hunter shinkaruk

Jim Benning Broke The Canucks; Maybe He Should Go

The 2016 NHL Trade Deadline was the final straw for many Canucks fans; Jim Benning is no longer capable of steering the Canucks ship in the right direction, he has taken a page out of James Cameron’s book and sunk the Titanic. I have been a pretty even keel guy and have given many of the Canucks leaders the benefit of the doubt. Not this time though, I’ve had enough. Its pretty clear Jim Benning broke the Canucks and I think his time is up.

Maybe a little harsh to start but when you start breaking down the moves Benning has made, possibly John Weisbrod as well, he isn’t fit to be in charge. I had an interesting conversation with a good friend of mine recently about the blatantly obvious situation the Canucks find themselves in; going from Assistant GM to THE GM is kind of like riding shotgun for a long time and then being told you have to drive now.

Benning sat in the passenger seat for a number of years before being given the keys to a very, very expensive machine. You can wikipedia his resume because I don’t feel like letting you know what he’s done, you know too much already. Jimbo was the right hand man for 8 years before making the transition to all powerful.

When you’ve sat shotgun for 8 years, helping make important decisions is basically old hat, but when YOU’RE the one making the final decision, you hope the guy assisting you has done his work as well. He’s basically been the passenger long enough he has seen how to drive a car and it looks very doable; and then he starts driving and realizes its not the same thing.

Analyzing every move Benning has made would be redundant and not all of them have been bad. Jim has proven he’s an excellent scout and maybe one of the top ones out there, but do you really want a scout running your hockey club? I don’t.

I’ve talked about the Kelowna Rockets many a time and they have a jedi scout in Lorne Frey. He’s unearthed the likes of Shea Weber, Duncan Keith and my personal fave Nick Merkley; but I couldn’t imagine him taking over Bruce Hamilton’s job as GM. Nothing wrong with that its just they excel in different areas.

There’s always talk of the next deserving GM when one gets canned but why can’t teams see these guy’s strengths AND weaknesses? Of course, you can’t always find everything you’re looking for; Mike Gillis was very much out of the box thinking and had never had a job like that before so you can’t paint them all with one brush.

It’s entirely possible Jim Benning has architected the future Canucks with his shrew draft strategy but he’s also shooting himself in the foot by pawning off available picks for players that really have no business being acquired or leaving extra picks on the table when he waives players that could warrant a valuable return.

Once the trade deadline passed, it was quite clear the Canucks were not in it to win it. What we see before our eyes is the Canucks team that will finish out the season, plus or minus a few AHL callups. With no one coming or going this year, it’s a real head scratcher as to what management and potentially ownership is thinking.

All the focus on Monday was if Dan Hamhuis would waive his NTC and accept a trade to what we later found out, the Blackhawks or the Stars. That never happened and with all the focus shifting that way, players like Radim Vrbata and the #GarageSale7 were left in limbo. Another eye opener was that Alex Burrows name was left completely off the radar.

Was there any demand for Burrows’ talent this year? Just because someone isn’t on the block doesn’t mean he’s not available. Burrows has had a terrible year and is a shadow of his former glory. His career seems to be running its course but would he not be an asset for a team needing a 3rd liner on a well balanced Cup contender?

These are questions that should have been asked.

So should Benning actually be fired? In a word, no. We’ve seen teams like the Oilers, Flames, Leafs and even the Blackhawks keep former GM’s around, some just to appease the “old boys club”, some to eventually set to pasture. But if I’m the Canucks and more importantly Trevor Linden, I keep Benning around.

He isn’t the guy for THIS job but his knowledge and prowess of the development side of the game can’t be ignored. Re-package his role into VP of operations/scouting/Assistant GM, kick Weisbrod to the curb because clearly his ideas are awful (Granlund, seriously?) and put someone in charge who actually knows what they’re doing.

Sure, he’ll be mad and maybe sad or even sad/mad but he’s still being paid and I’m sure being 2nd in command for the Bruins Stanley Cup wasn’t the worst feeling. The worst feeling was trading away Tyler Seguin……and there it is.

A competent GM would not have given voluptuous contracts to Luca Sbisa, Derek Dorsett, Ryan Miller, Brandon Su…you know what, you get it. You know how I learned to save money? My parents showed me how and they guided me along so I wouldn’t go out and blow my savings on useless toys or beer.

They got half of that right – let’s be serious I was 10 when I got a bank account and I didn’t know beer yet.

Did no one stop Jimbo when he had the ol’ wallet out to sign these guys? Like anyone? His decision making is just atrocious and there’s no way this team should be run this way.

Going back to the deadline, was there really not a trade to made either way? You need picks, you need prospects and its evident you need 18 players a night. After the game against the Islanders, they did not have any of those things.  Mr. Benning has waived Adam Cracknell which he didn’t need to do, Frankie Corrado, again something he didn’t need to do and trading Hunter Shinkaruk.

I need a moment.

Hunter Shinkaruk on the surface, was the best player not on the Canucks. He was then traded for Markus Granlund who is not the best player on the Canucks, he’s not the best player not on the Canucks; what he is, is the best trade the Flames made until trade deadline day when they got potentially 2 first round picks for Kris Russell.

Listening to Tony Gallagher on Tuesday helped open up the wounds that almost healed. Why trade Shinkaruk who the Canucks felt wasn’t going to be a Canuck in the end for someone who won’t be a Canuck past July 1 IMO? It’s like showing your hand in poker and then driving the pot up to eventually still lose.

That’s not how it works. What COULD have been done was they could have just not traded Hunter Shinkaruk OR…….at least driven his price up until they got literally anything more valuable than less than a happy meal…minus the toy.

Thinking how this has all happened and how nothing has been fixed yet, Trevor Linden and the AQs need to do some serious brainstorming as to how this situation can be remedied. This rebuild is humming along and the coach can only work with what he’s given but now Benning is taking things away from him and that’s not fair to WD or the fans.

I don’t believe Benning knows what he’s doing most days when it comes to anything in front of him. Give him the scout job with all the perks and patch up this mess before it gets worse.

Even Mike Keenan got things going and we hated his guts.

Fix this Trevor because this has gotten way out of hand.

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Markus Granlund or Markus Naslund? SO TOUGH

Safe to say most of us have been pretty critical of the recent moves the Canucks have made and the newest one really hit a nerve. Jim Benning moved (what we believed was) budding forward Hunter Shinkaruk for butt of all current jokes and former Calgary Flames forward Markus Granlund. Its been a few days and the pain is still fresh but the mobs have gone home.

One has to wonder, ok so far it’s just me, but what was Canucks nation like when 7th overall pick Alek Stojanov was traded for Markus Naslund? Obviously, no twitter, no internet and no Benning but thankfully talk radio would have had it’s say in the CKNW days. Were fans mad, were they overly critical? I had to know.

 

The 1991 NHL Draft included both Alek Stojanov AND Markus Naslund going 7th and 16th respectively in the 1st round and it’s no revelation that one of these players went on to be one of the better players the NHL has ever seen, while the other, well….I’m sure he’s doing something productive. Fast forward to 2016 and a guy the Canucks had high hopes on (Shinkaruk) gets moved to Calgary for Markus Granlund who the Flames basically had also given up on.

Both the Canucks and Penguins were fed up with their players and they drafted and flipped the switch, which goes down in NHL history as one of the worst trades ever.

These types of trades happen a lot. Two teams are frustrated with a player that they just can’t get any more out of and hope they can flip that player and end their misery.

Not knowing a whole lot about Granlund, I decided to play a little game of NASLUND or GRANLUND – two players with similar situations, similar sounding names and a fan base that critiques the prizes given away, or lack thereof, from Safeway Score and Win. So let’s see how we all do:

 

  • One started the season with 31 games on the big club before getting traded, scoring 4 goals and 3 assists, while the other played 66 games potting 19 goals and 33 assists before being shipped away.
  • In his first full season he had 4 goals and 7 assists, the other participant had 8 goals and 10 assists.
  • One of these players might have a pair of Nike shoes, the other….was in a Nike commercial
  • Ok last one, there weren’t very many were there? This player often had his name mispronounced for someone who is not his father, while the other is just not the one we wanted.

Hopefully now we have all learned so much more about new Canuck Markus Granlund and how he compares to a player who we really weren’t sure on at first but became one of the greatest Canucks of all time.

Never discount the potential. For all we know Granlund plays with Boeser in 3 years and we have the next dynamic duo. I’m reaching, but maybe not as much as you’d think.

ANSWERS in order: 1) Granlund/Naslund  2) Naslund/Granlund 3) Serious? 4) Naslund/Granlund

A Tank By Any Other Name Still Hurts When It Runs You Over

Romeo and Juliet talked about it long, long ago; this feeling of utter heartbreak, anger, disgust and maybe a slice of rage has become discomforting. Canucks fans are actually living in a real live tank mode. We all talked about it, there were flyers posted everywhere and the trades, Mylanta the trades! Rebuilding on the fly is still rebuilding and in this case, Jim Benning and company have decided to take it down to the foundation.

The social media age has made every step of a rebuild so public and depending on who it affects, quite agonizing. There was a time in December where the Canucks might have still been on the list of teams that could sneak into the playoffs, that thought is over.

Everyone said they were willing to see this team start over and build it all back up to the crown jewel it once was but it’s one thing to say you’re in, its another when it happens without your control. Hunter Shinkaruk seems to be the latest casualty of the new movement; whether you want to call it #tank, rebuild, starting over, crying for countless hours or business, this disaster is well past the point of no return.

On the surface, Hunter Shinkaruk for Markus Granlund is an atrocity. NHL 16 wouldn’t even approve of that move because the opposing GM would just assume you’re an idiot and a big warning box would show up and say “ARE YOU SURE, PRESS X TO ACCEPT TRADE, CIRCLE TO DECLINE”. And there’s a kicker right there, someone who can see this trade and talk Benning away from the controller.

The problem here is that the guy who could have told Jimbo he’s crazy, happens to have worked for the Calgary Flames (team who now is excited to have Shinkaruk). John Weisbrod might just be the guy we need to start hating. Maybe Jim Benning is actually being drugged, held against his will and forced to make bloody awful trades while the city around him burns to the ground.

It would be a nice thought, sadly this isn’t a Batman movie.

When Sven Baertschi for a 2nd rounder happened, there was a similar disgust and so far that seems to have worked out; in fact, its worked out quite well. The same can’t be said for Derek Dorsett, Brandon Prust, a slightly overpaid Luca Sbisa; there are moves that just shouldn’t be made, contracts that should never have been offered.

The trade deadline is days away and selling off assets and a few liabilities to gain hopefully better assets would be the job of a GM like Benning whose team will not make the post season and is restructuring. Selling off valuable bargaining chips even if you don’t see a future for them on your team is still a bad move, let alone to a division rival, when you can wait it out until at the very least training camp or heck the draft.

Benning has done some things there and that would have been a better place to plant some seeds. Trying to get a suitor for Chris Higgins and Brandon Prust didn’t pan out so they’re chillin in Utica probably for eternity…or until their contracts are up. As good a scout as Benning is, he is a bad trader. He gives Trader Jim’s a bad name. They are suing him.

With the Canucks, it is a rare sight when a trade works out as we’ve seen so many good draft picks, prospects and star players go the way of the dodo bird and flourish elsewhere. I hold a bit of hope however when the lesser trades like an Emerson Etem who at the very least is an upgrade on a guy who never would have played here hold some value.

But then we start looking at the case on Frankie Corrado – this one really befuddles me. On one hand, Benning literally received nothing for him, nothing but outrage after he could have at the very least figured out some kind of compensation coming his way. We then find out that Corrado was rehabbing a pretty serious shoulder separation and it sounded like there were some sour grapes there, not uncommon.

I had a great discussion with a friend of mine over the weekend and we got into this one; Ben Hutton was going to make the team regardless, I think we can all see that now, but the guy that beat Frankie out of a spot was Alex Biega and that’s where I’m still stuck.

Why give him up for nothing and just…have lunch after?

It seems counterproductive to show your cards and then try and bluff out a winning hand. It seems you should never go full Benning, or maybe full Weisbrod. This tank as we’re dubbing it is more so a disaster off the ice than on it. Imagine if they had called up Shinkaruk, Gaunce, Grenier or even Pedan and KEPT them longer than the duration of Song 2 by Blur….IMAGINE!!!!

Willie could have made those things happen. He could have helped form something more. That or maybe he is and we just have to accept that this is going to hurt no matter what.

The tank is going to happen with or without us and Luca Sbisa’s there, so is Linden Vey, segments of Radim Vrbata and probably the rest of Ryan Miller and his contract. We may look back at this as we now do the Linden trade/de-captaining/Messier/Keenan and see this as the next best thing that ever happened to this team.

Not something I want to hear but it just might be that way. It may all culminate with Auston Matthews or Milan Lucic or heck even Steven Stamkos. I didn’t mean to say even Steven, but you get it. This team has been far from predictable, sorry, this management and every one before it and its just not something we’re supposed to get.

Let this go forward. You can’t stop a tank because you know, they’re big and they can run you over and there’s a cannon. You don’t want to stand in front of a cannon.

A tank by any other name is still loud and explosive and slow. Get the picture?

Follow me on twitter: @always90four

New Year, More Problems, Same Canucks and a Camel Story

2015 sure was a bizarre year for the Canuck faithful. It really gave us the highs and lows of a team in transition and that isn’t always fun. As the clock strikes midnight, which it definitely will ya doomsdayers,  we look back at the year that was and pout. The beginning of the year gave us some of that hope stuff people talk about and we liked Willie Desjardins and applauded his decision making, I think? We could see the potential of Eddie Lack as the true starter and Bo Horvat quickly became “the next one”. But then the playoffs.

Radim Vrbata wasn’t his normal staring self, he went invisible like a straight to dvd sequel of Serendipity starring Joan Cusack and probably Nic Cage because he’s doing stuff like that now. Luca Sbisa was internet infamous, Sbizza actually was just between us (he seriously didn’t even know) and we had no answer to NHL super enforcer Michal Ferkland (sp?) Ferglund? Ferland. There, got it.

Will anything change or will the Canucks stay the same?

After the Lameoffs all of that changed for the worse when we shipped away fan favourite Eddie Lack to Carolina, Nick Bonino to Pittsburgh for Brandon Sutter (still don’t really like that one…for either team), had the news that Ryan Miller COULD have been traded and Frankie Corrado was waived. That all sounds like doom and gloom but it isn’t entirely.

Breakout defender and twitter sensation by hashtag anyways, Ben Hutton aka #HUTTONmania, earned a spot on the big club and hasn’t given any reason to relinquish it. He’s been a welcome sight on the back end and with some patience and guidance, he could be the offensive version of Chris Tanev. We like Tanev.

Rookies Jared McCann and Jake Virtanen both made the team as well and all of Canucks land was a fluster. Could the Canucks truly be rebuilding? Is this the time we finally see the young guys work their way into stardom? Not exactly. Jared McCann is still largely between Derek Dorsett and Brandon Prust and even though its a learning curve, they’re duds.

You would never put a camel in a grizzly farm and say “hey camel, be a grizzly!” Not gonna happen. That camel can only be a camel; but if you put that camel with other camels at the camel farm, he can be a …..totally wrong analogy. I really don’t know how the camel would get better.

Basically you don’t put a budding offensive centre with 2 plugs. That’s the jist of it. Remember the camel story, that might be huge one day.

Jake Virtanen has time to learn his skill and we will continue to see his development as the year goes on. Not every player can be a Horvat and even Bo isn’t having a great sophomore year. What we have learned is that the team is committed to these guys and at some point, the veterans will start to be phased out.

The Sedins aren’t going anywhere and at 35, they still look as amazing as they did years ago. Sure, there’s a miss here and there but with 37 and 33 points, Daniel and Henrik Sedin respectively, are every bit as effective as they once were; the down side is that they’re the only ones….ok them and Jannik Hansen.

Speaking of the Great Dane, Jannik Hansen is alive once more with the sound of (whatever the heck his goal song is). Salvaging good story lines has been tough this calendar year but he of Danish origins has kept the Sedins fresh. Once on the rumoured trade block, Hansen has finally seen his game elevate and has brought worth to a team project a few years in the making. Good to see.

With all this, there are low lights like the distribution of minutes amongst players that shouldn’t even be in the lineup, the decision to keep important players out of the lineup, not keeping the goaltending tandem fresh with quality starts by each and an absolute failure to address the scoring needs this team so desperately has.

How Hunter Shinkaruk, Brendan Gaunce and Alex Grenier AREN’T on the club yet, I’ll never know. Chris Higgins isn’t what he used to be and is ready to maybe not be put to pasture but maybe let him outside for a run and don’t lock the gate. Dorsett and Prust are not #MUST guys and they don’t look like they will be anytime soon.

Anyone putting in a quality effort seems to suffer because the other lines are being misused. The Canucks also aren’t very big so the ability for them to be literal pushovers is alarming.

As the year turns to 2016, the Canucks haven’t really changed their direction a whole lot and maybe thats just the fan in me saying that. They definitely have made transitional moves and I guess the team is quite different from a year ago but nothing says they’re going to be better or more competitive than they have been.

In 2016 Mr. Benning, Desjardins and Linden, please know that we’re willing to wait for this ship to turn itself around, but give us a reason to be hopeful. Clearly we’ve waited THIS long so just be fair to us, that’s all we/I ask.

Happy New Year for Always90four

Also, remember the camel story.

 

Breaking Down The Canucks Season With Bullet Points

Seems like everyone is ready to fire Willie Desjardins. They’re already sick of the “rebuild” and I don’t think anyone has any idea of what happens next. The Canucks are a mess to say it nicely; a train wreck if we’re being more specific and a raging tire fire if you want to be close. The papers…err, their blogs and such have the coach being fired , well maybe not (Vancity Buzz), Canucks TV ratings down (Canucks Army) and Jake Virtanen. I have no link here. I just feel bad for the guy.

So let’s take a look at how this season has gone down in BULLET POINTS; because that’s what has been shot into this season: BULLETS! But in no particular order OK, I really don’t want to put in too much work. You’re already reading this so just sit back and enjoy!

    • Jared McCann and Jake Virtanen make the Canucks. We’re all SUPER happy for them and think “Hey, maybe the Canucks have turned a new leaf and are doing this rebuilding thing we all talked about”. I…..don’t think we knew what was going to happen. But we were happy for a bit.
    • Ryan Miller and Jacob Markstrom were gonna be better this year. No Eddie Lack? No problem. Except that there IS a problem: our goal tending.
    • Goal scoring slumps. If you aren’t a Sedin or a Hansen or Hunter Shinkaruk in the AHL you probably haven’t done much this season. Figure that one out. Is it even possible to not have anyone score but the first line? I think even Edmonton has more than 3 guys that score goals. EDMONTON!!!!!
    • Dan Hamhuis took a freaking slap shot to the face. He broke his jaw and it pretty much capped his first half of the season in style; his on ice play has suffered dramatically and the giveaways, oh jeeeeez the giveaways. Dan Hamhuis is a great man, a great Canuck but seriously, his time is running out/has run out. He’s in Willie Mitchell territory; but minus the Cups.
    • Alex Edler gave up a pretty bad turnover against the Kings in overtime and the Canucks lost. I think we knew at that point, we knew where things were headed. Funny story, that was about a week or so ago.
    • Ben Hutton made the team and we all thought CHRIS TANEV WITH OFFENSE!!! He liked the rest of the team has lost his mojo. Oh and when Ben got injured the hashtag #HUTTONmania broke up. It wasn’t good.
    • Vancouver has already seen what seems like half the Comets called up with a combined, what, 4 games played for the Canucks? The problems aren’t just on the ice, its between the coaches ears too!
    • Frankie Corrado got waived because obviously? There were ways to get around it with Higgins starting the season on the IR:
  • Losing streaks; we’ve had a few
  • Hunter Shinkaruk did so well that the Canucks finally called him up….then sent him down. That was depressing.
  • But then they brought him back. But then they sent him down after one game. Sensing a pattern here.
  • Canucks snapped the Canadiens winning streak at 9 games. It felt pretty good. Since then the Canucks have won 7 times and lost 16 times (OT/SO) Ugh.
  • Jake Virtanen gets sent to the Canadian World Junior team, probably to the Hitmen after that.
  • Jared McCann isn’t far behind
  • Things are so bad you’ve now read 14 bullet points about how this season has gone in the tank. I haven’t mentioned Auston Matthews yet. Let’s not go there yet.

Follow me on twitter:@always90four

How Are These Canucks Different From Before?

Everyone’s doing a quarter season article so I figure what the hay? The Canucks have already shown us quite the roulette wheel of games; big wins, big losses, one goal games and a shootout for profiling purposes only. What do we know about them after 23 games? For starters, the sky isn’t falling. I’ve read the tweets and seen all the possible trade locations for anyone that is over 30 and has scored in the last week; this fan base has no chill. So after everything we’ve seen thus far, how are THESE Canucks any different from last season?

 

The Canucks position in the standings is basically the same, they just have less points. If you think about it, they’re accomplishing the same with less. That’s actually better I think?

A year ago, we were all excited to see Bo Horvat in the lineup and we watched his progression from the nine game audition to what many believed to be the 2nd line centre without a doubt. Radim Vrbata was already at 10G, 7A and he has struggled to find his groove this year. We’ve called for his head and just begged for him to score so we can trade him away. Now, he’s finally producing and it looks like he’s ready to take over.

Ryan Miller surprisingly looking back was 14-3 at this point last season and I’m pretty sure we felt the same way we do this year, well, we had Eddie Lack last season; it’s possible we didn’t like Miller as much. This season, we are seeing a bit of Miller’s age but he continues to impress. If Willie D can balance the goalie starts both Miller and Jacob Markstrom could actually get on a serious roll.

Another thing the Canucks didn’t have last year was an abundance of youth. This season, Vancouver has dressed rookies Jake Virtanen, Jared McCann, Ben Hutton, Hunter Shinkaruk, Alex Grenier and Brendan Gaunce and almost all at the same time. It has been a reeeeeeeally long time since there have been this many young stars playing for the Canucks.

The shift in mentality that youth works is slowly taking over. You can see the reluctance from coach Willie to entrust his rookies with the same responsibilities that the veterans are asked to shoulder and rightfully so, but Ben Hutton and Jared McCann most notably have forced WD’s hand. Ben Hutton is quite possibly the next Chris Tanev/Alex Edler hybrid and he’s 22!!! This guy looks like he’s been in the league for years and his presence on the back end is most welcome. It’s a shame he’s been injured because Hutton is already a staple on the blue line.

Jared McCann has given the Canucks depth at a position they haven’t had it for a few years. What’s better is that the pivots that occupy the middle of the ice are being molded under captain Henrik Sedin. The blend of veterans and rookies is a very happy medium in that players like Alex Burrows and Jannik Hansen, Dan Hamhuis and Alex Edler can help these newbies adjust to the pro game easier and they will help shape the future of this organization.

Not to drag this on forever but what about Jannik Hansen and the Sedins? Did anyone see this coming? BESIDES THOMAS DRANCE? If you look back and check out the stats, its one of the best possible fits the team has! Aside from Burrows making his run with the Twins, Jannik Hansen is a slam dunk on the wing. Hopefully this run of theirs keeps up and we can see the other three lines develop more regularly.

The Canucks have changed a lot since last season and they will continue to change as this season plays out. The difference though: it’s about to get better and it appears the Sedins will play until they’re 50. Gordie Howe and his sons might want to lace up again just to keep those records intact.

Seriously, the Sedins are playing for keeps again, this might get dangerous.

Follow my shenanigans on twitter: @always90four

cover photo – hockeysfuture.com

What’s Left To Criticize About The Canucks?

photo – espn.com

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

Follow me on twitter: @always90four

I Wrote About Hunter Shinkaruk

Clever name for a title hey? At least you know this will be a goalie controversy free article. There will be no talk about how the Sedins aren’t producing yet or how Sven Baertschi is close to losing his job. Ok that last one may get mentioned. Hunter Shinkaruk is having an other worldly start to his Utica Comets season. The skinny is as follows:

12 GP, 9G, 3A, 4PP and a 34.6 SH%

Translation = NHL bound.

Shinkaruk now has 2 hat tricks to start the season and he is becoming a true pro. He’s healthy, he’s producing and he’s doing the things that got him drafted back in 2013. It’s no surprise that when touted future stars get the proper time and space they need to succeed, they usually do, unless you’re Alexandre Daigle or Patrik Stefan. Hunter has been given a challenge and he’s taken it and ran with it.

It will only be a matter of time before he gets called up to the Canucks and if he does anything like he already has in Utica, he won’t be going back. It would have been nice if Bo Horvat and Hunter Shinkaruk could have cracked the lineup together but with Hunter’s inability to be a true 200 foot player, he was sent down and had to hone his skills in Utica.

This season again, he didn’t crack the opening night roster but that only seemed to push him harder. He’s getting top line minutes right now and as I said before, the goals are aplenty. Here’s a recap of his 2nd hat trick of the year:

 

For Shinkaruk to get called up however, would require an injury or a brutally slumping winger to create that position. Sven Baertschi is a possible candidate but not for lack of trying. Willie Desjardins has failed to get him the same opportunities that maybe Jake Virtanen may get. Putting the puck in the net doesn’t happen every shift and Baertschi has sure tried to stay relevant, which can’t be said for many Canucks on a nightly basis.

If a trade is in the works for say Radim Vrbata or Chris Higgins, that could spell the end of Shink’s AHL stint. His gift for goals and his flare when he celebrates them are all things Canucks fans have yearned for since the good old days (2009-2011). The youth movement has grown steadily in the last season and even more so this year with 3 rookies making the club.

The Canucks need goals, speed and a bit more grit. Shinkaruk is proving he can bring all those things and put on a line with either Horvat or Sutter along with wingers Virtanen or Hansen would really give the budding star a big boost. You can’t put a star on the 4th line. It just doesn’t work. Dropping Shinkaruk with Horvat, whom he has great chemistry with along with Hansen would really pack a solid punch and give Hansen an opportunity to distract more and create chances for the kids.

Here’s an article from 2013 that dives into Bo and Hunter’s chemistry.

How Hunter gets called up has yet to be seen but it’s coming and when it does be ready. We might just be seeing the full transition of the Canucks and more losses because of that is a by product of letting them blend in. When it clicks, it’s going to be life changing.

I’m predicting Shinkaruk is called up within the next month and that might be a little bit shy. What we saw of him in his first preseason was enough for me. He can score goal scorers goals and he drives the net. We currently have maybe 2 guys, nay 3 that do that(Horvat, McCann, Burrows…Hansen?). They aren’t the Sedins.

Hate to go all homer but with Connor McDavid out, the Canucks could really take the rookie spotlight by storm and what a time to do it! You have to think Don Cherry is a fan.

I wrote about Hunter Shinkaruk. He’s coming.

 

cover photo: Utica Comets

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Canucks Next Step Is So Important

Optimism only can last so long once reality rears its ugly face. The Vancouver Canucks were eliminated by the atrocious Calgary Flames on Saturday night. It hurt even for the ones that didn’t think they’d get THIS far. Now we are all left licking our wounds and wondering what the next step will be. I would hope at the very least its finding a way to trade Luca Sbisa and/or Kevin Bieska (yes I spelt it wrong).

I don’t hate Bieksa, he is actually one of the best characters on the Canucks. His play over the last year, really two, has raised many questions as to what he still brings to this team. When he was with Hamhuis, Juice could afford to pinch a bit more while Deputy Dan held the fort in case it went awry. Luca Sbisa isn’t any of that and I think we all still wonder why he was re-signed let alone for that much.

All in all for Kevin, he has a year left on his deal and if there is a trade to be made then it wouldn’t be the worst decision to get younger there. The worse decision already happened and he wears #5.

Speaking of defensemen that need a contract, Yannick Weber is due. His use on the powerplay was actually an improvement to the tire fire they had. And then he wasn’t used there for awhile. I think Willie D is still figuring out how NHL players fit into his brain thoughts. We like Weber and he shoots hard and stuff, please bring him back.

Goaltending ended up being more of a discussion topic than I anticipated this season; Ryan Miller was pretty good, but Eddie Lack stepped his taco game up and gave Jim Benning some serious options. WIth Jacob Markstrom at a point he needs to be a NHL backup and Thatcher Demko being groomed, Ryan Miller after one season may be gone.

That’s a pretty big price tag to put out there and there might only be a few teams even remotely interested in that guy. If Lack is the guy, that cap number drops considerably. If Ryan Miller stays, he needs to work on basically everything to make it work here. Both options are fine as goaltending didn’t lose us that series, but it was close.

UFAs Brad Richardson and Shawn Matthias may be put to pasture and that sucks. Linden Vey could have potential but if the Canucks are supposed to make a run in the immediate future, Vey is a boring, inconsistant opton. All that hush money that went Derek Dorsett and Luca Sbisa’s way has strapped Benning a bit and even though the cap rises to $71.5M, spending money because you have it isn’t a smart idea.

2015/16 will be the year of the young gun in Vancouver. A full offseason and maybe Calder Cup playoffs with Bo Horvat and Hunter Shinkaruk could do wonders for the Canucks. Giving Jake Virtanen a chance early next year like they did Bo could also translate to some early returns. Right now, those are small pipe dreams but at some point all those guys will play together. Ronalds Kenins was the big surprise this year and he has earned himself a spot for next season. His murders, along with Virtanens will be a welcome addition.

At som point we will find out about Zack Kassian and Alex Burrows and pray nothing major is going on. Kassian missed a solid amount of time after really finding his stride on the top line. Burrows freak accident (whatever that actually was) might be something he has to rehab into the season. Again, speculating but in this new NHL, we have no clue. If Kassian needs back surgery, I sure hope its minor; bodies like his eventually break down heavily and he isn’t very old at all. 

 And finally to the big guns! Radim Vrbata seemed like a consolation prize last July and he ended up being a solid addtion to both the Sedin line and the second line. His lack of grit was noticed in the playoffs and really, thats where it all counts. The Canucks lack of grit everywhere was noticed by all and adding a power forward would get things going. Henrik and Daniel looked like maybe they were starting to hit the back nine of their amazing careers but then they went and finished in the top 10 in scoring. 

The Sedins are always welcome on this Canucks club and their leadership will help take this next Canucks team to the top once again.

For now, we sulk for 5 months and figure out what went wrong. We curse the wretched Flames and hope Benning and Linden make some savvy moves. 

As for me? The Kelowna Rockets are making a ru nto the Memorial Cup this year and they get my full support now. And Jim, if you’re reading…please draft Nick Merkley.

Goodbye 2015 season, it was real.

Follow me on twitter: @always90four

Zack Kassian Is NOT Todd Bertuzzi

Well the title is really all I need on this but for kicks, lets keep reading. Zack Kassian was brought in to Vancouver to be the beef. He was brought in to be the answer to the bullying the Canucks were receiving. He was brought in to make teams fear playing Vancouver. Zack Kassian is NOT Todd Bertuzzi. He has not scared anyone.

He might not even be here that long.

When Cody Hodgson was shipped out, Kassian was instantly tied to Cody’s future production. If Hodgson went on to a star career and Zack didn’t, it would be just one more bust trade chalked up to terrible past decisions in Vancouver. Kassian was thrust into the gauntlet and we are all waiting to see how he gets out. Multiple line mates, inconsistent production and the ability to disappear. With a build like Zacks, alarms start sounding when he doesn’t fill out.

The problem with Kassian’s growth is that he doesn’t seem to learn. He has bonehead tendencies which cause him to take the same types of penalties at the wrong times and offensively he doesn’t go where his body should allow him to go. When you are built like Todd Bertuzzi, you drive to the net and play in front of the crease to get what you want. Either he doesn’t want to get banged up or he doesn’t have the ability to be that type of player.

If you remember, Todd Bertuzzi not only had hands softer than pillows, but he used his body to get what he wanted. From driving down the wing on the backhand and pulling it forehand top shelf to taking cross check after cross check to the back while he parked his big ol’ butt in front of goalies league wide. Bertuzzi had it all and for a time was THE best power forward in the game; he had a Gatorade commercial. He used what he had and knew how to translate that into point production. It didn’t hurt that he had Markus Naslund as his line buddy.

While its plain to see that Kassian is not Big Bert, its frustrating to see why he hasn’t made the next step in his progression. His hands are indeed smooth, he has the ability to puck control along the boards and keep it from going to his opponents stick. What Kassian doesn’t do is drive the net when we all know full well it would be tough to take that puck off his stick. So why not just adapt and take the league by storm? I can’t speak to that as anyone that knows me knows I can’t exactly play. Ask around.

The thing is: Kassian’s time is running out. There are players more than willing to take his spot. Hunter Shinkaruk and Bo Horvat, Nicklas Jensen and eventually Dane Fox; these guys are young, hungry and uber talented. Zack Kassian needs to get his game in check. The NHL is for the elite and Kassian hasn’t proven he is indeed that; not in the NHL and definitely not in Vancouver.

Follow me on twitter @hankthetank10 and @always90four

Cover photo courtesy of o.canada.com