NHL Draft

Canucks Swipe Left On Right Handers

This is embarrassing but I had to google how Tinder worked before I wrote that catchy headline. Thankfully, I was correct in my guessing and I could keep writing this without error. Just like the popular dating app, Tinder, the Canucks are also consistently swiping left on right handed players. There are currently only 11 players on the 28 man roster that shoot right.

The results aren’t exactly exciting: Derek Dorsett, recent call-up Alexandre Grenier, Jayson Megna, Drew Shore, Jack Skille, Brandon Sutter, Alex Biega, Erik Gudbranson, Philip Larsen, Troy Stecher, and Chris Tanev.

Anyone stand out as a scoring threat here? If you answered Jayson Megna I’ll assume you’ve never seen a Canucks game before and I also would ask you to leave.

How important is it to have a right-handed shot? Well, it’s not the most important factor in deciding a team’s success but in an article from Corsica.Hockey regarding handedness of defensive pairings, it does play a factor in overall production. Thanks, Jackson McDonald! After reading that article, one could suggest that this translates to having a consistent opposite handed winger would benefit potentially the other wing and the centre on a given line. I’m reaching, potentially.

There has never been a solid answer complimentary player for the Sedins with a right-handed shot aside from Jannik Hansen and Anson Carter. Regardless of the success, they achieved together as well as with Alex Burrows, one can only wonder what a consistent right-handed shot would have done for them.

When Jim Benning went out and locked up Loui Eriksson to a contract of Luongo-like proportions, players like Kyle Okposo and David Perron were available, as was Thomas Vanek. Money talks and despite what the players will tell us, I’m pretty sure they can make a go on any team if the cheddar is right.

Current Canucks prospect, Jake Virtanen, is a righty and I get that he is developing but there has to be a spot for him to work on his NHL game. He doesn’t have to hang around but with the team all but mathematically eliminated from postseason play, let’s see him again. Looking back at the 2014 Draft specifically, William Nylander and Nikolaj Ehlers (not right-handed but cmon) were both selected after Virtanen and you don’t even have to check their current stats… oh I should?

Nylander has a healthy 18G, 30A, 9PPG and 21PPP. As for Ehlers, 22G, 34A and, 5PPG. Virtanen is working on his stuff when it’s near him, anyway.

Help is coming once NCAA sniper Brock Boeser signs and gets playing time on the big club. As they develop and become available: Lukas Jasek, Adam Gaudette, Jordan Subban and Dmitri Zhukenov will all be right-handed shots available to the Canucks as the team sees fit. It’s naive to think they’ll all be ready at the same time but Boeser, Gaudette and Subban could all be here sooner than later.

With no real finishers having a right handed shot on the Canucks, they have become predictive. Well, to be fair, it isn’t just what hand a player delivers his shot; the drop pass, lack of power play, lack of speed and not getting enough official shots on net, also factor in. The Canucks are almost dead last in many shot-based categories and having 60% or more of the team shooting from the left side will most likely keep those stats steady.

Vancouver is 23rd in 5v5 CF% with 48.20%, 28th in GF with 155 and shots for/game with 27.7.  They also have the 6th worst actual shooting percentage with 8.1%. Predictability has become the name of the game for the Canucks and blaming an aging core or poor line deployment is just part of the problem.

Willie Desjardins has his problems too, but he’s not responsible for attaining players to put on the ice. Jim Benning has slowly started to put together a team worth talking about but he preaches patience and with some of his recent signings/trades, I’m ok with patience.

Setting up the defensive pairings to accommodate the right/left configuration is part of the solution and many teams try and make their back end look this way. I imagine adding Jordan Subban is a good idea in this case and heck, I hear he has a decent shot to boot! This might even start the power play uptick instead of, you know, just not existing.

I don’t think the Canucks should employ a 50/50 split of right and left-handed players because that’s just stupid. But if you look at a team that doesn’t have opposite handed players in key positions, then yes, that should change slightly. I will say that some of the Canucks best line combos have existed with three left-handed players (West Coast Express, Sedins/Burrows, Bure/Adams/Lin…dang), you get my point.

To tie this up with a nice little bow, swiping left too much keeps you lonely, in Tinder and in hockey. Swipe right every now and then and there’s a chance you might score a bit… in hockey. If you know how to Tinder you may find this to be very informative. This is a hockey deal, though, so things may or may not have just got weird.

You watch, I’ll be right eventually. Correct, I mean. I shoot left, too!

Follow me on twitter: @always90four

 

photo – independentsportsnews.com

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Willie Desjardins Wasn’t The Answer To The Canucks; They’re Still Figuring Out The Question

Three seasons into Willie Desjardins’ tenure as the Canucks head coach and he still hasn’t been able to progress the on ice product to the next level. General Manager Jim Benning, hasn’t exactly equipped WD to the point where he may have been able to take the team further but he hasn’t hindered the Canucks chances anymore or any less overall. Benning can’t call the lines during the game so at this point, the coach looks like the fall man.

There are so many examples of why Willie Desjardins hasn’t been a great fit in Vancouver and aside from his first season as bench boss of the Canucks, it’s been amazingly painful to watch this team sink down the rankings. Willie hasn’t progressed the power play, the penalty kill is equally dismal and as you go down every category, the Canucks just aren’t close to being a forward moving team.

Winning faceoffs can’t be credited to Willie as Manny Malhotra has been the reason for their success in that area. It doesn’t mean they should make him coach, though.

The decisions are mounting as we get closer to the end of the year and decisions like benching new Canuck forward Nikolay Goldobin after scoring a goal just isn’t smart at all. A game later, he seemed to trust him more and even gave Goldobin PP time but I can’t imagine that was Willie’s call. WD is a developmental coach with players that haven’t quite made it yet and the body of work that we’ve seen is evidence of that.

In the AHL, Willie was great. He was highly sought after once he made it to the Dallas Stars coaching staff and once the move happened, we all found out that head coaching in the NHL isn’t exactly the same as assistant coaching in the NHL.

It’s no secret the Sedins are nearing the end of their respective careers in the league but Willie keeps putting them out in top minute situations and giving them first billing on the power play. The Sedins are phenomenal players and are still among the leaders for the Canucks in scoring but they aren’t THE leaders in scoring anymore and would need some help to keep up with the guys taking over.

So is this really ALL Desjardins’ fault? Not entirely. He inherited a team that was in transition and has been given second-tier stars to lead his team. Radim Vrbata had checked and rightfully so, he was underutilized. Loui Eriksson no doubt has checked out as well and he just got here.

Knowing the direction the Canucks need to go isn’t rocket science but they’ll have to have more than just Bo Horvat and eventually Brock Boeser. They’ll also need a coach willing to put these players into a position to succeed; Desjardins just isn’t doing that enough.

If players are proving their worth on the ice then they need to be given more responsibility, not less. Trotting out 3rd and 4th line players in the dying minutes of a game doesn’t exactly scream success.

Maybe WD just wasn’t ready for what was in front of him, I don’t know. What he should have been able to do was see which players were going to help aid the team and which ones hindered it. Going back to the Sedins, the never ending question of who their winger will be isn’t just on Willie D, it’s always been a problem.

From 2007-2011, the answer just found itself but when a player like Jannik Hansen statistically and analytically was the best option, WD kept putting fringe NHLers at the Sedin’s side. It’s just bad coaching is what it is.

Scratching Sven Baertschi or benching Anton Rodin has to be a red alert for management and it’s possible they’ll let it ride out to the end of the season, but why? How do they let a guy who dresses an injured player sit on the bench for the ENTIRE game hang around?

Do you think Baertschi has great things to say about Willie if he was let go; I’d expect an Alex Burrows type of confession from him.

Teams can their coaches mid-season all the time. The Canadiens did it as soon as Claude Julien became available because they knew what they were going to get. The current Canucks management just doesn’t have enough experience in these types of decisions. The scouting seems to be a whole lot better and the drafting is coming along, heck, some of the trades are even working out but the man entrusted to lead the team every night isn’t working any magic.

However this season finishes, be it the 1st overall pick or the 3rd, the Canucks need to retool and continue the rebuild course they’re on. Loyalty needs to be thrown to the curb as the Oilers finally did and their turnaround seems to be doing alright.

This team has lost its identity for the time being and no Boston or Los Angeles or Chicago model will solve their woes, it’s on the Canucks to figure out who they are themselves. Speed looks to be the direction the team is headed with some fancy playmakers in tow. Young studs in Troy Stecher, Ben Hutton, Boeser, Horvat, and Goldobin are proof this team isn’t dead.

Barely alive, but not dead.

We started off with “real good” and we’re now stuck with #firewillie. The Canucks fan base doesn’t like a loser and it wasn’t that long ago that Jim Benning was the man on the hot seat. He might get the ax too, but he’s bought himself some time since the deadline and his success at the draft.

There are way too many questions still with this Canucks squad but a handful of answers are showing up and coaching will be the first domino to fall. It’s suffocating to watch this team struggle to compete against even the worst teams, they deserve better.

Right?

Follow me on twitter: @always90four

photo – vancouver sun

Gutting Current Roster Stalls Canucks Future

The NHL Trade Deadline is fast approaching and the rumour mill is churning out new material by the day. Regardless of what side you’re on, the changes the Canucks make could potentially shake the future direction of where the team wants to go. It’s no surprise who’s on the block, what their respective trade destination list looks like or who potentially will be the realistic destination for any of the said players. What may end up being a surprise is what could happen if Jim Benning decides to stock the cupboards with picks and prospects and lose valuable mentors in the room.

Building for the future comes at a cost, how quickly they decide to build will dictate how soon the true results are achieved.

I, like everyone else, want the Canucks to turn the corner and become what they used to be: a competitive, winning hockey team. I understand that they had an opportunity to get to the top of the mountain and they let the window close for any future chances at getting back to the Stanley Cup. It’s been a trying few years and now, Vancouver is facing some tough decisions with their current team.

On the one hand, they can trade Alex Burrows, Jannik Hansen, and Ryan Miller to name a few and get valuable draft picks to start putting together a stable that will compete 3-5 years down the line. There are other players who haven’t been mentioned that could be moved right now and in return would bring players that have already been developed by other teams.

There have been discussions on the Internet about moving Ben Hutton because of the progression of Troy Stecher and Nikita Tryamkin and the promise of Olli Juolevi. What people don’t realize is that you can’t just eliminate a player like Hutton and expect that everything will be ok. Every action causes a reaction. If Hutton goes that leaves a spot for Erik Gudbranson or even Jordan Subban. Minutes go up for players that aren’t used to seeing that kind of action and the dominos begin to fall.

Does everyone remember when Kevin Bieksa was forced to play monster minutes? Ya, it didn’t go so well. Same goes for Luca Sbisa or even Alex Edler. Unless you are a true star and survive on your own, being thrown into the fire hampers the effectiveness of the player in question. Can taking Hutton out of the mix really help the Canucks? It just doesn’t feel like the right move. The other take there is the question of why would you even consider trading him so early on when he hasn’t even developed yet?

Moving on from Ben Hutton could end up being a huge mistake and considering the huge mistakes the Canucks have made in the past, there could be some serious damage done to the franchise.

Trading away Burrows gains a draft pick and there is a chance the Canucks can re-sign him in the offseason. Same can be said for Jannik Hansen and even Ryan Miller. Parlaying all those players puts a pretty big hole in the lineup and inevitably a freefall will occur. The problem with getting rid of all of these guys is that the leadership of the team takes a monster hit and it puts the Sedins in an awkward position to step their roles up on the team.

The Canucks need to ease the Twins into a supplementary role where they can maintain minutes in the low teens and still be effective. It’s obvious they aren’t getting any faster and their decisions throughout the game are starting to be routinely compromised. Their bodies aren’t reacting as fast as they can think the game and it shows.

Sure, they still sit among the leaders on the team in points but they are placed in so many situations that they have become overworked and in turn, it affects their teammates progression as well.

So what do the Canucks do?

They need to rebuild but they can’t have a massive void that keeps them from smoothly transitioning. Is it a case of starting over cold turkey or can they make the move a few players at a time? There no doubt are players coming up from the farm and in junior that will put the Canucks in a better position to win but not all of those players will be instant impacts on a nightly basis.

When those players make the switch to the NHL it also empties the cupboards of anything they have been working on and puts the team right back in the same position, not enough players drafted that they can develop.

I think this is called a “catch-22” situation.

What the Canucks SHOULD do, in my opinion, is admit defeat with a few players and maybe even the coach and give the players they moderately more responsibility. Loui Eriksson is a good start to move on from. Whatever the Canucks believed they had in Eriksson has not shown up on the scoresheet this season.

Maybe he’s injured and maybe he’s not but a player making $6 million a year for the next 5 years after this one is a pretty big waste of money if this is as good as he gets here. There is no Patrice Bergeron to play with and even playing on a line with Bo Horvat won’t amount to all-star numbers within a season, I just can’t see it happening.

Finding a buyer for Eriksson would be just as hard but Benning is a confusing character so I do have odd faith that he could pull it off. Jake Virtanen could be yet another “power forward” that doesn’t work out and he could be another Hunter Shinkaruk clone that fizzles out. A pick or a comparable prospect or a package deal to go get a star from that Denver team would be great.

Ryan Miller is the odds on favorite to move this year or at the very least, be the first one shipped off. The handling of both goalies this year has really clouded up what the team has in either player. Miller performs well when he’s rested and Jacob Markstrom performs well when he’s played more than once every three weeks.

Thatcher Demko shouldn’t be rushed into the league which means the Canucks need more time. Sending away Miller puts everything on Markstrom’s shoulders and even though he wants the chance to shine, there’s no way he sustains a winning record with no one to spell him after the burnout. Is trading Miller the answer in net?

The critics say yes but what does that solve? Not a whole lot and it creates issues in net which in turn means the Canucks would have to either find a cheap backup for Markstrom or take Richard Bachman from Utica and force Demko to be everything on the farm.

There is no easy fix and it feels like if the Canucks cut the wrong wire or push the wrong button, this team will create more problems than they originally had.

But hey, at least we’ll all scream at them regardless of what they do. That’s our thing.

Follow me on Twitter: @always90four

photo – vancitybuzz.com

Canucks Need To Ctrl+Alt+Del

Like a spooked 16-year-old on the family computer at 12:30 a.m, the Canucks need to hit ctrl+alt+del on the 2016/17 season. It started better than anyone thought, going 4-0 out of the gate and then it nose-dived to reality losing nine straight after that. There hasn’t been a long enough stretch where everyone can step back and say “Hey, this team will be ok.” It’s over and we all know it.

Shuffle the lines, call up whoever’s left and start accumulating draft picks.

After losing to the reigning Stanley Cup Champions, the Pittsburgh Penguins, it was fairly clear the Canucks aren’t in the same league right now. The Sedins were outplayed, they didn’t have Bo Horvat or Brandon Sutter, Ryan Miller despite his efforts was left for dead and Alex Biega was used as a forward.

Things have taken yet another turn for the worse. Last season, that would have been ok because there was a pretty significant reward had they lost at the right time. This year, they won’t be bad enough to have a legit chance at scoring Brandon Wheat Kings star Nolan Patrick. In typical Canucks fashion, they’ve shot themselves in the feet again.

For whatever reason, the obvious temporary answers ON the ice aren’t being addressed like making Horvat or even Sutter the top centre. Markus Granlund has emerged as a valuable depth winger that can be used anywhere, much like Jannik Hansen. If they have two of the same player, that makes one expendable.

I love Jannik, I really do. He has always been heralded as potentially the hardest working player on the team for many years and he’s the only player that seems to understand Sedin hockey. He doesn’t want to leave and if management asks him the fallout won’t be pretty. Here’s the thing, though: he brings back realistic future value. The downside is that this year’s crop of players isn’t exactly deep so after the first round, what is there to really get excited about.

What is there to even get excited about in the first round itself?

There isn’t a deep prospect pool ready to overtake the current Canucks roster so the rebuild we all know and crave won’t be complete after this year or even the next two years. Are we really going to be ok seeing Hansen, Burrows, or even Ryan Miller shipped off to the ends of the earth? Compound that with the expansion Vegas Golden Knights (are they still called that?) and the landscape changes dramatically.

All signs are currently pointing to Brock Boeser signing with the Canucks after his season ends in North Dakota so they could have an impactful goal scorer sooner than later. Vancouver still has Jake Virtanen but even HE isn’t quite sure what the Canucks want out of him. This season has been clouded with half-truths and they haven’t even spun the situation to a place where they have people on their side.

The deployment of less than sufficient lineups (Alex Biega as a forward, Anton Rodin as … a hurt bench warmer?) has cost them a few games, overplaying their goalies has easily cost them a handful more and not even having players that can produce on a nightly basis, well I don’t even know what that has amounted to.

Just like that paranoid teen, you need to hit reset and start over. The parts work fine but restarting and assessing what went wrong can help put things in perspective so the fix can be applied. If the Canucks are going to start moving players and asking them to waive their NTCs, they shouldn’t just be going after picks but players that can help them NOW.

I have been a big believer in admitting wrongdoing and moving on. There are a handful of mistakes the Canucks have made that they can at the very least, save whatever dignity is left of the situation and attempt to steer the team in the right direction. Whether it’s moving on from coach Willie D, pulling the trigger on trades that can breathe fresh life into the team, shipping off Virtanen or just no more Jayson Megna, there are fixes that we can accept.

Gary Bettman would be wise to read that book on mistakes.

Sticking by the Canucks gets tougher by the game and the only hope that seems to be keeping us focused on the future is in fact, the future itself.  It’s really tough to say how the Canucks could botch this season any further but it will only be a matter of time before something else happens.

Take a step back, see what you have and work with those pieces to move forward. There are some great players on this team that can become household names around the league but they need to be supported. It isn’t happening right now and it won’t happen unless immediate change is made.

THE BOTTOM IS ABOUT TO FALL OUT!!

Ctrl+Alt+Del

Follow me on twitter: @always90four

Rockets’ Nick Merkley Turning Heads Again After Surgery

Almost a year ago, Nick Merkley was dealt a pretty devastating blow after being drafted by the Arizona Coyotes that past June and then tearing his ACL in February in a game against the Spokane Chiefs. It was the kind of injury that couldn’t have come at a worse time as his team was gearing up for another run in the playoffs and having been drafted, it was a chance to show what he could be to the Coyotes.

Life throws some interesting curves.

Fast forward to this year and Merkley’s rehab from his injury was slow going. He was getting the proper conditioning and treatment down in Arizona and when it was time to come back to Kelowna, everyone felt he was good to go. The thing is, ACL’s don’t just “heal”. It’s a pretty significant injury that can affect how a player in any sport reacts going forward.

Unless you happen to be Adrian Peterson of the Minnesota Vikings (a superhuman, basically) you probably will have a longer healing period to get back to the point you were producing, if at all.

Upon returning to Kelowna, Merkley had a slow start which should have been expected. In his first 10 games this season, Nick racked up a paltry goal and 4 assists, with his first goal coming in his 10th game back. Including that 10th game, Merkley went on to score 6 times and added 2 assists in his next 6 games.

It wasn’t just the production on the score sheet, but the way in which he got back to what he did best. Merkley fought the puck a lot to start the year and it was pretty visible that his frustration caused him to clinch the stick a bit tighter and get away from the thinking game he dominated so much. You no doubt have heard me sing his praises since his rookie campaign, and for good reason: he’s amazingly talented.

As this season has gone forward, Nick has put the team on his back many nights and just when opponents tried to get on his, he brought “the swivel” back into his game and quite frankly, there aren’t many players that I’ve watched in any league that can execute that shake like he can.

Maybe not one of his best, but the success rate he has with that move is almost 100%.

Watching Merkley perfect the little things is what excites me the most, his shot seems to be more on point and his passing game is once again becoming a strong suit. He still is a little choosy when dishing the puck but he rarely disappoints when the puck hits his team mate’s stick, maybe you’ve seen this one already?

Despite the losses his Kelowna Rockets team has endured lately, Merkley has put up 8 points in his last 10 and with rookie Nolan Foote being out for an extended amount of time, Dillon Dube, Tomas Soustal and Calvin Thurkauf being away at the World Juniors and now Kole Lind and Cal Foote strutting their stuff at the Top Prospects Game, there have been many nights where Merkley has had to step up and represent the “A” on his shoulder.

Many of these players have been getting more publicity in the media lately as they have their own stories to be told but Nick has been evermore the continual beast on the ice and looks to prove his doubters wrong (if there are even any) that an ACL can’t hold him back. His late first round spot also serves as a chip to show the rest of the NHL what they are missing out on.

In his rookie season, I stated he had the hockey mind of Wayne Gretzky. Super, bold statement, I know. I am not comparing the two as equals as a whole and there will definitely be someone that will want to destroy me for even uttering those words but watching him think out the game in real-time is amazing to watch.

You can tell he knows where the puck will end up because either he’s there shooting it or another Rocket has the puck creating a scoring chance off his pass. It’s a shame that Nick wasn’t able to showcase himself at the World Junior tournament the last two years but it only serves to motivate him in his quest to be an NHLer.

Breaking down his distribution of points, of his 22 assists this year, Merkley’s has 18 primary assists, 1 back of first on the team. He accounts for 7.87% of the Kelowna Rockets’ total team points which ranks 4th on the team and his percentage of total goals created is 4th with 21.94%. As far as the power play goes, 75% of his goals are produced on the man advantage, which is tops on the Rockets this season. Shame to see him out of the lineup, although with the staggering amount of penalties the Rockets take, 812 total PIM and 16.2 PIM/GM (both tops in the WHL), the power play isn’t exactly out that much.

No longer having Rourke Chartier as his linemate, Merkley’s rediscovered how to be self-sufficient and at the same time put his stick in a position to help the rest of his team out. Having Thurkauf on his line is a treat as they just know how to feed off of each other. The open ice hits have come back as well to Merk’s arsenal and he’s proving he isn’t a one-trick pony.

Kelowna will have to get their problems figured out if they’re going to have any kind of success this postseason and Nick Merkley will once again be a major reason they achieve extended success. Surgery hasn’t silenced Merkley, in fact, it’s awoken the beast.

Follow me on twitter: @always90four

photo – kelownarockets.com

Kelowna Rockets Pre-Draft Duo Could Take Flight

This isn’t exactly one of the Rockets storied seasons where they lead the WHL in points, have multiple players challenging for the scoring title or a goalie that hasn’t let in a goal since Christmas; but they have a few players that could be the next superstars in the NHL come June. The ISS rankings from January 4th have Callen Foote at 8th overall and Kole Lind at 28th.

Two Kelowna Rockets in the first round of the NHL Entry Draft? Things just got interesting.

The family lineage of Cal Foote makes it easy for him to get noticed, son of Stanley Cup defenseman Adam Foote, but his play on the ice speaks for itself. He’s a rock on the back end for Kelowna, he’s smart in his own zone and has great catch-up speed. Although, he isn’t leading the league in any categories, he is one of the leaders on Kelowna’s blue line.

His shot on the power play gets noticed and it’s hard to see a game where he hasn’t been part of the main story. Rockets defensemen are well known around the NHL as puck movers, impact players and for a handful of them, surefire cornerstone pieces to building a Championship. Stars like Madison Bowey, Shea Weber, Damon Severson, Josh Gorges and Duncan Keith all had great starts in Kelowna and carried their mantle to the NHL.

Not all of those players have hit it big but it’s only a matter of time.

If you look at the comparables to Foote in Jeremy Davis’ pGPS model, you will see that Cal is in some pretty special company:

Callen Foote pGPS graph

Callen Foote pGPS graph

With 48% of his comparables going on to play 200+ games in the NHL, there is a very good chance Foote sticks and becomes a solid contributor in the NHL. There are also lots of WHL comparables which just shows how great the Western league is at producing blue line stars. Notables on the list here include Brent Seabrook, Shea Weber, Luke Schenn and Jay Bouwmeester; all of which have made their mark in the NHL.

Predicting an average point total of 28.3 per season, Cal can be an everyday defender that NHL teams can rely on. Obviously, these are based on a prediction based model and real life stats could easily exceed this number but for NHL teams looking at Foote, he’s a safe pick with a potentially huge upside.

Based on the graph, Foote would average around 0.72 points/gm and again, that’s a pretty high bar. Considering Shea Weber is averaging 0.58/gm in his career, I take that from Foote all day long.

That part I’m sticking on the name he holds and the Kelowna Rockets program he has been brought up in. I could see Cal Foote developing into a can’t miss defenseman that teams can build around. His younger brother Nolan will have some big shoes to fill.

Up front, Kole Lind is putting together a draft campaign that hasn’t normally gone well for Rockets forwards. As amazing as teammate Nick Merkley was in his draft year, the Arizona Coyotes were allowed to pick him with the last pick in the first round when many thought he’d be taken in the early 20’s.

Lind is currently sitting in 17th in overall scoring in the WHL with 58 points and has 5 GWG. His recent explosion last week against the Portland Winterhawks tore the Hawks apart for 2 goals and 2 assists, dominating play and putting his name back in the spotlight for the Draft. Kole Lind hasn’t had a statistically dominant year but he has been a threat on the ice almost every shift.

(I’ve tried that many times and broken many windows, I’ll stick to not being good at hockey)

His play along the boards, his offensive awareness, and ability to stride down the wing has brought the fans to their feet 22 times this season and as the Rockets get closer to the playoffs, he’ll be a driving force on the score sheet.

Looking at Lind’s pGPS graph, his comparables are pretty impressive as well. Lind’s 44.7% success rate comparables are all around the NHL. Jamie Benn would be the most notable player and surprise, surprise… he was a Rocket too! Joffrey Lupul has been around the block but has 701 games and 420 points speak for themselves.

Kole Lind pGPS graph

Kole Lind pGPS graph

Journeyman Shane Doan is on that list and he’s darn near 80 years old! Captain Canada Ryan Smyth is also a solid comparable and if Kole Lind pans out to be anything like either of those two players, he’ll have a heck of a career. Lind’s projected production over 82 games sits at 47.4 points a season which is quite alright.

Not in the top line range but can float around in a top support role. If you take a look at former Blazer and hated opponent, Scottie Upshall, he sits right around where Lind is on the chart. Scrappy but productive and he’s made a name for himself in the NHL. Although Upshall has a career 0.39 pts/gm, he has been a thorn in many teams sides.

Kole Lind will be looked at as a depth forward with a high offensive upside, unfortunately, a first round draft pick is where you want to draft your next stud. He has the weapons but it may take some time before he unleashes the true beast.

Jamie Benn seems to have done just fine so if I’m Kole Lind, I wouldn’t worry about it.

As the Draft approaches, expect to see players like Foote and Lind step their game up to boost their draft stock. The next chance they’ll get to publically show their talents is at the BMO Top Prospects Game in Quebec. This game can send many players up the ranks and get them more publicity as the playoffs carry on.

One thing is for sure, the Kelowna Rockets have it figured out.

Follow me on twitter: @always90four

photo – Kelownanow.com

The Canucks Are Catching Breaks…Somehow

I’m beginning to wonder what is going on in the NHL this season. The West seems like it’s hanging by a thread, the Pacific looks just as bad and just when everyone thought the Canucks were 65 point dogs, they set themselves up to be on pace for 85 points. I don’t get it. In a league that seemed to be repulsed by the very nature of the Canucks, it now is secretly embracing them.

Case in point – the disallowed goal.

Intent to blow the whistle? That referee was about as excited about that goal going in as I was when I found out Nickelback was going on tour again, he was pumped. When they then go to video review for approximately 5 minutes to ultimately tell everyone it’s not a goal because the ref was going to blow it off, it makes you think.

The Canucks have never, OK not never, but almost never got the call. From no goals to penalties to no goals being reversed, it’s just a way of life now as a fan. Don’t expect the call to go our way because it won’t. I can count on one hand how many times the Canucks have been spared by the NHL’s ax of judgment.

Are the powers that be in the glass tower actually pulling for a Canadian team, in this case, Vancouver, to make the playoffs? We know that if they get all the way again, machetes and uzis will be legal on the ice because skill won’t be allowed. This logic of pity on the Canucks can’t be carried too far down the line with the Leafs, Oilers or Flames but after a horrendous no show for any Canadian club last postseason, the NHL needs to remember that it too should not bite the hand that feeds.

Canada is hockey and if Canada isn’t watching, ratings plummet. Imagine If the Blue Jays played the Expos in the World Series (sorry, still too soon), it would have been a nightmare south of the border. You have to have at least one team in there to give everyone hope. The “Canada’s team” mantra is pretty flawed but the media eats it up.

So how are the Canucks managing to stay in the hunt this year? The power play in a simple sentence.

No, not their PP% but their opportunities. Vancouver ranks just outside the top 10 for total power plays with 75. Unfortunately, that doesn’t correlate to success as they employ the 3rd worst clip in the league at a barren 13.3%. But this team isn’t fast whatsoever, the Sedins are good for at least one hooking penalty per game and they don’t ruffle any feathers to bother anyone enough to hurt them.

It’s like watching the Senators, basically.

Yet, the Canucks continue to go up a man and the NHL continues to help them along. It isn’t JUST the NHL helping them out, though: Ryan Miller is having a spectacular season and since Christmas Day, he’s 3rd in GA with 13, 1st in SA% at a hulking .948 and 2nd with a GAA of 1.58. This is the kind of stuff Roberto Luongo did and is still doing over in Florida.

In Luongo’s first season with the Canucks, there were a ton of tight games because quite frankly, no one could score. It’s almost the same this year but I doubt they’ll achieve 49 wins this time around. Vancouver is slowly rebuilding its reputation as an honest team and with Ryan Kesler and Kevin Bieksa gone, I suppose Burrows is still there,  the officials are starting to give the Canucks a fair shake.

That hasn’t translated to the draft lottery yet but hopefully, Benning can just build the team without needing to go that route again. Not all the problems are fixed yet, but as the Canucks gain confidence in their abilities with the new faces in the mix and maybe a trade or two, the Canucks luck could eventually turn into talent.

Follow me on twitter: @always90four

photo – ctvnews.ca

Canucks Trying To Get A Better ‘Reid’ On Offense

I slay puns, there’s no argument there. For anyone living under a rock, NO I’m not talking about former Canuck Brandon Reid in relation to the header; Reid Boucher is the newest talk of the town after being claimed off of waivers last week. Boucher pulled the ol Esa Tikkanen last week when he was a member of the New Jersey Devils, Nashville Predators and now, the Vancouver Canucks.

Canucks fans have been clamoring for a waiver claim and they finally got one. Boucher will add some defensive depth to the bottom six forwards, a decent shot and he can score when given a chance. Becoming an RFA after this season will give him just enough time to either impress the Canucks into re-signing him or get him a contract elsewhere.

After the Anton Rodin debacle on Saturday night, a defensive forward could have fit the role as a sixth defenseman instead of the five they employed. The Rodin situation is a whole other debate and you really have to wonder what the heck the Canucks are doing with him. This isn’t the time, though. Reid will definitely be given a shot on the Skille line and just maybe a shot with either Bo Horvat or Brandon Sutter.

Admitting Jim Benning does smart things is tough sometimes (@ me all you want) but I think this may fall under that category. Trading for Markus Granlund when we all thought Hunter Shinkaruk was going to work here seemed idiotic and just plain wrong, look where they are now. Former first round pick, Jack Skille, was signed to a PTO and then a 1-year deal after impressing in the pre-season.

The handling of Frank Corrado, Anton Rodin, and a few others is confusing and conspiracy theory worthy but with the current players kind of set, it isn’t too distracting. Boucher will hopefully help the Canucks in the short term as it’s looking more and more like bodies will be needed.

On defense, there’s a good chance Jordan Subban may just get his first NHL game but some really bad things would have to happen and I don’t wish for that at all. Up front, though; the book on Boucher is his shot and contribution on the PP while being an average skater. Needing speed on this team doesn’t exactly scream REID BOUCHER but they obviously see something in him.

Dominating the OHL last season with Sarnia by scoring 62 goals does say he can find the net which could translate on the right team. Sometimes, the waiver process allows a player a chance to get where he should be instead of wasting away on a team that can’t utilize his strengths. The Canucks for the most part, seem to be out for lunch every time someone good comes up but again, that’s a whole other story.

I still think they should have claimed Ty Rattie from the Blues as I think he could have helped the Canucks more immediately but I’m not the GM as I’ve been told so I’ll have to wait to see how this pans out.

There IS one thing that makes me an instant Reid fan, however, his birthday. September 8th.

Lifelong Canuck as far as I’m concerned.

Follow me on twitter: @always90four

 

photo – thehockeywriters.com

Canucks Season Resembles Kindergarten Concert

So, this season has been a pretty easy one to talk about. The headlines write themselves, the storylines are deep and it’s an absolute mess. Who wants perfect? My daughter recently had her Kindergarten Christmas concert and I personally love them. Going in, I was hoping to obviously see my kid shine but knew full well it could turn into an all-out gong show.

Nobody wants it to go smoothly or it would just be a bunch of kids singing slightly louder than the pre-recorded music in the ghettoblaster. The teachers had a plan in place and they knew what their show “should” look like. All in all, it was pretty good, including the one kid who dabbed for half the songs, he was amazing!

I’m not talking like after each one, it was going on for at least 1/3 of each tune. Dude stole the show.

This Canucks team isn’t far off from a normal Kindergarten concert, though. We all had a good idea what this season was going to look like: a rebuild, a few callups that turn into surprises, the next step in Bo Horvat’s progression and a shot at Nolan Patrick. The framework is pretty much, bang on and even after some of these horrible losses, it’s about what we would have figured.

The season was set up as a work in progress and there were plenty of teams we all knew this team would struggle against. That was all fine and then the games were played. Two come from behind wins followed by another two wins had fans singing the team’s praises. Then there were the nine straight losses (oh, those were fun), the Matt Martin/Nazem Kadri fiasco and now the 8-6 Hurricanes loss.

Let’s stop the cameras for a second, they LOST 8-6 to the Hurricanes? Yup and they should have buried them in the ground before it all got out of hand. Just like that concert, things went well for the first few songs, kids knew their lines and a couple kids got the special half verse solo (that’s like Jayson Megna scoring two goals or something I guess or in this case Sven Baertschi making Willie D look like an idiot for scratching him against the Capitals).

But we all know, half way through things get dicey and some of the kids sing faster than the rest, some are definitely slower and there’s that kid dabbing on the edge of the stage (we like him, he’s kinda like Troy Stecher; just being so awesome). The Canucks were basically who we thought they were and somehow they played beyond our expectations, again that would be a Stecher reference or Horvat as well.

It wasn’t to be, though when they couldn’t even beat the Leafs, Sutter gets stapled to the Sedin line and Jack Skille is being put out in game deciding minutes, which I guess set himself up for those two goals the other game.

Clever stuff, Willie.

Things are unraveling right before our eyes and we should really be upset because well, the Canucks aren’t supposed to suck but it’s surprisingly awesome!

I don’t even know how the playoffs are a possibility still but here we are. The flip side is that Vancouver is 3 points out of dead last. Welcome to the Pacific Division. Combine that with the fact Bo Horvat is challenging for the #1 centre job and Troy Stecher posters are selling out all across the lower mainland; this has been kinda fun.

So now, the Canucks are into the middle of the show, a few songs went well, a chunk of them were just absolute write-offs and I’m sure by the end we’ll all be clapping because it came to an end and everyone will get their hopes up again that a nice juicy first overall pick is coming our way. The thing is, this is a Kindergarten concert.

You know what happens after that? Christmas holidays. Maybe even a new teacher that just came back from mat leave (new coach rumours fit perfectly here) but that’s about it. Your kids keep learning how to read and write, make a few new friends and then BAM! Grade 1.

The fun times are over, the gong show concert has been long gone for months and it’s all about progression. The Canucks need to get past the show and get to a point where development turns into systems turns into wins turns into competing for the Stanley Cup.

Whether it’s a new coach, a new GM or simply putting the right players on the power play, this team needs some structure again and it might take a true shakeup to get there.

There are definitely pieces in place to get to the next step and it’s only a half season until the next pieces of the puzzle arrive. Will the rebuild take as long as what Edmonton and Toronto have lived or are the Canucks brass smart enough to know when to pull the trigger and get this thing back on track?

What I do know, is that I came to watch my kid and she rocked it (also the dabbing kid was great). We keep watching the Canucks because that’s what we do and from time to time it’s going to be great and sometimes we’ll get to see a showoff like Troy Stecher or hopefully someone that plays in front of him. Like maybe sooner than later if possible.

Follow me on twitter: @always90four

Jim Benning Wants To Watch Vancouver Burn

The Canucks aren’t going to change much from now until the end of the season. The roster you see is pretty much what you get. Aside from some callups and maybe a random waiver pickup, the Canucks that are on the ice today are the Canucks that will finish out the season. Jim Benning isn’t sending anyone away without that player coming to him first.

There were some spicy, hot tidbits of information dropped in The Provies after the loss to the Devils and it’s a shame to think there is no plan to get better aside from the draft, which they have minimal picks and their anemic stable of prospects. Here’s the link from Tuesday.

Quick note: The Canucks are not connected to the waiver wire, their Internet connection should be fixed by March.

It befuddles me as to how JB thinks this team can contend anytime in the near future. The Sedins are 36 and even though they have the talent to make a go as a 2nd line pair in the very near future, there is a time they will not be here. Bo Horvat is the only succession plan up the middle and it’s a pretty good one but what does line two look like? Line three?

I suppose if Benning isn’t shipping out Sutter then there is a 2nd line pivot still but for that kind of money he has to come to his senses eventually and trade him, right? Alex Burrows is coming around and might even be able to salvage another 4 years of meaningful hockey, top line hockey, probably not; but he doesn’t need to go.

I’ve brought up Brock Boeser, Olli Juolevi and Thatcher Demko many times and they’ll be great additions to the team but unless they all produce at an all-star level in their rookie campaigns, the Canucks will sink further next year than they will this season.

Jim has discarded draft picks that had value in the last few seasons, I’ve blogged about a few key players they COULD have had, and hindsight is 20/20 but the players he picked up, shipped out and basically left for dead have really hampered this current team.

The latest trade to acquire Erik Gudbranson had the Canucks sending away a 2nd rounder which was basically a throw in. Not sure how you throw in a 2nd but Benning did and it wasn’t the first time.

Getting Markus Granlund may end up being a pretty savvy move but the shock value was there right from the get go. I like Granlund and he has been a nice addition to the Canucks, Hunter Shinkaruk on the other hand, is barely an NHLer. When Benning traded Nick Bonino and Adam Clendening, he threw in yet another 2nd rounder.

Before THAT, we didn’t even have Adam Clendening, the Canucks had star Swedish defender Gustav Forsling who was coming off a monster World Junior tournament performance. They talk about building from within but there’s no within if you send it packing… twice! There isn’t a clear direction that we can see anyways and standing pat won’t make this team any better in the near future.

There is so much that we don’t see that goes on behind the scenes, and probably for good reason, it just doesn’t make any logical sense as to why there is no proper measuring stick for how this team is to be judged. Are they building, are they staying put, are the playoffs a realistic goal?

Many Canucks fans out there have seen this all play out and they aren’t stupid to realize this plan isn’t working out very well. Being falsely sold something is a tough pill to swallow and the Canucks continue to ram it down our throats. We give Jim Benning a rough ride but its Management as a whole that has steered this ship into stormy seas.

Being told the Canucks are capable of rebuilding on the fly, contending for a playoff spot or feel they need to be loyal to certain players is laughable; it’s a business after all and like fantasy sports, there is a time where you have to separate your heart and your wallet. Winning pays dividends, losing can bury you.

Season tickets and single game passes are at an all time low and with no solution in sight, the Canucks will start to see their greed hit them in the face. This used to be a hotbed for printing money and now I’ve heard plenty of stories online where they can’t even give away their seats.

The same Vancouver Canucks.

Going back to articles I have written in the past, Benning is a phenomenal scout but riding shotgun to the actual GM is one thing, calling the shots that matter is something entirely different. There really isn’t much any of us can do so if you enjoyed the riots, grab a seat.

Benning is going to watch the Canucks burn with you.

 

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