8 Stats The 2011 Canucks Playoff Run Showed Us

The horse for all intents and purposes is dead. We’ve all beat it senseless and yet there always seems to be one or two people who never had a chance to join in. A morbid intro to remembering the 2011 Canucks playoff run? Safe to say that’s a yes. There have been a few reminders lately about how good that 2011 team was and unfortunately how great that Tim Thomas character was as well.

Not one to be left out, I scoured the WWW. to find a handful of stats that either no one bothered to dig up, care about or had deemed beyond useless. If you know me by now, you have a good idea where this could be headed. I will state one thing:

The Canucks still lose the Cup Final so don’t come looking for anything different. This isn’t actually one of the stats.

Raffi Torres Was a Sniper… of sorts

He played in all but two games in the playoffs (suspension or something) and had an astounding 15% SH%. Amazing right? It’s not actually and he only had 20 registered shots on net but he scored on three of them and whoa nelly! were they memorable. He led all Canucks that postseason and everyone remembers they weren’t exactly high scoring affairs. To recap, a 15% shooting percentage led the Canucks. Maybe the rebuild should have started in say, October 2011.

Alex Edler Had Bruised Skin

Edler was a crucial part of the run and his defensive awareness wasn’t overlooked, no sir/mam. Edler blocked 60 shots and the next closest was Dan Hamhuis, with 38, who got injured after Game 1 of the SCF. I can’t imagine that was fun to do and when everyone gets bent out of shape and wants Edler to waive his NTC, based on this statistic, he probably was willing to give his life on the ice for the Canucks. Maybe slow your roll, people.

The Canucks Won Game 5 Anyway

They did.

Tim Thomas Was Frustratingly Good

Something you probably didn’t want to hear again because he won the Cup. Thomas had a crazy good save percentage sporting a .940 and a 1.98 GAA. Power plays, 5v5, it didn’t seem to matter. Tim Thomas was freaking otherworldly. It still hurts so I’ll move on.

Roberto Luongo Wasn’t A Baseball Fan

As you can see in the diagram below, Bobby Lu was pretty susceptible to goals in the dirty/home plate zone. That’s where most playoff goals seem to come from but imagine even a handful of those are just shots… we’d be talking about how Dan Hamhuis sacrificed himself for the greater good. Still too soon?

courtesy of corsica.hockey

Canucks Plus/Minus Sucked, It Sucked Bad

Jannik Hansen, Kevin Bieksa, and Dan Hamhuis were the only three Canucks in the Top 50 for plus/minus in the playoffs. Hansen with 7, Bieksa 6, and Hamhuis 5; 13 of the top 16 were Bruins, just saying. Digging deeper shows the grinders were the only guys staying above the line with a few exceptions. I suppose the top players are just as likely to be scored on as they are to score.

Powerplays Didn’t Have To Be The Story

It all fell apart at the end and Boston took it to Vancouver pretty hard. The talk of the powerplay being non-existent was true but it’s not like the Bruins were scoring a ton with the man-advantage either. Daniel and Kesler led the playoffs with 5 and 4 goals respectively and Mark Recchi was the first Bruin to have his name on the list with 2. There were plenty of opportunities, but as the series wore down the Canucks it didn’t really matter who had the chances.

The Stanchion Goal Was Coming

Kevin Bieksa may only be remembered for two things league-wide when he retires: Bieksa-face and the stanchion goal against the Sharks in the WCF. Everyone was amazed as it played out and I think there is some guy on twitter that legally changed his name to it after said goal (just kidding). Anyway, if you look at the data below, it was only a matter of time before Juice hit his shot. Yes, he’s a defenseman and that’s where most of his shots come from but let me have this, it’s the last stat.

courtesy of corsica.hockey

photo – vancitybuzz.com

What’s On The Infamous Canucks Team iPad?

If you’ve bothered to stay informed with the Canucks through the last quarter of the season you no doubt have heard about the Canucks iPad. It has old Youtube videos, line combination ideas, and plays that never got further than crossing their own blue line. Many listeners of the Pat Cast with Jeff Paterson and Jason Botchford as well as readers of Botchford’s Province articles have heard of the “Chris Pronger videos” the coaches showed Nikita Tryamkin to encourage him to play more aggressive.

It obviously didn’t work and Tryamkin bolted back to the KHL. But what else was on this infamous iPad that caused the Canucks coaches to consistently shake their heads in disappointment as the team plummetted down the standings? Well, you’re in luck!

I was able to pull some strings and get the password to look around in there. It wasn’t that hard to crack though, “Password1234” was my 3rd guess and Huzzah! it worked. So needless to say, I wanted to share what I found. I do have to warn everyone, there is some shockingly terrifying stuff on here that really makes me wonder the direction this team is really headed.

The Pronger Vids

You have to be impressed that the Canucks think so highly of Chris Pronger that they made an app of all his hits and highlights. With the need to find aggression in the lineup and especially through the departed Tryamkin, they probably went too far when they showed him stomping on Ryan Kesler’s leg. It’s conceivable BFG was willing to hit harder and get a bit more aggressive but forcing his skate on someone to cut their leg off was the deal breaker.

First page looks pretty normal otherwise, looks like the Canucks have their own Slack account. Smart to have a working message board there. I did notice that they modified the NOTES app to be exclusively about Jayson Megna. Kind of disturbing if you ask me, but when he was out on the ice in every situation, I suppose having quick access to who plays well with Megna is a good idea?

Special Teams, Deals, and BOE

The biggest shocker for me was seeing that they subscribe to Jyrki21’s “Benning On Empty”. This comic strip is so much bigger than I gave it credit for. Don’t get me wrong, it’s hilarious every single week and he really crushes the takes from a unique angle but the fact the Canucks follow him and made an effort to be a tap away from reading, that’s awesome!

A power play app makes sense to have. When they’re in the heat of the action, looking at some quick ideas or successful setups could make the difference between losing and advancing in the playoffs. OK, not THIS team quite yet, but you get the idea. As the Canucks struggles on the man-advantage increase ten-fold this past season, the power play app seems like a welcome addition to the team. It couldn’t make them any worse, that’s for sure!

There was one app I was kind of questioning for awhile and that is the Groupon app. The one I know has deals on food, shopping, hotels, and some questionable items that you probably shouldn’t be looking to get a deal on. What I found was that the NHL has a player transaction app kind of like the EA Sports games where you can sign, trade and scour the market for additions under the Groupon app logo so no one is the wiser.

It wasn’t hidden that well as I only had to swipe right a few times. I’m glad there wasn’t a Tinder app on here, I really don’t know how I would have handled that.

Back To Square One

Makes sense, finishing the season with a PP of 14.1% would be worth deleting that app. It was suggested on Twitter, in the papers and on the airwaves so it makes perfect sense that the Canucks gave up on the man-advantage as well.

So there you have it, the Canucks iPad in a nutshell. Not too glamourous but it should help set some things straight on how this team operates on a day-to-day basis and what goes on during the game.

Imagine what their Apple Watch would look like?

Save that for another day.

Follow me on the twitter: @always90four

Canucks Rebuild Wouldn’t Have Made Sense With 1st Overall Pick

Let’s get serious for a second, the Canucks have never been lucky enough to get all the attention. Well, there was that one time with the riot and then the other riot and the Bertuzzi thing and the bitin… nevermind. What I meant to say was the Canucks have never been the center of attention when it came to building a successful franchise. They’ve never been quite that bad to pick first overall (in the pre-lottery days) and clearly, they’ve never been good enough to win it all and have a model named after them.

This rebuild that everyone talks about wouldn’t have made any sense if the Canucks somehow were awarded the first overall pick. That isn’t the Canuck way. It’s done through struggling special teams, it’s done through multiple failed large contracts and it’s done through the foolish spending of draft picks.

It’s done through Derek Roy, Eric Weinrich, Keith Carney, Jack Skille, Mats Sundin and even Sami Pahlsson. When the draft lottery came and went last weekend the Canucks were in the same position they’ve always been so when everyone bought into the possibility of getting the first or second pick, it was a pipe dream to even think that in the first place.

Picking 5th was almost as predictable as hiring Travis Green or the former Willie Desjardins. It was as predictable as losing out on Milan Lucic and signing Loui Eriksson and seeing Jayson Megna with the Sedins (thankfully that’s over).

Sure, things have been dwindling for a few years now and it’s tough to say if the bottom has actually dropped out but the rebuild is happening and getting the shiny new toy just wouldn’t have fit in with this franchise’s history.

It still amazes me that Roberto Luongo was ever a Canuck. I remember the rumours and thought “this couldn’t actually happen, could it?” It seemed too good to be true. It ended the same way pretty much if you stop to think. The saying goes “this is why we can’t have nice things.”

As Trevor Linden officially declared the R-word, Canucks nation can finally accept what will be happening. We all knew what was happening but just by saying it, decisions that point towards the future are more acceptable. The Canucks have always done it a bit differently and that’s OK. For whatever reason, it’s worked out pretty well.

There isn’t a Stanley Cup to speak of and the cupboards have never been overflowing with talent but somehow, some way, Vancouver has been a consistent enigma. Predictably unpredictable is a phrase I’ve used a lot with this team. Just when you think things are turning around the mumps show up.

When the team is riding high, they lose to Minnesota. Stuff like that.

There will be tons of speculation about who the Canucks will take at 5 and it’s entirely possible they trade up if they believed in Nolan Patrick or Nico Hischier enough. Other than those two guys, whoever they pick will work his way into the system and won’t show up on day one to crack the lineup. It’s a work in progress and the rebuild will take time.

Thatcher Demko is still a year or two away and he probably could start tomorrow if he had to. He was heralded as the next big thing and he’s not even on the team yet.

Bringing along prospects doesn’t happen overnight and picking 5th makes it easier to accept that. The next two seasons and drafts that follow will dictate what the next five to seven years look like, it’s not for a Cup in 2020.

Aside from Pavel Bure, this team has never been overly flashy and will have to construct a team that can compete with the best and they’re right at the beginning of that. Getting a slick defenseman in Timothy Liljegren or a forward like Cody Glass or Casey Mittelstadt will help down the road but the current Canucks will need some help through trades or one-year deals at free agency in July.

Having the opportunity to draft Patrick or Hischier would have just created more problems and forced those players to save a franchise that wasn’t ready to be saved quite yet. It took a long, long time for the Oilers, Leafs and even the Pittsburgh Penguins to achieve the success they now have.

Don’t expect the Canucks to solve all of their problems in one or two drafts, it just won’t happen.

It gets boring before it gets better and the 5th overall pick is about as unexciting as it gets.

That’s a good thing but it also could be really, really bad.

 photo – sportsnet.ca

Rockets Looking For Seventh Heaven Against Thunderbirds

Before this series started, many would have seen the Kelowna Rockets and Seattle Thunderbirds extending the matchup to seven games. Well, it’s Game Six so Kelowna will need to put some pucks in the net if they want to book another bus trip to Kent, Washington on Tuesday. Seattle took Game Five in somewhat convincing fashion after the Rockets couldn’t capitalize on their own power play chances and let the T-Birds execute on theirs.

Expect more of the same tonight.

The series has been pretty even with both teams splitting games in each city but it was the Thunderbirds that took the extra home game back on Friday to put their team ahead 3 games to 2. The power play has been hot for Seattle this post-season and they currently hold the top-ranked unit by a whopping 4.2% over the next closest, now eliminated Red Deer Rebels, at 37.5%.

The Rockets are trailing in that category by about 10% and in the playoffs, that’s huge. Sticking with special teams, Kelowna leads the WHL playoffs with 216 PIM and if they continue that trend this evening, it will be hard for Jason Smith’s team to force a seventh game.

Mid-season addition, Carson Twarysnki, hasn’t scored since April 12 when he had one of Kelowna’s seven goals against the Portland Winterhawks. With Seattle bringing a physical game each and every night, T-Dub will need to get back to the dirty areas and power his way to a few chances. Twarynski was great in the first two rounds but has been quiet in the Western Final. Kelowna will need his contributions if they are going to advance.

Nick Merkley has been a light show in his last 11 games putting points up in 10 of them. His stat line is a dream with 6 goals and 11 assists in that time. Merkley is the Rocket’s all-time leader in playoff production and when he’s on his game, he’s the catalyst on the team. Suffering a freak ACL tear last year, Nick has rebounded well and has brought renewed hope to both his current WHL team and the Arizona Coyotes who drafted him 30th overall in 2015.

Providing Kelowna can stay out of the box and play a disciplined game, they should be able to stay ahead of the red-hot Thunderbird squad. Kelowna has averaged 35 shots against Seattle this series so the opportunity is there to strike. Keegan Kolesar, Ryan Gropp, and Alexander True all have three goals against Kelowna so keeping them in check will no doubt be on the gameplan.

Don’t expect a blowout this evening but considering this series has been played down a man on either side, someone is due to open it up. Let’s all hope the Rockets send their fans home awaiting the AM1150 call on Tuesday night.

photo – kelownacapnews.com

Canucks Unlikely To Expose Sbisa In Expansion Draft Because Life Is Cruel

Imagine a scenario where the Canucks are abysmally awful and that it isn’t the worst thing going on. Now, imagine there is an opportunity for the team to expose a dumpster fire of a defenseman in Luca Sbisa in the expansion draft for the new Vegas Golden Knights only to be stopped dead in their tracks because two defensemen on their own team decided to go back to Russia.

This is the actual situation and it’s almost laughable because it is just so Canucks for this to happen.

Just when things couldn’t get any more interesting in Canuckland, both Nikita Tryamkin and Philip Larsen bolt back to Russia and leave the Canucks with a gaping hole on an already porous back end. As of today, the Canucks defense consists of Alex Edler, Alex Biega, Chris Tanev, Ben Hutton, Troy Stecher, and Luca Sbisa.

Including Alex Biega and Andrey Pedan will most likely happen as soon as training camp begins and it would take a season-long case of mono to a current defender for Jordan Subban to crack the lineup, let alone get called up.

Sbisa now becomes an asset to the Canucks and forces them to retain him on circumstance alone. He’s like the Barry Trotz of the Canucks. Whenever there’s a chance to finally rid themselves of his services, something comes up. It’s like you want to get healthy and lose a few pounds but then that new extreme DQ blizzard comes out and it’s basically game over again.

How is this even possible that their defense could get any worse, it’s already the worst! Following the Canucks as long as I have, it’s almost expected that things just don’t go their way. This almost isn’t even news anymore. So is this really real? Is Luca Sbisa going to finish out his contract as a Canuck?

Sure looks that way.

The $4 million final year of Sbisa’s contract will be an albatross that weighs heavy on the rebuild and sadly the team pretty much HAS TO keep him because quite frankly, who else is there? Let’s just say for a second that Olli Juolevi is an absolute rock star and makes the team out of camp. It’s possible. Then, let’s assume Sbisa isn’t claimed in the expansion draft and Trevor Linden and Jim Benning sign Erik Gudbranson, what then?

There now are two players that shouldn’t be on the team and are keeping this rebuild from happening. It helps the team sink further in the standings from day one, sure does, but developing a better system with whatever coach the team hires is still a distant dream because management wants to carry these guys for whatever reason that they sell the public on.

Sbisa tied Tanev and Tryamkin this season with 2 goals, not something to be proud of as Tanev doesn’t score anyways and any Tryamkin related stat is now a point of sadness. It’s really a shame he accumulated the 4th most points on the Canucks back end because he was at or close to the bottom in shifts per game and TOI/game.

Of all the defensemen playing at least 1000 minutes at 5v5 this season, Sbisa ranks 10th worst in CF% with 45.83% and 4th worst in FF% at 44.26%. He is a detriment to the Canucks and with both Tryamkin and Larsen gone this is a monster slap in the face to the process.  The timing couldn’t be worse and it now completely changes the NHL Draft for Vancouver.

What if the Canucks slip to 5th? Do they take a D instead of a forward? There is so much need up front that it is almost going to take a trade either way to attain what the team needs so this offseason is salvageable.

What once was an abundance of riches for Vancouver is now the biggest anchor that is sinking the team. Whatever goalie backstops the Canucks next season will have to be a hair short of perfect for this team to even be relevant by Christmas time. But, it’s early and the draft lottery is still to come.

Somehow, Jim Benning will draft off the board and Rogers Arena will implode. That seems like the only likely possibility now. Mark Messier would even be a goo… JUSSSSST kidding.

photo – vancourier.com

Next Season Crucial In Proper Canucks Rebuild

To say the next couple of years are important for the Canucks would be an understatement. It’s huge. Making the change at the coaching position and slowly dismantling the old regime were important to show the fans, not everything that Trevor Linden and Jim Benning said was a complete lie. The fans and media alike, have been told many different things over the course of the “retool on the fly” era and for the most part, it failed.

The inconsistent message that has been preached outwards has just confused the process for the fans, media and I would guess the players as well. Not knowing the direction the Canucks are headed can’t be easy when the players can’t even see where the team is headed. Linden needs, to be honest, and officially call this a rebuild.

How this team was able to be so fantastically deconstructed in such a short amount of time is truly amazing. What the Canucks failed to do was to have a succession plan or the very least passable options when moves were made. That is starting to happen now but it came at a fairly high cost. Giving up on players like Gustav Forsling, Zack Kassian, Nick Bonino and shipping off high draft picks at the same time just muddied the state the team was in.

I get it, those moves all had different situations attached to them but looking at each of them, it feels like Vancouver didn’t give them a true chance. Management has stuck by Luca Sbisa, Brandon Sutter and given an aging Loui Eriksson a hefty, long-term deal. If the Canucks are rebuilding, all of these moves feel like they were poorly thought out. There is no room to take on smaller contracts and the small contracts they HAVE taken on could have been avoided.

But fear not, this is not all doom and gloom, there is hope still to be found but don’t expect to see it next season or the season after. Providing a few things go the Canucks way, and one of those things is the placement in this year’s NHL Entry draft, the Canucks might be able to put a realistic timetable on the changes that are coming.

It’s no secret that picks #1 and #2 hold a lot of value and can slightly speed up the process of the Canucks rebuild. Having a centre that can instantly be inserted into the lineup to take the 3rd line pivot job can force Benning to look at moving Sutter. If Sutter is claimed in the expansion draft, that is all moot anyway and the #ExposeSutter movement will have succeeded.

Looking at point production, there is optimism, not much but a bit. Henrik finished with 50 points and it could be argued Daniel probably could have been there too! Bo Horvat led the team with 52 points and again, had Sven Baertschi had a healthy season he could have challenged for a 45ish point campaign.

Injuries crushed the Canucks this season which hampered the point production and a failure to adapt on the power play when it hit all-time lows as well as not allowing late game heroics due to poor line deployment absolutely cost the team both points on the scoreboard and in the standings. How that changes in October has yet to be seen.

So, having four potential 50 point players makes the Canucks a little more believable as a rebuilding team on the rise but don’t expect the same type of production after the season they had. Teams have figured the Canucks out and it will take a complete overhaul of their current structure to make the team competitive again. New look power play units, emphasis on available speed and holding on to the puck instead of the ever-predictable dump and chase.

There are players in the lineup that can make some of this happen and a few new ones as well. Ollie Juolevi looks ready to take on the NHL game and Jake Virtanen seems to have cut weight and sculpted his frame to fit in as well. I have no clue if they even make the opening night roster but with an offseason of opportunity, both players know they can earn a spot.

How about the late additions?

Even though we’ve only been given a small sample of Nikolay Goldobin and Brock Boeser, the talent these two possess has been noticed. Boeser made an immediate impact notching four goals and an assist in nine games to finish the year. Goldobin put up three goals in his first 12 with the Canucks. It wasn’t just the production on the scoresheet but the ability to use their linemates effectively and trust the talent they have. These guys know they’re good and with a new coach, their chances to succeed may be higher than when Willie Desjardins was at the helm.

The youth movement will be a lot more visible come the 2017/18 season, which is what many have asked for. I doubt there will be much change in the standings and Vancouver realistically may fall even further before they climb back up the ranks. Seeing an entire line of players under 24 years of age that are leading the Canucks is something worth noting.

Bo Horvat, Boeser and Sven Baertschi seem to present the future of the franchise while the Sedins may get the opportunity to bring a player like Goldobin along and groom him for his future reign in the NHL. I think it would be a great idea to potentially split the Sedins up on both power play units.

Not an original idea, I know. What I’d love to see would be Daniel on the first unit and Henrik on the second. Putting Horvat/Daniel/Baertschi up front to start and maybe Troy Stecher and Olli Juolevi on the back end would be my choice. Assuming they don’t score right away ( a safe assumption), bring on Henrik as the lines transition and allow the Sedins to potentially capitalize on the shift.

They have been beyond predictable for the last few seasons and this change would allow a small hybrid of ice time before putting Henrik out with potentially Eriksson and maybe Boeser or Goldobin. You may all think this is crazy talk but I’d say there is some merit there. This could also be applied to the regular 5-on-5 lines but trying it on the power play would be a good start.

Keeping the Sedins in the fold as productive 2nd and eventually, 3rd line players put them right back where their careers took off when they were alongside Trevor Linden. A depth pair of players that can be counted on to keep the lines moving and keeps the focus on the top two lines which in turn creates more scoring chances, probably not goals, but chances.

The focus on faceoffs was once again taken seriously in 2016. Manny Malhotra was brought on and the team climbed back up to finish 9th in the league with a 51.1% success rate. It was a bit less than the famed 2011 season at 54.9% but even then, this year’s position would have been good for 10th in 2011. It’s like they focused on something to be good at and it WORKED!

Jake Virtanen could use some of that love. The Canucks finally played the patience card with Virtanen this season and decided not to rush him back into the lineup. His numbers weren’t other-worldly by any means but it looks like he learned how to be a pro. Does he become the power forward Canucks fans have longed for since Todd Bertuzzi, probably not; but he could end up being a valuable part of the team’s transition.

Alex Edler is another point of interest or disinterest depending on who you ask. Edler isn’t leaving the Canucks and even if he’s asked it can be assumed he doesn’t want to leave Vancouver. He’s starting to show wear and please, please, please change the flex on that stick. He still has a booming shot but he just doesn’t get the chances anymore to let it go like he used to. If Juolevi makes the team, putting him with Edler might be a smart idea and it would allow Stecher to play with Chris Tanev.

Much of this is assumptive and all of this could change by June.

Which brings me to the goaltending situation and where Thatcher Demko fits into all of this. When Demko was drafted in 2014, Roberto Luongo had just been dealt and Eddie Lack along with Jacob Markstrom looked to be the immediate future of the Canuck’s net protection. That didn’t last long. Ryan Miller was eventually brought in through free agency, Lack was shipped to Carolina and Jacob Markstrom still hasn’t seen this cup of coffee everyone keeps talking about.

Demko finally went pro this past year and had a tough go to start his career but down the stretch, he was unbeatable for the most part.

Cory Schneider took the same route as Demko when he was drafted by the Canucks in 2004, he finally made his debut with the Canucks in the 2008/09 season but only played in 8 games when Roberto Luongo was injured. Schneider eventually made his full time, well full-time backup, start in the famous 2010/11 year.

Luongo and Schneider went neck and neck the whole season and it was at that point that Schneider had truly arrived, six years after being drafted. Demko most likely won’t have to wait that long but giving him time to fully mature can only help the Canucks in the long term. Ideally, if he followed the same lineage as Schneider and taking into account the current net situation and the numbers he’s put up, Demko would be the bonafide starter in 2018/19 or at the latest 2020.

There are a lot of similarities between both former college netminders but given the current state of affairs in Vancouver, Ryan Miller (hopefully) will have kept the net warm when it becomes available. By 2020, the Canucks should have a good portion of the building done, if not all of it, and the pieces being developed now will be reaching their primes.

By 2020, the Canucks should have a good portion of the building done, if not all of it, and the pieces being developed now will be reaching their primes. It’s time to look at the Oilers and Leafs rebuilds and understand that the process takes time.

Seeing Nolan Patrick or Nico Hischier in a Canucks jersey makes the process easier to swallow but neither of them will be the answer to the rest of the problems the team still faces.

One year at a time.

photo – http://www.sportsnet.ca/hockey/nhl/bo-horvat-scores-winner-lead-canucks-lightning/sportsnet.ca

Canucks Can’t Embrace Rebuild And They Might Lie To You

Willie is fired, Benning is planning for the draft and Linden is spinning #fakenews. The rebuild began awhile ago but will it ever really happen? We’ve heard the song and dance that has been spewed at us since 2012 and even with the dismissal of WD they aren’t that much farther than when his tenure began. We were told things were better than they were, we were told it would go quickly and that the proper pieces were being put in place.

I hate to say it but whether we want to believe it or not, we bought into the lie.

Losing 2011, YES I’M BRINGING IT UP AGAIN, started the process and two different “models” were tested but it was never carried through. Feeble attempts at adapting to a newer, bigger, faster NHL put the Canucks in the same shoes as the failing Oilers and Maple Leafs’ strategies. Lose to the Bruins – get bigger, thug more. Lose to the Kings – sign a speedskater or have lots of really good players that are borderline suspendable.

There was an opportunity to nip this in the butt and the old regime as well as the new, let their chance slip. Moving away Ryan Kesler was bold and it’s a shame the return wasn’t more. The same can be said for Roberto Luongo. The opportunities to make a splash and keep pace with the Western Conference were there and in typical Canucks fashion, they let them pass.

So now we’re here and it’s pretty ugly. I never thought there would be a season where I would be looking forward to the potential of a first-overall draft pick and now it’s two years in a row. Pure blindness and naivety to the situation are probably the most frustrating to tolerate. It’s like watching season two of True Detective, you watched it but you were disappointed every week.

Trevor Linden said himself after he retired that he didn’t want to be involved in hockey to the degree he is in now. Bringing him in as a PR stunt and a figurehead has only tarnished both his and the team’s image. As GM Jim Benning continues to put together his version of what he believes the Canucks should look like, the final result gets further and further away.

.@rayferrarotsn: There seemed to be no cohesion between what the Canucks expected from their coaches and front office

— TSN Radio Vancouver (@TSN1040) April 10, 2017

Management moved swiftly to remove Desjardins after another losing season and if it all were to go perfectly, there would be a clean sweep at the top including Linden and Benning. That being said, many of WD’s decisions this year won’t be repeated in 2018. Brandon Sutter might not even be a Canuck to start next year if Vegas claims him, Jayson Megna realistically doesn’t see much time on the big club and should probably be buried in the AHL.

Don’t forget Jordan Subban, the powerplay defenseman that shoots right, and is essentially the team’s best player that isn’t on the team. He could play here if there’s any sense out there. It’s easy to understand though because Alex Biega has been such a force on the Canucks and can fill any role whether it be forward or defense.

Removing the tip of the iceberg still leaves bigger problems underneath. The Canucks haven’t been honest with us and it’s pretty upsetting. It’s clear everyone knows what’s going on and if management stated the direction they were headed without the BS, we could support it. Is it going to be easy? No.

Linden is right, the prospects are coming but it’s the current situation that will keep them from getting over the hump. Next year, there needs to be a new face to the team, less focus on the Sedins being the focal points and more concentration on where goals will come from.

It’s insulting to the fanbase when we continue to be lied to saying “everything will be fine” and “change is coming”. Change should have come a long time ago and spinning the wheels isn’t getting things done. Bringing on Manny Malhotra was a nice start to change as faceoffs have dramatically improved in one season. Doug Jarvis was retained and you have to believe his systems are worth keeping around.

The next coach needs to have a teaching mentality but he also needs to have the “balls and grit” to compete at the NHL level. All the talk once again is about Travis Green getting the job. That’s swell, but it’s Willie D 2.0. You’ve had that coach already so you should have kept him around. Whoever comes this time around has to understand it won’t be a long-term position.

There needs to a coach who can suffer through the next phase of rebuilding and help create a winning mentality. No, not just a mentality, an environment; YA an environment!

But how do they GET this environment? Eating veggies and drinking Powerade milk bars? NO sir/mam. First off: SIGN BO HORVAT! It’s a simple thing, really. He’s the future of this team and he needs to know it. Second, platoon Nikolay Goldobin or Jake Virtanen (I really don’t care which) with Henrik and Daniel Sedin. They’re not leaving, they’ve said so, so let’s embrace their mentorship and lessen the load. Maybe give them fewer minutes per game and watch their stats start to rise again.

Sign Ryan Miller to a two-year deal. In fact, make sure you do right away. He’s literally saved their bacon for the last two seasons and with Jacob Markstrom’s health (OK, Miller’s too!) we need a veteran presence until the Canucks are begging to have Thatcher Demko in the lineup. They also need to cool it on rushing prospects into the pros. I want wins and goals too, but let’s not be greedy.

On defense, stop lying and move Alex Edler because he isn’t an effective member of this team anymore and if you’re willing to move Alex Burrows and Jannik Hansen, Edler’s a cakewalk. Parlaying Edler and maybe Ben Hutton too for a 20 goal scorer or even a few extra picks in this year’s draft could go a long way.

Rebuilding isn’t just a word. It’s a lifestyle. You know why the Oilers have bounced back and don’t say Connor McPlayoffs? They cleaned out any suggestion they were still hanging onto old ideas and the old boys club. I don’t know exactly HOW it finally came to a head but it did and wouldn’t you know it, the Oilers are good!

I was going to type that whole paragraph again and just insert LEAFS instead of Oilers but I’m too lazy. They did it too! Canuck Nation made for of those clubs for so long because we could all see their problems and the fix was so easy, well now it’s our turn and we need to take our own advice.

I say we, but I don’t work for the team. You’ve made that clear. This fan base is smarter than it’s given credit for and they just want to get back to winning. So win.

Win in the draft, win at free agency and win in the coaching search. The team isn’t just on the ice, it starts at the top.

This could be the Canucks moment to get it right so stop lying to us and admit you need to get better. We’ll follow you because well, we’ve done it this long so how could it get any worse.

Oh, you’re saying it can?

photo – canuckscorner.com

Canucks At The End Of The Beginning Of The End

If there’s one thing that is beyond frustrating about the Canucks it would be everything.

I had a perfectly good article half-written about the Sedins and why it’s time to retire and yadda yadda yadda they need to stay. The 2016 and 2017 seasons have been a cluster of both surprise and utter disappointment. Losing out on the 3rd overall draft spot in last year’s entry draft but getting a stud in Olli Juolevi and signing Troy Stecher out of college to find out he too, will one day be a star has kept the angry mob at bay.

The start of the Jim Benning era could have seen an immediate end with the lack of direction and insight into many of his decisions early on. It continued after coach Willie Desjardins’ first season when the rubber really hit the road and we all saw how the Canucks were going to be run both on and off the ice.

You would almost think they both had a personal vendetta against certain players or the team itself at times but things seem to be slowly taking a turn for the better. It’s anyone’s guess if Willie D gets the ax after this season ends or if Benning officially is on empty, what is clear though is what potential upside the team has going into next year.

Watching rookie Brock Boeser command respect on the ice as he dazzles and amazes with Bo Horvat and Sven Baertschi is a welcome change from the dull, dreary scene we’ve witnessed for the last few years. Boeser is a true star in the making with three goals in his first seven games and there is no doubt he will give the Canucks a much-needed punch of offense going forward. Same can be said for the young Nikolay Goldobin.

I was almost at my wit’s end for how the Sedins should have ended their careers but now I can see they need to ride it out a bit longer. The problem many have with them is that a suitable linemate always seems to elude them. There have been no efforts to split them up for longer than a period or two and the other mentality is that they still are the top line on the team.

Their declining production shows they aren’t the top line anymore and shouldn’t see the same ice time that top lines get. I believe the Sedins are still very valuable as a pair in a teaching role, much like how they were brought along by the president and former teammate Trevor Linden. We’ve seen Goldobin connect with the Sedins quite early and for him, it’s about effort and seeing the opportunity with players that can help him excel.

Could the Sedins get bumped down to the second or third line? Absolutely. In fact, it should happen so the progression of the franchise can take place. However it’s happened, Benning has brought the future a bit quicker than we may have thought and the end of this horrible beginning of the rebuild is almost at the end.

What?

Jimbo signed Jayson Megna recently to a one-year deal at the lowest possible contract($675k) and on the surface, we were ready for blood. Megna isn’t a first line player and that contract states it as such. What he does bring is speed and on a bottom six spot or even solely as a fourth line winger along with Derek Dorsett and even Michael Chaput or Brendan Gaunce, he can be better utilized with more effective shifts and a lot less ice time. It’s actually a monster bargain if done right.

Does the #ExposeSutter2017 movement pan out? Time will tell and if he actually IS claimed by the Vegas Golden Knights then a big contract is off the books and Horvat can take a few of those dollars while the rest can be used to bring in someone from free agency.

Treating this season as a write-off and gaining a potential “generational player” impact forward through the draft makes much of the suffering bearable. The Canucks have endured so many injuries there was no way this team could even potentially succeed to a possible playoff berth and through some of those injuries, an opportunity arose.

Markus Granlund will be back next year and can contribute on the second line, Loui Eriksson had the worst possible luck this year (much like Radim Vrbata did) and he will be able to rebound in 2018 with Granlund and possibly the Sedins once more. Somehow, Erik Gudbranson will be given another chance which kind of goes against the rebuild mentality because he’s just so bad, like he’s really bad, people.

We can go on and on about how things have to get worse before they get better and believe me, they’re bad. The toughest part in all of this is that the team itself didn’t believe they were this bad until it was too late. Had WD bought into what was going on, he could have salvaged a new contract as I don’t think he’ll be brought back.

The youth movement is coming in waves around the NHL and the Canucks finally have embraced it and at some point, they will benefit. It’s not going to happen overnight and next season will still be a learning curve but it’s coming around and within five years, the Canucks will be challenging for at the very least, a division crown.

They’re almost at the end of this terrible beginning and we’ll be able to breathe again if the franchise can make a splash in June.

photo – timescolumnist.com

Rockets Need To Spell Jekyll and Hyde To Clinch Series

If anyone actually thought the first round for the Kelowna Rockets was going to be a cake walk, they have a serious case of amnesia. The Blazers bested the Rockets 6-4 in the regular season but as it came to a close, the Rockets reminded Kamloops who has been in charge the last two seasons. Game 6 will be a tight-knit affair and ultimately, the first goal may just decide who is victorious.

Kelowna set the tone in Game 1 and 2 but the Blazers brought the fight back in Game 3 and 5. We haven’t seen a flurry of goals but the first one seems to be really important. Jason Smith’s club has been Jekyll and Hyde so far in the first round and it would be wise to bring the Game 1 sticks with them on the trip to Kamloops this evening.

The trip to Kamloops for Game 3 put Kelowna at a disadvantage when the Blazers opened up their own scoring clinic with 4 goals of their own. Kelowna will need big games from their stars which may be easier said than done.

2017 Draft hopeful, Kole Lind, has one goal in the series after leading the Rockets in regular season scoring. Veteran forward Nick Merkley has been quiet on the scoresheet as well with a lone assist to his name. The beast Calvin Thurkauf has a few assists but even though he has tried to break out, the Blazers have kept him in check and it’s a big reason the Rockets didn’t run away with the series.

The City of Rockets has put up a ton of points this season but the population has dwindled as the series has drawn on. Captain Rodney Southam needs to spark his team tonight and help set the tone for what will be no doubt, a stingy game.

Thankfully, of all the players on the Rockets, goalie Michael Herringer has done his job and then some. Through 5 games, Herringer has 2 shutouts and has posted a .931 save percentage. It’s been nutty in the Kelowna end of the rink but he’s been Joe Cool. I’m sure Herringer is happy his teammates have done their best to create scoring chances by peppering Blazers’ goalie Connor Ingram with a whopping 205 shots!

Whatever Kelowna did in their three wins so far needs to be replicated and drowned in energy drinks if they want to emerge victorious tonight. Tomas Soustal has looked great to start the series but his efforts will need to be visible as Kamloops isn’t giving up without a fight. He had a great charge in Game 1 and Blazers’ forward Jermaine Loewen has taken over as the visible force after that.

Both of these teams realize how important this series is and the long rivalry between Kelowna and Kamloops has once again been amped up. Don’t turn away after the opening puck drop because you’ll be sure to miss a big play that everyone will be talking about tomorrow.

Bruce Hamilton brought in veterans Carsen Twarynski and Reid Gardiner to put Kelowna over the edge once again and they have done their part so far, it’s the familiar names that need to step their game up and capitalize on the numerous chances they’ve had and take the goal mouth scrambles and turn them into leads on the scoreboard.

For Dr. Jekyll, err… the Rockets to finish off the series, the power play must be the difference maker. Both teams have been awful at converting with 15.8 and 3.6% for Kelowna and Kamloops, respectively. The setup has been perfect but they’ll have to find Ingram’s weakness because he’s seeing everything.

It’s the Rockets and Blazers for hopefully the final time this season.

Follow me on twitter: @always90four

photo – Marissa Baecker

 

Michael Herringer ‘Saving’ His Best For Playoffs

As the Kelowna Rockets are set to face the Kamloops Blazers in Game 5 of the WHL Western Conference Quarterfinal at Prospera Place tonight, they’ll look to clinch the series with star goaltender Michael Herringer in net. The Rockets have added some lethal firepower up front in Carsen Twarynski and Reid Gardiner and have benefited from the talents of Lucas Johansen and Cal Foote on the back end keeping the puck away from the Rockets end. 

Herringer has already seen plenty of action through four games facing 112 shots and allowing only 6 goals. He already has a .946 SA% and 2 shutouts in this series and they haven’t come easy. Although Game 4 only presented 24 registered shots, Herringer was sharp early and a few key saves defined the kind of night he was about to have.

Like any goalie, their stats are a little more glowing in the postseason with fewer games to play and with goals coming at a premium, the masked men tend to shine more. Herringer had a normal regular season posting a 2.78 GAA and a .904 SA%, not exactly award-type numbers. Now that his Rockets have found their stride, he could be in for a pretty special playoff run.

A little luck never hurt either.

A diving, ram-like stop in the first period kept things even at zeros. A disallowed goal kept the Rockets buzzing afterward and they never looked back. What Herringer has given the Rockets all season and really, his entire time in Kelowna, is confidence. I wrote about MH back in 2015 and his stone-cold demeanor in the crease.

He doesn’t allow himself to get rattled, or at least it appears that way from the stands. His positioning isn’t perfect but he seems to be square more times than not. This isn’t exactly the first time a Rockets’ goaltender has been in the spotlight. Kelly Guard, Mark Stone, Jordan Cooke and Jackson Whistle all have given Kelowna the extra gear to allow the rest of the team to take more chances when they come because the man between the pipes is more than capable.

Seeing this save is proof that Herringer isn’t about to let the Rockets lose this series:

He hasn’t had national attention and no one is looking to add him to Team Canada or sign him to contract but his play in Kelowna’s net has once again put the Rockets back in the conversation to make a deep run this spring. His counterpart in this series, Connor Ingram, hasn’t waved the white flag yet, either.

Ingram has faced 172 shots, letting in 9 goals. His .948 SA% is still ridiculous and if it wasn’t for him, the Blazers would already be done. Michael Herringer gives fans the ability to breathe a little easier knowing the guys in front of him just need to score a goal and he can shut it down.

Beating the Kamloops Blazers will be no simple task, though. Kelowna went 4-6 against Kamloops this season but they did it without out some key players. With the Rockets 100% healthy and firing on seemingly every cylinder, it would take a miracle for the Blazers to come back… even for one night.

The City of Rockets is ready for tonight’s big showdown.

Follow me on twitter: @always90four

photo – TheColorOfHockey