Jason Kurylo: Let Luongo Play – The Time Is Now For A New Captain

Let me start off by saying that I’m a huge Roberto Luongo fan. When Dave Nonic first engineered the deal to bring Bobby Lou to Vancouver, I thought, “Holy Hannah, we’re going to win a Stanley Cup.” Sure, we had to blow up the West Coast Express to get him – but a post-Steve Moore Bertuzzi for Luongo? Brilliant. Especially considering the awful taste Dan “Beachball” Cloutier left in the mouths of devout Canucks fans, it was a red-letter day indeed. And wouldn’t you know it, since he arrived, the Canucks have been a legitimate threat to come out of the west in three out of four years.

This year, though, was different. The Canucks were tapped by many a pundit to go far in these playoffs, but with the asterisk, “in spite of the play of Roberto Luongo”. In spite of. When was the last time a club won in spite of their best player? As much as I love the guy, I have to admit: maybe the goalie-as-captain undertaking needs to come to an end.

Roberto Luongo could benefit by giving up the “C”.

With Vancouver facing elimination in game five this year, Luongo did several unthinkables. He shaved his playoff beard. He ditched the media scrum. He did what goalies are supposed to do: he concentrated on the game. Captains can’t do that. They’re supposed to bear the crush of pre-game media; they’re supposed to let the rest of the guys focus on their prep. Captains are supposed to carry the load while the bench loosens up. Sure, he stank the joint up in the second half of game six, but for four periods – game 5 in Chicago and the first period back at GM Place – he was Holy Hannah Luongo.

Do you think Jaroslav Halak would be stoning the Caps and Pens if he had to do a couple hours of daily pre-game media?  In fact, the opposite is true; the only reason we knew he was getting the game start over Carey Price was because he refuses to talk to media when he’s starting that night’s game.

Luongo as captain made sense in so many ways. He’s the most marketable player on a team in a hockey-mad market. His name is bandied about whenever “Best Goalie in the World” is the topic of conversation. He’s the top-paid player on the team. His are the top-selling jerseys at the Canucks Store. He’s an intense, passionate, win-at-all-cost kinda guy. He’s a gold-medal-winning goaltender, for crying out loud. But perhaps there’s a reason the NHL went 61 years between captains who played goal. This year’s stats are one easy way of seeing the cons to this little experiment.

Just one year ago, Luongo recorded seven shutouts in 54 games. This year, he threw just four doughnuts in 68 – his career-low as a number one goaltender. Last year, Alain Vigneault pulled the All-Star netminder from just one contest. Luongo was pulled from seven games this year – and one more in the playoffs – as he had his worst goals against average since he came from Florida. And his save percentage this season is the lowest he’s posted since his rookie year on Long Island. He lost his posts and composure with equal frequency, and fell apart at key times instead of making the big save the team needed more often than I care to count.

Some will argue these stats have more to do with the amount of play – it’s an Olympic year, they say – but Luongo has always been a workhorse. His best year for save percentage came in Florida in 2003-4, when he played 72 regular season games. Others will point to a weakened defensive core, and that point is valid. But when we see he scored seven shutouts with those same woeful, playoff-missing Panthers, when we see just how shaky he has looked all season, we have to wonder if Willie Mitchell’s absence has been the biggest problem Vancouver’s had between the pipes.

This doesn’t even touch the psychological effect a team must undergo when their captain is sitting on the bench. How massive a blow would it be to Detroit if Mike Babcock benched Nicklas Lidstrom? Could you imagine anything but injury forcing Sidney Crosby from his regular shift? To paraphrase Tom Larscheid, as Luongoes, so go the Canucks. If he’s sitting on the bench in shame, who shoulders the load?

With apologies to Richard Brodeur and Kirk McLean, Roberto Luongo is the best goaltender in Canucks history. And on Sunday, when he put aside all the extra-curricular activities that captaincy requires, he played like the best goaltender in Canucks history. He did the real job that Roberto Luongo is supposed to do: he stopped the puck. Coming back to GM Place on Tuesday, where expectations rest squarely on the back of the guy with the C on his jersey – sorry, the C on his mask – he gave up five goals for the third straight home start.

It’s not a matter of win or lose any more. The Canucks lost. In embarrassing fashion. For the second consecutive year. And sadly, they did not lose in spite of the play of Roberto Luongo.

The Canucks have to seriously look at putting the weight of that C on someone else’s shoulders.

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Jason Kurylo: Against The Tide

A lot of folks in Vancouver are blowing the conspiracy horn this morning, after the NHL made a very questionable call in denying Daniel Sedin a third-period goal last night. The truth is, the Canucks haven’t done themselves any favours, and frankly didn’t deserve to win game three. The Kings were the better team for 50 minutes last night. The Canucks, on the other hand, put in five minutes in the first period, and a modest fight in parts of the third. In this series, in fact, the Nucks haven’t put together a complete game once in three tries. Their PK and PP have been disastrous – LA is seven for twelve on the man advantage, for goodness’ sake. Without special teams going at even half speed, we lose this series faster than Andrew Alberts can book the tee times from the penalty box.

Still, if Boston fans can still complain about Don Cherry putting six Bruins on the ice so Lafleur can blast a power play shot past Gerry Cheevers…

Just this year: Malkin concusses Mitchell. Head shot into the boards. No penalty, no suspension. Mitchell will be lucky if he’s ready for next season.

Burrows has a major public relations scandal erupt when he says a referee planned to call a penalty, tells him so, and then proceeds to make an awful third period call on him. The Canucks lose to Calgary, with whom they are fighting for the division lead at the time.

Kesler hits Derek Morris AFTER MORRIS SAW HIM COMING AND PUT HIMSELF IN A VULNERABLE POSITION. (Morris admits so after the game.) Five minute major and a game misconduct.

Henrik – league’s leading scorer, mind you – gets skewered by Kopitar’s stick in game one. The blade is stuck in his helmet as evidence. No call.

Bernier has his stick blatantly held for a good three or four seconds during an offensive chance in game three. No call. (Not that it would have mattered – the PP wouldn’t have scored anyway.)

An injured Canuck labours to the bench, and a legal line change results in 7 players for a millisecond WITHIN FIVE FEET OF THE BENCH. No oncoming player touches the puck or impedes the play – which is the rule. Canucks called for too many men. LA wins game two on their outrageously good power play.

Daniel’s skate blade redirects the puck into the goal in game three, and is called a good goal by the on-ice refs. LA doesn’t even complain about the play. OFF-ICE OFFICIALS IN TORONTO, without precedent, alter the interpretation of the rulebook to CONCLUSIVELY decide the puck was put in illegally, and OVERRULE the referees. Mike Murphy – an ex-King player and ex-Canuck assistant coach – explains his call on Hockey Night in Canada, and only Kelly Hrudey finds any logic in the explanation. Even Ron McLean, whom many Canucks fans think is anti-Vancouver, thinks the league botches this call. Abominable.

All of these things in a short period of time will of course bring back all other memories of officials and/or league execs screwing the franchise. There are those (myself included) who still wince when they think of the Flames’ Joel Otto kicking in a series-winning goal, in the crease, in 1989. The Flames went on to win the Cup that year.

Vancouver has never got the calls. Not once do I remember the Canucks being handed a major game or a series by a call that could have gone either way. Whether it’s minor things – the other guys get away with too many men several times, but we get called for it in OT – or huge screwups like Daniel’s no goal last night, Vancouver always seems to end up on the wrong side of the call.

When will Otto, Mitchell, Kesler, Daniel and Burrows pool their karma to get the Canucks a few game-winning breaks? Let’s hope games three and four. But as Dan Boyle and the rest of the San Jose Sharks can tell you, sometimes karma doesn’t play fair. The Sharks have been frontrunners for nearly a decade, and they’ve not made even the Conference Finals, let alone skated for the Cup. The Canucks can’t wait for karma to come home. They just have to play through it.

It’s time for the Orca to swim against the tide. Hit. Shoot. Save. Score. Stay out of the box. And don’t rely on the refs to play fair. It’s not a conspiracy, per se, but the only consistency we’ve seen over the years is consistently poor calls against us.

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PODCAST: Jason Kurylo Playoff Predictions

Jason Kurylo checks in with another “Bernier is a Turd” podcast. In this edition Jason and Chris run through their predictions for the playoffs.

This time around we have two formats for your listening pleasure. An .M4A format with chapter breaks and images and the the stipped down .MP3 version. Simply click on the Ipod of your preference below and enjoy!

CC Podcast - Jason Kurylo  CC Podcast - Jason Kurylo
Download in .M4A format. Download in .MP3 format

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Jason Kurylo: NHL Slow To Recognize Sedin

Henrik Sedin is the ninth different player to etch his name on the Art Ross trophy in the past nine seasons. He finished the 2009-2010 season with 112 points, which puts him alongside guys like Guy Lafleur, Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux and Bobby Orr. His effort this year has been every bit as Herculean as the local media is saying; to put his club record total in perspective, when Pavel Bure scored 110 in 1992-93, the Russian Rocket didn’t even rate top ten status in league scoring.

Despite this remarkable season, in which Henrik played 19 games without his brother Daniel, the NHL website took nearly 24 hours to even include his name among their season-ending headlines:

 Where's Henrik?

Hank – the league leader in points – was nowhere to be found. “Crosby, Stamkos tie for ‘Rocket’ Richard trophy”, and “Ovechkin’s trophy bids come up short in finale” are articles that no doubt mention the Vancouver Canuck forward, but seriously, what does a Sedin have to do to get some love from the league? Stamkos and Crosby both rate video highlights on the main NHL.com page – is Henrik’s four-point final game against Calgary available? Daniel’s outstanding hat-trick goal? Nothin’.

It was only a quick email and letter blitz by Vancouver fans that moved the league to change things. Now the site bears the headline it should, “Henrik Sedin wins Art Ross”, and links to a video clip of Daniel’s between-the-legs hat trick goal against Mikka Kiprusoff.

The NHL has long used Crosby and Ovechkin as their poster boys. Other past winners of the Gary Bettman-era Art Ross, like Jarome Iginla, Jaromir Jagr and Joe Thornton, are all, for a lack of better term, sexy. Betts can sell those guys to the American networks. Henrik Sedin, though? Hardly a GQ cover candidate. League officials will put on their Kodak moment smiles in Las Vegas, and they’ll probably come up with some marketing department spin to spew. They’ve already exploited the “Swedish Twins” bit in one TV spot a couple of years ago, right? But you have got to know that league executives and broadcast brass were cheering for Ovechkin and Crosby to tie up the scoring race on the final day.

How bitter should we be, really? Hard to say. With or without Bettman’s henchmen supporting our boy, Henke will be bringing back to GM Place a major piece of hardware that Vancouver has never seen before: the Art Ross trophy.

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Jason Kurylo Podcast: No love for Bernier & Alberts, Hank for Hart & Playoff Talk

Jason Kurylo presents the first ever CanucksCorner.com podcast, which he has affectionately titled “Bernier Is A Turd”. We’re not sure is this will be the permanent name of his podcasts, but we remind everyone the opinions expressed on CanucksCorner.com are those of the authors and may not reflect the opinion of CanucksCorner.com. :)

Jason and his co-host Chris Withers discuss amongst other topics, their dislike for Steve Bernier and Andrew Alberts, the Hart Trophy chances of Henrik Sedin, the Rocket Richard trophy, playoff matchups, hits to the head and pretty much every other recent hockey topic! To get started, click on the Ipod below!

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