Dec 062011
 

In this episode of the CHB TV video podcast, Matt Lee, Clay Imoo and J.J. Guerrero talk about the improved production from the Canucks’ second line and back end. Also, more on the team’s goalie tandem.

Dec 052011
 

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

This past week saw the Canucks’ five-game win streak end after a see-saw battle against the Nashville Predators. While everyone was preparing for a defensive battle, instead the game was an entertaining 6-5 loss. The Canucks then finished off the week by beating the Calgary Flames 5-1 for the second time this season.

Canucks Record

26 GP, 15-10-1, 31 points (2nd in Northwest Division, 5th in Western Conference)

Who’s Hot

The Canucks signed Dan Hamhuis mainly because he is a great shutdown defenseman who plays against the other teams top lines night in and night out. Somewhat surprisingly, he’s started to chip in on offense more consistently this season too.

Hamhuis is currently on a 4-game point streak in which he has recorded an assist in each game; he is also a plus-3 in that span. After recording just 1 point in his first 10 games (an assist in the second game of the season), Hammer has 12 points in his last 16 games. The longest he’s gone without recording a point is 2 games.

The fact that he’s been contributing offensively is an added bonus to his defensive repertoire; an added bonus Canucks Nation openly welcomes.

Who’s Not

Although the Canucks didn’t pluck Dale Weise off the waiver wire for his offensive talent, it would be nice if he were able to chip in once in a while.

Weise hasn’t scored in 19 games (unless you count Twitter) and his physical presence has been hit and miss recently. With the season-ending shoulder injury suffered by Aaron Volpatti, now is the time for Weise to step up and boost the physical factor that would help boost our bottom 6.

Who’s Next

Tuesday December 6, 2011 vs. Colorado Avalanche (7:00 PM start, home)

The Canucks and Avalanche met just under two weeks ago – a 3-0 win for the good guys. Since that loss, the Avs have won 3 of their last 4 games, helping them to get back to .500 while sitting only 2 points out of 8th place in the Western Conference.

Ryan O’Reilly, in just his 3rd NHL season, is leading the Avs with 21 points (6G-15). He has been one of their best players recently, putting up 4 goals and 5 assists in his last 5 games; he is also a plus-7 in that same stretch. Needless to say, O’Reilly, whose career-high is 26 points in a season (achieved in each of the last two seasons), is on pace to have a career year. He should set new highs this season unless some crazy happens.

Thursday December 8, 2011 vs. Montreal Canadiens (4:30 PM start, away)

The Habs have had a lackluster start to the season and are currently sitting in 10th place in the Eastern Conference, though they are tied in points (27) with the 8th place Capitals and 9th place Senators. The Habs have gone 2-3-2 in their last 7 games.

The good news for the Canucks is that Montreal has yet to win a game against a Northwest Division opponent this season; they’re 0-2-1. The bad news is that the Habs won both meetings against the Canucks last year and were led by their star goalie, Carey Price.

The Habs are without one of their best defensemen, Andrei Markov, who has been suffering from knee problems. The club just announced that he will undergo arthroscopic knee surgery to clean up leftover debris and will be out for at least 3 more weeks.

Tomas Plekanec is leading the team with 22 points (6G-16A) while Max Pacioretty is leading the team with 10 goals.

Saturday December 10, 2011 vs. Ottawa Senators (4:00 PM start, away)

Chris Higgins was the overtime hero when the Senators visited Rogers Arena last month. Ottawa is another team in the East battling for playoff position and currently sit in 9th place; they are one game above .500.

The Sens have been decent against Western Conference opponents this season. So far, they are 4-3-1 against Western Conference foes, including a 3-1-1 against the Northwest Division.

Milan Michalek has had a good start to the season and leads the team with 16 goals. He is 3rd in team scoring with 22 points in 26 games and is currently on a 3-game point streak which had him scoring 4 goals.

The Special Special Teams

The powerplay and penalty kill were crucial to the Canucks’ success last season and they are relying on it again this season. Vancouver currently has the league’s best PP with a 26.1% efficiency (the second-ranked Toronto Maple Leafs PP has a 22.4% efficiency). They are also ranked 7th overall on the penalty kill with a 85.3% PK rate.

We saw last year how the Canucks’ special teams were key to winning close games. It’s just as important this season for them to maintain their smart and efficient play to keep pace with the close Western Conference race.

Oct 192011
 

[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.]

I was at Rogers Arena last night as the Vancouver Canucks hosted the New York Rangers.  With the tribute to Rick Rypien, the return of Ryan Kesler, and the newest Canuck Dale Weise facing his former team, it promised to be a memorable night.  Unfortunately, with respect to the actual game, people will be remembering defensive breakdowns and seeing the Rangers win their first game of the young season.

As always, here are a few things that make me go hmmm…

  1. Roberto Luongo – or more accurately – his supporters and detractors.  The netminder is easily the most polarizing sports figure on the Canucks let alone in the entire province.  After the game, likely 75% – 80% of the Canucks-related tweets had to do with Luongo.  When he’s not playing well, his supporters preach patience while his detractors call him a waste of money and bust.  When he is playing well, his supporters remind us that he’s the best netminder we’ve ever had while his detractors say that he hasn’t proven anything until he leads the team to a Stanley Cup.  I’m not afraid to proclaim that I’m a Luongo supporter.  But I don’t flippantly point to him being a traditionally slow starter as an excuse for only one win in four starts.  Luongo must bear some of the blame, but he can certainly share it with his forwards who aren’t scoring enough and his defencemen who are breaking down at the most inopportune times.  One thing’s for certain however:  for the Canucks to win he can’t be the second-best goalie on the ice.
  2. Problems on the point.  Why is Coach Vigneault so insistent on keeping Mikael Samuelsson on the point on the first powerplay unit?  I’ve already written about this before, but Samuelsson’s ineffectiveness was on display once again Tuesday night.  He had trouble generating decent scoring chances and he struggled with keeping the puck in the zone.  While I would love to see Sami Salo on the first powerplay unit, I’m presuming that the coach wants to balance things out with a booming shot on each unit (with Alex Edler playing marksman on the first unit).   However, when the home team goes 0 for 8 on the powerplay in a game where we desperately need goals, something has to give.

    Also, as an aside, I would love to see Hamhuis and Ballard play together.  They are both good skaters and the steady Hamhuis would help offset the riskier play of Ballard.  And can you imagine the hip checks they could dish out?  Ever since the Canucks acquired them last summer within 6 days of each other, I’ve been hoping to see them on the ice together.  But it hasn’t happened yet.  Then again, Ballard didn’t spend much time on the ice with anyone last season.

  3. Speaking of polarizing players…the love/hate Luongo phenomena reminds me of the feelings towards Todd Bertuzzi after his hit on Steve Moore.  I happened to be in GM Place on that fateful March 8, 2004 evening.  The game itself was a blowout, with Canucks fans looking for something to cheer for.  We were wrought with anticipation as Bertuzzi chased Moore around the ice and we cheered like mad upon Bertuzzi’s first punch.  The cheers quickly subsided as players and fans alike realized that Moore was seriously injured.  There was an eerie silence in the stands followed by a reserved buzz as fans compared notes as to what they had just witnessed.  The radio shows and internet were abuzz with chatter for weeks afterwards, with equal percentages of people applauding and condemning Bertuzzi.

    Can you imagine if Twitter had been invented back then?  Whereas last night’s Luongo Twitter chatter kept the social networking platform busy, Bertuzzi’s hit might have shut the whole thing down.

   

PS:  Kudos to the Vancouver Canucks for an emotional and classy tribute to the late Rick Rypien.  The most touching moment for me was seeing Kevin Bieksa embracing Rick’s mother Shelley.  It brought a tear to this writer’s eye…and I’m sure I’m not alone.  Rest in peace Rick…you are already missed.

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.

Sep 272011
 

As we approach the 2011/2012 season, here now is a preview piece on Canucks defenseman, Dan Hamhuis.

What we remember:

A native of Smithers, BC, Dan Hamhuis gave up $6.5 million per year from the New York Islanders and Ottawa Senators to sign with the hometown Canucks. It didn’t take long before he endeared himself to Canucks fans.

Hamhuis’ effect on the Canucks’ defense corps was undeniable. He was a calming influence on Kevin Bieksa, and together, they formed the team’s top shutdown duo. While not known for his offensive skills, he showed good mobility with the puck and put up 23 points in 64 games, the 0.36 points per game average his highest since scoring 38 points in 82 games (0.46 points per game) for the Nashville Predators in 2005/2006. In fact, the trickle-down effect from his injury in game 1 of the Stanley Cup Finals was obvious; the Canucks’ defense wasn’t quite as fluid or as together after he left.

What we expect:

The hope is 2010/2011 was an aberration injury-wise and that Hamhius can return to playing a full, healthy season again. In 6 previous seasons with the Predators, he missed a grand total of 9 games due to injury. In his first season as a Canuck, he missed 18 regular season games and another 6 in the Stanley Cup Finals. Especially now that Christian Ehrhoff – and his 24 minutes TOI/game – has gone to Buffalo, the Canucks will expect Hamhuis to eat up some of those minutes.

Reality check:

After undergoing sports hernia surgery in the off-season, Hamhuis is optimistic that he’ll be ready for the start of the regular season. How soon he gets back to form is another question all together.

He said it:

“We’ve talked about that already. If you look back to last season, you see all the hard work it took to get to the playoffs. We don’t get a free pass to get back there. It starts now in training camp, getting ready for exhibition games. And then in exhibitions, we get ready for the season. We can’t look by those as just boring regular-season games. It takes a lot of work to get to the Stanley Cup finals and we want to get back there.”

- Dan Hamhuis on what it will take for the Canucks to return to the Stanley Cup Finals again

Mar 282011
 

[Every Monday, Katie Maximick takes your questions and gives her take on the Canucks in her own cantankerous style. If you have any questions about the Canucks, send it to her via Twitter (@KMaximick)]

With 6 games left in the regular season, some fans are getting nervous, and with good reason. Because the Canucks have done so well this year, the remaining in the season seems rather futile – really, they’ve clinched already, right? Every game they play fans wonder – and fear – who might get injured just in time for the playoffs.

It’s a fair question. There was a lot of apprehension going around Twitter on Sunday when the Canucks were set to take on the Blue Jackets. And turns out the gut instincts of Canucks fans was pretty on par as the team lost Hamhuis to a concussion.

Herve (@1stLineCenter) asks: What do you think is the cause of all the injuries (Hammer, Bally, Edler, Manny, Juice)? Are teams playing us harder?

Katie: I’m starting to think it’s a combination of teams playing us harder and some sort of hex placed on the team a couple years back. For the past few seasons, our blueline has been getting rocked with injuries, especially near the end of the season. Rather than having a man of glass (Salo), we seem to have a blueline made of it. Losing Hamhuis Sunday wasn’t pretty, considering that marks his fourth concussion (I believe), and we know what too many concussions can do (see Willie Mitchell). Now our forwards are in on this curse too.

Sometimes I feel like asking “will the Canucks ever be healthy again?” Not this season, but hopefully they have enough depth to hold in there regardless.

And of course teams are going to play the Canucks harder. They’re the best in the league, and when a team is taking a pounding from the Canucks, as sore losers they’re going to pick fights, hit hard, maybe take some cheap shots and try to take out some of Vancouver’s players. It’s not surprising, and it’s times like there where I’d rather have the Canucks sit out their last six games to keep the roster healthy. Hey, they’ve already clinched; why not?

Although, I guess we could use those last games to ensure Daniel wins the Art Ross.

Cam (@camvsmith) asks: What’s the deal with Grapenuts? There’s no grapes, there’s no nuts…???

Katie: I can’t make this stuff up, folks. I get two or three of these a week.

Jeff (@jrcaptain91) asks: Is Schneider in the Jennings talk? Can he win it?

Katie: Only if he gets to play 25 games. In order to win the William M. Jennings trophy, the team must have the least GA in the league (which the Canucks have right now), but the goalie must have played at least 25 games to be given the trophy. So if the Canucks’ goalies can keep up their stellar performances and end the season with the least GA, Luongo will win the Jennings for sure.

Unfortunately, Schneider has played in 22 games and there are only 6 games remaining in the season. Unless AV lets Ginger Bricks play another 3 games – basically every other game – it doesn’t look good for our Ginger Bricks.

Regardless, Schneider has had a fabulous year. After yesterday’s game, his season sits at 15-3-2. Pretty fantastic if you ask me, and it would be unfortunate for Schneider to walk away with no hardware, but I don’t think it’s going to happen this year.

Stephanie (@axeguitar) asks: They’re making a movie about Canucks Hockey Blog… Who plays you? JJ? @mozy19?

Katie: Me – Cobie Smulders (from How I Met Your Mother). Although according to Richard, I should be played by Kevin Bieksa…

And for that, Richard will be played by a hairy little white man – Danny Devito.

For J.J. let’s go with someone with a similar laugh with two feet of height on him – Vince Vaughn, but in a Canucks jersey instead of a Blackhawks one.

Anyway fans, have a great week!

Feb 212011
 

With a week left before the NHL’s trade deadline, let’s take a quick snapshot of the Canucks’ salary cap situation.

First, the team sent Evan Oberg back to the Manitoba Moose this morning and recalled Cody Hodgson.

This pretty much says that Dan Hamhuis has been cleared and is good to go against the Habs tomorrow night. It also gives Hodgson an extended audition in the fourth line center spot (more on that later) and allows Tanner Glass to move back to his natural wing position.

If Keith Ballard returns on Thursday as expected, the Canucks will have 22 healthy players (13 forwards, 7 defensemen, 2 goaltenders), 2 injured players (Bieksa and Sweatt) and 2 players on LTIR (Alberts and Edler).

Right now, the Canucks are using $341,870 of their $341,989 maximum daily spending ($318,871 max daily cap plus $23,118 max daily LTIR).

When Ballard returns, the assumption is that Yann Sauve will be sent back to the Moose and the Canucks will have $3,412 in daily spending (or $634,632 in annual salary) available.

If the Canucks aren’t sold on Victor Oreskovich, they could also send him back before Monday. Minus Sauve and Oreskovich, they’ll have $6,503 in daily spending; in this case, they can add $1,209,558 in annual salary at the trade deadline. They can also place Lee Sweatt on LTIR, which would give them another $3,495 in daily spending (or take on another $650,070 in annual salary).

The Canucks can’t take on a lot in salary but it’s something. GM Mike Gillis has been adamant that he won’t tinker too much with his team. That in mind, the small amount of salary the Canucks can take on means they’re limited in the kind of players they can acquire anyway; that said, they do have enough in the kitty, barring any other roster moves, to acquire some depth players.

(All numbers via CapGeek.)

Feb 122011
 

When the final buzzer sounded in the Vancouver Canucks’ final game against the Chicago Blackhawks on May 11th last year, they were down to a defense corps that includes Kevin Bieksa, Christian Ehrhoff, Sami Salo, Andrew Alberts and Shane O’Brien.

Barring any last-minute changes, the Canucks will start tonight’s game against the Calgary Flames with a defense that includes the same top-four of Bieksa, Ehrhoff, Salo and Alberts. Plus, instead of SOB, they’ll have Aaron Rome in the lineup. And rookie Chris Tanev.

For all the excellent planning and work GM Mike Gillis did over the summer to address the Canucks’ (lack of) depth on defense, they’re back to where they were at the end of last season.

This isn’t to blame Gillis, of course. I mean, how do you plan for long-term injuries to three of your top-four defensemen? If anything, he deserves credit for the fact that it took this many injuries to get the defense to this point.

The Canucks have been able to withstand injuries so far this season, but this will be their biggest challenge. Dan Hamhuis has a concussion and is out indefinitely. Keith Ballard won’t be back until after the trade deadline. Alex Edler won’t be back until April or May at the earliest. Guys have been able to step up and fill in for short stretches; we’re about to see if they can hold the fort for a longer term.

Now, someone make sure to keep Salo away from the crackers.

Feb 102011
 

Another night, another questionable hit.

In the Canucks’ 4-3 loss to the Anaheim Ducks last night, Ryan Getzlaf hit Dan Hamhuis from behind along the boards; Hamhuis didn’t return.

Here’s Getzlaf on the hit:

“Well, he turned as he made his pass, I think, and he was well-aware I was coming from what I could tell,” Getzlaf explained. “I watched the video and that’s what I saw. I didn’t leave my feet. I kept my shoulder down. It was just following through on a pass, and it was an unfortunate accident.

“I wish nothing but the best for him. I don’t want to hurt anybody out there.”

Getzlaf, who was just back from a facial injury that kept him out 14 games, believes players must respect their opponents and be accountable.

“We’ve got to get together as a group and get more conscious of it,” he said. “And it’s not only on the guy who’s hitting; it’s the responsibility of the guy who’s getting hit as well. You’ve got to have your head up and know that there are guys on the ice who are coming to hit you.

“When you have a guy in that vulnerable position … I’m not going to try to injure anybody.”

And that last part is why we’re seething this morning. While I agree that Hamhuis should have had his head up, then, knowing Hamhuis was in a vulnerable position, why didn’t Getzlaf let up on the hit?

Now, I don’t doubt that Getzlaf didn’t intend to injure Hammer. Watching the replay, I don’t think it was a malicious hit. That said, it wasn’t a clean play either.

Does Getzlaf deserve a suspension? Going by the NHL’s standards, I doubt he gets one.

A penalty would’ve nice though.

What do you think?

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