Jan 312013
 

Adrian and his bowl cut

Although I haven’t had the pleasure of meeting @AY604 in person yet, we have a connection that extends beyond Twitter.  It turns out that one of Adrian’s good friends played hockey with my cousin Dusty in Japan back in the day.  And thanks to the generosity of both his friend and my cousin, Adrian is the proud owner of some bright red Vaughn goalie pads.  They look pretty darn sweet.

In his words:

Adrian (@AY604) was born on a tiny island in the South Pacific known for its high end, square shaped bottled water or what the locals call ‘tap’. Immigrating to Vancouver and eventually settling in Burnaby at the tender age of 4, Adrian spent his formative years as the only Asian kid in his neighbourhood crying daily over his $5 Chinatown bowl cut. In his spare time, Adrian is a trophy husband and father. His main goal in life is to teach his daughters that a bathroom is not a photo booth. His other interests include gossip, yelling at bad drivers, judging people and Schadenfreude. He sounds like a terrible person. Adrian began supporting the Canucks in 1982 after a chance meeting with Thomas Gradin. That’s 31 years of punches to the gut yet he still bleeds black, yellow, orange, blue, green and sometimes salmon red.

1.       Are you concerned by the Canucks’ poor start to this shortened season?  

I wouldn’t say this is a poor start. It’s not ideal but fortunately the Canucks play in a Division that’s weaker than vending machine coffee. The other four teams in the Northwest aren’t terrible per se but I don’t believe they have the goaltending to win this division. In less than two weeks this team should be 6-3-2 and we can go back to planning the parade. For a team with two key players out with injuries and whose best players haven’t played meaningful hockey for 9 months, a .500 start is to be expected. What concerns me the most is their inability to finish out games and protect a lead. When you’re up 2-0, the mentality should be to bury your opponent not to park the bus.

2.       Do you think Alain Vigneault’s job is in jeopardy?  

If AV’s job is to be witty and self-deprecating during interviews then he should be fine. However, if his job is to find a way to get The Kassassin on the ice in OT or figure out why the power play is staler than riot jokes then I think his gum chewing days could be over.

As former Canuck’s coach Harry Neale once said, “Coaching is about keeping the half of the team that hates you away from the half that’s undecided.” I don’t think the players hate AV but I do think they’ve tuned him out to some extent. All coaches have a best before date and I fear that his is approaching BC Place processed cheese status.

I think he needs a long playoff run to save his job but with that said, the Canucks only last 5 games last year and he was given a contract extension. So what do I know.

3.       What do the Canucks need to do to get back to their winning ways?

Everybody knows the Canucks are notoriously slow starters. They just don’t look sharp right now. The Sedins’ cycle looks like it’s missing a gear, Higgins is skating with cement skates and the top four defensemen have been less than stellar. Dan Hamhuis and Kevin Bieksa look like Div. 6 beer leaguers and I’m one turnover away from calling Alex Edler, “The Baker”. So it’s going to take time for them to all start clicking but unfortunately time is not a luxury in a 48 game season.

I do think that any turnaround starts with figuring out why their special teams are so poor right now. Pundits will say that it’s still early and both the PK and PP are close to last season’s averages which were top 10 in the NHL. To which I say, facts and rational opinions have no place in discussions about the Canucks. My eyes say the PP and PK look terrible and my eyes don’t lie except for that one time in Grade 9 when I thought I could pull off French rolled jeans.

The PP has become too predictable, cycling on the perimeter, passing it around the horn until they find the perfect shot for their defensemen. Teams know what’s coming and seem to shut it down with an aggressive box (that’s what she said). The Canucks need to start getting bodies and pucks to the net. It’s time to stop looking for the pretty goals and get all Zdeno Chara in there, ugly! It may be an overly simplistic solution but sometimes you have to K.I.S.S.!

4.       Will Roberto Luongo get traded?  If so, what’s fair value coming back?

Honestly, I’m of the mind that the Canucks should keep Lu this year. Having a 1 and 1A in a shorten season could prove to be an Ace up their sleeve. No one knows how Schneider will perform in the playoffs after being a Number 1 and all the pressure and work load that goes with it. Having a Luongo safety net if Schneider ever gets anxious about a Barker/Alberts pairing may pay dividends down the stretch.

If Lu is traded, the Canucks need to get back at the very least goal scoring help for the 2nd line and a proven backup now that Eddie Lack is out for six months. I’m sure both of those things are a dime a dozen.

5.       Who is your favourite Canuck?  Least favourite?

I’ve played the position for 30 years, so my favourite Canucks have all been goalies. So currently, I’m a fanboy for Lu and Schneider and before that Kirk McLean. Hell, I even paid actual dollars for a Dan ‘I make grown men cry in their sleep” Cloutier jersey.

Least favourite Canuck? David Booth with a bullet.

6.       Aside from Vancouver, what is your favourite NHL team and why?

In reality I’m a Canucks fan not a National Hockey League fan. In fact I would say I’m way more of Whitecaps and Major League Soccer fan than the NHL. But if I had to follow another team it would be the Montreal Canadiens, an original 6 team with tonnes of history, tradition and one of the best jerseys in all of sports. Also, the crowd shots, zut alors!

Tasting victory

Oct 112012
 

@iam_canuck

On the day that the Vancouver Canucks were supposed to open their 2012-13 regular season in Calgary against the Flames, I check in with another two Canucks fans about their favourite and not-so-favourite players, preferred dinner guests and of course, the lockout.

Crystal (@iam_canuck) was born in Abbotsford, BC, and has hop-skipped around the western provinces (except Alberta) before settling where she currently resides in Winnipeg, MB.  She lives with her parents, sister, and her equally Canucks-crazed brother.  She started watching hockey in February 2010 (during the Vancouver Olympics!), and latched on to the Canucks since she was living in BC at the time.  Her secondary love is basketball and she has played it for longer than she can remember.  She’s living her dream of playing at the university level right now at Providence University College.  While playing ball, she’s studying Communications and Media and hopes to someday work in sports journalism or reporting (she would love to take over Derek Jory’s job).  Her other interests include rockin’ out to country music, hanging out with friends, and watching movies.

Dan (@vancitydan) is currently between professions, and open to new opportunities.  Born in Calgary, he moved to BC before four, and feels homesick without the purple mountains’ majesty about.  Having been schooled mainly in the classroom of life, Dan has worked in a variety of businesses as a manager, and truly enjoys helping people.  A lifelong photographer who went from making his living as one to being part of a team of professionals helping movie makers realize their creative visions.  While he first hit the ice in full Bobby Orr regalia at age four, Dan has been a Canuck fan since three years later, when the team joined the NHL in 1970.  He fully agrees that Dale Tallon got unfairly compared to Perreault, loved how Andre Boudria played, and still cannot fully understand how Vladimir Krutov went from one of the best power forwards in the world to a cautionary tale for overeating in one year.  Vive le Vancouver restaurants!  Currently one part of the team of many fine writers at NucksMisconduct.com.

1. Who is your favourite current Canuck and why?

Crystal:  I have struggled with this question forever.  When people ask me this, I usually rattle off my top 5 or 6, simply because I love them all.  But since I have to narrow it down, I tend to be drawn not only to the best players on the ice, but the guys with awesome personalities off the ice as well.  Having said that, Cory Schneider, Kevin Bieksa and Ryan Kesler are the main guys that spring to my mind.  Watching these guys do interviews are some of the most entertaining, hilarious moments of the season for me.

Dan:  My favourite Canuck is Kevin Bieksa both for his style of play and his talent, and because he’s one of the most community-oriented guys on the team. Plus, come on:  he is obviously one of the funniest and toughest guys on the team, no matter what that punk Vern Fiddler says!

2. Which Canuck would you not miss if he wasn’t on the team? Why?

Crystal:  Dale Weise.  Hands down.  It’s not that I hate the guy; it’s just that I like him the least.  Okay, I kinda hate him.  It’s mainly because back when he had his Twitter (and wasn’t using it wisely), I made a harmless comment about him doing so.  He responded not-so-nicely to me.  Ever since then, I haven’t been so fond of #32.  There’s also the question of production for Weise.  He’s never been a prominent player.  Not even close to prominent actually.  He’s been… present.  That’s all I can say for him.

Dan:  I don’t want to answer that question, as it will make the guy I pick feel bad.  You have Mason Raymond who falls down too much and Keith Ballard who isn’t worth his cap hit.  I do think that Ballard would be better on another team where he would have more opportunity.  So, if I had to answer (and it sounds like I do), I would say Ballard should be traded somewhere where he’d get more ice time.

3. Who would you rather have dinner with: Alain Vigneault or Mike Gillis? Why?

Crystal:  Alain Vigneault.  I want to see if he chews gum throughout dinner as well.  No, seriously I’d like to pick his brain!  Last year the team had a lot of different line combinations (most of which didn’t work), so I want to hear the logic behind that from the man himself!  I also just would like to get to know him.  I feel like we know tons about the players, their families, etc., but AV is kind of in the background.  He’s a really funny guy who I think would be entertaining to talk to!  I also want to find out if he can impersonate Cory Schneider as well as Cory can impersonate him.

Dan:  Alain Vigneault.  Though I would enjoy hearing about the travails of coaching the team, I am almost as interested in hearing about his time as “Bam Bam” as a St Louis Blue.  As well, I want to hear what it’s like to have millions of British Columbians “couch coaching” your every move.

4. What’s your general mood with respect to the NHL lockout?

Crystal:  The regular season is supposed to be starting today, which really made me think (and cry).  I should be donning my jersey, getting super pumped for my Canucks to pummel the Calgary fLames on opening night in their arena.  But I’m not.  Which is sad, because all summer I was literally counting down the days to October 11.  One of the things I hate the most about this situation is the fact that the Canucks were supposed to be coming to Winnipeg on February 9, and my brother and I were going to go.  Now we can’t.  Stupid lockout.

Dan:  A growing indifference, tinged with the realization that I would probably come running back!  The NHL knows they have Canadians in their back pocket.  I do feel that even this Canadian is reaching his breaking point if there is some foolish reason for no season.  Grow up Gary!

5. What’s your prediction of the date of the next NHL regular season game?

Crystal:  Being the positive person I am, I don’t really want to say that I don’t think there will be a season at all this year.  So I won’t.  I’m hoping for a October 25 start, although you and I both know that won’t happen.  At the rate the NHL/NHLPA talks are going, I think the most realistic goal, as the great Wayne Gretzky has already predicted, is for the Winter Classic on January 1.  Until then, I guess I have evenings free to do schoolwork.  Ugh.

Dan:  Late November or early December.  The Winter Classic will be the impetus for a deal.  So, when the Canucks win the Cup next summer, the haters will talk about how it deserves an asterisk.  #EmbraceTheHate!

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.

Jan 122012
 

[Inspired by Arsenio Hall's "Things That Make You Go Hmmm…", Clayton Imoo talks about Canucks-related things that make him go hmmm… You can follow Clay on Twitter at (@canuckclay) or on his website, Clay's Canucks Commentary.]

The Canucks have started the second half of the season by picking up four out of a possible six points in their first three games of a four-game road trip, starting with that memorable tilt against the Boston Bruins last Saturday.  As we look ahead to the team’s five remaining games before the all-star break, here are some Things That Make Me Go Hmmm:

1.  Coach Alain Vigneault’s decisions. Technically, this is a “non-hmmm” instead of a “hmmm” as Alain Vigneault once again has the club near the top of the overall standings (albeit with a few more games played than every other contender… more on that below).  Once in a while, AV will do something that gets us talking and scratching our heads such as starting Schneider over Luongo in Boston, limiting Cody Hodgson’s minutes, or juggling his lines before they seemingly have a chance to gel.  But you simply can’t argue with results.  Since his first season with the Canucks in 2006-2007, Vigneault has amassed a regular-season coaching record of 263-147-44 (through Tuesday night’s win over Tampa Bay) – good for a winning percentage of .628.  Throw in a Jack Adams Award in his first season, and you can legitimately argue that he’s been the Canucks most successful coach.  And to think, he likely wouldn’t be here right now if Luongo didn’t stop Patrick Sharp in overtime in game 7 of last year’s first-round playoff series against the Blackhawks.

2.  The type of team that makes a Stanley Cup Champion. I was intrigued by an interview I heard yesterday on the Team 1040 with Canucks’ GM Mike Gillis.  He mentioned that he has tried to build the Canucks based on the Detroit Red Wings, arguably the most consistent team over the last decade: a fast-skating and highly skilled team that’s hard to play against.  He also alluded to wanting to tinker with the “balance” of the line-up (he was quick to deny saying he wanted the team to be “tougher”).  This got me thinking of what kind of teams actually go on to win the Stanley Cup.  The 2007 Anaheim Ducks were big and bruising.  The 2008 Detroit Red Wings and 2009 Pittsburgh Penguins had line-ups littered with highly-skilled players and with just enough “sandpaper” (think Holmstrom, McCarty, Cooke, Talbot and that goon Malkin who had 51 PIM in the 2009 playoffs).  The 2010 Chicago Blackhawks had both skill and toughness (Byfuglien, Bolland, Eager) and we all know about the 2011 Boston Bruins.  So when Mike Gillis says he’s looking for more balance as opposed to toughness, I think it’s safe to say that he’s looking for toughness.  Our collection of top nine forwards is among the most-skilled in club history, but as a group, do they have enough grit and sandpaper?  Kesler and Burrows certainly play hard and are tough to play against but they certainly don’t strike fear into opponents.  Will Lapierre, Malhotra and Weise as our fourth line be enough?  I don’t think so. Look for Gillis to make move before or at the trading deadline.

3.  Stupefying scheduling. Heading into tonight’s game against the St. Louis Blues, the Canucks are tied with four other teams for most games played at 44.  So while it’s nice to see the team atop the Western Conference standings, one quickly realizes that the team would be anywhere from first to fifth if the top five teams had all played the same number of games up until now.  The discrepancy is magnified even more when comparing the Canucks to the Eastern Conference, as the Rangers are one point ahead but with 4 games in hand and Boston is only two points behind with five games in hand.  It’s not a huge deal as things will obviously even out by the end of the season.  And I know that there are many mitigating factors such as arena availability.  I guess I’m just lazy and find myself reluctantly calculating best and worst case scenarios with respect to the teams chasing the Canucks to get a “more accurate” picture of the standings.  Speaking of evening out, after tonight’s game, the Canucks will have played their sixth game in 11 nights (including three in their last four).  Contrast that to the next two weeks, where the Canucks will play only four games in the next 12 days.  Throw in the all-star break and the Canucks only have five games left in the remaining 19 days in January.

That’s it for this week. Thanks for reading.  I’m still trying to confirm the rumours that Bruins forward Brad Marchand is sporting a new tattoo that says “SUSPENSIAN.”  Hmmm.

Jan 102012
 

After a phone hearing yesterday afternoon, Brendan Shanahan gave Brad Marchand a 5-game suspension for attempting to take out Sami Salo’s knees in Saturday night’s game. Here is his explanation:

Credit to Shanahan: he sent a strong message that these kinds of hits, ones that are predatory in nature and seriously injures another player, have no place in the NHL.

Of course, not everyone sees it that way. While almost everyone associated with the game of hockey applauded the suspension, people in Boston are still insistent that it was legal and that Marchand was protecting himself from big, bad Sami.

On the Bruins’ official website, GM Peter Chiarelli posted a statement:

While we respect the process that the Department of Player Safety took to reach their decision regarding Brad’s hit on Sami Salo, we are very disappointed by their ruling.

“While we understand that the Department of Safety is an evolving entity, it is frustrating that there are clear comparable situations that have not been penalized or sanctioned in the past.

“It is equally disappointing that Brad sought the counsel of the Department this past Fall for an explanation and clarification regarding this type of scenario so as to adjust his game if necessary. He was advised that such an incident was not sanctionable if he was protecting his own safety. Given our feeling that Brad was indeed protecting himself and certainly did not clip the player as he contacted the player nowhere near the knee or quadricep, today’s ruling is not consistent with what the Department of Player Safety communicated to Brad.”

But also, Marchand himself voiced his displeasure, writing on ESPN what he thinks of the officials and their ruling:

OK, the play with Sami Salo. It technically wasn’t a clip. Clipping is when you hit someone at the knees and I did not hit him at the knees. Anyone that has seen the video will see that I hit him in the upper thigh under the buttocks. They can call it a clipping, but they obviously don’t know the rules of hockey. (Emphasis mine.)

Pretty strong words. But wait, there’s more. In the same entry, he tells us what he thinks of Canucks coach Alain Vigneault:

Their coach [Alain Vigneault] came out and said I play to hurt players. He obviously wanted to take a shot at me and stir the pot for the hearing [Monday]. It just shows the class he has or lack thereof.

Because, you know, going after and criticizing the league and another team’s coach shows nothing but pure class.

Listen, I know Marchand is entitled to his own opinion, but in this case, I think it’s probably best he keeps them to himself. One, practically everyone in the hockey world agrees with the suspension and he just keeps looking like an ass by defending it. Two, remember that John Tortorella got fined just a couple of weeks ago for criticizing the officials after the Winter Classic. The CBA between the NHL and NHLPA also has a section dedicated to this sort of thing. The suspension is already going to cost Marchand more than $150,000 in forfeited salary; he should probably just choose to learn from this incident and save himself the fine – and some face – too.

Jan 092012
 

If you want to know where the lack of respect that’s infiltrating the NHL is coming from, look no further than Boston’s frothing-at-the-mouth reaction to Brad Marchand’s submarining of Sami Salo, a dirty, cheap, low hit that knocked Salo out of the lineup with a concussion.

It started with Marchand’s excuse:

The puck was going around the boards and I went to pick it up,” said Marchand. “I was looking over my shoulder and saw Salo coming. I just kind of went down. When you see a guy 6-foot-(3) coming in on you, your instincts are to protect yourself. It was very unfortunate that he was hurt on the play.

And punctuated with his coach, Claude Julien, defending him and then some:

We all have our opinions with what is going on with the game and the hits and everything else,” said Julien. “All I’m gonna tell you is that, I have always told my players that they need to protect themselves. The last thing I want my players to do is to get hit and then end up with a concussion, and they have to protect themselves.

“Whether it’s the right way or the wrong way, it’ll depend on how the league looks at it. But I’d rather have a guy take a two-minute penalty than turn his back to the play, stand up straight, and then get his face knocked into the glass, and be out for the rest of the year with a concussion, or maybe end a career, like Savard.

“In my opinion, if guys start protecting themselves the way Marchand did, maybe guys will stop taking runs at other guys.”

On the one hand, it’s admirable that the Bruins take matter into their own hands. There are many reasons they are the best team in the league and the physical intimidation they bring is just one of them. Julien pretty much admitted in his statement that his team will continue to play the way they do and force the officials to call the penalties if they commit them – nothing wrong with that. (You’ll recall the league chose not to do so in the Finals and it worked beautifully in their favor.)

On the other hand, I shudder at the implication that they think the best way for their players to protect themselves is by taking out another’s knees. There’s a difference between playing hard and hitting dirty. (If you’re not sure, Canucks Army and Pass It To Bulis have excellent articles on this very subject.) To anyone who follows hockey, what Marchand did was indefensible. It’s even more ridiculous – irresponsible even – that someone in Julien’s position would: a) defend such a dangerous hit, and b) even seemingly encourage it.

And you wonder where the lack of respect in the game is coming from.

Canucks GM Mike Gillis correctly calls it “a dirty hit by a dirty player“. Coach Alain Vigneault goes a bit further and calls Julien’s comments “stupid”.

“That’s a stupid comment,” said the Canucks coach. “What Marchand did there, you could end a player’s career doing that and I’ve never seen Sami Salo take a run at any player in the NHL. All I’ve seen Sami Salo do is play with integrity and play the right way.

“Marchand — this is just my feeling on this — some day he’s going to get it. Somebody is going to say enough is enough and they’re going to hurt the kid, because he plays to hurt players and in my mind if the league doesn’t take care of it, somebody else will.

“Sometimes it takes the league time to figure things out and there’s a difference between a good hip check when the player is coming down on you one-on-one with the puck and what we saw Marchand do with his definite attempt to injure. Something needs to happen.”

It was announced yesterday that Marchand has a phone hearing with NHL disciplinarian, Brendan Shanahan. A phone hearing means that if Marchand can face up a suspension of anywhere from 0 to 5 games. How serious – or how dangerous – of an infraction do they believe is it for a player to do something that could have potentially ended another player’s career?

*****

It looks like I’m not the only one who have had just about enough of the over-the-top homerism by the Boston media. If there’s something we’ve learned in the last few months, it’s that perhaps some of them have spent too much time on their knees lapping every word coming from the Bruins’ mouths.

Before the game, Ben Kuzma called out Joe Haggarty for Haggarty’s piece on Roberto Luongo.

Heard Haggarty called Luongo a “coward”. Really? And the #Canucks are arrogant? #giveyourheadashake

Without mentioning names, Ray Ferraro pretty much did the same.

Back in Van after WJC-i see goalies still the talking point. Also see the absurdity that Luongo asked out of Bos gm floated in Bos papers

After the game, Global TV’s Jay Janower was equally incensed.

Was truly embarrassing as a professional to see Boston “media” in action. Cheerleaders with mic’s and note pads. Bring on the suspension..

If you’re wondering where all this is coming from, here are a couple of articles on the game by Boston’s *ahem* professional media.

First is Haggarty’s on Luongo:

Maybe Roberto Luongo should stop wondering why nobody else ever wants to pump his perpetually saggy tires?

The Vancouver Canucks goaltender has once again created a firestorm of criticism by simply doing what everybody predicted “Bobby Lou” would choose in the first place: taking the easy way out.

No matter what the Vancouver coaching staff posited publicly as the reasoning behind it, Luongo opted out of the difficult challenge facing down his demons against the Bruins at TD Garden.

It’s the perfect example of “Bobby Lou just being Bobby Lou.”

With all due respect to Joe, he has absolutely nothing – nada, zilch, zero – to back up his claims in this article. Was it entertaining? Sure, if you consider reading the National Enquirer entertaining. Is it full of stuff that came out of his own ass? Yes.

Next up is this gem by the Boston Globe’s Dan Shaugnessy.

Playing the Vancouver Canucks is like playing a collection of A-Rods or a full squad of Bill Laimbeers. The defending NHL Western Conference champions are a virtual conga line of Claude Lemieuxes and Ulf Samuelssons.

They are posers and floppers, arrogant and cowardly. It’s hard to believe Cam Neely ever wore their sweater. Beating them up is just so much fun, and flipping one of them butt-over-tea kettle sweetens the day.

Never mind the guy they flipped butt-over-tea kettle – incidentally one of the classiest guys in the league – suffered a concussion out of it, and the flip was as illegal and dirty and dangerous as a hit could possibly be, this poor excuse for a writer also thought this was, well, fun and sweet.

Listen, I understand this shit sells. I know we live in a world where Snooki is a celebrity and Toddlers and Tiaras is prominent on The Learning Channel. But, I do expect more of the professional media – for starters, I expect them to be able to look at facts and spew something more intelligent than your regular Internet troll – though, in Boston, maybe that’s expecting too much.

Dec 142011
 

Well someone’s going to get a lump of coal for Christmas.

In case you’ve missed it, Chicago Blackhawks third-line centre Dave Bolland didn’t mince words in a WGN interview on Monday, chastising the Vancouver Canucks and calling out the Sedin twins:

“I hate all of them [the Canucks]… I don’t think we’d let [the Sedins] on our team. And yeah, they probably would still be sisters. I think they might sleep in bunk beds. The older one has the bottom one, the younger one got the top.”

Slow clap, Dave Bolland. Slow clap.

Maybe Dave Bolland played up to the laughter of the crowd during the interview. Maybe he himself embraces being public enemy number one in Vancouver, or maybe he wanted to see if he could get a rise out of some of the Canucks. Either way, Bolland succeeded in ruffling at least a few feathers.

For every fan who has come to appreciate the Sedins, there’s the troll who have followed the “Sedin sister” label, and Bolland’s latest comments allowed those trolls to come out of the woodwork in droves today. Some Canuck “fans” even suggested on the TEAM1040 that they’d rather have Bolland in their lineup than the twins. Bolland’s comments forced both Alain Vigneault and Mike Gillis to jump to the defense of their top players:

“Dave Bolland has an IQ the size of a bird seed and a face only a mother can love.”  – Vigneault

“If someone wants to take a shot at them after all they’ve accomplished, especially over the last three years, it rings hollow in my ears.” – Gillis

Dave Bolland can jab at the Sedins with his Stanley Cup ring all day, but it absolutely astounds me that anyone can actually hate the Sedins.

They’re twin brothers who were drafted into the NHL with the highest of expectations. They were burned at the stake in Vancouver when they didn’t produce in the early days of their careers, to the point where they were this close to going back to Sweden. Not only did they manage to train hard and prove those naysayers wrong, they exceeded our wildest expectations, becoming the first two Canucks to ever win Art Ross trophies (Henrik also won the Hart trophy). Their charitable work in the Vancouver area is also unrivaled; they donated $1.5-million of their own money to the B.C. Children’s Hospital.

If Dave Bolland or any of the Canucks chief rivals can’t (or don’t want to) see just how good the Sedins are on the ice or how genuine they are off of it, it’s probably best to turn the other cheek and ignore it.

The Sedins and the Canucks have never cared about what the media or other teams say about them, and they’re not about to start. They’ve got other, more important things to worry about, like winning the Stanley Cup. That’s the only thing that will shut up every last one of those critics.

Sep 072011
 

As discussed in yesterday’s post, changing a coach at mid-season, rather than in the off-season, seems to have a greater positive impact on team performance.

Examining all the coaching moves since the start of the 2005-06 season reveals some other interesting tidbits:

  1. Only four coaches hired at mid-season led their teams to a worse performance than the coach they replaced:
    • 2009-10 Philadelphia: Peter Laviolette (.535) replaced John Stevens (.540). One could argue these are almost equal results.
    • 2008-09 Tampa Bay: Rick Tocchet (.397 winning percentage) replaced Barry Melrose (.438). Funny how Melrose was ridiculed for his performance returning to the bench, while Rick Tocchet demonstrated himself to be just as incompetent.
    • 2008-09 Montreal: Bob Gainey (.500) replaced Guy Carbonneau (.583)
    • 2005-06 Los Angeles: John Torchetti (.417) replaced Andy Murray (.564)

  2. The best improvement by a coach hired in the off-season:
    • 2009-10 Phoenix: Dave Tippett (+28 points after replacing Wayne Gretzky)
    • 2009-10 Colorado: Joe Sacco (+27 points after replacing Tony Granato)
    • 2010-11 Tampa Bay: Guy Boucher (+23 points after replacing Rick Tocchet)
    • 2007-08 Boston: Claude Julien (+18 points after replacing Dave Lewis). You’re not likely to see any of the four names replaced on this list named as NHL head coaches ever again.

  3. The worst performance by teams after hiring a coach in the off-season:
    • 2008-09 Colorado: Tony Granato (-27 points after replacing Joel Quennville)
    • 2010-11 New Jersey: John Maclean + Jacques Lemaire (-24 points after replacing Jacques Lemaire)
    • 2009-10 Edmonton: Pat Quinn (-23 points after replacing Craig MacTavish)
    • 2006-07 Los Angeles: Marc Crawford (-21 points after replacing Andy Murray + John Torchetti)

One final note – for all the talk that Pat Quinn’s coaching time had passed after that brutal 62-point performance for the Oilers, it’s worth noting Tom Renney led an stronger Edmonton team to exactly the same number of points the following season.

Here now are the coaching rankings for the Western Conference:

 A Grade

Mike Babcock – Detroit
Last Year (A)

The best coach in the game? Probably. The demise of the Red Wings has been increasingly predicted over the last few years, and yet it never seems to actually happen. Credit the coach, who knows exactly the right buttons to push to motivate each player.

Barry Trotz – Nashville
Last Year (B+)

Nashville fell a sniper short of upsetting Vancouver in the second round. That’s not Trotz’s fault, who clearly outcoached Alain Vigneault during the series. He’s among the best in the league.

B+ Grade

Joel Quenneville – Chicago
Last Year (B+)

Getting the Blackhawks – a team gutted by so many moves in the offseason that the players probably needed name tags in training camp – into the playoffs last year was an underrated coaching accomplishment.

Alain Vigneault – Vancouver
Last Year (B-)

You coach a team into the Cup Final you get to move up these rankings. Yet, he still has an inexplicable man-crush on Aaron Rome; has turned once-promising Keith Ballard into an ECHL’er; and is at least partially to blame for the unsportsmanlike attitude that permeates Canuck culture. Last year was likely the pinnacle of Vigneault’s coaching career.

B Grade

Randy Carlyle – Anaheim
Last Year (B)

Carlyle headed into last season at a crossroads, with whispers of his having lost the room heard around the league. Instead, the coach and team rallied to a playoff spot. He did a great job not only integrating Cam Fowler into the lineup, but protecting him and his confidence.

Dave Tippet – Phoenix
Last Year (B)

Performed another coaching miracle getting the Coyotes into the playoffs last year, but faces his greatest challenge trying to do that without Ilya Bryzgalov in 2011-12.

B- Grade

Tom Renney – Edmonton
Last Year (B-)

The Oilers featured stronger systems play and a better dressing room atmosphere last year, but failed to improve in the standings. A terrific coaching “teacher,” at some point Edmonton brass will have to ask themselves if Renney has the chops to take a team far into the playoffs. That’s a question that’s still a few seasons off though.

C+ Grade

Terry Murray – Los Angeles (FIRED WATCH)
Last Year (C+)

Let’s make it two years in a row for Murray to find his name on the “Fired Watch.” Expectations haven’t been this high for the Kings since Gretzky was in town. An adequate bench boss, he hasn’t coached a team out of the first round since the Flyers made the Stanley Cup in 1997.

Todd McLellan – San Jose
Last Year (C)

Won a classic series against the Detroit Red Wings (and coach Mike Babcock) and got his team to the Conference Final for the second year in a row. And yet, he still hasn’t really helped the team shed its underachieving label.

C Grade

Davis Payne – St. Louis (FIRED WATCH)
Last Year (C)

With the Blues expected to rise in the standings this year the heat is on Payne, who is also in the final year of his contract. Injuries crippled the team last year, but St. Louis was also inconsistent and prone to weak first period efforts.

Brent Sutter – Calgary (FIRED WATCH)
Last Year (C)

Still looking for the same success in the NHL that he had coaching junior hockey. He seemed a bit more flexible handling his roster once brother Darryl was out of the mix. Still, with a veteran-laden squad like the Flames, it’s playoffs or bust.

Joe Sacco – Colorado
Last Year (C+)

Sacco, heralded as a great communicator after his first year as coach, had a tough second season. The team looked unprepared at times and Sacco’s seemingly random benching of players was odd (Chris Stewart was a healthy scratch before being dealt).

Scott Arniel – Columbus (FIRED WATCH)
Last Year (C)

You know what the definition of a square-peg and round-hole problem is? Meshing Arniel’s puck possession gameplan with the Blue Jackets roster last year. It didn’t work. The personnel is stronger this year in Columbus, so now it’s up to Arniel to deliver some results.

Glen Gulutzan – Dallas
Last Year (N/A)

Another rookie head coach, this time taking over from “The Hair” (aka Marc Crawford). Despite team assurances, it does look like Gulutzan’s price-tag (ie. cheap) played a part in his being hired over other coaching options (Craig MacTavish, Ken Hitchcock, etc). Gulutzan has had an impressive minor league coaching career, particularly in the ECHL. You know who else had a pretty impressive ECHL coaching career? John Brophy, who’s actually in the ECHL Hall of Fame. Just sayin’…

Mike Yeo – Minnesota
Last Year (N/A)

Yeo takes over from Todd Richards, promising to bring offensive hockey to the Wild. The former Penguins powerplay coach is young (39) and, well, eager, as his visit to Finland to meet with Mikko Koivu can attest. He only has one season of head coaching experience though, and the ditches along the NHL highway are full of wannabe assistants who couldn’t make it as head coaches.

May 312011
 

There has been a lot of chatter the last few weeks about the Vancouver Canucks’ status as “Canada’s Team.”

In particular, there seems to be a palpable desire on the part of some Canuck fans to see the hometown team embraced to the loving bosom of the rest of Canada. To no one’s surprise, this love hasn’t exactly been reciprocated.

A friend with roots to a different Canadian province explained this resistance pretty well. To paraphrase:

“The rest of Canada already looks at Vancouver with resentment. It’s Lotus Land – the land of wealth. It’s beautiful. You guys don’t have any winter. You’re a two-hour flight to Vegas. You just had the Olympics. Work/life balance actually matters here. And yet, now you spoiled douchebags get to have the Stanley Cup too? F-that.”

Even in all the talk about “Canada’s Team,” the consensus seems to be the Canucks are roughly 7-14 days away from enjoying their first Stanley Cup victory.

James Mirtle posted an interesting piece comparing Boston and Vancouver in a number of statistical categories.

To add some “sober second thought” to the local Cup hoopla, and in honour of Vancouver’s 17 years between Cup Final appearances, here are 17 reasons why Boston could win the Stanley Cup.

1. East vs. West Exhibit #1: The last four Eastern teams to win Game Seven in the Conference Final have gone on to win the Stanley Cup. Overall, Conference Final, Game Seven-winning teams are 7-2 in the Cup Final since the East/West format was introduced in 1994.

2. East vs. West Exhibit #2: Since the East/West Conferences were created in 1994, there have been four Stanley Cup Finals with a distance greater than 3000 kilometres between each team. The Eastern Conference Champion has won every Final:

Carolina over Edmonton in 7 (2006)
Tampa Bay over Calgary in 7 (2004)
New Jersey over Anaheim in 7 (2003)
New York over Vancouver in 7 (1994)

According to Google Maps, it is roughly 4028 kilometres between Vancouver and Boston.

3. Groin injuries, which Ryan Kesler is suspected to have, can be tricky to rehabilitate. An injured Kesler is a big break for Boston. Kesler is Vancouver’s most valuable forward. They need him healthy to neutralize David Krejci’s line. Just as importantly, Kesler is expected to win battles against Zdeno Chara in front of the Bruins net on the powerplay.

4. Tim Thomas. To sum: The likely Vezina Trophy winner just posted the best regular season save percentage of all-time. He also called his shot during the Eastern Conference Final, saying Boston would beat Tampa Bay. He backed this up, posting a shutout in Game 7 against the Lightning. Currently his post-season save percentage is higher than Luongo’s. A hot Tim Thomas could really cause Vancouver nightmares.

5. Small Sample Size Exhibit #1: Tim Thomas hasn’t lost to Roberto Luongo since March 27, 2006, when the latter was a Florida Panther. Thomas made 45 saves in a 4-3 shootout loss that night.

6. Small Sample Size Exhibit #2: It’s only three games but under Alain Vigneault Vancouver has never scored more than two goals against Claude Julien’s Bruins:

February 26, 2001: Boston 3, Vancouver 1 (Thomas over Luongo)
February 6, 2010: Vancouver 2, Boston 2 (Vancouver shoot-out victory, Luongo over Tuukka Rask)
October 28, 2008: Boston 1, Vancouver 0 (Oct 28, 2008: Bos 1-0, Thomas over Luongo)

7. Scoring Depth Exhibit #1 Tyler Seguin: There isn’t a bottom-six player on the Canucks who has anywhere close to the offensive talent Seguin has. He’s a game-changer hiding in the weeds of Boston’s third line.

8. Scoring Depth Exhibit #2: If we go by the lineups posted by Matt, the bottom-six for Boston has scored 17 goals in the playoffs. Vancouver’s bottom-six? Just five goals. Boston might not have the Sedins, but their scoring depth (among forwards) trumps Vancouver’s.

9. Don Cherry always says if your team is winning you don’t mess with the lineup or team chemistry. The Canucks are about to do just that by returning Manny Malholtra to action. The romantic notion of Malholtra coming back to make an impact on the Cup Final should be tempered with the fact that he has two goals (for a total of two points) in 24 career playoff games.

10. Boston was the best team at 5-on-5 in the regular season and is the best team at 5-on-5 in the post-season.

11. If you look at the averages and norms of special team play, it is safe to assume Boston’s powerplay percentage (8.2%) will improve at some point.

12. Ghosts of Playoffs Past Exhibit #1: Given Ryan Clowe’s injury, this becomes the first playoff series in which the Canucks’ defense will have to handle a talented power forward. Actually, it should read power forwards, as both Milan Lucic and Nathan Horton will try and disrupt the crease around Roberto Luongo. Zdeno Chara might also get powerplay time in front of the net as well. Let’s not forget how Dustin Byfuglien’s dominance continues to haunt Vancouver fans.

13. Ghosts of Playoffs Past Exhibit #2: The Bruins feature many of the elements that have challenged the Canucks so far in these playoffs. Boston can lock down defensively as well as the Nashville Predators. Like Chicago, the Bruins have a top defensive pair (Zdeno Chara and Dennis Seidenberg) that can play against the Sedins. Like Chicago’s Dave Bolland, Boston’s Brad Marchand is also very skilled at becoming a distraction.

14. All the pressure is on Vancouver. Hard to believe, but a team from Boston is legitimately the underdog.

15. The all-time series is significantly slanted in Boston’s favour – they’re 66-25-17 against the Canucks.

16. When leading after two periods, Boston has yet to lose a game in these playoffs.

17. The Canucks won’t have played for a week since finishing off the Sharks on May 24th. Long layoffs have a tendency of coming back to haunt the teams that earn them. Just ask the Red Wings’ Mike Babcock, who admitted Detroit was rusty at the start of round two against San Jose.

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