sven baertschi

Gaunce But Not Forgotten – A Semi Retraction

There are a few things in life that sounded great in theory but ended up being a disappointment or an udder disaster such as heelies, 5-minute abs, bike lanes or Brendan Gaunce being a bad option for the Canucks. When I wrote my last piece “Maybe Someone Else Could Be Brendan Gaunce“, I included some advanced stats that I personally, didn’t really take to heart.

I’m not saying I completely disagree with what I said but as the recent injury and most likely concussion to Sven Baertschi have shown, Brendan Gaunce is more valuable than we (more myself than anything) gave him credit. Come to think of it, I’ve been doing 5-minute and 15-minute ab workouts for the last 2 months. There might be something to this.

I still think heelies and bike lanes are a waste of everyone’s time. They’re called bike LANES, not lines, people.

Where did this change of heart come from you ask? Well, for starters, J.D. Burke of Canucks Army wrote a compelling piece on the recent play of Philip Larsen. Everyone has ragged on Larsen for not being the Canucks’ savior on the PP and that his recent giveaways, which have led to a number of goals, are further collapsing Vancouver’s playoff chances by the shift.

Here’s the thing – the Canucks aren’t exactly world beaters right now and haven’t been for a number of years. 2011 is now a distant memory and like it or not, things need to change. It’s time to get out of the dark ages and accept what is happening to this team. Speaking on Larsen for a second, he is going to need some time to adapt to this current Canucks makeup.

Nikita Tryamkin has worked his tail off to get where he is right now and he’s only just becoming relevant in the hockey landscape and not just as a sideshow topic to the uninformed. Tryamkin is a threat on the ice and as he gets more and more comfortable with his defensive partners, goalies and the forwards up ice, he’ll blossom into a great defender.

But now onto Brendan Gaunce; he’s basically on a “conditioning stint” in Utica which, knowing the Canucks, might last until just before Thursday’s game against the Blue Jackets, just in time to not be able to play that night. Gaunce hasn’t exactly been a sexy option on the 4th line, he hasn’t even been mildly attractive, but he’s been reliable and defensively stable.

His advanced stats aren’t an aberration, when he’s on the ice, the team is actually better. It’s been said elsewhere, but I’ll state it again for you: Gaunce has basically the best CF% at 5 v 5 with 52.27 . It’s not anything to write home about (what am I DOING then?) but his next two closest comparisons with the same ballpark of game’s played are Loui Eriksson (51.05%) and Markus Granlund (50.24%). The shots are in the Canucks favor when he’s on the ice.

stats courtesy of corsica.hockey

Gaunce has a CA60 which also is tops on the Canucks at 49.10. If Brendan Gaunce is on the ice, the puck doesn’t see Miller and Markstrom as often. I’m now realizing I did a terrible thing earlier.

OK, OK but his goals are what we want. You’re absolutely right, they are a big reason why any player would be on an NHL team. Gaunce hasn’t exactly translated much offense to the back of the net this season and he may never be a threat to score but his defensive prowess is a big reason the goalies aren’t doing more work than they already are.

We can focus all we want on actual production which ultimately decides wins and losses but looking at players like Manny Malhotra or a defenseman like Willie Mitchell in his Canucks’ heyday and they weren’t exactly the first players asked to put pucks on net. I made a case about Brad Richardson-type players needing to occupy Gaunce’s roster spot, when in fact, the Canucks have that player already: it’s Brendan Gaunce himself.

There are some stats in there that also suggest Jayson Megna is a decent player as well but if you apply the argument I’m making here to what Megna was supposed to be, he’s just not good.

Sven Baertschi’s concussion could keep him out a few games, it could keep him out months; no one really knows how those things work and after seeing the movie “Concussion”, there’s no way I’d rush him back. Safe to say Reid Boucher probably comes into the Canucks plans for at least a game or two and Brendan Gaunce is returned midway through the road trip.

Opportunity has revealed itself to the Canucks the last few seasons as injuries have mounted and because of those injuries Bo Horvat, Brendan Gaunce, Troy Stecher, Ben Hutton and even Jack Skille have all found their way as regulars for Vancouver. Hopefully, BG has seen what he needs to do to be more effective when he’s on the ice and that he wasn’t just sent down because of his exempt status on the waiver wire.

Brendan Gaunce isn’t a terrible player and he isn’t a star. He’s a reliable defensive forward for the Vancouver Canucks and like usual, it always seems to be quite clear what is missing when the right player is taken away.

Follow me on twitter: @always90four

photo – vancouversun.com

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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

 

Bo Horvat Has No Time For Sophomore Slump

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

photo – leaderpost.ca

The Canucks Aren’t Gonna Tank, Not Now, Not EVER!

Throughout this season, I’ve asked myself this a dozen or so times and I’m sure you have as well: What if the Canucks continue to alternate wins with losses, slowly yet strategically move away an old player at a time and actually have a seven game playoff series, or worse….they win one? Earlier in December, the Nucks had the best % chance of landing Auston Matthews in the 2016 Draft. They just aren’t giving up on this season and I’m afraid they might do something stupid like make the playoffs again.

Honestly, how hard is it to #tank? Jim Benning knows that for it to work successfully he has to create situations where they CAN’T WIN!!!!

Jimbo is slowly wiping away contracts, trading away things that aren’t working and I’m not quite sure if Willie Desjardins has a heavy hand in the current look but this whole Medicine Hat Tigers thing is looking a bit suspicious. Of all teams, the Tigers? If Benning tried to assemble former players from the likes of the Oshawa Generals, London Knights or Kelowna Rockets; he might have more success.

Don’t get me started on the non BC issue.

As of Jan 13, the Canucks are a win out of 7th in the West and 8 points back of LAST….dead last overall. Figure that out. The Pacific division is much to blame for this season as it basically is giving hope to everyone in the division except the Oilers; and even then, when McDavid comes back who knows?

Just when you think the Canucks were about to really slide into first overall glory, they start winning again. They start breaking win streaks, they’re getting contributions out of guys that hadn’t scored in months, a timely injury to Ryan Miller yet again forces Jacob Markstrom into the starters role and wouldn’t you know it, he’s thrived!

Or how about guys like Linden Vey and Sven Baertschi? Vey was sent down at the beginning of the year and we all assumed that might be it, well I did anyways; he finally gets a chance to be called up and he’s actually getting involved, ya I’m stunned too! With Baertschi, he was in and out of the lineup as a healthy scratch and then the pairing with Bo Horvat came and they started to chemistry (I think we were looking for the words jel/gel, click or connect); they’ve combined for 16 points since December 18th.

Can this team do ANYTHING right?

There are literally tens of reasons the Canucks are surviving this season and not planning a special draft jersey for Mr. Matthews, one of which, actually two, are the Sedins and their continued production. At 35 years old (sigh, he mentioned their age again, EVERYONE mentions their age), Henrik and Daniel have 36 and 40 points respectively and if Jannik Hansen stays healthy all year they both should be in the mid 80’s or so by year’s end. Stunning.

They’ve carried this team when no one else could even be lifted and now we find out their thugs too? The recent brawl with the Panthers, Daniel Sedin losing 4 teeth and missing approximately 3 shifts; yet still able to confuse and frustrate opposing defenders. These guys are still so good and when they leave THAT’S when the true rebuild will begin.

The Canucks don’t have it in them to #tank. They aren’t the type of organization to completely give up and start over, stubborn in a way but I’m happy they give us hope; not Stanley Cup hope but like that Barack Obama poster kinda hope. We continue to beg them to move the Higgins’s, Sbisas’s, Veys’s and even the Vrbatas’s so we can see this team get in a position to start over. Some even say Milan Lucic would help that, I’m still not sure that’s such a great idea….but not the Kenins’s, they’re plural already.

Benning is finding ways to go moneyball on the NHL and he might be hitting singles just enough to start scoring runs. Yes, a complete baseball reference in a hockey article. Im multi-faceted in sports cliches so watch out! At the beginning, Sven Baertschi looked like we might be losing a 2nd round pick after not seeing quick results but if he ends up being Horvat’s permy linemate, a 2nd was an absolute deal.

Remember when we tried to get Emerson Etem in the Ryan Kesler deal? Well Benning got him for Nicklas Jensen or Jensen depending on the day of the week and how you prefer to pronounce it. It will work out as a something for nothing deal as Jensen wasn’t going to ever be a Canuck. Who is this guy and will we continue to hate all his decisions? Some people will but Benning is quietly shutting everyone up one sneaky move at a time.

He’s real sneaky.

So tanking probably isn’t in the Canucks cards this year anymore and if they had pulled the trigger on the season before Christmas, the team might be in deep deep trouble ala Bart Simpson

That was a nice stroll down memory lane. But back to what I was talking about, something something tanking right? In typical Canucks nation fashion, we all tend to jump the shark a bit too much and demand immediate answers that aren’t always practical, possible or rational (the last one might be redundant).

Seeing this season out as a team, a fan base and media as a whole might help us to learn a lot of what this team is actually capable of. It could be a sour, smelly garbage bin of despair or it could be the bonus fry at the bottom of your Arbys bag that you are so happy was there for you at the end; regardless no tank, potential big surprises and no one on the team we need to refer to as “18 year old (insert player here)” or “(players name with a y at the end then Hockey)”.

This is the Canucks. Its usually painful, frustrating, confusing and exciting every day of the week. Just chill out. Nothing new to see here.

Follow me on twitter, not because you have to but because you can write it off on your tax return: @always90four

Breaking Bo

It was only a matter of time before it happened.

Bo Horvat has shown us for quite some time that he has the skills to pay the bills (copyright 1992 Beastie Boys via Capitol Records). The chances continued to come, the drive was there but for whatever reason, Bo lacked the finish. Through no fault of his own he just couldn’t bury that puck. Well the first week of 2016 has turned that all around. It took 28 games to finally get his 3rd tally of the year and less than a game later, he had 2 more.

2016 is the start of Breaking Bo.

Bo Horvat had a pretty impressive rookie campaign, which started hot as well. A goal in his 7th game followed by 3 asssists the following game against Chicago. He knew where to be and he gave Willie Desjardins enough to go on that he kept him on the team. From there, 12G and 13A to go along with a 51.4 FOW%.

But that’s just meat and potatoes, dig deeper and he was basically producing at the clip that should have been expected with a PDO of 100.3. His 5v5 CF% was again right where you’d expect at 45.2% but considering he was being promoted pretty steadily to eventually the 2nd line center job, you’d think that may have increased. Just remember, he was 19….and getting it done.

Fast forward to this season and we all hoped the sophomore slump wouldn’t rear its head but it did. Bo worked as hard as anyone and he has been visibly one of the most determined, creative guys in the lineup.

It’s finally culminated into production and this goal against Carolina just proves we are still witnessing the infancy of Bo Horvat’s talent:

Remind you of anyone?

Im not saying he’s Todd Bertuzzi, that’s a little premature and inaccurate. Bo Horvat probably won’t be known for leveling guys with ease and effortlessly demolishing them along the boards, but what he does share is that driving power move to the net and there are only so many guys that do that well.

Bo has been sprung many times this year and NOT scored but if you could have a top 10 of highlight reel goals that didn’t go in, Bo Horvat would have a monthly segment on Sportsnet. His determination to get in the dirty areas now is going to be the thing that puts him over the hump. Riding a slump that almost capped out at a 1/3 of the games he played can’t be easy but he never changed how he played.

Everything is smooth sailing on the top line with the Sedins and Jannik Hansen getting it done but since coach WD put Sven Baertschi together with Bo, things began to change. You just had the feeling they got each other. This won’t be the second coming of the West Coast Express, I’ve already given that title to another line; but Baertschi and Horvat are sure forming some impressive chemistry and it may be a matter of time before they add a permanent winger to that mix….maybe Jake Virtanen? A banger on that line would be lethal.

Its up to Bo to continue this but he seems mature beyond his years and critics aside, the 9th overall pick was well spent. I’ve been calling it for awhile now, you just know that if he keeps getting his opportunities at some point the puck just has to go in….law of averages or something; I dunno I’m not a physiotherapist.

Baertschi benefits a ton from Horvat too! It hasn’t taken long to start seeing his name as the first entry on the score sheet. Together, they have put chances up night after night and you could just feel the levy was about to break. Well after the Canucks/Hurricanes game, it has.

We have just witnessed Breaking Bo.

Follow me on twitter: @always90four

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

I Wrote About Hunter Shinkaruk

Clever name for a title hey? At least you know this will be a goalie controversy free article. There will be no talk about how the Sedins aren’t producing yet or how Sven Baertschi is close to losing his job. Ok that last one may get mentioned. Hunter Shinkaruk is having an other worldly start to his Utica Comets season. The skinny is as follows:

12 GP, 9G, 3A, 4PP and a 34.6 SH%

Translation = NHL bound.

Shinkaruk now has 2 hat tricks to start the season and he is becoming a true pro. He’s healthy, he’s producing and he’s doing the things that got him drafted back in 2013. It’s no surprise that when touted future stars get the proper time and space they need to succeed, they usually do, unless you’re Alexandre Daigle or Patrik Stefan. Hunter has been given a challenge and he’s taken it and ran with it.

It will only be a matter of time before he gets called up to the Canucks and if he does anything like he already has in Utica, he won’t be going back. It would have been nice if Bo Horvat and Hunter Shinkaruk could have cracked the lineup together but with Hunter’s inability to be a true 200 foot player, he was sent down and had to hone his skills in Utica.

This season again, he didn’t crack the opening night roster but that only seemed to push him harder. He’s getting top line minutes right now and as I said before, the goals are aplenty. Here’s a recap of his 2nd hat trick of the year:

 

For Shinkaruk to get called up however, would require an injury or a brutally slumping winger to create that position. Sven Baertschi is a possible candidate but not for lack of trying. Willie Desjardins has failed to get him the same opportunities that maybe Jake Virtanen may get. Putting the puck in the net doesn’t happen every shift and Baertschi has sure tried to stay relevant, which can’t be said for many Canucks on a nightly basis.

If a trade is in the works for say Radim Vrbata or Chris Higgins, that could spell the end of Shink’s AHL stint. His gift for goals and his flare when he celebrates them are all things Canucks fans have yearned for since the good old days (2009-2011). The youth movement has grown steadily in the last season and even more so this year with 3 rookies making the club.

The Canucks need goals, speed and a bit more grit. Shinkaruk is proving he can bring all those things and put on a line with either Horvat or Sutter along with wingers Virtanen or Hansen would really give the budding star a big boost. You can’t put a star on the 4th line. It just doesn’t work. Dropping Shinkaruk with Horvat, whom he has great chemistry with along with Hansen would really pack a solid punch and give Hansen an opportunity to distract more and create chances for the kids.

Here’s an article from 2013 that dives into Bo and Hunter’s chemistry.

How Hunter gets called up has yet to be seen but it’s coming and when it does be ready. We might just be seeing the full transition of the Canucks and more losses because of that is a by product of letting them blend in. When it clicks, it’s going to be life changing.

I’m predicting Shinkaruk is called up within the next month and that might be a little bit shy. What we saw of him in his first preseason was enough for me. He can score goal scorers goals and he drives the net. We currently have maybe 2 guys, nay 3 that do that(Horvat, McCann, Burrows…Hansen?). They aren’t the Sedins.

Hate to go all homer but with Connor McDavid out, the Canucks could really take the rookie spotlight by storm and what a time to do it! You have to think Don Cherry is a fan.

I wrote about Hunter Shinkaruk. He’s coming.

 

cover photo: Utica Comets

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Baertschi And Friends: Double Digest

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Law And Order CVU: Canucks Victims Unit

This series has gone from bad to worse. We all wanted the Canucks to matchup against the Flames figuring THAT was their best way to advance, we were so wrong! What we failed to realize or maybe some of you didn’t was that even though the Canucks stellar record got them in the playoffs, they are far from contenders. OK thanks Capt. Obvious, we knew that. But seriously, how many opportunities did they have this year to right the ship or even put away awful teams or even worse: the Sabres?

Too many.

Willie rolled four lines and it proved to be a winning formula, enough to make the post season; adding unforseen depth in Bo Horvat and Ronalds Kenins has filled some gaps a lot quicker than first thought; heck even Yannick Weber has found a spot of meaning here. These additions are great and all but compare them to the teams they are trying to equal and they still aren’t close. A mediocre Flames squad is proving this quite easily.

So the referees haven’t exactly helped either. They have let Michael Ferland charge his way time after time to hit Kevin Bieksa, Kevin Bieksa, Kevin Bieksa, Luca Sbisa and Kevin Bieksa. No one debates a good hit but when the hit is preceeded by oh I dunno 5-6 strides, that’s a problem. The Canucks aren’t doing themselves any favours but the stripes aren’t making it any easier.

Vancouver has been left beaten, bloodied and left for dead. Short of a chalk line, the Canucks are basically D.O.A. No special victims unit can help this crew right now, they need a CVU: Canucks Victims Unit; I take that back, WE need a CVU.  

Do you know what it’s like to be bombarded by Flames fans arrogantly flaunting their new found wealth? It’s horriawful (horrible and awful mixed in a smoothie). They think this is just the top of the pops! Well i’ll let you down lightly Flames faithful, yo may beat the Canucks but there are a lot better teams than this. Four extra games isn’t as fun as you’d think.———–>Living proof<————-

Maybe the fix is on from the inside? Just kidding, we’ve all had it up to here with the conspiracies. But Brandon McMillan and Linden Vey? Bro.

It’s befuddling how Sven Baertschi gets called up and they throw in these guys? The lack of use of Henrik and Daniel over the first four games is enraging and to add to the fire Linden Vey, Derek Dorsett and Nick Bonino are the first choice? Wow! It might be time to promote Bo Horvat and get Radim Vrbata with the Sedins. Its not like that’s what you signed him for.

To see everything unravel regardless of the end result, hurts. Most of us had the mindset that if the Canucks made the playoffs this year, they were cool with losing if they went down fighting. This isn’t close to that scenario. Sure, Burrows getting the Sami Salo disease doesn’t help anything and Zack Kassian being sidelined by a mysterious injury never gave him the opportunity to set the bar. This team just hit their funk at the worst time possible.

Slightly better than the Jets though, not by much.

A higher draft pick would have been great but as one of the teams on the brink of elimination, they are one of the highest seeds to potentially fall. Was the late stretch really worth it? You have to believe it was and with some serious additions from the young guys next year (Shinkaruk, Virtanen, McCann?), the current new crop of players can build off of what essentially was a pretty good, nay, “real good” year.

There are still games to be played, at least one more tonight in Vancouver so all the worries could be meaningless if they flip the switch and make a series of it. The Canucks aren’t the best team in the post seasaon but if they figure it out, they aren’t the worst either.

Ryan Miller is supposed to start and Baertschi is making his debut. Baby steps. Score the first goal and go from there. NO, not YOU Calgary! I still believe in these guys even though I haven’t stopped crying since the end of Game 3. Just win Canucks, help get us to Saturday soberly.

Follow me on twitter: @always90four