Canucks Report at the Half Way Mark

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After 42 games, the Canucks are 23-12-7. The team managed to string together a 7 game win streak, on their way to posting a 10-1-2 record in December, their best month of the season so far.

The team has 53 points and remains at 4th place in the Pacific Division. At the quarter pole the Canucks were at 4th in the Pacific, but had played the most games in the league. Their hot December has allowed the team to remain in the same spot while other teams have made up most of the difference in games played.

The Canucks have been bit hard by the injury bug. Defencemen Alex Edler, Ryan Stanton, and Andrew Alberts are all out of the lineup with various injuries, forcing the Canucks to call up Yannick Weber and Frank Corrado to fill in. In addition, Alex Burrows is out with a broken jaw, while Roberto Luongo was out of the lineup briefly with a groin strain. The defencemen that have remained healthy have been rock solid. The play of Chris Tanev has been lauded by Coach Tortorella throughout this season. Along with Hamhuis, Garrison and Bieksa, the top 4 defencemen have been receiving a ton of ice time.

booth

David Booth has 5 goals so far this season – one for each leaf on this “clover”.

As I predicted in a previous post, the Canucks have improved their play as the season has gone on.

The team has done this despite the top line scoring cooling off, and the power play being ice cold. Currently, the Canucks power play is ranked 26th in the NHL. Henrik and Daniel Sedin have 3 points each in the last 6 games. Secondary scoring has come from everywhere in the lineup, and the makings of a 3rd line is starting to emerge, with Brad Richardson centering Zack Kassian and David Booth. Yes, that David Booth. He has 5 goals this season and his speed and strength fit well Kassian and Richardson’s size and grit.

The Canucks schedule is tough over the next 7 games: Kings and Ducks twice each, Pittsburgh, St. Louis, and Phoenix. With most of these games against solid, physical teams in the West, the Canucks look to prove that they belong in the Western Conference playoff race.

Should Old Acquaintance Be Forgot

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Should old acquaintance be forgot, and never brought to mind ?
Should old acquaintance be forgot, and auld lang syne?

The time between Christmas and the New Year is usually a time of reflection and remembrance. We think back on the events of this year, and of years past.

In the summer of 2011, Derek Boogaard, Rick Rypien and Wade Belak all died. All 3 were enforcers in the NHL. Known more for their skills with their fists than for their goal scoring prowess, all 3 suffered from depression and related substance abuse problems.

The fourth NHL player pictured above is Bill Masterton.

Although most NHL fans know of the Bill Masterton trophy, not many fans know much about his playing career. He was one of the few hockey players to complete a U.S. college degree and play in NHL. Although he was highly educated as an engineer, his skill and love of the game led him to play in the NHL. Masterton was the first player to sign with the expansion Minnesota North Stars, and actually scored the first goal in North Stars franchise history.

Masterton also holds the distinction of being the only NHL player to have died directly as a result of injuries suffered in an NHL game. On January 13th, 1968, Bill took a hard hit. His head hit the ice, and the subsequent head injuries caused bleeding from his nose, ears and mouth. He never regained consciousness and died 30 hours later.

Masterton was not wearing a helmet at the time of the collision, which was common for most players in that era. 11 years later players entering the NHL in the 1979-80 season were mandated to wear helmets. 18 years after that (nearly 30 years after Masterton’s death), Craig MacTavish retired, the last player to have played in the NHL without a helmet.

The Code is Dead.

After Boogaard’s death in 2011, it was revealed that he suffered from numerous brain injuries, presumably sustained in concussions throughout the many fights in his career.

Concussions in the NHL due to fights and other hits to the head have been happening for decades. The hits, clean or dirty, have robbed us fans of some of the best players in the game: Eric Lindros, Keith Primeau, Paul Kariya, Pat Lafontaine, Adam Deadmarsh, to name a few. Only within the last few years has the NHL truly been serious about getting rid of blindside hits and direct headshots in the game. Time will tell if the suspensions for headshots will make a difference in the play of the game.

Yet repeated headshots and related concussions are doled out nearly every game in fights, which are largely useless and serve no purpose.

I have no idea why fighting is still allowed in the NHL. There it is, I said it. Many players and fans believe that fighting is an integral part of the game. Yes, there was a time when fighting was somehow more useful as a deterrent to dirty hits. That time is over. If fighting still had a legitimate place in the game, how are so many of the players still being lost to injury, headshots or otherwise?

If you want to watch a fight, the UFC has plenty of blood for you. Knock yourself out. I’m sure that the pro-fight fans will have something to say about this. To save you all some time, no, I didn’t play in the NHL. I haven’t played at a high level. I merely enjoy watching and playing the game.

If it took the NHL nearly 30 years to get all their players wearing helmets, which we can all agree is a good idea, how long will it take before the NHL seriously looks at all aspects of head trauma, including fights?

Happy New Year, hockey fans.

For auld lang syne, my dear, for auld lang syne,
we’ll take a cup of kindness yet, for auld lang syne.

Canucks Report At The Quarter Pole

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After 20 games, the Canucks are 11-7-2. The team managed to post a 5-1-1 record on a long 7 game eastern road trip, ending with 3 victories in extra time – two wins in overtime and one in a shootout. They went 2-1 on a home stand, and have just finished a tough 1-2-1 California road swing.

The team’s 24 points are good enough for 4th in the Pacific Division, and 8th spot in the Western Conference, although the Canucks have played the most games in the entire league at this point in the season. When people say the West is the Best, they’re not kidding – the same 24 points would be good for 2nd place in the Eastern Conference.

The Canucks first line has been scoring, and they’ve got a healthy amount of secondary scoring from many of their bottom 6 forwards and defencemen. At 7-4-1, Luongo posted his best October ever as a Canuck. The team seems to have embraced Tortorella’s new systems and has been playing a high energy style of game that is fun to watch. The one thing the Canucks lack at this point is consistency.

In a previous post, I mentioned that if the Canucks can get through October with an even record, it should shape up to be a great season, and reiterate that now. On any given night the Canucks can play inspired and exciting hockey – a pleasant change from the last couple seasons where the team scored and seemed to sit on 1 goal leads.

So far, so good. As the season goes on, the Canucks should improve their play. Some Canucks threads this season include:

  • Tortorella’s high energy style of coaching, translating to Canucks play on ice
  • Re-signing and resurgence of the Sedin twins
  • Pavel Bure’s jersey retirement
  • Depth (or lack thereof) at any position
  • Ice time for top forwards and defencemen
  • Slow but steady development of Zack Kassian
  • Where is David Booth this week?
  • Great penalty killing, horrible power play
  • Local boy Mike Santorelli having an impact playing for his hometown Canucks

What are some of your early season compliments, gripes or stories this season?

What to Expect When You’re Expecting Goaltending


This post is a public service announcement to all Canucks fans, new, old and bandwagon:

Roberto Luongo does not play well in October.

To the faithful Luongo lovers and shameless Luongo apologists like myself, this should not come as a surprise. Luongo is perhaps the most polarizing figure in Vancouver sports. Fans all over the league either love him or hate him, and the same is true in the city of Vancouver. And yet every October at the beginning of every season, people are surprised when Luongo gets off to a slow start. Here are Luongo’s stats from October of the last 5 years, not including the lockout shortened session of last season.

Season      GP       W       L       OTL     GAA     SV%     SHO    
2011-12 7 3 3 1 3.54 .869 0
2010-11 7 2 3 2 2.93 .907 0
2009-10 12 6 6 0 2.79 .902 1
2008-09 10 6 4 0 2.98 .902 2
2007-08 11 4 7 0 2.91 .903 0
   

The October statistics aren’t exactly first team all-star material, but of course they don’t tell the entire story of how these seasons went. Love him or hate him, he happens to be the best goaltender ever to pull on a Canucks jersey. Here are Luongo’s stats for the last 5 full seasons of play.

Season      GP       W       L       OTL     GAA     SV%     SHO    
2011-12 55 31 14 8 2.41 .920 5
2010-11 60 38 15 7 2.11 .928 4
2009-10 68 40 22 4 2.57 .913 4
2008-09 54 33 13 7 2.34 .920 9
2007-08 73 35 29 9 2.38 .917 6
   

@strombone1: Happy October everyone!!! Or as I like to call it: How did that go in?

Even Luongo knows that October is generally not a strong month for him. At least he can have some fun with it. If the Canucks can get through October with an even record, it should shape up to be a great season.

Change is the Only Sure Thing for Canucks


I will be writing a series of posts on the Canucks through the summer, focusing on sections of the club, from players to management. Today’s post is about the management of the club.

This was a wasted year for the Canucks. It has taken me awhile to get to this blog post, and it’s likely because I have largely been indifferent about the team performances this season. If playoff ticket demand is any indication, many fans feel the same way as I do. As a fan that is difficult to say. I always like to have a positive spin on situations – hey, Luongo almost had that – but this year was too much like last year: Shorter than expected.

There are positives for the Canucks in the last couple years: more wins than losses, amazing goaltending, some wonderful performances, and 2 more Northwest Division titles.

There are also negatives: poor player management choices from the draft on up, horrible defensive blunders despite being a defensive minded team, consecutive 1st round exists from the playoffs, and oh yeah: The Northwest Division is one of the weakest in the NHL. There’s a false sense of security in winning the Northwest Division title. It’s a guaranteed top 3 seed in the playoffs, but it allows the Canucks to play mediocre hockey and believe that they are playing better than they are. In the two President’s Trophy winning seasons, the Canucks were the only team to make the playoffs from the Northwest Division. This year, the Minnesota Wild were the 8th seed.

The jury is decidedly out on Mike Gillis’ tenure so far.

There are many hits – Gillis does seem to have a talent for getting players to re-sign for the so-called “Hometown Discount” – Sedins, Bieksa, and others. However, some other free agent signings have been regrettable – Sundin and Demitra (R.I.P. – no disrespect) among them.

The drafting has been mediocre, and the trading worse. Granted, you don’t always get a roster player out of a draft pick, and the Canucks have had late picks due to their regular season success, but the Canucks have traded away numerous picks and prospects for not much in return. Michael Grabner, Steve Bernier and a 1st round draft pick were traded for Keith Ballard. Kevin Connauton and a 2nd round pick were traded at the deadline for Derek Roy, who looks to be a pure rental. Since the Canucks were swept in the first round, that rental was short lived. Cody Hodgson was traded away for Zack Kassian. Hodgson is now a nearly a point-a-game player with the Sabres, while Zack was occasionally scratched for his inconsistent effort.

And finally, the goaltending debacle controversy was “solved” by trading Cory Schneider at the draft for New Jersey’s 9th overall pick. This might prove to be the worst trade the Canucks have ever made, this side of Cam Neely for Barry Pederson. The Canucks traded away their #1 goaltender for a draft pick (Bo Horvat – a fine young player from the London Knights) and no roster players that might be able to help out the Canucks right now. Schneider stands to inherit the goaltending throne of Martin Brodeur in New Jersey, and will no doubt flourish behind New Jersey’s defensive style of play. It’s not fair to Horvat, who will be compared to Schneider for years to come, or to Luongo, who will once again resume the #1 role under the microscope of the Vancouver media and fans.