Canucks Report At The Quarter Pole

quarterpole

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.

No Surprises – Stanley Cup Playoffs by Seed

The 2012 Los Angeles Kings are the only 8th seed in the Conference seeding era to have won a Stanley Cup.

 

Much has been said with respect to the so-called “President’s Trophy Curse“. I’ve been told and it has been tweeted that it’s bad luck to win the President’s Trophy, and people love to cheer for the Cinderella underdog teams. Add hockey superstition to the mix, and well, no player touches any trophy except the Stanley Cup, if they’re lucky enough to win it.

If you actually believe that the President’s Trophy is bad luck, first of all, you’re a dummy. Secondly, here are some statistics that may surprise you.

The current Conference Seeding style of playoffs has been in place for 18 seasons, since the 1993-94 season. In that time, the President’s Trophy winner has been in the Stanley Cup Final 7 times: 1994 Rangers, 1995 Wings, 1999 Stars, 2001 Avalanche, 2002 Wings, 2008 Wings, 2011 Canucks. The President’s Trophy winner has gone on to win the cup 5 out of those 7 times. The 2004 Lightning were a non-President’s 1 seed that also won the cup.

Division winners seeded 3rd or better have been in the final 22 times, winning 14 cups. Breaking it down:

  • 1st seed has been in the final 9 times, winning 6 cups
  • 2nd seed has been in the final 10 times, winning 6 cups
  • 3rd seed has been in the final 3 times, winning 2 cups

Middle seeds 4th or 5th seeds have made the final 6 times, winning 3 cups.

Cinderellas seeded 6th or worse have made the final 7 times. Out of those, only the 8th seed LA Kings have won the cup in their amazing run in 2012, defeating the 1st seeded Canucks, 2nd seeded Blues and 3rd seeded Coyotes consecutively on their way to the cup final.

Year by year, here are the Stanley Cup final matches:

2012: (8) LAK over (6) NJD
2011: (3) BOS over (1) VAN
2010: (2) CHI over (7) PHI
2009: (4) PIT over (2) DET
2008: (1) DET over (2) PIT
2007: (2) ANA over (4) OTT
2006: (2) CAR over (8) EDM
2004: (1) TBL over (6) CGY
2003: (2) NJD over (7) ANA
2002: (1) DET over (3) CAR
2001: (1) COL over (1) NJD
2000: (4) NJD over (2) DAL
1999: (1) DAL over (7) BUF
1998: (2) DET over (4) WAS
1997: (3) DET over (2) PHI
1996: (2) COL over (4) FLA
1995: (5) NJD over (1) DET
1994: (1) NYR over (7) VAN

What does this all mean? It’s pretty clear that home ice advantage is exactly that – an advantage. If your team is one of the top two seeds, it’s looking good. But before you plan the parade, you’ve still got to play all the games. Every season has twists and turns, and with the parity of the teams in the last few years, you never know.

Being A GM Is Easy As ABC: Always Be Closing

2012 Playoffs, one year ago: Roberto Luongo sits on the bench in favour of Cory Schneider. It wasn’t enough to save the Canucks from a 1st round exit from the playoffs. Since then, the Luongo trade talk has been ever present.

It’s easy to be an armchair GM. The view is good even from the cheap seats at Rogers Arena – there’s not a bad seat in the house. We’re not paid big dollars like these guys are to manage a team’s direction. But make no mistake, and Canucks General Manager Mike Gillis knows this better than anyone, the fans ultimately sign the paychecks with our dollars – tickets, jerseys, posters, pencils, it’s all hockey related revenue. We do all of this for the love of the team, and the love of the game. So with that in mind:

If You Want To Work Here, Close.

The line comes from the movie Glengarry Glenn Ross. In the scene, Alec Baldwin is the boss barking at his lazy team of real estate agents. “Only one thing counts in this life – get them to sign on the line which is dotted.”

 

Gillis was unable to deal Roberto Luongo at the deadline, despite having the better part of a year to make it happen. After all the rumours and rhetoric, the trade deadline came and went and nothing happened. Besides Derek Roy, Gillis was also unable to land any other player. Not many players moved, but among those that did: Ryane Clowe, Marion Gaborik, Martin Erat, Raffi Torres and Jason Pominville. And despite the “weak” market, numerous goaltenders were moved at the deadline: Ben Bishop, Matt Hackett, Steve Mason, and Michael Leighton were all traded.

At the deadline last year, Gillis traded away Cody Hodgson for Zack Kassian. It was said that Hodgson’s issues cost the management team time and effort to deal with. Looking at the team now, they’ve had troubles at center all season long, and Kassian is now in the minors. Hodgson has flourished in Buffalo and is scoring at a point per game clip. And where is Gillis spending his time? Trying to find a center.

This year, Gillis was able to trade for Roy by sending Kevin Connauton to Dallas, along with a 2nd round pick in the 2013 entry draft. This trade was alright – I like the deal because Roy can help the team here and now. Connauton is a prospect at least 1 or 2 years away from playing meaningful minutes. But make no mistake – this was a deal to fill a hole at center, which Gillis created by trading away Hodgson.

Gillis, if you want to work here, close. Close the deal, get players to sign on the dotted line. Players were moved – forwards, centers, and goaltenders. The opportunities were there. Get it done!

What deals do you think Gillis should have made? What could we have received in return for Luongo? Let us know in the comments!