See You In September

horvat

Much has been said about the Canucks bandwagon, and the legions of fans that have broken ankles jumping off and on. Let’s not forget the debacle that was last season. Remember that prior to this season, the Canucks main objective was to make it back to the playoffs. Many Canucks fans jumped off the bandwagon throughout last year. Many of us that stayed on the wagon felt that the playoffs were unlikely.

In that regard, the Canucks season was a success. They put up 101 points this season finishing 2nd in the Pacific Division, and while expectations were raised, they were not realistic.

I’ll leave the heavy duty analysis to the hockey experts that have played the game and analyzed the game at a high level. The analysis changes from game to game, and shift to shift. It’s variable.

I am merely a fan, and my love affair with this team goes back for decades.

What I’ve always loved about this team through the 80s and 90s was that they always worked hard. Trevor Linden set the standard for hard work with one shift, and I think of that shift as a mission statement for this club:

Within that shift, you can see the heart of this team even today. You see it in the cycle of the Sedins, and the work of Bo Horvat and many others on this team.

With respect to the love affair, the Canucks are like that grade school crush. That girl (or boy) that was so cute in September when you first laid eyes on her. Every day you saw her in class, and your feelings grew. You sat next to her, talked to her, and as the school year went on, your feelings grew stronger.

All of a sudden late in the spring, class was dismissed, and your heart was broken. It was too soon – you just wanted one more day. As summer came and went, you went about to other things – summer camps, baseball, and days at the beach.

Then, there she was next September, and the love affair begins again.

Canucks Social Suite Night

canucks_jan_8_2015-0334

canucks_jan_8_2015-0591

Canucks Corner contest winner Michelle Chopin enjoying the Canucks Social Suite Night.

On January 8, 2015 the Vancouver Canucks hosted a Social Suite Night for 30 local bloggers, twitterati, social media personalities, and fans. At Canucks Corner, we ran a contest on Twitter, and drew Michelle Chopin (@michellechopin)  as our guest for the Social Suite Night. Congratulations Michelle!

The Canucks lost to Roberto Luongo and his new/old team last Thursday. As predicted, there was a lot of love for the Canucks #1 goalie for 8 years, and a video tribute was followed by a lengthy standing ovation. Luongo looked emotional as he saluted the crowd; he then went on to shut the door on the Canucks, who ended up losing the game 3-1. The Luus turned to boos, as the Canucks were barely able to muster more than a couple shots during nearly 4 1/2 minutes of consecutive power play time.

Despite the result of the game, good times were had. The suite had a visit from Fin, and Canucks Ring of Honour inductee Kirk McLean.

The Vancouver Canucks social media team is second to none in the NHL, perhaps in all of pro sports. On behalf of Canucks Corner, I’d like to thank the Vancouver Canucks, and their partner for the night the Save On Foods Fan Zone for putting on such a great event! If you get a chance, sign up for the Fan Zone for chances to win some amazing Canucks Experiences and merchandise.

Of Expectations and Ex-Goaltenders

luongo

Will fans boo? Or will they Luuu? January 8, 2015 marks the return of Roberto Luongo to Rogers Arena, his first game back as an opponent after 8 seasons as the usual starting goaltender in a Canucks uniform.

Usual starting goaltender.

The exceptions being when he was demoted to backup behind Cory Schneider, and when he was demoted to backup behind Eddie Lack. When you look back, it sounds ridiculous.

Luongo is now enjoying life in Florida as a member of the Panthers, as far away from the harsh and glaring spotlight of the Vancouver hockey market as you can be. He looked relaxed in the presser earlier this week, and why not? The Panthers have a good mix of youth and veteran presence, and have been winning hockey games, backstopped by Luongo who has played well statistically with a .924 save percentage and 2.28 goals against average, good enough for top 10 in both categories.

It is not without a touch of irony that Luongo is statistically better than Cory Schneider, Eddie Lack and even Ryan Miller at this point in the season.

Expectations have been lowered for this team – gone is the talk of the Stanley Cup Finals, instead replaced with the hope of just getting into the post-season.

The saying goes that familiarity breeds comtempt, and that held true for Vancouver’s love affair with Luongo – after many seasons of high expectations, Stanley Cup aspirations, and playoff disappointments, coaches and management fell out of love with Luongo, and in turn Luongo fell out of love with Vancouver.

Another adage says that absence makes the heart grow fonder. Sometimes when you see that old love, having fun in another place with other people, it makes you think of what could have been. If only we had tried harder, maybe we could have made things work.

Canucks Hope Springs Eternal

bonino The Canucks are off to one of their best starts in recent memory. After last season’s spectacular decline, this version of the team is a refreshing surprise. President Trevor Linden and General Manager Jim Benning have helped to create a team culture in their own hard working image. Head Coach Willie Desjardins has provided a calm sense of confidence, and each of the players seems to have bought in to an uptempo puck posession style that is fun to watch.

Having recently won in Colorado and in San Jose, the Canucks have surprised a few teams already with their resilience, clawing back from a 2-0 deficit against the Avalanche, and being down by a goal twice to the Sharks.

Is it over? Is the goaltending controversy really over?
Any initial reservations I had regarding Ryan Miller’s ability have been forgotten. It seems that the days of goaltending controversy are over in Vancouver, as even after Miller was lit up against Dallas, he returned to his regular self the very next game, backstopping the Canucks to a 4-1 victory in St. Louis. He has provided the team with some huge saves already this season, and preserved a number of wins, quietly and confidently. As much as this writer loved Roberto Luongo, the month of October was usually rocky. Miller has been the opposite – very consistent from game to game so far, and far fewer of those seeing-eye, hard luck, how-did-that-go-in goals.

In Edler’s Defense… Look at Sbisa
Was Alex Edler ever as bad as he looked for the last 2 seasons? Was he ever as good as he was 4 seasons ago? While the answer is probably somewhere in between, he doesn’t have to worry about being That Guy on defence any longer. Sure, Edler still breaks his stick on half of his slapshots, but Vancouver’s new scapegoat on defence is Luca Sbisa. Just like Kevin Bieksa, Keith Ballard and Edler before him, Sbisa is the guy with the black cloud over him so far this season. To be fair, he has had both good and bad moments. However, coming here in the Ryan Kesler trade, most people expected more of the big defenceman.

Forwards, March!
Goals this season have come from everywhere in the lineup. Aside from Bo Horvat and Tom Sestito, who have only played 2 games each, every single Canucks forward has scored at least one goal. When Kesler was traded to Anaheim, there were questions about who would step up into the 2C spot. Nick Bonino (who also came to Vancouver in the Kesler deal) has filled in admirably, leading the Canucks in scoring so far with 7 goals. Bonino has found great chemistry with new linemates Alex Burrows and Chris Higgins.

Last season under John Tortorella, the 4th line would be lucky to get 4 or 5 minutes TOI, and the Sedins would play well north of 24 hard minutes on many nights, reaching 25 or 26 minutes a number of times. Desjardins has been trusting in his team and rolling 4 lines every night, with guys like Derek Dorsett playing 10 minutes on average. The Sedins are rejuvenated, playing with a bona fide shooter in Radim Vrbata, while taking less ice time each night. This has the benefit of the Sedins being sharper now, and having more in the tank for later in the season.

Yes, it’s still early in the season, but in Vancouver it seems that again hope springs eternal. Let’s hope the Canucks are still playing this well in the spring.

Canucks Linden Sowing Seeds of Hope

FEATURE_700X400_MGNT
The good news is the NHL playoffs were fantastic. The bad news is the Canucks didn’t make the show and if they did, they would have been eliminated in 3 games. 
The gap between the Canucks and the teams in the playoffs is wider. The pace of the game in the playoffs was incredible, and the style of play in each and every series was hard hitting.

When the Canucks ownership fired Mike Gillis and hired Trevor Linden as President of Hockey Operations, it seemed like the ultimate Public Relations and Marketing move. The extension of the season ticket sales period, the fact that Linden has been away from hockey for many years, it just seemed as though it could be a horrible mistake. It seemed like Trevor Linden was the ultimate distraction – away from the fact that the team was getting older, the gap between the Canucks at the Western Conference was widening, and the cupboards were bare of any prospects.

Now, just a short time later, it seems there is hope. Maybe not hope for a lengthy playoff run, but for things that have been missing for just as long: development, hard work, and an exciting brand of hockey. It happened the same way for Linden as a player. The Canucks didn’t win President’s Trophies or Stanley Cups, but the fans were proud of the team and excited about the brand of hockey the Canucks played.

Linden hasn’t been on the job for very long. In his initial press conference, although he seemed green, he was Trevor – honest and approachable. He has conducted meetings with nearly everyone on the Canucks roster and staff. Since firing John Tortorella, he has hired Jim Benning as his General Manager, and Willie Desjardins as the Canucks next head coach.

What we know about Linden’s new hires is that he has created his management team in his own image.

Their game isn’t about showboating. They’re not flashy or sexy (okay except for Trevor), but they have other qualities. They’re all sincere and thoughtful. They have the same vision for the Canucks team. They’re all known as hard working. They were in demand. And they win. Win at every level. So far so good for Trevor Linden.

Next step is the draft. Keep hope alive.