luca sbisa

The Case For Jordan Subban As A Loss Leader

Everyone is a salesperson. From the guy on late night TV telling you why need a weight that you can shake vigorously to help you drop the pounds to the nice woman at the jewelry store that can smell your vulnerability as soon you ask why the 4-C’s are important. Agents try to sell the GM’s why their player is worth more money and ownership tries to sell the fans why rebuilding with a lowercase r is OK.

When it comes to Canucks defensive prospect Jordan Subban, selling a reason why he should be on the big club has proved to be quite difficult. It’s not that he can’t score goals or that he isn’t fast enough; he’s a star in those categories. In fact, last season in the AHL, Subban was 3rd amongst all defensemen with 16 goals. He was tied for 7th in primary points (goals and first assists) by defenders with 30 and 17th in overall points by a defenseman with 36.

No one will argue that Subban can’t produce. However, the knock on PK’s younger brother is that defensively, he stinks. The 2017 preseason has been fairly evident of this as he’s been the visible one getting burned for a handful of goals. The blame isn’t always pegged on the last guy but his defensive efforts aren’t exactly NHL caliber.

You know who else was atrociously awful as a defenseman? If you guessed Luca Sbisa then you would win a prize. There are no prizes to give out but if there were, you’d have one today. Somehow, Sbisa was trotted out on a nightly basis when there were plenty of other players clearly more deserving than him to be in the lineup.

As the saying goes, let’s look at the stats:

Luca Sbisa (VAN) 2016/17 – Goals: 2 Assists: 11 GF: 46, GA: 72   TOI/60: 18:58 (7th on team)

Jordan Subban (UTI) 2016/17 – Goals: 16 Assists: 20 GFoI: 42 GAoI:  45  (AHL doesn’t track TOI, but looking at the stats, he would have been playing big minutes).

OK, so based on some similar metrics, Subban was on the ice for a lot more action on either side of the ice than Sbisa. Knowing that, would it not be more beneficial to go with the loss leader in this case? A loss leader in sales is something sold at a loss to attract customers. It has been done in the housing market to get the ball rolling on a development and for the Canucks, having an exciting player on the ice, regardless of the final score, gets people back in the rink.

Even though Sbisa is gone, players like Erik Gudbranson and Thomas Vanek are still on the team. At some point, an injury will rear its head and someone will need to be called up. If having Jordan Subban on the ice means goals are going both ways, the surrounding players and goalie should be able to weather the storm. How bad could Subban really be?

For what it’s worth, Gudbranson had a GF 16 and GA of 38. Subban doesn’t look so bad now, does he?

There isn’t necessarily a spot for Jordan right now but looking back at last season, the Canucks would have most likely benefited more from having Subban on the team. If there is going to be red lights lit at both ends of the ice, why not put in a guy that can actually contribute to them instead of being both an offensive AND defensive hinderance? What about another route, though?

It has been suggested by various people that he switch positions to accommodate to his talents, to say, the wing. It’s unlikely he cracks the Canucks lineup anytime soon due to a logjam of “talent” ahead of him. Smaller forwards have risen to the spotlight in the NHL in the last few seasons so it would be a great time to experiment with Subban up front.

Of course, with two preseason games left to play, it’s a little late for that.

When the time does come to call a forward up, Subban would be an interesting choice. Heck, Andrey Pedan played up front! Goals may come at a premium this season and Jordan has a decent release. Worth a try. It’s worth a try for many of the young stars trying to make the Canucks. If the goals are coming, the losing doesn’t hurt as much.

Comparing Sbisa to Subban is kind of a moot point as Sbisa has moved on to play for Vegas and any stats above were from last year. However, there are still a handful of players that need to be kept honest because there are guys that can rock the boat and get the fire into the lineup. Taking a hit by allowing more opportunities to score goals is well worth the chance to score more.

Limit his ice time as a bottom pairing defenceman and anchor him with a responsible partner OR put him on the wing. Jordan Subban deserves his shot.

The Canucks won’t challenge for a playoff spot this season but having increased goal production combined with excitement (hey, what’s that?) will get the needle moving in the right direction.

photo – Today’s Slapshot

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Canucks Unlikely To Expose Sbisa In Expansion Draft Because Life Is Cruel

Imagine a scenario where the Canucks are abysmally awful and that it isn’t the worst thing going on. Now, imagine there is an opportunity for the team to expose a dumpster fire of a defenseman in Luca Sbisa in the expansion draft for the new Vegas Golden Knights only to be stopped dead in their tracks because two defensemen on their own team decided to go back to Russia.

This is the actual situation and it’s almost laughable because it is just so Canucks for this to happen.

Just when things couldn’t get any more interesting in Canuckland, both Nikita Tryamkin and Philip Larsen bolt back to Russia and leave the Canucks with a gaping hole on an already porous back end. As of today, the Canucks defense consists of Alex Edler, Alex Biega, Chris Tanev, Ben Hutton, Troy Stecher, and Luca Sbisa.

Including Alex Biega and Andrey Pedan will most likely happen as soon as training camp begins and it would take a season-long case of mono to a current defender for Jordan Subban to crack the lineup, let alone get called up.

Sbisa now becomes an asset to the Canucks and forces them to retain him on circumstance alone. He’s like the Barry Trotz of the Canucks. Whenever there’s a chance to finally rid themselves of his services, something comes up. It’s like you want to get healthy and lose a few pounds but then that new extreme DQ blizzard comes out and it’s basically game over again.

How is this even possible that their defense could get any worse, it’s already the worst! Following the Canucks as long as I have, it’s almost expected that things just don’t go their way. This almost isn’t even news anymore. So is this really real? Is Luca Sbisa going to finish out his contract as a Canuck?

Sure looks that way.

The $4 million final year of Sbisa’s contract will be an albatross that weighs heavy on the rebuild and sadly the team pretty much HAS TO keep him because quite frankly, who else is there? Let’s just say for a second that Olli Juolevi is an absolute rock star and makes the team out of camp. It’s possible. Then, let’s assume Sbisa isn’t claimed in the expansion draft and Trevor Linden and Jim Benning sign Erik Gudbranson, what then?

There now are two players that shouldn’t be on the team and are keeping this rebuild from happening. It helps the team sink further in the standings from day one, sure does, but developing a better system with whatever coach the team hires is still a distant dream because management wants to carry these guys for whatever reason that they sell the public on.

Sbisa tied Tanev and Tryamkin this season with 2 goals, not something to be proud of as Tanev doesn’t score anyways and any Tryamkin related stat is now a point of sadness. It’s really a shame he accumulated the 4th most points on the Canucks back end because he was at or close to the bottom in shifts per game and TOI/game.

Of all the defensemen playing at least 1000 minutes at 5v5 this season, Sbisa ranks 10th worst in CF% with 45.83% and 4th worst in FF% at 44.26%. He is a detriment to the Canucks and with both Tryamkin and Larsen gone this is a monster slap in the face to the process.  The timing couldn’t be worse and it now completely changes the NHL Draft for Vancouver.

What if the Canucks slip to 5th? Do they take a D instead of a forward? There is so much need up front that it is almost going to take a trade either way to attain what the team needs so this offseason is salvageable.

What once was an abundance of riches for Vancouver is now the biggest anchor that is sinking the team. Whatever goalie backstops the Canucks next season will have to be a hair short of perfect for this team to even be relevant by Christmas time. But, it’s early and the draft lottery is still to come.

Somehow, Jim Benning will draft off the board and Rogers Arena will implode. That seems like the only likely possibility now. Mark Messier would even be a goo… JUSSSSST kidding.

photo – vancourier.com

Defending The Canucks Defense… Is That Possible?

For starters, I’M not defending the defense of the Vancouver Canucks.

Seven games into the season and potentially the worst injury has already occurred: Chris Tanev has been damaged. I suppose Ben Hutton would be the next guy that would cause a public outcry to just burn Rogers Arena down and start over but that hasn’t happened so maybe put down the torches. There are numerous areas up and down the Canucks lineup that are cause for concern but the defense seems to be the lightning rod to start the year.

Believe it or not, though, Luca Sbisa isn’t the #1 target. It’s not even newbie Erik Gudbranson and his lack of “real good” defensing. Alex Edler has been better but is showing signs of coming around and Ben Hutton, well, don’t you dare raise a hand to him.

The elephant in the room so far is the guy that hasn’t even gotten a sniff after Chris Tanev went down: Nikita Tryamkin is wasting time with his “holier than thou” contract. When he first came over, the gimmick was obvious: a big, potentially speedy defender that could throw a hit and might even contribute on the scoresheet.

Thankfully for Tryamkin, last season turned into a lost cause early enough that he was given enough time to show what he could do and essentially learn the NHL game without the AHL training phase. As a fan, ideally, this is the situation to see the new flashy player everyone is talking about. The downside to all of this is he hasn’t translated (no pun intended) into anything worth showing off, at least yet.

We all know there was only one way Nikita was coming to North America and that playing in the AHL for any length of time was a non-starter. As someone who understands how development works, this is ridiculous and unless Tryamkin was the second coming of a defensive Pavel Bure/Zdeno Chara (ya I know, terrible reference), he is just wasting away sitting up in the press box deciding what kind of popcorn he likes best.

For my money, movie popcorn and buffalo chicken flavour from Kernels are the best; but this isn’t about me.

If Tryamkin is going to amount to anything on the Canucks, Jim Benning and Willie Desjardins, no wait, Doug Jarvis, should get together with Nikita’s translator and get it through his head that the NHL only exists for him if he’s willing to work. I’d love to see NT pan out because quite frankly I know the history of the Vancouver Canucks defensive corps and a player like him doesn’t come around very often.

When it comes to Russian players not exactly “playing along” in the NHL, this wouldn’t be the first time. The latest defector, Valeri Nichuskin of the Dallas Stars, headed back to the Motherland and we may never see him in an NHL jersey again. A recent article from The Canuck Way describes the “Russian Factor” and how it’s affecting the Canucks themselves right now.

Frustration is the feeling around the Canucks, it has to be. You have this potential gem just sitting there on a fitness program trying to get him to a point where you can sell the fact he is ready to be a possible game day decision. Goaltending doesn’t seem to be an issue this year, scoring would be an entirely different discussion and on defense, you need guys that can produce.

Preseason standout, Troy Stecher, finally made his Canucks debut against the Senators on Tuesday night and although he didn’t score, he Corsi’d like a boss and was pretty darn close to being the #1 used defenseman:

That being said, it was one game. If Chris Tanev gets back into the lineup on Friday against the world famous Edmonton Oilers, Stecher might be sent back down for cap reasons.

It’s not something you want to do when guys like Luca Sbisa are delivering pizzas on the regular and even Gudbranson isn’t turning heads. Rookie Philip Larsen won’t be taken out because the powerplay funnels through him; that’s a whole other conversation. If Stecher can’t stay, what does that mean for guys like Tryamkin and Alex Biega?

You can’t start putting these guys as forwards, this isn’t a beer league. Maybe this is the problem the Canucks need to potentially shop a guy like Sbisa or even Tryamkin while his hype value is still high enough?

Defending this team in 2016/17 isn’t a fun task and it will only get tougher. There are absolutely some huge bright spots to look forward to and with some tweaks, the Canucks defense might actually be worth talking about outside of Vancouver.

Can the Canucks find a way to make their backend work, that’s a pretty tough call. Up front, there won’t be much to talk about in a positive light until Canucks brass can decide on how this team will fit together.

Let’s all be happy we aren’t desperate for Thatcher Demko’s debut quite yet in net. It could be a lot worse and a few PPs combined with some goals from the guys that are supposed to score will keep the mobs at home for at least another day.

Don’t write them off yet.

 

photo – ottawacitizen.com

Bizarro World Canucks

Somehow, the Canucks are supposed to finish dead last this season. They’re supposed to get 65 points, their lowest every point total and every team in the NHL will be better than them. Even if things fall off the rails, it just doesn’t seem plausible that THIS Canucks team will amount to such disgust. 3 games in, the Vancouver Canucks are undefeated, yup that’s right, undefeated. Like a scene out of an alternate universe Seinfeld episode, THESE Canucks are winning and for some odd reason, it actually makes sense.

The term “cardiac kids” gets thrown around a lot when you see a run of comebacks and the Canucks have been part of this crowd before. What is odd and surprisingly refreshing is that the line combinations don’t warrant a run that we’re seeing and yet by the end of regulation, it all seems to fit together.

Bo Horvat on the 4th line?  How does that even make sense? It didn’t take long before he was reunited with Sven Baertschi and for a night, Jake Virtanen. Horvat has already proven yet again that it really doesn’t matter where he fits in, scoring chances seem to find him. Through 2 games, he’s put up 2 goals and those opportunities will keep repeating by the looks of things.

So maybe that’s not so weird but the guy in front of him seems to have flipped the script on what was to be expected – Brandon Sutter might just be what the Canucks needed. After losing most of his last season with a sports hernia and a broken jaw, the Canucks were limited to a handful of games with Sutter and there wasn’t much to go on.

Now, Sutter is factoring in on key faceoffs, he’s logging crucial minutes and for whatever reason, he has been the deciding goal in 2 of the Canucks first 3 games. Something isn’t adding up quite yet but honestly, who cares?

After the delayed call that ended up with Loui Eriksson scoring his first goal as a Canuck, on the wrong net, it only seemed fitting that this season was about to continue the way the last few months of 2015/16 did. The new highly paid Sedin compliment was now along for the ride, the roller coaster cluster muck. But, instead of giving up or at least looking like they had, the Canucks hung in the game against the Flames and battled to a shootout victory.

Going down 3-0 to the Hurricanes the very next night refreshed the feeling that the horrors had only delayed themselves by one night, but yet again the Canucks battled back and took it in OT.

Add to all of this the Luca Sbisa storyline and this season is shaping up to be one of the most interesting in recent Canucks history. Luca Sbisa? Why bring him up? Oh, I dunno how about the fact that he’s trying to change his status as an all-around liability by throwing out monster hits, “walking the line” and doing goal scoring things:

Everything is spiraling out of control for the Canucks and they’re winning games at an alarming pace. If it keeps up the Canucks might surpass 65 points and make the playoffs.

There’s no logical reasoning for any of this. I almost can’t figure it out but is it that hard to believe that maybe just maybe the Canucks are actually a decent team? I don’t buy that they’re the worst team in the league and by the looks of things so far, they don’t either.

Vancouver gets their next test against Buffalo on Thursday and their first meeting of the year on the weekend against a dismal Kings squad. If they manage a 5-0 start, maybe Don Cherry will even give them some publicity.

It’s a bizarro world for the Canucks right now and no one wants it to be normal anytime soon.

 

photo – vancourier.com

Canucks All Smiles After Trading Kesler and Bieksa…Mostly

Watching the Canucks wait for the opening puck to drop after 60 minutes against the Ducks was tough to watch. Plenty of story line to go on and if Vancouver even puts in 40 minutes, they probably could have beaten the Ducks. That didn’t happen, they didn’t put in 5. Aside from that game though, things are noticeably better in Vancouver after jettisoning Kesler and Bieksa to Anaheim. They didn’t really have a choice but Vancouver’s loss is actually their own gain. Who would have thought no Kes or Juice would be a good thing? 

You can’t replace experience but the Canucks should be all smiley face emojis now that they don’t have a selfish centre and an aging, stale defensemen bogging them down. 

Only recently has Ryan Kesler started to show his worth after inking a 6 year deal worth $41M. His 3 goals are alarming but his body has been beaten to nothing over his career. Thankfully the Canucks brass saw that they had an unhappy, selfish player and granted his exit to the Ducks, apparently Chicago wasn’t lucky enough! Now, the Ducks are on the hook for a whole lot of wasted space and it only gets worse for them.

The Canucks took on up and coming defenseman Luca Sbisa and Nick Bonino as well as Anaheim’s 2014 1st round pick who now is the Canucks 2nd line/3rd line pivot Jared McCann. We all know Nick Bonino aka  too many men on the ice was moved to the Pens for Brandon Sutter and his injury is being felt up and down the middle of the lineup.

On the surface it would seem the Canucks are very happy with their return on Kes and on a scale of 1-10 smiley faces, they have to be an 8. McCann is quickly turning into a reliable two way centre and is leaned heavily upon only 26 games into his career. When Sutter returns, McCann will be able to see a bit more space and further his game even  more.

Luca Sbisa has gone from new guy to token hated new guy to apparent 2016 Cyclone Taylor Winner. Figure that out. The return for Kesler a year later is easily in favour of the Canucks and for Anaheim, they  have to start breaking down how much Kesler is going to cost them:

So far, Ryan Kesler’s “Between Two Zambonis” skits are costing the Ducks $1.25M/ per episode – might want to get syndicated Kes. Imagine if they continue to film these things? Their budget will be through the roof and for a guy that isn’t exactly friendly, they’ll be off the air in no time; but they’ll still be paying him until Ryker, his son, gets drafted.

Feeling better yet Canucks fans? We don’t have to pay for this guy anymore and look how much happier the team is. Ben Hutton can’t wipe the smile off his face but I’m beginning to think he has a medical condition because no one should smile that much. Just kidding Ben, nothing but love.

HUTTON MANIA!!!!

But who really cares about Kesler anymore? Let’s go over how disappointed the Ducks must be that they have a extremely underperforming defender in Kevin Bieksa.

I love Bieksa, I really do. His interviews are the stuff of legends and he doesn’t hold a grudge against Vancouver. You can tell when he converses with Sportsnet’s Dan Murphy. They’ll always be bros…fo sho.

Bieksa just signed a 2 year deal that will net him $4M per. We thought Luca Sbisa was overpaid? I’m so happy we’ve come around to seeing Sbizza has more to offer. Can you imagine paying Bieksa that kind of coin for 2 seasons? Oh man, that’s not even healthy. At some point Dave Nonis will be let go for suggesting the awfulness that is the old Canuck guard.

Jim Benning has quickly become a genius and even though many of us are ready to have his head on a platter, he quietly has turned the Canucks around and if we’re all patient enough we might just buy him a Christmas card next year. Not this year though, they’re awful.

It is yet to be seen what the pick for Bieksa will turn into but having moved him has given Vancouver the ability to give Frankie Corrado Ben Hutton a roster spot and if you watched the two of them on split screen in the same game, its not close. Ben Hutton can become a hybrid of Edler and Tanev and imagine if he does; ok don’t, I hate seeing those pictures all mashed together like they do on the Internet, its creepy.

At some point, everyone will stop grading this trade like so many others that have gone down and we can all focus on one of two things:

  1. How bad the Canucks are currently doing and….
  2. Is Willie Desjardins still the coach?

I feel like this is the direction we are headed and to put a final stamp on things, YES, the Canucks won those trades and they purchased the uber smiley emoji because they are set up the middle for years to come; or until they waive one of them for nothing and Toronto picks them up.

Follow me on twitter for mega hot taeks and the occasional factual tidbit: @always90four

Canucks Are So Bad, They’re Good…No Really

There are times I’m happy I that I don’t get overly emotional about the Canucks and their peaks and valleys. There are so many of them over the course of the season that I’d be in a straight jacket if I followed through on all of them. This year’s Canucks have been quite unpredictable and yet lately, as bad as they’ve been, the playoffs would include them if it started today. I hate to say it but the Canucks are so bad, they’re good.

 

I have found it hard to believe that this team is at all competitive right now with the losses piling up like dishes after hosting Thanksgiving for both sides of your family. The compete level could be questioned and they’ll tell you they play to win but honestly, you can’t say you’re playing to win with the way you’re losing. After going essentially O-fer on the long road trip they have some big issues they need to deal with.

If you think about it, the Canucks almost lost to Columbus, they actually almost lost to the Jackets! I almost wished they had just to confirm the miserable state they are in. Losing by a goal is still losing and as good as Jacob Markstrom and Ryan Miller are, they don’t shoot the puck 200 feet top shelf.

Speaking of Ryan Miller, his “instinctual” style he has adopted this season has gone from adapting to just plain stink. It’s a little late to adjust your swing their tiger. Call a spade a spade and play the angles again. Jacob Markstrom will be there to challenge him and it won’t be surprising when the 2015/16 edition of the Canucks goalie controversy pokes its ugly head again. To be fair, goaltending is the least of the Canucks worries but its starting to become part of their problem.

But what about the being good part? As awful as this road trip was, our Canucks hold on to the 3rd spot in the Pacific and they’ve done it with the biggest lack of swagger, Jay Z has asked they stop playing his music in their warm ups and in the dressing room. Especially this track. At  7-7-6, the OTL column is their biggest claim to fame and without them they’re tied for 2nd last in the freakin conference. Willie….you’re not a .500 team, not even close!

Here’s another doozy, the Canucks are 2nd in the conference in goals for, yup…truef! On the road believe it or not has been the strong suit for the Canucks, 5-4-3. I’m not making these stats up, the NHL site is all seeing, all knowing and with loss after loss they still are technically a good team. That’s a very loose term but it is what it is.

I can’t imagine they blow anything up or fire the coach but its concerning to say the least. They aren’t physical, they aren’t competitive, they don’t play 60 minutes, they don’t even play 40; the holes in the system they employ are hoola hoopesque. You can read this and criticize me because I’m just spewing off very available stats and a few catchy phrases but how is this not alarming?

Every game on this road trip has been a tour de farce and with Chicago coming up this weekend playing like Stanley Cup favourites, they’re at the point where PVR’ing the game isn’t the best use of space. I love this youth movement and in a few years it’s going to be quite the ride but at the very least the veterans should be giving a bit more, no?

This season has been so topsy turvy that LUCA SBISA was the Canuck we couldn’t wait to get back in the lineup. Think about that for a second.

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I tried finding a Sbisa tweet where you all hated him but I stopped looking after 30 minutes because it seems everyone is undecided still. Last season, different story. There will be a formula to figure this stuff out but that guy is on holidays right now.

Thankfully, rebound seasons from Jannik Hansen and Alex Burrows have made the sting less stingy (sp? not stingy but sting-y). Jared McCann has 6 goals to his name early in his career, Ben Hutton ever the popular one has 8 assists and rarely is brought up in the teams woes and some guy named Adam Cracknell has not only made the club but contributes a fair bit.

Does this make the Canucks problems moot? HA not even close but as bad as they’ve been, it’s not as bad as it could be. Vancouver will have to get their ish together soon if they want to keep butts in the seats and entertain the notion of the playoffs, 4 games anyways. The Canucks have brought me to song and they’re losing……..

One thing is for sure: if you love the Canucks and believe at some point it will turn itself around and everything will be ok….don’t go online. You’ll only be disappointed, laughed at and possibly asked to play for them on the powerplay. I can’t believe I’m saying being on the Canucks powerplay is a bad thing

Maybe they ARE bad.

Follow me on the twitter: @always90four

 

JAKE VIRTANEN VS. JARED MCCANN: THE DECISION

ESPN never came knocking on the Canucks door when they decided to give both Jake Virtanen and Jared McCann the 9 game audition in the NHL. Do these kids have what it takes to warrant a 60 minute sitdown interview with The Province’s Jason Botchford? Probably no is the answer. Botch might be able to get a good show out of it but I doubt Willie drops the hammer at the closing credits and tells you who is taking their talents back to junior. Is Botchford ESPN caliber? Well, that’s not for me to answer. Lets focus on our two young prospects. What is their fate? What is the decision?

Its been 6 and 5 games respectively for McCann and Virtanen and its a tough decision to make as to who stays up with the big club. Do both of them stay? Tough to tell. With Jared McCann he brings the versatility of playing the pivot and the wing and would theoretically receive more ice time mainly because you need that guy to start the shift and he has two vets in Prust and Dorsett to help him along. Are they the best guys to develop Jared, I don’t believe so but that’s the reality thus far.

If Benning and Linden based their decisions solely on points, McCann stays but not by much. The other thing here is that they’re ROOKIES!!! You aren’t going to see the Bo Horvat type of transformation inside of the first month but there has to be more of a sample size; these two guys need to see more opportunities. Willie is limiting them and in turn their linemates as well but we need to see more.

With Jake Virtanen, you get an electric player that has the chance to be a bull in a china shop and he can explode a hit on someone at any moment. He hasn’t exactly done that since the infamous “McDavid Mash”…no one’s calling it that but its alliteration. You know what, let’s take a look at it again.

Doing a quick youtube/google search on Virtanen will unleash a plethora of hits, hit compilations and awkward teenage hockey player profile pics pointing a stick at a camera. Its so early to get a good read on Jake but he can hold his own physically and he has had some grade A chances to put the puck in the net. Some guys get the chances and can’t put it home but if you GET the chances you’re in the right places.

This is a different season for the Canucks in that they have 3 true rookies in the lineup and they don’t exactly look out of place. I could go off on a tangent about the craze of #HUTTONmania but I had that fluff piece air a few days ago. McCann and Virtanen also are forwards and you grade them differently.

Keeping Virtanen just for the physical game would be shameful and when Chris Higgins returns its no secret that Jake’s minutes will drop; unless he can start making an impact that keeps him relevant. Its a lot to ask of rookies but Willie has floated him a bit with different linemates to try and find that chemistry. Putting Brandon Sutter on a line with Virtanen and Burrows is a great mix and we’ll get to see that against the Canadiens. Its a perfect mix of speed, skill and veterans to give Jake that confidence to just play HIS game. Easier said than done.

McCann albeit a centre and a guy that we all believed HAD to crack the opening night roster hasn’t shown the stature that makes him a nightly NHLer. Kinda like the Trudeau attack ads, we’re not saying never, just not right now. Adam Cracknell also made the team and he most likely is waiting his turn until they decide what to do with McCann. If it’s me, I take Cracknell based on his experience and let Jared get one more year in the Soo.

It’s not the first time a team has done that and he’ll get more ice time as well as the chip on his shoulder to bulk up and prove himself come next season. Jared’s 19 and has a long NHL career ahead of him and I hate to see guys rushed in. Enjoy your time in junior, enjoy being a kid.

You didn’t come here for fancy stats or necessarily even normal stats, not in this piece anyways so I’m not going to break down how his Corsi needs to be better or that his zone exits are better than Virtanen’s. As you know, I am  the Game Day Preview guy for Canucks Army and they’re the guys you want to hit up for that stuff.

At the end of the day who do we choose to continue with the Canucks this year? In a quick note: Jake Virtanen. He’ll have more opportunities to move around and his “presence”, going Eric Lindros there, will eventually transition from rookie nerves to “WATCH OUT, HERE COMES VIRTANEN!” Just like any job, once you get past the probation period, you can calm down more and ease in. At the very least, Virtanen has that monster hit and all his other ones and at some point they’ll benefit him greatly.

I’m really excited that these are the kinds of discussions that are taking place with the Canucks and not the every polarizing goalie debate, Luca Sbisa checklist of errors and did we win the “insert public opinion bad trade here”. The Canucks are changing, lets embrace it.

Oh, we picked Virtanen right? Ya, Virtanen is the answer to the headline. But maybe also McCann, but for sure Virtanen. So Virtanen and maaaaaybe McCann.

Virtanen. Definitely Virtanen.

Follow me on twitter: @always90four

Ryan Miller And Chill

I’m not gonna lie to you guys, I still don’t know what that means. I don’t even have Netflix so the reference is lost on me. That being said I DO know one thing for sure: I may be wrong about Ryan Miller and its safe to say most of you are too! After 3 games this year he has posted an impressive 3-0-1 and 1 shutout (LA) along with a chipper 1.21 GAA and .955 SA%

This just in: Ryan Miller is very good at the puck stopping.

Miller seemed like a decent signing a year ago as the Canucks were looking for a new #1 goalie to mentor Eddie Lack and win the big games. Well, last season didn’t exactly go Miller’s way and late in the season it was questioned if he should even BE a Canuck. Pretty harsh criticism but quite typical in a market that can turn on their goalies after a bad pumpkin spice latte.

When Miller was bowled over by Jannik Hansen in a game against the Islanders last year, it gave then back up Eddie Lack the keys to a very touchy sports car which he did not want to relinquish after a phenomenal spring. As Ryan Miller neared return, the question was does he deserve the net back?

All in all, he came back but the Canucks were far from ready for anyone to be the goalie as they couldn’t even hold their own up front with the Calgary Flames completely outplaying the Canucks in round 1 of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

So what is so different from last year’s start that gives us hope this season? As of now, not a whole lot. Miller posted a solid 16-4 record to start his season, with 3 shutouts and 3 one goal games. It seems that even in Canuck nation if we aren’t awarded a Stanley Cup (which they’ve never won) after every win, the team fell short.

Kinda ridiculous but that’s how we roll.

In comparison, Roberto Luongo’s first season in Vancouver wasn’t exactly the best season ever in his first 20. OK, we all know he played lights out almost the whole season, finished a win shy of the NHL record and was robbed of both a Vezina and a Hart trophy, but I digress.
Luongo posted a 10-9-1 record in the 2006/07 season after his first 20 games but considering the team had to be almost all defense, his performances took on a life of its own.

Like Luongo, Miller came from the Eastern Conference and had to learn a whole new travel system, a whole new coaching system and a conference that is Fast and Furious 8, seven days a week. Miller did have a stop over in St. Louis for 19 games and then was easily knocked out of the playoffs in 6. He, like Justin Trudeau “just wasn’t ready” for the West quite yet. But he figured it out.

Ryan Miller isn’t exactly that type of cat though; he’s very chill, possibly even….Miller Chill? I would guess lime because its the best of the chill drinks one would assume. He is a gamer like any other top goalie, he puts his jock strap on one loop at a time and after playing in Buffalo for so long, a bit of angst is allowed. He’s played in some pretty big games, most notably in 2010 in the Gold Medal Game at the Vancouver Olympics in which he gave up the winning goal to Sidney Crosby on Canadian ice. He continued to impress that same year taking home the Vezina as the top goaltender in the NHL.

But back to him being awesome in Vancouver.

Miller time has once again made an appearance and this time around, Canucks fans seem to be warming up to the guy. He isn’t any more approachable, he still clings to the “team game” mentality when conducting interviews and even WITH the injury to Jacob Markstrom and having Richard Bachman as his backup, he still plays like it’s his job to lose.

Good on you Miller!

Millsy as his team mates probably call him is building confidence with a very fragile fan base and the defenders in front of him are making his job quite easy. But in case they do screw up, he’s been every bit an all star as rookie dman Ben Hutton. Roberto did it with more swagger but maybe we need a guy that just plays net for a living? I’m not sure if that actually was a question but imma roll with it.

Miller Chill is just that; he doesn’t seem to panic when the puck frenzy is in front of him. He just goes about his business and he focuses on just stopping the puck. Seems like an obvious deal there but making the save that stops the play is just as important as keeping the first few out of the net. Its rebound control 101.

It is kinda weird that even with Eddie Lack, Roberto Luongo and Cory Schneider all gone from Vancouver, we actually are at the point of embracing a goalie because he just plays for his team and goes home. Better late than never to have a revived career and it looks like he might even get better, wouldn’t that be nice?

We welcome your chillness Ryan Miller, we welcome it with two arms and an approval looking nod. You signed on for 3 years in a city that you knew could possibly hate you after 1 month, but there was enough money on the table that you figured “Hey, hate doesn’t hurt if I don’t acknowledge it”. Bad theory to go on but he has stepped his game up and the team in front of him seems to have done the same thing.

Miller doesn’t need fancy stats, zone entry data, corsis or even tacos to be successful. For that you should go on over to Canucks Army.  Come to think of it, I don’t either but here I am writing about these things (actually I’m only writing about the words fancy stats, zone entry data and corsis) and I don’t need to be flashy or swaggered out.

After only 3 games, a handful of media and fans have anointed Ryan Miller the MVP of the season and what could be better? The answer is the Stanley Cup but maybe lets not jump the shark quite yet. I can’t believe I’m saying this but even Luca Sbisa is playing better this year and that can only mean great things for Ryan Miller…and rookie sensation Ben Hutton. But this isn’t about them, its about the guy with the bulldog on the back of his mask.

So lets all Miller Chill with Ryan Miller and let him do his thing. Let’s let this season materialize organically and see how everything pans out. What do we have to lose? Not much. What I know is all this guy wants is for Miller to stay chill and maybe a tweet back:

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Follow me and my hilarious taeks (sp?) on twitter: @always90four

Will the REAL Jim Benning Please Stand Up?

Did you miss me? The crapping whale has taken quite a beating in the twittersphere lately and over the last year even more so. No one expected the Canucks to turn it all around in one year and be an elite contender again but at the very least the man who was ready to cut his teeth as a true GM has made us all question if this is Jim Benning’s true calling.

Do the Canucks even deserve the GM we think is owed to us? We’ve had wannabe GM’s before and although they have each left their mark, only a few actually made a real impact. In my lifetime, Quinn, Burke and Gillis were the gamechangers in Vancouver and the men that followed each were just holding a title until the vacancy was rightfully filled.

In my opinion, Jim Benning is filling a seat. It didn’t start that way but it feels like it will end that way.

As Peter Chiarelli’s right hand man in Boston, Jim Benning was able to scout and help draft some of the NHL’s youngest stars and the Bruins current big names. He helped bring in David Krejki, Milan Lucic, Phil Kessel, Brad Marchand, Dougie Hamilton and the guy the Oilers didn’t take, Tyler Seguin.

He also helped draft a TON of garbage. It makes you wonder if the Bruins still had Benning on payroll this past June when Boston had 3 consecutive picks inside the top 20 and excuse my french “did really really badly at the drafting thing”. OK, Benning wasn’t responsible solely for the Bruins current success and much of their failures but as a scout since the early 90’s you’d figure his success rate would be better.

When you suck long enough, the high draft picks are easy choices. Its hard to continue to fail when you pick in the top 5. The Canucks haven’t had that luxury/disappointment since the ’99 draft when Sedinary was born. When Benning was in Boston, of his 63 picks he helped make, only the six guys mentioned above have really stood out for the Bruins (Kris Versteeg did well elsewhere).

I’ve left a few lesser players off and to the Bruins credit Lucic, Marchand, Kris Versteeg were great picks but in 10 years the crap shoot after round one really didn’t play in Boston’s favour. Benning took over the big spot in Vancouver after Mike Gillis’ departure and has made some savvy picks but he’s also given up a lot to get them.

It’s not all about drafting though.

The glaring errors still loom and the downward spiral has continued. Is Jimbo even trying right now? He’s made efforts to get rid of players like Ryan Kesler (didn’t get enough), Eddie Lack (traded the wrong guy), Nick Bonino (the guy that we traded for Kesler), Zack Kassian (Ok, who knows whats up with him really) oh and he signed Luca Sbisa, Derek Dorsett and Brandon Sutter to more money than the Canucks will pull in next year and probably the year after that.

There is no silver lining right now, there is no pot of gold. We may witness a few breakthroughs in 2015/16 like the next step for Bo Horvat, the possibility of Jake Virtanen cracking the lineup and possibly a few Comets leaving the AHL behind for the bright lights of Vancouver; but the Sedins are still what this team is based upon, Ryan Miller is still the #1 goalie and it looks like the Canucks will be more braun than skill this season.

As critical as the Canucks fanbase and media are with every decision and non decision, much of what is said has some validity and there might not be a lot of time to make mistakes. Benning is operating like an Assistant General Manager and thats fine if you ARE one but he’s not. I went through the same realization when I worked in retail.

Personal aside 

I was the AM and I did an amazing job too! Won a few salesperson of the year awards and was given my own shop to manage. It took me 2 years to fully take ownership of my responsibility as the Manager and that I was going to need to lead the change and not just sit and accept the status quo. Things really took off after that.

So for you, Congrats Jimbo! The Stanley Cup is quite an accomplishment and no one will ever take that away from you but its time to build the Canucks up, not break them down. You’ve been fortunate enough to get some young studs in the draft since you arrived, missed on one (see: every article and tweet by me about why Nick Merkley should have been drafted) and had a chance to pick up some free agents that could make a difference.

Cody Franson being one of those players who WANTS to play for the Canucks and Jimmers isn’t willing to make things work. Admit you made a mistake with Sbisa, re-up with Dan Hamhuis and if it means parting ways with Radim Vrbata via trade, then do it. Defense wins championships, its not just a saying.

Ask the Blackhawks where they’d be without Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook; they’re a totally different team. The minutes those two guys eat up not only in the regular season but deep, deep into the Final is legit. You don’t need statistics at that point; you can see the results on the ice and they both have 3 Cups to show for their hard work.

Imagine the Canucks back end with Edler, Hamhuis, Franson, Weber (No, not that one), Corrado and Tanev. I know somewhere deep down there is an out clause on Sbisa so for the sake of this paragraph, he’s not included. This isn’t an amazing back end but there is hope there. Can Benning break the mold of Assistant GM and start pulling the trigger on deals that make sense?

I liked the Bonino trade for Sutter but throwing in Clendening was just foolish, that feels like he was bullied by Pittsburgh. The pick swap is a wash, everything after Round 1 is tough to put weight on. Its good to see Benning didn’t take any crap from San Jose when the Bieksa deal fell through so he has done good here but the one position that is the biggest lightning rod for the Canucks is in net.

How he felt keeping Ryan Miller over Eddie Lack was the right choice is stunning. The younger, lesser cap hit, higher potential guy was let go and to a team that may not even use him (Carolina). Publically stating that a trade was available for Miller should have never been done, it was a hand that should have been folded.

Jim Benning has made some pretty big mistakes and his current path isn’t trending too much in the right direction. Training camp hasn’t started yet and Cody Franson is still available, heck maybe a big splash is still in the works?

However, if Jimbo continues to lead the Canucks like I played hockey last weekend (which was basically like watching a clueless marble roll around a glass dish) then there won’t be just a transition period coming: there will be a free fall to the basement.

Will the REAL Jim Benning please stand up? This isn’t Slim Shady asking, this is one Canucks fan asking for a reality check.

Maybe We Were Wrong About Luca Sbisa

Before things got, how do I say this properly, dicey; the only things we really had to overly criticize were not only the gameplay of Luca Sbisa but the shiny new contract he got for said awful gameplay. Was it really that bad? Sbisa likes to get in the dirty areas and he was on one of the Canucks top D pairings. Maybe we need to look past the results right in front of our face and ask ourselves:

Were we wrong about Luca Sbisa?

There hasn’t been much to get excited about this past season and even less in the offseason as Jim Benning and Trevor Linden have put their management skills on autopilot. They passed on my pick in the first round, Nick Merkley of the Kelowna Rockets, they let BC boy Cody Franson dangle his free agentness to no avail thus far and they traded Zack Kassian for Brandon Prust.

And that was just one week.

We keep referencing the apparent awful multi year deal of Luca Sbisa and how it was the beginning of doom and gloom in Canucksland. It was so polarizing that you had to ask yourself “is there something we DON’T know about him or is management really that clueless on how to judge talent garbage?”

In the Ryan Kesler trade that sent Nick Bonino and Sbisa back the Vancouver way, there was a chance the Canucks could start building up their stable again and that a guy like Sbisa might be able to help solidify an aging and sagging back end.

What we know SO FAR is that Luca Sbisa has not made the Canucks defense better, in fact, he’s made it worse.

Statistically speaking, Luca scored better than 8 players on the Canucks last season, there’s a catch though; his 11 points beat out such players as Tom Sestito who was pretty much an after thought of the Canucks, Sven Baertschi who came at the deadline and didn’t get a chance to play enough games to beat Sbisa’s numbers, Brandon McMillan who was a Canuck technically, injury callup Alex Biega and Brandon Defazio who we can only assume stole Zack Kassian’s jersey when he was injured so he could play.

Points don’t tell the whole story as there are some defensemen that are more of a pure defensive asset also called a stay at home defenseman. Most of us wish he actually would stay at home. As I said, points don’t tell the whole story, let’s take a look at the descriptive statistics:

  • His +/- was an unimpressive -8, tied for team worst with rookie centre Bo Horvat. Knowing what we know about Bo and his defensive zone faceoffs, Sbisa pretty much was the reason Horvat even had a minus. If this was golf, Sbisa would be one of Vancouver’s top guys…it is not golf.
  • Plus minus can be the result of bad luck sometimes, coming off the bench as the play turns the other way, being put against the opponent’s top lines or in this case being a horri-awful defenseman. But maybe we were wrong about Sbisa; lets look at his giveaways as he might just be a chronic case of wrong place wrong time:
  • According to foxsports.com, Luca had 46 giveaways in 2014/15 which works out to just over one every two games. We used to be able to count on the bad Roberto goal to start a game, Mason Raymond tripping over the blue line or the ever famous Sedin hooking penalty. Luca Sbisa hands out more giveaways than your local radio station.
  • The Pizza man did have 14 takeaways last season which in itself is impressive because that meant he created a positive situation on the ice for the Canucks. It doesn’t say in the stats how many of those takeaways were then turned back into giveaways but I don’t want to dump on the guy too much.
  • How bout hits? Sbisa finished 2nd on the team with 151 hits behind fellow signee Derek Dorsett who had 166. Benning said Sbisa likes to get in the scrums and brings grit to the team. Technically, he’s right there. Im pretty sure Luca hit Hamhuis at one point this year, so hits don’t mean a lot in this case.

So overall his stats say he hits, he gives it away as much as the Red Hot Chili Peppers and we all want him to be a permanent stay at home defenseman, like…at his own home. But what about that contract?

Luca Sbisa was signing ridiculous contracts before someone paid him to do it, he just liked them. Ok, he’s not Matthew McConaughey but if someone throws 3.6M per at you, you take it. Even him. He surely doesn’t deserve it and you can go on the Internet and find plenty of reasons why, as well as players that are better and make far less.

What it all sums up to is that we are stuck for the time being with this:

I think consistency. Don’t have a great game and then a bad game. Be solid every night… I don’t think I’m great at anything, I don’t think I’m terrible at anything. Obviously there’s so many things I need to improve on. I just think mentally, especially playing in this market, it was tough at times. – Sbisa after year end media interview courtesy of vancitybuzz.com


So he’s not great at anything except knowing how much money he needs to IMMEDIATELY sign for and he’s not terrible at anything except for the 50 minutes after the game starts. As for the other 29 teams, they don’t mind:

The question then must be answered – Were we wrong about Luca Sbisa?

No, no we were not. But you just laughed through enough tears that at the very least you’ll get through tomorrow and then remember he’ll be in the Canucks starting lineup come October.

Its a shame that Sbisa isn’t the OFFICIAL “Swiss Miss” but he is fitting of the title.