before they get there (I believe he is tied for the active lead in overtime goals).

Going out on a limb I'm going to predict 30 points from Sundin over the final 41 games... let's just hope he plays all 41 and doesn't get added to the list of Canucks with groin strains or broken feet.

Canuck Notes

  • Earlier in the week Jannik Hansen was sent down to Manitoba, paving the way for Mats Sundin to be added to the roster. Hansen's game had fallen off considerably from the beginning of the season and since he was one of the few players not subject to waivers he was the one to go. The organization continues to keep Mike Brown around at the expense of others, despite getting no value from his play. Hansen will likely be back at some point this season, hopefully he can find some offensive touch as the rest of his game is pretty solid.
  • The NHL All-Star teams have been announced. As if the game wasn't enough of a joke. I don't want to get into the whole list of players more deserving, but I will say that Daniel Sedin should be the Canucks representative and there is no way Luongo should be on the roster. But really who cares, everything to do with the game is a joke.
  • I didn't get a chance to comment on the Jason LaBarbera trade... a nice pickup by Gillis, especially for only a 7th rounder. LaBarbera has played very well since being acquired and it looks like the writing is on the wall for Sanford. Assuming all other things being equal LaBarbera is a bigger goalie than Sanford and that clearly makes a big difference. We've already seen pucks hit the shoulders of LaBarbera and have seen too many go over Sanford's. When it comes right down to it Sanford had a chance to lock his job down, but wasn't good enough.

Monday, January 05, 2009

Canada Wins Gold!!!

Wow, what a tournament.

Congratulations to the boys on team Canada who capped off one of the most memorable World Junior Championships with Canada's fifth straight gold medal.

While John Tavares and PK Subban received the accolades it was Tyler Myers and Cody Hodgson who anchored the team to victory tonight. The key to the game was the penalty kills during the second period where Myers and Hodgson led a great effort by the PK group. Myers was simply outstanding tonight and against Russia in the semis. Sure wish he was Canuck property... but hey at least we have Hodgson. Hodgson had a great tournament finishing with the lead in scoring and was arguably Canada's best all around player.

Of course there were a lot of key components to this team, Tavares and Esposito provided some clutch goals, Tokarski stepped up with some great goaltending at the right time etc. But the biggest factor was that this team was a team and it was great to watch. And maybe for that reason this one feels a little more special than previous golds.