jacob markstrom

Ryan Miller’s Magical Run Desperate For A Spell

This has turned out to be a pretty good season for Ryan Miller. He’s in the final year of his 3-year deal and although he isn’t playing at the peak level he was at in Buffalo, he’s turning in some pretty impressive numbers. If it wasn’t for Miller (and Markstrom) the Canucks would easily be playing for last or second to last place in the league.

Turns out they could carry on without out Roberto Luongo.

Ryan Miller has kept the Canucks in a remarkable number of games so far this season and it needs to be recognized beyond Vancouver. Since Dec 1st, Miller ranks T-9 in wins with 10, 11th in saves, an astonishing .926 SA%, and 10th in GAA with 2.30. Having a healthy defense corps that are capable of clearing out pucks or keeping them out of the zone could probably bump those numbers even higher.

He definitely gives the Canucks a chance every night and has shown he has bought into the current team plan, whatever that might be. Sticking up for Troy Stecher against the Leafs was the eye-opener for everyone. Things started kind of rocky for Miller when he got to Vancouver but now I wouldn’t mind if he hung around for another year or two while Thatcher Demko matures in the AHL.

The problem with running Miller night in and night out is that he’s “sports old” and at some point, he’s going to burn out.  In 2007/08, Miller played in 76 games, he won 36 times but lost 27 and lost in OT/SO 10 times. That season he allowed the most goals ever in his career with 197. If he keeps up his starts and plays around 54 games, he’ll be around the 140 goals against average or so.

Not the end of the world exactly but last season didn’t track so well when he started 51 so its possible the same could occur down the stretch.

There have been worse stories like what Calgary did with Miikka Kiprusoff from 2007-09 starting him 76 games as well netting 39 and 45 wins respectively but allowing 26 and 24 wins as well in the process.

Kipper’s goals against in those seasons were 197 and 209 respectively, which obviously would come with playing that many games but the Flames did not benefit from having a goalie that played every two nights. Having a goalie capable of that is great but there’s no way it lasts and everyone suffers in the process.

Miller needs a rest and whether its mistrust in Jacob Markstrom or the belief that you run the hot hand until it flames out, the Canucks can’t continue on this path. Common sense would suggest starting Markstrom at least once a week providing there are 3 games being played. There are streaks that go on where you have to roll with the hot goalie but no goalie wins every single game.

Even with Marky’s mundane stats, he gives the Canucks a chance every night and like a young defenseman, it takes some time to hone your craft. Considering the Canucks will be at a crossroads at seasons end with goaltending, it would be smart to get Markstrom in the net more than he has been. As of now, the playoffs are still a possibility and if Ryan Miller is going to be “the guy” then he’ll need to be rested and healthy.

He’s 36 years old and the Western Conference isn’t getting any slower so Miller has to be on point every night. This team doesn’t allow for him to make mistakes and some nights he’s been asked to make miracles happen. Those starts become more and more valuable as the season drags on and Willie Desjardins needs to realize a freak injury, which seems to happen a lot here, is one shot away.

Is Jacob Markstrom capable of carrying this current team? He basically did last year and with the goals coming from a few more players this season, a few new defenders that are holding their own and a division that has a wild card spot up for grabs almost every night, Markstrom isn’t in a terrible situation to fail.

Not completely anyway.

Ryan Miller needs to be spelled not just on the road, but at home too! Markstrom will get one start in the back to back games either Wednesday or Thursday and after that, there are two more back to back sets until February 19th. In between all those are games almost every second night which include a week long 6-game road trip.

There is no way he should be playing all of those and I can’t imagine Miller stays 100% during that time. It’s around the time when the toll of the game starts to wear on goaltenders and the little things start to nag. We’ve all heard and seen the stats since January 1st and Ryan Miller is definitely turning some heads.

Trading Miller doesn’t seem like an option now that he’s a family guy. He likes Vancouver, from what we read, and I know I personally wouldn’t want to be uprooted if things were in my favor. I don’t think it gets much worse for the Canucks but I’m wrong a lot. Ryan Miller can keep the Canucks afloat for awhile still but he’s only one guy.

Allowing Jacob Markstrom to take the reigns for a handful of games gives the Canucks a fighting chance for a longer period. They aren’t winning the Cup this year but Nolan Patrick doesn’t seem likely either so they might as well try and play this thing out.

Follow me on twitter: @always90four

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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

 

Canucks Leaky Tire Goaltending About To Be Fixed

By now you’ve figured out I love comparisons! Most of them fall by the wayside and a handful of people get them but are half impressed to say the least. However, with the recent contract extension of Jacob Markstrom it’s safe to say I have a gooder here. Ever since the dual departures, nay, triple departures of Cory Schneider, Roberto Luongo and Eddie Lack, the Canucks have been searching for a fix to their goaltending problem. Some may say it’s been a slowly leaking tire.

I too am experiencing a leaky tire situation and until its ultimately fixed/replaced, it will nag away on the message center of my vehicle. I can go to the gas station and fill it up back to normal pressure, I can buy the spray in repair kit but unless its truly fixed, the problem will remain. When Vancouver re-signed Markstrom to a new 3 year deal, they took their leaky tire and replaced it with a name brand snow tire that can handle the challenges of winter.

Ryan Miller has one more season left on his own 3 year deal and as the team came down the stretch both he and Markstrom split the duties almost 50/50. It was evident the Canucks played well for both tenders and with a cheaper, younger option in place until soon to be superstar Thatcher Demko completes his training in Utica, Markstrom can start the 2016/17 season with aspirations of being the #1.

Knowing that the Canucks will soon have a high performance all weather tire in Demko makes the next few seasons quite bearable. It should be known that Ryan Miller on many nights last year was a big reason the Canucks even hung around; I guess we could blame him for not dropping another two standings spots.

A far from stellar statistical year for Marky, sporting a 2.73 GAA and .915 SA%, his starts increased confidence in the Canucks fan base knowing we had a solution on the back end. It may only be July but once training camp begins, Miller, Markstrom and Demko will all have played and grown with the developing defensive corps sprouting on the blue line.

Alex Edler is now the wise teacher with Dan Hamhuis’ departure, so guiding Ben Hutton, Erik Gudbranson, Chris Tanev, Nikita Tryamkin, Luca Sbisa and 2016 first round pick Olli Juolevi may be a challenge for the goaltending standing tall. It’s expected M&M (see how I did that?) will have to shoulder a fair amount of defensive blunders but thankfully without Matt Bartkowski, they’ll just be Sbizzas.

When Schneider and Luongo were sent to far away lands there wasn’t much air left in the goaltending tires and just when we all thought Eddie Lack had repaired the problem, the Nucks sent him away too!

We all saw this roulette wheel of goaltenders before Luongo came to town and we knew until it was ultimately solved the fixes were all temporary. The vehicle is almost fixed in Vancouver, we’re so close to having those high performance treads installed. Jacob Markstrom gives the Canucks time to let Demko mature at the pro level with more games than a college season delivers and the pro game will help him adjust and prepare for his eventual succession.

Maybe it’s the Swedish connection that keeps us calm? The Sedins made us believe too; I guess there’s something to be said for the Tre Kronor? Jim Benning did a smart thing, yes Pet Bugs, a smart thing by signing Markstrom and if the tandem of Marky and Demks can be better than Lu and Schneids, we’re in for some good times once more.

And that’s just the back end.

Once a goalie graveyard, Vancouver is again becoming the place to be for the masked man. The tires are taken care of and I can’t wait for that new engine to be ready. The Canucks will be ready for Race Wars sooner than we think.

DAN, DEMKO! Back At It Again With The Van Goalies

When you think Dan Cloutier, most think of this:

But after his tenure with the Canucks, ok and a few close calls…not quite like his days with NYR, Clouts established himself for a time as one of the best goaltenders in the NHL. He’s hung up his everyday skates and has moved back in with the Vancouver Canucks. Rollie Melanson has relocated east to be with his ailing motherand has vacated his spot so the Canucks checked in to the Cloutier Hotel. The present gets a fresh face and Thatcher Demko gets a Canucks alum as a mentor.

This is a good thing.

Even though Rollie is out, he’s not gone completely. Melanson is still accessible but will be focusing more on helping goalies on the other side of the continent. As we all know, Dan Cloutier is no stranger to the Canucks and was a win away from the Conference Finals. He had injury problems but I still feel he was given an unfair shake as he was let go.

Cloutier’s aggresive, sometimes unpredictable style combined with his flare for the dramatic (where have we seen that before) made him a fan favourite and helped steal his fair share of games back in the day for the Canucks. Now, he’s the mentor to a current aging goaltender in Ryan Miller who could use some pointers on staying fresh as his career winds down. In Jacob Markstrom, Cloutier will be able to take what works with Marky and I believe, get him to be more of the aggressor towards his shooter.

Melanson got his goalies to play deeper and that gives the goalie the ability to play his posts tighter but doesn’t necessarily cut down the angle as much. I can’t see a dramatic culture change or anything but if he brings any of his game to his current students, at the very least, these guys will steal a few that they may have just lost last season.

The bonus of having a reliable goaltender is that with a growing team like the Canucks, mistakes are going to be made more often than not and the last line of defense will have to be on point. In Cloutier’s prime, he was a gamer in every sense of the word; he didn’t like to lose and he knew when he had to be the star that night.

Clouts also had Salo, Jovanovski, Ohlund and a few other notable d-men that he could rely on but having Hutton, Tanev, Tryamkin and I believe Dan Hamhuis, his work will show early on.

Not lost in all this is what Thatcher Demko will get out of all of this. Melanson will most definitely be working with Demko on a periodical basis and what that spells is ALL STAR. Rollie took a very capable Roberto Luongo and Cory Schneider, tweaked some of their tendencies and turned them into Jennings trophy winners, All Stars and shut out beasts.

Demko has already proven he can be all of those things and getting valuable lessons and ice time with the former Canucks tendy talker will reap all the benefits, like all of them.

Back to Cloutier though; he knows the juggernaut that is the Vancouver hockey market and having lived through just as many bad times as the next Canucks tender, he knows what it will take to get past the hump. From travel to taking chances, Dan Cloutier is a fantastic pickup for Vancouver. Aside from a handful of goalies (Hedberg, Noronen, Auld, Flaherty) the Canucks have done pretty well in net.

The “Goalie Graveyard” has buried many names but the talent managed to keep coming somehow. As this wave of new talent is ushered in between the pipes, Dan Cloutier has a chance to reinvent himself and become the textbook for the future in Vancouver’s nets.

No more beach balls, no more lottery balls; basically no more balls.

At the very least, the Canucks will have a 1.000 SA% vs. centre ice shots. We can be sure of that.

 

Check The Canucks IR, You Like It So Far?

Props to every single one of you that get that reference.

This season, like so many others has been tested by injuries; but it’s how the Canucks have managed to adapt this year that brings hope for the future. Losing Alex Edler and Brandon Sutter to longer term injuries seems to be par for the course lately as the team has JUST been able to ice a healthy roster. However, the questions of how Willie Desjardins manages his young players are answering themselves through the infirmary.

The Vancouver Canucks aren’t even in the top 10 in man games lost but anyone watching on a regular basis knows its not just how many games are lost but the players that are injured. Dan Hamhuis just returned from a broken jaw after missing 21 games and Brandon Sutter’s sports hernia surgery kept him out for 33.

Not to mention Henrik Sedin’s back and Luca Sbisa’s hand, OH! and Ryan Miller; the Canucks have once again been dealt a pretty terrible hand. It might seem like all is going against the Canucks but when you look at who has been injured and I guess really, when, the guys looking to play full time have been given their chances.

When Jake Virtanen, Ben Hutton and Jared McCann made the team back in October, injuries to Chris Higgins and the timely poor play of Linden Vey and Frankie Corrado all made it possible for the guys everyone wanted to see crack the lineup. Same happened with Bo Horvat last year and now you couldn’t imagine this team without him.

Alex Biega was rewarded with a  shiny new contract after proving he is able to provide valuable services when the team is depleted. Circumstance can breed success and in the Canucks case, oddly enough its paying off. Biega has been a pretty nice depth addition to the Canucks and at some point he’ll be an every day top 6 for them. Ben Hutton pretty much took his own roster spot when September came, didn’t even ask. That’s so Hutton!

It hasn’t all been skittles and unicorns though; the injuries have really stretched this team thin and there have been moments this year where ice time has been amped up for guys that just shouldn’t be playing that much and mistakes mount. I seem to remember when Hamhuis was injured and Bieksa had to shoulder the load, that didn’t always end well.

It didn’t end well, you can cut out the maybe.

Matt Bartkowski is always in the mix for things to go wrong it seems (aside from when his mom is watching him live), and asking him to play more minutes on a defense that is adjusting on the fly can result in mistakes.

There’s a chance a trade or two happens by the deadline and injuries would continue to offer up opportunities for call ups to the likes of Andrey Pedan, Brendan Gaunce, Taylor Fedun and obviously Hunter Shinkaruk.

The Canucks are transitioning to a younger, faster, potentially Matthewsier type team and as the injuries pile up, we get more and more chances to see the eventual next wave of stars; and that’s just the guys up front.

On the back end, Jacob Markstrom is quickly becoming the next goalie the Canucks trade away for a 1st round pick. His 5-0-1 run in his last 6 games is turning heads and making Ryan Miller expendable. Ryan Miller hasn’t slouched this year but his age and cap hit aren’t very fan friendly. He can help any team making a run this year going into the deadline and would most likely bring back value.

For the second year in a row, Miller went down and this time Markstrom was the recipient of more starts. He didn’t disappoint. Eddie Lack didn’t either but that didn’t stop the Canucks from shipping him off. With Markstrom making a case to be the eventual #1, its just one more example of how injuries are secretly helping the Canucks.

It would be nice if we didn’t have to constantly see this team get decimated with hammys, hernias and hips but that’s hockey. Jim Benning and Willie Desjardins are very close to making some tough decisions based on their misfortune in the health department but every guy that has been given a chance has stepped up.

#TeamTank may still happen but the rebuild, if that’s what you want to call this, seems more like a reno. It may turn around quicker than we think.

Follow me on twitter: @always90four

Canucks Are Kinda The Phantom Menace

Positive – I just saw the new Star Wars movie. It was pretty good. Some cheese but building basically a new story isn’t easy. Its been a few years since Episode VI so you can forgive them a bit. 

Negative – The Canucks can’t seem to figure out what it is they’re doing. Are they destined to tank and get Auston Matthews, he of Zurich fame? Or will they continue to part together this team and hang by a thread like Luke Skywalker’s hand did in the Empire Strikes Back? Sweet reference hey?

How do these both tie together? The Canucks are basically Episode I – The Phantom Menance. Everyone couldn’t wait to see the rebuild, the how it all began or in the Canucks case, will begin; but sadly once people saw it, they realized it wasn’t all that good and everyone wondered if the franchise would get any better….or if this was the new suck they would have to endure.

A long time ago, in a salary cap era far, far away…

 

The 2013-2016 Canucks existed. There were questionable draft picks, questionable trades, questionable signings and ROCK SOLID CRITICISM at every turn. This has always been the norm in Canuckland but lately it seemed every decision was getting harder and harder to make. Was this team really that bad? Or are they a victim of injuries, some bad roster moves and an inability to see the forest for the very near trees?

Jim Benning and Trevor Linden have done some things that would make you scratch your head: trading for Derek Dorsett, Brandon Prust and Brandon Sutter are a few of those things. Signing those same players PLUS Luca Sbisa, Linden Vey to not very good contracts as well as waiving what seemed to be up and coming defenseman Frank Corrado are also things that happened. If you’re shaking your head even with no numbers in front of you, odds are your neck hurts.

This has and will continue to be a season of “Will they or won’t they” draft Auston Matthews with the first overall pick and it also is joined very tightly by the question of will this team lose out in the first round of the playoffs? As of today, both are very real possibilities which should frighten everyone. How can a team be so bad that they pick first overall but good enough, albeit, in a Wham!’s greatest hits (awful) of a division to hang around in the playoff hunt?

In two words – The Sedins.

No matter how hard this team seems to botch the opportunities they get, the Sedins always seem to be there to bail them out, usually in droves. Jannik Hansen is the latest benefactor of their talents and he’s having a career year, it’s no joke. The rest of this team is struggling to even possess a cold body that the crime lab could identify dental records from; they’re basically a skeleton.

The word “tank” comes up so much but no respectable athlete will ever tank. It’s not in their DNA. No one likes to lose. What the Canucks have in front of them though is a losing lineup. Injuries to star players, and I use that term quite lightly, Dan Hamhuis, Luca Sbisa, Ryan Miller and Chris Tanev (OK he’s actually a star) have hampered the team to the point of starting Linden Vey, Linden Vey and unbenchable Alex Biega.

Other decisions however, put the team in a position to lose all on its own. Starting Linden Vey in place of Adam Cracknell against the Los Angeles Kings on Monday night is dumb. Does Vey really bring that much physical impact to a game that benching the only guy even putting in a visible effort on that line makes sense? It’s beyond me. That’s on the coach.

These decisions, however minuscule add up and eventually may be the reason the Vancouver Canucks are proud to select from Somewheres, Arizona…Auston Mat…you get the point.

I have long supported this team, even with the decisions that have been made and I still believe there is some grand plan. What I don’t get is the path on how they plan on getting there. Finding out a trade was available for Ryan Miller to be shipped is shocking; Eddie Lack and Jacob Markstrom would have been an entertaining tandem until Thatcher Demko was ready to take the throne.

Giving in to Ryan Kesler’s demands and sending him to Anaheim when, if you really think about it, Chicago wouldn’t have been that much worse seems like a forced hand move. I don’t know what the return is on any given team for the players Benning wanted gone, but there has to be better options than what he received.

Thankfully there are bright spots, like the Phantom Menace, that keep us interested. Only recently have some of these come to light; take for example the Sven Baertschi line and what it’s produced. There hasn’t been a whole lot of actual “production” but the Baertschi/Horvat/Vrbata line since its brief inception around the beginning of December has netted those three a combined CF% of 59.4. Stunning!

George Lucas had to start somewhere and we got to see how cool pod racing was and the force, the force was there.

The goals haven’t arrived in particular but their opportunities have increased immensely. The Kings hammered the Canucks on Monday 5-buzz but guys like Baertschi have started to make an impact both physically and offensively. I believe its a matter of time before this line catches extreme heat. I’m rarely wrong, ask anyone.

Jared McCann is also a bright spot and carrying guys like Dorsett and Prust can’t be easy. This guy has had to endure awful linemates while his faceoff talents go to waste. He too will rise up the depth chart soon enough.  Being stuck with two Jar Jar Binks can only last so long before they axe those characters.

Playing out the games right now is all that they can do. A trade might be on the horizon but gifting a prospect or someone who can actually help the future isn’t the way to do it. This team might in fact go all the way to last place and if it does we should be ok with that. What isn’t OK is all the knee jerk reactions that come with it.

The coach can only ice what he’s given, the GM what is made available to him through trade or other. In the mean time, the Canucks will still struggle and that is all part of the process. It’s not fun most nights but it’s still a process.

Like Star Wars, it didn’t really get good until Episode IV.

Follow me on twitter: @always90four

When Are We Done With These Goalie Controversies?

I’ll admit, I like drama. No, not the Entourage character; he’s alright but I wouldn’t say I like him. I enjoy talking, debating, even yelling to people that are flat out wrong about the Canucks goaltending situation. The thing is, do they really have to keep up this charade EVERY year? When are we done with these goalie controversies?

Eddie Lack, Jacob Markstrom and Ryan Miller have all found themselves in the latest controversy in the Canucks net. There are plenty of ways this could go but the fact that Vancouver runs into this problem so frequently is a cause for concern. 

There really wasn’t a thing when Cloutier and Auld were in the mix, it was just “when are we going to get a better goalie that doesn’t let in beach balls?” That was fun. Those were simpler times. We just accepted that we had to wait.

Hey and then we drafted Cory Schneider. It was finally going to happen, our FRAN-CHISE goalie was here! College would be over in a few years and our knight in shining armour would arrive. The plan was set.

Oh right, then Dave Nonis went and pulled the ol’ We got a Todd Bertuzzi and he just totally tanked any stock he had when he punched Steve Moore so LETS TRADE HIM TO FLORIDA move. God bless the Panthers. Apparently, two problems create an answer.

Bertuzzi had seen his time pass in Vancouver and disgruntled superstar goalie Roberto Luongo wasn’t happy with his treatment in Florida so the trade was put in motion. Vancouver had its hero.

There’s no way anyone could have seen it end the way it did.

For the first few years it was ALL Roberto all the time and it didn’t seem to matter. Finishing one win off the NHL record in his first season, being nominated for everything under the sun and bringing the Canucks back into the conversation; Luongo hit the reset button hard and cemented himself as the Canucks best goaltender ever…and for a time, it’s best player.

It wasn’t all birthday cakes and unicorns though; Luongo had his critics and because he couldn’t do it all himself, he saw the storm coming and it was going to get messy. By the time Cory Schneider was ready, Luongo had hit the big time and an uber athlete like Roberto wasn’t giving that net up.

Schneider and Lu went neck and neck from the 2010-2012 seasons. Luongo starting as the alpha and finishing as the beta. Trainwrecks are better looking. The rumours of trades for both Cory and Roberto loomed large for such a long time and it became its own beast.

Even the hardcore Canucks fan was getting a little annoyed about how everything was playing out. Whatever you are going to do, DO IT!! We just all want to move on already. The rumours of where Cory could be dealt were intriguing and a player like Jordan Eberle coming back for Schneider would have been ok by me.

Playing a team six games a season isn’t that big of a deal. It may become that way now, but it surely wouldn’t have been back then and having a goalie as the guy you play against isn’t the worst, well unless he has a wrist shot.

So Schneider gets dealt to New Jersey for what would become Bo Horvat and that was it. We aren’t talking about it anymore, we moved on right?

WRONG.

All seemed right as Roberto Luongo was given back his team and new coach John Tortorella was going to push him to be his old self. He pushed him alright, right out of Vancouver. Luongo’s mismanagement was basically what sent him to the Canucks in the first place and now it had him going back to Florida for the same reasons minus the contract.

Lost in all of this was Eddie Lack. He never asked to be a part of the mess that is Vancouver’s goalie graveyard but here he is. Luongo was now gone and everything pointed to Lack and Jacob Markstrom (the goalie that came back in the Lu trade) as the new tandem. New GM Jim Benning had other plans it seemed.

Was Lack ready to handle the load? It didn’t exactly seem like it after Luongo was let go but how many backups really take a stranglehold on the starter job in a hockey nuts market? Im guessing not too many. Benning went out at free agency and threw 18 mil/3 years at aging tender Ryan Miller and he got his man.

Here we go again.

It turned out that yes indeed, we were right back in the muck. Ryan Miller would suffer an injury that forced Eddie Lack back into the spotlight and this time, he didn’t disappoint. This never ending roulette wheel kept spinning. Markstrom’s AHL fame gave him a chance to make his mark and with one loss, it all went away.

Markstrom’s run in the Calder Cup playoffs has given him another shot at the bigs and even if the Utica Comets, Vancouver’s AHL affiliate, loses the Final, there will be heavy chatter at the NHL Draft in Florida (go figure) about what the Canucks are going to do in net.

There is another college kid who should be ready around 2018 or so and by then if Lack and Markstrom are still here, we will have all found a way to hate one of them. Staying the course is the hardest thing to do with goaltending but with no real threat up front, the Canucks would be wise to let this all play out.

That or get back some picks, a player in return and even some hope that GM Jim Benning knows what to do with those things. At some point this nonsense has to end.

The Minnesota Wild made Devan Dubnyk a star, it doesn’t have to be this hard.

Follow me on twitter: @always90four

Cover photo – theprovince.com

Playoffs Loom Large; Eddie Lack is NOT Roberto Luongo

As Ryan Miller went down after Jannik Hansen collided into him, there was a silent fist pump by many that felt Eddie Lack was ready to take the lead in net. I still believe he is the more consistent choice to go with down the stretch and into the playoffs, but as good as Lack has been he hasn’t had a break. He’s the #1 right now but I’m not sure he is built to be literally an every game player; he’s not Roberto Luongo.

I should probably clarify and maybe I’m contradicting myself here so I’ll just get it out; Eddie Lack is a solid starting goaltender and his ability to stand in for Ryan Miller since the injury has been hero like. He has basically played every game since, aside from Jacob Markstrom’s coffee cup appearances. He is on a collision course to burn out though. Here’s where I compare him to Luongo.

Roberto played 18 of the final 26 games of the regular season in 2010/11 and he also had a stellar partner in Cory Schneider. Luongo won 11 of those 18 games and even though he had a heavy work load, he was fresh when he needed to be and had a reliable replacement. We all know how that spring went and it’s not a surprise why Vancouver’s goaltending was as amazing as it was even against Boston.

Eddie doesn’t have the same team in front of him that Roberto had and he also doesn’t have a goalie equally as talented as Cory Schneider, at least not yet. We’ve seen goalies burn out from playing too many consecutive games (Kiprusoff, Luongo in 07) and its a recipe for disaster. 

Lack has played 17 of the last 18 games since Miller went down, winning 10. He was yanked twice and you can tell he has been fatigued. His resiliant play has redeemed his shaky early starts though. A few starts on games against the bum teams (Sabres, Oilers, Arizona, Etc.) may have made things a bit easier.

The Canucks are on the brink of a berth in this year’s post season and Lack will no doubt be the man they turn to. Even when Ryan Miller is 100% healthy he won’t be even close to playoff ready and aside from a series swing where a goalie change is needed, he won’t see the ice as a participant. Will Lack be able to stay fresh? Possibly.

With 5 games left, Eddie will probably play 4 of them, potentially less if they clinch early or clinch and have a guaranteed opponent. That being said, it won’t get any easier after that. Games played every second night will be gruesome dogfights and he will be relied upon more than ever and giving up the usual 2-0 deficit won’t fly.

Luongo had his faults as well and wasn’t perfect the entire playoffs, he had some off nights. But what Luongo had learned in previous years was how to win and lose on the big stage. It took some time but he came into his own and was almost unbeatable when it mattered. Again, he had rest and was fresh almost every night.

Willie D has been very loyal to Lack and what he has done for the Canucks, but could it be a big mistake if they crash and burn in the first round? Tough to say but one thing is for sure; without Lack, that wouldn’t even be an option.

Follow me on twitter: @always90four

Photo credit – vansunsportsblogs.com

JARKKO POLO: Good Wins, BAD Losses and Bill Simmons

Oh man what a week! The Canucks played four very meaningful games, one of which they forgot about and helped their chances of making this year’s playoffs. The Flyers and Blue Jackets came to Rogers Arena and then the Canucks flew to Los Angeles and Glendale for games against the Kings and Coyotes respectively. It doesn’t get any easier from here on out so there will be a lot of puck until mid April.

Zack Kassian dropped out of the lineup with a back injury, Brad Richardson was in and out of the lineup and Ronalds Kenins was forced to play russian roulette with Willie D for his roster spot. With the bad comes the good though; Alex Burrows tapped into his 2011 archives and lit the lamp twice with the Sedins against Philly, Bo Horvat scored a pair the last few games and Eddie Lack might just be the new #1 goalie in Vancouver, might be. Also, some guy named Bill Simmons really hates the Sedins.

THE GAMES WE PLAYED

Vs. Philadelphia Flyers – WIN  4-1 (Burrows is BACK!)

RECAP: Injuries have hurt the Canucks this year and losing Zack Kassian seemed to be a real test but wouldn’t ya know it, Alex Burrows comes back to play with the Sedins and scores two gorgeous goals. It was a great win especially because the late Pat Quinn was honoured. All around great night.

Vs. Columbus Blue Jackets – LOSE 6-2

RECAP: Bo Horvat scored his 12th of the season followed by Daniel Sedin making it 2-0 in the 2nd. Somehow, that’s when the wheels came off. Marko Dano was the star for the ‘Bus and it just got stinky. The Canucks gave up 6 unanswered goals and were embarrased out of their own rink. To be fair, Columbus had been winning some games lately and they weren’t as bad as their record showed. Canucks still lost and it sucked. RESET

@ Los Angeles Kings – WIN 4-1 SUCK IT KINGS!!!

RECAP: What had the makings of a playoff game, ended up being a playoff-like game. Vancouver and LA do not like each other and that was made aware early on. Hard hitting, chippy and cheap; the Kings came to get 2 points. After going down 1-0 in the 2nd, Nick Bonino hit a bloop single past Jonathan Quick to tie it up. Tyler Toffoli became the most hated man on the planet when he levelled Alex Burrows into the boards from behind. The Canucks went ahead on the PP in the 3rd and proceeded to pummel the Kings into submission. Oh ya, Eddie Lack almost fought Quick. HUGE win for the Canucks and a real death blow to the Kings playoff chances.

@ Arizona Coyotes – WIN 3-1 Marky Mark Gets the Win

RECAP: This one was not a game anyone had circled on the calendar unless you were going on a road trip. The Canucks needed these points though, needed em bad. Yannick Weber opened the scoring on a great play from Daniel Sedin and Radim Vrbata. After Arizona tied it up Alex Edler put Vancouver ahead on a shot from the point and the Canucks never looked back. Key notes in this one were odd: Kenins sat for McMillan, Markstrom WON!, there were more posts than a blogger on speed and yes, Mike Smith had an epic dive.

So the Bill Simmons thing. I really don’t get why he hates the Sedins so much. He is a self proclaimed Boston fanatic and yet he still hates the Sedins? Bud, the Bruins won the Cup 4 seasons ago, it’s old. He seems uneducated, ESPN must see something we don’t. Im sure he thought the Toffoli his was a masterpiece. Here’s another thing, why is he even watching LA/VAN to begin with? Im lost.

All in all, the Canucks had a great week despite the Jackets game and they are finding out how to play a full 60 with everyone they have. Vancouver might do ok this spring, weirder things HAVE happened. The way Eddie Lack is playing and the contributions from pretty much everyone, this season has been a welcome change from the dumpster fire of last year.

3 THINGS FROM TWITTER

Screw it, that was a good pic!

Big week ahead with the Jets, Millionaires jerseys against the Avs and the Stars at the end of the week. Till next time: JARKKO………POLO!!

Follow this fly cat on twitter: @always90four

Canucks Are Past The Future, It’s Here

Going into the trade deadline as well as the final push to finish the season in the top 16 is an exciting time. Is making a trade going to help the Canucks go deep into the playoffs or is it false hope and a meaningless dump of talent yet again? Jim Benning has played his cards pretty cool this year and even though Ryan Miller hasn’t been entirely as advertised, or really as we fantasized; its been a very productive year.

Thankfully the rest of the NHL is making moves right now that don’t really involve the Canucks and some of them are trading for LTIR spots (while still paying said players). That’s just fine by me. In past years, former GM’s have traded for Keith Carney, Eric Weinrich, Sami Pahlsson (post mono), Derek Roy, Chris Higgins and Max Lapierre. Oh I forgot, one of those GM’s dealt Luongo too!

The actual market that exists still isnt exactly enticing this spring and the best thing Vancouver’s Jim Benning can do is take a nap; well unless Ryan Miller can be moved. It’s not that Miller hasn’t been a good goalie, its that its ALL he’s been. It doesn’t really make sense why they went after him in the first place but I can buy the theory that they wanted to groom the kids under his tutelage. 

Did that happen sooner than management thought? It looks that way. It was a pricey teaching assignment but who really cares, its not my money. So now what does Benning do in net? The cheap option and quite frankly the best option IMO is to move Miller as the Leafs did David Clarkson (Ok ok ok, not the same but it sorta is) to a team that can take the hit OR decide who gets you the most between the IKEA boys and milk it for all its worth as the market is paying great this season. Keeping Eddie Lack and/or Jacob Markstrom keeps the seat warm for Thatcher Demko in about 5 years or less.

What does the rest of the team hold though? Up on line numero uno, the Sedins are still proving their worth but the time is coming soon where they start sliding back down the rankings. Everything else has options; Alex Burrows despite his injuries has had a nice bounce back season. Moving him isn’t neccesarily a smart move. A finisher and clutch playoff performer, he may not put up big regular season numbers anymore but I like Burr when it counts.

Nick Bonino, Luca Sbisa and Chris Higgins all strike me as trade bait this year. Bonino and Sbisa just aren’t Canucks. Sounds stupid to say what a Canuck is but there isn’t a “fit” there. Higgins is halfway through his 4 year deal but his role as the worker bee seems to be done. On the flip sided, Ronny Kenins, Shawn Matthias and upon his safe return, Brad Richardson, have fulfilled that role in spades and they all seem to be producing on top of many other talents.

Move a piece, get a younger piece.

Bo Horvat was the piece we didn’t reallllly know we needed until he got healthy and started being all faceoff winny and goal scorey. I thought Hunter Shinkaruk would have come up at the same time but that hasn’t panned out yet. Horvat took a shortcut and could really make a difference sooner than later; he’s not going anywhere.

This season was billed as a retool and as they played we would see what the team needed to do. Well, if any of us thought they would do this well, Benning and Trevor Linden probably would have made a few moves sooner. We all talk about the future and when prospects turn into valuable roster players and the results were different than we thought and actually better. 

Kenins has been a find and a half, Matthias has basically been the Tiger Woods 2015 putt preview for Zack Kassian this year and the diamonds in the rough keep coming. The answers always seem to come when the right questions are asked. Kevin Bieksa, Alex Edler, Chris Tanev and newbie Frankie Corrado all signed up for injury camp and a few new guys stepped up. Enter Adam Clendening and Alex Biega

A Chicago cast off and a timely call up have turned the sting into a boost. This Canucks team should not be doing as well as they have been and they are far from the team that started in October. Clendening and Biega aren’t stealing anyones jobs right now but the ridiculous depth they have given the Canucks is stunning. They are a few key forwards and maybe a dman short of a poor mans 2011.

AGAIN, the cavalry isn’t here but the services of Kevin Bieksa start to become expendable. Just another salary cut the Canucks can afford to move. The injuries don’t help right now but hey Evander Kane got traded and he’s a mess. Every move towards the future seems to have taken a big step forward. Speaking of forwards…

Then there’s the young amazing young winger version of the career killer Bryan Allen: Jake Virtanen. He might get a shot as soon as next season; I bet Horvat is ok with that.

The future of the Canucks is basically here. So Jimbo, sell the old parts for picks or heck troll the Kelowna Rockets and make a move for Flyers prospect Tyrell Goulbourne, Caps future star blueliner Madison Bowey or somehow parlay the first pick you make this year into a better one for stud forward Nick Merkley. Now about those NTCs.

You are shooting out the lights Benning and the cresendo is about to be occur.

Playoffs or not this year, the Canucks are on the verge and you should be happy.

PS: This is not a public service announcement for the Rockets, but it isn’t hard to do.

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