After Ten: Canucks Pull Off Exciting Start To The Season

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The month of October has passed for the Vancouver Canucks who promised in the offseason that change was coming.

Willie Desjardins’ Canucks are off to a stunning 7-3-0 start to the regular season with exceptions for two of the games. The Canucks left the gates running as they dished out victories over the Edmonton Oilers and Calgary Flames for a three win kickoff. The Celebration came to a standstill after two straight losses to the Lightning at home and the Dallas Stars who ran them out of town 6-3. The new team found the light at the end of the tunnel after a disappointing 2-1-0 road trip last week as they held the fort for three games.

They now find themselves at second place in the Pacific Division but what has led to this early success? Let’s break it down line by line and find out.

D. SEDIN (3-9-12) H. SEDIN (4-8-12) VRBATA (5-6-11)

The first line in the ten games they played have been a force to be reckoned with. The twins and Vrbata are combined for 35 points overall and prove to be one of the top lines in the league.

These veteran hockey players have been one of the most productive power play units on the ice scoring seven out of eight one man advantage goals from the ranks.

This line is always a thrill to watch what they will do next and are on pace for a great season.

HIGGINS (2-4-6) BONINO (4-4-8) BURROWS (2-4-6)

The second line looked a tad shaky at first glance when they debuted on the ice. Without any production from themselves and the bottom six they made the Sedin line look like the only strength the team had.

It turned out they only needed a couple match-ups to warm up when they suddenly cranked up the heat in the last five games scoring 14 points. The largest effort has been made by centre Nick Bonino who has proven to be the successor of Ryan Kesler who has on amounted a record of 3-4-7 in 11 games. Bonino now has eight points on the season and is on route for a 66 tally season.

Alex Burrows has shown that being demoted after a poor season will not bring him down as he has pulled a great effort. The 33 year old is back to his 2011 form especially in scrapping. Burrows has come across an amount of trouble after delivering a controversial hit to Alexei Emelin Thursday evening. The forward has now received a 3 game suspension from NHL Player Safety for his actions.

Chris Higgins has been getting Higgy with it in his first ten games. He is one of the most noticeable forwards on the ice. Higgins has not only proven that he can maintain a second role but has proven he is definitely worth the money that management pays.

MATTHIAS (0-2-2) RICHARDSON (3-3-6) KASSIAN (2-1-3)

The third line is a work in progress that has gained traction in the last couple games. Strong efforts have been provided by Brad Richardson who scored three goals in two games. Richardson has been one of the most impressive among the bottom six with his hard shot that simply gets the puck in the net.

Shawn Matthias has begun to show glimmers of hope in his offensive play after being moved from centre to wing last week. The recently acquired former Panther has charged the net on multiple occasions and has not failed to get the puck toward the net.

Zack Kassian on the other hand has been frustrating. The wild card first round pick is still streaky in his play. Not to mention all the obscene acts he has committed in “gooning it up” he really needs to smarten up. Desjardins commented on Kassian’s outrageous applause towards the refs in a game against the Oilers.

“The referees were really good in that situation,” said Desjardins. “We can’t do that. Our players know that. We talked about that.

“That’s one thing you can’t do. I thought the refs handled it real well.”

Kassian all in all is a defective version of Todd Bertuzzi.

DORSETT (0-2-2) VEY (3-2-5) HANSEN (3-0-3)

Linden Vey though a fourth line centre at the moment has been on the top power play unit alongside the
Sedins, Vrbata and Alex Edler. The young forward has shown that he can fit in with the big boys on the roster as is fully capable in being a professional offensive force.

Jannik Hansen was demoted all the way to the bottom of the line chart but he does not seem to mind it. Hansen has provided bottom six mite in scoring three goals this season.

Derek Dorsett is an intense player. He knows when to be the tough guy on the ice and scraps a lot. Dorsett can be compared to those like the late Bob Probert who played the nitty gritty style with integrity and honour. The new enforcer is a man who will light up his team mates when needed.

EDLER (1-3-4) TANEV (0-4-4)

This top pairing has been the heart and soul of the defensive core. When the other two thirds of the blue line fail to support, Tanev and Edler know how to crack the volume up on their play. They are yet to disappoint on a major comeback from the 2013-14 regular season.

Alex Edler has gone from the worst in the NHL last year in plus minus with a rating of -39 to now maintaining a +3 rating.

Chris Tanev is now in the spotlight where he must prove his place on the Canucks for management in order to lock up a multi-year deal with the team. If Tanev keeps up his to the standard they seen him perform, it will be no problem watching him here for years to come.

BIEKSA (0-1-1) HAMHUIS (0-3-3)

This veteran blue line that was expected to carry the team this year has given insight on early rust. Both Bieksa and Hamhuis have had plausible performances on the ice but are not in their peak. The two big names will have to work hard to prove that the old guys have a role too.

SBISA (1-1-2) WEBER (0-2-2)

The third pairing on the Canucks have been an utter embarrassment. Both Sbisa and Weber have been present on the ice for the majority of goals against their team.

Luca Sbisa appears lost whenever he is on the ice and is not the player fans expected in return for Ryan Kesler in last years trade. His play is outright sloppy and to make matters worse, he holds a hefty pay cheque of $2.175 million.

WHAT ABOUT THE GOALTENDING?

The goaltending has been absolutely brilliant with the stellar performances of Ryan Miller. He has been there every time his team needs him and is currently tied with Canadiens goaltender Carey Price for most wins.

Ryan Miller in the first ten games achieved his 30th career shutout and his 300th career win.

WHAT CAN BE TAKEN FROM THIS?

Last season, John Tortorella claimed that the Canucks were simply too old and too stale. In the reign of Willie Desjardins, those remarks have been proven wrong as the team has quickly retooled and are now on pace to be a playoff contender.

Desjardins’ Canucks are slowly beginning to click together in his four line ideology. There is still much work to be done for the Vancouver Canucks and that’s alright.

Change has indeed come to the city of Vancouver.

Follow me on Twitter @cjaharder

Hockey With Harder: Canucks Have Best Season Start Since 1999

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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.

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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!