auston matthews

It Will Be Interesting To See: Canucks And Goalies

Canucks training camp started on Thursday and apparently it was already decided that Ryan Miller is the #1 goaltender this season for Vancouver because it says here, here and here. The last one was kind of overkill but you get the point. Jim Benning has declared the 36 year old veteran will lead the Canucks on the ice and defend the pipes as its top tender. In the next edition of IWBITS, I dive into the goalie issue and declare it will be interesting to see how this season pans out…heck how the first month goes.

When Ryan Miller signed with the Canucks back in 2014 it was tough to say if he was a consolation prize or if he really would help the Canucks while everything else was sorted out. There was the Eddie Lack saga, the Jacob Markstrom run and with Thatcher Demko signing his pro deal the clock will indeed be ticking until the heir apparent (Demko) takes the throne.

The funny thing is, Miller has actually been the least of the team’s worries since he signed. Sure, he’s had injury issues but what veteran goalie hasn’t? His actual stats aren’t very becoming but when you’re injured, splitting starts every second game and being relied on as the backbone of a team that scores less than the USA World Cup hockey team, you get a bit of a pass.

Millers GAA was a voluptuous 2.70 last year good for 34th overall, his SA% was 28th at .916 and because the offense and well the defense as well wasn’t all that effective, Miller finished 15th overall in saves with 1634. He was a workhorse and there were 31 games he didn’t even play.

It’s not a bad thing that Jacob Markstrom is the backup, in Vancouver you always seem to get your chance. We all LOVED Roberto Luongo and then Cory Schneider went and did his winning thing so then we were torn. We had Eddie Lack backing up Miller and we all thought THAT was the answer when he turned it on, but alas.

I say let’s enjoy Ryan Miller’s swan song, he’s pretty much done everything that has been asked of him and many of the games last season that were won with him between the pipes, were HIS wins. He definitely stole a few and our frustration was being pointed in many, many other directions.

How this all plays out this season will be interesting because Miller could easily get banged up and Markstrom would take the reigns. So being that Demko isn’t getting called up right away, Richard Bachman is basically the glorified door opener unless things get really dicey. The Nucks signed BTO this past offseason and he’ll be go figure, the door opener for Demko down in Utica.

All of this puts Jacob Markstrom in a position to prove his worth either as the tandem mate of Demko when Miller leaves after the season or trade bait if Thatcher is the Auston Matthews/Connor McDavid equivalent in net. We used to get bent out of shape when things got iffy in net, but now there’s a clear answer and losing our favourite son Roberto Luongo will hopefully be a fond memory and only that.

Don’t expect the Canucks to surprise anyone this year challenge for a top playoff spot, they aren’t built that way yet. What they do have is a team of veterans and guys willing to learn from them. This team is on the verge of very good things and goaltending is included, unless of course Jim Benning decides to trade away Demko (but I just don’t want to think he’s that bat ish crazy).

It will once again be a roller coaster season and if Willie/Jim/Trevor know what’s best for this team, we’ll see a healthy dose of Miller/Markstrom every 2nd or 3rd game. It keeps it “interesting”, it keeps each goalie fresh and maybe they can pinpoint matchups, hey strategy!

Watching the fall last year was tough and seeing the result of a 5th pick instead of the 3rd still stings but knowing there’s a elite prospect between the pipes getting ready for his takeover is exciting. With Twitter handing us info by the second, Demko’s progression will be all too documented and if things go as well as everyone thinks, it will be tough not hand him the keys to the car.

On the off chance something amazing DOES happen on the big club, the Canucks may push their relevance back into the NHL I don’t see that happening but there’s a lot I’m wrong on.

The Canucks are tied for 1st overall right now…it will be interesting to see for how long.

Check me out on twitter: @always90four

cover photo: thecanuckway.com

 

Canucks: All The Pain Drafting Can Buy

The Canucks aren’t exciting anymore…like on any level. Most of the fan base, the media and even its biggest critics have lost interest in the spark that seems to always allude this team. Struggling last season to a point we all thought there was a very real possibility Auston Matthews could actually be a Canuck, only to win just enough games to slam that door shut. The second place prize was pretty nice too, Patrik Laine was arguably just as good but of course, the Canucks put together a handful of wins at the very end and finish third last.

And then there was the lottery. What’s worse than picking 3rd instead of 1st? How about 5th? Thanks to the phrase “that’s so Canucks”, Vancouver was dealt yet another crappy hand in its illustrious franchise history. Drafting really hasn’t been nice to the Canucks and it’s caused many a heartache.

 

Every year, there is hope, every year there is pain and frustration. The Canucks drafting is a lot like buying a CD (remember those?) for that one hit song you heard on Much Music and your local top 40. You were excited to get on the wagon and be popular like all your friends. The problem is, you buy that CD and you put it in your discman (seriously, stop dating us) and after that first song, you realize the rest of the album really wasn’t all that good.

Of course I’m speaking of the 90’s and early 2000’s. So you’ve listened to this album a number of times trying so hard to like the rest of the tracks but you just can’t. But NOW, you’re wondering if that hit song was really all that good or if you just really liked the music video? Now, that song isn’t as impressive anymore and you kind of regret buying the CD in the first place.

My boy, Jackson Jackson aka Johnny Perogy on twitter and fellow Canucks Army writer guessed bang on which album I was talking about and I really couldn’t be more excited, mainly that we both had semi-bad taste in music. As the pic up top shows, I’m talking about All the pain money can buy by Fastball; you know the song (the way).

It actually wasn’t that bad an album but it was not worth the 13 bucks I paid. The Way was a great song, catchy and they played that thing into the ground on the radio.

This year, we had seen the mock drafts and speculated if Jim Benning would trade down and net some more picks after wastefully trading them away with other prospects that he just drafted, first rounders he just drafted; maybe he was going to trade that pick with a few stars to get PK Subban? Probably shouldn’t have talked about Subban, I don’t think I have enough money for potential tampering fines. 

OK, so the 2016 NHL Draft starts and as expected the Leafs get uber prospect Auston Matthews, he of Zurich. It’s exciting for Leafs fans everywhere because all of the years of sucking so hard, signing awful contracts to awfuller players and putting people in charge of the team that were hype more than help, the Leafs got better that day.

The Jets did as expected and selected Finnish star Patrik Laine. Some say he was the best player in the draft and compare him to a grittier Teemu Selanne. What could be better? And now its the Bus’ turn and Jesse Puljujarvi was ready to picked…byyyyyy the Oilers?

Columbus had the shocker of the draft and took the Canucks Pierre Luc Dubois at 3. It was over. Months of speculation – done. But maybe the Oilers were stupid enough to take someone else and let Puljujarvi go to 5? Nope. You cheer for the Canucks, that’s not happening.

All the hype that came with this draft, the potential promise of a star hybrid centre/winger coming to Vancouver was destroyed. But fear not, we got a stud #2 ceiling defenseman: Olli Juolevi. He isn’t amazing in any one area but he’s good at a lot of things. His brain is what seperates him and what puts him higher up on the rankings, one might say he’s smart like Nicklas Lidstrom; Bennings words not mine.

Why take a defenseman at 5 when you could probably get him around 9 by trading down? Why not just take a star winger like Matthew Tkachuk, a proven goal scorer from the London Knights? Is he Corey Perry, we’ll never know…we picked Juolevi. This organization needs pep and there is no pep. We were all very happy to have Dubois and once again our dreams were crushed.

From the first days of the Canucks being a franchise and getting Dale Tallon (insert wrong price sound on Price is Right) to trading Cory Schneider for the 9th overall pick; we just don’t have the luck or the right people to take this team over the top. Imagine if Dale Tallon was hired to GM the Canucks instead of Florida or Chicago? Sorry, that was mean.

There has only been a handful of times the Canucks have made the splash we wanted AND it panned out. There isn’t a history of success and aside from making the Stanley Cup Final 3 times, Vancouver has never been out of the 2nd round. At the draft, the possibilities of taking a superstar always escape the Canucks and looking back on previous years, it’s heartbreaking.

I am a big proponent of drafting local even if the East is loaded with talent as well. Heard of Duncan Keith, how bout Shea Weber, or maybe Milan Lucic? All players the Canucks could have easily drafted but instead took less than amazing options in those rounds.

The whole point of the draft is to sell hope, to bring in the next stars that will lead your team to a Stanley Cup. You can’t do that if you ignore the players right in front of your nose, those same players you can see down the street. The OHL and the Q always get so much spotlight and rightfully so, there are tons of forwards that end up being the NHL’s elite but not all of them come from the east.

Forgetting about the Western Hockey League has burnt the Canucks on many occasions and when they haven’t forgot about it, they’ve picked there too late. All 3 of those players I mentioned were very attainable and because the Canucks picked Michael Grabner, Marc Andre Bernier and Kirill Koltsov, their history has been quite different. How’d that go?

Jim Benning has actually done a pretty good job at the draft since he has been hired, even though he seems to part with his choices quicker than anyone would anticipate. His scouting prowess is the stuff of legends and apparently he doesn’t mind telling people. Like maybe you shouldn’t be so trusting Jimbo. Have a listen:

Jeff Paterson PAT CAST!!! – Olli Juolevi the second choice?

Drafting for many years has not been the strong suit for the Canucks and even though things have turned around slightly, there isn’t much to be excited about until the likes of Thatcher Demko, Brock Boeser and Cole Cassels crack the roster. It’s been the same year after year – hype, draft, disappointment. Until there is some dynamite breakthrough, get used to that formula.

Hang tight Canucks fans, the saying “pain is only temporary” doesn’t apply to us.

Views From The 604: The Canucks Ready For Lottery

Its NHL Draft Lottery Day!

A few years ago, this day was completely irrelevant when the Canucks were rolling through the first round, but now we’re all hanging on a freaking ping pong ball. How the turn tables. Do they get the 1one? The 2two? 3Three? Is Auston Matthews on a plane to Van, is Patrik taking the bike Laine to the Rog? Or will the Nucks Chrychrun out on the podium and call Jacob’s name in June.

All questions we’ll have answered soon enough. The

It looks like you get a can’t miss star from picks 1-3 and depending on who you ask, a bit further. I personally would love to see a lights out star come to the Canucks on the first try. I don’t want to endure bottom 3 picks for the next few years. There are good pieces in place already and Canucks fans might get to hope sooner than later with the likes of Demko, Boeser and maybe they’ll lock up Drizzy Cagg from North Dakota.

Since we all knew the Canucks were out of it (playoffs) we’ve been hitting up the Simulator and seeing how many clicks it took to get the top spot, it wasn’t pretty. So now today, it’s the real deal. No more dress rehearsals, no more Benning staying up until 2am wondering what the future of his team will be; today many questions will be answered.

With Brock Boeser under the Canucks umbrella, fellow USA’n Matthews would fit just dandy together on the eventual top line. They both played together for the World Junior team last year and man would it be awesome to see those two together.

There just hasn’t been this kind of hype in Vancouver since really, the rumour of Luongo coming to town. Sure, everyone thinks Stamkos is a possibility if they throw up enough cash but the draft is the way to get something for essentially nothing (well a lost season, that’s about it). The Penguins, Blackhawks and you’d think the Oilers (not so much) built their eventual Cup teams through a few bad years and a great draft.

Jim Benning has put some big pieces in place to shape the Canucks future and the potential pinnacle is waiting at 4pm pacific.

Will the Canucks luck out and get the big pick or will they still end up with silver or bronze? Do you have the patience to wait it out until 5:16PM to hear the Canucks name?

It’s a shame it has to be this way but what a show it will be.

Here’s the rundown:

Thanks Taj!

All that’s left is that pick, that elusive first pick. Good luck on keeping this contained Canucks nation; we’ve been burned so much we forgot what the good stuff felt like.

Auston, we’re ready for you.

No Quick Fix For Canucks; A Season Lost Is a Season Gained

By now it’s fairly obvious I am a philosophizer of words, a craftsman of verbiage and a knight of partial sentence structure. The Canucks have turned me into a 21st century literary magician and I only have them to thank. But enough about me; this latest Canucks season may have looked like a colossal tire fire on the outside but the guts of how they got there and the results that follow are a positive.

There is no magic bullet, I mean there is and its $39.99, but a handful of things that occurred this season paired with the recent draft success of Trader Jim Benning will help put this team in a better position to succeed down the road. As the title states, a season lost is a season gained.

Let’s look at the positives and more specifically Jimbo’s draft picks. He didn’t pick Nick Merkley and for that I may never forgive him but he did pick some kid named Brock Boeser and he just won the NCAA Championship with North Dakota. Add to that Boeser’s goal and three assists in the final and things are already looking up for a future Canucks star.

Rewind a bit back to the Frozen Four and 2014 2nd round pick Thatcher Demko just lost out in the semis. He capped off a monster season with a 28-7-4 record, 10 shutouts, 1.88 GAA and a .935 SA%. The kid is good.

After Demko’s first two games this year, he shut out his opponents six of the next seven games. If you thought Cory Schneider was awesome, it’s safe to say we might have a short memory.

Fast forward to Benning’s current success stories and although he can’t claim responsibility for Ben Hutton or Bo Horvat (edited, thanks for the reminder @GoFour3,it was late), JB did bring on Jake Virtanen and Jared McCann. Benning hasn’t been the GM of the Canucks that long and all 3 of these guys currently occupy a regular roster spot. The obvious stand out is Horvat.

In just his second season, he has more than developed into a key member of the Canucks and had Brandon Sutter not been injured as much as former Canuck Sami Salo, Bo may have had a better statistical season. That being said, Bo was dealt a less than favourable situation and was forced to do more than he should have.

He was voted most exciting player this year and if you check out a recent piece I wrote about Bo, he has the skills to pay the bills.

OK, a lot of the good things end here. The Canucks finished 28th overall in the standings which sounds great if you know, you’re in nationals for I dunno, high jump? This is the NHL and with only 30 teams, it isn’t a good place to be.

There may or may not be a glimmering prize at the end of this season but was watching this season implode before our eyes really worth it? How can Jim Benning and company honestly say they progressed this year? Last year?

The frivolous signings and downright odd ball trades make you wonder if Benning or moreso John Weisbrod got their GM certificate from collecting 6 UPC’s from Froot Loops. What do other GM’s around the league think? They can’t possibly view the Canucks as the model franchise anymore, or did they ever?

Zack Kassian for Brandon Prust —— This actually happened and one wonders why. Even Cody Hodgson was caught off guard.

Matt Bartkowski – 1 yr/1.75M ——REALLY??? Was there no one better, did you really think Frankie Corrado was that bad?

Derek Dorsett – 4 yr/10.6M ———– A fighter and 4th line fill in basically. Hardly the guy you want mentoring the actual talent on the team. He’s here until my 2yr old is done kindergarten. Think about that, I sure will be.

Luca Sbisa – 3 yr/10.8M ———- Benning didn’t have to sign him. The Kesler trade could have played out and that would have been the end of it. You don’t commit to something like that unless that player has shown you he’s worth hanging around. I use that term loosely.

Trading Hunter Shinkaruk for Markus Granlund – what in your right mind would make you think that’s a good deal? Shinkaruk didn’t even get an instant cup of coffee in the NHL before management decided he wasn’t a Canuck. If we are being told patience, the least they could have done was shown a bit of it themselves. This one is seriously going to bite them back.

Putting Frankie Corrado on waivers when Chris Higgins could have gone on LTIR at the beginning of the year and they could have salvaged a valuable asset for more than….nothing. This pattern is becoming quite disturbing.

However, all these moves have helped structure what needs to be done and that is the rebuild we all talk about. After the 2012 season, it was perfectly clear that the Canucks were no longer on top of the mountain and the mountain was quickly fading in the distance. This season ended up being so bad that it highlighted the exact places where depth players and youth should be stationed.

It’s clear that Ben Hutton and Chris Tanev are the future on the back end but if those are the only two, we have problems. When Luca Sbisa and Alex Edler were injured it was apparent what their presence and big time minutes meant to the team. Combine that with Matt Bartkowski, his fluky defense leading 6 goals and the errors, oh the errors; its a recipe for disaster.

Thankfully late in the season towering d-man Nikita Tryamkin came and gave us all a breath of fresh air. He is the player the team could have used in 2011 but better late than never. Tryamkin will definitely be a fixture on the Canucks defense for years and if he’s anything close to Zdeno Chara, we should be so lucky.

Unfortunately, that’s how bad it’s gotten. We were looking forward to the guys on the farm to save the team. Shouldn’t that be the job of the mainstays, the vets? This was the first year in a long time where the goaltending really didn’t matter because they were the only guys showing up every night.

Even with Ryan Miller’s hefty contract and what began as Jacob Markstroms clean resume, they managed to be the one consistent thing going.

Next season goaltending will not be addressed because for now, it works. If Thatcher Demko ends up signing on, it’s only a matter of time before his throne is made available.

Starting Jake Virtanen and Jared McCann on the big club this year was the way to go and even though they were met with many struggles and adversity, they can start next year in Utica and play at a level that they can build their skill base. These are two very talented young men and their development at the pro level is now the next task.

Having this year’s crop of rookies growing up on the farm for at least a year will free up spots once again for some free agents and maybe a proper trade or two. Is Alex Burrows still in the Canucks plans? The fan in me says I hope so but he was so bad this year and its surprising he wasn’t asked to leave before some of the other rumoured guys like Vrbata and Hamhuis.

There is some big money coming off the books and fans have been told the team will spend on July 1. Steven Stamkos is quite unlikely but adding real depth around the Sedins, Horvat, Sutter and on the back end will make this team better.

Back to Burrows though, he has been everything to the Canucks and at the very least he deserves a shot. I’d give him a chance to start the year and if they aren’t seeing what they want, trade him. He has a decent cap hit at 4.5M next season so if there is anything to offer elsewhere, he should be easy to move.

Finally, the Canucks are saying Willie Desjardins is their guy next year. Desjardins really didn’t look great this year and with so many injuries and having to ice a team that maybe he wouldn’t have picked if he had the ultimate say makes his coaching look suspect. To be fair, he did much of the same things he did in his first season. He just had a really poor roster this year.

It might be a lot of the same next year or it might involve Auston Matthews and a new coach but the struggle this year was a place to grow and they did, we did too.

We all found out what we were willing to tolerate this season; some of us 82 games, others sporadic periods. We have been so spoiled for so long, it felt good to be ok with losing. This team will bounce back and its when you see the absolute bottom that you can truly appreciate the top.

So long 2016, we hated you.

Photo credit – vancouversun.ca

The Canucks Have Sucked EXACTLY As Much As Expected

So I just got a new Dyson from a refurbished  goods auction site, saved about 200 bucks. I missed out on about five or so in the last few weeks so I felt redeemed I finally got my unicorn. But because I was so excited to just “get one on the cheap” I failed to read the semi fine print; it was missing some key accessories and I was kinda bummed out.

This Canucks season in a lot of ways is like my “new to me” Dyson; when the season started, we knew things weren’t a whole lot better but we figured we knew what we were going to get. They were going to most likely suck and probably miss the playoffs. Just like me and my Dyson though, we didn’t read the semi fine print – but in the Canucks case, when your team actually DOES SUCK, it’s not a whole lot of fun.

 

There are only seven games remaining on the Canucks schedule and it will be a struggle to get through them all. The saving grace is that they could easily lose all seven of those and with the Leafs and Oilers randomly pulling off the odd win, that’s good news in Canucks land.

It’s passed the point of finger pointing and blaming when it comes to Willie Desjardins and his methods; Jim Benning has a C+ INCOMPLETE on his GM report card and his bright spot is basically his draft picks, Sven Baertschi and the end result of Nikita Tryamkin sans the contract issue.

Is it really surprising the team has ended up being this bad? This offseason, Zack Kassian was traded for equally awful Brandon Prust who by the way doesn’t really want to be here. Chris Higgins was waived and has up until recently, been banished to Utica to waste away (well he’s still getting paid but you know what I mean).

Frankie Corrado, yet another budding prospect, waived for absolutely nothing and claimed by the Toronto Maple Leafs. Hunter Shinkaruk was this year’s Cody Hodgson and found his plane ticket to Calgary for Markus Granlund. On the surface, this year was doomed from the get go.

Going back to my Dyson for a sec, it has that great ball technology and the loss-less suction, this is the reason you get it. It’s the best and you want the best. Henrik and Daniel Sedin are the Canucks main selling feature and the reason they didn’t plummet to the bottom much, much earlier. My vacuum has some scratches on it but at the end of the day its a Dyson vacuum and it still does what all the other ones do – sucks.

The Sedins are 35 and lead the team in scoring; they have wear and tear and have to shoulder the load of criticism and noise as the losses pile up. They knew it wasn’t going to be easy and even though they’ve paid their dues, how they do to finish off their careers and how they set this team up for the future is how their legacy will be capped.

Thankfully for Willie Desjardins, his unique coaching style has been given the vote of confidence for next season. I don’t entirely buy that but to be fair he hasn’t been given a very good team. The 2006-07 Canucks had a mediocre team but with Luongo in the pipes, they won a ton of games and most of that was defensive hockey; this year’s team does not have that luxury.

Another luxury they don’t have? Anything better than Linden Vey and Derek Dorsett. This can’t actually be what hits the ice every night, can it? When your GM fails to charge his phones on trade deadline day and accidentally drops his chirpy in the lake on July 1, you can’t have a lot of faith in the team he has paid to play for him.

Willie has given Vey a bit more ice time than is warranted according to basically everyone but him, but with Henrik Sedin being the top pivot for the Canucks, letting Vey get key faceoffs makes sense. Or not. The Canucks almost look like they want to be bad on purpose.

Injuries have really hampered this team but the Canucks aren’t the only team with banged up players, they’re actually 7th in the league with 277 man games lost; just under 100 less games than the Leafs. Think of it this way: the Canucks are 2 points ahead of the Leafs and have done it with 100 more man games played and a more complete NHL roster. Basically, the Canucks are bad and you should have known this already in October.

There isn’t any reason to think Bo Horvat was going to win over everyone along with Jake Virtanen and Jared McCann and lead this team back to the playoffs one year later with a new found direction; the Flames kind of did it but you can check the standings and they suck again too! It doesn’t happen that way, you can’t win overnight.

The argument to this would be of course Ben Hutton.

Hutton had a great camp and was absolutely a lock to make the team. He has had a quick learning curve and hasn’t looked out of place. Without Hutton, the Canucks looked even more lost than they do now and we would all shutter to think what this team would look like if he didn’t play for them all year.

Being bad on purpose might be the only thing that makes sense in all of this. Yes, every team says the playoffs are the goal every year; you don’t want to say you’re content with just playing 82 games and calling it a good year – restructure when you know things aren’t going to pan out and start molding the future instead of watching it whittle away game after game.

If Auston Matthews is the end game, then sucking as much as my Dyson is the way to go. This season shouldn’t have been a surprise, so appreciate the fact that this team was actually following through on a promise. Normally predictably unpredictable, this Canucks team sucked EXACTLY as much as we should have expected.

 

Canucks Disastrous Season Is Oddly Gratifying

With the first pick in the 2016 NHL Entry Draft, the Vancouver Canucks select…..

It has been a long, long time since the Canucks were in a position to potentially pick the best player available; the 2016 season has afforded them with that possibility. The #tank or rebuild or whatever you want to call it has been relatively successful if you think about it. Through injuries, trades and waivers, the Canucks have the chance to draft 1st overall for the first time ever!

Oddly enough, the real fans haven’t been happier.

Makes you think. As bad as this franchise has ever been, it’s never been THAT bad. The Sedins were taken 2nd and 3rd, Bo Horvat was taken 9th, Virtanen 6th; but no one was ever a 1st overall pick in VAN. The woes of the whale have never been so dreadful and yet so satisfying. We’ve asked to see this team blown up, we’ve asked for the younger players to get their time and we asked for cheaper ticket prices – all of those things happened.

Well, the only blowing up is Twitter when Benning makes an apparent stupid decision. It’s looking like a handful of his stupid decisions are panning out quite well though.

In the 2015 Draft, there were a handful of players Benning could have chosen: Travis Konecny, Noah Juulsen and my personal man crush, Nick Merkley. I don’t follow the US high school/college circuit at all so when he went with 6’1 190 Brock Boeser straight outta high school, I had no clue who this dude was and figured Jimbo swung and missed.

Kid’s tearing up the college circuit this year, he’s a freshman! He won the NCHC Rookie of the year award and his next goal ties him with Zach Parise for most goals by a UND freshman. Fellow 2015 pick Adam Gaudette who was also selected out of the USHL is having a great year as well for Northeastern making it to the NCAA big dance.

It’s no secret Jim is a great scout and he may very well have stocked the cupboards for years to come but when you come into a culture where everyone wants to win right now, both fans, players and management, you have to sell the journey. Canucks fans thought they had it all figured out when Boston was announced as the East Champs to face Vancouver in the 2011 Final. It was the dream run we all talked about, how could anything derail destiny?

Apparently, there were a few things that made that possible.

When Benning got to Vancouver he made it known he wanted guys who wanted to be here, Ryan Kesler didn’t so he moved him. Shocking to some but the writing was on the wall, you’re a Canuck because you want to be one 100%. If you aren’t going to work, you’re gone.

Differing opinions come up when Frank Corrado is mentioned, Hunter Shinkaruk, Zack Kassian and Eddie Lack. JB is building the Canucks the way he sees fit and even when we all cry bloody murder and demand his head on a stick (have we done that yet?), he continues to give us flashes of confidence.

Thatcher Demko is yet another prospect that is making waves and will most definitely be the goalie of the future for the Canucks and if it was possible, they’d sign him long term right now. He will give the Canucks what they had in Luongo and Schneider but hopefully this time they don’t screw it up. Once he’s in the lineup I doubt Vancouver is worried about picking anywhere near the bottom 5 picks.

Over the next week, the Canucks play the Jets, Predators, Blues and Blackhawks. Conceivably, they could be dead last or knocking on the door by next Sunday night; the crazy thing is I don’t see any diehards frowning upon this.

Have you ever been so enthralled with defeat that you look forward to the games just to see if they can come up on the losing end by the final buzzer? It’s unreal! We have waited for that next player to take us up the mountain and with the Sedins at Amen Corner, there isn’t much left for them to do before they hand off this team to the next leaders.

Every loss feels redeeming and as the rest of the garbage at the bottom of the league wins and Vancouver loses, the feeling of new life in an organization that hasn’t breathed in what seems like years is fresh.

All in all, the losses have piled up but the hope that this team will get a chance to turn it around with a combination of the top pick and maybe a splash signing July 1st is worth it. Even if Steven Stamkos signs elsewhere (totally likely) there is still many a dollar to spend and get this team competitive again.

Starting all over next season with a healthy roster and some new stars might be just what this team needed; no Cup right away but the belief it can get back to that level is really all most of us want. The Cup may elude forever but that’s nothing new.

So lose Canucks, lose a lot. Give us Auston Matthews and make America Vancouver great again!

Canucks Doing It All For The Rookie(s)

The Canucks came into this season as a rebuild, Jim Benning and his lies just watched their team lose to the Flames; dwelling on the past, it was burning on his brain, he went and signed Bartkowski, Sutter and they still kept Linden Vey. A season of growth, surprises and yet another minor goalie controversy, the dead weight was starting to fall off and it was the young guns that were getting the chances. 

We still bit in like a chump, hey! Like a chump? HEY! 

But the Canucks did it all for the rookies.

 

With 14 games left, its safe to say the Canucks won’t be at the big dance come April. The “P-word” as many are calling it, is something they’ll be building towards next season. Injuries have been a big reason they aren’t close as well as a lackluster roster that hasn’t been updated to compete in the current NHL.

Willie Desjardins is finally giving the rookies, Bo Horvat and Sven Baertschi the proper time they deserve, even if that means Derek Dorsett and Emerson Etem have to hang around and ride shotgun. It hasn’t been easy to watch and with the first overall pick still a realistic possibility, there is a good chance we’ll see more of this to end the year.

When it all began, Jake Virtanen earned his spot, Jared McCann did too and Ben Hutton? Well we all know he was a guarantee to make it, how do you even debate that? Not entirely true I guess; Chris Higgins needed to go on LTIR so that kind of opened up a spot. Frankie Corrado seemed to be the guy that would make it but then he was waived!??!?!

I mentioned that it wasn’t Hutton who stole that job but actually Alex Biega. Benning saw what he wanted to after he made that move and inked Biega to a 2 year deal. Frankie, like Hunter Shinkaruk, just didn’t fit the plan.

Looking up and down the roster it’s amazing to see how much youth has actually played this year. Bo Horvat is tied with Daniel Sedin with 68 games played, for most games played this season, Hutton (61), McCann (58) and Virtanen (43) have all contributed as well as a hand full of first NHL games to boot.

This season has seen a blend of options and on the Sedin line alone, they’ve had approximately 8 different partners. The injuries have been a significant reason they have had new blood on a semi-regular basis.

Every position has taken a hit but it’s been up the middle and on the back end that’s been hit the hardest. Dan Hamhuis, through one fluke injury or another, has missed 24 games; Brandon Sutter has missed 47 games with and will probably not play again this season, Luca Sbisa missed 26 games with an injured hand and foot and those are just the big ones.

As a team, the Canucks have been decimated for 213 man games lost (as of March 12/16). Thankfully, that has meant a whole lot more ice time for Hutton, Virtanen, Horvat and now new Canuck fave Sven Baertschi. But in the last week, those guys aren’t stealing the spotlight anymore. Cue….Nikita Tryamkin.

It sure has been awhile since a Russian has made headlines in Vancouver, for the right reasons anyways. We could talk about Fedor Fedorov or Kirill Koltsov but that isn’t very exciting. Don’t get me wrong, Ben Hutton isn’t losing his hold as future top dman but with the build of the Russian Bear, Tryamkin gets an opportunity that few former Canucks prospects get.

Guaranteed ice time.

Let’s ask ourselves though, does Benning have a hidden agenda, will he put the tender season in a blender or will he surrender…like a chump. HEY!

All accounts say its still “P-word” or bust (playoffs) so they’ll tow the company line and continue to insist this season is still salvageable. What actually is salvageable is the hope we should have for next year when the purse strings open and management goes all in on whatever star is available.

Eventually, the likes of Andrey Pedan, Alex Grenier and Brendan Gaunce will be regulars, Horvat/Virtanen/McCann/Hutton will all be seasoned vets and if the dominoes continue to fall….maybe even Auston Matthews; but one thing is for sure: if it wasn’t for the long list of injuries this year, we might not know how long this rebuild was going to take.

Now at least, there seems to be some light at the end of the tunnel and if we look about 3 years away I have a feeling the phrase “Demko, Demko very much” may catch on. Something about wins, shutouts and being the goalie of the future, I dunno.

The rebuild carries on but the Canucks did it all for the rookies (so far).

29 Clicks Later…The Canucks Pick Matthews (No Spoilers)

The Vancouver Canucks are so close to the first overall pick but they just can’t seem to get there. With a win against the Coyotes this week making things muddier than ever, the Nucks will really have to turn up the suck-o-meter to make this thing happen. Will there be a good player at 2nd or 3rd overall? Definitely, but that’s not what you came to see.

There are two “Draft Lottery Simulators” on the interwebs and I have spun that wheel like an addict waiting for a different result each time. We all wanna know “Where are the Canucks going to pick?” What I have done will not only mystify and amaze you but it will show you once and for all that no matter what, the Canucks will find a way to screw it up anyways.

How many clicks will it take to ride the unicorn into the sunset? Hopefully not a lot, that really would crush this article.

Let’s start with Tankathon!

Before I started, I took an inventory of everything I needed to know – the Canucks have a 6% chance of getting the first pick, 19.1% chance of a top 3 and of all the lottery teams, Vancouver has the 2nd fewest ROW with 22. Impressive, if you think not winning in regulation is impressive. In this case, I do.

First spin – dud. Second spin – same. On the 6th spin, the Canucks got the 2nd overall pick, not bad but they only do this once. Let’s keep going. The 15th go around netted the same spot but Buffalo got the first overall pick, typical! Spin 29, 2nd place again and to Toronto, ugh. Could you imagine Matthews, Marner AND Stamkos? Yeesh!

I could have stopped but on spin 32, Vancouver captured the crown jewel Auston Matthews! Not gonna lie, it felt good. I had a beer and lit some candles, played some Adele and pretty much called it a night. I did remember that I wasn’t done this experiment and things could change down the internet street. It is possible Canucks fans, like Leo DiCaprio Oscar possible.

The next vehicle to check out on the lot is the famous NHL Lottery Simulator. Its a 2016 model, pretty basic, no a/c, a TAPE DECK ARE YOU KIDDING ME? It has the usual: power steering, ability to pick first overall, create hope and crush dreams. Let’s take it for a ride!

So far, I do not like this version; 8 tries and a measly 3rd overall pick? This sucks. Barely off the lot and that’s all I get? Oh, but what awaited me at try number 10? Yes my friends, the top of the mountain, the Nickelback of draft picks (that means best FYI). I really thought it would take longer but 6% is not a bad percent after all.

Could you imagine Jim Benning started his day thinking “Aw man, I’m trade away Alex Burrows for a 6th rounder and re-sign Bartkowski to a whopper deal and then OUTTA NOWHERE he get’s the 1st overall pick? I mean, he’d still do the first two things but that would be the best part of his day after all that.

I tried a few more times to see if the chances were real, if it wasn’t all a dream. Turns out, the 18th lap around the track was another fruitful one, Benning was getting Matthews! It felt amazing! I truly believed this had happened and woke my parents up at 11pm to let them know. Apparently calling your folks about a fictional event isn’t a great idea, might not have a babysitter next week so I kinda regret that all now.

Back to the Canucks though; they got the pick and life is good again. Forget all the win, loss, loss, loss, win sequences, all the town hall meetings and if the Russian giant will pan out – the Canucks are back in the win column and its great.

Go figure, 29th time worked too! The problem to all of this is that the Canucks need more losses to get a better shot at that trophy. It won’t be easy because as we all know, Vancouver never does it the easy way.

There is still time and with a bit of luck, some questionable coaching and approximately 30 minutes a night from Nikita Tryamkin and Luca Sbisa, we got this locked up.

Or not, there’s that possibility too.

 

Raymond, Ballard and a 3rd; The Trade That Never Was

We’re 10 days away from the 2016 NHL trade deadline and unless Jim Benning and Co. go on a month long bender and forget they still have a job to do, the Canucks will be sellers at the deadline. In previous years, the Canucks have sold off what we believed to be important parts of the team (Hodgson, draft picks) but found out those would have just held us back.

So seeing that the playoffs are not an option for Vancouver this season and plenty of contending teams are looking for valuable rentals, what can the Canucks get for the future of the franchise? That same question was asked back in 2011 and 2012 but the Canucks were the ones doing the buying. What did we all think they should offer; how bout Mason Raymond, Keith Ballard and a 3rd round pick?

This was the package that was theoretically put together by anyone that thought they could run the Canucks back then. Of course, we never wanted to get rid of anyone of true value because the Canucks still needed to win the Cup; but we didn’t need Keith Ballard who Alain Vigneault basically cast off of the team and Mason Raymond was just good enough to fetch value on the open market, but we could have cared less about him.

As for the 3rd round pick, whether you play fantasy sports or you are actually the real life GM of a sports franchise, this was the very most you were willing to give away without going into the hot zone of future prospects or being shoo’d away for being to frugal. Giving up a 1st or a 2nd was usually out of the question unless you were getting back a premier player or a hot prospect.

The 3rd was the top pick in the 2nd tier of value so everyone was cool with that. But why did that trade never materialize?

Was it because in reality, it was awful? Was it not enough to fetch the likes of Shea Weber, Corey Perry or jeez, I don’t even remember the amount of players I thought could come back in that trade. It’s funny to think that the Canucks still had Cody Hodgson at the time and was so highly sought after by Canucks brass but would later become the scar just above your chin that you no longer can grow facial hair on.

That vacancy just annoys now and the embarrassing story that is the reason for it has just been told too many times. Imagine if they traded Hodgson at the height of his perceived value: Hodgson, Raymond, Ballard and a 3rd for Shea Weber; that totally would have sealed the deal.

Everyone wanted the Canucks to get better and we’re going through that same cycle all over again except THIS TIME, we suck.

Getting back to the pieces of yesteryear, Keith Ballard was a perfect fit for literally any other team because well, he’d get playing time. AV did not like Mr. Ballard and it was frustrating to see a top 4 defender benched or stapled to the bench on so many nights. Frankie Corrado must know the feeling.

Ballard wasn’t huge factor in the 2011 run but most felt he could have offered more had he actually played, same could have been said for Cory Schneider in the Final. Speaking of Schneider, Pass it to Bulis ran a story on this “package” back in 2012 and I forgot Cory was also a chip in the so called deal.

Thinking back, if that deal happened, we’ d have Corey Perry instead of Bo Horvat. Ryan Kesler may never have wanted out and….you know what, it’s fine. We’re better for it and I’ve moved on.

Mason Raymond was what Jannik Hansen is basically this season. Speed, skill, finish and back checking all described Raymond and he was valuable, in our eyes anyways, because it didn’t disrupt the core and we figured we could add some star power. I think a good chunk of the GMs around the league passed on our deal when they started seeing Raymond tripping over the blue line night in and night out.

That would be a deal breaker for anyone.

This trade may have been destined to fail from the beginning or maybe it never was offered but you have to wonder, would any team have taken that deal? There will never be again a package of that nature that would allow the Canucks to keep all the good and get rid of the suck.

Radim Vrbata and Dan Hamhuis, heck Ryan Miller and even Alex Burrows are now all guys we mention regularly as trade bait. Matt Bartkowski wouldn’t fetch a ball so I can’t imagine there’s a use for him even at a dog park. The Canucks are in a rare situation where a few draft picks, B prospects or even one B level star is attainable through trade this season.

They also have the off chance of being able to draft “generational talent” Auston Matthews in June if they suck just bad enough to beat out both the Leafs and Oilers, ya those guys.

I don’t know if any of you have forgotten that the whole Milan Lucic and Cody Franson thing still may happen so a few extra picks, a kid from Zurich and some hometown boys might just make the Canucks worth watching again.

Anything is better than seeing them lose 5-2 for the 4th consecutive game.

The Canucks Aren’t Gonna Tank, Not Now, Not EVER!

Throughout this season, I’ve asked myself this a dozen or so times and I’m sure you have as well: What if the Canucks continue to alternate wins with losses, slowly yet strategically move away an old player at a time and actually have a seven game playoff series, or worse….they win one? Earlier in December, the Nucks had the best % chance of landing Auston Matthews in the 2016 Draft. They just aren’t giving up on this season and I’m afraid they might do something stupid like make the playoffs again.

Honestly, how hard is it to #tank? Jim Benning knows that for it to work successfully he has to create situations where they CAN’T WIN!!!!

Jimbo is slowly wiping away contracts, trading away things that aren’t working and I’m not quite sure if Willie Desjardins has a heavy hand in the current look but this whole Medicine Hat Tigers thing is looking a bit suspicious. Of all teams, the Tigers? If Benning tried to assemble former players from the likes of the Oshawa Generals, London Knights or Kelowna Rockets; he might have more success.

Don’t get me started on the non BC issue.

As of Jan 13, the Canucks are a win out of 7th in the West and 8 points back of LAST….dead last overall. Figure that out. The Pacific division is much to blame for this season as it basically is giving hope to everyone in the division except the Oilers; and even then, when McDavid comes back who knows?

Just when you think the Canucks were about to really slide into first overall glory, they start winning again. They start breaking win streaks, they’re getting contributions out of guys that hadn’t scored in months, a timely injury to Ryan Miller yet again forces Jacob Markstrom into the starters role and wouldn’t you know it, he’s thrived!

Or how about guys like Linden Vey and Sven Baertschi? Vey was sent down at the beginning of the year and we all assumed that might be it, well I did anyways; he finally gets a chance to be called up and he’s actually getting involved, ya I’m stunned too! With Baertschi, he was in and out of the lineup as a healthy scratch and then the pairing with Bo Horvat came and they started to chemistry (I think we were looking for the words jel/gel, click or connect); they’ve combined for 16 points since December 18th.

Can this team do ANYTHING right?

There are literally tens of reasons the Canucks are surviving this season and not planning a special draft jersey for Mr. Matthews, one of which, actually two, are the Sedins and their continued production. At 35 years old (sigh, he mentioned their age again, EVERYONE mentions their age), Henrik and Daniel have 36 and 40 points respectively and if Jannik Hansen stays healthy all year they both should be in the mid 80’s or so by year’s end. Stunning.

They’ve carried this team when no one else could even be lifted and now we find out their thugs too? The recent brawl with the Panthers, Daniel Sedin losing 4 teeth and missing approximately 3 shifts; yet still able to confuse and frustrate opposing defenders. These guys are still so good and when they leave THAT’S when the true rebuild will begin.

The Canucks don’t have it in them to #tank. They aren’t the type of organization to completely give up and start over, stubborn in a way but I’m happy they give us hope; not Stanley Cup hope but like that Barack Obama poster kinda hope. We continue to beg them to move the Higgins’s, Sbisas’s, Veys’s and even the Vrbatas’s so we can see this team get in a position to start over. Some even say Milan Lucic would help that, I’m still not sure that’s such a great idea….but not the Kenins’s, they’re plural already.

Benning is finding ways to go moneyball on the NHL and he might be hitting singles just enough to start scoring runs. Yes, a complete baseball reference in a hockey article. Im multi-faceted in sports cliches so watch out! At the beginning, Sven Baertschi looked like we might be losing a 2nd round pick after not seeing quick results but if he ends up being Horvat’s permy linemate, a 2nd was an absolute deal.

Remember when we tried to get Emerson Etem in the Ryan Kesler deal? Well Benning got him for Nicklas Jensen or Jensen depending on the day of the week and how you prefer to pronounce it. It will work out as a something for nothing deal as Jensen wasn’t going to ever be a Canuck. Who is this guy and will we continue to hate all his decisions? Some people will but Benning is quietly shutting everyone up one sneaky move at a time.

He’s real sneaky.

So tanking probably isn’t in the Canucks cards this year anymore and if they had pulled the trigger on the season before Christmas, the team might be in deep deep trouble ala Bart Simpson

That was a nice stroll down memory lane. But back to what I was talking about, something something tanking right? In typical Canucks nation fashion, we all tend to jump the shark a bit too much and demand immediate answers that aren’t always practical, possible or rational (the last one might be redundant).

Seeing this season out as a team, a fan base and media as a whole might help us to learn a lot of what this team is actually capable of. It could be a sour, smelly garbage bin of despair or it could be the bonus fry at the bottom of your Arbys bag that you are so happy was there for you at the end; regardless no tank, potential big surprises and no one on the team we need to refer to as “18 year old (insert player here)” or “(players name with a y at the end then Hockey)”.

This is the Canucks. Its usually painful, frustrating, confusing and exciting every day of the week. Just chill out. Nothing new to see here.

Follow me on twitter, not because you have to but because you can write it off on your tax return: @always90four