jake virtanen

Matt Duchene Is True Foundational Player Canucks Need in Rebuild

It’s hard to believe the Colorado Avalanche would actually trade Matt Duchene but rumour on the street is that it’s in the cards. Duchene along with Gabriel Landeskog are apparently being shopped or will soon be shopped. The Canucks seriously need to kick tires on a potential deal with the Avs.

Not only would Duchene solved a serious void up the middle but it would force the Canucks to buy in to the future earlier and put the rebuild on the fast track. Safe to say, it won’t come cheap but competing for a Stanley Cup comes at a cost.

In the recent Monday morning musings with Ed Willes, the hint bomb was dropped that Joe Sakic wants to build the Avalanched around star Tim Hortons actor, Nathan Mackinnon. It’s a great idea and there must be some reason he’s willing to part with stars Landeskog and Duchene but who really cares.

The word in hockey circles is that Joe Sakic, the head of the Avs hockey department, will look to move Duchene and Landeskog and build the team around MacKinnon.

No one asks why the expensive Air Jordans are selling for $60 at your local Marshalls, you just buy them because you’re not an idiot.

Jim Benning has stated that he isn’t parting with anyone really but you have to believe that’s on a day by day basis. I say to myself every day that I’m going to work out but things change and also beer. I stick to the plan overall but it doesn’t mean I’m not going to have a little fun too!

We are now in the Christmas roster freeze which means no coaches, players or even Jimbo himself can be moved but there has to be talks going on. Both of these teams have needs and can accomodate each other.

Scoring Duchene probably won’t happen for Jake Virtanen, Luca Sbisa and a 3rd, so Jim will have to get creative. Going forward, who are the locks for foundational pieces?

– Bo Horvat, Troy Stecher, Ben Hutton, Chris Tanev and maybe Sven Baertschi? These are the current roster players that Colorado would be interested in most likely as well as a prospect and a pick. You never want to give up your best when someone isn’t giving back their best.

I could see Chris Tanev being involved but if I’m still planning on being the GM of the Canucks, the defense I’ve mentioned is a non-starter. Alex Edler would be available, Luca Sbisa and Erik Gudbranson even. On forward, Jake Virtanen, Jannik Hansen, Brandon Sutter and Markus Granlund could be involved.

The Canucks always seem to be the ones giving up the house and it would be really nice if they actually saw the stronger side of a deal for once. There was the Christian Ehrhoff deal, so I guess that’s one for us.

With all the hiccups in Jake Virtanen’s immediate development, I just don’t get the vibe he’s giving. It feels like Cody Hodgson 2.0 without the shotty injury notes. Jake looks like he “could” develop into a top 9 forward, maybe a ceiling of 2nd line winger but even from the get-go, Canucks brass knew he was a work in progress.

Matt Duchene, however, is a star in motion. He’s Canadian, for one, a decorated Olympian, a goal scorer and a playmaker. The Canucks barely have half of that combination with any player, not named Sedin. Duchene is 25 years old and teetering on 400 career points. His power play stats are everything the Canucks would dream of and he’s right at the beginning of his prime. The day is coming soon when the Sedins hit line 2 or 3 and there has to be a plan.

We hear again and again, there’s no plan. Jake Virtanen has no clue what HIS plan is, who knows what the plan is in net. Brandon Sutter was put with the Twins and the $6 million man, Loui Eriksson, gets less time on the first line after every game.

As far as coaching goes, it’s up in the air too! Pretty easy to see that when the management group can’t even put together a roster to compete. Bringing in Matt Duchene makes way too much sense and it’s early enough in his career that he can be defined as a lifer in Vancouver.

Normally, these types of players only come through the draft but the Avalanche are also at a crossroads and this deal could help both teams move forward(s) pun intended.

I am on board the Matt Duchene train (hey, that rhymes!) and the Canucks should be too.

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Jake Virtanen, Cody Hodgson, Zack Kassian: Honestly, What’s The Difference?

This seems like a recurring theme with the Canucks. With Cody Hodgson, it was the promise of a potential future captain, a top line pivot and the ability to control a game himself. Trading Hodgson for Zack Kassian after “the run” was reactionary to get bigger and tougher. It never really happened and unfortunately, Zack needed to change some things too. Jake Virtanen is drafted as a complementary scoring winger that can hit and drive play.

He has one hit to his name that’s even worth talking about, the goals are missing and most nights, so is he. Is Jake Virtanen really any different than the past versions of “hope” in Vancouver?

Jake Virtanen was sent down to Utica on Wednesday on a two-game assignment, apparently, that will solve everything. Through 10 games this season, Virtanen has 1 assist and 13 shots, hardly even worth mentioning, even on THIS Canucks team. His deployment hasn’t exactly been ideal but then again what really is the best situation for Jake?

There were plenty of signs last year that Jake wasn’t exactly in a position to excel in the NHL after the Canucks kept him up on the big club. He struggled at times and didn’t really use his size to his advantage. Maybe he just needs to bulk up and focus on what made him worth taking 6th overall in 2014. Or, maybe he should focus on being an everyday NHLer and work his butt off like everyone else.

Virtanen has had it pretty good since arriving in Vancouver. He’s a Bieber bud, he’s the face of Twitter (ok he was just a guest but still) and if he ever DOES get his power forward game in check, he will be a whole lot more. Canucks fans have longed for an aggressor since the days of Todd Bertuzzi and that role has never been filled after he left.

Zack Kassian was supposed to be that guy, he was supposed to be the next Milan Lucic (kinda ironic, hey?) but Kassian just wasn’t the right guy for that role. He is a physical player with really soft hands but knowing what we know about Kass, he isn’t exactly Milan Lucic.

Before Kassian, it was Cody Hodgson that was supposed to be the next skilled star to carry the Canucks and maybe stick up for himself a bit too. To be fair, I don’t think that was the Canucks’ intent on getting Cody, he was a skilled and was going to be a goal scorer. Unfortunately, injuries, misdiagnoses, and a meddling dad pretty much ripped those dreams apart.

For everyone.

The Canucks have always looked for a talented forward that could stick up for his teammates as well as score big goals and drive the wing. They’ve had bangers like Raffi Torres, Maxim Lapierre and I guess Anson Carter but aside from Todd Bertuzzi and I can’t really say before my time but Stan Smyl and Harold Snepts (guessing here), it’s always been a need in Vancouver.

Can Virtanen be the player the Canucks and their fans want him to be or have they missed the mark yet again when they could have had, you know what, I’m not going there; he was the guy they wanted and that’s that.

I do remember that pick and from everything I had heard, he wasn’t exactly a game breaker but man could he hit! He does offer a lot if he can get things going and it may take a few years to become the Bertuzzi heir-apparent. What Jake needs is to keep his eyes on the prize; this team is so young and he has a real opportunity to be a difference maker for years.

It wouldn’t be the worst thing to see Jake build himself up in Utica for a few months and make him earn that spot in Vancouver. It’s not going anywhere, that can be assured. Willie Desjardins might not even be the Canucks coach the next time Virtanen plays with the orca on his chest so maybe it’s just the coach, who knows?

We all remember the “murders” by Jake, and no that isn’t a play on that alt rock/boy band, so we know what’s there. Does he, though, does he know what we know?

 

Check me out on twitter: @always90four

IWBITS: Canucks At Centre Of Attention

Staying healthy is a big key to any teams success and the Vancouver Canucks are no different. Last season, the Canucks lost Brandon Sutter for a large chunk of the 2015/16 campaign with a broken jaw (and not becauseit hit the floor from his team being astonishingly bad) as well as a sports hernia. Having your #2 pivot on the shelf definitely creates opportunity for a guy like Bo Horvat but it came at a cost.

Part two of the It’ll Be Interesting To See series focuses on the Canucks need for consistency at the centre position. Henrik Sedin will once again be the main man up front and will draw the lions share of matchups. A healthy Brandon Sutter will take pressure off of Henrik needing to be the answer every game.

When Sutter IS in the lineup he creates options for the Canucks as Bo Horvat can develop his game on the 3rd line. Having three solid options at centre makes life easier, any coach will tell you. Having them produce is an entirely different issue. Henrik Sedin, Bo Horvat and former Canuck Jared McCann combined for 36 goals last year and that…that just isn’t very good at all. The Canucks have been able to see better results when guys like Horvat and Sven Baertschi get less attention and this year Baertschi will most likely get the 2nd line duties with Sutter.

Line chemistry is a lot easier when you have a guy night in and night out that you recognize instead of going through the blender and seeing new faces all the time. Jake Virtanen will benefit from an improved Horvat and can bring some meat and potatoes to the 3rd line where it really needs to get going.

You have to believe the Canucks can still make a move before the season gets going or maybe they wait out training camp and see who impresses. Does Anton Rodin thrill and get a job? Its possible. Having him play with Horvat and Virtanen would be fun if they get going. Tuomo Ruutu has earned a PTO with Vancouver and a veteran presence might work out on either of those secondary lines.

What will be interesting to see is if the Canucks centres DO stay healthy and create chances and goals that were very much lacking a season ago. There is not Cup run with this year’s edition of the Vancouver Canucks but being able to roll four lines does increase their chances of success. I can see a hybrid approach with Horvat and Sutter interchanging on the 2nd/3rd lines but that pretty much comes down to results I think.

Sutter will be given every chance to own that 2nd line but if Horvat does what he did in his rookie year, Willie Desjardins may have an interesting problem on his hands; does that actually happen? Well this probably isn’t a team that we should expect miracles from just yet.

The wrench in all of this is if Henrik goes down with a back injury for any length of time; the Canucks just aren’t built to survive without him yet. Everyone waited in horror as he didn’t sit down for a whole game, even though it was close to Christmas, he wasn’t standing to get first crack at the presents under the tree, we all watched knowing full well something was up.

A lengthy Hank injury will most likely keep the Canucks in a 1st to 5th overall drafting position in 2017 so his health will be monitored every time he looks like he is ailing. I mean, Henrik’s an old guy in hockey terms but he’s only 36 and has kept his body in pretty amazing shape. Fluke injuries happen but he also doesn’t put himself in position to get hurt either.

I don’t want to see this team plunge again this year but there isn’t much dictating a different result. Perhaps some key goaltending and solid defense will aid the team’s chances if they do in fact get things going.

Being a centre in a Canucks uniform draws a lot of criticism but the ones that have succeeded here have seen their fair share and rose above it. The phone lines open full time in a few weeks and it will be interesting to see who they put in the cross hairs.

 

cover photo: vancouversun.com

Canucks Doing It All For The Rookie(s)

The Canucks came into this season as a rebuild, Jim Benning and his lies just watched their team lose to the Flames; dwelling on the past, it was burning on his brain, he went and signed Bartkowski, Sutter and they still kept Linden Vey. A season of growth, surprises and yet another minor goalie controversy, the dead weight was starting to fall off and it was the young guns that were getting the chances. 

We still bit in like a chump, hey! Like a chump? HEY! 

But the Canucks did it all for the rookies.

 

With 14 games left, its safe to say the Canucks won’t be at the big dance come April. The “P-word” as many are calling it, is something they’ll be building towards next season. Injuries have been a big reason they aren’t close as well as a lackluster roster that hasn’t been updated to compete in the current NHL.

Willie Desjardins is finally giving the rookies, Bo Horvat and Sven Baertschi the proper time they deserve, even if that means Derek Dorsett and Emerson Etem have to hang around and ride shotgun. It hasn’t been easy to watch and with the first overall pick still a realistic possibility, there is a good chance we’ll see more of this to end the year.

When it all began, Jake Virtanen earned his spot, Jared McCann did too and Ben Hutton? Well we all know he was a guarantee to make it, how do you even debate that? Not entirely true I guess; Chris Higgins needed to go on LTIR so that kind of opened up a spot. Frankie Corrado seemed to be the guy that would make it but then he was waived!??!?!

I mentioned that it wasn’t Hutton who stole that job but actually Alex Biega. Benning saw what he wanted to after he made that move and inked Biega to a 2 year deal. Frankie, like Hunter Shinkaruk, just didn’t fit the plan.

Looking up and down the roster it’s amazing to see how much youth has actually played this year. Bo Horvat is tied with Daniel Sedin with 68 games played, for most games played this season, Hutton (61), McCann (58) and Virtanen (43) have all contributed as well as a hand full of first NHL games to boot.

This season has seen a blend of options and on the Sedin line alone, they’ve had approximately 8 different partners. The injuries have been a significant reason they have had new blood on a semi-regular basis.

Every position has taken a hit but it’s been up the middle and on the back end that’s been hit the hardest. Dan Hamhuis, through one fluke injury or another, has missed 24 games; Brandon Sutter has missed 47 games with and will probably not play again this season, Luca Sbisa missed 26 games with an injured hand and foot and those are just the big ones.

As a team, the Canucks have been decimated for 213 man games lost (as of March 12/16). Thankfully, that has meant a whole lot more ice time for Hutton, Virtanen, Horvat and now new Canuck fave Sven Baertschi. But in the last week, those guys aren’t stealing the spotlight anymore. Cue….Nikita Tryamkin.

It sure has been awhile since a Russian has made headlines in Vancouver, for the right reasons anyways. We could talk about Fedor Fedorov or Kirill Koltsov but that isn’t very exciting. Don’t get me wrong, Ben Hutton isn’t losing his hold as future top dman but with the build of the Russian Bear, Tryamkin gets an opportunity that few former Canucks prospects get.

Guaranteed ice time.

Let’s ask ourselves though, does Benning have a hidden agenda, will he put the tender season in a blender or will he surrender…like a chump. HEY!

All accounts say its still “P-word” or bust (playoffs) so they’ll tow the company line and continue to insist this season is still salvageable. What actually is salvageable is the hope we should have for next year when the purse strings open and management goes all in on whatever star is available.

Eventually, the likes of Andrey Pedan, Alex Grenier and Brendan Gaunce will be regulars, Horvat/Virtanen/McCann/Hutton will all be seasoned vets and if the dominoes continue to fall….maybe even Auston Matthews; but one thing is for sure: if it wasn’t for the long list of injuries this year, we might not know how long this rebuild was going to take.

Now at least, there seems to be some light at the end of the tunnel and if we look about 3 years away I have a feeling the phrase “Demko, Demko very much” may catch on. Something about wins, shutouts and being the goalie of the future, I dunno.

The rebuild carries on but the Canucks did it all for the rookies (so far).

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

Jake Virtanen Skates Into Canucks History, But Why? 

To no ones surprise, the retro 94? 95? night is coming to a Vancouver Canucks near you and I for one am slightly excited. The sole basis of this site is because that jersey and the things that occurred in it took the Canucks to the next level. The former ownership felt that look needed to go and introduced the lovely crapping whale you see before you.

Is this the test phase of what’s to come, even if only as an occasional third jersey which the Millionaires get up failed to accomplish (it was the lack of wins I think). What also intrigues me is why Jake Virtanen of all people is the face of this mini revolution. Intriguing indeed.

I’ve waited so long to see this retro skate look come back; if it had the skate logo I was interested in it. We’ve all talked about how one day the Canucks could bring it back, maybe as a third or even in its current form with the blue/green/white colors. I’ve seen some mock ups and they aren’t too shabby.

When we dabble into nostalgia we get the feels and remember the good times, our favorite players and the excitement it brought; but there’s a reason things move forward too! Black, red and yellow isn’t exactly a modern color scheme that screams dollar bills. Apparently maroon, silver and any incarnation of that mix still works though.

Thankfully the Canucks figured out it wasn’t a good look.

OK, so beyond the excitement of reliving some memories that we think were great, when in fact things almost fell apart, the merch that the Canucks will enjoy a hot market with, what else is there to look forward to?

For starters, the choice of Jake Virtanen to be the face of the new/retro look.

The Canucks have a pretty good crop of players to choose from to be their marketing pawn but why Jake Virtanen? He hasn’t been a standout this year, he hasn’t really been a whole lot of anything really. Don’t get me wrong, its not that he isn’t worthy of being that guy but why not Bo Horvat?

Bo has had a phenomenal turnaround and the sophomore slump we had labelled him with seems to have been very off. This isn’t a Bo Horvat piece though, we’re sticking to Jake Virtanen.

It can’t be his stat line because 2 goals and 3 assists aren’t exactly “Face of the Franchise” type numbers; but I doubt they make these kinds of decisions based who’s done well lately.

Maybe the Canucks are ready to buy in completely on this youth movement and who better but the guy that leveled Connor McDavid? Jake has seen an increase in opportunity on the ice and is getting some better line mates but don’t expect to see his likeness draping 40 feet on the windows of Rogers Arena.

Putting Ryan Miller as the face of this #retronight would have been a good idea as he’s the one who will be artistically on display the most. New goalie pads, block, trapper and a slick paint job on his bucket will make for a pretty cool look when the Canucks face off against the Leafs on February 13.

It’s only a few weeks until this one off night takes place but we’ve been waiting a long time for this and if anyone thinks this is just a re-hash of the Millionaires saga, they’re wrong. We never wanted that one but welcomed it anyways. The skate logo WAS the Canucks for everyone in my generation and even before that. This one may bring us full circle and help us to close the door on a chapter we weren’t ready to let end.

On that note, I’ve put my hat into the ring and am hoping to launch this guy on a new black tee in honor of the game. Hit me up if you are interested in getting one.

It truly is Always90four

It truly is Always90four

Follow me on twitter: @always90four

Being Willie Desjardins Must Be Hard

I really don’t know how Willie Desjardins has a job some days and others, I applaud him for taking the crap that he does. Visually, he gives off a pretty inconsistent vibe when he’s on the bench; he’s angry at times, twitchy and that patented Willie smile just makes it all go away. Oh, I forgot about the confused face. Most of these don’t even register on the “Real Good Scale” but man, it must be hard to be Willie. Two seasons in and people are already calling for his head.

Just another Thursday I guess.

The line deployments have been beaten to death online and on TSN 1040 but it’s beyond me why guys like Derek Dorsett, Brandon Prust, Matt Bartkowski and even Luca Sbisa are out there to play down important shifts after a TV time out, the final minute or less of a game or a defensive zone face off that easily could have Jared McCann or Bo Horvat up there…or heck, why not the top center on our team, the Captain Henrik Sedin?

Is it a case of #pretank or #tankcurrentday, possibly. You would think having the best possible line out during important moments would be smart but if its a case of resting the top players, that’s just not right.

There are many things that anger us about our coach but he has seen past our comments and criticisms and has quietly developed some great players, he actually has. Sven Baertschi was on his last straw but Willie gave him another shot, but with Bo and now they are quickly becoming a line that can’t be contained.

Anyone see that coming? Were you willing to wait? I wasn’t.

It is still pretty confusing to see how he uses Vancouver’s goalies. It’s pretty clear Miller and Markstrom are dueling bandoliers lately and with the amount of shots they seem to face, it MIGHT be a smart idea to spread those starts out, just sayin.

All these decisions have brought the angry mobs out of the word work yet again and two seasons in and Willie is on the block already? What’s warranted that? He has Henrik and Daniel Sedin, some developing talent and a GM who isn’t exactly taking the world by storm.

Jim Benning is the guy that deserves a bit more of the criticism not Willie. Go up and down the roster and there isn’t anything that screams playoff contender.

When Henrik and Daniel celebrate their 37th birthday, there might not be much left that they can do and if Benning doesn’t set the Canucks up with a coachable, winnable roster, then Willie Desjardins is by far not the biggest concern.

Many of us thought goaltending was still a problem, its the D in front of them that seems to be the red light issue. If Alex Edler was still in 2010 or his sticks didn’t break for starters, that would be one less guy that we have to worry about; or how bout Matt Bartkowski, seriously why is he here? I could even make a case for why Luca Sbisa shouldn’t be here but I’m willing to wait him out a bit more.

Risky, I know.

The future does look bright though and hooray for Willie’s steady use of Ben Hutton and Chris Tanev. It would help if Benning added some more talent back there or even players that would keep the puck from going into the Canucks zone if Vancouver had possession more.

Tough to say how the season shakes out and if Willie gets kicked to the curb and maybe Travis Green gets the nod, who knows?

What we do know is that there’s no way his job can be easy and I’m willing to see how he makes this work with what he has. There was a time when all we had was Luongo….seriously.

Follow me on twitter: @always90four

Jake Virtanen IS Kylo Ren

There are many times I write absolutely irrelevant posts and get ripped apart, this might be one of those. Also, I am not attaching a spoiler alert to this guy because honestly…you should have seen the new Star Wars by now; it’s been a month. So what the heck am I even talking about? A simple comparison of two polarizing figures in their respective arenas (Jake literally) and a shameless excuse to fit Star Wars into a Canucks post. 

I’ll try and keep it to the point.

This week’s Pass it to Bulis podcast had a heavy dose of Star Wars in it and it got me thinking about the newest spectacle “The Force Awakens” and who might relate to some of the characters. I’m probably wrong on this as I really wanted to compare Zack Kassian but he isn’t a Canuck anymore and that would ring on deaf ears.

I’m not so sure this won’t.

So Kylo Ren is the new villian in the Star Wars saga and he’s dealing with some personal issues, not to mention he has a slight case of FD (forcetial disfunction). He got the force from his mom Leia so its really like 3rd generation force and it just isn’t strong enough. Ren took over as the Dark Side captain but he struggles to live up to the potential that’s been placed on him by Snoke (new supreme leader) and the force itself.

Was he ready for the force? Is he going to be Vader when he grows up or will he just be another guy that joins the Dark Side and has angst. We’ll know soon enough in a few years.

Not so much unlike rookie Canucks winger Jake Virtanen. Jake was given the mantle as the next star winger that has size, a booming hit and finishing skills. He won’t be Todd Bertuzzi, Cam Neely or really the illusion we had of Zack Kassian before the bottom fell out. Virtanen has a great frame, clearly has skill with the puck and without; his “murders” are anticipated every single game and he’s still raw.

Kylo Ren and Jake Virtanen are at the beginning of their journeys where one needs to decide if he truly is evil and can destroy the Jedi’s existence while the other one is figuring out how to fit his role with the body and talent he’s been given.

Virtanen started his season with promise; he made some monster hits early on, the McDavid one still being everyone’s favourite, but then after being granted opening night status, slowly began to fade. OK, he’s totally green to the NHL and everyone has a different path on how they get there but it got to the point where it seemed Jake needed some kind of wake up call.

Sending him to the World Juniors was supposed to be that wake up call. Turns out, Big Country had a forgettable tournament and joined the rest of his Canada team mates when they went home before the semis. Jake came back with a chip on his shoulder and a headline that could crush any kid. He turned that into confidence and he’s now getting the feel for the game on his own terms.

He isn’t dealing with the force or a a giant digital head telling him what to do; Jake Virtanen is learning the NHL game and he’s been given an opportunity that clearly Kylo Ren turned down when the Resistance came to turn him back against the Dark Side. Jake’s development won’t be a steep learning curve, he’ll need guidance he’s getting more and more chances to show what he can do.

With a few goals on the season already, might we see the Force Awak….no, that was just bad. You can stop reading now.

Follow me on twitter: @always90four

Breaking Bo

It was only a matter of time before it happened.

Bo Horvat has shown us for quite some time that he has the skills to pay the bills (copyright 1992 Beastie Boys via Capitol Records). The chances continued to come, the drive was there but for whatever reason, Bo lacked the finish. Through no fault of his own he just couldn’t bury that puck. Well the first week of 2016 has turned that all around. It took 28 games to finally get his 3rd tally of the year and less than a game later, he had 2 more.

2016 is the start of Breaking Bo.

Bo Horvat had a pretty impressive rookie campaign, which started hot as well. A goal in his 7th game followed by 3 asssists the following game against Chicago. He knew where to be and he gave Willie Desjardins enough to go on that he kept him on the team. From there, 12G and 13A to go along with a 51.4 FOW%.

But that’s just meat and potatoes, dig deeper and he was basically producing at the clip that should have been expected with a PDO of 100.3. His 5v5 CF% was again right where you’d expect at 45.2% but considering he was being promoted pretty steadily to eventually the 2nd line center job, you’d think that may have increased. Just remember, he was 19….and getting it done.

Fast forward to this season and we all hoped the sophomore slump wouldn’t rear its head but it did. Bo worked as hard as anyone and he has been visibly one of the most determined, creative guys in the lineup.

It’s finally culminated into production and this goal against Carolina just proves we are still witnessing the infancy of Bo Horvat’s talent:

Remind you of anyone?

Im not saying he’s Todd Bertuzzi, that’s a little premature and inaccurate. Bo Horvat probably won’t be known for leveling guys with ease and effortlessly demolishing them along the boards, but what he does share is that driving power move to the net and there are only so many guys that do that well.

Bo has been sprung many times this year and NOT scored but if you could have a top 10 of highlight reel goals that didn’t go in, Bo Horvat would have a monthly segment on Sportsnet. His determination to get in the dirty areas now is going to be the thing that puts him over the hump. Riding a slump that almost capped out at a 1/3 of the games he played can’t be easy but he never changed how he played.

Everything is smooth sailing on the top line with the Sedins and Jannik Hansen getting it done but since coach WD put Sven Baertschi together with Bo, things began to change. You just had the feeling they got each other. This won’t be the second coming of the West Coast Express, I’ve already given that title to another line; but Baertschi and Horvat are sure forming some impressive chemistry and it may be a matter of time before they add a permanent winger to that mix….maybe Jake Virtanen? A banger on that line would be lethal.

Its up to Bo to continue this but he seems mature beyond his years and critics aside, the 9th overall pick was well spent. I’ve been calling it for awhile now, you just know that if he keeps getting his opportunities at some point the puck just has to go in….law of averages or something; I dunno I’m not a physiotherapist.

Baertschi benefits a ton from Horvat too! It hasn’t taken long to start seeing his name as the first entry on the score sheet. Together, they have put chances up night after night and you could just feel the levy was about to break. Well after the Canucks/Hurricanes game, it has.

We have just witnessed Breaking Bo.

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.