ryan miller

Ryan Miller Is About To Have His Best Season Ever!

Whether or not Ryan Miller comes back to be the Canucks goaltender next season, he might just be in line for his most successful season ever. No, I haven’t been drinking and I don’t have any inside track to any trades the Canucks are about to make that would instantly catapult them up the standings. Miller is 37 years old this year and looking back to another American goaltender who had great success when he turned 37 is Tim Thomas, and he did some stuff.

For starters, I hate Tim Thomas. I don’t know if it is/was because he was such a stingy goalie or that he was so arrogant towards the Canucks or that he has a Stanley Cup and just basically left hockey. It all drives me crazy but one thing is for sure: his stats were real good that year, like Willie D “really good”.

So in 2010/2011, Thomas put up a solid 2.00 GAA and a .938 SA%. The season prior, he put up a 2.56 GAA and .915 in the SA% category. There were a few factors that contributed to that big season like Patrice Bergeron, Milan Lucic, Zdeno Chara and super-pest Brad Marchand. Now, the difference between Thomas’ 09/10 season and Miller’s 2016/17 season is that Miller isn’t coming off a Vezina year.

Miller also has a catastrophic 2.80 GAA this year and it probably would take a miracle to get in the 2.00 range, like adding Drew Doughty and Damon Severson for starters. That isn’t happening as far as I know. What’s to say that Miller couldn’t just tear it up next year?

It’s not a sure thing he’s coming back to Vancouver but he has found his groove and honestly, if he had any semblance of a defensive unit in front of him, he could actually put up some serious stats.

Could the unthinkable happen?

If Miller does come back, this entire theory goes out the door. He has two NHL caliber defenders in front of him and that isn’t good enough to keep the puck away from the goal line. This is, of course, thinking Luca Sbisa is gone. He has given everything he has for the team and if he was able to play maybe 10-15 fewer games next year, he might actually do OK.

With three years in the books, Miller has built a rapport with the guys in front of him and it would be a great time to capitalize on that time. There won’t be a Cup if he stays but he could help the team stay above water while Thatcher Demko prepares himself.

Believe it or not, Miller’s tenure in Vancouver hasn’t even been his busiest. He could end up facing the 7th most shots in his career when this one is over. Last season was Miller’s only other Canuck campaign that would rank in the top-10. As far as goals go, this would be his 6th best season for GA. Father time has been good to Mr. Miller and a “defense first” system (can’t believe I’m writing that) along with finding a rhythm in net has helped him succeed personally.

As I said before, Thomas had a pretty successful 2011 season and if Miller is able to either find a team that can utilize his hot hand without burning him out or at the very least get some forwards on the Canucks that can keep the puck at the other end of the rink, he could be in line for his best season to date.

What Ryan needs to do is re-sign in Vancouver, get a new mask or just simply the same one but silhouetted black-out, same with his gear and he becomes our black knight. A goalie’s presence with just his gear is something to behold, see: Roberto Luongo. The new NHL jerseys will be released before next season and like the BC Lions came out with their RoboCop looking uniform, so could Miller and he would take no prisoners.

These are some pretty shaky parameters but it’s possible that Ryan Miller is saving some of his best hockey for the end of his career. Seems a bit far fetched but weirder things have happened.

I moved out of my parent’s basement and now I’m doing this from my OWN basement.

photo – twitter.com

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Gutting Current Roster Stalls Canucks Future

The NHL Trade Deadline is fast approaching and the rumour mill is churning out new material by the day. Regardless of what side you’re on, the changes the Canucks make could potentially shake the future direction of where the team wants to go. It’s no surprise who’s on the block, what their respective trade destination list looks like or who potentially will be the realistic destination for any of the said players. What may end up being a surprise is what could happen if Jim Benning decides to stock the cupboards with picks and prospects and lose valuable mentors in the room.

Building for the future comes at a cost, how quickly they decide to build will dictate how soon the true results are achieved.

I, like everyone else, want the Canucks to turn the corner and become what they used to be: a competitive, winning hockey team. I understand that they had an opportunity to get to the top of the mountain and they let the window close for any future chances at getting back to the Stanley Cup. It’s been a trying few years and now, Vancouver is facing some tough decisions with their current team.

On the one hand, they can trade Alex Burrows, Jannik Hansen, and Ryan Miller to name a few and get valuable draft picks to start putting together a stable that will compete 3-5 years down the line. There are other players who haven’t been mentioned that could be moved right now and in return would bring players that have already been developed by other teams.

There have been discussions on the Internet about moving Ben Hutton because of the progression of Troy Stecher and Nikita Tryamkin and the promise of Olli Juolevi. What people don’t realize is that you can’t just eliminate a player like Hutton and expect that everything will be ok. Every action causes a reaction. If Hutton goes that leaves a spot for Erik Gudbranson or even Jordan Subban. Minutes go up for players that aren’t used to seeing that kind of action and the dominos begin to fall.

Does everyone remember when Kevin Bieksa was forced to play monster minutes? Ya, it didn’t go so well. Same goes for Luca Sbisa or even Alex Edler. Unless you are a true star and survive on your own, being thrown into the fire hampers the effectiveness of the player in question. Can taking Hutton out of the mix really help the Canucks? It just doesn’t feel like the right move. The other take there is the question of why would you even consider trading him so early on when he hasn’t even developed yet?

Moving on from Ben Hutton could end up being a huge mistake and considering the huge mistakes the Canucks have made in the past, there could be some serious damage done to the franchise.

Trading away Burrows gains a draft pick and there is a chance the Canucks can re-sign him in the offseason. Same can be said for Jannik Hansen and even Ryan Miller. Parlaying all those players puts a pretty big hole in the lineup and inevitably a freefall will occur. The problem with getting rid of all of these guys is that the leadership of the team takes a monster hit and it puts the Sedins in an awkward position to step their roles up on the team.

The Canucks need to ease the Twins into a supplementary role where they can maintain minutes in the low teens and still be effective. It’s obvious they aren’t getting any faster and their decisions throughout the game are starting to be routinely compromised. Their bodies aren’t reacting as fast as they can think the game and it shows.

Sure, they still sit among the leaders on the team in points but they are placed in so many situations that they have become overworked and in turn, it affects their teammates progression as well.

So what do the Canucks do?

They need to rebuild but they can’t have a massive void that keeps them from smoothly transitioning. Is it a case of starting over cold turkey or can they make the move a few players at a time? There no doubt are players coming up from the farm and in junior that will put the Canucks in a better position to win but not all of those players will be instant impacts on a nightly basis.

When those players make the switch to the NHL it also empties the cupboards of anything they have been working on and puts the team right back in the same position, not enough players drafted that they can develop.

I think this is called a “catch-22” situation.

What the Canucks SHOULD do, in my opinion, is admit defeat with a few players and maybe even the coach and give the players they moderately more responsibility. Loui Eriksson is a good start to move on from. Whatever the Canucks believed they had in Eriksson has not shown up on the scoresheet this season.

Maybe he’s injured and maybe he’s not but a player making $6 million a year for the next 5 years after this one is a pretty big waste of money if this is as good as he gets here. There is no Patrice Bergeron to play with and even playing on a line with Bo Horvat won’t amount to all-star numbers within a season, I just can’t see it happening.

Finding a buyer for Eriksson would be just as hard but Benning is a confusing character so I do have odd faith that he could pull it off. Jake Virtanen could be yet another “power forward” that doesn’t work out and he could be another Hunter Shinkaruk clone that fizzles out. A pick or a comparable prospect or a package deal to go get a star from that Denver team would be great.

Ryan Miller is the odds on favorite to move this year or at the very least, be the first one shipped off. The handling of both goalies this year has really clouded up what the team has in either player. Miller performs well when he’s rested and Jacob Markstrom performs well when he’s played more than once every three weeks.

Thatcher Demko shouldn’t be rushed into the league which means the Canucks need more time. Sending away Miller puts everything on Markstrom’s shoulders and even though he wants the chance to shine, there’s no way he sustains a winning record with no one to spell him after the burnout. Is trading Miller the answer in net?

The critics say yes but what does that solve? Not a whole lot and it creates issues in net which in turn means the Canucks would have to either find a cheap backup for Markstrom or take Richard Bachman from Utica and force Demko to be everything on the farm.

There is no easy fix and it feels like if the Canucks cut the wrong wire or push the wrong button, this team will create more problems than they originally had.

But hey, at least we’ll all scream at them regardless of what they do. That’s our thing.

Follow me on Twitter: @always90four

photo – vancitybuzz.com

Ryan Miller’s Magical Run Desperate For A Spell

This has turned out to be a pretty good season for Ryan Miller. He’s in the final year of his 3-year deal and although he isn’t playing at the peak level he was at in Buffalo, he’s turning in some pretty impressive numbers. If it wasn’t for Miller (and Markstrom) the Canucks would easily be playing for last or second to last place in the league.

Turns out they could carry on without out Roberto Luongo.

Ryan Miller has kept the Canucks in a remarkable number of games so far this season and it needs to be recognized beyond Vancouver. Since Dec 1st, Miller ranks T-9 in wins with 10, 11th in saves, an astonishing .926 SA%, and 10th in GAA with 2.30. Having a healthy defense corps that are capable of clearing out pucks or keeping them out of the zone could probably bump those numbers even higher.

He definitely gives the Canucks a chance every night and has shown he has bought into the current team plan, whatever that might be. Sticking up for Troy Stecher against the Leafs was the eye-opener for everyone. Things started kind of rocky for Miller when he got to Vancouver but now I wouldn’t mind if he hung around for another year or two while Thatcher Demko matures in the AHL.

The problem with running Miller night in and night out is that he’s “sports old” and at some point, he’s going to burn out.  In 2007/08, Miller played in 76 games, he won 36 times but lost 27 and lost in OT/SO 10 times. That season he allowed the most goals ever in his career with 197. If he keeps up his starts and plays around 54 games, he’ll be around the 140 goals against average or so.

Not the end of the world exactly but last season didn’t track so well when he started 51 so its possible the same could occur down the stretch.

There have been worse stories like what Calgary did with Miikka Kiprusoff from 2007-09 starting him 76 games as well netting 39 and 45 wins respectively but allowing 26 and 24 wins as well in the process.

Kipper’s goals against in those seasons were 197 and 209 respectively, which obviously would come with playing that many games but the Flames did not benefit from having a goalie that played every two nights. Having a goalie capable of that is great but there’s no way it lasts and everyone suffers in the process.

Miller needs a rest and whether its mistrust in Jacob Markstrom or the belief that you run the hot hand until it flames out, the Canucks can’t continue on this path. Common sense would suggest starting Markstrom at least once a week providing there are 3 games being played. There are streaks that go on where you have to roll with the hot goalie but no goalie wins every single game.

Even with Marky’s mundane stats, he gives the Canucks a chance every night and like a young defenseman, it takes some time to hone your craft. Considering the Canucks will be at a crossroads at seasons end with goaltending, it would be smart to get Markstrom in the net more than he has been. As of now, the playoffs are still a possibility and if Ryan Miller is going to be “the guy” then he’ll need to be rested and healthy.

He’s 36 years old and the Western Conference isn’t getting any slower so Miller has to be on point every night. This team doesn’t allow for him to make mistakes and some nights he’s been asked to make miracles happen. Those starts become more and more valuable as the season drags on and Willie Desjardins needs to realize a freak injury, which seems to happen a lot here, is one shot away.

Is Jacob Markstrom capable of carrying this current team? He basically did last year and with the goals coming from a few more players this season, a few new defenders that are holding their own and a division that has a wild card spot up for grabs almost every night, Markstrom isn’t in a terrible situation to fail.

Not completely anyway.

Ryan Miller needs to be spelled not just on the road, but at home too! Markstrom will get one start in the back to back games either Wednesday or Thursday and after that, there are two more back to back sets until February 19th. In between all those are games almost every second night which include a week long 6-game road trip.

There is no way he should be playing all of those and I can’t imagine Miller stays 100% during that time. It’s around the time when the toll of the game starts to wear on goaltenders and the little things start to nag. We’ve all heard and seen the stats since January 1st and Ryan Miller is definitely turning some heads.

Trading Miller doesn’t seem like an option now that he’s a family guy. He likes Vancouver, from what we read, and I know I personally wouldn’t want to be uprooted if things were in my favor. I don’t think it gets much worse for the Canucks but I’m wrong a lot. Ryan Miller can keep the Canucks afloat for awhile still but he’s only one guy.

Allowing Jacob Markstrom to take the reigns for a handful of games gives the Canucks a fighting chance for a longer period. They aren’t winning the Cup this year but Nolan Patrick doesn’t seem likely either so they might as well try and play this thing out.

Follow me on twitter: @always90four

It Will Be Interesting To See: Canucks And Goalies

Canucks training camp started on Thursday and apparently it was already decided that Ryan Miller is the #1 goaltender this season for Vancouver because it says here, here and here. The last one was kind of overkill but you get the point. Jim Benning has declared the 36 year old veteran will lead the Canucks on the ice and defend the pipes as its top tender. In the next edition of IWBITS, I dive into the goalie issue and declare it will be interesting to see how this season pans out…heck how the first month goes.

When Ryan Miller signed with the Canucks back in 2014 it was tough to say if he was a consolation prize or if he really would help the Canucks while everything else was sorted out. There was the Eddie Lack saga, the Jacob Markstrom run and with Thatcher Demko signing his pro deal the clock will indeed be ticking until the heir apparent (Demko) takes the throne.

The funny thing is, Miller has actually been the least of the team’s worries since he signed. Sure, he’s had injury issues but what veteran goalie hasn’t? His actual stats aren’t very becoming but when you’re injured, splitting starts every second game and being relied on as the backbone of a team that scores less than the USA World Cup hockey team, you get a bit of a pass.

Millers GAA was a voluptuous 2.70 last year good for 34th overall, his SA% was 28th at .916 and because the offense and well the defense as well wasn’t all that effective, Miller finished 15th overall in saves with 1634. He was a workhorse and there were 31 games he didn’t even play.

It’s not a bad thing that Jacob Markstrom is the backup, in Vancouver you always seem to get your chance. We all LOVED Roberto Luongo and then Cory Schneider went and did his winning thing so then we were torn. We had Eddie Lack backing up Miller and we all thought THAT was the answer when he turned it on, but alas.

I say let’s enjoy Ryan Miller’s swan song, he’s pretty much done everything that has been asked of him and many of the games last season that were won with him between the pipes, were HIS wins. He definitely stole a few and our frustration was being pointed in many, many other directions.

How this all plays out this season will be interesting because Miller could easily get banged up and Markstrom would take the reigns. So being that Demko isn’t getting called up right away, Richard Bachman is basically the glorified door opener unless things get really dicey. The Nucks signed BTO this past offseason and he’ll be go figure, the door opener for Demko down in Utica.

All of this puts Jacob Markstrom in a position to prove his worth either as the tandem mate of Demko when Miller leaves after the season or trade bait if Thatcher is the Auston Matthews/Connor McDavid equivalent in net. We used to get bent out of shape when things got iffy in net, but now there’s a clear answer and losing our favourite son Roberto Luongo will hopefully be a fond memory and only that.

Don’t expect the Canucks to surprise anyone this year challenge for a top playoff spot, they aren’t built that way yet. What they do have is a team of veterans and guys willing to learn from them. This team is on the verge of very good things and goaltending is included, unless of course Jim Benning decides to trade away Demko (but I just don’t want to think he’s that bat ish crazy).

It will once again be a roller coaster season and if Willie/Jim/Trevor know what’s best for this team, we’ll see a healthy dose of Miller/Markstrom every 2nd or 3rd game. It keeps it “interesting”, it keeps each goalie fresh and maybe they can pinpoint matchups, hey strategy!

Watching the fall last year was tough and seeing the result of a 5th pick instead of the 3rd still stings but knowing there’s a elite prospect between the pipes getting ready for his takeover is exciting. With Twitter handing us info by the second, Demko’s progression will be all too documented and if things go as well as everyone thinks, it will be tough not hand him the keys to the car.

On the off chance something amazing DOES happen on the big club, the Canucks may push their relevance back into the NHL I don’t see that happening but there’s a lot I’m wrong on.

The Canucks are tied for 1st overall right now…it will be interesting to see for how long.

Check me out on twitter: @always90four

cover photo: thecanuckway.com

 

Canucks Leaky Tire Goaltending About To Be Fixed

By now you’ve figured out I love comparisons! Most of them fall by the wayside and a handful of people get them but are half impressed to say the least. However, with the recent contract extension of Jacob Markstrom it’s safe to say I have a gooder here. Ever since the dual departures, nay, triple departures of Cory Schneider, Roberto Luongo and Eddie Lack, the Canucks have been searching for a fix to their goaltending problem. Some may say it’s been a slowly leaking tire.

I too am experiencing a leaky tire situation and until its ultimately fixed/replaced, it will nag away on the message center of my vehicle. I can go to the gas station and fill it up back to normal pressure, I can buy the spray in repair kit but unless its truly fixed, the problem will remain. When Vancouver re-signed Markstrom to a new 3 year deal, they took their leaky tire and replaced it with a name brand snow tire that can handle the challenges of winter.

Ryan Miller has one more season left on his own 3 year deal and as the team came down the stretch both he and Markstrom split the duties almost 50/50. It was evident the Canucks played well for both tenders and with a cheaper, younger option in place until soon to be superstar Thatcher Demko completes his training in Utica, Markstrom can start the 2016/17 season with aspirations of being the #1.

Knowing that the Canucks will soon have a high performance all weather tire in Demko makes the next few seasons quite bearable. It should be known that Ryan Miller on many nights last year was a big reason the Canucks even hung around; I guess we could blame him for not dropping another two standings spots.

A far from stellar statistical year for Marky, sporting a 2.73 GAA and .915 SA%, his starts increased confidence in the Canucks fan base knowing we had a solution on the back end. It may only be July but once training camp begins, Miller, Markstrom and Demko will all have played and grown with the developing defensive corps sprouting on the blue line.

Alex Edler is now the wise teacher with Dan Hamhuis’ departure, so guiding Ben Hutton, Erik Gudbranson, Chris Tanev, Nikita Tryamkin, Luca Sbisa and 2016 first round pick Olli Juolevi may be a challenge for the goaltending standing tall. It’s expected M&M (see how I did that?) will have to shoulder a fair amount of defensive blunders but thankfully without Matt Bartkowski, they’ll just be Sbizzas.

When Schneider and Luongo were sent to far away lands there wasn’t much air left in the goaltending tires and just when we all thought Eddie Lack had repaired the problem, the Nucks sent him away too!

We all saw this roulette wheel of goaltenders before Luongo came to town and we knew until it was ultimately solved the fixes were all temporary. The vehicle is almost fixed in Vancouver, we’re so close to having those high performance treads installed. Jacob Markstrom gives the Canucks time to let Demko mature at the pro level with more games than a college season delivers and the pro game will help him adjust and prepare for his eventual succession.

Maybe it’s the Swedish connection that keeps us calm? The Sedins made us believe too; I guess there’s something to be said for the Tre Kronor? Jim Benning did a smart thing, yes Pet Bugs, a smart thing by signing Markstrom and if the tandem of Marky and Demks can be better than Lu and Schneids, we’re in for some good times once more.

And that’s just the back end.

Once a goalie graveyard, Vancouver is again becoming the place to be for the masked man. The tires are taken care of and I can’t wait for that new engine to be ready. The Canucks will be ready for Race Wars sooner than we think.

DAN, DEMKO! Back At It Again With The Van Goalies

When you think Dan Cloutier, most think of this:

But after his tenure with the Canucks, ok and a few close calls…not quite like his days with NYR, Clouts established himself for a time as one of the best goaltenders in the NHL. He’s hung up his everyday skates and has moved back in with the Vancouver Canucks. Rollie Melanson has relocated east to be with his ailing mother, and has vacated his spot so the Canucks checked in to the Cloutier Hotel. The present gets a fresh face and Thatcher Demko gets a Canucks alum as a mentor.

This is a good thing.

Even though Rollie is out, he’s not gone completely. Melanson is still accessible but will be focusing more on helping goalies on the other side of the continent. As we all know, Dan Cloutier is no stranger to the Canucks and was a win away from the Conference Finals. He had injury problems but I still feel he was given an unfair shake as he was let go.

Cloutier’s aggresive, sometimes unpredictable style combined with his flare for the dramatic (where have we seen that before) made him a fan favourite and helped steal his fair share of games back in the day for the Canucks. Now, he’s the mentor to a current aging goaltender in Ryan Miller who could use some pointers on staying fresh as his career winds down. In Jacob Markstrom, Cloutier will be able to take what works with Marky and I believe, get him to be more of the aggressor towards his shooter.

Melanson got his goalies to play deeper and that gives the goalie the ability to play his posts tighter but doesn’t necessarily cut down the angle as much. I can’t see a dramatic culture change or anything but if he brings any of his game to his current students, at the very least, these guys will steal a few that they may have just lost last season.

The bonus of having a reliable goaltender is that with a growing team like the Canucks, mistakes are going to be made more often than not and the last line of defense will have to be on point. In Cloutier’s prime, he was a gamer in every sense of the word; he didn’t like to lose and he knew when he had to be the star that night.

Clouts also had Salo, Jovanovski, Ohlund and a few other notable d-men that he could rely on but having Hutton, Tanev, Tryamkin and I believe Dan Hamhuis, his work will show early on.

Not lost in all this is what Thatcher Demko will get out of all of this. Melanson will most definitely be working with Demko on a periodical basis and what that spells is ALL STAR. Rollie took a very capable Roberto Luongo and Cory Schneider, tweaked some of their tendencies and turned them into Jennings trophy winners, All Stars and shut out beasts.

Demko has already proven he can be all of those things and getting valuable lessons and ice time with the former Canucks tendy talker will reap all the benefits, like all of them.

Back to Cloutier though; he knows the juggernaut that is the Vancouver hockey market and having lived through just as many bad times as the next Canucks tender, he knows what it will take to get past the hump. From travel to taking chances, Dan Cloutier is a fantastic pickup for Vancouver. Aside from a handful of goalies (Hedberg, Noronen, Auld, Flaherty) the Canucks have done pretty well in net.

The “Goalie Graveyard” has buried many names but the talent managed to keep coming somehow. As this wave of new talent is ushered in between the pipes, Dan Cloutier has a chance to reinvent himself and become the textbook for the future in Vancouver’s nets.

No more beach balls, no more lottery balls; basically no more balls.

At the very least, the Canucks will have a 1.000 SA% vs. centre ice shots. We can be sure of that.

 

Check The Canucks IR, You Like It So Far?

Props to every single one of you that get that reference.

This season, like so many others has been tested by injuries; but it’s how the Canucks have managed to adapt this year that brings hope for the future. Losing Alex Edler and Brandon Sutter to longer term injuries seems to be par for the course lately as the team has JUST been able to ice a healthy roster. However, the questions of how Willie Desjardins manages his young players are answering themselves through the infirmary.

The Vancouver Canucks aren’t even in the top 10 in man games lost but anyone watching on a regular basis knows its not just how many games are lost but the players that are injured. Dan Hamhuis just returned from a broken jaw after missing 21 games and Brandon Sutter’s sports hernia surgery kept him out for 33.

Not to mention Henrik Sedin’s back and Luca Sbisa’s hand, OH! and Ryan Miller; the Canucks have once again been dealt a pretty terrible hand. It might seem like all is going against the Canucks but when you look at who has been injured and I guess really, when, the guys looking to play full time have been given their chances.

When Jake Virtanen, Ben Hutton and Jared McCann made the team back in October, injuries to Chris Higgins and the timely poor play of Linden Vey and Frankie Corrado all made it possible for the guys everyone wanted to see crack the lineup. Same happened with Bo Horvat last year and now you couldn’t imagine this team without him.

Alex Biega was rewarded with a  shiny new contract after proving he is able to provide valuable services when the team is depleted. Circumstance can breed success and in the Canucks case, oddly enough its paying off. Biega has been a pretty nice depth addition to the Canucks and at some point he’ll be an every day top 6 for them. Ben Hutton pretty much took his own roster spot when September came, didn’t even ask. That’s so Hutton!

It hasn’t all been skittles and unicorns though; the injuries have really stretched this team thin and there have been moments this year where ice time has been amped up for guys that just shouldn’t be playing that much and mistakes mount. I seem to remember when Hamhuis was injured and Bieksa had to shoulder the load, that didn’t always end well.

It didn’t end well, you can cut out the maybe.

Matt Bartkowski is always in the mix for things to go wrong it seems (aside from when his mom is watching him live), and asking him to play more minutes on a defense that is adjusting on the fly can result in mistakes.

There’s a chance a trade or two happens by the deadline and injuries would continue to offer up opportunities for call ups to the likes of Andrey Pedan, Brendan Gaunce, Taylor Fedun and obviously Hunter Shinkaruk.

The Canucks are transitioning to a younger, faster, potentially Matthewsier type team and as the injuries pile up, we get more and more chances to see the eventual next wave of stars; and that’s just the guys up front.

On the back end, Jacob Markstrom is quickly becoming the next goalie the Canucks trade away for a 1st round pick. His 5-0-1 run in his last 6 games is turning heads and making Ryan Miller expendable. Ryan Miller hasn’t slouched this year but his age and cap hit aren’t very fan friendly. He can help any team making a run this year going into the deadline and would most likely bring back value.

For the second year in a row, Miller went down and this time Markstrom was the recipient of more starts. He didn’t disappoint. Eddie Lack didn’t either but that didn’t stop the Canucks from shipping him off. With Markstrom making a case to be the eventual #1, its just one more example of how injuries are secretly helping the Canucks.

It would be nice if we didn’t have to constantly see this team get decimated with hammys, hernias and hips but that’s hockey. Jim Benning and Willie Desjardins are very close to making some tough decisions based on their misfortune in the health department but every guy that has been given a chance has stepped up.

#TeamTank may still happen but the rebuild, if that’s what you want to call this, seems more like a reno. It may turn around quicker than we think.

Follow me on twitter: @always90four

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

Jake Virtanen Skates Into Canucks History, But Why? 

To no ones surprise, the retro 94? 95? night is coming to a Vancouver Canucks near you and I for one am slightly excited. The sole basis of this site is because that jersey and the things that occurred in it took the Canucks to the next level. The former ownership felt that look needed to go and introduced the lovely crapping whale you see before you.

Is this the test phase of what’s to come, even if only as an occasional third jersey which the Millionaires get up failed to accomplish (it was the lack of wins I think). What also intrigues me is why Jake Virtanen of all people is the face of this mini revolution. Intriguing indeed.

I’ve waited so long to see this retro skate look come back; if it had the skate logo I was interested in it. We’ve all talked about how one day the Canucks could bring it back, maybe as a third or even in its current form with the blue/green/white colors. I’ve seen some mock ups and they aren’t too shabby.

When we dabble into nostalgia we get the feels and remember the good times, our favorite players and the excitement it brought; but there’s a reason things move forward too! Black, red and yellow isn’t exactly a modern color scheme that screams dollar bills. Apparently maroon, silver and any incarnation of that mix still works though.

Thankfully the Canucks figured out it wasn’t a good look.

OK, so beyond the excitement of reliving some memories that we think were great, when in fact things almost fell apart, the merch that the Canucks will enjoy a hot market with, what else is there to look forward to?

For starters, the choice of Jake Virtanen to be the face of the new/retro look.

The Canucks have a pretty good crop of players to choose from to be their marketing pawn but why Jake Virtanen? He hasn’t been a standout this year, he hasn’t really been a whole lot of anything really. Don’t get me wrong, its not that he isn’t worthy of being that guy but why not Bo Horvat?

Bo has had a phenomenal turnaround and the sophomore slump we had labelled him with seems to have been very off. This isn’t a Bo Horvat piece though, we’re sticking to Jake Virtanen.

It can’t be his stat line because 2 goals and 3 assists aren’t exactly “Face of the Franchise” type numbers; but I doubt they make these kinds of decisions based who’s done well lately.

Maybe the Canucks are ready to buy in completely on this youth movement and who better but the guy that leveled Connor McDavid? Jake has seen an increase in opportunity on the ice and is getting some better line mates but don’t expect to see his likeness draping 40 feet on the windows of Rogers Arena.

Putting Ryan Miller as the face of this #retronight would have been a good idea as he’s the one who will be artistically on display the most. New goalie pads, block, trapper and a slick paint job on his bucket will make for a pretty cool look when the Canucks face off against the Leafs on February 13.

It’s only a few weeks until this one off night takes place but we’ve been waiting a long time for this and if anyone thinks this is just a re-hash of the Millionaires saga, they’re wrong. We never wanted that one but welcomed it anyways. The skate logo WAS the Canucks for everyone in my generation and even before that. This one may bring us full circle and help us to close the door on a chapter we weren’t ready to let end.

On that note, I’ve put my hat into the ring and am hoping to launch this guy on a new black tee in honor of the game. Hit me up if you are interested in getting one.

It truly is Always90four

It truly is Always90four

Follow me on twitter: @always90four

New Year, More Problems, Same Canucks and a Camel Story

2015 sure was a bizarre year for the Canuck faithful. It really gave us the highs and lows of a team in transition and that isn’t always fun. As the clock strikes midnight, which it definitely will ya doomsdayers,  we look back at the year that was and pout. The beginning of the year gave us some of that hope stuff people talk about and we liked Willie Desjardins and applauded his decision making, I think? We could see the potential of Eddie Lack as the true starter and Bo Horvat quickly became “the next one”. But then the playoffs.

Radim Vrbata wasn’t his normal staring self, he went invisible like a straight to dvd sequel of Serendipity starring Joan Cusack and probably Nic Cage because he’s doing stuff like that now. Luca Sbisa was internet infamous, Sbizza actually was just between us (he seriously didn’t even know) and we had no answer to NHL super enforcer Michal Ferkland (sp?) Ferglund? Ferland. There, got it.

Will anything change or will the Canucks stay the same?

After the Lameoffs all of that changed for the worse when we shipped away fan favourite Eddie Lack to Carolina, Nick Bonino to Pittsburgh for Brandon Sutter (still don’t really like that one…for either team), had the news that Ryan Miller COULD have been traded and Frankie Corrado was waived. That all sounds like doom and gloom but it isn’t entirely.

Breakout defender and twitter sensation by hashtag anyways, Ben Hutton aka #HUTTONmania, earned a spot on the big club and hasn’t given any reason to relinquish it. He’s been a welcome sight on the back end and with some patience and guidance, he could be the offensive version of Chris Tanev. We like Tanev.

Rookies Jared McCann and Jake Virtanen both made the team as well and all of Canucks land was a fluster. Could the Canucks truly be rebuilding? Is this the time we finally see the young guys work their way into stardom? Not exactly. Jared McCann is still largely between Derek Dorsett and Brandon Prust and even though its a learning curve, they’re duds.

You would never put a camel in a grizzly farm and say “hey camel, be a grizzly!” Not gonna happen. That camel can only be a camel; but if you put that camel with other camels at the camel farm, he can be a …..totally wrong analogy. I really don’t know how the camel would get better.

Basically you don’t put a budding offensive centre with 2 plugs. That’s the jist of it. Remember the camel story, that might be huge one day.

Jake Virtanen has time to learn his skill and we will continue to see his development as the year goes on. Not every player can be a Horvat and even Bo isn’t having a great sophomore year. What we have learned is that the team is committed to these guys and at some point, the veterans will start to be phased out.

The Sedins aren’t going anywhere and at 35, they still look as amazing as they did years ago. Sure, there’s a miss here and there but with 37 and 33 points, Daniel and Henrik Sedin respectively, are every bit as effective as they once were; the down side is that they’re the only ones….ok them and Jannik Hansen.

Speaking of the Great Dane, Jannik Hansen is alive once more with the sound of (whatever the heck his goal song is). Salvaging good story lines has been tough this calendar year but he of Danish origins has kept the Sedins fresh. Once on the rumoured trade block, Hansen has finally seen his game elevate and has brought worth to a team project a few years in the making. Good to see.

With all this, there are low lights like the distribution of minutes amongst players that shouldn’t even be in the lineup, the decision to keep important players out of the lineup, not keeping the goaltending tandem fresh with quality starts by each and an absolute failure to address the scoring needs this team so desperately has.

How Hunter Shinkaruk, Brendan Gaunce and Alex Grenier AREN’T on the club yet, I’ll never know. Chris Higgins isn’t what he used to be and is ready to maybe not be put to pasture but maybe let him outside for a run and don’t lock the gate. Dorsett and Prust are not #MUST guys and they don’t look like they will be anytime soon.

Anyone putting in a quality effort seems to suffer because the other lines are being misused. The Canucks also aren’t very big so the ability for them to be literal pushovers is alarming.

As the year turns to 2016, the Canucks haven’t really changed their direction a whole lot and maybe thats just the fan in me saying that. They definitely have made transitional moves and I guess the team is quite different from a year ago but nothing says they’re going to be better or more competitive than they have been.

In 2016 Mr. Benning, Desjardins and Linden, please know that we’re willing to wait for this ship to turn itself around, but give us a reason to be hopeful. Clearly we’ve waited THIS long so just be fair to us, that’s all we/I ask.

Happy New Year for Always90four

Also, remember the camel story.