boeser

Not A Throw Away Season For Canucks

There were parts of the 2018 Canucks season that brought hope and there were more than enough times where the heavy reality sunk in that this team is still figuring it out. The emergence of Brock Boeser as a legitimate threat gave Canucks fans something to believe in while the rest of the (r)ebuild was going on. Jake Virtanen’s progression has been another good sign things are slowly turning around as well. There haven’t been any draft picks acquired yet but Jim Benning is trying to assemble “his” team in a roundabout way.

As bad as it’s all been, it hasn’t been a season to put in the trash.

Coach Travis Green has shown everyone that proper line deployment is, in fact, possible after the snoozefest that was Willie Desjardins tenure was put to rest. Henrik and Daniel Sedin looked like they would be phased out early in the season but are a good couple of weeks away from leading the team in points, again.

Losing Derek Dorsett to a career-ending injury was tough for everyone involved because he brought a presence that didn’t exist on the team. Push came to shove (sorry for the pun) and long-time AHLer Darren Archibald was given a contract and quite simply, a chance to prove himself and he may have earned a spot and an extension with the Canucks. Archibald’s toughness and his energy leave you with hope this team’s grit can be fixed as well.

Add to that, Jake Virtanen’s maturity as a young power forward and the Canucks are creating the building blocks for their future. Virtanen has shown he can drive the net with the puck and still maintain possession as well as a decent scoring chance where that did not exist before.

Bo Horvat has firmed up his game yet again this season which gives star forward Boeser the opportunity to make his own magic. Boeser hasn’t thrived in the dirty areas yet but he’ll most likely be asked to be more involved next season. It’s tough to do more when you don’t have anything to work with. Relying on Sven Baertschi as the team’s other top winger hasn’t been the answer and the Canucks may opt to go another direction next season.

Thomas Vanek was a nice stop-gap and the arrival of Brendan Leipsic may fill his void. Leipsic has the makings of a young Alex Burrows with more offensive potential. He was a stunner in junior and seems to have a fit with a handful of players since being traded for from Vegas.

It hasn’t been a productive season as a whole but there are small improvements that will move the needle, if only slightly, in the fall. Elias Pettersson is having a stellar season in Sweden and will most likely be a fixture up front for the Canucks next season. He has the ability to play both center and wing which may help the Canucks overload the Horvat/Boeser line in the future.

Henrik and Daniel most likely will return next season as they have shown they still matter. It doesn’t help the rebuild a whole lot but the Canucks would be a heck of a lot worse if they were already gone.

One of the more important things to take away from this regrettable year has been the resurgence of the power play and its rightful place in the top 10 again. Much of this is to do with Boeser and Travis Green will have to tweak it next season to make it dangerous again. Getting it to Boeser on every available opportunity can only work for so long; there need to be more options. Pettersson may be one of them and potentially even Virtanen.

Jim Benning will need to make some waves in the offseason to further this thing along but this stinker of a season hasn’t been all for not. It hasn’t been pretty, not even close but it hasn’t been a complete waste either.

 

 

photo – USA Today

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Canucks “Very Official” Mid-Season Awards

It’s awards season everywhere! The Grammys, The Oscars, The SAGS, Golden Globes and the “very official” first-ever Always90four mid-season Canucks awards. The NHL All-Star Game has just concluded and obviously, super-rookie Brock Boeser won MVP*. He is winning everything lately, including our hearts and with all the accolades and Schedule A bonuses that he’s earned, Boeser might be well on his way to the trophy awarded to the AHL’s Championship team… no wait that’s the Calder Cup, not Trophy. Confusing.

Even though the NHL’s actual awards aren’t given out until June, I’m here to hand out the mid-season gold statues, thankfully my kids still had some gold glitter and construction paper from the birthday party this weekend.

Without further ado, here are the “very official”, “super important” Canucks Mid-Season Awards:

 

Cody Hodgson/Zack Kassian Award

This goes out to the player(s) that really had a lot more to give to the Canucks, or so we thought but failed to deliver on their potential. Oddly enough, this award has co-winners in the inaugural ceremony and it’s no stretch of the imagination about whom I am referring to and they are Jake Virtanen and Erik Gudbranson.

Virtanen has been given opportunities to succeed, put in a position to use his big frame but he just can’t unleash the power-forward player from within. He’s a good NHLer but as of right now, it doesn’t look like he’ll amount to a whole lot more than a third or fourth line winger. It’s a little early to suggest a trade but like the award he’s honoured by, even Cody Hodgson was dealt early on.

Erik Gudbranson was brought in to provide a physical presence much like Virtanen, but he is more of a shadow than the monument Jim Benning and co. thought he was. In all fairness, there were signs he could get back after his injury a season ago but he’s healthy now and has been less than impressive.

 

Sami Salo Blue Cross Award

The Finnish defender was an absolute threat with his booming slap shot from the blue line but the man couldn’t stay healthy to save himself. Vancouver has been anything but healthy this season and it’s tough to pick just one. Is it Alex Edler and his knee injury, Sven Baertschi’s jaw getting dismantled, Chris Tanev’s teeth, or even Bo Horvat’s broken foot. Jeez louise, Brock Boeser blocked a shot that we all thought was potentially going to end his season.

Taking home the mid-season Salo Blue Cross Award is Brandon Sutter. This guy has really had a rough couple of seasons as a Canuck. Last year was basically a write-off while he’s battled to stay healthy this season with what was called a hip injury. This isn’t something any player would want to be known for but such is life. If Sutter makes it a month without some sort of ailment, that in itself deserves a medal.

 

Tom Sestito Award

No, this is not a tough guy award. The Tom Sestito award goes to the player on the Canucks who has been given a roster spot night in and night out and has failed to do almost anything with it. Digging through the Internet to find a former player worthy of having this award named for his efforts, or lack thereof, was difficult.

The one player that pretty much stole this award on day one is none other than, wait for it… Brendan Gaunce. His career statistics should make Travis Green wonder why that spot couldn’t be better suited for a producing centre and allow a player like Reid Boucher to get called up or Darren Archibald to sign a league-minimum deal and bring some grind into the lineup. The Canucks need to figure out if Gaunce is in their future. He doesn’t feel like he will be.

 

Jayson Megna Loyalty Award

Everyone remembers the Lassie-like loyalty Willie Desjardins had with Megna last season which made absolutely no sense whatsoever. It’s not like Megna was all that good either. Travis Green has his own loyalty towards one individual this year and just like a season ago, most of us are left shaking our heads in confusion. And the winner is…

Yup, Nic Dowd.

There really isn’t a better player to stand behind? Jake Virtanen has fought through a tough season but at the very least, give THAT guy more ice time. Heck, if it came down to it I really wonder if Green would think long and hard if it came down to Dowd or Boeser. Scary stuff.

 

Jeff Cowan/Jason King Participation Ribbon

Cowan the Brabarian was a folk hero for a short time before reality set in and the question of sustainability was answered. Same could be said for the former NHL Rookie of the Month November 2003, Jason King. For the smallest pocket of time both of these players ran a hot streak as good as anything seen in Las Vegas and then the bottom dropped out. They were the equivalent of a really good chorus on a single track of a 13 song album. Needs to be more than that for 12.99 on iTunes.

When the Canucks are spending $6 million a season on a player that has a good week twice in a season, they’re paying too much. The participation ribbon goes to none other than Loui Eriksson. His late November streak gave us hope but alas, it was a repeat of watching Todd Bertuzzi after “the punch”. Not the player he used to be, not at all. Jim Benning wins GM of the year if he can move that contract.

 

And last but definitely not least is the most important award of them all…

Todd Bertuzzi Mid-Season MVP Award

This isn’t the actual MVP award. That one is hands down given to Brock Boeser. The Bertuzzi MSMVP is given to the player who has turned in a great half-season effort, put up respectable numbers but most likely is either A) not even on the team after the season or B) has fizzled out down the stretch. It’s the backhanded compliment of all awards. There are no prerequisites to have punched and seriously injured another player, trolled a fanbase and failed to back it up, or leave the bench to start a fight.

There were a few candidates for this one but in the end, for the betterment of the Canucks future, Thomas Vanek was given the shiny glove trophy. Vanek has done everything he was signed to do, averaging 0.71 pts/game, and now that the Canucks are out of the playoff run (not actually, but let’s be real here) it’s time to focus on how great of a haul Benning can bring in.

I can’t see Vanek fizzling down the stretch, he just doesn’t have that in him. Getting traded would really help the Canucks and Vancouver could easily sign him again next season.

*Boeser won the MVP award via Twitter fan vote. The actual 2018 NHL All-Star MVP should have been Nikita Kucherov and it wasn’t close. Regardless, like an empty-net goal that ends a slump or starts a streak, Brock has another feather in his cap on his journey towards the Calder or maybe more.

 

photo – TSN.ca

Forget the Maturation Process, the Canucks Need Goals

Travis Green needs a wake-up call. He lost his top center, one of his top wingers, he’s been without his third line center for some time and the rest of the Canucks are struggling to score. Putting in 4th line grinders in place of budding scorers is not a smart way to keep the team competitive. Once again, Henrik Sedin will be asked to shoulder the load on a team that has no clear sign of keeping up. It’s kind of getting heavy.

Save Brock Boeser (seriously, save him), there aren’t many other options to score right now. Loui Eriksson has receded into a winter slumber after going on a mini point streak, Thomas Vanek has 2G in his last 16 games, and the rest of the goals are on IR. Daniel Sedin isn’t the goal threat he once was and Jake Virtanen is only getting opportunities when the lines seem to cross over.

Couldn’t agree more, Blake.

The Canucks have called up Nikolay Goldobin because he is a…scoring…winger. He’s not going to learn much sitting in the press box in favor of Nic Dowd. This is Jayson Megna/Michael Chaput syndrome all over again. Green has made many of us believers with his slightly different style of coaching and it has paid dividends early. He can’t regress now.

He’s hit a rut, a pretty significant rut and the goals aren’t going to magically appear. Even with stellar goaltending, which the Canucks currently are not getting, they can only afford to allow 1-2 goals per game. Not a recipe for winning. Green is quite clearly playing the media he greets every day at practice, pre-game and post-game pressers, so he isn’t about to show his hand.

What many of us would like to know is: are the Canucks a playoff team or a development team? It can’t be both and properly grow; the Oilers may be a good example of this.

Goldobin isn’t the answer by any means for Vancouver but leaving out a goal scorer like they did with Boeser to start the season doesn’t build any trust. This team isn’t matured yet and players need to learn lessons but sometimes the best possible player available needs to play. That may translate to Reid Boucher getting a call-up as well, who knows?

I try to be a good parent. I discipline when necessary and I don’t give in because one of my kids wants a cookie, or both usually.  But you know what, SOMETIMES I give in and give them a freaking cookie or buy them the smoothie at the mall.

You know why?

Because it’s for the greater good of the parents, ME and my WIFE. We get peace and quiet, they behave and there’s no yelling. That’s a parenting win from time to time. Doesn’t mean it’s the right thing to do or that it will happen over and over but in a pinch, it’s a win. They don’t mature any quicker but it buys us time.

Travis Green has a problem that for the immediate future needs addressing. Goldobin is the best player not playing every night. There may even be another trade on the horizon which could involve Alex Burmistrov and maybe more.

For now though, kick the maturing to the curb, coach. This team needs wins in a bad way and if they don’t start building a .500 record at the very least, Bo Horvat and Brandon Sutter returning will be all for not.

Throw em a bone, Travis!

 

Follow me on twitter: @always90four

photo – nhl.com