Inspired by the recent Van Provie Report Card on the Canucks I've decided to hand out my grades just before the midway point, partly to keep pace with KB and the White Towel, but also because this team, in my opinion, just took it to a whole new level.
This scoring system does use A+, and we are going to use it.
Injury and roster turnover made for another famous Canucks slow start. A hot December has this team showing it's teeth finally after being all bark and no bight through October/November. The revolving fourth line logged 8 - 9 minutes last night showing the organizational depth which is among the tops in the league. If they stay healthy they should win the West, dethroning the Wings who are currently one point up with one extra game played.
An area not often graded, especially part way through the season, deserves high marks thus far. What can you say about the pro scouting? Everyone bemoaned the decision to cut B-Mo, and questioned the Petr Schaeffer signing, but the acquisitions of Victor Oreskovich, Bill and Lee Sweatt, as well as free agent signing of Aaron Volpatti, Jeff Tambelini and Eddie Lack, paired with the promising young talent pool among the league's best, set the competition bar high, and that has set the pace for this team. Not to mention dealing with the Rick Rypien suspension and second lengthy absence and managing to keep what could be a huge distraction isolated.
Coach V is tasked with the unenviable job of limiting Roberto Luongo's playing time, and while that hasn't really happened he has managed to get the best out of both goalies, finally. His line matching is enfuriating but AV has managed minutes well, whether it be promoting Andrew Alberts and Aaron Rome during stretches of injury to Christian Ehrhoff, Keith Ballard and Dan Hamhuis. The fourth line auditions have worked well, and the same healthy level of competition exists in the crease, on special teams minutes and on the back end. He's doing an excellent job of motivating, which has taken extremism at times, high-lighted by the four game benching of Keith Ballard, but you can't argue its effect. He's also got special teams at or near the top in every category, most importantly on the PP, where his job of promoting Ryan Kesler to top unit has resulted in the #1 powerplay ranking, and also the further development of a budding superstar as Kesler alerady nears a career high goal total.
Alex Burrows: A
All things taken in to consideration Burr deserves an A. His goal pace is down but he's still on pace to match last years average per game in points, and he has done amazingly well coming off major shoulder surgery. If you questions this can you really ask for anything more? Well, maybe a few less bonehead penalties
Until recently you had to consider giving a sub-A grade considering the low goal totals. Henrik developed a new side to his game with out Daniel last season, but he's turned up the scoring pace now at 8 goals, and when he's a goal threat this tandem is much more dangerous.
An A-rating from the get-go, Daniel is doing well sharing the spot light on the first PP unit with Kess. The two are now tied for the team lead in goals, but Daniel sits second in points with 45 through 35 games.
Mikael Samuelson: C
Better of late on the points sheet, but still playing very uninspired hockey. Needs to turn up the compete level in a big way. Points aside, whether or not last years break out 30 goal effort was above and beyond the high water mark for Samuelson he needs to bring the edge he showed last season, even though he is fourth in team scoring.
Ryan Kesler: A+
Tops in +/- and goals, he might finally get the Selke Trophy he's been looking for. A new role on the top PP unit has led to an amazing 19 goals in 35 games. The much publicized effort to concentrate on hockey instead of head games has really helped Kess turn in to one of the leagues best players. You simply can't say enough about the guy.
Mason Raymond: C
You hate to do it to a guy who has battled inury, but he's been a streaky scorer and there's definitely the ability to do more. When he returns he'll be fighting for a place on this team and should regain last years form.
Manny Malhotra: A+
Grades are given on performance in the role you are assigned. How could you give the Sedins an A but Malhotra an A+? Quite simply put, he is the best at his job in the league and that gets him top marks. Best Face Off man in the league, he's all that was advertised and more, and he's chipping in offensively on pace for a career high in points. He is fast and physical, the preceise upgrade our third line needed, and with Kess and Hank makes this team perhaps the strongest over all down the middle, and allows for so much more puck possession time, a small difference with a big pay off.
Raffi Torres: C+
Wish I could hand out a better grade for a guy who is some nights an A and some nights a C, but as Coach V recently said his compete level is there every night, so you can't get that low on a bargain basement deal. If I were purely grading value in terms of dollars to performance he might be considerably higher, but it is critical he find a way to be that A player every night. The fact his contract is cap friendly and his physical stature keep him buoyed above the C level, but his streaky play keep him from being the A guy he has the potential to be. All in all a very good third line player, but still wanting more from the former 5th overall pick.
Jeff Tambellini: A
15 points in 21 games isn't bad for a guy who started the year on the farm. Considering he's a call-up he gets an A, and he might just become a permanet fixture in the top six forwards even after Mason Raymond returns. The stock of promising offensive forwards the Nux have and Tambi's performance may make someone expendable come trade deadline day.
Tanner Glass: B
Shot totals and +/- are well off last years pace, but he's done well playing with a revolving door of young up and comers, so he stays at B, barely.
Janik Hansen: A
The Dane has been great, a physical force, rotated up and down the roster from fourth to first line...what else can you ask for? He's been the carrot that's got a lot of guys motivated, he's chipping in offensively, winning puck battles, +6, and in my opinion showing a kind of development I think few expected. This guys is going to be a big part of where this team goes.
SIgning off for now, gotta hit a meeting...will tackle the revolving fourth line, D and keepers later.