Author: always90four

Nail Yakupov Could TOTALLY Redeem Brandon Sutter

There is a saying “two wrongs don’t make a right” and going H.A.M. to acquire Nail Yakupov on July 1 might not be a great way to follow the previous few opening days of free agency for the Vancouver Canucks. Last year Loui Eriksson was the new face that joined the Canucks for a lot longer than anyone probably expected for a rebuilding squad.

The St. Louis Blues failed to qualify Yakupov on Monday and of course, anything remotely resembling possibility was dug up from the depths of Twitter. This one was just above the surface:

Not to say this isn’t something to look into but Yakupov hasn’t exactly lit the world on fire since he entered the NHL. It could be argued that there were too many cooks in the kitchen in Edmonton and St. Louis just didn’t fit. The Canucks have been known to give Russians a chance and one that potentially can score goals on the cheap is intriguing.

What isn’t intriguing is the reality of Brandon Sutter still wearing a Canucks jersey going into the 17/18 season.  The predictions haven’t come out yet but I doubt Jeff Paterson is predicting an Art Ross trophy for Sutter let alone a goal total equalling his jersey number. Sutter has been arguably THE most underwhelming player on the Canucks in the last few seasons… and that’s saying something.

Recently moved Luca Sbisa even had a run as an effective player for the Canucks last season and lottery winner Jayson Megna surpassed most of the Canucks roster based on some kind of algorithm only Willie Desjardins seemed to understand. It was revealed Sutter was playing through a nagging wrist injury all season which is somewhat impressive as he still managed to get 17 goals.

Can Nail Yakupov actually redeem Sutter? It’s possible. They put a man on the moon at least once or so I’m told. Yakupov reminds me of what Phil Kessel went through prior to joining the Penguins. A star player from the get-go but was never a player that could handle being the “it” guy. Kessel went to Pittsburgh as a depth scorer and he flourished.

Yakupov isn’t going to help anyone win a Cup next season but the transition to a new team in a role he can handle is sometimes the start those types of players need. Pittsburgh will end up adding him at the deadline anyway.

He may or may not be available on the cheap after his stock took a nose dive. A first overall pick that doesn’t get qualified is a tough pill to swallow, especially for a young Russian player that is known for being flashy. A slice of humble pie might be the reset he needs to bounce back and for the Canucks, why wouldn’t they take a chance on him?

This team as they said is lower-case R rebuilding so a season to rack up some stats could put him back on the radar and it gives Sutter a winger he can set loose. It’s almost as if they can redeem each other. It would be welcome to not only the Canucks and their fans but both players that clearly need to get back to being players they believe they can be.

A healthy Sutter with a guy he can build a rapport with might even work out and then what happens?

Anything in the $3 to 3.5 million range would be acceptable and it adds some depth to the wings to gradually bring in Nikolay Goldobin or Jake Virtanen when the time is right. Yakupov isn’t a bad hockey player, players that go first overall aren’t bad hockey players (obviously not including Patrik Stefan). He’ll probably never be a superstar but if anyone can mine out 20-25 goals a season for a few years, that’s a deal.

Jim Benning picked up Markus Granlund and Sven Baertschi through the trade market but Yakupov could be a quiet deal that doesn’t need to steal the headlines. Everyone will wonder if it’s throwing money away but seriously, the Canucks can’t get any worse. Benning held onto Sbisa until Vegas was awarded a team so this wouldn’t be the worst thing he did.

The off chance Yakupov DOES succeed is worth the risk at the very least for one year. He also wore #10 because he wanted to be Pavel Bure. Float him $3.5 for that alone.

photo – edmontonjournal.com

House Always Wins For Vegas Golden Knights

Does anyone else think the Vegas Golden Knights #Expansiondraft process is overly shady?

Over the last few days, teams have been contacting VGK (or so we’re led to believe) to leave some of their unprotected players alone by offering draft picks for said protection. Vegas is in a position right now to bully a handful of teams into lucrative draft picks so the guys they were forced to expose stay protected without actually being protected.

Follow me so far?

With the Golden Knights drafting 30 players from the revealed NHL team lists on June 21, they have a chance to build a decent roster to start their first season. As the lists show, there are some players on there that teams probably aren’t thrilled to have exposed and that’s where the Vegas magic comes in.

Take Calgary’s Hunter Shinkaruk or Montreal’s Steve Ott, OK bad example; seriously though, Nashville’s playoff stud Colton Sissons or James Neal would be great pickups to start a franchise as would aging but still capable goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury from Pittsburgh.

So what happens? These teams (not necessarily THESE TWO) offer up first, second or third round picks to “leave them alone.” Doesn’t sound mafia-like at all, no way. This is how it all starts: first it’s a pick, then it’s a ridiculous offer sheet to an RFA (watch out Canucks/Bo Horvat) and then it’s Wikileaks or some crazy thing like that.

Vegas MUST be stopped!

Shady stuff, Vegas

This is already too much. Eventually, Gary Bettman will have to admit that the NEXT expansion draft will have to be amended so that the new team can’t strong arm current teams for their draft picks, all they can do is pick from what’s there or make ACTUAL player-to-player trades.

It’s playing out how the beginning of the salary cap front-loading contract scheme worked. Teams figured out the loophole as well as another one and allowed players like Ryan Suter,  Zach Parise, Roberto Luongo and Alex Ovechkin to bank top dollars in the first few years of their contract and when they are old and irrelevant their cap it is essentially zilch.

Apparently, if the price isn’t right Vegas just DGAF. The NHL has officially gone to a dark place.

The sad thing is that even though the Canucks exposed Luca Sbisa and Brendan Gaunce, Vegas may not even take either of them and it was Brandon Sutter who should have been exposed in the first place. Jim Benning could call George McPhee and ask to have say, Gaunce, protected and McPhee would probably just laugh and say “don’t worry Jimmy, we wanna win sooner than later so you’re fine.”

In Vegas, the saying goes “the house always wins,” and now that the NHL is coming to town it seems that rings true once again. The last few weeks have played out somewhat bizarrely for this whole scenario but the Golden Knights looked poised to strike early and make a name for themselves.

You shady, Sopranos-loving (that’s New Jersey?) young NHL team, you sicken me.

Just promise us this: you’ll let the Canucks win a Cup before you.

I beg you.

Follow me on twitter: @always90four

photo – reviewjournal.com

Please Stop Talking About The Canucks Power Play

When the Canucks brought back Newell Brown as an associate/assistant coach (call it what you want), the big talk was how he was going to revive the power play and bring life to a long dead system. It is in fact dead. 2011 was so long ago and what was once a behemoth of firepower is now a squirt gun with no water.The problem, however, is that the Canucks power play isn’t the biggest issue. Sure, creating scoring chances and goals are at the top of the list with line chemistry nearing the top as well, but what the Canucks strongly need to address is the way they create power play opportunities.

If you happen to have watched even a handful of games last season, you would have noticed the Canucks aren’t all that fast. We can skip the “they aren’t very good either” comment because that’s a forgone conclusion. Penalties, for a large part, are taken when someone faster has the puck and the defending player can’t keep up so they obstruct the player to level their own playing field.

There are also penalties of the violent nature but again, it was pretty rare to see a Canucks commit one of those.

Last season, Vancouver ranked 28th in PP opportunities with 227, 50 behind the Philadelphia Flyers at #1. The Canucks power play connected a whopping 32 times so even when they did have the man-advantage, they were lost.

Of all places to draw penalties, one would think home ice would be the place to do it. It used to be back in the day when Brown ran the show and the last thing teams wanted to see was the Sedins set up for an eventual goal. They’re still setting up but the league has caught up and Henrik and Daniel aren’t as scary anymore.

Vancouver’s home PP opportunities were one better than the Columbus Blue Jackets last year with 112 to CBJ’s 111. Not much speed in the Canucks’ legs for most of the year meant they weren’t going to be breaking away from their opponents, it also meant they weren’t going to be catching up with them either as the Canucks tied the New Jersey Devils for 6th in goals against with 241.

Former coach Willie Desjardins didn’t create lines that made teams think how they would defend the Canucks and at the same time, the talent on Vancouver’s roster didn’t exactly scream “competitive”. Loui Eriksson was supposed to bring scoring and his injury-plagued season combined with turrble (Charles Barkley’s pronunciation of terrible) linemates and a lack of opportunity with the Sedins kept the Canucks predictable.

The old Canucks became a powerhouse because they had two strong lines that were creative and just when you thought you had the book on them, they changed it up. From the slap-pass to the slingshot, it was the Sedins that led the charge and opponents had to try and cheat to stop their progress and that’s when the penalties came.

All too often it was shift after shift of going through the motions. There weren’t many memorable games, let alone shifts and even crossing the opponent’s blue line was a challenge unto itself. The Canucks are a team of personified tar so asking them to be faster won’t be fixed with a team building weekend at Whistler.

This problem will take time to turn around and in time it will but for now simply getting close enough to put pucks on net would be their first goal.

In 2018, players like Nikolay Goldobin, Bo Horvat and Brock Boeser give the Canucks an opportunity get creative again and input speed into every shift. One can only hope that newly-signed Erik Gudbranson can deliver what he says he can bring which I think is muscle and maybe some scoring, Alex Edler helps the rebuild by showing the young defenders what goal scoring used to look like and a bounce back season from Troy Stecher gets the ball rolling again.

By no means will this team turn it all around and have a top-5 PP unit but it can only go up from where it was and that at the very least is worth talking about. Once the expansion draft happens and everyone knows what is left, Jim Benning can hopefully bring in a new player that can help the Canucks get ahead.

So let’s stop talking about this new power play, alright? It’s hard enough watching them score ANY kind of goal.

Follow me on twitter: @always90four

photo – vancouversun.com

An All-Millenial Canucks Power Play… And Why It Will Succeed

Millenials.

They’re self-entitled, smartphone emojying, video game playing, mid 20 – 30 something freeloaders. OK, maybe that was all a bit much but the knock on them is that they aren’t willing to work for what they want and just expect the rewards to be given to them and that by succumbing to their demands, they, in turn, will produce results.

Now that Newell Brown is the back in the fold as the Canucks assistant coach, he can revive the dreaded 13% power play unit(s), and it would be a novel concept to give in to the millennial demand and stock up the man-advantage with an all-millennial unit. Of course, if you look into the term “millennial” it basically designates humans being born between the early 80’s and late 90’s to early 2000’s.

So going by this logic, the only players that don’t qualify for the first unit anyway are Henrik and Daniel Sedin. A case could be made for Loui Eriksson as well as he’s a mid 80’s baby. I personally don’t want to see the Sedins on the top unit for awhile because they’re so gosh darn predictable. A healthy Eriksson might be able to Radim Vrbata his way back into relevance with Bo Horvat and maybe Brock Boeser up front.

The feel with this specific demographic in a global sense is that they don’t want to communicate in person but rather on their phones which don’t translate well on the ice, well, unless you’re Alex Edler; he could pull that off no problem. He could text in plays on the bench, ditch the phone and unleash a clapper to the back of the net.

Nikolay Goldobin would be a prime fit up front after being inserted into the lineup without actually earning a roster spot. He’s young, he’s good-looking and he Instagram’s like a pro. Newell Brown was brought in to change the look and maybe Goldy could put a new filter on the power play, maybe sepia, and they’ll get better opportunities as the power play begins?

The Canucks PP couldn’t get any worse so adding a coach that does anything beyond drawing straws at practice is an upgrade. When people reference the millennial person it’s usually the late 20/early 30 people that don’t want their feelings hurt and need to be reassured they’re doing ok and blah, blah, blah.

Funnily enough, it’s the older players that have acted like they are the deserving ones. Rightfully so, in fact, as they’ve played the game longer and more than deserve to be where they are. Thing is, sports tend to a be a “what have you done for me lately?” kind of business and the Canucks power play has not done anything lately, you know, since 2011.

Conveniently, that’s when Mr. Brown was last in the mix. NO WAY!

On defense, there’s a chance things get better with Olli Juolevi getting a shot at the team this year and Troy Stecher could be deployed in more favorable situations. Uber-millennial Erik Gudbranson needs to stay the ^&$# away from the PP unit while loveable millennial Ben Hutton may just revive his scoring touch and we’ll all be smiling as the power play climbs to 20 or even 22% effectiveness.

Travis Green needs to give in to this wave of kids and give them p what they want because there’s a good chance that they deliver and one day those same kids will be the grizzled vets on the team like Chris Tanev is. Edmonton and Toronto benefited from the young’uns and it’s only a matter of time before some kind of success comes from the youth movement.

To recap Brock Boeser – millennial, Bo Horvat – millennial, Nikolay Goldobin – also a millennial as are Troy Stecher and Ben Hutton. They ALL would be great choices to revive a tragically dormant Canucks power play.

photo – theprovince.com

Canucks Can Get Spark Back Through Rebuild

Aside from fast-forwarding five years in the future, there isn’t an instant fix to getting the spark back when it comes to the Canucks. The last era of the Canucks began its ascent around 2006 and the pinnacle as we all know was in 2011. That era wouldn’t have existed if it wasn’t for the one right before it during the West Coast Express run and it began forming a reality when the Sedins were drafted in 1999.

Success doesn’t happen overnight.

What the Canucks DO have in their possession are many successful models that have preceded them both in their own organization and in the rest of the league. The current lineup isn’t all that enticing and the prospects that are developing won’t truly come to fruition for a handful of years still. In typical Canucks fashion, management has a flair for the dramatic and that might just be what this team ultimately needs.

Trading Edler/Tanev right now

We get it, Alex Edler doesn’t want to leave. He said he wants to see the rebuild through and although that’s quite noble, that’s not how these things work. Edler has worked to get an NTC and he has every right to use it but the NHL has burnt itself by having this as part of the CBA. A modified version should be discussed in the next go around but that’s not what we’ll discuss here.

Chris Tanev needs to be moved before his modified no-movement clause kicks in July 1. The Canucks need to keep the ball in their court and maximize whatever power they have while the getting’s good. There have been rumours the Canucks could make a pitch for Jonathan Drouin in Tampa and everyone loves a change of scenery reclamation player. It frees the team of broken sticks and injuries that seem to be more common than not.

Trading either/both of these players is a significant move in the rebuild direction, happens all the time. At some point, they’ll both be moved anyway so why not actually get something for them? Vancouver has always made a splash in the trade market when no one is paying attention and it’s possible they set the summer up with the first domino.

Be the big player on July 1

Again, the Canucks usually get “their” guy but it’s been pretty obvious their guy is the wrong one. Loui Eriksson was a terribly kept secret and despite articles that myself and other Canucks blogs have published, he isn’t a long-term fit in Vancouver. T.J. Oshie might not be a home run either but offering short-term big money can give the Canucks a more reasonable threat up front and balance the top two lines to the degree people will actually notice them.

Keeping Ryan Miller for another two years isn’t a splash but it gives him stability for his family and it would be silly to pull the plug on a guy after he finally has shown results. Kicking him to the curb just starts the process over and it’s unlikely Jacob Markstrom can handle the load as the number one guy. At some point, Thatcher Demko will be ready to take over and two years from now he should be groomed well enough to make a charge in the NHL.

Going the offer sheet route is dangerous and can potentially create some enemies, which again points to making a splash via the trade market. Jim Benning has better than good rating as a trade partner, not great, but better than good. Hopefully, someone needs a defenseman.

Trade up in the draft/trade to add another first rounder

There seem to be a plethora of players at the 5th spot and the names could change instantly with the parity that are picks 3-10. Nico Hischier would be the guy I can see Vancouver targeting which probably means they’d need the first overall pick to solidify their player. If taking Hischier isn’t a reality then snagging another top-10 guy should be.

It’s not a secret a few of the teams in the top five are shopping their pick. Why not take advantage of teams that don’t necessarily need the players the Canucks clearly do? Every GM before Benning in Vancouver has worked some magic at the draft and this feels like a good time to put his signature on this team. Acquiring a center and a defenseman would be a shrewd move and with the players mentioned above, Benning could send one of them away to get a stud that can help the team move forward.

Olli Juolevi has a shot to make the Canucks this October and he is just one year removed from his draft year. Talent and circumstance have created an opportunity and freeing up at least one older guard get the team that much closer to contention.

I’ve heard there are some Kelowna Rockets that potentially could be had in the second round, just saying.

The Jersey

It’s already been designed and I don’t believe there has been a release date for the new Adidas NHL jersey but creating a demand for the new jersey and all the merch that goes with it keeps the spark alive. When the team released the current version of the Orca when the Reebok Edge uniform came out, it was the middle of summer but the fans ate it up.

With no alternate this season, the Canucks will need to be relevant once again to get back their fashion crown. The shame is there are so many other versions and color schemes that the Canucks will never have the look/feel that Edmonton, Calgary, Washington, and so many other teams get when they trot out one color and one color only.

If Johnny Canuck has arrived, fans will be able to tolerate a less than exciting product on the ice if they feel they look cool off it.

Play the kids… ALL OF THEM!

The Oilers did it, the Penguins did it, heck Calgary has tried their hand at the youth movement and wouldn’t you know it, it’s paying off! There are arguably seven or eight prospects and current young stars that could occupy spots on this team. If Vancouver is going to lose at least let us watch the players we want to see.

Brandon Sutter is the opposite of flashy and he’s a liability as soon as he arrives at Rogers Arena. Luca Sbisa has a good shot at being claimed by Vegas, Alex Burrows and Jannik Hansen are now gone and going the PTO direction again isn’t going to happen. The fans don’t mind a team that tries, or at least LOOKS like they’re trying. Travis Green has seen a handful of the players related to this topic and there may be some talent we don’t know exists yet.

Play the kids and bring on the actual rebuild, no more lip service.

The summer is long and staying relevant to Canucks nation will be a challenge this year but the Canucks have the tools to make the team fun again and some of the solutions aren’t all that hard.

photo – sportsnet.ca

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