Olympic Impact Could Help Canucks

As we all nurse our Olympic hangovers and search for other ways to fill the void by the end of the games, it’s time to get ready for the final push of the NHL season. The Canucks had seven players in the games, and they had varying degrees of success. Three players in particular had great games, and they will bring into the dressing room a complete set of Vancouver 2010 medals. Let’s take a look at how the Olympic tournament may just help the Canucks as they aim to take another Northwest Division crown and go on a lengthy playoff run.

Pavol Demitra – Slovakia

Pavol Demitra - Matthew Manor/HHOF-IIHF ImagesMany Canuck fans may had forgotten who Pavol Demitra was, and you could hardly blame them for doing so. Demitra, 35, who missed 47 games for the Canucks with annoying shoulder problem that required two operations and many opinions on treatment. He returned to the Canucks on January 16th, but had struggled to find his game notching just a goal and three assists in 11 appearances since his return. Of course people were willing to cut him slack after missing so many games, but just before the Olympics Demitra was starting to get some heat from fans and media to start producing and he was seeing time on the teams fourth line.

Playing for his country seemed to be the tonic that Demitra needed and the veteran Slovak led his team to a best-ever fourth-place finish, while earning a spot on the tournaments all-star team. He also nearly ruined the hopes of the Canadian public with a last second goal in the semi-final but was thwarted by teammate Roberto Luongo. Demitra’s continued success would be a huge bonus for the Canucks heading down the stretch, but he won’t be playing with Marion Gaborik and Michael Handzus when play resumes. Early reports say he’ll start the post Olympic session on a line with Ryan Kesler.

Roberto Luongo

Roberto Luongo - Photo: John MahoneyThere is no doubt that most had resigned themselves to the fact that Roberto Luongo would be the backup to Martin Brodeur heading into the games, and that was the plan when they began. But when the future hall of famer had a sub par game versus the USA, Luongo got his chance and the pressure to win was no doubt immense. Playing in front of his fans in Vancouver, in his rink and with the hopes of a nation riding on his shoulders, Luongo got the job done and won gold.

Luongo has had his critics, and their biggest beef has been the fact that he hadn’t won the big one. A couple of playoff series wins are the only thing on his resume and he needed to take that step. Well on the biggest stage in the world, he got the monkey off his back. No more can critics say Luongo can’t win the big game and with that label out of the way, who knows how it will translate to his role with the Canucks. He’ll get a brief rest and give way to Andrew Raycroft versus Columbus but he should return to the net with confidence of knowing he can win the big games. That in itself could be the key to a long playoff run for the Canucks.

Ryan Kesler

Ryan Kesler - Canucks.comKesler had an outstanding tournament for the USA. He was a leader all over the ice. He killed penalties, won huge face offs and did what Kesler does best…pissed a lot of people off. The same reasons you love him as a Canuck were the ones you hated him as a Canadian. He took shots at his teammate Roberto Luongo in the media, and on the ice. Some felt there was friction between the two but I tend to believe all will be fine in Canuckville, and it was part of the quest for the gold.

The experience for Kesler had to be a valuable one. He led a great hockey team to within a sudden death goal of a gold medal, and the Canucks should reap the benefit of that experience. He’s truly becoming one of the best two way players in the game, and he can contribute in many ways. It sounds like Alain Vigneault will pair Kesler with Demitra to start when play resumes. If both can keep up their inspired play, the Canucks will be a tough team to handle going forward.

The disappointment of losing the gold should feed Kesler’s thirst for a cup and we should see the best Ryan Kesler we’ve seen yet down the stretch. I can’t wait.

The Rest

The other Canucks, Daniel and Henrik Sedin, Christian Erhoff and Sami Salo should all be better for the experience. The early exit for the Sedin’s at the hands of the Slovaks was unfortunate for them, but they should pick up where they left off. Salo will bring home a bronze medal for his efforts, but Canucks fans are just happy he came out of the games healthy. Erhoff, playing for the Germans had little expectation of hardware, but got to compete at a high level in a great tournament.

So in the end the results of the tournament set up pretty good for these players to turn their experience into good things for themselves and their teammates. I’m sure a cup  and a ring to along with the gold, silver and bronze in the room would suit the Canucks and their fans just fine.

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Daniel Sedin Out With Broken Foot

The Canucks were paid a visit by the injury bug yesterday and what the little critter left was not nice. The team has lost the services of winger Daniel Sedin for 4 to 6 weeks with a broken foot. Sedin has been fitted for a cast and will miss his first game since November of 2006.

The club recalled forward Guillaume Desbiens Saturday from the Manitoba Moose. Alain Vigneault described Desbiens as a “two-way hockey player, who can be physical and has grit.”

Finding Their Groove

The Canucks have started the season 0-2 and some of the natives in Canuck Nation who had the parade route planned are getting restless. Thursday they ran into a pumped up Flames club at home and ran into penalty trouble early, before basically dominating the game in the second half and coming up short. Saturday they ran into a hot goaltender and a determined Avs team looking to show they aren’t going to be the pushover the experts said they would be this season.

Now, I’m hardly making excuses for the Canucks, but I think there is a legitimate reason why this start has occurred, and the biggest has to lie at the feet of the coaching staff.

We all heard about the obscene amount of exhibition games the Canucks played, nine in all and for some reason the Canucks decided not to dress a “regular” lineup in any of those games. Sure, you need to avoid injuries and evaluate talent, but with a shortened training camp, and little time to gel, it would appear somewhat difficult for anyone but Daniel and Henrik Sedin to feel comfortable playing with each other, never mind hitting the ground running.

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Roberto Luongo is off to his traditional slow start

We’re talking little time to work on the penalty kill as a unit. Roberto Luongo didn’t see a lot of action and is off to his traditional mediocre October start. The team even went so far to bring in guys like Dave Scatchard and Mark Parrish, players with NHL experience they could dress to hit the league minimum required for preseason games. These guys had no chance of making the club.

The early games should have been the time to evaluate, the later games should have been a time to get lines set and get some cohesiveness as a unit. Willie Mitchell commented on this in Calgary saying the slow start may have been attributed to having the starters together for the first time in game one. Other teams the Canucks played in the preseason dressed string lineups, with Anaheim and Calgary coming to mind.

In reality, these first few games are training camp for the starters. It’s not the end of the world, and it’s a long season but perhaps in the future, the staff will consider letting the players that are going to be here gel a little more before the puck drops for real.

Alex Burrows:Working Class Hero

If there was ever a lunch bucket story in a Vancouver Canucks Uniform, it would be Alexandre Burrows.  His humble beginnings of his professional hockey career to the type of player he has developed into is truly amazing.   Gathered from current and former teammates of Burrows, he’s a great guy to have in the dressing and his work ethic on the ice is inspiring to all. [Read more...]

Canuck Musings: Down the Stretch

Just a few random thoughts popped in my head as I was thinking of the last stretch of the regular season concerning the Vancouver Canucks.  Since February 1st, the Canucks are probably the most consistent team in the NHL.  Looks like every single player has picked up their game, with the exception of the Phoenix game last Saturday, the Canucks are looking good and finding ways to win.  Even good teams like Detroit have bad games, just as Chris Osgood in Calgary.

Roberto Luongo and his infamous comments about winning a Stanley Cup, and it didn’t matter where. I do not recall at any point in that interview that Luongo made reference to leaving the Canucks was a certainty. If the Canucks can build a winning team around Luongo next year, and they have a good playoff run this year, I don’t see Bobby Lu not considering re-signing in Vancouver.  Get your knickers out of a bunch people! Luongo is a driven, hard-working, and competitive individual that would like his team to do the same. Is that such a bad thing?

Shane O’Brien and his public comments about coaching decisions. People think already think I don’t have any love for O’Brien, but that’s not the truth.  I do think there is a lot of potential with him, I just find that he is more of a reactionary player.  I feel he is a guy that plays with raw emotion and that’s ok, I like guys that play with passion and heart, but at the same time, there has to be some semblance of control to his game. Shane O’Brien has yet to master that.  Also, his word-waging war with management and coaching decisions via the media comes off a bit whiny and unprofessional. Take it with stride big man and find ways to get yourself back into the line-up. Actions speak so much louder than words, especially this time of the season.

Sedins: “Tubthumping” seems to be their Anthem in win over Dallas. Daniel Sedin looked like he got his tooth knocked out and also his upper lip stitched up.  As the famous lyrics go,

“Oh Danny Boy
Danny Boy…”
I get knocked down
But i get up again
You’re never goin’ to keep me down

(thanks Mr. Bjorkloven) *wink*

Everyone can say what they will about Hank and Dan. Many fans around the league find them ‘soft’ and some out there still have the audacity to call them ‘sisters’, but make no mistake about it, as much as these two get knocked down. They keep getting back up, and playing on. No words of complaints, just taking it in stride, like men, and doing what they are supposed to do on the ice. Take note Sidney Crosby.

Ryan Kesler: His drive for a winning franchise
I am not sure what the big deal was for Kesler to talk about wanting to win and keeping a winning team and people taking a few paycuts here and there to sustain winning ways. In the long run, Kesler is right, but we live in a “show me the money, results now” type of world.  At the same time, Ryan Kesler is earning his paycheque.  With 23 goals on the season and playing wonderful two-way hockey, Kesler is a bargain at $1.75million this season.  Bobby Clarke saw something in the boy with that offer sheet back in ’06 and Kesler has lived up to and beyond it.

Alex Burrows: True Grit Alex Burrows is the ultimate ‘feel good’ story of the Canucks recent times. Here is a kid that wasn’t drafted and worked his way into the regular line-up with hard work. Thing is, many of us didn’t think Burrows had the talent to back-up his hard work.  Now, we see differently. A tweener project of Marc Crawford has made his way to the first lines with Hank and Dan. Seeing major ice time with the ability to play on the PK makes Alex Burrows hot commodity in the NHL. I’m am very happy that Canucks GM, Mike Gillis, saw that and locked him up for four years at $2million per annum.

As we head in towards the post season. I do want to say that the Canucks barring major injury have addressed their issues of weakness from this time last year. The Canucks were not deep on the back end and were in a lot of injury trouble. As a collective unit, they were pretty small and soft. This year with the addition of Bernier, O’Brien,and Hordichuk, I don’t see the Canucks being a team to push around.  Roberto Luongo looks more focused and I have more confidence in Jason Labarera than I did in Curtis Sanford. All and all, I do believe although the Canucks aren’t supposedly at the echelon of the big teams like Detroit, San Jose, and apparently Calgary, I believe the Canucks can give anyone they face in the playoffs a good run for their buck.

Just some musings from the mud.
LotusBlossom