NHL

The Canucks Are Back In The Playoffs; Why I’m WILD About Their Chances

Photo courtesy of The Athletic

REVISION VERSION: In my excitement to write an article, I ran with the idea of a one-game playoff. It’s a five-game series for the first round, ala ALDS.

I apologize. Read it regardless.

 

The NHL and NHLPA have agreed in principle to returning with a 24-team playoff format when hockey resumes. Sure, they’ve essentially adopted the CFL’s model of allowing almost everyone to be a participant, but if you think about it for a second, this could be the beginning of a re-structured playoff format going forward.

Of course, the Vancouver Canucks would then be assured of a one-game play-in versus their heated rivals, the Minnesota Wild. The “purest” fan in me doesn’t love this idea 100% but really what is the big deal? The NHL did have a five-game first-round series format prior to the first lockout… OK, a little before that.

People will argue that it isn’t the playoffs with this proposed idea and to a degree, they’re correct. That being said, the play-in game is one of the most exciting games of the season, case in point the clip below:

The Toronto Blue Jays required a one-game playoff against the Baltimore Orioles in 2016 and in epic fashion, Edwin Encarnacion blasted a three-run homer to send the Jays to the ALDS. It was appointment viewing, especially in Canada where playoff baseball from the only team in the country had eluded its fans for decades.

Every pitch, every hit, every steal was monumental and played out like a high-stakes chess match. It was as playoffs as the playoffs could be.

Prior to the Wild Card game, there have also been a handful of extra games required to even get to the Wild Card game, dubbed Game 163. If teams with identical records were in the same league, a one-game playoff was required to get to the official one-game playoff. Confusing, right?

Baseball has embraced this format for years and it might be time the NHL reworked its playoff structure. Not too long ago, the WHL had its own one-game playoff between the Kelowna Rockets (you didn’t think I wouldn’t mention them, did you?) and the Kamloops Blazers.

Kelowna really had no business being in that game but they made the trek to Kamloops to face their age-old rivals on a heightened Tuesday night matchup to make it to the WHL Playoffs. Kelowna got spanked but the atmosphere was electric even as a fan in the away barn.

Rewind back to the Canucks.

A one-game playoff against the Minnesota Wild doesn’t sound like the most exciting thing in the world but knowing the stakes are so high, it won’t take long to become must-watch television. After all, no one is going to the game anyway.

What I love about this matchup is the opportunity to exorcise the 2003 demons of the Western Conference Semi-Finals. You remember the ones, don’t you?

Wes Walz, Willie Mitchell, and the great Hnat Domenichelli. That team should have lost to Vancouver but it didn’t. This year, the new Canucks can right the wrongs and if they do they get a first-round matchup against, oh crap, the Colorado Avalanche.

I like Vancouver’s chances against Minnesota in a do or die situation. The Canucks are fully healthy and giving Jacob Markstrom the net makes them scary good. I also think this is the kind of game Brock Boeser could put his name back in contention as a star player against the team he grew up watching.

Speaking of Boeser, he hasn’t been the sniper fans, and I’m sure coaches, have wanted him to be but his 200-foot game has turned him into a more complete player. He’s not exactly being placed in situations where he can properly get off the shot that made him famous but maybe he just needs to find a linemate that can set him up.

Boeser also hasn’t scored a goal since he potted a pair Jan. 11 vs. Buffalo. Concerning, for sure. His power-play deployment is also something I’m not thrilled with as it’s beyond predictable of how he’ll get the puck. Anyway, I’m confident Boeser can get back to his scoring ways and this year’s playoff is a great opportunity.

Vancouver hasn’t faired well against the Wild this season and their 2020 has been all over the map. What is certain is that they’ll be healthy when this all returns much like the team they’re trying to forget about at the turn of this century.

This year’s Canuck roster isn’t a juggernaut compared to 2003, stating the obvious, I’m sure.

It still blows my mind that the Canucks never won that ’03 series considering they had one heck of a team and the hottest duo in the league in Markus Naslund and Todd Bertuzzi. They had THE Gatorade spokesman on their team and couldn’t muster one more win. In case you forgot, here’s what I’m talking about:

I am really not a fan of team sports like hockey returning during this point of the pandemic but at the same time, I can’t wait to see my favourite sport return. There are a lot of hoops the NHL will have to jump through to make their official return happen but after watching the UFC on Saturday night, I think it’s possible.

With the NHL bringing in this modified playoff format this year to make it fair to all the teams in the hunt, every one-game playoff will have as much intensity as the regular series themselves. Hockey is ready for a change and this might be the time to alter the game yet again.

They removed the red line, added trapezoids, introduced no-touch icing, and brought in coach’s challenges; the NHL is far from its origins but at the heart of it all, the game is the same.

24 teams with a chance for the Cup? Why not?

The Canucks may have a chance at Lord Stanley this season when only two months ago we were all concerned they would just miss out.

I’ll be here when it returns and I know you will too!

 

Check out the rest of my work over at Canucks Army and my vocal cords as a member of the PP1 Podcast

Alex Burrows Lived The Dream

On July 6, 2018, Alex Burrows announced to the hockey world that he was retiring from the game after 13 seasons. The truly remarkable thing is that he almost never played a single game in the NHL. His story has been chronicled over the course of his playing days and Canucks fans celebrated his efforts when he was traded to the Senators just over a year ago.

It is inevitable that he will be inducted into the Canucks Ring of Honour and the only real question is how soon that will take place? It has been a pretty eventful offseason already for Canucks fans as Henrik and Daniel Sedin both retired and now Burrows as well. The Sedins will have their numbers raised to the rafters most likely next season and it would be fitting if Burrows saw his name enshrined in Canucks history with the likes of other Canucks legends leading up to the Canucks’ 50th season celebrations.

What really makes Alex Burrows special was the fact he ground away in the ECHL before a chance opportunity put him with the Manitoba Moose of the AHL, from there, he tirelessly worked on becoming a true pro and went from an agitator to the “Third Sedin”. Burrows was involved in many memorable moments with the Canucks, both good and bad, but the slaying of the dragon most likely tops everyone’s list:

Of course, it can’t be forgotten that he scored another significant goal that spring:

These videos have been posted before in the linked Canucks Army article above but as far as Canucks history goes, they’re staples of what this team was able to achieve.

This could be a whole thread of epic Burrows goals, shenanigans, and tear-jerking memories but thankfully if you’re reading this you have a basic understanding of how you can relive the rest of them on the Internet.

A ball hockey beast for the Montreal Red Light before his pro days, he knew what hard work looked like and like every young Canadian dreaming of making the NHL, he got his chance and made the most of it. When you think about it, it’s pretty crazy the way it all played out.

As Alex Burrows departs the NHL for his next career, an assistant coach with the Laval Rocket of the AHL and maybe GM of an NHL team one day, his time on the ice will be cherished. He made you believe that dreams were possible and that hard work, believe or not, actually pays off. Being paired with the Sedins not only made Burrows a household name but it allowed the Sedins to step their game up as well and were eventually recognized as two of the greatest players to ever play the game of hockey.

Burrows had that subtle slyness to him like he shouldn’t be in the NHL but he wasn’t going to tell anyone and he kept plugging away. He closed in on just shy of 1000 games in the NHL, played for Team Canada, and rode shotgun on a line many NHLers could never handle.

I am reminded of the humour of Alex a day after he signed his first contract extension in 2009 when he was doing an autograph signing in the mall I worked at. Being the funny guy I thought I was, I frankly asked him what now seems like a really dumb question “I have to know, how big IS Kesler’s nose in person?” He responded without skipping a beat with a laugh “Oh, it’s huge”.

Many people will have their own stories of the Canucks’ hero but one thing everyone shares is their admiration for what he did for that team.

Alex, what a career you had! Good luck in the next chapter of your life and thanks for being a Canuck.

 

Cover photo – The Hockey Writers

The Most Important NHL Mock Draft To End All Mock Drafts

If you play fantasy sports you no doubt have dabbled in the mock draft world to see how your draft position would pan out and what you likely would get through a real test. Mock drafts can be fun and can help strategize how to find the good talent when others leave it on the board. Now that the NHL lottery has been revealed everyone knows that the Canucks will pick seventh overall.

Who does Jim Benning select with that pick? It could shake down a few different ways but many believe no matter what they do, the pick has to be a defenseman. It won’t be Rasmus Dahlin but even Shea Weber and Duncan Keith didn’t go in the first round. Good players can be had at any pick and after an explosive 2017 draft for Vancouver, Benning will need to shrewdly swing for the fences again.

But, you came here to see a mock draft and not just any mock draft but THE most important NHL mock draft to end all mock drafts. Mocks are fun to read, they allow us to daydream about what could be and it’s a lot more fun than saying “Hey, the Canucks sure do suck still. They’re going to suck for awhile. I wish they’d stop sucking.” People mock draft because they believe they have a good idea of how it will all play out and we all love to see who’s the smartest.

However, you won’t find any references to where Quinton Hughes will fall to or if the Canucks will most likely choose Noah Dobson. Brady Tkachuk is far, far away from this list as well. So what are we talking about then?

I bring to you, the mock draft you’ve all been waiting for, a top-10 because I don’t think I could figure it out past that.

 

1: Wayne Gretzky – The Great One had his own “99” branded mock turtle and if Wayne isn’t the first pick in this, I’ve done hockey a great disservice. This one here is the Easton model and he was the dad brand before dad brands were cool.

DATE TAKEN: 5/21/93—LA Kings Wayne Gretzky stands on the ice, 5/21/93, in a game against Toronto. ORG XMIT: UT3537

2: Tomas Plekanec – When Plekanec was traded to the Leafs this season he was welcomed back to Montreal with many of his former mates donning the mock. It was a thing of beauty. Finding TP without his trusty mock turtleneck is like the Sedins without the cycle, not gonna happen.

ballecourbe.ca

3: Alexei Yashin – If Yashin wore anything but that shirt underneath his jersey for his career, I’d never know. Yashin’s look was as iconic as Arturs Irbe’s look in net. That’s something you don’t forget.

reddit

4: Steve Yzerman – Stevie Y isn’t someone that immediately comes to mind with the mock but the proof is in the pudding. Imagine if he wore the thin-framed coke bottle glasses, he’d look like a Steve Jobs clone.

Geocities.ws

5: Mario Lemieux – It was tough to find more than one photo of the Magnificent one but it’s safe to say if he wore one, no one was brave enough to tell him not to. Super Mario did it all so it’s not surprising he donned an ugly looking undershirt.

Dugger Sports NHL

6: Ilya Kovalchuk – Again, not someone you’d expect to see wear the mock but it’s the truth. He’ll be expected to wear that again in the Big Apple next fall.

Yahoo! Sports

7: John Tortorella – Torts makes the list as a coach and quite frankly, that’s fine. He sneaks them in every now and then in Columbus and he actually makes them work. The first and only coach to crack the list.

YouTube

8: Jaromir Jagr/Luc Robitaille – I don’t even know what this is. It counts. They make the list. Now forget you saw it.

Dsudis.livejournal

9: Jaroslav Spacek – It took an outdoor game to track down this one and boy oh boy, was it tough. Thankfully, he made it look good. Looking back, this jersey was a good look altogether. I wonder if the Slug will ever return for an outdoor game?

Hockey Blog in Canada

10: Alexei Kovalev – How could we forget Kovalev? He didn’t wear it often but he did bring it out for the Penguins and Canadiens. A fitting final pick to this mock draft.

Bardown

 

So there you have it – the mock draft to end all mock drafts. If you hate mock drafts then this one will absolutely cause you to never click on one again and just ride it out until the real draft in June. It was as excruciating for me as I’m sure it was for you. The moral of the story is that they should bury this shirt, it doesn’t look good. Hopefully, you had a good quick laugh and can now move on.

 

 

Cover – NHL.com

 

Is There Any Way To Fix The NHL Draft Lottery?

The NFL awards the first overall pick to the worst team every season, MLB does the same but based on win percentage (so many games, can’t keep track), while the NBA and the NHL have opted for the lottery system. If the system is set up properly, a fair chance is given to all the teams eligible for the first pick. The NBA will adopt a revised lottery system in 2019 when four teams, instead of three, will vie for the number one slot while the remaining 10 teams that missed the playoffs go in reverse order from worst team record to best of all the teams that missed the postseason.

Each team in the top four (or bottom four, I suppose) will get an equal 14% chance of winning the lottery. Now, considering many NBA teams can be defined by a single player like Lebron James or Kobe Bryant, the need for a franchise player can alter the team’s history, and yet the NBA is quite simple in their method of awarding the top three picks. No fancy gimmicks or jumping up eight spots and the like.

It’s a locked system at the bottom so there isn’t any funny business.

Before I did any research on the other leagues, namely the NBA, a fixed tier of teams at the bottom made the most sense. In the NHL’s case, they’ve put too much emphasis on every team missing the playoffs getting a shot at the first pick. It should be simple. It should be fair.

As a Canucks supporter, they no doubt have been given a pretty raw deal since their tailspin began and they started to occupy the bottom three league positions. This year, Vancouver finished 26th, 29th a season ago, and 28th in 2015/16. They picked fifth the last two seasons and in June they’ll pick seventh.

How is that possible?

In my proposed new system the NHL would adopt a modified version of the NBA model. If the league is worried about “tanking” they can assure themselves that if teams are truly bad there still is a chance even the worst team won’t be guaranteed the top pick. Instead of four teams, I propose the NBA’s original three-team program.

Give each of those teams an equal percentage chance of winning the top pick and because this day seems to be so marketable, logo up all the balls and put them in the lottery spinner just like the old 649 segment every Wednesday and Saturday night.

Obviously, the lead up to the big pick is a big draw and watching the big spinner rake go round and round just adds to the cheesery. No one cares about the teams that just missed the playoffs by a point or two, the draw is the ones on the podium. Even though the reveal itself takes seconds the spin that determines pick number three gets it all going. From there, Gary empties the globe and they have a fresh set of balls with the final two teams.

How many balls they put in really doesn’t matter, although there shouldn’t be too many or it will lose the effect. It’s now a 50/50 chance to draw the winning team ball and everyone is watching. There doesn’t need to be a room full of GM’s sitting like stooges watching cards being flipped over, where’s the fun in that?

Make it all public, make it real. Send the mascots, make it ridiculous when the winning ball is chosen.

When that ball rolls out to determine the top pick, the suspense sells the whole thing. Anyone remember this little nugget?

Watch how that Nike check just hangs there… a marketer’s dream. Imagine the Canucks lottery ball falls and that whale is sitting upside down, that’s a commercial right there. Now imagine that player goes on to do great things and one day hoists the Cup. They roll the clip of that ball falling and sitting upside down. Genius.

Adding to all of this is the rule that a winning lottery team is ineligible for the top three for two years afterward. A three-year swing is a long time in hockey and by then those same three teams from the first go around most likely wouldn’t be in that situation again, or at least one would hope they wouldn’t. The “Oiler rule” as it could be called would keep the league’s parity intact and help disperse the best talent somewhat evenly to a certain degree.

It’s not reinventing the wheel by any means but it’s a pretty simple fix to something that looks way too complicated. Maybe Jason Botchford would even support this model, maybe he’d even play the online button clicking game. We can all dream.

 

Follow me on the twitter: @always90four

Canucks and Sedins Should Follow Toronto Model

The debate continues: will Henrik and Daniel Sedin retire after this season or will they ink an extension, whatever that might look like? The Sedins originally stated they wouldn’t decide until after the season ended which would put them in the driver’s seat for narrating the Canucks’ future to a certain degree. Only recently did they open up the door to the future a bit more.

The future Hall of Famers aren’t a fan of publicity or a “farewell tour” but it’s becoming more and more evident that the Canucks would really like a little more information into the brothers’ future plans.

Can the Sedins still play? You bet. They aren’t the league leaders they once were but there are still many nights where they have factored on the score sheet. Henrik Sedin is two points shy of 50 this year, has five points in his last five games, points in four of five and along with Daniel, still holds a share of the team lead in CF% (both above 51%).

For Henrik, only four of his seasons would be below 50 points if he hits that target this season, not including the lockout year in 2012 where he put up 45 points in 48 games. Not to be outdone by his brother, Daniel holds similar stats but has six sub-50 point seasons to Hank’s four.

So, what should the Canucks do with these two players who could still hack it on any NHL team in the league? Follow the Toronto model. No, not the Leafs… the Toronto Blue Jays.

Jose Bautista will potentially spend his first season away from baseball after the Jays opted not to re-sign the former all-star after 10 seasons in the 416. Bautista isn’t the player he once was like many former stars but he isn’t washed up completely either. He crushed 23 HR a season ago, put up 119 hits (his 6th best total ever), had 27 doubles (tied for 4th best in his career) but struck out 170 times in 157 games played which was his highest backwards-K season as a pro.

There was a lot of drama surrounding Joey Bats last year and it probably could have been handled differently by both the team and Bautista. He still played and helped Toronto make a run to the playoffs until they couldn’t anymore. The Jays also let Edwin Encarnacion walk and they may still regret that decision but they moved on and gave an opportunity to new, younger players.

The Canucks need to employ this approach. Does it feel good to say goodbye to the greatest players to ever put on a Canucks jersey? It sure doesn’t, but that band-aid has to come off at some point and owing the Sedins another year or owing the Canucks another year or whatever is not the way this should be handled.

Bautista gave the Jays many productive seasons and a few memorable, ok VERY memorable moments that will not be forgotten anytime soon. He was a terrific fielder and could be an excellent addition to a team that believes they can contend this season even if it means he plays DH most games. For the Sedins, they won’t play anywhere else and that may be the hardest part for both sides.

Vancouver knows full well Henrik and Daniel can still play and be valuable role players but that isn’t how they operate; the Sedins aren’t depth players like when they first came into the league. The flip side of the Twins decision is how do you walk away from a game you can still play quite well? Pride factors in.

But, it’s a business and the Canucks need to move on. I personally do not want to see the Sedins hang up their skates because quite frankly, they’re a blast to watch even today. Class acts to the end but the Canucks have to get the rebuild going and the Sedins hanging around doesn’t help that move forward any quicker.

This may mean an absolutely horrible season next year but it has to be done. I can’t envision a scenario where the Sedins willfully play 10 minutes per game and are healthy scratched for potentially a quarter of the season. What everyone needs to see is that a Stanley Cup will not be coming to Vancouver any time soon and at the end of the day, that’s the ultimate goal.

Like the Blue Jays, the Canucks have exciting prospects in the hopper and sooner than later those players will be in the lineup every day and this will just be a decision that was made in the process. For all we know Elias Pettersson blows up next season, Brock Boeser makes a run at the scoring title, and Thatcher Demko mimics the Vancouver version of Cory Schneider.

Anything is possible, probably not all of those things but many of them will happen at some point and the Sedins won’t be part of them on the ice.

It might as well be now.

The Jays did it and it’s barely been a talking point so far.

 

Photo – CBC

Not A Throw Away Season For Canucks

There were parts of the 2018 Canucks season that brought hope and there were more than enough times where the heavy reality sunk in that this team is still figuring it out. The emergence of Brock Boeser as a legitimate threat gave Canucks fans something to believe in while the rest of the (r)ebuild was going on. Jake Virtanen’s progression has been another good sign things are slowly turning around as well. There haven’t been any draft picks acquired yet but Jim Benning is trying to assemble “his” team in a roundabout way.

As bad as it’s all been, it hasn’t been a season to put in the trash.

Coach Travis Green has shown everyone that proper line deployment is, in fact, possible after the snoozefest that was Willie Desjardins tenure was put to rest. Henrik and Daniel Sedin looked like they would be phased out early in the season but are a good couple of weeks away from leading the team in points, again.

Losing Derek Dorsett to a career-ending injury was tough for everyone involved because he brought a presence that didn’t exist on the team. Push came to shove (sorry for the pun) and long-time AHLer Darren Archibald was given a contract and quite simply, a chance to prove himself and he may have earned a spot and an extension with the Canucks. Archibald’s toughness and his energy leave you with hope this team’s grit can be fixed as well.

Add to that, Jake Virtanen’s maturity as a young power forward and the Canucks are creating the building blocks for their future. Virtanen has shown he can drive the net with the puck and still maintain possession as well as a decent scoring chance where that did not exist before.

Bo Horvat has firmed up his game yet again this season which gives star forward Boeser the opportunity to make his own magic. Boeser hasn’t thrived in the dirty areas yet but he’ll most likely be asked to be more involved next season. It’s tough to do more when you don’t have anything to work with. Relying on Sven Baertschi as the team’s other top winger hasn’t been the answer and the Canucks may opt to go another direction next season.

Thomas Vanek was a nice stop-gap and the arrival of Brendan Leipsic may fill his void. Leipsic has the makings of a young Alex Burrows with more offensive potential. He was a stunner in junior and seems to have a fit with a handful of players since being traded for from Vegas.

It hasn’t been a productive season as a whole but there are small improvements that will move the needle, if only slightly, in the fall. Elias Pettersson is having a stellar season in Sweden and will most likely be a fixture up front for the Canucks next season. He has the ability to play both center and wing which may help the Canucks overload the Horvat/Boeser line in the future.

Henrik and Daniel most likely will return next season as they have shown they still matter. It doesn’t help the rebuild a whole lot but the Canucks would be a heck of a lot worse if they were already gone.

One of the more important things to take away from this regrettable year has been the resurgence of the power play and its rightful place in the top 10 again. Much of this is to do with Boeser and Travis Green will have to tweak it next season to make it dangerous again. Getting it to Boeser on every available opportunity can only work for so long; there need to be more options. Pettersson may be one of them and potentially even Virtanen.

Jim Benning will need to make some waves in the offseason to further this thing along but this stinker of a season hasn’t been all for not. It hasn’t been pretty, not even close but it hasn’t been a complete waste either.

 

 

photo – USA Today

The Final Option: Put Eriksson With Boeser

Loui Eriksson is lost.  He has 13 points this season and pretty much all of them came within a two-week period. He’s barely noticeable on the ice and he is the latest Canuck to have a contract that “sucks”. Somehow, the Canucks must continue on with the Swedish Anchor for four more years. Watching the losses mount is one thing but seeing a $6 million player float in and out of existence on the ice is a tough pill to swallow. A buyout is not an option so what should the team do?

The last possible option without scratching him: Put him on Brock Boeser’s line.

Boeser has made pretty much everyone better around him. Of his 22 goals and 18 assists, here’s the breakdown of how Boeser’s stick has influenced his teammates:

Copied from Naturalstattrick.com

Copied from Naturalstattrick.com

Copied from Naturalstattrick.com

If you noticed there are only a few players not involved here that actually have a point: Jake Virtanen and Loui Eriksson are most notable. Jake doesn’t really need Brock’s assistance but that would sure be a fun line to see go for a night or more; they could call it “Flash and Bang”. OK, that’s more of an NFL running back tandem name but still, it’s good, admit it. The Boeser Effect has made the Canucks tolerable this season and with losses in tow, every game is a chance to see what else the rookie can do. Eriksson might be his biggest challenge yet.

In contrast, here is Eriksson’s rainbow of coverage:

Copied from Naturalstattrick.com

Copied from Naturalstattrick.com

Copied from Naturalstattrick.com

It’s bleak.

His report card would read “does not play well”. The second page of it would eventually say “with others”. Horvat is out so let’s eliminate those numbers, for now, Baertschi just came back so it could take some time to see that whole two assists increase, Vanek for now is with The Flow and the defense is a wash because they come and go.

Much like the movement to get Erik Gudbranson traded away, Loui Eriksson will need to move mountains before he’s even considered tradeable. It feels like Extreme Makeover: Eriksson Edition. Brock has two weeks to develop line chemistry with Loui and most likely Sam Gagner and show not only Travis Green but the rest of the NHL that Eriksson is indeed still capable of scoring goals or at the very least being a regular contributor.

To be fair, Boeser has only had two sets of linemates this year and really, the only change would be Thomas Vanek being subbed out for Loui. The speed difference would be most obvious change and maybe a power-play to start would be the best way to go, not sure. They both are shooting forwards so the idea of having them on opposite sides creates a problem.

Having LE as the setup guy at the top would get the ball rolling. The left-handed Eriksson feeding the right-handed Boeser flows (no pun intended) nicely and I can see a rush co-existing with these two. It intrigues the mind if only for a minute… hopefully, longer if you’re still reading that Loui has only been with the Sedins at 5v5 for any significant amount of regular time.

Small fact: Boeser and Eriksson have skated on the ice along with Gagner for just over 18 minutes of 5v5 and the small sample size isn’t amazing. It’s not a mind-blowing look and I can’t even remember which game it was exactly but it wouldn’t hurt to go back to that considering Boeser doesn’t even have a point with Eriksson at all.

Their time together wasn’t a Corsi dream, far from, but it’s not even about possession right now: it’s about production, something the Vancouver Canucks lack in almost every way imaginable.

At this point in the season, with all the losing and the injuries maiming the Canucks, why not experiment with possible options? Bo Horvat and Brandon Sutter will be returning sooner than later and this may all be a moot point by then but why not give it a try? The race to the trade deadline is approaching and the idea of Eriksson being snagged is a pipe dream at best.

It’s not that people hate Loui Eriksson but for the amount of money he’s linked to regardless of the bad decision made by Benning to sign him, he’s here as a Canuck and one more productive player is all anyone really wants. there was a time where he did produce and his career should be far from over but then again, stranger things have happened.

I honestly think Loui just needs some kind of reboot and riding shotgun with one of the hottest players in the league right now would definitely be that shot he needs.

Photo: Van Courier

Rookie Elite: From Bure To Boeser

The day has come.

There is a Canuck rookie as electrifying as Pavel Bure once was. This both saddens and excites me as Pavel Bure is the reason I became a Canucks fan and felt no player could ever hold a candle to his ability on the ice in a Canucks uniform. As Brock Boeser has emerged he has brought with him hope and the beginning of what could be an amazing era in Canucks history.

It doesn’t take long to see why Boeser has become the heir-apparent as the best player on the team, he does everything so well. His shot is lethal. It’s broken ankles, goalies, and even his own coach’s predictions of how good this young star could be.

The hype surrounding Brock before he even played his first game was quite similar to Pavel’s debut. Everyone knew what to expect, the pins and needles mounted as the day came near and when North Dakota was eliminated from the NCAA playoffs we all knew it was time. It’s tough to say if anyone believed he’d be playing for the Canucks the very next day but hey, that’s sports!

BB scored in his first game against his hometown Minnesota Wild, honestly what could be better than that? Pavel never scored in his first game but he rivaled Brock with the excitement of what was about to come.

The hype begins:

The OG hype machine:

That same tingly feeling is there when Bure took to the ice and now as Boeser steps over the boards for a shift. Something magical feels like it’s about to happen and every time the puck is on his stick you think you’re about to see the biggest goal of his career… it’s been almost predictable.

Bure never scored until his 4th game when he potted two against the LA Kings and didn’t really pile on the goals until later in the season. His play spoke for itself though, and his first game was almost a microcosm of what we were going to see throughout his career. Everything Pavel did was magic and it didn’t take long before he was the talk of the league.

Brock Boeser is reaching that status. He isn’t as fast as Bure was and doesn’t have the same hands as him but Boeser has a release that is otherworldly. The way he is able to bend his shots may be his eventual calling card. Boeser definitely has more of a Markus Naslund type shot but with the velocity of an Alex Ovechkin blast.

Media and fans alike are building a case for Boeser’s Calder consideration after he took the NHL by storm this week after scoring 6 goals in his last 5 games with 2 of those coming on the power play. He’s heavily involved as the final shot in the Canucks set pieces and the offense is quickly funneling down to him.

Don’t forget, he’s 20 years old.

This shot is attached to a 20-year-old, OUR 20-year-old.

Harbouring a star of Boeser’s caliber has been tough to accept as a Canucks fan because we’ve been burned so many times with almost and never was. Pavel Bure had it all and got the team so close to its first Cup, Markus Naslund and Todd Bertuzzi could never get over the hump of the second round and eventually fizzled out. The Sedins, Ryan Kesler, and Roberto Luongo just couldn’t figure it out and had front row seats in Game 7 against the Bruins as Boston cheered its first Cup in decades.

Bo Horvat had his doubters as well so you can see why it’s tough. Brock is a special talent that on the Canucks, is not matched. He will continue to get the media coverage that comes with being an overnight star and from the looks of it, it’s about as exciting to him as clipping toenails.

Getting jacked on a Calder candidate in November is dangerous but considering Boeser has played three fewer games than his teammates (two of them were healthy scratches to start the year) as well as being on pace to play more games than Pavel Bure did in his rookie campaign, it’s entirely possible.

He currently leads the Canucks in goals and points and as the stats mount up for Brock, the records will start to fall in the Canucks annuls. There hasn’t been a player like him in a long time and it feels good to be envied again after seeing players like Connor McDavid and Auston Matthews fall to teams because they won* a lottery. Boeser was scouted and Jim Benning delivered in spades.

One can only imagine what Elias Pettersson and Jonathan Dahlen will do once they arrive.

 

Follow me on twitter: @always90four

Photo – Dobber Hockey

A94 Brings Back Jarkko Polo

Probably one of my favourite ideas was creating a post on the week that was for the Canucks. You can get a recap anywhere but I’ll try and keep it fun, somewhat short and memorable. If you remember Jarkko Polo it was a short review of each game played that week; the thing is I hate going into crazy detail so the new look should hopefully just cover what matters. Feedback is welcome and so are donations.

Like any kind: iTunes, Subway, Home Depot… literally anything.

OK, let’s rock and roll

 

There wasn’t much to talk about this week because the Canucks only played one game. But what a game it was! Leading up to the season opener none of us had any clue as to what the first lineup would look like but we were all 100% sure it included rookie Brock Boeser. If you saw the game last night, you’ll know that it didn’t.

It did include a renewed Jake Virtanen and a healthy Derek Dorsett. Dorsett wasn’t exactly a sexy pick to be in the lineup but many of us judged him on what he displayed on the ice while playing with a slew of injuries. He’s healthy now and after a stellar performance against the Oilers and completely shutting down Connor McDavid, he’ll be a fixture on the team in 2017/18.

The outrage on the Twitter about Boeser not playing was the equivalent of Ari Gold not being allowed to take a call during marriage counseling.

So Boeser didn’t play but you know who did, you know who absolutely did: Bo FREAKIN Horvat!

Bo finished last season with a handful of assists but one goal in his last 18. On Saturday night he potted two markers and he looked phenomenal.

One game does not a season make but a handful of those types of games from Bo is more than welcome. With one player stepping up it was two players that were kept sitting a bit longer than they were used to.

Henrik and Daniel Sedin were essentially 4th liners in the opener and even though it’s one game, new head coach Travis Green might just want this team to step into the future and slowly fade out the past.

The Sedins have delivered year in and year out and even last night for the time they were on the ice they looked pretty good. A reduced role means the younger players get to step up and in maybe the most sneaky way, we all will see the transition of the Sedins to a secondary or even tertiary role.

Troy Stecher had a big game and was so feisty he picked a fight that raised an eyebrow or two in the arena and at home. He held his own and took another step to solidifying himself as one of the Canucks top defenders.

To top everything off, Jacob Markstrom had a great night as well. Keeping Connor McDavid off the board and making some crucial stops on the PK and late in the game, Marky was dialed in for almost the entire night.

All in all, a great first week (game) but it doesn’t feel like the Canucks WANT to lose. We all begged for proper line deployment and so far we got it. We asked for younger players and so far, aside from BB, we got it. We asked for meat draw… OK, no one asked for that but the fans got one.

The feeling is good right now and had the Canucks even lost that one in OT, the feeling probably would have felt the same. This Canucks team is fun.

 

So far.

The Canucks Are Catching Breaks…Somehow

I’m beginning to wonder what is going on in the NHL this season. The West seems like it’s hanging by a thread, the Pacific looks just as bad and just when everyone thought the Canucks were 65 point dogs, they set themselves up to be on pace for 85 points. I don’t get it. In a league that seemed to be repulsed by the very nature of the Canucks, it now is secretly embracing them.

Case in point – the disallowed goal.

Intent to blow the whistle? That referee was about as excited about that goal going in as I was when I found out Nickelback was going on tour again, he was pumped. When they then go to video review for approximately 5 minutes to ultimately tell everyone it’s not a goal because the ref was going to blow it off, it makes you think.

The Canucks have never, OK not never, but almost never got the call. From no goals to penalties to no goals being reversed, it’s just a way of life now as a fan. Don’t expect the call to go our way because it won’t. I can count on one hand how many times the Canucks have been spared by the NHL’s ax of judgment.

Are the powers that be in the glass tower actually pulling for a Canadian team, in this case, Vancouver, to make the playoffs? We know that if they get all the way again, machetes and uzis will be legal on the ice because skill won’t be allowed. This logic of pity on the Canucks can’t be carried too far down the line with the Leafs, Oilers or Flames but after a horrendous no show for any Canadian club last postseason, the NHL needs to remember that it too should not bite the hand that feeds.

Canada is hockey and if Canada isn’t watching, ratings plummet. Imagine If the Blue Jays played the Expos in the World Series (sorry, still too soon), it would have been a nightmare south of the border. You have to have at least one team in there to give everyone hope. The “Canada’s team” mantra is pretty flawed but the media eats it up.

So how are the Canucks managing to stay in the hunt this year? The power play in a simple sentence.

No, not their PP% but their opportunities. Vancouver ranks just outside the top 10 for total power plays with 75. Unfortunately, that doesn’t correlate to success as they employ the 3rd worst clip in the league at a barren 13.3%. But this team isn’t fast whatsoever, the Sedins are good for at least one hooking penalty per game and they don’t ruffle any feathers to bother anyone enough to hurt them.

It’s like watching the Senators, basically.

Yet, the Canucks continue to go up a man and the NHL continues to help them along. It isn’t JUST the NHL helping them out, though: Ryan Miller is having a spectacular season and since Christmas Day, he’s 3rd in GA with 13, 1st in SA% at a hulking .948 and 2nd with a GAA of 1.58. This is the kind of stuff Roberto Luongo did and is still doing over in Florida.

In Luongo’s first season with the Canucks, there were a ton of tight games because quite frankly, no one could score. It’s almost the same this year but I doubt they’ll achieve 49 wins this time around. Vancouver is slowly rebuilding its reputation as an honest team and with Ryan Kesler and Kevin Bieksa gone, I suppose Burrows is still there,  the officials are starting to give the Canucks a fair shake.

That hasn’t translated to the draft lottery yet but hopefully, Benning can just build the team without needing to go that route again. Not all the problems are fixed yet, but as the Canucks gain confidence in their abilities with the new faces in the mix and maybe a trade or two, the Canucks luck could eventually turn into talent.

Follow me on twitter: @always90four

photo – ctvnews.ca