troy stecher

Canucks Season Resembles Kindergarten Concert

So, this season has been a pretty easy one to talk about. The headlines write themselves, the storylines are deep and it’s an absolute mess. Who wants perfect? My daughter recently had her Kindergarten Christmas concert and I personally love them. Going in, I was hoping to obviously see my kid shine but knew full well it could turn into an all-out gong show.

Nobody wants it to go smoothly or it would just be a bunch of kids singing slightly louder than the pre-recorded music in the ghettoblaster. The teachers had a plan in place and they knew what their show “should” look like. All in all, it was pretty good, including the one kid who dabbed for half the songs, he was amazing!

I’m not talking like after each one, it was going on for at least 1/3 of each tune. Dude stole the show.

This Canucks team isn’t far off from a normal Kindergarten concert, though. We all had a good idea what this season was going to look like: a rebuild, a few callups that turn into surprises, the next step in Bo Horvat’s progression and a shot at Nolan Patrick. The framework is pretty much, bang on and even after some of these horrible losses, it’s about what we would have figured.

The season was set up as a work in progress and there were plenty of teams we all knew this team would struggle against. That was all fine and then the games were played. Two come from behind wins followed by another two wins had fans singing the team’s praises. Then there were the nine straight losses (oh, those were fun), the Matt Martin/Nazem Kadri fiasco and now the 8-6 Hurricanes loss.

Let’s stop the cameras for a second, they LOST 8-6 to the Hurricanes? Yup and they should have buried them in the ground before it all got out of hand. Just like that concert, things went well for the first few songs, kids knew their lines and a couple kids got the special half verse solo (that’s like Jayson Megna scoring two goals or something I guess or in this case Sven Baertschi making Willie D look like an idiot for scratching him against the Capitals).

But we all know, half way through things get dicey and some of the kids sing faster than the rest, some are definitely slower and there’s that kid dabbing on the edge of the stage (we like him, he’s kinda like Troy Stecher; just being so awesome). The Canucks were basically who we thought they were and somehow they played beyond our expectations, again that would be a Stecher reference or Horvat as well.

It wasn’t to be, though when they couldn’t even beat the Leafs, Sutter gets stapled to the Sedin line and Jack Skille is being put out in game deciding minutes, which I guess set himself up for those two goals the other game.

Clever stuff, Willie.

Things are unraveling right before our eyes and we should really be upset because well, the Canucks aren’t supposed to suck but it’s surprisingly awesome!

I don’t even know how the playoffs are a possibility still but here we are. The flip side is that Vancouver is 3 points out of dead last. Welcome to the Pacific Division. Combine that with the fact Bo Horvat is challenging for the #1 centre job and Troy Stecher posters are selling out all across the lower mainland; this has been kinda fun.

So now, the Canucks are into the middle of the show, a few songs went well, a chunk of them were just absolute write-offs and I’m sure by the end we’ll all be clapping because it came to an end and everyone will get their hopes up again that a nice juicy first overall pick is coming our way. The thing is, this is a Kindergarten concert.

You know what happens after that? Christmas holidays. Maybe even a new teacher that just came back from mat leave (new coach rumours fit perfectly here) but that’s about it. Your kids keep learning how to read and write, make a few new friends and then BAM! Grade 1.

The fun times are over, the gong show concert has been long gone for months and it’s all about progression. The Canucks need to get past the show and get to a point where development turns into systems turns into wins turns into competing for the Stanley Cup.

Whether it’s a new coach, a new GM or simply putting the right players on the power play, this team needs some structure again and it might take a true shakeup to get there.

There are definitely pieces in place to get to the next step and it’s only a half season until the next pieces of the puzzle arrive. Will the rebuild take as long as what Edmonton and Toronto have lived or are the Canucks brass smart enough to know when to pull the trigger and get this thing back on track?

What I do know, is that I came to watch my kid and she rocked it (also the dabbing kid was great). We keep watching the Canucks because that’s what we do and from time to time it’s going to be great and sometimes we’ll get to see a showoff like Troy Stecher or hopefully someone that plays in front of him. Like maybe sooner than later if possible.

Follow me on twitter: @always90four

Why Are The Canucks Playing The Good Hockey?

This season was supposed to be a dud. It was supposed to equate to 65 points and one of the worst NHL seasons ever, combined most likely with the first overall pick. But, we all know they could never achieve such a feat. Now, the Canucks are winning multiple games in a row, playing without regular NHLers and it looks like they are having fun.

How do you even explain this season? It’s not like any fancy stats can back up how surprising this team has been, heck, the real stats say they suck too! So why does it feel like the Canucks can actually achieve more than they should? Let’s take a look:

First off, there isn’t any particular reason that injuries should make any team better aside from seeing how some of the prospects on the farm are coming along, but injuries to key Canuck players like Chris Tanev, Alex Edler, Derek Dorsett and Jannik Hansen have forced the Canucks to dress half of the Comets pretty much.

Starting Troy Stecher in Utica seemed like the dumbest move ever but sure enough, the injuries came and Stecher was back on a plane to start on the number one pairing. That gave the Canucks just enough time to see a bit of Philip Larsen and what his PP decisions looked like. It’s evident he has lost that job, on the first unit anyways.

Stecher looks like a seasoned vet out there and when he unleashes that shot, you’d never believe it could come from such a small man. Ben Hutton is getting right back in there and looks like he has been on the team for years. Crazy to think Hutton was just a rookie last year.

Nikita Tryamkin started the season a little shaky and even though he was able to play out the end of last year to gain some valuable experience, it didn’t feel like he was going to make an impact… until he did. Tryamkin is yet another surprise player that most Canuck fans couldn’t see this team without.

Tryamkin has a powerful body that can dominate on the boards, the accidental injuries he has caused prove there is a lot of power there. So far, it doesn’t look like Nikita will be an offensive weapon but he can do what Erik Gudbranson was supposed to do, but for way less money.

These are just the guys on the team RIGHT NOW. Olli Juolevi is still in junior and will eventually challenge for another spot. The expansion draft next year will most likely peel away Luca Sbisa for cap reasons but that still leaves 5 other guys. Chris Tanev isn’t going anywhere, neither is Hutton or Stecher. Alex Edler is up there in age and the amount of sticks he breaks is getting borderline ridiculous, but aside from a trade he’ll probably finish out as a Canuck.

That leaves two spots and with Erik Gudbranson becoming an RFA next season, there will be some important decisions made.

But back to how weird this team has been.

Vancouver starts the year 4-0, then goes on a 9 game losing streak. They split a few here and there before putting themselves in a position to now win 3 straight. I don’t get it. This isn’t an overly talented bunch, compared to the rest of the NHL but somehow they are staying relevant. You can’t miss a game because there always seems to be a story.

After the Canucks finished off the Wild on Tuesday, a team they probably should have lost against, this happens:

So now they just score goals all the time, a squad that… doesn’t score goals very often? OK, I’ll bite. There was an article about the Canucks face-off success and how Manny Malhotra has helped them get back to winning those battles, cheating a bit and starting with the puck instead of losing draws and eventually giving up goals.

One area the Canucks have stepped up is at the Bo Horvat position. He is the heir apparent and it doesn’t look like that will ever change. Horvat leads the team in points, has re-ignited long-serving Canuck Alex Burrows and has created options for coach Willie D to use Brandon Sutter up front with the Sedins while $6 million dollar man Loui Eriksson, makes Michael Chaput and Markus Granlund look like real NHL players.

It feels like the Canucks have channeled their inner District 5 Ducks talent and taken a rag-tag group and made them into a team that can compete, you know, without the DUI.

Making the playoffs is still quite a long shot for this team but if the Canucks are going to actually rebuild which is what I believe we have been sold, this is sure a fun team to watch despite the ultimate goal of hoisting the Cup.

Waiting a bit longer for this team to rise up again isn’t always a fun task but as I’ve said before, guys like Juolevi, Brock Boeser and Thatcher Demko make waiting a bit more tolerable.

I still don’t know how the Canucks are making this happen, though. Proper lines is a good start.

Follow me on The Twitter™: @always90four

 

Photo: nhl.com

Willie Desjardins Is The Hottest Taek Right Now

Oh great, another FIRE WILLIE post, how original. No, you’re wrong, there’s no mention of firing Willie Desjardins so far. Everyone WANTS him to be fired but is this disaster really all his fault? The on-ice product currently has his stamp when it comes to line combinations, sit/start decisions and anything Medicine Hat Tigers related. What everyone is getting at right now is “What do we do with Willie?” And THAT my friends is the hottest taek in Canucks land right now.

The easy thing would be to fire him. The Canucks are 4-6-1 and somehow that’s a bad thing through 11 games, which is a bit messed up. The alarming stats are the reasons not only Willie might be worried for his job safety but ultimately Jim Benning for giving him the pieces he currently has. I know, I know, he inherited a good portion of this team but what Jimbo did with the new additions, draft picks, draft choices, and trades has set Willie up for failure to a certain degree.

If the Internet and Twitter wanted Willie fired you could make a case for the starting lineups. His hands I’m sure were tied for a time with regards to keeping Loui Eriksson with the Sedins as the top line. Eriksson hasn’t scored a goal FOR the Canucks yet and you can’t just keep doing the same thing there. The fancy stats prove that Jannik Hansen is without a doubt, the best choice on that line.

I can post articles if you don’t believe me. I even wrote a few of them. Look at me, the big writer guy. It’s been a tough go to start this season, I needed a pick me up. I’ll move on.

Starting a game with a line that employs Alex Burrows, Derek Dorsett and Brendan Gaunce might be a reason to point fingers but seriously guys (and gals) there’s no way you can define a game by one 0:30-second shift, give me a break. This team has way bigger issues than who takes the opening faceoff.

How about defense? Putting Philip Larsen on the top PP unit is a pretty big sell if you ask me. This guy has zero track record that suggests he should be given such a valuable position, let alone a roster spot when college free agent Troy Stecher signed and pulled the ol’ Ben Hutton and should have taken someone’s job (I could name a few guys if you like).

No point in putting Nikita Tryamkin in this mess, he came to camp out of shape and finally earned his first game against the Senators. As far as Benning goes, this is a tough situation because of the stipulations of bringing Tryamkin over and keeping him on the big club. It’s a shame that a player can bully his way into terms that favour only the player really.

Benning has harboured Alex Biega for some reason thinking he is such an amazing asset and he then factors into the sit/start equation. Willie has only so many guys that can play and keeping guys like Biega, Tryamkin, Stecher and at some point Larsen in a holding pattern hurts their development. Clearly, Jim Benning hasn’t figured out the GM role quite yet and the organisation is starting to suffer because of it.

But back to WD; his deployment of players like Luca Sbisa, Jack Skille and the lack of ice for Henrik and Daniel or even Bo raises flags. In crunch time situations, you would want your best players out on the ice, or at the very least the ones that can set you up to bring the best players on the ice; its so confusing.

Thankfully, Willie has adjusted his goalie starts to better reflect a fresh starter every night. The wins don’t reflect these starts but the losses shouldn’t be blamed on the masked men. This team doesn’t score goals and if the goalies are letting in 1-2 goals a night, that would WIN you games on almost any other team.

And there it is, the goal scoring. Eriksson hasn’t scored, Baertschi hasn’t scored, Virtanen hasn… you get the point. Here are all the goal scorers thus far for the Canucks this year:

Horvat – 4 goals, Henrik – 3, Hansen/Daniel/Granlund – 2, Sutter/Hutton/Edler -1

That’s it.

That is every goal scored through 11 games, realistically it’s 7 games with a goal. This isn’t over yet but over is on the next line. Somehow, Willie has to get a better game plan that puts goals in a realistic frame of mind. Funneling the puck to Larsen isn’t a recipe for success. Hansen on the top unit is. Horvat on the top unit is. If Troy Stecher was in a Canuck uniform, HE is.

The last two games have been dominated by Vancouver in the shot department, the CF% department and yes again, the goaltending department too! Against Montreal, Vancouver outshot 42-22 and somehow lost 3-0. In Ottawa, the Canucks won 61% of all faceoffs and had a 5v5 CF% of 57.14. They’re getting the in-game victories but the elusive “goal” seems to be the one thing they don’t have.

Firing Willie Desjardins isn’t going to solve the team’s problems. It might get the ball rolling but it’s not the answer. Jim Benning taking the fall is closer to the truth on this one. Moving away valuable pieces to a changing puzzle isn’t smart management. There’s no point in going over the ways Jim has failed us because we know the list.

As Petbugs of Canucks Army ranted on Twitter the other night, Benning and the Canucks are without a plan, a direction and are basically just “doing”.

The problems with the future of this team aren’t their goalless streak, the mounting losses or even losing out on Auston Matthews and maybe even Nolan Patrick (let’s just say it so it’s out in the open), the problem is that management, whoever that truly represents, has very little idea of what can turn the team into a competitive product.

I believe Mike Gillis was let go too soon and we’ll never really know how he would have handled the rest of his time as GM. The reactive nature afterwards or constructive guessing, if you will, is the day to day task of shuffling the deck chairs. They get beat by a bigger team so they go bigger. They get beat by a faster team so they go faster. It keeps going on and on and on.

Utilizing the waiver wire properly, signing the “big name” when he’s still available and maybe even giving up and moving on from a player that is past his expiration date on the team… or worse, the league; these are all things the Canucks at some point could have done to keep this team as a potential contender.

Now, starting from the bottom is the team’s new reality. Player only meetings and healthy scratches will become a thing at some point this year and it has nothing to do with who’s on the team. This is such a bigger issue and firing Willie Desjardins as the “hot taek” or as I said, Jim Benning, is only the beginning.

The Vancouver Canucks are in disarray and they need to commit to the change they say they’re making and making the playoffs should not be part of their process.

Wow, that felt good.

Go Canucks Go… back to the drawing board.

Follow me on twitter: @always90four

Winning Isn’t Everything; Canucks Sorta Concur

They started 4-0 but it didn’t take long to bring it all back to reality. Your Vancouver Canucks are 4-4-1 now and the dreamers and unicorn chasers have all gone into hiding. It’s not pretty anymore, no one is scoring goals and even Luca Sbisa is back to guaranteeing your pie in 30 minutes or it’s free. 2017 is going to finish very similarly to 2016 and at the very least, there’s a chance the Canucks get a star this time.

It took almost a week to score their next goal after the Canucks lost to the Ducks last Sunday. Part of that was too much passing, part of it was opponents having good goaltending and part of it, well most it was the fact the Canucks just plain ol’ stunk. You’ve heard me say there are bright spots on this team and I’m not lying, there are.

Bo Horvat is doing his best to shake the funk that seems to surround him and at some point, he will and normalcy will reside on his stick. For now, it really doesn’t matter what he does because the guys around him aren’t following suit. Sven Baertschi looks snake bitten, so does Jannik Hansen (big surprise); goals have dried right up for this team.

Ben Hutton is stringing along but even he looks a bit worn already. Let’s not even get into the Erik Gudbranson stuff, he’s not even defensive-defensiving.

Not helping anything either are the injuries. They have already claimed uber defenseman Chris Tanev and Alex Burrows, not to mention Derek Dorsett and call-up Jayson Megna. How this has been addressed is it’s own story in itself. Watching Troy Stecher in the preseason was all any of us needed to see for him to be a lock on this Canucks team and to be honest a lot of other teams too!

Jim Benning and Willie Desjardins had Philip Larsen as their back end guy to QB the powerplay and… honestly, I don’t know what else. Stecher proved he could do it all and was still sent down. It was easy to do because he could gain some experience in the AHL and get ready for his first promotion.

Well, that happened pretty darn quick.

Alarm bells should already have been going off when Nikita Tryamkin wasn’t even a choice to go in or even Alex Biega. It took ONE game for Stecher to show he shouldn’t be anywhere else but in a jersey that says ‘VANCOUVER’. They put him with Alex Edler to start his career, that’s the top pairing! There’s no way you can send this guy down now.

Philip Larsen has existed and the brutally obvious funneling of the puck to his stick on the powerplay is nauseating. Not that he’s a bad player, he just isn’t the be all end all answer to their scoring problems. And that’s before they were problems. 3 assists to start the year aren’t enough to keep that mantle of top PP guy, even on this team.

Saturday night against the Capitals proved Stecher not only needs to be plunked into Larsen’s role but he needs to be plunked in the lineup every night. Whatever kind of rebuild/rebrand/teardown this is, somebody has to be extracted out of this lineup. Looking at the options, only a few names should even be considered: Edler-safe, Tanev-safe, Hutton-safe, Stecher-safe, Gudbranson-safe. Luca Sbisa, Nikita Tryamkin and Alex Biega are your choices… THAT’S IT!!!

The big Russian can’t be moved to the farm, Biega is waiver bait and then there’s Sbisa. He’s not the world’s worst defenseman but he’s not in the same hemisphere as the best. Philip Larsen does have a pretty good shot but that’s about it. Something has to give here.

Read these tweets and tell me Stecher isn’t the answer, you can’t:

This isn’t a love-in with Troy Stecher, it’s the point that needs to sink into the Canucks decision making. They have a guy that does things better than 3 other guys, so change the guy who’s there. I mean jeez, they put Frank Corrado on waivers, traded Gustav Forsling and Adam Clendening; where does the bleeding stop?

Willie finally put together a lineup against the Caps that resembled normalcy. Hansen with the Sedins and Horvat with Baertschi and Virtanen. Run with this for a bit, see what happens. His job has to be looked at if he keeps toying with the idea Jannik Hansen isn’t the best option for Henrik and Daniel.

Screw the 6-year contract of Loui Eriksson (seriously, that long?) and do what’s right. The Canucks rarely do what’s right and THAT’S why they’re in this mess, to begin with. Eriksson will be just fine with Brandon Sutter and I guess Jack Skille or Alex Burrows upon his return. Losing is going to become, yet again, a regular occurrence so it might as well be done building chemistry.

Nobody is content with circling back the wagon to “moral victories” or “Edler broke his stick again”; we need change. The Edmonton Oilers are freakishly close to righting their wrongs and that took, what, almost two decades!

If Canucks management is willing to wait that long, the city will most definitely turn on them.

We can only imagine Doug Jarvis will only stand for so much before he speaks out. That earpiece must have a lot of information that he doesn’t want coming out.

But hey, tomorrow’s a new day.

 

photo – theprovince.com

Defending The Canucks Defense… Is That Possible?

For starters, I’M not defending the defense of the Vancouver Canucks.

Seven games into the season and potentially the worst injury has already occurred: Chris Tanev has been damaged. I suppose Ben Hutton would be the next guy that would cause a public outcry to just burn Rogers Arena down and start over but that hasn’t happened so maybe put down the torches. There are numerous areas up and down the Canucks lineup that are cause for concern but the defense seems to be the lightning rod to start the year.

Believe it or not, though, Luca Sbisa isn’t the #1 target. It’s not even newbie Erik Gudbranson and his lack of “real good” defensing. Alex Edler has been better but is showing signs of coming around and Ben Hutton, well, don’t you dare raise a hand to him.

The elephant in the room so far is the guy that hasn’t even gotten a sniff after Chris Tanev went down: Nikita Tryamkin is wasting time with his “holier than thou” contract. When he first came over, the gimmick was obvious: a big, potentially speedy defender that could throw a hit and might even contribute on the scoresheet.

Thankfully for Tryamkin, last season turned into a lost cause early enough that he was given enough time to show what he could do and essentially learn the NHL game without the AHL training phase. As a fan, ideally, this is the situation to see the new flashy player everyone is talking about. The downside to all of this is he hasn’t translated (no pun intended) into anything worth showing off, at least yet.

We all know there was only one way Nikita was coming to North America and that playing in the AHL for any length of time was a non-starter. As someone who understands how development works, this is ridiculous and unless Tryamkin was the second coming of a defensive Pavel Bure/Zdeno Chara (ya I know, terrible reference), he is just wasting away sitting up in the press box deciding what kind of popcorn he likes best.

For my money, movie popcorn and buffalo chicken flavour from Kernels are the best; but this isn’t about me.

If Tryamkin is going to amount to anything on the Canucks, Jim Benning and Willie Desjardins, no wait, Doug Jarvis, should get together with Nikita’s translator and get it through his head that the NHL only exists for him if he’s willing to work. I’d love to see NT pan out because quite frankly I know the history of the Vancouver Canucks defensive corps and a player like him doesn’t come around very often.

When it comes to Russian players not exactly “playing along” in the NHL, this wouldn’t be the first time. The latest defector, Valeri Nichuskin of the Dallas Stars, headed back to the Motherland and we may never see him in an NHL jersey again. A recent article from The Canuck Way describes the “Russian Factor” and how it’s affecting the Canucks themselves right now.

Frustration is the feeling around the Canucks, it has to be. You have this potential gem just sitting there on a fitness program trying to get him to a point where you can sell the fact he is ready to be a possible game day decision. Goaltending doesn’t seem to be an issue this year, scoring would be an entirely different discussion and on defense, you need guys that can produce.

Preseason standout, Troy Stecher, finally made his Canucks debut against the Senators on Tuesday night and although he didn’t score, he Corsi’d like a boss and was pretty darn close to being the #1 used defenseman:

That being said, it was one game. If Chris Tanev gets back into the lineup on Friday against the world famous Edmonton Oilers, Stecher might be sent back down for cap reasons.

It’s not something you want to do when guys like Luca Sbisa are delivering pizzas on the regular and even Gudbranson isn’t turning heads. Rookie Philip Larsen won’t be taken out because the powerplay funnels through him; that’s a whole other conversation. If Stecher can’t stay, what does that mean for guys like Tryamkin and Alex Biega?

You can’t start putting these guys as forwards, this isn’t a beer league. Maybe this is the problem the Canucks need to potentially shop a guy like Sbisa or even Tryamkin while his hype value is still high enough?

Defending this team in 2016/17 isn’t a fun task and it will only get tougher. There are absolutely some huge bright spots to look forward to and with some tweaks, the Canucks defense might actually be worth talking about outside of Vancouver.

Can the Canucks find a way to make their backend work, that’s a pretty tough call. Up front, there won’t be much to talk about in a positive light until Canucks brass can decide on how this team will fit together.

Let’s all be happy we aren’t desperate for Thatcher Demko’s debut quite yet in net. It could be a lot worse and a few PPs combined with some goals from the guys that are supposed to score will keep the mobs at home for at least another day.

Don’t write them off yet.

 

photo – ottawacitizen.com