ryan biech

Bizarro World Canucks

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

photo – vancourier.com

Bo Horvat Has No Time For Sophomore Slump

Many waited for it, many expected it and it almost came, but Bo Horvat was determined to shed the label of “sophomore slump.” It sure looked like it might happen early on; 2 goals and 4 assists through 20 games had the critics out for blood. He was dazzling on the ice but the results weren’t showing up on the scoreboard and he was on the ice a -9 wasn’t too flattering. A very real possibility was that Horvat would regress back to just another guy on the team.

But something happened that we didn’t expect – he got a new line mate. Willie Desjardins was fighting another battle with Sven Baertschi; he was trying to keep him relevant. Through November and into December, Baertschi was struggling to stay in the lineup but for whatever reason Bo and Bae connected and that was it.

On December 18th, Baertschi was set up by Bo and would later add an assist himself. Bo put up an assist the next game against the Panthers and then appeared to go into hiding; the slump was lifted though as Horvat had 8 goals and 7 assists from Jan 4 to Feb 9.

Statistics aside, because quite frankly this season is the wrong one to quantify, Bo has brought a ton to this team that maybe we have taken for granted. Second line centre Brandon Sutter has been gone for most of the season and has really robbed Horvat of a gradual learning curve up the ranks.

Ryan Kesler got to where he did because he had time to perfect his craft; Bo was asked to deliver above his rookie season success without the training wheels of a supporting cast. It wasn’t easy, it wasn’t pretty and somewhere along the line, a tank arrived.

Horvat has one game left this season but his 16G 24A 40 point season will not be forgotten. There have been some absolute beauty goals, some even better assists and imagine if he scored even half of the dipsy doodles that were robbed on the goal line. Bo is a special player and many are already calling him the heir apparent to Henrik Sedin’s stitched C.

He has the wisdom and maturity of a guy 15 years his senior and knows he could have always given more. Bo’s a big body that drives to the net not unlike a former Canuck favourite, Todd Bertuzzi.

Despite his abismal statistics this year both normal and advanced, ( -31, CF% 45.7, PDO 97.3, both 5v5 and his faceoffs….well actually 50.6% is pretty freaking good) Horvat’s drive is the reason we will continue to believe in him and the people around him. When it comes to the captaincy, there really isn’t any other choice right now, he’s the guy.

As the team around him matures and he’s given a stable line to play on, Bo will only get better. It may take a coaching change to allow him to be more free or maybe Anton Rodin is the final piece beside both himself and Baertschi? Bo Horvat will always be criticized for what he does or doesn’t do after being essentially traded for Cory Schneider (he was a pick yet to be made).

Vancouver is a tough market and Bo must not crumble in the spotlight. The greatest players on this team have deflected the finger pointing and have risen to the challenge. Bo may not even get to a Stanley Cup and that’s not entirely his fault but if he does what he’s capable of doing, the parts will assemble around him and he can be a part of the next wave.

The sophomore slump comes to many players and it would be easy to slide back into the fold but the ones that make a name for themselves find ways to get better.

I’ve looked for gif’s and I’m terrible in that respect, thank you to Ryan Biech for the hookups, but the moves this kid makes and DOESN’T score are worthy of their own Top 10, kinda like Hansen not scoring on breakaways.

What Horvat has been asked to do and has actually accomplished despite the tire fire that surrounds him and his team is nothing short of stunning. The Canucks have something special in Bo and they need to nurture his growth. Free agency, the Draft and a savvy trade can all bolster his progress as it would many of his young team mates.

Bo Horvat has been the Canucks best player this year not named Sedin and a 40 point year for a guy that has been surrounded by mediocrity at best, is pretty amazing.

In the coming years, Brock Boeser, Thatcher Demko, Cole Cassels, Jake Virtanen and obviously Ben Hutton, will all be key parts of the machine and because the Canucks stuck by Horvat and groomed him properly…well almost properly, there is much to be excited about.

 

photo – leaderpost.ca

Canucks Supporting Actors Foolishly Get Starring Roles

Part of the reason the Canucks may be working the #tank option this year is how they deploy their players in key situations. Willie Desjardins hasn’t exactly hidden his choices in close games with minutes to go; he openly doubles down on some horrendous decisions. WD has been putting players like Derek Dorsett, Matt Bartkowski, Linden Vey and Alex Biega in starring roles when the game is on the line. 

He’s doing the equivalent of putting Zach Galifianakis or Melissa McCarthy as the headliner in a major movie. The reason those actors are good is because they aren’t relied upon to carry the whole movie – support actors shouldn’t get lead billing. Neither should Dorsett or Bartkowski.

The Canucks aren’t losing every game, they’re actually winning the odd one and lately, they’ve won the last two! However, when you make decisions like putting out less than capable players to close out a lead at the end of a game, you tend to be on the losing side more often than not.

That or start the game with those same players in a role they have no business assuming. I thought DD was a joke on the Sedin line, but it actually happened in real life. Real life….a game was played where Dorsett was a winger with Henrik and Daniel Sedin. Simply stunning.

So why would you put those players in such prominent positions? You shouldn’t. You know why Zach Galifianakis was hilarious in all 3 Hangover movies? He wasn’t the star; he had a supporting role. Melissa McCarthy was a riot in Bridesmaids but if you google her like I did, you’ll find that the movies she headlined…not so good.

We tend to see many actors hit it big on one role and it leads to a year of leading roles they have ZERO business acting in. Money is a big reason and Hollywood is hungry for anything they can get their hands on; Bradley Cooper is a good example.

As we watch this season continue and debate the merit of the #tank or the rebuild or WHATEVER, letting Willie D have full control over lines like the following will lead to disaster:

I could think of literally so many other options that would make more sense than that configuration. Put out five d-men, or how about Horvat/McCann/Burrows??? I don’t even coach and that sounds better. You don’t even need Corsi or Fenwick or PDO or any of that…well actually if the stats showed that was the best option then I’d be ok with that but I’m not going to bother because I know it doesn’t.

Already, we’re seeing some lines develop like the Horvat/Bae line and McCann with pretty much anyone seems like a good idea, sadly the fourthies (Prust/Dorsett) usually accompany him. In 2011, you could have the bottom six out there with minutes or even seconds to go in the defensive zone because they were proven to be reliable.

There is no reliability right now and throwing darts at a board isn’t a great strategy.

So Willie, the next time you see John C. Reilly, Vin Diesel, Seth Rogen or even Steve Carrell in a movie…just because they followed that supporting role with a lead one, doesn’t mean it’s a good idea.

Follow me on twitter: @always90four

Ben Hutton Is My Nike AIR MAG (You know the one)

Its never too early to start criticizing coaching decisions, GM decisions or anything resembling doom and gloom for the Vancouver Canucks. It’s also never too early to award praise to a player that is better than he should be, bang on what we want him to be or just the next player we all can’t wait to draw hearts around in third period history. Ben Hutton is not a bad coaching decision, Ben Hutton is not a bad GM decision; Ben Hutton is my cover of Canucks Teen Beat magazine, he is my Nike AIR MAG with self tying laces.

Ben Hutton is the coolest kind of awesome!

Is this too much praise? Is it a verbal love affair for a defenseman yet again? I mean there was Willie Mitchell (dreamy), Alex Edler (currently dreamy as well), Chris Tanev (cooler than craft beer, ya that’s right) and now Hutton too? This is all too sudden. Frankie Corrado was supposed to be that next guy and then Ben Hutton just shows up and says its his job?

That’s what has basically happened.

Drafted in the 5th round of the 2012 NHL Draft, Ben Hutton did the college thing and honed his craft. Through 6 games this year he has racked up 3 helpers and 6 shots. Hutton’s ice time is in the 18:00 min/gm mark and he’s averaging close to 25 shifts a game. He’s trusted to make important decisions and I think like Alex Edler, he eventually is one of the go to guys on the power play; a power play that right now has a problem.

I stated before either on twitter or on here as well that BH reminds me of the blue line version of my favourite future NHLer Nick Merkley of the Kelowna Rockets. They have eerily similar styles of play albeit one is a winger/centre and ones a defenseman but the way they both move the puck and hold on to the puck is a thing of beauty.

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Not to make this too much about Merkley but he has the talent to carry the puck a little bit longer than most without being a puck hog. He can make a timely pivot or pass he has no business making and it instantly changes the course of the shift. His hockey IQ is beautiful. Ben Hutton has those same characteristics.

Being a star on defense for the Canucks is no easy task, in fact playing for the Canucks is no easy task. As the famous line from The Dark Knight goes “you either die a hero or you live long enough to see yourself become the villain”. Right now, BH is the hero and he is far from dying off this roster, that takes at least 10 years on the blue line; less in net.

When the Nike AIR MAG shoe released on Wednesday to the world with self tying laces, the world stood still. This shoe is the holy grail of shoes. Ben Hutton is my Nike AIR MAG. Slight exaggeration maybe. He is developing a shot that will put his name on the marquee, he has confidence with the puck that rivals the Sedins and his decision making skills are already NHL veteran status.

Chris Tanev once received this treatment and really, he hasn’t let up. He isn’t our #1 dman but take him out of the lineup and we have serious problems. Hutton hasn’t even been here a month and you could poll Canucks nation and I’d bet he’s on the list of guys you cannot be without. Tanbir from Surrey knows what’s up:

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In a recent article on Vancity Buzz by Ryan Biech regarding Hutton, you’ll see a clip of Ben going away from his defender on a zone exit and its subtle but its such a pro move that any coach would love to teach that all day long. Im not a coach, I can barely skate but I know an amazing move when I see one.

Marty McFly had the Nike’s and the hoverboard and he traveled through time, we don’t need to travel through time though; The Canucks have Ben Hutton right now and he just might be that find other teams wish they had. Thats been our position on every eligible player we could have taken and now its Vancouver’s turn to enjoy some talent.

It could be argued this is a fluff piece on BH (it basically is) but even Chris Tanev would admit that Hutton brings the Canucks game to another level, you know if Willie would allow better players to be on the ice with him instead of Prust and Dorsett for entire periods at a time.

#Huttonmania is runnin wild in Vancouver and its gonna run wild all over you.

Follow my twitter: @always90four