Canucks Season Post-Mortem: Everybody Relax

Now that the taste of bitterness of the Canucks first round exit has diminished, and the second round is now underway, it’s a good time to look back on the Canucks season.

The Canucks earned their 2nd President’s Trophy in a row this season, earning the most points in the league again. Say what you will about a weak Northwest Division, I maintain that it’s still a great accomplishment. Look around the NHL – the only truly competitive divisions in terms of playoff calibre teams are the Atlantic, and the Central. If you’re the class of the Pacific, Northeast, Southeast or Northwest, you should have a shot at the President’s Trophy. So where are those teams in the race?

With respect to the playoffs, every year there are teams that win and lose unexpectedly. The playoffs aren’t played on paper, they’re played on the ice. Teams rise and fall in cycles – players get hot and cold, teams look good and bad. If you’ve ever played any competitive sports, you know this. Sometimes you’re in the zone, and feel unbeatable. Sometimes it doesn’t matter what you do, you can’t get it together. If you’ve watched the Canucks for a long time, this isn’t the first time you’ve suffered, and you know it won’t be the last. If you’re new to being a Canucks fan, welcome aboard, and hang on tight. There will be ups and downs, but it’ll be fun.

Coaching controversy

Alain Vigneault is still the coach of the Vancouver Canucks, and I feel he will be for next season. There is no shortage of opinion on the matter on Twitter, and @korvan made an excellent point just after the Canucks lost their series to the Kings:

If you let go of Vigneault, who’s out there that’s better?

Vigneault won the Jack Adams Award as the NHL’s Coach of the Year in the 2006-07 season. All he’s done since then is gone on to coach the team to two President’s Trophies and to the Stanley Cup Finals. That’s not too shabby. Who is available that can be better than that? Ron Wilson? Marc Crawford? Mike Keenan? Come on now.

Goaltending controversy

We will look back on this time as a golden age of goaltending in this glorious city. For a city with fans that love the backup more than they love the starter (Attaboy Troy!), we may all rue the day that we had to trade Number 1 away. A lot has to happen for Roberto Luongo to be traded away from the Canucks, but this seems to be a foregone conclusion. He has said he will lift his no movement clause if that is what’s best for the team, and speculation about where he will go to has run rampant since then. Toronto, Tampa Bay and Florida seem to be the most popular destinations. Other cities in the conversation include Edmonton and Chicago, among others. Personally, I can’t see Mike Gillis trading Luongo to a team that could come back to haunt us early in the playoffs, unless the deal is something he can’t resist.

Make no mistake: Roberto Luongo is the greatest starting goaltender ever to put on the Canucks uniform. The statistics below don’t lie. It’s also no coincidence that teams and cities that loved to cut Luongo down are falling all over themselves, in search of a starting goaltender who can take them deep into the playoffs. Yes Vancouver, it’s true. Many teams in the NHL believe Luongo can take them deep into the playoffs, even as some of us have doubts.

Goaltender Season GP W L T OTL     GAA     SV%
Roberto Luongo     2010-11     60     38     15     -      7 2.11 .928
Kirk McLean 1991-92 65 38 17 9 - 2.74 .901
Richard Brodeur 1981-82 52 20 18 12 - 3.35 .891
Dan Cloutier 2003-04 60 33 21 6 - 2.27 .914
Arturs Irbe 1997-98 41 14 11 6 - 2.73 .907
Corey Hirsch 1995-96 41 17 14 6 - 2.93 .903
Cesare Maniago 1976-77 47 17 21 9 - 3.36 -
Félix Potvin 1999-00 34 12 13 7 - 2.59 .906
Cory Schneider 2011-12 33 20 1.96  .937

I believe Cory Schneider looked good this year. I believe he will be a great goaltender for this team. However, what I believe, and what is factual are different things. Here are the facts:

  • Schneider is a Restricted Free Agent still in search of a long term deal. If a long term deal can’t be made, the Canucks can always make a qualifying offer for him, but risk losing him as an Unrestricted Free Agent next summer if they do so.
  • Schneider didn’t play a starting goaltender’s minutes in Vancouver this year.
  • The glare of the spotlight is much brighter – and much hotter – on the starting goaltender in this city.
  • Schneider has 1 playoff win to his credit, and 38 career regular season wins.

Hopefully Mike Gillis can get a long term deal done with Schneider, and trade Luongo to a team that won’t break our hearts in the playoffs next year.

Playoff Injury Report

It is always interesting to see which players had which injuries once they are out of the playoffs and the Cone of Silence is finally lifted. As it turns out:

  • Ryan Kesler has problems with a shoulder, as well as nagging post-surgical hip issues. He is looking at a long period of physical rehab and strengthening this summer. Only his abs remain uninjured.
  • Chris Higgins was suffering from an abdominal strain as he took the sit-up contest with Ryan Kesler a little too far.
  • Kevin Bieksa has finally admitted his “Maintenance Week” was just a little more serious than “Maintenance Days”.
  • Alexander Edler indeed played with one eye, and only one half of his brain in the first round.
  • Sami Salo is remarkably uninjured.
  • Alex Burrows and Max Lapierre were drinking Faderade instead of Gatorade.
  • Mason Raymond as suspected, has a serious leg length discrepancy, which explains all of the falling.
  • Roberto Luongo played despite a broken heart.

Nothing wrong with the Sedins – they were pretty good.

Thoughts regarding the early demise of the Canucks

The Quest stands upon the edge of a knife. Stray but a little, and it will fail, to the ruin of all. Yet hope remains while the Company is true.

Galadriel – The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring

There is no question that the Stanley Cup is the most difficult championship to win in pro sports.

There are 8 great teams in the Western Conference that made the playoffs this year. No easy matchups – just ask the Red Wings, Sharks, Blackhawks and Canucks – all out in the first round, joined by the Bruins and Penguins in the east. I have long stated that to go deep in the playoffs, it sure helps to have a hot goaltender. I have to amend that this year – it sure helps to have two hot goaltenders.

Still doesn’t work?

To go deep in the playoffs, it sure helps if you have two hot goaltenders, and play a goaltender that isn’t hotter, and you can score a few goals.

When the playoffs begin, it is a new season. A chance to clear away the disappointments of the regular season. As the Canucks learned, if you have a slow start in the playoffs, you might as well pack your bags. There’s no room for error. If you’re lucky enough to make it through one round, you get to do it all over again. And again. And again.

The Canucks have a great team. Two President’s Trophies do count for something. Not as much as a Stanley Cup, but .. there’s always next year.

And The Beats Go On in the NHL

With apologies to Sonny and Cher:

The beats go on, the beats go on – Checks keep pounding hits to the brain…

Raffi Torres Suspended 25 Games for hit on Marian Hossa

Raffi Torres: 5 time! 5 time! 5 time! 5 time! 5 time repeat offender!

Brendan Shanahan and the NHL Player Safety Department made a statement by suspending Raffi Torres for the remainder of this year’s playoffs, and probably well into the 2012-2013 regular season. I do not have a problem with the length of this suspension. My issue is with the consistency of the suspensions as a whole. The Torres hit on Hossa was dangerous, but according to Justyna Gluch (@MidwayJustyna from Midway Madness), it was a borderline hockey play – maybe a fraction of a second too late, and if Torres had not leaped into Hossa, the hit would have a little more legal. I’d like to add and underline the word “reckless“. Torres is a 5 time repeat offender with respect to the NHL and supplementary discipline, and all of his hits have the same careless, reckless nature. They’re all at high speed, and all direct shots to the head, with the elbow or shoulder.

There’s no need for that type of play. It’s clear Torres didn’t see the pre-season video from the NHL Player Safety Department, or maybe his copy was switched with Don Cherry’s Rock ‘em Sock ‘em Hockey. Either way, if Torres wants to stay in the NHL, he needs to re-tool his game, much like Matt Cooke did this season with the Penguins.

Very little consistency from NHL Player Safety department

Torres was handed a 25-game suspension, yet Shea Weber’s WWE turnbuckle smash of Henrik Zetterberg’s head got him a $2500 fine. Other star players received fines or 1-game suspensions that did not hurt their team. Perhaps it’s just anecdotal evidence that I’m looking at, but it does seem that “star players” in the NHL are not served the same rulebook as “role players”.

No respect among NHL players

Respecting the opposition doesn’t mean you have to invite them to the team-only Super Mario Kart tournament, or to the pregame soccer warm-up. Respect to me is some basic human decency, within the framework of a game of hockey. Bodychecks are legal hits, meant to dislodge a player from the puck. A legal check doesn’t have to be thrown at 50 M.P.H. with the intent to hit the player into next week.

This has been happening for a long time. Scott Stevens made a career out of hard hits, half of which would be borderline hockey plays, and likely reviewed for suspension. There is a long list of players that have ended their careers early because of hits to the head. Hockey fans have to wonder how hockey history would be different if players like Keith Primeau, Eric Lindros, Paul Kariya and Marc Savard had played full and healthy careers. Sidney Crosby may yet be added to that list.

Is there anything wrong with letting up a bit? Hits at 30 M.P.H. along the ice are still just as devastating. How about a quick “Heads Up”, or God forbid letting your skills do the talking?

Players expect too much of the league, and should expect more of themselves

How many times have you watched player interviews after a game with a questionable hit? Coaches and players are guilty of trying to “let the league deal with it”. The players go out and play their game, hit their hits, and then take whatever happens with respect to discipline. Am I the only one who believes the players should just know better?

 

 

Canucks Need to Stop Drinking Faderade

 

Gatorade. It’s the classic sports drink for rehydrating athletes.

Haterade. It’s what everyone outside of BC drinks when the Vancouver Canucks come up in conversation. The sports beverage of choice for chirping and trolling in Calgary, Toronto, Boston and Chicago, among others.

Faderade. It’s what the Canucks are drinking this post season.

There’s no other explanation for their performance in the playoffs this year. All the way up and down the roster, with perhaps the exception of the goaltending, the Canucks have been underachieving. The Canucks were picked by many to have a good chance to go deep in this year’s Stanley Cup playoffs. Many had picked the Canucks to meet the Penguins in the final, and now both teams are facing a 3-game deficit.

Defensive coverage has been indefensible. #PunIntended

Alex Edler, who led the Canucks in points from the defense, has been nothing short of abysmal. In fact the entire Canucks defense corps in Games 1 and 2 of this series was suspect. Shot blocking techniques aside, if you play defense in the NHL and you find yourself diving to reach for pucks, there is a good chance you are out of position. If you are trying to play goaltender as a defenseman, even though you have one of the best goaltending tandems in the NHL, chances are you are out of position.

If the Canucks are going to win, they will need the type of coverage we saw in Game 3.

Offensive production has been offensive. #PunIntended

The basic objective of the game of hockey is to score more goals than your opponent. The team that scores the most goals wins the game. As such you need to score in order to win.

Yes, having Daniel Sedin on the sidelines has not made it easier for the Canucks. He was the Canucks leading scorer during the regular season. However, the Canucks are built for depth. When one player is out, others have always stepped up in the past. Henrik, Kesler, Higgins, Booth, Raymond, Burrows – these guys are all capable of putting the puck in the net. Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick has been very good, but he hasn’t been required to be spectacular yet.

Inspiration

The Canucks have all the tools they need to win. They’ve beaten the Kings before, without Daniel Sedin. They have usually adjusted well after losses, and come back with good effort. This year’s playoffs seem to be different. You could see it in the player’s post game interviews – frustration, with a touch of disappointment.

If the Canucks and their fans need inspiration to stay positive, confident and motivated, they need to look no further than their captain, Henrik Sedin.

Henrik was rocked by a hit from the Kings captain Dustin Brown, right in front of the Canucks bench. Brown had a line on him from well below the blue line; not at full speed, but from a long distance. The hit wasn’t dirty per se, but Henrik had a hard time getting onto the bench. After gathering himself, Henrik left for the dressing room.

Minutes later, Henrik was taking his regular shift. Later in the game, he had an amazing shift on a Canucks power play that lasted for well over 3 minutes, and did everything except put the puck in the net.

That is the type of effort that will lead the Canucks to a win in Game 4.

That is the Heart of a Canuck.

Do the Canucks need some magic?

 

Could Gandalf help out the Canucks defense? It couldn't hurt.

Look to the Canucks coming at first light on the fifth day of the playoffs. At dusk, look to the Staples Center.

After the first two games of the playoffs, it’s clear that the Canucks could use a lot of things in their game. Some finish, some momentum, some luck, some special teams work, and yes, maybe a little magic in the form of Wizardous Sedinery.

O Brother, Where Art Thou?

Although Henrik has been alright at holding onto the puck in the first couple games of this series, it’s seems he’s keeping the puck on his stick because there aren’t very many passing options available. The Kings defensive coverage in the series so far has been excellent – strong forecheck, suffocating backcheck in their own zone, nice gap, and #ThatsWhatSheSaid. It seems the Canucks have very little time and space to do anything with the puck, and when they try to move it, the passes have been in the skates and not very sharp at all.

#Beastmode Edler, where are you?!

With apologies to fans of the Lord of the Rings:

Where is the horse known as Edler…
Where is the goal horn that was blowing…
They have passed like rain on the North Shore mountains…
Like wind in the Fraser Valley…
Game days have come down in the West…
Behind the hills into shadow…
How did it come to this? 

Edler has not been himself. He has given up more turnovers than a bakery, and has fewer hits than the Thompson Twins. Playoffs are about getting your game to a higher plane, raising your compete level. Edler has looked downright timid out there. In Game 2, he overskated a puck that wasn’t even moving at the corner boards of the defensive zone. I’m not sure if he is nursing an injury, but he does not look comfortable at all out there. Hitting (and being hit) is a big part of his game that has been absent in this series.

Superstition

I don’t know about the rest of you, but when the team isn’t playing well, I try to change it up at home. Finish the dishes. Fold some laundry. Wash my face. Bake some cookies. Mow the lawn. #NotAEuphemism

After the first two games, the chores are all done, we have more cookies than Mr. Christie, and my face is drying out from having been washed 50 times. I think I do these things just for a distraction from the TV. Am I the only one?

 

What did he say – Hockey’s hilarious innuendo

According to Wikipedia:

double entendre is a figure of speech in which a spoken phrase is devised to be understood in either of two ways. Often the first (more obvious) meaning is straightforward, while the second meaning is less so: often risqué or ironic.

When describing hockey, players use shoot, hit, check, bump, slide, and use sticks of varying lengths. This makes for some often hilarious commentary. I’ve compiled just a few of the funniest bits I’ve heard throughout the season. Enjoy, and if you remember any others, write them down in the comments!

The big question regarding Bourque is this:
Does he give it to you every night?

- Brad May re: Bourque/Camalleri Trade

Couldn’t get it up, if he had, it would have been in!

- John Shorthouse re: Daniel Sedin shot on Jonathan Quick

Jamie couldn’t believe how SMALL it was.

- John Garrett re: Cheech’s old style blocker.

Kesler, trying to send it in deeper for Raymond…

- John Shorthouse during Canucks versus Avalanche

Just waiting for the swelling to go down.

- Andi Petrillo on HNIC re: injury status of a player

I like it a little rougher than Ron does.

- Brian Burke re: hockey philosophy and Ron Wilson

Him and Bieksa, they give it to me all the time.

- David Booth on HNIC re: interview jabs

He’ll take his time before sliding it gently in…

- John Shorthouse re: Bieksa sending the puck in for a line change.

Semin outwaits Budaj, as he opens up his legs,
slides it through the wickets.

- HNIC describing Alexander Semin, the Russian.

I’m sure a lot of guys could do me.

- Corey Schneider regarding impressions.

Schneider and I been working on those tips, he likes it when
I get right in front there and change the direction.

- Andrew Ebbett re: deflecting the puck