Comparing the 17’s: The Ryan Kesler / Radim Vrbata Story

By Caleb Harder – CanucksCorner.com

kesler_vrbata_700x400
On Wednesday, July 2th, the Vancouver Canucks inked a 2-year $10 million deal with former Arizona Coyotes right-shot winger, Radim Vrbata. The 33 year old veteran will provide substantial support for the roster and is expected to be playing on the first line alongside Henrik and Daniel Sedin. This would be bumping Alexandre Burrows (33) to the second line to assist recently acquired centre, Nick Bonino (26) who came in a package deal with Luca Sbisa in exchange for former Canucks star, Ryan Kesler. In memory of Kesler, one thing that he and Vrbata have in common is the jersey number 17. With that in mind, let us take some time to compare the two great hockey players.

Kicking it off, let’s go back to the grassroots of how their NHL journey began in the prospect entry draft. Vrbata and Kesler were eligible for being drafted in separate years, Vrbata being the 1999 draft and Kesler the 2003 draft. Ryan Kesler was selected 23rd overall by the Vancouver Canucks and it was one of the best picks that they have made in franchise history as further down the road he became the face of the team and carried them to the Stanley Cup Finals in 2011.

Radim Vrbata, on the other hand, was not a first round draft pick. The Czech Republic native was selected in the seventh round at 212th overall by the Colorado Avalanche and had not spent two seasons with the team when he was traded in March of 2003 to the Carolina Hurricanes in exchange for left wing forward, Bates Battaglia. Vrbata was then eventually traded to Chicago and then went to Phoenix where he spent six seasons between 2007 and 2014. Overall, Vrbata did not live up to expectations in the place he was drafted, but ended up playing remarkably higher than he was ever projected to.

So what makes Radim Vrbata better than he was projected to be? The veteran forward is a fantastic play making winger who knows where to put the puck and how to utilize his teammates when it is needed. Vrbata, through this favoured style of play, was able to post up a 20-31-51 point total in 80 games for the 2013-14 season. Ryan Kesler, on the other hand, is a great hard-hitting, two-way forward who can be physical and still provide the points that his team needs. Although Kesler is able to crash about on the ice and snipe pucks into the net, he does not use his wingers in this process. He prefers to keep the puck to himself and play his way or it’s the highway. This style of play has not always been effective for the centre because it increased his chance of injuries. Kesler has had more than his fair share and it has, at times, cut down his productivity on the ice when he was needed by the team to save the day.

In games where the Canucks are attempting to roll four effective lines, it would not be possible with Ryan Kesler in the ranks.  He put up a 25-18-43 scoring tally in 77 games this season. Though it looks like a reasonable record for the once struggling Canucks, he was not playing at the full potential to which he could perform. In career totals Vrbata has a playing record of 464 points in a 792 game span with a point average of 0.59 points per game and Kesler with a 392 point total in 654 career games with the Vancouver Canucks and having a 0.60 points per game average. Overall, their point averages are the same but Kesler’s wear and tear game will eventually bite him back whereas Vrbata’s game is safer and guarantees he’ll be dependable for years to come.

The shootout has always been something the Canucks have dreaded with their streaky statistics in the game deciding skills competition. Fans may have more faith in the team during shootouts with Radim Vrbata who is ranked fifth all-time scorer in the shootout throughout the NHL with 35 goals in 82 attempts with a 42.7 shootout percentage. Ryan Kesler is currently ranked third within the Anaheim Ducks team roster with 11 goals in 45 shootout attempts with an overall of 24.4 percent in his career. With Vrbata now in the Vancouver ranks, the team will have more skill under their belt than previously under the lead of Ryan Kesler.

In comparing the number 17’s, even though Ryan Kesler has been impressive, Radim Vrbata is a great team player and possesses a skill set the Vancouver Canucks desperately need. He has the potential to be a fresh change that the team has been searching for.

Change is good.

Twitter @cjaharder

https://twitter.com/cjaharder

 

No success without a dependable fourth line

van-kesler-sedin

In my first article back in October I talked about the Canucks bottom 6 not being good enough. A month and a half into the season, I can say I am content with the part of the bottom 6. The third line has been dependable. The fourth line hasn’t.

John Tortorella doesn’t have faith in his fourth line and is reluctant to put them on the ice. I can’t blame him for that. For the better part of the season, it seems like whenever the fourth line is out on the ice they are getting scored on or can’t get out of their own zone. The Canucks best fourth liner is Dale Weise. He’s hurt. Darren Archibald showed more in his 8 games up with the big club than Tom Sestito, Zac Dalpe and Jeremy Welsh have shown in their games, but the Canucks sent the big forward back down to Utica to room for David Booth.

Injuries have forced the Canucks hand all year. They had not, until Sunday, been able ice the line-up they had envisioned during training camp and arguably still haven’t considering Jordan Schroeder is out for the second time this season. Jannik Hansen’s return and Richardson’s move to the fourth line didn’t make a difference in how much the fourth liners played. Richardson has averaged 13 minutes throughout the season; he played under 8 Sunday night against Dallas. Tom Sestito has played an average of five and a half minutes so far this season, he played 30 seconds Sunday. Jeremy Welsh played just 2 shifts in the game, totalling 18 seconds. It’s not a recipe for success.

Like I mentioned in my previous article, teams that win the cup have dependable fourth lines that can at least go out there to give the top guys a little bit of a break. This year’s Canucks team doesn’t have the luxury. Last year’s team didn’t have that. Amongst forwards, the Sedins and Kesler are in the top 4 for average minutes played a game. It’s not sustainable. I don’t want to beat a dead horse, but until the team upgrades the fourth line, it will be tough to make a deep run come April, May and June.

Introducing: Twitter Me This- #Hashtagging Weekly Canucks Topics From the twitterverse

As a social media junkie that has been addicted to twitter since 2008, I have been trying to figure out a way to implement twitter into some blog writing over the last little while. Marry the two loves of my social media life: Explaining thoughts in 140 characters or less and writing opinions on stupid NHL rule changes, Gary Bettman, the NHL lockout and of course, the reason I started blogging in the first place, the Vancouver Canucks.

So this is how it works. Every Monday before 7PM, Pacific standard time, I will put up a topic on twitter hash-tagged #TMT and the topic of choice, and in 140 characters or less, you tweet me a response. On Thursday before 7PM, Pacific standard time, I will put up an article containing and tying in some of the answers followers and readers have sent my way via twitter. It’s pretty simple and doesn’t cost you a thing.

New Feature wants your feedback with the hashtag #TMT

With this introduction of what we are trying to accomplish here on CC, why don’t we get it kicked off with something fun.

With the lockout happening, I was thinking about how we can all keep talking hockey and mainly the Vancouver Canucks without having to bitch and moan about the billionaires shutting out the millionaires and their PR campaigns to the fans. It a topic that has been hashed out and re-hashed from all angles.

As I was driving into my parking garage the other night, U2’s “Where the Streets Have no Name” starting blasting in my car. As I felt the steady ‘thud’ of Larry Mullin’s bass drum pelt against my back from the sub-woofer, I started to really miss my team. I started to think of the awesome “WWE-esque” entrance the Canucks had going on. Lots of blue and green lights, smoke machines, added sirens to the song and the cheering of us fans. It will be another while until we hear and see that again.

Hit the music! “Where the Streets Have No Name” intro.

For quite some time now, U2’s “Where the Streets Have No Name” has been the Canucks entrance theme but it’s been up for debate over the last few years if the team needs a new entrance song. Some say that ‘Streets’ isn’t “in your face” enough and it’s too subdued. Others love it, and link the song to their beloved team and especially at the start of every season, they can’t wait to hear it belt through the speakers at Rogers Arena.  So I am asking you, to give us here at CC some thoughts to what you think of the Canucks introduction song of “Where the Streets Have no Name” . Do you like it? Do you hate it? Do you simply don’t care and just want NHL hockey back?

How do I feel about it? Well, what can say in 140 characters or less?

@Aviewfromabroad: One might want to rethink a team entrance song when the 1st lyrics sing “I want to run, I want to hide…” #TMT #CanucksThemeSong

Now “Twitter Me This” and let’s see how the rest of Canuckland feels about “Where the Streets Have no Name” as the Vancouver Canucks theme song.

Column hashtag: #TMT
Topic hashtag: #CanucksThemeSong

We’ll revisit this topic again on Thursday with your input and hopefully I can tie it all in neatly and timely. I’ve also noticed, this is the first time I have ever given myself a deadline to write a Canucks blog, or any blog for that matter. Another reason I am welcoming this new addition to the CC columns. So is it time to change the theme song? A little old for your liking or does it stay? Heck, even the name of the building has changed, is “Streets” next?
Justine Galo

@Aviewfromabroad

Through the Plexi-Glass: Shoot the Puck, Hank

Shoot the puck, Hank!

Dear Henrik:

It’s Art, remember me? You and I first hooked up a couple of years ago. I just wanted to write and tell you I’ve missed you. I miss your 29 goal season and your 112 point year.  I missed your tenacity to shoot the puck.  You shot the puck a lot when your brother, Daniel, went out with an injury. You shouldered the burden of the lack of scoring goals and took it upon yourself to get some of those for your team. You were on a tear!

Last season, you scored 10 less goals and didn’t shoot as much as you had to when Daniel was injured. I understand you’re the set-up man and he’s the finisher. At least, that’s what you guys were billed when you were drafted back in 1999. Thing is, I’ve seen, and the rest of the NHL has seen differently. You can score when you want but instead you choose to pass it to Daniel. Don’t get me wrong, I love the way you and Daniel work on the ice. You two have that twin thing and that in itself is something special and great to watch. However,  at times, there were open nets that you could have potted the goal, Henrik.  They were pretty much guaranteed goals, but you decided to pass the puck to Danny. Some of them could have made the difference in the game, Hank.

You’re the Captain, you’re an amazing team player and on top of that, you’re one of the classiest people in the NHL. It’s true. I don’t see too many others giving up three quarters of a million dollars of their salary to the BC Children’s Hospital Fund. That amplifies how much of a class act you really are. You’re also a fierce competitor on the ice, but sometimes I think you’re not selfish enough. I know you like to spread the points to your teammates but Hank, I gotta tell ya, you must shoot the puck more.  I think if you just potted those gimme’s that were presented to you, the team would probably have a better record and you’d being in the running to get your name on that trophy with my name on it again.

I hooked up with your brother last season, and I am hoping to have the name Sedin etched on my body yet again, but that will only happen if you start being a little more selfish, take it upon yourself to score more instead of always passing the puck. It’s okay to shoot, Hank, no one will think that you’re  selfish. In fact, I think it will just show that the captain is doing his part to help his team win.  Most of all, I miss you Hank. I missed our time together. We can have that again. Shoot the puck, see what happens.
Your pal,

Art Ross.
PS, There’s never been a Toronto Maple Leaf to win me and take me home for the year. Let’s not start this year, so please, and for the love of the Hockey Gods, shoot the puck, Hank.

 

(written by Justine Galo ) twitter: @Aviewfromabroad

 

Through the Plexi-Glass: Can You Pump Tires in a Goalie Graveyard?

As I was coming home from the game and gazed at my twitter feed, I saw of a lot of “Trade Luongo!” and a lot of panicking over a just under .500 record for the first few games of the regular season. Mostly, it was all about how Luongo lost the game for the Canucks and it was entirely his fault. So I’ve taken it upon myself to do some proverbial ‘pumping of tires’. Why you all ask? Simple, I have a good memory of how dreadful goaltending was in this city before the likes of Roberto Luongo.

As I stated in my tweet: @Aviewfromabroad “Problem isn’t #Luongo . Problem is the wanna-be fans that bought into the “2nd coming” hype that was built about him. #Takeaccountability” I never bought into the whole “LuonGod” hype.

He is a good goalie, but at the same time, he was still just a human who will have his bad days like you or I. Unfortunately for Luongo, he is now in a market that actually gives a hoot of how he performs on the ice instead of about 4500 fans in Miami. I also understand the whole “with the position comes the scrutiny” baggage but when the baggage is more like the cargo space of a 747, how is one supposed to ‘carry’ all that without some self-doubt? It’s close to impossible, regardless of talent level. I’m not trying to psycho-babble you all the death, I’m just saying that perhaps instead of jumping on Lu’s case constantly, take a step back and let him breathe.

Luongo Waving to the Vancouver crowd. Will it be goodbye soon?

For me, I want to give Luongo some time to prove himself. It is a new season after all. Although for some, this just a continuation of all the bad games Luongo has played as a Canuck.  I want him to build up some confidence that has seemingly been lost and play like a machine more often than not. So far in this very young season, he’s not been great. To help him out as a fan, I thought it would be a good idea for me to “pump his tires” because despite all the hype and the bashing, I would rather have Roberto Luongo (as is) than Dan Cloutier, Corey Hirsch, Alfie Michaud, Troy Gamble, Petr Skudra, Bob Essensa, Kevin Weekes, Felix Potvin etc. etc. etc. Why, do some of you ask? I’ve seen awful, and it has been far worse than Roberto Luongo.

For those of you that don’t recognize some of those names, it’s because they didn’t last very long in this market. Let’s take Petr Skudra for example. He was one of Dan Cloutier’s backups. Did you know an angry fan actually used his name as an auction item on eBay? The description was to the effect of a Canucks’ back up goaltender, with a big five hole and no glove.  The starting bid was $1 CAD. I’m not sure if anyone ever even made a bid, but it was at the time, quite amusing. Oddly enough, I am waiting for some know-it-all ‘fan’ to put Luongo up for auction on eBay with the description of “Vezina nominated, gold medal winning goalie that can’t please a fan base no matter what he does”. I’d at least start the bidding at $5…out of ‘respect’ of course.

It’s good to know that I am not the only one out there that feels  Luongo is getting too much heat. However, I believe he can and should be better, but I’m not going to go off demanding Mike Gillis and his management and coaching staff try to trade him immediately. The thing is, I have this belief (and statistical history to back it up) that Luongo will pull it together sooner than later. Here are some from the twitterverse that feel the same way after the 4-0 loss to the New York Rangers on Tuesday Night:

  • @lyteforce: If Luongo were to reverse global warming, people would blame him for it being too cold. #Canucks #lousfault
  • @patersonjeff: Can dump on #Canucks goaltending, but how about forwards who have 1 even strength goal in last 10 periods. That don’t cut it
  • @j_carpenter_What difference does it make? if Luongo lets in 1 goal or 4..If the #Canucks dont score any they’re not gonna win..They will pull it together
  • @bobcam27-Luongo sure was terrible on the power play tonight. I don’t remember him getting a single shot on goal. #Canucks

We’re all good at playing ‘arm-chair’ GM from time to time, and I certainly will be the first to admit I do it as well, but how many times do so many of us have to put out virtual trades with the involvement of Roberto Luongo in them? How about we trade those guys that aren’t scoring? How about we trade the whole blue line? I guess because it’s easier to blame the goaltender, and particularly, Roberto Luongo. I’m asking you for a 20 game grace period to stop. Please.  For the next few games that Luongo plays, instead of going “Trade Luongo!”, perhaps a little encouragement might help.  The power of positivity is a pretty cool thing, even though I’m not a big time New Age follower, there is truth in it.

I don’t mind ‘pumping Roberto’s tires’ more often than not, a pumped tire usually gets you further ahead.  Not to mention,  it sucks to run on a flat. Besides, if you leave it deflated too long, it might just damage the rim and you’ll have to replace the whole wheel.

That’s how I see things…through the plexi-glass.