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.

 

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.

Oct 282011
 

Staring at a sub .500 record dead in the eye heading into this Saturday’s epic tilt against the Washington Capitals, things could be a hell of a lot worse for the Vancouver Canucks and their fans.

Statistically speaking, the Sedins are right on track offensively, averaging just over a point per game. Never mind the fact they were invisible in Wednesday’s loss to St. Louis; at least their still on pace for another solid campaign.

Sami Salo has not only stayed healthy, he’s managed to put up as many points as he did last year and in half the games. Is it at all possible that at the age of 37, the affable Finn can best his career-high of 37 points, set back in 2007?

All it really takes is a glance at the individual plus-minus ratings of the Canucks to get an indication of how they’re performing; Salo is a team-best plus-5 and arguably one of the more consistent players on the roster, while Kevin Bieksa’s gaudy minus-9 and Dan Hamhuis’ minus-7 is a proverbial black eye to the once unbreakable Canucks shutdown unit. At minus-six, Manny Malhotra isn’t exactly immune to criticism, either.

But I digress. It may be another case of the Octobers for Vancouver, which include symptoms of sluggish starts and mental fatigue, but things could be worse for the Canucks.

I mean, if Roberto Luongo thought he had no confidence, Ilya Bryzgalov said it. In front of the media. I mean, he actually said he stinks. If Luongo allowed four goals on ten shots like Bryzgalov did last night at home against Winnipeg, I’m not sure Luongo would be able to get out of Rogers Arena without being lynched there and then. Now that’s goalie problems.

And again, things could be worse. We could be fans of the New York Islanders who, despite boasting a modest 3-4-1 record, are a ticking time bomb waiting to blow. With no new building coming, the few Islanders fans that remain are bracing themselves for the cold reality that their team could soon be relocating.

And finally, things could be worse. Despite having a Stanley Cup banner which is a proverbial ‘f@#$ you’ to Canucks fans, at least the Boston Bruins are having just as much trouble as Vancouver is. Perched in the Eastern Conference basement, the Canucks have the ability to say that they haven’t tumbled that far … yet.

Boy, all that has made me depressed. Here’s a video that, if you haven’t seen it yet, should brighten up your Friday:

Oct 262011
 

This just in: There are as many Vancouver Canucks fans who support Roberto Luongo as there are Vancouver Canucks fans who despise him.

Cory Schneider will get the start for the Canucks tonight when they take to the ice versus the St. Louis Blues, and head coach Alain Vigneault insists that was the plan from the start following his decision to pull Roberto Luongo midway through the second period in last night’s loss to Edmonton.

Now, there isn’t yet developed technology that allows us to see what’s going on in Vigneault’s head, but chances are he’s torn between sticking to Luongo or going to Schneider on a more frequent basis.

Has Roberto Luongo been bad, even by his usual October standards? Yes, there’s no sense even debating it. Even for October, this is the first time during his tenure with the Canucks that his save percentage has been below.900 (it’s .868) and his goals-against average has swollen to 3.46. Granted the competition Cory Schneider has beaten isn’t exactly top grade (Wins against Columbus and Minnesota), but has the backup given anyone reason to doubt his abilities?

Even during mop-up duty against the Oilers, Schneider’s goal-line save against Jordan Eberle in the third period during a 3-2 game gave the Canucks a fighting chance to even the score. In that regard, hasn’t Schneider done enough to earn tonight’s start, regardless of whether or not it was “the plan”?

Alain Vigneault has held his team to a standard that if you’re playing well, you’ll be rewarded. Conversely, if you’re playing poorly, you’re going to get bumped a couple notches down the pecking order. We’ve seen it this season when Jannik Hansen was bumped up to the second line when he scored an early goal against Minnesota, knocking Cody Hodgson down to the third line.

Why should goaltending be any different? Why should Roberto Luongo and Cory Schneider be exceptions to Vigneault’s standards?

For the first time in his tenure with the Canucks, Roberto Luongo is being challenged by a backup who may just have the same skill set as him. He never had to look over his shoulder when Dany Sabourin, Curtis Sanford, or Andrew Raycroft were playing second fiddle to him, but Schneider is a different animal altogether.

Why not have Schneider start a few more? Why not force Luongo to work hard in practice and work his way out of this funk? At the end of the day, isn’t that what’s best for the team?

And it’s not like “franchise” netminders around the league haven’t undergone this before. Last year, Marc-Andre Fleury’s poor October saw Brent Johnson get an increase in ice time. Two years ago, Tim Thomas, coming off a Vezina win, was supplanted by young upstart Tuukka Rask. A year later, Thomas backstopped the Bruins to the Stanley Cup. And I don’t even need to bring up the well-documented Price vs. Halak war in Montreal.

The point is, whether fans choose to believe it or not, we might very well be at a crease crossroad. It’s still very early in the year, but this goalie debate has dragged on long enough that it’s not too early to give Cory Schneider a vote of confidence, either.

Jun 242011
 

8:08PM: Some closing thoughts: Nice to see Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, a Burnaby native, go first overall. He deserved to go at that spot and worked all year for it. Interesting trades came about today with Setoguchi heading to Minnesota and Campbell to Florida. Canucks put their prospect depth at the winger position in good shape by drafting Nicklas Jensen. I’d expect them to make a bolder pick in the second round. Brandon Saad is still available, as is David Musil and Rocco Grimaldi. See you next time folks!

8:06PM: After the Ducks draft Rickard Rakell, that does it for the first round!

8:01PM: Canucks fans, consider yourselves lucky to get Nicklas Jensen. Most thought he’d be gone by the late teens or early 20′s, so to get him at 29 is terrific. Jensen will be a two-year project, but he’s got a bright future ahead.

7:57PM: The Canucks make my wish come true! Nicklas Jensen is a Vancouver Canuck!

7:52PM: Who should the Canucks take? I’m hoping for Danish winger Nicklas Jensen from the Oshawa Generals.

7:49PM: The Wild select Zack Phillips, the third player from the St. John’s Sea Dogs to get drafted in the first round. AND THE CANUCKS ARE UP NEXT!

7:43PM: Tampa Bay makes their first selection of the night (How crazy is it to go from drafting #2 in 2010 to #27 in 2011?) and select Vladislav Namestnikov, the first Russian to go in the draft.

7:36PM: Just before the Blackhawks select Phillip Danault at 26, word is they’ve found a taker for Brian Campbell in the Florida Panthers. Huge news, as it frees up a whack of cap space. Canucks fans lament. They free up $7.1-million, and with the salary cap going up… Cue the Brad Richards speculation?

7:32PM: Looking more and more like Mike Gillis and the Canucks will stand pat at 29. I’m sure they came close to dealing the pick away, but didn’t want to give up a good roster player to improve now. Zack Phillips, Brandon Saad, Ty Rattie, Rocco Grimaldi, Rickard Rakell, Nicklas Jensen and David Musil all still available at pick 26.

7:25PM: Toronto adds to Tyler Biggs with Stuart Percy at pick number 25. Intelligent player who sees the ice well and can get the puck out of his zone quickly.

7:18PM: The Sens wanted Matt Puempel and felt they had to trade up to get him. Pure goal scorer, offensive talent. Adds to their first round picks in Zibanejad and Noeson.

7:16PM: The Penguins took Joe Morrow, smooth-skating defenseman who I think would’ve looked good in the Canucks system. Not meant to be.

7:07PM: The Ottawa Senators and Detroit Red Wings have made a trade, swapping picks. Ottawa gets the 24th overall pick and Detroit gets Ottawa’s 35th and 48th. So much for the Sens being done.

7:04PM: So apparently when you urinate the Leafs decide to trade up. Coincidence? I think not. Toronto adds some nastiness and feistiness in Tyler Biggs from the USA NTDP.

6:53PM: The Senators complete their first round by adding Stefan Noeson. This guy will add some sandpaper.

6:44PM: Still some solid prospects available that the Canucks might be interested in: Nicklas Jensen from Oshawa (Another Dane! Imagine a Hansen-Jensen combination!) as well as Vancouver Giant blueliner David Musil. Also consider Matt Puempel (Peterborough) and Rocco Grimaldi (USA NTDP).

6:39PM: Edmonton completes their first round with Oscar Klefbom, a nice defenseman who played for the SEL-winning Farjestad. This team is going to be mega scary in three years.

6:35PM: Chicago selects Mark McNeill, but let’s go back to the Sharks trade. Remember, earlier we saw Mike Gillis and Doug Wilson having a long conversation on the draft floor. Very possible the two were discussing a trade for Setoguchi. Perhaps Wilson was asking for Alex Edler.

6:31PM: Bob McKenzie reports the San Jose Sharks just completed a blockbuster deal with the Minnesota Wild. Devin Setoguchi, Charlie Coyle, and their first round pick for Brent Burns and a 2nd round pick. Big overpayment by San Jose, in my opinion.

6:24PM: The Habs keep the draft going by selecting Nathan Beaulieu from St. John’s. Must be a dream for Quebec kid to be drafted by Les Habitants.

6:20PM: The Capitals just traded their 26th overall selection to Chicago for Troy Brouwer, which is an indication they won’t bring back Brooks Laich.

6:14PM: The Sabres take Finn Joel Armia, their first European to be drafted by the Sabres in five years. They must be really high on this kid.

6:08PM: The NYR select JT Miller. Had to look in the back of the prospects book on this one. Most known for leading USA in scoring at the U-18 tournament.

6:00PM: Well you can cross Jamie Oleksiak off my wish list for me, as the Dallas Stars just took him 14th overall. This guy is absolutely monstrous.

5:50PM: The Calgary Flames select Sven Bartschi, a Swiss kid who came highly recommended from Nino Niederreiter at the import draft. Put this into perspective; Bartschi finished second in WHL scoring behind Nugent-Hopkins. He instantly becomes their best offensive prospect.

5:45PM: Carolina selects Ryan Murphy 11th overall. He’s from the Kitchener Rangers, the same team Jeff Skinner was drafted from last year. Now if they get a rookie season from Murphy like they did Skinner… Hey, we can dream.

5:38PM: Avalanche make their second pick of the night, a little off the board with Duncan Siemens of the Saskatoon Blades.

5:32PM: Hometown Wild select Jonas Brodin at 10th overall. Lot of scouts seem to liken him to Alex Edler, minus the physical play. But that sort of thing can be taught.

5:25PM: Maybe the toughest part of watching the Draft is not only watching Boston come to the podium but come at 8th overall, 21 spots higher than the Canucks, even after winning the Cup. Thanks again Toronto. Oh, and they selected big Dougie Hamilton.

5:17PM: Oh boy, the Flyers might’ve just picked a great centre for the future — Sean Couturier fell a few spots from his original ranking.

5:08PM: The Winnipeg Jets have a raucous crowd and just went a little off the board and selected Mark Scheifele from the Barrie Colts.

4:58PM: Well there goes the streak. Ottawa takes Mika Zibanejad from Djurgardens. This is a big centre who has lots of offensive skill.

4:54PM: I’m still perfect in my mock draft. The New York Islanders took Ryan Strome, who should be an excellent linemate for John Tavares.

4:45PM: New Jersey takes franchise blueliner Adam Larsson at fourth overall. Edmonton, Colorado, and Florida may live to regret this.

4:39PM: Florida does the smart thing and addresses a huge need up front by selecting Jonathan Huberdeau third overall.

4:20PM: Colorado selects Gabriel Landeskog second overall. This guy is going to be very good. Picture a Swedish Brayden Schenn. He will step into the NHL immediately.

4:20PM: There you go. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins goes to the Edmonton Oilers first overall, the highest B.C.-pick in NHL history.

4:20PM: Sounds like another trade; the Ryan Smyth trade saga is over, he’s heading back to Edmonton for Gilbert Brule and a draft pick.

4:17PM: What a terrific tribute to E.J. McGuire, an NHL scouting legend. Many clubs considered McGuire the source for everything regarding NHL draft prospects. Touching stuff.

4:03PM: The NHL Draft is just a couple of minutes away. Can you feel the excitement?! There’s been a trade already and the GMs are talking a ton.

Jun 032010
 

The Canucks next season are going to sporting a new patch on their jerseys. Icethetics reports on the 40 year anniversary logo and I for one don’t mind it. It’s clean, it’s simple, and I actually think it’ll look pretty slick on next year’s jerseys. Speaking of patches, I’ve always wondered why the Flames have to be the only Canadian team to sport a Canadian Flag patch on their jersey. It seems a little unnecessary, but hey, who am I to argue. It’d certainly be cool to get a new Canucks jersey next year from the team store as I’m sure they’ll be selling them with this new 40th Anniversary Crest on the shoulder.

May 012010
 

The clock’s ticking down to game one on the 2010 battle between the Blackhawks and Canucks and while Canucks nation seems a little collectively quiet, this year it’s more anxiety than nervousness present in the air. Everyone knows things are different, it’s just a matter of proving it on the ice. If the result is the same as last year, one could argue that while the Canucks had a record year, they’ve made no progress. With that in mind there are five keys to the Canucks coming out of this series on top.

Luongo vs. Kane
The big story within this series is no doubt the Luongo vs. Kane battle. Kane victimized Luongo last year in that crucial game six for three goals and Luongo faltered in the biggest game of his career. Then came the Olympics and Luongo prevailed. Luongo 1, Kane 1. This is the rubber match. There’s no doubt that Kane is in Luongo’s head. After the Olympics though, there’s no doubt that Luongo is in Kane’s head. However, if you look at the single impact either player can have on the outcome of a game, Luongo is the one with the uphill battle. If Luongo can play like he did in the last two games of the first round, the Canucks will have nothing to worry about with their last line of defense.

Keeping Emotions in Check
It’s simple. The team that can take a punch and walk away is the one that’s going to win this series. The tensions between Kesler and Ladd are no secret. The Canucks haven’t been on particularly friendly terms with Dustin Byfuglien in a while, and Bieksa and Eager haven’t had any sleep overs since their big dance. Bottom line is, these two teams don’t like each other and while we know both teams are going to have no problem getting under each others’ skin, it’s going to be the team that can “be the bigger man” that’s going to walk away the winner, and likely with the man advantage.

Clearing the crease of Byfuglien and that guy named Alberts
Speaking of Byfuglien, it’s no surprise that his name is being brought up. He was a big reason the Blackhawks got to Luongo early and often last year and while he only had one goal against him, his presence in front of the net was his biggest asset to the Blackhawks. The Blackhawks moved Byfuglien up to forward not even a week ago so it’s no surprise that they plan to use that tactic again and if the Canucks have learned anything the four years they’ve had Luongo, it’s that if you clear his crease, he’ll do the rest. Cue Alberts. He was in the doghouse the first two games, rode pine for the next few, but since returning has got his discipline in check. Alberts is a big guy. He’s built like a train and he needs to use that. The Canucks don’t have a Willie Mitchell to patrol the crease and Alberts has to use his size in a disciplined manner to clear the ‘Hawks out of the paint. If he’s going to take a penalty doing it though, he might as well sit on the bench.

Alex Burrows and the X Factors
Burrows was the Canucks leading goal scorer during the regular season with 35 goals and he lead all Canucks in regular season series between the Blackhawks and Canucks with one goal and four assists for five points. He only had one goal in the first round (an empty netter) and he’s going to be a huge part of the Canucks getting through the Blackhawks. The Canucks received surprise help from playoff attendees Demitra and Bernier and if they can continue to contribute key goals to the offense, with the addition of Burrows this team’s depth will finally pay off.

Special Teams
It’s cliche, but special teams wins series. The Canucks would know, it almost lost them the first round. The Blackhawks have a potent offense and their special teams aren’t half bad either. With the return of Campbell to the Blackhawks blue line the Canucks can’t give Chicago’s power play as much time as they did LA’s and they certainly can’t respect the blue line in a similar fashion to last round. The Canucks power play looks to be okay so as long as they can maintain that they should be fine. The biggest loss to the Canucks PK in the first round was Alex Burrows and Ryan Kesler. Two of the Canucks best regular season penalty killers were seemingly absent when down a man and they’re going to have to get back to form and shot blocking soon if they want to see this penalty kill remain successful and continue it’s improvement since game four of the first round.

Apr 302010
 

You can’t wait for Saturday can you. You’re pulling your hair out because you had your whole week planned around a Friday start and then the Habs and Capitals just had to go to seven games and change everything.

Well it’s Friday, and you’re a little over 24 hours away from puck drop of game one between the Canucks and the Blackhawks and you need just a little something to tide you over till tomorrow. Try this trailer. This video says it all. It’s got the best of the first round, the best of the season versus Chicago, and I’d be lying if I said it didn’t get me amped. Saturday can’t come soon enough, and there’s nothing like watching Mitchell absolutely destroy Toews, again and again, to pass some time until tomorrow.

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