Rumours

Why I’m Joining The Atheltic Kelowna

I kept reading all of the announcements wondering when I’d receive an invite to the prestigious Athletic and then it happened: I stopped waiting. With zero journalism degrees to my name, no official representation in the real world and being turned down a number of times for a local WHL franchise media pass, I took matters into my own hands and did what many could only dream of…

I created the Athletic Kelowna (which is in no way shape or form related to The Athletic).

As you probably can tell, I spelled the headline wrong and because I am a parent of two young children I don’t have any time for your criticism on a simple spelling error. Maybe that’s why the REAL Athletic wasn’t looking for local representation outside of credentialled writers. It makes sense.

Growing up in the Okanagan, I used to read the Daily Courier (local paper), The Province and even the Vancouver Sun on the weekend. I tracked box scores, signed up for hockey pools and clipped out the Family Circus in the funnies (Love that Jeffy and Billy). Those were simpler times. When the Internet was introduced those papers were still around but the years went on and the online offering for news grew more and more.

The introduction of Facebook and eventually Twitter gave so many ACTUAL writers a wider reach to readers like myself and instant access to archives that only the public library would have. I don’t even have a library card. Come to think of it, I’ve only really ever parked there. I have some soul searching to do apparently.

OK, back to my decision. Lebron got one and I hold myself to at least 1/100th of his talent but as a blogger. No one is broadcasting this, it’s on me. Starting on my own and being invited to write for the prestigious Canucks Army has been a wild ride and what better way to step it up a notch than to join a fictional, parody pay to read subscription based website?

Coming up with a platform was tough. What would The Athletic Kelowna be about? Well, the real one is about real sports, real sports stories and the athletes they cover. This was going to be about how I hate bike lanes, how people don’t respect Nickelback and how blogging has evolved to the living room that only gets used for special occasions now that most moms rent out their basements now or even AirBnB. What a concept THAT is!

There was also a few other names I spitballed: The Dad Bod Kelowna (somewhat similar to athletic), The AK (too gun-like), The White Sunglasses Roidrage Review, and The Ogopolo. The last one confused me too much and I’m not much for croquet on a horse or horses for that matter in general.

Sports are my life and unfortunately, I couldn’t make this all work while I lived in the Lower Mainland as I’m sure things potentially could have gone differently. This new venture will elevate local blogger(s) to the secondary news level which is just below real news but not quite unpaid guest work for sites you can create on your lunch break.

But I’m in Kelowna again, putting my spin on the Kelowna Rockets, writing about the Canucks from just up the Coquihalla and enjoying raising my girls in Canada’s best playground: the Okanagan.

The Athletic Kelowna never really was created; I barely get 100 views per article when I DO write, the site would shut down in a week.

I will say that I am disappointed The Athletic doesn’t see me as the future of sports media but my demands are pretty high and I doubt they have a budget for Frappuccinos and Baconators.

For now, just read Always90four and Canucks Army.

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Gutting Current Roster Stalls Canucks Future

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So what do the Canucks do?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Follow me on Twitter: @always90four

photo – vancitybuzz.com

Matt Duchene Is True Foundational Player Canucks Need in Rebuild

It’s hard to believe the Colorado Avalanche would actually trade Matt Duchene but rumour on the street is that it’s in the cards. Duchene along with Gabriel Landeskog are apparently being shopped or will soon be shopped. The Canucks seriously need to kick tires on a potential deal with the Avs.

Not only would Duchene solved a serious void up the middle but it would force the Canucks to buy in to the future earlier and put the rebuild on the fast track. Safe to say, it won’t come cheap but competing for a Stanley Cup comes at a cost.

In the recent Monday morning musings with Ed Willes, the hint bomb was dropped that Joe Sakic wants to build the Avalanched around star Tim Hortons actor, Nathan Mackinnon. It’s a great idea and there must be some reason he’s willing to part with stars Landeskog and Duchene but who really cares.

The word in hockey circles is that Joe Sakic, the head of the Avs hockey department, will look to move Duchene and Landeskog and build the team around MacKinnon.

No one asks why the expensive Air Jordans are selling for $60 at your local Marshalls, you just buy them because you’re not an idiot.

Jim Benning has stated that he isn’t parting with anyone really but you have to believe that’s on a day by day basis. I say to myself every day that I’m going to work out but things change and also beer. I stick to the plan overall but it doesn’t mean I’m not going to have a little fun too!

We are now in the Christmas roster freeze which means no coaches, players or even Jimbo himself can be moved but there has to be talks going on. Both of these teams have needs and can accomodate each other.

Scoring Duchene probably won’t happen for Jake Virtanen, Luca Sbisa and a 3rd, so Jim will have to get creative. Going forward, who are the locks for foundational pieces?

– Bo Horvat, Troy Stecher, Ben Hutton, Chris Tanev and maybe Sven Baertschi? These are the current roster players that Colorado would be interested in most likely as well as a prospect and a pick. You never want to give up your best when someone isn’t giving back their best.

I could see Chris Tanev being involved but if I’m still planning on being the GM of the Canucks, the defense I’ve mentioned is a non-starter. Alex Edler would be available, Luca Sbisa and Erik Gudbranson even. On forward, Jake Virtanen, Jannik Hansen, Brandon Sutter and Markus Granlund could be involved.

The Canucks always seem to be the ones giving up the house and it would be really nice if they actually saw the stronger side of a deal for once. There was the Christian Ehrhoff deal, so I guess that’s one for us.

With all the hiccups in Jake Virtanen’s immediate development, I just don’t get the vibe he’s giving. It feels like Cody Hodgson 2.0 without the shotty injury notes. Jake looks like he “could” develop into a top 9 forward, maybe a ceiling of 2nd line winger but even from the get-go, Canucks brass knew he was a work in progress.

Matt Duchene, however, is a star in motion. He’s Canadian, for one, a decorated Olympian, a goal scorer and a playmaker. The Canucks barely have half of that combination with any player, not named Sedin. Duchene is 25 years old and teetering on 400 career points. His power play stats are everything the Canucks would dream of and he’s right at the beginning of his prime. The day is coming soon when the Sedins hit line 2 or 3 and there has to be a plan.

We hear again and again, there’s no plan. Jake Virtanen has no clue what HIS plan is, who knows what the plan is in net. Brandon Sutter was put with the Twins and the $6 million man, Loui Eriksson, gets less time on the first line after every game.

As far as coaching goes, it’s up in the air too! Pretty easy to see that when the management group can’t even put together a roster to compete. Bringing in Matt Duchene makes way too much sense and it’s early enough in his career that he can be defined as a lifer in Vancouver.

Normally, these types of players only come through the draft but the Avalanche are also at a crossroads and this deal could help both teams move forward(s) pun intended.

I am on board the Matt Duchene train (hey, that rhymes!) and the Canucks should be too.

Willie Watch On High Alert!

The Canucks lost again.

If you didn’t see the date on this post you could read it once a week, heck you could read it in the past and it could even be relevant. Now, I don’t know how you could actually do that because we haven’t figured out reverse time travel, or forward time travel of more than 8 hours at a time (I’m assuming we fall asleep and instantly wake up 8 hours later.) Willie Desjardins is now on Willie Watch 2016 and because I don’t get paid again until mid-month, I can’t trademark it. He’s on the hot seat.

Simply, he may be fired.

How does one process this information? Is this really Willie’s fault? Yes, it is… if the immediate results on the ice are what you’re judging. It’s impossible to believe that Jim Benning calls the roster shots on a game by game basis. Benching Jake Virtanen and Troy Stecher, AT THE SAME TIME? ARE YOU KIDDING?

Those are the kinds of decisions that get you fired. OK, maybe I’m being a little extreme and there have been some significant injuries and maybe a break for the younger guys in the back to backs isn’t a terrible idea. Willie’s deployment of the power play has also been a topic of debate. Putting Philip Larsen on the top unit is kind of a head scratcher when there are a few other guys, namely Bo Horvat, that should be in that spot.

As the losses mount, both last season and this season, the “vote of confidence” is only good for so long. If you keep losing, something has to give and axing the coach is usually the easiest.

Is he a bad coach though? I don’t think so. He has a different way of doing things but he’s not terrible. The guy giving him the players is the one causing all the REAL problems.

It won’t be long before the pitchforks have been put away after Willie’s time is done, but brought RIGHT BACK when Benning Brexit 2017 get’s going. There are so many bad decisions that have been made up until now and the clock is ticking for Willie D.

From the goaltending dilemma of not starting the hot hand last year to limiting the Sedin’s ice time when it was clear, they were the only ones doing anything last season, there have been a number of things that have started the debate. Even if Willie is let go, who takes over? You can’t bring up Travis Green to inherit this mess.

I suppose Doug Lidster and Doug Jarvis (there’s a sitcom there I think) could run the course until April or maybe Marc Crawford is given another chance here. This isn’t exactly a favorable situation to walk into so whoever does eventually get this job will have to have an ironclad plan and follow it through.

Thankfully, there will probably be a new GM to work with too!

When Alain Vigneault was canned, these talks started to heat up right before and then there was John Tortorella. Until this team figures out exactly what it wants to do, firing the coach, firing the GM or even selling the team will just be steps towards an answer.

Willie Watch has started but will it even last? Is he even going anywhere?

These questions will be answered soon. Possibly by the end of the week. Well, unless they start winning. Then it’s just delaying the inevitable, kind of like missing out on Auston Matthews last year. Losing might lead to that first pick but is Nolan Patrick really worth the hardships they’ve endured? I doubt it but it wouldn’t hurt.

I suppose it could be worse, we could be stuck with Hillary or Donald.

Hey follow me on twitter: @always90four

Is The Draft The Turning Point For The Canucks?

Sure, lead with a question. Click bait? Maybe. But let’s get real for a second. Its been a few months since the Canucks shamed out for the year and it’s already time to draft the next wave of players that our future GM can trade away for parts. The recent trade of Jared McCann for Erik Gudbranson (plus other stuff we could debate forever) was a move forward any way you look at it.

Either it’s McCann was expendable and they needed a core defenseman teams can be scared of and trading a piece they can upgrade at the draft was the easiest route or, Benning actually feels McCann is in the Cody Hodgson category and we will all praise him years from now. The Draft might be time where the sad sack Canucks take a turn for the better.

 

Jim Benning has done a pretty good job at the draft since he got here.  In 2 years he brought in Jake Virtanen, Jared McCann, Thatcher Demko, Nikita Tryamkin, Brock Boeser and (a really good player drafted here). These are the keepers, well except McCann; two of these guys are already everyday roster players and its only a year or so before Brock Boeser and Thatcher Demko are regulars as well.

That’s impressive if you care to say it. Trusting that Bo Horvat was ready, taking a chance on Sven Baertschi as well as a few other decisions; Benning IS building this team up whether we want to believe it or not.

Yes, he’s also dismantling it at the grassroots level just as quick as he’s created it and there’s no amount of analysis that can figure him out in that regard.

This go around at the draft is special though. As of right now, the Canucks hold the 5th pick but that’s right now. Benning says he’s taking calls and listening to offers and over at Canucks Army, the roundtable discussed what real situations could arise that involved trading that pick. Depending on how close ownership/management feels the Canucks are to being competitive again, they might just go for it and heck, make an offer for Auston Matthews.

A combination of drafting and shrewd free agent signings can also go a long way in sculpting the next wave of the Canucks. Troy Brouwer, Steven Stamkos (if you believe he’s available), Milan Lucic, David Backes and Andrew Ladd are all character guys with talent..and a few Cups for some of them. Money can buy some of that talent but it’s the draft itself that gets you them for free.

The consensus players available are that of Matthew Tkachuk and Pierre-Luc Dubois. It could be mayhem by that point but Dubois sounds like the one they should get. Is it all about that high pick though? What about the remaining picks?

We’ve seen players like Tyler Benson fall from top 3 status early on to late first round/second round ranking. We’ve been told many times over the airwaves that when Benson gets back to 100%, that team gets a steal. This may very well be true and Benning would be wise to remember the kid playing in his back yard if he gets the chance.

I’ve championed the notion that the WHL players many of us see on the reg’ (slang for regular) are missed opportunities and when they blow up elsewhere it’s always “how come they didn’t draft THAT guy when he came around?”

Dante Fabbro and Lucas Johansen are a few players that fall in that category, ok Fabbro was BCHL, and the impact picks are really made when the lights dim. With no second round pick currently, he’ll have to get creative. I can see at least one trade being made to move up into the second round.

Looking at past Cup winners and really, just super successful teams, having home grown talent from draft day right through development up to the big club is how you create a true winner. Detroit did it, Chicago did it, Pittsburgh did it and may very well do it again and yes, so did LA. Trading away and giving up on players before they’ve given you a proper chance to make a rational decision only pushes that development of the team further back.

There’s a wave coming in Vancouver and its not the tsunami from the mega thrust earthquake that will sink the whole west coast (like on San Andreas with the Rock. Remember that movie? Love the Rock, he’s great…whoops, went on a tangent there.); Bo Horvat is so close to being what we all hope he’ll be. He’s the next “C” and if he takes it from Henrik, this team is ready.

Looking deeper, Ben Hutton and Chris Tanev and sure Big RusTryamkin have developed into reliable defenders. Gudbranson we hope will give Vancouver the grit and snarl that it has lacked since Bieksa left in 2012 (really anytime after the Cup Final). A healthy Brandon Sutter frees up Horvat and in turn gives whoever they’re drafting a quicker transition from pick to player.

The draft is an opportunity for Jim Benning to decide if HIS Canucks are turning the corner. He can make or break this team and despite many of our intentions to hate him, he holds all the keys to all the doors and this is the one time trusting Jimbo means going all in.

There isn’t much room for error and if this current go around tanks, we could look back at this draft as the breaking point.

But no pressure.

photo – vancouversun.com

Canucks Lack “THAT” Playoff Guy

Watching the Pittsburgh Penguins force a Game 7 against the Tampa Bay Lightning, I couldn’t help but notice yet another player that seems to always hang around the late stages of the Stanley Cup Playoffs: Brian Boyle. Now he hasn’t been to a ton of Final appearances but he’s a guy you want when things go the distance. The LA Kings know exactly what they had with Justin Williams which is why when he was free, the Capitals were more than happy to add that Game 7 magic.

The Canucks aren’t in a position to be going the distance anytime soon, as far as we can tell, but they do lack the can’t miss talent that knows what it takes to make it through a long season and a long playoff push. If they actually let Dan Hamhuis walk this offseason, you really wonder what exactly it is that they are trying to accomplish.

In 2011, yes I’m going there again, they had built up a team that was battle tested, knew what REAL losing felt like and when it came time to adding a few extra playoff performers, they knew recent warriors Chris Higgins and Max Lapierre would be key pieces to their accession up the mountain. Raffi Torres ended up being one of those guys as well and every Canucks fan could feel that they were about to watch it all finally happen.

Well obviously it didn’t, big spoiler I know, and they have struggled to put together the right mix until recently and now that things are coming together, again, quite slowly, they need to add the pieces that will once again make them a chore to beat.

I look at Joel Ward and it drives me crazy that the Canucks never signed him after 2011. He’s gritty, he has a certain Ryan Kesler to him (which let’s not kid ourselves, we need), and he’s proven that he’s a playoff warrior. If the Sharks end up going to the Final, or even further, winning; he is a big reason why.

He’s not Joe Thornton or little Joe Pavelski but he’ll be a guy that will score a big goal in a game when they aren’t shining. Joel Ward is still valuable at 35 and is worth a look if a trade every came up. The Canucks aren’t in a position to go after the Cup right now so unfortunately for them, he won’t be in their plans.

Milan Lucic isn’t THAT guy but he might be able to mold into that guy. Sometimes its the guy you expect and at the same time, least expect to shine that actually does. He’ll come with a big price tag most likely but you can sell him at least as ONE of the answers.

There’s no doubt Steven Stamkos would be THE #1 guy to be THAT guy but I doubt the Canucks are close to landing him. We can dream and I mean, hey we got Luongo, but let’s all be real – that isn’t where this team is headed. Now David Perron, is still out there and ripe for the picking. Vancouver can right their wrong by getting him for dollars instead of trying to trade for his services. I think he’s a THAT guy, but I’m wrong a lot.

Kris Russell is rounding the rumour wheel and I believe many think HE is a THAT guy…he’s not. Let’s not Kris Russell ok?

Going full Chicago Blackhawks may be the answer, it’s kinda like the Marian Hossa model but as a team; Troy Brouwer and Andrew Ladd will both be UFAs and by the time this team is ready to pounce again they might get a small run to the second round and with Cup winners littered on the team, the impressionable guys will take notice.

Every team has a THAT guy when they win the Cup and the Canucks will need to start digging to find theirs. There is a potential Cup run inside this team but a few pieces need to surface for that to become a possibility. The recent success of Chris Tanev and Ben Hutton winning the World Championships with Canada give the Canucks more ammo that even missing the playoffs can produce winners.

Tanev is a THAT guy, Hutton is a THAT guy and so is Bo Horvat. But they are also more than that, they’re stars. Who is the guy Vancouver needs? July 1 will give us a glimpse into the answer.

Again, I’m wrong a lot.

 

photo – canucks.com

Maybe I’m Crazy But Let’s Trade For Dustin Byfuglien!

Let that sink in for a second. Think rationally about it and then think about what he would bring to the Canucks. Although Canucks fans have come to dislike the water buffalo, we’ve done the same to the likes of Raffi Torres, Shane O’Brien and um a way back throwback Esa Tikkanen. Other teams have welcomed players they have despised many a time as the Ducks recently have done with Kesler and Bieksa. So is it really that crazy to consider Buff as a Canuck? I do not think so sir.

 

This whole idea kind of spawned from a recent Pucks on Net podcast where they discussed the Jets building around/trading Byfuglien and it got me thinking that Buff is a pretty big dude, he’s generally well liked and he is good at hockey at an NHL level. I do remember that we weren’t a fan of his ways back in his Chi-town days but that was so long ago. Do we still hate Brad Marchand. OK bad question.

Seriously though, apparently Buff is on the trade block or so they say and a play for Travis Hamonic of the Islanders is out there. Not sure that deal gets made and to be frank, or Ryan (because that’s me) there’s a good chance the Canucks and/or the Jets do not make a trade involving Dustin Byfuglien.

Why friends would I bring up Byfuglien as a trade prospect of your Vancouver Canucks? For starters, as I already stated….he’s big. He’s 6’5″ and 260 lbs according to NHL.com and we probably have no single line that equals that. The Canucks don’t have really any physical presence and even though Brandon Prust and Derek Dorsett are employed by the team, they so aren’t doing what they’ve been asked to do.

The Canucks aren’t scary and no one is worried about going into puck battles with them. No one seems to be worried about getting hit by them and if teams are THAT confident they won’t be hurt, that’s when liberties begin to be taken and at some point the Canucks are just bystanders. Dustin Byfuglien brings a bit of a mean streak to him, which is sadly missed now that Bieksa is gone and his penalties can be obvious at times but would you not rather have a guy that’s capable of enforcing himself on opponents?

I know I would.

His offensive upside is there as well. Sure, Buff’s 30 now and his primo years might be behind him but in the mean time, he can still produce on a level that a good portion of the Canucks cannot. Byfuglien has 2G and 3A in his last 5GP, good ol’ NHL last 5 games stat; and he’s already put up 15 points and 2 game winners. Have we even WON 2 games?

Quick stat: there are only 2 Canucks (guess who?) that have more points than Buff. He….could….help.

He’s a fan fav in the ‘Peg, sells jerseys and he’s a Cup winner. The Canucks had no answer for him and that was no secret but what if he played here, would he bring anything new? Could he even whole heartedly produce for this team? Something that would need to be asked.

Byfuglien DOES have a LNTC (limited no trade clause) and I think we’d be kidding ourselves to think Vancouver isn’t on his 5 team list of where he wouldn’t play. The Canucks did that to themselves though. But this is hypothetical and you’re still reading so keep up!

Who do the Canucks give up then? In that same boat, Vancouver has guys that are still valuable and are also not young; Alex Edler, Alex Burrows and Radim Vrbata are all guys that would be a decent trade offering going to Winnipeg and that would free up a spot up front for one of the super rookies like Hunter Shinkaruk, Brendan Gaunce or Alex Grenier. Not to mention keeping a current rookie in the everyday lineup like Jake Virtanen.

I did forget we still have Sven Baertschi and if Canucks management can get over the fact they botched a few trades for 2nd rounders and just eat their mistakes, we can all move on from the second best Sven to ever play on the Canucks. If they wanted some grit, Ronalds Kenins are both available and they aren’t the Leafs so it would be safe to assume they wouldn’t bring him on to just have him sit up in the press box.

Maybe our time to move some long time pieces is once again at a head; Alex Edler is not the 2009-2011 Edler he once was. Alex Burrows is still valuable and can be a healthy addition to many teams. He scores, he’s a valuable PK piece and he grinds out hard minutes. Radim Vrbata will not equate to anything in the playoffs and it took one round to find that out….against Calgary.

This isn’t a what can we get for these guys article but if you were to put something together to get Byfuglien, these are decent players. I don’t know if the Jets would require a hot, young player like Shinkaruk or Virtanen and if so, forget the trade altogether. What I’m suggesting is that Byfuglien can bring something to the Canucks we clearly don’t have.

Getting back to the bully factor and not being a bully, the Canucks just don’t hold their own in games anymore and they need a physical, dominant presence that won’t take crap from opposing teams. How Benning hasn’t figured out yet that his current roster is not the answer is beyond me. There are players out there that will grind, like Chris Higgins and Max Lapierre once did (remember 2011?) and now they just eat up minutes, the final buzzer goes and usually we lose by a goal.

At the very least, the Canucks should consider trading for Dustin Byfuglien. He actually could help the Canucks and he isn’t Marchand. Take out the personal feelings you have towards him and realistically see what he could bring.

So in short: Byfuglien to Canucks, 30 years old, big dude, won a Cup, intimidating, weighs many pounds, everyday we’re byfuglien.

Follow me on twitter and I will change your world: @always90four

 

Why Now Is A Good Time For The Canucks To Rebuild

Its been about 3 days or so since the Canucks have fired someone of importance and its only a matter of time before Fin get’s the axe and they introduce a skate-like mascot (hint hint). I have had some time to let everything sink in and evaluate what may or may not be happening to the Canucks; one thing is for certain: Trevor Linden and Jim Benning however unpopular and brash their decisions have been, are doing something that is bang on what should be happening RIGHT NOW. 

Its the best time to put this team in rebuild mode, but I ask that you read on so i can tell you why.

The future of the Canucks is coming and it is coming quicker than expected. Trevor Linden saw that his team was in danger of repeating itself and getting lost in the continuous cycle of politely tweaking a piece here and there to only keep things competitive.

The writing has been on the wall since 2012 and it has finally come to a head this year. We’ve all posed the question at one point or another “If you could have even just ONE Cup, would you take six to seven years of suffering?”

OK, im not saying things will get that bad but why not just do what we’ve told the Oilers and Flames to do: play the young guys and let them learn how to win, learn how to lose and grow together. The run Utica made this spring to the Calder Cup will help a handful of players gain the tools they need to be Vancouver Canucks on a full time basis.

Edmonton and Calgary held on way too long and in Edmonton’s case they just recently departed from the Oilers regime that has controlled the teams interests and is now finally making huge strides. I suppose having Connor McDavid helps things along.

So how do the Canucks make that transition? What’s left to throw away? Apparently the chance at decent draft picks but thats been beat to death. Do the Twins need to go now? Edler? Burrows?

Now, the Sedins haven’t been put to pasture and they are the type of players that could drop down the lineup for their final two years…maybe 2 more at a cap friendly number and help the young up and comers become pros. Linden did that to the Twins when they arrived and its coming around full circle.

We form bonds with our players and can’t justify sending them away when its obvious that’s the best decision. Trade them while their value is still good. Burrows has had some serious injuries and now would be the time to see a solid pick come back. Alex Edler can fetch a younger prospect or maybe a dman that just hasn’t fit in elsewhere.

Its possible the harsh decisions are over and TL and Benning are looking to build “their” team the way they want it. The ideology that didn’t result in a Cup is now being flushed out; The capologist was a great add at the time, as was the sleep doctor but gimmicks aren’t Trev’s thing. He’s a through and through hockey guy and he doesn’t need to push the BS.

Kicking Mike Burstein to the curb after 20 years was a shocker but as much of a shock as that was, was he still providing a valuable, reliable service? The way injuries have evolved over the last 10 years, you have to wonder if they were being read properly and given a proper diagnosis (see Cody Hodgson). Regardless, having a new voice, like any new coach can bring new life.

2011 was such a great year and its a shame that a rebuild has come so soon after it. A series of terrible decisions has brought us here and now is as good a time as any to start over…ish.

If it was a true rebuild, Ryan Miller probably wouldnt be here but riding out his talents isn’t the worst problem the Canucks have. The lack of fire and diminishing production in former core guys Ryan Kesler and Kevin Bieksa have made it a little easier to swallow their departures.

Don’t forget: many of you wanted these guys gone. Just because you didn’t get the return you thought was fair, doesn’t mean it wasn’t what was needed. As the eventual changes keep coming there will be dips in the Canucks cap number and opportunities to maybe add a star or two.

I don’t anticipate any important players will show up this year through free agency as it sounds like Benning has been given the AMEX for next years 2 big stars: Steven Stamkos and Anze Kopitar. It’s not like they will get them, either of them, but making a trade for someone big will be a lot easier; maybe Milan Lucic will come home.

Did you see how I bolded those guys? Now you’ll be thinking, how do we get Steven Stamkos? What will it take? Remember when we all thought Marian Gaborik was going to be a Canuck? It was infatuating and you couldn’t imagine a world where he wasn’t wearing the blue and green.

We were just given the same treatment with Lucic before LA snagged him. Lost my train of thought, sorry.

The new guys will be given plenty of chances to make the big club and losing won’t be welcome but it will become a new reality as things are gradually changing. Bo Horvat made the jump and could be the anomaly but with guys like Cole Cassels, Jake Virtanen, Brock Boeser and Frankie Corrado trying to get it done, winning takes patience.

There is not one team that has its rookie crop transform their team overnight. Even Chicago and Pittsburgh had growing pains. Coach Willie Desjardins will have to give these guys chances though and swallow a bit of pride along the way.

Get ready to lose some games this year but it’ll be worth it once the key guys turn the corner. This isn’t a doom and gloom piece; it’s the new reality we as Canucks fans live in. No one saw the the Messier era getting as bad as it did but even with that tire fire, good did come.

Sure, Bure and Mogilny winning a Cup here would have been nice, but we riotted after we lost Game 7 to New York, we aren’t allowed to have nice things. 

Jimbo will be given his chance to put the ultimate stamp on the Canucks and the true judgement will be right around the corner. Let the dust settle and see where he’s going to take this thing. The optics look like we are screwed for the forseeable future and maybe we are but ripping off the band aid is the only way things can truly change.

I don’t love how things have panned out but I don’t want to keep cheering for a push over either. It’s time to accept the rebuild and everything that comes with it. If anything, my daughters will know what it’s like to be a REAL Canucks fan.

Taylorism over on the twitter wrote this a few days back and it strikes a very similar parallel to what I’m getting at here.

Follow me on twitter: @always90four

Photo cred: bcbusiness.ca

When Are We Done With These Goalie Controversies?

I’ll admit, I like drama. No, not the Entourage character; he’s alright but I wouldn’t say I like him. I enjoy talking, debating, even yelling to people that are flat out wrong about the Canucks goaltending situation. The thing is, do they really have to keep up this charade EVERY year? When are we done with these goalie controversies?

Eddie Lack, Jacob Markstrom and Ryan Miller have all found themselves in the latest controversy in the Canucks net. There are plenty of ways this could go but the fact that Vancouver runs into this problem so frequently is a cause for concern. 

There really wasn’t a thing when Cloutier and Auld were in the mix, it was just “when are we going to get a better goalie that doesn’t let in beach balls?” That was fun. Those were simpler times. We just accepted that we had to wait.

Hey and then we drafted Cory Schneider. It was finally going to happen, our FRAN-CHISE goalie was here! College would be over in a few years and our knight in shining armour would arrive. The plan was set.

Oh right, then Dave Nonis went and pulled the ol’ We got a Todd Bertuzzi and he just totally tanked any stock he had when he punched Steve Moore so LETS TRADE HIM TO FLORIDA move. God bless the Panthers. Apparently, two problems create an answer.

Bertuzzi had seen his time pass in Vancouver and disgruntled superstar goalie Roberto Luongo wasn’t happy with his treatment in Florida so the trade was put in motion. Vancouver had its hero.

There’s no way anyone could have seen it end the way it did.

For the first few years it was ALL Roberto all the time and it didn’t seem to matter. Finishing one win off the NHL record in his first season, being nominated for everything under the sun and bringing the Canucks back into the conversation; Luongo hit the reset button hard and cemented himself as the Canucks best goaltender ever…and for a time, it’s best player.

It wasn’t all birthday cakes and unicorns though; Luongo had his critics and because he couldn’t do it all himself, he saw the storm coming and it was going to get messy. By the time Cory Schneider was ready, Luongo had hit the big time and an uber athlete like Roberto wasn’t giving that net up.

Schneider and Lu went neck and neck from the 2010-2012 seasons. Luongo starting as the alpha and finishing as the beta. Trainwrecks are better looking. The rumours of trades for both Cory and Roberto loomed large for such a long time and it became its own beast.

Even the hardcore Canucks fan was getting a little annoyed about how everything was playing out. Whatever you are going to do, DO IT!! We just all want to move on already. The rumours of where Cory could be dealt were intriguing and a player like Jordan Eberle coming back for Schneider would have been ok by me.

Playing a team six games a season isn’t that big of a deal. It may become that way now, but it surely wouldn’t have been back then and having a goalie as the guy you play against isn’t the worst, well unless he has a wrist shot.

So Schneider gets dealt to New Jersey for what would become Bo Horvat and that was it. We aren’t talking about it anymore, we moved on right?

WRONG.

All seemed right as Roberto Luongo was given back his team and new coach John Tortorella was going to push him to be his old self. He pushed him alright, right out of Vancouver. Luongo’s mismanagement was basically what sent him to the Canucks in the first place and now it had him going back to Florida for the same reasons minus the contract.

Lost in all of this was Eddie Lack. He never asked to be a part of the mess that is Vancouver’s goalie graveyard but here he is. Luongo was now gone and everything pointed to Lack and Jacob Markstrom (the goalie that came back in the Lu trade) as the new tandem. New GM Jim Benning had other plans it seemed.

Was Lack ready to handle the load? It didn’t exactly seem like it after Luongo was let go but how many backups really take a stranglehold on the starter job in a hockey nuts market? Im guessing not too many. Benning went out at free agency and threw 18 mil/3 years at aging tender Ryan Miller and he got his man.

Here we go again.

It turned out that yes indeed, we were right back in the muck. Ryan Miller would suffer an injury that forced Eddie Lack back into the spotlight and this time, he didn’t disappoint. This never ending roulette wheel kept spinning. Markstrom’s AHL fame gave him a chance to make his mark and with one loss, it all went away.

Markstrom’s run in the Calder Cup playoffs has given him another shot at the bigs and even if the Utica Comets, Vancouver’s AHL affiliate, loses the Final, there will be heavy chatter at the NHL Draft in Florida (go figure) about what the Canucks are going to do in net.

There is another college kid who should be ready around 2018 or so and by then if Lack and Markstrom are still here, we will have all found a way to hate one of them. Staying the course is the hardest thing to do with goaltending but with no real threat up front, the Canucks would be wise to let this all play out.

That or get back some picks, a player in return and even some hope that GM Jim Benning knows what to do with those things. At some point this nonsense has to end.

The Minnesota Wild made Devan Dubnyk a star, it doesn’t have to be this hard.

Follow me on twitter: @always90four

Cover photo – theprovince.com

When It’s Not A Conspiracy Anymore

The title suggests the Canucks are victims of an ongoing conspiracy theory to royally job them; that isn’t the case.  We all have our theories about how the refs are out to get the Canucks or how the league has it in for them. Maybe its payback for missed calls (Burrows/Auger) or the need to have a scapegoat to show the league is “serious” now (Bertuzzi/Moore). 

Tonight’s call or lack thereof really had me shaking my head not just because it was the Canucks, but that the NHL’s officiating needs a serious overhaul. We all remember the replacement refs in the NFL and the infamous “touchdownerception” between the Packers and Seahawks on Monday Night Football. Once that glaring error was made, everyone knew it was time to get serious and bring in the pros.

The one problem we all continue to point out is that the NHL is watered down with too many teams and players that might not even be in the league if they contracted down to say 28 or even 26. Same can be said for referrees. As fast as this game is, these refs are trained to call it at a professional level. Do all these new additions to the league not have the stones to call a proper game? Seeing no call after Alex Burrows ran into Paul Gaustad was fine. Its the continued play that followed by the Canucks taking the puck up ice and eventually Nashville getting possession to get a whistle that started the debate. 

OK, first there is NO CALL! Immediately Kevin Bieksa is given the game misconduct for who knows what. Then, they give Burrows 5 and a game for his hit, WHICH WASN’T EVEN CALLED! The fact this all happened in the first place was a call for concern, adding to this all was that there was less than 5 minutes left in the game and it was tied. Unless it was a legitimate call to begin with and was warranted, you can’t have a game decided or potentially decided by the referrees. You just can’t.

The Canucks killed off the lengthy 5 minute penalty including part of overtime and were able to pull ahead in the shootout. A good ending to a horrific final frame.

The conspiracy is not on the Canucks, its a lack of true professionalism by the zebras calling every game. If you don’t see it, you can’t call it. Unfortunately, this will get worse as the playoffs begin and will basically cease to exist come the Stanley Cup Final; Canucks fans know this all to well.

When the NHL went into its 2nd lockout back in 2004-05, many called it a bush league. Its sure looking that way again. Don’t ruin the product because you want to look good for the boss. Stand up for what you see, don’t back down. Yes, the Canucks have been jobbed a fair amount of times; but they’re not the only ones believe you me.

Follow me on twitter: @always90four