O Canada! Canadiens, Canucks, Flames, Jets and Senators Invited to the Dance!

When the NHL playoffs started last year, six of the seven Canadian-based NHL teams were on the outside looking in, Montreal was the only one left to with an invitation to the dance. This is what the rest of the Canadian teams looked like:

Every Canadian team on the outside looking in for last season's playoff. This season, Montreal gets some company. Vancouver, Calgary and Winnipeg are in!

Every Canadian team on the outside looking in for last season’s playoff. This season, Montreal gets some company. Vancouver, Calgary and Winnipeg are in!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Three of the Western Canadian teams are looking primed for playoffs and have all helped each other one way or another by doing their part to eliminate the LA Kings. I am happy for all the Canadian teams that made the post-season. It’s great to see “North of the 49th” teams compete. And it took the last game but Ottawa joins the rest in the post-season.

I’m not here to make predictions. I am not here to troll teams, (especially my Canucks 1st round opponent the Flames), and I am not here systematically breakdown the teams line by line goalies, defensive pairings 1, 2, 3. I am here for some congratulations to each team and some highlights for each of these Canadian clubs.

montrealcanadiensPuck

 I don’t think there was much surprise with the Habs. They have been improving  vastly  over the last five years. They have a lot of great things happening for them and it’s all starting to come together.

  • Carey Price: Breaking the club record for most wins in a season, Price keeps showing why he is one of the best, if not the best goalie in the NHL. Let’s note the regular season wins record beat guys like Patrick Roy and  former Hart trophy winner, Jose Theodore.
  • Brendan Gallagher: You have to cheer on former WHL Vancouver Giants alumni being an integral part of Montreal’s success. He’s a guy that doesn’t have size, but a whole lot of heart and determination.
  • Michel Therrien: Definitely not everyone’s cup of tea, but he has made this line-up work, one way or another. He has the team believing in each other, and really that’s all that matters.
  • PK Subban: When your No.1 defenceman is second in points on a club, it’s a good thing. Just ask the Bruins and Raymond Bourque about it.

Calpuck

 

Who are these guys? I thought this team was on a ‘rebuild’? They were about 3-5 years away from playoff anything! However, they are in the dance and 3rd place (so far) in the Pacific division to boot! You have to give the Flames credit, everyone is stunned, but the more the season went along, the Flames were not only making their fan base believe, but the NHL also.

  • Johnny Gaudreau: AKA “Johnny Hockey” This NCAA Hobey Baker winner stunned everyone with his speed and skill. He is so fun to watch and despite being diminutive for the NHL, he’s making a big impact for Calgary.
  • Mark Giordano: The Flames captain was well on his way to probably winning the Norris trophy for top defenceman in the NHL. Unfortunately for him, his injury took him out for the remainder of the season. An enormous reason for Calgary’s success this season. Before his injury he had 48 points, currently 5th on the team.
  • Jiri Hudler: The Czech player is tops of NHL players 31 years of age or older with 76 points. He is followed by Daniel Sedin, of our Canucks and producing time points for dramatic wins.
  • Bob Hartley: Finding something that works for this young team through his coaching methods. Mixing in the right amount of veterans to prospects is not always an easy task, but he’s doing it and at Game 81, still amazing some fans in the NHL.

WPGJets

The city of Winnipeg have not seen NHL Playoff hockey since 1996. Although the franchise is different, the logo is different, the Jets will always be “The Jets” in Winnipeg. Get ready for some “White Out” at the MTS Centre, everyone. For those that didn’t get to see it during the ’90s, you’re in for a treat.

  • Paul Maurice: Perfect man to coach this team. You needed someone who is still young enough to relate to some of these guys, but has a vast experience coaching in the NHL. Maurice is only 48 years old and nearly 20 years of coaching experience in the bigs. However, although a good interview, he’s not quite Claude Noel in terms of his frustration with the press.
  • Ondrej Pavalec: He doesn’t always get the respect he deserves but Pavalec has been lights out for the Jets, especially with three shutouts in the row. Yes, I realised he lost his last game in a shootout, but he was credited with a shutout.
  • Big Bad Jets: The ginormous Winnipeg Jets are hard-hitting. On top of their size and physical game, the Jets are incredibly fast as well. Which ever team gets the Jets in the 1st round, I can guarantee one thing, that team will be battered and bruised, win or lose.

SENSPuckLate to the party but the Ottawa Senators clinch a playoff spot with a 3-1 win over the Philadelphia Flyers in the very last game on the very last day of their NHL season. They are 5th and final Canadian team to make the playoffs. What a run they have had in the latter part of season.

  • Hamburglar: Who the hell is Andrew Hammond? Nicknamed “The Hamburglar” he has been spectacular! Hammond has been given an opportunity and running with it. In his 24 NHL games, Hammond has gone 20-1-2 and a sporting a .947%. A hot goalie going into the playoffs is such a good asset to have.
  • Hot Stone Therapy: Rookie scorer, Mark Stone tied with Johnny Gaudreau of the Flames for the rookie scoring lead has been on fire as of late. He has turned on his scoring touch to help propel his team into a playoff spot.
  • Fashionably Late: Since February 17th, the Senators have accumulated 45 points (including today’s game vs. the Flyers). That is tops of the NHL since said date. They were a team on a mission and it’s been accomplished. Welcome to the dance, Ottawa.

 VanNucksPuck

Last but not least, our Vancouver Canucks. The soul-sucking wet towel of last season has been set aside for now, by Canucks fans. Albeit, not completely, but mostly…Canucks Nation hasn’t thought about it much. Despite giving up almost every single first game goal in the regular season, the Canucks are 2nd in the Pacific Division and will set off to face the Flames in the first round, either home or away.  Here’s all I can say about the other ‘surprise’ of the Western Conference. Like Calgary, not many expected the Canucks to make the playoffs. Some felt they would be close but not in. However, they clinched that spot & and now need only 1 point to win home ice advantage in the 1st round vs. The Calgary Flames.

  • Goaltending: Whether your #TeamLack or #TeamMiller, you’re winning. Both their contributions have been integral to the Canucks’ success this past season. Lack has come on strong since Miller’s unfortunate injury on Long Island. Miller will get the last regular season start but I’m guessing, even Miller would concede the start of the playoffs to Lack. Eddie has been very good keep this team in the hunt. If Lack falters, you can revert back to the guy you signed to the big deal in the off season to backstop this team. Oh the burden of two capable goalies.
  • Sedinery: The resurgence of Henrik and Daniel this season has been a delight to see. The management of their minutes by the coaching staff has been excellent this year. As of late, the power play has come to life and that will serve them well going into the post-season. Daniel is sitting 9th in the NHL in scoring with 74 points after 81 games. Henrik is sitting at 16th with 71 points but is a +12. Only Jiri Hudler of the Calgary Flames, is in the Top 20 with Henrik and Daniel that are 31 years and older.
  • Rollin’ Rollin’ Rollin’: The Vancouver Canucks are finally a four line team. In fact, I don’t ever recall them being one in recent memory. Every line is contributing on the score-sheet. There are 11 forwards who are double digits in goals. Now if they can all only count to five on line changes.
  • Radim Vrbata: Talk about the acquisition of the year for Jim Benning and Trevor Linden. Vrbata has found a home in Vancouver and scoring 31 goals in 81 games, no matter who was centering him. He’s found some chemistry with Nick Bonino and has that line going as well. He’s been such a great addition on the ice and @TheStantion’s GIF game.

It’s great to see a turnaround and presence of these five teams making the playoffs. My dream would be an Ottawa/Vancouver final. 1915 was when these teams first vied for the Stanley Cup and it would be great for the same outcome. Dare to dream. I’m just happy for all the teams and their fans who have made it.  Are you ready Canada it’s going to be a crazy first month of the NHL post-season!

Sorry Oilers and Leafs, maybe next year? *wink*

@Aviewfromabroad

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Poll: Which Team Chasing the Canucks Scares You Most in the 1st Round?

With the final playoff push happening here in the Western Conference, the Canucks are sitting pretty 2nd in the Pacific Division. The four teams battling out for the last few playoffs spots could be potential opponents for the Vancouver Canucks. Each team having attributes to give Vancouver difficulties in the first round (if they matched up) but which team do you think would give the Canucks the hardest time, win or lose in the first round.

  • Minnesota Wild– The Wild are a hard team to pinpoint where they are ‘scary’. With the play of Devon Dubnyk  since being acquired by the Wild, they have been a very good team and a hard one to beat. They already have 37 ROWs, the Canucks have 38 and are only a point behind the Canucks. Luckily they are in the Central Division, but with the format of playoffs, they would be a formidable first round opponent. 
  • Calgary Flames– Flames have been surprising everyone this season. With a year the team was in a supposed ‘rebuild’, they are in a playoff position. They are best 3rd period scoring team in the NHL and have 36 wins (ROWs) on the season. Their biggest issue is the loss of their Captain, Mark Giordano for the remainder of the season with his torn bicep. However, the Flames are still finding ways to win. They are a team the Canucks do not want to stop pressuring in the offensive zone.
  •  Winnipeg Jets– The Jets are a big, fast and hard-hitting team. They are finding ways to win and managing their losses very well. Their biggest issue is actually who will be their starting goaltender if they make the playoffs. Paul Maurice has the team believing in themselves and it looks like Swaggerville could make an appearance in the NHL playoffs for the first times in decades.
  • Los Angeles Kings– The defending Stanley Cup Champions are the team on the outside looking in but are a threat to take that last playoff spot or even move up higher in the standings. Although they have cruised most of the regular season, the Kings are always considered a contender. Jonathan Quick has been nothing short of brilliant in recent playoff performances and they all seem to find a way to get it done, when it matters most.
Which team chasing the Canucks 'scares' you the most if they were to face them in the playoffs?

 LA is at the top of that list for me, followed by the Minnesota Wild. In reality, the playoffs are a different beast and the Canucks have to ‘flip the switch’ and play ‘balls out’ for 60 minutes plus a game. There are no shootouts and every goal either gets you closer to the next game or closer to golf course.

@Aviewfromabroad

Hank and the boys are gearing up for playoffs, Vancouver are you?

Hank and the boys are gearing up for playoffs, Vancouver are you?

 

 

Back it Up B*tches, Support the Starter

For as long as I could remember, being the starting goaltender after Kirk McLean was not a great job to have with the Vancouver Canucks. I can see why no self-respecting starting free agent goalie ever wanted to come here and play for this team.  All the fans eventually hate them or are extremely disappointed by them, and they are ran out of town.

I remember it even happened with Kirk McLean. When Corey Hirsch came in to replace the injured McLean (knee), many fans were crying for Hirsch to be the new starter. In their eyes, McLean was done. He will never be the same. Sadly, they were right. Kirk was a shadow of his former self, and no longer at the level of a Vezina nominated goaltender. Off Kirk went, and after that, so did competent goaltending for a good stretch of years. 

We could go on and on revisiting all the goalie controversies here in Vancouver over the last 15 years, but there is no point. It all starts with not liking the starter for whatever reason (not good enough, not nice, too aloof…) and loving the backup in the games he plays. His job is to give said starter the break, so some fans want to see at times a more permanent one. As Canucks fans, we had to see it happen twice to the best goaltender this franchise has ever put on its uniform, Roberto Luongo. How about we put an end to it right now.

Remember this? Photo Credit: The Vancouver Sun

Remember this? Photo Credit: The Vancouver Sun

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 There is no #TeamLack or #TeamMiller in my eyes. It has always been about #TeamCanucks Right now, it’s not even really an issue. Miller still has not recovered from his injury. So, Eddie Lack is our starter, and we should support him. We should especially support him on days he has a not-so-good game. Fatigue starts to play a factor when one plays so many games in a row. It happened to Miller, and it has happened to Lack too. I like Eddie Lack. He’s a pretty cool dude and a good goalie. However, if Miller comes back, he would get my support as much as Eddie does. Why? 28 wins and 6 shutouts says so. Without that body of work from Miller, the Canucks would not be in a playoff spot. Besides, Ryan Miller seems like a nice guy, just a lot quieter than what we’re used to with guys like Eddie Lack and Kevin Bieksa on the team. To me, he hasn’t been given a chance to be accepted as part of this team by a good number of fans.  We all have to also remember, without Eddie’s improved game since taking over the net post- Miller’s injury,  the Canucks would not still be in playoff contention. Both goalies’ efforts have made an impact. That’s not fan fiction, that’s just how it is.

This goalie controversy can be looked at from a different perspective. Both goalies are both capable of winning, so it’s a problem of abundance. It’s a good problem to have. Two goalies capable of taking the team to victories, a problem? I’m sure teams like Dallas, Edmonton, Arizona etc, would love to have one goalie that could be capable, let alone two. Some should be so lucky.

Let's all relax and take in a Lack Dance.

Let’s all relax and take in a Lack Dance.

My point is, the more Canucks fans, and media alike, who buy into and propagate this message, the harder it could become in the future to find that All-Star level goaltender UFA. No one wants to come to a place where he is publicly not wanted by the very fans for he puts the uniform on, night after night. We don’t want another Heritage Classic situation. Frankly, that dressing room has been through enough over the last two years and there is no need to mount this on them too. Let’s cheer them all on, even the ones that ‘suck’ from time to time. Who knows, it might inspire better play from those players. When the team is winning, the less of an issue it all becomes.

What about next season? Well, let’s get through this one first and we’ll cross that bridge when we get there.

@Aviewfromabroad

#TBT:Passing on Round 2-Trade the Picks, A Habit of Failure

Ever since the Brian Burke era, the Vancouver Canucks haven’t had very much luck with the 2nd round pick of the NHL Draft. With the odd exception, the Canucks’ management, whomever is at the helm, would take heat for not using those 2nd round picks to build within the organization. Many of those 2nd round picks since 1998 were used in trade deals, but the Canucks did not trade all of them away. So from 1998 to present, let’s see what the 2nd round pick has garnered the Canucks via trade or prospect. How did the team fare overall?

Brian Burke Era

1998: Canucks chose Artem Chubarov in the 2nd round, 31st overall. He spent seven years in the Canucks organization before heading to Russia to play in the KHL. He played 228 NHL regular season games and 27 playoff games. Chubarov is better known for his funny little NHL record.

1999: Brian Burke sent this selection (31st overall) was sent to Colorado (via Washington) as compensation to acquire Marc Crawford as the new head coach of the Vancouver Canucks.

2000: Traded to Atlanta for a 2nd round pick in 2001, plus a swap of the 3rd round picks in the 2001 draft.

2001: The pick traded to Atlanta was turned around in 2000 (42nd overall) in a trade to Nashville for Drake Berehowsky.

2002: Chosen 49th overall was Kiril Koltsov. In the efforts of trying to find the next great Russian player, Burke missed on this pick. Koltsov did not play one game for the Vancouver Canucks but spent 102 games with the Manitoba Moose, the then-AHL affiliate of the big club, before going to Russia.

2003: Marc-Andre Bernier, a right winger,  was chosen 60th overall in the 2nd round. He, like Koltsov before him, did not register one NHL game under his belt, but spent his career in the minors, bouncing from the AHL to the ECHL.

Dave Nonis Era

2004: The 61st pick overall was traded to the Pittsburgh Penguins for backup net-minder,Johan Hedberg. Hedberg only played 21 games for the Canucks with a GAA of 2.52 and a SV % of .900. That was as steep price to pay for a backup goalie for such a short term.

2005: Mason Raymond. One of the 2nd round picks that worked out for the Canucks, for the most part. Raymond played 279 games for the Canucks with one 25 goal season. Most of all, for about four seasons, we the fans, were entertained how many times Raymond fell on the ice, without assistance of a shove, almost each and every game.

2006: The 46th overall pick was traded to the Buffalo Sabres for goalie, Mika Noronen. If you thought Hedberg was an expensive trade, Noronen played only 4 games for the Canucks. With his .870 SV% and his GAA 3.52, Nonis was fleeced.

2007: Taylor Ellington was chosen 33rd overall in an inside-out trade with Buffalo and LA for Dan Cloutier. Ellington spent the majority of his hockey career in the ECHL and was last seen playing in Denmark last season.

Mike Gillis Era

2008:  Yann Sauve was chosen 41st overall. He spent the better part of the last six years in the Canucks’ system. He was a call up for the big club playing eight games, scoring no points. Sauve is now in Springfield, IL playing for the Columbus Blue Jackets farm team, The Falcons.

2009:  Anton Rodin was chosen 53 overall. The Swedish right-winger is currently playing the SweHL for Brynas IF Galve. Another pick really not panning out for the Canucks.

2010: The 55th pick overall was traded to Buffalo for Steve Bernier, and then traded to LA in 2009  and the pick was eventually used by the Bluejackets. Make sense? Not really, but neither have some of the Canucks picks.

2011: The Canucks chose David Honzik, a Czech goalie who played in the QMJHL. Nothing has progressed beyond Honzik’s junior career and hasn’t been seen on any hockey radar since the 2013-2014 season.

2012: Alexandre Mallet, a left wing prospect chosen 57th overall. He played a few years in the AHL and ECHL system for the Canucks until recently. He is now part of the ECHL Stockton Thunder, an affiliate team of the New York Islanders.

2013: CORRECTION: The Canucks did not have a 2013 pick due to a trade in order to get Derek Roy . Along with the pick was Kevin Connaughton. However they did have another pick in the 1st round and turned it into Hunter Shinkaruk. As per @s0ya on twitter.

No 2nd rounder in the 2013 NHL Draft, but Shinkaruk comes as an additional 1st rounder along with Bo Horvat.

No 2nd rounder in the 2013 NHL Draft (Derek Roy), but Shinkaruk comes as an additional 1st rounder along with Bo Horvat. Photo Credit: Vancouver Sun

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 Jim Benning Era

2014: A possible goalie of the future in Thatcher Damko, who played in goal for Team USA in the WJC. In development and we are pretty excited to see what happens.

 

Until now, it seems the Canucks management failed to see the importance and true value of the 2nd round picks, especially when Burke and Nonis were at the helm. With the  scouting background of Jim Benning as an asset, perhaps this is a trend that has been bucked and we can look to the future of depth and building within the system. We can all hope.

In 2015, that 2nd round pick has again been traded, but Sven Baertchi looks like his worth the price ,so far since being acquired, down in Utica. Benning and others seem Baertchi as a future regular NHL’er  with the proper development. Travis Green knew how to motive and develop Sven in the WHL, and it could be another wonderful realtionship in Utica.

*Fingers crossed*

@Aviewfromabroad

 

Pat Quinn: Hockey’s St. Patrick

When I headed towards Rogers Arena last night, my husband sent me a text cautioning me of what I might see when I entered the gate:

Keep your eyes peeled when you come in Gate 16. It was quite the rogues gallery when I came

As I was walking down Abbot Street  (now Pat Quinn Way) to my regular gate, Orland Kurtenbach and his wife walked by for the unveiling of the street sign on Abbot St. and Pacific Boulevard. As I came inside, I saw Kirk McLean talking with a few others. Usually, I don’t get phased by seeing McLean, he’s in and around the arena quite a bit during the regular season, but yesterday, it felt different. There was an energy the minute I set foot through the doors. As I waited for the elevator to take me to Level 5, I started recognizing more faces, and then I thought I saw Markus Naslund which made me do a double take and I wasn’t sure, but I was… Anyway, everyone was in great anticipation of the pre-game ceremony.

When I met up with my husband in our section, he told me of some of the people he saw gathered at Gate 16. He said, in a cluster, there was Brian Burke, George McPhee, Jim Robson and Bob Nicholson. Rogues, maybe, but hockey’s upper echelon, definitely. As we were having our pre-game dinner, I believe we both felt at a loss for words. All  we could do was smile just think of how much Pat Quinn meant to hockey and we in Vancouver were so fortunate to have felt his impact so profoundly.

Canucks President, Trevor Linden, bookends the new commemorative sign of Pat Quinn Way" with Vancouver mayor, Gregor Robertson during the unveiling, renaming ceremony. Photo Credit: NHL.com

Canucks President, Trevor Linden, bookends the new commemorative sign of Pat Quinn Way” with Vancouver mayor, Gregor Robertson during the unveiling, renaming ceremony. Photo Credit: NHL.com

The unveiled "Pat Quinn Way". Quinn meant so much to the Canucks and to the city of Vancouver, it was truly a fitting tribute.

The unveiled “Pat Quinn Way”. Quinn meant so much to the Canucks and to the city of Vancouver, it was truly a fitting tribute.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 When the actual ceremony began, Hockey Hall of Fame inductee and legendary broadcaster, Jim Robson hosted the evening. It was respectful, memorable without being too long winded. It was perfect. Rick Ley, Bobby Clarke, Cliff Fletcher, Ron Toigo, Markus Naslund, Stan Smyl, Trevor Linden, Pavel Bure, Kirk McLean, Bob Nicholson and Orland Kurtebach all joined in for the on-ice ceremony. But it was the amazing entourage of people who weren’t shown publicly that astounded many. Washington Capitals GM, George McPhee, singer Michael Buble, Flames President- Brian Burke were amongst the many who gathered at Rogers Arena on that very special night.

Seeing people in the hockey world pay their respects to a man that meant so much to this game, to this city and especially to this team. Pat Quinn had an impact everywhere he want into hockey, but nowhere to the extent of Vancouver. I was still a young girl (11 or 12) when Pat Quinn took charge of the Vancouver Canucks, but I do remember the less than half full Pacific Coliseum before his arrival and how things changed when he put his stamp on the team. There was a culture, there was a vibe, there was respectability associated with the Canucks that lacked in previous regimes.

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Highlights of the Pat Quinn Ceremony

  • Seeing the array of team jerseys that was associated with Pat Quinn in the world of hockey. Even more so the people who wore them out as they were introduced to Rogers Arena.
  • The appropriateness of the St. Patrick’s Day to remember The Big Irishman.
  • Bagpipes and Mark Donnelly singing his rendition of “Irish Eyes Are Smiling” paid a wonderful musical tribute.
  • The combatants of the night, were the two NHL teams Quinn had the most success with as a head coach.
  • All the dignitaries throughout the night that went on-air with kind words to say about Pat.
  • Seeing his daughters and granddaughter with the ceremonial puck drop was a perfect way to end the ceremony.
  • The one that impacted me the most during the ceremony was seeing Bure, Linden and McLean together in their old “Skate Logo” jersey brought the crowd to a rousing cheer. Memories of a team from yesteryear brought many smiles and tears of joy to some present at the arena. Most significant part of that trio together was, as they were leaving the ice after the ceremony, Linden patted Bure on the back and shared what seemed like kinds words with the Russian Rocket. Two men, who have not always seen eye to eye, as teammates and people, put their differences aside for the night to remember Pat Quinn. That’s speaks volumes of how much Pat Quinn meant to people.

For those that missed the ceremony last night, or those who just want to see it again, here is the ceremony in its entirety.

 

@Aviewfromabroad