Dec 112013
 

With the recent emergence of Mike Santorelli as a legitimate piece of the Canuck Puzzle, it’s clear Mike Gillis is the guy you want next to you on “Black Friday”. This guy can find a bargain. And while he’s had the disapointments that every GM has during their tenure, he’s also had an abundance of pleasant surprises. Sure, the “fairweather fan” is quick to point out the Keith Ballard debacle or the Luongo/Schneider escapades but the true fan can see that, despite those controversies, Gillis has put together a pretty successful squad. He has brought in players to complement the core and has developed a cache of depth to account for injuries and ailments.  Not only that but we’ve seen the most successful Canuck team in the history of the franchise and numerous records broken in his era. This list compiles the mark Gillis has made on the Franchise since his induction as president and general manager.

Here are the top 5 Mike Gillis Acquisitions:

5) Manny Malhotra: A faceoff percentage among the league’s top 5 and 30 points. What every coach wants their third line center to do and what Manny Malhotra did. Unfortunately, a freak injury disrupted what could have been a symbiotic relationship between player and team. But for the few years Manny was here he was effective both on the ice as a player and in the dressing room as a leader.

4) Mikael Samuelsson: This trigger happy swede put up 106 points in 155 games for the Canucks before being traded to the Florida Panthers. His game fit in nicely with the Canucks both on second line duties and with his fellow compatriots the Sedins. The Canucks miss his 30 goals to this day.

3) Christian Erhoff: Acquired in a deal with the San Jose Sharks, Erhoff proved to be an offensive force on the blueline. The german had a seeing-eye shot and tremendous puck-moving skills helping the Canucks to a league-best powerplay. Unfortunately his stay was shortlived as his elevated play allowed him to sign for a bigger contract with the Sabres.

2) Chris Higgins: The ultimate utility player, Chris does it all. He plays a hardnosed game with a bit of touch and is the type of player teams covet in the spring. It’s no surprise Mike Gillis resigned him after initially trading for Higgins at the deadline as a rental.

1) Dan Hamhuis: Hamhuis is the type of player who makes those around him better. His arrival instantly brought out the best in Kevin Bieksa’s game and together the two became one of the more dominant shut-down pairs in the league. Hamhuis is a mainstay on the backend for the Canucks and is the only player besides Luongo to get shortlisted for Team Canada at the upcoming Olympic Games.

Honorable mention: Pavol Demitra, Maxim Lapierre, Mats Sundin, Cody Hodgson.

Mar 122013
 

Matt Calvert, Columbus Blue Jackets vs Cory Schneider, Vancouver Canucks

Photo credit: Lancaster Eagle Gazette

The Vancouver Canucks have easily dominated the Northwest Division in recent years. Heck, they’ve dominated it early this season, going 6-2-1 in their first 9 games against NW foes to-date (versus a 4-5-6 record against the rest of the Western Conference). But after a lackluster effort in Minnesota a couple of days ago, the Canucks have allowed the Wild to pass them in the standings.

In fact, at the halfway point of this shortened season, the Canucks have just 28 points in 24 games – good for a 6th place with 3 other teams in the Western Conference – and only 4 points up from tonight’s opponent, the Columbus Blue Jackets. They’ve been wildly inconsistent, especially in the last couple of weeks, and the frustration is clearly mounting among the team’s faithful.

In the meantime, the Blue Jackets are in the midst of one of their more successful stretches in their franchise’s history. Fresh off sweeping the Detroit Red Wings in a home-and-home series this past weekend, and unbeaten in their last 7 games (5-0-2), they are currently the NHL’s hottest team.

Add to that, they have the NHL’s hottest goalie. On Monday, Sergei Bobrovsky was named the NHL’s first star of the week after going 4-0-0 with a 0.77 GAA and 0.972 save percentage.

Think the Philadelphia Flyers are having a bit of seller’s remorse right now?

And as for the Canucks’ own goalies, well, right now, they’re struggling to make the critical saves at critical points in the game. Like, in the game’s first minute or so.

Canucks Record

24 GP, 11-7-6, 28 points (2nd in Northwest Division, 6th in Western Conference

Who’s Hot

After going goalless in the first 13 games of the season, Henrik Sedin has a 3-game goal scoring streak and a 7-game point streak (4G-5A-9P). Chris Higgins has 4 goals in his last 7 games.

For the Blue Jackets, Nick Foligno has 7 points (1G-6A) in his last 7 games. RJ Umberger has a 3-game point streak (2G-1A-3P).

Quickies

  • Roberto Luongo gets the start. (Vancouver Province)
  • Jordan Schroeder has been sent back down to the Chicago Wolves. It’ll be up to Andrew Ebbett now to get Dale Weise and Tom Sestito going. (TSN)
  • Manny Malhotra is also heading to Chicago to help the Canucks prospects with faceoffs. (Vancouver Sun)
Feb 192013
 

On Friday, Henrik Sedin passed Markus Naslund as the all-time leader with points as a Canuck, Ryan Kesler returned from injury, and Canucks fans were getting a chance to vote on what they felt the boys in blue should skate out to.

Clay, Chris, Ed and back again as a special guest, Alan from the Hogshack in Steveston, ponder these and more in this latest episode of CHB TV. Apologies in advance for the singing.

Oct 182012
 
Dan Hamhuis, Kevin Bieksa and Cory Schneider of the Vancouver Canucks prior to the Bieksa's Buddies Charity Game

Photo credit: The Globe and Mail

Kevin Bieksa proved that you can’t lock out the heart of a Canuck. Knowing that charities like Canuck Place, Canucks Autism Network and Canucks Family Education Centre were probably also suffering thanks to the NHL lockout, he organized Bieksa’s Buddies – a charity hockey game between NHL players and special guests and the UBC Thunderbirds.

I was lucky enough to snag a ticket in the 20 minutes before it sold out. Here’s my recap.

The Pre-Game

As I got out of the car and made my way to Thunderbird arena, I was swimming in a sea of blue and green. Oh how I missed it! Contrary to talk in social media circles that fans were hesitant to wear Canucks colors, many came out wearing them anyway. I’m okay with that. Regardless of which side you support, that is, if you support either side, during this NHL lockout, the charities benefiting from the evening’s events all have the word “Canucks” in their name so it felt right.

The pre-game festivities included an introduction for each player. Besides current Canucks and ex-Canucks, there were some other exciting additions like Marty Bieksa and Martin Nash. Michael Buble and Willie Mitchell, listed as players on the program, turned out to be  “game-time decisions” and the decision was they would coach alongside Ryan Kesler and Alex Edler. Buble later admitted he “chickened out” of playing. As for Willie, my guess is his Stanley Cup ring was too heavy and throwing off his balance when he skated. Lucky guy.

The Game

The first period started off with a lot of back and forth action. UBC scored, then Bieksa’s Buddies scored, then UBC scored again, then Bieksa’s Buddies again.

The second period turned into a bit… okay a lot… of a runaway for the Thunderbirds. With 4 unanswered goals, it made it feel even more like I was at an NHL game. I mean, it wouldn’t be a Canucks game if there wasn’t a coma nap in the middle, am I right? By the end of the second period, the score was 7-3 for UBC. Still, the mood was upbeat. I, myself, was giddy because it meant I could use my favorite hashtag – #windaturd!

And win da turd they did!

Bieksa’s Buddies came back strong in the third period. It started with a Bieksa goal – a Marty Bieksa goal! Then Chris Higgins started taking shots. Like shots as hard as his abs shots. Like shots so hard I could hear the slap of the puck against the Thunderbirds goalie’s pads from my seat in the very last row of the arena. And when he finally scored, it was a zinger and I was surprised it didn’t slice through the net. After Manny Malhotra tied the game came some Sedin magic mojo – a beauty of a cross-ice pass from Daniel to Henrik, who then passed the puck back to Daniel for a pretty much open net goal as the UBC goalie tried to get over his motion sickness. Canucks fans sighed a giant sigh of relied – the twins still got it!

Bieksa’s Buddies eventually won by a final score of 8-7.

Some other highlights:

Max Lapierre’s tenacity. Lappy was intense from the get go. He dug in the corners, he was hard on the puck and did everything but scored a goal.

Penalties. Most notably, the first penalty of the game for elbowing. I mean, who elbows in a charity game? Tanner Glass, that’s who! It got a lot of chuckles from the crowd. Almost as many laughs as the penalty called by Daniel Sedin. He got slashed, referee Al Bieksa didn’t see it, but after Daniel did some pointing and explaining, it was called. If only NHL refs would listen to Danny like that.

Marty Bieksa. He played incredibly well which left me wondering if we could trade Mason Raymond for him once the season starts.

Cory Schneider’s charitable acts. Buble may have donated $100,000, but Cory was definitely in a giving mood as well. Not only did he give up 7 goals, but when UBC pulled their goalie for the extra attacker, with UBC down by a goal and a minute left to play, Schnoo skated off the ice (to Darth Vader’s theme song) and watched from the bench and gave UBC a free shot at the open net.

From the game itself, Bieksa’s Buddies raised $100,000, after which Buble matched it with a $100,000 donation of his own, bringing the total raised to a whopping $200,000 going to Canuck Place, Canucks Autism Network and Canucks Family Education Centre. In spite of the bickering and pettiness and greed we’ve seen from the NHL lockout in the last 6 weeks, we were reminded last night of the good hearts of many of these guys, and in the process, fans got a chance to watch their hockey heroes again and deserving charities were blessed with much-needed funds – a win-win for all.

Jan 092012
 

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

The Canucks started the week with a shootout loss to the San Jose Sharks and followed it up with a dominating 3-0 win over division rivals, the Minnesota Wild. Then came the most anticipated game of the season – a rematch against the defending Stanley Cup Champions, Boston Bruins. And it didn’t disappoint. Despite being hyped up all week long, it lived up to its expectations and more. It felt like we were right back in the Stanley Cup Finals, and though while the Canucks prevailed, the end result was just another two points in the standings. There were big fights, huge saves and controversial hits. It doesn’t matter what team you cheered for, this was a game for the ages.

Canucks Record

42 GP, 26-13-3, 55 points (1st in Northwest Division, 1st in Western Conference)

Who’s Hot

Now in his 5th season with the Canucks, Jannik Hansen has really come into his own. He does the small things and wins the little battles, and his speed, grit and determination is evident in every shift. The Honey Badger is already having a career year with 12 goals and is just 6 points from tying his career-high of 29 points.

Who’s Not

Manny Malholtra has seemed to have lost some of his edge this season after overcoming a horrendous eye injury last season. Although he sits 3rd in the NHL in faceoffs (58.0%), other parts of Manny’s game have deteriorated. He doesn’t seem to be as aggressive or has often struggled to win the one-on-one battles. He only has 3 goals and 7 assists in 42 games – a pace of about 20 points, which would be his worse season statistically since the 2002-2003 season. That said, it’s worth noting that Uncle Manny’s faceoff skills and work on the penalty kill are still critical to the Canucks.

Who’s Next

Monday, January 9, 2012 vs. Florida Panthers (4:30 PM start, away)

The Canucks recalled Mike Duco on Sunday, and it’s perhaps fitting that he will make his Canucks debut against his former team, the Florida Panthers.

Leading the Southeast Division and sitting in 3rd place in the Eastern Conference, it’s safe to say that the Panthers have been one of the biggest surprises in the first half of the season. Much of their success is due to big off-season acquisitions like Kris Versteeg (38 points in 40 games), Tomas Fleischmann (34 points in 41 games) and Brian Campbell (33 points, 2nd among all NHL defensemen), just to name a few. These are not the same Panthers from previous seasons; they have built a whole new identity and look to make the playoffs for the first time since 1999-2000 season.

In last season’s meeting, the Canucks came out on top with a 2-1 victory. Daniel Sedin scored both goals and Roberto Luongo made 41 saves for the win against his former club.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012 vs. Tampa Bay Lightning (4:30 PM start, away)

The Lightning are currently on a 3-game losing skid and have not had the success that most expected after making it all the way to the Eastern Conference Finals last season. They currently sit in 13th place in the conference.

In last season’s meeting in Vancouver, Steven Stamkos scored 3 points (2G-1A), including the overtime winner.

Despite his teams’ struggles, superstar Steven Stamkos is having another good season, averaging over a point a game. He leads the team in goals (28 – also tops in the NHL) points (45). In his last 6 games, he has 8 goals, including 2 game-winning goals.

Thursday, January 12, 2012 vs. St. Louis Blues (5:00 PM start, away)

If the Panthers are the early surprise in the East, the St. Louis Blues are definitely one of the surprise teams in the Western Conference. Currently, they’re sitting in 4th place in the tough Western Conference. They have won their last 3 games, outscoring their opponents 12-4.

The Blues have won both meetings this season against the Canucks. T.J. Oshie leads the team with 2 goals, 2 assists and a plus-4 rating in those matchups. Brian Elliott recorded both wins for the Blues.

David Backes is tied for the team lead in goals (13) with T.J. Oshie and Alex Steen. He also leads the team in points (29). Backes has an active 3-game point streak (2G-2A-4P).

Sunday, January 15, 2012 vs. Anaheim Ducks (6:00 PM start, away)

Considering their firepower up front, it’s shocking how badly the Ducks are doing this season. Despite changing their coach, the results haven’t changed much and they currently sit in 14th place in the Western Conference.

The Ducks and Canucks have already played each other twice this season – both in Anaheim – with both teams winning one game each. Bobby Ryan and Andrew Cogliano both have a goal and assist against the Canucks this season; Daniel Sedin leads the Canucks with 2 goals, 2 assists and a plus-5 rating.

Corey Perry, the league’s reigning MVP, is tied with Bobby Ryan for the team lead with 15 goals and is second in scoring with 32 points.

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