trevor linden

Next Season Crucial In Proper Canucks Rebuild

To say the next couple of years are important for the Canucks would be an understatement. It’s huge. Making the change at the coaching position and slowly dismantling the old regime were important to show the fans, not everything that Trevor Linden and Jim Benning said was a complete lie. The fans and media alike, have been told many different things over the course of the “retool on the fly” era and for the most part, it failed.

The inconsistent message that has been preached outwards has just confused the process for the fans, media and I would guess the players as well. Not knowing the direction the Canucks are headed can’t be easy when the players can’t even see where the team is headed. Linden needs, to be honest, and officially call this a rebuild.

How this team was able to be so fantastically deconstructed in such a short amount of time is truly amazing. What the Canucks failed to do was to have a succession plan or the very least passable options when moves were made. That is starting to happen now but it came at a fairly high cost. Giving up on players like Gustav Forsling, Zack Kassian, Nick Bonino and shipping off high draft picks at the same time just muddied the state the team was in.

I get it, those moves all had different situations attached to them but looking at each of them, it feels like Vancouver didn’t give them a true chance. Management has stuck by Luca Sbisa, Brandon Sutter and given an aging Loui Eriksson a hefty, long-term deal. If the Canucks are rebuilding, all of these moves feel like they were poorly thought out. There is no room to take on smaller contracts and the small contracts they HAVE taken on could have been avoided.

But fear not, this is not all doom and gloom, there is hope still to be found but don’t expect to see it next season or the season after. Providing a few things go the Canucks way, and one of those things is the placement in this year’s NHL Entry draft, the Canucks might be able to put a realistic timetable on the changes that are coming.

It’s no secret that picks #1 and #2 hold a lot of value and can slightly speed up the process of the Canucks rebuild. Having a centre that can instantly be inserted into the lineup to take the 3rd line pivot job can force Benning to look at moving Sutter. If Sutter is claimed in the expansion draft, that is all moot anyway and the #ExposeSutter movement will have succeeded.

Looking at point production, there is optimism, not much but a bit. Henrik finished with 50 points and it could be argued Daniel probably could have been there too! Bo Horvat led the team with 52 points and again, had Sven Baertschi had a healthy season he could have challenged for a 45ish point campaign.

Injuries crushed the Canucks this season which hampered the point production and a failure to adapt on the power play when it hit all-time lows as well as not allowing late game heroics due to poor line deployment absolutely cost the team both points on the scoreboard and in the standings. How that changes in October has yet to be seen.

So, having four potential 50 point players makes the Canucks a little more believable as a rebuilding team on the rise but don’t expect the same type of production after the season they had. Teams have figured the Canucks out and it will take a complete overhaul of their current structure to make the team competitive again. New look power play units, emphasis on available speed and holding on to the puck instead of the ever-predictable dump and chase.

There are players in the lineup that can make some of this happen and a few new ones as well. Ollie Juolevi looks ready to take on the NHL game and Jake Virtanen seems to have cut weight and sculpted his frame to fit in as well. I have no clue if they even make the opening night roster but with an offseason of opportunity, both players know they can earn a spot.

How about the late additions?

Even though we’ve only been given a small sample of Nikolay Goldobin and Brock Boeser, the talent these two possess has been noticed. Boeser made an immediate impact notching four goals and an assist in nine games to finish the year. Goldobin put up three goals in his first 12 with the Canucks. It wasn’t just the production on the scoresheet but the ability to use their linemates effectively and trust the talent they have. These guys know they’re good and with a new coach, their chances to succeed may be higher than when Willie Desjardins was at the helm.

The youth movement will be a lot more visible come the 2017/18 season, which is what many have asked for. I doubt there will be much change in the standings and Vancouver realistically may fall even further before they climb back up the ranks. Seeing an entire line of players under 24 years of age that are leading the Canucks is something worth noting.

Bo Horvat, Boeser and Sven Baertschi seem to present the future of the franchise while the Sedins may get the opportunity to bring a player like Goldobin along and groom him for his future reign in the NHL. I think it would be a great idea to potentially split the Sedins up on both power play units.

Not an original idea, I know. What I’d love to see would be Daniel on the first unit and Henrik on the second. Putting Horvat/Daniel/Baertschi up front to start and maybe Troy Stecher and Olli Juolevi on the back end would be my choice. Assuming they don’t score right away ( a safe assumption), bring on Henrik as the lines transition and allow the Sedins to potentially capitalize on the shift.

They have been beyond predictable for the last few seasons and this change would allow a small hybrid of ice time before putting Henrik out with potentially Eriksson and maybe Boeser or Goldobin. You may all think this is crazy talk but I’d say there is some merit there. This could also be applied to the regular 5-on-5 lines but trying it on the power play would be a good start.

Keeping the Sedins in the fold as productive 2nd and eventually, 3rd line players put them right back where their careers took off when they were alongside Trevor Linden. A depth pair of players that can be counted on to keep the lines moving and keeps the focus on the top two lines which in turn creates more scoring chances, probably not goals, but chances.

The focus on faceoffs was once again taken seriously in 2016. Manny Malhotra was brought on and the team climbed back up to finish 9th in the league with a 51.1% success rate. It was a bit less than the famed 2011 season at 54.9% but even then, this year’s position would have been good for 10th in 2011. It’s like they focused on something to be good at and it WORKED!

Jake Virtanen could use some of that love. The Canucks finally played the patience card with Virtanen this season and decided not to rush him back into the lineup. His numbers weren’t other-worldly by any means but it looks like he learned how to be a pro. Does he become the power forward Canucks fans have longed for since Todd Bertuzzi, probably not; but he could end up being a valuable part of the team’s transition.

Alex Edler is another point of interest or disinterest depending on who you ask. Edler isn’t leaving the Canucks and even if he’s asked it can be assumed he doesn’t want to leave Vancouver. He’s starting to show wear and please, please, please change the flex on that stick. He still has a booming shot but he just doesn’t get the chances anymore to let it go like he used to. If Juolevi makes the team, putting him with Edler might be a smart idea and it would allow Stecher to play with Chris Tanev.

Much of this is assumptive and all of this could change by June.

Which brings me to the goaltending situation and where Thatcher Demko fits into all of this. When Demko was drafted in 2014, Roberto Luongo had just been dealt and Eddie Lack along with Jacob Markstrom looked to be the immediate future of the Canuck’s net protection. That didn’t last long. Ryan Miller was eventually brought in through free agency, Lack was shipped to Carolina and Jacob Markstrom still hasn’t seen this cup of coffee everyone keeps talking about.

Demko finally went pro this past year and had a tough go to start his career but down the stretch, he was unbeatable for the most part.

Cory Schneider took the same route as Demko when he was drafted by the Canucks in 2004, he finally made his debut with the Canucks in the 2008/09 season but only played in 8 games when Roberto Luongo was injured. Schneider eventually made his full time, well full-time backup, start in the famous 2010/11 year.

Luongo and Schneider went neck and neck the whole season and it was at that point that Schneider had truly arrived, six years after being drafted. Demko most likely won’t have to wait that long but giving him time to fully mature can only help the Canucks in the long term. Ideally, if he followed the same lineage as Schneider and taking into account the current net situation and the numbers he’s put up, Demko would be the bonafide starter in 2018/19 or at the latest 2020.

There are a lot of similarities between both former college netminders but given the current state of affairs in Vancouver, Ryan Miller (hopefully) will have kept the net warm when it becomes available. By 2020, the Canucks should have a good portion of the building done, if not all of it, and the pieces being developed now will be reaching their primes.

By 2020, the Canucks should have a good portion of the building done, if not all of it, and the pieces being developed now will be reaching their primes. It’s time to look at the Oilers and Leafs rebuilds and understand that the process takes time.

Seeing Nolan Patrick or Nico Hischier in a Canucks jersey makes the process easier to swallow but neither of them will be the answer to the rest of the problems the team still faces.

One year at a time.

photo – http://www.sportsnet.ca/hockey/nhl/bo-horvat-scores-winner-lead-canucks-lightning/sportsnet.ca

Canucks Can’t Embrace Rebuild And They Might Lie To You

Willie is fired, Benning is planning for the draft and Linden is spinning #fakenews. The rebuild began awhile ago but will it ever really happen? We’ve heard the song and dance that has been spewed at us since 2012 and even with the dismissal of WD they aren’t that much farther than when his tenure began. We were told things were better than they were, we were told it would go quickly and that the proper pieces were being put in place.

I hate to say it but whether we want to believe it or not, we bought into the lie.

Losing 2011, YES I’M BRINGING IT UP AGAIN, started the process and two different “models” were tested but it was never carried through. Feeble attempts at adapting to a newer, bigger, faster NHL put the Canucks in the same shoes as the failing Oilers and Maple Leafs’ strategies. Lose to the Bruins – get bigger, thug more. Lose to the Kings – sign a speedskater or have lots of really good players that are borderline suspendable.

There was an opportunity to nip this in the butt and the old regime as well as the new, let their chance slip. Moving away Ryan Kesler was bold and it’s a shame the return wasn’t more. The same can be said for Roberto Luongo. The opportunities to make a splash and keep pace with the Western Conference were there and in typical Canucks fashion, they let them pass.

So now we’re here and it’s pretty ugly. I never thought there would be a season where I would be looking forward to the potential of a first-overall draft pick and now it’s two years in a row. Pure blindness and naivety to the situation are probably the most frustrating to tolerate. It’s like watching season two of True Detective, you watched it but you were disappointed every week.

Trevor Linden said himself after he retired that he didn’t want to be involved in hockey to the degree he is in now. Bringing him in as a PR stunt and a figurehead has only tarnished both his and the team’s image. As GM Jim Benning continues to put together his version of what he believes the Canucks should look like, the final result gets further and further away.

.@rayferrarotsn: There seemed to be no cohesion between what the Canucks expected from their coaches and front office

— TSN Radio Vancouver (@TSN1040) April 10, 2017

Management moved swiftly to remove Desjardins after another losing season and if it all were to go perfectly, there would be a clean sweep at the top including Linden and Benning. That being said, many of WD’s decisions this year won’t be repeated in 2018. Brandon Sutter might not even be a Canuck to start next year if Vegas claims him, Jayson Megna realistically doesn’t see much time on the big club and should probably be buried in the AHL.

Don’t forget Jordan Subban, the powerplay defenseman that shoots right, and is essentially the team’s best player that isn’t on the team. He could play here if there’s any sense out there. It’s easy to understand though because Alex Biega has been such a force on the Canucks and can fill any role whether it be forward or defense.

Removing the tip of the iceberg still leaves bigger problems underneath. The Canucks haven’t been honest with us and it’s pretty upsetting. It’s clear everyone knows what’s going on and if management stated the direction they were headed without the BS, we could support it. Is it going to be easy? No.

Linden is right, the prospects are coming but it’s the current situation that will keep them from getting over the hump. Next year, there needs to be a new face to the team, less focus on the Sedins being the focal points and more concentration on where goals will come from.

It’s insulting to the fanbase when we continue to be lied to saying “everything will be fine” and “change is coming”. Change should have come a long time ago and spinning the wheels isn’t getting things done. Bringing on Manny Malhotra was a nice start to change as faceoffs have dramatically improved in one season. Doug Jarvis was retained and you have to believe his systems are worth keeping around.

The next coach needs to have a teaching mentality but he also needs to have the “balls and grit” to compete at the NHL level. All the talk once again is about Travis Green getting the job. That’s swell, but it’s Willie D 2.0. You’ve had that coach already so you should have kept him around. Whoever comes this time around has to understand it won’t be a long-term position.

There needs to a coach who can suffer through the next phase of rebuilding and help create a winning mentality. No, not just a mentality, an environment; YA an environment!

But how do they GET this environment? Eating veggies and drinking Powerade milk bars? NO sir/mam. First off: SIGN BO HORVAT! It’s a simple thing, really. He’s the future of this team and he needs to know it. Second, platoon Nikolay Goldobin or Jake Virtanen (I really don’t care which) with Henrik and Daniel Sedin. They’re not leaving, they’ve said so, so let’s embrace their mentorship and lessen the load. Maybe give them fewer minutes per game and watch their stats start to rise again.

Sign Ryan Miller to a two-year deal. In fact, make sure you do right away. He’s literally saved their bacon for the last two seasons and with Jacob Markstrom’s health (OK, Miller’s too!) we need a veteran presence until the Canucks are begging to have Thatcher Demko in the lineup. They also need to cool it on rushing prospects into the pros. I want wins and goals too, but let’s not be greedy.

On defense, stop lying and move Alex Edler because he isn’t an effective member of this team anymore and if you’re willing to move Alex Burrows and Jannik Hansen, Edler’s a cakewalk. Parlaying Edler and maybe Ben Hutton too for a 20 goal scorer or even a few extra picks in this year’s draft could go a long way.

Rebuilding isn’t just a word. It’s a lifestyle. You know why the Oilers have bounced back and don’t say Connor McPlayoffs? They cleaned out any suggestion they were still hanging onto old ideas and the old boys club. I don’t know exactly HOW it finally came to a head but it did and wouldn’t you know it, the Oilers are good!

I was going to type that whole paragraph again and just insert LEAFS instead of Oilers but I’m too lazy. They did it too! Canuck Nation made for of those clubs for so long because we could all see their problems and the fix was so easy, well now it’s our turn and we need to take our own advice.

I say we, but I don’t work for the team. You’ve made that clear. This fan base is smarter than it’s given credit for and they just want to get back to winning. So win.

Win in the draft, win at free agency and win in the coaching search. The team isn’t just on the ice, it starts at the top.

This could be the Canucks moment to get it right so stop lying to us and admit you need to get better. We’ll follow you because well, we’ve done it this long so how could it get any worse.

Oh, you’re saying it can?

photo – canuckscorner.com

Bowness Coverage – The Canucks Hereafter

The Canucks/Lightning game surprisingly had a lot of interesting questions that needed to be asked after a randomly impressive victory. This team has some talent that is slowly being revealed to us as the opportunities come. One of which, is Jayson Megna.

Megna reminds me a bit of a young, raw Alex Burrows. His speed holds up and he has started to find his niche on the bottom six. After this season, Jack Skille will go and a spot will open. The expansion draft for the incoming Vegas (insert confirmed trademark team name here) will also take another player.

Who that is, has yet to be seen.

Jayson Megna is one of those guys that sneaks into your lineup and for whatever reason, he is impossible to take out. When Jannik Hansen comes back that may change things but maybe not. Jack Skille sits and Megna probably stays.

I like that Jim Benning has given some of these young guys opportunities and when we have thought otherwise, he has brought in valuable talent.

Markus Granlund wasn’t exactly a sexy addition after shipping out Hunter Shinkaruk, but he’s worked out and added depth where there isn’t much. Loui Eriksson is benefiting and who would have thought he could still put up points without the Sedins?

But what about the elephant in the room right now?

There is a certain awkwardness to the Canucks future that has us all pondering why they went from looking for a 20 goal scorer to not moving anyone. Telling us NTC would stay intact when former Canucks were spoken to to waive theirs.

It sure feels like there is more to this equation than Linden and Benning are letting on. Let’s not kid ourselves, the Canucks are looking to buy the NHL’s basement suite outright. Are the Aquilini’s involved more than we once thought?

Where does Trevor fit into all of this? When he arrived it was more of a ticket ploy, a marketing shtick at best. He doesn’t really want to be in charge, no way. When Linden retired, hockey was the furthest thing from his mind so it felt odd he would take such a prominent role at the top.

As we get deeper into the season, we’ll see one of the dominoes, if not all 3 fall; that being Benning, Linden and Desjardins.

Linden would make sense to step down whereas the other two will be a shift in direction. If this team is to make a change, someone needs to be at the helm that can do that without any bias or loyalty. Mike Gillis was that guy.

Getting back to the actual team in question, the injury bug is starting to fade subtly like bombs on your screen from the arcade game Lucky and Wilde. Albeit, Ryan Miller seems to have tweeked something again.

Jannik Hansen is set to come back as soon as Saturday against the Panthers, Chris Tanev might be next week. Alex Edler will be a 2017 returnee and unfortunately, Philip Larsen may not even get back in a Canucks jersey once he has his sorts again. We all know the Dorsett situation so his season is probably a write off.

Speaking of Dorsett, what does he bring to the Canucks as a fully healthy contributor? Imagine he HAD been healthy, how does he factor in to this team? The fourth line might actually have a banger look to it. Brendan Gaunce, Derek Dorsett and heck Megna, what’s not to like?

I’m serious. If Derek Dorsett is truly healthy, he might warrant sticking around. Willie might have known more than we gave him credit for. I’m fine with that fourth line for the next year. 

There’s much to think about with this group and as close as they are to a playoff spot, it’s December and adding more picks in the first few rounds makes more sense.

Plus, Benning will need more 2nds if he’s going to open up for business.

Follow me on twitter: @always90four

Jim Benning Broke The Canucks; Maybe He Should Go

The 2016 NHL Trade Deadline was the final straw for many Canucks fans; Jim Benning is no longer capable of steering the Canucks ship in the right direction, he has taken a page out of James Cameron’s book and sunk the Titanic. I have been a pretty even keel guy and have given many of the Canucks leaders the benefit of the doubt. Not this time though, I’ve had enough. Its pretty clear Jim Benning broke the Canucks and I think his time is up.

Maybe a little harsh to start but when you start breaking down the moves Benning has made, possibly John Weisbrod as well, he isn’t fit to be in charge. I had an interesting conversation with a good friend of mine recently about the blatantly obvious situation the Canucks find themselves in; going from Assistant GM to THE GM is kind of like riding shotgun for a long time and then being told you have to drive now.

Benning sat in the passenger seat for a number of years before being given the keys to a very, very expensive machine. You can wikipedia his resume because I don’t feel like letting you know what he’s done, you know too much already. Jimbo was the right hand man for 8 years before making the transition to all powerful.

When you’ve sat shotgun for 8 years, helping make important decisions is basically old hat, but when YOU’RE the one making the final decision, you hope the guy assisting you has done his work as well. He’s basically been the passenger long enough he has seen how to drive a car and it looks very doable; and then he starts driving and realizes its not the same thing.

Analyzing every move Benning has made would be redundant and not all of them have been bad. Jim has proven he’s an excellent scout and maybe one of the top ones out there, but do you really want a scout running your hockey club? I don’t.

I’ve talked about the Kelowna Rockets many a time and they have a jedi scout in Lorne Frey. He’s unearthed the likes of Shea Weber, Duncan Keith and my personal fave Nick Merkley; but I couldn’t imagine him taking over Bruce Hamilton’s job as GM. Nothing wrong with that its just they excel in different areas.

There’s always talk of the next deserving GM when one gets canned but why can’t teams see these guy’s strengths AND weaknesses? Of course, you can’t always find everything you’re looking for; Mike Gillis was very much out of the box thinking and had never had a job like that before so you can’t paint them all with one brush.

It’s entirely possible Jim Benning has architected the future Canucks with his shrew draft strategy but he’s also shooting himself in the foot by pawning off available picks for players that really have no business being acquired or leaving extra picks on the table when he waives players that could warrant a valuable return.

Once the trade deadline passed, it was quite clear the Canucks were not in it to win it. What we see before our eyes is the Canucks team that will finish out the season, plus or minus a few AHL callups. With no one coming or going this year, it’s a real head scratcher as to what management and potentially ownership is thinking.

All the focus on Monday was if Dan Hamhuis would waive his NTC and accept a trade to what we later found out, the Blackhawks or the Stars. That never happened and with all the focus shifting that way, players like Radim Vrbata and the #GarageSale7 were left in limbo. Another eye opener was that Alex Burrows name was left completely off the radar.

Was there any demand for Burrows’ talent this year? Just because someone isn’t on the block doesn’t mean he’s not available. Burrows has had a terrible year and is a shadow of his former glory. His career seems to be running its course but would he not be an asset for a team needing a 3rd liner on a well balanced Cup contender?

These are questions that should have been asked.

So should Benning actually be fired? In a word, no. We’ve seen teams like the Oilers, Flames, Leafs and even the Blackhawks keep former GM’s around, some just to appease the “old boys club”, some to eventually set to pasture. But if I’m the Canucks and more importantly Trevor Linden, I keep Benning around.

He isn’t the guy for THIS job but his knowledge and prowess of the development side of the game can’t be ignored. Re-package his role into VP of operations/scouting/Assistant GM, kick Weisbrod to the curb because clearly his ideas are awful (Granlund, seriously?) and put someone in charge who actually knows what they’re doing.

Sure, he’ll be mad and maybe sad or even sad/mad but he’s still being paid and I’m sure being 2nd in command for the Bruins Stanley Cup wasn’t the worst feeling. The worst feeling was trading away Tyler Seguin……and there it is.

A competent GM would not have given voluptuous contracts to Luca Sbisa, Derek Dorsett, Ryan Miller, Brandon Su…you know what, you get it. You know how I learned to save money? My parents showed me how and they guided me along so I wouldn’t go out and blow my savings on useless toys or beer.

They got half of that right – let’s be serious I was 10 when I got a bank account and I didn’t know beer yet.

Did no one stop Jimbo when he had the ol’ wallet out to sign these guys? Like anyone? His decision making is just atrocious and there’s no way this team should be run this way.

Going back to the deadline, was there really not a trade to made either way? You need picks, you need prospects and its evident you need 18 players a night. After the game against the Islanders, they did not have any of those things.  Mr. Benning has waived Adam Cracknell which he didn’t need to do, Frankie Corrado, again something he didn’t need to do and trading Hunter Shinkaruk.

I need a moment.

Hunter Shinkaruk on the surface, was the best player not on the Canucks. He was then traded for Markus Granlund who is not the best player on the Canucks, he’s not the best player not on the Canucks; what he is, is the best trade the Flames made until trade deadline day when they got potentially 2 first round picks for Kris Russell.

Listening to Tony Gallagher on Tuesday helped open up the wounds that almost healed. Why trade Shinkaruk who the Canucks felt wasn’t going to be a Canuck in the end for someone who won’t be a Canuck past July 1 IMO? It’s like showing your hand in poker and then driving the pot up to eventually still lose.

That’s not how it works. What COULD have been done was they could have just not traded Hunter Shinkaruk OR…….at least driven his price up until they got literally anything more valuable than less than a happy meal…minus the toy.

Thinking how this has all happened and how nothing has been fixed yet, Trevor Linden and the AQs need to do some serious brainstorming as to how this situation can be remedied. This rebuild is humming along and the coach can only work with what he’s given but now Benning is taking things away from him and that’s not fair to WD or the fans.

I don’t believe Benning knows what he’s doing most days when it comes to anything in front of him. Give him the scout job with all the perks and patch up this mess before it gets worse.

Even Mike Keenan got things going and we hated his guts.

Fix this Trevor because this has gotten way out of hand.

Canucks Went From “In A Relationship” To “It’s Complicated”

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know what? That phrase is ridiculous. Who lives under a rock, how stupid is that?

So like I was saying, unless you’ve been disconnected from Canucks land for the last 48 hours you know what’s going down. Jason Botchford and Elliotte Friedman dropped some pretty big bombs on Saturday night that started a series of unscheduled Trevor Linden interviews to control the napalm coming from all angles. One could say the Canucks Facebook relationship went from “in a relationship” to “its complicated”.

Linden maintains that Ownership (Aquilinis) and Management (Lindenning Group) see eye to eye and that any time you have guys signing the cheques, they’re going to want a bit of say in how their team is run; which is true. There’s no way a team doesn’t hear from it’s owners if things maybe aren’t going that perfect. At the same time, when the Canucks were rolling at the beginning of the Aquilini Era and you couldn’t find a ticket, they were finding ways to milk out more dollars from a “sold out” building.

No surprises here, this isn’t a new revelation by any means. Where the potential disconnect comes is if Ownership wants to be more involved than just signing overpriced 4th defensemen and bottom 6 forwards and they want to help restructure how the team is built.

You pay people to do that job, that’s why you’re rich. If Jim Benning wants to go in one direction and the Aquilinis another, well then, there’s a problem. Everything below those men becomes collateral damage: the coaches, players, trainers, EVERYTHING!

So which direction are the Canucks headed? Are they actually rebuilding on the fly? The simple answer is yes. The amount of rookies that have played a game this season for the team is now at 8 (Shinkaruk, Pedan, McCann, Hutton, Friesen, Biega, Virtanen and Zalewski). All of those kids have been given opportunities through injury, amazing play or waivers/separated shoulders. Realistically, 6 of those guys will stick, ok maybe 5; but it just shows that Benning, Linden and Willie D may just know what they’re doing.

By that note, this is just another year of building experience and slowly putting together pieces to eventually get back up the mountain. The problem with that is although Benning says he has no patience for losing, he’s sure taking his time with players that probably should be gone by now.

The perfect deal isn’t out there in the new NHL, but pawning off vets that can be useful elsewhere could net picks, prospects and heck CAP SPACE!

There are some contracts that need to be free. Jacob Markstrom is more than capable of being the starter here, Ryan Miller has been pretty good but he’s aging and his cap hit is pretty steep. Dan Hamhuis could be a great rental and someone like Andrey Pedan or Alex Biega can become a full time blue liner. Up front, its only a matter of time before Radim Vrbata is moved or walks and Hunter Shinkaruk is so ready to be an NHLer.

With just those few moves, there will be a thick amount of cash available on July 1 and I’m not saying Stamkos but guys like Milan Lucic and Cody Franson will definitely be interested in making a move home. Who knows, maybe Cole Cassels even pushes for a spot next season.

Over the next few weeks we may hear and see more about where this team truly is headed and if we need to pay more attention to what’s going on. The funny thing is, for whatever reason, making the playoffs last year all of a sudden gave us all hope that this year would be different, that the Canucks were somehow a contender again.

Aside from some homegrown new additions, not much has really changed. Same coaching style, same porous D and the scoring, well its pretty evident that’s taken a harsh nosedive to the bottom of the league. We expected this team to be great? Its the same story as before and for whatever reason we care more this year.

The Aquilinis may just in fact be starting a takeover of the Canucks but just like Facebook, the right situation can turn everything around and before you know it this will be a memory we’re reminded of in a year that the team will share with us and we’ll all have a good laugh about it.

We can get up in arms about who wants to be in control of this club but really, we all want the same thing, including Ownership; we all want the Canucks to be great again and is that really a terrible thing to ask?

Follow me on twitter: @always90four

(Insert REALLY Important Jake Virtanen Article Here)

PHOTO BY METRONEWS.CA

By now, you might be sick and tired of hearing about Jake Virtanen, the hit on Connor McDavid, the Young Stars breakaway goal and how he just has to make the Canucks roster because he’s so gosh darn awesome. I’d hate to force ONE MORE article on you but quite frankly you’ve already clicked on the link so its your own fault.

Its tough to say something that hasn’t been said already about the young phenom JAKE VIRTANEN but I’ll muster up some knowledges and maybe a few reasons why the Canucks will give him a rose after the nine game tryout ceremony. I don’t think the Bachelor reference worked there but the point was made.

TSN 1040 had promising Canucks forward JAKE VIRTANEN on Bmac Donny and the Moj Wednesday afternoon and he gave us some tidbits we couldn’t help but get excited about. But you wanna see that video of him hitting CMacD again don’t you?

When asked about hitting that Oiler guy:

“Oh I was competely aware; when you get a chance to hit a guy like that you definitely take the opportunity to”

So we know he likes the rough stuff and has started to mature his game by eliminating the fly bys and utilizing his stop starts. Jake, we both share that burden and I feel ya bruh. I probably should add I also cannot compete let alone skate with kids a third of my age.

But this isn’t about me.

The Canucks do lack an offensive wrecking ball and if JAKE VIRTANEN follows the Bo Horvat model, which is nothing like the Boston model, he will be lacing his skates up besides such Canucks greats as Luca Sbisa, Brandon Prust and Linden Vey. Just kidding, Brandon Prust hasn’t proven himself to us yet.

There has been a never ending hype train surrounding JAKE VIRTANEN for the last year or so and thankfully I haven’t heard the over used “coming out party” line when referencing his Young Star Tournament efforts. Does that count if I just said “coming out party”? Or is it just a reference?

And let us not forget the “murders” as we have labeled them on the twitters. Not real murders because that’s wrong (I feel like I’m about to quote a Barenaked Ladies hit) but the hits that look to put opposing players in the ER/ Trauma 1 / ICU and all the other hospital 3 letter places. See here:

You can get excited about a big hit, you can even get excited about a goal that puts the whole arena on their feet, even in Rogers Arena but when you combine both of those and an overall talented player to boot, you have something special.

JAKE VIRTANEN turned heads from Canucks brass to the oracle, TSN’s Bob Mckenzie himself in Penticton and if Bob says he’s good well thats good enough for me…and basically anyone that just bases talent on written opinions. In all seriousness though, he was pretty good and this written opinion should be taken to heart.

Linden already said he was impressed with the young lad and really all the fluff will be sorted out when training camp is complete. Here’s the thing” JAKE VIRTANEN is pretty good at hockey. He throws a threatening hit and doesn’t back down from anyone.

Virts (sp?) will most likely be given every chance to make the team and seeing him get mentored by the Derek Dorsetts and Brandon Prusts and even Alex Burrows will go a long way. I know what you’re thinking, the knuckle draggers are going to teach Virtanen how to drop the mitts…sorry, VIRTANEN.

Not where I’m going with this; its knowing when to throw that hit and knowing how that can alter the game. Dan Hamhuis threw his patented hip check on Milan Lucic in 2011 and it backfired. Jake will soon learn what he needs to do to climb the ranks. It won’t be just hitting it will be controlling the momentum in Vancouver’s favour.

You didn’t come here for stats and I’m not going to give them to you. I will tell you that Jake’s hit to awesome ratio is 1:1 and that should be all you need to know. In Vancouver, we yearn for the wow factor, the next jersey shirt worthy player and we all want that to be JAKE VIRTANEN.

He’s worthy of me typing his name in caps 8 times and the potential for JAKE VIRTANEN (9 now) to become the elusive Milan Lucic/Cam Neely/Zack Kass….HOLD UP; Zack never got there and I apologize that I put him in that category. After Virtanen debuted as a pro in the AHL playoffs we quickly saw he could hang with the big boys.

His hilite videos will continue to mount as his career evolves and as we get ready to see what this future power forward will become we can take solace in the fact that he’s ours and Jim Benning could never screw this up.

OK ya he could but let’s not dwell on that.

JAKE VIRTANEN!!!!!! That’s 10, OK now i’m done.

Follow me on twitter: @always90four

Why Now Is A Good Time For The Canucks To Rebuild

Its been about 3 days or so since the Canucks have fired someone of importance and its only a matter of time before Fin get’s the axe and they introduce a skate-like mascot (hint hint). I have had some time to let everything sink in and evaluate what may or may not be happening to the Canucks; one thing is for certain: Trevor Linden and Jim Benning however unpopular and brash their decisions have been, are doing something that is bang on what should be happening RIGHT NOW. 

Its the best time to put this team in rebuild mode, but I ask that you read on so i can tell you why.

The future of the Canucks is coming and it is coming quicker than expected. Trevor Linden saw that his team was in danger of repeating itself and getting lost in the continuous cycle of politely tweaking a piece here and there to only keep things competitive.

The writing has been on the wall since 2012 and it has finally come to a head this year. We’ve all posed the question at one point or another “If you could have even just ONE Cup, would you take six to seven years of suffering?”

OK, im not saying things will get that bad but why not just do what we’ve told the Oilers and Flames to do: play the young guys and let them learn how to win, learn how to lose and grow together. The run Utica made this spring to the Calder Cup will help a handful of players gain the tools they need to be Vancouver Canucks on a full time basis.

Edmonton and Calgary held on way too long and in Edmonton’s case they just recently departed from the Oilers regime that has controlled the teams interests and is now finally making huge strides. I suppose having Connor McDavid helps things along.

So how do the Canucks make that transition? What’s left to throw away? Apparently the chance at decent draft picks but thats been beat to death. Do the Twins need to go now? Edler? Burrows?

Now, the Sedins haven’t been put to pasture and they are the type of players that could drop down the lineup for their final two years…maybe 2 more at a cap friendly number and help the young up and comers become pros. Linden did that to the Twins when they arrived and its coming around full circle.

We form bonds with our players and can’t justify sending them away when its obvious that’s the best decision. Trade them while their value is still good. Burrows has had some serious injuries and now would be the time to see a solid pick come back. Alex Edler can fetch a younger prospect or maybe a dman that just hasn’t fit in elsewhere.

Its possible the harsh decisions are over and TL and Benning are looking to build “their” team the way they want it. The ideology that didn’t result in a Cup is now being flushed out; The capologist was a great add at the time, as was the sleep doctor but gimmicks aren’t Trev’s thing. He’s a through and through hockey guy and he doesn’t need to push the BS.

Kicking Mike Burstein to the curb after 20 years was a shocker but as much of a shock as that was, was he still providing a valuable, reliable service? The way injuries have evolved over the last 10 years, you have to wonder if they were being read properly and given a proper diagnosis (see Cody Hodgson). Regardless, having a new voice, like any new coach can bring new life.

2011 was such a great year and its a shame that a rebuild has come so soon after it. A series of terrible decisions has brought us here and now is as good a time as any to start over…ish.

If it was a true rebuild, Ryan Miller probably wouldnt be here but riding out his talents isn’t the worst problem the Canucks have. The lack of fire and diminishing production in former core guys Ryan Kesler and Kevin Bieksa have made it a little easier to swallow their departures.

Don’t forget: many of you wanted these guys gone. Just because you didn’t get the return you thought was fair, doesn’t mean it wasn’t what was needed. As the eventual changes keep coming there will be dips in the Canucks cap number and opportunities to maybe add a star or two.

I don’t anticipate any important players will show up this year through free agency as it sounds like Benning has been given the AMEX for next years 2 big stars: Steven Stamkos and Anze Kopitar. It’s not like they will get them, either of them, but making a trade for someone big will be a lot easier; maybe Milan Lucic will come home.

Did you see how I bolded those guys? Now you’ll be thinking, how do we get Steven Stamkos? What will it take? Remember when we all thought Marian Gaborik was going to be a Canuck? It was infatuating and you couldn’t imagine a world where he wasn’t wearing the blue and green.

We were just given the same treatment with Lucic before LA snagged him. Lost my train of thought, sorry.

The new guys will be given plenty of chances to make the big club and losing won’t be welcome but it will become a new reality as things are gradually changing. Bo Horvat made the jump and could be the anomaly but with guys like Cole Cassels, Jake Virtanen, Brock Boeser and Frankie Corrado trying to get it done, winning takes patience.

There is not one team that has its rookie crop transform their team overnight. Even Chicago and Pittsburgh had growing pains. Coach Willie Desjardins will have to give these guys chances though and swallow a bit of pride along the way.

Get ready to lose some games this year but it’ll be worth it once the key guys turn the corner. This isn’t a doom and gloom piece; it’s the new reality we as Canucks fans live in. No one saw the the Messier era getting as bad as it did but even with that tire fire, good did come.

Sure, Bure and Mogilny winning a Cup here would have been nice, but we riotted after we lost Game 7 to New York, we aren’t allowed to have nice things. 

Jimbo will be given his chance to put the ultimate stamp on the Canucks and the true judgement will be right around the corner. Let the dust settle and see where he’s going to take this thing. The optics look like we are screwed for the forseeable future and maybe we are but ripping off the band aid is the only way things can truly change.

I don’t love how things have panned out but I don’t want to keep cheering for a push over either. It’s time to accept the rebuild and everything that comes with it. If anything, my daughters will know what it’s like to be a REAL Canucks fan.

Taylorism over on the twitter wrote this a few days back and it strikes a very similar parallel to what I’m getting at here.

Follow me on twitter: @always90four

Photo cred: bcbusiness.ca

Canucks Rapping To Success

Losing to the Flames is the worst! The degradation equivalent of losing to them is watching your dog take a dump and then doing the walk of shame back home with a blue bag in your hand. Everyone knows whats up, they know the feeling and nothing is worse, that is our lowest common denominator. The Canucks need the Flames to pick up after THEIR crap, THEY should feel that shame.

Short stories aside, Vancouver’s orca warriors need to channel their inner hip hoppniss and thug out against these Flames. Calgary is all about the age old blue collar, hard working lunch bucket crew. You know what? Thats garbage. They have some young studs that can skate, should we really care? NO. We have the Jay Z / Kanye equivalent in Henrik and Daniel Sedin. These two collab on the tracks that move numbers, Art Ross numbers.

Monahan and Gaudreau don’t have the greatest hits the Twins do, they haven’t had 99 problems, they haven’t  achieved S**ins in Paris status, they’re just a couple of kids earning their stripes. Hank and Danny know what its like to rub shoulders in the hip hop circle with G’s like Drizzy Drake and he recognizes their thug level: dangerously high. These magicians didn’t exactly start from the bottom…but they’re here. Time to channel that 604.

First name: Trevor, Last name: Linden, like a Stanley Cup parade, it ain’t nothin he’s been in. He wants it all this year, so his crew has to harness that drive. Doresett, Sbisa and Tanev get to do it with a deal, while Matthias and Weber will do it without one this post season. This team started out local, and thanks to all the haters they know Air Canada pilots on a first name basis.

The Regulators that have done it for years: Bieksa, Burrows and Hansen need to bring their 2011 to the table and lead by example as a group. No one man should have all that power, its all about rolling four and getting those points from the Bo’s and the Burr’s, the Higgy’s and the Richy’s. The clock’s tickin without more goals they’ll just count the hours.

Willie has a really good group of guys, a real clique, clique, clique and all those Babychs they want the, they want the………

CUP!

CLICK CLACK Nucks! Time to suit up, time to play like what those cheques say, time to play like what your neck say. You earned the bills, time to pay up with the thrills. You’re down one game so far but you’re about fourfiveseconds from wildin and there’s no more days til Friday, ITS GAME DAY! 

  

I’m not sure if this Canucks team is too strung out on compliments, getting to the playoffs maybe they overdosed on confidence, maybe they don’t care and stopped fearing the consequences. Well Vancouver, you fell off, you needed that, you needed to know. You can beat this Flames team no problem, they aren’t YOU. They don’t have what you do, you better do what you’re supposed to do, that Sedin-Sedin to Vrbata is overdue but thats just something you know already, you know…..you know.

Its STANLEY OVER EVERYTHING, STANLEY ON YOUR MIND! As Canuck fans we hear this, it happens all the time.

A season ago, this team looked a lot different. Now, there’s way too many people here right now that we didn’t have last year, who are these guys? I swear it feels like the last few nights we’ve had every excuse that’s bad, but this series, you beat these shames til its over, til its over, til its far from over.

Eddie, you got the net now. You didn’t get it by slacking off, you got there on hard work. When Miller came you basically needed to be Cinderella Man. This game can ill afford to lose you, so here’s a clue, you came to the game with a Johnny on your blocker lost your balance too! The series is all up in your psyche too, be that Cinderella Man Eddie, overcome, shut that door; get your team to stand behind you like WOO! Get in that zone, forget the past Eddie Lack, you’re the man right now.

So Canucks, this may not mean nothing at all, understand nothing was won for me…Wednesday. We want this cup forever. Those alumni want it too so Dave Babych don’t kill my vibe! Remember, we didn’t start the fire; it was always burning since the world’s been turning.

Canucks in 6, first win in Game 2 wouldn’t hurt.

Follow me on twitter: @always90four

Photo credit – canucks.nhl.com

Debunking Your Canucks Arguments Because You’re Wrong

Since moving away from the lower mainland a few years ago, my intake of radio armchair GM’s has dropped dramatically. Thankfully I have been able to take a more thought out approach to my opinions without being influenced by the wacky ideas and comments that flood Vancouver sports radio on a day to day basis. Don’t get me wrong, if it wasn’t for the “intelligent” minds there really is only talking heads, that participation is crucial.

That being said, there are a few arguments out there that seem to gain steam, some that are downright ridiculous and believe it or not, a few good ones. WIth all the opinions out there, there’s bound to be a few that actually make sense. However, the wrong ones are the ones we debate the most and I am going to rip through all of those zany ideas and show you why you’re wrong. 

(Now go to your kitchen cupboards and grab a grain of salt.)

THE ARGUMENT: The Sedins are second liners now; they don’t have what it takes to be a top line anymore.

WHY YOU’RE WRONG: This one got me thinking after listening to the latest Pass it to Bulis podcast. You’d be hardpressed to find more than maybe eight teams that they wouldn’t be top line players. As far as the Canucks are concerned, they are still the number one line. They still  get the top matchups every night and lead the team by 11 points at 60 with Radim Vrbata next at 49. The drop off is huge after that. Nick Bonino, Chris Higgins and Jannik Hansen all have 30 and down it goes after that.

Second line players don’t lead your team in points, well this team anyways. Until the Sedins show a dramatic drop off or they retire, odds are they are going to be the top line in Vancouver. They aren’t 100 point players anymore and maybe the 80’s are as high as they get now but by the looks of this season, 60 points this late is really good. John Tavares of the Islanders has 72 points for the league lead. Enough said. 

So if you have some crazy notion that Nick Bonino, Radim Vrbata and Shawn Matthias are your top line, or that Sidney Crosby is done too, you are very wrong.



 

THE ARGUMENT: The Canucks aren’t a very good team.

WHY YOU’RE WRONG…..TO A DEGREE: The Canucks are definitely not the king of the castle anymore, but they are way better than a season ago and really, better than they were in 2012. As soon as they lost the Cup in 2011 everything changed. Countless identity changes later, Vancouver finally is following a path that seems to be paying off. Credit WIllie Desjardins, Trevor Linden and Jim Benning for changing it to its current state.

The power play this season is atrocious I’ll give you that and sure, they don’t score a ton of goals and yes I’ll agree they seem to enjoy being down two and three goals before they get their game going; but if you take away the fancy stats and some of the basic ones, they’re second in the Pacific. Albeit, a weak division that had their way with the Canucks last year, aside from a large collapse the Canucks are playing for the Stanley Cup this year.

Losing to the awful teams sure doesn’t help my case here but the overall game they have played this season has been fairly entertaining and has every line involved…every…single…game. The injuries definitely took their toll on the lineup but it forced half of the Utica Comets to show what they could do. It wasn’t that bad. In fact, it was great. You now love Ronalds Kenins.

If the Canucks weren’t a very good team we wouldn’t be talking about the potential for upsets in the playoffs or how well our three second/third lines are. A bit more grey area here but they dont’ suck. Agree to disagre on this?

THE ARGUMENT: Ryan Miller is washed up, he looks like he voluntarily gives up soft goals and he is passed his prime.

WHY YOU’RE WRONG: Actually, I agree with most of that. Even though Miller did post 28 wins, 6 shutouts a perfect shootout record going 2 for 2; game in and game out he struggled to make the easy saves and as a fan, didn’t look like he gave his team a chance to win EVERY game. Every goalie goes through struggles and the ones learning a new team, a new system and a goalie coach, they have it worse. With Eddie Lack gaining confidence and believing this is HIS team, Miller at the end of the day ends up being an expensive bridge to the future.

Ryan Miller may not play another game this season for multiple reasons, the main one being that even if he’s healthy; it will be the heart of the playoffs and there is no team that starts a cold goalie when you only get 4 losses in a series. Even the expensive mistakes have silver linings. 

So on this one YOU’RE RIGHT!

WILLIE’S ARGUMENT: Ronalds Kenins is the odd man out until someone plays bad enough or Kenins pots a goal every game.

WHY HE’S WRONG: Now that the Canucks are basically healthy (just Miller really), every game Willie D has quite a task of deciding who should sit. I called out Chris Higgins because I felt he hadn’t held his own as much as he should have this year, I did that twice. Both times, he scored and we won. So anyone can be wrong. What WD is doing is so wrong though. He has put Kenins in the linup and he has outperformed what most of us, if not all of us thought he would do originally. Once the injured players started coming back, Kenins looked to be the odd man out.

Thankfully, through some divine intervention a new injury reared its head and WHAMMY! Ronny gets put back in. His line with Bo Horvat and Jannik Hansen has been electric for some time now and their chemistry shows. Kenins has 11 pts in 19 GP and if Bo Horvat is considered the teams fourth line pivot, thats pretty good output for a fourth line player that was riding the bus to start the year.

There are a few options of who should be coming out now: Linden Vey and ocassionally Nick Bonino. Yes, both are centres but its not a stretch to move Shawn Matthias up to the middle. At some point its the guys that are getting it done that you want in.

So Willie, put Ronny in FULL TIME, because YOU’RE WRONG!

This doesn’t cover all those wacky theories that are out there but debunking a few of them will help you get through your day. I know i’ll sleep better tonight. Just remember, when you go to bash your Canucks think about how much worse you could have it. Check the standings, see where the Twins are in the scoring race and maybe chill out a bit.

The Canucks are winning the Cup this year because they are a elite team. They have everyt….I can’t go on anymore. Just settle down and realise you have it pretty good here. Really good.

I take back the Cup comment until further notice.

Follow me on twitter: @always90four

Canucks Victims Of Their Own Success

After Alex Burrows received his FIRST suspension, I know right? it made me pause and think: are the Canucks victims of their own success? Dig deep, dig Grand Canyon deep or Adam Levine V-neck t-shirt deep and think if all the publicity and fame has finally dug the Canucks a hole. It has, I answered it for you, but keep reading because its not always about the first paragraph.

As fans, we feel the Canucks are getting the raw deal. Every game there is a penalty that makes zero sense and we all look at the TV and go

IMG_0957.JPG
Jackie Chan just makes this easy
Photo courtesy of performinsider.com

We all think it and it makes me think the thoughts that most likely are biased but I think them anyways. When the Canucks got to the top, they brought a lot of haters with them like you know, Nickelback. It didn’t matter how many awards, ticket sales, merch sales, top 4 finishes or whatever the whatever, the Canucks were building a hate empire against them. Referees were getting in on the action where they could too!

There are most definitely a few players in Vancouver who soured the league and its fans. Alex Burrows doesn’t exactly have the cleanest track record. His “diving” has cost him a few bucks ala Stephane Auger, his biting has pissed off most of Boston and most recently Taylor Hall was dealt the “People’s Elbow”. You goto the well enough times and it runs dry.

Our good friend, Ryan Kesler, may have helped the Canucks fetch a fancier ransom if he wasn’t well, a chotchma. If Roberto Luongo wasn’t absolutely dragged through the mud time after time, Mike Gillis may have saved his job or at the very least one of the marquee goalies he was harbouring. You see, as the Canucks became the creme de la creme, they brought with them an audience that judged as well.

Now, all those brownie points have been used up and its time to start earning again, just like when you cash in your air miles to to Maui in January. Everyone is watching Vancouver and they all have pre-determined opinions on how they should be handled. The national media which is basically the Toronto support group does…not…like them and will burn them at the stake every chance they get.

Opposing teams and fans yearn for the next screw up to spotlight the bad guys that the Canucks really are. It wouldn’t hurt Willie Desjardins, Trevor Linden and Jim Benning to have a meeting with their boys and get all the obvious crap in the open so the team can rebuild a once glimmering reputation that actually caught them a few breaks when it mattered.

It’s not just talent that wins games; sometimes a break here and there goes a long way. There is an abundance of skill on this Canucks roster and you don’t think everyone else sees that? Keep the train on the tracks and focus on what got you this far. The West Coast Express didn’t happen overnight, well, ok, it kind of did. But you know what I mean. Build that winning formula again and this time maybe when you’re up 3 games to 2 in the Stanley Cup Final, the refs will call that first punch to your face and not wait to see you retaliate on the 5th one.

A final note: it kills me I wasn’t able to tie a Backstreet Boys reference into this article, I had it all ready to go too.

Oh well.

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