todd bertuzzi

The Canucks Are Back In The Playoffs; Why I’m WILD About Their Chances

Photo courtesy of The Athletic

REVISION VERSION: In my excitement to write an article, I ran with the idea of a one-game playoff. It’s a five-game series for the first round, ala ALDS.

I apologize. Read it regardless.


The NHL and NHLPA have agreed in principle to returning with a 24-team playoff format when hockey resumes. Sure, they’ve essentially adopted the CFL’s model of allowing almost everyone to be a participant, but if you think about it for a second, this could be the beginning of a re-structured playoff format going forward.

Of course, the Vancouver Canucks would then be assured of a one-game play-in versus their heated rivals, the Minnesota Wild. The “purest” fan in me doesn’t love this idea 100% but really what is the big deal? The NHL did have a five-game first-round series format prior to the first lockout… OK, a little before that.

People will argue that it isn’t the playoffs with this proposed idea and to a degree, they’re correct. That being said, the play-in game is one of the most exciting games of the season, case in point the clip below:

The Toronto Blue Jays required a one-game playoff against the Baltimore Orioles in 2016 and in epic fashion, Edwin Encarnacion blasted a three-run homer to send the Jays to the ALDS. It was appointment viewing, especially in Canada where playoff baseball from the only team in the country had eluded its fans for decades.

Every pitch, every hit, every steal was monumental and played out like a high-stakes chess match. It was as playoffs as the playoffs could be.

Prior to the Wild Card game, there have also been a handful of extra games required to even get to the Wild Card game, dubbed Game 163. If teams with identical records were in the same league, a one-game playoff was required to get to the official one-game playoff. Confusing, right?

Baseball has embraced this format for years and it might be time the NHL reworked its playoff structure. Not too long ago, the WHL had its own one-game playoff between the Kelowna Rockets (you didn’t think I wouldn’t mention them, did you?) and the Kamloops Blazers.

Kelowna really had no business being in that game but they made the trek to Kamloops to face their age-old rivals on a heightened Tuesday night matchup to make it to the WHL Playoffs. Kelowna got spanked but the atmosphere was electric even as a fan in the away barn.

Rewind back to the Canucks.

A one-game playoff against the Minnesota Wild doesn’t sound like the most exciting thing in the world but knowing the stakes are so high, it won’t take long to become must-watch television. After all, no one is going to the game anyway.

What I love about this matchup is the opportunity to exorcise the 2003 demons of the Western Conference Semi-Finals. You remember the ones, don’t you?

Wes Walz, Willie Mitchell, and the great Hnat Domenichelli. That team should have lost to Vancouver but it didn’t. This year, the new Canucks can right the wrongs and if they do they get a first-round matchup against, oh crap, the Colorado Avalanche.

I like Vancouver’s chances against Minnesota in a do or die situation. The Canucks are fully healthy and giving Jacob Markstrom the net makes them scary good. I also think this is the kind of game Brock Boeser could put his name back in contention as a star player against the team he grew up watching.

Speaking of Boeser, he hasn’t been the sniper fans, and I’m sure coaches, have wanted him to be but his 200-foot game has turned him into a more complete player. He’s not exactly being placed in situations where he can properly get off the shot that made him famous but maybe he just needs to find a linemate that can set him up.

Boeser also hasn’t scored a goal since he potted a pair Jan. 11 vs. Buffalo. Concerning, for sure. His power-play deployment is also something I’m not thrilled with as it’s beyond predictable of how he’ll get the puck. Anyway, I’m confident Boeser can get back to his scoring ways and this year’s playoff is a great opportunity.

Vancouver hasn’t faired well against the Wild this season and their 2020 has been all over the map. What is certain is that they’ll be healthy when this all returns much like the team they’re trying to forget about at the turn of this century.

This year’s Canuck roster isn’t a juggernaut compared to 2003, stating the obvious, I’m sure.

It still blows my mind that the Canucks never won that ’03 series considering they had one heck of a team and the hottest duo in the league in Markus Naslund and Todd Bertuzzi. They had THE Gatorade spokesman on their team and couldn’t muster one more win. In case you forgot, here’s what I’m talking about:

I am really not a fan of team sports like hockey returning during this point of the pandemic but at the same time, I can’t wait to see my favourite sport return. There are a lot of hoops the NHL will have to jump through to make their official return happen but after watching the UFC on Saturday night, I think it’s possible.

With the NHL bringing in this modified playoff format this year to make it fair to all the teams in the hunt, every one-game playoff will have as much intensity as the regular series themselves. Hockey is ready for a change and this might be the time to alter the game yet again.

They removed the red line, added trapezoids, introduced no-touch icing, and brought in coach’s challenges; the NHL is far from its origins but at the heart of it all, the game is the same.

24 teams with a chance for the Cup? Why not?

The Canucks may have a chance at Lord Stanley this season when only two months ago we were all concerned they would just miss out.

I’ll be here when it returns and I know you will too!


Check out the rest of my work over at Canucks Army and my vocal cords as a member of the PP1 Podcast

Canucks Power Play: Insert Coin To Continue

Oh great, another Canucks power play article, super!

Things have unraveled so quickly on the man-advantage that coach Travis Green has regressed to running three units with the Sedins still being trotted out on the regular. The obvious answer early on was to get Brock Boeser the puck in a shooting position. Green has committed to putting Bo Horvat, Boeser and Sven Baertschi on his top line but it doesn’t carry over to the power play.

Like a classic game of NHL Open ice, the Canucks are going to need to put a few more tokens in the machine to continue this game.


Obviously, the Canucks don’t have snipers like Pavel Bure and Alex Mogilny but at least back then the coaches knew what do with them. Across the league, the top teams on the PP have dedicated gunners from “the spot” as Jeff Paterson labeled it a week or so ago. The Canucks have seen a few of these teams set up the guy on the spot, namely the Dallas Stars and Tyler Seguin.

The top powerplay producers in the league have players put in a position to score. Dallas, Tampa, New York, Pittsburgh, and Winnipeg are all in the top-five for power play percentages. Their stars Steven Stamkos, Alex Ovechkin, Patrik Laine, and the aforementioned Seguin all have schemes set up to get them the puck. How Green hasn’t figured out he already has a guy, actually a few if you include Thomas Vanek and probably Bo Horvat as well.

It’s not for a lack of opportunity either; the Canucks are three chances back of Chicago for most powerplay opportunities in the league, a dramatic improvement from a year ago where they had 25 fewer chances at this same point in the season. What seems to be hampering their chances is their inability to keep the puck in the offensive zone for longer than the initial zone entry and even then half the time it looks like a dump and chase.

Back in the day, the Sedins would cross the blue line, make their quick drop pass to the other twin and begin their cycle until the puck found its way to the back of the net. When the West Coast Express was rolling over opponents, Brendan Morrison would setup Markus Naslund at the face-off dot and pull the trigger which either went in the net directly or Todd Bertuzzi would clean up the garbage.

This new Canucks team has a few weapons that have proven to be deadly when configured properly. At the beginning of the season, it was all about quick passes and keeping the puck moving. When defenders get enough time to set up their blocks they have a better chance of… well, blocking the shot or worse, clearing it down the ice.

What the Canucks need to do is have a triangle offense where Boeser and Vanek are the face-off dot shooters, a middleman, say Horvat and a guy who can hold the line on defense which would probably be Alex Edler? Have as much potential firepower as possible on that first unit and build a complementary transition group that can maintain that speed.

Unless Green catches lightning in a bottle with Loui Eriksson or Sam Gagner, they should be nowhere near that powerplay. Gagner is too predictable, much like the Sedins are now, so having a possession-based second unit with Brandon Sutter, Michael Del Zotto and Ben Hutton as the set pieces at least until Troy Stecher returns. Markus Granlund could probably be used in there as well as Sven Baertschi and use the Sedins as a last ditch effort if things aren’t going well at all.

Seeing the Canucks’ powerplay opportunities grow is all the more reason to input the young players instead of watching a two-minute snoozer with the old guard.

Video games have a pause and a reset button, arcades make you put in more coins when you’re losing; the Canucks need to pause and reset their approach if they want to have any kind of success when they draw a penalty.

Sadly, there are no cheat codes in real life.

Follow me on twitter: @always90four

Enough With The Waiting Period – Put Todd Bertuzzi In The Hockey Hall of Fame, Or Not

People are pretty touchy when you mention the Canucks right now, it’s the losses I think. There are trade rumours, Willie getting fired rumours and even Benning getting the axe; but no one is talking about the REAL elephant in the room:

Will Todd Bertuzzi be in the Hockey Hall of Fame?

Seeing the latest entries into the Hall this past week got me thinking about why the NHL or I guess, more importantly, the governing body of hockey has SO MANY INDUCTEES!! Baseball is pretty picky and so is football, so why does hockey feel the need to put in anyone that was really good but not great?

I believe the Hall of Fame is reserved for those who were truly great, the elite of the elite. There should be no questions when a player gets voted in, it should be a slam dunk. The criteria for what it takes to be a member needs to be made public so we all know what it takes to truly be great.

As of right now, that doesn’t exist and we go through years where really good players make it in and are now on par with the greatest players to ever play the game.

I think if you’ve won a major individual trophy, have played 500+ games, won the Stanley Cup and crack the top 20-30 (not sure what that is for some positions, mainly goaltenders) or have a combination of at least 3 of those things, you should be in the Hall.

So let’s forget all that for a second and focus on #44. For a time, Todd Bertuzzi was the most dominant player in hockey. He had the Gatorade commercial, a catchy song from a local fan and mitts as soft as pillows.

His stat line reads as follows:

GP 1159 G 314 A 456 P 770  To add to all of this he was a -44 which is kind of cool when you think about it. ONE MORE SHIFT BABS!

When you look at players like Pavel Bure, Mats Sundin, Dino Ciccarelli, Sergei Makarov and Pat Lafontaine nothing screams Hall of Fame. Were they really good players, you bet. Were they undoubtedly Hall of Famers? I hate to say it but no.

The name of this blog is heavily based on what Pavel Bure did in that magical spring of 1994. A win would have cemented him as one of the greatest to play the game and he was unlike anything people had seen when he arrived in the league. He won the Calder trophy as Rookie of the Year, some all-star nods but that’s it.

Crazy to think Bure has 9 more points than Bertuzzi and played in over 400 fewer games than Bert as well. If we went on points alone, combined with his brief dominance of the league and playoff performance, he might just get in one day. This, right now, is a reality.

Do I actually think Todd Bertuzzi is worthy of the Hall of Fame? No, I don’t. It has nothing to do with the Steve Moore incident, as violent and unnecessary as that was. It isn’t because he didn’t eclipse 1000 points like many of the Hall members have or that he wasn’t in the top 10 of any particular category (maybe advanced stats but I doubt it).

Todd had success like so many good players do but he never raised his game above the really good level, his overall decision-making hampered any chance of him winning any scoring titles or advancing beyond the second round of the playoffs for the Canucks. The way he floated around on so many occasions was beyond frustrating. Despite coming to the aid of teammates, his suspensions didn’t put him in the league’s good books either.

In 2006, when Bertuzzi was invited to be a member of Team Canada for the Torino Olympics, I just watched in awe as they wasted a spot on him. To be fair, that team was awful right through. Wayne Gretzky loved Todd and it was a forgone conclusion Bertuzzi would be on that team regardless of if he warranted the call or not.

A retribution case for Team Canada sounded great but when it comes to best on best, that was a far cry from a true Olympic squad.

Back to the Hall discussion; If you had to compare Bure to Bertuzzi, for example, Pavel always gave his all even when he was dragged down by injuries. Pavel wanted out of Vancouver and yet he still put the team on his back and put up a playoff run for the ages and hung around after the fact when it was clear it was his time to move on.

Bert was always one of my favourite players but if we’re talking about the Hall of Fame and being included as one of THE best players to ever play the game, he just doesn’t cut it.

I imagine someone may make a case for him down the road, however, the Steve Moore incident will probably hang around him when any decisions like this are ever brought up. Also, it would be tough to say he always played hard and was a difference maker for more than 2.5 years.

I love ya Big Bert but I don’t think you’ll get that call.

OK, now back to this year’s miserable Canucks.


Follow me on twitter, I’m funny: @always90four


Jake Virtanen, Cody Hodgson, Zack Kassian: Honestly, What’s The Difference?

This seems like a recurring theme with the Canucks. With Cody Hodgson, it was the promise of a potential future captain, a top line pivot and the ability to control a game himself. Trading Hodgson for Zack Kassian after “the run” was reactionary to get bigger and tougher. It never really happened and unfortunately, Zack needed to change some things too. Jake Virtanen is drafted as a complementary scoring winger that can hit and drive play.

He has one hit to his name that’s even worth talking about, the goals are missing and most nights, so is he. Is Jake Virtanen really any different than the past versions of “hope” in Vancouver?

Jake Virtanen was sent down to Utica on Wednesday on a two-game assignment, apparently, that will solve everything. Through 10 games this season, Virtanen has 1 assist and 13 shots, hardly even worth mentioning, even on THIS Canucks team. His deployment hasn’t exactly been ideal but then again what really is the best situation for Jake?

There were plenty of signs last year that Jake wasn’t exactly in a position to excel in the NHL after the Canucks kept him up on the big club. He struggled at times and didn’t really use his size to his advantage. Maybe he just needs to bulk up and focus on what made him worth taking 6th overall in 2014. Or, maybe he should focus on being an everyday NHLer and work his butt off like everyone else.

Virtanen has had it pretty good since arriving in Vancouver. He’s a Bieber bud, he’s the face of Twitter (ok he was just a guest but still) and if he ever DOES get his power forward game in check, he will be a whole lot more. Canucks fans have longed for an aggressor since the days of Todd Bertuzzi and that role has never been filled after he left.

Zack Kassian was supposed to be that guy, he was supposed to be the next Milan Lucic (kinda ironic, hey?) but Kassian just wasn’t the right guy for that role. He is a physical player with really soft hands but knowing what we know about Kass, he isn’t exactly Milan Lucic.

Before Kassian, it was Cody Hodgson that was supposed to be the next skilled star to carry the Canucks and maybe stick up for himself a bit too. To be fair, I don’t think that was the Canucks’ intent on getting Cody, he was a skilled and was going to be a goal scorer. Unfortunately, injuries, misdiagnoses, and a meddling dad pretty much ripped those dreams apart.

For everyone.

The Canucks have always looked for a talented forward that could stick up for his teammates as well as score big goals and drive the wing. They’ve had bangers like Raffi Torres, Maxim Lapierre and I guess Anson Carter but aside from Todd Bertuzzi and I can’t really say before my time but Stan Smyl and Harold Snepts (guessing here), it’s always been a need in Vancouver.

Can Virtanen be the player the Canucks and their fans want him to be or have they missed the mark yet again when they could have had, you know what, I’m not going there; he was the guy they wanted and that’s that.

I do remember that pick and from everything I had heard, he wasn’t exactly a game breaker but man could he hit! He does offer a lot if he can get things going and it may take a few years to become the Bertuzzi heir-apparent. What Jake needs is to keep his eyes on the prize; this team is so young and he has a real opportunity to be a difference maker for years.

It wouldn’t be the worst thing to see Jake build himself up in Utica for a few months and make him earn that spot in Vancouver. It’s not going anywhere, that can be assured. Willie Desjardins might not even be the Canucks coach the next time Virtanen plays with the orca on his chest so maybe it’s just the coach, who knows?

We all remember the “murders” by Jake, and no that isn’t a play on that alt rock/boy band, so we know what’s there. Does he, though, does he know what we know?


Check me out on twitter: @always90four

Jake Virtanen IS Kylo Ren

There are many times I write absolutely irrelevant posts and get ripped apart, this might be one of those. Also, I am not attaching a spoiler alert to this guy because honestly…you should have seen the new Star Wars by now; it’s been a month. So what the heck am I even talking about? A simple comparison of two polarizing figures in their respective arenas (Jake literally) and a shameless excuse to fit Star Wars into a Canucks post. 

I’ll try and keep it to the point.

This week’s Pass it to Bulis podcast had a heavy dose of Star Wars in it and it got me thinking about the newest spectacle “The Force Awakens” and who might relate to some of the characters. I’m probably wrong on this as I really wanted to compare Zack Kassian but he isn’t a Canuck anymore and that would ring on deaf ears.

I’m not so sure this won’t.

So Kylo Ren is the new villian in the Star Wars saga and he’s dealing with some personal issues, not to mention he has a slight case of FD (forcetial disfunction). He got the force from his mom Leia so its really like 3rd generation force and it just isn’t strong enough. Ren took over as the Dark Side captain but he struggles to live up to the potential that’s been placed on him by Snoke (new supreme leader) and the force itself.

Was he ready for the force? Is he going to be Vader when he grows up or will he just be another guy that joins the Dark Side and has angst. We’ll know soon enough in a few years.

Not so much unlike rookie Canucks winger Jake Virtanen. Jake was given the mantle as the next star winger that has size, a booming hit and finishing skills. He won’t be Todd Bertuzzi, Cam Neely or really the illusion we had of Zack Kassian before the bottom fell out. Virtanen has a great frame, clearly has skill with the puck and without; his “murders” are anticipated every single game and he’s still raw.

Kylo Ren and Jake Virtanen are at the beginning of their journeys where one needs to decide if he truly is evil and can destroy the Jedi’s existence while the other one is figuring out how to fit his role with the body and talent he’s been given.

Virtanen started his season with promise; he made some monster hits early on, the McDavid one still being everyone’s favourite, but then after being granted opening night status, slowly began to fade. OK, he’s totally green to the NHL and everyone has a different path on how they get there but it got to the point where it seemed Jake needed some kind of wake up call.

Sending him to the World Juniors was supposed to be that wake up call. Turns out, Big Country had a forgettable tournament and joined the rest of his Canada team mates when they went home before the semis. Jake came back with a chip on his shoulder and a headline that could crush any kid. He turned that into confidence and he’s now getting the feel for the game on his own terms.

He isn’t dealing with the force or a a giant digital head telling him what to do; Jake Virtanen is learning the NHL game and he’s been given an opportunity that clearly Kylo Ren turned down when the Resistance came to turn him back against the Dark Side. Jake’s development won’t be a steep learning curve, he’ll need guidance he’s getting more and more chances to show what he can do.

With a few goals on the season already, might we see the Force Awak….no, that was just bad. You can stop reading now.

Follow me on twitter: @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

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.


Todd Bertuzzi Brought The Spotlight Back To Canucks

It’s crazy to think Todd Bertuzzi is still able to play hockey at 40 years old. Most players his age have called it quits and moved on to the next stage in life, well unless you’re Jaromir Jagr. Big Bert feels he still has some gas left in the tank and as a big fan myself, I hope he can give it a go one more time. His time with the Canucks will be remembered the most and what we may forget is that he helped bring the spotlight back to Vancouver.

Struggling in Long Island and not exactly getting along with management, the beginning of superstardom happened in February 1998 when Todd Bertuzzi and Bryan McCabe were traded to the Canucks for Trevor Linden. What seemed like the destruction of a franchise, and to a degree it was, it was a blessing in disguise. Bertuzzi brought his big frame, smooth skating and feather light hands to a Canucks team that needed a reboot.

Bertuzzi would emerge as a top line player early on in Vancouver and eventually was put together with star winger Markus Naslund and Andrew Cassels. His angled drive to the net was something to be marvelled. Todd gave the Canucks a true power forward that the team really hadn’t seen in their lineup in ages. He set up shop in front of opposing goalies around the league and could not be rivaled in the NHL during the early 2000’s. When the “West Coast Express” made its inaugural start in January 2002, Big Bert took off.

Combined with center Brendan Morrison and all star Markus Naslund, the West Coast Express quickly became the NHL’s #1 producing line. With 82 goals, 100 assists and a sick ton of PIMs from 2002 through the end of the 2003 season, Bert hit his stride and everyone could see it.

Bertuzzi was a badass as well, and we all wanted in on his distant, grumpy interviews. Everyone wanted his jersey and we all liked how he just didn’t seem to care what people thought. His snarl was his trademark and he didn’t take crap from anyone, sometimes even the coach. I don’t know why Canucks fans adore the black sheep so much but they always seem to gain popularity.

What also can’t be forgotten is the ever visible “dip”. Ah yes, Todd Bertuzzi and his wad of chew. Not an interview went by that Bert wasn’t enjoying a dip. His answers to questions were slurred and short because no one wants to swallow that stuff. With his short answers came his short temper.

Multiple suspensions kept Bertuzzi from potentially winning the scoring title in 2002 after foolishly coming off the bench to help team mate Ed Jovanovski (not a real police officer) fight off the evil Scott Parker of the Avalanche which got him 10 games and possibly ended his career after the infamous Steve Moore knockout punch that had him suspended for a total of 20 games. He wasn’t a good boy that Bert but that only gave him more popularity with his edginess. He was a GIANT in Vancouver….foreshadowing.


Apparently Wayne Gretzky thought enough of Bertuzzi after the Moore incident that he invited him to Team Canada Olympic Orientation Camp in 2005 and eventually named him to the Canadian Olympic team for Torino in 2006. Should Todd have made that team? NOOOOOOOOO way, but we all wanted to believe he had changed. He hadn’t.


As great as the ol’ grump was, he could turn it on and off quite easily and when the off switch got flicked, no one knew when it would go back on again. He floated around the ice most games later on in his tenure with the Canucks and eventually both the Canucks and their fans had enough.

So we can really thank Bertuzzi on a few levels: He was traded for uber goalie Roberto Luongo in Florida and was later traded from Florida to Detroit for Shawn Matthias. See a pattern here? Matthias was traded to Vancouver last season in the deal that sent Roberto BACK to Florida. Crazy I know, but keep up I’m getting somewhere. Would Shawn Matthias have made his way to the Canucks via the Red Wings? Who knows? But he’s here and we like him a lot.

Really, the Florida Panthers deserve a lot of credit as well for helping shape the Canucks to what they are today.

As Todd Bertuzzi tries to get his last gasp of NHL air with potentially the Ottawa Senators farm team in Binghamton, we can think back to a truly zesty career and the many quotes, goals, hilites and low lites that made up Big Bertuzzi.

Thanks for the memories Todd. You had the moves of Lenarduzzi, you looked like the watoosi and night in and night out, you called the goalie Suzy. Heavy Eric you said it best, it’s called the Todd Bertuzzi.

Go get em 44.

Follow me on twitter: @always90four and @hankthetank10
Like and follow on Facebook: Always90four
Instagram? @always90four

Canucks Need Recharge On Powerplay

Much like the two men in this photo, the Canucks powerplay was once very productive. Gone are the days of the booming shot from the point by Sami Salo, a monolith in front of the net in the form of Todd Bertuzzi, the snipe from the top of the face off circles by Markus Naslund or heck, Henrik and Daniel Sedin just cycling their way to an easy goal. What started fairly hot this season with Hank, Danny and the VRB; has turned into nothing more than a fun exercise in passing. The Canucks PP is in serious need of a recharge.

As of Wednesday Dec 10, Vancouver was ranked 16th on the PP at a 18.3% clip. With 3 PP markers in the first two games, the tease of something finally working again was easy to buy into. Radim Vrbata fit in quite nicely as the final play when the Sedin’s were done goofin around with the puck and adding ex Los Angeles Kings AHL star Linden Vey to the first unit had an immediate impact. Had we figured it out, was the farce over? No it wasn’t actually; but the positive start gave us something to work back to.

Amazing how these two are related isn’t it? You can sense the bitterness built up from years of failure, false hope and pure unadulterated anger. Considering games are won and lost in the playoffs on special teams, you’d figure that would be a key focus point. We remember the good days of being spoiled with Nazzy, Bert, Morrison and Salo. They just made it look so flipping easy.

When you look at the Capitals power play, they have it figured out; they have Alex Ovechkin at the blue line and everyone’s job is to essentially get him the puck so he can blast it into the net. It’s worked pretty well too! They’re 2nd in the league with a 28.8% success rate. Not bad. Ovie has 6 goals thus far with the extra man and my guess is that climbs higher.

In 2010/2011, Vrbata had 10 power play goals, he’s at 5 already this year. Maybe they need to tweek how they setup and have him at the blue line. His shot is so hard and when it’s up close it takes more work for him to get that final pass. Set him up like Ovechkin and let it rip. Get Linden Vey down low with the Twins or at least work him into a position where Vrbata can set up at the back.

They aren’t reinventing the wheel here folks, there have been proven ways to make the power play work. It usually starts with the faceoff, so maybe throw in Bo Horvat as an experiment, his focus at the dots is amazing and who knows, maybe he can turn it up. But that just gets the first unit going.

When the A team doesn’t get it done, there isn’t an answer behind door #2. Sure, its a bit of a case of yips but there needs to be the same hustle and dedication as the first group. Nick Bonino, Alex Burrows and Chris Higgins have been criticized lately for their lack of well, anything. Clearly everyone can see that Brad Richardson, Jannik Hansen and Shawn Matthias are blowing up on the radar so give them their due and blend them in.

Burrows may have hit his production wall and could easily be on the decline so if it IS broke, fix it. Have Bonino, Richardson and Higgins as a unit. Chris Tanev can help but maybe its the whole setup that’s wrong. There is a fix here and all the armchair coaches have their opinions. Go back to the strengths and just exploit them. This Canucks team has a lot to offer still, they just need to find their way….maybe tomorrow would be nice.

Follow me on twitter: @always90four and @hankthetank10
Like A94 on Facebook: Always90four
Go all Instagram @always90four

Zack Kassian Is NOT Todd Bertuzzi

Well the title is really all I need on this but for kicks, lets keep reading. Zack Kassian was brought in to Vancouver to be the beef. He was brought in to be the answer to the bullying the Canucks were receiving. He was brought in to make teams fear playing Vancouver. Zack Kassian is NOT Todd Bertuzzi. He has not scared anyone.

He might not even be here that long.

When Cody Hodgson was shipped out, Kassian was instantly tied to Cody’s future production. If Hodgson went on to a star career and Zack didn’t, it would be just one more bust trade chalked up to terrible past decisions in Vancouver. Kassian was thrust into the gauntlet and we are all waiting to see how he gets out. Multiple line mates, inconsistent production and the ability to disappear. With a build like Zacks, alarms start sounding when he doesn’t fill out.

The problem with Kassian’s growth is that he doesn’t seem to learn. He has bonehead tendencies which cause him to take the same types of penalties at the wrong times and offensively he doesn’t go where his body should allow him to go. When you are built like Todd Bertuzzi, you drive to the net and play in front of the crease to get what you want. Either he doesn’t want to get banged up or he doesn’t have the ability to be that type of player.

If you remember, Todd Bertuzzi not only had hands softer than pillows, but he used his body to get what he wanted. From driving down the wing on the backhand and pulling it forehand top shelf to taking cross check after cross check to the back while he parked his big ol’ butt in front of goalies league wide. Bertuzzi had it all and for a time was THE best power forward in the game; he had a Gatorade commercial. He used what he had and knew how to translate that into point production. It didn’t hurt that he had Markus Naslund as his line buddy.

While its plain to see that Kassian is not Big Bert, its frustrating to see why he hasn’t made the next step in his progression. His hands are indeed smooth, he has the ability to puck control along the boards and keep it from going to his opponents stick. What Kassian doesn’t do is drive the net when we all know full well it would be tough to take that puck off his stick. So why not just adapt and take the league by storm? I can’t speak to that as anyone that knows me knows I can’t exactly play. Ask around.

The thing is: Kassian’s time is running out. There are players more than willing to take his spot. Hunter Shinkaruk and Bo Horvat, Nicklas Jensen and eventually Dane Fox; these guys are young, hungry and uber talented. Zack Kassian needs to get his game in check. The NHL is for the elite and Kassian hasn’t proven he is indeed that; not in the NHL and definitely not in Vancouver.

Follow me on twitter @hankthetank10 and @always90four

Cover photo courtesy of