Hockey With Harder: Canucks Have Best Season Start Since 1999

457408456_slide

For the first time since 1999, the Vancouver Canucks have had their best start to the season. In a 2-0 shutout victory against the Edmonton Oilers, they hold a 3-0-0 record in the standings and are now one win away from tying for their all-time franchise best start set in 1992. The Vancouver club remains alongside the New York Islanders as the only undefeated teams in the league.

It was lights out tonight for Ryan Miller as he finally gained some traction in the Vancouver crease. Miller continued his unbeaten streak against the Oilers which has now climbed to an outstanding 9 game run. In tonight’s game he received his 30th career shutout.

Though the Canucks had players appearing in and out through the game, they still held their ground against the struggling young Oilers who desperately needed to win in order to avoid their worst start in franchise history. Towards the end of the first period, Ryan Stanton left the game with a suspected lower body injury. Dan Hamhuis briefly left the game in the second period after getting a nasty stick to the face from Mark Arcobello who should have received a major penalty but got off scot-free.

Tonight’s game was loaded up with penalties for the Canucks but it did not seem to imprint a dark mark on the play as the team locked the gates on the penalty kill.

The first line once again separated the boys from the men as they provided two goals in Rexall Place. Both Sedin twins and Radim Vrbata picked up two points each on the evening and now carry a combined 17 points to kick off the 2014-15 hockey season. The top line for the Canucks has been one of their best strengths in the first three games as they have successfully kept the puck in the offensive zone and provided many of the shots on the opposing team.

The Canucks played hard from start to finish coming out with the win they needed to continue on the high road. Tomorrow night they take on Steven Stamkos and the Tampa Bay Lightning at home in Rogers Arena. This is where the real challenge will begin. Time will tell if Willie Desjardins and his Vancouver Canucks can become a force to be reckoned with in the Pacific Division.

Follow me on Twitter @cjaharder

Young Stars Give Vets a Run For Their Money

By Caleb Harder for CanucksCorner.com

Hunter Shinkaruk - Photo: VancouverSun.com

Hunter Shinkaruk – Photo: VancouverSun.com

The Vancouver Canucks opened the preseason at home against the San Jose Sharks in a compelling tug of war between the two teams that had remarkably disappointing seasons last year. The Canucks played fast and scored beautiful goals but one thing was off. The young stars were the only players to produce.

The symphony created by the rookies came off as if they were already in their prime. The flood gates opened when Jordan Subban took a shot from the point netting in the first goal. The three other goals in the game were provided by Hunter Shinkaruk, Bo Horvat, and Linden Vey. 

In their opening game, the young stars were on fire in their play against the Sharks. Though the Sedins and Radim Vrbata appeared to be a threat on the ice, they didn’t go much further than merely passing around the puck. It was a surprising outcome to the game as the veterans were expected to support the struggling young players who could not seem to get the puck out of their defensive zone in the Young Stars Tournament last week. Was it all a show for the rookies in Penticton causing fans to believe they were not ready to make the big leagues? The players on the ice last night in Rogers Arena were nothing like the ones we previously saw.

The overall effort of the group was outstanding kicking off with Linden Vey taking the chance on the breakaway two minutes into the game causing Stalock, the netminder for the Sharks, to struggle to make the save. The future Canucks showed lightning speed, beautiful plays, and proved that if the veterans won’t step up, they most certainly will.

It’s hard to tell if the vets were holding back or if former head coach John Tortorella was catching on to something in the season ending press conference. The core is not too old in theory but some will need to kick their play up a notch if they want to secure their jobs with the Canucks organization.

If the rookies continue to play in the fashion they did last night, expect players like Shinkaruk and Horvat to make the main roster this season.

The future of the Canucks, though uncertain, is looking bright.

 

HARDER’S THREE STARS OF THE GAME

#3 Linden Vey

G: 1 A: 2 PTS: 3 +/- 3

#2 Jordan Subban

G: 1 A: 0 PTS: 1 +/- 1

#1 Hunter Shinkaruk

G: 1 A: 1 PTS: 2 +/- 2

 

Follow me on Twitter @cjaharder

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!

Help if you can! Canucks For Kids Fund Telethon Goes Tomorrow.

cfkf-570
The trade deadline has come and gone and Roberto Luongo is still a Vancouver Canuck. But before we watch the season unfold down the stretch and into head into the playoffs, there is one more important day coming up tomorrow, April 4th, as the Canucks hold their annual Canucks for Kids Fund Telethon during tomorrow’s game against the Edmonton Oilers.

CFKF Telethon raised more than $1.3 million during the 2011/12 NHL season, through phone/online donations and fundraising events throughout the year. The fund dedicates resources to assist charities which support children’s health and wellness, foster the development of grassroots hockey, and facilitate and encourage education in British Columbia. Over its 27 year history, the Fund has raised more than $41 million for the children and families of our province.

This year we are excited that our own Bruce Ng will be representing CanucksCorner.com and taking pregame phone pledges during the telethon. If you get to speak with Bruce, we’re sure his kind, enthusiastic voice will convince you to make a big donation!

In addition to possibly getting to talk to Bruce there are other great incentives if you make a donation to the cause:

  • Enter by Midnight April 4th, 2013 and you could win a 2013 Chevrolet Trax LTZ.
  • Donate $150 or more and receive both “Century of Hockey” and “Milestone Memory” photographs.
  • Donate $100 and receive an exclusive 8″ x 10″ photograph of a “Century of Hockey”.

You can make an online donation by clicking here, or call in your donation tomorrow night during the game at Toll Free at 1.85.KIDSFUND (1-855-437-3863).

Help the kids if you can, it’s a really great cause!


 

Coho returns home from the Pacific Ocean

And I’m not talking about the spawning habits of BC salmon.

Although that does make a great metaphor – Coho heads off to the Pacific Ocean, then has to struggle, swimming upstream to return to the place of his birth… Ontario?

Cody Hodgson was definitely not Untouchable at today's trade deadline.

Buffalo is close enough to Toronto, right?

Mike Gillis traded his first draft pick as the General Manager of the Canucks, sending Cody Hodgson to their expansion cousins, the Buffalo Sabres. In return, the Canucks receive Zack Kassian – a former first round pick himself.

It is no secret that this writer loves him some Coho, and I was saddened to hear the news of Hodgson being traded at the deadline today. I’m certain that I will write a future post praising Zack Kassian for his play in the future, but in the meantime, I’d like to take a little time to remember Coho as a Canuck.

Alright, he got off to a rocky start with a misdiagnosed back problem. But once the back problems were behind him (pun intended), he started showing us flashes of his skill last season. And throughout this season, more of the same flashes of skill. I wrote earlier this season:

#Coho4Calder – You heard it here first

It’s clear that Cody Hodgson is feeling better after misdiagnosed back problems, and he seems to be going at full speed. He was the First Star at Rogers Arena last night, and was excellent in all phases of the game for a center. I was lucky enough to meet Cody with my kids at Rogers Arena earlier this season, and he seems like a great guy. It’s nice to see him take advantage of some real ice time this season, and even nicer to see him enjoying himself out there. Sure, he might not be as sexy of a Calder vote as Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, but the kid has skills. Hodgson happens to play on the Canucks, who are loaded with top end depth, and he wasn’t drafted first overall, so he doesn’t see as much of the rookie hype as The Nuge. There is no denying that Cody has great hands, and excellent hockey sense. To be continued!

In terms of scoring touch, it seemed that Hodgson was not only blessed with good hands, but with ample amounts of clutch. I’m still working on the scientific formula for clutch, but it seemed to me that Hodgson scored in some big games this season. How about this beauty, in possibly the most anticipated game this season? This goal turned out to be the eventual game winner.

Zack Kassian has some scoring ability, and actually won a Memorial Cup with the Windsor Spitfires in 2010. What Canucks fans will take issue with is his spotty behaviour in the past. In 2010, he was suspended for 20 games for a hit to the head of another junior level player. And after the Memorial Cup win, in June of 2010, Kassian was arrested and charged after being in a bar fight.

Maybe I’ve lived a bit of a sheltered life, but who in this day and age gets into a bar fight? Is Zack Kassian the next Patrick Kane cabbie joke waiting to happen? Or will he leave it all in the past and live up to his first round pedigree?

I will tell you this much:
Cody Hodgson got 12 minutes of ice time each game, relegated to 3rd and 4th line duty, with 2nd unit power play time. Zack Kassian will probably get 10 minutes of ice each game. Even if he does have some talent left in those heavy hands, I don’t think we’ll see much of those skills with the ice time that Coach Vigneault gives to rookies.

One more thing.
It is no secret that the Canucks got beat up in the Stanley Cup Finals last season. What was lost in that series with all of the Seidenberg crosschecks to the back, and the Marchand sucker punches (I still don’t know how he is able to reach other player’s faces), was that the Canucks couldn’t score. The vaunted Canucks offence scored 8 times in 7 games. With that type of offensive output, it is surprising that the Canucks made it to Game 7, where they were shut out. In the 3 games that they did win, Luongo pitched 2 shutouts to secure those victories. The Canucks are a bigger team this year than last year. So if the Canucks need to be able to score and weather some physical play, was trading secondary scoring skill for raw toughness a good idea?

Time will tell.