Dec 292011
 

[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 know it’s been three weeks since my last “Things That Make You Go Hmmm”, but I was a bit pre-occupied with Christmas and creating this year’s Canucks Christmas Carol called “Under the Minneso”. Unfortunately (or fortunately), it was rendered irrelevant on Boxing Day when the Canucks passed the Wild to take over top spot in the Northwest Division. So check it out now if you haven’t seen it yet, before it fades into YouTube oblivion.

For my last “Things That Make You Go Hmmm” column of 2011, I am going to focus solely on Andrew Ebbett’s overtime goal that lifted the Canucks to a thrilling 3-2 win over the Sharks in San Jose last night. I have three things that made me go hmmm:

  1. Kevin Bieksa left wide-open… three times on one play. Do you want to know why Kevin Bieksa was so wide open on the game-winning play? First, Bieksa and Jannik Hansen took off on a two-on-one when Brent Burns was caught pinching. Shortly after Bieksa’s shot was saved by Antti Niemi, the four Sharks skaters did their best impression of a Timbit hockey team: they were all within six feet of each other and they had no semblance of positioning because they were all dead tired. The two worst offenders, Dan Boyle and Patrick Marleau, were both on the ice for a whole minute before the goal went in. We’re not talking about a first-period shift here; this is after playing 63 minutes of frenetic hockey. Boyle came onto the ice with 2:45 left in OT, Marleau with 2:37 left (which was coincidentally the same time that Bieksa came onto the ice). Add Brent Burns and Ryan Clowe, who both came onto the ice with 2:25 left, and you had four tired Sharks out there. By contrast, Andrew Ebbett and Hansen came over the boards with 2:20 left and Alex Edler barely got into the play, jumping on the ice for Dan Hamhuis at the 1:53 mark and not touching the puck before Ebbett tipped home Bieksa’s shot with 1:37 left on the clock. On Bieksa’s slap shot with 1:46 left, Boyle was too slow to get out to him. And when Bieksa let go the final wrister, it was Clowe slow to mark him. All this time, Marleau stayed in front of Edler at the other point, likely hoping that the puck wouldn’t come in his direction. Whether it was superior conditioning or a bit of puck luck, the Canucks looked absolutely dominant for the last 20 seconds of the game.
  2. San Jose fans must hate Kevin Bieksa. After all, the Canuck defenceman scored one of the most memorable (and fluky) goals in Canucks history when he alertly pounced on a loose puck that had deflected off a stanchion at Rogers Arena, finishing off the Sharks in 5 games in last year’s Western Conference Finals. Not to mention, he was a plus-3 in that double overtime game. Bieksa notched one assist in the Canucks 3-2 win over the Sharks back in November, and then Bieksa has two assists in last night’s win. Simply put, he’s been a beast against San Jose. Except on last night’s game-winning goal, he didn’t need a stanchion… he only needed an Ebbett.
  3. Ebbett celebrates by himself. Fellow CHB writer Ed Lau pointed this out as well: the Canucks jumped off the bench and swarmed Bieksa after the overtime goal, while Ebbett raced into the corner to celebrate with himself apparently. A few seconds after you see Bieksa jump into the waiting arms of Daniel Sedin and Manny Malhotra, you see Ebbett leap into the pile, ramming his own face into Max Lapierre’s glove. It’s understandable: the Canucks were elated to win the game, and they had no idea that Ebbett deflected Bieksa’s point shot. Ebbett trying to get included in the celebration brought back memories of Victor Oreskovich doing the same thing after Alex Burrows’ goal in game 7 vs. Chicago last April.

Dec 142011
 

Well someone’s going to get a lump of coal for Christmas.

In case you’ve missed it, Chicago Blackhawks third-line centre Dave Bolland didn’t mince words in a WGN interview on Monday, chastising the Vancouver Canucks and calling out the Sedin twins:

“I hate all of them [the Canucks]… I don’t think we’d let [the Sedins] on our team. And yeah, they probably would still be sisters. I think they might sleep in bunk beds. The older one has the bottom one, the younger one got the top.”

Slow clap, Dave Bolland. Slow clap.

Maybe Dave Bolland played up to the laughter of the crowd during the interview. Maybe he himself embraces being public enemy number one in Vancouver, or maybe he wanted to see if he could get a rise out of some of the Canucks. Either way, Bolland succeeded in ruffling at least a few feathers.

For every fan who has come to appreciate the Sedins, there’s the troll who have followed the “Sedin sister” label, and Bolland’s latest comments allowed those trolls to come out of the woodwork in droves today. Some Canuck “fans” even suggested on the TEAM1040 that they’d rather have Bolland in their lineup than the twins. Bolland’s comments forced both Alain Vigneault and Mike Gillis to jump to the defense of their top players:

“Dave Bolland has an IQ the size of a bird seed and a face only a mother can love.”  – Vigneault

“If someone wants to take a shot at them after all they’ve accomplished, especially over the last three years, it rings hollow in my ears.” – Gillis

Dave Bolland can jab at the Sedins with his Stanley Cup ring all day, but it absolutely astounds me that anyone can actually hate the Sedins.

They’re twin brothers who were drafted into the NHL with the highest of expectations. They were burned at the stake in Vancouver when they didn’t produce in the early days of their careers, to the point where they were this close to going back to Sweden. Not only did they manage to train hard and prove those naysayers wrong, they exceeded our wildest expectations, becoming the first two Canucks to ever win Art Ross trophies (Henrik also won the Hart trophy). Their charitable work in the Vancouver area is also unrivaled; they donated $1.5-million of their own money to the B.C. Children’s Hospital.

If Dave Bolland or any of the Canucks chief rivals can’t (or don’t want to) see just how good the Sedins are on the ice or how genuine they are off of it, it’s probably best to turn the other cheek and ignore it.

The Sedins and the Canucks have never cared about what the media or other teams say about them, and they’re not about to start. They’ve got other, more important things to worry about, like winning the Stanley Cup. That’s the only thing that will shut up every last one of those critics.

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.

Nov 202011
 

Kevin Bieksa, PNG.

Two years ago, I would never have written this post on Kevin Bieksa.

At least, if I did, it would have had a completely different angle and would most likely be titled, “Kevin Bieksa and His Contract Years: I TOLD YOU SO!” or something along those lines.

For years I was a firm believer that Bieksa was a contract year player, and as the Canucks entered the 2010/2011 season, I said to many friends, “Watch. Bieksa will play great, they’ll re-sign him, then he’ll slip back into mediocrity again.”

Some might say that I was right when I said that. But now I don’t want to be right.

I want to be wrong. In fact, I was wrong.

I understand how strange that sounds coming from a woman, and a Canucks fan on top of that, but it’s true.

Bieksa has grown on me, not only as a player, but as a person. Call it what you will, but for whatever reason, I am now rooting for KB3 to rise above the fan base’s pigeonholing and prove people wrong. Sound familiar, Luongo?

Maybe Bieksa does perform better in contract years; stats do prove that, but it’s not that simple, and I was ignorant and an idiot to ever think it was.

There’s a 13-page discussion on Canucks.com’s fan forum discussing this exact topic. Here’s a fan’s comment that basically sums up Bieksa’s critics:

“It was funny how everyone jumped on the Bieksa bandwagon last year just like they did back in 06/07. He was horrid in between those years and yet everyone seems to have forgotten that.”

To me, it seems that what people have forgotten isn’t how “horrid” Bieksa was; they’ve forgotten what happened to Bieksa during those years.

It’s all about circumstances.

After Bieksa’s first full year with the Canucks in 2006/2007, he won the best defenseman and unsung hero awards from the team. He was then rewarded with a 3-year contract extension in July 2007.

But following this extension, Bieksa would miss nearly half that season and finish a minus-11. This wasn’t because Bieksa felt secure with his new contract and decided to play badly; it was because he suffered his first calf laceration by a skate only a month into the season.

I would hardly consider these circumstances to be a result of laziness or a sense of security in a new contract.

For the next two seasons, Bieksa would see numerous injuries and another calf laceration in December 2009 that sidelined him for another 27 games.

His next year with the Canucks in 2010/2011 was another contract year, and we all remember how successful that was for Bieksa, and thus for the team. He finished the season with a mind-blowing plus-32 rating, only second to the Bruins’ Zdeno Chara that season. Bieksa also played noticeably smarter hockey, leaving behind him his days of constant turnovers at the blue line or stupid penalties that would cost the team.

Bieksa’s composure changed, and with it, so did his defensive game.

It was, after all, Bieksa who scored that double-overtime goal against San Jose that sent the Canucks to the Stanley Cup Final. Although the Canucks lost to the Bruins, Bieksa ended his 25 playoff games with the most goals and ice time of Canucks defensemen, despite playing injured.

In the summer, Bieksa was rewarded again for his great performance with a 5-year contract extension at $23 million with a NTC.

Immediately there were rumblings from the fan base that Bieksa would slip back into his “comfort zone” after being extended, and would possibly have another mediocre season. Then the season started, and it would appear that those rumblings weren’t far off.

After 19 games, Bieksa has six points and is a minus-7, giving his critics a reason to smirk.

Two years ago, I would have been smirking with them, but things change and people grow up. These opinions of Bieksa that were once mine now frustrate me, and remind me how fickle and demanding some fans are.

Did people so soon forget what happened over the summer?

Perhaps a fan’s recent comment that rang true the most for me was this one:

“It’s too early to start breaking down and assessing things…just off to a slow start… More so, the hangover of playing in a 7 game SCF is evident…couple that with a rough summer emotionally, and I think some of the guys are still ‘tired’. They’ll get their jump again.”

Where to start.

Let’s start with the over-discussed Stanley Cup hangover, plus the short offseason combined with the tragic death of Bieksa’s friend and close companion Rick Rypien.

To be blunt, give him a damn break.

If you need to remind yourself how close those two were, or maybe you weren’t even aware of it to begin with, re-read Iain MacIntyre’s fabulous article on their relationship to remind you.

“I felt he was as much my responsibility as anybody’s,” Bieksa said. “Looking back now, I wished I’d talked to him a little more in the summer.”

That article brought many fans to tears.

So if you want to sit there and accuse Bieksa of playing poorly because he got a contract extension, you’re going to come off as a callous couch jockey. It’s easy to sit there and judge from your living room, pointing fingers and bringing up things like salary, isn’t it?

You know what’s not easy? Feeling the pressure to perform perfectly night after night under the microscope that is Vancouver, all while grieving the loss of the Cup, and the loss of a little brother.

In my opinion, which doesn’t mean much, he’s doing the best that he can, and considering it’s only November and how others are struggling on the team as well, that’s good enough for me.

It’s good enough because Bieksa is human. He has a big heart, he’s a great friend on and off the ice and he’s one hell of a hockey player.

I can wait.

So Bieksa, take all the time you need. I’m behind you.

Nov 052011
 

And so here come the Canucks, the same group of whining cheap-shot artists who alternate between diving and slashing when they’re not sucker-punching or biting, all while refusing to drop their sticks.”

“[Schneider]’s the better goaltender right now and probably was a year ago, but the Canucks didn’t have the guts to play the right guy.”

“Of course, gutless is synonymous with Canucks.”

Ladies and gentleman, if you haven’t met before, you’ve just been introduced to Chicago-based columnist Barry Rozner from the Daily Herald. These quotes come from Thursday’s column which he wrote in anticipation of Sunday’s hockey game.

I’d say Rozner is back “with a vengeance” if it weren’t for the dribbling bellyaching he uses as a sorry approach to sports journalism… if you can call it sports journalism. He’s written multiple nasty articles on the Canucks, labelling them as “cowards” whose name would “dishonor the Cup.” In fact as a writer, he should know better than to overuse a term in one article, in his case, “gutless.”

Ah, Rozner, a man from humble beginnings who worked hard to get into the sports writing industry. If you read about his background, he seems like any other sportswriter – hardworking and ambitious, with shining, beady eyes that once dreamt of a bright career in journalism.

But then you read some of his columns and wonder, “How much did this guy get beat up as a kid?”

Outside of Chicago, Rozner is best known to Canucks fans, a group he quite obviously enjoys enraging whenever possible. Seriously, I think this guy’s a little evil. I’ve perused his other columns and haven’t witnessed anything close to the kind of tactless, over-exaggerating “writing” he seems to save for the Canucks.

In fact, most of his other columns are just damn boring. And maybe that’s the thing; maybe Rozner knows that pissing off Vancouver Canucks fans gets him attention he can’t garner from anything else he produces; attention that draws the highest amount of viewers to his articles. After all, the more hits his articles get, the happier his editors are. It’s all about the numbers.

And there are a hell of a lot of Canucks fans across North America, and even more people who love to hate the Canucks (as Rozner lovingly points out himself). Combine the two by writing a provocative article on the Canucks that no one can ignore, and you have a lot a lot of hits, don’t you?

Give him some credit; he knows what he’s doing.

Sure, maybe Rozner really does hate the Canucks – a word he actually uses over and over to describe them – but if you read any of his attacks on Vancouver (the city, its team, its fans), and manage to look past the bullying and macho vocabulary, you’ll find something quite simple underneath it all:

  • Troll (noun): One who purposely and deliberately (that purpose usually being self-amusement) starts an argument in a manner which attacks others on a forum without in any way listening to the arguments proposed by his or her peers. He will spark such an argument via the use of ad hominem attacks (i.e. ‘you’re nothing but a fanboy’ is a popular phrase) with no substance or relevance to back them up, as well as straw man arguments, which he uses to simply avoid addressing the essence of the issue.

Holy shit, whoever wrote that must know Barry Rozner!

We all know internet trolls. They hide behind their computer screens and smart phones, firing off one-sided personal attacks and ignorant commentary without fear of real-life repercussions. They’re everywhere, and they’re cowards.

Sound familiar, Rozner readers?

If you’re a fan, it’s easy to get angry when you read any of Rozner’s anti-Canucks articles. He’s actually quite triumphant at being nasty, and many of his points hit close to home (and aren’t necessarily wrong either). It’s how he delivers his points that make him sound more like a petulant child than a professional journalist, considering his attacks got nastier after the Canucks tossed his beloved Blackhawks from the playoffs.

But remember, if you get angry you’re just feeding the troll. Be smarter than him, and remember he just wants the views and the expected attention. He feeds off of it. It’s sad, really, how someone would forfeit their dignity as a journalist for some notice and a few more website hits.

I wonder if he and Rick Reilly are golf buddies?

Oh, and Barry, I’d like to see you call Kevin Bieksa a gutless, whining cheap shot to his face. Actually, I’m sure there are enough Canucks fans out there who’d gladly pay you to give it a try.

But you won’t, not for any amount of money. Hell, you won’t even speak with Vancouver media about your writing or respond to the Canucks fans you love to torment.

After all, why would you? You have your computer screen to hide behind.

I guess the term “gutless” isn’t only synonymous with the Canucks now, is it Barry?

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