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 122014
 
"Let's just get this over with."- A quote from every current Canucks fan. (Photo Credit theglobeandmail.com)

“Let’s just get this over with.”- A quote from every current Canucks fan.
(Photo Credit theglobeandmail.com)

“There’s rock bottom, then 50 feet of crap, then me.” – Rachel Green, Friends

It can’t possibly get worse than this, right?

Just when we thought the Canucks had hit rock bottom – the Heritage Classic loss, the Heritage Classic drama that lead to the Roberto Luongo trade, losing games consistently and in spectacular fashion – they, on Monday night against the New York Islanders, put together one of the worst third period meltdowns in NHL history (with all due respect to the Leafs’ meltdown against the Bruins in Game 7 in last year’s playoffs). Up 3-zip going into the final frame, the Canucks allowed the Islanders to score 6 goals in the first 12 minutes of the third period, and proceeded to lose by a 7-4 score.

The Canucks, only two seasons ago the best team in the NHL, are now so bad they’re setting record lows. And that’s saying something considering how bad they were for the first 30-something years of their existence.

All that said, I refuse to say this is rock bottom. But only because saying so would probably just give the Canucks the opportunity to try and *ahem* top themselves again.

The Playoff Picture

After the Dallas Stars’ win last night, the Canucks are now 6 points back of the Stars for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference, despite having played more games than the teams they’re chasing.

Tonight, they play the Winnipeg Jets, another team ahead of them in the standings, for the third and final time this season. Home ice has been an advantage for both teams in this series; both the Canucks and the Jets split the first 2 games with the home team winning each time.

For what it’s worth, the Jets are the only team with a worse record (1-1-4) than the Canucks since the Olympic break.

The Injured

For the Canucks, Daniel Sedin, Brad Richardson, Mike Santorelli and Andrew Alberts are all still on the mend. Zack Kassian will also miss the game as he serves the final game of his 3-game suspension. Ryan Stanton has missed 3 games, but practiced yesterday; he may be a game-time decision.

For the Jets, Mark Scheifele, Chris Thorburn, John Albert, James Wright and Grant Clitsome are all out with injuries.

Mar 122014
 

Piano_Keys

I’ve always wanted to play the organ at a Vancouver Canucks game.  And when I go to watch the Canucks play at Rogers Arena, I like to take in the sights and sounds of the entire arena experience – and not just the game itself.

As a musician, I pay particular attention to the music:  both from the DJ and from the organ.  And I’ve come up with a medley of songs that I typically hear at Canucks games.

You’ll see it’s a nice mix of hockey standards (chants and cheers) and actual pop songs.

The timing of my O Canada reprise is quite epic. You’ll see what I mean.

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Mar 112014
 

titanic-canucks

Do you have your life vests on, Canucks fans? If not, grab a door floating in the choppy waters and hope for the best! Because the Canucks are sinking.

We’ve known this for a while now, haven’t we? With every trade GM Mike Gillis made in recent years the return seemed to be less and less, at least it seemed to me anyway. It was like, when the Canucks ship started leaking, Gillis started trading giant buckets for teacups. David Booth? Well that didn’t quite go as planned. Keith Ballard? He didn’t get to reach hipcheck greatness because that’s hard to do from the press box. Zack Kassian? Those flashes of potential haven’t sparked into what we were told they would. And then away went our “number one goalie” Cory Schneider. And then away went our old… I mean new number one goalie. And now the sweetest Swedish kid in the league with a smile brighter than the sun is drowning, locked in the third class cabin as the Titanic that is the 2013/2014 Vancouver Canucks goes down.

So let’s first talk about Lack. What angered me the most last night about the Canucks’ third period meltdown is the way a few fans hung the whole thing on the newly-appointed, unexpected starter. And when the attacks were coming from the same people who continuously defended every single goal Roberto Luongo ever let in… well, it’s a miracle I didn’t punch my Twitter timeline in the face. You know why you should have apathy for Lack even more so than you did for Luongo? Because Lack is a rookie. Lack didn’t have a so-called outstanding record on another NHL team before he landed the #1 spot. Lack also isn’t making MILLIONS of dollars. Luongo was making $6.71 million a year. Lack makes $850,000. Also Lu came into Vancouver as the starter. Lack was supposed to be in the clearly defined back-up role this year. Schneider was declared the number one guy last year. Lu was supposed to be traded. Then Gillis traded Schneider and re-crowned Lu, and we all thought we know what was what. Even I accepted what I considered the biggest mistake this franchise had made, and jumped on the Luuuuu bus. Then Gillis gave Luongo to Florida. This isn’t supposed to happen to Eddie Lack yet. So with all due respect, Luongo-mourners, STFU and blame the right person for this mess – Mike Gillis. Not Eddie Lack.

As for John Tortorella, I think we all agree he’s a failed experiment. But I doubt there’s a single thing we can do about it until the season – and playoffs – are lost. Then, just like Rose did to Jack, we can unhinge Torts’ fingers from the reminants of the Canucks and watch him drift to the bottom of the ocean… or into a commentator position for NBC.

Let’s get some things straight, fellow Canucks fans, since we’re going to be treading water with each other for a while – and fighting for space in lifeboats – can you please stop whining that “real fans” don’t “attack” their team. Because, well, it’s not true. The Montreal Canadiens have arguably the most passionate and dedicated fan base in the league and yet, they boo their players on a regular basis. They don’t have to be in a long-term slide, they will boo the Habs after one bad game in a solid season. When things got really rough in the late ‘90s, they stopped buying tickets. Yes, the great Habs, an Original Six franchise, winners of 24 Stanley Cups, had low tickets sales. Canadiens fans expect nothing less than the best.

If fans truly do make a difference in the motivation and playing ability of a team (I don’t think we do, but some of you think it) then complaining and getting angry at your team isn’t a bad thing. In my opinion, if you keep dumping money on them for expensive tickets and merchandise when they drop 7 goals in 1 period, you’re part of the problem.  Why would the Aquilinis change anything if they’re still making giant bank? They won’t. The biggest reason an owner wants to win a Stanley Cup is because it increases sales. So then it makes sense that an owner would feel more pressure to make huge, sweeping changes if the see their revenues decreasing.

And please keep in mind there is a difference between expressing your discontent and giving up all together. I will still watch the Canucks on TV, when I can, without making it the priority it used to be. I will still hope for a miracle. I still want them to win. Most of the angry and vocal fans feel the same way. But we know better than to follow them blindly and sink with the ship. This is not something that can be fixed with hugs, people. The Canucks need an overhaul, not lifeboats.

Mar 112014
 

Canucks GM Mike Gillis and new coach John Tortorella

Photo credit: PNG

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mar 112014
 

It looked for 40 minutes, didn’t it? They had a 3-0 lead entering the third period. I mean, how the hell do they blow a 3-goal lead in the first 3 minutes of the third period?

Read more #TGATT goodness past the jump.

Mar 102014
 

Michael Grabner, New York Islanders

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

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

Strength of Schedule

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

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

Mixed Messages

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

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

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

Market Correction

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

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

Is Sebastian Collberg that good?

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

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

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

Mar 092014
 

The Canucks scored 2 goals in a game AND won?

Read more #TGATT goodness past the jump.

Mar 082014
 

463593867_slide
The line brawl between the Vancouver Canucks and the Calgary Flames that started their last game.
(Photo credit: nhl.com)

After an embarrassing 6-1 loss to the Dallas Stars on Thursday night, the Vancouver Canucks return home for a two-game home-stand. They’ve only been away for a week, but, man, has so much happened since the last time they were in town. It’s hard to believe that the Ryan Kesler trade saga, the Heritage Classic goaltending fiasco, and Roberto Luongo’s subsequent trade to the Florida Panthers at the trade deadline all happened in the last week. Welcome home, boys.

March 8

March 8 is a dark day in Canucks history. Exactly 10 years ago today, in a game against the Colorado Avalanche, Todd Bertuzzi jumped Steve Moore, who then suffered a career-ending injury.

And wouldn’t you know it, but today is also the first meeting between the Canucks and the Calgary Flames since their line brawl on January 18th started the game, and Mt. Tortorella erupted during the first intermission and had to be restrained from entering the Flames’ dressing room. Torts was suspended 15 days by the NHL for his actions.

The Turning Point

The Canucks have won 5 in a row against the Calgary Flames, including all 3 games they’ve played this season.

But truth be told, unlike the Canucks, who are sinking faster than Lindsay Lohan’s once promising career, the Flames are headed in the right direction. Since that January 18th meeting against the Canucks, they’ve won 9 of 15 games. They’ve scored 4 or more goals in 7 of those 15 games, and have allowed 2 goals or less in 8 of them.

On the other hand, the Canucks have won just 3 games since Mt. Torts’ eruption (3-11-1), and have only scored 24 goals in those 15 games.

There were some reports Canucks players, especially the veterans, were upset at Tortorella for his actions that night, and looking at the results since, the question needs to be asked: Has Torts lost the room?

Rock Bottom

As the Canucks struggle to score, of course they also struggle to win. Heading into tonight’s game, the Canucks have scored 148 goals. The fewest number of goals ever scored by a Canucks team in a full season were the 192 scored by the 1989-1999 Canucks. To beat that number, the Canucks need 45 goals in their final 17 games – that’s asking the team to score a 2.64 goals per game pace over the final 17 games of the season when they’ve averaged 1.53 goals per game in the last 17 games they’ve played.

The Struggling

For those keeping track, Captain Henrik Sedin has not scored a goal in his last 22 games and is without a point in his last 11 games. Although he’s injured right now, Daniel Sedin has also not scored in his last 22 games and has just one point in his last 17 games. Alex Burrows has yet to score a goal this season.

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