Mar 112010
 

Edler’s had an off year. There’s no hiding it, in the words of one Todd Bertuzzi – “It is what it is”. For the number of people that have thrown him under the bus, I don’t think a lot of people realize just why he’s having the slump this year. Edler can thank all that he was last year, and all that he’s going to be in the future to one player, Mattias Ohlund.

Ohlund’s departure from the team left a huge hole on the blue line that was bigger than just one player as his influence on Edler is clear this season. Edler’s had to make his way through this season on his own. It’s been an adventure for him, and as a fan you can see him go through the ups and downs as he’s developing as a blue liner. Edler went from having someone to look up to, to being thrust into number three defenseman spot where all of a sudden he’s been expected to use what he learned last year and become the Mattias Ohlund to another “Edler” on the team. You still with me?

Edler’s growing pains won’t be here next season. Once he makes it through this year he’s going to be much better off for it, and one thing that’s certainly helped is the injury situation on the blue line (see there is a silver lining to everything!). The fact that Edler hasn’t been benched (a la Bieksa, after poor play) but in fact seen increased minutes (because of the injuries to Bieksa and Mitchell) has forced him to work through the current situation.

Edler misses Ohlund. It’s plain and simple. What Ohlund did for him is what Tampa Bay hopes Ohlund will do for Victor Hedman. There’s a reason we locked up Edler long term. He’s having a down year, but when Bieksa returns the reduction in playing time and return of a top four blue liner is going to take the pressure of him. That extra insurance of defensive experience on the blue line (did I really just refer to Bieksa as having defensive experience?!) should allow him to settle in and play his game. The stretch drive is his tune up, the playoffs his stomping ground.

Mar 082010
 

I almost spit out my coffee when John Shorthouse referenced Miley Cyrus’ song at the end of the Canucks’ 4-2 win over the Nashville Predators yesterday. Better than daddy Billy Ray’s Achy Breaky Heart, I suppose.

As you all know by now, it was the 9th time this season the Canucks had overcome a 3rd period deficit to come back and win the game – that’s 3 wins more than any other team in the league. While it’s disconcerting that they seem unable to produce the proverbial 60-minute game, it’s also remarkable that they somehow manage to find a win anyway.

Here’s Roberto Luongo (via Gordon McIntyre, Vancouver Province):

“How many times have we come back in the third to win on this road trip?” Roberto Luongo said, including the pre-Olympic stretch as well. “It’s probably four or five.” [It's five].

“If there’s anything positive, it’s that even if we don’t play our best hockey, we can always come back if we just keep battling.”

And coach Alain Vigneault (via Iain MacIntyre, Vancouver Sun):

“You never critique a win,” Vigneault lied. “It was another comeback-from-behind game. We played better in the third, but obviously we had moments in this game where our puck management wasn’t very good and gave them momentum. They played a strong game, but we were down by a goal going into the third and again we found a way to get it done.”

How does this keep happening?

“Our guys have the mentality that they never give up,” Vigneault said. “Conditioning is a huge factor. I think we’re No. 1 in the league now at coming back and this is not an easy league to come back in.”

Yesterday’s win was the Canucks’ 40th win of the season. With 17 games left in the season – and 10 of those games at home – they’re within reach of setting a franchise record for win in a season. (When the Canucks set their current franchise record of 49 wins in the 2006-2007 season, they had 5 wins in the shootout. So far this season, they only have 3.)

Count me among those impressed that the Canucks are even in this position. 12 games into their record 14-game road trip, they’re 7-5 and assured of a .500 record. They still lead the Northwest Division with a game in hand over the surprising Colorado Avalanche, who, incidentally, they play tomorrow night. They’ve done this without two of their top-4 defensemen in Willie Mitchell and Kevin Bieksa for almost a full quarter of the season. In fact, they’re 12-5 since Mitchell suffered a concussion against the Pittsburgh Penguins on January 16, and the Canucks, until the Andrew Alberts acquisition, have had to rely on a combination of Aaron Rome, Nolan Baumgartner and Brad Lukowich as their 3rd defense pairing.

It’s happy times for sure for Canucks fans, and after a month and a half away from GM Place, it’ll be good to see them come home with a modestly successful record. If they get at least 2 more points on this road trip, they would have survived it without giving up any ground to teams like the Predators, Detroit Red Wings and Calgary Flames, all of whom are battling for the final playoff spots. Party time indeed.

Mar 022010
 

Alain Vigneault admitted that waiving Brad Lukowich this morning was a salary cap move. It gives the Canucks some flexibility approaching the trade deadline tomorrow and I’m going to attempt some fuzzy math to show how much flexibility this gives them. (Dangerous, I know, but please do correct me if I’m wrong.)

With Lukowich on the roster, the Canucks were carrying $306,360 in daily salary, about $12,059 more than the maximum allowable $294,300 teams are allowed to carry. Without Lukowich, the Canucks now carry $298,243 in daily salary.

Because Kevin Bieksa is currently on LTIR, the Canucks can technically carry $313,730 in daily salary (the maximum allowable of $294,300 plus Bieksa’s daily salary of $19,430). This leaves the Canucks with about $15,487 in daily cap room. (Well, not really cap room per se, but they can use Bieksa’s LTIR exemption to add $15,487 in daily salary to the roster.) Without moving any other salaries from their current roster, this means that the Canucks can acquire the equivalent of about $2.989 million in annual salary.

The wrinkle to all this is that Bieksa is scheduled to come back in a week or so. When he does, the Canucks will have to comply with the cap. At this point, we have to assume that Willie Mitchell is out for the remainder of the regular season and the Canucks will have to put him on LTIR. (As far as I can tell, Mitchell is on IR right now, not LTIR. Again, please point out if I missed something here.)

Because Mitchell’s daily cap hit ($18,135) is slightly smaller than Bieksa’s, then the LTIR exemption is obviously smaller. Once Mitchell is on LTIR, then the Canucks can only carry $312,435 in daily salary. Using his exemption, the Canucks can add, without moving any other salaries, about $2.739 million in annual salary.

Just some food for thought as the NHL trade deadline approaches and the trade rumors come fast and furious.

Mar 022010
 

Apparently, the Canucks got together in Columbus to watch Team Canada win Olympic Gold against Team USA.

Like countless other Canadians, Alain Vigneault was a nervous wreck.

“Come on, Louie,” the Vancouver Canucks coach said for about the 100th time as overtime started in Sunday’s Olympic final between Canada and the United States.

From about 5,000 kilometres away, Vigneault was doing everything he could to will his goaltender, Roberto Luongo, and the rest of Team Canada to a gold medal.

And like every other Canadian, they celebrated when Sidney Crosby scored the game-winning goal in overtime. Check out the video (original from canucks.com):

Well, at least it looks like everyone celebrated except for Mikael Samuelsson. Suck it Sammy? Play nice, OB, play nice.

Feb 192010
 

Sean and Clayton both mused about Ken Campbell’s piece on The Hockey News about a potential Cody Hodgson-for-Tomas Kaberle swap.

Here’s Sean’s take:

My answer is no. Kaberle is up for a hefty raise this summer and we need those dollars for Kesler and Raymond. Plus I want to see Hodgson get his chance here.

And Clayton’s:

As for the Canucks, they have pieces in their franchise that they can move in order to win now. The Canucks are arguably a top-two defenseman away from being a real contender down the stretch and if it costs them a big piece to do it, it has to be tempting for them.

I agree with Clayton that Kaberle is a tempting piece to acquire, though I wonder about the added value in actually acquiring him. While Kaberle is a legitimate top-pairing defenseman and a player who could play point on the powerplay, remember that the Canucks currently have the 8th best goals against per game and the 5th best powerplay in the league. (They’re also 2nd in number of powerplay goals scored.)

The Canucks would also probably have to part with one of Kevin Bieksa or Alex Edler to acquire Kaberle. Because the Canucks will lose their LTIR cap exception when Bieksa comes back, they’ll have to move some salary to accommodate Kaberle’s. (Incidentally, Dan Murphy tweeted yesterday that Bieksa has started skating.)

It’s true that Kaberle can make an already good Canucks defensive corps even better, but is the upgrade from Bieksa or Edler to Kaberle worth it at the cost of Cody Hodgson?

Dec 302009
 

I know there are hockey gods. Is there a subcommittee of skate gods too? If there is, then what did Kevin Bieksa do to piss them off?

From Iain MacIntyre (Vancouver Sun):

It’s the Canuck luck we’ve come to expect during Vancouver’s futile 40-year quest for a Stanley Cup. On the day the National Hockey League team waived Mathieu Schneider, defenceman Kevin Bieksa suffered a serious skate cut.

(cut)

Bieksa was hurt in the second period Tuesday night as he threw a heavy check along the sideboards on Phoenix Coyote Petr Prucha, whose skate tore into the Canuck’s left leg, just above the ankle.

According to coach Alain Vigneault, the injury will be assessed more today. More to follow.

May 082009
 

The playoffs are all about stats. Whose stats line up better against the opposition determines who everyone thinks is the favourite, so on and so forth. I’m sure Kevin Bieksa doesn’t like stats though. In 18 playoff games with the Canucks he has a whopping 3 points, all assists. The only positive stat is that he’s a +2 so far in this year’s post season. In the regular season he broke the 40 point mark notching 11 goals and 43 points, but as of late all he’s been able to muster is a couple of helpers.

Bieksa’s play as of late has been timid. He’s not playing with that edge and fiest that saw him posterized after a brawl with Ben Eager, and he’s certainly not playing with the offensive prowess he was during the season. Lately it seems like most of his shots are going wide, and the few shots that are on net are either not making it through, or are bad shots to take.

When Gillis kept Bieksa at the deadline choosing to bail on a last minute package deal for Bouwmeester that would have seen “Boom Boom” join ex-Canuck Bryan Allen on the Panthers, he showed that faith in Bieksa because Bieksa is the offensive defenseman this team sorely needs. Salo and Mitchell are a pair of stay at homers and aside from Salo’s game 1 heroics and game winner, most of his points and goals are PP tallies from the point and I wouldn’t consider him an offensive defenseman. Edler, and O’Brien certainly don’t fit the bill, and Vaananen, or Davison will certainly not cure any offensive blue line woes.

Bieksa’s role is expected to be similar to that of Jovanovski’s without the bad penalties of course. He’s expected to be offensively aggresive, while able to maintain his defensive responsibilities and right now he’s dropping the ball. The playoffs are the big dance. It’s where teams are made, where character is shown, and where the big boys come to play. Bieksa’s lack of playoff performance is a little worrying because, well, lets just say I expect Bieksa to score a playoff goal before both Ryan Johnson and Darcy Hordichuk manage to pot one each. Perhaps Bieksa should listen to this blog’s song to get himself a little pumped up. He’s not scoring, he’s not hitting, he’s not doing much of anything at the moment and we need him to be playing a lot better hockey right now. Bieksa has the potential to be a game changer, and with how close this series is, a series changer. We need him now more than ever especially with Salo sidelined and his return game by game still questionable.

Blog Song: Ashes in the Fall – Rage Against the Machine

May 082009
 
May 042009
 

The Vancouver Canucks flew to Chicago this morning; Sami Salo wasn’t on the flight.

The Vancouver Canucks made the trip to the Windy City without defenceman Sami Salo.

He remained in Vancouver for treatment on a lower-body injury suffered in Game 2 of the Canucks’ Western Conference semifinal series versus the Chicago Blackhawks.

Salo came off the ice after he scored the first Vancouver goal in Saturday’s 6-3 loss. Afterward, coach Alain Vigneault would only say that it’s a lower-body injury and that Salo was listed as day-to-day.

If Salo is out for any extended period of time, it’s a tremendous loss to the Canucks. Including Saturday night’s game when he left in the 1st period, the Canucks are 39-18-7 with Salo in the lineup and 10-10-3 without him.

Simply, he’s their best overall defenseman. He plays with Willie Mitchell on the team’s shutdown pairing and he moves the puck better than any Canuck defenseman. He plays on the 1st unit powerplay, and in fact, 14 of his 25 regular season points and all 5 of his goals were on the powerplay; 2 of those goals were game-winners. He has 6 points so far in the playoffs and 4 of them were on the powerplay; he has 3 goals, including 2 on the powerplay and 2 game-winners.

Needless to say, the Canucks will need the rest of the defense to step it up. In all likelihood, Ossi Vaananen will replace Salo in the lineup. Vaananen played some big minutes alongside Kimmo Timonen earlier in the season so he should be able to play Salo’s minutes. (He logged 17:54 minutes of ice-time in game 4 of the St. Louis series.) He’s also a more defensively-minded defenseman which should free up someone like Kevin Bieksa offensively.

Now speaking of Bieksa, I think he needs to step up his game the most. In the regular season, he led the defense with 43 points in 72 games (0.60 points/game). So far, he has 2 assists in 6 playoff games and he plays the second-most powerplay ice-time of all Canucks defensemen (4:00 PP minutes/game). (Alex Edler leads the team averaging 4:01 PP minutes/game). That’s not to say he hasn’t been productive because he’s contributed in other ways, but with Salo out, they need him to start contributing offensively again as well.

May 012009
 

The 10 day break was long and hard for fans and for the players. So much so that Bieksa and Kesler even got into it a little bit in practice. But that’s a good thing. It showed they still had their edge.

First game against the Blackhawks was everything people expected and then some. A rollercoaster of emotion GM Place went from being louder than a jet engine, to being so quiet you could hear mice scurrying around in the rafters. The Canucks didn’t show an abundance of rust, and they didn’t show an a lot of over confidence either. They played 45 minutes in a 60 minute game and one could argue came out on the lucky end of the draw.

In the first period the Canucks rust showed, they were unable to keep pucks in at the blue line, they were messing up routine plays. At the start of the third they let their over confidence show a little, and who better than the Canucks to show you how to blow a 3 goal lead. Hordichuck’s penalty was a bad one, a costly one, and a big turning point in the game.

While the Canucks did surrender 3 unanswered to blow that huge usually-safe-when-other-teams-have-it lead the reassuring thing was that none of the goals Luongo let in were bad. Luongo after letting in only 5 goals in the four games against St. Louis can now say he’s had his bad game. He looked solid despite the lack of game time in the last week and a half and the whole team looked like they used game one as a get-back-in-the-groove-of-things game. They escaped with the win and I’ve never seen Sami Salo so excited in my entire life.

In Game 2 the Canucks are going for a franchise record 6th straight playoff win, they’ve currently tied their franchise record of 5 playoff wins in a row which they accomplished twice during their ’94 cup run, and their 9th win a row including their last three games of the regular season. In that time Luongo is 8-0 with 3 shutouts.

The Canucks and Blackhawks both looked timid in the first game. The Canucks were getting back into things, the Blackhawks were still tired from round one and were struggling to find their game during the first two periods, and both teams were feeling out the refs. I have a feeling Game 2 is going to be faster, fiestier, and even better than the first game. The rust covered confidence the Canucks had in the first game is out the window. They found their legs towards the end of the game and as the game progressed you could tell they were falling into sync with each stride they took. What better matchup to headline Canada’s favourite Saturday past time, Hockey Night in Canada, than showcasing what is now “Canada’s Team”, the Canucks, as they are the last remaining Canadian team in the hunt for Stanley. Canucks and Blackhawks game 2 is going to see a lot more hitting and energy.

Oh yeah, and that Khabibulin guy, still hasn’t beaten us since 1998.

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