Stanley Cup Playoffs

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

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 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

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

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

It’s Official: The Canucks Are The Definition Of Insanity

Most of you have heard the saying “the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.” The Canucks would then fall under this category. That isn’t the ACTUAL definition but you get the idea. The power play, the head scratching roster decisions and trading away 2nd round picks, WHY DO THEY KEEP TRADING THAT PICK?

It’s about time the Canucks as a whole, get out of that cycle.

There is a serious change about to happen in Vancouver and it’s not the weather, sorry. The Canucks have unearthed some interesting stories this season and it really covers every aspect of this team. The ones that look them dead in the face are obviously the power play and the emergence of Bo Horvat as the top centre.

For starters, the power play needs a complete overhaul. I’m not talking about a TLC reality show, I’m talking about seeing the actual performers on the team, their productivity levels and the potential of the guys that aren’t getting time there. Horvat is tied for the team lead in points and at some point will break away and top everyone.

He’s been a consistent threat up the middle and has made Sven Baertschi a household name. Heck, Alex Burrows became a young man again because of Bo. I haven’t even mentioned that he made the All-Star game in his 3rd season.

Oh, ok, now I have.

The Sedins, although crafty and still fairly good, are not number ones anymore. Give the next generation the baton. Aligning Loui Eriksson with Bo on the first unit will pay dividends within a short amount of time and before you know it, goals will start happening. Goals lead to wins I’m told.

On the back end, Nikita Tryamkin has shown that his howitzer has crazy real potential. It’s hard, it’s fast, it’s destructive: a recipe for a beautiful disaster. If it’s not from the blue line, start moving him up front to screen, I mean, he’s the BFG, he’s tall and screeny. The actual possibility that these things could work isn’t something you read on the Internet (well here you do anyway), people are figuring this out on their own.

I did and I write a blog in my parent’s living room.

Thankfully, the Canucks aren’t the most penalized team in the league but the rest of the NHL is getting faster and the younger players need to be the ones leading the charge. Slow players need to catch up which usually correlates to penalties, hooking, holding, etc. Seeing Jordan Subban get sent back down to Utica hurt but he was able to play in the AHL All-Star game and he no doubt will be back soon.

Subban is another player that needs to make the next step for Vancouver. He’s ready and offers so much potential and speed. Reconfiguring this team to transition to the new NHL will benefit the Canucks sooner than they think. Brock Boeser and Olli Juolevi will arrive soon enough which means someone up front is gone on the wing which is pretty easy and someone on the back end is expendable.

There are enough pieces back there to choose from and realistically, there is a player that can fetch a decent return.

But enough about the dismal power play, what about starting Ryan Miller every night but yesterday? Willie Desjardins can’t continue to isolate Ryan Miller in the net, he needs a partner that can ease the load, especially if the playoffs are something they want to achieve. Miller is having a great season and really feels at home and keeping the Canucks alive every game he plays would be all for not if they burn him out.

Thatcher Demko isn’t quite ready and shouldn’t be rushed in to the mix, Cory Schneider was given time and he flourished because of it. Give Miller rest and he can perform like an All-Star.

What drives everyone crazy is that many of these changes just aren’t or won’t be happening. It’s a stubborn leadership group off the ice that is keeping this team from succeeding. Look at the Leafs, Oilers and Flames; if they would have seen themselves spinning their tires on ice (no pun intended) they would have realized what answers were right in front of them.

Edmonton only JUST realized this recently but that’s a whole other thing and I don’t write about the Oilers.

The surface hasn’t even been scratched on all the things that could immediately remedy the Canucks (not playing Jayson Megna, like at all, Erik Gudbranson getting another shot next year) but if the little things they are doing well continue, the chance that these other changes take place become more and more likely.

It’s insane to think the same thing has gone on this long. Why is this team so afraid of the next step?

Time’s up, we’ll cover this in another session.

Follow me on twitter: @always90four

Ryan Miller’s Magical Run Desperate For A Spell

This has turned out to be a pretty good season for Ryan Miller. He’s in the final year of his 3-year deal and although he isn’t playing at the peak level he was at in Buffalo, he’s turning in some pretty impressive numbers. If it wasn’t for Miller (and Markstrom) the Canucks would easily be playing for last or second to last place in the league.

Turns out they could carry on without out Roberto Luongo.

Ryan Miller has kept the Canucks in a remarkable number of games so far this season and it needs to be recognized beyond Vancouver. Since Dec 1st, Miller ranks T-9 in wins with 10, 11th in saves, an astonishing .926 SA%, and 10th in GAA with 2.30. Having a healthy defense corps that are capable of clearing out pucks or keeping them out of the zone could probably bump those numbers even higher.

He definitely gives the Canucks a chance every night and has shown he has bought into the current team plan, whatever that might be. Sticking up for Troy Stecher against the Leafs was the eye-opener for everyone. Things started kind of rocky for Miller when he got to Vancouver but now I wouldn’t mind if he hung around for another year or two while Thatcher Demko matures in the AHL.

The problem with running Miller night in and night out is that he’s “sports old” and at some point, he’s going to burn out.  In 2007/08, Miller played in 76 games, he won 36 times but lost 27 and lost in OT/SO 10 times. That season he allowed the most goals ever in his career with 197. If he keeps up his starts and plays around 54 games, he’ll be around the 140 goals against average or so.

Not the end of the world exactly but last season didn’t track so well when he started 51 so its possible the same could occur down the stretch.

There have been worse stories like what Calgary did with Miikka Kiprusoff from 2007-09 starting him 76 games as well netting 39 and 45 wins respectively but allowing 26 and 24 wins as well in the process.

Kipper’s goals against in those seasons were 197 and 209 respectively, which obviously would come with playing that many games but the Flames did not benefit from having a goalie that played every two nights. Having a goalie capable of that is great but there’s no way it lasts and everyone suffers in the process.

Miller needs a rest and whether its mistrust in Jacob Markstrom or the belief that you run the hot hand until it flames out, the Canucks can’t continue on this path. Common sense would suggest starting Markstrom at least once a week providing there are 3 games being played. There are streaks that go on where you have to roll with the hot goalie but no goalie wins every single game.

Even with Marky’s mundane stats, he gives the Canucks a chance every night and like a young defenseman, it takes some time to hone your craft. Considering the Canucks will be at a crossroads at seasons end with goaltending, it would be smart to get Markstrom in the net more than he has been. As of now, the playoffs are still a possibility and if Ryan Miller is going to be “the guy” then he’ll need to be rested and healthy.

He’s 36 years old and the Western Conference isn’t getting any slower so Miller has to be on point every night. This team doesn’t allow for him to make mistakes and some nights he’s been asked to make miracles happen. Those starts become more and more valuable as the season drags on and Willie Desjardins needs to realize a freak injury, which seems to happen a lot here, is one shot away.

Is Jacob Markstrom capable of carrying this current team? He basically did last year and with the goals coming from a few more players this season, a few new defenders that are holding their own and a division that has a wild card spot up for grabs almost every night, Markstrom isn’t in a terrible situation to fail.

Not completely anyway.

Ryan Miller needs to be spelled not just on the road, but at home too! Markstrom will get one start in the back to back games either Wednesday or Thursday and after that, there are two more back to back sets until February 19th. In between all those are games almost every second night which include a week long 6-game road trip.

There is no way he should be playing all of those and I can’t imagine Miller stays 100% during that time. It’s around the time when the toll of the game starts to wear on goaltenders and the little things start to nag. We’ve all heard and seen the stats since January 1st and Ryan Miller is definitely turning some heads.

Trading Miller doesn’t seem like an option now that he’s a family guy. He likes Vancouver, from what we read, and I know I personally wouldn’t want to be uprooted if things were in my favor. I don’t think it gets much worse for the Canucks but I’m wrong a lot. Ryan Miller can keep the Canucks afloat for awhile still but he’s only one guy.

Allowing Jacob Markstrom to take the reigns for a handful of games gives the Canucks a fighting chance for a longer period. They aren’t winning the Cup this year but Nolan Patrick doesn’t seem likely either so they might as well try and play this thing out.

Follow me on twitter: @always90four

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

How The Canucks Have Gone ‘Full Willie D’ In 5 Steps

We’ve all heard the phrase “never go full (insert name here)” in regards to buying in passed the point of no return where all the decisions you make are now in serious trouble. Well, the Canucks are now in some potentially dangerous territory that may or may not result in some big changes. Come to think of it, they’re passed the danger zone… they’ve gone ‘Full Willie Desjardins’.

There have been a growing amount of decisions/non-decisions, comments and “real goods” that have put the Canucks in a bit of a bind. Sure, not all the current problems with this team can be acquainted with the Jim Benning, Willie Desjardins and that Weisbrod fella, but after the first year of Willie’s tenure in Vancouver, it’s abundantly unclear of where this team is headed.

Are the Canucks ever going to be a playoff team again? Can the power play be revived? How long does Willie last?

All of these questions are nagging at our brains and if the Canucks continue down the same road, not only will they JUST miss the playoffs but they’ll end up with a mediocre draft pick, yet again, and the impact players we need will pass the team by. WD has frustrated the heck out of all of us and below are the five ways the Canucks have truly gone FULL WILLIE D and why we should probably be more worried than confused.

1 – THE POWER PLAY STINKS LIKE A BONE MARROW DOG FART

I really wish I didn’t have to get so descriptive about that but if you have experienced that smell, you have also experienced the current Canucks power play situation. It’s awful, unbearable, and I can’t even be in the same room when it happens. On January 15, the Canucks were 27th in the league with the man advantage and could easily fall to last by garbage day.

It’s so darn predictable and I’m amazed that Willie and his coaching staff hasn’t figured out that the fans, as well as the Canucks opponents, have figured it out move for move. Until the game against the Devils, there was no change to the execution: gain the zone, pass it around to the Sedins, eventually, let Stecher shoot from the blue line…no goal, try again.

Had no one on the team suggested, and I’m including the Sedins here, maybe using Nikita Tryamkin at the net to set up a screen? He’s such a big dude that it’s painfully obvious that would at the very least put the PP up a few spots. If not him, how about Loui Eriksson “goal scoring machine”? He digs in front and has the natural talent to score goals with a shovel. He just needs a chance.

Henrik and Daniel will continue to lead the team on the power play because Willie isn’t willing (no pun intended) to let the younger, faster-moving players take over. The PP has gone Full Willie which is ironic because it’s basically empty.

2 – PRESS CONFERENCES REQUIRE M. NIGHT SHYMALAN TO DECIPHER

When it all started everything was good. Literally. In fact, it was “really good” no matter the player or situation. It’s been awhile since WD has uttered a true “really good” but there hasn’t been much good to talk about. The pressers are filled with reasons why the PP will continue, why Jake Virtanen can’t play after being called up, something about stuff? and how players are not injured and then really injured within a day of nothing happening.

The same power play that is almost last is about to take off? WOW! I don’t get it.  Here’s another head-scratcher:

How about when Jake Virtanen was on his way back up to the Canucks after a 2 game conditioning stint and couldn’t play because he forgot his stuff? Honestly, what does that even mean? It’s fine to lie to us or withhold the truth but c’mon man, don’t just flat out BS everyone. I get that we shouldn’t be intensely excited for certain players who most definitely will not turn this team around in one shift but just stop the crap.

It’s carried over to the players now:

Willie has forced them into a game of chance, apparently. This is the point where the coach needs to get his team to buy into a win in regulation because of the odds of taking overtime. To be fair, if the Canucks make OT, we actually don’t have any idea of what will happen.
Henrik, what’s your take?

So I’m guessing Ro-sham-bo is next? That at least would be more entertaining.

The pressers are so Full Willie D.

3 – PLAYING WITH 5 DEFENSEMEN IS WAY HARDER THAN 6

This shouldn’t even be included because it’s just common sense. If you have a healthy player and an open spot and you dress him, you play him. Even 2 minutes is ok. Benching a guy you’re trying to figure out just pisses him off. In a game where the Canucks lost by a goal, you’d think having a rested defense pairing for at least a minute or so would give them just a bit of a breather to fight for the tying goal.

Nope.

Let’s play with 5 defensemen, almost 4 that night, and see if we can outlast a division opponent. That’s stupid. Anton Rodin is the player in question and even though it was a short turn around to play the Flames for a second straight night, management, as well as the coaches should have never let a player dress with zero intent of playing him.

This ranks up there with some of the stupidest stuff in the game, Patrik Stefan missing an empty net to ice the game is right there too! If the playoffs are the goal, you have to have a full team to try and get those points. Maybe Willie should try that in game 82 when it’s all on the line. I don’t know if he likes a challenge or if it’s some crazy AHL/WHL thing he has done before but this is the NHL and everyone is laughing at us.

Playing without a full deck is big time Willie D.

4 – THE BLENDER IS GONE AND THE TURNSTILE IS BROKEN

When things get tough, a coach usually chucks his lines in the blender and sees what sticks. WD doesn’t even OWN a blender so what you see is what you get… on a losing team. I agree, there are some lines that shouldn’t be broken up like the Horvat/Baertschi/Burrows and the Sutter/Granlund pairing but how did it take THIS long to get Loui Eriksson back on the Sedin line?

They’re all Swedish, that should have been the first sign. They played on the same line at the World Cup and paying Loui a ton of cash to score goals with the Sedins means… playing with the Sedins and scoring goals. The natural progression of players earning time to move up seems to have gone by the wayside for the Canucks.

Bo Horvat had to absolutely crush it to get off the fourth line and when he was given the third line he basically turned it into line two. Brandon Sutter immediately had line two locked up and he wasn’t the best choice when he started. From there, injuries started coming and Jannik Hansen, the Sedins ideal linemate, was put on IR. So Jayson Megna was given the immunity idol and has been up front for way too long.

Jayson Megna shouldn’t even be on the Canucks and he’s getting prime ice with the Twins. Makes sense. It’s as stubborn as Linden Vey/Derek Dorsett crunch time minutes down a goal, up a goal, you get the picture. Willie is throwing away chances and it’s like he doesn’t even care. He probably doesn’t even realize he’s doing it.

OH CRAP, BO HORVAT is here? Aw man, I gotta get him some minutes. Oh wait, I guess it’s Rodin’s time to show me what he can do. You see what’s happening here?

The line rushes have gone Full Willie D.

5 – EVEN SPORTSNET IS AFFECTED

Imagine you are awarded a $5.2B TV contract and what’s better is that you have essentially exclusive access to all the Canadian hockey teams. You get the built-in fanbases and get to steal talent from the other networks. You figure it’s all downhill from here and then you realize that the Canadian hockey market has taken a pretty big hit in viewership and the word TANK comes up a lot.

Once the broadcasts end we find out who really changed the game and the 3 stars are announced. Even Sportsnet has gone Full Willie D.

Lately, it’s like no one even works there anymore LINK.

Can the Canucks buck this sickness and get back to being a relatively normal hockey team or have they gone so full Willy D that it’s too late and we are doomed to watch frustrating, unrewarding, drop pass crap.

Please, Willie, see the error of your ways and fix this team. Not the next team or the team before, this one. They just need to know you’re paying attention still.

Follow me on twitter: @always90four

 

photo – sportsnet.ca

Canucks Taking Advantage Of Weak Division

Pretty much stating the obvious here but for the time being the Canucks would be wise to fool whoever they can while the getting is good. As of right now, the Canucks sit a point back of 8th and four back of 5th place in the West. This is the same Canucks team that earlier this year went winless in 9 games. There are a lot of teams that are worse than they should be and a handful that are playing above their means.

The Canucks are the latter.

I probably should have titled this “You Can’t Spell Canucks Without PDO.” I spent an hour deciding that, believe it or not. This time last year, the Canucks were also a point out of a playoff spot and were stringing together a few wins as well. Is this the point in the season where the good teams get lazy and the bad teams make the headlines?

When the NHL gets back to normal, which I believe they are going through some kind of parallel universe, the way the Canucks and teams like them are playing won’t scratch the surface on getting into the playoff picture.

As Willie Desjardins continually ices a team with line combinations only The Riddler would understand, we all ask ourselves how the heck this team has stayed competitive? They lack depth in the goal scoring department, the defense looks good but in reality, isn’t exactly lighting up the score sheet and as far as goaltending goes the Russian Roulette of starts is pretty confusing.

Goaltending has been a strong suit this season and without Ryan Miller and Jacob Markstrom holding down the fort, Nolan Patrick or at least his value in a tradeable draft pick would be very possible. It’s relieving to know they can bring Thatcher Demko along more gradually.

What the current Pacific division and to a lesser extent, the Western Conference, is showing us is that speed seems to reward teams. The Canucks are not a speedy team in theory, and their luck will catch up with them eventually and sink them back to the bottom of the standings.

Watching Henrik and Daniel on any given night is frustrating because they have been asked to be the number one line and they really shouldn’t be anymore. If this team was ready to embrace the change on the fly or rebuild or whatever, the Horvat line and the Sutter line would be taking over at this point. There is way more speed on the 2nd and 3rd lines and by giving the Sedins prime ice time, it’s strangling any chance for hope this team might have.

Every team that has a share of a playoff spot has some speed and the Canucks do not. The Sedin hooking penalty will go down in Canucks history but they’ve never been fast enough to out skate the league’s speedsters. Not to knock the Twins but if that is all the Canucks are hanging their hats on, they need to make sure they can stay in every game or get get caught watching the puck go the other way.

Bringing up PDO for a second, the Canucks currently sit 24th in the “luck” category and as they play closer to their actual selves if that’s even possible, they could jump into the top 10 within a week or two. The Pacific division hasn’t made many adjustments to stay competitive so that actually speaks well for the Canucks.

The Kings lost Jonathan Quick in October and haven’t bothered to address their goaltending situation. They aren’t that far ahead of the Canucks on the season, both teams have similar records and not like it would come down to it but I’d actually give the Canucks a fighting chance against LA in a playoff series this year.

Sneaking in this year would mean Vancouver would probably get Chicago and it would be a blood bath. There is nothing wrong with the Blackhawks and they may very well make a deep run this spring. They are exempt from this discussion as everything the Hawks do seems to work out.

Five wins in a row are pretty impressive and for a team that couldn’t string together two wins in a row most of the season, this is quite the run. It’s an outlying performance but we should definitely enjoy it while it lasts.

When you look at what the Blue Jackets are doing you get excited but like all Cinderella stories, the clock will strike 12 and you’ll be stuck with a pumpkin again.

Vancouver can still keep this going and build some faith with the fan base but they have to stop jerking everyone around and start making decisions that are logical. It’s not just management that has made fumbles and it’s not just the head coach; this whole organization has to be on the same page and buy in together to make a difference.

Jim Benning and Willie Desjardins need to stop nickel and diming this team and decide on guys like Anton Rodin, Brendan Gaunce and whatever it is they thought they were going to do with Loui Eriksson and move forward.

Having a perennial 25-30 goal scorer begging to be on the top line after he has shown time and time again he is producing with less than ideal linemates. Eriksson needs to be given the keys to the offense and if it’s not with the Sedins it should be with Bo Horvat and Sven Baertschi as a top line.

Life is good right now for Canucks fans but don’t hold your breath, the conference will right itself and the Canucks will be the team we thought they’d be.

Thankfully, 65 points now seems like a distant memory now.

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photo – yahoo.com