hockey

The Case For Jordan Subban As A Loss Leader

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

photo – Today’s Slapshot

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Taste Of NHL Pays Dividends For Canucks Pick Kole Lind

As bad as the preseason has been for the Canucks, it seems to have paid off in spades for multiple prospects still on the roster and players that have been sent back to junior/AHL. Case in point Kole Lind, 2017 2nd round Canucks pick (like you didn’t know).  Lind was sent back just in time to join his Kelowna Rockets teammates before the first game of the WHL season.

He didn’t need much time to adjust. Whatever the Canucks coaches taught him, he put into use right away.

In the Rockets’ home opener on Friday, Lind made quick work of the Kamloops Blazers defense and eventually their goaltender, fellow 2017 draftee Dylan Ferguson.

Here’s an assist a bit later in the game; the patience he shows is scary impressive:

Torching the Kamloops Blazers doesn’t put Lind in MVP consideration quite yet but he was far and away the Rockets best player and after collecting 8 points through 2 games this weekend, he’ll be hungry each and every night.

What Lind will eventually bring to the Canucks is the ability to score goals with a release similar to current Canuck hopeful Brock Boeser and retired great Markus Naslund. He is well used on the penalty kill and has gone end to end untouched while his team is down a man. That won’t be a regular occurrence in the NHL

The Rockets are a very different looking team this season with Nick Merkley,  Lucas Johansen and Calvin Thurkauf moving on, as well as the unknown fate of Dillon Dube at Flames camp. Kole Lind will be targeted as one of the top producers on his team this year but much like last season when he led the Rockets with 87 points, he’ll challenge for top spot again.

Vancouver will be keeping a close eye on Lind this year with the current youth movement afoot, a monster season in Kelowna could push his stock way up to a potential roster spot next year on the Canucks. It will be interesting to compare gameplay with Boeser and Lind this year to see how they matchup in relation to their competition.

Coach Jason Smith of the Rockets has Lind available in almost every game situation and that speaks well of his talents. When he does eventually turn pro, Kole will have a solid arsenal of weapons every time he steps on the ice and Travis Green will trust him with more than just 5v5 ice time.

Jim Benning hit a home run with the 2017 2nd rounder and if Lind can hold up his end of the bargain there may be more future picks out of the Okanagan. We all know it’s been invisible until this past year.

Follow me on Twitter @always90four

 

photo – The Hockey News

Canucks Can Get Spark Back Through Rebuild

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

Success doesn’t happen overnight.

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

Trading Edler/Tanev right now

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

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

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

Be the big player on July 1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Jersey

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

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

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

Play the kids… ALL OF THEM!

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

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

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

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

photo – sportsnet.ca

8 Stats The 2011 Canucks Playoff Run Showed Us

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

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

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

Raffi Torres Was a Sniper… of sorts

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

Alex Edler Had Bruised Skin

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

The Canucks Won Game 5 Anyway

They did.

Tim Thomas Was Frustratingly Good

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

Roberto Luongo Wasn’t A Baseball Fan

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

courtesy of corsica.hockey

Canucks Plus/Minus Sucked, It Sucked Bad

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

Powerplays Didn’t Have To Be The Story

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

The Stanchion Goal Was Coming

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

courtesy of corsica.hockey

photo – vancitybuzz.com

Rockets Looking For Seventh Heaven Against Thunderbirds

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

Expect more of the same tonight.

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

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

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

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

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

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

photo – kelownacapnews.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sure looks that way.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

photo – vancourier.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Oh, you’re saying it can?

photo – canuckscorner.com

Rockets Need To Spell Jekyll and Hyde To Clinch Series

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Follow me on twitter: @always90four

photo – Marissa Baecker

 

Michael Herringer ‘Saving’ His Best For Playoffs

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

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

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

A little luck never hurt either.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Follow me on twitter: @always90four

photo – TheColorOfHockey

How Willie D Sealed His Fate With Just One Comment

We’ve learned a lot about the Canucks in the last two seasons, well really all three that Willie Desjardins has been the head coach. We found out how to play “really good”, we found out how to show “must” and if you happened to play for Medicine Hat or your name was Jayson Megna, you got some extensive playing time with the Sedins and if it wasn’t the Sedins you just stayed in the lineup.

Believe it or not, those weren’t the defining moments for Willie D. What ultimately sealed his fate, in my opinion, is this comment brought to the public by The Province’s Jason Botchford:

Botch also backed up what he believe Willie meant in the latest “The Pat-Cast” and it wasn’t as blunt as the tweet came off. However, what was alarming was that WD brought that up in the first place. He’s asking a guy that is still ultimately learning the team system and trying to keep his coach happy, to be something he probably hasn’t been asked to be all year.

I think it’s safe to say we all think Nikita Tryamkin has a ton of potential and could be a variation of Zdeno Chara which would be great. He has a booming shot that will take some time to harness and his awareness is getting better. Taking the stats out of this, Tryamkin has progressed leaps and bounds from when he first got here and the Canucks may have a diamond in the rough with him.

So if Willie wanted him to “eliminate” Marchand from THAT game so they could win, how does he explain his deployment of the rest of the team over the past few years? You can’t honestly expect one player to define the game when he isn’t even the game-changer on the team. I hate Brad Marchand, I really do, but it would have taken a lot more than a Tryamkin scare to put him out of that one.

It’s not just one moment or one game that can make a season. He has to have a track record of successful decisions to put his team in a better position to win. He just hasn’t done that in Vancouver.

Willie wanting Tryamkin to decide the Boston game is ironic. Had he put massively better lineups together combined with proper deployments in-game, he wouldn’t have had to ask guys to decide random games. Putting Horvat out for the final minutes instead of Anton Rodin, Derek Dorsett, Luca Sbisa, etc. probably would have earned them a few extra wins.

Giving Ryan Miller a rest more than once a month might help them win more games. Richard Bachman and Jacob Markstrom have both just sat there while Miller has been demanded to put the team on his back. We can go on and on with players like Linden Vey as well and you just have to wonder why he would choose now to be frustrated.

Going back to the confusing Anton Rodin saga, it’s mind-boggling as to why he carried out that the way he did. There may be more to all of this than we get to see but the optics were so beyond horrible that it brings his judgment into question. Continuing on with Biega or making random decisions like health-scratching scoring winger Baertschi this year keeps me scratching my head and not because I have dandruff (I mean, sometimes I do but it’s under control now), it just makes no sense as to how he is keeping this team believing in his message.

Willie has asked players that don’t normally have specific roles like “PK specialist or forward” to do that job out of nowhere. Alex Biega isn’t a forward, he’s a defenseman. So why is he getting playing time ahead of callups or healthy forwards? Why is Chris Tanev on the power play? Why did Loui Eriksson not get a longer tryout with the Sedins to start the season?

The answers aren’t going to come overnight and he was helicopter coaching every situation. A good coach will trust the process and if enough time passes, he can adapt. WD didn’t trust that Horvat could be a contributor long term and he gradually gave him responsibility and each time he prospered.

And yet guys like Drew Shore fly overseas and get valuable ice time right away. Same can be said for how Jayson Megna for whatever reason was Willie’s MVP for most of the season. That guy shouldn’t have even been in the lineup most nights. Now he has Michael Chaput with the Twins which makes zero sense. How has Joseph Cramarossa received as much opportunity as he has? His mindset as to how this team should operate is skewed.

I’d suggest having Nikolay Goldobin with them but Brandon Sutter is actually the better option.

You did this to yourself, Willie.

I like you, I really do. It’s been nice to see a different personality behind the bench and he helped put together the Horvat/Baertschi pairing. He also gave Troy Stecher a chance as well as Ben Hutton. Not giving Jordan Subban a chance to play is a sore spot with many but that will happen when it’s time.

What this season has also shown everyone is that the Sedins may need to be separated.  It’s time. Sure, they’ll continue to have moments and maybe you trot them out together occasionally or on the second power play unit but they aren’t getting the results that should be expected from aging players. Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane started together but they play on separate lines now and you know what, they still produce.

They aren’t brothers or telepathic twins but they can survive without each other. Henrik and Daniel need to be told to sit on different spots on the bench. If the Canucks and Willie, for the time being, are serious about the rebuild then they have to commit to actually rebuilding.

WD has a few more weeks to make an impact and even though he is essentially out the door he can get things in a better position for the future. Figuring out that Markus Granlund was better than we knew helped his cause and slowly moving along Reid Boucher to a spot where he can succeed may help him by year’s end.

Willie Desjardins has made friends and enemies in Canucks Nation but he’s lost us as believers and I can’t imagine that Canucks management feels different.

He’ll get another opportunity but Vancouver needs someone to bring them to the next level or at the very least keep them from allowing 40+ shots per game.

Follow me on twitter: @always90four