sedins

Canucks Might Make Playoffs And That’s Not A Bad Thing

Before you go and bury me for this opinion, think about what a playoff appearance would mean for this year’s Canucks squad. There is a point where the current version of Vancouver’s team needs to test what they have and figure out the next step. We have all seen how this team has changed even in the last 4 months and with the Canucks definitely not sinking to a 1st overall pick, they’ve shown enough that a top 10 pick might not be realistic either.

It has been a topsy-turvy kind of year with a few decent winning streaks and a Debbie-downer 9 game debacle. Injuries have forced the Canucks hand yet again on both defense and up front which allowed us all to see Troy Stecher hit stardom and Philip Larsen fall to obscurity. Add to this Nikita Tryamkin’s progression as an everyday NHL defenseman and Markus Granlund’s seamless fit with Brandon Sutter and Loui Eriksson.

As of Tuesday morning, the Canucks are in the “in the playoffs/missing the playoffs” talk for the immediate future. A win puts them in and a loss keeps them at bay for another night. The most important game of the season talk begins to heat up and out of nowhere, we stop talking about “team tank” or “fire Willie”.

Making the playoffs is what Canucks fans know, it was all we knew for so long. Mainly, the making the playoffs phrase itself and not going very far reality. The team is getting prepared to be one of the 8 teams that make the postseason but it also has to accept that there needs to be some changes made.

Getting swept by say, the Chicago Blackhawks isn’t fun but reigniting a pretty much dead rivalry is good for business and a great measuring stick for where this team is at. It would be fitting to begin the process again with those guys and get some animosity going. There won’t be any accidental upset type matchup happening for the Canucks so it will be a steep incline to push any series past 5 or 6 games.

Drafting has been stronger in recent years, not keeping the Twitters at bay stronger, but Jim and his entourage have made some decent picks. Because of this, the current team has some expendable pieces and some pieces that are worth sticking it out for. Alex Burrows has found a second life and seeing Burr in the postseason again is worth getting there.

He has the gift of clutch and it’s something you can’t really teach, you have to experience it. Players like Bo Horvat and Sven Baertschi could learn a lot by getting to the next stage. The entire defensive corps, save Edler and Tanev, really haven’t been truly battle-tested yet and the run to get to the playoffs and then to stay in them truly develops them into players that allow management to reach out for stars that can put them over the top.

Clearly, Ryan Miller and Jacob Markstrom aren’t in a position to allow this team to lose without some significant subtractions on the blue line (5 defenseman doesn’t help) and their gameplay this season has actually changed the team’s fortunes slightly. Goaltending wasn’t supposed to be this strong of a point for the Canucks and it has allowed the team to take a few more chances.

That includes Willie D.

The way he operates this team on the ice sure is peculiar and again pointing to the Anton Rodin mess, the Jake Virtanen episode and honestly, why isn’t Loui Eriksson on the top line? It’s not just getting to the playoffs, it’s HOW you get there that determines a lot as well. It will take scoring from everyone, ok maybe a few lines, OK, probably just the Horvat line to get even close to making the playoffs.

Expecting Henrik and Daniel to carry this team anymore is not fair, they need to start relinquishing control and Willie needs to put the statistical performers in a better position to succeed.  This means getting Horvat’s line more ice even though it takes him out of the sweet spot, give Eriksson the proper opportunities to score his 30 goals and trusting that the players afforded to WD are there to stay so he needs to play them in important situations.

True leaders know when to delegate and give up some control and the Sedins aren’t too proud to know their time is expiring as impact players. It’s the circle of life and it’s time to see the next Simba take the throne. I’m not sure if that Lion King reference was warranted but it’s there now so we have to live with it. What also has to happen for this team to have a shot at the playoffs is Willie D understanding the Sedins can’t be the go-to guys anymore.

Their existence as 2 of the top 4 point getters on the team since Dec 1 doesn’t mean they should continue to be given every chance to stay at the top, it’s entirely likely that by slowly drifting to the second line that they stay as effective and actually allow the Erikssons, Horvats, Baertschis to take over this team without the abrupt official transition.

This isn’t the AHL and I get that you don’t just play the young guys to give them experience but the team is moving on it has to embrace that it might be jussst good enough to take a bigger step. Do I think this team has turned a corner and they’re going to be world beaters? Not really. Losing right now will build the team as the years go on but there are picks that magically turn into all-stars that arrive in the rounds where you are basically throwing darts at a board.

Pushing for the playoffs can turn the fan base around as well and with tickets at an all time low, the Canucks might not make it long enough to truly rebuild. How they’ve stuck around this long without just giving up is amazing. Vancouver wants to support a winner and even the fairweather fans want a championship deep down. We all believed once and it’s possible we can believe again.

Maybe the Canucks just need to huddle inside of a dead bear and ride out the storm that is the Pacific division and ultimately the Western Conference until the dust settles and find out what it will take to make it to round one. One thing is for sure and that anything is possible in the new NHL. Columbus anyone?

Take all of the crazy out of it and admit you want the Canucks in the playoffs. If it means Calgary and Edmonton don’t make it, I’m all for it.

Follow me on twitter: @always90four

 

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Stop Me If You’ve Heard This Before: Eriksson Should Be With The Sedins

And it shouldn’t even be debated.

The Canucks went after what they believed was their free agency stud on July 1st of this year by netting apparent scoring winger, Loui Eriksson. I’m sure he was fed the same fable as past players that he would be playing with the Sedins, it might have even been written in his contract. What it looks like however, is that the fine print says “at some point”.

Jim Benning and Trevor Linden said they wanted a scoring winger for the Twins or even just a scoring winger. Well, Eriksson is indeed that kind of player. He is a goal scorer. You’d never know it seeing him on the 2nd and sometimes 3rd lines while the Sedins are paraded around with Brandon Sutter, Jannik Hansen, Jayson Megna, Jake Virtanen, I could go on.

Eriksson has proven he can score goals and in his 10 seasons prior to the Canucks, he’s averaged 21.2 goals/season. If you take out the lockout half season, he jumps up to 22 goals. There’s a chance the Canucks might not even get a player that scores that many this season. That might be a bit of a stretch, I think someone will probably get there.

It’s beyond me how Willie Desjardins feels that he isn’t a fit on the top line. The Sedins are running out of time to be relevant and they just paid a guy $6M/season for the next 6 years to score what looks to be all the goals, for now. If someone doesn’t hammer this concept into the coaches head, this contract will look worse than Roberto Luongo’s or heck, Derek Dorsett’s.

During the World Cup, we were all excited to see the Sedins play with Eriksson on Team Sweden and thought “Hey, this might be alright”, but no one took into account that the Canucks are run quite differently. I believe Eriksson was given what, 2 weeks, with Henrik and Daniel before it was a trashed idea.

Embed from Getty Images
Proof the Sedins have actually played with Eriksson – Getty Images

Even if it didn’t work out, to begin with, Willie needs to revisit it and run with that line for at least a month or more. Making the playoffs is still a goal for some reason so that goal needs to be met with ACTUAL goals… by players. It’s really a simple formula.

It drives me nuts, as I’m sure many of you as well when a player is called up that scores a ton in the AHL only to be anchored on the checking line or at best, the third line. You put scorers where they will succeed and Loui Eriksson is a scorer and the Canucks management believes a good one to give him that kind of cash.

Bo Horvat is a goal scorer too, but that’s a whole other conversation.

When the 2017 season gets going there is a chance uber NCAA star, Brock Boeser, will be wearing Canucks colours. We all know he is a natural talent and puts the puck in the net with ease. The options will increase for line combinations and if Eriksson doesn’t end up with the Sedins, Bo Horvat better have a high-end winger to finish his passes.

Could Boeser be platooned on a line with Eriksson, it’s entirely possible. You essentially could have a goat as a centre and they’d be good for at least 15-20 goals apiece. It wouldn’t be that much worse than what Willie believes works right now.

Not only does Loui score, he dishes the puck as much as the Sedins. Again, in that same 10-year span, he’s averaged 29 assists per year, 30 not including the lockout year. Must be a Swedish thing, OH WAIT, the SEDINS are Swedish too!

The most common stats critics base their opinions on are right there, Henrik, Daniel and Loui should be a thing. Much like the Three Amigos, the Three Stooges, the Three Musketeers and even the Mean Street PosseTeam Sweden produced a solution for the Canucks and they didn’t even need sweater vests, subtle reference, I know.

  

The goals are starting to slowly come for Eriksson but if this is the team Canucks brass are giving us, at the very least ice the team that makes sense. It feels like the equivalent of asking for the most expensive Christmas present, getting it and then cutting holes in the box and wearing it like a mask until Easter.

That sounds stupid. It was supposed to.

Time will tell if both coaches and management realize they actually did sign Eriksson long term and they’ll need to make sure it was even worth it in the first place.

 

Follow me on twitter: @always90four

 

 

Canucks Got PTOs in Different Area Codes – Season Preview Remix

Im sure Ludacris didn’t have the Canucks in mind when he penned his classic “area codes” jam in 2001 for the Rush Hour 2 soundtrack.  But here we are, one PTO veteran making the team and another going the way of the Ruutu (its actually funny because that’s his name). Jim Benning felt Jack Skille warranted a full season on his team after a solid? preseason. Tuomo Ruutu was let go but the Calgary Flames/Toronto Maple Leafs are always trolling the Canucks wastelands for pickups.

As this season gets underway there aren’t really a whole lot of questions with this team. I mean, no one has them picked to win the Cup so that can be put away, goaltending really isn’t a problem after seeing last year that Ryan Miller and Jacob Markstrom can easily handle the duties this year while super prospect Thatcher Demko hones his craft in the AHL.

Up front, the Sedins will once again lead the way for Vancouver and it wouldn’t surprise me if they still have some tricks left up their sleeves. New line mate Loui Eriksson (also from Sweden) will start the year on the top line and after a positive first go around with Henrik and Daniel at the World Cup of Hockey, they should easily transition into the regular season. A healthy Tre Kronor will probably net Eriksson 30 or so goals, the Sedins each around 80 points…ok maybe high 70s.

Last year was abismal and I’m willing to say a healthy, properly used Sedin line probably does get close to those totals. Henrik put up 73 points two seasons ago while Daniel put up 76. I’m not even going to link it because I know that YOU KNOW how to use the Internet and I want you to stay here. With Eriksson up front, for we’ll say 70 games, the 70-80ish point threshold is doable. Canucks Army just fired me, pretty sure….pretty sure.

The Sedins aren’t really the focus though for the “wow” factor this year if there even is one. Bo Horvat along with Sven Baertschi will hope to relight their spark they found last year and Jake Virtanen would be smart to get in on that action early. Sure, the lines aren’t in his control but no one wants to be stuck with Markus Granlund or Derek Dorsett.

Brandon Sutter will be starting the year almost healthy and will do his best get back to being a normal NHLer. He was the forward version of Sami Salo last year when it comes to injuries. A broken jaw and sports hernia pretty much shut Sutter down last year and there was no way he was going to be anything close to normal.

Willie Desjardins needs Sutter to produce for him to give this team a lick of hope in 2017. Three reliable centres make the Canucks somewhat legit like Crocs you buy at Canadian Tire. You know they aren’t the real thing but you’ll use them how they should be used and heck they’re 10 bucks! Where was I going with this? I forgot.

Brandon Sutter, right.

If Sutter does indeed stay healthy enough to warrant regular rotation between the top 3 lines, guys like Jannik Hansen, Markus Granlund and even Alex Burrows can become relevant once again. The checking line of Brendan Gaunce, Alex Burrows and most likely Jack Skille/Derek Dorsett might be a regular checking line if the top 3 lines are going. Again, not a Cup contending roster but rolling 4 lines does make the Canucks a bit tougher to defend, ya I said it.

Who’s really going to challenge that line anyways, on the Canucks I mean? If you’re in the first 9, don’t screw up and you’ll be fine.

Does that go for the defense as well?

Apparently you can tear up the preseason (meaningless hockey) and still get sent down. I’m talking Troy Stecher, I’m talking Ben Hutton ver. 2.01. Going into training camp and then the preseason, Stecher to the general public, me as well, was a name we were told to watch for. We watched, he delighted and somehow for a second season in a row, a Canucks defenseman from college was going to crack the roster.

The Utica Comets will give Stecher some solid playing time on a top pairing and it will only be a matter of time before he’s called up. He’s too good and Philip Larsen can’t really be our PP QB, can he? I bet fellow Dane Jannik Hansen is high on him but he can’t really believe our problems are solved on the man advantage with Phil.

Vancouver’s defense looks like this to start the year: Chris Tanev, Alex Edler, Nikita Tryamkin, Lou Alex Biega, Luca “ya they haven’t gotten rid of me yet” Sbisa, Erik Gudbranson, Ben Hutton and the aforementioned Larsen.

I shutter to think where the Canucks are without Hutton or worse, Tanev. The defense on paper is sketchy and anytime you ice a team that has a really tall unproven player along with a veteran not good whatsoever player, you have issues still. Sbisa is our resident dumpster fire but thankfully Matt Bartkowski’s astonishments are now done here.

Tryamkin better start figuring his stuff out quick because having a guy that can’t be sent down to the AHL or he leaves is stupid. If he was that hot, you wouldn’t need that clause in there. Be a big boy and earn your spot. Even bulldog Biega earned his stripes, we like him. He’s not great but when Biega is out there, you want him to succeed. I hope Nikita is everything they hoped he’d be but man, he has to own that body and take names.

One man who doesn’t need to prove himself is newcomer Erik Gudbranson. A gritty defender who doesn’t shy away from the rough stuff. His #fancystats aren’t anything to write home about but he is what the Canucks have lacked since Kevin Bieksa’s hay (sp?) days minus the offensive punch. Markstrom and Miller are definitely safe this season with Guddy in front of them.

As for a nicely wrapped basket of what the Canucks will or won’t accomplish this year, the jist is don’t expect anything promising. They won’t make the playoffs but in typical Canucks fashion, they won’t finish dead last either; thus eliminating them already from Nolan Patrick the first overall pick in June.

We may very well be witnessing the transition into what Canucks land will look like for awhile but thankfully there are a handful of bright spots (Horvat, Virtanen, Hutton, Stecher, Demko and Tanev) that make you think it’s going to be OK eventually.

The Canucks will hang in there this year but at the end of the day, be prepared for many, many 1 and 2 goal games; most of those being defeats.

I won’t sugar coat it because we’re past that now. Enjoy watching hockey again even if it means a bunch of #moralvictories again.

Go Canucks Go, We are all Canucks and all that jazz.

See you out there.

cover photo – insidetoronto.com

It’ll Be Interesting To See: Canucks Hoping For Swede Dreams

Hey, remember me? It’s been awhile.

Looks like we’re close to another fun filled season of Canucks hockey because well, it’s September and that’s what happens. Listening to the latest The Pat Cast, they dropped probably the most overused sports phrase in the biz “It’ll be interesting to see”. Now, I’m not saying its a bad thing because the comments that come either before or after keep us in deep thought, not to mention who doesn’t love The Pat Cast?

So over the next weekish or so, I’ll be diving into a handful of Canucks scenarios, issues and most likely concerns for the upcoming season. You’ve seen the title already but to save twitter space I’m going with an acronym: IBITS. IBITS sounds cool and you can use it in regular conversation, kinda like the guys in Silicon Valley did with Richard (see RIGBY).

The first one we’re going to chit chat about is the well, the first line itself and the new wingman that joined the Sedins on July 1 of this year: Loui Eriksson.

It’s no secret the Canucks will once again be searching for scoring but hopefully as the Sedins get one season closer to retirement they’ll make the most of their newest assignment with fellow Swede Loui Eriksson. Loui had a  decent year with Boston in 2016 putting up 30 goals and 63 points. That will come in handy for a team struggling to buy 30 goals PERIOD.

Daniel and Henrik combined for 39 goals last year and they actually had a pretty good year considering. It wasn’t exciting but they still led the charge. The Canucks can still be competitive if they have a healthy top line, not to mention healthy centres on the other 3 lines as well (but we’ll dive into that later on). The Sedins and Eriksson are already building chemistry at the World Cup going on in Toronto. One goal at a time it seems:

In a division that is only getting tougher, and yes I’m including the Flames, keeping pace with everyone is crucial to staying out of the cellar. Had they done that properly last year Auston Matthews would be a Canuck or maybe even Pierre Luc-Dubois but even that didn’t work out. The Oilers are getting close to being a pain in the rear and Leon Draisaitl, Connor McDavid and I’m saying it, Taylor Hall errr…Adam Larsson, no wait Milan Lucic, ok ok Jesse Puljujarvi will make teams pay with their talent.

I think having a line that is already clicking is good news for coach Willie Desjardins and maybe just maybe he’ll deploy the Sedins in a few more key situations. They won’t complain if he doesn’t because they’re Swedish and like us Canadians we just take it in stride and bury it deep down.

Not to get too much into the rest of the team right now but having Brandon Sutter back with a full camp, Bo Horvat backing him up one line after and seeing a familiar face like Anton Rodin could give the Sedin line more time to do their thing and their thing is being Sedintastic!

There will be so many things to debate and criticize throughout the season and some of you won’t even make it out of training camp without losing your bacon, I’ve seen it, it’ll happen. The fun thing about this all is that over at Canucks Army I’ll have another guy to talk about and get to know all his quirks and find out what makes Loui….Loui.

Will we chant his name as we did Luongo or maybe we nickname him Ricky? I’m not sure but as we get closer and see this team start to gel, progress will happen and like a clever Harambe meme (RIP Harambe) one thing will be blatantly clear for sure:

It’ll be interesting

 

cover photo: theprovince.com

Steven Stamkos Can Erase Years Of Canucks Mistakes

As Dan Hamhuis and Chris Higgins bid farewell to the Canucks, there will be a few extra bucks hanging around the Rog on July 1. Jim Benning has drafted the future but his inability to sign true talent has been his undoing. Its pretty early to talk legacy but in Vancouver you don’t get a whole lot of time to make one. As Steven Stamkos enters free agency, Benning can offer the world and in turn would erase years of pain, mistakes and filler.

Stammer might not be a generational talent in the sense he isn’t Sidney Crosby or what we all believe Connor McDavid is but his ability to elevate a team is obvious.

The Canucks have seen their fair share of injuries and mishaps that only could happen to this team or maybe the Leafs but I assure you, a blood clot will not turn them away. What Stamkos has the chance to do is to be THE star, the magnet and the face of hockey in Vancouver. Roberto Luongo held that mantle for what seemed like forever, Trevor Linden has that spot in many fans hearts but on the ice, on the ice shift after shift Steven Stamkos can bring the fans back and a ton of goals too!

Will he cost a lot? Oh he’ll cost a lot and Don Meehan (his agent) will be able to buy a nice new boat when the cheque clears. There won’t be any room left to sign anyone else which in turn means there will be some trades coming. Alex Edler and Jannik Hansen might need to head to the airport to make this happen.

No one can forget what players like Pavel Bure, Alex Mogilny, heck our current heroes Henrik and Daniel Sedin have done for the Canucks on the ice. Bure electrified with the flip of a switch and forced fans to tape the game at home so they could see his moves in a slightly slower frame rate. Alex Mogilny was brought in to flank Bure’s other wing and sadly injuries among other things couldn’t get this team past the hump. With the Sedins, they have dazzled night after night in typical Sedin fashion.

Possession is 9/10 of the law, the other 1/10 is being a Sedin. People always talk about coming to the games to see the opponents play, well when you came to see the Canucks in 2010-2012 it was the Twins that got top billing. They did it all and still do. With Stamkos, they’ll prolong their careers potentially 2 more years than what they would have achieved if no one else could match their skill level.

His numbers speak for themselves; he’s just a hair under a point per game player in his career, in the last three years 61 of his 104 goals were on the power play and gosh he’s fancy too since then! Puckalytics has the goods for his 5v5 statisticals from Oct 2013-Apr 2016:

GF% – 55.4

PDO – 101.6

CF% – 52.5

Yes, he’s a star player and opportunity is in his his blood….hmmmm that actually solves some things. He still needs a Cup and Vancouver won’t get him one this year and maybe not the year after but as this team matures there will be a handful of players that can grow with him and what he does on the ice, what he puts in the back of the net should be motivation enough.

Luongo finally got the support he deserved and when it all came together he didn’t need to be the one they relied on every night, he was a complimentary piece to the flood of goals that went in the other net and the defense in front of him was so reliable it made him that much better.

If this actually did happen, the top line of Stamkos and the Sedins would be a treat and quite frankly it gives Brandon Sutter and Bo Horvat along with their wingers a whole lot more time to create chances. Shutting down an all star line takes way too much effort and at some point the levy breaks. Sure, Luca Sbisa is still there but maybe he won’t be if they need a few extra bucks to sign the jolted bolt.

Killer rhyming I know.

This city needs a hero again and it needs something to believe in. Steven Stamkos is that guy, we can believe in his ability.

I’m a dreamer and the likelihood of him coming to dismal, rainy, riotty Vancouver is slimmer than Kyle Wellwood’s diet books but just imagine for a second that the Canucks changed for the better. I can’t accept that this team will be bad forever, it just isn’t feasible. The Cubs and all their fans will stick it in my face but its doable….right?

Or they could sign Lucic and some other guys I guess.

 

photo – nhl.com

Canucks Disastrous Season Is Oddly Gratifying

With the first pick in the 2016 NHL Entry Draft, the Vancouver Canucks select…..

It has been a long, long time since the Canucks were in a position to potentially pick the best player available; the 2016 season has afforded them with that possibility. The #tank or rebuild or whatever you want to call it has been relatively successful if you think about it. Through injuries, trades and waivers, the Canucks have the chance to draft 1st overall for the first time ever!

Oddly enough, the real fans haven’t been happier.

Makes you think. As bad as this franchise has ever been, it’s never been THAT bad. The Sedins were taken 2nd and 3rd, Bo Horvat was taken 9th, Virtanen 6th; but no one was ever a 1st overall pick in VAN. The woes of the whale have never been so dreadful and yet so satisfying. We’ve asked to see this team blown up, we’ve asked for the younger players to get their time and we asked for cheaper ticket prices – all of those things happened.

Well, the only blowing up is Twitter when Benning makes an apparent stupid decision. It’s looking like a handful of his stupid decisions are panning out quite well though.

In the 2015 Draft, there were a handful of players Benning could have chosen: Travis Konecny, Noah Juulsen and my personal man crush, Nick Merkley. I don’t follow the US high school/college circuit at all so when he went with 6’1 190 Brock Boeser straight outta high school, I had no clue who this dude was and figured Jimbo swung and missed.

Kid’s tearing up the college circuit this year, he’s a freshman! He won the NCHC Rookie of the year award and his next goal ties him with Zach Parise for most goals by a UND freshman. Fellow 2015 pick Adam Gaudette who was also selected out of the USHL is having a great year as well for Northeastern making it to the NCAA big dance.

It’s no secret Jim is a great scout and he may very well have stocked the cupboards for years to come but when you come into a culture where everyone wants to win right now, both fans, players and management, you have to sell the journey. Canucks fans thought they had it all figured out when Boston was announced as the East Champs to face Vancouver in the 2011 Final. It was the dream run we all talked about, how could anything derail destiny?

Apparently, there were a few things that made that possible.

When Benning got to Vancouver he made it known he wanted guys who wanted to be here, Ryan Kesler didn’t so he moved him. Shocking to some but the writing was on the wall, you’re a Canuck because you want to be one 100%. If you aren’t going to work, you’re gone.

Differing opinions come up when Frank Corrado is mentioned, Hunter Shinkaruk, Zack Kassian and Eddie Lack. JB is building the Canucks the way he sees fit and even when we all cry bloody murder and demand his head on a stick (have we done that yet?), he continues to give us flashes of confidence.

Thatcher Demko is yet another prospect that is making waves and will most definitely be the goalie of the future for the Canucks and if it was possible, they’d sign him long term right now. He will give the Canucks what they had in Luongo and Schneider but hopefully this time they don’t screw it up. Once he’s in the lineup I doubt Vancouver is worried about picking anywhere near the bottom 5 picks.

Over the next week, the Canucks play the Jets, Predators, Blues and Blackhawks. Conceivably, they could be dead last or knocking on the door by next Sunday night; the crazy thing is I don’t see any diehards frowning upon this.

Have you ever been so enthralled with defeat that you look forward to the games just to see if they can come up on the losing end by the final buzzer? It’s unreal! We have waited for that next player to take us up the mountain and with the Sedins at Amen Corner, there isn’t much left for them to do before they hand off this team to the next leaders.

Every loss feels redeeming and as the rest of the garbage at the bottom of the league wins and Vancouver loses, the feeling of new life in an organization that hasn’t breathed in what seems like years is fresh.

All in all, the losses have piled up but the hope that this team will get a chance to turn it around with a combination of the top pick and maybe a splash signing July 1st is worth it. Even if Steven Stamkos signs elsewhere (totally likely) there is still many a dollar to spend and get this team competitive again.

Starting all over next season with a healthy roster and some new stars might be just what this team needed; no Cup right away but the belief it can get back to that level is really all most of us want. The Cup may elude forever but that’s nothing new.

So lose Canucks, lose a lot. Give us Auston Matthews and make America Vancouver great again!

Canucks Are Kinda The Phantom Menace

Positive – I just saw the new Star Wars movie. It was pretty good. Some cheese but building basically a new story isn’t easy. Its been a few years since Episode VI so you can forgive them a bit. 

Negative – The Canucks can’t seem to figure out what it is they’re doing. Are they destined to tank and get Auston Matthews, he of Zurich fame? Or will they continue to part together this team and hang by a thread like Luke Skywalker’s hand did in the Empire Strikes Back? Sweet reference hey?

How do these both tie together? The Canucks are basically Episode I – The Phantom Menance. Everyone couldn’t wait to see the rebuild, the how it all began or in the Canucks case, will begin; but sadly once people saw it, they realized it wasn’t all that good and everyone wondered if the franchise would get any better….or if this was the new suck they would have to endure.

A long time ago, in a salary cap era far, far away…

 

The 2013-2016 Canucks existed. There were questionable draft picks, questionable trades, questionable signings and ROCK SOLID CRITICISM at every turn. This has always been the norm in Canuckland but lately it seemed every decision was getting harder and harder to make. Was this team really that bad? Or are they a victim of injuries, some bad roster moves and an inability to see the forest for the very near trees?

Jim Benning and Trevor Linden have done some things that would make you scratch your head: trading for Derek Dorsett, Brandon Prust and Brandon Sutter are a few of those things. Signing those same players PLUS Luca Sbisa, Linden Vey to not very good contracts as well as waiving what seemed to be up and coming defenseman Frank Corrado are also things that happened. If you’re shaking your head even with no numbers in front of you, odds are your neck hurts.

This has and will continue to be a season of “Will they or won’t they” draft Auston Matthews with the first overall pick and it also is joined very tightly by the question of will this team lose out in the first round of the playoffs? As of today, both are very real possibilities which should frighten everyone. How can a team be so bad that they pick first overall but good enough, albeit, in a Wham!’s greatest hits (awful) of a division to hang around in the playoff hunt?

In two words – The Sedins.

No matter how hard this team seems to botch the opportunities they get, the Sedins always seem to be there to bail them out, usually in droves. Jannik Hansen is the latest benefactor of their talents and he’s having a career year, it’s no joke. The rest of this team is struggling to even possess a cold body that the crime lab could identify dental records from; they’re basically a skeleton.

The word “tank” comes up so much but no respectable athlete will ever tank. It’s not in their DNA. No one likes to lose. What the Canucks have in front of them though is a losing lineup. Injuries to star players, and I use that term quite lightly, Dan Hamhuis, Luca Sbisa, Ryan Miller and Chris Tanev (OK he’s actually a star) have hampered the team to the point of starting Linden Vey, Linden Vey and unbenchable Alex Biega.

Other decisions however, put the team in a position to lose all on its own. Starting Linden Vey in place of Adam Cracknell against the Los Angeles Kings on Monday night is dumb. Does Vey really bring that much physical impact to a game that benching the only guy even putting in a visible effort on that line makes sense? It’s beyond me. That’s on the coach.

These decisions, however minuscule add up and eventually may be the reason the Vancouver Canucks are proud to select from Somewheres, Arizona…Auston Mat…you get the point.

I have long supported this team, even with the decisions that have been made and I still believe there is some grand plan. What I don’t get is the path on how they plan on getting there. Finding out a trade was available for Ryan Miller to be shipped is shocking; Eddie Lack and Jacob Markstrom would have been an entertaining tandem until Thatcher Demko was ready to take the throne.

Giving in to Ryan Kesler’s demands and sending him to Anaheim when, if you really think about it, Chicago wouldn’t have been that much worse seems like a forced hand move. I don’t know what the return is on any given team for the players Benning wanted gone, but there has to be better options than what he received.

Thankfully there are bright spots, like the Phantom Menace, that keep us interested. Only recently have some of these come to light; take for example the Sven Baertschi line and what it’s produced. There hasn’t been a whole lot of actual “production” but the Baertschi/Horvat/Vrbata line since its brief inception around the beginning of December has netted those three a combined CF% of 59.4. Stunning!

George Lucas had to start somewhere and we got to see how cool pod racing was and the force, the force was there.

The goals haven’t arrived in particular but their opportunities have increased immensely. The Kings hammered the Canucks on Monday 5-buzz but guys like Baertschi have started to make an impact both physically and offensively. I believe its a matter of time before this line catches extreme heat. I’m rarely wrong, ask anyone.

Jared McCann is also a bright spot and carrying guys like Dorsett and Prust can’t be easy. This guy has had to endure awful linemates while his faceoff talents go to waste. He too will rise up the depth chart soon enough.  Being stuck with two Jar Jar Binks can only last so long before they axe those characters.

Playing out the games right now is all that they can do. A trade might be on the horizon but gifting a prospect or someone who can actually help the future isn’t the way to do it. This team might in fact go all the way to last place and if it does we should be ok with that. What isn’t OK is all the knee jerk reactions that come with it.

The coach can only ice what he’s given, the GM what is made available to him through trade or other. In the mean time, the Canucks will still struggle and that is all part of the process. It’s not fun most nights but it’s still a process.

Like Star Wars, it didn’t really get good until Episode IV.

Follow me on twitter: @always90four

Are the Canucks Even Marketable Anymore?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Other than that, save the 20.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Come on Canucks, you’re better than that.

Follow me on twitter: @always90four

How Are These Canucks Different From Before?

Everyone’s doing a quarter season article so I figure what the hay? The Canucks have already shown us quite the roulette wheel of games; big wins, big losses, one goal games and a shootout for profiling purposes only. What do we know about them after 23 games? For starters, the sky isn’t falling. I’ve read the tweets and seen all the possible trade locations for anyone that is over 30 and has scored in the last week; this fan base has no chill. So after everything we’ve seen thus far, how are THESE Canucks any different from last season?

 

The Canucks position in the standings is basically the same, they just have less points. If you think about it, they’re accomplishing the same with less. That’s actually better I think?

A year ago, we were all excited to see Bo Horvat in the lineup and we watched his progression from the nine game audition to what many believed to be the 2nd line centre without a doubt. Radim Vrbata was already at 10G, 7A and he has struggled to find his groove this year. We’ve called for his head and just begged for him to score so we can trade him away. Now, he’s finally producing and it looks like he’s ready to take over.

Ryan Miller surprisingly looking back was 14-3 at this point last season and I’m pretty sure we felt the same way we do this year, well, we had Eddie Lack last season; it’s possible we didn’t like Miller as much. This season, we are seeing a bit of Miller’s age but he continues to impress. If Willie D can balance the goalie starts both Miller and Jacob Markstrom could actually get on a serious roll.

Another thing the Canucks didn’t have last year was an abundance of youth. This season, Vancouver has dressed rookies Jake Virtanen, Jared McCann, Ben Hutton, Hunter Shinkaruk, Alex Grenier and Brendan Gaunce and almost all at the same time. It has been a reeeeeeeally long time since there have been this many young stars playing for the Canucks.

The shift in mentality that youth works is slowly taking over. You can see the reluctance from coach Willie to entrust his rookies with the same responsibilities that the veterans are asked to shoulder and rightfully so, but Ben Hutton and Jared McCann most notably have forced WD’s hand. Ben Hutton is quite possibly the next Chris Tanev/Alex Edler hybrid and he’s 22!!! This guy looks like he’s been in the league for years and his presence on the back end is most welcome. It’s a shame he’s been injured because Hutton is already a staple on the blue line.

Jared McCann has given the Canucks depth at a position they haven’t had it for a few years. What’s better is that the pivots that occupy the middle of the ice are being molded under captain Henrik Sedin. The blend of veterans and rookies is a very happy medium in that players like Alex Burrows and Jannik Hansen, Dan Hamhuis and Alex Edler can help these newbies adjust to the pro game easier and they will help shape the future of this organization.

Not to drag this on forever but what about Jannik Hansen and the Sedins? Did anyone see this coming? BESIDES THOMAS DRANCE? If you look back and check out the stats, its one of the best possible fits the team has! Aside from Burrows making his run with the Twins, Jannik Hansen is a slam dunk on the wing. Hopefully this run of theirs keeps up and we can see the other three lines develop more regularly.

The Canucks have changed a lot since last season and they will continue to change as this season plays out. The difference though: it’s about to get better and it appears the Sedins will play until they’re 50. Gordie Howe and his sons might want to lace up again just to keep those records intact.

Seriously, the Sedins are playing for keeps again, this might get dangerous.

Follow my shenanigans on twitter: @always90four

cover photo – hockeysfuture.com

Sedins And Hansen: The New… West Coast Express – A Hot Taek

 

Its been a long time since someone has given a Canucks line a catchy name. We had the Mattress Line, Kid Line, Brothers line (but we won’t talk about that one because honestly, who came up with that one), KLM line, That 70’s line and American Express among others. Some of those aren’t even Canucks ones but after a few I realized Canucks fans aren’t that clever, they’ve also had a ton of unexciting players to name together. But there is one line that stands out above them all: The West Coast Express – Naslund, Morrison and Bertuzzi made up one of the greatest, most productive lines of all time even better than Gretzky, Kurri and Larionov. 

But that was a long time ago, over 10 years in fact, so isn’t it time to recharge that line with NEW members? Henrik and Daniel Sedin are very deserving of a new line name and with Jannik Hansen platooned on the other wing he has received a new lease on life and is producing as a true Sedin winger. Its been such a long time since the West Coast Express that many new fans don’t even remember the first one. What a great way to bring fans full circle.

Crazy idea? Probably. But think of the marketability. SEDINS NEW WEST COAST EXPRESS!!! Forget Naslund and Bertuzzi, these guys are as old as the train itself and still produce nightly. Just like the REAL West Coast Express, you’ll never lose your hat when the Sedins are rolling. Need a rest? Henrik and Daniel are there to carry the load while you get some much needed relaxation, sadly if you are playing on any line but theirs, that means you are stapled to the bench.

It’s not all about the Sedins though, Jannik Hansen brings his own trademark style to the rejuvenated line – like Naslund and Bertuzzi, Hansen is no stranger to breakaways; however Jannik is more like Skytrain than the WCE – frequent in-explainable power outages that result in long delays, in his case scoring. But fear not new West Coast Express followers, now that Hansen is on the top line, his production has never been better and at age 29 he’s well on his way to his best season ever!

This is nothing new to you though, you all have seen how well these three play together. In an article by Jason Botchford of The Province he echoes why the Sedins and Hansen just make sense. Or you could look at my last hurrah why they should be cemented together for the foreseeable future. Would it be smart to reboot the mid 2000’s “West Coast Express”? I say yes and if I’m wrong, I don’t wanna be right.

At 35, the Sedins are still a draw if you have any sense in you and if we get this thing trending on the twitter it can get legs. I mean, jeez #TweetDanielaHat trended. How vain are we? It was a great hashtag and the Bulis Boys know how to unknowingly create a trend.

The Canucks are not playing their greatest hockey right now and a welcome distraction is needed and renaming the Sedins/Hansen line is just that distraction. I’ve seen the hilites: we don’t throw hats, we start the wave when we’re losing and we DON’T THROW FREAKING HATS!!!! If we can’t muster up enough courage to do anything remotely productive, like a 16 year old in his parents basement blogging …….

…or on his latest 36 hour Fallout 4 bender, then lets bring back something that quite frankly we all used to love. Hank and Dank aren’t Nazzy and Bert but when it comes about excitement, real fans know how exciting these guys are and I would say they are definitely on par with that line in a slightly different shell.

So even though you are thinking this –

By Manny Mahal

You’re still seeing this pretty regularly –

By rapturjesuss

Henrik, Daniel and Jannik – your NEW West Coast Express.

Follow me on twitter: @always90four ……….if you still think I’m alive after this article.