Monday, October 31, 2011

Ballard on borrowed time

The writing is on the wall for Keith Ballard.  All signs are pointing towards a return to AV's doghouse, and this time there's no excuses: no hip surgery, no head injury, no new scenery - just disappointment.

Ballard burst out of the gates with a highlight reel goal in the season opener against Gino and the Pens, since then he hasn't scored or even assisted on a goal and is a team worst minus-9.  He's been given near 20:00 in ice some games and is typically on the third pairing.  Kevin Bieksa was minu-9 but went up two points after the Caps game, only he's on the top pairing and draws the harder match-ups, Ballard, again, is sadly out of excuses, and probably out of time.

Aaron Rome is practicing with the team.  He hasn't played an NHL game since his infamous hit in game three of the Stanley Cup Finals last season. When he returns it will be difficult to replace Alex Sulzer and so it seems Ballard will once again be banished to the press boxes early.

Sulzer has demonstrated a natural flair for break-out passes and showcased his powerful point shot in the pre-season.  He might even work his way on to the second powerplay unit at the rate he's going. Chris Tanev was sent down to Chicago of the AHL to clear space in the Nux press box.  As a young d-man he could benefit from more minutes and his contract wouldn't see him going through re-entry waivers, but it is only a matter of time before he is up again.

Trading Marco Sturm only a handful of games in to the season wasn't much better than dumping his salary in the minors but the Canucks might not get so lucky with Ballard as his contract is 4.2 million/season for this and three more years, eerily similar to David Booths; coincidence?  I think not.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Canucks Trivia with a Twist and Prizes

Last month I was listening to an interview with an Indie film director on the CBC about the making of his most recent documentary, a journey to find his Native Name.  When I got home I Googled ‘Find my First Nation’s Name’ and came up with a website that gives it to you after entering your full name and sex.  This became a pretty fun party game and so on Halloween’s Eve I thought I would try it with some of the current members of the Canucks, with a twist.  I’ll write the name and a brief description, you try to guess the player – the first person to tweet, text, email or facebook me the 100% correct answer key wins a terrific prize from thecanucksblog.

Melkedoodum Heskovizenako or Conceited Porcupine Bear – While his play at times makes you feel like you’ve been sitting on a porcupine he has been called many things but I don’t think conceited is fair; definitely generous on the rebounds but not conceited.
Appenimon Viponnah or Trusted Slim Face – His face hasn’t received as much attention lately as the rest of him, but he was recently rewarded for being trusted in his own end.
Kesegowaase Kotori or Swift Screech Owl Spirit – He must’ve earned the first part in his early playing days but when he loads up his trademark shot it still makes opponents (and sometimes Canucks trainers) screech.
Ezhno Howahkah or Solitary One of the Mysterious Voice – Sometimes his on-ice behavior keeps him in solitary for 2:00 or less.  His mysterious voice was a big point of contention when he joined the team but it seems to have been tamed.
Makkapitew Adahy or Large Toothed one who Lives in the Woods – I know what you’re thinking but no it’s not newly acquired David Booth and although he looks to have found his way out of the forests the Canucks haven’t traded for Ilya Bryzgalov.  This Canuck was once a high draft pick who cut his apparently large teeth alongside the Great One himself, but quickly found himself reinventing his game and becoming one of the league’s most dependable defensive forwards.
Send along your own suggestions for an appropriate First Nations Canuck name and the best one will win a consolation prize.  You can tweet ‘em to me @thecanucksblog or email .

Eating Crow and Enjoying it

~~~  CANUCKS and LIONS Podcast: ~~~
Always exciting to get to watch the Penguins in the early game, even without Sid and Jordan Staal, and if both teams are starting their back-up goalies, and the rich tradition of the Montreal/Boston rivalry is in full force on CBC in other areas of this country.  Seriously, as much as I’d love to watch Boston continue to meltdown, I am loving watching both of these teams this year, even if I took MAF in the third round of my hockey pool and he’s riding the pine tonight.  This is already an exciting game between two teams that in execution and game plan are ahead of the pace.
I was already going to sit down and write about how impressive I felt the Leafs’ power play was against the Rangers Thursday and by the time I did a little research we see a great power play punctuated by a goal from the point by the Buds and a breakaway at both ends of the ice.
I was shocked to see the Leafs’ PP managed only two shots on four opportunities in a 4 -2 win over King Henrik and the Rangers.  They were fluid, inverting the stick on the point, winning puck battles, making smart pinches, generating traffic in the tough areas and executing tape-to-tape passes with laser like accuracy. 
For the past few seasons I have thought Ron Wilson has underachieved as head coach of the Leafs – I’m supposed to hate them because I live west of the Rockies, but I enjoy a team for the game they play and not the arena they play 42 regular season games in and the Leafs team is firing on all cylinders.
I’ve also really questioned Brian Burke.  I’m usually one of his detractors.  This polarizing hockey personality is both loved and loathed but for years I felt he squandered the Canucks’ system, inherited somebody elses cup team in Anaheim and then dumped them to take a high profile job in Tronna and promptly make a giant mess of things with bad signings and trades – maybe I’m wrong.
I still wouldn’t trade two first round picks and a second for Phil Kessel, even if he wins the Richard trophy this year and parades the Stanley Cup down Yonge St. for the first time since 1967 but the Leafs are a team I really respect and would greatly fear in the playoffs.  They have the Brian Burke stamp of pugnacity and truculence, very solid goaltending and offensive depth, and to Burkie’s credit he has really restocked the cabinet in Leaf Land.
Wilson and Burkie deserve a ton of credit for creating an on-ice product finally worth the ticket price.

Alexes on fire

Alex Ovechkin and Alex Edler each tallied twice for their respective teams as the home team Canucks scored three unanswered goals in the third period in prime time to earn a 7 – 4 win over the Great8.  Ovechkin is getting used to lower ice time on a retooled Caps roster.  His two goals on a very average, for Alex, five shots in prime time on Hockey Night in Canada was his third two point game in his past four, but not enough to conquer the slumping Canucks.  Edler’s pair, plus an assist in 21:41 minutes was a sign of a return to form for the Swedish blue liner expected to pick up the slack for the departed Christian Ehrhoff.  Edler looked to still be suffering from a hand injury sustained in last year’s playoff run, mishandling pucks in pressure situations, but it’s clear his stick skills are returning to the level his physical play has always been at.
Sticking with the defense it was awesome to see Kevin Bieksa play on the edge, heck, even over it if he has to, to get in Ovi’s kitchen tonight.  It was a much better showing Saturday against the Caps for Bieksa and top pairing partner Dan Hamhuis who each notched two assists and a plus-2 rating. To play to the level of his pay Kevin Bieksa has to be emotionally involved in the game. Say what you want about dummying the Patrick Marleau’s of the world, this guy took no prisoners when he first hit the scene and he hasn’t been the same player since until last year’s Cup run.  I would love to see him let off the leash more often.  Amazingly Bieksa logged just 0:12 on the power play while Hamhuis played over 3:00 minutes in five odd man opportunities. This was encouraging too as Hamhuis was once a near 40 point NHL defenseman and should be given more opportunity offensively.
There’s been a lot of buzz about Lou’s big glove save.  His numbers still weren’t great but hopefully he’s getting in the groove.  A win tonight should keep him in the crease for the next game on the road in Calgary November 2nd.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Grapes is right

Don Cherry took the words right out of my mouth and lately that’s a pretty scary thing but on this one he’s absolutely right: the Canucks, specifically Ryan Kesler, need to shut up and play the game.
When Kess made his return he played huge minutes in his first game back throwing a couple big hits on his very first shift. It was apparent he was back at 100%, but somehow so was his mouth after it missed an entire season – the best of his career.
Kess’ commitment to playing the game without the distraction of yapping at both the other team and game officials was a big story early last season.  He didn’t exactly burst out of the gates last year but soon caught fire in a Selke Trophy winning effort, posting 41 goals as the new catalyst for the Canucks power play and enjoying an emotional run to the cupfinals; sounds a lot more satisfying than whining.
Grapes showed the exact clip that caught my ire, a scene from the recent loss to the Oilers in which Kess took a miniscule bump from Oil D-man Andy Sutton, who stands half a foot taller than the American Mouthpiece, and held his arms skyward with his helmet slightly disheveled over his ridiculous schoolboy hair wings.  It was embarrassing and the most concerning part of the Canucks slow start.
This team has to play their game to be successful. Henrik Sedin may wear the C but Ryan Kesler is the emotional on-ice leader that inspires through his gutsy play, like he did during the cup run leaving everything on the ice while taking pain injections daily. Like it or not he might just be the Canuck’s emotional barometer and the readings were much more favourible when he was the Interview Bomber not the second coming of Essa Tikkanen.

Josh Statham Radio Program Podcast here:  Click the link for interviews with Lions Lineman Jesse Newman and Canucks chat with Brian Wiebe of Q101FM

Chicago wake-up call

Canucks chat with B-Dub and inside the Pride with Lions' O-Lineman Jesse Newman:  

  A win tonight against the new Caps could be considered an early turning point for the Canucks. Win or lose let’s reflect on the season that was. Do you recall the turning point last year?  It was a lot later than tonight would be – November 20th at home against rival Chicago on Hockey Night in Canada, and they laid an absolute egg getting blown out on home ice to their most bitter rival. They got a chance to redeem themselves the following night against Phoenix but dropped that one as well – it was the low water mark for the year, and from then to their first round meeting with the Hawks everything was coming up roses. 
Would a win tonight right the ship or would a reality checking blow-out be more in order?  Can this year’s Canucks afford to wait until another mid-November date with the hated Hawks?  They’ll get two chances, one on the road on the 8th and one at home on the 16th.
Like tonight’s opponent the Caps the Hawks have undergone an offseason retrofit and have emerged a grittier team more resembling the Cup winning roster from two seasons back.  They picked up some experience and muscle on the back-end in Sean O’Donnell, veteran winger Jamal Mayers and pest Daniel Carcillo whose offseason press conference set the table for a reinvigorated rivalry. Of the Canucks Carcillo had to say:
“Umm, I watched that series, and uh, I don’t know, I’m I’m actually pretty excited to uhhh, to play them ‘cause there’s a few guys there that I think uh, you know, played a little bit outside of their shoes and umm, I can uhh, I think I can keep most of those guys in check when we play them this year.”
Anybody specifically on the Canucks? “Laperriere, Glass and Torres.” And to clarify “Laperriere is at the top of the list though.”
While nothing happened October when Glass and his new team, the Jets, travelled to Chi-Town Carcillo did manage a hooking penalty on the road against Torres’ Coyotes. So will Car-Bomb manage to keep the man at the top of his list in his shoes come November?  The bigger questions is: will Canucks GM manage to pull off a trade for a guy named Laperriere in time?

Ovi-ture - Similar
You +1'd this publicly. Undo
a. An instrumental composition intended especially as an introduction to an extended work, such as an opera or oratorio

While we all hope Alex Ovechkin got very well acquainted with Vancouver’s night life last night it’s doubtful that this rededicated team was doing anything on their days off in Van City than preparing to avenge their first taste of loss this season. 
Last year Captain Alex had a tumultuous offseason, complete with the filming of his own documentary in his native Russia.  It lead to a career low in points and goals and yet another disappointing playoff flop.  Ovi is still listed on as 6’2” and tabbed at 233Lb. which is perhaps a little more weight than the power winger should be carrying.  Lucky for him driving nautical vehicles while inebriated isn’t illegal in Russia so there was no cause for an embarrassing offseason weigh in to prove it.
This offseason he still did a little cinema work fetching pig skins and doing his best Chris Angel impersonation, but he seems to have reported back in better shape and was leading on the ice during an intense Capitals training camp.
He hasn’t burst out of the gates this season with 7 points in 8 games, but that’s tied for second in team scoring behind playmaking centre Nick Backstrom.  He is trailing sophomore pivot Marcus Johansen and grizzled depth forward Jason Chimera in goals and nine Caps’ currently have five or more points in just eight games this season.
Caps’ GM George McPhee was lauded by hockey pundits for his offseason retooling.  He paid a heavy price to retain second line centre Brooks Laich, acquired winger Troy Bruower from the Hawks and took a very targeted approach to free agency addressing three major team needs: A – responsible depth forwards by inking Joel Ward and Jeff Halpern, B – Experienced Defense by signing Roman Hamrlik, and C – Goaltending by scoring the steal of the summer in Tomas Vokoun at just 1.5 million.  On top of that, to clear room in the crease for Vokoun he flipped one of his three up-and-coming puckstops to the Avs for a 1st and 2nd rounder restocking an already strong Washington system.
Thursday night the Oilers were able to forecheck hard and draw penalties keeping some of the explosive offensive weapons in Gabbie’s arsenal off the ice.  Ovi managed just over 18 minutes in ice which doesn’t seem like his usual allotment, but take in to consideration the fact that the most any one on the Caps played was a meager 23:26 by Dennis Wideman who plays in all situations.  Ovi’s 18 minutes were still the highest among Cap’s forwards but a far cry from countrymen Ilya Kovalchuk who leads all forwards in ice this season with an average of 25:46 or other fellow left winger Dany Heatley at 22:45 in Minnesota.  In fact the 18:11 Ovi played against the Oil was his highest in his past five games.
The Caps are a four line threat this season, a line-matching nightmare for opposing coaches, and seemingly overnight have amassed one of the deepest back-ends in the league.  This early introduction as a team no longer entirely Ovi-centric may indeed be indicative of the extended work the Caps have in plan this season.

###   Check this week's podcast including Canucks chat with B-Dub and preview tonight's shootout at BC Place with Lion's O-lineman Jesse Newman in Episode 3 of the Josh Statham Radio Program:    ###

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Trade thoughts

Josh Statham RADIO PROGRAM Pod Cast:
*** We're talking with Lions' O-lineman Jesse Newman about the upcoming showdown with the Eskis at BC Place, and what the Nux need to do to turn this thing around ***

Lets Make a Deal!

The Province newspaper caused quite a stir when they propposed a trade with the Lightning involving a swap of superstars and mega contracts.  The solution to the goaltending graveyard in Vancouver: Trade Luongo for Lecavalier.  I like Vinny despite his falling production and huge contract, but I don't think he's the right player.  This innocent propposal has gathered a lot of steam with reports out of Tampa that Jonathan Bernier of LA and Cory Schneider are being considered as solutions to Tampa's goaltending issue, furthering that is yet another uninspiring loss by Tampa to Nashville by a final tally of 5 - 3.

Tampa does need a goalie and Vancouver needs another top six forward option, but it's not Lou for Vinny that I see working so much as Schneider for Teddy Purcell +.  Without offloading Lou's contract the Nux couldn't afford to take Lecavalier, but Purcell's reasonable cap hit of 2.35 could fit without dumping Lou, and it's arguable the Nux could re-stock the forward prospects out of the deal too as Cory Schneider's trade value is sky high right now.  Brett Connelly has stuck it appears after his 9 game trial period, and with St.Louis, Malone, Lecavalier, Stamkos and Downie there's room to move a top six guy and Purcell's playmaking ability, age and cap hit are super attractive.  He's off to a great start in Tampa with three goals and six assists but they might view him as colateral damage if they could find a 'keeper that could hold the offensively offensive Preds to three or fewer goals.

If I'm GM Mike Gillis and I get a Schneider and a pick for Purcell and a prospect offer from Stevie Y I'm on it like a fat kid on a smartie.

Josh Statham RADIO PROGRAM Pod Cast here:

No Excuses, but....

I don't like excuses for losing.  I don't accept the Stanley Cup hangover; having two months off shouldn't constitue exhaustion.  Roberto's slow starts are expected, and he's only played half the games, so it's not a great excuse either.  I would argue resting veterans wasn't the best idea but the core of the team outside of say Lou and Bieksalent have performed well.  The injury bug didn't effect the team as much as many thought it might, but I'm beginning to see that the early part of the 2011-12 schedule has not been favourable for the Nux.

Opening the season against a Sid-less Penguins team is still a tough task, and questionable shootout tactics didn't help.  The Canucks salvaged a point in the season opener at home then hit the road and squeaked out a W in Columbus before playing back-to-backers in Philly and Detroit, losing both.  In the first four games of the year the Canucks played three teams that have either won the cup or played for it (or both) in the past four seasons, including two of them back-to-back.  They concluded the four game road swing with a hard fought one goal win over the Oilers, came home for a rest and then peppered Henrik Lundqvist for 40 shots only to lose 4 - 0, their second shutout in three games.  They won at home against Nashville and Minny, then dropped their last two including a rematch with the youthful Oilers and had a snooze against the Blues for their third shut out of the year.

Last year the Canucks opened the scoring in 59 of 82 games...this year they've relinquished the lead to start the game more often than not, and one other noticable role reversal is in the goal scoring department where the Canucks have been blanked thrice this season already compared to five all of last year.

There are no nights off in the NHL anymore - NONE!  Not even Ottawa, Columbus or Long Island on home ice are pushovers.  The Canucks have played the second most games in the NHL and the nine teams ahead of them in the West have played one to three games fewer than them as the Canucks head in to a Saturday clash with the undefeated Caps.  It might be a blessing to start November on the road for six games, but the first two are divisional rivals and all but one in the month are against Western Conference teams.  If the Canucks don't get on the right track soon they could be facing a lengthy uphill battle.

At 4-5-1 the Nux are in tight in 10th with the disadvantage of every other team having games in hand.  They have the third worst goal differential in the West at -5.  This team is still very much the same as the one that won the President's trophy last year and came within one game of winning it all and if they had won against New York and Edmonton in lopsided shot totals they'd be 6-3-1 and on top of the North East and second in the West, so it's early but that doesn't mean there's no need to worry, if at any point in the season you have a worse goals per game average than Phoenix it's an issue.

I have to wonder why the schedule makers gave the Canucks such a disadvantage coming off a long season and dealing with such tough injury problems.  Is it possible the Canucks brass saw the beginning of the season as a lost cause and asked for the strongest competition up front anyway?

December's forecast is much better with Calgary at home the day before Christmas Eve and the Oilers at home just after Christmas day, two huge advantages against division rivals.  December 8th through 17th sees a relatively weak Eastern road swing with five games in ten days, only one against a current playoff team and no back-to-backers.  I'm wary now but if December isn't a cure then it might be time to push the panic button.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Steen Rolled

I count four posts tonight amongst a bevy of very solid scoring chances, but if you don't capitalize on the ones you do get you can't win, especially when you twice decline the power play by taking stick infractions shorlty in to the two you were given.  I was really nervous of a St.Louis team in the middle of a change of ownership and a long stretch of ineptitude.  I picked them to win the Central this year, and I know Detroit and Chicago look terrific but I made that decision based on their amazing forward depth.  They're without solid veteran playmaker Andy McDonald and a guy who many consider to be among the top ten in puck skills in the league in David Perron and they won by three on the road against the defending President's Trophy Winner.

Cory Schneider played very well.  Without his calm play between the pipes it could've been a lot worse.  Sure, his .903 SV% on the night is pedestrian, but he made some beautiful saves and showed good rebound controll.  It wasn't enough gas to poor on the goalie controversy fire though and it may just be a blessing in disguise.  Roberto Luongo is getting a chance now to come in and play saviour Saturday against an undefeated Capitals juggernaut the same way he did in this building in the winter of 2010 replacing legendary Martin Brodeur to take Canada to Gold.  Goaltenders are different mentally and while Roberto hasn't shown he can play great in a pressure cooker situation but he has shown a need to be wanted and boy do we want him to play to his full potential Saturday.

The offense was putrid.  They had some scoring chances and posts but late in the game we saw Keith Ballard and Sami Salo leading rushes and all too many times we were breaking out with one man and no support and making bad line changes.  Outside of the Hodgson-Volpatti-Hansen shift early in the game there was little consistent pressure.  David Booth had a good chance on a rolling puck and just missed the net.  He finished all his checks tonight and showed the ability to carry the zone.  My concern is that without Christian Ehrhoff we lack the transition game that made us so succesful and it's obvious a power skater like Booth excels on the breakout catching teams flat-footed through the neutral zone; are we the same system anymore or are we adapting?

I loved seeing Volpatti get a chance on the wing on a third line with some offensive options.  Last year Raffi Torres' physical play created a lot of opportunity for the Canucks third line and set the tone physically in the offensive zone.  There aren't many top-pairing defenseman gripping their sticks and rushing the play wondering if Tico is charging down the wing anymore and don't underestimate the power of physical intimidation.  Even better is offensive intimidation and St.Louis couldn't have cared less who was on the ice upfront for the Nux tonight, and that is a sad state of affairs.  Late in the game there was a great rush when AV juggled the lines to put CoHo with Booth and Kess.  I've said it before that Higgy is too much like Booth and Kess and should rather be used as an offensive option on the third line to make the line matching game hard for opposing coaching staffs.  I think CoHo should be centering him on that line rather than on the wing with the Booth and Kess.  CoHo has the skill to play their but I think the Canucks are morphing rapidly in to a three line team rather than a top six/bottom six group. 

So who should get a shot with Booth and Kess?  If it were up to me I'm throwing pass happy Andrew Ebbet out with the American snipers and running a Hansen-CoHo-Higgins third line.  That will be very hard for teams to match should it work out, and I think it deserves a trial run.  Manny on the wing on the fourth with Lapierre is a lock-down pairing if I ever saw one, toss Peppermint Patti or Dale Weise on that wing and this might be the shake up we need.

I was pumped that Alex Sulzer got in to the mix tonight, played nearly 20 minutes and was a member of what was the Canucks top pairing with Keith Ballard.  Hamhuis and Bieksa were -2.  Salo looked good again on the point but it's evident the fingers are hurting Alex Edler.  His physical contribution in Edmonton was top notch and when he's healthy again it will be a big boost.  In the meantime this group needs a major shake up as well and I believe the lynch-pin is in the transition game. Alex Sulzer had a great stretch pass but it's not so much the distance of the break out play as the quickness and if the offense is hinging on it then it needs new life in the form of Kevin Connauton.  The 21-year-old offense minded d-man could be the key to improving the breakout and quarterbacking the powerplay, atleast while Edler heals up.

I'm glad a real challenge is rolling in Saturday - this team looks like it needs a sense of urgency and what's more inspiring than playing the star-studded Caps.

Trade o' the Day

Since we're on the road to St.Louis I thought I'd bring up a couple of Blues in todays installment of possible trades.

The Blues have a plethora of players that could pose a top six upgrade on the wing.  Andy McDonald and David Perron are still battling injury, in their absence Alex Steen, Matt D'Agostini and the newly acquired Jason Arnott have filled in nicely.  Chris Stewart is off to a slow start with just two goals in eight games but you have to think he's a permanent fixture on the wing in St. Lou with the bounty they paid to acquire him.

TJ Oshie signed a one year 2.35 million dollar deal in the offseason.  He'll be a UFA come July and like Turris is a pass-first player.  He's average almost half an assist per game for his career which has been mired by injuries and a reputation as a rebel.  He's off to a slow start with four points in eight games coming in to tonight and had been quietly rumored to be available last year.

Whether St. Louis would St.Louis take a prospect or pick and Mason Raymond in return for him is debatable.

Oshie, from Mt. Vernon, Washington would serve another benefit alongside Kess and Booth as he would keep the title of American Express Line intact.

Why Turris works

If the Canucks are going to be a cup threat they need to improve secondary scoring, and not by waiting for Mason Raymond to be healthy again, or juggling the current roster.  They'll need to find a way to add affordable talent, preferably without giving much up in return.  I love the David Booth trade and I'm a huge Chris Higgins fan but unless something drastic happens I don't see chemistry forming between the American Express line; they're all too similar - cue Turris.

Turris would be expected to play the wing but he is a very capable center and having that option in case of a waive out is invaluable to a team built on puck possession.  His holdout makes him incredibly undervalued and he would likely sign for much less than his outrageous demands in Phoenix.  The biggest question would be is he the right fit, or, can he become the player he is supposed to be in the Canucks system?

I think the answer is yes.  He had 11 goals to 24 assists playing with Blake Geoffrion at the U. of Wisconsin.  He showed the same level of playmaking ability in the AHL with Mikkel Boedker and Brett McLean on a young farm system for the Desert Dogs.  He was rushed to the NHL and then sent to San Antonio where he performed well but upon his call up he was burried behind Eric Belanger and Shane Doan on a 'Yotes team that had 11 double digits scorers and worked more as a goals by comittee system.  As a designated top six forward on a Stanley Cup calibre team he could be the missing link.

This does wonders for team depth.  Higgins ability to finish makes him a better fit on the third line.  How many times did we see Janik Hansen miss should-be goal scoring opportunities last night.  What if it had been Higgins on the wing with Hodgson and Malhotra?  It's a definite move away from the defensively smart and physically imposing Torres/Malhotra/Hansen line of last year but could be an upgrade offensively and the lack of secondary options in the goal department in Vancouver was exploited last season.  Going a little further down the line that makes Hansen a fourth line winger and about the best one in the league.  Hansen and Lapierre with Weise or Volpatti is an impressive fourth line.

If it isn't Turris and things don't turn around pretty quick it will be someone.  There's no way Mike Gillis is rolling this current wait-and-see roster down the stretch and in to the playoffs.

Turris close

Reports that a Kyle Turris trade is very close.  Whether or not the Canucks are in on the 'Yotes winger depends on what blogs you follow.  I'm drawing my conclusions from last night's Edmonton loss and I would have to figure that if a top-six upgrade is available anywhere Mike Gillis is interested.

The newly minted American Express line has a catch handle but looks like it might not have the chemistry to last long.  They had flashes in last nights game and of course it's early but a quick look at the make up of that trio shows the need for a play maker and Turris fits the bill.

Like the Booth deal this is a great opportunity for GM Mike Gillis to do his best Billy Beane impersonation and steal an undervalued asset.  Turris as a hold out is worth about half of what Turris under contract could fetch, and lucky for any Phoenix trade partners he hasn't panned out just yet.  Make no mistake this kid has the talent and put on a wing with Booth and Kess could rack up the assists.  If he's available then the Canucks should make a serious play for him.

It's been reported that Phoenix was in no rush to move him but something in one of the offers from the as many as five reported interested parties has become the catalyst - could that offer have been a prospect from the Canucks?

There aren't too many more one goal losses to the Oilers to be tolerated in this young season - if it's not Turris then they will look elsewhere for help

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Gillis scoops Feaster

Just reading rumors now that Jay Feaster was in on Booth as well, which makes the trade all the more sweet knowing we scooped the Flames.  It also got me thinking: How could Calgary have not put together a better package for Booth than what the Canucks offered?

The rumor mill is also saying Calgary is again competing with Vancouver in the Turris sweepstakes which I think you can safely now say the Canucks are out of.  There's also ties between the Rangers and Flames but what mutual benefit could the two of the leagues worst offensive teams possibly share?  The Rangers definitely have the better quiver of assets to utilize but any trade seems like a lateral move.  Jay Buowmeester has been involved in trade rumors pretty well since signing in Calgary but even without a healthy Marc Staal the Rangers are pretty solid on D.  I would have to say the Rangers are looking a little thin on Wing and Rene Bourques $3.3 Mil is pretty hefty on Calgary's third line; could this be the deal?

Borque, to me, represents a skill set that is destined to take off in the right situation.  He's big and powerful and can cut wide - a poor man's Rick Nash.  If he's on the block I'd love the Canucks to get in, especially if Calgary is making a play for Turris.  Wouldn't it be ironic for the Canucks to be involved in a three way deal that saw local product Turris head to Calgary?

I believe Mike Gillis is in a position to build this roster in to a Cup frontrunner and not just the exhausted and banged up group everyone is making them out to be.  We've seen an unusual lack of patience with the veterans management hoped would carry the load until the regulars were healthy so I don't think prospects like Cody Hodgson and walking wounded like Mason Raymond are going to be given as much time as they would.  Time is of the essence and there seem to be a number of deals that make sense for the Canucks, and that is of course the GM's out clause after all - ready and willing to make any move that makes sense and improves the team.

I don't think Gillis' masterpiece is complete without another upgrade in the top six and depending on how the powerplay goes a true quarter back, especially since Mikael Samuelson is now in FLA..kind of.  Bourque has three straight 20 goal seasons and the speed to hang with Booth and Kess, but the five years remaining on his contract at an average cap hit of 3.3 million could be a major deterrent.

We've seen some interesting combinations at the morning skate.  I don't really think that Cody Hodgson centering a third line with Manny Malhotra on the wing makes much sense, probably won't work and if it doesn't further changes could come sooner rather than later.

Monday, October 24, 2011

The Trade Rumors

A lot of talk that Stevie Y wants an upgrade in the crease.  Tampa hasn't picked up this season where the last left off.  Yzerman was able to, against odds, retain the services of playoff uber-performer Teddy Purcell and at a bargain: 2.35 this year and 2.37 next.  He's tied with Martin St.Louis for 2:1 assist to goal ratio last season.  He's got size and is a natural winger and would be a natural fit on the new second line.

Of course Cory Schneider is probably a hefty price to ask for Purcell, but Tampa will also need to restock the top 9 forward shelves in the same or a related deal.  Maybe, just maybe, an injured Mason Raymond who is also a winger and has a similar cap hit could work his way in to the mix. 

Schneider and Raymond to Tampa for Purcell and a prospect might be enough for the Canucks to hang with the Caps.

Over the course of the month I'm going to dream up some more possible trades as I follow the rumor mill.  I'd love to hear some of yours.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

The Turris Rumors

I have hoped for years that the Canucks would invest in local talent.  It was great to see GM Mike Gillis loosen the purse strings and acquire Smithers' native Dan Hamhuis in last year's UFA rush, enter the collegiate UFA market by bringing in Revelstoke's Aaron Volpatti - and yes, Andrew Ebbet cut his teeth with Salmon Arm of the BCHL.

It's understandable that Vancouver fans would like to see local talent doing well for the home team but it's not just the novelty that makes sense but the understanding of what it means to be a Canuck.  SinceKyle Turris has held out in Phoenix internet rumors have swirled about the Canuck's interest in acquiring the New Westminster product.  If there were any truth to it I would have to think that the David Booth trade has all but killed that plan.

There's no way with the Canucks over-abundance of in-house options to play with Booth and Kesler on the second line that they would give up assets just to try Kyle Turris in that position, and it's unlikely they'd want to add that kind of salary for third line duty.

That said, I wouldn't be upset if they did, I just don't see it happening.  It does beg the question what is a hold-out Kyle Turris worth?  He really hasn't lived up to the hype (yet) and Phoenix is in a tough position, so could you scoop him - sure.

If Kyle Turris was just underperforming this season and quietly asked for a trade he might be worth an even-up trade for CoHo, but as it stands he could be had for a bargain.  His contract requests are an obvious ploy to get out of the desert so it's feasible he would sign in his home province for a realistic salary.

He was nearly a point per game performer as a rookie in College and has produced excellent AHL numbers but that hasn't added up to impressive NHL stats tallying 46 points in 131 NHL games, but he was grossly misused in a offensively starved Phoenix system.  You can't deny the talent level and put in a situation to succeed we might just see him blossom.  He's a pass first player so he would fit well with two 30+ goal guys in Kess and Booth and can play both wing and centre.

It's all in fantasy land for now anyway, but if it did happen the glut of wingers would have to be reduced by moving a position player for Turris.  Even as a hold out Turris should fetch a higher price than Janik Hansen; he has been widely rumored to be a part of a potential deal and has not played up to potential this season.  Hansen plus a pick for Turris - would you be happy?

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Let's make a deal

On Saturday, as you undoubtedly have already heard, Canucks GM Mike Gillis announced a long rumored trade with Florida that played out like this:

To FLA: Marco Sturm and Mikael Samuelson + 4th rounder

To VAN: David Booth, Steven Reinprecht + 3rd rounder

Booth has suffered two major concussions over the past three seasons and carries a 4.25 million dollar cap hit for this and three more seasons; seems like an awful lot to commit to a guy with a soft bean, but hey, I'm nothing short of ecstatic.

Booth played all 82 games last season and regained his 20+ goal form a weak Panthers club.  He's described as a powerful and fast skater but measures out at 6'0", 212 Lb...that's a lot of power.

I'd like to take this opportunity to thank Mikael Samuelson for a couple solid seasons in Vancouver, but by trading he and Sturm the Canucks actually dump salary as they combine for a 4.7 million dollar payday.

I'm really surprised this is the best package that David Booth could fetch.  At 26 he's overcome some health challenges but his upside is amazing.  Florida went out and paid big money to free agents, not to mention acquired the once thought untradable contract of Brian Campbell this past offseason - that's a pretty strong indication that this deal wasn't for monetary purposes.  And, Florida is off to a great start and looks to be able to challenge for a playoff spot - does adding two slow veteran forwards really fit in to their plans?

A move of this magnitude this early in the season makes me wonder if Mike Gillis is trying to keep up with the NHL Joneses.  At the conclusion of last season I didn't feel the window was closing on the Canucks, and I didn't blink even after we lost Christian Ehrhoff to free agency but was that necessarily the sentiment amongst the Canucks' brass?

Before this afternoon's game we saw footage of Mason Raymond skating.  Chris Higgins has been spectacular to start this season and has worked his way on to the second line and Mike Gillis had this to say about Cody Hodgson:

"...Cody Hodgson is in that mix as well, so we'll see how it works out.”

I don't really think a GM like Mike Gillis comes out and makes statements about a prospect like that if he is going to be considered trade bait.

That's three players for one position and we know the Canucks aren't keeping CoHo around to change positions and move to the wing on the third line, so is he bound for AHL or is he going to be part of yet another move?  Does the seemingly NHL ready Eddie Lack put Cory Schneider in to play?

A quick look at the NHL landscape shows a broadening of the upper echelon.  Don't look now but Detroit isn't slowing down as we all (hoped) thought.  Washington GM George McPhee's offseason retooling seems to have put Washington over the top.  Philly's brash offseason remodel is paying dividends. Chicago reloaded on the gritt and depth that surrounded their talented core during their cup run.  San Jose added Martin Havlat and Brett Burns this offseason. Pittsburgh is looking like they may very well be the team to beat and Sidney Crosby is still out. 

This team could go to the finals again, but could they win it?  Not with the same offense that wimped out in the finals last year.

So what else could we see?  What if the wheels fall off in New Jersey and being named Captain isn't enough to keep Zach Parise around?  Won't a Schneider+ for Parise even as a rental address the lack of secondary scoring issue come June?

Surprise! Sean Couturier and Brayden Schenn are NHL ready - where does this leave Scott Hartnell and Jakub Voracek?  Wojtek Wolski isn't fitting in again.  The Isles are loaded with young talent up front and are going to have to clear room for Neriderreiter, Rakshanni and Strome, is it enough to force them to move Blake Comeau's 2.5 million cap hit off the third line?  Columbus is hurting...bad.  Derrick Brassard won't last the season.  Do the Sens move an Alffy, Spezza or Michalek for the right package of picks and prospects?

I don't think the Canucks are done yet.

Bri and Josh talkin' Canucks -

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Wake me up when October ends

Me and my man B talkin' Nux:

Canuck fans have to be getting used to slow starts from their team, especially their former captain and "#1" goalie Roberto Luongo but 2-3-0-1 doesn't cut it when you look at the schedule.

We opened the season at home against a Crosby-less Penguins team and got lit up by Matt Cooke - ouch.

Philly and Detroit back-toback hurt, but you gotta figure the defending President's Trophy Winners could get a split, atleast a point.

We beat the Jackets to open the first road trip of the year, but they're the only team left in the NHL without a win.  We closed out the trip with an impressive win over an energetic Oilers team, and that's been it for the W collumn on the season.

That takes us to last night's blunder.  New York, until recently the only other winless NHL team this season beside Columbus got an early Christmas gift from Luongo Claus.  You can't really blame a goalie for losing a game you never scored in, but when you outshoot the other team 28 to 9 through two periods you can't blame the Canucks for throwing in the towel after they've thrown everything but the kitchen sink at the other net and their star goalie kicks out a fat rebound early in the third to start four straight against.  That famous Luongo rebound control let the air out of the team so fast they couldn't recover - you could cut the tension between the bench and the blue paint with a knife.  Just look at the last goal with three Canucks right in front of the net letting NY walk in and score; they didn't even bother and you could read a lot in to that act.

Kudos to Lou for taking it like a man in the post game interview when asked about the Bronx cheer he received for drifting out of the crease to stop a slowly sliding puck.  He wasn't upset, he didn't pass the buck, he just acknowledged his less than stellar play.  So bad was his game last night that he managed to make his already putrid stats for the year even worse.

Ryan Kesler was a beast in his first game back, and it shows just how important he is to this team.  With Kess our Power Play has bite again, and teams have a hard time matching us 5 on 5 when he's anchoring the second line.  He sure didn't ease back in to the line up either logging over 19 minutes. 

One other positive was Cody Hodgson's play on the second power play unit, also, his budding chemistry on Kesler's wing.  The Canucks obviously played well enough to win, and this wasn't a case of having no finish, you have got to give Henrik Lundqvist all the credit he is due for keeping his team in the game.  That was one of the most impressive regular season performances I have ever witnessed.  He was hung out to dry more often than Ralph Wiggum's bed sheets and he dropped a 0 on a very good team.

After the game I was reading that the Flyer's have at long last called up Brayden Schenn.  First off, how good do the trades they made look now with Voracek and Simmonds combining for 6 points so far this season on a deep offensive team and Sean Couturier making a seemless transition to the NHL.  Just wait until Schenn hits his stride with this young offensive dynamo.  Secondly, when I searched Schenn's AHL stats, 8 points in 4 games, I didn't find any Chicago Wolves players in the top 20...40...60...80???  Don't worry, Darren Haydar and Kevin Doell continue to lead the way for the Nux AHL affiliate with 3 points each.  Jordan Schroeder has one point in four games and is a team worst -4.

Where is the offensive depth in our system?  It's great that we have a glutt of very dependable 4th line/energy players but c'mon - has a single offensive prospect panned out?  Shirokov got dumped for a depth player.  Schroeder looked great in pre-season but has apparently stalled.  Hodgson is a work in progress on the wing and might just cut it. Anton Rodin looks like a reliable depth player.  Could the answer lie in yet another set of Swedish twins, the Westerholms of Malmo? We took an overager in Alexander Grenier with our third pick last year. How 'bout that Patrick White?

All told the Nux took just 3 forwards in the 2009 and 2010 draft total.  I know Nicklas Jensen looks impressive, but he's a few years away in this system...then again, maybe not if CoHo isn't the winger we hope he can become.  What became apparent is the Canucks are stockpiling defensemen and I like the plan.  It makes sense for a team to try to shore up one specific area through the draft and if they have an excess move prospects for help in areas they are lacking, not that the Canucks have a blue-chip d-man waiting in the wings but they have a bevvy of solid options in the AHL right now.  They added a former first rounder in Ryan Parent, Yann Sauve and Kevin Connauton are both 1990 birth years, Seb Erixon dropped 20 points in the Elite League last year and could adjust to the North American game with Chicago and most impressively was the selection of Adam Polasek in the 5th round 2010. The big Czech had good numbers in major junior and is getting a taste of the pro game in the A right now.  You can add to that list Pat McNally, Sawyer Hannay, Frankie Corrado, Henrik Tommernes, Jeremy Price and Peter Andersson all from the past three drafts. 

So, will prospects be packaged for help in the top 6?

Josh and Bri talkin' Nux:

Tuesday, October 18, 2011


If you can look me in the eye and tell me you thought the pale, soft, slow-footed, rosie-cheeked kids that came right out of Sweden to the big time and suffered a tumultuous half-decade before finding their stride would some day be back-to-back league scoring leaders then you're a smarter man than I.

Even when the twins started posting near point per game totals it seemed as if they were destined to be considered a good second line option and a power play specialty.  So, when does the shine wear off?

I just caught a segment on the Score about aging stars without Stanley Cup rings and where they fit alongside the games' greats.  The trio in question were Shane Doan, Jarome Iginla and Daniel Alfredson.  Iggy is a Richard trophy winner, a 50 goal man, considered one of the best power forwards ever and of course has the obligatory 1,000+ points.  Doan, a gritty under-dog leader of small market franchises is one of the games classiest, but he'll never have the point totals or hardware to earn a HOF vote.  Alfredson, on the other hand, doesn't have a niche like the other two, but he does have a Calder Trophy and a cup run and 1,000+ points, but is it enough.  When I looked at his stats I saw a trend that was reminiscent of the Sedins and I had to apply it.

For five seasons to begin his career Alffy averaged 53.8 points per season, then took a jump to 70, 71, 78 and 80 for four seasons and then after the lockout a quantum leap to 103, 87 and 89 then returned for two seasons to the 70 point range and then to last year's injury shortened campaign and this years slow start as a 39 year old winger on a team in the midst of a major rebuild...almost a demolotion.

Henrik and Daniel broke in to the league in 200-01 and averaged 37 and 38 points per season for the first four seasons, then spent the lockout in Sweden and came back to move on like Alffy to a new plateau averaging 78.5 and 78 points per game over the next four seasons, then began the hardware era. First Henrik notched 112 points to win the Hart and Art Ross Trophies, then brother Daniel bounced back after an injury plagued season to win an Art Ross of his own, and now the back-to-back league leaders in points are on pace for 115 this year. 

If we compare Alffy to the Twins then this would be the third of their three years of their prime, followed by a decline in production, only in this third season in their prime they are 31 whil Alfredson was 37 - so, why can't they continue to produce at this level for the next six years before they experience a drop off back to the 70 - 80 point era and then a ride in to the sunset.  That would make for five more seasons in their prime, where they are so far averaging 101 and 107 points per season, taking injuries and point per games totals in to account we can split the difference and say 103 for five seasons after this, then two in the 70s and a retirement year at 39.

Henrik has slightly higher totals at 673 while Daniel has 658, by the Alffy/Sedin forecast theorum you can then add 820 points to each, making them near 1,500 point producers and of course hall of fame locks - especially when they win a cup or two over the next decade.  These totals would see them mentioned in the same breath, points wise, as the likes of Trottier, Recchi and Mikita.

Both the Twins and Alffy had cup runs in the second of their prime seasons - only the Twins will have nearly three times the primes, so hopefully two more shots at the cup.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Lou-sing grip

Click the link for Canucks Podcast with Josh and Brian:


Even though Roberto Luongo is a notoriously slow starter the goaltending controversy in Vancouver is probably already at a fevered pitch, but it really isn't a controversy at all.  Just do this simple comparison:

Cory Schneider: 2.03 GAA/.935 Save Percentage
Roberto Luongo: 3.61GAA/.871 Save Percentage

Who should be the starter?

Cory Schneider 2011 Salary:  $900,000
Roberto Luongo 2011 Salary: $6,716,000

Who should be the starter?

It's not a question of who is supposed to be the number one guy, but rather, who is playing like it.  When you've got two very capable goalies it should be an open competition for control of the crease.  Right now Cory Schneider is playing better so regardless of his place on the totem pole he should be starting tomorrow's game, whether it's at home or away, until he loses or we have a back-to-back situation. And more so if Lou does get a start and it goes to shoot-out then coach V should put Schneider in considering Lou's shootout save percentage this year is a whopping .000.

Team's can get burried in October with the loser point and league parity.  The idea that allowing Roberto Luongo to ease in to the regular season like an old man in to a bath is ludacris.  Even worse it sends a horrible message to the fans, the team and Cory Schneider when he is playing great and not getting the opportunity he deserves. 

This isn't a Roberto witch hunt by any means.  If Cory Schneider started the next game and lost then Lou should go in, but it's obvious to me that Cory is the better goalie and that the team plays far better in their own end and around their net when Cool Cory is playing.

We all saw how Lou played when Schneider did well.  It created a healthy competition between the teams puckstops rather than a salary based hierarchy and that just sounds like a recipe for success.

Canucks Pod Cast with Brian and Josh:

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Be concerned

If you feel the Canucks could dig a God sized hole in October you're not overreacting, and you're not alone.  We say New Jersey have a great record down the stretch last season but their poor start cost them a spot in the post season.  Toronto had one of the best records after the all star break last year but a slow start cost them.  It may not cost the Canucks a playoff spot, but it might cost them the Pacific title or home ice.  Help is on the way, but management knew the injury status of two key top six forwards and retained Chris Higgins and Max Lapierre, who have played very well thus far, then went in to free agency to give stupid money to perennial 20 goal man Marco wasn't enough.  The worst part is watching the Canucks get beaten up still and wondering why Sturm got a pay day and Raffi Torres was allowed to walk for next to nothing.

Still this team is largely the same one that was within one win of the big prize last season so we should be fine, but the flip side to that coin is that we're still missing a power forward in the top six; someone who can bring a secondary offensive threat and some muscle at the same time. 

I shamelessly endorse Mike Gillis all the time and I will continue to.  It seems to me that he's content to hope for the best until Kess and Raymond are back, then switch CoHo to the wing with kess and whomever looks like the best fit on the second line.  I can really see that being a great option.  Hodgson is a horrible skater but he has shown incredible patience in the slot and seems to have a bag of tricks in the offensive zone. 

But where the team might be in a month is not the question, it's the here and now, and can this second-rate Canucks roster hold up long enough until reinforcements are here?  It's really not looking like it.

I would love to see Ryan Clowe, Rene Bourque, Ryan Callahan, Chris Stewart, Nathan Horton, Dustin Brown or Brenden Morrow on a line with Ryan Kessler.  Darren Archibald looks like he could one day be a 20+ goal top six power forward but he is a long ways away.

Whether the Canucks turn it around when healthy or not I feel they need to look at finding this gritty top six winger.  Two of the guys I mentioned were traded last season; did the other GM's not think to shop there coveted power forwards to this soft-serve of the NHL?  If they do manage to find the elusive top six forward with gutts it will be a crowded house up front but if they want to get one more win in the playoffs this year it's a must.

don't worry, he's a slow starter

Don't worry Vancouver fans, we all know Roberto Luongo is a slow starter.

Unfortunately as teams like New Jersey and Toronto will attest a few lost points early in the year can cost you an entire season. 

In todays game you don't get the luxury of being a slow starter, and you sure don't ever get to be paid amongst the highest in your position to let in 5 goals on 27 shots, especially when your team gives you more than enough offense for a road win.  How deflating can it be for a team to fight back to tie a game 4 -4 on the road only to see the last line of defense let in a softy over the glove?

If Cory Schneider wins tonight in Detroit then AV should start him in Edmonton too - plain and simple.

They aren't Louing anymore

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

West Coast Missing the Most

I don't know about you but it really bothers me when I see good BC (and for that matter any grad of the WHL) do well elsewhere.  I'm not saying the Canucks need to give western prospects precedence over other equally talented players but it does bug me.

This whole issue was brought to light by the Canucks own arch nemesis, the Chicago Blackhawks, who have rubbed it in our faces even further by having a system stocked with talented up and coming Western leaguers and kids from BC and Alberta.

Right now after three games the Blackhawks AHL affiliate Rockford Icehogs top three scorers are all from BC, and they're all big!

Rob Klinkhammer - 6'3" 209lb. 5 points in 2 Games - Lethbridge, AB
Brandon Segal - 6'2" 209lb 3 Goals in 2 Games - Richmond, BC
Kyle Beach - 6'3" 210lb - 3 points in 2 Games - Kelowna BC

They didn't draft all of them, Klinkhammer was originally in Nashville as an undrafted signee and Segal was a fourth round pick of Nashville (on a side note the Preds have a history of drafting and developing very good BC players) and the Hawks just picked up Brett McLean of Comox, who is more of a career minor leaguer than a prospect but has played his share of games in the big league and is at a point per game pace in the AHL and more than able to handle the workload in an emergency call up situation.

It doesn't stop there, no no, on the back end this impressive western duo are sure to have the Hawks deep on D for years to come:

Dylan Olsen, 6'3" - Born 1991 - AB
Ryan Stanton, 6'2" - Born 1989 - AB

The Canucks do have a few westerners on the Wolves, but none really even in the same breath as the big young kids in Rockford.  Come to think of it it's pretty ironic that the Chicago Blackhawks AHL team is full of Westerners and the Vancouver Canucks farm team is in Chicago.

Overall comparing farm systems Chicago is impressive with names like Chris Didomenico, Brandon Pirri and Shawn Lalonde also up and coming.  Pretty sad when right now the Canucks top scorers in Rockford were both born in the decade that brought us disco, and our #2 offensive prospect is -3 with no points.

Maybe they should just pick the best available WHL player - seems like there's something to it.

Monday, October 10, 2011

How are the Twins not the top pair in the league?

I was just reading a piece by Barry Melrose on, and while I appreciate it for the conversation starter qualities (which it apparently succeeded at) I have to seriously question his rankings.

Melrose was ranking the top five offensive pairings in the league and with all due respect they are way, way off:

5 - St.Louis and Stamkos
4 - Zetterberg and Datsyul
3 - Henrik and Daniel
2 - Kane and Toews
1 - Perry and Getzlaf

While I do agree these are the top five it was hard to keep Sid and Gino out but they aren't really a pairing and the only other duo I felt came close was Ovi and Backstrom but they had a serious off year last season that just barely kept them out.  I would re-rank as follows

5 - Kane and Toews: Offensively they trail the other four, but, they are young and already have Cup Rings and Olympic hardware.  Their ranking was not so much a reflection of self but the amazing talent they are spoken in the same breath with.

4 - Zetterberg and Datyuk: I nearly ranked these two fifth but then I thought, 'how could I'?  Look at what they've done and what happens to their games come playoff time.  Next year they may slide a spot as they age but I doubt it.

3 - Stamkos and St.Louis: At this point you're really splitting hairs.  Steve Stamkos has scored the most goals in the league over the past two seasons.  If Sid doesn't return 100% he may just prove to be the best forward in the league this season, and in terms of chemistry Stammer and St.Louis are amazing to watch.

2 - Perry and Getzlaf: The most gritt collectively of any pairing, these two are power players and arguably have the best sidekick of the group in Bobby Ryan.  They bring a lot to the table, also have the hardware to back it up and despite an injury plagued season for Getzy have to be in the top 3.

1 - Hank and Dank: Quite simply how can the last two leading scorers playing together not be considered the top duo in the NHL?

This has inspired me to list the top five D pairings - check the blog later for my list

Friday, October 7, 2011

Game One Reaction

Finally, after the shortest (and in some ways the longest) offseason in Canucks history, the puck drops on a new year.  It hasn't exactly been a repeat of the Blackhawks cup run two seasons ago, but there has been some turnover and really a lot more story lines than what the title of President's Trophy and Cup Finalist offer.  I'm just going to address some things I saw in game one here, so please, take them with a game one grain of salt, I'm not going to condemn nor praise any one facet of the team.

1 - CoHo not yet in season:  We've all been waiting for the arrival of this player.  Many are saying it was unfair to put him on a line with a couple banged up, slow veterans.  It was noted that Hodgson, much beleaguered for his poor skating, was sadly the most fleat of foot on a line with Marco Sturm and Mikael Samuelson.  He had a poor start to his first NHL home opener then came on in the the third nearly winning the game - so is he the puck-patient player we saw in the third period or the one-handed slug we saw in the first two?  Time will tell, but I will say this, he is undeniably slow and all too often coasting with one hand on his stick, around the net he showed great poise.  Is net pressence enough to become a legitimate NHL top six forward despite a poor skating stride?  Well, ask Thomas Holmstrom, Jonathon Cheechoo or Mark Rechhi.

2 - Off Season Signings: Sturm looked slow, but he bounced back from an injury plagued 2008-09 season to score 22 goals in Boston in 2009-10.  Last year he had 16 points in 35 games between LA and Washington, so following the trend he should be ready for another 20+ goal campaign, right.......  I have to say Chris Higgins looks like a better match on the second line while Kess and Raymond are out.  Sturm could bring a little offensive savvy to the third line.

3 - Keith Ballard: This poor guy was physically beat up all last season and ended up in AVs dog house, but never mine, and I'm glad he showed Vigneault and all of Vancouver what he is capable.  When (not if) Salo goes down with injury this guy is going to be a Godsend in the top 4 with Edler.

4 - Bobby Lou: He's a slow starter so nobody is shocked by his poor play last night, however, I think I speak for all Canucks fans when I say we're sick of it, and rightfully so.  Honestly this is a make or break season for Bobby Lou.  Just because he has a limited no movement clause doesn't mean he'll stick around if he blows it again this year.  You get the feeling he won't want to.  What is with his bellyflop in the crease?  Has that ever worked?

5 - The Twins: They look great and do we ever need them to be.  Without Kesler our offense is questionable.  The Twins will be relied upon heavily until kess is back and up to speed.

6 - 4th Line: Lapierre looks awesome, and Volpatti did play physically, but Weise was a non-factor.  Lets get Duco in there to shake it up.

All in all it was a tough loss, no doubt, and secondary offense is going to be a question for a while, even after Ryan Kesler returns.

Click the link to hear my podcast featuring Jesse Newman of the BC Lions, Brian Wiebe of Q101FM in the house talkin' Canucks and Mr. October in to chat some MLB Playoffs

Tuesday, October 4, 2011


It’s predictions time!
In the East….
1  Washington – Vokoun is s safety net, holtby and neuvirth will carry the torch, Ovy will bounce back
2  Pittsburgh – With or without Sid this team takes the shockingly weak Atlantic
3  Buffalo – Pegulas return on investment will be high…very high, enough to bounce the Bs
4  Boston – Might even be better on paper this year, but so are the three teams ahead of ‘em
5  Philedelphia – Will take time to gel but expect JVRD to live up to the contract
6  Tampa Bay – Still not enough D, can Rollie (and the aging stars) make it?
7  New York Rangers – Could be a dark horse this spring, more forward depth than you think
8  Toronto Maple Leafs – Just picked up Steckel, and one of the best teams down the middle
9  Montreal – I expect Price to have another stellar year, but Cole and Pacioretty aren’t enough
10  Florida – This is a better team than anyone acknowledges…yet, but they sure will
11  Carolina – Just not enough to really be a competitor but a challenge night in, night out
12  Winnipeg – Team of the future, collection of young stars to rival Pitt, Chi or Edm
13  New York Islanders – Ditto for this group, Tavares to break out this year in a big way
14  New Jersey – No puck moving D, aging tenders, missing top line centre, who wants Parise?
15  Ottawa – Absolutely amazing young D shaping up in the Nations Capital, be a few years tho

And in the West….

1  Vancouver – Will survive early injury problems, lotsa points to be had in weak northwest division
2  San Jose – Gritty Bottom six, Havlat could lead team in scoring, Burns and Boyle amazing tandem
3  St. Louis – Halak needs to play well and he will, perhaps best four line team in league
4  LA – Can Penner and Gagne keep up? No questions on D or in the crease.
5  Chicago – Still very much a contender – Leddy and Bickell to break out in a big way
6  Detroit – Helm ready to step up, core is healthy and Howard will continue to improve
7  Anaheim – Healthy Hiller the key.  If the vertigo comes back the ducks could free fall
8  Edmonton – It’s the 80s all over again. This team will run n gun to a playoff spot
9  Columbus – Tough division will keep ‘em out, might make it if they were in the NW
10  Calgary – Too many health questions with Iggy – Backlund might shine even without him
11  Minnesota – Some young talent and improved offense, but still not enough to compete
12  Colorado – Healthy this is a playoff team, but there top 3 forwards are all bandaids
13  Nashville – Will probably score fewer goals than an MLS team this season
14  Dallas – Crease questions abound and the D is paper thin – Ok top 6 – long year in lone star state
15  Phoenix – Even Kyle Turris wants out and he hasn’t done squat.

If it all comes out this way (which it will) we’ll see some interesting playoff match-ups.
Buffalo and Pittsburgh will meet in the second round with Pegula’s crew winning a nail biter, but losing out to the eventual cup champion Caps in the East final.
Chicago will beat the Nux in the second round adding another chapter to this growing rivalry, and San Jose will make the West final yet again, only to lose out to the Hawks in the West final.

Trophy Time:
ART ROSS: The Sedins are a perennial threat, but Stamkos and Ovi will battle all year – could be a surprise like a Kopitar, Malkin or Tavares, but I think Ovi will nudge Stamkos for the lead.
RICHARD: Perry, Stamkos and Ovi will duke it out all year.  I like Stammer to win it.
CALDER: So many questions, who stays who goes back to the minors.  Based on the preseason stats I’d say RNH is here to stay, and if that is the case he’ll take the Calder.  If not Brayden Schenn will get lots of opportunity in Philly.  This season could be the most highly contested Calder race in decades, the list of possible winners includes: Luke Adam, Tim Erixon, Adam Larsson, Nazem Kadri, Ryan Ellis, Gabriel Landeskog, Sean Couturier to name a few.
NORRIS: I think Alex Pietrangelo will take this by a hair over the likes of Shea Weber and John Carlsson, but look for Duncan Keith to bounce back this year and don’t discount PK in the MTL.
VEZINA: Jimmy Howard is going to keep the Wings in the top tier teams this year and Carey Price is going to perform under the pressure of a weak offense, but Pekka Rinne will win out playing in offensively starved Nashville.  I do think Ryan Miller’s numbers in Buffalo will warrant a nomination, but goalies on stellar teams like Lou, Bryzgalov, Fleury and Co. are getting less and less consideration.
SELKE: If Sid is out for a  while then Jordan Staal might just have the offensive numbers to compliment the stellar defensive play, and Manny Malhotra might just earn a nod if healthy but Dean Lombardi didn’t bring Mike Richards in for nothing – look for him to get the icetime in key situations to earn the hardware.
JACK ADAMS: Ron Wilson is going to get the Leafs in to the playoffs, and Tom Renney is going to break all his own rules and run and gun with the kids in Oil Town, but Davis Payne gets the nod for bringing the Blues to the Central Division title.
And the MVPS???? I’d say both Ovi – it’s just Washington’s year.

One man's loss is anothers gain

I'm really disappointed Vic Oreskovich didn't make an impact this preseason.  I'm also very excited for a fourth line that includes Max Lapierre, Weise and either Mike Duco or Aaron Volpati.

Oreskovich has incredible strength and is blessed with tremendous speed, but for whatever reason he hasn't put it all together, to the point where Canucks head coach Alain Vigneault will be dressing a player for his home opener that he has never seen. 

Oreskovich played admirably during the playoffs after injuries forced him in to action.  He signed a contract with the big club in the off season and looked to have cemented himself on the fourth line, but things changed. Outside of Weise notably Aaron Volpati showed that he is ready to become a player that other teams skilled guys are very aware of, and Mike Duco looks like a spark plug with 15 goal potential - now that's a fourth line.

I have no doubt Oreskovich will resurface in the NHL with the Canucks or some other club, that is if he doesn't decide to walk away from the game again like he did in junior.

When Weise was placed on waivers he never expected to be picked up but was almost immediately snapped up by the Canucks whose pro-scouts are very high on him.  Weise in return has expressed his exuberance at being given a shot with a cup contender in a Canadian hockey market.