radim vrbata

Raymond, Ballard and a 3rd; The Trade That Never Was

We’re 10 days away from the 2016 NHL trade deadline and unless Jim Benning and Co. go on a month long bender and forget they still have a job to do, the Canucks will be sellers at the deadline. In previous years, the Canucks have sold off what we believed to be important parts of the team (Hodgson, draft picks) but found out those would have just held us back.

So seeing that the playoffs are not an option for Vancouver this season and plenty of contending teams are looking for valuable rentals, what can the Canucks get for the future of the franchise? That same question was asked back in 2011 and 2012 but the Canucks were the ones doing the buying. What did we all think they should offer; how bout Mason Raymond, Keith Ballard and a 3rd round pick?

This was the package that was theoretically put together by anyone that thought they could run the Canucks back then. Of course, we never wanted to get rid of anyone of true value because the Canucks still needed to win the Cup; but we didn’t need Keith Ballard who Alain Vigneault basically cast off of the team and Mason Raymond was just good enough to fetch value on the open market, but we could have cared less about him.

As for the 3rd round pick, whether you play fantasy sports or you are actually the real life GM of a sports franchise, this was the very most you were willing to give away without going into the hot zone of future prospects or being shoo’d away for being to frugal. Giving up a 1st or a 2nd was usually out of the question unless you were getting back a premier player or a hot prospect.

The 3rd was the top pick in the 2nd tier of value so everyone was cool with that. But why did that trade never materialize?

Was it because in reality, it was awful? Was it not enough to fetch the likes of Shea Weber, Corey Perry or jeez, I don’t even remember the amount of players I thought could come back in that trade. It’s funny to think that the Canucks still had Cody Hodgson at the time and was so highly sought after by Canucks brass but would later become the scar just above your chin that you no longer can grow facial hair on.

That vacancy just annoys now and the embarrassing story that is the reason for it has just been told too many times. Imagine if they traded Hodgson at the height of his perceived value: Hodgson, Raymond, Ballard and a 3rd for Shea Weber; that totally would have sealed the deal.

Everyone wanted the Canucks to get better and we’re going through that same cycle all over again except THIS TIME, we suck.

Getting back to the pieces of yesteryear, Keith Ballard was a perfect fit for literally any other team because well, he’d get playing time. AV did not like Mr. Ballard and it was frustrating to see a top 4 defender benched or stapled to the bench on so many nights. Frankie Corrado must know the feeling.

Ballard wasn’t huge factor in the 2011 run but most felt he could have offered more had he actually played, same could have been said for Cory Schneider in the Final. Speaking of Schneider, Pass it to Bulis ran a story on this “package” back in 2012 and I forgot Cory was also a chip in the so called deal.

Thinking back, if that deal happened, we’ d have Corey Perry instead of Bo Horvat. Ryan Kesler may never have wanted out and….you know what, it’s fine. We’re better for it and I’ve moved on.

Mason Raymond was what Jannik Hansen is basically this season. Speed, skill, finish and back checking all described Raymond and he was valuable, in our eyes anyways, because it didn’t disrupt the core and we figured we could add some star power. I think a good chunk of the GMs around the league passed on our deal when they started seeing Raymond tripping over the blue line night in and night out.

That would be a deal breaker for anyone.

This trade may have been destined to fail from the beginning or maybe it never was offered but you have to wonder, would any team have taken that deal? There will never be again a package of that nature that would allow the Canucks to keep all the good and get rid of the suck.

Radim Vrbata and Dan Hamhuis, heck Ryan Miller and even Alex Burrows are now all guys we mention regularly as trade bait. Matt Bartkowski wouldn’t fetch a ball so I can’t imagine there’s a use for him even at a dog park. The Canucks are in a rare situation where a few draft picks, B prospects or even one B level star is attainable through trade this season.

They also have the off chance of being able to draft “generational talent” Auston Matthews in June if they suck just bad enough to beat out both the Leafs and Oilers, ya those guys.

I don’t know if any of you have forgotten that the whole Milan Lucic and Cody Franson thing still may happen so a few extra picks, a kid from Zurich and some hometown boys might just make the Canucks worth watching again.

Anything is better than seeing them lose 5-2 for the 4th consecutive game.

Maybe, Just Maybe, The Canucks Should Shoot More

As the great lyricist NAS once said “They shoot’in, aw made you look”, the Canucks take after the latter. You could have fooled us saying the Canucks are shooting the puck because the stats say otherwise. This year’s Canucks team looks quite cautious to let the puck go and when those opportunities arise, the Sedin mentality kicks in – they pass. Call me crazy but I think the Canucks could shoot more.

Thanks Capt. Obvious!

Here’s the fax – Vancouver is 21st in the league in shots/gm at 28.9 and they aren’t too far away from the absolute bottom; similarily the Canucks are 5th in the league for most shots allowed per game. Makes sense, if you aren’t shooting someone else probably is. Good gang mentality, maybe…I dunno.

Not to make this sound even worse but if you aren’t shooting the puck that often, odds are you aren’t scoring very much either – you’d be right. The Canucks are 25th in the league for goals scored and are 3 back of 29th. Its frustrating to watch when the team you watched used to bury the puck so often it was routine. To go with that, the team would shoot the lights out so it never felt like a problem.

Last year, the Canucks were 8th in goals for and goals per game; shots per game had them 16th. Have they lost the ability to shoot? I don’t think so. If anything they should be accounting for MORE shots. Bo Horvat has led this charge but his shots end up just being good scoring chances, the puck doesn’t always hit the goalie let alone leave his stick sometimes.

Sure, the Nucks put up 38 shots against the Blue Jackets on Thursday but that’s a team they SHOULD be doing that too. The lack of shots for keeps the scoring chances low and coincidentally means Ryan Miller and Jacob Markstrom will be heavily relied upon to keep the score close. It was different when Roberto Luongo had a team in front of him that didn’t score a ton, he made up for it in net.

This Canucks team doesn’t have that same ace up their sleeve like they used to and honestly with the guys on this team right now that can actually shoot, its perplexing that they don’t take advantage of their chances. Radim Vrbata is a great example; he’s unconscious when he just shoots the puck and when he first arrived in Vancouver we all fell in love with his knack for just shooting.

Their team CF% at 5v5 is 46.7 which is not good and is another area showing just how much their shots are being overshadowed. They are doing more defending than attacking and they still are quite passive on the forecheck aside from the Sedins who can turn chicken salad into chicken sh….wait I have that backwards, but really you now what I mean. To go back to the Cors (that’s how my daughter would say it…she’s already using slang and she’s five), they need to get back to following the greatest quote of all time:

You miss 100 percent of the shots you never take.
I skate to where the puck is going to be, not to where it has been.
A good hockey player plays where the puck is. A great hockey player plays where the puck is going to be – Wayne Gretzky

Gretz knew what was up. The Canucks should just follow this mantra and I bet things instantly change. Either that or they’ll be skating into their zone again and again, because quite frankly that’s where the puck most likely will be.

Follow me on twitter: @always90four

Canucks Should Capital-ize On Trade For Bowey

This should come as no surprise that I’m writing something of this nature; the Canucks will most definitely trade Radim Vrbata by the deadline and a strong month or so would yield a hefty return from a contender. Fellow Canucks Army and Vancity Buzz writer, Ryan Biech, wrote an article detailing a few destinations Radim Vrbata could land at the deadline. Moving Vrby to Washington for Madison Bowey tweaked my interest. 

Yes, he was a Kelowna Rocket and yes he’s a promising defensive prospect and YES the Caps would be stupid to trade him but this early in his career would be the Canucks best chance to land him. Let’s discuss shall we?

 

So Radim Vrbata is still able to help someone this postseason but after seeing him go Patrick Swayze last season (and I’m not talking about Point Break) he clearly isn’t a Western Conference playoff performer. He’s having an average season considering he hasn’t been on the top line with the Twins and one would think the Horvat/Baertschi success would rub off eventually.

Last season with Henrik and Daniel, Vrby put up a 31 goal campaign and was a threat when they just let him shoot the puck. It doesn’t seem like he’s getting those same chances this year and when you don’t produce the way coach wants you to on the top line you lose opportunities to get back to that spot.

Don’t get me wrong, Vrbata still has that shot and his setups to Bo Horvat and Sven Baertschi have led to their success. As Biech stated, the return for Vrbata is likely a 2nd and a B prospect. The Canucks need to accumulate picks again and after the first round you are just taking depth and starting to throw the darts at the board. With Washington as a trade partner, the 2nd rounder would most likely be towards the end of the round but honestly who cares? Flip it at the draft if you wanna move up in the first.

The Capitals will be a threat this year for the Cup and a natural goal scorer like Vrbata could help Washington in their journey through the East; you don’t actually think Ovechkin will score ALL their goals do you? Rental players tend to net quite a feast to the right team every year and overpaying is common, kind of like the current housing market in BC. Radim Vrbata won’t have to bang on that Capitals team so he can focus on putting pucks on net.

This B type prospect you speak of, well I don’t know how high Madison Bowey is on their depth chart but if the Canucks can manage to land this stud, they won’t regret it.

Bowey Captained the Kelowna Rockets within one goal of the Memorial Cup last season, eventually losing to Cole Cassels and the Oshawa Generals in OT of the Final. Madison has a heavy Shea Weber type shot and holds the line quite well.

This season Bows already has 3G and 13A through 39 games in Hershey; not bad for a first year pro. He isn’t afraid to get dirty and is very smart with the puck. A future power play QB, Bowey can instantly be put in the Canucks plans upon his addition. His last 2 seasons in Kelowna were pretty special and the puck often found the back of the net when he was on the ice.

Just going off the regular stats in Kelowna last year, Bowey had 17G and 43A, including 6 PPG and 2 SHG. He averaged just over a point per game with 1.03. He’s a leader in the dressing room, a fancy dresser and I hate the word but he’s a gamer. There were a handful of guys on that popular Rockets team that went above and beyond and he was near the top.

In Hershey this year, MB is having a pretty good advanced stat season as well. His GF% is 59.16 and he has  a GF%Rel of 10.75, thanks AHL Prospect Stats! Vancouver should make this move soon, it kind of just makes sense.

The Canucks tend to miss out on natural talent right in their back yard year after year(Duncan Keith, Shea Weber, Milan Lucic) so at the very least, a second chance to redeem themselves is fine by me. I already went into great detail why they should have drafted Nick Merkley right here. Damon Severson from Devils was another miss they could have stolen but what do I know? He’s only on their top D pairing.

As the trade deadline inches closer, teams will get desperate but if the Canucks are smart, they offer this up early and get Bowey into the system. Frank Corrado wishes he had this opportunity. Missing the playoffs would be worth getting Bows in a Nucks uni and seeing this kid play all the time in Kelowna, he passes the eye test and we’ d be on the right path with him playing for us.

Knowing the Canucks, this won’t happen.

Follow me on twitter: @always90four

Canucks Getting MUST From Dorsett And Prust

I’m not saying that’s a great line, I’m just saying. It took a lot for the Canucks to get to a point where Willie Desjardins stated the game against the Bruins was a “Must”. That was never really clarified exactly what that meant but you don’t have to be a hockey analytic expert to know that he needed his team do whatever it takes to win. Boston still won 4-0 (remember that score Canucks fans?) but its the push back at the end that brought the MUST to a head.

Who would have thought spearing Brad Marchand in the junk would have given the Canucks the #mustfactor ? That Bruins game was beyond brutal and it’s a shame the Canucks wasted an opportunity to stick it to them. As fans, we get ONE home game to stew in our hate towards the 2011 Cup Champs and one more game away from the Rog; we were robbed of our right.

Loss after loss, wasted effort after wasted effort and for what? The Canucks started the season and surprisingly they were mimicking their 2014/15 start and almost overnight the bottom seemed to have fallen out from under them. The desire to win looked gone and the competitive level of the team was downright dead.

So what brought the “must” to a head? No goals from basically anyone not named Sedin or Hansen, shameless giveaways in the defensive zone and zero confidence against, really any team they played. The Canucks were becoming predictable and teams were reading them like a book. No fight back, no aggression, minimal hitting and forechecking were all starting to show up on milk cartons all around the lower mainland.

Two players specifically, Derek Dorsett and Brandon Prust, were nowhere to be found. Before and including the Boston game, Dorsett and Prust were on the ice for a combined 8 goals  for and 11 against, courtesy of puckalytics.com; which is actually surprising for a 4th line but they weren’t brought in to necessarily put the puck in the net. They possess a certain set of skills that are supposed to keep teams honest and aware of what they will have to deal with if they cross the line.

We’ve all seen the same games and I don’t think anyone feels threatened by these two; at least not until the late stages of Saturday’s game vs. the Bruins.

 

Was that all it took? It was a cheap shot on a cheap player but Brandon Prust did what many players probably wished they could have done to Marchand and I’d say it helped ease a bit of Vancouver’s pain from the endless garbage Marchand has produced. Apparently $5000 isn’t a terrible amount of money to spend for something like that. Good to know.

And really, he wears a cup.

Even with the same 4-0 result as the 2011 Cup Final, the Canucks couldn’t put together 60 minutes. For a “Must” game, they sure didn’t show it. But that seemed to change when the Sabres rolled into town. Maybe the team got the game wrong, maybe they thought that “Must” game was on Monday.

Easy mistake.

Dorsett and Prust were alive against the Sabres, throwing hits, forechecking and wouldn’t you know it, a goal and an assist for Brandon Prust. The confidence the Canucks showed against the Sabres showed they could actually still play and that this season might not be a complete loss just yet. It sure helped spark Radim Vrbata with a hat trick and the Canucks power play looked like it did many moons ago.

Vancouver’s effort was just as impressive against the Rangers, well, for the last half game or so. That being said, the 4th line of Prust/Cracknell/Dorsett was buzzing. They didn’t score but they had some grade A scoring chances and they kept the intensity alive and moreso in the Canucks favor.

If you mosey on over to War on ice, you’ll see that Prust and Dorsett combined for 3 high danger scoring chances against Henrik Lundqvist and maybe they were due to show their old team mate that they weren’t just filler. There was push back and there was confidence, right through the lineup actually and it wasn’t just a #moralvictory , it was a real victory.

The energy guys are the ones that will keep the top lines productive. Henrik and Daniel won’t be here forever and the new guys need to know that they’ll be taken care of if anyone tries to mess with them. The Canucks used to be one of the most feared teams in the league; not because of size or strength, but because if you decided to take a penalty, they burned you over and over.

They may get out muscled more nights than not until they can get some size in the lineup but I don’t want to see them get outworked. Must is a lifestyle, its a thing to behold. Must wins games and HOLY CRAP THERE’S A NEW POINT BREAK MOVIE COMING OUT???

Sorry.

Willie wanted to see “must” out of his guys and even though it came a game late, its still early enough to “Must” to save the season. People talk about battle level, compete and truculence, but in Vancouver the new hardworking term is “Must” and we have a whole lot of that are just realizing this is quite important.

Follow me on twitter: @always90four

Sometimes A Slump Is Just A Slump

It’s been a really tough couple of weeks and there has been a lot of theories, suggestions and discontent in Canucks land but when you are in a hockey mad market, it goes with the territory. Whether the Canucks truly are going through a rebuild or just struggling to find out what their identity is, one thing is for sure: if you aren’t trying and driving to win, you won’t. Success breeds success and at some point, a slump is just a slump.

 

Vancouver is no stranger to the aforementioned slump; we’ve seen a few of them and some are more memorable than others. This current funk the boys seem to be going through has a new “sky is falling” type of feel. Now, I don’t know if THEY believe the sky is falling but if you were to judge by the on ice product, I’d say they probably bought a few shares in it.

Fingers have been pointed, trades drawn up at the water cooler, fans have demanded change but what if this is just a slump? Is that out of line to think that? We’ve seen what this current roster is capable of both good and bad and when they are putting the effort and grinding away for a full 60 minutes, they’re pretty decent. The Canucks are by no means a Stanley Cup favorite, let alone contender but this group is capable of much more than they have shown lately.

NEWS FLASH: I’m not a woman. BIG SHOCKER! But we joke and I’d love to hear what women have to say on this theory; a guy texts you and says “we need to talk”. Right away, you jump to conclusions – he’s cheating, he’s moving, he doesn’t like/love you anymore, he’s dating your best friend, he’s dying. You freak out, you burn all of his clothes, you drive to his house which may or may not be an hour away, you light his car on fire, throw rocks through his windows, spread venomous hate online and if you’re crazy enough, maybe wait in his closet all day long with an axe.

OK, a little unrealisticbut you get my hyperbole. Sorry ladies. I actually don’t know anyone like this but TV has taught me enough to have a good unrealistic idea. So all of this goes through your mind and at the end of the day he just wants to talk about going to Maui instead of Honolulu because its more private.

Sometimes….a slump is just a slump.

The Canucks put together a pretty impressive slump back in the 2008-09 season. Losing eight straight games, Alex Burrows played hero as he often does when he scored a shorthanded breakaway against Carolina in Feb 2009 to bump the never ending slump which then turned into a 16-3-1 record, ultimately putting together a string of wins that basically needed them to run the table from Jan 1 to make the playoffs; and they did.

Vancouver’s had a handful of rookies make the lineup this year, a rash of injuries that have really tested their depth, goaltending that definitely could be better and mix in some questionable coaching decisions and at some point for THIS team anyways, a slump was easily possible. We all bought in early this season that maybe the Canucks were better than we thought, we’ll they aren’t exactly.

They still aren’t a powerhouse. This team lacks size, speed and after line numero uno, finishing skill. The win against Buffalo will feel good and there were a lot of positives to take from that but they didn’t exactly beat Dallas. Vancouver has been streaky and will put a few wins together, even a few players will bump some slumps personally but one win doesn’t make a season.

So now I’m Confucius?

What many of us fail to realize is that the Canucks aren’t the only team these slumps happen to, big shocker I know. The trouble is, the Canucks always seem to find their way out of a hole when things get really bad but the types of mistakes that have been made lately aren’t things you can just push under the proverbial rug.

Dan Hamhuis and Alex Edler are very much not the players they once were. I’ve seen some pretty awful giveaways as a Canucks fan (Luongo, Schneider, Bure, Corrado, Etc) but what those two defensemen have accomplished blown lately really calls into question where their talents lie. Hammer is older than Edler but when you get “sports old” it doesn’t really matter how old you are. We’re seeing it right now with Kobe Bryant in the NBA; at some point you can’t do the things you used to be able to do.

Luca Sbisa is a different story but in all fairness, he’s getting better.

The on ice product the Canucks have displayed in the last month does not look like they even know how the next shift will go. They look lost, confused and definitely not fearless. You don’t have to be the best team on the ice but if you project that you are and follow through on what your role is, even that goes a long way.

For the people that know me personally, I’m not the greatest person to preach this sort of pep talk; I’m lazy in a game of pickup, I get tired easily in an organized game of road hockey because I go hard for maybe 10 minutes and I’m gasping for breath the rest of the game. At the same time, I’m not a professional, I don’t play sports for a living; these guys know what it takes.

If the team, I mean the actual players, know what they need, then why don’t they speak up as well? This carries over to the coach too! Willie can only ice the team he’s given and Alain Vigneault had the same issues. Thankfully, when AV was given a defensive team he had an all world goaltender that could keep games close when the guys in front of him weren’t scoring many goals.

Are the Canucks in a true rebuild? So far, the signs point to yes. Its pretty tough to be exciting and rebuild on the fly at the same time. What happens is you end up staying right in the middle, ask Calgary and Edmonton. OK not Edmonton but you get what I mean. Vancouver has been a middle to high tier team for so long that most fans don’t remember the late 90’s and how bad this team really was.

Seeing the Canucks play a full 60 feels pretty good and the manner in which they did it against the Sabres was redeeming. They were hard hitting, they finished their checks, kept the pace moving, made some big saves and spread the scoring out. For all intensive purposes (intensive? intents and purposes? Maybe the team needs some intensive purposes) they proved they can hang with another NHL team.

It’s a start. Put together a few wins, say against the Rangers and AV; and even continue this playing a full game thing and maybe just maybe they can turn this slump into a positive motivator. Radim Vrbata had a hat trick and Brandon Prust scored a goal. This team might have something there still.

Let’s not jump to extreme conclusions just yet; they haven’t won any trophies and they aren’t proud to select Auston Matthews.

Again sometimes….a slump…is a slump.

Follow me on twitter: @always90four

 

cover photo – vancouversun.com

Maybe I’m Crazy But Let’s Trade For Dustin Byfuglien!

Let that sink in for a second. Think rationally about it and then think about what he would bring to the Canucks. Although Canucks fans have come to dislike the water buffalo, we’ve done the same to the likes of Raffi Torres, Shane O’Brien and um a way back throwback Esa Tikkanen. Other teams have welcomed players they have despised many a time as the Ducks recently have done with Kesler and Bieksa. So is it really that crazy to consider Buff as a Canuck? I do not think so sir.

 

This whole idea kind of spawned from a recent Pucks on Net podcast where they discussed the Jets building around/trading Byfuglien and it got me thinking that Buff is a pretty big dude, he’s generally well liked and he is good at hockey at an NHL level. I do remember that we weren’t a fan of his ways back in his Chi-town days but that was so long ago. Do we still hate Brad Marchand. OK bad question.

Seriously though, apparently Buff is on the trade block or so they say and a play for Travis Hamonic of the Islanders is out there. Not sure that deal gets made and to be frank, or Ryan (because that’s me) there’s a good chance the Canucks and/or the Jets do not make a trade involving Dustin Byfuglien.

Why friends would I bring up Byfuglien as a trade prospect of your Vancouver Canucks? For starters, as I already stated….he’s big. He’s 6’5″ and 260 lbs according to NHL.com and we probably have no single line that equals that. The Canucks don’t have really any physical presence and even though Brandon Prust and Derek Dorsett are employed by the team, they so aren’t doing what they’ve been asked to do.

The Canucks aren’t scary and no one is worried about going into puck battles with them. No one seems to be worried about getting hit by them and if teams are THAT confident they won’t be hurt, that’s when liberties begin to be taken and at some point the Canucks are just bystanders. Dustin Byfuglien brings a bit of a mean streak to him, which is sadly missed now that Bieksa is gone and his penalties can be obvious at times but would you not rather have a guy that’s capable of enforcing himself on opponents?

I know I would.

His offensive upside is there as well. Sure, Buff’s 30 now and his primo years might be behind him but in the mean time, he can still produce on a level that a good portion of the Canucks cannot. Byfuglien has 2G and 3A in his last 5GP, good ol’ NHL last 5 games stat; and he’s already put up 15 points and 2 game winners. Have we even WON 2 games?

Quick stat: there are only 2 Canucks (guess who?) that have more points than Buff. He….could….help.

He’s a fan fav in the ‘Peg, sells jerseys and he’s a Cup winner. The Canucks had no answer for him and that was no secret but what if he played here, would he bring anything new? Could he even whole heartedly produce for this team? Something that would need to be asked.

Byfuglien DOES have a LNTC (limited no trade clause) and I think we’d be kidding ourselves to think Vancouver isn’t on his 5 team list of where he wouldn’t play. The Canucks did that to themselves though. But this is hypothetical and you’re still reading so keep up!

Who do the Canucks give up then? In that same boat, Vancouver has guys that are still valuable and are also not young; Alex Edler, Alex Burrows and Radim Vrbata are all guys that would be a decent trade offering going to Winnipeg and that would free up a spot up front for one of the super rookies like Hunter Shinkaruk, Brendan Gaunce or Alex Grenier. Not to mention keeping a current rookie in the everyday lineup like Jake Virtanen.

I did forget we still have Sven Baertschi and if Canucks management can get over the fact they botched a few trades for 2nd rounders and just eat their mistakes, we can all move on from the second best Sven to ever play on the Canucks. If they wanted some grit, Ronalds Kenins are both available and they aren’t the Leafs so it would be safe to assume they wouldn’t bring him on to just have him sit up in the press box.

Maybe our time to move some long time pieces is once again at a head; Alex Edler is not the 2009-2011 Edler he once was. Alex Burrows is still valuable and can be a healthy addition to many teams. He scores, he’s a valuable PK piece and he grinds out hard minutes. Radim Vrbata will not equate to anything in the playoffs and it took one round to find that out….against Calgary.

This isn’t a what can we get for these guys article but if you were to put something together to get Byfuglien, these are decent players. I don’t know if the Jets would require a hot, young player like Shinkaruk or Virtanen and if so, forget the trade altogether. What I’m suggesting is that Byfuglien can bring something to the Canucks we clearly don’t have.

Getting back to the bully factor and not being a bully, the Canucks just don’t hold their own in games anymore and they need a physical, dominant presence that won’t take crap from opposing teams. How Benning hasn’t figured out yet that his current roster is not the answer is beyond me. There are players out there that will grind, like Chris Higgins and Max Lapierre once did (remember 2011?) and now they just eat up minutes, the final buzzer goes and usually we lose by a goal.

At the very least, the Canucks should consider trading for Dustin Byfuglien. He actually could help the Canucks and he isn’t Marchand. Take out the personal feelings you have towards him and realistically see what he could bring.

So in short: Byfuglien to Canucks, 30 years old, big dude, won a Cup, intimidating, weighs many pounds, everyday we’re byfuglien.

Follow me on twitter and I will change your world: @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

JARKKO POLO: Clinching, Clenching, VRBAWESOME!

The Stanley Cup Playoffs are just over a week away and every game’s importance is magnified tenfold. The Vancouver Canucks went into last week with quite the task: away games against the Blues, Preds, Hawks and Jets and hopefully enough points to keep Calgary and Los Angeles at bay. The results were actually surprising except for the patented two goal deficits….they made their return.

You have to love the midwest road games; early start times mean you are just leaving work when they get going so you HAVE to PVR them to see it from start to finish. I have two little girls so I’ve PVR’d 3/4 of the season anyways, and I said I never would. RIGHT. The Blues were first up and despite their record, they aren’t as good as they show. The Canucks played them amazingly well and got what they came for. Nashville was without Shea Weber and James Neal but they still managed to give the Canucks a full 65 + min. A showdown with the Blackhawks just ended up being too much for the Canucks.

Finally, the Nucks went to the ‘Peg and I really thought that game was going to end different.

Let’s see how our boys faired:

THE GAMES WE PLAYED

@ St. Louis Blues – WIN 4-1 (Who’s singing the blues now?)

RECAP: A rare game that the Canucks didn’t give up the opening goal, they played the Blues hard and proved they can hang with the top teams. I don’t believe the Blues ARE a top team but their record says they are. Shawn Matthias got back on the scoreboard this week with a tight feed from Chris Tanev to give the Canucks the opening marker. Nick Bonino and Radim Vrbata both had goals with Alex Burrows adding an empty netter and the Canucks actually owned the Blues 4-1.

Have to like that start to the week!

@ Nashville Predators – WIN 5-4 in a shootout (AWFUL REFEREEING ALERT!)

RECAP: I’m just going to cut and paste this line from another game. The Canucks went down 2-0 in the first and Nashville looked like they might have the Canucks on the ropes. Here’s where the next cut and paste job comes; Vancouver ties it up in the second and wouldn’t you know it, they go ahead too! Linden Vey and Jannik Hansen netted some huge goals to get things going and King Clutch Alex Burrows scored a shorty breakaway to tie it up early in the third. Chris Higgins would put the Nucks ahead but not before Eddie Lack let in the tying goal late.

An absolute screwjob of a call against Burrows on Paul Gaustad got him ejected along with Kevin Bieksa for one can only assume taunting, but who calls that really? The Nucks had to kill off a 5 min penalty with 4 mins and change left in the game. Eddie Lack played lights out and got Vancouver to the shootout with Vrbata and Bonino scoring the goals that won it for Vancouver.

Despite the awful officiating, it was a great game.

@ Chicago Blackhawks – LOSE 3-1 (They are who we thought they were)

RECAP: This one plain and simple was not the Canucks night. The opportunities were there and blue collar Derek Dorsett gave the Canucks hope tying the game up late in the first period, but Corey Crawford proved too much for the Vancouver offense and absolutely stole the two points for Chicago. Patrick Kane is still injured and he is a huge loss to the Hawks but man, Chicago is still an amazing team! If the Canucks make the playoffs and they should, they will have to bury their chances because the goaltending only gets better in the spring.

Eddie Lack is only so good so his defense in front of him has to make their assignments and stick to them. Chicago is a good measuring stick of what the Canucks should expect from every team. They play hard, roll four lines and have timely goaltending. We all can’t wait for April 15 but the Canucks need to fill some holes if they want to play in May and June.

@ Winnipeg Jets – LOSE 5-3 (Nail Biter Central)

RECAP: I probably made mention of the Canucks going down 2-0 in this game before the puck dropped so when it happened I could only laugh. Here’s my take from the Jets/Canucks game on canucksarmy.com:

MY TAKE

Those Canucks are still at 95 points, the Kings thumped the Oilers two nights ago 8-2 to gain some ground and they still have a BEAUUUUUUUUTY matchup on Monday so I’m guessing the Canucks take care of business today to swing things in their favour. The Jets will not lay down for the Canucks – no sir – so giving up the patented 2 goal start may not end the same way again. Canucks need this one. Need it big. 3-1 Canucks is my prediction. – canucksarmy.com

 The Canucks, true to their play, obviously came back to tie it and we figured it would be last goal wins. It almost was. Ondrej Pavelec was great and made some saves he had no business making. Henrik and Daniel both put goals in the net, Vrbata hit the scoresheet a few times and Alex Burrows did his thing late in the third to get the game close.

The Canucks lost this one but in doing so, they helped keep the LA Kings back as the Jets got 2 points they desperately needed. Sometimes you have to take one for the team and we’ll know next Sunday if it all paid off and the Canucks don’t have to face LA.

3 THINGS FROM TWITTER

FINAL THOUGHTS

Going 2-2 this week was actually a good week. Real good? Well I dunno Willie. Some lessons were learned and it looks like Ryan Miller may be closer to returning than we thought. Doubt he does factor in before the playoffs but you never know. Hopefully Zack Kassian and Brad Richardson come back soon; their presence is needed. This is the final week of the regular season and I can’t wait! Final games against LA, Arizona and the lowly Edmonton Oilers will close out the season. I predict 3 for 3 and its awesome sauce time!

Follow me on twitter: @always90four

JARKKO POLO: Millionaires Bankrupted

The bad weeks always start good don’t they? A tease of maybe what’s to come and then WHAMMY! kicked in the junk. Watching the Canucks this past week was basically that; big win against the Jets, then rocking the Millionaires jerseys should have been so much fun but no, yet another embarrassement. Of course to cap it all off, the Stars found a way to shame the Canucks.

With the playoffs literally 2 weeks away, maybe now isn’t the best time to start flirting with disaster. Call me crazy but it probably isn’t safe. To make matters worse, I had my wisdom teeth pulled out and watching that OT loss to the Stars hurt just as much as the endless throbbing pain where my teeth once were.

I know there are wins hiding somewhere, come on out wins, we need you!

THE GAMES WE PLAYED

Vs. Winnipeg Jets – WIN 5-2

RECAP: Dare I tell you how it started? So we’re down 2-0, story of the century I know; all seemed to be lost once again. BUT WAIT! Chris Higgins is back and scoring goals? Yep sure is! So that made things feel a bit better and wouldn’t ya know it, our PP scored too! Yannick Weber was the latest edition to the man advantage and his booming slapper found its way to the mesh. Radim Vrbata would add a real goal and an empty netter as would Henrik and we grounded the Jets 5-2. This one felt pretty good at the end and those slick Millionaire jerseys were next.

Vs. Colorado Avalanche – LOSE – 4-1 (BURN THOSE JERSEYS)

RECAP: Vancouver trotted out their ever famous Millionaires jerseys paying homage to the 1915 Stanley Cup Champion team’s 100th anniversary. We’re seriously doing that now. Lets celebrate losing in ’82 and ’94 while were at it. I swear I am not copy/pasting this: Canucks go down 3-0 to the Avs and it just feels like we need to burn those jerseys before the end of the game, they aren’t helping. Yannick Weber would score his second PPG in as many games but that’s all the Canucks would get. Losing 4-1 to a team that played the night before and lost, not fun. Sadly, the week wasn’t over.

Vs. Dallas Stars – LOSE – 4-3 OT (Moral Victory?)

RECAP: Thankfully, after Jamie Benn opened the scoring, yup playing from behind again, the Canucks answered back with a real good goal by Nick Bonino. I know, he still plays for the Canucks; I was confused too! Chris Higgins would put Vancouver ahead and it was all coming together. Midway through the third, Dallas tied it up and then went ahead with about 6 minutes to go. Radim Vrbata would PPG it late and off to overtime we go. I’m not sure if the Canucks know how OT works but the point is to score the last goal, they did not. A point was awarded to the Canucks but they could have used the second one.

 

3 THINGS FROM TWITTER

There wasn’t much to be happy about this week but there were a few gems:

I agree with Jeff here, but they are neato looking

Things may seem bad in Canucksland, but David Booth fought Phil Kessel in practice..Things are fine here.

I didn’t see WM but it sounds like a lot of my buds did. Sting is back?

It’s not that the Canucks are playing awful, they just are losing some games right now that hurt my feelings. Having Zack Kassian and Brad Richardson out of the lineup is huge and that extra grit and grind is missed. Hopefully on this final stretch the boys will bring it all together, or at least enough to beat out LA or Calgary. Good thing is no more Millionaires jerseys so things should be fine.

Follow me on twitter: @always90four

JARKKO POLO: Sweatpants, Sharkbait and Kass Hands

The week coming out of the All star break wasn’t entirely amazing. The Canucks ongoing struggle to compete has raised a lot of questions as to what is going to be done come trade deadline. This past week the Jets, Sharks and Penguins came to town and man was there stuff to talk about. On top of all this we unearthed some new story lines. So without further ado, JARKKO!………..POLO!!!

Ok what? Why is he a healthy scratch? Nevermind, we’ll get to that. The Winnipeg Jets came in to Vancouver losing 4 straight, but the Canucks came into this game hoping to score. Eddie Lack got the start and he was ready to make the most of it, you know, because it might be his last….just kidding, it’s not like he has a 10 year contract. Vancouver gave up the early goal again and had their work cut out for them. Alex Burrows took a swede feed from Daniel and tied it all up.

Back and forth they went and rising star and multiple named Ronalds Kenins tied it up once again and scored his 2nd in as many games. The game would need overtime and the obvious happened: a 2 on 1 break with Radim Vrbata setting up Luca Sbisa for the GWG. Just like we all drew it up. Lack got the win and it looked like the week was starting out great!

So later on we would find out Evander Kane wore sweatpants to the game and was not asked to participate. There are many reports of how this all came to be but at the end of the day, Kane looks like he is on his way out of Winnipeg; Vancouver’s gain? But really, SWEATPANTS??? CMON MAN!! They must really not want him on their team. I hope Kane comes back with a vengeance and torches those old planes.

Next up was the San Jose Sharks. The Canucks just can’t seem to beat these guys and this game was no different. Injuries to Chris Tanev, Frankie Corrado and Kevin Bieksa have totally maxed out what the Canucks can offer on the blue line. Adam Clendening and Luca Sbisa are now top 4 dmen. Not good.

Ryan Miller had to put on his hard hat to start the game and was peppered all night. 11-2 were the shots in the first and thankfully it was only 1-0 at that point. It didn’t end well for our Canucks and they were willfully beat down by the Sharks 5-1. Radim Vrbata was the lone Nucks scorer but he can’t score 5 a game.

With the healthy scratching of Zack Kassian for 3 straight games, all the questions about where the goals were coming from and inconsistent goaltending, something had to give. The Canucks were about to host the Penguins and quite frankly, we were all expecting to get plastered. That could be taken a few ways 1) drinking heavily because that helps the pain and 2) the score was going to be unwelcoming.

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Sidney Crosby was in town and again the Canucks were facing a team that had played the night before. Ryan Miller got the start again as number ones usually do but it was the play of pretty much everyone in front of him that was the story on Hockey Night in Canada.

Burrows put the Canucks up early, Bo Horvat got his name on the scoreboard and the Canucks were up 2-0 after one. Pretty happy team. It didn’t end there. A disallowed goal by Pittsburgh and a Shawn Matthias laser had Vancouver up 3-0. The real story though wasn’t Crosby, the team’s swiss cheese defense or Miller’s soft goals every game; it was Zack Kassian.

Late in the 2nd, Thomas Greiss misplayed the puck behind his net and Linden Vey set up Zack Kassian with a wide open net and he buried it. A slump buster for sure and potentially a sign of things to come, Kassian was rewarded for going to where he needed to be. Canucks fans right through Rogers Arena applauded Kassian like he had just scored to win a series.

Earlier on, Zack was in a tussle and questioned what his hands needed to do. Looks like scoring a goal was the cure. Kassian has been on a roller coaster from when he first arrived in Vancouver and it’s tough to say how his story will end here. The fans love him and want to see him succeed but he has to want to give that extra effort to make it happen.

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(Insert pretty much any awesome self realization joke here)

The Canucks shutout the Penguins 5-0 and they looked like a team that could beat anyone. It was a welcome change from the swamp hockey they were playing for chunks of the season.

We should have a better lineup again soon, injuries only last for so long. It’s great to see the smile on Zack Kassian’s face; he has potential but everyone has to be patient. As for Ryan Miller; he needs to up his consistency because he’s getting paid to be consistant.

All in all a fun week despite the lack of people in the stands.

Jarkko…..POLO!!!!!!

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