Dylan Markley

Dylan is a cultural studies major from UBCO and an avid writer. He's played hockey his whole life and follows the Canucks mercilessly. In fact, although he was only 5 years old during the Canucks 94' playoff run, he acts like he remembers it perfectly.

Apr 042014
 
injury

It is truly hard to pinpoint one reason why the Canucks will be on the outside looking in this spring. It would be unfair to blame their failures on one key thing. So I’m going to go ahead and name five.

It’s been an abysmal year for the Canucks and unless some youth is injected into the lineup next season, we may be in store for a few more. The core which seemed so indestructible just two short years ago is imploding and many of the veterans seem nonchalant and indifferent to the failures of this season. Injuries took their toll and the team’s plethora of “experience” is just starting to look like old age. Here’s hoping that management looks at this objectively and realizes that their window has closed and a new one in a different room needs to be opened. Tacky clichés aside, virtually everything that could go wrong did, so this should be pretty straight-forward.

5) Power Play Troubles: The power play struggles go back almost two years now. A huge reason why the Canucks have become one of the lowest-scoring teams in the league - the man advantage, serves as more of a momentum swing for the opposing team’s PK. Here’s a nice Hamhuis own goal I’m sure you all remember well.

4) Goaltending Fiasco: Whether it was the Schneider trade at the draft or the Luongo trade at the deadline, this year has been a mess when it comes to  goaltending. The trades weren’t necessarily bad, but the distractions were too much for an already weakened squad.

3) Injuries, Injuries, Injuries: Coaches always say injuries are not an excuse but if that was the case we wouldn’t pay certain guys millions of dollars more than others. Simply put, when your best players are injured your team sucks more.

2) Coaching Decisions: John Torterella has had a rough year. Between over-playing players and storming opposing teams’ dressing rooms he’s certainly left his mark on this season. His future with the organization remains unclear.

1) SLUMPS: Scoreless droughts for a number of key-players making millions plagued the team. This culminated in an epic 35 game drought for Alex Burrows, a one-time 35 goal scorer.

Mar 262014
 
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Step 1: Draft hulking forward with average skating ability but flashes of offensive upside. Step 2: Thrust player into spotlight using unfair comparisons and unrealistic expectations. Step 3: Criticize said player’s slow development despite young age and minimal professional experience. Step 4: After a few years of disappointment, give player chance on second line or better because of a cavalcade of injuries. Step 5: Take credit for supposed 3-year plan when player succeeds.

And so goes the tale of the power forward – a much sought after, but rare commodity in the modern era of the NHL. These types of players often take longer to develop and can be frustrating as hell for management and fans, but with the right professional climate, can ripen into a force to be reckoned with. The Canucks have been searching for this type of player ever since they were bounced in the Game 7 of the 2011 Stanley Cup Finals by a group of nasty SOB’s in black and yellow uniforms.

Some of these guys fight, some of them drive wide, and some of them dole out bone-crunching hits. The bottom-line is they all do what they do with POWER.

The top 5 Canucks power forwards are:

5) Zack Kassian: The best is yet to come for this big-bodied winger, but this season has seen him take a step in the right direction. All but one of Zack’s 23 points have come at even-strength so just imagine what this guy will do when he gets a shot on the power play in the future.

4) Greg Adams: Not the edgiest player, but a big body and terrific balance, Adams lives on in Canucks lore for this famed goal that sent Vancouver to the cup final.

3) Ryan Kesler: He hits, he fights, he’s a big body and a terrific skater. Kesler doesn’t always get credit as a power forward but he does all the things a prototype power forward should. Solid on both sides of the puck, Kes often does battle with opposing teams’ power forwards as well.

2) Trevor Linden: The ultimate Canucks captain, Linden put his body on the line for the team time and time again. He was a major part of the Canuck run in ’94 and at times was dominant along the boards. Linden had excellent balance and what he lacked in skill he made up for in physicality.

1) Todd Bertuzzi: If a player is used as the model for the term “power forward”, you have to assume he was a pretty good one. Bertuzzi was dominant in the early 2000′s including posting a 46 goal, 97 point season on the Westcoast Express line. Despite this, Bertuzzi never really returned to form after being suspended in 2004 for the infamous “Steve Moore Incident”.

Mar 132014
 
horvatbo640

We all could have predicted the epic slumps by the Sedins, Burrows, Edler, and Booth right? Well, maybe Booth, but for the most part this year has been a huge surprise and not in a good way. The offence has completely dried up and the players look fatigued, unemotional and simply out of sorts. Management is underfire constantly from the fans and media and change could be coming soon.

I, for one, consider this year an anomaly. Typically, when players get into the twilight of their careers, their play simply goes a bit downhill, not right off a cliff. I believe this core still has some good hockey left in it and I expect to see some more predictable stats next year. That being said, on the EXTREMELY rare chance that I am wrong, we may have to look to a younger, greener core, one with lots of questions, albeit lots of potential. In this countdown, I’ve compiled a list of those young hopefuls that the organization expects will eventually fortify a solid team. We’re going with the youngins’ here so only 90′s babies allowed (sorry Chris Tanev and Eddie Lack). A lot of ifs and maybes on this list, but hey, that’s the fun of being a sports fan, isn’t it?

The top 5 up and coming Canucks are:

5) Frankie Corrado: A young, composed d-man who seems to be cut from the same cloth as Chris Tanev. Not an offensive force but reliable and poised. Probably no less than a year removed from being a mainstay on the Canuck blueline.

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4) Hunter Shinkaruk: Not exactly a physical force or an intimidating player, Shinkaruk relies on his skill and positioning to provide offence. One of two 2013 first round draft picks, Hunter looked like one of the better young prospects during the preseason and even chipped in with a few goals.

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3) Nicklas Jensen: The Canucks’ first round draft pick in 2011, Jensen brings size and skill to a team which needs both. The big Dane has been slow to develop but was the most productive Utica Comet before his latest call-up to the big squad.

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2) Zack Kassian: Already a regular on the Canucks, Kassian is getting better every game. While he was coveted for his grit, it’s his passing and powerful skating that has kept him with the club. If Kassian can crack the top 6, expect good things offensively.

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1) Bo Horvat: The number 9 overall pick in the 2013 NHL entry draft came at a heavy price. In losing Cory Schneider, the Canucks gained Horvat, a skilled, clutch forward with future captain written all over him. They need Bo to step in and be an impact player. Plain and simple.

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Mar 072014
 
220px-Ryan_Kesler_2009_training_camp

There are no reasons. HAHAHA!

……………..

I’M KIDDING, of course. Chin up, kids. Sure, we’re all a bit shell-shocked at the events that have (or have not) transpired over the past two days but let’s take a deep breath and try to find a silver lining. I’m not going to talk about potential deals. I’m not going to talk about draft picks. I’m not going to talk about prospects, hearsay, speculation, fairy dust. I’m going to talk about what Ryan Kesler, personally, brings to a team with oh so many holes in it. Let me remind you that, without Kesler, this season would be toast. Tag on toe. But as slim as it seems, with him in the lineup, the Canucks still have a chance to make the big dance. I don’t know about you, but I will be clinging to the hope of playoffs until game 82 (or whenever they are mathematically eliminated). Kesler gives the Canucks a shot at least for the last few weeks of this season and if the time comes to move him later on, I look to the NHL entry draft. But that’s all in the distant future.

Kesler is here now and there are a number of reasons to be happy about this, despite what the critics may say. It should come as flattering and a testament to how good a player he is, that so much talk this deadline surrounded Kes. He’s here to stay (at least for now) and here are 5 reasons why that is a good thing for the Canucks.

5) His Penalty-Killing: Kesler established himself as a defensive forward long before he broke out as an offensive threat. A Selke award winner and one of the best two-way forwards in the league, his strengths lie on both sides of the puck. This shorthanded goal took place only a week ago proving this guy is still making an impact despite the recent drama.

4) His One-Timer: It’s no secret the Canucks have struggled mightily on the powerplay the last couple years. We’ve seen small measures of success when Kesler is near the point or in the slot tapping his stick for a one-timer. Here he absolutely destroys a puck top corner against San Jose in last year’s playoffs.

3) His Hitting: When Kesler gets angry he likes to through his big frame around, and with his speed and size, he can do some pretty good damage. Playoff time is where you really see Kesler let loose. Case and point: Niklas Hjalmarsson pasted into the glass, 5 feet in the air.

2) His Wrist-Shot: One of the reasons Kesler scored 41 goals in 2010-2011 was that no one knew about his wrist shot. He was able to walk across the blue-line and surprise goalies from far out with a blistering wrister. Now they know better, but he still puts away 20+ goals every year with this bad boy.

1) His Tenacity: This guy plays with an edge. The biggest reason why Kesler was such a sought after commodity was that he plays with some playoff-attitude night in and night out. He sticks up for his team and doesn’t shy away from the gritty aspects of the game.

Feb 262014
 
Kes-burr

Well the Olympics have come and gone with Canada seizing glory and a gold medal to boot. It was fun while it lasted but now it’s time to shift our focus back to the remainder of the NHL season and a Canuck team in disarray. The upcoming stretch drive will surely be tense and stressful on fan and player alike as teams scramble to cement their position in the post-season.

As of late, there have not been many smiles within the Canucks locker room as they have suffered an abysmal start (if you can still call it that heading into March) to the year 2014. The players look sullen, depressed and aggravated in post-game interviews and media scrums. Perhaps, in this lies the problem. Anyone who has played sports knows that when you have fun you play well and when you play well you have fun. Yes, I realize these are professional athletes making millions of dollars but all of them started playing hockey not for money but for the love of the game. The team camaraderie and locker room horseplay constitute a large part of what makes this game so great. The Canucks have a history of comedic moments and they often coincide with strong team-play (Kesler’s 2010-2011 interview bomb-skills anyone?) Perhaps a little humor and laughter could spice up what seems to be a stale energy in the locker room.

Here are some of the funnier off-ice moments from past seasons:

5) Rookie Dance-Off – Alex Edler, and the late Luc Bourdon show off their moves in an epic battle at a charity event. Who knew quiet and solemn Edler was such an accomplished break-dancer?

4) Luongo Poetry – Roberto shows off his linguistic skills in a TSN segment. Lou wearing spectacles, a scarf and a paper-boy hat whilst referencing Byfuglien’s “big ass”. Need I say more?

3) Ryan Kesler Interrupts Pelvic Exam – This one’s pretty self-explanatory. Kesler calls a doctor with some good news and catches him in a somewhat “compromising position”. Hilarity ensues.

2) Dale Weise and a Missing Helmet – Someone hides Dale’s helmet and panic starts to set in. I wonder if he would have been this worried when Vigneault was the head coach?

1) Kesler Bomb – En route to a 40-goal season Kesler started a new trend in the locker room which became known as the “Kesler Bomb”. No one was safe – everyone was a potential target.

Feb 142014
 

With the NHL in full shutdown mode, and the Olympics underway it’s difficult to stay focused on the NHL standings and the teams that make up said standings. So we won’t – and I’m sure the Canucks vacationing in Barbados won’t bat an eye. Instead it’s time to shift our criticism and expertise to the team that holds the weight of a nation on their shoulders. As Allen Iverson once claimed- ”We talkin’ bout Team Canada” (or something along those lines). Now, if you think that the term “Team Canada” refers to a certain blue and white colored jersey adorned by players such as Phil Kessel and Dion Phanuef – you’re an idiot. The Canadian Olympic team is set to play Norway on February the 13th and is looking to get a good start to a tough tournament.

Roberto Luongo 2010 Olympics

Courtesy of Wikipedia

While the Norwegians don’t pose too many threats, at least in terms of superstars, there will be plenty of other teams and plenty of others players who will try their darndest to take our  red and white heroes down. Here are the biggest threats to another Canadian gold medal in Olympic Men’s hockey.

5) Ryan Kesler (USA) – Kesler may not be the most offensive or skilled player on Team USA but one could argue he loves beating Canada more than anyone. He has been a thorn in Team Canada’s side since his days in the World Juniors and scored two goals against Canada in the 2010 tournament.

4) Henrik Zetterberg (SWEDEN) – An excellent two-way player and a natural leader Sweden will look to Zetterberg to take the team under his wing with Henrik Sedin injured. Zetterberg is always dangerous and is very crafty on the big ice.

3) Pavel Datsyuk (RUSSIA) – Another two-way player with tremendous skill, Datsyuk will thrive on the open ice. Datsyuk is still very much a Russian at heart despite playing in Detroit for over a decade. Look to him to be a stoic leader in the Russian locker room, keeping the emotions at bay.

2) Zdeno Chara (SLOVAKIA) – With Chara anchoring the back-end, Slovakia has dark horse written all over them. Chara will be the best shut-down d-man in the tournament. Expect an upset at an unlikely time for the Slovaks, similar to the performance they put in at the 2010 games.

1) Alexander Ovechkin (RUSSIA) – This guy will be the most fired up player in the tournament, maybe even the entire Olympics. Expect goals, goals and more goals from Ovi. Oh and maybe a thunderous hit here and there too.

 

Feb 062014
 


(Photo credit: vansunsportsblogs.com)

2014 has been anything but kind to the Vancouver Canucks with a plethora of losses peppering their game calendar. Questions are virtually everywhere with every fan and their dog voicing their idea for a quick fix or easy solution. The defence has looked slow and the forwards are virtually non-existent when it comes to providing offence. Coaching has been an issue and player morale hasn’t been this low in over five years. The team is in turmoil.

But one area which, for the past two years, has been the focal point of gossip has remained static and solid. The goaltending debacle of the past two years has come to an end with a true starting and backup goalie program finally intact. The symbiosis between Roberto Luongo and Eddie Lack has been a bright spot in an otherwise, underwhelming 2013-2014 season. Lack, in particular, has been a pleasant surprise taking the reins when needed and providing highlight reel saves night in and night out. Here’s hoping Eddie can somehow provide a spark for a team desperately searching for life.

So here’s a little chicken soup for the weary Canuck fan’s soul – the top 5 Eddie Lack saves:

5) Eddie Lack vs. Cam Atkinson - Lack shows his flexibility and long leg reach making a horizontal stop against a streaking Cam Atkinson.

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3) Eddie Lack vs. Ben Smith – This dude belongs on the runway with legs this long. The young Swede pushes across and outwaits Ben Smith for another remarkable pad stuff.

2) Eddie Lack vs. Bryan Little – Who needs a glove and blocker? Lack denies Bryan Little with terrific anticipation through traffic.

1) Eddie Lack vs. Brad Richards – Finally a save that doesn’t involve a pad. Lack casually bats this puck out of the yawning cage with his paddle in a game against the rangers. Talk about hand-eye.

Jan 302014
 
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A wake up call, a kick in the ass, a pep talk: whatever you want to call it-these guys need it. And while the whole team has been in a funk that could give Rick James a run for his money, the core group is on a level of its own. The top players that brought the Canucks to within one win of the coveted Stanley Cup have apparently fallen off the map into Mariana’s Trench. The leadership seems fragile (even more so with Henrik Sedin out) and the energy lacklustre. The upcoming Olympic break will hopefully bring some much needed perspective to a group that is struggling to find its place in a tough division.

If a change in momentum is going to happen its gonna have to start with the big boys. The guys who get paid the big bucks and have accepted the reins as team leaders. Cliches are starting to lose their cache  and the core need to put their money where their mouth is ( Yes, that was a cliche but shut-up). These guys have to jumpstart their seasons and in turn provide that spark for the rest of the team to follow.

These 5 Canucks need to WAKE UP:

5) Alexander Edler –  A two-time 40 point scorer and one-time all-star, Edler seemed poised to take the position as the number one d-man on the Canuck back-end. Injuries and a lack of confidence plagued the big swede and his struggles have continued under Torts. Edler’s at his best when he’s throwing the body around and working the powerplay.

4) Ryan Kesler – Despite leading the team in goals, Kesler has been too streaky to consider this season a success. He’s trying hard but seems to be a half step behind on the offensive side of the puck. Kesler thrives in the rough-and-tumble games but needs to put up points for this team to be successful.

3) Dan Hamhuis – This normally steady defenceman has had his ups and downs this season. Slow to adopt Tortorella’s aggressive style, Hamhuis has been caught up ice often and seems to be chasing the puck more than usual. Hamhuis needs a strong first-pass and a better-timed game to truly be effective.

2) Daniel Sedin – Could have put both Sedins in this position but since Henrik is injured he gets a break. This one-time 40 goal scorer currently sits at a pitiful 13 goals. At times looks completely lost out there. Danny needs Henrik, but even more so he needs some confidence- a multi-point game, possibly a powerplay snipe to show that he’s still the top-dog in terms of goal-scoring.

1) Alex Burrows – An absolutely epic slump, poor Alex has completely left behind his 20 goal days. There’s still hope he can regain form for a late season run but no goals in 23 games is devastating. The Canucks cannot be paying what they are for Burrows and get paid bagels in return.

Jan 222014
 

Kellan Lain takes on Kevin Westgarth of the Calgary Flames

Photo credit: canada.com

Love em’ or hate em’ no one can deny the pure entertainment value of a good old-fashioned dust-up. Young and old, alike, left their seats on Saturday to take in a few minutes of rock em’- sock em’ hockey as the Canucks and Flames unexpectedly erupted into a brawl seconds after the opening faceoff. Was it neccesary? Probably not. Did it make the league and the teams look bad? Probably. But we all know this league isn’t a morality convention – it’s a business. And until something can usurp the popularity of fighting, we’re sure to see a few more of these situations in the future.

The Canucks have struggled all year to find an identity that works for them and as of late, the identity seems to be that of the tough guy. Players like Tom Sestito and Zack Kassian have climbed to the top of the penalty minute leader rankings and the Nucks’ penalty killing has been put through the ringer. Only time will tell if this identity sticks but it isn’t the first time we’ve seen the boys frustrations boil over into chaos.

As I’m sure all of you have seen clips of Saturday’s brawl replayed ten times over, I chose to exclude that moment from the list, but here are 5 other memorable brawls from the Canucks past:

5) Vancouver vs Edmonton: A regular season game with no real meaning, this brawl erupted in the closing minutes out of Oiler frustration. Highlighted by a Gagner-Kesler tilt, this one involved some unexpected combatants.

4) Vancouver vs New York: A classic and tense conflict that foreshadowed a heated Stanley Cup Finals. Mike Keenan and Pat Quinn may have been the most heated people in the rink.

3) Vancouver vs Colorado: Forever a black mark on the Canuck franchise, this night infamously ended the career of Steve Moore. Todd Bertuzzi seeks retribution for his fallen comrade Markus Naslund, through a brutal sucker-punch and an ensuing pile-on.

2) Vancouver vs Boston: The follow-up to the heated series a year prior, this game had been marked on both teams’ calendar for months. An entertaining and spirited brawl that reignited this rivalry and helped keep it burning to this day. On a sidenote, I loathe these Boston commentators – note their undying bias.

1) Vancouver vs Chicago: The moment that started one of Vancouver`s great modern rivalries. This one had it all: the Burrows hair pull, Ben Eager fighting Kevin Bieksa, Dustin Byfuglien punching Luongo in the face- just classic.

Jan 152014
 
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It’s that special moment when one man swerves his hips in a quick fluid motion and uses his momentum to launch his butt at another man. Yes, you guessed it, I’m talking about the hipcheck.  Unique, strange, rare- the hip check is one of the most exciting plays in hockey because of its ability to send a guy flying. Unconventional in it’s technique, the hip check takes a special blend of timing and balance to be completed perfectly. When it is done efficiently, the result is glory for the hitter and shame for the hittee.

We’ve been lucky as Canucks fans to be privy to some beautiful hip checks in recent years. What our back-end lacks in size it makes up for in bum-swinging.

Here are the top 5 Canucks hip checks:

5) Mason Raymond on Brad Marchand -  Not known for his hitting prowess ,Raymond surprises ratboy with a beauty hipper.

4) Keith Ballard on Jordin Tootoo - Ballard gives Tootoo the topsy turvy in this 2011 playoff series game.

3) Dan Hamhuis on Milan Lucic - Another from the 2011 playoff run, the Olympian gives Milan Lucic the ‘howdoyoudo’ via hip/butt.

2) Jan Bulis on Jack Johnson - This was Jan’s only hip and bodycheck in his career! Just kidding (but probably not). Here, Jan welcomes a very green Jack Johnson to the NHL.

1) Keith Ballard on Jamie Mcginn - SICK Flip-ch, er sorry HIP-check by Keith Ballard in 2011 (year of the hip-check) during the Western Conference Finals.

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