blackhawks

Could The Future Canucks Become The Championship Blackhawks?

There are few leading headlines that could draw the ire of B.C. sports fans quicker than comparing the Canucks to the Chicago Blackhawks in a good way. Currently, the Vancouver Canucks are nowhere near what the Blackhawks have become and aside from a few home run picks and a blossoming prospect pool, the Canucks will continue to tread water barely above the NHL’s standings floor.

But what if it all turned around starting this offseason? What if the Canucks won the NHL Draft Lottery and were able to pick Super Swede, Rasmus Dahlin? Could the Canucks actually right the ship and begin the ascent back to true glory?

It’s possible, a long shot, but possible.

The turnaround for the Blackhawks wasn’t when they drafted Jonathan Toews third overall in 2006, nor was it when they won the draft lottery in 2007 and took Hart and Conn Smythe winner Patrick Kane first overall; the Hawks began their rebuild when they took Duncan Keith in the 2002 draft followed by Brent Seabrook in 2003.

Chicago’s defense would later emerge as the NHL’s elite group and was pretty much unstoppable. As the team continued to finish towards the bottom of the standings in the mid-2000’s they also picked up Corey Crawford, Dustin Byfuglien, Dave Bolland, Adam Burish, Patrick Sharp. These players were picked up in various rounds but the combined efforts of Mike Smith, Bob Pulford, Dale Tallon, and Stan Bowman created the team that most NHL franchises feared and also wanted to emulate.

That team had everything from top to bottom: grit, scoring, goaltending, defense, power play, PK; the works. Oh, and multiple draft picks.

Before the Blackhawks got there, they had similar numbers that resemble the current Canucks roster and it gives hope to a fanbase that might not want to believe this.

Check out the current Canucks stats:

hockey-reference.com

Now, take a look at the mid-build Blackhawks in 2003/04:

hockey-reference.com

OK, that team didn’t have Jonathan Toews or Patrick Kane. No, it didn’t. However, there was a very young Tuomo Ruutu, Tyler Arnason, an impressive Steve Sullivan and aging forwards like Alexei Zhamnov and Igor Korolev. That team wasn’t very good and it would stay that way for a few more years, hence the lottery picks.

They would later add Martin Havlat, Radim Vrbata, former Canuck Adrian Aucoin, Rene Bourque, and even a soon to be retired Peter Bondra. There are some similar storylines that mimic what the Canucks have done like the acquisition of Thomas Vanek, Loui Eriksson, Erik Gudbranson and even Michael Del Zotto.

I’m sure a few of these pickups for Chicago weren’t loved, speaking at the Bondra move and possibly the pickup of Michal Handzus who would only play eight games for Chicago before tearing his ACL and moved on.

Here’s the Hawks after the lockout and take a look at what a few new faces do to this team:

hockey-reference.com

Shrewd drafting clearly paid off for the Hawks and it’s possible Jim Benning is still creating a stable of players (hear me out) that could resemble this team in the next 3-4 years. Chicago didn’t win the Cup immediately with this team but the young group grew together and was anchored by an amazing defense, a few star forwards, and a supporting cast that drove teams nuts. The stats don’t lie.

So, where do the Canucks come in?

First and foremost, Brock Boeser and Bo Horvat are the keystones of this franchise going forward. Having leaders like the Sedins still on the team to show them how to be professionals can’t go unnoticed. Gritty forward Brendan Leipsic could be one of the players that go completely overlooked as the team grows and his resemblance to Alex Burrows with more of a Patrick Sharp release, will give the Canucks future second line a real punch.

When Elias Pettersson steps onto the ice as a Canuck he will have the opportunity to become what fans have lusted for in a hybrid scoring forward that combines bits of Toews and Kane with the level-headedness of a Swede. Depth forward Adam Gaudette is on the verge of becoming a Canuck as well and even though he won’t get top billing, Kris Versteeg and Adam Burish didn’t either and the Hawks wouldn’t have won Cups without those guys.

I’m not saying Gaudette is a great comparable to either of those players but where they factored in the lineup is very close to where Gaudette will be for the next couple of years. Add to that the likes of Kole Lind, Jonathan Dahlen, and Canucks Army, favorite Jonah Gadjovich, and the Canucks might be closer to rebuilding this team than many thought.

Yes, I’m aware none of the last three will be mainstays and prime contributors to the team in the immediate future but there are numerous teams in the NHL that have had similar problems and have bounced back, let’s not think the Canucks are alone in this problem.

As far as goaltending is concerned, the future lies with Thatcher Demko. He has the makings of a superstar and like former Canucks Cory Schneider and Roberto Luongo, he is a big game player that studies the game and is constantly getting better.

Chicago went with Antti Niemi when they won their first Cup and ran with Corey Crawford in the next two; definitely not superstars by any means but they were young and confident. Tough to say how Demko compares to them and every team has a different path to the Cup but Thatcher’s stability in net will determine how far the Canucks go in the future, much like Luongo dictated before he had his throne taken away.

The real results lie on defense. None of this may come to fruition without the luck and fulfillment of this year’s top prize: Rasmus Dahlin. It’s no secret Dahlin and Elias Pettersson would love to play with each other as they were friends and teammates on Team Sweden at the World Junior Championship and potentially at the World Championships this spring.

Dahlin is a game-breaker, nothing like the Canucks have ever had on their backend. He scores, he passes, he dangles, he dipsy-doodles. He’s everything this fanbase has ever wanted and maybe just maybe, missing out on a franchise center like Connor McDavid or Auston Matthews can be forgotten if Vancouver gets a stud defenseman this June.

Look through history and see what each team had when they lifted the Stanley Cup: a top defenseman. Niklas Lidstrom, Chris Pronger, Scott Niedermeyer, Bobby Orr, etc. All of these players made their Cup-winning teams a threat because they were game-changers. Rasmus Dahlin may very well be in that category but time will tell if that’s true.

Again, if the Canucks don’t get Dahlin much of this may be delayed until Vancouver can snag their man but overall, the Hawks and Canucks aren’t all that different in their growth. I guess the real difference is that Chicago knew it was happening and set themselves up for the future with multiple picks and picks in the right areas whereas the Canucks are trying to push the door open when it clearly says “pull”.

 

 

Photo – Sportsnet

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Canucks Haven’t Won Anything Yet

Let’s do a little exercise in Canucks history shall we? Remember back in 2011 when everyone had the team pegged to be the Stanley Cup Champs in October? Well they didn’t win it in case you happened to forget, or you lived in a bat cave or something, but I guess in the batcave you’d have wifi. Vancouver and most of the hockey world believed it was time the Nucks won the Cup and they almost did.

A shootout loss to the Kings in the first game of the season with those sick awesome retro 40th jerseys and ok, the Kings had purdy neat ones too! Were they doomed? No. Still no 82-0 teams ever so it was fine. The team got it going early though and redeemed the prognosticators, so basically Twitter.

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Oh I miss those jerseys
Courtesy of windsorstar.com

The Canucks had a great goalie tandem that won them games they might have otherwise lost. The beauty of it was on any given night it was Cory Schneider or Roberto Luongo and it didn’t matter; we were excited to see both and a W usually resulted with the start. This season has been a bit of a learning experience and possibly a little hesitation on coach Willie Desjardins‘ part to cycle both goalies.

He certainly trusts everyone in front of Ryan Miller and Eddie Lack when he confidently rolls 4 lines nightly. They have earned it though. Pick a night, any night and aside from the few stinkers, it could be the Sedin line, the Bonino line, the BoHo line or the Vey line stepping up and leading the charge. Even in 2011, it didn’t quite feel this impressive. I do remember how great Manny Malhotra was (61.7 % Faceoff wins, 2011)so don’t think that team sucked or anything.

This 2014/15 has impressed so far and safe to say not many people thought this team would be where they are at this point. 6th in league standings, Miller putting up top 5 goalie stats and countless other achievements by the rest of the team but they are still missing something.

What I’m getting at is, as good as the 2011 team was, when they were pushed and forced to show what their compete level was, they answered the call. Again, a few stinkers to start the year, ahem Chicago game; but the realization games came when they battled Anaheim and Dallas late in 2010. When Cory Schneider stole the game against Dallas on New Year’s Eve, that was the a ha! moment. That’s when this team really turned it on.

When the Red Wings beat Vancouver over the weekend, that was the kind of game that could have helped the Canucks cause not only in the standings but in the makeup of what this team can be. It’s still early but those “test” games need to be statements that this year’s team actually CAN do some damage. If the LA Kings are still wiping the floor clean against all things Vancouver, there is still work to be done.

The win against the Ducks and Ryan Kesler was huge but one game does not a season make. Beating the Blackhawks convincingly wasn’t what it used to be and the hate level just isn’t there. Maybe that’s a good thing. If this team can put some emotion into their games going forward it might help swing a decision here or there.

So maybe the Canucks can start showing off just a bit in the next while against oh I don’t know, Pittsburgh? Maybe a thrashing of the Leafs, burying the Habs in Montreal and the California crew to end the calendar year can help silence this critic.

Sure, Vancouver is 17-7-1 and 1st in the Pacific, but they haven’t won anything yet.

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Canucks Prepare For Black Friday

It’s hard to talk about the Canucks lately when they only seem to play after a new episode of HBO’s The Newsroom has just aired. BTW, it was basically 9 months before that happened again. However, it’s TOTALLY understandable why they haven’t played much: they are getting their game plan together for Black Friday. With so many deals to be had, Walmart riots and a date with the ol’ CBJ, the Canucks are getting their things together.

By the time Vancouver rolls into the ‘Bus, they will have had a yummy turkey dinner, their second meeting of the year with arch nemesis Ryan Kesler and his Anaheim Ducks, a fun get together with the New Jersey Devils and former #1 tendy Cory Schneider and the first meeting of the season with our Chelsea Dagger loving buds, the Blackhawks. Lots to be thankful for there and if things go swimmingly, there may be a favorable place in the standings waiting for them too!

We can’t forget Radim Vrbata sitting at the team dinner staring down Eddie Lack for the last leg on the turkey….and the wishbone.

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Don’t touch that turkey Eddie!

Usually on Black Friday there are crazy ridiculous deals to be had and even more on cyber monday. With the way the Canucks have been playing lately though, Black Friday came early this year. Snipe shows Radim Vrbata and NickI only score ginosBonino have been giving Vancouver the one two punch it has been looking for for years. However that has worked out, it has allowed the bottom six to strut their stuff too! Canucks fans feel like they should be a bull in a china shop and don’t want to break the success they have, but the china shop is the size of Costco.

Nick Bonino has put up 7 goals and 7 helpers in 18 games and is on pace for 200 points this year. To be fair I’m not that great at math so it may be closer to 60 points or so. The bonus is he passes and gets his whole line involved which his trade counterpart RK17 did not do so much…at all. Nicky B is a breath of fresh air on the second line and it gives Hank and Dank more time to be wizards and sorcerers on their shifts. Seems like the team that rolls 4, wins more. I think that usually translates come May too!

The other TODAY ONLY special has a tie to Kesler as well, he straight up thugged #17 as soon as it was vacant. He doesn’t care, he’s Radim “The Dream” Vrbata. Good luck telling him he can’t have it. With 13 points on the year and 6 goals, he should easily surpass his 20 net rockets from last season with the then Phoenix Coyotes. The Sedins are looking like they are good for it, so that shouldn’t be a problem.

Pulled a Fasth one on him there…..i’ll wait.

The deals hopefully will be there before the darkest of Fridays as newly waived Kevin Connaughton is available. It would be smart for Willie Desjardins to ask his GM Jimmy Benning to claim him. Its a smart move considering he already knows the Canucks system, but…..it’s soooo much better now and the ghost of Derek Roy is not exactly haunting. Go get him, he’s free!

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You gonna drink that?
Photo courtesy vansportsblogs.com

There is one final deal the Canucks will definitely take advantage come Wednesday, they play the Oilers. They suck in case you didn’t know, well, they sure do against the Canucks anyways. So pull up a chair or maybe a couch cushion, grab that craft brew and some gummy worms and remember that the Canucks will be up early in line to snag that latest win.

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The Canucks Have Sold Out, Just Not The Heritage Classic

When the NHL first introduced the ever famous “outdoor game”, it was a breath of fresh air, literally. It took awhile before they brought it back as a regular staple in the season. Every team wanted to be a part of it; they wanted to be part of the money making phenomenon that is outdoor hockey. The Canucks got their wish, too bad they sold out prior to that, just not the Heritage Classic.

This is supposed to be a game that every Canucks fan has waited for since the beginning of this giant craze. Most of us probably wanted a more sexy matchup like the Blackhawks, and heck it would have been nice to play at Soldier Field. Vancouver landed the game against the polar opposite of the word rivalry, the Ottawa Senators, the most indifferent team/fan base in the league. If the Sens won ANYTHING, it wouldn’t be that big of a deal and when they lost the Cup back in 2007, no one really made a fuss.

If somehow the Nucks could have landed this game even 2 years ago against the Flames it would have been better than what it will be Sunday. Picture this: Canucks in their retro skate jerseys, the Flames wearing their corresponding 94 jerseys, maybe with some kind of a twist and if they played it out properly, Empire Field could have been the venue in January, you know, when they get snow?

Vancouver vs Ottawa will be the 5th of 6 outdoor games this season, a bit too much if you think this type of game is more a treat than another date on the schedule. It is the only game being played in Canada and even Canucks fans haven’t shown their support they normally do. Maybe its because they have been taken to the cleaners for so many years that they are finally fed up with the over inflated pricing and the lackluster product they see on the ice every other night.

The Canucks brass have done almost nothing to supplement their on ice product while continuing to increase prices off the ice. Canucks fans are passionate about their team, like any other fan would be, and they want a winner. 2011 looked to be the year that was all going to pay off, coming up just short of their goal of etching their names on the Stanley Cup. Since then, its been disappointment after disappointment and even the mistreatment of the players they DO have. Just ask Roberto Luongo.

Sorry….wrong tweet

The holes in the lineup are obvious to anyone that watches the team regularly and with the the league getting faster and bigger, the Canucks need to address those changes before they are caught in the past. Having an outdoor game like they are hosting is the perfect time to showcase the great talent they have on a bigger stage with fun jerseys, getting the alumni back for shinny and getting every diehard fan to pony up a few extra bucks to see their team play hockey the way it all started, on a pond with their buddies.

Its time for GM Mike Gillis and his kronies to get down to brass tax and put their stamp on this team. They managed to get new life behind the bench with John Tortorella this season and they kept all world goaltender Roberto Luongo instead of trading him away, a decision they handled worse than my 3 year old when I take away her bunny crackers for not eating her lunch. They did manage to find a steal of a deal in Mike Santorelli who unfortunately is now done for the year and started to promote from within.

These moves are a little late however and the fans don’t seem to want to wait for the answers to come; we want a winner before its too late. Time to see some no trade clauses bent a bit; rock the boat and show them who’s boss. This Heritage Classic will have its moments of fun, that can be assured, but overall, this game will be a dud.

The Canucks have sold out. They milked the cow until it was dry and now its time to feed the cow again. Give the fans a reason to cheer. Give them a few more retro jerseys to see on the ice. Its a start to offer family packs again and hopefully they have stopped claiming consecutive sellouts. This fan base deserves better, despite what fans outside of BC think.

Where do they go from here? This second half of the season will most definitely dictate what the team looks like next season…or even by March 5th, Trade Deadline Day. Want a start to the deadline? Go.Get.Rick.Nash.

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