Forget the Maturation Process, the Canucks Need Goals

Travis Green needs a wake-up call. He lost his top center, one of his top wingers, he’s been without his third line center for some time and the rest of the Canucks are struggling to score. Putting in 4th line grinders in place of budding scorers is not a smart way to keep the team competitive. Once again, Henrik Sedin will be asked to shoulder the load on a team that has no clear sign of keeping up. It’s kind of getting heavy.

Save Brock Boeser (seriously, save him), there aren’t many other options to score right now. Loui Eriksson has receded into a winter slumber after going on a mini point streak, Thomas Vanek has 2G in his last 16 games, and the rest of the goals are on IR. Daniel Sedin isn’t the goal threat he once was and Jake Virtanen is only getting opportunities when the lines seem to cross over.

Couldn’t agree more, Blake.

The Canucks have called up Nikolay Goldobin because he is a…scoring…winger. He’s not going to learn much sitting in the press box in favor of Nic Dowd. This is Jayson Megna/Michael Chaput syndrome all over again. Green has made many of us believers with his slightly different style of coaching and it has paid dividends early. He can’t regress now.

He’s hit a rut, a pretty significant rut and the goals aren’t going to magically appear. Even with stellar goaltending, which the Canucks currently are not getting, they can only afford to allow 1-2 goals per game. Not a recipe for winning. Green is quite clearly playing the media he greets every day at practice, pre-game and post-game pressers, so he isn’t about to show his hand.

What many of us would like to know is: are the Canucks a playoff team or a development team? It can’t be both and properly grow; the Oilers may be a good example of this.

Goldobin isn’t the answer by any means for Vancouver but leaving out a goal scorer like they did with Boeser to start the season doesn’t build any trust. This team isn’t matured yet and players need to learn lessons but sometimes the best possible player available needs to play. That may translate to Reid Boucher getting a call-up as well, who knows?

I try to be a good parent. I discipline when necessary and I don’t give in because one of my kids wants a cookie, or both usually.  But you know what, SOMETIMES I give in and give them a freaking cookie or buy them the smoothie at the mall.

You know why?

Because it’s for the greater good of the parents, ME and my WIFE. We get peace and quiet, they behave and there’s no yelling. That’s a parenting win from time to time. Doesn’t mean it’s the right thing to do or that it will happen over and over but in a pinch, it’s a win. They don’t mature any quicker but it buys us time.

Travis Green has a problem that for the immediate future needs addressing. Goldobin is the best player not playing every night. There may even be another trade on the horizon which could involve Alex Burmistrov and maybe more.

For now though, kick the maturing to the curb, coach. This team needs wins in a bad way and if they don’t start building a .500 record at the very least, Bo Horvat and Brandon Sutter returning will be all for not.

Throw em a bone, Travis!

 

Follow me on twitter: @always90four

photo – nhl.com

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Thomas Vanek Is ‘Meh’zmerizing

Thomas Vanek doesn’t exactly scream excitement. He keeps it pretty low-key, his interviews are straight-forward and when he celebrates a goal it’s just above bland. Vanek is pretty “meh”. His play, however, is the opposite of his persona. He is quietly having a great season in Canucks blue and green and his following on social media begs for more of his meh-zmerizing play.

On the surface, Vanek looked like he was brought in to add some scoring depth to the bottom-six and give a veteran presence in the dressing room. What coaching and management knew was that he was a playmaking winger that could bring a lot more than just goals.

That may cost GM Jim Benning next summer when he’s a UFA once again. Vanek is already up to 17 points on the year which puts him on pace to score 51 by season’s end, good enough for exactly his career average as of this post.

“Tommy Gun” as Jason Botchford has referred to him, has proven he’s definitely more of a playmaker than a scorer and on a Canucks team that needs distributors just as much as it needs finishers, he’s been a great fit. Of course, he does score as well.

Vanek will be 34 years old in January and if he’s still producing the way he is, which there are no signs he won’t, the Canucks will either command a hefty price at the deadline or at the very least he’ll ask for a few more million dollars on July 1. With the Canucks potentially losing Henrik and Daniel Sedin after this season to retirement, they’ll have two spots and maybe more to fill and Vanek wouldn’t be a terrible player to bring back.

Obviously, there are a handful of prospects trying to earn their spot on the team next season but a player of Vanek’s ilk has a proven scoring ability that those young players wouldn’t have developed at the pro level yet.

He’s a valuable piece on the power play and I wouldn’t be surprised if the coaches let him run things on the man-advantage from time to time, he’s second on the team with 9 PP points. The accolades don’t stop there as he’s tied for third in team scoring and third in assists. His expected production is right on schedule and there would have been no chance these kinds of numbers would have been possible last year under former coach Willie Desjardins (had to get that dig in).

If TV believes this team is headed in the right direction, the Canucks might get lucky and ink him in the neighborhood of $3-4M for another season or two. Nobody wants to be on a one-year deal and he has more than proven himself to have earned his current contract.

As the season continues, Vanek will hopefully boost more than just the power play and get players like Markus Granlund and Loui Eriksson on the score sheet more often. He’s been involved more often than not with the helpers so it’s not out of the realm of possibility. It’s not the Buffalo Sabres Thomas Vanek that is currently producing for Vancouver but considering he’s producing just under some of his best seasons there, he’s a steal at $2M.

He truly is meh-zmerizing and we wouldn’t have it any other way.

 

Follow me on twitter @always90four

Photo – TSN 1040

Rookie Elite: From Bure To Boeser

The day has come.

There is a Canuck rookie as electrifying as Pavel Bure once was. This both saddens and excites me as Pavel Bure is the reason I became a Canucks fan and felt no player could ever hold a candle to his ability on the ice in a Canucks uniform. As Brock Boeser has emerged he has brought with him hope and the beginning of what could be an amazing era in Canucks history.

It doesn’t take long to see why Boeser has become the heir-apparent as the best player on the team, he does everything so well. His shot is lethal. It’s broken ankles, goalies, and even his own coach’s predictions of how good this young star could be.

The hype surrounding Brock before he even played his first game was quite similar to Pavel’s debut. Everyone knew what to expect, the pins and needles mounted as the day came near and when North Dakota was eliminated from the NCAA playoffs we all knew it was time. It’s tough to say if anyone believed he’d be playing for the Canucks the very next day but hey, that’s sports!

BB scored in his first game against his hometown Minnesota Wild, honestly what could be better than that? Pavel never scored in his first game but he rivaled Brock with the excitement of what was about to come.

The hype begins:

The OG hype machine:

That same tingly feeling is there when Bure took to the ice and now as Boeser steps over the boards for a shift. Something magical feels like it’s about to happen and every time the puck is on his stick you think you’re about to see the biggest goal of his career… it’s been almost predictable.

Bure never scored until his 4th game when he potted two against the LA Kings and didn’t really pile on the goals until later in the season. His play spoke for itself though, and his first game was almost a microcosm of what we were going to see throughout his career. Everything Pavel did was magic and it didn’t take long before he was the talk of the league.

Brock Boeser is reaching that status. He isn’t as fast as Bure was and doesn’t have the same hands as him but Boeser has a release that is otherworldly. The way he is able to bend his shots may be his eventual calling card. Boeser definitely has more of a Markus Naslund type shot but with the velocity of an Alex Ovechkin blast.

Media and fans alike are building a case for Boeser’s Calder consideration after he took the NHL by storm this week after scoring 6 goals in his last 5 games with 2 of those coming on the power play. He’s heavily involved as the final shot in the Canucks set pieces and the offense is quickly funneling down to him.

Don’t forget, he’s 20 years old.

This shot is attached to a 20-year-old, OUR 20-year-old.

Harbouring a star of Boeser’s caliber has been tough to accept as a Canucks fan because we’ve been burned so many times with almost and never was. Pavel Bure had it all and got the team so close to its first Cup, Markus Naslund and Todd Bertuzzi could never get over the hump of the second round and eventually fizzled out. The Sedins, Ryan Kesler, and Roberto Luongo just couldn’t figure it out and had front row seats in Game 7 against the Bruins as Boston cheered its first Cup in decades.

Bo Horvat had his doubters as well so you can see why it’s tough. Brock is a special talent that on the Canucks, is not matched. He will continue to get the media coverage that comes with being an overnight star and from the looks of it, it’s about as exciting to him as clipping toenails.

Getting jacked on a Calder candidate in November is dangerous but considering Boeser has played three fewer games than his teammates (two of them were healthy scratches to start the year) as well as being on pace to play more games than Pavel Bure did in his rookie campaign, it’s entirely possible.

He currently leads the Canucks in goals and points and as the stats mount up for Brock, the records will start to fall in the Canucks annuls. There hasn’t been a player like him in a long time and it feels good to be envied again after seeing players like Connor McDavid and Auston Matthews fall to teams because they won* a lottery. Boeser was scouted and Jim Benning delivered in spades.

One can only imagine what Elias Pettersson and Jonathan Dahlen will do once they arrive.

 

Follow me on twitter: @always90four

Photo – Dobber Hockey

Canucks Power Play: Insert Coin To Continue

Oh great, another Canucks power play article, super!

Things have unraveled so quickly on the man-advantage that coach Travis Green has regressed to running three units with the Sedins still being trotted out on the regular. The obvious answer early on was to get Brock Boeser the puck in a shooting position. Green has committed to putting Bo Horvat, Boeser and Sven Baertschi on his top line but it doesn’t carry over to the power play.

Like a classic game of NHL Open ice, the Canucks are going to need to put a few more tokens in the machine to continue this game.

 

Obviously, the Canucks don’t have snipers like Pavel Bure and Alex Mogilny but at least back then the coaches knew what do with them. Across the league, the top teams on the PP have dedicated gunners from “the spot” as Jeff Paterson labeled it a week or so ago. The Canucks have seen a few of these teams set up the guy on the spot, namely the Dallas Stars and Tyler Seguin.

The top powerplay producers in the league have players put in a position to score. Dallas, Tampa, New York, Pittsburgh, and Winnipeg are all in the top-five for power play percentages. Their stars Steven Stamkos, Alex Ovechkin, Patrik Laine, and the aforementioned Seguin all have schemes set up to get them the puck. How Green hasn’t figured out he already has a guy, actually a few if you include Thomas Vanek and probably Bo Horvat as well.

It’s not for a lack of opportunity either; the Canucks are three chances back of Chicago for most powerplay opportunities in the league, a dramatic improvement from a year ago where they had 25 fewer chances at this same point in the season. What seems to be hampering their chances is their inability to keep the puck in the offensive zone for longer than the initial zone entry and even then half the time it looks like a dump and chase.

Back in the day, the Sedins would cross the blue line, make their quick drop pass to the other twin and begin their cycle until the puck found its way to the back of the net. When the West Coast Express was rolling over opponents, Brendan Morrison would setup Markus Naslund at the face-off dot and pull the trigger which either went in the net directly or Todd Bertuzzi would clean up the garbage.

This new Canucks team has a few weapons that have proven to be deadly when configured properly. At the beginning of the season, it was all about quick passes and keeping the puck moving. When defenders get enough time to set up their blocks they have a better chance of… well, blocking the shot or worse, clearing it down the ice.

What the Canucks need to do is have a triangle offense where Boeser and Vanek are the face-off dot shooters, a middleman, say Horvat and a guy who can hold the line on defense which would probably be Alex Edler? Have as much potential firepower as possible on that first unit and build a complementary transition group that can maintain that speed.

Unless Green catches lightning in a bottle with Loui Eriksson or Sam Gagner, they should be nowhere near that powerplay. Gagner is too predictable, much like the Sedins are now, so having a possession-based second unit with Brandon Sutter, Michael Del Zotto and Ben Hutton as the set pieces at least until Troy Stecher returns. Markus Granlund could probably be used in there as well as Sven Baertschi and use the Sedins as a last ditch effort if things aren’t going well at all.

Seeing the Canucks’ powerplay opportunities grow is all the more reason to input the young players instead of watching a two-minute snoozer with the old guard.

Video games have a pause and a reset button, arcades make you put in more coins when you’re losing; the Canucks need to pause and reset their approach if they want to have any kind of success when they draw a penalty.

Sadly, there are no cheat codes in real life.

Follow me on twitter: @always90four

The CAPITALization of the Canucks Rebuild

The affirmation that the worst is over for the Canucks culminated in a 60-minute display against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Saturday night. All the talk about a rebuild, whether it be capital ‘R’ or lowercase ‘r’ may have just come to rest after the final buzzer at Rogers Arena. This “rebuild” or “restructure” or whatever the heck you want to call it took a monster leap forward when 2015 first round pick Brock Boeser had the game of his life versus the Penguins and assured management, fans, and the media that the Canucks might indeed be ready to rise again.

Canucks management never wanted to admit their team had hit rock bottom and needed to be rebuilt from the ground up. They made numerous decisions to try and mask the obvious problem that was in front of them. They threw money at the wrong players, offered lengthy contracts to aging veterans and drafted project players when NHL-ready talent was available.

The official rebuild wasn’t even a thing until just under a year ago. Even with Bo Horvat climbing the ranks to become the team’s eventual top center and Captain, there were other issues the Canucks weren’t addressing.

One of them was former coach Willie Desjardins.

It was pretty evident Willie had checked in the final year of his deal but if he was anticipating signing on somewhere else would he have not wanted to show he can lead a team forward? Desjardins went away from structure, line-matching, and youth when he let the Canucks unravel. Willie continued to use the Sedins as top line players when it was clear they were getting beat on the ice night in and night out.

The power play failed because the coach failed to see what options he actually had. Running an aging Ryan Miller into the ground when fresh, young, talent like Jacob Markstrom was waiting to be tested was just another example of how this team needed to address change immediately.

And it finally did.

Desjardins was let go, Travis Green was brought on and one of the most important parts of the rebuild had been fixed: a coach that knew how to deploy an effective lineup.

The next three things will define this team going forward:

Brock Boeser – He leads the Canucks with 13 points, he’s tied for 41st in league scoring, needing only 3 points to be tied for 11th overall in the league. To add to his impressive rookie campaign, he’s done all this playing two fewer games than his teammates after sitting out the season opener and the next game in the press box. The accolades seem endless having the 9th highest P/GM rank in the league with 1.30, and 2 GWG which has him in a tie for 8th overall.

That’s not taking into account his rookie status compared to his peers vying for the Calder. Boeser is in the top 3 in most of the rookie categories and November just started.

Brock has given the Canucks a weapon they have not possessed in many years: a true sniper. If you asked Markus Naslund who had a deadlier shot between the two of them, he might have a tough time picking himself. Boeser’s shot is accurate, it’s fast, and boy is it heavy! He’s felled a few players this season with just a wrister, something Sami Salo needed a full slap shot to achieve.

In the latest Provies written by Jason Botchford of The Province, we found out just how complex Boeser’s game really is in relation to pushing and pulling shots through traffic and using his linemates to the best of his ability. He’s a star and it’s not even close. Combine that with Bo Horvat and Sven Baertschi making up the NEW Canucks top line and this team looks like it’s in good hands.

The second thing that will define this team is the commitment to having the right players on the ice in all situations. Willie Desjardins subscribed to essentially rolling four lines and it didn’t work out well for him. Coach Green has seen that matching Brandon Sutter and Derek Dorsett, two players many thought shouldn’t even be on this team, against opposing team’s top lines has proved effective.

Green has preached a team defense for this year’s Canucks and the proof is in the pudding… err stats. Vancouver currently is tied with San Jose for allowing the least amount of goals in the league with 30. A year ago, somehow Vancouver allowed 27 but they only scored 16 compared to this season’s 35.

Defensive scoring is still a problem but that could get ironed out if the forwards allow the defense to take more chances without paying for it in their own net.

The power play has seen a revamp and still, isn’t perfect but having Brock at the shooter position will get results sooner than later. Last season, there was no visible evidence the team could produce a power play that kept opponents honest. This year, despite the 5th worst PP% in the NHL, the results are starting to build. Again, Boeser is a key cog in this machine and the better he does, so will his team.

Making sure players like Michael Chaput and Jayson Megna aren’t the first callups is a good way to ensure this team progresses.

Finally, the Canucks’ stable of young prospects and early year players will define where this team goes. Rushing Jake Virtanen and Jared McCann into the lineup early on proved to be a bad idea and because of that, McCann was sent packing. Virtanen was given a year to figure out his game and grow in the AHL and he has impressed many so far.

This wasn’t a play he would have been confident making a year ago. Jake has progressed and can be groomed to become an effective power forward. Prospect Kole Lind of the Kelowna Rockets is having a season to remember in junior. Lind is averaging 1.64 points per game this year and is getting it done in all situations. He’ll be a name to watch next season and might just get a chance to make it to the big club.

2017 first rounder Elias Pettersson is doing his own damage in the SHL across the Atlantic. With 17 points through 15 games, he too will have a legit shot at making the Canucks next year and many believe he could be the best player from his draft class, bold statement. Ryan Biech from Canucks Army posted this tweet based on Jeremy Davis’ pGPS map and looking at the players being compared, his career might be bright.

I could go on about Thatcher Demko, Jonathan Dahlin, and even Nikolay Goldobin and I know I’m leaving out a few, but there are players that are going to replace the Sam Gagner/Loui Eriksson/Brandon Sutter group. The Sedins might just be on the way out at the end of the year and Green can truly put his stamp on what this team will achieve.

The rebuild, as far as I’m concerned, is complete. The pieces are in the system so the true definition of what the Canucks are is up for interpretation. Breaking apart the entire organization get to this point was definitely close but some of the unforeseen success has fast-tracked the Canucks to become competitive again.

Apparently, compete IS in their nature.

Follow me @always90four

 

Photo – Nucks Misconduct

 

Alex Biega Is Early Favorite For Best Alex On Canucks

He hits, he shoots, and his sticks don’t break. Alex Biega has already shown he is an important piece to the Canucks gameplan right now. Injuries to both Alex Edler and Troy Stecher have created an opening for Biega, one that he has earned. His intensity is contagious and after an otherwise boring game against the Devils on Wednesday night, Biega kept challenging for the tying goal. Looking at the season thus far, it’s safe to say Alex Biega is the best Alex on the team right now. Of course, just saying that doesn’t automatically hand him the title.

Even though Biega has only played in five games this season, he’s already 4th on the Canucks in hits with 14, one ahead of Jake Virtanen who has played 11 games. It’s a bit of a reach as well with such a small sample size but his CF% at fives is 64.15, good for tops on the team. Biega has coach Green’s attention and to a greater degree, the fan’s as well.

‘Bulldog’ as he’s known to teammates and fans is a workhorse. He’s not a top four pairing guy but he’s versatile enough to be one when he’s asked. He seems to know when to pinch in the offensive zone and he’s creating chances.

Whatever is happening is making people take notice of the Bulldog and if he continues his pressing pace, it might be tough to pull him out of the lineup when the injuries are all healed.

How does Biega stack up against his competition? Let’s take a look:

Alex Burmistrov – He had a good game with Brock Boeser awhile back but has gone back into oblivion. Nothing really stands out in Burmy’s game in a good way, same can be said for the bad stuff. He has 10 shots on the season which is essentially last on the Canucks. Edler has four shots and is still averaging more per game. Not the best Alex, not by a mile.

Alex Edler – The Eagle is noticeable when he’s gone but he hasn’t exactly been a threat when he’s in the lineup. His sticks break more than those flat toothpicks you get a restaurant you know is about to go out of business. The hits aren’t there and neither are the goals. With Alex Burrows gone, Edler isn’t even the best Alex.

Alex Mogilny – If he was available for even one shift, he’d be the best Alex. He’s retired so this is not possible. Still, could be in the running.

Alex Biega – This guy doesn’t quit. He’s the defensive version of Jannik Hansen minus the breakaways failed breakaways “best practice player” moniker. If the Devils game was any indication, Biega will be involved in the Canucks offense a lot more than the rest of the defense seems to be. Everyone has said if the Canucks put in the effort and make it exciting but still lose, it’s ok. Alex is doing all of those things and it’s safe to say Canucks nation is alright with this.

Winner by default, basically, is Alex Biega.

 

But seriously, how great would Mogilny be?

 

Photo – Hockeysfuture

Travis Green And The Flow Five

It’s been almost two months since we first saw Travis Green on the ice as a coach for the Vancouver Canucks.  Over the past month, his style of coaching has seemed to put the Canucks in a position to succeed. Maybe it’s the systems that are being followed, line combinations that are working better than what former coach Willie Desjardins put together or is it possible it’s something else entirely?

What if Brock Boeser wasn’t the reason, Jake Virtanen or even early season MVP Derek Dorsett? What if this ran deeper? What if it was Travis Green’s luxurious locks, the flow as it’s been called. No, not Brock Boeser’s flow.

Green has had some pretty amazing hairstyles from his playing days in the NHL up to today as a head coach. There is no proof his luscious, long lengths are the actual reason for the team’s early success but it’s pretty tough to prove otherwise.

I bring you… the Flow Five.

 

1 – The Cullet

The Cullet is half coach, half mullet. Simple name at its roots (no pun intended). The Cullet is arguably the most important of all five flows. This is the driving force behind the Canucks recent success. It’s put Jake Virtanen on the Sedin line, it’s had the confidence to give Derek Dorsett big minutes as a shutdown winger against a handful of the NHL’s elite and it has no time challenging offsides on disallowed goals.

No one would dare grow the Cullet on the Canucks because A) it looks awful, B) you never want to look like your coach and C) he’s willing to put the Sedins on a bus to Utica for any audible comments about his hairstyle. For the foreseeable future, this style will rule Vancouver. Maybe Jason Botchford can slip in a question about it one day.

2 – The Toyota Corolla

The Corolla is the everyman’s flow. The Corolla is one of Toyota’s award-winning vehicles that holds its value and any father would love to pick their kids up with. It’s sporty, it’s functional and as the picture states, the labeled flow is no different. It can be styled with a simple dollop of Dippity-Do or air-dried after taking a shower to wash off a successful practice. The Corolla has depth and like any cool dad, this style won’t embarrass his kids. As you can see, Green has a full body head of hair and he has it kept in check. The man knows what he’s doing and it shows.

This look breathes confidence and his players can tell. Bo Horvat gets taken off the power play? Crazy right? Nope. Green struts that Corolla flow and they know he has a plan. How could they not? Bench Virtanen for multiple 3rd periods, c’mon give the kid a chance. Green knew. The Corolla is what the Vancouver sports landscape has waited for and it comes standard or automatic. No joking around here.

3 – The Poker Face

It’s no secret Travis Green was pretty good at the poker tables. He made more money at the table than I’ve made in the last six years in a normal job.  The Poker Face is just that, you don’t know what’s coming. There are some similar parallels from the Poker Face to the Corolla but they indeed are different. Going back to some of his bold decisions in distributing ice time to unlikely players keeps his team guessing a bit. Is he going to bench me? Am I getting the start tonight? Why is Sam Gagner still on the power play?

Green doesn’t have a tell with this style and it keeps the ball in his court. One could assume Jim Benning has been trying to grow the Poker Face look but he’s failed multiple times. Regardless, we’re still left guessing a lot of the time. That flow is a bit all over the place but for hockey hair, that look is almost a right of passage. When you have that look it’s all bar down clappers, cellys, and wheelhouse snipes. The Poker Face is basically the “Welcome to the NHL hairstyle.”

4 – The Are You Kidding Me Botch/JPat?

Following the The Patcast (yes THE THE) and the Provies is a must as a Canucks fan. There are laughs, valuable tidbits of information, and hooks that will keep you in stitches or craving more of what’s going on inside the Canucks dressing room. If you’ve been following along this season, Jason Botchford and Jeff Paterson have been a dynamic duo in the pre and post-game scrums and have taken a likening to the Canucks new coach.

Tough to say if Travis Green feels the same way. He giggles a lot when they prep their questions and he already knows at least one or two questions will be regarding young stars Brock Boeser and Jake Virtanen. Not really anything out of the ordinary but he knows they’re coming. The AYKMBJP flow is deceiving because it looks like it’s all business but it does have a little release like an ill-fitting Brian Burke tie.

If you see Greener rocking that flow, odds are the morning skate had some questions that Green just wanted to shrug off because well, they’ll get answered in the game. You can just see him saying in his head “Are you kidding me guys?” This is the flow of a man who takes his job seriously.

5 – The Bar Down Bro

Finally, it all goes back to the beginning. The Bar Down Bro is an original flow from Green when life was a little looser. This look was all about scoring goals and rolling down the (where do people drive in Spokane or Long Island?)  If this look resurfaced on the Canucks bench then the season would most likely be a write-off.

The BDB is careless and fancy-free, it can’t be contained. Green wouldn’t be taken seriously anymore, it’s likely the Canucks would have Brandon Sutter headlining a power play or something crazy like that. This look must never surface in his tenure in Vancouver. He’s better than that now so there shouldn’t be anything to worry about.

IF and it’s a big if, the BDB resurfaces, Green will have a stable of Boeser, Nikolay Goldobin, and a weathered Virtanen rocking it with him and then watch out, the NHL will be on alert.

So there you have it, the Flow Five described. What flow look will we see to end this season, wait and see?

 

cover photo credit – TSN.ca

Jarkko Polo – The Boes-t A Fan Can Get

Going into this week things looked pretty rosy: Connor McDavid was held without a point and the Canucks, on the surface, looked like they could be a fun team to watch. Fast forward a week later and the injury-laden club will be lucky to relevant by Christmas. OK, that might be a tad harsh but it took three games to see rookie phenom Brock Boeser in the lineup. This is a team that everyone knew would struggle to get points and the young talent has been held in the barn.

Regardless, they still played the games and we know a lot more about new coach Travis Green, his thought process, and injuries.

Let’s recap the week that was:

 

The Good

Brock Boeser debuted and notched a goal and an assist in two games played. Chris Tanev is the unlikely co-leader in the clubhouse with two goals (Bo Horvat also has the same total). The Canucks will rely heavily upon Tanev now that Alex Edler is out 4-6 weeks with an MCL sprain. Going back to Boeser, he just fits and if Green chooses to keep him out of the lineup on any given night in the near future he’ll have some explaining to do.

Boeser couldn’t quite deliver on the power play after getting multiple opportunities to trigger a shot but it’s clear he has a gift and eventually that gift will reap many, many benefits for the Canucks.

Other than that, it wasn’t a very good week in Vancouver.

 

The Bad

Jacob Markstrom started this season on a high note and looked to be one of the few reliable pieces on the Canucks roster. Things have changed slightly since that first night. There have been some goals he probably wants back, some decisions he could have done without and probably a defensive unit that can keep the puck away from him. Anders Nilsson better be getting a start soon while they’re on the road because this could be a long season of shaking our collective heads.

The Sedins ice time has dwindled down to their early years in the league and it probably won’t get any better. It looked like they were going to be asked to be role players but even then it would be assumed they’d be getting third line minutes at the bare minimum. Nope, not happening this year. If this team is to survive and the Sedins are going to be getting zero ice time, put ALL the kids in, even Nikolay Goldobin.

 

The Ugly

The powerplay is a good place to start. At 8.7% the Canucks are already 25th in the league with the man advantage. The stat that hurts, even more, is that they’ve had the MOST power play opportunities at home. Zone entries have been alright but even with the new setup, Sam Gagner seems to be getting all the looks like the new kid in high school that transferred from across town, ugh man did I hate Kevin. Gagner isn’t exactly the best choice for “power play goals and such”.

Although, it doesn’t really matter who is on the PP as no one is even getting shots. Stop me if you’ve heard this before.

Oh, right; Alex Edler is out so the defense is basically doomed and Loui Eriksson will probably be out indefinitely after mangling his ankle crashing into the net against Calgary. That part isn’t as ugly for the team, more for Loui, himself.

 

With all the injuries Travis Green will be forced to play some of the younger guys and it might just attract a few more people to the games because, well, attendance is kinda low.

 

Maybe this road trip will give us some hope.

A94 Brings Back Jarkko Polo

Probably one of my favourite ideas was creating a post on the week that was for the Canucks. You can get a recap anywhere but I’ll try and keep it fun, somewhat short and memorable. If you remember Jarkko Polo it was a short review of each game played that week; the thing is I hate going into crazy detail so the new look should hopefully just cover what matters. Feedback is welcome and so are donations.

Like any kind: iTunes, Subway, Home Depot… literally anything.

OK, let’s rock and roll

 

There wasn’t much to talk about this week because the Canucks only played one game. But what a game it was! Leading up to the season opener none of us had any clue as to what the first lineup would look like but we were all 100% sure it included rookie Brock Boeser. If you saw the game last night, you’ll know that it didn’t.

It did include a renewed Jake Virtanen and a healthy Derek Dorsett. Dorsett wasn’t exactly a sexy pick to be in the lineup but many of us judged him on what he displayed on the ice while playing with a slew of injuries. He’s healthy now and after a stellar performance against the Oilers and completely shutting down Connor McDavid, he’ll be a fixture on the team in 2017/18.

The outrage on the Twitter about Boeser not playing was the equivalent of Ari Gold not being allowed to take a call during marriage counseling.

So Boeser didn’t play but you know who did, you know who absolutely did: Bo FREAKIN Horvat!

Bo finished last season with a handful of assists but one goal in his last 18. On Saturday night he potted two markers and he looked phenomenal.

One game does not a season make but a handful of those types of games from Bo is more than welcome. With one player stepping up it was two players that were kept sitting a bit longer than they were used to.

Henrik and Daniel Sedin were essentially 4th liners in the opener and even though it’s one game, new head coach Travis Green might just want this team to step into the future and slowly fade out the past.

The Sedins have delivered year in and year out and even last night for the time they were on the ice they looked pretty good. A reduced role means the younger players get to step up and in maybe the most sneaky way, we all will see the transition of the Sedins to a secondary or even tertiary role.

Troy Stecher had a big game and was so feisty he picked a fight that raised an eyebrow or two in the arena and at home. He held his own and took another step to solidifying himself as one of the Canucks top defenders.

To top everything off, Jacob Markstrom had a great night as well. Keeping Connor McDavid off the board and making some crucial stops on the PK and late in the game, Marky was dialed in for almost the entire night.

All in all, a great first week (game) but it doesn’t feel like the Canucks WANT to lose. We all begged for proper line deployment and so far we got it. We asked for younger players and so far, aside from BB, we got it. We asked for meat draw… OK, no one asked for that but the fans got one.

The feeling is good right now and had the Canucks even lost that one in OT, the feeling probably would have felt the same. This Canucks team is fun.

 

So far.

The Case For Jordan Subban As A Loss Leader

Everyone is a salesperson. From the guy on late night TV telling you why need a weight that you can shake vigorously to help you drop the pounds to the nice woman at the jewelry store that can smell your vulnerability as soon you ask why the 4-C’s are important. Agents try to sell the GM’s why their player is worth more money and ownership tries to sell the fans why rebuilding with a lowercase r is OK.

When it comes to Canucks defensive prospect Jordan Subban, selling a reason why he should be on the big club has proved to be quite difficult. It’s not that he can’t score goals or that he isn’t fast enough; he’s a star in those categories. In fact, last season in the AHL, Subban was 3rd amongst all defensemen with 16 goals. He was tied for 7th in primary points (goals and first assists) by defenders with 30 and 17th in overall points by a defenseman with 36.

No one will argue that Subban can’t produce. However, the knock on PK’s younger brother is that defensively, he stinks. The 2017 preseason has been fairly evident of this as he’s been the visible one getting burned for a handful of goals. The blame isn’t always pegged on the last guy but his defensive efforts aren’t exactly NHL caliber.

You know who else was atrociously awful as a defenseman? If you guessed Luca Sbisa then you would win a prize. There are no prizes to give out but if there were, you’d have one today. Somehow, Sbisa was trotted out on a nightly basis when there were plenty of other players clearly more deserving than him to be in the lineup.

As the saying goes, let’s look at the stats:

Luca Sbisa (VAN) 2016/17 – Goals: 2 Assists: 11 GF: 46, GA: 72   TOI/60: 18:58 (7th on team)

Jordan Subban (UTI) 2016/17 – Goals: 16 Assists: 20 GFoI: 42 GAoI:  45  (AHL doesn’t track TOI, but looking at the stats, he would have been playing big minutes).

OK, so based on some similar metrics, Subban was on the ice for a lot more action on either side of the ice than Sbisa. Knowing that, would it not be more beneficial to go with the loss leader in this case? A loss leader in sales is something sold at a loss to attract customers. It has been done in the housing market to get the ball rolling on a development and for the Canucks, having an exciting player on the ice, regardless of the final score, gets people back in the rink.

Even though Sbisa is gone, players like Erik Gudbranson and Thomas Vanek are still on the team. At some point, an injury will rear its head and someone will need to be called up. If having Jordan Subban on the ice means goals are going both ways, the surrounding players and goalie should be able to weather the storm. How bad could Subban really be?

For what it’s worth, Gudbranson had a GF 16 and GA of 38. Subban doesn’t look so bad now, does he?

There isn’t necessarily a spot for Jordan right now but looking back at last season, the Canucks would have most likely benefited more from having Subban on the team. If there is going to be red lights lit at both ends of the ice, why not put in a guy that can actually contribute to them instead of being both an offensive AND defensive hinderance? What about another route, though?

It has been suggested by various people that he switch positions to accommodate to his talents, to say, the wing. It’s unlikely he cracks the Canucks lineup anytime soon due to a logjam of “talent” ahead of him. Smaller forwards have risen to the spotlight in the NHL in the last few seasons so it would be a great time to experiment with Subban up front.

Of course, with two preseason games left to play, it’s a little late for that.

When the time does come to call a forward up, Subban would be an interesting choice. Heck, Andrey Pedan played up front! Goals may come at a premium this season and Jordan has a decent release. Worth a try. It’s worth a try for many of the young stars trying to make the Canucks. If the goals are coming, the losing doesn’t hurt as much.

Comparing Sbisa to Subban is kind of a moot point as Sbisa has moved on to play for Vegas and any stats above were from last year. However, there are still a handful of players that need to be kept honest because there are guys that can rock the boat and get the fire into the lineup. Taking a hit by allowing more opportunities to score goals is well worth the chance to score more.

Limit his ice time as a bottom pairing defenceman and anchor him with a responsible partner OR put him on the wing. Jordan Subban deserves his shot.

The Canucks won’t challenge for a playoff spot this season but having increased goal production combined with excitement (hey, what’s that?) will get the needle moving in the right direction.

photo – Today’s Slapshot