Feb 282012

I’m writing this post more than a few hours after the Canucks traded Cody Hodgson and Alex Sulzer to the Buffalo Sabres; in return, they receive forward Zack Kassian and defenseman Marc-Andre Gragnani.

First, the good.

Zack Kassian is a big player. At 6’4″ and 225 lbs., he’s bigger than every other Canucks forward except for Byron Bitz.

And he hits.

And he fights.

And he has decent hands.

In other words, Kassian’s a young, power forward in the making – a type of player the Canucks don’t have in the organization.

However, with just 7 points in 27 games this season, he’s shown but mere glimpses of fulfilling that promise.

On the other hand, to get Kassian, the Canucks had to give up blue-chip rookie, Cody Hodgson, who already had 16 goals and 33 points in limited ice-time this season.

So why did the Canucks do this trade?

The Short-Term

Since their Stanley Cup Finals defeat to the Boston Bruins, the Canucks have faced numerous questions about whether or not they have the requisite size and toughness to undergo another lengthy playoff run. Even after beating the Bruins in Boston in January, they were asked if they could produce the same kind of compete over a playoff series. One win was good, but can they do it again and again and again?

With this trade, Gillis dealt from a position of strength to address a position of need. For all the progress and success that Hodgson has had this season – and don’t get me wrong, he’s had a lot – he’s also a somewhat redundant piece in the Canucks puzzle. Playing on the 3rd line, he faced sheltered minutes, many of which may not be available in the postseason. Gillis is gambling that one of Maxim Lapierre, Sammy Pahlsson, Manny Malhotra, or even, Steven Reinprecht can provide what Cody does, and at the same time, add some size and toughness on the wing.

After acquiring David Booth early in the season, it’s no secret that GM Mike Gillis wanted more balance in the roster.

Consider it mission accomplished.

On paper, the Canucks should be a tougher team to play against. With Kassian, Mason Raymond, Jannik Hansen, Maxim Lapierre, Manny Malhotra, Sammy Pahlsson, Dale Weise (plus perhaps Byron Bitz, Steven Reinprecht and Mike Duco later) in the bottom-six, Alain Vigneault has a lot of options to roll out against opposing teams’ top lines (and free up the Sedins and Kesler for the offensive side of things). All are defensively-responsible, all have speed and all are tenacious on the forecheck. Add the offensive potential from Kassian, Raymond, Hansen, and to a lesser extent, Lapierre, and you’ll see why Gillis and company may have tinkered this way.

The Long-Term

In one trade, the Canucks addressed a couple of key organizational needs: a power forward and a defenseman with some offensive potential.

Here’s a recent (September 2011) scouting report on Kassian:

Get ready Sabres fans because here comes “Mean” Zack Kassian. In all honesty, he really isn’t that “mean” of a person – only on the ice. I conducted an interview with Kassian last season (click here) and came away impressed with his poise and overall knowledge of the game and its players. Many have labeled Kassian as a boom or bust prospect, but I just don’t see it. If he “booms”, he will be a first or second line scoring threat with a nasty physical edge. If he “busts” he will end up just a gritty 3rd or 4th line winger (which I wouldn’t consider a bust if he is still playing in the NHL). He projects as a player similar to Lucic, Downie, Burrows or Bertuzzi (prime). For Kassian’s size and aggressive tendencies on the ice, he has a very underrated set of hands. With all the makings of a pure power forward, Kassian put up 77 points this season and was a point-per-game player in the playoffs. His biggest assets are his size, strength, energy and his shot, which he recently developed into a more of a lethal weapon. Taken from the interview I conducted with him, one of his major flaws is speed and skating. In order to be able to play in the NHL as early as next season, Kassian will need to spend some serious time with a power skating coach this off-season. Training camp will give Kassian the opportunity to prove whether he is good enough to log serious minutes at the next level of his development. If things don’t go well for him in training camp, he will be able to polish his game at the AHL level with Portland next season.

Also, the underrated aspect of this trade is Marc-Andre Gragnani. Last season, Gragnani was the AHL’s most outstanding defenseman and points leader among defensemen in the regular season (12G-48A-60P in 63 games) and the Sabres’ top scorer in the playoffs (1G-6A-7P in 7 playoff games). In 44 Sabres’ games this season he has 12 points (1G-11A) and leads the team with a plus-10 rating. Along with Chris Tanev, Kevin Connauton and Yann Sauve, the prospect pool on defense suddenly doesn’t look that bad.

As Matt asked earlier, about the only thing funny with this trade is its timing. Why do it now? Everyone wants to add grit for the playoff run, but why do it at the expense of a potential Calder Trophy nominee?

Mike Gillis is gambling here. He’s gambling that the drop-off from Hodgson to Kassian will be more than offset by the acquisitions of Booth and Pahlsson. He’s gambling that Kassian – and potentially, Gragnani – will be part of the next core of Canucks when the Sedins and Salo inevitably slow down. It’s a huge gamble, especially in a year in which the team is again expected to contend for the Stanley Cup. Let’s hope for his sake – and our sanity – that it pays off.

Feb 282012

The Vancouver Canucks’ trade that saw Cody Hodgson and Alex Sulzer shipped to Buffalo for Zack Kassian and Marc-Andre Gragnani is the biggest trade since Roberto Luongo came to town in 2006. No trade since that time could have bigger long-term ramifications for this franchise.

The Canucks may have easily just traded a future captain and point per game player in Hodgson. The Sabres may have just moved the second coming of Milan Lucic in Kassian. No one knows. We’ll have to re-visit this trade in three to five years time.

But what we do know is that the decision to move Cody Hodgson is a curious one.

Truth is, the Canucks had little reason to make a big move such as this one. If the Canucks were intent on adding some grit, they could’ve done themselves and their fans a lot of good if they just paid the first-round price for Paul Gaustad or Steve Downie. They would’ve added a piece that had the potential of staying in Vancouver beyond this season and not alienated an emerging star like Cody Hodgson in the process.

Not only that, the Canucks are sitting first in the NHL standings. Was an Earth-shaking move such as this one so necessary? NHL logic dictates that most teams wouldn’t have messed with the locker room chemistry and just made minor adjustments like the team did last year with Chris Higgins and Maxim Lapierre.

Which leaves only this: Did Hodgson and his camp want out of Vancouver? He wasn’t going to get top-six minutes behind Henrik Sedin and Ryan Kesler, and that alleged “rift” must’ve at least put a damper on things. Plus, I’ve never seen a family so ecstatic to see their son go from a legitimate Stanley Cup contender as I did with Hodgson’s family. If Hodgson wanted a trade, then so be it. But the Canucks didn’t need to rush into this trade. If the Canucks wanted or had to move Hodgson, couldn’t this deal have been consummated in the offseason if the Canucks fall short of the Stanley Cup?

This is a tough deal for fans because of their emotional investment in Hodgson since his 2008 draft. We’ve seen him go from legitimate future star to overhyped prospect to bust project to potential rookie of the year candidate. Tell me how trading Hodgson for Kassian helps this team win a Stanley Cup now. Hodgson may still be a bit of an unproven commodity, but he’s certainly shown more than Kassian has.

I understand this is a business, and I understand Mike Gillis trying to address the team needs right now. I get all that. But from where Hodgson is at now as a rookie of the year candidate, and judging by how well he was performing and how well-liked he was in the dressing room, this move still comes as a shock. Hodgson deserved to at least show he has what it takes to succeed in the postseason and win a Stanley Cup.

It’s a shame that we’ll never know.

Feb 282012

[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.]

Spencer (@SpencerDubas) was born and raised in Surrey, BC (insert jokes here) into a family where Canucks fever was already rampant. Only 3 years old at the time of the 1994 Cup run, he still has his Bure jersey proudly sitting in his room. Though being a fan all his life, his true hockey fan craze didn’t come out until a certain few players: Naslund, Bertuzzi and Morrison, (you may have heard of them) formed the West Coast Express. This runaway train of scoring dominance that couldn’t be stopped on their way to the top of the NHL points lists. Watching these players are what made Spencer into the fan he is today.

Spencer currently works as a contractor to the City of Surrey Parks. He loves his car (decked out in Canucks colors, of course) and a huge music fan of all genres, from Taylor Swift to Eminem to Nickelback (yes, he’s serious). He runs Canucks on Tap where he posts many of his Canucks related Photoshop creations. Spencer graduated from Fleetwood Park in 2009, and at the young age of 20, may not have the same life experience as other Canucks fans, but still has the “bleed blue and green all day, every day” mentality which makes a true Canucks fan.

1. I think I can guess where the Twitter handle of @SpencerDubas comes from. If you were forced to change the handle to something not your name, what would you change it to and why?

Yes, I don’t have one of those creative Twitter handles that some of the Twitter-verse comes up with. My handle and the 140-character limit don’t get along so well, I always am getting a barrage complaints from retweeters. If I was forced to change my name (I picture a Clockwork Orange-esque movie theatre scene with a Minnesota Wild game being played, talk about torture) I would most likely go with something short, Canucks-related and incredibly cheesy (think of something like @thestanchion levels of cheesiness).

2. The trade deadline has come and gone. Are you surprised by what the Canucks did? Do you think they did enough? Looking at the entire league, who team would you say most improved its chances?

I don’t think there’s a person in Vancouver who saw what happened today coming. Nash didn’t get traded?!?!  I’m just as confused as you all are. Besides that not too much happened. We got Sammy Påhlsson (and unless you want trouble make you don’t forget that fancy o above the a in his name!) An early Modo teammate of Henrik and Daniel Sedin, Påhlsson brings both veteran leadership and a history of winning to the Canucks. And I guess that’s about it….

Well, there was that Hodgson thing…

Of course I was completely flabbergasted when I found out what the Canucks had done. I was at work when the tweets first started coming in, I dropped a gallon of paint on the ground and almost fell off my ladder. (Don’t go near Bear Creek Park for the next few days.) I was lost for words, which seemed to be consensus all over town. Cody Hodgson and Alex Sulzer had been traded to Buffalo for Zack Kassian and Marc-André Gragnani. This trade hit the city like a bombshell, and as soon I got word of it I ran to my bomb shelter and hid for the next many hours.

We’ve all watched Cody growing up with this team, battling injuries and other setbacks. I’m sure many of us, including myself, saw him as our child, celebrating each of his accomplishments alongside him. So it only makes sense that there is going to be some anger and high tempers when our “child” was suddenly gone. The heart always speaks first, and that’s what happened today. The flooding of shock and animosity on Twitter was almost enough to have me sandbagging off my home. But you have to remember that the NHL is a business first. Keeping players around because you love them and they are “a good guy” isn’t going to win you anything. Plus, there has been speculation that Hodgson had asked to be traded. Personally, I had always felt this rift between Cody and this organization. He may not had asked to be traded, but as a GM you need to think team first.  If you have a player who doesn’t completely buy into the system or organization, you need to remove that player, no matter how much talent.

The fact is that this team has a limited window in which to win. With the teams major components  signed for only the next couple years,  our chance to win is now. If Gillis truly believes moving Hodgson was the best way for this team accomplish it, I can only trust his judgment. He did what he thought was needed, which was add more grit to this team. After a certain event (not to be spoken of) only months ago, everyone asking where this teams toughness was. Gillis addressed that today, and although it was a huge gamble, I do believe this move was for the best. At only 21 years old, adding Zack Kassian to our roster didn’t make us give up on our future, he IS our future.

But back to the original questions, Yes, I do believe the Canucks did enough this deadline. They addressed our few areas of worry, defensive depth and toughness. They may have broken a few hearts in the process, but I hope that in the coming weeks these moves will show their significance.

As for which team did the best this deadline, I would have to go with Nashville. They really pushed all their chips in this year, picking up the massive Hal Gill, along with winger Andrei Kostitsyn, and center Paul Gaustad. Like the Canucks, the Predators are in their best window to make a run. I applaud Dave Poile and his team for making a statement, and hope like hell that we don’t have to face them anytime soon.

Sorry for rambling on and on, but I wanted to present the whole story and show that this trade is not all that bad when you get right down into it. I’m sure hoping Clay will cut this down to a few simple and sweet sentences anyway.  (Clay’s note:  No way, man.  That was good.)

But the biggest and most important  question coming from all this: What will the new Canucks Hockey Blog slogan be??

3. As mentioned in your Twitter bio, you are a creator of “Canucks Cubes”. Can you explain what a “Canuck Cube” is and give us some of the background? When did you start doing them and what was the inspiration? How long does it take for you to make the instructions for one of them? How long would it take a rookie like me to make one (following your instructions) and how long would it take you?

Canucks Cubes were my little side project that blew up more than I would have ever imagined. Picture 8-bit gaming brought to life. They all started almost a year ago, when I was messing around with Photoshop trying to come up with a new challenge for myself. I’m not sure exactly where the cube idea came from, but a few hard hours of work later Mini Kesler was born. I put him up on Twitter and people instantly loved it. Everyonewanted their own favorite players to be brought to their 3-dimensional forms. It built from there, with lots of help from @Gutsmctavish24 and the #weareallcardboardraymond campaign. The power of the cube avatars has helped Raymond, Kesler, Hansen and Higgins all bump their slumps, making cardboard magic a reality. The Cardboard army has kept growing and growing from there. Now most of the current roster has be cube-ized, along with some throwback players including my favorite line of Naslund, Bertuzzi and Morrison and of course the great Trevor Linden. The army has even grown to some of the Canucks community, with Derek Jory, Guts McTavish, the Green Men and CHB’s very own Chris Golden, along with a few others, all having their own Cube forms.

I’ve gotten the construction of these little guys down to a science, but it didn’t start out that simple. I remember countless late nights of vulgar cursing and keyboard smashing when I couldn’t make one of these work. But having your own Canuck cube companion is worth the frustration. Give one a shot for yourself, they are all available for your own folding pleasure on my site. All you need is a printer, and pair of scissors, a lot of patience, and about an hour of free time to have your very own. And watch your fingers, I won’t be held responsible for cube related hospital trips.

4. With 6 weeks to go in the season, the Canucks are battling the Red Wings for the Western Conference title and also with the Rangers for the Presidents’ Trophy? If pressed to make a prediction now, what place overall do you predict the Canucks will finish in (both with respect to the West and the NHL overall)? How many Canadian teams will ultimately make this year’s playoffs?

Though I don’t usually like to make predictions, which always find a way of backfiring on me, I do see the Canucks taking the Presidents’ Trophy race. Their play of late hasn’t really lived up to the expectations’ of some, and yet they’ve somehow continued to keep winning games. If they can find that gel of last year’s team I don’t think that there is much stopping them from going right to the top. I have faith that this team will find that extra gear, get all cylinders firing, and give it 110% (I’d make a great hockey interview eh?) to wrap up this season, including a few extra rounds of playoff hockey, at minimum.

As for other Canadian teams making the playoffs, It’s really been a disappointing year for our nation . This is our sport, and I really hope that our fellow Canadian teams will get their acts together in the next few seasons. In all honesty I can’t see any other Canadians team making the playoffs I do have a bit of a soft spot for the Jets though, who have been their own miracle story this year, and I would love seeing them squeeze in. They’ve more than earned it.

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

This is a tough one. I really don’t know why anyone follows me to be completely honest. I tweet A LOT about pointless things with lame humor. I shouldn’t have any followers. Wait, I think I’m doing this wrong…


I love to engage with my followers. I know my stats and facts, but tend to keep it relatively lighthearted. I use and abuse sarcasm to its limits, and always have a whimsical quip about all the going ons in the hockey world that should get a few chuckles. I like to keep it real, and I don’t always wear my blue and green colored glasses off when I tweet. I love the Canucks first and foremost, but also love the entire sport as a whole. I love Photoshop so I’m always tweeting different creations, and am always up for a project. I think that alone is worth a follow. I’ve met countless people on twitter that have turned into great friends and would love to make some more.

Thanks to Clay and the whole Canucks Hockey Blog team for letting me do this. It’s been a blast.

Feb 272012

The Vancouver Canucks have traded centre Cody Hodgson and defenseman Alexander Sulzer to the Buffalo Sabres for right-winger Zack Kassian and defenseman Marc-Andre Gragnani.

Alright, so let the depression soak in. In 3… 2… 1…

What the Canucks traded: There’s no questioning who the better player was in this deal, and that was Cody Hodgson. At every level of hockey he’s played at, Hodgson has enjoyed success. When he was drafted 10th overall in 2008, TSN’s Bob McKenzie had nothing but terrific things to say about Hodgson. The Canucks were, at the time, getting the heir apparent to a retiring Trevor Linden. Hodgson only exponentially increased the hype when his World Junior performance in 2009 saw him lead the tournament and scoring.

The back problems and alleged rift between Hodgson and the organization ensued. But time heals all wounds, and Hodgson this year was truly coming into his own. On several occasions this season, Hodgson was the best Canuck forward on the ice, scoring clutch goals and making smart passes in the offensive zone. He is well on his way to becoming the two-way leader that most people envisioned him to be, capping out at a point-per-game if he reaches his potential.

Alex Sulzer was a minor piece in the deal and an expendable one at that. He has a booming shot but rarely ever used it. His defensive shortcomings were noticeable.

What the Canucks received: In Zack Kassian, the Canucks received a player who essentially has all the makings of becoming the second coming of Milan Lucic. Kassian has been a high-scoring threat at the OHL level when he’s not on the sidelines serving a suspension. Kassian was a part of that loaded Windsor Spitfires team that steamrolled its way to the Memorial Cup in 2011, putting up 77 points in 56 regular season games. He’s also been a part of Team Canada at the world juniors in 2011.

In Gragnani, the Canucks are getting a mobile defenseman who reminds me a little bit of Christian Ehrhoff. Gragnani has all the makings of a smooth-skating puck-moving defenceman, but also has some defensive shortcomings, which are natural at his young age. Last year, Gragnani was anointed the AHL’s most outstanding defenceman and led Sabres blueliners in scoring during the playoffs. The potential for Gragnani is there and he immediately becomes their most NHL-ready defenceman.

More analysis and video coming your way shortly…

Feb 222012

[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.]

Paul (@PabloP74) was born in New Westminster, BC. He attended New Westminster Secondary School (Class of 1992) and took one year of post secondary at University College of the Cariboo, which is now known as Thompson River University in Kamloops. He then lived in Kamloops for three years and became a faithful follower of the Memorial Cup Champion Kamloops Blazers. He currently works in Public Transit (CMBC/Translink).

He has been married for 10 years and has two daughters who are boisterous, confident and loving. They are the sassy, sarcastic and dramatic but he wouldn’t want it any other way He is heavily involved in local theatre with his family but hockey is his first love. It’s a delicate balancing act for Paul to keep up with both his interests and family obligations. His love of the Canucks and hockey in general started in about 1981 when he was seven years old. His love of the game was then reinforced by the New Westminster Bruins for which he had season tickets. His father was a teacher at NWSS so he had a lot of the NW Bruins as students including Bill Ranford, Todd Ewen and even Mark Recchi to name a few of the NHLers. In 1989 when the NW Bruins were sold to Tri Cities and became the Americans, he was heartbroken.

1.  Where did the Twitter handle @PabloP74 come from?

My Twitter handle started out as @PabloPenguin74 but that garnered many questions from hockey fans such as: “Are you a Penguins fan?” and “Why Pablo? Are you Mexican?” Then they proceed in Spanish from that point! To clarify, the name was shortened from the original to accommodate the 140 character limit. As for where it came from, my favourite Disney short cartoon as a child was Pablo Penguin. A story about a penguin that hated the cold so he moved south. Some of us with young children may recognize him from the Disney Channel cartoon; Backyardigans, which represents his re-emergence. Pablo is my name, Paul, in Spanish. Enough about the Twitter handle though, there are real topics to talk about!

2.  We’re a week away from the trade deadline so we need to ask you: what (if anything) do you think the Canucks need to do at the deadline?

Let’s talk about trade deadline needs. I think that, overall, the team is good, however it requires
some minor tweaks to the forward lines and/or perhaps a defenseman with a strong accurate shot from the point as well as some solid physicality. Given the above, it may (or may not, but mostly will) involve a major deal with Nashville. I’m sure most of you have figured out the player I am alluding to is Shea Weber. This may be a pipe dream but I would be in hockey heaven if it were to come to fruition. I realize that this Shea Weber deal that I and many other Canucks fans have fantasized over would involve some major players like Raymond, Ballard, top prospect(s) and draft pick(s) plus some salary cap space. Salary cap space relief would involve minor deals to send Alberts for a cheap 4th line forward (depth player) or draft pick.

I mentioned some minor tweaks for the forward lines, and we can find them in the Chicago Wolves. Steven Reinprecht has a plethora of playoff experience having spent some time on the Colorado Avalanche Stanley Cup winning team in 2001. The only thing stopping him from being on the team is that he would have to clear waivers, exposing him to other opportunistic teams that could grab him.

3.  We’ve taken a one-week break from asking our Shooting from the Hip guests about Cody so let’s go back to it today: do you think his playing time and opportunities have been managed well by Alain Vigneault?

Ah yes, the next one: Cody “the G is silent” Hodgson. His play thus far has been among the best on the team despite his limited ice-time both on even strength and powerplays. He is often double and triple teamed on the boards and still emerges with the puck on his stick. He has also been arguably the most consistent rookie performer in the league, game in and game out. His candidacy for the Calder Trophy is firmly cemented but will he have enough ice time and exposure to the voting body this season to win it? I think the answer is blowing in an eastern wind, but not too far east. That award, should he stay healthy, will go to Ryan Nugent-Hopkins.

I am aware that Cody missed one year of development time due to a back issue and it seems by the work he has put in that he is trying to make up for this lost time. He seemingly makes the most of the ice-time he gets, which speaks volumes about his work ethic and attitude. If a deal were made that would have Raymond and/or another forward dispatched to another team, there is no doubt in my mind that Alain Vigneault would have no other choice but to grant Cody more time on the second line. Young Cody has displayed some immense patience despite his truncated ice-time; he is, after all, a chess master.

4.  I’m a big fan of improv comedy and I know that you went to see Whose Live Anyway? (based on Who’s Line is it Anyway?) right after watching the Canucks-Maple Leafs game. So I need to ask you which one was more funny to watch: the game or the show? Which team in the NHL is the funniest to watch?

I may be in the minority when I say that the 4 PM start time was much appreciated when Toronto (the center of the universe) visited Vancouver (the neglected middle child) last weekend. I am glad that the game didn’t go into overtime or the dreaded shootout as I had tickets to see Ryan Stiles, Greg Proops, Chip Eston and Jeff Davis perform their short-form improvisational comedy show, billed as Whose Live Anyway, to near perfection. For those unfamiliar with these folks all one would need to do is watch reruns of Whose Line is it Anyway? The show was side splittingly funny, they had the capacity-filled theatre rolling in the aisles. I laughed, I cried I nearly died one might even say: “The tears were streaming down my leg!”

The team that best lends itself to comedy is the Minnesota Wild. You can’t tell me that names like Cal Clutterbuck, Marek Zidlicky and Brad Staubitz aren’t at least giggle-worthy! I just can’t believe the Canucks were behind these guys just before Christmas time.

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

If you like this beer as much as I like this beer you should follow me! You can expect some observational humour and some truths. At times I am a punster as Clay can attest to. I do prattle on about my family and how proud my girls make me but that comes with being a parent. If you are offended by sarcastic, straight out of the pocket commentary on virtually any topic, you have been warned.

Feb 092012
Henrik Sedin, Vancouver Canucks

Photo credit: canucks.nhl.com

Because I sometimes like to overthink things, here are some quick thoughts this morning:

  • Those advocating for Cody Hodgson to get more ice-time may get their wish. Unfortunately, it may well be at the expense of Henrik Sedin and his 552 consecutive games played iron man streak. After getting in front of a Kevin Klein shot during the Canucks’ 4-3 win over the Predators on Tuesday night, Hank missed practice yesterday and was seen limping around in a walking boot. For now, the team has listed him as day-to-day, but the Canucks should know more about the extent of the injury once the CAT scan results come in.
  • It speaks to Canucks fans’ confidence in Hodgson these days that most are slotting him in the top-six without much hesitation (forgetting for a moment that his current 3-game pointless streak is his longest in almost 2 months).
  • If anyone’s interested, Dale Weise is also scheduled for a CAT scan after blocking a shot in Tuesday’s game.
  • The Canucks called up Mike Duco this morning so one of Hank or Weise or both are definitely out for tonight’s game.
  • Should the Canucks decide to call up another forward, Jordan Schroeder – with 12 points (6G-6A) in his last 12 games and 21 points (10G-11A) in his last 28 games – is the early favorite to get the call. However, that depends on what position the Canucks are trying to fill. Schroeder’s beginning to show some promise in his natural position at center, but has looked uncomfortable on the wing. If the Canucks choose to move Max Lapierre up to center the 3rd line and have Manny Malhotra center the 4th line, then they may call up another winger instead. And Mark Mancari, who has 15 points (6G-9A) in 15 games since his brief cup of tea with the Canucks in December, has looked good as well.
  • Maybe you guys can help me with this one… Looking at CapGeek, it shows the Canucks with 26 players (including Duco, Andrew Ebbett and Aaron Volpatti, the latter two players being on LTIR). I’m assuming here that Duco is an emergency recall, but I’m not sure the cap number makes sense. (i.e. Were the Canucks at the cap when they placed Ebbett and Volpatti on LTIR and thus can maximize their LTIR exemption?) Also, with little LTIR exemption remaining, am I right to think that someone else will have to move – or one of Hank, Weise and Higgins will have to go LTIR – for the Canucks to be able to call up another player?
  • This is obviously pure speculation, but if Hank – or Chris Higgins, for that matter – are injured long-term, how does it change GM Mike Gillis’ approach to the trade deadline? Due to their many injuries this season, the Canucks haven’t saved a lot of cap space for the deadline and Hank and Higgins would combine for $8 million in LTIR cap exemption. Depending on how long either of them will be out for, it must be tempting for Gillis to maximize using that exemption and then worrying about coming back to compliance later.
Feb 092012

[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.]

Heading into tonight’s game against the Minnesota Wild, the Vancouver Canucks have gone to extra-time in their last 5 games (winning 4 of them) and in 8 of their last 10 (7-1-2 record).  Through it all, they’ve amassed 16 out of a possible 20 points, making them the hottest team in the Western Conference despite winning just one game in regulation over that span.  That alone is something to make you go hmmm!  Alas, I’ve also found a few more:

1.  What happened to the forward depth? For those who argue that this year’s Canucks team is better than last year’s, they point to the depth at the forward position as the primary reason.  David Booth and Cody Hodgson have bolstered the top 9, giving the Canucks four decent lines when everyone is going (paging Mason Raymond and Jannik Hansen).  However, the Canucks will be facing a formidable challenge if captain Henrik Sedin is out for any considerable length of time (his status was undetermined at the time of this writing).   Add to that the recurring staph infection-related issues of Chris Higgins, and suddenly the Canucks are without two of their top six forwards.

This means a couple of things.  Firstly, coach Alain Vigneault will once again have to use his line juggling blender to concoct some new combinations.  It likely means more ice-team for rookie Cody Hodgson, which will be music to many people’s ears.  And the recently-maligned and aforementioned Raymond and Hansen will have a golden opportunity to dig themselves out of their respective funks.

As of this writing, the Canucks had not called anyone up from the Chicago Wolves.  But if they do, don’t expect it to be veteran Steven Reinprecht as he’ll likely get claimed through re-entry waivers.  I think the Canucks should give 2009 first-round pick Jordan Schroeder a look.   He is third on the Wolves in scoring and he would slot into a top-9 role with his nifty skating.  He also had a decent preseason and didn’t look out of place in scoring 3 points.  But then again, so did Marco Sturm.

2.  Get Booth out for the shootout. With 5 of the last 7 games ending in a shootout (including the last 3) and 7 shootout games already in 2012, it’s obvious how important these points are in the ultra-tight Western Conference.  Surprisingly, the Canucks have done well in the 2012 shootouts, winning four of those seven contests.  Recently, Roberto Luongo has looked better in the shootout, trading in his belly-flop for a calmer, deeper-in-the-crease approach.

It’s a good thing, because he’s certainly not getting a lot of help from the Vancouver shooters.  In the 2012 shootouts, the Canucks have gone 7-for-23 for a percentage of 30%.  That’s not particularly good, but it’s not surprising given the career shootout stats of the Canucks.  As Daniel Wagner of Pass it to Bulis pointed out earlier this week, Vancouver doesn’t have anyone close to 50% (except for Andrew Ebbett but he’s taken a total of 2 shootout attempts, scoring on one of them).  Alex Burrows is at 43.8%, Maxim Lapierre is 42.9% and the rest of the players are 33% or below.  In the 2012 shootouts, the 7 Canucks goals have come from Alex Edler (2-for-3), Burrows (2-for-4), Raymond (2-for-6) and Hodgson (1-for-4).

Why not try David Booth in the shootout?  His career stats aren’t great (2-for-10) but he hasn’t had a chance yet this season.  He’s a very quick skater and thus has the ability to at least have the goalie guessing.  He’s put up seasons of 31 goals, 23 goals, and 22 goals in the past proving that he can score.  And he’s played well since coming back from his injury.  Plus, he can do this:

3.  Tim Thomas doesn’t like Barack Obama. The Boston Bruins have won only 2 of the 6 games they’ve played since visiting the White House without goaltender Tim Thomas back on January 23rd.  Granted, it’s not the largest sample size, but it certainly qualifies as a mini-slump.  At the time, the Bruins tried to downplay the incident but it set off a firestorm in hockey circles.  Now, Tim Thomas is at it again, this time posting on his Facebook page, “I Stand with the Catholics in the fight for Religious Freedom” in response to Obama’s move to have all health insurance plans provide birth control to women (a plan that has Catholic hospitals, charities and schools up in arms).

This isn’t the time and place to get into the specifics of Obama’s proposal for health-care reform.   However, as both a Catholic and a Canucks fan I find this whole situation quite fascinating.  I’ve been a fan of Thomas for a few years now (for his playing style and not necessarily for his personal and political views), even if he was the main obstacle to the Canucks winning the Stanley Cup last June.  It will be interesting to see how much his latest statement serves as a distraction to his team at a time where they need to turn their game around.

Feb 072012

[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.]

j.Bowman (@jbowmancouver)  currently makes up 1/4 of The Province Sports Canucks blogging team: The Legion of Blog. A lifelong fan of cinema and Canucks hockey, “jBow” credits two events from his childhood as shaping his future: Seeing “Jurassic Park” on the big screen at 7 years old in 1993 and watching the Vancouver Canucks Stanley Cup run in 1994. After graduating high school with a theatre scholarship (and being forced to admit he would never make it further than Beer League hockey) Bowman appeared onstage in a variety of productions from 2003-2007. Acting took a backseat when he became a Retail Manager with Rogers Communications, a position he held for 4 years before leaving to pursue his dreams of writing, acting and anything to do with Canucks hockey. He combined those passions for a series of popular campaign videos during the “Replace the KB” contest for The Province: “Getting to Know Bow” and an exploration into his personal mantra “Jersey Always”. He continues to make videos with his production team, “The House of Linden”.

You can read j.Bowman’s posts and view new videos on all Canucks related issues at The Legion of Blog. Among his regular features: “Last Night’s 4th Star”, “Haiku Hat Trick”, “NHL Casting Call” and “Post-game Quotes (I Wish Were Real)”.

He currently resides in Surrey and remains a mediocre Beer League hockey player to this day.

1.  Where did the Twitter handle @jBowmancouver come from?

The twitter handle doesn’t really have a super interesting story behind it, sadly (as much as I‘d like to say I won it in a super dramatic poker game, I feel I should tell your readers the truth). I had recently started my independent blog, “j.Bowman Can’t Sleep” and a friend had convinced me to join twitter to help promote it. I love Vancouver, and I consider it to be a huge part of who I am (no matter where I end up in life, this is my home) so I combined my writing moniker j.Bowman (which is a tribute to my dad) and Vancouver. Definitely better than original choice “@jBowmanwritesfromVancouverandhelovesthecityaswellaswritingaboutmoviesCanucksandstuff”.  That would’ve killed my retweet potential.

2.  How would assess the play of Cody Hodgson this season? Does he have a chance to win the Calder Trophy?  And are you okay with his ice-time?

Like the vast majority of Canucks fans, I’m LOVING Cody Hodgson’s play this season. There was a lot of hype and high hopes when he was drafted, and having the label of “The next Trevor Linden” certainly doesn’t help quell expectations on a young player in this city. After a couple years of making brief appearances before being sent back down to the minors, as well as his much publicized back injury, this is his first REAL shot on the team and he is crushing it.

I do not think he has a chance to win the Calder Trophy (settle down everyone! I had to be honest). As much as I would love to see it happen, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins built up a sizable point lead before his injury and has since returned. With 35 points in 39 games this season, it’s his to lose. It would be as good as a win for Cody to be named a finalist.

As for Cody’s ice time? As funny as it would be to demand more and incur the wrath of his agent, I don’t have any problems with his minutes. More ice-time for him would either mean: a) more for the entire 3rd line, which limits use of the top 6 (and nobody needs to see more Mason Raymond wrist shots); b) bumping him up the a top-6 position which would have him playing against stronger defensive pairings; or c) people moving on to another non-issue to complain about (does Manny take enough face-offs).  I have never written about Hodgson’s ice-time before because Cody Hodgson is 21 years old. His ice-time will come. I look forward to all the “Is Cody Hodgson getting too much ice-time?” articles when he is 30, but he is still developing and giving him too much at this stage would be a mistake. His “reward” for solid play seems to be logging time on the second powerplay unit, which is a perfect way to get him more involved. Hodgson is a green banana. Yes he is off the tree but he isn’t ready to be in a fruit salad yet. If he undresses Shea Weber and Ryan Suter several times tonight, I will gladly eat my words (and probably a celebratory fruit salad).

3.  The Canucks have struggled in the second period this season.  With only 2 months left in the regular season, do you think they’ll ever find their 60-minute game? If so, what do they need to do to make this happen?

They better find their 60-minute game. If they think they can survive longer than six games in the playoffs without it, they are in the deepest of trouble. If the Canucks were dominating the first and third periods this season, this would almost be a non-issue. Their second period woes would be looked at as a minor nuisance but we’d all come back to the point of “Well, they’re still winning games by 3 or 4 goals, so what does it matter?”. They aren’t though, so this has been upgraded to “Major Concern”. I don’t know what it will take for them to play a complete 60 minute game (short of eliminating the second period all together), but this has to be the most glaring issue facing the team right now. Maybe give Hodgson crazy amounts of ice time in the second period? Kill two birds with one puck.

4.   Luongo. Schneider. As long as both are here, we’ll always have something to talk about.  So we ask you: should the Canucks trade Cory Schneider before the trade deadline?  Or will they wait until the off-season?  Or not trade him at all?  After all, it was only a couple of months ago that fans wanted to drive Luongo to the airport.

I want to prefix whatever I’m about to say by stating for the record that I am a big fan of both guys. Coming closer to the trade deadline more and more people will be proclaiming themselves “Team Lu” or “Team Ginge” and as much as I would love to keep both, Luongo’s contract means Schneider has to go. Not because he is the lesser goalie or because Luongo has been incredible, but the value for Schneider is high at the moment and with what we’ve seen the last few months, we need help NOW.

I’d love to have both during our playoff run this year, but the team in front of them is struggling. If the team was playing consistent, solid 60-minute games, I’d say keep both, we have all our pieces in play. If we were to trade a forward or a D-man (like Raymond or Ballard) the return we’d get would be a lateral move. Schneider gives us a chance to trade up at another position while keeping a viable option in net. This team is one upgrade away from potentially slaying the big dragon and bringing a Stanley Cup to Vancouver. I’d imagine another team is more willing to part with that kind of upgrade based on what Schneider could be, rather than what Luongo is. Schneider has been put in several high pressure situations this year (Boston, Chicago…Tampa Bay?) and has responded with strong play and in a few cases, has been the primary reason we won those games.

Many teams build around goalies, and if there is a team with strong prospects everywhere but in goal, Schneiderman should move to another friendly neighbourhood. We should all realize that whether Schneider gets traded pre-deadline, offseason or ever, anything short of a Stanley Cup in 2012 will result in second guessing the likes of which this city has never seen before. If they lose, prepare yourself for at least a decade of “What if?” based on these two goalies and the move that will/won’t/could/should/might/better happen.

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

People should follow me because…I’m a good person? That is actually one of the harder questions to answer because I honestly don’t know. There are a lot of great “Tweetists” out there in the Canucks community, but the people who follow me seem to enjoy it (either that or they hate it so much they can’t find the words to express it). It’s a good way to get up to the minute updates on anything I post for the “Legion of Blog”. I also live tweet during most games, and try to do what I can to add some humour to them. Whether that be in-game comments, critiquing commercials or tweeting photoshops of Brad Marchand as an Oompa Loompa, you’ll get anything but a standard Canucks tweeting experience from jBowmancouver. On off hours I tweet about a wide variety of pop culture topics, primarily movie news, views and reviews in 140 characters or less. Also it takes less time to click “follow” as it does to drink a glass of water, so what will it hurt?

Thanks to Clay Imoo and the entire team at Canucks Hockey Blog. Keep up the great work!

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