NHL

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.

Advertisements

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

Are the Canucks Even Marketable Anymore?

It’s 2003, the West Coast Express is riding the high after an epic season; Markus Naslund and Todd Bertuzzi are 2nd and 4th in league scoring and the Canucks have never been hotter. The meteoric rise of popularity for the Canucks continued to reach new heights all the way to the 2011 Stanley Cup Final. The Canucks were a marketer’s dream; they could do no wrong and despite soaring face value prices and aftermarket prices for tickets, the Canucks were IT.

Fast forward a few years later to present day 2015 and we aren’t in Kansas anymore. Do you even know what channel they’re on?

There has been much talk about how the Canucks TV ratings have dropped substantially and this really isn’t surprising at all.

The train has been slowly coming off the tracks for some time now when the statistics are that blunt, there needs to be some serious thought put into efforts to get the once marketing wizards of the NHL back to it’s rightful throne. The NHL and Rogers are a new superpower in Canada and that is one reason the Canucks are feeling the sting.

Gone is the regional feel to a Canucks broadcast, where intermissions are now flanked with Mark Messier commercials, Duncan Keith featurettes and the Hockey Central hub. It doesn’t feel like an organic production anymore. Watching a game isn’t personal and the online presence is also to blame. I personally don’t subscribe to hockeystreams but know things like this and NHL Game Center live are the way of the future. Its not about the 60″ big screen anymore; people just want to see the game wherever they can.

But what are the Canucks doing, or rather NOT doing that has them grasping at straws to come up with an idea, any idea that fans can relate to and spend their money. The big sell for a segment of Canucks fans is the Throwback night in February when the Canucks will face the Leafs in their retro black 1994 skate jerseys. The team store has jersey and name/number tees but when they show you can only get a handful of players you know things are bad.

Henrik and Daniel Sedin, Bo Horvat, Jake Virtanen and Brandon Sutter. WOW! Amazing! THIS is what you want to market? If this was 2010 heck even a few years ago when they FIRST started to fall, you’d have anyone with a remote fan following on those tees. I’m not even kidding. There were times when such players as Victor Oreskovich, Aaron Rome and Jeff Cowan all were in the merch business. You could sell ice to….wait I better not go there, even Edmonton is facing backlash for their football team name, who knows where I fall in.

I worked the sports retail industry for 10 years and the amount of Canucks products that was made available was sickening and coming from me, that’s saying a lot. Does anyone even care anymore about the push to have Johnny Canuck as our logo? How in demand is the skate actually? I can’t remember the last time I purchased something Canucks related. Is this really what it’s come to?

Check out this Groupon ad (click HERE) This is a LIVE OFFER!!! Living in the lower mainland for the glory years, if that’s what we want to call them because they really didn’t win anything more than their division and a few Presidents trophys (congrats I guess), getting into Rogers Arena for less than $150 a duckett was considered a steal! Even if you were to go on a bus trip through a pub or knew a ticket broker, you still paid way more than you should have.

They’re pretty much giving it away now. Their integrity is going with it. We all want so bad to back guys like Ben Hutton (#HUTTONmania), Jared McCann, Jake Virtanen and ya why not, Luca Sbisa. The old regime would have been all over these players to get them into the fold as the next ONES. Maybe I’m out of touch now that I live in the Okanagan but I doubt I’m too far off from the truth.

Management brought in the Ryan Millers, Radim Vrbatas…..that’s about it. Oh man are we in trouble. The homegrown talent thankfully is marketable and they can make a difference but they have to have the light focused on them. Make them matter. It’s two seasons in and we’re all rethinking Bo Horvat. Are we crazy? Start pumping this guys tires Trev! I want to care but they make it so hard to even start that feeling.

My kids need to have every conceivable reason why they have to be Canucks fans but aside from the losses, which are fine in the grand scheme of things, what are they cheering for outside of the game? Every good parent has their kids draped in their teams wears but is this current setup worth buying into?

There isn’t anything remotely marketable about this team. We all stick to the memories we have of the better times we once had but what is there to sell RIGHT NOW? They know there’s a Star Wars movie coming out right? Have you seen how many hockey teams have had a Star Wars themed night? At least TRY to show you’re interested in your fans.

Rogers Arena is 20 years old and to celebrate this amazing feat, ownership is celebrating 20 things that happened in that time. Nothing says Canucks hockey like the Grizzlies being honored…errr one Grizzly. We loved the West Coast Express, we really did so for approximately 5 minutes maybe…we honored them and then totally didn’t care anymore. Great idea.

But if you DID want to see Nazzy, Bert and Mo and you lived on Vancouver Island and had NHL Game Center? Well you missed it. Even Geeta’s Game Center didn’t get it.

Who honestly cares about this #20in20 ? Not me. The team isn’t trying very hard to hold onto their fans. It’s a building that nobody has won jack squat in and if you are celebrating some colossal failures and incidents we try to forget, maybe you should have waited until at least 25 years. Let’s do a quick recap: Grizzlies, no Grizzlies, two lockouts, March 9, 2004, the Bruins, the Kings, ugh the Flames and high ticket prices. We did have the Olympics, those went well and obviously every time Nickelback comes to town.

Other than that, save the 20.

The momentum lights the team added on the stanchions were a nice touch but it isn’t something to write home about. To a degree, some of these complaints are directed towards the conglomerate Rogers, but when you look at what the Canucks have done to combat their TV ratings for starters, they can’t really help.

The team on the ice right now is not exciting at all. The Sedins are the only thing worth watching and they don’t play every shift, even though Willie would do it if he could. The predictable back pass was tolerable when other things were happening but now its just dump and chase for 60 minutes, and lately its just dumping. A lot…of….dumping.

Are the Canucks stuck in a marketing limbo? It seems that way and there isn’t one specific way they can get out of it. The on ice product is the first piece of the puzzle and that will have to continue to build for things to get even a little bit better. The team has to start taking some gambles in all aspects of their business and it may pay off and it may not but Canuck nation isn’t used to a loser.
Its one thing to have a team  that loses and eventually rebounds back; right now it feels like most people are indifferent about what happens to the Canucks. A Canadian hockey team should never get to that point. The Leafs are even going as far as changing their jerseys and primary logo…THE LEAFS!!

You’ve shown us that spending ridiculous amounts of cash for things we don’t need or can afford is ok, so start doing that again. Get in touch with the fan base that got you to the pinnacle and start listening to them. This team had/has so much freaking potential but if they stay on this path, it’s going to take a long, long time before we see anything close to what we loved so much, again.

I hate to be such a Debbie Downer but honestly, being sold on this team is so tough and its not just this year. I want to know the Canucks are doing everything they can to be MY team and not just one of the 30 teams playing hockey in the NHL.

I’ve asked way too many questions that probably have answered themselves and I know I’ve done some CAPITAL letters; but at the end of the day it comes down to this:

Come on Canucks, you’re better than that.

Follow me on twitter: @always90four

The Secret Reason The Sedins Aren’t Good at 3 on 3

Admit it, you’re intrigued. Its one of life’s great mysteries that has yet to unriddle itself. Much like the age old ones that it joins (how’d they get the caramilk into the caramilk bar, why do they call it bluetooth and where on earth is Carmen Sandiego?), why do the Sedins absolutely blow at the 3 on 3 bonus round of hockey after 60 minutes? The answer might surprise you but I have nothing better to do and my hot taek theory just might be so bang on that it will make it’s way straight to the top (Willie D’s chalk talk).

 

We’ve all wondered why the Sedins just don’t click when the game hits OT and all of a sudden they’re in a 3 vs. 3 nightmare scenario every time. 5 on 5, the Sedins are arguably THE top producing pair over the last 10 years, moreso let’s look at the last 5 or so. I might look into that later on. HA, I found it! At 5th, thats arguable enough for me, but hey I’m a pushover sometimes. So when its even strength or even a normal power play, why are Henrik and Daniel SO good?

You would think with all that extra space they would be able to dominate and make lesser non twin team mates look silly; that isn’t the case. When it’s full strength, the duo have put up a combined PDO of 101.6 since 2010 and a CF% of 57.9. That’s ridiculous! Here are the full stats from Puckalytics.com:

 

Player_Name TOI GF GA GF60 GA60 GF% Sh% Sv% PDO CF CA CF60 CA60 CF%
Together 4659:17 218 136 2.81 1.75 61.6 8.54 93.10 101.6 4747 3458 61.13 44.53 57.9
HENRIK SEDIN* 792:28 40 33 3.03 2.50 54.8 10.26 92.34 102.6 702 783 53.15 59.28 47.3
DANIEL SEDIN* 609:28 21 27 2.07 2.66 43.8 7.34 91.64 99.0 546 574 53.75 56.51 48.8

OK, but I promised you that I knew the secret to their 3 on 3 woes and I’m getting there; I will say it’s based more on theory than stats but hopefully you will still be my friend after I tell you. Can we agree on that right now?

So here it is, my manifesto, my deer hunter:

Henrik and Daniel have always looked for the winger that best compliments them and can understand their thought process, their cycle game and can stick up for them when things get dicey. Add to that the two defencemen that flank the blue line to make sure the Twins can do their thing and you have a line that has so often been unstoppable. So when you take away 2 players you would think that gives Henrik and Daniel more room to work and that patented drop pass would just own.

It doesn’t.

By going to a 3 man group you have to have one dman to get them the puck and NOW they don’t have their 3rd cycle guy on the wing. To add to the obvious frustration that both you and I have, not to mention the Sedins, the 3rd guy that DOES join them is usually a defenseman and quite frankly his job is to defend and if given the opportunity maybe set up a point shot. That’s pretty rare though.

So now you’ve gotten rid of your winger that completes the cycle, you’ve eliminated your other defender and the distraction of the cycle is gone! The beauty of it and the reason its so amazingly effective is that the winger that completes it gets to be involved and the defense holds the line in case of emergency or if they need to get the puck up top and back to Henrik or Daniel to start it all over again.

The Twins aren’t the fastest skaters which is also a reason they should rename the hooking penalty “Sedining” and every team that the Canucks face have fast forwards that can adjust and race up the ice on a bad rebound which seems to be a very regular occurrence these days. If the cycle breaks down even a little bit, the Sedins are exposed pretty quickly and with only one other guy back there isn’t enough time to haul back and break up most certainly a 2, potentially 3 on 1.

I love the Twins, I really do but if just like the Canucks botched the use of Luongo in big game situations ,(see 2011 Stanley Cup Final, 2013 Heritage Classic) they continue to put Henrik and Daniel in OT, the results will eventually dwindle back to absolute zero. There isn’t a different formula that works for them together. If you are going to have either of them on the ice in OT, separate them and do it now.

The other alternative is that you put in players that are  more suited to race up and down the ice on a dime, Jannik Hansen, Bo Horvat and Ben Hutton perhaps? I’ll even include Alex Burrows, Sven Baertschi, Jared McCann and what they hey, Luca Sbisa! Look at the last points column after wins and losses, it’s OTL and you know what Canucks fans, that is going to be your most important category of all.

It will be this year’s version of the 2012 Phoenix, yes Phoenix Coyotes. The OTL will be as popular as #HUTTONmania or #weareallcanucks or even #pleaserefundmytickets.

Saying the Sedin’s shouldn’t be on the ice is criminal but if its OT, I don’t want them together and I don’t care how you do it. The proof has already presented itself and Willie’s burnt enough games now that it should be crystal clear. No more OT Sedins.

You will hear the phrase “addition by subtraction” but in the Sedins OT scenarios its subtraction by subtraction and that is the worst kind of subtraction. If there are any math gurus out there that have a worse kind of subtraction, let me know. I’ll listen.

Follow me on my twitter, im worth it: @always90four

photo courtesy of blogs.theprovince.com

Bowness Coverage – Canucks Maybe Are Good

Last season ended as a somewhat predictable tire fire and the Canucks had some obvious problems to fix. Fast forward 5 months and they look surprisingly better. Benning and Co. went younger, faster and slightly more expensive but where brass has spent their money, they’ve saved in other areas. For the first time since 1999, the Canucks start the season with 3 rookies: Jared McCann, Ben Hutton and Jake Virtanen. Its not what was expected to happen but guess what, here we are!

Its a pretty different team than last year and roles have changed throughout the lineup. Bo Horvat has earned the #2C role and has a spiffy set of wingers in Sven Baertschi and Radim Vrbata. After one game, I thought they looked pretty impressive and I have a feeling they will only get better. I would have liked to see Horvat a bit more on the PP and maybe even with the Sedins on a loaded setup with Edler and Weber at some point. Its only a game in so its a bit much to ask right now.

Elliotte Friedman has his 30 thoughts but I lose focus after 10 so that’s what I offer. Without further ado, I bring you your Bowness Coverage.

  • Nothing new for the Sedins but man do they continue to impress year after year. Their uncanny ability to find each other and make plays that still make you shake your head has not diminished. This play that lead to Brandon Sutter’s bloop single to the back of the net just shows what the Sedins can make happen. Check this out:
  • You won’t find much in the way of the Corsi here, maybe I’ve listened to a bit too much Pucks on Net lately, but I would guess Alex Edler’s corsi is crazy good after one game. The man has a boomer of a shot and he got it off what looked to be a ton (3 shots actually with a +3 rating). When Edler is shooting the way he can and his sticks aren’t breaking, he has the ability to make the Canucks PP and blue line very effective. Plus I have his t-shirt.
  • Staged fighting will continue to make the NHL a bush league. Dorsett and Prust both had tilts in the first period and I do not care for them. If there is a genuine energy boost in a game and a fight organically happens, go for it. Fake emotion though? Lame. You would think the NHL would be better than this but they’re not. Probably won’t see this end anytime soon.
  • Speaking of things that need to stop, these are two prime examples of how bonehead plays can ruin players careers and for the guys committing these stupid plays, they’ll be sitting out and rightfully so. It’s pathetic when you see repeat offenders continually allowed to offend and offend again. To be fair though, the RCMP, Provincial and Federal justice systems don’t exactly set a great example. Not the same thing but you get the idea. See exhibits A and B:
  • //platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

  • It seems the fines/suspensions just don’t make it clear enough that its wrong. 41 games for Torres hopefully is his last chance. I love the way Torres plays and truly miss him as a Canuck but he plays on such a thin line that he can cross it quite easily.
  • A great initiative has been started over at the Nation Network which hosts Canucks Army, Flames Nation, Oilers Nation, Daily Faceoff and NHL Numbers; they are helping raise money for a foundation spearheaded by the Canucks called Mindcheck.ca Check out @CanucksMOTB and pledge some money to a great cause.
  • Tim Hortons has become the new place to get your overpriced 3 pack of Upper Deck hockey cards after McDonalds got out of the game a few years ago. I took part in a purchase agreement but where they get you is surprising: with a drink purchase you can get a pack of cards for a buck and tax. Any additional packs are 1.99 by themselves which is ludacris but if you purchase another drink, its only a buck again. Bravo Timmies! You are taking our money and any hope at a healthy nation with your calorie rich ice capps. McDonalds basically said “ya you can buy fries and then we’ll cap your card packs at ummmmm 80, is that ok?” Im here to help you save your hard earned paper route money.
  • Ben Hutton is the latest edition to the Canucks back end and he looked super swell! 8th in ice time after game one, his first NHL assist/point and 2:29 in PP time? Willie loves him some Hutton. That feeling won’t go away and after Frankie Corrado was waived and claimed by the Leafs, Vancouver better stick to their guns on this guy. Not like they have to worry though. Ben can look at Alex Edler and Chris Tanev and know that he can produce without being on the scoresheet. Amazingly enough, he does that too! His name may pop up more and more as the season goes on.
  • The Canucks new slogan for this season is #playforthis. The commercials that accompany it are about as thought out as this latest blog post. In an effort to sell tickets, which will be tough until this team proves itself, marketing is trying to relate to the Canucks everyman. If you want to relate maybe start with something like this: We’ve GOUGED you for years, but you showed up. We’ve won NOTHING but yet you cheer. We locked you out but you came back. We hired TORTS and then fired him right away. This is a new Canucks era and its ready to play…for you… We are ALL Canucks. And then throw in a hashtag and get a sponsor for Club 16 or Sushi.
  • Play for the fan in the 3 ferry lineup? You can do better than that. You had the Bauer/Nike guy and all he gave us was a really nice throw rug with a big 7 on it. Cliff Ronning thought it was amazing though.
  • Not at all Canucks related, well unless you count Roberto Luongo’s campaign but Jagr is bringing back his mullet and that is a great thing.
  • //platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

The NHL season is finally here and there will no doubt be many more stories and sub plots in the Canucks stratosphere. Might they make the playoffs again this year? Im saying yes.

Might they get past the first round, Im saying no.

Might Bo Horvat end up being the best bang for your buck NHLer this season, sure hope so.

Follow me on twitter: @always90four

Baertschi And Friends: Double Digest

Much of the talk in the last few days/few weeks has revolved around the young bucks Jake Virtanen and Jared McCann trying to crack the Canucks lineup. Add in Ben Hutton to the mix and the Canucks transform into a completely different squad. But the man Jim Benning acquired at last year’s trade deadline, Sven Baertschi, may prove to be a bigger story than the kids.

Moving draft picks in today’s NHL is risky business especially when those picks are in the first two rounds. Baertschi was traded to the Flames before the 2015 draft for the Canucks 2nd round pick where Calgary selected Swedish defensman Rasmus Andersson. Is he better than Sven, well we might be here awhile to find that out.

Vancouver hasn’t exactly been “real good” at trading picks in the last few years so it was fair to be a bit skeptical when they made this move and with Calgary to boot!

For the Canucks they may have taken a risk on a player like Sven who basically just didn’t want to play in Calgary, wonder why; and his push level could have faded long ago. Baertschi was given a new lease on life and was asked to put the puck in the net for Vancouver. A 2nd rounder may have been high but considering Kevin Bieksa was traded to the Ducks for their 2016 2nd round pick, maybe it isn’t so bad?

Enter the 2015/16 preseason and Sven Baertschi was given a gift: Bo Horvat. These two seemed to have clicked instantly this preseason and give the Canucks a legit two line threat providing Brandon Sutter works with the Twins. (Side note: I hope he doesn’t, moves to the 3rd line and they move Hansen or Burrows back) Here’s a little clip in how affective these two have already been:

The ascension up the depth chart for Bo Horvat has given Baertschi extreme relevance going into this season and teams will start targeting that line because of the speed and craftiness they bring each shift. Add to that Czech sniper Radim “the dream” Vrbata and you have the makings of a goal-a-licious line. The beauty of this is that Horvat provides more of the grit and breaking speed, while Vrbata and Baertschi compliment as dandy shooting options.

No doubt Vrbata would rather be with Henrik and Daniel and I’m guessing he’d prefer to have another vowel in his last name after the letter R, but we don’t all get what we want. Long have the Canucks lacked true secondary scoring and if this isn’t secondary scoring, I don’t know what is?

Having the first two lines set the way they are frees up Willie Desjardins to have more of shifty third line with Hansen, Burrows and McCann. As Radim Vrbata will tell you/WD, chemistry is important and sticking RV, Horvat and Sven together may produce sooner than later.

Ok, no Virtanen on line two yet but you can imagine, having Vrbata instead probably ups the ante.

As the title of this suggests, you were hoping there would be some reference to Archie Andrews, Jughead and maybe Moose; I led you on and I’m sorry. However, Archie and Baertschi are SUPER close so I figured I could get by on that, you be the judge.

With no real statistics to go off yet for this line, aside from that video you loved in the preseason; this line will be a litmus test for what the Canucks can work with on the other three lines down the road. Hopefully, WD gives these guys some time to build some chemistry and we can worry more about our zone exits, consistent goal-tending and just how “real good” the new kids are.

Follow me on twitter: @always90four

PlayOn! Kelowna Is 4 on 4 In Your Face Action!

Its Street Fighter meets Hockey…so basically street hockey, but imagine the possibilities. If you still are blown away by the previous sentence, please move on; Street Fighter is not hooking up with hockey. The annual PlayOn! 4 on 4 street hockey tournament is hitting Kelowna this weekend (June 20/21) and the area around Prospera Place will be jam packed with Canada’s ultimate past time. It will be in your face action from the opening faceoff to the presentation of the Redwood Cup on Sunday.

  

Road hockey is played across this great country all year round and CBC’s Hockey Night in Canada has created the ultimate get together to showcase our love for the sport. Starting Saturday morning men, women, boys and girls will be facing off in a 4 on 4 street hockey tournament and a select few will get to play for the Redwood Cup, PlayOn’s official championship trophy…ok actually just the Elite division does but I mean, we can dream right?

Teams are divided into several divisions from casual amateurs to the best of the best in the elite division. There is also a Corporate UPS division that companies can enter teams and help raise money for the United Way and get a tax receipt as well. I will be playing on the Best Western corporate team this weekend so watch out! I’m amazingly awesome average.

For all the out of towners, and there are a few, Best Western is the official hotel partner of the tournament so you should definitley check them out if you need a place to stay, I suppose if you gave me $2000 for the weekend you could use my place. Don’t tell my wife though, she doesn’t know I offered.

How the games work is pretty simple: 3 forwards and 1 goalie….that’s it. Games are 30 minutes long and split into 2 – 15 min halfs, and like the Maple Leafs, I don’t care that it’s spelt wrong. If games end in a tie, the good ol’ shootout starts up. Same NHL rules apply in the shootout, if you can manage a spin o rama on the street, knock yourself out.

When goals are scored its the other team’s possession and back and forth you go. We aren’t re-inventing the wheel here folks, it’s hockey. The sun should be shining all weekend so chug that water! Being that it is summer, there will probably be a few NHLers hanging around and maybe just maybe, YOU could meet one, YA YOU!

But this whole thing isn’t just hockey, its hanging with your buds, drinking some wobbly pops and having a great time. PlayOn! has coined the phrase #bestweekendever and having lived here for many years, you can cash that cheque all day long. But lets get back to the wobbly pops for a sec, you have to be 19, I don’t condone underage drinking. Have a Powerade.

This weekend is going to rock so hard and best of all it’s hockey in June. So with hours to go to register, SIGN UP HERE and get jacked for two days of some of the best memories you’ll ever have. Of course, if you have a wife, kids or a Lambourghini those are pretty great memories too! But the hockey memories, those will be good.

So to recap: Hockey memories – GOOD 

                       Wife, kids and lambourghini memories – ALSO GOOD

Some people want to play for the Stanley Cup, some want to own their own home, there’s a select few that just want to be able to skate without falling down…I am that one; but this weekend we all want that Redwood Cup and we want it bad.

Hockey Night in Canada’s PlayOn! Hockey tournament is about to land in Kelowna and it can’t come soon enough.

PLAYON!

Follow me on twitter: @always90four

Follow PlayOn! Kelowna: @playkelowna

Canucks Need To Hit That

By now its quite evident the Canucks aren’t just losing the series, they’re losing the physical game too! We have no idea what injuries are affecting the guys that are playing but there is no urgency to hit the Flames off their pedastal. Michael Ferland, Ferkland, Ferby, Fernie..WHO CARES, has been allowed to run rampant around the rink and has gone unpunished for his consistent charging. With two games left in the series (YEP) the Canucks have to push back.

Calgary has been allowed to hit whatever and however they want and its given them an edge; not a skilled edge but an intensity edge. Can I say edge one more time? Vancouver isn’t a physical team and they have managed to get by on four productive lines all year. The Flames seem to like the rough stuff and that has forced the Canucks to be reactive. The unfortunate thing is that they have been reacting all series and haven’t been the ones setting the pace. The Canucks have registered 103 hits compared to the Flames 131; doesn’t exactly seem correct but thats what the site says. Ferland leads the whole series with 33, surprise surprise.

Every opportunity to make a hit has pretty much been downgraded to a fly by on the Canucks roster and it puts a few questions to mind: Where is the intensity, where is the emotion and what is it going to take to hit someone? It isn’t the Canucks game to thrash their opponents physically, they’re skilled players and they do the talking with their sticks. Brad Richardson does it a bit differently.

After having time to digest the big win to force the series back to Calgary, I noticed that Ferland wasn’t a real factor once the Canucks took the possesion game over. Michael Ferland isn’t that great of a player and if the Canucks don’t allow him to keep getting his charging bull hits in, he’s almost, as Kevin Bieksa says “irrelevant”. Once you let the physical Flames start dictating things, they become the focus.

There were too many times last night where one extra step or a follow through hit could have forced the Flames to start reacting instead of setting the pace. I realize that stepping up to make a personal play could take you out of position and possibly turn the game in Calgary’s favour; but the first two periods had plenty of chances to take a bit of a risk.

Game 6 will be a different animal and the biggest test all season: can the Canucks match the effort they put out against the Kings just over a month ago in LA? Calgary has been a loud, intense building through Games 3 and 4 and with a chance to close out the series against the Canucks, they won’t quit. The biggest test is doing your thing away from home and the Canucks had the 5th best road record in the league this year. But that means nothing if they can’t do it tomorrow night.

If the opportunity presents itself, hit those arrogant jerks. Calgary shouldn’t even be here in the first place.

You’ve come this far Vancouver, two more games should be nothing.

photo credit – sportsnet.ca

Follow me on twitter: @always90four

It’s 4th Down, Bottom Of The 9th With The Goalie Pulled

When it comes to football, baseball and hockey, the blame game often lies on the Quarterback, Pitcher and the Goalie. Is it their fault the rest of their team blew their assignments to put all the pressure on these guys? Depends on who you ask I suppose. These three positions are quite similar in how the public views them and what is asked of them by their coach and team mates. Who has it worse? Who deserves the most blame? Even championships can’t save these guys.

It’s Sunday Night Football, Brady vs. Manning, Rodgers vs. Romo; the spotlight is shining brightest on the man behind center. The matchup is always QB vs QB, not team vs team. Quarterbacks are paid the big contracts and are the face of the franchise. Who starts on Sunday is the big discussion on talk radio and when the chips are down every throw, run and sack is scrutinized.

Baseball takes a different approach by employing the starting rotation. Every team has 5 guys they deem are worthy of leading their team to victory once every 5 days. The pitching duel isn’t as relevant but again they face the most scrutiny because they are the players that start every.single.play.

Goaltending in hockey shares the spotlight that the other two positions do; the flip is that they are the last guy to beat before a goal is awarded. Unfortunately, the goalie is the one often blamed for a team’s misplays. It doesn’t matter if the defense is brutally awful or the forwards can’t cross center ice without giving up the puck, if the puck goes in, cue the boo birds.

Every Sunday the best quarterbacks in the league can be hung out to dry by a stellar defense or an offensive line that has more holes than swiss cheese. The QB is commonly the one to blame and his performance is the lightning rod for why his team did so poorly. The amount of study that goes in to one game is mind numbing: option reads, deep plays, the run game and the unforeseen flag all go into how a team fairs when they have the ball. A poorly timed pass can result in an interception that could end the game.

Once the pitcher steps onto the mound it’s his game. All the preparation and game tape can change in an instant when the first pitch of the game goes deep over the left field wall. Thankfully, baseball is played a pitch at a time and even a badly executed pitch can be recovered by a well positioned fielder. Quarterbacks can relate to a degree, the game is in their hands until they let go, then it gets real.

Even though a goalie doesn’t have the puck to start the game, it takes seconds to have them involved. Goalies have it pretty rough. There is so much that has to happen before its their fault, however, one mistake by anyone on their team can be forgiven if the goalie does his job properly. Goalies can be asked to steal games when the guys up front aren’t necessarily equipped to get the job done on their end.

What links these 3 positions together?

Aside from the crazy hate, relentless criticism and the ability to lose their job because they don’t win EVERY SINGLE game; all of these people share a remarkable mental toughness and are celebrated for doing a job most players wouldn’t want to be responsible for. Putting a blatantly obvious interception in the rear view mirror when it puts his team behind takes a special type of athlete and even more special when he can engineer a game winning drive in the last 2 minutes.

Having a pitcher give up consecutive home runs or walking in the go ahead run to have the reliever come in and strikeout out the side to get his team back in is something most athletes don’t want to be responsible for. Or maybe its the flip side and the pitcher has a perfect game or a no hitter going; its the loneliest place in the world but you know your team will do whatever it takes to keep it alive and it doesn’t matter who you cheer for, you want to see it happen.

Behind the mask, the puck is the ultimate decider of fate. A quarterback can throw an interception but the game isn’t necessarily over, a pitcher can give up a hit, doesn’t mean the winning run comes in; with goaltending, when the puck crosses that line, you failed. Its final. So much can be put on the tender for what HE didn’t do to keep the puck out when a blown assignment by his defense gave the goalie no chance aside from a miracle. Its a cruel, cruel game.

As the great Uncle Ben from Spiderman once said “with great power, comes great responsibility”. Nothing rings truer than these 3 positions. Championships are won and lost on a bad pitch, an overthrown pass or a screened shot. ERA, WHIP, pass completion, QB ratings, touchdowns, interceptions, save percentage, GAA, shutouts, perfect games and no hitters; none of that matters unless there is a W attached to it.

The pressure to perform at each of these sport’s biggest positions is incredible but the rewards can turn an ordinary Joe into Joe Montana. If I had to pick, goaltending is the hardest. The split second decisions are so drastic that a teams downfall can happen quite quickly. I don’t envy any of those guys.

Follow me on twitter: @always90four and @hankthetank10
Like A94 on Facebook: Always90four
See the pictures on Instagram: @always90four

The Idiots That Leave Games Early

There is one pet peeve that drives me absolutely bat ish crazy: “Fans” who leave the games early. Whether it be that their team is getting pasted or they are getting mercied, it is the WORST thing you can do as a fan. Who cares what the final score is when its all over; if you paid to be there stay until the end.

OK, there’s a tiny exception that we should allow: people with kids at the game. As a father of two myself, I love to regularly bring my daughter to hockey games but being that most of the games are played at night, bedtime comes pretty quick; that or she’s being a little brat. I feel for those people and regardless of the score, I always have every intention of staying until the buzzer hits 0:00. I had no other plans to do anything else for those 2.5 hours or so, so why should I leave?

As the Canucks are seeing this season, winning has come at a premium and the fans apparently aren’t in the mood to watch 60 minutes of hockey. Give the tickets to me then or someone who cares because honestly, YOU DON’T DESERVE THEM!! What does that say to your team when you won’t even support them to the fullest degree? If your team is up enough that its out of reach, stay to cheer them at the final buzzer, they deserve it for kicking ass! If they get pounded within an inch of their life, stick around to show them you are still a fan. Actually, don’t. The loyal fans of the Miami Heat are a perfect example of what NOT to do when your team is down, facing elimination and basically left for dead.

The Heat were facing elimination in Game 6 of the NBA Finals last year against the San Antonio Spurs. They were down 5 with 30 seconds to go in the game, basically it was over. Fans started filing for the exits and going home. A defeat too much to take. What happened after that was the stuff of legends: The Heat rallied back to tie the game with 3 seconds left, eventually going ahead in OT and forcing a Game 7.

Insert – Basketball really abuses the time out system and the clock stoppages and such so really the last 30 seconds took awhile. Regardless, it was an amazing comeback and I was in absolute shock when Ray Allen hit the ice cold 3 to tie the game, it was amazing!

The security staff at the American Airlines Arena didn’t let the fans back in as they have a strict no re-entry policy, no kidding. What a way to shove it in your “fans” faces, with the clutch performance of the ages. Fans begged to get let back in, but nope, they were stuck scrambling to a bar that was showing the game. GAME 6 OF THE FINALS…..HOW DO YOU LEAVE??? You pathetic excuses for fans. Wasn’t really surprising when the victory parade was the size of a protest, maybe not even.

Its understandable if your team is getting rocked but really, what else were you going to be doing in the next hour? Probably sitting in traffic. I’d rather be at a game then sitting in traffic thats for sure. The sad thing is that this epic movement happens from Major Junior hockey all the way through the NCAA and right up to the pro leagues. I think back a few years ago when I was able to attend Canucks games semi-regularly. Not cheap. Vancity would be killing whoever they were playing and fans would be hitting the exits with a period or more to go, why? Or they were losing and they would up and leave. I would kill to be able to afford seats where I could get up and go. The difference is I would stay.

Try this on for size: When your kid’s team is getting peppered, get up and go. Tell them you’ll see them after the game. See what they do. Or if they are up big, go get a coffee at Timmys and pick them up after the game. Pretty sure you will win the award for deadbeat parent of the year. Don’t feel bad though, there are plenty of people that will join you.

The beauty of the unknown in sports is the reason you stay. If you have ever seen a comeback you know what I’m talking about. From the unheard of like what the Heat did, or what North Carolina State did in 1983. Before you click, know that its an hour long documentary, but its worth it. A true Cinderella story and overcoming all odds to win it all. My personal experience with comebacks has two sides: the bad first; watching the Canucks go up 2-0 in game 4 of the Conference Semis against the eventual Champions, the Ducks, and then watching the quackers waddle back and win in OT. The good – I was in attendance at a Kings/Stars game in LA back in 2007 and I witnessed one of the biggest comebacks in NHL history. The Kings were down 4-0 with just over 7 min left in the game. They would come back and score the fastest 5 goals in NHL history. The Stars came back and forced OT and LA sealed it in the extra frame.

Can’t make that up.

So all you so called fans that don’t like watching full games, next time you go to a game, think about if there is literally ANYONE ELSE that would rather be there. Im pretty sure there is.

Follow me on twitter @hankthetank10