Apr 012014
 
With the Canucks outside looking in on the playoff race, there has been plenty of speculation around the Tortorella coaching regime, to add more fuel to the fire, former Canucks' coach Alain Vigneault returns tonight with his post-season bounce New York Rangers. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)

While the Canucks are outside looking in on the playoff race, there has been plenty of scrutiny around the Tortorella coaching regime, to add more controversy, former Canucks’ coach Alain Vigneault returns tonight with his post-season bound New York Rangers.
(Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)

With only 6 games left in the regular season, the likelihood of our Vancouver Canucks making the post-season sits at 0.3%.

If you’re the most optimistic of fans, then yes, absolutely, there’s still a chance at a miracle finish here. But the reality is, the injuries, the inefficiencies on the power play, the inability to protect leads, especially in the third period, everything that has plagued them this year, have caught up, and we’re left to grind about the many questions facing this team the rest of the season, and in all likelihood, the off-season.

With the New York Rangers in town tonight, and coach Alain Vigneault returning to Rogers Arena behind the visitors bench, perhaps one of the most prominent questions is, was AV really the problem?

In Av’s time here, he led the Canucks – with the same core of players as John Tortorella has – to six Division titles, two Presidents Trophies, a Stanley Cup Final appearance, and a 313-170-57 record. Obviously, they struggled in the post-season in his last two seasons – the Los Angeles Kings, who barely clinch the 8th and final playoff berth in the West, beat them in 5 games in 2012, and the San Jose Sharks swept them last season – but hey, at least they made it. I don’t think this was entirely his fault, and in fact, you can argue he got the best of whatever Canucks roster he had – even made them Stanley Cup contenders – and he’s doing the same now with the Rangers, who have much of the same players that Torts had. On the other hand, the Canucks, under Torts, have done worse, much worse, this season. Regardless, the consensus last year was that the Canucks had gone stale and that they needed a new voice.

Was the coaching change the right call? Maybe. Did they hire the right replacement? I don’t know, and maybe, that’s the better question.

Nov 302013
 

john_tortorella.jpg.size.xxlarge.promo

Vancouver Canucks (13-9-5)
New York Rangers (13-13-0)

The Vancouver Canucks and New York Rangers meet for the first of two meetings this season. It’s been 2 years since these two teams faced each other; the Rangers won at Rogers Arena back in October 2011 by a 4-0 score.

After losing 6 of their first 8 games, the Rangers have started to turn things around. They’ve won 3 out of their last 5 games, and 9 of their last 15.

Meanwhile, the Canucks have only won 2 out of their last 5 games, though they did beat the Ottawa Senators convincingly on Thursday by a 5-2 score, with 4 of those goals coming in the second period. It was only the second time in 9 games the Canucks managed to score more than 2 goals in a game.

Today’s most interesting storyline? Canucks coach John Tortorella will return to Madison Square Garden and face the Rangers in his first regular season game since being let go by the Rangers at the end of the 2012-2013 season. The Canucks will face former coach Alain Vigneault, the winningest coach in Canucks history, who was also let go at the end of the 2012-2013 season by the Canucks.

Who’s Hot

Daniel Sedin has 7 points (2 goals and 5 assists) in the last 4 games. He scored his 300th NHL carreer goal on Thursday against the Senators. Henrik Sedin has 5 points (3 goals and 2 assists) in the last 4 games.

Since returning from a concussion, Rick Nash has 3 goals in 6 games, including 1 in each of his last 2 games.

Who’s Out

The Vancouver Canucks are still without foward Jordan Schroeder (sprained ankle).

The New York Rangers are without foward Derek Dorsett (sprained wrist)

Sep 272013
 
Photo credit: cbc.ca

Photo credit: cbc.ca

There was much anticipation for last night’s meeting between the Vancouver Canucks and New York Rangers for one obvious reason: the first showdown between head coaches John Tortorella and Alain Vigneault since taking over as new bench bosses of their respective clubs.

Despite it being a preseason game, there was an undeniable buzz in the city, in the arena, and of course, on Twitter.

Thus, after the Canucks 5-0 win, I put a simple question out to the fans:  “Why is Torts a better coach for the Canucks (right now) than AV?”

A couple of quick notes:

  • I would have asked this question regardless of the result of last night’s game
  • I have respect for Alain Vigneault the person and the coach and certainly for all of his accomplishments.  Having said that, it was obviously time for a change at the end of last year.

So sit back and enjoy your (unedited) submissions in The Top 10 Reasons Why Torts is a Better Coach for the Canucks (Right Now) Than AV:

10. AV was an awesome coach and a great guy but it was time for the #Canucks to get a new perspective & Torts would give them that (@elmeebaterina)

We start off with a nice one from my friend Elmee, who shares my sentiment of AV being a good coach but that it was indeed time for a change.  Great minds think alike!

9.  He lowers amount of money in the budget allotted to purchasing gum. (@CaptToeDrag)

Indeed.  Too bad these savings can`t be added on to the salary cap.

8. because he makes the team play hard for fear of a bag skate the next day and his wrath (@tpoole00)

Fear can be a great motivator.  My wife uses it on me all the time.

7a.  easy. one word. guts…to make decisions, call it like it is, and tell off those who need it. (@brianna2shoes)

7b.  demands results, holds players accountable stars or not. Won’t accept mediocrity. (@codybarendregt)

7c.  canucks had become complacent after the boston game in 2012. Needed a new voice that would push. So far impressed (@drchill49)

7d.  Hands on, straight forward, brutally honest. Opinionated and demanding. A breath of fresh air. (@Showbot)

7e.  passion front line coach. Talks the truth instead of beating around the bush. #shootsfromthehip #pride (@TheGoodGnu)

These 5 responses share similar themes:  the team needed a change and it needed someone who isn’t afraid of speaking his mind.  I believe they got their wish.

6.  with Torts u can see the D-Men actually take care of the zone and let #luongo see the puck.Simple, effective hockey by #Canucks (@sdhaliwa)

5.  agressive forecheck, 3 F below the goalline vs AV 3rd man in slot. Not often canucks should get out manned in puck battles (@PPGoose)

#5 and #6 talk about some of the differences in game play and strategy under Torts.  Will be interesting to see if these trends continue.

4.  because AV can’t grow facial hair. (@TucoSalamanka)

I can relate as it takes me 2 years to grow a beard.  I’m guessing that @TucoSalamanka doesn’t have that problem.

3.  Because he’s Italian and we’re better at everything. (@BrowntoBure)

Never one to shy away from polarizing comments, @BrowntoBure doesn’t disappoint this time around.  I wonder this is related to #4.

2.  Press conferences. Duh. (@SirCanuckles)

Enough said.

1.  “Under Alain Vigneault…Vigneault…Vigneault…Eh, Eh, Eh” doesn’t have quite the same ring to it.

You just knew I was going to work this video in!

 

Jun 072013
 

In the 8th episode of CHB TV, Clay, J.J., Ed, and I drown our sorrows while breaking down the Canucks early exit. We also chat about our thoughts on the coaching situation… well… the fact there isn’t a coach let alone the situation.

I may have also been pretty darn depressed.

Notice – sorry for the Game of Thrones spoilers at the very end!

May 062013
 

Photo credit: Christian Petersen via NHL.com

So the Vancouver Canucks have lost the pivotal game two and the must-win game three.  Looking ahead to a pivotal must-win game four, there are a few Things That Make Me Go Hmmm.

The Goalie Conundrum

Well, wouldn’t you know it?  We’re possibly one game away from the end of the season and the story that became a story at this time last year is still a story.  Whether you agree with management’s (GM and coach) handling of the situation or not, you can’t deny that it’s been the number one story with the team this year.  So much so that people are talking more about the goaltending then they are about the team’s primary reason for being pushed to the brink of elimination: their inability to create enough good scoring chances.

Facing elimination, the Canucks need to start the goaltender that gives the skaters the most confidence that they can win the game.  And without a shadow of a doubt, that goaltender is Roberto Luongo.  He was solid in the first two games of the season before Schneider’s shaky return to the line-up.  Go back to Luongo and hope that the team plays lights-out in front of them.  And who knows, a strong playoff showing (even in defeat) wouldn’t hurt his trade value.  That is, if the Canucks are still trying to trade him.

Flipping the Switch

Many people have asked me over the last week, “What’s wrong with the Canucks?”  After lamenting the team’s scoring woes and my desire to see Keith Ballard in the line-up, I always say that it’s not as simple as just looking at the Vancouver Canucks.  You need to look at the San Jose Sharks as well.

It was ludicrous to think that the Canucks would simply “flip a switch” in the three days between the end of the regular season and the first playoff game and be back to a dominating team that would steamroll the competition.  This logic is mostly flawed because it doesn’t account for the team lining up across from the Canucks.

San Jose is a good team.  They have strong depth at forward, a solid (if non-descript) defense, and a strong goalie.  Also, they are well-coached and have strong special teams.  So Canucks fans can talk about flipping a switch all they want.  Just remember that San Jose has a switch too – and it seems to be working very well.

Staving Off Elimination

Get ready to hear the word “stave” dozens of times over the next couple of days.  While the Canucks look to stave off elimination, I wonder why more people don’t use the word more in every day conversation.  I think it’s a cool word…and it shouldn’t be reserved just for sports playoffs.  After all, there are so many other ways you might use it:

  • I wonder how many ladies I will have to stave off this week.  After all, I’m happily married
  • Will Christy Clark be able to stave off Adrian Dix in this month’s election?
  • How does Keith Ballard manage to stave off thinking of ways to hurt Alain Vigneault?

 

Looking ahead to game four on Tuesday night in San Jose, I simply wasn’t interested in any of the post-game quotes from AV and the players – especially the clichéd ones.  All I care about is the Canucks laying it all out on the ice as they try to stave off elimination.  Then perhaps they’ll have a chance to play in another pivotal must-win game on Thursday night.

Mar 242013
 

Canucks vs Avalanche

Photo credit: canada.com

After the Colorado Avalanche dropped a 5-2 decision to the Dallas Stars yesterday, Avs goaltender Jean-Sebastian Giguere didn’t mince any words:

“We had a big meeting two or three days ago, a players-only meeting. We talked about some stuff and I thought we had a good response against Dallas at home (Wednesday). Then we have a day off, then come back and practice, and I thought our practice was just awful,” Giguere said. “The effort wasn’t there. We practiced defensive zone coverage, and guys weren’t taking the body and swirling and stuff like that. This is the stuff we have to work on every day. I told a couple of the guys that ‘I don’t think we’ll have a good game today.’ It’s unacceptable. It’s an everyday job. You’ve got to work hard every day. You’ve got to be a lot more desperate than that.”

I suppose Giguere’s outburst is a bit understandable. After all, the Avs have lost 5 of their last 6 games and now occupy last place in the Western Conference. Especially after a 20-point improvement between the 2010/2011 and 2011/2012 seasons – they went from 68 to 88 points in 82 games – there was some hope that the Avs could maybe make a push for a playoff spot this season. Now 7 points back of 8th place in the Western Conference and with only 18 games left to play, that hope is slowly fading.

Canucks Record

16-9-6, 38 points (2nd in Northwest Division, 4th in Western Conference)

Who’s Hot

Cory Schneider has started the last 3 Canucks games – all wins – and stopped 85 of the 88 shots he faced (0.966 save percentage). In an afternoon matinee against the defending Stanley Cup champions Los Angeles Kings, who had won 12 of their 17 games before facing the Canucks, Schneider stopped all 20 shots he faced for his second shutout of the season.

Who’s Not

After finally breaking an 0-for-35 slump against the Minnesota Wild last week, the Canucks’ powerplay is mired in another lengthy slump. They haven’t scored in their last 11 man-advantages, including 3 PP opportunities against the Kings yesterday. Perhaps Dimitri Filipovic from Canucks Army described it best:

I don’t want to harp on how dreadful the power play looks, because I realize that it’s missing 2 of its most important pieces. I’ll just mention that the team had 3 opportunities, which only generated 2 scoring chances. Both were for the Kings.

Quickies

  • A personal fave column: Canucks Brunch. (Nucks Misconduct)
  • Still trying to figure out if Tony G. is giving AV a hard time for his lineup decisions or giving him a pass because of all his missing players. (Vancouver Province)
  • For those hoping the Canucks’ offense gets a trade deadline boost, who knows if it they’ll come. (Vancouver Province)
Mar 052013
 

Photo by Jeff Vinnick

I like Keith Ballard.

I liked him with he played in Phoenix.  I liked him when he played in Florida.  And I like him as a Vancouver Canuck.

I was very excited when the Canucks traded for him in late-June 2010.  When the Canucks signed Dan Hamhuis less than a week later, I was over the moon – what an upgrade to our defense!

Unfortunately, Ballard had off-season surgery before he even played his first game in a Vancouver uniform and then he was concussed just four games into the regular season.  Add a sprained MCL and the first benching of his professional career and it was a forgettable 2010-11 season for Ballard despite the team’s success.

Since then, he has been a frequent visitor to coach Alain Vigneault’s doghouse.  Ballard’s most recent stay started on Saturday night when he was replaced in the lineup by Albert Alberts and it continued on Sunday night when Cam Barker took his spot.

So what may have caused his latest benching?  Along with the help of some loyal CHB readers, I present to you The Top 10 Reasons Why Keith Ballard is Back in AV’s Doghouse:

10.  Ballard cut in front of AV in the food lineup at lunch on Saturday.

9.  Ballard signed AV up for a 7 hour time share presentation in exchange for a free T-shirt.  (Submitted by @ECdevoff)

8.  Ballard hid AV’s favourite flavour of gum.  (Submitted by @BCBerrie)

7.  Ballard didn’t work hard enough to maintain or increase his height.  (Submitted by @jedski)

Check out this funny spot with Ali G and Ben Wallace from 2006.

6a.  Ballard ate the last of AV’s favourite lozenge he brought back from his LONG summer vacation.  (Submitted by @s0ya)

6b.  Ballard stole AV`s last pack of lozenges before they got on the plane.  (Submitted by @vansport)

Ah yes – Vigneault’s famous throat lozenges.  The ones he powers through on the bench or in the pre and post game media scrums.

5.  Ballard makes forward passes, and AV wants his d-men to make drop passes instead.  (Submitted by @lo__b)

4.  Ballard didn’t change his last name to Sedin.  (Submitted by @acheung14)

This is a clever reference to Ballard’s classic answer to Canucks TV’s Kathy Anderson question of how to get on to the coach’s good side.  Ballard’s answer: “Good question.  Working on that for 3 years.  Change your last name to Sedin.”

3.   Vigneault is good friends with Tomas Vokoun.

Not Ballard’s finest moment.

2.  Being from Minnesota, Ballard started walking around the dressing room talking like the Caucasian guy with the Jamaican accent in the recent Volkswagen commercial…annoying AV in the process.

1.  He’s Keith Ballard.  (Submitted separately by @SirCanuckles and @transcendwebs)

Mar 042013
 

After dominating the Kings last night, the Canucks play the second of their weekend back-to-back against the Calgary Flames. That is if they ever make it to the arena.

In goal, it’s the Battle of the Backups: Roberto Luongo for the Canucks and Danny Taylor with his first ever home start for the Flames.

As it turns out, it was more fair than we anticipated.

Read more #TGATT goodness past the jump.

Feb 092013
 

Much has been made about the goaltending situation in Vancouver and rightfully so: right now the Canucks have two high-calibre netminders making up arguably the strongest tandem in the league.  So with both Cory Schneider and Robert Luongo playing extremely well, it’s become a daily guessing game as to who will start in the next Canucks game.

Likely tired of these daily questions, coach Alain Vigneault introduced his now famous coin – the one he flips to determine which goalie will get the start.  It was humourous at the start but I hope he won’t be using the same line a few weeks from now.

Thus, your friends at CHB have come up with 10 alternative ways to determine the Canucks’ starting goalie:

10.  Asking the Magic 8-Ball.  It’s helped adults and kids alike make some difficult decisions since 1950, offering profound answers such as: “Concentrate and ask again”, “Very Doubtful”, and “My Sources Say No”.  Obviously, the question must be asked in a yes/no format.

9.  A Game of Laser Tag.  Imagine Luongo and Schneider darting behind walls and jumping over barrels amidst a bunch of screaming 8 year-old kids.  After getting shot at all their lives, they would finally have a chance to do the shooting.  Winner gets the start.

8.  Any Wrestling Gimmick Match.  This would be great way to attract new fans – have Luongo and Schneider participate in any of the following wrestling matches during the warm-up:  Hell in a Cell, Ladder Match, or Last Man Standing.  They should be good with it…they both participated in the Legion of Blog’s NHL Royal Rumble last month.  If that’s too violent or too risky, any game like Advanced Dungeons and Dragons, Settlers of Catan, or Twister will do.

7. Suiting Up.  Whoever gets fully dressed into their equipment and jersey first prior to warm-up gets the start. No questions asked.

6. Heads Up Poker.  Each goalie will receive 50 big blinds and Kesler and Bieksa can provide commentary.  Luongo is the all-in favourite in this competition…but look for Schneider to call AV’s bluff and surprise Luongo with some aggressive pre-flop (or make that no-flop) play.

5. Impressions Contest.  If the poker favours Luongo, then Schneider will definitely have the advantage in an impressions contest.  Remember his Hansen, AV and Burrows on CBC’s After Hours?

 

4. Rock, Paper, Scissors.  Nothing wrong with going to an old standard to determine who’s starting. Two main rules: no adding lizard and/or spock, and it must be best-of-7 to avoid flukes or cheating.

3. Canada Vs. USA (Round 1):  Luongo picks 4 Canadian players while Schnedier picks 4 Americans.  Tug of war at centre ice…winning country has their goalie start.

2. Canada Vs. USA (Round 2):  This doesn’t include an injury risk and is solely based on the economy.  Whichever dollar is stronger on game day means that country’s goalie will be the Canucks’ money in the bank for the game.

1. Walk-Off (Zoolander Style).  This is simple: both Luongo and Schneider need to remove their underwear without taking off any of their goalie equipment.  Given the extreme difficulty of this challenge, AV has the option of granting the winner 3 consecutive starts regardless of performance in the games.  David Bowie optional.

 

Feb 072013
 

You Wanna Go?

This season has had more than it’s fair share of fights. As of February 5, the Vancouver Canucks have had 7 fights. Same with the Habs, but I preface the date because as I’m writing this, they’re about to play the Boston Bruins. Their fight count could be 20 by the end of that game.

A fight gets a crowd going, gets a team going, and fuels a good rivalry, but no one wants a player to sustain serious injury.  Two fights in the last couple of weeks have me going hmmm… because they involve the same team and show the right and wrong sides of fighting in the NHL.

First, we have the right: During a fight between the Philadelphia Flyers’ Max Talbot and the New York Rangers’ Ryan Callahan, all the shirt-tugging, pushing and pulling injured Callahan’s shoulder. Sensing that something was wrong, Talbot stopped and waved over a training, calling for medical help.

Now, the wrong: On Tuesday, the Flyers’ Zack Rinaldo fought the Tampa Bay Lightning’s BJ Crombeen. After Crombeen slipped to the ice, Rinaldo continued to pound him.

Rinaldo is a notorious fighter in the league, but that doesn’t mean he has to be a jerkoff. Would Kevin Bieksa keep throwing punches once a guy is down? I don’t think so.

To me, fighting is part of the game, but what makes it tolerable is the code – the etiquette – and Rinaldo broke it just days after his teammate, Talbot, was a poster child for it. Hmmm… I never thought I would say this but Rinaldo needs to take a lesson from Talbot.

Freaky Friday

Disney came out with a movie in the 1970s called Freaky Friday in a mom and daughter switch bodies. Every time I watch a Vancouver Canucks game this season, I can’t help but wonder if this has happened to Henrik Sedin and Zach Kassian.

First, Zack started scoring goals, and at one point, he was among the league leaders in goals scored. Then, Zack’s leading the Canucks in scoring, and as of today, he’s still tied for 3rd with Henrik in team scoring.

As if that wasn’t weird enough, our demure Swedish Captain is turning into a goon taking roughing penalties and throwing checks like he’s… well, Zack Kassian. The Edmonton Oilers’ Ryan Nugent-Hopkins is actually sidelined – missing the Oilers’ game last night against the Dallas Stars – due to an injury resulting from a Henrik Sedin hit. It’s a total head scratcher. If Henrik drops his gloves next, I may just lose my mind.

The Mysterious Coin

The Canucks announced that Cory Schneider will get the start against the Minnesota Wild. Sure, Roberto Luongo is on a hot streak, but this isn’t about what makes sense. This is about what the coin says. Coach Alain Vigneault once again flipped his coin, and this time it came up Cory.

I am honestly starting to believe that AV soaks his chewing gum in vodka. He’s enjoying this too much, especially considering the media, the fans, and Schneider’s agent are all taking the goalie controversy very seriously.

I want to see this coin. Is it a loonie? A twoonie? A quarter? Does it have pictures of Cory and Bobby Lu on either side? Where does AV keep this coin? Is it always in his pocket? Does he lock it away somewhere with his crystal ball, voodoo dolls and a pack of vodka-infused chewing gun? If the media doesn’t insist on filming a coin toss before the end of the season, they’re not doing their job.

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