Sukh Purewal: Same old same old for Roberto Luongo

After all that has happened to Roberto Luongo the last few years, I didn’t think it could get any worse for the Canucks goalie. I thought there was no way the Canucks organization could disrespect the franchise’s best goalie of all-time again.

Boy was I wrong.

With the news coming out that Eddie Lack would be starting the Heritage Classic for the Canucks, it was just another slap in the face for Luongo, who has given so much to this organization. Roberto is responsible for some of the best years in Canucks history. He backstopped them to two straight Presidents’ Trophies and took them to within one game of a Stanley Cup. Even if it is the teams’ intention is to move forward with Lack as the starter, throw Luongo a bone and give him this start.  It seems harsh to punish Luongo for the team’s recent struggles, especially when you consider the fact that Vancouver has scored 2 or few goals in 15 of their last 17 games. No goalie in the NHL is going to win when the offence in front of him is putting up those types of numbers.

To some the Heritage Classic might seem like just another game. But it’s not for Roberto. He said Saturday that he’s always wanted to play in an outdoor game and considering this Canucks team is probably not going to do much should they make the playoffs, it was likely the biggest game of the year for them. Eddie Lack is a great goalie, but this should have been Luongo’s start. Reward the guy who’s done so much for you. This is quite possibly the only outdoor game Luongo is going to get a chance to play in. New Jersey gave Marty Brodeur the start in their outdoor game even though Cory Schneider had the better numbers and has started the majority of the games since that day.

I’m not sure there is a player in pro sports who has been treated as poorly as Roberto Luongo has. He has had to put up with so much from this organization. He was relegated to backup. He asked to be traded so he could be a starter somewhere. The team agreed and tried to move him, unsuccessfully. He was then asked to come back and be the team’s leader again after he had moved on. He came back and didn’t pout about having to back in Vancouver. He has been the consummate professional the last few years. I think it’s time the organization shows Roberto some respect and trades him somewhere he will respected and can be a starter.

He deserves it.

Sukh Purewal: Fixing the Power Play

It used to be the strength of this team: the powerplay. Gone are the days of the number 1 ranked unit in the league. It’s hard to fathom how far they have actually dropped. Heading into the Coyotes game, the Canucks were ranked 23rd in the league clicking at a success rate of 15.4%. That number is going to drop after an 0 for 7 effort against the Coyotes. Gone are Ehrhoff and Salo who helped make the powerplay what it was. But it is hard to believe that even with Henrik, Daniel, Kesler and Edler still around, and with the addition of Jason Garrison, how bad it looks. The team is struggling to get into the zone. If you can’t get into the zone, you’re not going to score. It’s simple.

What Glen Gulutzan is doing just isn’t working, and it seems like he isn’t really willing to change anything. Game after game we saw Dan Hamhuis on the ice as part of the first powerplay unit. No disrespect to Dan, but he is not exactly the type of guy who strikes fear into an opponent on the man advantage. We’ve seen Tom Sestito get powerplay action, Dale Weise has been out there.

The personnel and the way they set up doesn’t make sense a lot of the time. It’s frustrating when you see Henrik setting up on the left wall. Setting up on that side completely eliminates Kesler from the man advantage, and allows teams to zone in on Garrison’s shot from the right point and like I mentioned before it doesn’t help having Hamhuis as the defenceman on the left side.

With the first unit, the Canucks should set up on the right hash with Kesler and Garrison on the point. Let Daniel and Henrik do their thing down low and along the wall. Kassian, Burrows, or Higgins are all players who can make an impact standing in front of the net. With this set-up, not only is Garrison’s shot a threat, Kesler and Garrison can play catch at the point and considering they are both playing on their off sides, they are in prime position to one-time the puck at any moment.

I get that it’s hard to overcome some of the injuries the team has had. They haven’t had the personnel they’ve wanted. Missing Burrows has caused the team a lot of problems. He has missed most of the season thanks to a broken foot and then a broken jaw. The Sedin’s have struggled mightily at 5 on 5 without him, and that’s likely led to their powerplay struggles. Burrows will likely be back Saturday, and I believe he will be put right back on the top line and he will hopefully be able get the Twins going, both at 5 on 5 and with a man advantage.

Edler being injured for the last month or so has also caused the Canucks to experiment a little bit. We have seen Chris Tanev get a chance to play the point. Tanev’s shot has gotten better since he first came into the league, but let’s be real, it’s still not great. The team has missed Edler’s shot. He is a guy who can make the first or second unit better, depending on where he is used. He and Bieksa would do a great job quarterbacking the second unit. Edler and Garrison on the top unit would terrify all of the penalty killers and whichever Canuck has the unfortunate pleasure of standing in front of the net with those two unleashing bombs.

I understand that it is a tough fix but it is something the team should be practicing more. The Canucks struggle to score at the best of time. They’ve scored one goal in the last 200 minutes of game action. They have to take advantage when they go up a man. They Canucks are going to make the playoffs. Their goaltending, especially when Luongo is back, is too good for them to not. But unless they start scoring more goals they won’t make any noise. They need the powerplay to start clicking. That might mean pulling the trigger on a trade for a sniper. Their penalty killing is remarkable. If they could get the other part of their special teams going, who knows what this team would be capable of.


 

No success without a dependable fourth line

van-kesler-sedin

In my first article back in October I talked about the Canucks bottom 6 not being good enough. A month and a half into the season, I can say I am content with the part of the bottom 6. The third line has been dependable. The fourth line hasn’t.

John Tortorella doesn’t have faith in his fourth line and is reluctant to put them on the ice. I can’t blame him for that. For the better part of the season, it seems like whenever the fourth line is out on the ice they are getting scored on or can’t get out of their own zone. The Canucks best fourth liner is Dale Weise. He’s hurt. Darren Archibald showed more in his 8 games up with the big club than Tom Sestito, Zac Dalpe and Jeremy Welsh have shown in their games, but the Canucks sent the big forward back down to Utica to room for David Booth.

Injuries have forced the Canucks hand all year. They had not, until Sunday, been able ice the line-up they had envisioned during training camp and arguably still haven’t considering Jordan Schroeder is out for the second time this season. Jannik Hansen’s return and Richardson’s move to the fourth line didn’t make a difference in how much the fourth liners played. Richardson has averaged 13 minutes throughout the season; he played under 8 Sunday night against Dallas. Tom Sestito has played an average of five and a half minutes so far this season, he played 30 seconds Sunday. Jeremy Welsh played just 2 shifts in the game, totalling 18 seconds. It’s not a recipe for success.

Like I mentioned in my previous article, teams that win the cup have dependable fourth lines that can at least go out there to give the top guys a little bit of a break. This year’s Canucks team doesn’t have the luxury. Last year’s team didn’t have that. Amongst forwards, the Sedins and Kesler are in the top 4 for average minutes played a game. It’s not sustainable. I don’t want to beat a dead horse, but until the team upgrades the fourth line, it will be tough to make a deep run come April, May and June.

Bottom 6 Still Needs a Fix

Sukh Purewal – Canuckscorner.com: 

Yes, it was just the first game of 82, but it looks like a problem that has plagued the Canucks the last few seasons is going to be a problem once again. The bottom 6. No one on the fourth line played more than 5 minutes against the San Jose Sharks. Dale Weise led the way playing 4:49. Tom Sestito played 3:28 and Zac Dalpe played 3:19 and very little if any of that in the third. That’s not a winning formula. It puts too much of a strain on the rest of the team. Stanley Cup winning teams have third and fourth lines that can play in most situations. The Canucks haven’t had that luxury since 2010-2011. Coincidently, that team went to game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final.

Brad Richardson, who was supposed to be the third line centre this season, played just 12 minutes. His line mate Mike Santorelli played 14 minutes and Jannik Hansen played almost 16 minutes. You can count the number of chances the bottom 6 forwards had in the Sharks game Thursday night on one hand. A strong forecheck by Santorelli gave Booth an open look that Niemi swallowed up.

An upgrade to the bottom 6 is necessary. It was necessary all summer. It was necessary all last season. It’s an issue that Mike Gillis just has not been able to solve, but needs to solve if he wants his team to make a run deep into playoffs. Whether it’s promoting from within and giving Kellan Lain a chance, making another trade (Dalpe was acquired from the Hurricanes on the weekend), or dipping a toe into the remaining free agent pool. Gillis has to do something quick and improve his team, especially because they can’t beat up on the dreadful Northwest division anymore.

CanucksCorner.com welcomes Sukh Purewal to our blogging team and we look forward to his contributions this season.