Matt Lee

Matt Lee has been a Canucks follower and a prototypical Canadian for years; it started on the streets by playing road hockey before and after Vancouver Canucks games and it's brought him here. After graduating from SFU with a BA in Communications and a minor in History while serving as the student newspaper's sports editor for two years, Matt is now a student at BCIT's Broadcast Journalism program in hopes of becoming a sports broadcaster.

Jun 272012
 
Vancouver Canucks

Photo credit: canucks.nhl.com

1. Some fallout from the NHL Draft: Is it possible that, after the Cody Hodgson fiasco, the Canucks are doing more “background checks” on possible NHL draft picks? I found it interesting when Mike Gillis said that Brendan Gaunce has “good parents, good potential, and good leadership”. Wait, good parents? Sounds familiar.

2. You could make the argument the Canucks were ecstatic that Gaunce was available to them at pick 26. Outside of the offensive upside, there isn’t a ton separating Gaunce and Hodgson. Gaunce wore an ‘A’ for Belleville last season and is close to a lock when it comes to getting a spot on the Canadian world juniors team next winter.

3. Are the Canucks just steering clear of drafting WHL players completely? The club has now made 25 consecutive selections without taking a single WHL player. The last was Morgan Clark (2008, 7th round), and for the last ‘successful’ WHL pick outside of the traded Michael Grabner, you’d have to go all the way back to 1995 when Brent Sopel was a 6th round selection.

4. There was a rough reception for the Canucks on Day 2 of the draft, when they selected all overage players with their remaining picks. A lot of people cried uncle when the team could easily have signed the players over the summer without sacrificing picks. Perhaps the club wants to draft more mature players who could be ready in 2 years as opposed to 3 or 4.

5. How sold are you on the “draft the best player available” mentality? The Canucks certainly aren’t, given most of the drafted players could’ve been available later.

6. One team that didn’t draft the best player available was the Calgary Flames, who took Mark Jankowski when they could’ve arguably had him in the second round. Canucks fans who went through the Patrick White fiasco in 2007 know the pitfalls that can follow when a marginal prospect goes in the first round.

7. The Canucks didn’t make qualifying offers to Victor Oreskovich, Marc-Andre Gragnani or Andrew Ebbett, allowing all to become unrestricted free agents. Oreskovich and Ebbett aren’t total surprises, but steps had to be taken for Gragnani to avoid becoming a UFA in the first place, so the fact the club didn’t extend a qualifying offer is a bit shocking.

8. The problem with Gragnani is that he’s a good to great player in the AHL, but a fringe player in the NHL. Either the Canucks didn’t think he was worth a contract, or Vancouver has another defenseman coming into the system soon…

9. Also sounds like Aaron Rome won’t be returning to the Canucks. Unfortunately, the biggest impact Rome had in a Canucks uniform was for his hit on Nathan Horton which arguably cost the Canucks the Stanley Cup. Rome certainly wasn’t an impact player on the blueline during the run, but the team had been crippled by injuries beforehand so his suspension didn’t help matters.

10. With Rome and Gragnani cast out by the Canucks, who’s going to fill the void? It’s been floated around the Twitterverse that Sami Salo will be back for another year, but that still leaves a spot or two on the blueline open.

11. You can put together an opinion that Vancouver is opening a roster spot for high-profile UFA Justin Schultz to come to the Canucks, but nothing can be certain at this point. You could also argue the Leafs traded Luke Schenn so that they could free a roster spot for Schultz as well.

12. Is Toronto off the table for the Canucks and Roberto Luongo? Trading Luke Schenn, who was rumoured to be offered straight up for Luongo, certainly seems to answer that question.

13. Florida is said to be the frontrunners for Luongo now, but GM Dale Tallon questions whether or not the Cats can fit a gargantuan contract like Luongo’s into the equation, though reportedly, Florida ownership have no problems having to pay Luongo ten more years.

14. The other problem is the Canucks are said to be asking for one of Florida’s top young players: Erik Gudbranson, Jonathan Huberdeau, Dmitry Kulikov, and Quinton Howden. The first two are unlikely acquisitions, given they were top three selections in the NHL drafts the last two years.

15. Big congratulations are in order for Pavel Bure, who was elected to the HHOF yesterday. As a fan who grew up idolizing Bure as a child, the Russian Rocket spawned a generation of hockey fans in this city. And whether or not you believe he deserves to have his jersey hanging in the rafters of Rogers Arena, his place in the Hall is simply unquestioned.

Jun 222012
 

The Vancouver Canucks haven’t held a second-round pick since 2009 when they took Anton Rodin, and while the Swedish winger continues to develop in Chicago, a brief history suggests Vancouver’s luck in the round after the first isn’t so hot.

Yann Sauve (2008) is bordering on bust status, Taylor Ellington (2007) and Marc-Andre Bernier (2003) were colossal failures, and for every time the Canucks got lucky (Mason Raymond, 51st overall in 2005), they’ve been unfortunate to trade away that pick for immediate help.

Nevertheless, here are some names to keep in mind for the second round, when the Canucks draft 57th overall.

 

Martin Frk, RW, Halifax Mooseheads (QMJHL):

Bob McKenzie’s Final Ranking: 32

THN Ranking: 45

The Skinny: Missed a lot of time with a concussion and had trouble recovering … Loves to score and is highly skilled, but some scouts question his lack of effort. Not a huge gamble for a team who takes him, but he’ll need another year of junior.

 

Colton Sissons, RW, Kelowna Rockets (WHL):

Bob McKenzie’s Final Ranking: 33

THN Ranking: 40

The Skinny: Yet another Vancouver product in the 2012 draft, Sissons plays multiple positions and has a high work ethic … He’s a two-way forward, but like Brendan Gaunce, some question if he has any offensive upside.

Brady Vail, LW, Windsor Spitfires (OHL)

Bob McKenzie’s Final Ranking: 60

THN Ranking: 58

The Skinny: Vail and Brendan Gaunce fought last year, but that only shows that Vail is just as rugged as Gaunce. Characterized as a “Swiss army knife” type of player, Vail could be an asset on a team’s third or fourth line.

 

Cristoval Nieves, C, Kent (USHS):

Bob McKenzie’s Final Ranking: 51

THN Ranking: 55

The Skinny: They call him ‘Boo’ Nieves, maybe because he skates well for such a freak (and that’s a good thing). At 6-3, Nieves is a tremendous skater despite his large frame, something Chris Kreider overcame when drafted by the New York Rangers.

 

Nick Ebert, D, Windsor Spitfires (OHL):

Bob McKenzie’s Final Ranking: Unranked

THN Ranking: 60

The Skinny: At this time last year, Ebert was projected as a top-ten pick. In the span of 365 days, he’s completely fallen off the chart. But Ebert has a cannon of a shot and an impressive skill set, so if a team wants a project, Ebert’s the biggest one available.

 

Lukas Sutter, C, Saskatoon (WHL):

Bob McKenzie’s Final Ranking: 52

THN Ranking: 63

The Skinny: It seems like a lot of teams search for a “Brad Marchand type” (as well they should be), and Sutter might be it. Sutter brings tenacity and is committed to winning and even has demonstrated some offensive touch.

 

Jun 222012
 
Brendan Gaunce, Vancouver Canucks

Photo credit: The Pipeline Show

The Vancouver Canucks ignored all the trade chatter and whispers on the draft floor in order to take centre Brendan Gaunce of the Belleville Bulls with their 26th overall pick.

What the Canucks are getting:

A solid two-way centre with faceoff ability who can play all forward positions. Gaunce has been a leader with the Belleville Bulls and should be on a shortlist for Canada at the next World Juniors. Gaunce isn’t a physical specimen by any means, but at 6-2 and 201 pounds is willing to go into the corners and engage in physical battles if necessary. The knock on Gaunce is that there are questions about his offensive upside, so most scouts have him pegged as a third-line centre. Gaunce’s skating stride is also suspect, as his first step is rather sluggish. But if Gaunce can improve his stride, he can be a very tenacious forechecker for the Canucks down the road.

Call me, Cody?:

There are a couple similarities between Brendan Gaunce and one-time Canuck Cody Hodgson. On top of the fact the two are both from Markham, their skating strides when drafted out of junior are similar, but both are hard-working players with leadership qualities.

Other notes:

We shared some of the scouting reports on Gaunce earlier this week.

In drafting Gaunce, the Canucks passed on a few other prospects: Henrik Samuelsson, a rugged crash-and-bang winger, and Brady Skjei, a smooth-skating defenseman from the U.S. National Development Program. The Canucks also could’ve opted for Matthew Finn, another defenseman from the OHL’s Guelph Storm, or Ludvig Bystrom, a Swedish defenceman who hails from Ornskoldsvik (aka The Canuck Factory).

Jun 202012
 
Nail Yakupov, 2012 NHL Entry Draft

1. Edmonton Oilers: RW Nail Yakupov, Sarnia (OHL)

Assuming the Oilers retain the first overall pick, the brass would be naïve to draft anyone other than Yakupov, who’s far and away the best of the draft.

2. Columbus Blue Jackets: RW Filip Forsberg, Leksand (Sweden)

The Jackets essentially need help all over the map, and in terms of NHL readiness, Forsberg’s as safe as they come.

3. Montreal Canadiens: C Alex Galchenyuk, Sarnia (OHL)

There are fears Galchenyuk hasn’t recovered from his ACL injury, but scouts got positive news when the American had a good Combine. He’ll need another year of junior, but is the big, rangy centre the Habs want.

4. New York Islanders: D Ryan Murray, Everett (WHL)

In 2010, the Isles wanted Erik Gudbranson. In 2011, they wanted Adam Larsson. They need a franchise defenseman and Murray’s the best this year has to offer.

5. Toronto Maple Leafs: C Mikhail Grigorenko, Quebec (QMJHL)

If anyone could be a mover and shaker at the draft, it’s Brian Burke and Toronto. The Leafs are in search of a big, skilled centre, and if Galchenyuk is off the board, Grigorenko is the next best option.

6. Anaheim Ducks: D Matt Dumba, Red Deer (WHL)

It looks like the Ducks will lose top prospect Justin Schultz, so Anaheim will likely need to both draft a defenceman and stay clear of NCAA players for a while. Dumba goes for the big hit, and the Ducks would love a player who plays like Chris Pronger.

7. Minnesota Wild: D Jacob Trouba, USA (NTDP)

Trouba’s a Minnesota boy, and the Wild have shown they like taking players from their own backyard (see Nick Leddy). Trouba has defensive defenceman capabilities, something the Wild lacked when they traded Brent Burns.

8. Carolina Hurricanes: LW Teuvo Teravainen, Jokerit (Finland)

Small, shifty, and skilled; sound like someone on Carolina you know? Jeff Skinner leapt to the NHL right after the draft, but the ‘Canes haven’t had much success at forward otherwise.

9. Winnipeg Jets: C Radek Faksa, Kitchener (OHL)

The Jets covet size and skill, and Faksa has it in spades. The Czech import is a character player for Kitchener while putting up point per game numbers.

10. Tampa Bay Lightning: D Morgan Rielly, Moose Jaw (WHL)

Like Galchenyuk, Rielly missed a ton of time before acquitting himself well at the Combine. Rielly might be the best offensive defenceman available and the Bolts would love to pair him with Victor Hedman.

11. Washington Capitals[1]: D Griffin Reinhart, Edmonton (WHL)

The Capitals blueline is aging and soon Karl Alzner and John Carlson will be leading the charge, but Washington could use a defensive stud like Reinhart in their pipeline.

12. Buffalo Sabres: RW Thomas Wilson, Plymouth (OHL)

The Sabres parted ways with the burly Zack Kassian, but Wilson would be a worthy replacement. The 6-foot-4 Whaler brings size and grit to the table to an otherwise smaller forward pool.

13. Dallas Stars: C Zemgus Girgensons, Dubuque (USHL)

Big and rangy, Girgensons is classified as a safe pick, which is good for Dallas who could add another forward to their prospect cupboard. Scouts say he brings a good two-way game and competitive edge.

14. Calgary Flames: D Cody Ceci, Ottawa (OHL)

The Flames’ recent track record of drafting defensemen at the draft has been subpar at best (see Matt Pelech and Tim Erixon), but Ceci is a superb offensive defenceman who could make it. Scouts have made comparisons to Michael Del Zotto.

15. Ottawa Senators: RW Sebastian Collberg, Frolunda (Sweden)

Skill behind forwards like Jason Spezza and Kyle Turris is needed, and Collberg has lots of it. Playing on a deep Frolunda team, Collberg still has lots of upside.

16. Washington Capitals: D Derrick Pouliot, Portland (WHL)

The Caps will have a safe and rugged defender in Reinhart, so they can afford to swing for the fences with Pouliot, who does it all for the Winterhawks. He’s a defenseman with high scoring potential.

17. San Jose Sharks: D Olli Maatta, London (OHL)

The Sharks need help at just about every position, and with the best player available mentality, will take Maatta, who performed admirably for London at the Memorial Cup.

18. Chicago Blackhawks: G Oscar Dansk, Brynas (Sweden)

Corey Crawford is an on-again, off-again goaltender, and the Hawks need to consider the best available goaltender. Dansk isn’t the highest-ranked goaltender, but carries the least amount of red flags.

19. Tampa Bay Lightning[2]: D Hampus Lindholm, Rogle (Sweden)

The Bolts already have one steady Swedish defenceman, why not two? By taking two blueliners in a defense-heavy draft, the Lightning secure their future on the back end with a handful of good defencemen.

20. Philadelphia Flyers: D Slater Koekkoek, Peterborough (OHL)

With Chris Pronger’s career coming to an end, the Flyers need to address their blueline. They have very little faith in Erik Gustafsson and M-A Bourdon, so Koekkoek will be their next project.

21. Buffalo Sabres[3]: LW Pontus Aberg, Djurgarden (Sweden)

With Marcus Foligno graduating to the Sabres and the defense stocked with Mark Pysyk and Brayden McNabb, the Sabres get a skilled left winger in Aberg.

22. Pittsburgh Penguins: C Brendan Gaunce, Belleville (OHL)

The Penguins went with defenseman Joe Morrow last year, and with Simon Despres ready, they’ll likely draft a forward. Despite what GM Ray Shero says, Jordan Staal’s future with the Pens is far from secure, and Gaunce can be a good third line centre down the road.

23. Florida Panthers: D Matt Finn, Guelph (OHL)

Florida doesn’t have many blueliners with offensive upside outside of Dmitry Kulikov and Brian Campbell, but Finn has a good two-way game and a solid first pass. He’s the best player available at this point.

24. Boston Bruins: D Brady Skjei, USA (USHL)

A silky smooth skater, Skjei has some size and good upside. The U of Minnesota commit could afford to play more physical, but that’ll come with more time in Boston.

25. St. Louis Blues: D Ludvig Bystrom, Modo (Sweden)

With Vladimir Tarasenko signed and Jaden Schwartz ready, the Blues add a defenseman to their young blueline corps. Bystrom is a mobile defender who plays a patient and safe game.

26. Vancouver Canucks: C Tomas Hertl, Slavia Praha (Czech.)

The Canucks have selected a Czech for the last two years (David Honzik and Adam Polasek), showing their willing to take a Czech player if the right situation presents itself. Hertl is a mega-talented centre with hockey smarts and playmaking ability; he just needs to improve his skating.

27. Phoenix Coyotes: LW Nicolas Kerdiles, USA (NTDP)

Much like the Coyotes, Kerdiles is a bit of a wanderer in the sense he was born in Texas, lived in France as well as California. But on the USA NTDP, he’s a power forward with good finishing skills.

28. New York Rangers: LW Stefan Matteau, USA (NTDP)

His father was a favourite on the Rangers, and Matteau’s power forward capabilities and energetic style could make him one in the Big Apple as well. He’d be a perfect complement on a line with Chris Kreider.

29. New Jersey Devils: G Malcolm Subban, Belleville (OHL)

The Devils struck out with Jeff Frazee, and may still look to outside help to address an heir for Martin Brodeur, but Subban’s a quick and athletic goaltender who has starting goalie potential.

30. Los Angeles Kings[4]: D Michael Matheson, Dubuque (USHL)

Assuming the Kings get to keep their pick, they take the best player available at 30 and that’s Matheson, a blueliner with good two-way skills but doesn’t show it enough.



[1] Acquired from Colorado Avalanche for Semyon Varlamov

[2] Acquired from Detroit Red Wings for Kyle Quincey

[3] Acquired from Nashville Predators for Paul Gaustad

[4] Columbus has option of taking this pick or next year’s after Jeff Carter trade

Jun 122012
 

1. The Los Angeles Kings have begun their royal coronation, and they got on that championship road by defeating the Canucks in the first round in five games. That means that for three straight years Vancouver has been defeated by the eventual Stanley Cup champions (Chicago, Boston, and now Los Angeles). I’m not one for superstition but how many teams would like to line up against the Canucks in the first round next spring?

2. When watching the rest of the NHL playoffs, I always find it a little unnerving when Canucks fans cheer for the team that ousted them, in this case the Kings. Canucks fans feel better about the fact they lost to the eventual Stanley Cup champions. Sure, it means the Canucks lost to the best team, but it doesn’t mean the Canucks were the second-best team in the postseason. To me, a loss is a loss; there is no second place when there’s 16 teams and just one champion.

3. Love him or hate him, Drew Doughty was fantastic and a huge reason why the Kings got to the promised land. He was delivering production close to a point per game and was +11 in the process. Most memorably, his Bobby Orr-like goal in Game 2 of the Finals turned out to be a real turning point in that series. Canucks fans have to ask themselves if they have anyone like Doughty in their system. Is Alex Edler the answer? I don’t think even Canucks management knows for certain.

4. The pace of games in the playoffs were at a snail’s pace on occasion, depending on the team you watched. Vancouver has built its team around an up-tempo style, but considering the success of guys like Dustin Penner this spring, you have to wonder if that philosophy needs to change. The Canucks picked up David Booth in November for the purpose of making their team faster, but I’m not sure anymore if that’s a winning recipe.

5. Craig MacTavish resigned as head coach of the Canucks’ AHL affiliate yesterday in order to become the senior VP of hockey ops with Edmonton. You get the sense that once he learned Alain Vigneault would be back behind the Canucks bench next season, MacT had little reason to stay. It’s obvious he wants to be a head coach at the NHL level again and he knew that wouldn’t happen with Vancouver any time soon.

6. That leaves a head coaching hole with the Chicago Wolves that the Canucks need to fill. There are a few good candidates to take the spot; a week after hiring Bob Hartley as their next head coach, the Flames decided to let Craig Hartsburg go. Hartsburg has coached Canada to world juniors gold in 2008 and prior to taking the associate coach position with Calgary was the Everett Silvertips bench boss.

7. Another option to take over is Scott Arniel, who was canned from the Columbus Blue Jackets this past season. Sure, Arniel had a rough go in his time in Ohio, but any coach would with Steve Mason between the pipes. Arniel was treasured during his time with the Manitoba Moose and while he currently works for the Canucks as a scout, you know he’ll be eager to get behind a bench once again. Both Hartsburg and Arniel would be excellent choices.

8. Sticking with coaching talk, no one knows what was said in the meetings leading up to Alain Vigneault’s renewal, but it’s clear there needs to be a change in how Vigneault approaches his players. Vigneault is a coach known to loosen the reins on his players a bit, but that will have to be different this upcoming season. Fans weren’t happy with the dives and yapping coming from players, and the leadership to remedy those problems starts with the head coach. Vigneault would be best served by implementing a tighter ship; dive and yap and you can find yourself stapled to the bench.

9. Call it a hunch, but I suspect trade activity will pick up considerably as the NHL Draft gets closer. There’s a ton of uncertainty with regards to a possible work stoppage and the temporary increase in the salary cap, but that shouldn’t deter general managers from bolstering their teams. The increase in cap space should give teams incentive to make moves they wouldn’t normally make, and perhaps the Luongo trade saga fits that equation.

10. Only Mike Gillis holds the cards, but the Luongo saga continues to unfurl. Some fans want assets coming back that can help the Canucks win now, but isn’t freeing up $5.3-million in cap space the biggest asset? This summer isn’t exactly a ground breaker in terms of free agents available, but freeing up that much space and adding an extra million in a cap increase could give Vancouver the chance to land a really, really big fish.

11. Continuing on with the Luongo rumours, a lot of people have thrown out Jake Gardiner and Luke Schenn’s name when mentioning the Toronto Maple Leafs, but how about Cody Franson? The Memorial Cup winner with the Vancouver Giants is a product of the Nashville system where defencemen are bred like prized racehorses, and at 24 is still a blueliner with potential.

12. Some have asked about what the real chance the Canucks have at signing soon-to-be free agent Justin Schultz. Schultz is a product of the U of Wisconsin and while there teamed up with current Leaf Jake Gardiner. Now both players were once draft picks of the Anaheim Ducks, but Gardiner was traded to Toronto in a package for Francois Beauchemin. Hard to say for certain, but perhaps Schultz’ feelings towards Anaheim soured when they traded his partner. This isn’t to say Schultz will follow Gardiner to Toronto, but if the Canucks could land Gardiner in a deal for Luongo…

13. If the Canucks are hoping to sign Cory Schneider to a new contract, they better get it done soon. Not just because Schneider could be eligible to receive offer sheets, but because of the Tim Thomas effect. Now that Thomas is taking a year off from hockey, Tuukka Rask’s bargaining power as a restricted free agent just got bigger. Rask and Schneider are goalies with similar career trajectories, and if the Canucks want to avoid paying Schneider upwards of $4-million a year, they’d best get a contract hammered out before Rask does.

14. For those in the trade Schneider camp, word is that Jets goaltender Ondrej Pavelec is being lured by a KHL team. A restricted free agent in July, the potential offer from the KHL team is said to be substantial. If Pavelec pulls a Radulov and bolts, a certain redheaded Canucks goalie is known to be a fan favourite in the ‘Peg. Hmm…

15. The NHL Draft is on June 22 and fans are wondering who the Canucks will target at 26th overall. I’ll have more in my draft preview, but given Jordan Schroeder and Anton Rodin’s strong strides in development this past season, the team should be looking at a defenseman with this year’s pick. And considering the abundance of blueliners in this year’s crop, that’s a pretty safe deduction to make.

Apr 242012
 

If you missed Mike Gillis’ post-season comments on Tuesday morning, you missed quite a bit. Here’s some of the points Gillis made, and a brief reaction on those comments.

Gillis says the Canucks play dropped off after the Boston Bruins game in January.

Hard not to agree with this sentiment. The Vancouver Canucks and the media billed this game as one of, if not the biggest game of the season. They looked emotionally and physically spent after the win and the intensity of their play dropped off substantially afterwards.

Gillis: “I have every bit of confidence in Alain [Vigneault].” … “Re-evaluation starts with me first. I’d like to be here.”

Gillis doesn’t like the stress of his job, but he enjoys the challenge. It sounds like if his services are retained, so will Alain Vigneault. Is it easy to suggest that either both of Gillis and Vigneault stay or both of them go, with no in between.

Gillis: “I spent more time on Cody [Hodgson] and his issues more than anybody. Cody did not want to be here. I don’t regret doing it… I’d do it again.”

This was the bombshell. Gillis threw Hodgson under the bus, saying that he explored several trade options and that there was a list of six players he would trade Hodgson for. Zack Kassian was on that list.

Gillis: “We have confidence in both of our goalies, and I know a lot of teams are envious of our situation.”

Without giving away too much, Gillis acknowledged that the team will re-evaluate their goaltending situation and go from there. He didn’t rule out the possibility of both goalies being back next season.

Gillis on Luongo: “If you take a look at his body of work, you’ll see that he’s an elite-level goaltender. We’ve got a ton of confidence in Roberto.”

Gillis on Cory Schneider: “It wasn’t by accident he was played in big games. We wanted to see if he was as good as we thought. He is. The emergence of Cory as such an outstanding young goalie has changed the landscape.”

A little more on Luongo and Schneider. To borrow an old quote from last June, Gillis did an admirable job of pumping both goalies’ tires and perhaps their trade value as well. He refused to pick one over the other.

Gillis: “I think we need to get younger, I think we need to get bigger and stronger.”

This seemed a little confusing, given the Canucks traded for Zack Kassian but didn’t play the kid. It does, however, indicate the Canucks are going to aim to have Kassian one day playing top-six minutes. It also gives you an idea that the club will keep Ryan Kesler down the middle and David Booth on the wing for the foreseeable future but expect them to look to add another piece.

Gillis says the Canucks won’t change their style of play despite the success of defensive teams this postseason.

Pretty self-explanatory, but also confusing given the Canucks struggled to score and receded into a defensive shell down the stretch. The Canucks style of play got dry and boring, and the team will need to re-invent themselves if they want to get back to a high-octane style.

Gillis says he’s not going to give up on Mason Raymond, but he needs to take a step forward.

Bombshell number two. Most people had Raymond left for dead at this point, but it sounds like he will be back. The patience from management and coaching staff is likely waning, however, so Raymond will be qualified over the summer and will have no choice but to be exponentially better.

Gillis has not talked to his players so it’s too early to suggest who will go and who will stay.

Gillis’ way of saying ‘no comment’ without showing his cards. He keeps things under wraps so it shouldn’t be expected he’s going to give an indication of who will and will not be on the roster next season. If history has shown anything, though, Gillis will make a significant move.

Apr 152012
 

Were you a little nervous when the Canucks dropped Game 1 to Los Angeles? Did you pee a little when Dustin Brown scored his second shorthanded goal of the night?

It’s all fair, you have every reason to be a little worried.

The Vancouver Canucks managed to not only lay one giant egg in Game 1, they managed to make it even worse in Game 2. Sure, the shots were in favour of the Canucks in the second game, but surrendering two shorthanded goals is like a splash of ice-cold water on your genitals (or for the ladies, the um… ladies).

Either way, nothing feels good right now. What was expected to be a lengthy playoff run may become a one week house party which ended because your parents came home from the Neil Diamond concert early.

But if you’re pooping bricks, at least take solace in the fact the Canucks don’t seem to be. They’re at least putting on a brave face and telling the media they’re still confident they can turn the drowning ship around.

First, Henrik Sedin (via The Province):

“If we were in a hole like this a couple years back, I wouldn’t be as hopeful as I am right now. We’re playing well enough to win games.”

And also, Kevin Bieksa:

“We played, 5-on-5, the majority of the game in their end (on Friday). They got two Grade-A chances 5-on-5 is what I’m being told. That’s pretty good. If we can continue to do that over the series, we’ll be in good shape… For us, it’s 2-0. It’s not insurmountable. It’s just being in a game down 2-0, we know we can come back. We’re capable of it. We have to go out and do it.”

Talk the talk, yes. To go out and do it is quite another. So while fans may be losing hope, the most important thing is the players still have their confidence.

Apr 092012
 

Was it the matchup you expected? Was it the matchup you wanted?

The Vancouver Canucks claimed their second consecutive President’s Trophy on Saturday night, a feat that few teams in recent memory can lay claim to. They also found out who their first round playoff opponent will be: the Los Angeles Kings.

A quick and dirty look at what to expect when the puck drops on Wednesday night:

Regular Season History: 3-2 win (November 16th), 4-1 loss (December 31st), 3-2 shootout loss (January 17th), 1-0 win (March 26th).

Aside from that one bizarre game on New Year’s Eve, you can expect a lot of 2-1 and 3-2 games in the next two weeks. The Vancouver Canucks have played defensively stingy as of late and the Los Angeles Kings have played the same way all season long.

Los Angeles this year: The Kings were supposed to be contenders from the get-go, but their early struggles in October cost Terry Murray his job. For a team that had problems scoring goals, their decision to hire Darryl Sutter only made even more heads turn. Sutter, a defensive specialist, has ushered in an era where goals are hard to come by against the Kings, and Jonathan Quick has reigned supreme. In fact, had it not been for Quick and his ten shutouts, the Los Angeles Kings would flat out not qualified for the postseason. He’s been their most valuable player, bar none.

Vancouver this year: It’s a remarkable story that the Vancouver Canucks, who for stretches throughout the season looked unorganized and disinterested, still managed to steal the President’s Trophy out from underneath St. Louis and New York’s noses. They did it with both Sedins coming in at less than a point-per-game, Ryan Kesler on a mended hip, and a constant distraction with a ‘goalie controversy’ in net. Going into the postseason, the powerplay is a concern — the Canucks started 2012 with the best powerplay in the league and sagged to sixth by the time the regular season ended.

The Canucks will win if: They find some cracks in Jonathan Quick’s armour. The Kings live and die by how he plays. Much like the Nashville series of 2011, the Canucks will be going up against a team with a couple deadly forwards, a pretty strong blueline, and an elite-level goaltender. But the Canucks proved that great goaltending can only go so far. If the Canucks depth at forward makes a return, this series will be relatively short.

The Canucks will lose if: Ryan Kesler doesn’t show up and Daniel Sedin suffers a setback. Those two players are two of the team’s top three forwards, and if Kesler can’t find an extra gear, there is no second line. The powerplay must also find a way to come alive; it’s been stagnant over the last two months and in a series which has all the makings of a defensive war, the powerplay becomes that much more important.

X-Factors: For Los Angeles, Dustin Penner and Drew Doughty have underachieved all season and will need to provide secondary scoring for a team that finished 29th in league scoring. For Vancouver, David Booth and Mason Raymond both need to make contributions on the scoresheet.

Mar 302012
 

When Zack Kassian arrived in Vancouver, one of the first words out of his mouth was the following:

They’ve got a great team here, and I’m just going to try to be a small piece in a big puzzle.

Oh Zack, we all know that’s not going to be possible in this hockey fishbowl.

Since he arrived on the scene, fans have been watching closely, scrutinizing and analyzing every little detail of his game. There have been bright moments, like his first three games as a Canuck, where he combined for 16 hits, a goal, and an assist. His fight with Brad Staubitz against Montreal and his skirmish with Duncan Keith in Chicago also stand out.

There are the naysayers, too. On some nights, Kassian has been stapled to the bench during crucial moments. Part of that has to do with Alain Vigneault’s unwillingness to play young players when the game’s on the line, and part of it has to do with Kassian’s play has been somewhat inconsistent.

On occasion, he has that gusto where he looks like he’ll take a player’s head off. On others, he’s losing puck battles in corners and slower than Steve Bernier.

But perhaps one of the most underrated aspects of Zack Kassian’s game is the intimidation factor he has when he’s on the ice. He has a presence, one which the team cannot say they boasted before.

When Kassian is on the ice, opponents are aware of it. Put together on a line with Mason Raymond and Henrik Sedin, neither player gets bogged down in a post-whistle scrum when Kassian is out there. If either Raymond or Sedin gets shoved around, Kassian enters the scrum and all of a sudden it gets dead quiet. Everyone shuts up and moves along.

That can be a very powerful weapon in the playoffs.

Against Chicago, Kassian challenged every single Blackhawk on the ice, and no one wanted to drop the gloves. That’s the kind of power and intimidation very few teams can buy. Kassian is feared, and in the playoffs, he can provide the kind of spark the Canucks will need when the going gets tough.

So don’t just take notice of what Kassian is doing in the game. Notice his game within the game, because that can be equally important.

Mar 022012
 

Tonight’s game featuring the Vancouver Canucks and Buffalo Sabres will be a reunion for the two new faces to both teams, Cody Hodgson and Zack Kassian.

As a fan of Cody Hodgson’s since he was drafted in 2008, I can’t even begin to tell you my own personal shock when he was traded on Monday.

It was unquestionably the hardest Vancouver trade I’ve ever had to accept as a reality, and that’s saying something for an organization which has traded players like Trevor Linden, Pavel Bure, and Todd Bertuzzi. Unlike that trifecta of players, we don’t yet know what Cody Hodgson will one day be, and it’s disheartening that we won’t see what he will become in a Vancouver uniform.

So tonight’s game will be the final time this year that fans will see Hodgson and the Canucks share a single sheet of ice, and with that comes a little finality; maybe after tonight even the most loyal Hodgson fans can let him go and stop looking at Zack Kassian as “the player we traded Cody Hodgson for”.

Regardless of the locale, each newly-acquired player deserves a shot to start anew, and Kassian will be no different. Having fans and media in a hockey fishbowl just like Vancouver uttering both Hodgson and Kassian’s names in the same sentence will only serve as a distraction if we let it linger too long.

The Canucks can ill-afford a distraction during the franchise’s most crucial stage in years. Vancouver is in the business of winning the Stanley Cup this year; that’s what made trading Hodgson a necessity in the first place.

So after Saturday night, Canucks fans, stop grieving. We’re going to have to move on. We know that Hodgson will.

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