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.

Dec 142013
 

Late in the third period with the Canucks leading by 3 goals and the game well out of hand, the Edmonton Oilers finally remembered that they wanted to exact some revenge on Zack Kassian for breaking Sam Gagner’s jaw back in September. (Well, they didn’t actually. David Perron had to remind them.) Anyway, a scrum ensued with the Kassquatch in the middle of things with Perron and Oilers enforcer, Luke Gazdic.

As with every other scrum, much talking and taunting were involved. But Kassian drew some heat for apparently taunting Gagner’s injury, and have pointed to video evidence as proof of his douchiness.

Now, is it just me or did it seem that Kassian was taunting Gazdic, not Gagner? I mean, Kass was looking at Gazdic when he said whatever he said and made the motion with his hands by his neck. And it seems a stretch to suggest that Kass was directing this to Gagner, who at the time wasn’t part of the scrum, sitting on the bench behind a bunch of Oilers on the ice. Like, was all this fury after the game because Kassian was making fun of Gazdic’s neck beard?

I dunno. You be the judge.

Nov 132013
 

Brad Richardson , Christopher Tanev, Jason Garrison, Mike Santorelli

Photo credit: canada.com

With 20 games now in the bag in the Vancouver Canucks’ 2013/2014 season, here are some good, some bad, and some surprises and disappointments.

It’s Torts’ team now.

It wasn’t a surprise when GM Mike Gillis decided at the end of last season to fire long-time Canucks coach, Alain Vigneault. It was, however, perhaps a bit more surprising when the guy he tapped to succeed AV’s gum-chewing, hands-off approach with a gruff, known taskmaster in John Tortorella. By the end of last season, much was made about the complacency that developed, maybe in part because of AV’s player-friendly approach, and Torts’ coaching style was as far-removed from this as possible.

He is, indeed, more vocal behind the bench – and off it, I suppose. He’s more hands-on, and we’ve seen him make in-game adjustments. He relies heavily on stars like the Sedins and Ryan Kesler, all of whom sit in the top 5 among forwards in average ice-time. He’s shown he’s willing to give more ice-time to players who are going, or sit those who aren’t. He’s not afraid to play anyone in any situation, except maybe the 4th line.

But despite this, the doom and gloom that a lot of us predicted hasn’t materialized. And in fact, we can argue that Torts has even had the desired effect on this team. For the most part, gone is the complacency and casual play. On most nights in this early season, the Canucks forecheck hard and battle hard along the boards. Regardless of the score, they play an aggressive style and keep their foot on the pedal, which has helped them overcome deficits – only 4 teams have more wins than the Canucks when trailing after the first period, and only 1 team has more wins than them when trailing after the second period.

At the Canucks’ Summer Summit, Tortorella said he wanted the Canucks to be aggressive and to be tough to play against. And 20 games in, we’re beginning to see this. It’s Torts’ team now, and it looks like the Canucks are buying what he’s selling.

The Sedins are still stars.

A few years ago, before they signed their current contracts, numerous armchair GMs wanted the Sedins gone. Believe it or not, back then, a fair number of Canucks fans were willing to trade them for a bag of pucks and then use the cap money they save to sign Olli Jokinen and Marian Gaborik. It’s unthinkable now, especially after a couple of Art Ross trophies, a Lester Pearson trophy, and some modest (by this franchise’s standards) playoff success.

Or so you’d think.

This summer, there were once again rumblings from the bandwagon that the Canucks were better off to let the Sedins walk through free agency. Or trade them to a true Cup contender and kickstart a rebuild. But once again, at least through the first quarter of the season, they’re proving their doubters wrong. With 20 points (3 goals and 17 assists), Henrik Sedin sits 13th overall in NHL scoring, just 3 points back of league leader, Sidney Crosby. He’s recorded at least a point all but 4 of the 20 games he’s played. (Though 3 of those 4 games were the Canucks’ last 3 games.) Daniel isn’t far behind either. With 17 points (7 goals and 10 assists), he sits 24th overall in NHL scoring. Even at 33 years old, they’ve both taken on more responsibility, now taking a regular shift on the penalty-kill and already logging more PK time through 20 games as they have in the last 2 seasons combined.

As a famous person once said, they get knocked down, but they get up again, and they’re never gonna keep them down.

The newbies have fit in nicely.

There are some of us who probably still have the memory of signing or acquiring the likes of Marco Sturm, Samuel Pahlsson and Cam Barker fresh in our minds so it was somewhat acceptable when we looked cynically at Mike Gillis’ reset this off-season, which included signing Mike Santorelli and Brad Richardson, and picking up Ryan Stanton from waivers.

But with 3 guys who were pencilled in the Canucks’ top-9 – Jannik Hansen, Jordan Schroeder and David Booth – spending significant time out of the lineup due to injuries, the newbies have actually done quite well in their place. Santorelli, who hails from Burnaby, sits 4th in team scoring – behind just the Sedins and Kesler – with 12 points (5 goals and 7 assists). Richardson sits 6th with 5 goals, including 2 shorties, and 10 points in just 13:33 minutes of average ice-time per game (8th among Canucks forwards). And Stanton has been dependable in his 14 minutes per game in a third pairing role. Plus, Stanton has also contributed 7 points (3rd among Canucks defensemen). Santorelli, Richardson and Stanton have been pleasant surprises early this season.

The powerplay has been powerless.

There was a stretch midway through last season during which the Canucks scored 2 powerplay goals in 52 powerplay opportunities – a whopping 3.8% success rate – in 20 games. They finished the 2012/2013 season with a 15.8% success rate (22nd in the NHL), which was 4 percentage points lower than their success rate in 2011/2012 (19.8%, 4th in the NHL), which was almost 5 percentage points lower than their success rate in 2010/2011 (24.3%, 1st in the NHL).

In response, out went Newell Brown and the drop pass. Well, at least out went Newell Brown. And in comes Jason Garrison to the first PP unit. Wait, never mind, scratch that.

Despite changes in their roster and behind the bench, the Canucks’ powerplay hasn’t changed much. Okay, it has. It’s even worse now than it was last season, sputtering at a woeful 9.7% (28th in the NHL, ahead only of the Winnipeg Jets and Florida Panthers), and having only scored 6 powerplay goals in 20 games this season.

At least the PK is okay.

With a penalty-killing rate of 89.4%, the Canucks currently have the best PK in the NHL. Not only that, they’ve also scored 3 shorthanded goals, which is tied for 2nd in the NHL. Add to this that they’ve been shorthanded longer than all but 7 teams, and you have to admit, the PK has been one of their bright spots.

Luongo’s been good, but he needs to be better.

By Roberto Luongo’s usual October standards, he actually had a good start to the season and currently sits in the top 10 in wins among all NHL goaltenders. But behind the 9 wins in 16 games – only 6 goalies have more wins than he does – are some pretty average numbers. His 0.911 overall save percentage ranks him just 26th among all NHL goaltenders. His 2.41 GAA ranks him 21st. He has a 0.910 save percentage on even-strength (51st), and a 0.914 save percentage when the Canucks are shorthanded (23rd). Lu’s been good. But if the Canucks have any hope in getting out of the tough, tough, tough Pacific Division, they need him to be better.

Oct 312013
 

An Original Six team, games against the Detroit Red Wings are usually entertaining and exciting. With the Wings now in the Eastern Conference, they only get to visit Rogers Arena once a year so, needless to say, Canucks fans were looking forward to last night’s affair.

Did it live up to it’s billing?

Oh, come on. It wasn’t that bad, was it?

Read more #TGATT goodness past the jump.

Oct 252013
 

No forwards? No problem.

Already playing with just 11 forwards against the New Jersey Devils, the Vancouver Canucks lost David Booth and Dale Weise to unknown injuries in the first period. With only 9 healthy forwards – and Andrew Alberts – left up front, Hank and Dank Sedin, Ryan Kesler, Mike Santorelli and Chris Higgins all logged 21+ minutes of ice-time.

By the end of the game, it was obvious the Canucks didn’t have a lot of gas left in the tank. But Roberto Luongo came to the rescue, stopping all 17 shots he faced in the third period, when the Canucks were drastically outplayed, plus all 3 Devils’ shootout attempts.

Read more #TGATT goodness past the jump.

Oct 232013
 

Last night’s game between the Vancouver Canucks and the New York Islanders was an eventful, see-saw game; both teams took turns taking the lead, and then blowing it, before the Canucks eventually between the Islanders 5-4 in overtime.

David Booth was a scratch – in favor of Andrew Alberts, who played 1 shift and 37 seconds in the first 2 minutes of the game, no less. Ryan Kesler was elbowed in the head, though he didn’t miss a shift. Jannik Hansen was hurt, and missed the latter half of the game. And Kevin Bieksa – yes, Kevin Bieksa – continued his improved play, notching another assist, almost getting the game-winning goal in OT (Brad Richardson eventually got credited for it), and now 5 assists and an NHL-best (!) +10 rating.

Read more #TGATT goodness past the jump.

Oct 152013
 

Henrik and Daniel Sedin, Vancouver Canucks

Photo credit: canucks.com

We’re 6 games into the 2013/2014 regular season, and already, it seems like, on offense, not much has changed for the Vancouver Canucks. That is, the Canucks are still unable to generate much on offense. And what little offense they generate is usually generated by the Sedins.

Consider this: Henrik Sedin’s goal, which tied the game late in the second period against the Montreal Canadiens on Saturday, was only the Canucks’ 5th goal in 3 games.

Consider this as well: 4 of these 5 goals were scored or assisted by Henrik or brother Daniel.

In fact, of the Canucks’ 17 goals this season, 10 were scored while the Sedins were on the ice, and Henrik or Daniel scored or assisted on 9 of them.

This isn’t a new phenomenom either.

En route to being swept by the San Jose Sharks in the 2013 playoffs, the Canucks only managed to score 8 goals in 4 games and the twins had a hand in 4 – half – of those goals.

In the last month of last season, a span of 13 games, the Canucks scored 34 goals and the Sedins were involved in 17 of them.

Against the Los Angeles Kings in the 2012 playoffs, the Canucks scored 8 goals in 5 games and the twins either scored, assisted or were on the ice for 6 of those 8 goals.

I think you get the point by now.

There was some optimism at the start of this season that a healthy Ryan Kesler, an injection of youth, and a more aggressive approach would help. Except two weeks into the season, Kesler isn’t the highest scoring Ryan on the team (defenseman Ryan Stanton has 3 points to Kes’ lone point); and the youth, Bo Horvat, Brendan Gaunce and Hunter Shinkaruk, are piling on points back in junior and not in the NHL.

I realize it doesn’t help that Alex Burrows (injured), Jordan Schroeder (injured) and Zack Kassian (suspension) haven’t played much this season. And I know Kesler and David Booth missed most of last season as well. But these don’t change that this is a long-standing problem, and the fact is, the Canucks haven’t had much scoring depth, outside the Sedins, for almost 2 years now.

As it stands, it’s too easy to beat the Canucks these days: stop the Sedins, beat the Canucks.

Oct 152013
 

Vancouver Canucks vs. Philadelphia Flyers

Photo credit: canucks.com

On paper, the Philadelphia Flyers should be one of the league’s better teams. I mean, a team with Claude Giroux, Vinny Lecavalier and Sean Couturier down the middle, and Jakub Voracek, Brayden Schenn, Wayne Simmonds and Scott Hartnell on the wings seems like a pretty damn, deep team. But as we enter week 3 of the 2013/2014 NHL regular season, the Flyers have scored just 8 goals in 6 games (1.33 goals per game) and sit in 15th place in the Easter Conference – their 2 points in 6 games is only 1 point better than the last place Buffalo Sabres.

After losing back-to-back games for the first time this season, restlessness is again building in Canucks Nation. As impressive as the Vancouver Canucks were in 3 come-from-behind wins in the first week of the season, they looked just as lacklustre in back-to-back 4-1 home losses to the San Jose Sharks and Montreal Canadiens. Perhaps most alarmingly, they looked slow and tired against the deeper Sharks and younger Habs. They generated few, quality scoring chances and looked disorganized on defense. Much like how they looked at the end of last season.

What to watch

Tonight’s game marks the start of the Canucks’ 7-game road trip, which will see them play in Philadelphia, Buffalo, Pittsburgh, Columbus, Long Island, New Jersey and St. Louis over the next 11 nights. If they look tired now, I’d hate to think how tired they’ll be in a couple of weeks.

Who to watch

Despite the Flyers’ slow start, goaltender Steve Mason has a 0.935 save percentage (0.942 on even-strength). Surprisingly, he’s been decent – certainly more decent than he was in his last several seasons in Columbus.

Dan Hamhuis is going through what is easily his worst stretch of games in a Canucks jersey. And on Saturday against the Habs, he played possibly his worst game as a Vancouver Canuck, punctuated by his misplay of the puck that led to an Steve Smith-esque own goal – the eventual Habs’ game-winning goal. He’s been the Canucks’ best defenseman since signing with the team 3 seasons ago; it’s hard to imagine that he won’t eventually bounce back.

Who’s out

Alex Edler will be serving game 2 of his 3-game suspension. Alex Burrows and Jordan Schroeder remain injured, though Schroeder is travelling with the team and already took part in the Canucks’ morning skate last Saturday.

For the Flyers, Lecavalier, Hartnell, and defenseman, Andrej Meszaros, are all out with injuries.

Oct 122013
 

Vancouver Canucks vs. Montreal Canadiens

Photo credit: canucks.com

The good news for the Vancouver Canucks is, tonight’s opponents aren’t the San Jose Sharks.

The bad news is, the Canucks haven’t beaten tonight’s opponents, the Montreal Canadiens, at Rogers Arena since October 7, 2009.

To complicate things for the Canucks, they’ll have to go against the storied Habs without top defensemen, Alex Edler, who was suspended for 3 games because Tomas Hertl lowered his head and skated it into Edler’s shoulder for his head shot on Tomas Hertl. Former Habs defenseman, Yannick Weber, who has been playing as a winger, is expected to move back and replace Edler’s spot on d.

Who to watch

Second-year players, Alex Galchenyuk and Brendan Gallagher, are 1st and 4th in Habs’ team scoring, respectively, picking up nicely where they left off last season. Gallagher, especially, has been a revelation. Not much was expected of the diminutive, former Vancouver Giant who was selected in the 5th round of the 2010 NHL Entry Draft – only two picks earlier, the Canucks selected Adam Polasek – but all Gallagher has done at the NHL level is produce; in 48 career games, he has 33 points, including 18 goals.

Who’s back

6’3″ Canucks power forward (in the making, we hope), Zack Kassian, is expected to make his season debut tonight after serving an 8-game suspension for breaking Sam Gagner’s jaw with his stick. Kassian was on a line with David Booth and Brad Richardson during the morning skate.

Who’s out

Besides Edler, Alex Burrows and Jordan Schroeder remain out of the Canucks lineup due to injuries.

Habs captain, Brian Gionta, will miss tonight’s game due to a family emergency.

What to watch

For all the ups and downs of the Canucks’ early season, one thing that has been consistent is their penalty-kill. After 5 games, their PK has been perfect, killing all 18 powerplays against them.

Oct 062013
 

Calgary Flames v Vancouver Canucks

Photo credit: canucks.com

Lately, the Calgary Flames seem to cure all things that ail the Vancouver Canucks. In the last 3 seasons, the Canucks have a 13-3-2 record against the Flames and have outscored them by a combined scored of 60-35 in those 18 outings. For all their offensive struggles in recent times (last night’s 6-goal explosion against the Oilers aside), they’ve somehow managed to average 3.33 goals per game against these Alberta rivals.

These days, both teams are going through somewhat of a transition period.

The Canucks, of course, are still learning a new system under new head coach, John Tortorella, and are doing so with much of the same roster. However, tonight, they’ll be even thinner up front with Alex Burrows and Jordan Schroeder out for a couple more weeks, Zack Kassian still serving his 8-game suspension for “accidentally” breaking Sam Gagner’s jaw with his stick.

On the other hand, the Flames are completely rebuilding their organization – finally – after missing the playoffs the last 4 seasons. Just before the start of this season, they hired ex-Canuck GM, Brian Burke, as their President of Hockey Operations. Even before that, they jettisoned long-time face of the Flames, Jarome Iginla, and franchise defenseman, Jay Bouwmeester. Long-time goaltender, Mikka Kiprusoff, also retired.

Both the Canucks and the Flames have won a game and lost a game to start the 2013/2014 season.

Last Year’s Meetings

The Canucks won 5 of 6 meetings last season, outscoring the Flames by an 18-10 margin. Burrows and Schroeder scored 5 of those goals, but neither will suit up tonight. Mason Raymond, Derek Roy and Max Lapierre chipped in with 4 goals, but all have moved on and replaced with Brad Richardson, Zac Dalpe and Mike Santorelli in the lineup.

Alex Tanguay and Mike Cammalleri paced the Flames with a couple of goals each, but Tanguay has since been traded back to the Colorado Avalanche and Cammalleri remains out of the lineup (perhaps for good).

Who to watch

Two defensemen: With 3 points each in their first 2 games, Jason Garrison from the Canucks and Mark Giordano from the Flames are off to hot starts. Garrison has 2 goals – one on the powerplay and one shorthanded (a slap shot, trick shot off the glass and into an empty net) – and an assist; Giordano has 3 assists.

The Canucks will get a first glimpse at prized Flames rookie, Sean Monahan, the 6th overall pick in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft. Monahan, who the Flames picked 3 spots before the Canucks picked Bo Horvat, has 2 points in 2 games, including scoring the team’s first goal of the 2013/2014 season.

Both Sedins have feasted on the Flames. Against the Flames in their careers, Daniel has 73 points (25 goals and 48 assists) in 71 games, and Henrik has 66 points (12 goals and 54 assists) in 73 games.

With the Canucks playing back-to-back games, Eddie Lack will get his first career NHL start.

The Lineup

Tonight’s Lineups

Vancouver

Daniel Sedin – Henrik Sedin – Jannik Hansen

David Booth – Ryan Kesler – Chris Higgins

Brad Richardson – Mike Santorelli – Dale Weise

Tom Sestito – Zac Dalpe – Yannick Weber

Dan Hamhuis – Kevin Bieksa

Alex Edler – Jason Garrison

Ryan Stanton – Chris Tanev

Eddie Lack

Roberto Luongo

Calgary Flames

Curtis Glencross – Matt Stajan – Lee Stempniak

Jiri Hudler – Mikael Backlund – TJ Galiardi

Sven Baertschi – Sean Monahan – David Jones

Lance Bouma – Ben Street – Brian McGrattan

Mark Giordano – TJ Brodie

Kris Russell – Dennis Wideman

Chris Butler – Shane O’Brien

Joey Macdonald

Karri Ramo

Sep 302013
 

On the eve of the start of the 2013/2014 NHL regular season, I preview the 30 teams, one division at a time.

Kings vs Sharks

Photo credit: Sportsnet

Anaheim Ducks

The Good

With newly-acquired Jakob Silfverberg, Kyle Palmieri, Nick Bonino, Emerson Etem, Cam Fowler, Luca Sbisa and Sami Vatanen, the Ducks have a lot of good, young players in their system.

The Bad

These kids will be good, but the Ducks may be expecting them to take on a lot more and much too soon.

The Outlook

After a strong start to the 2012/2013 season, the Ducks faded down the stretch and lost to the no. 7 seed, the Detroit Red Wings in the first round of the playoffs. If the kids can perform over an 82-game season like they did in the first 30 games of the shortened season, they’ll make the playoffs. But that’s a big if.

*****

Calgary Flames

The Good

After years of confusion – should they go for it or should they go on a rebuild – Brian Burke, the Flames’ new President of Hockey Operations, should now give the organization some sense of direction. And that direction is a rebuild.

The Bad

It’ll be a long year in Calgary. Sven Baertschi, Mikael Backlund, Max Reinhart and Sean Monahan provide some hope up front, but the cupboard is otherwise barren. It’s the same in the back end where they have Mark Giordano and T.J. Brodie, but not much else.

The Outlook

By the time this season is all over and done with, the Flames may well be in a position to draft Max’s brother, Sam, who currently sits no. 1 in the 2014 NHL Draft rankings.

*****

Edmonton Oilers

The Good

Aside from the injuries to Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Sam Gagner, there’s a lot to like in Edmonton these days. Taylor Hall should make Team Canada in Sochi. Jordan Eberle should return to 30-goal form. Nail Yakupov is, quite simply, a helluva player. Meanwhile, David Perron and Boyd Gordon give the Oil some veteran help up front, and newly-minted captain, Andrew Ference, provides some much needed leadership and grit from the back end.

The Bad

Adding Ference and drafting Darnell Nurse was a start, but overall, the Oilers are still a small bunch. Incredibly skilled and talented, but small.

The Outlook

The Oilers’ speed and skill rank up there with the best in the league. A bit more tinkering and it’s not inconceivable that they make the post-season for the first time in 8 years. They’re that close.

*****

Los Angeles Kings

The Good

Like the Blackhawks, the Kings have enjoyed much post-season success recently and have managed to retain their core. With Dustin Brown, Anze Kopitar, Mike Richards, Jeff Carter, Justin Williams, Drew Doughty and Jonathan Quick all at their prime years and signed for a few more seasons, life should be good in La-la-land.

The Bad

Sadly for Canucks fans, I can’t think of any.

The Outlook

Sadly for Canucks fans, the Kings are positioned to remain one of the best in the West.

*****

Phoenix Coyotes

The Good

There’s finally some stability in the Coyotes’ ownership situation – or at least there is until they lose their first $50 million. Goaltender Mike Smith re-upped long-term, and so did defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson. Signing Mike Ribeiro will help the league’s 25th-ranked PP.

The Bad

Besides Ribeiro, and perhaps an improved Mikkel Boedker, the ‘Yotes don’t have a lot of offensive pop up front.

The Outlook

Smith will keep the Coyotes in most games, but unless they can improve on the NHL’s 21st-ranked offense, they’ll miss the postseason for the second consecutive season.

*****

San Jose Sharks

The Good

Logan Couture may have slowly surpassed Joe Thornton as the Sharks’ no. 1 center. And it’s saying something when Joe Thornton is your no. 2 center. Add Patrick Marleau, Joe Pavelski, and promising rookie, Tomas Hertl, and the Sharks have some enviable depth up front.

The Bad

The defense isn’t as deep, and neither is their goaltending. In fact, it’s scary to think what would happen if goaltender Antti Niemi ever suffered an injury.

The Outlook

This could very well be the last kick at the can for Thornton, Marleau and Dan Boyle – long-serving Sharks who are all unrestricted free agents at season’s end.

*****

Vancouver Canucks

The Good

After 7 years of hearing the same message from head coach, Alain Vigneault, the Canucks fired AV and replaced him with the much more abrasive, John Tortorella. Torts vowed to play a more aggressive system and to make the Canucks a harder team to play against, which would be a welcome change to those of us who witnessed the passive and predictable system from the last couple of seasons.

The Bad

Besides the coach, the biggest change was in goal, where Roberto Luongo is, by virtue of Cory Schneider being traded to the New Jersey Devils, once again the Canucks’ no. 1 goaltender. Elsewhere, the Canucks simply tinkered and Torts will have to make lemonade from pretty much the same group of lemons AV had.

The Outlook

Despite the resounding pessimism present in Canucks Nation, the Canucks should be able to compete for one of the final playoff spots in the Western Conference.

%d bloggers like this: