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It Will Be Interesting To See: Canucks And Goalies

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Check me out on twitter: @always90four

cover photo: thecanuckway.com

 

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(Insert REALLY Important Jake Virtanen Article Here)

PHOTO BY METRONEWS.CA

By now, you might be sick and tired of hearing about Jake Virtanen, the hit on Connor McDavid, the Young Stars breakaway goal and how he just has to make the Canucks roster because he’s so gosh darn awesome. I’d hate to force ONE MORE article on you but quite frankly you’ve already clicked on the link so its your own fault.

Its tough to say something that hasn’t been said already about the young phenom JAKE VIRTANEN but I’ll muster up some knowledges and maybe a few reasons why the Canucks will give him a rose after the nine game tryout ceremony. I don’t think the Bachelor reference worked there but the point was made.

TSN 1040 had promising Canucks forward JAKE VIRTANEN on Bmac Donny and the Moj Wednesday afternoon and he gave us some tidbits we couldn’t help but get excited about. But you wanna see that video of him hitting CMacD again don’t you?

When asked about hitting that Oiler guy:

“Oh I was competely aware; when you get a chance to hit a guy like that you definitely take the opportunity to”

So we know he likes the rough stuff and has started to mature his game by eliminating the fly bys and utilizing his stop starts. Jake, we both share that burden and I feel ya bruh. I probably should add I also cannot compete let alone skate with kids a third of my age.

But this isn’t about me.

The Canucks do lack an offensive wrecking ball and if JAKE VIRTANEN follows the Bo Horvat model, which is nothing like the Boston model, he will be lacing his skates up besides such Canucks greats as Luca Sbisa, Brandon Prust and Linden Vey. Just kidding, Brandon Prust hasn’t proven himself to us yet.

There has been a never ending hype train surrounding JAKE VIRTANEN for the last year or so and thankfully I haven’t heard the over used “coming out party” line when referencing his Young Star Tournament efforts. Does that count if I just said “coming out party”? Or is it just a reference?

And let us not forget the “murders” as we have labeled them on the twitters. Not real murders because that’s wrong (I feel like I’m about to quote a Barenaked Ladies hit) but the hits that look to put opposing players in the ER/ Trauma 1 / ICU and all the other hospital 3 letter places. See here:

You can get excited about a big hit, you can even get excited about a goal that puts the whole arena on their feet, even in Rogers Arena but when you combine both of those and an overall talented player to boot, you have something special.

JAKE VIRTANEN turned heads from Canucks brass to the oracle, TSN’s Bob Mckenzie himself in Penticton and if Bob says he’s good well thats good enough for me…and basically anyone that just bases talent on written opinions. In all seriousness though, he was pretty good and this written opinion should be taken to heart.

Linden already said he was impressed with the young lad and really all the fluff will be sorted out when training camp is complete. Here’s the thing” JAKE VIRTANEN is pretty good at hockey. He throws a threatening hit and doesn’t back down from anyone.

Virts (sp?) will most likely be given every chance to make the team and seeing him get mentored by the Derek Dorsetts and Brandon Prusts and even Alex Burrows will go a long way. I know what you’re thinking, the knuckle draggers are going to teach Virtanen how to drop the mitts…sorry, VIRTANEN.

Not where I’m going with this; its knowing when to throw that hit and knowing how that can alter the game. Dan Hamhuis threw his patented hip check on Milan Lucic in 2011 and it backfired. Jake will soon learn what he needs to do to climb the ranks. It won’t be just hitting it will be controlling the momentum in Vancouver’s favour.

You didn’t come here for stats and I’m not going to give them to you. I will tell you that Jake’s hit to awesome ratio is 1:1 and that should be all you need to know. In Vancouver, we yearn for the wow factor, the next jersey shirt worthy player and we all want that to be JAKE VIRTANEN.

He’s worthy of me typing his name in caps 8 times and the potential for JAKE VIRTANEN (9 now) to become the elusive Milan Lucic/Cam Neely/Zack Kass….HOLD UP; Zack never got there and I apologize that I put him in that category. After Virtanen debuted as a pro in the AHL playoffs we quickly saw he could hang with the big boys.

His hilite videos will continue to mount as his career evolves and as we get ready to see what this future power forward will become we can take solace in the fact that he’s ours and Jim Benning could never screw this up.

OK ya he could but let’s not dwell on that.

JAKE VIRTANEN!!!!!! That’s 10, OK now i’m done.

Follow me on twitter: @always90four

Why Now Is A Good Time For The Canucks To Rebuild

Its been about 3 days or so since the Canucks have fired someone of importance and its only a matter of time before Fin get’s the axe and they introduce a skate-like mascot (hint hint). I have had some time to let everything sink in and evaluate what may or may not be happening to the Canucks; one thing is for certain: Trevor Linden and Jim Benning however unpopular and brash their decisions have been, are doing something that is bang on what should be happening RIGHT NOW. 

Its the best time to put this team in rebuild mode, but I ask that you read on so i can tell you why.

The future of the Canucks is coming and it is coming quicker than expected. Trevor Linden saw that his team was in danger of repeating itself and getting lost in the continuous cycle of politely tweaking a piece here and there to only keep things competitive.

The writing has been on the wall since 2012 and it has finally come to a head this year. We’ve all posed the question at one point or another “If you could have even just ONE Cup, would you take six to seven years of suffering?”

OK, im not saying things will get that bad but why not just do what we’ve told the Oilers and Flames to do: play the young guys and let them learn how to win, learn how to lose and grow together. The run Utica made this spring to the Calder Cup will help a handful of players gain the tools they need to be Vancouver Canucks on a full time basis.

Edmonton and Calgary held on way too long and in Edmonton’s case they just recently departed from the Oilers regime that has controlled the teams interests and is now finally making huge strides. I suppose having Connor McDavid helps things along.

So how do the Canucks make that transition? What’s left to throw away? Apparently the chance at decent draft picks but thats been beat to death. Do the Twins need to go now? Edler? Burrows?

Now, the Sedins haven’t been put to pasture and they are the type of players that could drop down the lineup for their final two years…maybe 2 more at a cap friendly number and help the young up and comers become pros. Linden did that to the Twins when they arrived and its coming around full circle.

We form bonds with our players and can’t justify sending them away when its obvious that’s the best decision. Trade them while their value is still good. Burrows has had some serious injuries and now would be the time to see a solid pick come back. Alex Edler can fetch a younger prospect or maybe a dman that just hasn’t fit in elsewhere.

Its possible the harsh decisions are over and TL and Benning are looking to build “their” team the way they want it. The ideology that didn’t result in a Cup is now being flushed out; The capologist was a great add at the time, as was the sleep doctor but gimmicks aren’t Trev’s thing. He’s a through and through hockey guy and he doesn’t need to push the BS.

Kicking Mike Burstein to the curb after 20 years was a shocker but as much of a shock as that was, was he still providing a valuable, reliable service? The way injuries have evolved over the last 10 years, you have to wonder if they were being read properly and given a proper diagnosis (see Cody Hodgson). Regardless, having a new voice, like any new coach can bring new life.

2011 was such a great year and its a shame that a rebuild has come so soon after it. A series of terrible decisions has brought us here and now is as good a time as any to start over…ish.

If it was a true rebuild, Ryan Miller probably wouldnt be here but riding out his talents isn’t the worst problem the Canucks have. The lack of fire and diminishing production in former core guys Ryan Kesler and Kevin Bieksa have made it a little easier to swallow their departures.

Don’t forget: many of you wanted these guys gone. Just because you didn’t get the return you thought was fair, doesn’t mean it wasn’t what was needed. As the eventual changes keep coming there will be dips in the Canucks cap number and opportunities to maybe add a star or two.

I don’t anticipate any important players will show up this year through free agency as it sounds like Benning has been given the AMEX for next years 2 big stars: Steven Stamkos and Anze Kopitar. It’s not like they will get them, either of them, but making a trade for someone big will be a lot easier; maybe Milan Lucic will come home.

Did you see how I bolded those guys? Now you’ll be thinking, how do we get Steven Stamkos? What will it take? Remember when we all thought Marian Gaborik was going to be a Canuck? It was infatuating and you couldn’t imagine a world where he wasn’t wearing the blue and green.

We were just given the same treatment with Lucic before LA snagged him. Lost my train of thought, sorry.

The new guys will be given plenty of chances to make the big club and losing won’t be welcome but it will become a new reality as things are gradually changing. Bo Horvat made the jump and could be the anomaly but with guys like Cole Cassels, Jake Virtanen, Brock Boeser and Frankie Corrado trying to get it done, winning takes patience.

There is not one team that has its rookie crop transform their team overnight. Even Chicago and Pittsburgh had growing pains. Coach Willie Desjardins will have to give these guys chances though and swallow a bit of pride along the way.

Get ready to lose some games this year but it’ll be worth it once the key guys turn the corner. This isn’t a doom and gloom piece; it’s the new reality we as Canucks fans live in. No one saw the the Messier era getting as bad as it did but even with that tire fire, good did come.

Sure, Bure and Mogilny winning a Cup here would have been nice, but we riotted after we lost Game 7 to New York, we aren’t allowed to have nice things. 

Jimbo will be given his chance to put the ultimate stamp on the Canucks and the true judgement will be right around the corner. Let the dust settle and see where he’s going to take this thing. The optics look like we are screwed for the forseeable future and maybe we are but ripping off the band aid is the only way things can truly change.

I don’t love how things have panned out but I don’t want to keep cheering for a push over either. It’s time to accept the rebuild and everything that comes with it. If anything, my daughters will know what it’s like to be a REAL Canucks fan.

Taylorism over on the twitter wrote this a few days back and it strikes a very similar parallel to what I’m getting at here.

Follow me on twitter: @always90four

Photo cred: bcbusiness.ca

Canucks Draft Weekend Resembles Dumb and Dumber To

As many of you know, I was quite excited for this year’s NHL Entry Draft. The Canucks had a chance to draft WHL superstar Nick Merkley from the Kelowna Rockets and all would be right…in my eyes anyways. That didn’t happen. Everyone had somewhat high hopes as well that GM Jim Benning could potentially right the ship with trades involving Bieksa and Lack and a solid first round choice. What we all expected was what we hoped Dumb and Dumber To to be; we all forgot that sequels rarely deliver and in true Canucks fashion, Vancouver followed suit with that theory; It might be a long summer.

 

Jimbo didn’t have many picks to work with this year after trading away rounds 2 and 3 for Sven Baertschi and the pick that went with Ryan Kesler. One could assume a decent trade would be made for goalie Eddie Lack and a 2nd seemed feasible. Early Saturday morning the hammer dropped and Lack was sent to Carolina for their 3rd and 7th round picks.

The Bieksa trade hit a snag with San Jose over what is to be believed an extension after the move would occur as well as what year the 2nd rounder coming back would be (2016 apparently, not this year’s). A pick that may have done some damage, who knows.

Benning had 8 teams that were putting in offers for Lack but Carolina had the firmest. Harry and Lloyd are even losing interest here.

So why move him at all? I understand the market dictated the price and that is fine, maybe not fair but fine. If the buying price is too low, walk away. Every deal that you get low balled you should walk away. Pretty sure Lack’s value only increases here on out and quite frankly what if Markstrom is a bust?
We all know Lack basically had the most value but once again they make the move for the guy they probably should have kept. If Ryan Miller somehow is traded, unlikely, this fan base will implode. As far as the 2nd we moved to get Baertschi, that can still end up being a good play and I don’t mind waiting there.

Again, why make this move. If he could have been signed long term to a team friendly deal, it just doesn’t make sense.

Even with new blood at the top, it seems the same decisions continue to be made; you all know the ones. What irks me is that they fail to value the WHL which is right in their backyard. In a loaded first round, a guy like Nick Merkley seemed like an easy choice for a team many of us see boat loads of highlights from and know his immediate value.
Benning picked Brock Boesner as our latest star  and although I do not know a ton on him, it sounds like he could be OK. Personal feeling: disappointed, People that know’s feeling: we’ll be alright.

Still not excited yet and after last season’s tortoise like climb I don’t think I will be for awhile.

The Oilers and Flames have clearly gotten better over the last year with the draft culminating what Edmonton and Connor McDavid are about to do and what once was a prime destination for players to come to is now only prime if the money is right. How Vancouver has changed. 

The Canucks can’t rest on their laurels of yesteryear and assume the best is yet to come. They have zero Cups to show for their efforts and at some point this rabid fan base will want to see the return.

Everyone wants the new out of the box thinking GM that has analytics and fancy words, sleep doctors and the like; to me out of the box means refurbished. I don’t want a refurbished GM. I want an ACTUAL GM. We are starting to see Benning was left out of the big boy meetings when it came to final say on players in Boston.

Alright, alright. That’s a bit harsh. His scouting is great and I love that he cares so passionately about seeing guys first hand, but he’s missing out on the important stuff like I dunno locking up the RIGHT guys and not fringe contributors. Looking back, we really like our gently used, not actually GM’s yet…GMs.

Dave Nonis was the first, Gillis was the second and now Benning is number three. The slippery slope may very well continue and its only a matter of time before we are calling for his head. And at that time, it better be for a current or former GM, no more nonsense.

The Canucks are basically treading water and even though 2011 is a far distant memory….i’ll wait, the current situation is nowhere near the team they used to be. Not sure how this is OK with the Aquillinis as an investment. How long is acceptable to wait for the REAL Vancouver Canucks (whatever that is) to be assembled?

I get the feeling that the Canucks are headed towards the excitement of the NEXT generational player like McDavid when they will have a pick inside the top 3 overall Hate to say it, but prove me wrong.

Sorry for the redundant comments but just read what’s there: the Canucks are in serious trouble! My boy Thomas Drance says it best here.

Free agency is next week, so unless Jimbo can get that briefcase to Aspen (aka deliver the goods), it’s Mary Sw, Swammy, Swan, SAMSONITE all over again. The Canucks have really been Dumb and Dumber lately and after seeing the sequel, I really hope they don’t plan on following that path as well.

The ratings are in at the box office and they don’t look good.

Follow me on twitter: @always90four

Jarkko POLO: Post All Star BLAH

When you come back from your holidays, usually you’re refreshed and ready to tackle that 9 to 5. The Vancouver Canucks do not subscribe to that theory and proved it this past week. The Canucks welcomed Ryan Kesler back to the librar….er Rogers Arena, Cody Hodgson had his normal seat in the press box while Ryan Miller played his former team and to cap it all off, the ever exciting Minnesota Wild came to the wet coast for Super Sunday. All in all, it was sure a post all star blah kinda week and didn’t really put the Canucks in a better position. Jarkko…..Polo time!

I really wish the Canucks were a better team. If they were a better team, the Ducks wouldn’t seem so scary and by scary, I mean that the Canucks could play 60 minutes without wondering why teams skate by them effortlessly. Ryan Kesler was welcomed back to Vancouver last tuesday and wouldn’t ya know it, the fans don’t like him anymore. SHOCKER!! Kesler got the last laugh on this one as his Ducks waxed the Canucks 4 – buzz. Ryan Miller was quite weak and I saw a small child crying outside because the Canucks hurt his feelings. This team looks like it’s sinking, but how far will they sink?

The Buffalo Sabres made their way to Vancouver for their one stop this year and Ryan Miller was jacked! This was a game the Canucks simply could not lose. If you don’t beat a team that potentially will draft Connor McDavid, you need to really look in the mirror. Thankfully, the start of a big sports weekend started with a big Canucks win. Bo Horvat continued his successful first season with a goal in the first period after Buffalo’s Chris Stewart put the first one behind Miller.

Chris Tanev, Chris Higgins and yes, Zack Kassian were all factors in the win, albeit Kassian wasn’t exactly a world beater. On the positive side, he didn’t cross check anyone into the boards this time. Even though Kassian wasn’t his normal snoozer self, he is part of a team that seems to be snoozing on the ice, so much in fact that they aren’t awake enough to see that 6 guys on the ice is too many…..for the 10th game in a row.

Ok, let’s not drag the Canucks through the mud too much, there are some “moral” victories here. Yep, those moral victories are back. Radim Vrbata is still making his name known on the score sheet and even though Ryan Miller is letting in some of THE SOFTEST goals I’ve ever seen, he is doing enough to get the wins, well, when his team scores. BTW, Cody Hodgson was healthy scratched, if anyone cared.

If you in fact caught the Canucks game on Sunday and you love boring hockey, then boy oh boy did the Canucks have a game for you! It was a noon o clock start time so personally, I forgot. There was a semi-important football game later in the afternoon and I’m not gonna lie, that was my priority, let’s be serious.

I was pleasantly surprised that the Canucks actually looked good in this game, from what I saw. It’s a shame they couldn’t capitalize on their early chances in the first, it could have totally changed that game. Quick note, Willie D kept 5 guys on the ice at all times and didn’t take a meaningless too many men penalty. Ryan Miller again let in some pretty weak goals and his overall talent is once again being questioned. After going down 3-0, Vancouver put it’s first in the net. Wearing Andrew Alberts old 41, Ronalds Kenins put home his first ever goal, from who, BRO HORVAT!! New nickname, check it out.

Just so we’re all clear, Ronalds Kenins is one guy; I checked, don’t worry. Shortly after, Daniel Sedin scored a quick one from Vrby and brother Henrik. Could the Canucks actually come back? No, they didn’t. But they gave us hope. The jury is still out on what this team will achieve this year, but there are little things that give me hope that the long haul next year and the year after will have good results.

The Canucks are currently 8th in the West, 3 behind the Winnipeg Jets who coincidentally play the Canucks next. The Jets went from red hot to deathly cold; maybe the Canucks can kick them while their down.

Jarkko…..POLO!!!!

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All hilites by canucks.com and their youtube.