Of Expectations and Ex-Goaltenders

luongo

Will fans boo? Or will they Luuu? January 8, 2015 marks the return of Roberto Luongo to Rogers Arena, his first game back as an opponent after 8 seasons as the usual starting goaltender in a Canucks uniform.

Usual starting goaltender.

The exceptions being when he was demoted to backup behind Cory Schneider, and when he was demoted to backup behind Eddie Lack. When you look back, it sounds ridiculous.

Luongo is now enjoying life in Florida as a member of the Panthers, as far away from the harsh and glaring spotlight of the Vancouver hockey market as you can be. He looked relaxed in the presser earlier this week, and why not? The Panthers have a good mix of youth and veteran presence, and have been winning hockey games, backstopped by Luongo who has played well statistically with a .924 save percentage and 2.28 goals against average, good enough for top 10 in both categories.

It is not without a touch of irony that Luongo is statistically better than Cory Schneider, Eddie Lack and even Ryan Miller at this point in the season.

Expectations have been lowered for this team – gone is the talk of the Stanley Cup Finals, instead replaced with the hope of just getting into the post-season.

The saying goes that familiarity breeds comtempt, and that held true for Vancouver’s love affair with Luongo – after many seasons of high expectations, Stanley Cup aspirations, and playoff disappointments, coaches and management fell out of love with Luongo, and in turn Luongo fell out of love with Vancouver.

Another adage says that absence makes the heart grow fonder. Sometimes when you see that old love, having fun in another place with other people, it makes you think of what could have been. If only we had tried harder, maybe we could have made things work.

Three Up, Three Down: Slump Buster Tuesday

The Islanders came to town last night and for many of the Canucks, their visit last year was one they would all love to forget, especially Eddie Lack. Last night, the team had a chance to redeem themselves from that horrible 7-4 loss last March after being up 3-0 going into the third period.Also we saw some things that we haven’t seen in a while. Guys who haven’t tallied a goal in a good amount of time were rippling the mesh and Eddie got a win for a belated birthday gift but this was probably the best gift for Eddie the Canucks have shared with everyone.

 

THREE UP

1. Ryan Stanton scored his first goal in 83 games. Stanton gets his first of the year on this beauty! A perfect time to pinch and a perfect get on the rebound. His second career goal ties the game up.  It is nice to see your “stay at homes” show some offensive initiative from time to time and this was on point.

2. Nick Bonino was on the “Three Down” side of this column last post, but either he’s read every article about his invisibility lately or he wasn’t going to let Ryan Stanton be the only one breaking a slump tonight. Bieksa is the king of giveth away but here he taketh away and shot the puck and Bonino buried the rebound. Not only did Nick bump his goal scoring slump, he and his line were creating some really good chances and making aggressive plays all night.

 

3. Linden Vey gets in on the action too. So yes, all three goal scorers get the “Three Up” from me tonight. Since it’s Slump-buster Tuesday, why not do it on a beautiful breakaway with a pass from Dorsett to put the Canucks up 3-1. Cue the cheesy puns because they were plentiful.

Honourable Mention: Zack Kassian. Although Kassian didn’t hit the score sheet two of his plays lead to goals last night. He’s hands are just incredibly soft and yet he can hit as hard as anyone. Still a young player, I can see Kassian be the next Bertuzzi on this team, if he gets some chances to play with some quality linemates and maybe see some time on the PP.

It’s really great to see these guys have a good game and I hope it continues and gets infectious (like the mumps) to get the rest of the team on the same page.

 

THREE DOWN

1. Henrik Sedin needs to learn that he doesn’t always have to pass. I know he’s not the scoring Sedin, but it would be considered an element of surprise if he just took some shots on goal once in a while. The Captain needs to find his trigger finger and put pucks towards the net. He has the fewest amount of shots out of the top six at 40. Only Linden Vey (33), Bo Horvat (17) and Zack Kassian (26) have less shots on goal than Henrik and Hank is on the ice far more than these guys and Zack has missed a month. Oh Captain, my Captain, Sedinery isn’t always to be saved for OT.

Wonder Twin powers, PLEASE activate!

Wonder Twin powers, PLEASE activate!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2. Daniel Sedin, just like his brother needs to find his groove more and shoot. He is now too often passing and letting Vrbata do all the shooting. Daniel has great accuracy and when he gets those goals past the goalies, it’s usually a thing of beauty. Maybe he’s just trying to be too perfect, and not looking at the ‘ugly goal’ as an option. However, ugly, pretty, clean, highlight reel goal or not, they all count, so start tallying.

3. Luca Sbisa, what are we going to do with you? More often than not, Sbisa just looks so lost out there and he’s turned more into comic relief for Vancouver fans and media alike. There are genius moments when we all react dumbfounded and there are his dumb moments when we just react in a sad laughter.

I am not sure how much longer I can deal with Sbisa but I know the Sedins have enough talent in those old bones to find a groove, so be like Stella and get your groove back…and oh yeah, SHOOT THE PUCK!

Tweet of the Day:

@strombone1 strikes again with another beauty and drags a once Roxy regular into it.

@strombone1 strikes again with another beauty and drags a once Roxy regular into it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Next up on Thursday, January 8th, Roberto Luongo and the Florida Panthers. I expect a good crowd at Rogers Arena and some “Lu’ing” to be happening. 

 

@Aviewfromabroad

Three Up, Three Down: January 5th

After the Christmas break, the Vancouver Canucks are 2-1-1 in their four games played. Nothing spectacular, but five out of a possible eight points isn’t so bad considering their opponents: Ducks, Sharks, Kings and Redwings. A much different cry than the October schedule that consisted of a good chunk of playing teams from Alberta. Based on last season, they would have been lucky to get two points from these four games, maybe three. However, there is no longer a John Tortorella or a Mike Gillis at the helm and just from being an observant fan, there is a different feeling from the guys we see on the ice. Despite recent struggles, they are fighting through it, instead of just succumbing to what befalls them.

Over the last four games, here are three of the guys that have been solid for the Canucks and here three of the guys who have been struggling.

THREE UP

1. Ryan Miller- Despite having some rough games in the month of December, Ryan Miller has found his form since the holiday break. He has been tracking the puck well and despite the late in the game loss to LA, he stopped 37 of 40 shots the Kings threw his way. In the OT loss to the Anaheim Ducks, Miller posted 28 saves of 30 shots while being absolutely stellar in the game versus the Detroit Redwings, last Saturday. In the four games Miller has stopped 126 of 133 SOG. His save % is at an incredible .947. If not for the play of Ryan Miller, this could be a different four games for the Canucks.

Edler2. Alex Edler- He could possibly be nicknamed “Steady Eddie” for his play the over this four game stretch. He recorded three points including a PPG versus Detroit. His +/- rating is at a +1 for these four games and the ability for him to just calmly and confidently move the puck out of this zone, gaining centre before shooting it into the other end has been a night and day difference from last season’s version of Alex Edler. Edler is looking a lot more comfortable this year on the blue line than last. He and Tanev have been a solid pairing and a bright spot for the Canucks D.

3. Alex Burrows- Say what you want about Alex Burrows and his often agitating demeanor on the ice, he is probably the most coach-able person on the team. He is  versatile. Ask him to play on the penalty kill, he is money. Ask him to play down with Horvat and Dorsett, he gives that line some good chances at the net. Ask him to play on the PP as the man in front and suddenly the very quiet power play is making a little more noise. After such a terrible and injury ridden season under John Tortorella, it’s great to see Burrows back to being Burrows under Willie Desjardins. Hard to fault him for what he does on the ice. He doesn’t seem to do much wrong. Sure we could have Burrows potting a few more to the back of the net, but I’m just glad to see Burrows feeling confident in two-way play once more and on special teams, I can’t name one person that plays them as well as Burr.

As some guys are finding their grooves, and finding their games, there are other guys on the team that have been invisible, struggling that it costs the team on the scoreboard or just plays you see and all you can do is shake your head.

THREE DOWN

Kevin-Bieksa-and-tiny-Hamhuis-600x3001. Kevin Bieksa- It’s no secret I am not the biggest fan of Bieksa’s play on the ice, and although I have thought him to be serviceable, he’s not by any means a ‘franchise blue-liner’ that some fans make him out as, but everyone knows I love the way he stands up for his teammates. I admire the way he conducts himself with the media and the fans, and his work and contributions outside the world of hockey. Kevin Bieksa is a damn good teammate, but his play since the injury to Dan Hamhuis has been far from stellar. The casual clearings of the pucks and the untimely penalties have really been glaring. They are even worse to see when he was paired up with Luca Sbisa. Things have somewhat steadied with Stanton on the other side and Juice has fought his way back to a -2 after being -7 in his +/- rating. One thing I will say, Bieksa looked pretty good versus Detroit. He made some really timely plays and maybe, just maybe, Hamhuis will be back to get Juice back on track soon.

2. Chris Higgins- Like Mikael Samuelsson before him, Higgins is a streaky player. However this long streak of being goal-less and invisible is really adding up to about a calendar month, maybe more. During this four game span, Higgins has recorded only six shots on goal. Yes, the rest of the team hasn’t really been shooting much either, but Higgins has enough speed to get himself open and take more shots. I was expecting a better year from Higgins but as of now, he’s been more often quiet than not.

3. Nick Bonino: According to Raffi (yes, that Raffi, Baby Beluga, Raffi) on twitter, the “Bonino Phone” has stopped ringing. In fact, it has rang since Dec. 13th versus the New York Rangers in a loss. Bonino is stagnant in terms of point production. He has recorded one assist in last four games. He centres the 2nd unit powerplay and some of it can be attributed to the Sedin PP unit taking up 1:30 of the 2min PP time, Bonino’s unit hasn’t produced and has looked lack lustre. Bonino needs to find a way to start contributing to the score-sheet and fast, because the Canucks aren’t looking like they won that Anaheim trade at the moment or remotely feel they ‘broke even’ on the deal. One positive about Nick Bonino in the last little while is that his faceoff % has gone up to the 50% range from the 30% range he was recording earlier in the season.

Hopefully we can get the whole ship working on all cylinders as they were in late October, early November, once again,  but each line, each player needs to be picking up the slack more when they see teammates struggle, but with the Canucks having been out-shot 133-75 in these last four games doesn’t build a lot of hope in some of the fan base. These were top quality opponents. The Sharks, Ducks, Kings and Wings are no joke. Sure you can get away with it on the Oilers, Sabres, Flames even to an extent and the Coyotes, but if the Canucks wish to have any success in the Western Conference and specifically the Pacific Division, they need to start getting more pucks to the net, causing rebounds and making opportunities.

@Aviewfromabroad

#TICH: Iron Mike Makes a Deal

January 3rd, 1998: Iron Mike Keenan started his dismantling of the Vancouver Canucks. After 10 years in a Canucks uniform, the longest serving goalie in franchise history, Kirk McLean, gets dealt to the Carolina Hurricanes, along with Martin Gelinas for Geoff Sanderson, Enrico Ciccone and goaltender, Sean Burke. Those three players played a total of 38 games for the Vancouver Canucks before they, themselves, were sent away from by Keenan.

 

Kirk McLean spent 10 & half years backstopping for the Canucks. He was traded to Carolina January 3, 1998.

Kirk McLean spent 10 & half years backstopping for the Canucks. He was traded to Carolina January 3, 1998.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

McLean’s play suffered partly because of a reoccurring knee injury but in all honesty, many people believed Mike Keenan didn’t want the core there anymore and McLean was the first piece, with Gelinas, to be dealt out. McLean and Gelinas were the first but they were not the last. Change came, some of it ended up being blessing in disguise eventually, but this was a deal that Carolina got themselves a starting goaltender and Vezina finalist in Kirk McLean and “Notre Coeur” (Our Heart) Martin Gelinas. The Canucks got back, temporary workers.

It was the beginning of the end of an era that Pat Quinn had built previously. Keenan knocked it down with a wrecking ball and in doing so, set the organization back by a decade. He didn’t care, he wanted to make sure the stamp had “Iron Mike” all over it on the Canucks organization. It did, but it was years before we as fans, saw any of the fruition of it.

This is what happened on January 3, 1998, Today in Canucks History.

 

twitter: @Aviewfromabroad

 

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Notable players traded by Mike Keenan out of the Canucks organization:

TO BUFFALO: Geoff Sanderson

TO VANCOUVER: Brad May

TO NEW YORK ISLANDERS: Trevor Linden

TO VANCOUVER: Todd Bertuzzi, Bryan McCabe, 3rd Round Pick(Jarkko Ruutu)

TO PHILADELPHIA:Dave Babych, 5th Round Pick(Garrett Prosofsky)

TO VANCOUVER:3rd Round Pick(Justin Morrison)

TO NEW YORK ISLANDERS: Gino Odjick

TO VANCOUVER CANUCKS: Jason Strudwick

TO PHILADELPHIA:Sean Burke

TO VANCOUVER:Garth Snow

TO NEW YORK RANGERS:Russ Courtnall, Esa Tikkanen

TO VANCOUVER:Sergei Nemchinov, Brian Noonan

TO VANCOUVER: Trent Klatt

TO PHILADELPHIA: 6TH Round Pick

The Goaltending Controversy Del Två (Part Two)

eddie-lack-ryan-miller-nhl-vancouver-canucks-dallas-stars-850x560

Since the arrival of Cory Schneider in the 2010-11 season, a significant era began. This period is what fans like to call “The Goaltending Controversy”. 

Schneider came waltzing in swooning the fans and management away from Roberto Luongo. The rookie eventually stole the spotlight from Luongo and became the new starting goalie. Schneider’s reign came to an abrupt end in 2013 when he was traded to New Jersey for a first round draft pick.

Luongo was the starter again and it was the end of the never-ending story. Then came along the 2014 Olympic break. When the break was over, former coach John Tortorella anointed Eddie Lack as the Canucks new starter.

The shafted Luongo was eventually traded to Florida and all was good again. The Canucks, under the new management of Jim Benning, signed Ryan Miller to become the new starting goalie. It was apparent the controversy was finally over and it was the start of a new chapter for the franchise.

Today after a pre-game practice on the Canucks seven game road trip, Jason Botchford went to Twitter with some “big news”.

“Miller will start,” Botchford tweeted, “Willie was leaning Lack but Miller made what the coach thought was a good point.”

One minute later Botchford continued to say, “Miller said it would be more difficult for Lack starting a day after a team day off. Easier to go with the guy who has been playing.”

After these tweets came out, social media erupted with debates and thus re-sparked “The Goaltending Controversy”.

It would be an absolute shame for this to become the highlight of the season. Vancouver has had enough of this recurring theme. It is unclear whether Miller was being selfless or selfish in stealing a game against the Washington Capitals from Lack. From how it has been interpreted by Botchford and other sports news personalities, it appears to be more selfish.

Eddie Lack has started in five games this season. Some may argue he will not be starting tonight because of his 1-3-1 record this season but Lack is not at fault for these losses. In his few starts, Lack has been thrown out to the wolves on the short end of back-to-back games.

Tonight Lack would have had a chance to prove himself to Canucks fans and his teammates as a reliable goaltender but has been given the shaft. It would make more sense to start Ryan Miller in the next game where they play the Pittsburgh Penguins and give Lack the start tonight. For all fans know, Lack may be in net on Thursday, but it will most likely be Miller taking both starts.

It would be a shame to give Lack only the short end of back-to-backs and it could be detrimental to his development. Miller has been given four straight starts as of Sunday afternoon.

It seems to be a no-brainer to start Lack in net after Millers disaster in Detroit on Sunday afternoon. If Miller blows up again tonight, it will be interesting to see what unfolds next.

Welcome back to the Goaltending Controversy.

Caleb Harder

@cjaharder

Has the Goaltending Controversy Reignited?