ben hutton

What’s Left To Criticize About The Canucks?

photo – espn.com

There isn’t much that can’t go wrong for the Canucks these days; there’s no lead that’s safe, getting a powerplay doesn’t mean you have the advantage and apparently the Leafs are a superior team. I can’t begin to understand how any of this is occurring but it is and hope seems to be hanging by a thread in the Slower Mainland (because bike lines and traffic) and it’s not even December. In a week period, the Canucks have lost to all of Eastern Canada, the Sabres and the Devils. If I stopped there, that would be enough to go on. The one goal losses keep piling up and there’s no end in sight. What’s left to criticize?

At the beginning of the year, I figured the Canucks would be able to hold their own in the new look OT format of 3 on 3 as I figured they would be there a bit. As you have seen on here from time to time, I can be wrong. Dead wrong. Vancouver has not won in OT this season and save for the only shootout they’ve been in which was a win against Anaheim; the bonus minutes are a horror show waiting to happen. Having enough line combos that should be effective in OT, Willie Desjardins shouldn’t need to think a whole lot about who to put out there. It’s been a train wreck and just when you think the Canucks bounce back? They aren’t any where to be seen when its over.

Injuries have kind of been hovering around the team a bit so far with unlikely candidate for sympathy, Luca Sbisa being shelved with the boot on his foot. His predictable unpredictableness is actually missed as is his muscle on the opposition. The Canucks are most definitely lacking in the roughness area. Chris Higgins was out for so long we kind of forgot about him but now he’s back and I’ve kind of forgot about him.

 

This start has really made me hit my head repeatedly on my table because everyone that really should be stepping up just, they just aren’t. The Sedins are still technically Sedining and they seemed to have found a new buddy in Jannik Hansen; even though he’s actually one of the best options they had before they reunited. Bo Horvat has been given more defensive responsibility which is great long term, it is, but the sell on him this year is a lot tougher after doing what he did in year one.

Going full rookie to start the year with Ben Hutton, Jared McCann, Jake Virtanen and now Hunter Shinkaruk has half paid off. Hutton has basically been amazing. He hasn’t been a world burner but you can tell he’s going to be a staple on Vancouver’s blue line. He’s out there in OT, he’s on the PP, he makes Sbisa look good and he’s not 19, he’s 22. Ben Hutton is a great example of what waiting and developing a prospect can be. Ben Hutton is a very bright spot in a dark beginning to the year.

Jared McCann has given the 4th line depth and it might be a bit before he gets some more naturally offensive linemates but he’s doing fine. Big Country Jake Virtanen is still looking like he might need to be sat a few games in and out coming up. He will be great one day and he deserved to make the club but hindsight might show that another junior year wouldn’t have hurt. It’s early and they’re losing so this is where I’m going with this.

Half paid off but the team owes us another half. These rookies should be out there more in late game situations. This team isn’t winning the Cup this year and yet Willie continues to pump his obvious choices when its clear they might not be the best option. Is it bad luck? Not really. They’ve blown leads galore this season and its not even December. I could mention the atrocious one goal game record but I won’t.  I’m not even including a link because it will just make you sadder.

Maybe you’re thinking, “Hey Ryan, our goaltending has been pretty dece though”. Ya, it has but as was the same story with Cloutier, Luongo, Schneider and Lack – they can’t score goals which means you can’t win 0-0 every night; especially this year, we’d still lose in OT 1-0. The big slag is losing late. The Canucks just can’t hold on and it feels like the mid 90’s again and a bit like the late 2000’s where the goals are hard to come by. This team won’t score boat loads of goals and they’re probably a few years away from that happening but if they have a lead they better be able to help the back end so a 1 goal lead will hold.

Speaking of holding on, 60 minutes seems like a Gattaca type idea to Willie D’s crew that it’s so futuristic they can’t grasp it. Not sure how a team can’t put together a 60 minute effort and its becoming increasingly obvious there aren’t many of these on the horizon. By now you are so bummed out you can’t take any more so here’s a breakdown of every loss this season, tell me this isn’t going to end:

  • Calgary 3-2 OT – Sean Monahan capitalizes on a blunder deep in the corner, then Johnny Hockey wins it in OT. It begins
  • Blues 4-3 – Down 4-1, no one was expecting a comeback.
  • Oilers 2-1 OT – Tie game after the first, boringness ensues and a “NO WAY MAN” in OT creates more shame
  • Capitals 3-2 – Once again tie game but in the third, lonnnnnnnnng pass and Ovie scores a no doubter. Bad D, game over.
  • Red Wings 3-2 OT – 3 on 3 OT burns the Canucks but with the lead in the third they couldn’t close.

There’s 2 more games still and then the current road trip so I’ll stop.

So what’s left to criticize? How bout this:

 

 

Patience has always been a virtue as a Canucks fan but jeez, this is unacceptable. There aren’t any more gimmicks that could help this team. They need a team meeting or something. Times are tough and we need something to complain about, no kidding, but what we’ve watched in the last 2 weeks has been awful. This isn’t a team I’m excited to watch right now and I really should be.

OK, cheer up and continue on your day….maybe don’t go drinking today, that might be a bad idea.

Follow me on twitter: @always90four

JAKE VIRTANEN VS. JARED MCCANN: THE DECISION

ESPN never came knocking on the Canucks door when they decided to give both Jake Virtanen and Jared McCann the 9 game audition in the NHL. Do these kids have what it takes to warrant a 60 minute sitdown interview with The Province’s Jason Botchford? Probably no is the answer. Botch might be able to get a good show out of it but I doubt Willie drops the hammer at the closing credits and tells you who is taking their talents back to junior. Is Botchford ESPN caliber? Well, that’s not for me to answer. Lets focus on our two young prospects. What is their fate? What is the decision?

Its been 6 and 5 games respectively for McCann and Virtanen and its a tough decision to make as to who stays up with the big club. Do both of them stay? Tough to tell. With Jared McCann he brings the versatility of playing the pivot and the wing and would theoretically receive more ice time mainly because you need that guy to start the shift and he has two vets in Prust and Dorsett to help him along. Are they the best guys to develop Jared, I don’t believe so but that’s the reality thus far.

If Benning and Linden based their decisions solely on points, McCann stays but not by much. The other thing here is that they’re ROOKIES!!! You aren’t going to see the Bo Horvat type of transformation inside of the first month but there has to be more of a sample size; these two guys need to see more opportunities. Willie is limiting them and in turn their linemates as well but we need to see more.

With Jake Virtanen, you get an electric player that has the chance to be a bull in a china shop and he can explode a hit on someone at any moment. He hasn’t exactly done that since the infamous “McDavid Mash”…no one’s calling it that but its alliteration. You know what, let’s take a look at it again.

Doing a quick youtube/google search on Virtanen will unleash a plethora of hits, hit compilations and awkward teenage hockey player profile pics pointing a stick at a camera. Its so early to get a good read on Jake but he can hold his own physically and he has had some grade A chances to put the puck in the net. Some guys get the chances and can’t put it home but if you GET the chances you’re in the right places.

This is a different season for the Canucks in that they have 3 true rookies in the lineup and they don’t exactly look out of place. I could go off on a tangent about the craze of #HUTTONmania but I had that fluff piece air a few days ago. McCann and Virtanen also are forwards and you grade them differently.

Keeping Virtanen just for the physical game would be shameful and when Chris Higgins returns its no secret that Jake’s minutes will drop; unless he can start making an impact that keeps him relevant. Its a lot to ask of rookies but Willie has floated him a bit with different linemates to try and find that chemistry. Putting Brandon Sutter on a line with Virtanen and Burrows is a great mix and we’ll get to see that against the Canadiens. Its a perfect mix of speed, skill and veterans to give Jake that confidence to just play HIS game. Easier said than done.

McCann albeit a centre and a guy that we all believed HAD to crack the opening night roster hasn’t shown the stature that makes him a nightly NHLer. Kinda like the Trudeau attack ads, we’re not saying never, just not right now. Adam Cracknell also made the team and he most likely is waiting his turn until they decide what to do with McCann. If it’s me, I take Cracknell based on his experience and let Jared get one more year in the Soo.

It’s not the first time a team has done that and he’ll get more ice time as well as the chip on his shoulder to bulk up and prove himself come next season. Jared’s 19 and has a long NHL career ahead of him and I hate to see guys rushed in. Enjoy your time in junior, enjoy being a kid.

You didn’t come here for fancy stats or necessarily even normal stats, not in this piece anyways so I’m not going to break down how his Corsi needs to be better or that his zone exits are better than Virtanen’s. As you know, I am  the Game Day Preview guy for Canucks Army and they’re the guys you want to hit up for that stuff.

At the end of the day who do we choose to continue with the Canucks this year? In a quick note: Jake Virtanen. He’ll have more opportunities to move around and his “presence”, going Eric Lindros there, will eventually transition from rookie nerves to “WATCH OUT, HERE COMES VIRTANEN!” Just like any job, once you get past the probation period, you can calm down more and ease in. At the very least, Virtanen has that monster hit and all his other ones and at some point they’ll benefit him greatly.

I’m really excited that these are the kinds of discussions that are taking place with the Canucks and not the every polarizing goalie debate, Luca Sbisa checklist of errors and did we win the “insert public opinion bad trade here”. The Canucks are changing, lets embrace it.

Oh, we picked Virtanen right? Ya, Virtanen is the answer to the headline. But maybe also McCann, but for sure Virtanen. So Virtanen and maaaaaybe McCann.

Virtanen. Definitely Virtanen.

Follow me on twitter: @always90four

Ben Hutton Is My Nike AIR MAG (You know the one)

Its never too early to start criticizing coaching decisions, GM decisions or anything resembling doom and gloom for the Vancouver Canucks. It’s also never too early to award praise to a player that is better than he should be, bang on what we want him to be or just the next player we all can’t wait to draw hearts around in third period history. Ben Hutton is not a bad coaching decision, Ben Hutton is not a bad GM decision; Ben Hutton is my cover of Canucks Teen Beat magazine, he is my Nike AIR MAG with self tying laces.

Ben Hutton is the coolest kind of awesome!

Is this too much praise? Is it a verbal love affair for a defenseman yet again? I mean there was Willie Mitchell (dreamy), Alex Edler (currently dreamy as well), Chris Tanev (cooler than craft beer, ya that’s right) and now Hutton too? This is all too sudden. Frankie Corrado was supposed to be that next guy and then Ben Hutton just shows up and says its his job?

That’s what has basically happened.

Drafted in the 5th round of the 2012 NHL Draft, Ben Hutton did the college thing and honed his craft. Through 6 games this year he has racked up 3 helpers and 6 shots. Hutton’s ice time is in the 18:00 min/gm mark and he’s averaging close to 25 shifts a game. He’s trusted to make important decisions and I think like Alex Edler, he eventually is one of the go to guys on the power play; a power play that right now has a problem.

I stated before either on twitter or on here as well that BH reminds me of the blue line version of my favourite future NHLer Nick Merkley of the Kelowna Rockets. They have eerily similar styles of play albeit one is a winger/centre and ones a defenseman but the way they both move the puck and hold on to the puck is a thing of beauty.

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Not to make this too much about Merkley but he has the talent to carry the puck a little bit longer than most without being a puck hog. He can make a timely pivot or pass he has no business making and it instantly changes the course of the shift. His hockey IQ is beautiful. Ben Hutton has those same characteristics.

Being a star on defense for the Canucks is no easy task, in fact playing for the Canucks is no easy task. As the famous line from The Dark Knight goes “you either die a hero or you live long enough to see yourself become the villain”. Right now, BH is the hero and he is far from dying off this roster, that takes at least 10 years on the blue line; less in net.

When the Nike AIR MAG shoe released on Wednesday to the world with self tying laces, the world stood still. This shoe is the holy grail of shoes. Ben Hutton is my Nike AIR MAG. Slight exaggeration maybe. He is developing a shot that will put his name on the marquee, he has confidence with the puck that rivals the Sedins and his decision making skills are already NHL veteran status.

Chris Tanev once received this treatment and really, he hasn’t let up. He isn’t our #1 dman but take him out of the lineup and we have serious problems. Hutton hasn’t even been here a month and you could poll Canucks nation and I’d bet he’s on the list of guys you cannot be without. Tanbir from Surrey knows what’s up:

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In a recent article on Vancity Buzz by Ryan Biech regarding Hutton, you’ll see a clip of Ben going away from his defender on a zone exit and its subtle but its such a pro move that any coach would love to teach that all day long. Im not a coach, I can barely skate but I know an amazing move when I see one.

Marty McFly had the Nike’s and the hoverboard and he traveled through time, we don’t need to travel through time though; The Canucks have Ben Hutton right now and he just might be that find other teams wish they had. Thats been our position on every eligible player we could have taken and now its Vancouver’s turn to enjoy some talent.

It could be argued this is a fluff piece on BH (it basically is) but even Chris Tanev would admit that Hutton brings the Canucks game to another level, you know if Willie would allow better players to be on the ice with him instead of Prust and Dorsett for entire periods at a time.

#Huttonmania is runnin wild in Vancouver and its gonna run wild all over you.

Follow my twitter: @always90four

Ryan Miller And Chill

I’m not gonna lie to you guys, I still don’t know what that means. I don’t even have Netflix so the reference is lost on me. That being said I DO know one thing for sure: I may be wrong about Ryan Miller and its safe to say most of you are too! After 3 games this year he has posted an impressive 3-0-1 and 1 shutout (LA) along with a chipper 1.21 GAA and .955 SA%

This just in: Ryan Miller is very good at the puck stopping.

Miller seemed like a decent signing a year ago as the Canucks were looking for a new #1 goalie to mentor Eddie Lack and win the big games. Well, last season didn’t exactly go Miller’s way and late in the season it was questioned if he should even BE a Canuck. Pretty harsh criticism but quite typical in a market that can turn on their goalies after a bad pumpkin spice latte.

When Miller was bowled over by Jannik Hansen in a game against the Islanders last year, it gave then back up Eddie Lack the keys to a very touchy sports car which he did not want to relinquish after a phenomenal spring. As Ryan Miller neared return, the question was does he deserve the net back?

All in all, he came back but the Canucks were far from ready for anyone to be the goalie as they couldn’t even hold their own up front with the Calgary Flames completely outplaying the Canucks in round 1 of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

So what is so different from last year’s start that gives us hope this season? As of now, not a whole lot. Miller posted a solid 16-4 record to start his season, with 3 shutouts and 3 one goal games. It seems that even in Canuck nation if we aren’t awarded a Stanley Cup (which they’ve never won) after every win, the team fell short.

Kinda ridiculous but that’s how we roll.

In comparison, Roberto Luongo’s first season in Vancouver wasn’t exactly the best season ever in his first 20. OK, we all know he played lights out almost the whole season, finished a win shy of the NHL record and was robbed of both a Vezina and a Hart trophy, but I digress.
Luongo posted a 10-9-1 record in the 2006/07 season after his first 20 games but considering the team had to be almost all defense, his performances took on a life of its own.

Like Luongo, Miller came from the Eastern Conference and had to learn a whole new travel system, a whole new coaching system and a conference that is Fast and Furious 8, seven days a week. Miller did have a stop over in St. Louis for 19 games and then was easily knocked out of the playoffs in 6. He, like Justin Trudeau “just wasn’t ready” for the West quite yet. But he figured it out.

Ryan Miller isn’t exactly that type of cat though; he’s very chill, possibly even….Miller Chill? I would guess lime because its the best of the chill drinks one would assume. He is a gamer like any other top goalie, he puts his jock strap on one loop at a time and after playing in Buffalo for so long, a bit of angst is allowed. He’s played in some pretty big games, most notably in 2010 in the Gold Medal Game at the Vancouver Olympics in which he gave up the winning goal to Sidney Crosby on Canadian ice. He continued to impress that same year taking home the Vezina as the top goaltender in the NHL.

But back to him being awesome in Vancouver.

Miller time has once again made an appearance and this time around, Canucks fans seem to be warming up to the guy. He isn’t any more approachable, he still clings to the “team game” mentality when conducting interviews and even WITH the injury to Jacob Markstrom and having Richard Bachman as his backup, he still plays like it’s his job to lose.

Good on you Miller!

Millsy as his team mates probably call him is building confidence with a very fragile fan base and the defenders in front of him are making his job quite easy. But in case they do screw up, he’s been every bit an all star as rookie dman Ben Hutton. Roberto did it with more swagger but maybe we need a guy that just plays net for a living? I’m not sure if that actually was a question but imma roll with it.

Miller Chill is just that; he doesn’t seem to panic when the puck frenzy is in front of him. He just goes about his business and he focuses on just stopping the puck. Seems like an obvious deal there but making the save that stops the play is just as important as keeping the first few out of the net. Its rebound control 101.

It is kinda weird that even with Eddie Lack, Roberto Luongo and Cory Schneider all gone from Vancouver, we actually are at the point of embracing a goalie because he just plays for his team and goes home. Better late than never to have a revived career and it looks like he might even get better, wouldn’t that be nice?

We welcome your chillness Ryan Miller, we welcome it with two arms and an approval looking nod. You signed on for 3 years in a city that you knew could possibly hate you after 1 month, but there was enough money on the table that you figured “Hey, hate doesn’t hurt if I don’t acknowledge it”. Bad theory to go on but he has stepped his game up and the team in front of him seems to have done the same thing.

Miller doesn’t need fancy stats, zone entry data, corsis or even tacos to be successful. For that you should go on over to Canucks Army.  Come to think of it, I don’t either but here I am writing about these things (actually I’m only writing about the words fancy stats, zone entry data and corsis) and I don’t need to be flashy or swaggered out.

After only 3 games, a handful of media and fans have anointed Ryan Miller the MVP of the season and what could be better? The answer is the Stanley Cup but maybe lets not jump the shark quite yet. I can’t believe I’m saying this but even Luca Sbisa is playing better this year and that can only mean great things for Ryan Miller…and rookie sensation Ben Hutton. But this isn’t about them, its about the guy with the bulldog on the back of his mask.

So lets all Miller Chill with Ryan Miller and let him do his thing. Let’s let this season materialize organically and see how everything pans out. What do we have to lose? Not much. What I know is all this guy wants is for Miller to stay chill and maybe a tweet back:

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Follow me and my hilarious taeks (sp?) on twitter: @always90four

Bowness Coverage – Canucks Maybe Are Good

Last season ended as a somewhat predictable tire fire and the Canucks had some obvious problems to fix. Fast forward 5 months and they look surprisingly better. Benning and Co. went younger, faster and slightly more expensive but where brass has spent their money, they’ve saved in other areas. For the first time since 1999, the Canucks start the season with 3 rookies: Jared McCann, Ben Hutton and Jake Virtanen. Its not what was expected to happen but guess what, here we are!

Its a pretty different team than last year and roles have changed throughout the lineup. Bo Horvat has earned the #2C role and has a spiffy set of wingers in Sven Baertschi and Radim Vrbata. After one game, I thought they looked pretty impressive and I have a feeling they will only get better. I would have liked to see Horvat a bit more on the PP and maybe even with the Sedins on a loaded setup with Edler and Weber at some point. Its only a game in so its a bit much to ask right now.

Elliotte Friedman has his 30 thoughts but I lose focus after 10 so that’s what I offer. Without further ado, I bring you your Bowness Coverage.

  • Nothing new for the Sedins but man do they continue to impress year after year. Their uncanny ability to find each other and make plays that still make you shake your head has not diminished. This play that lead to Brandon Sutter’s bloop single to the back of the net just shows what the Sedins can make happen. Check this out:
  • You won’t find much in the way of the Corsi here, maybe I’ve listened to a bit too much Pucks on Net lately, but I would guess Alex Edler’s corsi is crazy good after one game. The man has a boomer of a shot and he got it off what looked to be a ton (3 shots actually with a +3 rating). When Edler is shooting the way he can and his sticks aren’t breaking, he has the ability to make the Canucks PP and blue line very effective. Plus I have his t-shirt.
  • Staged fighting will continue to make the NHL a bush league. Dorsett and Prust both had tilts in the first period and I do not care for them. If there is a genuine energy boost in a game and a fight organically happens, go for it. Fake emotion though? Lame. You would think the NHL would be better than this but they’re not. Probably won’t see this end anytime soon.
  • Speaking of things that need to stop, these are two prime examples of how bonehead plays can ruin players careers and for the guys committing these stupid plays, they’ll be sitting out and rightfully so. It’s pathetic when you see repeat offenders continually allowed to offend and offend again. To be fair though, the RCMP, Provincial and Federal justice systems don’t exactly set a great example. Not the same thing but you get the idea. See exhibits A and B:
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  • It seems the fines/suspensions just don’t make it clear enough that its wrong. 41 games for Torres hopefully is his last chance. I love the way Torres plays and truly miss him as a Canuck but he plays on such a thin line that he can cross it quite easily.
  • A great initiative has been started over at the Nation Network which hosts Canucks Army, Flames Nation, Oilers Nation, Daily Faceoff and NHL Numbers; they are helping raise money for a foundation spearheaded by the Canucks called Mindcheck.ca Check out @CanucksMOTB and pledge some money to a great cause.
  • Tim Hortons has become the new place to get your overpriced 3 pack of Upper Deck hockey cards after McDonalds got out of the game a few years ago. I took part in a purchase agreement but where they get you is surprising: with a drink purchase you can get a pack of cards for a buck and tax. Any additional packs are 1.99 by themselves which is ludacris but if you purchase another drink, its only a buck again. Bravo Timmies! You are taking our money and any hope at a healthy nation with your calorie rich ice capps. McDonalds basically said “ya you can buy fries and then we’ll cap your card packs at ummmmm 80, is that ok?” Im here to help you save your hard earned paper route money.
  • Ben Hutton is the latest edition to the Canucks back end and he looked super swell! 8th in ice time after game one, his first NHL assist/point and 2:29 in PP time? Willie loves him some Hutton. That feeling won’t go away and after Frankie Corrado was waived and claimed by the Leafs, Vancouver better stick to their guns on this guy. Not like they have to worry though. Ben can look at Alex Edler and Chris Tanev and know that he can produce without being on the scoresheet. Amazingly enough, he does that too! His name may pop up more and more as the season goes on.
  • The Canucks new slogan for this season is #playforthis. The commercials that accompany it are about as thought out as this latest blog post. In an effort to sell tickets, which will be tough until this team proves itself, marketing is trying to relate to the Canucks everyman. If you want to relate maybe start with something like this: We’ve GOUGED you for years, but you showed up. We’ve won NOTHING but yet you cheer. We locked you out but you came back. We hired TORTS and then fired him right away. This is a new Canucks era and its ready to play…for you… We are ALL Canucks. And then throw in a hashtag and get a sponsor for Club 16 or Sushi.
  • Play for the fan in the 3 ferry lineup? You can do better than that. You had the Bauer/Nike guy and all he gave us was a really nice throw rug with a big 7 on it. Cliff Ronning thought it was amazing though.
  • Not at all Canucks related, well unless you count Roberto Luongo’s campaign but Jagr is bringing back his mullet and that is a great thing.
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The NHL season is finally here and there will no doubt be many more stories and sub plots in the Canucks stratosphere. Might they make the playoffs again this year? Im saying yes.

Might they get past the first round, Im saying no.

Might Bo Horvat end up being the best bang for your buck NHLer this season, sure hope so.

Follow me on twitter: @always90four