Mar 232014
 
Two years after the Canucks traded Cody Hodgson to the Buffalo Sabres in exchange for Zack Kassian , the comparisons remain. Who won the trade?

Two years after the Canucks traded Cody Hodgson to the Buffalo Sabres in exchange for Zack Kassian , the comparisons remain. Who won the trade?

It’s been two years since the Vancouver Canucks traded formerly golden boy, Cody Hodgson, to the Buffalo Sabres for Zack Kassian. And ever since then, we’ve been trying to establish whether or not the trade was a good trade or bad trade.

There have been a ton of articles written about the two and how, statistically, they’ve performed for their new teams. But personally, both are different players – they have different strengths and faults – and I’m not sure how you compare the two.

Hodgson is a 6’0″ smart, playmaking centre; Kassian is a 6’3″ power forward in the making.

Right now, Hodgson is expected to make plays and score on the last place Sabres’ top-six, if not on its top line. With 16 goals and 20 assists this season, averaging 19 minutes of ice-time per game, he’s done that for the most part. However, his -24 rating and soft play without the puck leaves a lot to be desired.

On the other hand, the Canucks’ expectations of Kassian for now are a bit different. Of course they hope he can eventually put up top-six numbers (he has 11 goals and 19 points – both career-bests – so far this season), but, playing on the bottom-six for about 14 minutes a game, GM Mike Gillis and coach John Tortorella first and foremost want him to learn to play more responsibly at both ends of the ice and take the body and provide a physical presence more consistently.

As it stands, analyzing Hodgson’s and Kassian’s points is, excuse the pun, pointless. Hodgson has better numbers, but he’s also been placed in a more offensive role than Kass.

Does this mean that the Sabres won the trade?

For now, the jury is out. In my opinion, it’s too early to tell which team won the trade. Both Hodgson and Kassian seem to address their respective teams’ needs: the Sabres’ need for a scorer and the Canucks’ need for size. At the time, the trade perhaps made sense for both teams, and at least for now, both players are providing what’s been expected of them.

Welcome back, Cody (Part 2)

Kassian scored a goal, but Cody’s Sabres beat the Canucks 5-3 in their last visit to Rogers Arena shortly after the 2012 NHL trade deadline.

Canucks fans don’t like divas, and in his short time here, Hodgson certainly came across as one. Even the vets gave him a hard time about it – remember Luongo playfully advocating for more ice-time and the players taping a “C” on his jersey just a few hours before he was traded. As always, it should be interesting to see the kind of reception he gets from the hometown faithful.

One Up, One Down

The Canucks get Daniel Sedin back from injury. Unfortunately, they’ve lost Alex Burrows again. Too bad too. Burrows had 5 goals in his last 5 games, including a couple of 2-goal games.

Honoring Henrik

Henrik Sedin played his 1,000th NHL game last week. The Canucks will celebrate his milestone tonight.

Oct 182013
 
Photo credit: canucks.com (Getty images)

Photo credit: canucks.com (Getty images)

Roberto Luongo picked up his first shutout of the young NHL season last night in a 3-0 win over the Sabres in Buffalo.  Luongo played a solid game while getting some help from the crossbar and post, and Ryan Stanton in two different situations in the third period.  Regardless, it was great to see Bobby Lu get the goose egg after an uneven start to the year.

While not privy to the post-game congratulatory handshakes and head butts, it’s still fun to imagine what Luongo was saying to his teammates after the game.

So here’s CHB’s Top 10 Things that Luongo Said Upon Completing His Shutout:

HM:  “It’s Buffalo so does it really even count?”  - submitted by @MikeVersace1

HM:  “Ok, which one of you said shutout?  What’s that?  I did get a shutout?  Awesome!”  – submitted by @HabsLions

HM:  “DeSchneid!”  – submitted by @dcrwrites

10:  “Oh yeah!  It’s the mask.”  – submitted by @JDCGA

9:  “Yeah baby! Karma’s a b*tch!”  – submitted by @cefair

8:  “I never let those ones in EITHER!”  – submitted by @bettyhenderson7

7:  “Mr. Hodgson is gonna be maaaaad.”  – submitted by @forevercanuck

6:  “We grounded the Flyers, we rattled the Sabres, now to ice the Penguins.”  – submitted by @tony_p_power

5:  “All those Fantasy poolsters who own me love me tonight!”  – submitted by @DaveLeeSon1

4:  A text to Cory Schneider:  “How many shutouts you got?”  – submitted by @basketballphil

3:  “Let’s get the hell out of this city.”  – submitted by @BrowntoBure

2:  “Cody…Cory…Cody…Cory.  Which one should I call first?”  – submitted by @THECooop

1:  “Good thing Hamhuis wasn’t on the ice in the last minute.”  – submitted by @ScreamHockey

"They didn't think they were going to score, did they?"

“They didn’t think they were going to score, did they?”

Mar 302012
 

When Zack Kassian arrived in Vancouver, one of the first words out of his mouth was the following:

They’ve got a great team here, and I’m just going to try to be a small piece in a big puzzle.

Oh Zack, we all know that’s not going to be possible in this hockey fishbowl.

Since he arrived on the scene, fans have been watching closely, scrutinizing and analyzing every little detail of his game. There have been bright moments, like his first three games as a Canuck, where he combined for 16 hits, a goal, and an assist. His fight with Brad Staubitz against Montreal and his skirmish with Duncan Keith in Chicago also stand out.

There are the naysayers, too. On some nights, Kassian has been stapled to the bench during crucial moments. Part of that has to do with Alain Vigneault’s unwillingness to play young players when the game’s on the line, and part of it has to do with Kassian’s play has been somewhat inconsistent.

On occasion, he has that gusto where he looks like he’ll take a player’s head off. On others, he’s losing puck battles in corners and slower than Steve Bernier.

But perhaps one of the most underrated aspects of Zack Kassian’s game is the intimidation factor he has when he’s on the ice. He has a presence, one which the team cannot say they boasted before.

When Kassian is on the ice, opponents are aware of it. Put together on a line with Mason Raymond and Henrik Sedin, neither player gets bogged down in a post-whistle scrum when Kassian is out there. If either Raymond or Sedin gets shoved around, Kassian enters the scrum and all of a sudden it gets dead quiet. Everyone shuts up and moves along.

That can be a very powerful weapon in the playoffs.

Against Chicago, Kassian challenged every single Blackhawk on the ice, and no one wanted to drop the gloves. That’s the kind of power and intimidation very few teams can buy. Kassian is feared, and in the playoffs, he can provide the kind of spark the Canucks will need when the going gets tough.

So don’t just take notice of what Kassian is doing in the game. Notice his game within the game, because that can be equally important.

Mar 302012
 

[Every week, Clayton Imoo sits down and talks hockey with a CHB follower and fellow fan. If you're interested in being featured in "Shooting from the Hip", send us a tweet at @canuckshockey or @CanuckClay.]

Your favourite “get-to-know-someone” blog is back and on its brand new day of Friday!  I was away in LA last week and earlier this week I severed a tendon in my middle finger of my left hand.  But don’t worry…I’m playing hurt just for you:  the loyal CHB readers.

This week I chat with Arielle Tuliao.  I met Arielle…get this…through the internet.  Our mutual love of music and the Canucks actually brought us together through a mutual friend and the rest, as they say, is history.  We’ve collabed (a fancy word for collaborated) on three songs that you can see on her YouTube channel.

In her own words:

Arielle Tuliao (@ajtuliao) is a local award-winning singer and actress whose humble beginnings include singing along to The Little Mermaid daily as a little girl. After performing and competing all through high school, including a trip to Toronto for Canadian Idol, she took a break to focus on acting. She is a graduate of Vancouver Film School’s Acting for Film and Television program, which also included a Singing course to satiate her musical needs.

Her love for the Canucks is just as strong as her love for performing; in fact, she hopes to one day sing the national anthems at a home game… preferably when Buffalo or Pittsburgh is in town. She is currently pursuing a career in Film and Television, while filming covers and vlogs for her “2012 YOUTUBE PROJECT” which can be found here.

1. I was blessed to be part of your recent YouTube Project where you sang a month of Disney songs.  Where did your love for Disney and in particular Disney princesses come from?

As a kid I was never interested in anything but cartoons, and I fortuitously grew up during the Disney Renaissance. When other kids and teens were watching Star Wars or E.T., I was (I hate to admit) repeatedly watching The Little Mermaid, Aladdin, and Pocahontas. If it wasn’t a cartoon, I wasn’t interested. It was impossible for me not to fall in love with Disney.

My love for Disney Princesses actually surfaced a few years ago when Disney introduced their Disney Princess line. Little girls grow up with a favourite princess; I never had to pick one because I shared my name with one. However, at Christmastime when the Disney store had their beautiful display set up, my cousins and I bought dolls for each other. It’s become a tradition ever since. That is really what sparked my love for Disney Princesses.

2. Talk about your inspiration for your “Dear Cody” hit on YouTube.  How long have you liked him?  What were your emotions when he was traded?  Do you still follow him now that he’s on the Sabres?

On February 17, the Vancouver Canucks tweeted “Tomorrow, Cody Hodgson is celebrating a birthday… if you were to give Cody a gift, what would you give him?” and just for fun, I tweeted, “I would write him a country song, and call it ‘Dear Cody’.” It was just a joke… until I realized I could actually do it. Next thing I knew I was playing chords and singing lyrics while thinking, “Don’t be a puckbunny. Don’t be a puckbunny.” Nothing about the final result is edited, really. What I sang in that moment of inspiration is what stuck; the song practically wrote itself.

Now, define ‘like,’ as I must insist that I am not an obsessive CoHo fan who makes gifs of him while professing eternal adoration to a guy I don’t even know. I’m not like that. Then again, I did write a song for the guy.

I’ve always known about him, in this town it was impossible not to, but I began to notice him last season during the playoffs. I was always impressed with his play; he was fast, skilled, and most importantly, smart. When he made the team, I remember saying to myself, “Good for him.” He never really stood out for me at that time, but when he was on the ice I never fretted. In my head, I already knew he was good, and that he was going to be great.

Then one day I was contemplating buying a jersey with my favourite player’s name on the back; that’s when I realized Cody had actually tied Kesler in my books. Then I really started watching him. Coincidentally enough, that was his fantastic January. I will never, ever forget his goal against Boston. Whaddabeauty.

As for ‘liking’ him, I suppose it was all the interviews. (My goodness I hope he never reads this) I don’t know if anyone else thinks so, but Cody has a fantastic smile. Behind that smile is a really cool, calm, down-to-earth young man who seems very responsible and very levelheaded. He isn’t trying to be anything he’s not, and I really admire that, especially since he’s still so young. I just think I would enjoy his company; not because he’s going to be a superstar, but because he seems like a genuinely good person.

When he was traded, I was distraught, shocked, and appalled, just like every other Canuck fan. I had just come back to work from a fantastic audition when my friend tweeted me “I’m sorry about Cody.” I actually replied with, “What do you mean?” because I had completely forgotten about the trade deadline, as nothing had happened until that moment. Listening to Team1040 helped a lot, plus the fact that I trust Gillis to make the right decisions for the team. He hasn’t to let me down, and so far I’ve yet to find reason to distrust him in regards to the trade.

Now that Cody’s in Buffalo, I pay a bit more attention to the Sabres news. Who am I kidding, I pay a LOT more attention. I’ve always been a big fan of Miller, and Ehrhoff is over there as well (though out indefinitely – get well soon Ehrhoff!), plus they’re playing fantastically and kicked Washington’s butt, so why not, right? To be honest, though, I don’t think I’d be paying as much attention as I am had it not been for the positive responses from Buffalo fans on my “Dear Cody” video. One of them even made me a t-shirt design based on something I said in a follow-up video, which I fully intend on having printed.

3. Are you ok with the way the Canucks have been winning recently (extremely low scoring games that aren’t the most exciting contests)?  Do you anticipate them to continue playing this way into the playoffs?

I can’t say I’m particularly happy with the way we’ve been winning, but a win is a win. I’d rather us go into the playoffs winning than losing. Yes, they’ve been low scoring; yes, they’ve been pretty dull; but sometimes I feel that we as an audience forget that it’s a game, not a reality TV show. If we’re winning, I won’t complain about how it gets done as long as we play the whole 60 minutes (or more, if need be). Thank God for Bobby Lou and Schneider, though.

Now let’s be honest. Last regular season was all business, and this regular season was “get to the playoffs”. This team has been waiting for the playoffs all season; you could feel it since Game 1. When it starts in two weeks, I think the boys will up their game. I have this strange feeling that their motto this year, whether or not they say it aloud, will not be, “One Game At A Time;” it’ll be, “Win.”

4. Just over a week away from the end of the regular season, who do you think the Canucks’ first round opponent will be?  Do you think this year’s team has the potential to win the Stanley Cup?

I honestly don’t know who it will be. The Pacific Division Battle is so tight, and the hate for the Canucks is so high, that I’m sure whoever it will be will come at us like a full-speed train.

First, will it be the Kings? I know we split the series 2-2, but had Lou not been fantastic on Monday night, the series could very well have been 3-1 Kings. Or perhaps the Sharks, you know, the team the stanchion beat during the Western Conference Finals? I can see their mouths watering for a rematch from miles away. Or will it be the Coyotes, the team we always seem to underestimate? With no shootout in the playoffs, we might get exhausted from all the overtimes and it might just work against us if we go for a long run. And let’s not forget Dallas. If we have to play Dallas 10 times in two months, I think I’ll go insane.

In regards to predicting a Stanley Cup win, I take a very Don Taylor-like approach. I won’t do it for fear of disappointment. Yes, we do have the potential to win the Stanley Cup, but so does Detroit, Pittsburgh, and New York. Nashville. Buffalo. Take your pick! It’ll be A LOT tougher than it was last year; the distribution of skill and talent is better throughout the NHL. If we’re going to win, the Canucks will have to step up to the plate, dominate the powerplay, and command that scoreboard. They have to play like they’re the best team in the league, because they are, and they have to remember that being the best doesn’t mean you can sit back – it means working even harder to stay there.

Also, just as an idea, maybe play both Lu and Schneids? Interchangeably? I know, it’s crazy, but can you imagine how that will play with our opponents heads? You go into a series picking weak spots on one goalie, not two. Moreover, Lou and Schneids are a team within a team – they make each other better. Just sayin’.

5. Why should people follow you on Twitter?  What can new followers expect?

You know, I don’t know why people follow me on Twitter, but if you’d like to, feel free to. However, new followers, I must insist that you tweet me, because I love having conversations with my followers.

I usually tweet about my acting career, my 2012 YouTube project, quotes on life, things I love about Vancouver, and the ridiculousness of my fabulous friends and family… but starting April, it’ll probably change to hockey, hockey, and more hockey. I also love tease-tweeting Derek Jory while he’s livetweeting the games, so you’ll see a lot of that banter too.

Thanks for reading everyone! See you during the playoffs!

Mar 062012
 

[Every week, Clayton Imoo sits down and talks hockey with a CHB follower and fellow fan. If you're interested in being featured in "Shooting from the Hip", send us a tweet at @canuckshockey or @CanuckClay.]

In their own words:

@BrowntoBure is Dave Wells (@davewells13) and Ricky Sangha (@van_city_nucks).  Dave was born in Vancouver and now lives in North Delta with his girlfriend and cat that likes to knock everything in the apartment on the floor while he’s at work.  Dave went to North Delta Senior Secondary School (sometimes) and currently works at a coffee roasting plant, although he hates the taste of coffee.  He is a huge sports fan and always has been, even going back to his childhood where he would stage elaborate baseball games by himself in the backyard or hockey games in the garage for hours on end.  Dave has been a fan of the Canucks for as long as he can remember and is extremely passionate about his team, almost to a fault.

Ricky Sangha was born in Vancouver but has lived the majority of his life in suburban Vancouver in North Delta and Surrey.  He went to school at Seaquam Secondary in North Delta, and studied Communications at Kwantlen College after high school. Afterwards, he attended Columbia Academy in Vancouver and studied Radio Broadcasting/Journalism.  Nowadays, he works on the sales team at the local Home Depot, helping customers and completing orders.  Ricky has been a Canucks fan since the Spring of 1993, when Pavel Bure mania was at its climax.  His girlfriend of 5 years, Rita, is also an avid Vancouver Canucks fan, and other than his team, he spends any free moment he has with her, and he has a Chocolate Lab named Gurly.

This picture was taken on June 15th 2011.  Hence the awesome playoff beards.  As you may have noticed we’re both smiling still and Dave isn’t in tears being kicked out of the bar yet, which means this took place before the game started.  Dave’s best quality is probably his sense of humour and his ability to find something funny in almost any situation.  It’s definitely something he tries to bring to the blog and twitter.  Check out the BrowntoBure website here.

1.  I have a pretty good idea of where the Twitter handle of @BrowntoBure comes from, but please describe where you were when you saw the iconic pass and why you decided it would be a good Twitter handle?

@BrowntoBure obviously refers to “the pass” Probably the most significant play in Canucks history.  Double overtime, game 7, Round 1 against Calgary.  Defenseman Jeff Brown hit Pavel Bure with a stretch pass right up the middle springing Bure on a breakaway… which he obviously potted. (There was never a doubt.)  I definitely would have been watching with my dad, as that was basically a ritual.  When I got older watching the game with my dad turned into watching the game with my dad and critiquing everything that took place.  So I guess that probably has a lot to do with how this blog got started.  I was only 7 years old at the time so for me this was probably my first significant memory that I have that relates to being a Canucks fan.  Being that anyone who likes to call themselves a Canucks fan knows this little piece of history, it seemed like the perfect choice.

2.  We witnessed the latest episode of The Sweet Life of Zack (Kassian) and Cody (Hodgson) just this past Saturday night.  What were your initial thoughts on this specific trade?  What were your impressions from the game Saturday night?  And what do you expect from both players going forward?

I honestly remember going into the deadline thinking that Cory Schneider had a better chance of getting traded than Hodgson and I didn’t think there was any chance of Schneider being moved…  So to say I was shocked would be an understatement.  It was actually a kind of surreal feeling because I remember pacing around the radio all day at work thinking, “If Pahlsson is the only pick up, we’re screwed.”  You get what you wish for, I guess.

I was a huge fan of Cody and was pretty choked when it all went down, but after seeing Kassian over the last week, I can see the potential this kid has and it gets me very excited for what’s to come in the future.  There is no doubt in my mind that Hodgson will go on to Captain the Sabres and have a very successful career, it’s a shame that we had to give him up but I think myself and a lot of fans are pretty aware of the fact that it simply was not meant to be in the long run.  There’s too much depth in this organization at centre and he was never going to get the amount of ice time necessary to perform to his full potential.

I love what I see from “the Kassassin” so far.  Sure it’s a short sample size but all the tools appear to be there and the thought of once again having a dominating power forward, in which we haven’t had since Bertuzzi left has me pumped.  As for the game against Buffalo, there’s not much you can say about that disaster.  It was once again a cased of the Canucks coming out in the first period and not being ready to play.  This time however, unlike the last 4 months of the season Luongo was unable to hold the fort until the team found their legs.  Predictably and very annoyingly all of the Lu haters came out of the wood work right on cue.  I’ve always been a huge supporter of his and consider us very lucky to have such a world class goalie, especially after all the years of inept goaltending we had to suffer through.  The treatment he gets in this market makes me absolutely sick.

3.  Related to that, do you think the Canucks did enough at the trade deadline?  Short of Jeff Brown and Pavel Bure coming out of retirement, what would you have liked to see happen?

I think Gillis did quite well giving the amount of cap room he had to work with.  I would’ve liked to see another top 5 defenseman but realistically there just weren’t that many out there.  As any who follows me knows I have a pretty big hate on for Mason Raymond, which goes back to his rookie season.  There are just so many aspects of his game that drive me absolutely crazy.  From the falling down, to the turnovers, the off target shots, the lack of toughness.  Honestly I could go on all day, so I was pretty disappointed when he somehow survived yet another deadline day.  I guess nobody wanted him or the organization sees something in him.  I’m still trying to figure out what that is and I hope he does too or he’s going stick out like a sore thumb yet again in the playoffs.

4.  Look into your crystal ball and predict a couple of things for us:  the first-round opponent of the Canucks in the playoffs, and the forward lines and d-pairings we’ll see to start the post-season.

Rather than do the typical Canucks fan thing and go through the list of teams I don’t want to meet, basically the whole conference I’m going to go to other way with this.  As much as it pains me to say this, because I hate this team with a passion and love seeing them fail season after season, I would absolutely love to see Calgary grab the 8th seed in the playoffs.  With a Western Conference that is going to be an absolute war just to get out of it, the lack of travel would go along way to help the Canucks on their run.  If it sounds like I’m overlooking Calgary here, it’s because I am.  Let’s face it, they’re terrible and there would be nothing better to see the joy of getting into the playoffs again greeted with a swift backhand from Canucks Nation as they are swept aside.

The lineup that I would love to see the Canucks go with to start the playoffs would looks something like:

-Daniel-Hank-Burrows
-Booth-Kesler-Higgins
-Hansen-Pahlsson-Kassian
-Malhotra-Lapierre-Bitz/Reinprecht

-Hamhuis-Bieksa
-Edler-Salo
-Tanev-Ballard

Yes, Raymond was left out on purpose.

I still feel like Ballard gets the short end of the stick from A.V a lot of the time and can be a very effective player when he’s in the line-up and not having to worry about every single mistake costing him his spot.  I also really liked what I saw from Tanev and Ballard as a pair last year so I’d love to see them recapture some of that magic.  Assuming Ballard is “healthy” by then.

5.  Why should people follow you on Twitter?  What can new followers expect?

Both of us seem to follow the Don Cherry school of thought of not caring what people think about what we have to say.  You’re going to get our opinion and we stick to it.  One thing that drives me crazy when trying to communicate with other people on Twitter is when you branch out and comment on something or ask them a question and they don’t respond.  So I go out of my way to make sure I respond to every single comment I get.  There aren’t many so it’s really not as difficult as one would think.  I tend to give my opinion on everything and am quite blunt about it, I also like to point out many of the humorous things that take place over the course of a game to make the experience a little more enjoyable. Which comes in handy for keeping you awake when the Canucks are playing the St.Louis Blues or Phoenix Coyotes.  We also both have personal accounts where we talk about things other than hockey, and are a little more crude… if you’re into that.

Mar 012012
 

[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.]

Did something exciting happen on Monday?  I’m not going to analyze the trades from earlier this week as my esteemed colleagues at CHB have done a great job of that already.  Instead, I’m going to look at a few other Things That Make You Go Hmmm:

Vancouver Canucks

1.  Will you be Seeking Stanley…six weeks early? Yesterday, Chris and I represented CHB at the media launch for Seeking Stanley, the Saturday evening hockey show on CBC hosted by Shane Foxman and Karin Larsen.  We had a great time meeting other media folk and meeting Shane, Karin and other CBC on-air personalities (I really enjoyed chatting with Gloria Macarenko as well…she is both lovely and personable…but I digress).  More importantly, we got to learn a bit about the CBC’s plans and high hopes for Seeking Stanley after a successful debut for the show during last year’s memorable Canucks playoff run.

Seeking Stanley promises to be Canucks-centric and will start airing this Saturday already and will be on for the remainder of the season from 10:30pm – 11:00pm PST.  With the Canucks playing on six consecutive Saturdays until the end of the season, viewers can look forward to a plethora of post-game coverage, analysis and interviews.

We appreciated the opportunity to hang out in the studio over-looking the corner of Hamilton and Georgia.  In fact, some of the most interesting stories were Shane Foxman’s recollections of the riots of June 15, 2011 as they had a perfect (yet dangerous) view of everything happening in front of Canada Post.  Some other highlights:  the free t-shirts, meeting other writers, my argyle sweater getting a bit of play on Twitter, and the delicious sliders.  At the end, your favourite Canucks blog was the only ones left standing as we shut the place down.  Coincidentally, it was about the same time that the food ran out.

Seeking Stanley has a beauty as their first game this Saturday:  it’s the long-awaited (haha) return of Cody Hodgson, Christian Ehrhoff and the underachieving Buffalo Sabres.

2. Showdown for first overall…with the Blues? Last week I wrote about the great anticipation for the Canucks-Red Wings tilt – one that saw the Canucks snap Detroit’s impressive 23-game home winning streak. Since then, the Canucks have leap-frogged the Red Wings in the standings. Meanwhile, another team has caught up to Detroit as well.

Thus, tonight’s game between Vancouver and St. Louis is for first overall in the league. The Blues have quietly put together a remarkable season under coach Ken Hitchcock. They have the second-best home record in the entire NHL (26-4-4, just behind Detroit) and they have the stingiest defence, allowing a mere 1.91 goals per game. They are getting decent offensive production from David Backes, TJ Oshie, and young defencemen Alex Pietrangelo and Kevin Shattenkirk. Also, David Perron is having a strong season (with 13 points in his last 13 games) after missing the first two months with post-concussion syndrome. The goaltending has been stellar, with the tandem of Brian Elliot and Jaroslav Halak rivaling other combos in the league, including the one here. After a few years of being a good but not great team, the Blues have matured into arguably the hardest team to play against in the NHL. They lead the season series with the Canucks two games to one heading into tonight’s game.

3.  A chance at immortality…at least for a few years. When I first joined CHB at the tail end of last season, the tagline on our website was: “We’ll be nice to Kevin Bieksa, we promise”.  Bieksa’s emergence as a top-two d-man coupled with the potential in Cody Hodgson led to the change to: “The Cody Hodgson Era Begins”.

Well, the Hodgson era (here at least) was a short one.  So now, we’re looking for a new tagline. 

Per Chris’ post yesterday, we’re giving you a chance to offer suggestions.  If we end up picking yours, you will win a $25 gift certificate to the Donnelly Group.  More importantly, you will know that your contribution will be viewed by the thousands…or at least hundreds…of CHB visitors every single day.

Think you have what it takes?  Then see all of the details here.

Thanks for reading.  I’ll be at Rogers Arena for both tonight’s game against St. Louis and Saturday’s game against Buffalo.  Send me a tweet if you’re there too and maybe we’ll pass each other in the concourse.  Or at least we can pretend we did.

Feb 292012
 

Wow. It’s still hard to believe that the Canucks have traded away Richard Loat’s favourite player, Cody Hodgson.

And like much of the intertwined web of social media, we here at Canucks Hockey Blog have also seen ourselves transition through the five stages of grief over the deal:

  • Shock – What do you mean he was traded?
  • Denial – Liars! Until Bob McKenzie says so, Cody is still a Canuck!
  • Anger – Damn that Bob McKenzie for saying Cody is a Sabre.
  • Depression – Cody was the next Linden.
  • Acceptance – Well, he’s gone. Guess we have to change our blog’s tag line.

That’s right. Canucks Hockey Blog needs a new tag line and while my early suggestion of changing it to “the cody hodgson era begins ended” was vetoed by those with a heart, we all agreed that we would reach out to our faithful readers to come up with our next one.

Here’s how you tell us:

  1. Enter your tagline via the comments section on this post. (Make sure you enter your email address when you log-in so we can contact you if you win.)
  2. If you choose to enter your tagline via Twitter, make sure to add the hashtag #chbtagline so we can find it.

Enter as many suggestions as you want, but please keep it PG-rated.

You have until 11:59 PM on Saturday, March 3rd to come up with the greatest tagline of all time.

Should yours be chosen by the crack team of judges (also known as the CHB crew), you’ll be the proud owner of a $25 gift certificate to any Donnelly Group establishment donated by our friends at the Rosedale on Robson.

Think you have what it takes?

[update: 03/04/2012, 4:30 PM]

And the winner is… @dan_santorelli for his suggestion of “It is what it is.”

Thanks to everyone for joining and thanks to our good friends at Rosedale on Robson for donating the $25 gift card to any Donnelly Group establishment.

Feb 282012
 

[Every week Caylie King reviews the Canucks week that was and previews the Canucks week ahead. You can follow Caylie on Twitter (@CayKing).]

The Canucks end a 6-game road trip in Phoenix tonight and then head back home for a 7-game home-stand. This isn’t the same team we saw a few days ago in Dallas. With the addition of Zack Kassian, the Canucks addressed their need for a big, physical bottom six forward. Unfortunately, the Cody Hodgson era is over here in Vancouver, but veteran center and Stanley Cup winner Sami Pahlsson will slot into the lineup and help in a defensive shutdown role.

Hopefully Canucks fans can put aside their emotional attachment to Cody and give Kassian and Pahlsson the chance to blossom here in Vancouver. Remember, Kassian is not here to replace Cody. He is here to address the need for size, grit and toughness. He has the potential to fit nicely into this lineup and prove that he belongs in this league.

Canucks Record

63 GP, 40-16-7, 87 points (1st in Northwest Division, 1st in Western Conference)

Who’s Next

Tuesday, February 28, 2012 vs. Phoenix Coyotes (6:00 PM start, away)

The Coyotes have been one of the hottest teams in the league recently; they have had a remarkable February so far, going 10-0-1 in their 11 games. They currently lead the Pacific Division and sit in 3rd place in the Western Conference.

This will be the 3rd meeting between the two teams. The Canucks have won both previous games by a combined score of 6-1. In the season series, Ryan Kesler leads all skaters with 3 points (1G-2A) and a plus-3 rating; Keith Yandle has been the only Coyote to score a goal against the Canucks so far this season.

Ray Whitney, who may be small in stature but plays big and with so much heart and determination, leads the Coyotes in assists (39) and points (57). He also has the team’s best plus/minus rating (+24). Whitney has recorded at least a point in 15 of his last 17 games; he has 21 points (4G-17A) in that span.

Thursday, March 1, 2012 vs. St. Louis Blues (7:00 PM start, home)

At the start of the season, few thought that the St. Louis Blues would be leading a tough Central Division and be sitting in 2nd place in the Western Conference with 19 games to go. The Blues are currently riding a 3-game win streak and have won 10 of their last 14 games.

This will be the last game of the regular season between these two clubs; the Blues have won 2 games and the Canucks have won 1.

Goaltender Brian Elliot backstopped the Blues in both of their wins. T.J. Oshie leads the skaters with 4 points (2G-2A) and a plus-4 rating.

Patrik Berglund has been an assist machine recently recording with 7 assists in his last 7 games. He also sits 4th in team scoring with 30 points (13G-17A).

For the Canucks, Alex Burrows has 3 goals and a plus-3 rating against St. Louis. Also, Daniel Sedin recorded the overtime winner back in January.

Saturday, March 3, 2012 vs. Buffalo Sabres (7:00 PM start, home)

At the start of the season, Canucks fans had this came circled for the return of Christian Ehrhoff. Little did we know it would also mark the return of Cody Hodgson. Hodgson was traded to Buffalo for Zach Kassian on trade deadline day. Canucks Nation wishes Cody well in Buffalo and hopes that he gets the opportunity to shine in a top-6 role. Buffalo is currently 6 points out of a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference and hope that Hodgson’s addition will help as they make one, final push for the postseason.

This is the first and only meeting between the two clubs. The Sabres have had some success against Northwest Division opponents this season, going 2-0-0 so far).

Captain Jason Pominville has been hot with 12 points (6G-6A) in his last 11 games. He also leads the Sabres in goals (23), assists (36) and points (59) this season.

Appreciating Schneider

In only 3 games played in the month of February, Cory Schneider continues to show why he is one of the best – if not the best – backups in the league today. He’s won 12 of his last 14 starts.

He was also the main reason the Canucks left New Jersey with 2 points last Friday. After an emotional, streak-breaking win against the Detroit Red Wings last week, the Canucks came out flat and didn’t have much left in the tank against the Devils. All Schneids did was stand on his head and stop 30 of 31 shots he faced.

This season, Schneids has an impressive 14-5 record this season along with an equally-impressive .930 save percentage, which is good for 4th > best in the NHL. He also has a 2.19 goals against average, which is 8th best in the league.

Prior to the trade deadline, there was much speculation about whether or not Mike Gillis would deal Schneider. Thankfully, GMMG made the decision to keep him despite his RFA status next season. Schneider and Luongo were the best goalie tandem last year, winning the Jennings award, and they have continued on with their success this season. It gives the Canucks a lot of confidence knowing that Schneider has shown now too that he can step into high-pressure, hostile situations and handle big games.

Feb 282012
 

Let’s get this out of the way first.

I’m still not convinced Columbus’ interest in dealing Rick Nash wasn’t a creation of TSN and Sportsnet. The two networks needed a big name to speculate about to drive up ratings for their annual Trade Deadline TV marathons.

Sadly for those networks, Nash remains a Blue Jacket at least until the draft, where the hype will be built up all over again. I am giddy with anticipation (and by giddy I mean hitting my head with a shoe to make the idea of 24 hour coverage of “The Rick Nash Trade – Part Two” go away).

Nonetheless, the trade deadline did produce some moves – 15 trades involving 31 players, according to TSN. As per usual, the moves quickly revealed who’s serious about the Stanley Cup.

Based on team performance and moves they made, here now are the REAL contenders for the Stanley Cup.

WESTERN CONFERENCE

1. Vancouver

The Canucks enter the final portion of the NHL season with the strongest group of forwards they’ve had in a long time, if not ever. The 2012 version of Sammy Pahlsson is a step-slower, slightly less-effective than the one who helped the Anaheim Ducks with the Cup in 2007. However he remains a strong shutdown centreman who can win faceoffs (he led the Blue Jackets in faceoffs prior to the trade, winning 51.1%).

In Zack Kassian, Vancouver effectively replaced Raffi Torres from last year’s playoff run with someone younger and with 20-30 goal potential. Kassian could even develop into the big, scoring winger the team hasn’t had since Todd Bertuzzi left town. Kassian models his game after Bruins bruiser Milan Lucic, which is probably music to the ears of most Canuck fans.

Marc-Andre Gragnani is an underrated puck-moving defenseman who is about to have the spotlight shine on him. There are folks who think he could flourish into a 40-50 point player, and there are certainly similarities between his game and ex-Canuck Christian Ehrhoff. Those similarities include some puzzling play in the defensive zone.

Bottom Line: This Canuck team looks primed for another long post-season run. Cody Hodgson is a big chip to play, but when you consider the team’s time is now (and Vancouver already has Henrik Sedin and Ryan Kesler in the top two centre positions), Gillis has made the team stronger than it was yesterday.

Potential weakness: The blueline.

2. San Jose

While there will be folks who scoff, let’s remember that the Sharks have made the Conference Finals in back-to-back seasons, and they will enter these playoffs with likely their deepest team ever. Like the Canucks, the Sharks have had some concerns regarding secondary scoring and forward depth, and the acquisitions of Daniel Winnik, T.J. Galiardi (and previously Dominic Moore) address this area.

Winnik was one of Colorado’s most important forwards, playing tough minutes and leading team forwards in ice time for much of the year. The improved play of Gabriel Landeskog and Winnik’s status as an impending UFA made him expendable. He’ll look very good alongside Michael Handzus on San Jose’s third line.

T.J. Galiardi has been an offensive tease so far in his career but he’s got the talent to be a fringe top-six player. Ray Fererro mentioned during Trade Deadline coverage today that Galiardi came to training camp having put on too much muscle, which hampered the player’s speed. Galiardi is an adequate replacement for Martin Havlat, allowing the injury-prone star to take his time to get back into the lineup.

Bottom Line: The Sharks improved their defense in the off-season, and now have improved their foward group. If Martin Havlat comes back healthy, and they get any kind of goaltending, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see the Sharks three-peat as Conference Finalists, perhaps even graduating to the Cup Final. A re-match with the Canucks would not surprise.

Potential weakness: Goaltending

3. Nashville

Why the Predators and not the Red Wings? Detroit only tinkered with their team (adding Kyle Quincey), and now enter the playoffs with pretty much the same group that’s been knocked out of the playoffs early the last two years.

Meanwhile, the Predators are showing Ryan Suter the money and  pushing their chips to the middle of the table. They were rumoured to have made a big push for Rick Nash, and when that didn’t materialize, they quickly added Andrei Kostitsyn from Montreal. He’s an enigmatic scorer, but he is a scorer, and a legitimate top-6 one at that. Playing with his brother Sergei could be problematic (one friend commented beer sales are about to go up in bars around Nashville), but it’s unlikely coach Barry Trotz will let any off-ice shenanigans impact the team on-ice.

Paul Gaustad is another effective grinder on a team full of them, and acquiring Hal Gill earlier in the week gives the Predators a premiere shutdown defenseman, perhaps one destined to matchup with Ryan Kesler this season.

Bottom Line: The Predators are one of the toughest teams to play against in the NHL, and they were a sniper-away from beating the Canucks in last year’s playoffs. Andrei Kostitsyn might not be Paul Kariya or Peter Forsberg, but he is someone who can create offense on his own. With a deep defense, strong goaltending and an upgraded forward group, Nashville has become the dark horse team to represent the Western Conference in the Stanley Cup.

Potential weakness: Scoring

EASTERN CONFERENCE

1. Boston

Remember, these are the defending Stanley Cup champions, who have retained much of the team from last year. The addition of Brian Rolston effectively replaces the departed Mark Recchi, although the emergence of Tyler Seguin means less is expected of Rolston in an offensive role. He might become a key part of the second powerplay unit, shooting darts from the point. Otherwise he’ll play a bottom-six role.

Meanwhile, there is a common belief today that you need 8 NHL-ready defenseman to go far in the playoffs. Greg Zanon and Mike Mottau fit that bill, the former one of the better shot blockers in the league, while the latter is a good skater and marginal puck-mover.

Bottom Line: Boston looks like a team ready to repeat as Stanley Cup champions.

Potential weakness: Nathan Horton’s health

2. New York Rangers

Why the Rangers, when they didn’t make a single move of significance (apologies to John Scott) at the Trade Deadline? Sometimes, the best move a team can make is no move. The 2012 New York Rangers are greater than the sum of their parts, and messing with that chemistry in a significant way could upset everything the team has been building towards.

Rick Nash would have been sexy, but there’s no telling how his arrival would have worked in the locker room. GM Glen Sather was smart to let this team prove what it can do in the playoffs, and then tinker as necessary in the off-season.

Bottom Line: Thanks to Brad Richards and Marian Gaborik, the Rangers are Nashville-East with more scoring. That makes them a Cup contender.

Potential weakness: Scoring

THOUGHTS ON THE FLY

  • Couldn’t put Pittsburgh on the list for one reason – there’s no guarantee Sidney Crosby is coming back. If he does, and he’s healthy, they’re added to the contender mix. The thing is, with how aggressive play is in the playoffs, does anyone think Sidney Crosby would survive a long playoff run without another injury?
  • The Flyers aren’t a contender, and really, haven’t been one all season. They’re fun to watch but there are too many holes on defense or in goal to be considered among the elite. Could be a different story in a few years though.
  • Puzzling move #1: The Toronto Maple Leafs trading Keith Aulie, who remains a legit defensive prospect - one who could become Hal Gill 2.0. Yes Toronto has depth on the blueline, but acquiring Carter Ashton for Aulie seems like acquiring 50 cents on the dollar. Ashton projects as a 3rd line guy at best. Burke is living and dying by his current roster in Toronto. It’s likely not enough to get the team into the playoffs.
  • Puzzling move #2: The Edmonton Oilers trading Tom Gilbert to their division rivals the Minnesota Wild for Nick Schultz. I think this sums it up nicely. Perhaps all this really means is that Edmonton intends to draft an offensive defenseman in the first round this year, and pair him with Schultz immediately.
  • Talked a lot about the Vancouver – Buffalo trade above, but one more thing: there’s no question Cody Hodgson is the most talented player in the deal, but from a Canucks standpoint they’re looking to win now. Long-term, it could be a trade the Canucks regret, although it does seem the franchise never warmed to the guy. Biggest immediate concern - what happens if one of Kesler or Sedin gets hurt?
  • Johnny Oduya is a nice complimentary pickup by the Blackhawks, but they needed more (another d-man, another scoring forward) for their playoff chances to truly improve. Right now, the ‘Hawks look like a second round team at best.
  • It’s rare you see the Flames apologize to the Oilers.
  • It would not surprise me if Ben Bishop eventually forced Craig Anderson out of town in Ottawa. Bishop is a very good goalie prospect, and the team already has Robin Lehner on the farm. It could be Anderson becomes the known asset the Senators eventually move for needed pieces.
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