Rants

House Always Wins For Vegas Golden Knights

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

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

Follow me so far?

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

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

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

Vegas MUST be stopped!

Shady stuff, Vegas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I beg you.

Follow me on twitter: @always90four

photo – reviewjournal.com

Please Stop Talking About The Canucks Power Play

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Follow me on twitter: @always90four

photo – vancouversun.com

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

Canucks Need To Ctrl+Alt+Del

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

THE BOTTOM IS ABOUT TO FALL OUT!!

Ctrl+Alt+Del

Follow me on twitter: @always90four

Maybe Someone Else Could Be Brendan Gaunce

I struggled mightily on how to start this post almost as much as the Canucks have struggled with Brendan Gaunce in their lineup. When most people think of a 4th line center, they want a guy that digs in the dirty areas, eats up minutes and brings tangible value to the team.

Basically, he needs to be effective enough to give the other three lines a break and occasionally contribute on the scoreboard. Many of us pined for Brendan Gaunce to get his opportunity on the Canucks 4th line and now that he has it, he’s been pretty dull.

Right now, BG is like that memorable song on the radio from the mid-2000’s that you were pretty impressed with but thinking back, it really wasn’t all that good and you immediately can think of at least 5 songs you’d rather listen to.

Sorta like that.

Gaunce has 5 assists this year and considering that the Canucks don’t score many goals, that should seem like a decent amount. When Brad Richardson/Manny Malhotra were on the Canucks, they produced like a proper 4th liner.

Richardson amassed 8 goals and 13 assists in 45 games in his last season in Vancouver back in 2014/15. In the season prior, he had 2G and 3 points shorthanded for the Canucks that were included in his 11G, 12A campaign.

That’s a lot of points for a guy seeing minimal ice time. Richardson could be used in a variety of situations and was valuable in all of them, he was a true contributor to the cause.

Looking at Brendan Gaunce, he fills minutes, sure, but is he really effective? Not really. I’m about to compare Gaunce to Jayson Megna. I know that’s not fair but they shouldn’t have either of these guys in the lineup and even Megna has a case to stay in the lineup.

Megna, although useless, has a shooting percentage of 7.7% while Gaunce sports a zero. Yikes! Jake Virtanen (who isn’t even ON THE CANUCKS right now) has the same zero but his points per game is only 1/100th less than Gaunce at 0.10/game.

Different positions, I’m aware, but Jake didn’t even have his stuff here and he was contributing about the same. Brendan’s TOI/GM is 28th of all players that have suited up this year for the Canucks, only ahead of Mike Zalewski, Reid Boucher, and Joseph Labate.

It’s pretty obvious Willie D doesn’t trust him a ton and we can go right back to the point of why is he playing regularly for the Canucks? Looking to the farm and calling up Curtis Valk who’s having a great season in Utica or even popcorn aficionado, Reid Boucher with the regular spot in the press box are better options than Gaunce right now.

Looking at Gaunce’s advanced stats may suggest I’m a nut job as his CF% at 5v5 is 1st on the team with 52.01% and his PDO is actually not that bad at 99.05. What I see on the ice is that he doesn’t seem to be making a difference.

Tolerating stale players has become a regularity on the Canucks and Gaunce seems to be the latest one. I’m happy he’s on the team but I think it’s time for a stint with the Comets to get his game back to where it should be at that spot.

 You’re only as good as your weakest link and right now, Brendan Gaunce needs to be a stronger link.

Follow me on twitter: @always90four

photo – ottawa citizen

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

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

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

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

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

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

Oh, ok, now I have.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Follow me on twitter: @always90four

The Canucks Are Catching Breaks…Somehow

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

Case in point – the disallowed goal.

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

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

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

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

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

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

It’s like watching the Senators, basically.

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

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

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

Follow me on twitter: @always90four

photo – ctvnews.ca

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2 – PRESS CONFERENCES REQUIRE M. NIGHT SHYMALAN TO DECIPHER

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

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

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

It’s carried over to the players now:

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

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

The pressers are so Full Willie D.

3 – PLAYING WITH 5 DEFENSEMEN IS WAY HARDER THAN 6

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

Nope.

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

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

Playing without a full deck is big time Willie D.

4 – THE BLENDER IS GONE AND THE TURNSTILE IS BROKEN

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

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

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

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

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

The line rushes have gone Full Willie D.

5 – EVEN SPORTSNET IS AFFECTED

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

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

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

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

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

Follow me on twitter: @always90four

 

photo – sportsnet.ca

Win or Lose: Willie Desjardins Needs A New Plan

The carousel of ideas is endless: there are so many ways to potentially fix the Canucks. Not ALL the problems can be fixed with these ideas but just a bit of common sense could ultimately turn the Canucks around and get them in a position to succeed sooner. Willie Desjardins could be given all the statistical evidence he would need to put the Canucks in a more productive state and it seems his stubbornness to adapt has hindered the Canucks’ progress.

He needs a new plan.

Hard facts will show you that goals aren’t being scored in Vancouver, for the Canucks anyways, in almost any fashion. The Canucks are currently 25th in the league in GF/GP, 27th in PP% and back to 20th in PK%. Actual goals for and against are right in there as well. Even on paper, the Canucks probably should be better than they are.

How they’ve configured their lines and failed to implement the right players into a given game shows that Willie and his coaches are not adapting to a changing NHL landscape, well that and they’re just not coaching well.

Aside from Jannik Hansen, the only day-to-day option to be playing with the Sedins should be Loui Eriksson. Jim Benning is paying him $6M a season to score goals and help ultimately, the Sedins score more as well. Until recently, that option wasn’t even given a fighting chance, let alone a chance at all.

I believe the Sedins aren’t as worn out as they have looked, they just need a player that fits them and we all believed the World Cup line with Sweden was a precursor to what we could expect on the Canucks. The unfortunate part of that is that Willie D isn’t the Swedish coach so he may not have seen those games.

Proper coaching would also have revealed that the Sedins probably shouldn’t be on the top powerplay unit anymore, either. If they were going to hang around on that top unit until season’s end, put a better model forward. Sven Baertschi and Bo Horvat clearly are the changing of the guard and as their points increase, Willie will have to adjust to where the goals are coming from.

You will never see me bad mouth Henrik and Daniel Sedin, they’ve earned their spot in Canucks history as essentially, the best ever; what they aren’t doing anymore is making quick, effective plays that result in goals, leads, and wins. Yes, they’re still scoring but its how much more they could be scoring that is more alarming.

The powerplay is awful and when the puck continues to be funneled to Troy Stecher, goals aren’t going to be falling from the sky. Stecher has had a great start to his season but no one has plunked themselves in front of the net and in the dirty areas to fight for goals. Brandon Sutter is the only one and he shouldn’t be the only one.

It’s not that crazy to think that Nikita Tryamkin would be a good option to stand in front and direct traffic until a rebound comes, it really couldn’t hurt. His height and build are reason alone to put him there. Large man in front of the net; seems easy. If it’s not him, Loui Eriksson is a big guy and his stick works just fine. Somehow, Jayson Megna is on one of the powerplay units and he, of all people, does not score goals.

Megna has 3 goals.

Michael Chaput is 2 goals away from that. I’M 3 goals away… me. I don’t play hockey for anyone. I’ll say one thing, though: if Sven Baertschi and Bo Horvat or Loui Eriksson are creating chances, they need more opportunity. The Sedins are becoming more predictable than normal and the rest of the league is finally able to catch them (it took 10 years).

Heck, overload the top group until the goals start coming. It wouldn’t be the first time that’s happened and if you put all of your eggs in one basket, something has to give, right?

What about the whole Anton Rodin/5D issue? Is this something that could have been avoided? ABSOLUTELY!

We all know the details of this now, it’s been repeated ad nauseum. Recent waiver addition Reid Boucher, who has a defensive awareness who at the very least could have fielded a few shifts on the blue line or Jack Skille another defensive forward or knowing you had a banged up Rodin the night before which could have resulted in Andrey Pedan being called up; THAT would be a proper fix.

It’s putting Derek Dorsett out in the final minutes of a close game when everyone and their dog knows Bo Horvat or Brandon Sutter would be a way better option. These are simple coaching decisions that are being pushed aside. Don’t get me wrong, Willie is a pretty good coach but he will “coach” himself out of a job if he doesn’t see the obvious changes that should be made.

The wrong players on the wrong lines, the wrong lines at the wrong time, and a coach who doesn’t know what he has; it’s funny how we’ve moved away from Jim Benning because if this was about him (which it kinda is) we’d want him gone. I suppose we did want him gone already. Nevermind.

The Canucks have the capacity to score goals and as the next few years come there could be a lot more of them. Don’t put a cap on talent, Willie. You gave Ben Hutton, Bo Horvat, Jake Virtanen, and even Jared McCann all a chance and if you’re willing to risk that much, that early, you should be able to make the right moves half way through a season when it’s gone wrong.

Making the proper rational adjustments would also give Ryan Miller and Jacob Markstrom a better chance to win games. Vancouver has been in 20 1-goal games this season, which is just under half of what they’ve played. If even 5 of those games went the other way including OT/shootouts, the Canucks would be 5th in the Conference and snuggly above the playoff bar.

A million people can’t be wrong, although many of us wish we were wrong more.

The Canucks are a good team but bad decisions have forced them to become a pretty bad team. This isn’t right. There needs to be change or this team will rot out.

Follow me on twitter: @always90four

 

photo- usatoday.com

Canucks Might Make Playoffs And That’s Not A Bad Thing

Before you go and bury me for this opinion, think about what a playoff appearance would mean for this year’s Canucks squad. There is a point where the current version of Vancouver’s team needs to test what they have and figure out the next step. We have all seen how this team has changed even in the last 4 months and with the Canucks definitely not sinking to a 1st overall pick, they’ve shown enough that a top 10 pick might not be realistic either.

It has been a topsy-turvy kind of year with a few decent winning streaks and a Debbie-downer 9 game debacle. Injuries have forced the Canucks hand yet again on both defense and up front which allowed us all to see Troy Stecher hit stardom and Philip Larsen fall to obscurity. Add to this Nikita Tryamkin’s progression as an everyday NHL defenseman and Markus Granlund’s seamless fit with Brandon Sutter and Loui Eriksson.

As of Tuesday morning, the Canucks are in the “in the playoffs/missing the playoffs” talk for the immediate future. A win puts them in and a loss keeps them at bay for another night. The most important game of the season talk begins to heat up and out of nowhere, we stop talking about “team tank” or “fire Willie”.

Making the playoffs is what Canucks fans know, it was all we knew for so long. Mainly, the making the playoffs phrase itself and not going very far reality. The team is getting prepared to be one of the 8 teams that make the postseason but it also has to accept that there needs to be some changes made.

Getting swept by say, the Chicago Blackhawks isn’t fun but reigniting a pretty much dead rivalry is good for business and a great measuring stick for where this team is at. It would be fitting to begin the process again with those guys and get some animosity going. There won’t be any accidental upset type matchup happening for the Canucks so it will be a steep incline to push any series past 5 or 6 games.

Drafting has been stronger in recent years, not keeping the Twitters at bay stronger, but Jim and his entourage have made some decent picks. Because of this, the current team has some expendable pieces and some pieces that are worth sticking it out for. Alex Burrows has found a second life and seeing Burr in the postseason again is worth getting there.

He has the gift of clutch and it’s something you can’t really teach, you have to experience it. Players like Bo Horvat and Sven Baertschi could learn a lot by getting to the next stage. The entire defensive corps, save Edler and Tanev, really haven’t been truly battle-tested yet and the run to get to the playoffs and then to stay in them truly develops them into players that allow management to reach out for stars that can put them over the top.

Clearly, Ryan Miller and Jacob Markstrom aren’t in a position to allow this team to lose without some significant subtractions on the blue line (5 defenseman doesn’t help) and their gameplay this season has actually changed the team’s fortunes slightly. Goaltending wasn’t supposed to be this strong of a point for the Canucks and it has allowed the team to take a few more chances.

That includes Willie D.

The way he operates this team on the ice sure is peculiar and again pointing to the Anton Rodin mess, the Jake Virtanen episode and honestly, why isn’t Loui Eriksson on the top line? It’s not just getting to the playoffs, it’s HOW you get there that determines a lot as well. It will take scoring from everyone, ok maybe a few lines, OK, probably just the Horvat line to get even close to making the playoffs.

Expecting Henrik and Daniel to carry this team anymore is not fair, they need to start relinquishing control and Willie needs to put the statistical performers in a better position to succeed.  This means getting Horvat’s line more ice even though it takes him out of the sweet spot, give Eriksson the proper opportunities to score his 30 goals and trusting that the players afforded to WD are there to stay so he needs to play them in important situations.

True leaders know when to delegate and give up some control and the Sedins aren’t too proud to know their time is expiring as impact players. It’s the circle of life and it’s time to see the next Simba take the throne. I’m not sure if that Lion King reference was warranted but it’s there now so we have to live with it. What also has to happen for this team to have a shot at the playoffs is Willie D understanding the Sedins can’t be the go-to guys anymore.

Their existence as 2 of the top 4 point getters on the team since Dec 1 doesn’t mean they should continue to be given every chance to stay at the top, it’s entirely likely that by slowly drifting to the second line that they stay as effective and actually allow the Erikssons, Horvats, Baertschis to take over this team without the abrupt official transition.

This isn’t the AHL and I get that you don’t just play the young guys to give them experience but the team is moving on it has to embrace that it might be jussst good enough to take a bigger step. Do I think this team has turned a corner and they’re going to be world beaters? Not really. Losing right now will build the team as the years go on but there are picks that magically turn into all-stars that arrive in the rounds where you are basically throwing darts at a board.

Pushing for the playoffs can turn the fan base around as well and with tickets at an all time low, the Canucks might not make it long enough to truly rebuild. How they’ve stuck around this long without just giving up is amazing. Vancouver wants to support a winner and even the fairweather fans want a championship deep down. We all believed once and it’s possible we can believe again.

Maybe the Canucks just need to huddle inside of a dead bear and ride out the storm that is the Pacific division and ultimately the Western Conference until the dust settles and find out what it will take to make it to round one. One thing is for sure and that anything is possible in the new NHL. Columbus anyone?

Take all of the crazy out of it and admit you want the Canucks in the playoffs. If it means Calgary and Edmonton don’t make it, I’m all for it.

Follow me on twitter: @always90four