Saturday, October 23, 2010

Canucks Bounce Back From Minny Debacle

After a brutal outing in Minnesota the Vancouver Canucks bounced back with a solid outing in a shootout loss to Chicago and a dominating home performance against the Wild.

The Canucks were simply brutal in Minnesota. Short two of their top defensemen it was an embarrassing night, culminating with Rick Rypien's stupidity. In the end Rypien got six games, which was in the range of what most expected. Unfortunately for the Canucks this leaves them without a natural 4th line centre. It looks like they don't intend to call anyone up to fill the void, this is likely due to salary cap concerns and also their extremely light schedule over the next week. They appear to be content with Schaefer filling in at center, while having someone else take the defensive zone draws if the 4th line happens to be in their own zone.

On Wednesday the Canucks bounced back with a solid game against a Chicago team that's still pretty damn good. The Hawks were the better team for the first half of the game, but the Canucks built momentum and took over the second half. Unfortunately Roberto Luongo couldn't keep the puck from trickling into his net in the shootout and the Canucks lost despite scoring on 2 of their 3 shootout attempts.

Last night the Canucks got some payback against the Wild as they dominated the game, giving Cory Schneider his second easy win and near shutout of the season. Coach V finally stopped the sillyness and put 3 solid lines on the ice. Jeff Tambellini had a very good game with the Sedins. Ryan Kesler finally had some linemates and the third line had their best game of the season putting up seven points.

The Canucks now play one game in the next nine days, more brilliant scheduling from the NHL. The break actually comes at a pretty good time as it will give Dan Hamhuis and Keith Ballard time to recover from their respective injuries.

Next game is Tuesday vs the Avalanche.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

How Many Games Should Rick Rypien Be Suspended?

In tonight's Canucks - Wild game, Rick Rypien went after a fan in the stands on his way to the dressing room. The attack seemed to be unprovoked (the fan wasn't doing anything out of the ordinary - ie no beer thrown).

So the question is how many games should Rick Rypien be suspended? (Poll Question on the Right)

Here's a better Youtube video:

Canucks Bump Slumps Before Road Test

It was a slump busting night on Sunday as several Canucks got on the board against the jet lagged Hurricanes. Mason Raymond, Ryan Kesler and Mikael Samuelsson all got on the scoresheet for the first time this season. Finally some secondary scoring.

Alain Vigneault's line juggling paid off. Ryan Kesler had his best game of the season leading all forwards with over 20 minutes of ice time. Raymond seemed to fit in well with the Sedins (who doesn't) and it should be interesting to see how long AV sticks with that line. The third line got an offensive boost with Samuelsson on the wing and Manny Malhotra was an absolutely dominating 94% in the faceoff circle including 11 for 12 in the defensive zone.

Cory Schneider made a rare home start for a Canuck backup and was very solid. It was a great decision to get Schneider into a home game early in the season and more importantly the timing of facing a tired Carolina squad was a perfect way of allowing Cory to gain the confidence of his teammates and to a lesser extent the home fans. It's easy to say you want to play the backup more, but actually being able to do it is something that isn't always easy to do. The standings in the NHL are always tight, every point counts, so it's hard not to go with Luongo when you really need the 2pts. So far Schneider looks capable of taking some of those key starts.

The Canucks are now off on their toughest road test to date as they face the Wild and Blackhawks on back to back nights. Obviously most are looking forward to the matchup against the Blackhawks, so it will be important for the Canucks not to overlook the Minnesota Wild tonight.

Tonight's game is the first on the Sportsnet Vancouver channel (aka Sportsnet One). More info on tonight's game and lineup later in the day...

Sunday, October 17, 2010

California Power Outage - Canucks Drop Two

The short road trip to California should have got the Canucks back to playing a hard working "get the puck at the net" style, instead the Canucks limped back to Vancouver taking their anemic offense with them.

Anaheim 4 - Vancouver 3

On Wednesday night the Canucks failed to capitalize on their opportunities and let the Ducks hang around when they should have been dead and buried. Sure the officiating was very questionable, but that wasn't the reason Vancouver lost. The Canucks simply failed to score. The Ducks were absolutely terrible in their own end, the number of turnovers was unbelievable. It's going to be a long year in Anaheim.

Los Angeles 4 - Vancouver 1

Friday night the story was a little different. First Vancouver was actually playing a competent team, so the fact that they lost wasn't as troubling as in Anaheim. However, this time it wasn't a matter of not putting a team away, instead the Canucks failed to get themselves into the game. Two periods and no goals. When they finally got one (by the Sedins of course) LA answered quickly when Anze Kopitar skated around Bieksa like he wasn't there and then setup Dustin Brown for the back breaking goal.

Where's the Secondary Scoring?
The only Canuck forwards with goals are Daniel and Torres. That's no goals out of the 2nd line. The goals are going to come eventually, but this is getting ridiculous. Kesler and Raymond have 37 shots between them, but neither has found the back of the net. Jannik Hansen has played well, but hasn't shown any indication that he's going to add some offensive touch to his game.
Kesler with the Sedins on Power Play
The experiment of having Kesler on the number one PP unit with the Sedins doesn't seem to be working, but that's not because of the number one unit. They've actually been pretty good, scoring twice in Anaheim. The problem's with the second unit. Without Kesler at centre they're just not effective. The difference between Kesler with the twins vs someone else isn't going to be that much - whoever's out there will get some goals. However, the difference between Kesler and someone else on the 2nd unit is significant. The current power play configuration just doesn't make sense.
Ballard and Bolduc Out
The Canucks got some bad news late last week as it was learned that Alex Bolduc is out with the feared high ankle sprain. Bolduc is expected to miss 6-8 weeks which leaves a significant hole on the 4th line. For now Rick Rypien is going to be given a chance to show that he can play centre at the NHL level. Rypien's first focus will be winning defensive zone draws, which he has been successful at in limited action so far. However the Canucks need more than that, they need a 4th line which can play in the offensive zone by generating a forecheck. That's hard to do without a competent centre - as Ryan Johnson demonstrated during the past few years - we'll see if Rypien can get it done.
On Friday the Canucks also lost Keith Ballard to a concussion. Ballard had played in 250 straight games - welcome to Vancouver's blueline Keith. The Canucks will follow the NHL's concussion guidelines so Ballard likely won't play for a couple weeks. That means Aaron Rome will slot in alongside Alberts.
Peter Who?
Peter Schaefer had a great pre-season and won a job on the third line mainly because he plays a solid two way game and can kill penalties. Four games in and Schaefer is a minus 2 with no points and only 5 shots on goal. He's going to have to have more of an impact if he wants to keep his job in the NHL.
Raffi Torres - The Tale of Two Players
On Wednesday, Raffi Torres was great. Before getting a cheap instigator penalty Torres was the best Canuck in Anaheim. He was hitting, causing turnovers and was a general menace on the ice. On Friday... well he was barely noticeable. Is this the Raffi Torres we should get used to?

Canucks VS Canes Tonight

The Canucks will be mixing up their lines when they take on the jet lagged Hurricanes tonight in Vancouver (Note the 6:00 PM start time).

Mason Raymond is moving up to play with the Sedins - Jeff Tambellini will take his place on the 2nd line with Kesler and Hansen - Samuelsson drops down to the third with Malhotra and Torres - Schaefer moves down to the 4th with Rypien and Glass.

Follow @TheCanuckFan for tonight's live Twitter Blog


It looks like Cory Schneider will get his first start of the season tonight (thanks to @reidder and @sportsnetmurph). Wow a home start for the backup goalie.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Twitter Blog - Canucks Vs Ducks

Trying something new for tonight's game in Anaheim. Follow the Vancouver Canucks Hockey Blog live on Twitter.

Follow @TheCanuckFan and get comments on the game as they happen.

Anaheim has been brutal so far this season, 3 losses and 2 goals for vs 13 against. This should be the night that the Canucks finally crack the 3 goal mark...

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Turkey Weekend Wrap Up

The Canucks opened their season paying tribute to the 1970 Canucks and naming Henrik Sedin as their new captain. The night was going according to plan until a late penalty allowed the Kings to tie it up and eventually win in a shootout. On Monday, the game felt very similar with the Canucks holding onto a slim 1-0 lead. The Panthers would tie it up late in the 2nd, but Daniel Sedin scored his second goal late in the third to help Vancouver salvage their opening homestand of the year.

  • The biggest story out of the weekend was the exceptionally good play by Roberto Luongo. Luongo looked sharp in his limited pre-season action and that continued into the regular season. Rollie Malanson appears to have Luongo back on track.
  • The offense produced only 3 goals and it looks like going out on the road will do the team some good. They were being a little to fancy in front of the home crowd. Let's see a little more shooting and a little less passing.
  • The new and improved 4th line didn't last long as Alex Bolduc went down with a suspected ankle sprain. Tambellini took his place on Monday and well, he looked out of place at centre. Rick Rypien is ready to get back into the lineup and will likely slot in at centre, but he's not a long term option there.
  • The new defense looked pretty good, especially against the Panthers. The physical play was outstanding. Teams aren't going to like coming into Vancouver if the Canucks are going to throw their weight around like that.
  • Manny Malhotra has been as advertised. Great in the faceoff circle and on the PK. Hopefully he can also help the 3rd line generate some offense.
  • Keith Ballard looked way better than he did in the pre-season.
  • Did AV swap Torres and Hansen based on who the opposition was or did he not like what he saw against the Kings?
  • Many questioned the wisdom of having a 2nd power play unit which does not have a centre... unfortunately we did not get to see if AV changed things up because the Canucks somehow managed not to draw a penalty against Florida. How does that happen?

Vancouver's off on a short two game trip to California where they'll take on the Ducks Wednesday and the Kings on Friday.

Saturday, October 09, 2010

Opening Night in Vancouver - Canucks Vs Kings

Finally, it's time to drop the puck for real. After another long off-season and a pre-season of overanalysis the 40th season in franchise history begins... Is this the year?

Opening Night Lineup

After all the salary cap maneuvers here's what the roster looks like for tonight's game:

  • Sedin Sedin Samuelsson
  • Raymond Kesler Torres
  • Schaefer Malhotra Hansen
  • Glass* Bolduc Desbiens

Jeff Tambellini may take Glass' spot (strep throat) and Rick Rypien is starting the season on the IR

  • Hamhuis Bieksa
  • Ehrhoff Edler
  • Alberts Ballard
  • Rome

Ryan Parent is still with the team as the 8th defenseman. The Canucks have 10 games (or 30 days) to evaluate Parent before they must make a decision on him. Parent has cleared waivers, but if the Canucks sent him to Manitoba he would be subject to re-call waivers if they called him back up. So the Canucks are going to take a look at what they have, before sending him down. It would be difficult to get him back up once they do, someone would likely take a chance on him at half the salary/cap hit.

  • Luongo
  • Schneider

Henrik Sedin to be Named Captain?

The Canucks have waited until the last minute to name their new captain and most expect it to be Henrik Sedin. Ryan Kesler is the second choice, but Henrik will get it for one simple reason. He's much better at dealing with the media.

Since the media aspect was the reason they removed the captaincy from Luongo, it makes sense that this aspect should be the overriding factor in choosing a new one. On the ice and in the locker room, either player would be a fine choice, but in dealing with the media Kesler isn't in the same league as Henrik. He just doesn't have the attitude or patience to be the guy who has to answer all the questions every night. That's not even considering stuff like calling Andrew Ladd a "coward".

Tom Larscheid's Final Game

Love him or hate him, it's an end of an era for the Vancouver Canucks. Tonight will be Larscheid's final broadcast as the radio colour guy.

He may not have been a great analyst and he certainly was a homer, but the best thing I can say about Larscheid is that when I tuned into a game on the radio I could always get a feel for how the Canucks were really playing. Good or bad (and there were a lot of bad years). For that one aspect, he was a great radio colour guy because he could convey what I couldn't see.

Good luck Tommy.

Great read: An End of An Era

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Sportsnet One Now Available on Bell TV

Fear not Canuck fans, (at least those of you with Bell TV), Sportsnet One is now available on Bell TV (ch 1409 HD, 418 SD). Note that Sportsnet One won't actually be carrying the games, instead it will be on the "companion channel" Sportsnet Vancouver (channel 1436 HD). That's right, Sportsnet One won't show your team's games, instead they will be shown on one of the other 4 "companion channels". That's what? 9 Sportsnet channels now? Get ready for more poker, dog shows and darts!

So it appears Rogers dirty tactics have paid off for them. The last major hold out has fallen. After pulling a large number of Blue Jays games onto Sportsnet One, and pissing off many fans in the process, television providers have now caved as hockey season arrives.

Can't say I didn't see this coming. But whatever, as one of those pissed off Jays fans I won't be buying any Rogers products other than their sports channels (can't live without that).

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Darcy Hordichuk Traded to Florida for Andrew Peters

True to his word, Mike Gillis has found an NHL home for Darcy Hordichuk sending him to Florida in exchange for heavyweight Andrew Peters.

Peters isn't much of a player, but he fills the role of the organization's resident tough guy. He is on a cheap two way contract (500k/75k) which also means that he is not subject to recall waivers, so the Canucks can move him up from Manitoba freely.

In other news, both Jeff Tambellini and Ryan Parent cleared waivers and will report to Manitoba.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

More on Shane O'Brien Trade and Other Stuff

Alright it's been a busy day in Canuckland and it figures to be busy again tomorrow as the Canucks will submit their official roster to the NHL... an official roster which, for salary cap reasons, will be different than the one you see on Saturday night.

Universities could offer a course on the NHL salary cap, but for now there are probably only a handful of people on the planet who really understand the Canucks cap situation. Basically it boils down to the Canucks wanting to be as close to the salary cap as they can, so that they can maximize their long term injury relief. Anyway, here's some thoughts on the days events...

Shane O'Brien
Moving Shane O'Brien is probably best for both parties. O'Brien is a bottom pairing defensemen who hasn't really reached his potential and hasn't shown many signs that he will reach it. O'Brien was saying all the right things heading into the pre-season, but he clearly showed no willingness to be the player the Canucks wanted him to be.
SOB's pre-season can really be summed up by one fact: he did not drop the gloves. Not once. This from a guy who is supposed to be a tough physical defenseman. This from a guy who knew his job was on the line and who should have known that his competition was outplaying him. He either does not understand what the Canucks wanted out of him, or he was simply unwilling to be that type of player.
At a cap hit of $1.6m the Canucks could no longer afford to be patient. It was time to move on. For O'Brien he gets to go to a place where his nightlife and off-season issues won't be under the microscope. He also joins a young blueline where there is an opportunity for him to play a more prominent role. We'll see if he takes advantage of the opportunity.
Finally it sounds like O'Brien is taking some shots on his way out the door, while Mike Gillis went out of his way to see SOB playing in the NHL this year. "He's an NHL player and we didn't want to see him in the minors... we don't want to be known as an organization that's gonna bury guys in the minors because of the cap situation". Looks like SOB still has some growing up to do.
Ryan Parent and Jonas Andersson
While he still has to clear waivers, the Canucks have acquired a former first round pick who has bounced around a bit and has yet to live up to his potential. If he clears waivers Parent will be reunited in Manitoba with his former junior coach Claude Noel. The Canucks are hoping that they can tap in to Parent's unmet potential.
Andersson is a big (6'3 - 210) 29 year old winger who has played most of his career in europe (only 5 games in the NHL). Last season he played in the KHL recording 20pts in 30 games. This summer he signed with the Predators, the team who originally drafted him. Like Parent he is also being reunited with Claude Noel, who coached him with Milwaukee in the AHL. While he has a one way $675k contract, he is not subject to re-call waivers, so the Canucks have acquired a forward who they can call up at any time should the need arise - something which is of value in today's NHL.
Tambellini out Schaeffer in?
In some news that has been a little overshadowed today, Jeff Tambellini has been placed on waivers. That means the 3rd line left wing spot appears to be Peter Schaeffer's, although he does not yet have a contract - again likely due to salary cap reasons.
Unlike O'Brien, Tambellini has been both mature and classy saying "It's been a great opportunity, hopefully I'll clear waivers and be part of this organization for a very long time" Tambellini had a pretty decent pre-season, but he didn't really fill a particular role for the Canucks.

So that's the news for today, there's sure to be more tomorrow...

Shane O'Brien Traded to Nashville for Ryan Parent

Shane O'Brien has been traded to the Predators for D Ryan Parent and F Jonas Andersson. F Dan Gendur is also heading to NSH.

Parent is currently on waivers and must clear before he is sent to Manitoba.

Jeff Tambellini has also been places on waivers, indicating that Peter Schaefer may have a contract coming his way.

More to come...

Sunday, October 03, 2010

Brendan Morrison Released from Player Tryout Contract

Brendan Morrison's quest to become a Vancouver Canuck appears to be over as the Canucks have released him from his PTO, meaning he is free to negotiate with other teams.

In the end Morrison didn't really fit in with the team's game plan of being bigger and grittier. AKA being hard to play against.

Right now the Flames look like a pretty good destination for BMo...

Canucks Cut 5 Players

In addition to releasing Morrison, the Canucks have also sent five players to the Manitoba Moose

  • F Victor Oreskovich
  • D Yann Sauve
  • F Sergei Shirokov
  • F Bill Sweatt
  • D Lee Sweatt

No surprises in that list. Still another round of cuts due by end of week...

Saturday, October 02, 2010

Canucks to Make Final Cuts This Weekend

The Canucks closed out their pre-season with a win in Anaheim Friday night, now it's time to make decisions. Canucks management is meeting today to decide on what kind of a lineup they want.

Brendan Morrison

The first decision they need to make is whether they think Brendan Morrison has a role on the team and at what price. Once that decision is made, a lot of things fall into place. The biggest thing working against Morrison is the team's desire to be bigger and grittier this season. For that reason, it seems unlikely that they would sign Morrison to be strictly the 4th line centre.

So where does that leave BMo? Can he temporarily slide into the top 6 and replace Alex Burrows for the first month and a half of the season? Maybe - he might fit well on the right wing of Kesler's line - the problem is during the pre-season he was never really utilized with any of the Canucks top 6 players. That appears to indicate that the Canucks would be more likely to use him on the 3rd line, pk and pp. However in that role there are bigger and grittier players available.

Morrison would help the team in many ways, but the fit just doesn't seem quite right. The Canucks might still go with him, but I wouldn't bet on it.

Bottom 6 Forwards

There are a few guys who are locked into their spots on the 3rd and 4th lines. Assuming Raffi Torres is likely to start the year up with the Kesler line, Manny Malholtra and Jannik Hansen will comprise two thirds of the 3rd line, while Tanner Glass has a spot on the 4th line. That leaves 4 spots - 3rd line LW, 4th line C, 4th line RW and the 13th forward.

On left wing there may actually be a spot for Peter Schaefer. The Canucks have taken a long look at Schaefer and he's played pretty well. He can kill penalties, has some skill, can skate and he's very strong on the boards. He could fit in well on a 3rd line checking unit who can play in the offensive zone and pop some goals.

Alternatively the Canucks could go with Jeff Tambellini or the aforementioned Morrison. Tambellini has had a fairly good pre-season. His speed is a great asset, but like Morrison, he isn't the big gritty type. Perhaps the biggest thing working against Tambellini is that he doesn't kill penalties and wasn't even tried in that role during the pre-season(at least in the games I watched).

On the 4th line, things may have gotten a little clearer in the past few games, mainly due to the strong play of Alex Bolduc. Bolduc showed some feistiness and grit and looks like a pretty good 4th line centre option, especially at a cap hit of $500k. A 4th line of Glass - Bolduc - Rypien is looking pretty decent as long as Rypien is ready to go to start the year. Darcy Hordichuk appears on his way out (see below) and Vic Oreschovich appears to have dropped below Guillaume Desbiens on the depth chart. For cap reasons the Canucks may go with only 12 forwards to start the season.

Andrew Alberts VS Shane O'Brien

As I type this, Dan Murphy has tweeted that Shane O'Brien (and Hordichuk) have been placed on waivers.

Andrew Alberts completely outplayed O'Brien and when you look at the salaries it was a fairly easy decision for the Canucks. O'Brien wasn't delivering in the physical department. There were too many instances of the opposition crashing the net with SOB doing basically nothing. It's the pre-season, it's okay to take a penalty defending your goalie. O'Brien simply didn't step up. Meanwhile Alberts played really well, he finally looks comfortable out there. This was an easy decision for the Canucks.

Final Thoughts

It's been an interesting pre-season, with many good battles. It's not too often that so many roster spots are available. We'll find out soon who makes it, but I have a feeling that the Canucks are going to lean towards size and grit on most decisions...