willie desjardins

Please Stop Talking About The Canucks Power Play

When the Canucks brought back Newell Brown as an associate/assistant coach (call it what you want), the big talk was how he was going to revive the power play and bring life to a long dead system. It is in fact dead. 2011 was so long ago and what was once a behemoth of firepower is now a squirt gun with no water.The problem, however, is that the Canucks power play isn’t the biggest issue. Sure, creating scoring chances and goals are at the top of the list with line chemistry nearing the top as well, but what the Canucks strongly need to address is the way they create power play opportunities.

If you happen to have watched even a handful of games last season, you would have noticed the Canucks aren’t all that fast. We can skip the “they aren’t very good either” comment because that’s a forgone conclusion. Penalties, for a large part, are taken when someone faster has the puck and the defending player can’t keep up so they obstruct the player to level their own playing field.

There are also penalties of the violent nature but again, it was pretty rare to see a Canucks commit one of those.

Last season, Vancouver ranked 28th in PP opportunities with 227, 50 behind the Philadelphia Flyers at #1. The Canucks power play connected a whopping 32 times so even when they did have the man-advantage, they were lost.

Of all places to draw penalties, one would think home ice would be the place to do it. It used to be back in the day when Brown ran the show and the last thing teams wanted to see was the Sedins set up for an eventual goal. They’re still setting up but the league has caught up and Henrik and Daniel aren’t as scary anymore.

Vancouver’s home PP opportunities were one better than the Columbus Blue Jackets last year with 112 to CBJ’s 111. Not much speed in the Canucks’ legs for most of the year meant they weren’t going to be breaking away from their opponents, it also meant they weren’t going to be catching up with them either as the Canucks tied the New Jersey Devils for 6th in goals against with 241.

Former coach Willie Desjardins didn’t create lines that made teams think how they would defend the Canucks and at the same time, the talent on Vancouver’s roster didn’t exactly scream “competitive”. Loui Eriksson was supposed to bring scoring and his injury-plagued season combined with turrble (Charles Barkley’s pronunciation of terrible) linemates and a lack of opportunity with the Sedins kept the Canucks predictable.

The old Canucks became a powerhouse because they had two strong lines that were creative and just when you thought you had the book on them, they changed it up. From the slap-pass to the slingshot, it was the Sedins that led the charge and opponents had to try and cheat to stop their progress and that’s when the penalties came.

All too often it was shift after shift of going through the motions. There weren’t many memorable games, let alone shifts and even crossing the opponent’s blue line was a challenge unto itself. The Canucks are a team of personified tar so asking them to be faster won’t be fixed with a team building weekend at Whistler.

This problem will take time to turn around and in time it will but for now simply getting close enough to put pucks on net would be their first goal.

In 2018, players like Nikolay Goldobin, Bo Horvat and Brock Boeser give the Canucks an opportunity get creative again and input speed into every shift. One can only hope that newly-signed Erik Gudbranson can deliver what he says he can bring which I think is muscle and maybe some scoring, Alex Edler helps the rebuild by showing the young defenders what goal scoring used to look like and a bounce back season from Troy Stecher gets the ball rolling again.

By no means will this team turn it all around and have a top-5 PP unit but it can only go up from where it was and that at the very least is worth talking about. Once the expansion draft happens and everyone knows what is left, Jim Benning can hopefully bring in a new player that can help the Canucks get ahead.

So let’s stop talking about this new power play, alright? It’s hard enough watching them score ANY kind of goal.

Follow me on twitter: @always90four

photo – vancouversun.com

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

Canucks At The End Of The Beginning Of The End

If there’s one thing that is beyond frustrating about the Canucks it would be everything.

I had a perfectly good article half-written about the Sedins and why it’s time to retire and yadda yadda yadda they need to stay. The 2016 and 2017 seasons have been a cluster of both surprise and utter disappointment. Losing out on the 3rd overall draft spot in last year’s entry draft but getting a stud in Olli Juolevi and signing Troy Stecher out of college to find out he too, will one day be a star has kept the angry mob at bay.

The start of the Jim Benning era could have seen an immediate end with the lack of direction and insight into many of his decisions early on. It continued after coach Willie Desjardins’ first season when the rubber really hit the road and we all saw how the Canucks were going to be run both on and off the ice.

You would almost think they both had a personal vendetta against certain players or the team itself at times but things seem to be slowly taking a turn for the better. It’s anyone’s guess if Willie D gets the ax after this season ends or if Benning officially is on empty, what is clear though is what potential upside the team has going into next year.

Watching rookie Brock Boeser command respect on the ice as he dazzles and amazes with Bo Horvat and Sven Baertschi is a welcome change from the dull, dreary scene we’ve witnessed for the last few years. Boeser is a true star in the making with three goals in his first seven games and there is no doubt he will give the Canucks a much-needed punch of offense going forward. Same can be said for the young Nikolay Goldobin.

I was almost at my wit’s end for how the Sedins should have ended their careers but now I can see they need to ride it out a bit longer. The problem many have with them is that a suitable linemate always seems to elude them. There have been no efforts to split them up for longer than a period or two and the other mentality is that they still are the top line on the team.

Their declining production shows they aren’t the top line anymore and shouldn’t see the same ice time that top lines get. I believe the Sedins are still very valuable as a pair in a teaching role, much like how they were brought along by the president and former teammate Trevor Linden. We’ve seen Goldobin connect with the Sedins quite early and for him, it’s about effort and seeing the opportunity with players that can help him excel.

Could the Sedins get bumped down to the second or third line? Absolutely. In fact, it should happen so the progression of the franchise can take place. However it’s happened, Benning has brought the future a bit quicker than we may have thought and the end of this horrible beginning of the rebuild is almost at the end.

What?

Jimbo signed Jayson Megna recently to a one-year deal at the lowest possible contract($675k) and on the surface, we were ready for blood. Megna isn’t a first line player and that contract states it as such. What he does bring is speed and on a bottom six spot or even solely as a fourth line winger along with Derek Dorsett and even Michael Chaput or Brendan Gaunce, he can be better utilized with more effective shifts and a lot less ice time. It’s actually a monster bargain if done right.

Does the #ExposeSutter2017 movement pan out? Time will tell and if he actually IS claimed by the Vegas Golden Knights then a big contract is off the books and Horvat can take a few of those dollars while the rest can be used to bring in someone from free agency.

Treating this season as a write-off and gaining a potential “generational player” impact forward through the draft makes much of the suffering bearable. The Canucks have endured so many injuries there was no way this team could even potentially succeed to a possible playoff berth and through some of those injuries, an opportunity arose.

Markus Granlund will be back next year and can contribute on the second line, Loui Eriksson had the worst possible luck this year (much like Radim Vrbata did) and he will be able to rebound in 2018 with Granlund and possibly the Sedins once more. Somehow, Erik Gudbranson will be given another chance which kind of goes against the rebuild mentality because he’s just so bad, like he’s really bad, people.

We can go on and on about how things have to get worse before they get better and believe me, they’re bad. The toughest part in all of this is that the team itself didn’t believe they were this bad until it was too late. Had WD bought into what was going on, he could have salvaged a new contract as I don’t think he’ll be brought back.

The youth movement is coming in waves around the NHL and the Canucks finally have embraced it and at some point, they will benefit. It’s not going to happen overnight and next season will still be a learning curve but it’s coming around and within five years, the Canucks will be challenging for at the very least, a division crown.

They’re almost at the end of this terrible beginning and we’ll be able to breathe again if the franchise can make a splash in June.

photo – timescolumnist.com

How Willie D Sealed His Fate With Just One Comment

We’ve learned a lot about the Canucks in the last two seasons, well really all three that Willie Desjardins has been the head coach. We found out how to play “really good”, we found out how to show “must” and if you happened to play for Medicine Hat or your name was Jayson Megna, you got some extensive playing time with the Sedins and if it wasn’t the Sedins you just stayed in the lineup.

Believe it or not, those weren’t the defining moments for Willie D. What ultimately sealed his fate, in my opinion, is this comment brought to the public by The Province’s Jason Botchford:

Botch also backed up what he believe Willie meant in the latest “The Pat-Cast” and it wasn’t as blunt as the tweet came off. However, what was alarming was that WD brought that up in the first place. He’s asking a guy that is still ultimately learning the team system and trying to keep his coach happy, to be something he probably hasn’t been asked to be all year.

I think it’s safe to say we all think Nikita Tryamkin has a ton of potential and could be a variation of Zdeno Chara which would be great. He has a booming shot that will take some time to harness and his awareness is getting better. Taking the stats out of this, Tryamkin has progressed leaps and bounds from when he first got here and the Canucks may have a diamond in the rough with him.

So if Willie wanted him to “eliminate” Marchand from THAT game so they could win, how does he explain his deployment of the rest of the team over the past few years? You can’t honestly expect one player to define the game when he isn’t even the game-changer on the team. I hate Brad Marchand, I really do, but it would have taken a lot more than a Tryamkin scare to put him out of that one.

It’s not just one moment or one game that can make a season. He has to have a track record of successful decisions to put his team in a better position to win. He just hasn’t done that in Vancouver.

Willie wanting Tryamkin to decide the Boston game is ironic. Had he put massively better lineups together combined with proper deployments in-game, he wouldn’t have had to ask guys to decide random games. Putting Horvat out for the final minutes instead of Anton Rodin, Derek Dorsett, Luca Sbisa, etc. probably would have earned them a few extra wins.

Giving Ryan Miller a rest more than once a month might help them win more games. Richard Bachman and Jacob Markstrom have both just sat there while Miller has been demanded to put the team on his back. We can go on and on with players like Linden Vey as well and you just have to wonder why he would choose now to be frustrated.

Going back to the confusing Anton Rodin saga, it’s mind-boggling as to why he carried out that the way he did. There may be more to all of this than we get to see but the optics were so beyond horrible that it brings his judgment into question. Continuing on with Biega or making random decisions like health-scratching scoring winger Baertschi this year keeps me scratching my head and not because I have dandruff (I mean, sometimes I do but it’s under control now), it just makes no sense as to how he is keeping this team believing in his message.

Willie has asked players that don’t normally have specific roles like “PK specialist or forward” to do that job out of nowhere. Alex Biega isn’t a forward, he’s a defenseman. So why is he getting playing time ahead of callups or healthy forwards? Why is Chris Tanev on the power play? Why did Loui Eriksson not get a longer tryout with the Sedins to start the season?

The answers aren’t going to come overnight and he was helicopter coaching every situation. A good coach will trust the process and if enough time passes, he can adapt. WD didn’t trust that Horvat could be a contributor long term and he gradually gave him responsibility and each time he prospered.

And yet guys like Drew Shore fly overseas and get valuable ice time right away. Same can be said for how Jayson Megna for whatever reason was Willie’s MVP for most of the season. That guy shouldn’t have even been in the lineup most nights. Now he has Michael Chaput with the Twins which makes zero sense. How has Joseph Cramarossa received as much opportunity as he has? His mindset as to how this team should operate is skewed.

I’d suggest having Nikolay Goldobin with them but Brandon Sutter is actually the better option.

You did this to yourself, Willie.

I like you, I really do. It’s been nice to see a different personality behind the bench and he helped put together the Horvat/Baertschi pairing. He also gave Troy Stecher a chance as well as Ben Hutton. Not giving Jordan Subban a chance to play is a sore spot with many but that will happen when it’s time.

What this season has also shown everyone is that the Sedins may need to be separated.  It’s time. Sure, they’ll continue to have moments and maybe you trot them out together occasionally or on the second power play unit but they aren’t getting the results that should be expected from aging players. Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane started together but they play on separate lines now and you know what, they still produce.

They aren’t brothers or telepathic twins but they can survive without each other. Henrik and Daniel need to be told to sit on different spots on the bench. If the Canucks and Willie, for the time being, are serious about the rebuild then they have to commit to actually rebuilding.

WD has a few more weeks to make an impact and even though he is essentially out the door he can get things in a better position for the future. Figuring out that Markus Granlund was better than we knew helped his cause and slowly moving along Reid Boucher to a spot where he can succeed may help him by year’s end.

Willie Desjardins has made friends and enemies in Canucks Nation but he’s lost us as believers and I can’t imagine that Canucks management feels different.

He’ll get another opportunity but Vancouver needs someone to bring them to the next level or at the very least keep them from allowing 40+ shots per game.

Follow me on twitter: @always90four

Willie Desjardins Wasn’t The Answer To The Canucks; They’re Still Figuring Out The Question

Three seasons into Willie Desjardins’ tenure as the Canucks head coach and he still hasn’t been able to progress the on ice product to the next level. General Manager Jim Benning, hasn’t exactly equipped WD to the point where he may have been able to take the team further but he hasn’t hindered the Canucks chances anymore or any less overall. Benning can’t call the lines during the game so at this point, the coach looks like the fall man.

There are so many examples of why Willie Desjardins hasn’t been a great fit in Vancouver and aside from his first season as bench boss of the Canucks, it’s been amazingly painful to watch this team sink down the rankings. Willie hasn’t progressed the power play, the penalty kill is equally dismal and as you go down every category, the Canucks just aren’t close to being a forward moving team.

Winning faceoffs can’t be credited to Willie as Manny Malhotra has been the reason for their success in that area. It doesn’t mean they should make him coach, though.

The decisions are mounting as we get closer to the end of the year and decisions like benching new Canuck forward Nikolay Goldobin after scoring a goal just isn’t smart at all. A game later, he seemed to trust him more and even gave Goldobin PP time but I can’t imagine that was Willie’s call. WD is a developmental coach with players that haven’t quite made it yet and the body of work that we’ve seen is evidence of that.

In the AHL, Willie was great. He was highly sought after once he made it to the Dallas Stars coaching staff and once the move happened, we all found out that head coaching in the NHL isn’t exactly the same as assistant coaching in the NHL.

It’s no secret the Sedins are nearing the end of their respective careers in the league but Willie keeps putting them out in top minute situations and giving them first billing on the power play. The Sedins are phenomenal players and are still among the leaders for the Canucks in scoring but they aren’t THE leaders in scoring anymore and would need some help to keep up with the guys taking over.

So is this really ALL Desjardins’ fault? Not entirely. He inherited a team that was in transition and has been given second-tier stars to lead his team. Radim Vrbata had checked and rightfully so, he was underutilized. Loui Eriksson no doubt has checked out as well and he just got here.

Knowing the direction the Canucks need to go isn’t rocket science but they’ll have to have more than just Bo Horvat and eventually Brock Boeser. They’ll also need a coach willing to put these players into a position to succeed; Desjardins just isn’t doing that enough.

If players are proving their worth on the ice then they need to be given more responsibility, not less. Trotting out 3rd and 4th line players in the dying minutes of a game doesn’t exactly scream success.

Maybe WD just wasn’t ready for what was in front of him, I don’t know. What he should have been able to do was see which players were going to help aid the team and which ones hindered it. Going back to the Sedins, the never ending question of who their winger will be isn’t just on Willie D, it’s always been a problem.

From 2007-2011, the answer just found itself but when a player like Jannik Hansen statistically and analytically was the best option, WD kept putting fringe NHLers at the Sedin’s side. It’s just bad coaching is what it is.

Scratching Sven Baertschi or benching Anton Rodin has to be a red alert for management and it’s possible they’ll let it ride out to the end of the season, but why? How do they let a guy who dresses an injured player sit on the bench for the ENTIRE game hang around?

Do you think Baertschi has great things to say about Willie if he was let go; I’d expect an Alex Burrows type of confession from him.

Teams can their coaches mid-season all the time. The Canadiens did it as soon as Claude Julien became available because they knew what they were going to get. The current Canucks management just doesn’t have enough experience in these types of decisions. The scouting seems to be a whole lot better and the drafting is coming along, heck, some of the trades are even working out but the man entrusted to lead the team every night isn’t working any magic.

However this season finishes, be it the 1st overall pick or the 3rd, the Canucks need to retool and continue the rebuild course they’re on. Loyalty needs to be thrown to the curb as the Oilers finally did and their turnaround seems to be doing alright.

This team has lost its identity for the time being and no Boston or Los Angeles or Chicago model will solve their woes, it’s on the Canucks to figure out who they are themselves. Speed looks to be the direction the team is headed with some fancy playmakers in tow. Young studs in Troy Stecher, Ben Hutton, Boeser, Horvat, and Goldobin are proof this team isn’t dead.

Barely alive, but not dead.

We started off with “real good” and we’re now stuck with #firewillie. The Canucks fan base doesn’t like a loser and it wasn’t that long ago that Jim Benning was the man on the hot seat. He might get the ax too, but he’s bought himself some time since the deadline and his success at the draft.

There are way too many questions still with this Canucks squad but a handful of answers are showing up and coaching will be the first domino to fall. It’s suffocating to watch this team struggle to compete against even the worst teams, they deserve better.

Right?

Follow me on twitter: @always90four

photo – vancouver sun

It’s Official: The Canucks Are The Definition Of Insanity

Most of you have heard the saying “the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.” The Canucks would then fall under this category. That isn’t the ACTUAL definition but you get the idea. The power play, the head scratching roster decisions and trading away 2nd round picks, WHY DO THEY KEEP TRADING THAT PICK?

It’s about time the Canucks as a whole, get out of that cycle.

There is a serious change about to happen in Vancouver and it’s not the weather, sorry. The Canucks have unearthed some interesting stories this season and it really covers every aspect of this team. The ones that look them dead in the face are obviously the power play and the emergence of Bo Horvat as the top centre.

For starters, the power play needs a complete overhaul. I’m not talking about a TLC reality show, I’m talking about seeing the actual performers on the team, their productivity levels and the potential of the guys that aren’t getting time there. Horvat is tied for the team lead in points and at some point will break away and top everyone.

He’s been a consistent threat up the middle and has made Sven Baertschi a household name. Heck, Alex Burrows became a young man again because of Bo. I haven’t even mentioned that he made the All-Star game in his 3rd season.

Oh, ok, now I have.

The Sedins, although crafty and still fairly good, are not number ones anymore. Give the next generation the baton. Aligning Loui Eriksson with Bo on the first unit will pay dividends within a short amount of time and before you know it, goals will start happening. Goals lead to wins I’m told.

On the back end, Nikita Tryamkin has shown that his howitzer has crazy real potential. It’s hard, it’s fast, it’s destructive: a recipe for a beautiful disaster. If it’s not from the blue line, start moving him up front to screen, I mean, he’s the BFG, he’s tall and screeny. The actual possibility that these things could work isn’t something you read on the Internet (well here you do anyway), people are figuring this out on their own.

I did and I write a blog in my parent’s living room.

Thankfully, the Canucks aren’t the most penalized team in the league but the rest of the NHL is getting faster and the younger players need to be the ones leading the charge. Slow players need to catch up which usually correlates to penalties, hooking, holding, etc. Seeing Jordan Subban get sent back down to Utica hurt but he was able to play in the AHL All-Star game and he no doubt will be back soon.

Subban is another player that needs to make the next step for Vancouver. He’s ready and offers so much potential and speed. Reconfiguring this team to transition to the new NHL will benefit the Canucks sooner than they think. Brock Boeser and Olli Juolevi will arrive soon enough which means someone up front is gone on the wing which is pretty easy and someone on the back end is expendable.

There are enough pieces back there to choose from and realistically, there is a player that can fetch a decent return.

But enough about the dismal power play, what about starting Ryan Miller every night but yesterday? Willie Desjardins can’t continue to isolate Ryan Miller in the net, he needs a partner that can ease the load, especially if the playoffs are something they want to achieve. Miller is having a great season and really feels at home and keeping the Canucks alive every game he plays would be all for not if they burn him out.

Thatcher Demko isn’t quite ready and shouldn’t be rushed in to the mix, Cory Schneider was given time and he flourished because of it. Give Miller rest and he can perform like an All-Star.

What drives everyone crazy is that many of these changes just aren’t or won’t be happening. It’s a stubborn leadership group off the ice that is keeping this team from succeeding. Look at the Leafs, Oilers and Flames; if they would have seen themselves spinning their tires on ice (no pun intended) they would have realized what answers were right in front of them.

Edmonton only JUST realized this recently but that’s a whole other thing and I don’t write about the Oilers.

The surface hasn’t even been scratched on all the things that could immediately remedy the Canucks (not playing Jayson Megna, like at all, Erik Gudbranson getting another shot next year) but if the little things they are doing well continue, the chance that these other changes take place become more and more likely.

It’s insane to think the same thing has gone on this long. Why is this team so afraid of the next step?

Time’s up, we’ll cover this in another session.

Follow me on twitter: @always90four

How The Canucks Have Gone ‘Full Willie D’ In 5 Steps

We’ve all heard the phrase “never go full (insert name here)” in regards to buying in passed the point of no return where all the decisions you make are now in serious trouble. Well, the Canucks are now in some potentially dangerous territory that may or may not result in some big changes. Come to think of it, they’re passed the danger zone… they’ve gone ‘Full Willie Desjardins’.

There have been a growing amount of decisions/non-decisions, comments and “real goods” that have put the Canucks in a bit of a bind. Sure, not all the current problems with this team can be acquainted with the Jim Benning, Willie Desjardins and that Weisbrod fella, but after the first year of Willie’s tenure in Vancouver, it’s abundantly unclear of where this team is headed.

Are the Canucks ever going to be a playoff team again? Can the power play be revived? How long does Willie last?

All of these questions are nagging at our brains and if the Canucks continue down the same road, not only will they JUST miss the playoffs but they’ll end up with a mediocre draft pick, yet again, and the impact players we need will pass the team by. WD has frustrated the heck out of all of us and below are the five ways the Canucks have truly gone FULL WILLIE D and why we should probably be more worried than confused.

1 – THE POWER PLAY STINKS LIKE A BONE MARROW DOG FART

I really wish I didn’t have to get so descriptive about that but if you have experienced that smell, you have also experienced the current Canucks power play situation. It’s awful, unbearable, and I can’t even be in the same room when it happens. On January 15, the Canucks were 27th in the league with the man advantage and could easily fall to last by garbage day.

It’s so darn predictable and I’m amazed that Willie and his coaching staff hasn’t figured out that the fans, as well as the Canucks opponents, have figured it out move for move. Until the game against the Devils, there was no change to the execution: gain the zone, pass it around to the Sedins, eventually, let Stecher shoot from the blue line…no goal, try again.

Had no one on the team suggested, and I’m including the Sedins here, maybe using Nikita Tryamkin at the net to set up a screen? He’s such a big dude that it’s painfully obvious that would at the very least put the PP up a few spots. If not him, how about Loui Eriksson “goal scoring machine”? He digs in front and has the natural talent to score goals with a shovel. He just needs a chance.

Henrik and Daniel will continue to lead the team on the power play because Willie isn’t willing (no pun intended) to let the younger, faster-moving players take over. The PP has gone Full Willie which is ironic because it’s basically empty.

2 – PRESS CONFERENCES REQUIRE M. NIGHT SHYMALAN TO DECIPHER

When it all started everything was good. Literally. In fact, it was “really good” no matter the player or situation. It’s been awhile since WD has uttered a true “really good” but there hasn’t been much good to talk about. The pressers are filled with reasons why the PP will continue, why Jake Virtanen can’t play after being called up, something about stuff? and how players are not injured and then really injured within a day of nothing happening.

The same power play that is almost last is about to take off? WOW! I don’t get it.  Here’s another head-scratcher:

How about when Jake Virtanen was on his way back up to the Canucks after a 2 game conditioning stint and couldn’t play because he forgot his stuff? Honestly, what does that even mean? It’s fine to lie to us or withhold the truth but c’mon man, don’t just flat out BS everyone. I get that we shouldn’t be intensely excited for certain players who most definitely will not turn this team around in one shift but just stop the crap.

It’s carried over to the players now:

Willie has forced them into a game of chance, apparently. This is the point where the coach needs to get his team to buy into a win in regulation because of the odds of taking overtime. To be fair, if the Canucks make OT, we actually don’t have any idea of what will happen.
Henrik, what’s your take?

So I’m guessing Ro-sham-bo is next? That at least would be more entertaining.

The pressers are so Full Willie D.

3 – PLAYING WITH 5 DEFENSEMEN IS WAY HARDER THAN 6

This shouldn’t even be included because it’s just common sense. If you have a healthy player and an open spot and you dress him, you play him. Even 2 minutes is ok. Benching a guy you’re trying to figure out just pisses him off. In a game where the Canucks lost by a goal, you’d think having a rested defense pairing for at least a minute or so would give them just a bit of a breather to fight for the tying goal.

Nope.

Let’s play with 5 defensemen, almost 4 that night, and see if we can outlast a division opponent. That’s stupid. Anton Rodin is the player in question and even though it was a short turn around to play the Flames for a second straight night, management, as well as the coaches should have never let a player dress with zero intent of playing him.

This ranks up there with some of the stupidest stuff in the game, Patrik Stefan missing an empty net to ice the game is right there too! If the playoffs are the goal, you have to have a full team to try and get those points. Maybe Willie should try that in game 82 when it’s all on the line. I don’t know if he likes a challenge or if it’s some crazy AHL/WHL thing he has done before but this is the NHL and everyone is laughing at us.

Playing without a full deck is big time Willie D.

4 – THE BLENDER IS GONE AND THE TURNSTILE IS BROKEN

When things get tough, a coach usually chucks his lines in the blender and sees what sticks. WD doesn’t even OWN a blender so what you see is what you get… on a losing team. I agree, there are some lines that shouldn’t be broken up like the Horvat/Baertschi/Burrows and the Sutter/Granlund pairing but how did it take THIS long to get Loui Eriksson back on the Sedin line?

They’re all Swedish, that should have been the first sign. They played on the same line at the World Cup and paying Loui a ton of cash to score goals with the Sedins means… playing with the Sedins and scoring goals. The natural progression of players earning time to move up seems to have gone by the wayside for the Canucks.

Bo Horvat had to absolutely crush it to get off the fourth line and when he was given the third line he basically turned it into line two. Brandon Sutter immediately had line two locked up and he wasn’t the best choice when he started. From there, injuries started coming and Jannik Hansen, the Sedins ideal linemate, was put on IR. So Jayson Megna was given the immunity idol and has been up front for way too long.

Jayson Megna shouldn’t even be on the Canucks and he’s getting prime ice with the Twins. Makes sense. It’s as stubborn as Linden Vey/Derek Dorsett crunch time minutes down a goal, up a goal, you get the picture. Willie is throwing away chances and it’s like he doesn’t even care. He probably doesn’t even realize he’s doing it.

OH CRAP, BO HORVAT is here? Aw man, I gotta get him some minutes. Oh wait, I guess it’s Rodin’s time to show me what he can do. You see what’s happening here?

The line rushes have gone Full Willie D.

5 – EVEN SPORTSNET IS AFFECTED

Imagine you are awarded a $5.2B TV contract and what’s better is that you have essentially exclusive access to all the Canadian hockey teams. You get the built-in fanbases and get to steal talent from the other networks. You figure it’s all downhill from here and then you realize that the Canadian hockey market has taken a pretty big hit in viewership and the word TANK comes up a lot.

Once the broadcasts end we find out who really changed the game and the 3 stars are announced. Even Sportsnet has gone Full Willie D.

Lately, it’s like no one even works there anymore LINK.

Can the Canucks buck this sickness and get back to being a relatively normal hockey team or have they gone so full Willy D that it’s too late and we are doomed to watch frustrating, unrewarding, drop pass crap.

Please, Willie, see the error of your ways and fix this team. Not the next team or the team before, this one. They just need to know you’re paying attention still.

Follow me on twitter: @always90four

 

photo – sportsnet.ca

Win or Lose: Willie Desjardins Needs A New Plan

The carousel of ideas is endless: there are so many ways to potentially fix the Canucks. Not ALL the problems can be fixed with these ideas but just a bit of common sense could ultimately turn the Canucks around and get them in a position to succeed sooner. Willie Desjardins could be given all the statistical evidence he would need to put the Canucks in a more productive state and it seems his stubbornness to adapt has hindered the Canucks’ progress.

He needs a new plan.

Hard facts will show you that goals aren’t being scored in Vancouver, for the Canucks anyways, in almost any fashion. The Canucks are currently 25th in the league in GF/GP, 27th in PP% and back to 20th in PK%. Actual goals for and against are right in there as well. Even on paper, the Canucks probably should be better than they are.

How they’ve configured their lines and failed to implement the right players into a given game shows that Willie and his coaches are not adapting to a changing NHL landscape, well that and they’re just not coaching well.

Aside from Jannik Hansen, the only day-to-day option to be playing with the Sedins should be Loui Eriksson. Jim Benning is paying him $6M a season to score goals and help ultimately, the Sedins score more as well. Until recently, that option wasn’t even given a fighting chance, let alone a chance at all.

I believe the Sedins aren’t as worn out as they have looked, they just need a player that fits them and we all believed the World Cup line with Sweden was a precursor to what we could expect on the Canucks. The unfortunate part of that is that Willie D isn’t the Swedish coach so he may not have seen those games.

Proper coaching would also have revealed that the Sedins probably shouldn’t be on the top powerplay unit anymore, either. If they were going to hang around on that top unit until season’s end, put a better model forward. Sven Baertschi and Bo Horvat clearly are the changing of the guard and as their points increase, Willie will have to adjust to where the goals are coming from.

You will never see me bad mouth Henrik and Daniel Sedin, they’ve earned their spot in Canucks history as essentially, the best ever; what they aren’t doing anymore is making quick, effective plays that result in goals, leads, and wins. Yes, they’re still scoring but its how much more they could be scoring that is more alarming.

The powerplay is awful and when the puck continues to be funneled to Troy Stecher, goals aren’t going to be falling from the sky. Stecher has had a great start to his season but no one has plunked themselves in front of the net and in the dirty areas to fight for goals. Brandon Sutter is the only one and he shouldn’t be the only one.

It’s not that crazy to think that Nikita Tryamkin would be a good option to stand in front and direct traffic until a rebound comes, it really couldn’t hurt. His height and build are reason alone to put him there. Large man in front of the net; seems easy. If it’s not him, Loui Eriksson is a big guy and his stick works just fine. Somehow, Jayson Megna is on one of the powerplay units and he, of all people, does not score goals.

Megna has 3 goals.

Michael Chaput is 2 goals away from that. I’M 3 goals away… me. I don’t play hockey for anyone. I’ll say one thing, though: if Sven Baertschi and Bo Horvat or Loui Eriksson are creating chances, they need more opportunity. The Sedins are becoming more predictable than normal and the rest of the league is finally able to catch them (it took 10 years).

Heck, overload the top group until the goals start coming. It wouldn’t be the first time that’s happened and if you put all of your eggs in one basket, something has to give, right?

What about the whole Anton Rodin/5D issue? Is this something that could have been avoided? ABSOLUTELY!

We all know the details of this now, it’s been repeated ad nauseum. Recent waiver addition Reid Boucher, who has a defensive awareness who at the very least could have fielded a few shifts on the blue line or Jack Skille another defensive forward or knowing you had a banged up Rodin the night before which could have resulted in Andrey Pedan being called up; THAT would be a proper fix.

It’s putting Derek Dorsett out in the final minutes of a close game when everyone and their dog knows Bo Horvat or Brandon Sutter would be a way better option. These are simple coaching decisions that are being pushed aside. Don’t get me wrong, Willie is a pretty good coach but he will “coach” himself out of a job if he doesn’t see the obvious changes that should be made.

The wrong players on the wrong lines, the wrong lines at the wrong time, and a coach who doesn’t know what he has; it’s funny how we’ve moved away from Jim Benning because if this was about him (which it kinda is) we’d want him gone. I suppose we did want him gone already. Nevermind.

The Canucks have the capacity to score goals and as the next few years come there could be a lot more of them. Don’t put a cap on talent, Willie. You gave Ben Hutton, Bo Horvat, Jake Virtanen, and even Jared McCann all a chance and if you’re willing to risk that much, that early, you should be able to make the right moves half way through a season when it’s gone wrong.

Making the proper rational adjustments would also give Ryan Miller and Jacob Markstrom a better chance to win games. Vancouver has been in 20 1-goal games this season, which is just under half of what they’ve played. If even 5 of those games went the other way including OT/shootouts, the Canucks would be 5th in the Conference and snuggly above the playoff bar.

A million people can’t be wrong, although many of us wish we were wrong more.

The Canucks are a good team but bad decisions have forced them to become a pretty bad team. This isn’t right. There needs to be change or this team will rot out.

Follow me on twitter: @always90four

 

photo- usatoday.com

Canucks Taking Advantage Of Weak Division

Pretty much stating the obvious here but for the time being the Canucks would be wise to fool whoever they can while the getting is good. As of right now, the Canucks sit a point back of 8th and four back of 5th place in the West. This is the same Canucks team that earlier this year went winless in 9 games. There are a lot of teams that are worse than they should be and a handful that are playing above their means.

The Canucks are the latter.

I probably should have titled this “You Can’t Spell Canucks Without PDO.” I spent an hour deciding that, believe it or not. This time last year, the Canucks were also a point out of a playoff spot and were stringing together a few wins as well. Is this the point in the season where the good teams get lazy and the bad teams make the headlines?

When the NHL gets back to normal, which I believe they are going through some kind of parallel universe, the way the Canucks and teams like them are playing won’t scratch the surface on getting into the playoff picture.

As Willie Desjardins continually ices a team with line combinations only The Riddler would understand, we all ask ourselves how the heck this team has stayed competitive? They lack depth in the goal scoring department, the defense looks good but in reality, isn’t exactly lighting up the score sheet and as far as goaltending goes the Russian Roulette of starts is pretty confusing.

Goaltending has been a strong suit this season and without Ryan Miller and Jacob Markstrom holding down the fort, Nolan Patrick or at least his value in a tradeable draft pick would be very possible. It’s relieving to know they can bring Thatcher Demko along more gradually.

What the current Pacific division and to a lesser extent, the Western Conference, is showing us is that speed seems to reward teams. The Canucks are not a speedy team in theory, and their luck will catch up with them eventually and sink them back to the bottom of the standings.

Watching Henrik and Daniel on any given night is frustrating because they have been asked to be the number one line and they really shouldn’t be anymore. If this team was ready to embrace the change on the fly or rebuild or whatever, the Horvat line and the Sutter line would be taking over at this point. There is way more speed on the 2nd and 3rd lines and by giving the Sedins prime ice time, it’s strangling any chance for hope this team might have.

Every team that has a share of a playoff spot has some speed and the Canucks do not. The Sedin hooking penalty will go down in Canucks history but they’ve never been fast enough to out skate the league’s speedsters. Not to knock the Twins but if that is all the Canucks are hanging their hats on, they need to make sure they can stay in every game or get get caught watching the puck go the other way.

Bringing up PDO for a second, the Canucks currently sit 24th in the “luck” category and as they play closer to their actual selves if that’s even possible, they could jump into the top 10 within a week or two. The Pacific division hasn’t made many adjustments to stay competitive so that actually speaks well for the Canucks.

The Kings lost Jonathan Quick in October and haven’t bothered to address their goaltending situation. They aren’t that far ahead of the Canucks on the season, both teams have similar records and not like it would come down to it but I’d actually give the Canucks a fighting chance against LA in a playoff series this year.

Sneaking in this year would mean Vancouver would probably get Chicago and it would be a blood bath. There is nothing wrong with the Blackhawks and they may very well make a deep run this spring. They are exempt from this discussion as everything the Hawks do seems to work out.

Five wins in a row are pretty impressive and for a team that couldn’t string together two wins in a row most of the season, this is quite the run. It’s an outlying performance but we should definitely enjoy it while it lasts.

When you look at what the Blue Jackets are doing you get excited but like all Cinderella stories, the clock will strike 12 and you’ll be stuck with a pumpkin again.

Vancouver can still keep this going and build some faith with the fan base but they have to stop jerking everyone around and start making decisions that are logical. It’s not just management that has made fumbles and it’s not just the head coach; this whole organization has to be on the same page and buy in together to make a difference.

Jim Benning and Willie Desjardins need to stop nickel and diming this team and decide on guys like Anton Rodin, Brendan Gaunce and whatever it is they thought they were going to do with Loui Eriksson and move forward.

Having a perennial 25-30 goal scorer begging to be on the top line after he has shown time and time again he is producing with less than ideal linemates. Eriksson needs to be given the keys to the offense and if it’s not with the Sedins it should be with Bo Horvat and Sven Baertschi as a top line.

Life is good right now for Canucks fans but don’t hold your breath, the conference will right itself and the Canucks will be the team we thought they’d be.

Thankfully, 65 points now seems like a distant memory now.

Follow me on twitter: @always90four

Follow my blog too, I’d really appreciate it.

photo – yahoo.com

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

And it shouldn’t even be debated.

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

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

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

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

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

Proof the Sedins have actually played with Eriksson – Getty Images

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  

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

That sounds stupid. It was supposed to.

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

 

Follow me on twitter: @always90four