Oct 182011

To: Richard Loat
From: Christopher Golden
Date: Oct 17, 2011 at 8:50 PM

Hey Richard,

So how about that Hodgson kid?

I know he hasn’t always been a favourite of yours, yet I’m sure you’d even have to admit that he’s begun to look a little better than seasons past. Cody’s been averaging a solid 20 shifts per game during this short span, which translates into approximately 14 – 15mins a game – of that just over two minutes a game on the power play. And with Ryan Kesler coming back into the fray against the Rangers, we’re seeing Hodgson move over to the wing and Marco Sturm being the odd man out.

Is this something you could have predicted so early on?


To: Christopher Golden
From: Richard Loat
Date: Oct 17, 2011 at 9:43 PM

We knew that Hodgson was going to get a chance this year with Kesler out. He has. With Kesler returning I’m rather interested to see how that impacts Hodgson’s time. Firstly Kesler gets back on the PP, and secondly, he gets to center Higgins and Hodgson.

Now Hodgson’s off to a great start, sure, but it’s only 4 games. That’s like claiming the Leafs would win the Stanley Cup after last year’s 4-0 start. We all saw what happened there. Hodgson’s off to a good start because Higgins is also looking good. I’m sure if you throw Kesler on there he’ll boost Hodgson’s numbers even more because that’s what Kesler does. That said, I’m still not convinced. Management have given Hodgson chances. In my mind, this is towards the tail end of those chances.

Could I have predicted this start? I could have. Would I have? Probably not. Does he look good? Sure. Anyone can look like a rockstar for four games. Ask Fabian Brunnstrom. But I want to see him do this for longer and with more consistency. Lets see how he looks 15 games into the season, 25. Then we can draw some conclusions.

To: Richard Loat
From: Christopher Golden
Date: Oct 17, 2011 at 10:06 PM

What are you trying to tell me? The plans for the Leafs Stanley Cup parade route should likely be shelved? But they’ve won 4 games and got a loser point against Colorado!

True enough, it’s early. But considering what we’ve seen in the preseason, and what we have been seeing early in the season, I’m led to believe that Cody understands the opportunity he has and is doing what he can to seize it by the horns. Arguably he’s had the most jump – even in the loss against the Red Wings Hodgson stood out from the rest. And although Kesler back to the powerplay could mean less time for Hodgson, it’s not like he saw a significant number one unit ice-time. So he’ll still get chances.

When I look at the lineup, I’m okay with Cody getting second line icetime with Kesler and Higgins. What I’m most interested in is whether or not he can take the transition to another position well and what he does while he’s there. In fact, I’m reminded of another young player of the Canucks that was once asked to play a different position for the sake of the team and did quite well. What was his name again? Trevor something?

Hmm.. I guess I’m just getting old.


Oct 182011

Lost in all the hullabaloo about a belly-flopping goalie and a supposed “slow” start in the early season is the strong play of Chris Higgins, who will be the other person to complete the second line with Cody Hodgson and Ryan Kesler when the latter returns to the Canucks lineup tomorrow night.

Yes, Kesler is the guy who stirs the drink. You don’t score 40 goals and become one of the best two-way players in the game without being the go-to guy on a line. But while Kesler may be the present and Hodgson the future, Higgins isn’t about to be deemed chopped liver, either.

It was just four years ago that a 25-year-old Higgins potted 27 goals with the Montreal Canadiens, his third consecutive year of scoring 20+ goals in a season. That 27-goal feat came while playing with a revolving door of linemates from Saku Koivu to Ryan O’Byrne to Michael Ryder. And with all due respect to that trifecta of former Habs, neither even remotely compares to the level that Kesler plays at.

Sure, Higgins has been through more houses (Montreal, New York, Calgary, and Florida) than a Trading Spaces marathon, but if he plays his cards right, he’ll be able to find a more permanent home in Vancouver. Now at 28, ideally Higgins should be entering the prime of his career.

Going back to last spring’s playoffs, Chris Higgins may not have been an offensive dynamo (then again, who was?) but there was no questioning his hustle and drive. Higgins put the effort in despite labouring through a broken foot, which should automatically qualify him for Vigneault Penthouse status. Now that he’s looking to be a fixture on a second line with Ryan Kesler, is it that much of a stretch to suggest he can get back to that 25+25 level we’ve seen before?

It’s already been well-documented that Kesler and Higgins played together for Team USA at the World Juniors. So there’s that, too.

Even without Kesler, Higgins and Hodgson teamed up to combine for three goals and three assists in a combined ten games. While certainly nothing to write home about, it’s not shabby for a line that doesn’t have someone named Sedin on it.

So let’s see how this latest rendition of the second line plays out. We know Kesler will be there, and if Hodgson continues doing his part on the wing, he will too. But Chris Higgins could soon find himself getting some more attention sooner than we think.

Oct 162011

[Every Sunday, Caylie King looks at the Canucks week that was and the Canucks week ahead. You can follow Caylie on Twitter (@CayKing).]

Canucks Record

5 GP, 2-2-1, 5 point (3nd in Northwest Division, 9th in Western Conference)

The Canucks are back home for the week and are looking for their first win in front of the home crowd.

Who’s Hot

In last week’s post I pointed out that Cody Hodgson has been given his best opportunity to show himself as a proven NHL player. Messaged received! Cody has undoubtedly been one of the best Canucks players on the ice every game. He has shown confidence and has done a commendable job on the 2nd line. Although he only has 2 points at the moment, if he keeps playing like he has been the goals and points will come. Canucks Nation is excited to see him play to his full potential.

Who’s Not

Last year, Chris Tanev came in towards the end of the season and played like a veteran. He fitted into the system like a glove and didn’t show many signs of his young age. Unfortunately, he hasn’t had the best start to this season and has been scratched for 2 of the 5 games. He seems a little lost on the ice at times and has been involved in a fair share of the team’s defensive breakdowns. Hopefully he will start to gain his confidence again and get back to his game.

Who’s Next

Tuesday October 18, 2011 vs. New York Rangers (7:00 PM start, home)

The Rangers started their season on the other side of the pond in Sweden with two losses after regulation; they also recently lost to the kids on Long Island.

They did win the Brad Richards sweepstakes this off season, hoping that he could come in an help them this season. When he’s healthy, he’s still a point-a-game guy and he’s not that far removed from his Conn Smythe performance with the Tampa Bay Lightning.

So far, so good – Richards is leading the team with 3 points in 3 games.

In their one and only meeting last season, the Rangers beat the Canucks in a close 1-0 game at Madison Square Garden.

Thursday October 20, 2011 vs. Nashville Predators (7:00 PM start, home)

The Predators didn’t make any huge off-season acquisitions but will still be a strong team in the West with the leadership of Shea Weber and superstar goaltender Pekka Rinne.

David Legwand has had a great start to the season. He already has 8 points (2 goals – 6 assists) in just 4 games played, tying him for the early league lead in points with Phil Kessel and John Tavares.

Nashville went 11-6-3 against the Northwest Division last season. The Canucks and Preds tied 2-2 in their season series.

Saturday, October 22, 2011 vs. Minnesota Wild (1:00 PM start, home)

The Minnesota Wild improved their offense in the off-season with the acquisitions of Dany Heatley and Devin Setoguchi from the San Jose Sharks. Alongside captain Mikko Koivu and veteran goaltender Niklas Backstrom, the Wild will look to make a push in what seems to be a weak Northwest Division this season.

The Wild went an impressive 16-7-1 against the Northwest Division last season. However, the Canucks had the upper hand in the season series, winning 4 of the 6 games they played against each other.

Tough Crowd

Only 5 games into the season and I am already seeing tweets and comments on how we should trade Roberto Luongo and how the Canucks don’t have what it takes to make it to the Cup Finals again.

Let me reiterate we are ONLY 5 games in.

For all those Luongo haters, you have to realize that he never has a strong October. Sure he has let in some questionable goals, but the team in front of him hasn’t been clicking like they usually do. Signs of a Stanley Cup hangover are evident, but I advise you to wait until a few more games before making snap judgements.

Oct 152011

In the first episode of our new video podcast, Matt Lee, Chris Golden and Clay Imoo talk about the first week of the Canucks’ 2011/2012 season. Topics include: Roberto Luongo’s and the defense’s poor play, and Cody Hodgson’s good start.

Oct 092011

[Every Sunday, Caylie King looks at the Canucks week that was and the Canucks week ahead. You can follow Caylie on Twitter (@CayKing).]

Canucks Record

1 GP, 0-0-1, 1 point (2nd in Northwest Division, 9th in Western Conference)

After a slow start against the Pittsburgh Penguins, the Canucks showed heart coming back from a 3-1 deficit to later lose in the shootout. There were a lot of positives to take out of the first game of the season, including solid outings by Keith Ballard and Chris Higgins.

The Canucks head out on the road for the next week which is perfect for team bonding and getting back into the swing of things.

Who’s Hot

It’s no secret that Keith Ballard was in AV’s doghouse last year; however, we have to commend him for his professionalism and positive attitude. He got a lot of playing time in the preseason and showed a lot of jump against the Penguins. He used his great skating abilities to score a beauty of a goal. I truly hope that he continues to get opportunities to show his skills and contribute offensively like he did in his days in Phoenix and Florida.

Who’s Not

Since the Canucks have only played one game it’s hard to pick someone who is playing badly. So I will dedicate this section to Mr. Cody Hodgson. We have recently learned that Ryan Kesler will be back in 5-6 games, so Cody has a limited time to show what he has and to prove that he is ready to stay in the NHL full-time. He had a solid preseason and seems to be a step quicker, which can be attributed to his off-season training with Gary Roberts. He has never looked better or sharper on the puck, so this is the perfect time for him to stick with the club.

Who’s Next

Monday, October 10, 2011 vs. Columbus Blue Jackets (4:00 PM start, away)

Columbus added some depth this off-season with the acquisition of Jeff Carter, who will hopefully complement their leader Rick Nash. Although he hasn’t played a game yet this season, young prospect Ryan Johansen, from Vancouver made the roster. Maybe he will see his first action in the big leagues against his hometown Canucks.

Vancouver took all four games last season in their season series with Roberto Luongo and Cory Schneider each in net for two wins.

The Jackets lost their first two games of the season. On the bright side, newcomer Jeff Carter has 3 assists to lead the team.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011 vs. Philadelphia Flyers (4:30 PM start, away)

The big bad Flyers did a total overhaul this off-season. They lost captain Mike Richards, Jeff Carter, Dan Carcillo, Kris Versteeg and Ville Leino, just to name a few. However, they did finally add a big-name goaltender in Ilya Bryzgalov, up-and-comer Wayne Simmonds, Maxime Talbot, and they took the risk of signing Jaromir Jagr hoping he will take a time machine back to the early 2000s when he was putting up 120-point seasons.

The Flyers went 9-5-4 last season against Western Conference teams, which included a 6-2 loss to the Canucks. The new season brings a new team to Philly but with their additions they seem like they could, once again, be contenders in the Eastern Conference.

Thursday, October 13, 2011 vs. Detroit Red Wings (4:30 PM start, away)

Perennial Western Conference contenders, the Detroit Red Wings are the definition of consistency. Even Canucks GM Mike Gillis admits that he tries to emulate the Red Wings when building the Canucks.

Some of the Canucks most exciting games last season were against Detroit. The season series ended tied at 2-2 with Jimmy Howard and Roberto Luongo getting the call each time to backstop their respective teams.

Saturday, October 15, 2011 vs. Edmonton Oilers (7:00 PM start, away)

The Edmonton Oilers already have young guns in Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle, and Magnus Paajarvi, but because they were, yet again, the worst team in the league last season, they were able to add stud forward, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. They also added toughness in Ben Eager and Darcy Hordichuk. Let it be known that Hordichuk has already challenged the Canucks players; we shall see if he can put his money where is mouth is… that is if he’s actually on the ice long enough to start a fight.

The Season of Redemption

With the wounds of June 15th, 2011 still fresh and in every Canucks fan’s mind, we all need to prepare ourselves for the questions that we will hear all season long: Can they go deep again? Have they addressed their weaknesses that led the Bruins to outplay them in the final series? As hard and gut-wrenching as it is to hear these questions and see replays of the Bruins hoisting the Cup, if this doesn’t motivate the boys in blue, nothing will. We were one win away, and although I will never get over the game 7 loss, I am ready to move on. A new season brings a clean slate, but the same expectations. Until we have our hands on Lord Stanley, we will never be satisfied. Buckle up folks, this is going to be a LONG season!

Oct 072011

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

The Vancouver Canucks took their first steps on the long road back to the Stanley Cup Finals with a 4-3 shoot-out loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins at Rogers Arena on Thursday night.  I was in the arena for the home opener and I noticed a few Things That Make You Go Hmmm…

  1. The sluggish crowd.  Just like the team, the crowd seemed very tentative for the first half of the game.  It was a classic chicken and egg example:  it’s hard to tell if the crowd was relatively quiet because the team started slowly or if the team had trouble drawing energy from the quiet crowd.  Regardless, once the Canucks figured out how to stay out of the penalty box, both their play and the energy in the arena improved dramatically.
  2. Keith Ballard is exciting.  There are many Canucks fans, this writer included, who want to see Keith Ballard have a bounceback season this year.  With the departure of Christian Ehrhoff, the door is wide open for Ballard to stroll on through.  Last night, we saw both the risk and reward of Keith Ballard.  On the second Penguin goal, Ballard had trouble retrieving and clearing the puck from behind the Canucks net, leading to Matt Cooke’s power-play goal.  And there were a couple of shifts where Ballard and defence partner Chris Tanev were scrambling around in their own zone.  But also, there was Ballard streaking down the left side and scoring the game’s nicest goal late in the second period.  Add this to a couple of end-to-end rushes and it made for a very eventful night for the Canuck blue-liner.
  3. Dan Hamhuis is solid.  Hamhuis had a very solid game in his first full-game back since game 1 of last spring’s Stanley Cup Finals.  He made numerous poke checks on Penguin forwards and played with enough physicality to keep Pittsburgh at bay for most of the evening.  I’m convinced that he was the missing ingredient in the Canucks’ series against Boston:  if we have a healthy Hamhuis, we have a Stanley Cup.
  4. Where was Cody Hodgson?  The prized rookie was unnoticeable all evening until the final 6 minutes or so.  It doesn’t help that he is flanked by aging forwards who are both coming off of serious injuries.  The entire second line struggled and was clearly the weakest of the four lines.  Granted, it’s early, and they will likely need a few games together to develop some chemistry.  Hodgson had a chance to score a game-winning goal, but his nice scoring chance was barely foiled by Marc-Andre Fleury when the puck squirted though his legs but a couple of inches wide left.
  5. Wishful thinking.  Buoyed by the inflated 50/50 pot (it included unclaimed money from last season), my friend Mike and I bought a few tickets.  Alas, it wasn’t meant to be, as the huge $65,000 prize went to someone else.  And with the new ticketing system and numbers, we were only 300,000,000 (yes…that’s 300 million) numbers away from winning.  The computerized 50/50 tickets is just one of many changes in Rogers Arena for this season…check out my latest Clay’s Canucks Commentary for a look at some of these changes.

All in all, it was an entertaining game between two teams predicted to do well this season.  And don’t fret Canucks fans – the team lost their first game of last season via shoot-out too.  The regular season turned out all right.

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