hockey

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

Loui Eriksson is Better Than You Think

This season has not gone particularly well for Loui Eriksson. He’s 7th in team scoring on an underwhelming lineup, he’s scored 11 goals when it was openly expected he would net around 30 and any chance at rebounding his luck with the Sedins or Bo Horvat or really anybody has disintegrated before our eyes. As bad as he’s looked on the score sheet, Eriksson has actually been a pretty good player for the Canucks.

I’m not saying he’s worth the $6 million per season he’s getting but looking at a few stats suggests he might just be the most unlucky guy on the Canucks this season, maybe the league.

It’s still not known if Eriksson has played with some kind of wrist injury or dual wrist injuries (is that even possible?) because everything that has been sold to us prior to this season was that Loui was a goal scorer and we could expect the goals to come from his stick at the very least. There are only 13 games left to play this season and scoring 30 goals just isn’t going to happen.

Heck, scoring 15 seems unlikely.

Eriksson isn’t entirely at fault, though. Willie Desjardins hasn’t utilized his talent to a point where an appropriate conclusion can be made on his lack of finish. He’s played 318 minutes of 5v5 hockey with the Sedins this season and when he has they’ve combined for a tidy 100.1 PDO and a respectable 55.4 combined CF%.

Advanced stats don’t decide every shift but nothing looks like it’s going wrong when they’re together, it’s not costing the Canucks any more goals than other lines overall and yet he was never given a chance there. That being said, having a 60.9% combined Ozone start in that time doesn’t help things.

So why not keep him with Horvat? They have been above average with a PDO of 106.7, which with this team clearly would not last, but having played just over 120 minutes of even-strength together, they have combined for substantial 83.3 GF%. Whoa, big number alert! Maybe he isn’t terrible, maybe he’s… good?

Willie is aware he has more than one option for each player, right? I know Jayson Megna has infinite possibilities but this isn’t about him right now. I can’t fathom how WD is allowed to strut lines night in and night out that don’t represent what the Canucks actually could look like. Plain and simple, Eriksson is actually a goal scorer, this we know from past stats.

His first season in Vancouver could be labeled a write-off by many but that’s only looking at it on the surface. Eriksson is one of three players on the Canucks this year to play at least 200 minutes at even strength and still, have a CF% above 50. He’s been on the ice for the 8th most Corsi events against on the team and has proven he’s not a defensive liability.

I feel like we’ve said this before about another winger that wasn’t getting proper deployment. I can’t find any “stuff” to readily back that up, though.

Digging even deeper, when the Canucks are trailing Eriksson is 2nd on the team in CF% with a 57.37 mark. The coach obviously trusts him to be out there to keep the game close but giving him proper chances to score doesn’t seem to be part of the agenda. Why not give him the chance to succeed then?

The writing is on the wall that Willie may not coach another season on the Canucks bench and whoever does take over the reigns might have an easier job than the trainwreck shows. Eriksson has regressed this season for various reasons and I doubt Jim Benning is actually that dense to sign a guy thinking he “might” reproduce the same numbers as past years.

He locked him up because even on this sad sack team there is a future and with five more seasons to go, Eriksson may very well be a large part of what that future looks like. The Sedins have hung around and whatever coach takes over will have to realize that either splitting them up or putting them in a lesser role will only help this team succeed.

Horvat and Brandon Sutter have emerged as the top two pivots and should have the appropriate linemates to accommodate them. Henrik and Daniel can still be quite effective when they get less ice time and aren’t asked to carry a power play that has moved on without them. Eriksson should now have the chance to play on the top line with Bo and most likely Sven Baertschi.

It’s unreasonable to think Eriksson will continue to be this unlucky; hockey only punishes for so long. It’s a game of ebbs and flows and unfortunately for Loui, his has lasted an entire year. Giving him top billing to start the year next season should help him rebound to the player that scored 30 goals for the Bruins last season.

There is no Patrice Bergeron or Brad Marchand to help those stats along but the development of Horvat as a progressing top line centre gives me hope that he can get back to that pace once again. Goal scorers don’t just stop scoring goals, even the aging stars like Jaromir Jagr and our favourite, Pavel Bure still scored until it was time to hang them up.

At the very least, Brock Boeser and a handful of up and comers will get Eriksson off the slump and his willingness to be in the dirty areas will eventually result in more goals.

He may not get to set up as much as say, Radim Vrbata did, but Eriksson has a rougher game and can bang around to create more chances. I can’t see him falling any further which means it has to go up from here.

2017 will be a season Loui Eriksson will want to forget but he hasn’t been that bad and if he keeps doing what he’s doing, the score sheet will start seeing his name a whole lot more.

 

photo – cbc.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