bo horvat

Canucks Dealing With Bo Money, Bo Bridges

The summer is in full swing and there is still no Bo Horvat deal. Everything that has been said so far is that a deal will get done, we should be patient and to just let it be. Jim Benning has already locked up Erik Gudbranson and Anton Rodin to deals, spent some cash on July 1 to acquire Michael Del Zotto, Anders Nilsson, and Sam Gagner West. There is just under $9 million left for the Canucks to spend this year and one would think Horvat would have been the first deal made.

Seems logical, no?

He was arguably the team’s best player last season and with the new additions to the club as well as a new coaching staff, Horvat should see yet another improved season. The talk has also been out there that he would become the heir apparent to the Captaincy after Henrik Sedin retires. Does it not seem a bit ridiculous then that he hasn’t been signed yet?

A deal will get done sooner than later and this will all be put to rest. With that Bo money will most likely be a Bo bridge. No, not the famous actor Beau Bridges best known for his supporting role in the 1989 blockbuster “The Wizard” also starring Fred Savage. Bo’s bridge could be a simple 2-4 year deal with a take home salary of approximately $4 million. Knowing the Canucks, however, they’ll follow suit with the rest of the NHL and offer a ridiculous contract in the six-year range at around $5-6 million per.

So like little Jimmy Woods from The Wizard lets go on a quest and look at 5 memorable bridge deals the Canucks ponied up for:

  1. Pavel Bure – this guy did OK in the money category. After a decent start to his NHL career, Bure’s rookie contract expired and he got his first taste of NHL money. Signing a 5 year/$24.5 million deal with the Canucks in the off season after losing in the Stanley Cup Final would be Pavel’s big break into superstardom. After getting traded to the Panthers in 1999, Bure would eventually sign another monster contract for 5 years/$47.5 million. He clearly is the exception to the rule in Vancouver because most Canucks don’t make it past a bridge deal for one reason or another. Maybe there’s something to that?
  2. Henrik and Daniel Sedin – hard to believe these two guys played for next to nothing for so long. It’s also hard to believe they signed TWO one-year deals prior to their true bridge contract. Could Horvat sign a one-year deal like the Sedins and blow it all up? Henrik and Daniel cashed in after their three years and inked identical (obviously) 5 year/$30.5 million deals. Currently going into the last year of their current four-year contract the sun will soon set on the Sedins but they will have proven to everyone that every single penny was earned.
  3. Cory Schneider – how they ever let this guy go is still confusing. Schneider owned the NCAA before coming to Manitoba and eventually the Canucks to show his worth. As the backup to Roberto Luongo, he still earned quality starts and for a season or two was part of the best goalie tandem in the game. Of course, that all went to crap and here we are. After his entry deal, Schneider signed a two-year contract before the 2010-11 season and he became a household name outside of British Columbia. That earned him a 3 year/$12 million deal and from there he was dealt to the New Jersey Devils and is now banking a combined $42 million for seven years which started in 2015. That one worked out well.
  4. Kevin Bieksa – a relative unknown, Bieksa created a name for himself as a gritty defenseman who could make a pretty play or two. From “Bieksa-face” to the infamous “stanchion goal” that took the Canucks to the Stanley Cup for the first time since 1994, Bieksa was a fan and media favourite and after his first two-year contract with the Canucks for a measly $1.05 million combined, he stepped up and earned a 3 year/$11.25 million deal. Not bad for a guy drafted in the 5th round! He upped that deal in 2011 signing a 5 year/$23 million contract. Bieksa has always played for true value IMO and has never been over/under paid. He’s a guy the NHL should take note of and maybe settle down with the ridiculous contracts.
  5. Ryan Kesler – hard work pays off and Kesler is a great example. To the people who knew him the closest, he was willing to give a literal finger to keep playing. After Kesler’s entry deal, he was offer-sheeted to a 1 year/$1.9 million deal by the Philadelphia Flyers which the Canucks matched. He earned it before getting injured around playoff time. His bridge contract took him to the next level before inking a 6 year/$30 million which turned him into a star during, go figure, the 2011 Cup run. “Beast mode” was born and the expectations grew. It seemed both the Canucks and Kesler were souring on each other and he was eventually traded to “Californiaaaaa” and is now in the second year of a 6 year/$41.25 million contract with the Ducks.

These are all great examples of what Bo Horvat could fetch before ultimately inking his career-defining deal. What will the Canucks offer Bo, what will Horvat request? Like Kesler and a few others, Bo’ money may lead to Bo’ problems. Time will tell but for now, Jim, please pay the man.

photo – bcmag.ca

Follow me on twitter: @always90four

Please Stop Talking About The Canucks Power Play

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Follow me on twitter: @always90four

photo – vancouversun.com

An All-Millenial Canucks Power Play… And Why It Will Succeed

Millenials.

They’re self-entitled, smartphone emojying, video game playing, mid 20 – 30 something freeloaders. OK, maybe that was all a bit much but the knock on them is that they aren’t willing to work for what they want and just expect the rewards to be given to them and that by succumbing to their demands, they, in turn, will produce results.

Now that Newell Brown is the back in the fold as the Canucks assistant coach, he can revive the dreaded 13% power play unit(s), and it would be a novel concept to give in to the millennial demand and stock up the man-advantage with an all-millennial unit. Of course, if you look into the term “millennial” it basically designates humans being born between the early 80’s and late 90’s to early 2000’s.

So going by this logic, the only players that don’t qualify for the first unit anyway are Henrik and Daniel Sedin. A case could be made for Loui Eriksson as well as he’s a mid 80’s baby. I personally don’t want to see the Sedins on the top unit for awhile because they’re so gosh darn predictable. A healthy Eriksson might be able to Radim Vrbata his way back into relevance with Bo Horvat and maybe Brock Boeser up front.

The feel with this specific demographic in a global sense is that they don’t want to communicate in person but rather on their phones which don’t translate well on the ice, well, unless you’re Alex Edler; he could pull that off no problem. He could text in plays on the bench, ditch the phone and unleash a clapper to the back of the net.

Nikolay Goldobin would be a prime fit up front after being inserted into the lineup without actually earning a roster spot. He’s young, he’s good-looking and he Instagram’s like a pro. Newell Brown was brought in to change the look and maybe Goldy could put a new filter on the power play, maybe sepia, and they’ll get better opportunities as the power play begins?

The Canucks PP couldn’t get any worse so adding a coach that does anything beyond drawing straws at practice is an upgrade. When people reference the millennial person it’s usually the late 20/early 30 people that don’t want their feelings hurt and need to be reassured they’re doing ok and blah, blah, blah.

Funnily enough, it’s the older players that have acted like they are the deserving ones. Rightfully so, in fact, as they’ve played the game longer and more than deserve to be where they are. Thing is, sports tend to a be a “what have you done for me lately?” kind of business and the Canucks power play has not done anything lately, you know, since 2011.

Conveniently, that’s when Mr. Brown was last in the mix. NO WAY!

On defense, there’s a chance things get better with Olli Juolevi getting a shot at the team this year and Troy Stecher could be deployed in more favorable situations. Uber-millennial Erik Gudbranson needs to stay the ^&$# away from the PP unit while loveable millennial Ben Hutton may just revive his scoring touch and we’ll all be smiling as the power play climbs to 20 or even 22% effectiveness.

Travis Green needs to give in to this wave of kids and give them p what they want because there’s a good chance that they deliver and one day those same kids will be the grizzled vets on the team like Chris Tanev is. Edmonton and Toronto benefited from the young’uns and it’s only a matter of time before some kind of success comes from the youth movement.

To recap Brock Boeser – millennial, Bo Horvat – millennial, Nikolay Goldobin – also a millennial as are Troy Stecher and Ben Hutton. They ALL would be great choices to revive a tragically dormant Canucks power play.

photo – theprovince.com

Willie Desjardins Wasn’t The Answer To The Canucks; They’re Still Figuring Out The Question

Three seasons into Willie Desjardins’ tenure as the Canucks head coach and he still hasn’t been able to progress the on ice product to the next level. General Manager Jim Benning, hasn’t exactly equipped WD to the point where he may have been able to take the team further but he hasn’t hindered the Canucks chances anymore or any less overall. Benning can’t call the lines during the game so at this point, the coach looks like the fall man.

There are so many examples of why Willie Desjardins hasn’t been a great fit in Vancouver and aside from his first season as bench boss of the Canucks, it’s been amazingly painful to watch this team sink down the rankings. Willie hasn’t progressed the power play, the penalty kill is equally dismal and as you go down every category, the Canucks just aren’t close to being a forward moving team.

Winning faceoffs can’t be credited to Willie as Manny Malhotra has been the reason for their success in that area. It doesn’t mean they should make him coach, though.

The decisions are mounting as we get closer to the end of the year and decisions like benching new Canuck forward Nikolay Goldobin after scoring a goal just isn’t smart at all. A game later, he seemed to trust him more and even gave Goldobin PP time but I can’t imagine that was Willie’s call. WD is a developmental coach with players that haven’t quite made it yet and the body of work that we’ve seen is evidence of that.

In the AHL, Willie was great. He was highly sought after once he made it to the Dallas Stars coaching staff and once the move happened, we all found out that head coaching in the NHL isn’t exactly the same as assistant coaching in the NHL.

It’s no secret the Sedins are nearing the end of their respective careers in the league but Willie keeps putting them out in top minute situations and giving them first billing on the power play. The Sedins are phenomenal players and are still among the leaders for the Canucks in scoring but they aren’t THE leaders in scoring anymore and would need some help to keep up with the guys taking over.

So is this really ALL Desjardins’ fault? Not entirely. He inherited a team that was in transition and has been given second-tier stars to lead his team. Radim Vrbata had checked and rightfully so, he was underutilized. Loui Eriksson no doubt has checked out as well and he just got here.

Knowing the direction the Canucks need to go isn’t rocket science but they’ll have to have more than just Bo Horvat and eventually Brock Boeser. They’ll also need a coach willing to put these players into a position to succeed; Desjardins just isn’t doing that enough.

If players are proving their worth on the ice then they need to be given more responsibility, not less. Trotting out 3rd and 4th line players in the dying minutes of a game doesn’t exactly scream success.

Maybe WD just wasn’t ready for what was in front of him, I don’t know. What he should have been able to do was see which players were going to help aid the team and which ones hindered it. Going back to the Sedins, the never ending question of who their winger will be isn’t just on Willie D, it’s always been a problem.

From 2007-2011, the answer just found itself but when a player like Jannik Hansen statistically and analytically was the best option, WD kept putting fringe NHLers at the Sedin’s side. It’s just bad coaching is what it is.

Scratching Sven Baertschi or benching Anton Rodin has to be a red alert for management and it’s possible they’ll let it ride out to the end of the season, but why? How do they let a guy who dresses an injured player sit on the bench for the ENTIRE game hang around?

Do you think Baertschi has great things to say about Willie if he was let go; I’d expect an Alex Burrows type of confession from him.

Teams can their coaches mid-season all the time. The Canadiens did it as soon as Claude Julien became available because they knew what they were going to get. The current Canucks management just doesn’t have enough experience in these types of decisions. The scouting seems to be a whole lot better and the drafting is coming along, heck, some of the trades are even working out but the man entrusted to lead the team every night isn’t working any magic.

However this season finishes, be it the 1st overall pick or the 3rd, the Canucks need to retool and continue the rebuild course they’re on. Loyalty needs to be thrown to the curb as the Oilers finally did and their turnaround seems to be doing alright.

This team has lost its identity for the time being and no Boston or Los Angeles or Chicago model will solve their woes, it’s on the Canucks to figure out who they are themselves. Speed looks to be the direction the team is headed with some fancy playmakers in tow. Young studs in Troy Stecher, Ben Hutton, Boeser, Horvat, and Goldobin are proof this team isn’t dead.

Barely alive, but not dead.

We started off with “real good” and we’re now stuck with #firewillie. The Canucks fan base doesn’t like a loser and it wasn’t that long ago that Jim Benning was the man on the hot seat. He might get the ax too, but he’s bought himself some time since the deadline and his success at the draft.

There are way too many questions still with this Canucks squad but a handful of answers are showing up and coaching will be the first domino to fall. It’s suffocating to watch this team struggle to compete against even the worst teams, they deserve better.

Right?

Follow me on twitter: @always90four

photo – vancouver sun

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

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

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

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

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

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

Oh, ok, now I have.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Follow me on twitter: @always90four

Win or Lose: Willie Desjardins Needs A New Plan

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

He needs a new plan.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Megna has 3 goals.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Follow me on twitter: @always90four

 

photo- usatoday.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That includes Willie D.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Follow me on twitter: @always90four

 

Canucks Season Resembles Kindergarten Concert

So, this season has been a pretty easy one to talk about. The headlines write themselves, the storylines are deep and it’s an absolute mess. Who wants perfect? My daughter recently had her Kindergarten Christmas concert and I personally love them. Going in, I was hoping to obviously see my kid shine but knew full well it could turn into an all-out gong show.

Nobody wants it to go smoothly or it would just be a bunch of kids singing slightly louder than the pre-recorded music in the ghettoblaster. The teachers had a plan in place and they knew what their show “should” look like. All in all, it was pretty good, including the one kid who dabbed for half the songs, he was amazing!

I’m not talking like after each one, it was going on for at least 1/3 of each tune. Dude stole the show.

This Canucks team isn’t far off from a normal Kindergarten concert, though. We all had a good idea what this season was going to look like: a rebuild, a few callups that turn into surprises, the next step in Bo Horvat’s progression and a shot at Nolan Patrick. The framework is pretty much, bang on and even after some of these horrible losses, it’s about what we would have figured.

The season was set up as a work in progress and there were plenty of teams we all knew this team would struggle against. That was all fine and then the games were played. Two come from behind wins followed by another two wins had fans singing the team’s praises. Then there were the nine straight losses (oh, those were fun), the Matt Martin/Nazem Kadri fiasco and now the 8-6 Hurricanes loss.

Let’s stop the cameras for a second, they LOST 8-6 to the Hurricanes? Yup and they should have buried them in the ground before it all got out of hand. Just like that concert, things went well for the first few songs, kids knew their lines and a couple kids got the special half verse solo (that’s like Jayson Megna scoring two goals or something I guess or in this case Sven Baertschi making Willie D look like an idiot for scratching him against the Capitals).

But we all know, half way through things get dicey and some of the kids sing faster than the rest, some are definitely slower and there’s that kid dabbing on the edge of the stage (we like him, he’s kinda like Troy Stecher; just being so awesome). The Canucks were basically who we thought they were and somehow they played beyond our expectations, again that would be a Stecher reference or Horvat as well.

It wasn’t to be, though when they couldn’t even beat the Leafs, Sutter gets stapled to the Sedin line and Jack Skille is being put out in game deciding minutes, which I guess set himself up for those two goals the other game.

Clever stuff, Willie.

Things are unraveling right before our eyes and we should really be upset because well, the Canucks aren’t supposed to suck but it’s surprisingly awesome!

I don’t even know how the playoffs are a possibility still but here we are. The flip side is that Vancouver is 3 points out of dead last. Welcome to the Pacific Division. Combine that with the fact Bo Horvat is challenging for the #1 centre job and Troy Stecher posters are selling out all across the lower mainland; this has been kinda fun.

So now, the Canucks are into the middle of the show, a few songs went well, a chunk of them were just absolute write-offs and I’m sure by the end we’ll all be clapping because it came to an end and everyone will get their hopes up again that a nice juicy first overall pick is coming our way. The thing is, this is a Kindergarten concert.

You know what happens after that? Christmas holidays. Maybe even a new teacher that just came back from mat leave (new coach rumours fit perfectly here) but that’s about it. Your kids keep learning how to read and write, make a few new friends and then BAM! Grade 1.

The fun times are over, the gong show concert has been long gone for months and it’s all about progression. The Canucks need to get past the show and get to a point where development turns into systems turns into wins turns into competing for the Stanley Cup.

Whether it’s a new coach, a new GM or simply putting the right players on the power play, this team needs some structure again and it might take a true shakeup to get there.

There are definitely pieces in place to get to the next step and it’s only a half season until the next pieces of the puzzle arrive. Will the rebuild take as long as what Edmonton and Toronto have lived or are the Canucks brass smart enough to know when to pull the trigger and get this thing back on track?

What I do know, is that I came to watch my kid and she rocked it (also the dabbing kid was great). We keep watching the Canucks because that’s what we do and from time to time it’s going to be great and sometimes we’ll get to see a showoff like Troy Stecher or hopefully someone that plays in front of him. Like maybe sooner than later if possible.

Follow me on twitter: @always90four

Why Are The Canucks Playing The Good Hockey?

This season was supposed to be a dud. It was supposed to equate to 65 points and one of the worst NHL seasons ever, combined most likely with the first overall pick. But, we all know they could never achieve such a feat. Now, the Canucks are winning multiple games in a row, playing without regular NHLers and it looks like they are having fun.

How do you even explain this season? It’s not like any fancy stats can back up how surprising this team has been, heck, the real stats say they suck too! So why does it feel like the Canucks can actually achieve more than they should? Let’s take a look:

First off, there isn’t any particular reason that injuries should make any team better aside from seeing how some of the prospects on the farm are coming along, but injuries to key Canuck players like Chris Tanev, Alex Edler, Derek Dorsett and Jannik Hansen have forced the Canucks to dress half of the Comets pretty much.

Starting Troy Stecher in Utica seemed like the dumbest move ever but sure enough, the injuries came and Stecher was back on a plane to start on the number one pairing. That gave the Canucks just enough time to see a bit of Philip Larsen and what his PP decisions looked like. It’s evident he has lost that job, on the first unit anyways.

Stecher looks like a seasoned vet out there and when he unleashes that shot, you’d never believe it could come from such a small man. Ben Hutton is getting right back in there and looks like he has been on the team for years. Crazy to think Hutton was just a rookie last year.

Nikita Tryamkin started the season a little shaky and even though he was able to play out the end of last year to gain some valuable experience, it didn’t feel like he was going to make an impact… until he did. Tryamkin is yet another surprise player that most Canuck fans couldn’t see this team without.

Tryamkin has a powerful body that can dominate on the boards, the accidental injuries he has caused prove there is a lot of power there. So far, it doesn’t look like Nikita will be an offensive weapon but he can do what Erik Gudbranson was supposed to do, but for way less money.

These are just the guys on the team RIGHT NOW. Olli Juolevi is still in junior and will eventually challenge for another spot. The expansion draft next year will most likely peel away Luca Sbisa for cap reasons but that still leaves 5 other guys. Chris Tanev isn’t going anywhere, neither is Hutton or Stecher. Alex Edler is up there in age and the amount of sticks he breaks is getting borderline ridiculous, but aside from a trade he’ll probably finish out as a Canuck.

That leaves two spots and with Erik Gudbranson becoming an RFA next season, there will be some important decisions made.

But back to how weird this team has been.

Vancouver starts the year 4-0, then goes on a 9 game losing streak. They split a few here and there before putting themselves in a position to now win 3 straight. I don’t get it. This isn’t an overly talented bunch, compared to the rest of the NHL but somehow they are staying relevant. You can’t miss a game because there always seems to be a story.

After the Canucks finished off the Wild on Tuesday, a team they probably should have lost against, this happens:

So now they just score goals all the time, a squad that… doesn’t score goals very often? OK, I’ll bite. There was an article about the Canucks face-off success and how Manny Malhotra has helped them get back to winning those battles, cheating a bit and starting with the puck instead of losing draws and eventually giving up goals.

One area the Canucks have stepped up is at the Bo Horvat position. He is the heir apparent and it doesn’t look like that will ever change. Horvat leads the team in points, has re-ignited long-serving Canuck Alex Burrows and has created options for coach Willie D to use Brandon Sutter up front with the Sedins while $6 million dollar man Loui Eriksson, makes Michael Chaput and Markus Granlund look like real NHL players.

It feels like the Canucks have channeled their inner District 5 Ducks talent and taken a rag-tag group and made them into a team that can compete, you know, without the DUI.

Making the playoffs is still quite a long shot for this team but if the Canucks are going to actually rebuild which is what I believe we have been sold, this is sure a fun team to watch despite the ultimate goal of hoisting the Cup.

Waiting a bit longer for this team to rise up again isn’t always a fun task but as I’ve said before, guys like Juolevi, Brock Boeser and Thatcher Demko make waiting a bit more tolerable.

I still don’t know how the Canucks are making this happen, though. Proper lines is a good start.

Follow me on The Twitter™: @always90four

 

Photo: nhl.com

Bo Horvat: The Anti-Cody Hodgson

2013 was a pretty rough ride for Canucks fans: Roberto Luongo had a sucky contract, former head coach Alain Vigneault was fired, Derek Roy became a Canuck for a bit and Cory Schneider became the Canucks undisputed #1 goalie. But then he was traded at the Draft and Bo Horvat became a Vancouver Canuck.

It was a lot to take in in a short amount of time, with the lockout and all, and it was tough to tell if trading one of the top goalies in the league for a power forward who would still be in Major Junior when the season started was a good idea. How the heck do you part ways with the younger, cheaper option in net when a less than glamorous trade for Roberto Luongo would have made so much more sense?

Drafting Horvat was a great choice but the Canucks had gone down this road before and not too far back either. Cody Hodgson looked like he was going to be Vancouver’s future captain and had dominated the OHL prior to making the pros. A handful of injuries with questionable diagnoses, explanations and of course, Hodgson’s dad and agent, created distrust on both sides which no doubt affected Cody’s play.

Hodgson would eventually be traded for another work in progress, Zack Kassian and now, he is basically retired. A weird ride indeed.

Enter Bo Horvat – a beast for the London Knights and when it was time, a no brainer to make the Canucks after his 9 game stint in 2014. Bo wasn’t exactly used in the best situations aside from faceoff duty but you can blame a good chunk of that on new head coach Willie Desjardins. He wasn’t exactly keen on letting a rookie be a difference maker, even though he was making a difference.

Mr. Horvat finished his first year, sorry, BO (Mr. Horvat is his dad) with 13 goals and 12 assists, good for 10th on the team in scoring. Even though the Canucks were dominated by the Sharks that year in the first round, Bo had a goal and 3 assists in 6 games, not bad for a tucked away rookie! Willie Desjardins knew he had more than just a young kid who worked hard, he had a future star.

SPOILER: Willie does use Horvat more the following season.

I’m not going to include his fancy stats, his amazing faceoff % or what his secret goal song is but just know Bo Horvat is a gift from the future and we should cherish him.

His game escalated last year after he was taken away from the defensive center role with Derek Dorsett on his line and rewarded with Sven Baertschi. It took a bit but when the spark ignited, the Canucks changed. It looked like the two synced immediately after that first goal together and the good times kept on rolling.

This season, Alex Burrows has filled out wing with Baertschi and it’s a line that has impressed night after night. There’s speed, there’s scoring and there’s 3 B’s.

Trading away Cory Schneider seemed like a bogus move and that it was the first piece of many to put the Canucks in what we all thought at the time was a rebuild. They were simpler times back then. We also thought Roberto Luongo was hanging around but former head coach John Tortorella clearly botched even the simplest decision when he started twitter savvy Eddie Lack in the Heritage Classic indoor/outdoor game.

Luongo was traded shortly after.

The big question is always “Who won the trade?” Well, it’s still quite early to decide that but if you’re the Canucks, you have to think you have won. The Canucks have never sat on #1 goalie for too long and even though Luongo was here for 8 years, it felt like he could have been here for so much longer… maybe even his whole sucky contract?

It’s anyone’s guess about how the Canucks have seemed to transition rather smoothly from goalie to goalie in the last 12 years but there has always been an answer. There were some iffy choices in that time but looking back, Roberto Luongo carried things for so long and when it all came to a head, Cory Schneider was more than ready to be a #1, which followed with Eddie Lack becoming a #1, Jacob Markstrom holding the mantle potentially and Ryan Miller filling a gap until super goalie Thatcher Demko was ready.

As crazy as well all though the Canucks were, that position was never truly in jeopardy and trading up to get Bo Horvat was kinda genius. When Bo becomes Captain in the next few years it won’t be a surprise to anyone; his natural progression will have earned the right. Henrik Sedin will eventually become the #2 center and then probably retire and Bo will hopefully have Sven Baertschi by his side when that happens.

There hasn’t been any kind of drama from the Horvat camp aside from the fans and media alike proclaiming him the 2C/3C all of last season, OK and his rookie season too! When Cody Hodgson was here, it wasn’t just about his play but how his whole camp (dad/agent, etc.) questioning the Canucks’ handling of him.

The trade was a bit out of left field when we all thought trade deadline day was over, but to be honest, I never was really a fan of Cody… as a Canuck anyway. The “feeling” was never there. I feel the same way about Jake Virtanen to a lesser degree as I think his drama will play himself out of town and quite frankly sometimes the GM is just wrong on a guy.

So, as we see Horvat climb up the scoring charts and most likely become the team’s top scorer by season’s end, think about what the Canucks would look like without him. Secondly, think about Brock Boeser not having a solid center to get him the puck when he wins Rookie of the Year.

Bo Horvat is the anti-Cody Hodgson and we couldn’t be more happy.

OK, having a competitive team would be a good time but I’ll settle for this.

 

photo – thehockeywriters.com