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.

Dec 312011
 
Chicago Wolves

Every year when the Canucks’ affiliate comes to town, CHB gets a group together to check out the prospects. Of course for years, we watched the Moose; this year we get our first look at the Chicago Wolves.

When the Wolves come to town in a few weeks to play against the Abbotsford Heat. I want to get a group of people to head out to Abbotsford and watch the Canucks prospects hard at work. When we went last year, the crowd was a solid 50/50 split of Moose and Heat fans. Every time we started a “Go Moose Go” chant it was countered by a “Go Heat Go” chant. The game was a blast – there’s nothing quite the same as watching the prospects give it their all to get noticed by the big team.

The games versus the Canucks’ AHL affiliates are some of the few that the Heat sell out all season – and they’re definitely a good time.

GAME DETAILS

When: Wednesday, January 25th, 2012 (there’s no Canucks game that night) at 7:00 PM
Where: Abbotsford Entertainment and Sports Center
What: Chicago Wolves vs Abbotsford Heat
Tickets: Tickets are $25 each if we get a group of 10 or more people. We’ll be sitting together and making sure that Canucks (Wolves) Nation is well represented at the game.

Last year we carpooled and groups of us headed out. You can drive to Abbotsford on your own, or let us know if you’d like to organize a carpool. If anyone’s up for it, we can also meet up and get together for a group dinner at the restaurant across from the arena.

Are you in? Send me an email at [email protected] and we can reserve a spot for you.

Oct 232011
 
Chicago Wolves GM Wendell Young

Photo credit: Chicago Wolves

The Canucks’ new AHL affiliate, the Chicago Wolves, finally won their first game of the season the other night, a 2-0 shutout of the Rockford IceHogs. To help Canucks fans learn more about the organization from the Chicago suburb of Rosemont, Illinois, we had an opportunity to ask Wolves GM Wendell Young some questions and he obliged:

CHB: You started your NHL career with the Vancouver Canucks and played your last game as a pro with the Chicago Wolves. What were your first thoughts when the Wolves and the Canucks organizations formed this new affiliation?

Wendell Young: I think the Canucks and the Wolves were destined to be together. It is unique that I did start my career drafted by Vancouver. Now I am part of the management affiliated with Vancouver. The two teams are very similar; they both have the same vision of wanting to win.

CHB: Did you always know you were going to pursue a management career in hockey after your playing days were over? What made you pursue this career?

Wendell Young: I really never thought I would be a part of management or coaching until later in my career. I started to realize that I could be a part of management because I love business and I love hockey. So when you combine the two it is a perfect job for me as the general manager. I control a lot of things personnel wise and I also control the business side of things

CHB: For us Canucks fans who are now just starting to learn about the Wolves, tell us a bit about the organization. From everything we’ve heard, ownership and their commitment to winning is top-notch, and the organization itself is often regarded as the gold standard of AHL teams. What is it about the Wolves that separates it from other AHL teams? How do the Wolves separate themselves from Blackhawks?

Wendell Young: First of all, from day one we have been a first-class organization. Owners, Don Levin and Buddy Meyers, made a conscious effort from the start to treat the players with respect and that is the way it has been run from the top down ever since. We are a managerial team in the American Hockey League and that’s how we treat our players. We have a premiere organization, if not the premiere organization, in the American Hockey League. Vancouver is confident that their players and assets are in good hands and are treated properly. We have a tradition of winning and we provide every asset for the players to succeed. From our practice arena, to the coaching staff and the support staff, everything is here for players to get better.

The Wolves are a different organization than Blackhawks. We do not compete against the Blackhawks. Basically, we are different in every aspect, from on the ice to off the ice.

CHB: You’ve won everywhere you’ve been: Memorial Cup as a junior, Calder Cup with the Bears as a player and with the Wolves as a coach, a couple of Stanley Cups with the Penguins, Turner Cup with the Wolves. How do you share your winning attitude, character and experiences with the young players you now manage?

Wendell Young: The big thing with winning cups is that you learn how hard you have to work. We stress hard work here. One key component besides having the talent, which we feel that we do is that the team is very close. We have bonding activities for the players throughout the year. Our core covenant in this is family first. When I say family first I mean personal families as well as wives, girlfriends, moms and dads. We feel we are a family all year and we try to bring our team together.

CHB: I remember reading somewhere that your favorite Family Guy character was Stewie. Why him?

Wendell Young: I like Stewie because he is sarcastic and that is my personality. I get told I am too sarcastic sometimes. He fits my personality, dry humor and sarcasm. Sometimes my sarcasm gets me in trouble.

CHB: The Wolves have had an up-and-down, last four years. Especially with a mostly new group of players and prospects, what are your expectations of this year’s team?

Wendell Young: As every year, the expectations are to win the Calder Cup and to be a championship team. We don’t put a team together to go to the playoffs. Our standards are that we put our team together to win a championship.

CHB: Is there a player (or players) you’d advise Canucks fans to specifically look out for and who may be ready to take their pro careers to the next level?

Wendell Young: We have an abundance of skill here and a lot of players who have potential to play at the next level. I think Adam Polasek’s competitive nature will put him into the National Hockey League. Bill Sweatt has a great chance to continue the progression up. I think the biggest name we have here is Eddie Lack. I think we have one of the best goalies in the American Hockey League. Quite honestly, he might even be better than some of the NHL goalies, he’s that good. So we have a lot of players that I think can really step it up and I think if Vancouver has a need we have their type of players.

Jun 272011
 

Some quick thoughts now that the draft is done, the Moose have moved and free agency being just a few days away.

  • I tried to do a write-up on each of the Canucks draft picks this weekend, but had to abandon for daddy duties. The rest of the Canucks selections were: LW Ludwig Blomstrand (4th round, 120th overall), D Frankie Corrado, (5th round, 150th overall), C Pathrik Westerholm (6th round, 180th overall) and D Henrik Tommernes (7th round, 210th overall). If Mike Gillis had one theme for the weekend, it was to add some size to the organization. All of the draft picks are over 6′ tall.
  • The Canucks made it official today: their new AHL affiliate is the Chicago Wolves.
  • Contrary to reports over the weekend, Kirk Muller will not coach the Wolves. He has been hired as the assistant coach for the Milwaukee Admirals, the Nashville Predators’ AHL affiliate.
  • Don’t be quick to predict a hostile reception for the Canucks prospects in the Windy City. For years, the Wolves have marketed themselves as an alternative to the Blackhawks. In the words of one Chicago website, the Wolves are “a family-friendly franchise that wins consistently and televises all its games.” Of course, this was before the Blackhawks won the Cup and during the time Bill Wirtz refused to show games on local TV. If anything, this exhibits the Wolves and Blackhawks are in reality more in competition against each other.
  • I’ll leave the last word on this subject to Ted Gruber, a blogger for The Instigator, a Chicago Wolves blog: “If the Vancouver Canucks and the Chicago Wolves team up, it would be a great opportunity for all parties involved, and that includes another Calder Cup Championship run. Over the past few years the Canucks have done an incredible job of drafting and picking up prospects. I’m sure the hate for the Canucks franchise would diminish when the Wolves go for another Calder Cup and capture their 3rd Championship. With Don Levin still in charge of the team, he does what’s best for his business, and what the fans want to see and that is winning. Many have doubted the moves of upper management in the past and those moves were positives and helped the franchise grow.”
  • Via Jim Jamieson, Asst. GM Lorne Henning confirmed that Jannik Hansen, Maxim Lapierre and Victor Oreskovich were all given their qualifying offers. No word on whether or not Lee Sweatt and Sergei Shirokov were qualified as well.
  • For what it’s worth, I would have loved to see the Canucks land Troy Brouwer. Delta kid, tough as nails and versatile. The Capitals paid a steep price to get him; to be honest, I’m not sure the Canucks would have been willing to give up more than a second round pick to get him.
  • There are a lot of rumors flying around about the status of UFAs-to-be, Kevin Bieksa and Christian Ehrhoff. Unless something catastrophic happens during the negotiation process, there’s little doubt that Bieksa will get re-signed (at close to Hamhuis’ cap hit). On the other hand, Ehrhoff’s status is fuzzier; a proven offensive defenseman, he will arguably be the top defenseman in a weak free agent market and there will be teams ready to offer double the value of his expiring contract. It used to be a question of whether Ehrhoff would be willing to take a hometown discount for a chance to win with the Canucks. But with the cap being increased by an additional $3.9 million to $63.3 million, some contending teams will have cap space to offer him a contract closer to his market value than the Canucks can.
  • (Update: TSN’s Bob McKenzie just tweeted that Kevin Bieksa has agreed to terms on a new contract. More to come later.)

%d bloggers like this: