Apr 142014
 

It’s been a memorable season, though mostly for the wrong reasons. Last night, the Canucks handed out their awards; today, it’s our turn to handpick some of the best of the best and the worst of the worst of the 2013/2014 Canucks season.

*****

Manny Malhotra Award for Most Underappreciated Forward
(presented by Clay)

Winner: Mike Santorelli

Mike Santorelli, Vancouver Canucks

Mike Santorelli, Vancouver Canucks

It’s no coincidence that the Canucks’ woes started at around the same time that Mike Santorelli went down thanks to Martin Hanzal of the Phoenix Coyotes. Up until that point, Santorelli was enjoying a career year with 28 points in 49 games, including a wonderful stretch of 12 points in 11 games in late November and early December. He played mostly at centre (with a bit of time on the wing) and gave the team some depth and a different look. It will be interesting to see if Trevor Linden is able to lock up him to a new contract.

Runner-Up: Brad Richardson

Brad Richardson has quietly put together a strong year and his 23 points in his second-best career total. He is a reliable penalty killer and strong in his own end, as he is one of the few Canucks with a positive +/- rating. He is the anchor of the Canucks’ third line that has been a pleasant surprise and best line for the team at times.

*****

Dana Muryzn Award for Most Underappreciated Defenseman
(presented by Matt)

Winner: Chris Tanev

In a season where just about everything went wrong, Chris Tanev was one of the few bright spots from the blueline. Tanev retained his defensive stalwart status and rarely looked out of place, and even made some strides offensively by potting six goals and adding eleven assists, which by Tanev standards is quite pleasant.

Runner-Up: Ryan Stanton

Stanton, who gets our honorable mention, proved to be a stabilizing force as a third pairing blueliner. Not bad for a waiver wire pickup.

*****

Jason King Award for Most Promising Young Player
(presented by J.J.)

Winner: Zack Kassian

In just his second full NHL season, Kassian posted 14 goals, 15 assists and 29 points, all but 1 goal on even-strength, and mostly while playing in the bottom-six. Kass’ development – his physical play, presence and control improved immensely as the season went on – should be encouraging for the Canucks, who have been clamoring for a big and skilled winger for a long time.

Runner-Up: Eddie Lack

At one point this season, Lack was among the league’s best in GAA, save percentage and shutouts. His numbers dipped in the last couple of months as Torts started him in 19 consecutive games after the Olympic Break, but still, it’s been a season to build on for the rookie goaltender, who, barring the Canucks acquiring another big-name goaltender in the summer, will be the team’s starter moving forward.

*****

Barry Pederson Award for Most Disappointing Player
(presented by Matt)

Winner: Alex Burrows

For everything that could be said about the lack of production from the Sedin twins, Alex Burrows was supposed to be the constant. Troublesome and untimely injuries limited him to just five goals in 49 games, but valid excuses aside, this is a player who was a mortal lock for 25+ goals annually. Are those days gone?

Runner-Up: David Booth

Expectations were tempered from the start so it’s hard to say he was disappointing when you’re not expecting a whole lot.

*****

Alexander Mogilny Award for Best Player in a Bad Season
(presented by Delia)

Winner: Mike Santorelli

Despite being out since late January, Mike Santorelli was the Canucks best player in this bad, bad season. When healthy, Santorelli was a very consistent player – played well, scored goals, and assisted on many goals. In fact, despite missing the final 33 games of the season, Santorelli still sits in 6th place on the Canucks points leaderboard with 28 points (10 goals, 18 assists).

Runner-Up: Eddie Lack

The Canucks sure lacked a lot this season, but for the most part, they didn’t lack goaltending. After Roberto Luongo was traded to the Florida Panthers, Eddie Lack was left with the number one job, and he certainly did not disappoint. Since February 26th, Lack played 19 consecutive games, and had an 8-9-2 record with 2 shutouts in that period.

*****

Brandon Reid Award for Best Callup
(presented by J.J.)

Winner: Nicklas Jensen

While the Canucks’ top-six were dropping like flies mid-season, Canucks fans repeatedly asked for Jensen to be called up from the Utica Comets. After getting passed over by 4th line guys like Darren Archibald and Kellan Lain initially, Jensen finally got his opportunity on March 8th, and he proceeded to post 5 points (3 goals and 2 assists) in his first 7 games.

Runner-Up: Kellan Lain

In Lain’s first game in the bigs, he logged a grand total of 2 seconds, yet ended up with a fight and 15 minutes in penalties. In his second game, he scored a goal on his second shift. It’s about as memorable a start to an NHL career as anyone’s.

*****

The Martin Rucinsky We Probably Won’t Miss You When You’re Gone Award
(presented by Lizz)

Winner: Alex Edler

David Booth may have seemed like a shoo-in for this one. After all he does seem like the most likely candidate for being bought out this summer, but I find the argument that Edler is actually the better long-term buy-out choice pretty convincing, and even if he’s not, new President Trevor Linden has already revealed that he’s not against asking a player to waive a no-trade clause, so we could see Edler submitting a destination list this summer.

So why exactly won’t we be missing him? Well since signing his new six-year extension in early 2013, he hasn’t exactly done much to convince anyone he’s earned it.

Edler also finished the season with a league-worst (!) minus-39 rating. Now you may say plus/minus doesn’t mean much of anything, and I agree it’s not the most insightful stat, but that is still an awful lot of time to be on the ice when goals are being scored against your team.

It’s really only a symptom of a larger issue.

Edler hasn’t been making smart plays, he’s often found out of position, production is down, and overall he’s been ineffective at his role, so congratulations Alex Edler, you’ve won our 2013-14 Martin Rucinsky We Probably Won’t Miss You When You’re Gone Award.

*****

Cody Hodgson Award for Best Drama
(presented by Ashley)

Winner: John Tortorella’s intermission showdown vs. the Calgary Flames (January 18, 2014)

John Tortorella takes home the Cody Hodgson Award for Best Drama. His performance behind the bench – i.e. how he lead practically every Canuck to have career-worst seasons – contributed to this, but his breakout performance was his storming of the Calgary Flames’ locker room during the first intermission of their home game on January 18th.

Tortorella’s confrontation was captured live during Hockey Night In Canada and led to a 15-day suspension, without pay and no contact with his team. I’m sure in Torts’ acceptance speech a big thanks will go out to Bob Hartley for his supporting role.

Runner-Up: The Heritage Classic goaltending controversy (March 2, 2014)

Coming in a close second is the Heritage Classic goaltending controversy. Seemingly out of nowhere, a goaltending controversy was created – Eddie Lack was given the starting position for the Heritage Classic, a decision that didn’t sit well with the fans, who thought Roberto Luongo had earned that starter spot, and deserved to be starting this historical game; their issue was not with Lack, but with the organization. The drama came to a head as fans made their displeasure known during the starting line-up announcement, “Eddie Lack” was announced to resounded “Boos” and “We Want Lu!” chants.

*****

Esa Tikkanen Award for Best Comedy
(presented by Jocelyn)

Winner: The line brawl against the Calgary Flames on January 18, 2014

Everything about this event gets the award: the Flames starting the 4th line; Bieksa taking the face-off; Kellan Lain getting 2 seconds of play in his first NHL game before getting a game misconduct, while his parents flew all the way from Ontario to see him play; Sestito’s comment after the game and, of course, John Tortorella’s infamous reaction, including him storming to the Calgary dressing room. This moment will go down as one of the most infamous moments in Canucks history.

Runner-Up: Twitter’s reaction after the Canucks’ third period collapse against the New York Islanders on March 10, 2014

The Canucks were up 3-0 going into the third period and ended up losing 7-4. The Islanders scored SEVEN GOALS in one period of hockey — something that would truly only happen to the Canucks, and this season especially. Many people, like myself, had traded the game during the second intermission (the Canucks were winning, after all) to go to other things, so the post-game reactions were what really made this event truly comical. Never forget.

*****

Roberto Luongo Award for Quote (or Tweet) of the Year
(presented by Ed)

Winner: Roberto Luongo’s ugly Christmas sweater tweet

Clearly the Roberto Luongo Award for the best tweet of the season has to go to the man that took us all on a wild social media joyride for several seasons: Roberto Luongo. Lu was once again on top of his Twitter game this year, proving to us all that he’s one of the funniest (and weirdest) people in sports. He even sent us a few pleasantries from that wacky Florida place where he plays now.

If you’re a Canucks fan, I don’t think I have to explain to you why this picture just rules. I don’t think I’ve ever seen Ryan Kesler this happy before.

*****

Shane O’Brien Award for Headscratcher of the Year
(presented by Victoria)

Winner: Tom Sestito

My SOB Award goes to Tom Sestito. Because he managed to get head scratchingly ridiculous penalties this year. 27 minutes of penalties in 1 second of ice time. And let’s not forget (how could we forget?) the unheard of 7 minute penalty he earned in our ‘moral victory’. Also he got a game misconduct in the final minutes of the last game of the season for reasons I still can’t figure out.

Mar 292014
 

lack-131022-620
(Photo credit: cbc.ca)

Talk about different circumstances.

While the Vancouver Canucks are fighting to keep their diminishing playoff dreams alive, the Anaheim Ducks are fighting for first place in the Pacific Division.

With a win tonight, the Ducks can match a franchise record for victories. With a win tonight, the Canucks’ chances of making the playoffs will still be at around 3%.

Ass-Kicking in Anaheim

Without a doubt, the Ducks will not be an easy team to beat. Heck, the Canucks have yet to beat them this season. Remember that brutal 9-1 loss in Anaheim in January? Remember the Ducks’ 7-minute, 5-on-3 power play in the third period while already leading by 6 goals?

Good times.

Duck Domination

The Ducks have outscored the Canucks 16-5 in their first 3 games this season.

Not Lacking Goaltending

Rookie goaltender, Eddie Lack, has started 14 games in a row. Sure, he’s had his ups and downs, but for the most part, he’s given the Canucks some solid goaltending. He’s 3-0-1 with one shutout (against the Nashville Predators) and a 0.929 save percentage in his last 4 games.

Top Sixtito

If you want a reason for the Canucks’ lack of success against the Ducks this season, consider that Tom Sestito is the only Canuck to score two goals against them this season. (Zack Kassian, Ryan Kesler and Kevin Bieksa have the other goals.) However, in their last matchup, Sestito finished with a game-high 22 penalty minutes. Incidentally, Sestito leads the NHL with 201 penalty minutes. Less fighting, more goals, please?

Corrado Called Up

The Canucks today recalled Frankie Corrado from the Utica Comets in case Kevin Bieksa, who suffered some sort of injury last game, can’t play. For what it’s worth, Bieksa’s on the ice for the morning skate.

Mar 182014
 
Harrison, Marie, and Clay

Harrison, Marie, and Clay

A couple of weeks ago, CHB favourite Marie Hui and I put together a tribute song to Roberto Luongo when he was traded to the Florida Panthers.  We performed Boyz II Men’s smash hit “End of the Road“.

Well, it seems like I’m not the only blogger who likes to write songs about Bobby Lu.  Harrison Mooney of Pass it to Bulis penned a farewell song to Luongo to the tune of Adele’s mega-hit “Someone Like You.”  Harrison contacted me to help him with the music and within 5 seconds we had agreed to invite Marie to join us.

The result is a powerful and emotional song, courtesy of Pass it to Canucks Hockey Blog.

Mar 162014
 

Well, that was fun, wasn’t it?

The Canucks stroll into Florida, face Roberto Luongo and the Panthers, blow a late lead, and then win a shootout.

Again, the kids – especially Nicklas Jensen and Eddie Lack – played well.

All things considered, I guess we can’t ask for more than that.

Read more #TGATT goodness past the jump.

Mar 092014
 

The Canucks scored 2 goals in a game AND won?

Read more #TGATT goodness past the jump.

Mar 062014
 
Ryan Kesler remains a Canuck as the trade deadline has come and gone. Time to accept the team we've got and move past the trade rumours.  (Photo Credit vansunsportsblogs.com)

Ryan Kesler remains a Canuck as the trade deadline has come and gone. Time to accept the team we’ve got and move past the trade drama.
(Photo Credit vansunsportsblogs.com)

The NHL trade deadline has come and gone, but you can’t say Canucks fans are clearer about the direction this team is going. Sure trade clouds are no longer looming over the dressing room, and the team you see now is the team you’ll see for the remainder of the season, but can you really see any better what bodes ahead for this group?

Maybe the players can revert their attention back to playing hockey. Maybe they’ll actually string together a few wins and inch back up the standings. Maybe they can start scoring more than a goal a game. Or a goal a game. Or maybe they’ll just slowly fade into the sunset and wait until Canucks brass – whoever they are at that point – to make changes.

It’s Lack’s Team Now

It’s hard to believe that Roberto Luongo now dons the jersey of the Florida Panthers. Only 4 days ago, over 50,000 Canucks fans were chanting “We Want Lu”. But if you think about it, Lu’s last game as a Vancouver Canuck was almost a month ago before the Olympics when the Canucks faced the Leafs in Toronto.

Regardless, this is Eddie Lack’s team now, and Jacob Markstrom will serve as his backup. How long until the inevitable Lack/Markstrom goalie controversy starts?

Every Point Matters

Tonight’s opponents, the Dallas Stars, currently hold the 8th and final playoff spot in the Western Conference. But of course with 20 games left in the season, their hold on that spot is anything but final. The Canucks, the Winnipeg Jets and the Phoenix Coyotes are all within 2 points. It’s cliche to say, but every game, every point counts from here on out, especially if the Canucks have any ambition to make the postseason. It won’t help them though that they’ve gone 1-9-1 in the past 11 games. And neither will not having Daniel Sedin, who is out indefinitely with a leg injury, in the lineup and replacing him with Darren Archibald.

The Newbies

The always charming Tim Thomas was traded to the Dallas Stars yesterday, but the Canucks will likely face Kari Lehtonen, who’s started 50+ games so far this season.

The Canucks are welcoming some new faces of their own. Besides Markstrom, 6’4″ center Shawn Matthias will be playing his first game with the team, wearing Sergio Momesso’s old no. 27. If it makes anyone feel any better, Matthias bringing over a point-streak with 5 points in his last 2 games. For those wondering, the Canucks have 5 goals in their last 313 minutes of game time.

The Injured

Besides Dank, Mike Santorelli, Andrew Alberts and Yannick Weber remain out of the lineup.

The Stars had been without Rich Peverley for the last 2 games because of an injury he sustained Monday night, but he may play tonight.

Mar 052014
 

endroad

After eight memorable and exciting seasons with the Vancouver Canucks, goaltender Roberto Luongo was traded to the Florida Panthers on March 4, 2014.

Thus, Marie Hui and I wanted to bid Bobby Lu a proper farewell.  Inspired by Boyz II Men, we proudly present our version of their smash hit “End of the Road”.

Make sure you get to bridge of the song at the 3:11 mark…you won’t be disappointed.

Mar 042014
 

 

Eddie Lack and Roberto Luongo after the 2nd period

Eddie Lack and Roberto Luongo after the 2nd period

Much has been made of Roberto Luongo’s plight here in Vancouver in recent years.  Starting with the Stanley Cup Finals in June 2011, it’s been two and a half years of turmoil, tension, and drama.

The Luongo saga took yet another fascinating turn this past weekend when Eddie Lack was named the starter for Sunday’s Heritage Classic game at BC Place versus the Ottawa Senators.

Lack played the first game coming out of the Olympic break, shutting out the St. Louis Blues 1-0 on Wednesday night.  Made sense given that Luongo returned to Vancouver from Sochi just a couple of days prior.

Lack was also given the next start, a tight 2-1 shoot-out loss to the Minnesota Wild.  Although Lack played very well, the loss – albeit a close one – opened the door for a Luongo start on Sunday.

As word broke on Saturday that Luongo would not be starting, Twitter erupted with people arguing both sides.

For what it’s worth, I tweeted:  “Backup goalie is supposed to play well (which Lack has) and ensure no significant drop off. Lack has done his job, let Lu do his tomorrow.”

Many people cited Lack’s strong play of late as giving the Canucks the best chance to win.  And I get that we’re in a dog fight to make the playoffs.

I said it before the game and I’ve said it since: the Canucks needed to look at the “bigger picture” here.  The bigger picture to me says that Luongo was not treated fairly last year (losing his job to Schneider before watching Schneider – and not him – get traded) and was deserving of the Heritage Classic start.  This doesn’t have anything to do with emotions; Luongo’s last start was a solid shutout victory in the Olympics.

And just as there was no drop-off going from Luongo to Lack, there certainly was no drop-off going from Lack to Luongo.  Luongo needed to start.  Truthfully, I would be saying the same thing if the Canucks had won the game, or even if Lack had pitched another shutout.

So there I was on Sunday afternoon with my son Sean, soaking in the sights and sounds of the world’s largest indoor hockey game.   I was able to snap some pretty good pictures (see them all here) including one of poor Roberto Luongo sitting on his own at the end of the bench.

Lonely Luongo

Lonely Luongo

After Ottawa took a 3-2 lead in the second period, an audible “We Want Lu!” chant broke out in the stadium.  It was quite a surreal moment, magnified by the fact that there were 35,000 more fans than usual watching the game live and millions watching on TV across the country.  It was a tense and awkward few seconds.

It reminded me of the feeling that I got watching the first game of the lockout-shortened 2013 season.  In the home opener on January 19, 2013, Cory Schneider got the start as the newly-anointed starting Canucks goalie.  The Canucks lost that game 7-3 to the visiting Anaheim Ducks, and Schneider was pulled early in the second period after allowing 5 goals on only 14 shots, including goals on 3 straight shots.

I vividly remember the mood in the crowd that evening:  the fans were desperate for hockey and excited to see the Canucks back in action.  But as each shot got past Schneider, the mood in the building became more and more tense, culminating in a tense buzz as Luongo skated out to replace Schneider (start at the 2:23 mark in the video below).

The same sort of tense buzz I felt at the Heritage Classic this past weekend.  And as you’ll hear my friend Mike exclaim in my Clay’s Canucks Commentary at the 2:53 mark:

“THIS IS MESSED UP!”

Indeed.

Mar 032014
 

Losers of 9 of 10, the Canucks went across the street to BC Place, hoping to get back on the winning track against the Ottawa Senators in the 2014 Heritage Classic.

It started off great. There was a lively atmosphere, and even an early 2-0 lead for the good guys, but as has been the refrain the last couple of months, the Canucks blew the lead and ended up on the wrong end of a 4-2 final score.

Read more #TGATT goodness past the jump.

Mar 032014
 

476186525_slide
(Photo credit: nhl.com)

  • First off, can we talk about Eddie Lack getting the start over Roberto Luongo? Complete lack of respect. Yes, Lack has done well lately, but Luongo is your starting goaltender. He’s shown nothing but class and grace while the team botched their goaltending situation the last couple of years, and he definitely should have played in net today. Honestly, when will Lu get a chance to play in a game like the Heritage Classic again?
  • The game started off great for the Canucks. They took a 2-0 lead in the first 11:27 of the game, and for a while it looked like they were ready to blow the closed roof out of BC Place. Jason Garrison opened the scoring with a power play goal their first power play goal in 4 games – hey, at least the Canucks bumped one slump – and then Zack Kassian followed it up with his 11th goal of the season.
  • Speaking of which, Alex Burrows still hasn’t bumped his scoring slump. For those keeping track, he’s nearing 10 months since he last scored a goal. Just sayin’.
  • But of course, the Canucks blew a 2-0 lead, allowing the Senators to score twice in a span of 1:47 to tie up the game later in the first period. Classic Canucks blowing leads.
  • After the first period, things just went downhill for the Canucks. Cody Ceci put the Senators up 3-2 in the second period, and the Canucks didn’t have many chances to get even. And then of course Colin Greening sealed the deal with an empty-net goal with a minute and a half still remaining in the game. Anyone else thought it was too early to pull Lack for the extra attacker? Another bad decision by Torts?
  • Injury report: After one Sedin (Hank) returned from an injury, the other one went down to one. Daniel was hit into the boards by Marc Methot and remained down on the ice for a few minutes before slowly skating off the ice. He went straight for the Canucks dressing room and return for the rest of the game.
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