J.J. Guerrero

Founder and Executive Editor of Canucks Hockey Blog. Proud Canadian, hardcore Canucks fan. I would like nothing more than watching the Canucks win the Stanley Cup. Against the Leafs.

Apr 162014
 

NHL_2014_StanleyCupPlayoffs

With the puck ready to drop for the 2014 NHL playoffs, a few of us at CHB make our predictions for the first round.

At least with the Canucks not making it, we can make our picks with our brains, rather than our hearts. Well, mostly our brains. We flipped coins, drew straws and other things too.

Western Conference

Colorado Avalanche vs. Minnesota Wild

Victoria: Avalanche in 5. This prediction is based on the real fear that if Minnesota makes it too far in the playoffs we’ll all fall into a coma. Most boring hockey ever. So come on Avs, knock them out and save us all.

Matt: Avalanche in 5. This isn’t the same team that won the Nathan MacKinnon sweepstakes at this time last year. This is a ferocious, tenacious, deep team that has excelled under the marvelous coaching of Patrick Roy and is stable in goal thanks to the performance of Semyon Varlamov. Minnesota is good enough to perhaps steal a game, but a series? I’m not buying it.

Chris: Avalanche in 5. There is no reason to believe that Patrick Roy will tolerate the team losing to the Wild. Therefore, fear itself will propel the Avs through to the second round.

J.J.: Avalanche in 7. I’ve been waiting for the Avs to crash and burn all year, but they look like the real deal. Wild will give them some pushback, but I don’t think enough of one to take the series.

Clay: Avalanche in 5. Colorado is too young, too fast, and too skilled to lose to the Wild.

St. Louis Blues vs. Chicago Blackhawks

Victoria: Hawks in 6. As long as Toews and Kane are healthy, I see the Hawks rolling over the Blues fairly easily. They’re young, strong, talented and they’ve been here before and know how to win. Blues, not so much.

Matt: Hawks in 7. A first-round series that should really be worthy of a Conference Final, I’d hedge my bets on the defending champion over a team which – on paper – is built for the playoffs. This looks like it could be a physical series from start to finish, but again I believe the Blackhawks’ top guns will survive this war of attrition. How much they have left after this is another debate in itself.

Chris: Hawks in 7. I’ll be honest, I flipped a coin to determine who wins in 7 games. These two teams will beat the living daylights out of each other.

J.J.: Hawks in 6. The Blues are hurt and slumping; the Hawks are about to get Kane and Toews back. Unless Ryan Miller turns into a money goalie overnight – the eye test says he hasn’t had the impact the Blues had hoped for – Chicago gets this one.

Clay: Hawks in 7.  One of the most intriguing first-round series. It sounds like Chicago is healthy, while St. Louis is everything but.

Anaheim Ducks vs. Dallas Stars

Victoria: Ducks in 5. Teemu wants one last Cup and he’s gonna steamroll Seguin, Benn and the Stars to get there. I’m hoping, because I am not a Ducks fan at all, that eventually they run out of steam, but it won’t be in this round.

Matt: Ducks in 4. The Ducks, who finished first in the West, look like a team that has been in cruise control the last couple weeks. But they appear motivated by what I’d like to call the Teemu Factor. Selanne, who looks like he knows this will be his final season, wants another Stanley Cup ring and I like the Ducks to play hard for the best player the franchise has ever known. Dallas is a team just happy to be here.

Chris: Ducks in 5. May the power Wild Wing compel you. Seriously… is anyone taking Dallas?

J.J.: Ducks in 6. How the Ducks keep winning hockey games with one good line and a (relatively) no-name goalie baffles me.

Clay: Ducks in 5. The Stars might get one, but that’s it. Look for some of Anaheim’s younger players (Bonino, Fowler) to shine.

San Jose Sharks vs. Los Angeles Kings

Victoria: Kings in 7. Because they can. With the addition of Gaborik to their already stacked scoring line-up – Carter, Kopitar, Doughty, etc. – they’ve got the advantage. Also, history dictates Sharks never win it all. This year will be no different and the Kings will put them out of their misery early.

Matt: Kings in 7. I know we say this almost every year, but the Sharks always look like a team that thrives in the regular season only to come up short in the playoffs. Los Angeles is a team that has struggled to find consistency on offense, but their club has a history of flipping the switch when it matters most. I’ll take SoCal over NorCal, yet again.

Chris: Kings in 6. Another series that will serve as a knock-down, drag-out brawl where only one team will survive. At least until round two.

J.J.: Sharks in 7. Jonathan Quick has been good, but the guys in front of him have had trouble scoring all year. This should be a familiar script for Canucks fans.

Clay: Sharks in 6. In this battle of teams that like to pound the Canucks, I like the Sharks’ firepower up front with Pavelski, Marleau, Thornton, Couture, Burns, and Hertl.

*****

Eastern Conference

Boston Bruins vs. Detroit Red Wings

Victoria: Wings in 7. Because the Wings are like the Goonies, they never say die. And because good should always triumph over evil.

Matt: Wings in 7. My upset special for the first round. Detroit has been ravaged by injuries all season, but their kids (Tatar, Nyquist, etc.) have helped fill in the holes quite admirably. With Henrik Zetterberg practicing and potentially nearing a return, things are looking up on the injury front. The same can’t be said for Boston, who’s already without some key bottom six forwards in Chris Kelly and Dan Paille, not to mention the questionable status of Patrice Bergeron.

Chris: I’m cheering for Motor City and wish them all the best in a long and glorious cup run. Bruins in 6.

J.J.: Wings in 6. I had a late pick in my playoff pool and lost out on all the Bruins who went early in the draft. I hope Datsyuk and Nyquist both have a big series.

Clay: Bruins in 6. They are hungry and right now the class of the East. Can’t believe I used the word class in describing these goofballs.

Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Montreal Canadiens

Victoria: Habs in 6. Sure they’ve got Steven Stamkos, but Habs have Pacioretty and most importantly Price. If he can channel his Olympic mojo, Bolts don’t stand a chance.

Matt: Habs in 7. My early nomination for the toughest series to call. The Bolts have been bolstered with the return of Steven Stamkos (11 goals in 20 games since his return), and provided goaltender Ben Bishop and forwards Valtteri Filppula and Ondrej Palat return for Game 1, should make for a tough test. Montreal is always a motivated club in the postseason, and Carey Price should have extra incentive after claiming the gold in Sochi.

Chris: Habs in 7. Il faut battre le fer pendant qu’il est chaud.

J.J.: Habs in 6. Ca-rey, Ca-rey, Ca-rey! PK and the Vanek-Desharnais-Pacioretty line aren’t bad either.

Clay: Habs in 7. The longer Bishop stays out, the better for Montreal of course. Intrigued by the young Palat and Johnson on Tampa Bay, but I think Montreal is deeper throughout the line-up.

Pittsburgh Penguins vs. Columbus Blue Jackets

Victoria: Penguins in 4. Fleury has learned his lesson and won’t meltdown… at least not this soon. And Crosby, Neal, Kuntiz and Malkin will make quick work of….of…. whoever plays on Lumbus.

Matt: Penguins in 6. Every NHL postseason, there seems to be that one scrappy, annoying team that defies all odds and just doesn’t seem to go down without a big fight. The Blue Jackets reek of a team that is – perhaps foolishly – motivated to show the rest of the NHL that they’re worth being called a playoff team. The franchise hasn’t won a playoff game before, and the feisty Jackets should be able to embarrass Marc-Andre Fleury for at least a game or two.

Chris: Penguins in 4. Have to feel good for the Blue Jackets for givin’ ‘er a good effort. Pens already have the brooms.

J.J.: Penguins in 5. The Blue Jackets couldn’t beat the Penguins in the regular season; unless playoff-mode Fleury makes an appearance, I really don’t think they’ll beat them in the playoffs either.

Clay: Penguins in 5. Too much firepower up front for Pittsburgh. Plus that Crosby guy.

New York Rangers vs. Philadelphia Flyers

Victoria: Flyers in 7. This, kids, will be the series to watch. It will be long and scrappy in my opinion. AV has the ability to guide a team through the playoffs, but the Rangers have the history of failing early. Flyers have something to prove after a really crappy start to the season. If Giroux can stop with the stupid hits he’s got a history of in playoffs, then Philly will scrape through.

Matt: Rangers in 7. Long live the King. Henrik Lundqvist has been sensational down the stretch, scraping together a .949 save percentage in his final five games and looking as good as he’s ever been. The Rangers’ success hinges largely on his shoulders, but something should be said about New York’s 25 road wins, which are best in the Eastern Conference. It’s hard to see the Rangers not stealing a game on the road.

Chris: Rangers in 6. Because you know the darkest timeline has AV leading the Rangers to the Cup, right?

J.J.: Rangers in 7. Only because it would be so Canuck-y for AV’s new team to have some post-season success immediately after being fired by the Canucks.

Clay: Rangers in 7. Better goaltending. ‘Nuff said.

Apr 142014
 

It’s been a memorable season, though mostly for the wrong reasons. Last night, the Canucks handed out their awards; today, it’s our turn to handpick some of the best of the best and the worst of the worst of the 2013/2014 Canucks season.

*****

Manny Malhotra Award for Most Underappreciated Forward
(presented by Clay)

Winner: Mike Santorelli

Mike Santorelli, Vancouver Canucks

Mike Santorelli, Vancouver Canucks

It’s no coincidence that the Canucks’ woes started at around the same time that Mike Santorelli went down thanks to Martin Hanzal of the Phoenix Coyotes. Up until that point, Santorelli was enjoying a career year with 28 points in 49 games, including a wonderful stretch of 12 points in 11 games in late November and early December. He played mostly at centre (with a bit of time on the wing) and gave the team some depth and a different look. It will be interesting to see if Trevor Linden is able to lock up him to a new contract.

Runner-Up: Brad Richardson

Brad Richardson has quietly put together a strong year and his 23 points in his second-best career total. He is a reliable penalty killer and strong in his own end, as he is one of the few Canucks with a positive +/- rating. He is the anchor of the Canucks’ third line that has been a pleasant surprise and best line for the team at times.

*****

Dana Muryzn Award for Most Underappreciated Defenseman
(presented by Matt)

Winner: Chris Tanev

In a season where just about everything went wrong, Chris Tanev was one of the few bright spots from the blueline. Tanev retained his defensive stalwart status and rarely looked out of place, and even made some strides offensively by potting six goals and adding eleven assists, which by Tanev standards is quite pleasant.

Runner-Up: Ryan Stanton

Stanton, who gets our honorable mention, proved to be a stabilizing force as a third pairing blueliner. Not bad for a waiver wire pickup.

*****

Jason King Award for Most Promising Young Player
(presented by J.J.)

Winner: Zack Kassian

In just his second full NHL season, Kassian posted 14 goals, 15 assists and 29 points, all but 1 goal on even-strength, and mostly while playing in the bottom-six. Kass’ development – his physical play, presence and control improved immensely as the season went on – should be encouraging for the Canucks, who have been clamoring for a big and skilled winger for a long time.

Runner-Up: Eddie Lack

At one point this season, Lack was among the league’s best in GAA, save percentage and shutouts. His numbers dipped in the last couple of months as Torts started him in 19 consecutive games after the Olympic Break, but still, it’s been a season to build on for the rookie goaltender, who, barring the Canucks acquiring another big-name goaltender in the summer, will be the team’s starter moving forward.

*****

Barry Pederson Award for Most Disappointing Player
(presented by Matt)

Winner: Alex Burrows

For everything that could be said about the lack of production from the Sedin twins, Alex Burrows was supposed to be the constant. Troublesome and untimely injuries limited him to just five goals in 49 games, but valid excuses aside, this is a player who was a mortal lock for 25+ goals annually. Are those days gone?

Runner-Up: David Booth

Expectations were tempered from the start so it’s hard to say he was disappointing when you’re not expecting a whole lot.

*****

Alexander Mogilny Award for Best Player in a Bad Season
(presented by Delia)

Winner: Mike Santorelli

Despite being out since late January, Mike Santorelli was the Canucks best player in this bad, bad season. When healthy, Santorelli was a very consistent player – played well, scored goals, and assisted on many goals. In fact, despite missing the final 33 games of the season, Santorelli still sits in 6th place on the Canucks points leaderboard with 28 points (10 goals, 18 assists).

Runner-Up: Eddie Lack

The Canucks sure lacked a lot this season, but for the most part, they didn’t lack goaltending. After Roberto Luongo was traded to the Florida Panthers, Eddie Lack was left with the number one job, and he certainly did not disappoint. Since February 26th, Lack played 19 consecutive games, and had an 8-9-2 record with 2 shutouts in that period.

*****

Brandon Reid Award for Best Callup
(presented by J.J.)

Winner: Nicklas Jensen

While the Canucks’ top-six were dropping like flies mid-season, Canucks fans repeatedly asked for Jensen to be called up from the Utica Comets. After getting passed over by 4th line guys like Darren Archibald and Kellan Lain initially, Jensen finally got his opportunity on March 8th, and he proceeded to post 5 points (3 goals and 2 assists) in his first 7 games.

Runner-Up: Kellan Lain

In Lain’s first game in the bigs, he logged a grand total of 2 seconds, yet ended up with a fight and 15 minutes in penalties. In his second game, he scored a goal on his second shift. It’s about as memorable a start to an NHL career as anyone’s.

*****

The Martin Rucinsky We Probably Won’t Miss You When You’re Gone Award
(presented by Lizz)

Winner: Alex Edler

David Booth may have seemed like a shoo-in for this one. After all he does seem like the most likely candidate for being bought out this summer, but I find the argument that Edler is actually the better long-term buy-out choice pretty convincing, and even if he’s not, new President Trevor Linden has already revealed that he’s not against asking a player to waive a no-trade clause, so we could see Edler submitting a destination list this summer.

So why exactly won’t we be missing him? Well since signing his new six-year extension in early 2013, he hasn’t exactly done much to convince anyone he’s earned it.

Edler also finished the season with a league-worst (!) minus-39 rating. Now you may say plus/minus doesn’t mean much of anything, and I agree it’s not the most insightful stat, but that is still an awful lot of time to be on the ice when goals are being scored against your team.

It’s really only a symptom of a larger issue.

Edler hasn’t been making smart plays, he’s often found out of position, production is down, and overall he’s been ineffective at his role, so congratulations Alex Edler, you’ve won our 2013-14 Martin Rucinsky We Probably Won’t Miss You When You’re Gone Award.

*****

Cody Hodgson Award for Best Drama
(presented by Ashley)

Winner: John Tortorella’s intermission showdown vs. the Calgary Flames (January 18, 2014)

John Tortorella takes home the Cody Hodgson Award for Best Drama. His performance behind the bench – i.e. how he lead practically every Canuck to have career-worst seasons – contributed to this, but his breakout performance was his storming of the Calgary Flames’ locker room during the first intermission of their home game on January 18th.

Tortorella’s confrontation was captured live during Hockey Night In Canada and led to a 15-day suspension, without pay and no contact with his team. I’m sure in Torts’ acceptance speech a big thanks will go out to Bob Hartley for his supporting role.

Runner-Up: The Heritage Classic goaltending controversy (March 2, 2014)

Coming in a close second is the Heritage Classic goaltending controversy. Seemingly out of nowhere, a goaltending controversy was created – Eddie Lack was given the starting position for the Heritage Classic, a decision that didn’t sit well with the fans, who thought Roberto Luongo had earned that starter spot, and deserved to be starting this historical game; their issue was not with Lack, but with the organization. The drama came to a head as fans made their displeasure known during the starting line-up announcement, “Eddie Lack” was announced to resounded “Boos” and “We Want Lu!” chants.

*****

Esa Tikkanen Award for Best Comedy
(presented by Jocelyn)

Winner: The line brawl against the Calgary Flames on January 18, 2014

Everything about this event gets the award: the Flames starting the 4th line; Bieksa taking the face-off; Kellan Lain getting 2 seconds of play in his first NHL game before getting a game misconduct, while his parents flew all the way from Ontario to see him play; Sestito’s comment after the game and, of course, John Tortorella’s infamous reaction, including him storming to the Calgary dressing room. This moment will go down as one of the most infamous moments in Canucks history.

Runner-Up: Twitter’s reaction after the Canucks’ third period collapse against the New York Islanders on March 10, 2014

The Canucks were up 3-0 going into the third period and ended up losing 7-4. The Islanders scored SEVEN GOALS in one period of hockey — something that would truly only happen to the Canucks, and this season especially. Many people, like myself, had traded the game during the second intermission (the Canucks were winning, after all) to go to other things, so the post-game reactions were what really made this event truly comical. Never forget.

*****

Roberto Luongo Award for Quote (or Tweet) of the Year
(presented by Ed)

Winner: Roberto Luongo’s ugly Christmas sweater tweet

Clearly the Roberto Luongo Award for the best tweet of the season has to go to the man that took us all on a wild social media joyride for several seasons: Roberto Luongo. Lu was once again on top of his Twitter game this year, proving to us all that he’s one of the funniest (and weirdest) people in sports. He even sent us a few pleasantries from that wacky Florida place where he plays now.

If you’re a Canucks fan, I don’t think I have to explain to you why this picture just rules. I don’t think I’ve ever seen Ryan Kesler this happy before.

*****

Shane O’Brien Award for Headscratcher of the Year
(presented by Victoria)

Winner: Tom Sestito

My SOB Award goes to Tom Sestito. Because he managed to get head scratchingly ridiculous penalties this year. 27 minutes of penalties in 1 second of ice time. And let’s not forget (how could we forget?) the unheard of 7 minute penalty he earned in our ‘moral victory’. Also he got a game misconduct in the final minutes of the last game of the season for reasons I still can’t figure out.

Mar 272014
 

Nino Niederreiter elbows Alex Burrows in the head.

If you want to get your blood boiling early on a Thursday morning, watch the Minnesota feed of Nino Niederreiter’s elbow to the head of Alex Burrows.

“Ridiculous call”, they say. “Good, open ice hit”, they say.

In terms of homer announcers, this one tops the charts.

For all the heightened sensitivity to head shots and concussions and all that, the NHL, of course, agrees with them, and Niederreiter is scot-free and has been cleared to play in the Wild’s game tonight in St. Louis. In other words, the NHL has deemed his 2-minute trip to the box as sufficient penalty for coming at an opposing player from the blindside and lifting his elbow to hit his head.

I guess hits to the head are good hits again. His teammate, Matt Cooke, will be proud.

You be the judge.

Mar 192014
 

 

UPDATE:  CHB writers are proud to commit at least $313 to the Canucks for Kids Telethon, comprised of:

  • $20 from Clay for 2 Canuck goals.
  • $20 from Sean (Clay’s son) for $5 for every Nicklas Jensen point…generously topped up by Arielle Tuliao by another $15.
  • $98 from Chris for $44 for Canucks shots (22 x 2).  Doubled because of the shutout and another $10 because Chris Tanev is Chris Tanev.
  • $30 from Lizz for 30 Eddie Lack saves.
  • $25 from Ashley despite Alex Burrows not scoring.
  • $20 from Delia for 2 Henrik Sedin points.
  • $50 from Victoria for the Alex Edler goal…she was very happy he did something right haha.
  • $50 from JJ for the Canuck win

Today is the Canucks for Kids Fund Telethon.

The Canucks for Kids Fund Telethon, presented by Chevrolet, is an annual radio and television telethon. The Canucks for Kids Fund dedicates its resources to assist charities which support children’s health and wellness, foster the development of grassroots hockey and facilitate and encourage education in British Columbia. Last year, the Canucks for Kids Fund granted $2.1 million to support the work of 15 organizations. Over its 28 year history, the Fund has raised more than $43 million for the children and families of our province.

Our very own Lizz Moffat and Jocelyn Aspa are proudly representing CHB on the telethon panel. Call in at 1-85KIDSFUND or 1-855-437-3863 to donate. You can donate online as well.

CHB Pledges

We’re a competitive bunch here at CHB, and we occasionally we like to remind ourselves that we really can do math after all, which is why we’re basing our pledges on Canucks stats tonight.

Clay Imoo: $10 per Canucks goal PLUS: $10 per David Booth assist and $20 per Booth goal.

Lizz Moffat: $1 per Eddie Lack save.

Chris Golden: $2 for every Canucks shot, with a doubling bonus for a shutout.  Plus $10 for Chris Tanev being Tanev.

Ashley Pothiboon: $15 for every Alex Burrows goal.

Delia Xenophontos: $10 for every Henrik Sedin point.

Jocelyn Aspa: $1 for each penalty minute awarded to Tom Sestito

Victoria Pattison Denault: $5 for every goal by a Canucks defensemen, plus a bonus $1 for each Tom Sestito penalty minute

J.J. Guerrero: $50 for a Canucks win and $50 for a Predators win.

Sean Imoo: $5 for every Nicklas Jensen point.

Want to match a CHBer? Or set a stats pledge of your own? Leave us a comment! If you get it in before 4pm we’ll add it to the post.  Let’s see how much CHB can raise!

Mar 112014
 

Canucks GM Mike Gillis and new coach John Tortorella

Photo credit: PNG

Gary Mason wrote an amazing article in last weekend’s Globe and Mail.

When Mr. Tortorella stormed an opposing team’s dressing room between periods of a game earlier this year, it alarmed everyone in the organization, including his players. If you want to chart the radical decline of the Canucks this season, you can begin at that moment. The team went into a nosedive after the incident, for which Mr. Tortorella was suspended six games. While he apologized profusely for his antics, it hasn’t changed the perception a loose cannon is in charge.

Since that January 18th game against the Calgary Flames, the Canucks have won 4 of 17 games (4-12-1), and have looked disorganized and disheartened doing so. In some games, they look like they’re simply going through the motions. Too often, it feels like they’ve already tuned out the coach.

Last night against the Islanders, they entered the third period with a 3-0 lead, but then proceeded to allow 7 goals in the last 20 minutes en route to a 7-4 loss. Poor Eddie Lack was in net for all the Isles’ goals except for the empty-netter, and heard the bronx cheer from the stands for his troubles.

The thing is, Lack has been solid all season long. Leading up to the Heritage Classic, he’d allowed just 12 goals in 8 games; but since getting the tap to start the Heritage Classic ahead of Roberto Luongo, he’s allowed 16 goals in his last 5 games.

It’s almost as if the controversy that accompanied that start at BC Place was a turning point for Lack. Canucks fans booed him, not because of his play, but because they wanted to see Luongo. Even Lack knew enough to understand the goaltending history in this city, unlike Tortorella, who insisted afterwards he considered the situation, but placed Lack in an untenable situation anyway. He could’ve started Luongo, and perhaps Luongo would still be a Canuck, rather than handing the team to his rookie goaltender who had all of 25 NHL games experience at the time and who doesn’t appear to be quite ready for the full-time starter’s gig yet.

Seemingly at every wrong turn of this forgettable season, Torts is in the middle of things. When you factor in that he’s running a system that doesn’t utilize the strengths of his personnel, that his players look uncomfortable executing it, and that this version of the Canucks is about to set all sorts of franchise lows (despite decades of futility), you can’t help but ask if Torts is the type of coach this team needs. You have to wonder if the centerpiece of GM Mike Gillis’ reset last summer is, in fact, its biggest problem.

If the Canucks continue along the disastrous arc they are now travelling, Mr. Aquilini will have some major decisions to make. And the first may be whether he keeps a coach in the first year of an expensive five-year contract who has presided over one of the worst seasons in recent team history. Missing the playoffs costs a franchise buckets of money. Owners will not want that to become a habit.

In firing Mr. Tortorella, Mr. Aquilini might have to spend money to make money.

In the late 90′s, John McCaw gave Mike Keenan 108 games to right the Canucks ship. The way things are going this season, it’s very possible the Canucks give John Tortorella less than that.

Mar 102014
 

Michael Grabner, New York Islanders

Photo credit: http://islanders.nhl.com

How big were the Vancouver Canucks’ recent losses to the Minnesota Wild, Dallas Stars and Phoenix Coyotes? Well, consider that with 16 games left in the regular season, the Canucks currently sit in 10th place in the Western Conference, and wouldn’t you know it, the teams directly in front of them – the teams they’re chasing for the wild card playoff spots – are the Wild, Stars and Coyotes.

Strength of Schedule

If the Canucks have any aspirations to make the playoffs, now is the time to string together a few wins. Including tonight’s opponents, the New York Islanders, 6 of their next 7 games are against teams that aren’t in playoff positions, and 5 of those teams have a worse record than they do.

  • New York Islanders (24-33-9, 14th in East)
  • Winnipeg Jets (30-28-7, 11th in West)
  • Washington Capitals (30-25-10, 10th in East)
  • Florida Panthers (24-33-7, 15th in East)
  • Tampa Bay Lightning (34-24-6, 5th in East)
  • Nashville Predators (26-28-10, 12th in West)
  • Buffalo Sabres (19-37-8, 16th in East)

Mixed Messages

Last week, I wrote about the Canucks and their season ticket renewals. With anger rising amongst the faithful, overall interest in the team dwindling, and the trade deadline presenting somewhat of an opportunity to retool the roster, fans wanted to see some sign of life or some sign of direction from the team before committing large amounts of their own money for next season. The Canucks responded by trading their best goalie ever for a goaltending prospect and a third line center, hanging on to Ryan Kesler and Alex Edler, two sought-after players from the roster, not addressing any immediate scoring needs, and losing 4 games in a row, including the 3 games with playoff implications that I mentioned earlier.

Needless to say, they didn’t exactly instill a lot of confidence moving forward.

The thing is, the Canucks were supposed to send renewal letters to season ticket holders last week on March 3rd; they haven’t yet, and Elliotte Friedman from CBC reported on Saturday that the Canucks have held off from sending them out. Of course, I don’t blame the Canucks for holding off because how do you sell the product as it is right now? The team isn’t winning and the entertainment value is poor. Now, whether it’s an emotional response to how far this team has sunk in a couple of years, or perhaps a financial reality that ticket prices have peaked to the point that even the most diehard of fans can no longer justify the value of Canucks tickets, but I’ve heard a lot – and I really do mean A LOT – of season ticket holders who’ve expressed they aren’t renewing next year or are leaning towards not renewing. While the Canucks seem to still be tiptoeing between a playoff push and a rebuild, fans, on the other hand, are speaking more clearly – with their wallets.

Market Correction

Speaking of which, if there’s any positive at all to this, it’s that single-game ticket prices seem to be back within reach for a lot of fans. I spoke with a scalper before Saturday’s game, and they expressed how single-game prices are at its lowest in several seasons.

For those of you who want to watch the game live, scour the secondary ticket market. Heck, you may get in to tonight’s game for as low as $25.

Is Sebastian Collberg that good?

GM Mike Gillis is receiving a lot of criticism in this market recently (deservedly so), but let’s also consider what Islanders’ GM Garth Snow managed to pull off this season.

Earlier this season, Snow acquired 0.42 goals/game scorer Thomas Vanek from the Buffalo Sabres, and in exchange, gave up 0.36 goals/game scorer Matt Moulson, a 2014 or 2015 1st round draft pick and a 2015 2nd round draft pick. Then last Wednesday, Snow traded Vanek and a conditional 5th round draft pick to the Montreal Canadiens for prospect Sebastian Collberg and a conditional 2nd round draft pick, the condition at both ends being that the Habs make the playoffs.

The Habs are in a playoff spot right now, but are far from assured of making it. (They’re 6 points up but have played 1 or 2 more games than the teams chasing them.) If the Habs don’t make the playoffs, Snow essentially would have traded 30-goal scorer Matt Moulson, a 1st round draft pick and a 2nd round draft pick for Sebastian Collberg. Is Collberg that good? I’ll let you decide.

Mar 052014
 

Rebuild? Reset? Retool?

Buckle up, Canucks fans.

Read more #TGATT goodness past the jump.

Mar 042014
 

Roberto Luongo, Vancouver Canucks

Photo credit: CBC

J.J.: Two memories stand out: The first was the moment Luongo was acquired by the Canucks. The second was Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Finals against the Boston Bruins. Both stood out because of the pure ecstacy I felt when it happend.

I still remember thinking my buddy was playing a joke on me when he called me to say that Luongo was a Canuck. With all due respect to Dan Cloutier and the others, for the first time in a long time, the team had a legitimate superstar goaltender. I still remember thinking the Canucks, with the likes of Markus Naslund and the Sedins up front, Mattias Ohlund and Sami Salo in the back end, would finally won the Cup.

I was at Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Finals against the Bruins. After Max Lapierre scored near the end of the third period – the only goal of the game – and Lu posted his second 1-0 shutout of the Finals – only the second time in NHL history someone had accomplished this feat.

Matt: Of all the Roberto Luongo moments it’s difficult to find just one which stands out above the rest. You could make a case for many: How about his very first playoff game as a Canuck, when he turned aside 72 shots (a playoff record!) against the Dallas Stars in Game 1 of the first rounds? Or how about the cajones it took for Bobby Lou when he painted a ‘C’ on his mask when he was named team captain?

For me, one of the best moments is when which few seldom remember. It was the first time Roberto tossed his stick over the glass to a young fan after he was named a game’s first star. Love him or hate him, Luongo inspired dozens of young fans with a simple gesture like that. And that’s something that none of his critics can ever take from him.

Clay: It was a great birthday present (albeit one day late) when Luongo was acquired by the Canucks on June 23, 2006. Luongo has had a stellar career in Vancouver (with six strong seasons and an Olympic gold medal) and he single-handedly ended the use of the term “goalie graveyard” in this city. Whereas some may remember him for playoff meltdowns, I prefer to remember him as the winning goalie for two of the most exciting hockey games ever played in this city (2010 Winter Olympic gold medal game and Game 7 vs. the Blackhawks in April 2011).

Victoria: My favorite Luongo moment was when he took over Martin Brodeur and won an Olympic gold medal for Canada. It isn’t exactly a Canucks-related moment, but the Olympics made me realize how proud I was to say he was a Canuck. “That’s my goalie!” I told all my friends around the world. And you know what? He’ll always be my goalie. I know it’s the right time for him to go, but I also know that he always gave the Canucks his all – I’ll always respect him for that. Good luck, Bobby Luuuuu!

Lizz: My all-time favorite Luongo memory was the Christmas I surprised my little brother by getting his favorite jersey autographed by his favorite goalie so I let him help me pick our favourite LUOOOOO moment.

We settled on the 2011 Chicago series.

Personally, I was partial to a game 2 save he made against Brian Campbell, where he needed every inch of his ridiculously large size 13 feet to stop the puck.

But we eventually agreed on the game 7 OT stop on Patrick Sharp, because without it, my boy Alex Burrows would have never had the chance to slay the dragon.

Caylie: What’s most disappointing for me this season isn’t the lockout, but instead is the departure of Roberto Luongo. Luo has meant a great deal to this city. I know the drama and trade speculation of the last few months overshadowed a lot of the bright moments we witnessed during his tenure, but I’ll always remember his Vezina nominations, the Stanley Cup run, his 47-win season, and becoming the franchise leader in wins.

Ed: Younger fans might not remember the absolute misery the Canucks had in goal after Kirk McLean stood between the pipes. With a cast that included Garth Snow, Kevin Weekes, Martin Brochu and Alfie Michaud, among others, I’m not kidding when I say that my favorite goalie during that era was Bob Essensa. Roberto Luongo was the franchise’s first superstar goaltender. Make your case for Captain Kirk or even King Richard Brodeur, but in Luongo, despite all the haters, for the first time the Canucks could make a case for having the best goalie in the league. He’s the best we’ve ever had and it’s too bad he got treated and run out-of-town by some like he’s Felix Potvin.

Chris: Much like Ed, it pains me to see Roberto being shown the “Un-Welcome to the City of Vancouver” sign. I’ve always looked upon Roberto as the Canucks version of Grant Fuhr. I understood that he was never going to be the guy we saw suit up in the 2006/07 season – a goaltender with a chip on his shoulder that carried a mediocre hockey team. Whether it was his stellar play against Dallas in the 2006 Stanley Cup Playoffs (I was at Game 1. You know.. THAT Game 1) or his more recent forays in to social media, that’s the Luongo I’ll choose to remember.

Mar 042014
 

Roberto Luongo exits the ice at Rogers Arena.

It didn’t seem like it at times because of the flak he’s received over the years here, but Roberto Luongo’s work in Vancouver was appreciated. Just look back to this weekend, when Canucks fans so obviously wanted Lu to start the Heritage Classic.

The fact is, Luongo shattered the long standing perception of Vancouver as a goalie graveyard. All you need to do is look at the list of Canucks’ goalies in the 10 years prior to his arrival – Corey Hirsch, Arturs Irbe, Garth Snow, Sean Burke, Kevin Weekes, Felix Potvin and Bob Essensa, among many, many others – and it’s easy to see just how much he’s stabilized the Canucks’ goaltending position.

His accomplishments here are undeniable.

He won 252 regular season wins (1st in franchise history) and posted 38 regular season shutouts (1st in franchise history) in a Canucks jersey.

He holds the Canucks’ single season records for games played (76), wins (47), shutouts (9) and longest shutout streak (242:36 minutes).

Lu won 32 games in the playoffs, 2nd only to Kirk McLean, though his playoff GAA (2.53) and save percentage (0.916) are better than Captain Kirk’s. Like McLean, he won 15 games in one playoff season and took the Canucks to within one game of winning the Stanley Cup. Never mind the team in front of him was decimated by injuries in the Stanley Cup Final against the Boston Bruins and couldn’t score – the Canucks scored just 8 goals in 7 SCF games – he posted 2 shutouts – only the 2nd goaltender in NHL history to post 2 1-0 shutouts in the Final – and carried them on his shoulders.

He was nominated twice for the Vezina, once in 2009 and again in 2011, and if the Canucks had gone on to win the Cup in 2011, chances are, he likely would have won the Conn Smythe.

During the 2010 Olympic Winter Games, he took over an embattled Martin Brodeur in net and won a gold medal for Canada. He again represented Team Canada in the 2014 Olympic Winter Games in Sochi, where he shut out Team Norway in his lone start.

Not bad for a goalie who supposedly can’t win when it matters the most.

The truth is, expectations from Lu were always sky-high. Often, they were even unreasonable. Maybe it’s because he was able to keep his old, weak Florida Panthers teams competitive for so many years. Or maybe it’s because, he took Canucks teams, some of which couldn’t shoot a puck into a soccer net if they wanted to, from missing the postseason and into the second round of the playoffs, and then from there to the team’s return to the Stanley Cup Finals for the first time in 17 years.

But despite Lu’s obvious success, too many fans eventually turned on him and openly called for the new, sexy redhead or the outgoing Swede with the great sense of humor in net to take over. For his part, Lu was nothing but a consummate professional and teammate, even to the end.

As Luongo leaves Vancouver, he also leaves behind the most successful goaltending era in Canucks history. Some may not agree with this sentiment, but I think most do. And when you think about it, the last thing he heard from Canucks fans was on Sunday at the Heritage Classic when 50,000+ fans were chanting, “We want Lu.”

And to that we add, thank you, Lu.

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