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.

Oct 252011
Jesse Belanger, Vancouver Canucks

When a friend starring at his smartphone told me that the Canucks made a trade with the Florida Panthers, I could swear I saw a glitch in the Matrix. Seriously, this has happened so many times in recent years, it actually does give me some deja vu. The Vancouver-Florida connection continued this past Saturday with news that the Panthers had sent David Booth, Steve Reinprecht and a third-round draft pick in the 2013 draft (which is the same pick the Canucks sent to Florida at the deadline last year for Chris Higgins) in exchange for Mikael Samuelsson and Marco Sturm. While Sturm is in the lineup for the Panthers tonight and Booth will line up with Kesler and Chiggins tomorrow against the Edmonton Oilers, Samuelsson remains in Vancouver as he tries to get back to 100%. However, even if Sammy wasn’t on the mend, it will be at least a few months before we can begin to pick a winner in this trade.

…but I’m sure as hell going to try anyways!

But first, let’s go through the history of trades between these two regular dance partners, who between them have swapped some rather popular NHL stars in players like Roberto Luongo, Ed Jovanovski, Todd Bertuzzi and Pavel Bure.

Before we get started, did you know that if the Canucks didn’t make the Cam Neely for Barry Pederson deal way back in ’86, the Bruins may never have drafted Milan Lucic 20 years later? It’s true! This is the sort of analysis you can look forward to in this series as I look at the Canucks/Panthers trade history and see how the deals have affected both teams at the time, today and all the time in between. You’ll see how a trade has long term consequences and shapes rosters for many years after it happens. This is the hockey version of the Butterfly effect, if you will.

Year: 1996
Canucks receive: Jesse Belanger
Panthers receive: 3rd-round draft pick in the 1996 NHL Entry Draft

Background: This might look like a relatively insignificant trade but read on! It’s probably the most important in Panthers (and perhaps Canucks as a result) history!

This was the earliest trade I could find between the two clubs as the Panthers joined the NHL in 1993 with the Anaheim Mighty Ducks. Belanger was signed by the Montreal Canadiens in 1990 but never held a regular spot in the lineup. He played a total of 23 games with the Canadiens between 1991-’93 before he was left unprotected by Montreal and selected by Florida in the 1993 NHL Expansion Draft. Belanger had his best statistical season after joining the Panthers in 1993-’94, putting up 50 points in 70 games (70GP-17G-33A-50P) but only another 67 points over the next 110 games with the organization (110GP-32G-35A-67P).

What Happened: After the trade at the deadline, Belanger played 9 games with the Canucks with a rather unimpressive statline, scoring only three goals (9GP-3G-0A-3P) in the remainder of the regular season and only two assists in 3 games during the 1995-’96 playoffs. The Canucks finished 7th in the West (1 point above 8th place the original Winnipeg Jets), losing in the first round in 6 games to the eventual Stanley Cup champion Colorado Avalanche. The Panthers, on the other hand, reached the Stanley Cup Finals for the first and only time in their franchise history but were swept by the aforementioned Avs.

Belanger was released by the Canucks the following off-season and signed with the Edmonton Oilers. After appearing in only 6 games that season for the Oilers, Belanger popped up in the NHL two more times: once with the Canadiens in 1999-’00 (16GP-3G-6A-9P) and in 2000-’01 with the New York Islanders (12GP-0G-0A-0P). The ’01 season was the end of Belanger’s NHL career although he continued to play in the minors and overseas. Today, you can find him as a member of the Saint-Georges CRS Express with which he won a Lique Nord-Americaine de Hockey (North American Hockey League) championship in 2009-’10, the same year he was named the league’s Most Sportsman-like Player and a 1st team All-Star.

Long term consequences:

Canucks: The Canucks released Belanger at the end of the season they traded for him so it’s safe to assume this trade hasn’t impacted the team long term. Today’s results: none

Panthers: With the 65th overall pick in the 1996 NHL Entry Draft, the Panthers selected Oleg Kvasha, a 6-foot left wing from Moscow, Russia. Kvasha cracked the Panthers lineup in 1998-’99 and played 146 games over two seasons in Florida (146GP-17G-33A-50P).

In 2000, he was traded in the off season by the Panthers along with fellow winger Mark Parrish to the New York Islanders for Roberto Luongo and Olli Jokinen…which simply has to be one of the most lopsided trades ever as both Luongo and Jokinen would become cornerstones of the Panthers franchise for years while Kvasha played 5 seasons for the Islanders (332GP-60G-96A-156P) with Parrish (who has also popped up with the Canucks recently on a try-out). Kvasha would be dealt from the Islanders to the Coyotes in 2005-’06, where he would finish his NHL career.

Roberto Luongo was widely considered one of the best goaltenders at the time he was the Panthers starter. The teams in front of him were questionable defensively, which showed in the number of shots he routinely faced. During his time with the Panthers (318GP-108W-154L-35T), although the wins were scarce, Luongo set single season records for saves and shots faced. Luongo would later be traded to…yes, Vancouver. Jokinen on the other hand spent 7 seasons in Florida where he was captain from 2003 to when he was traded in 2008. In 7 seasons, he played 567 games and put up 419 points (567GP-188G-231A-419P).

Luongo’s blockbuster trade brought Todd Bertuzzi, Bryan Allen and Alex Auld to the Panthers while Olli Jokinen was dealt for Nick Boynton, Keith Ballard and a second round pick in the 2008 draft.

Bertuzzi only played 7 games for the Panthers that season due to a number of injuries before he would be traded to the Red Wings for Shawn Matthias and conditional picks. Allen would remain part of the Panthers defensive core for several seasons (284GP-14G-53A-67P) before the Panthers would trade him for Sergei Samsonov. Alex Auld played 27 games for Florida in 2006-’07 before leaving as an unrestricted free agent.

The conditional pick in the Bertuzzi trade would be part of the Tomas Vokoun deal between the Nashville Predators and Panthers. Sergei Samsonov would play 20 games with the Panthers last season but is currently an unrestricted free agent. Vokoun would also leave the Panthers as a UFA but not before playing 4 seasons with the club (248GP-101W-108L-30OTL). In short, today as a result of the Luongo branch of the Kvasha/Parrish for Luongo/Jokinen trade, the Panthers have…Shawn Matthias.

Nick Boynton would play a season with the Panthers (68GP-5G-16A-21P) before signing with Anaheim the year after as a UFA while Ballard would play two full seasons (164GP-14G-48A-62P) before being traded to Vancouver at the 2010 draft for Michael Grabner, Steve Bernier and Vancouver’s 1st round pick.

Grabner was released by the Panthers last season before the Islanders picked him up on waivers on the way to his 31-goal, Calder trophy candidate season. Bernier would play a season with the Panthers but leave as a UFA (and he still is). The 1st round pick from the Ballard deal would be used to select Quinton Howden, a promising 19-year old prospect with the Moose Jaw Warriors of the WHL.

The 2nd round pick included with the Olli Jokinen deal was first acquired from the Ottawa Senators. This was the 49th overall pick in 2008 and was later traded to the Nashville Predators in a package for the 46th overall pick. Pick #46 became Colby Robak while #49 became Jared Staal. Robak is still with the Panthers organization today as part of the San Antonio Rampage in the AHL. Today’s results: Shawn Matthias, Quinton Howden and Colby Robak.


The Panthers obviously won this trade. Although…and I actually have to scroll up to remember his name…Jesse Belanger’s stint with the Canucks was brief, the 3rd round pick the Canucks dealt for him had ramifications throughout the history of the Panthers. Although they’ve lost many All-Star quality players that have turned up as a result of this deal, the Panthers still come out on top here with 2008 WJHC gold medalist Shawn Matthias and two early round prospects still on their roster as opposed to the brief-if-it-even-exists entry that Jesse Belanger has in the Canucks history books. The shrewdness here by the Panthers was turning two promising young players in Kvasha and Parrish (at the time they were) into better, more promising young players in Luongo and Jokinen. It really got the ball rolling for the franchise. Given the history in Florida…that’s probably the best trade they’ve ever made even if they don’t have much playoff (…or regular season, for that matter) success to show for it. Without this seemingly innocuous transaction between the two teams, perhaps Roberto Luongo never ends up in Florida…and later, as a result, Vancouver.

Oct 242011

In the wake of the David Booth trade to Vancouver, there’s been a lot of sentimental thought around Mikael Samuelsson leaving. In fact, I’m a little surprised at how attached people have become to Samuelsson to the extent it’s been expressed that the Canucks lost out on this trade. All I’m going to say is, we got DAVID BOOTH.

Now this isn’t about Booth, it’s about Samuelsson. The Canucks walked away like bandits in this trade but Samuelsson won’t be forgotten in Vancouver. When you look at Samuelsson and what he was brought to Vancouver for, there’s no doubt it was because of his Stanley Cup rings and playoff experience. Samuelsson came in with a connection to the Sedins and he brought with him a maturity this young Canucks team didn’t know. He came to this team because Mike Gillis wanted him to take his team one step closer to being contenders.

If you think back closely, Samuelsson isn’t the first Swede to have served a similar purpose. When the Canucks signed Mats Sundin, he came in and had a huge influence on developing Ryan Kesler and the Sedins. He didn’t hang around for long, but there’s no doubt he’s had a lasting impact on those players, something they’ve admitted as well.

Samuelsson’s experience was supposed to kick in at the tail end of a long playoff run but injury prevented him from contributing his largest asset, experience, at the time it was needed most. That said though, his time in Vancouver was served well. He stepped up when he needed to, but most importantly, he taught this team a part of the game that will be with these players long after he’s left. The Canucks as a whole have now almost been there. They’ve come close. The pain that comes from being so close yet so far is something ingrained in every single player and it breeds a determinism and playoff maturity that Samuelsson can’t teach them. It’s a lesson they already know.

Oct 242011

In this episode of the CHB TV video podcast, Matt Lee, J.J. Guerrero and Richard Loat discuss the trade that brought David Booth, Steven Reinprecht and a 2013 3rd round draft pick from the Florida Panthers to the Canucks in exchange for Mikael Samuelsson and Marco Sturm.

Oct 222011

If you were one of those Canucks fans that wanted to be unique and get a Marco Sturm jersey, you might want to tell the Canucks Team Store to cancel your order.

Canucks general manager Mike Gillis apparently does care about what other people say about his team, and the critics’ longstanding issues about Vancouver’s lack of a second-line winger can now be silenced, at least for now.

The team announced shortly after their win against the Minnesota Wild that they had made a four-player trade with the Florida Panthers, sending the oft-injured Mikael Samuelsson and the ineffective Marco Sturm to the ‘Cats for winger David Booth, Steven Reinprecht, and a 3rd round pick in 2013.

So what does all this mean?

Well for starters, a moment of silence for Mikael Samuelsson, who provided Canucks media with some of the worst best audio clips in team history:

Yeah, I don’t know what happened there either. The guy’s got 11 NHL seasons under his belt and he’s talking like he’s got a Swedish meatball lodged in the back of his throat.

But in all seriousness, Samuelsson’s tenure in Vancouver was far from terrible. He provided some thrilling moments (most of which came in the Canucks’ first round battle with Los Angeles in 2010) and added some leadership in the team dressing room (which, you could argue, he passed on to the Sedin twins). Samuelsson put up 50+ points in his two years with Vancouver, and given the expectations of him when the team signed him in the summer of 2009, that’s pretty much what we hoped for.

Marco Sturm, on the other hand, was about as useless as useless could get. Slow and unable to acclimate himself into Alain Vigneault’s system, he was a circle peg trying to fit into a square hole. He showed zero chemistry with players from lines two to four and his previous injury woes showed. He will not be missed, and neither will the $2.5M price tag that was attached to him.

The centre piece of the deal is David Booth, who has as much upside as he does risk. A second-round draft pick from ’04, the height of Booth’s days in Florida were when he poured in 31 goals in 2008-09 while playing on a woefully bad team. Booth has also had seasons of 22 and 23 goals prior to and after the 31-goal campaign, so you know the potential is there.

On the other side of the coin, Booth was derailed by concussion problems in 2009 when he was blindsided by then-Flyer Mike Richards early in the year,  forcing him to miss 54 games with head problems. That’s a red flag in itself, as you could say rarely ever do players play the same after suffering major concussions, but Booth played a full season last year which should lead me to say his injury problems are a thing of the past.

Booth also played with Ryan Kesler when Team USA beat Canada in the 2004 World Juniors (Thanks again, Brayden Coburn’s ass and Marc-Andre Fleury’s brain). In 2003, Kesler also teamed up with current linemate Chris Higgins at the World Juniors, leading to early speculation all three will play on a line together soon.

Reinprecht, an aging veteran of 11 NHL seasons (that’s been said before already) is currently in Rochester playing for Florida’s AHL affiliate, so his days are likely done in the big league. That said, you can never have enough centre depth and Reinprecht will be a good mentor for some of the Canucks’ young blood in Chicago.

Myself and the rest of the CHB crew will have more analysis and discussion on the Canucks’ latest trade in tomorrow’s episode for CHB TV. Make sure you check back for more!

Oct 132011

[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 have gotten off to their typically slow October start earning three out of a possible six points in their first three games.  I was out all evening on Wednesday so I was left to follow the game on Twitter.  Some of the tweets I was reading made it sound like was had lost game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals or something.  Whoops…too soon?

Anyway, I was able to watch the entire game against the Flyers on the PVR and here are a few things that made me go hmmm…

  1. Sloppy play.  The Canucks were not very sharp for the majority of the game.  They didn’t seem ready from the start, and after their litany of first period penalties they were already down a pair of goals.  Their passing wasn’t crisp (except for the Sedins) and they had trouble gaining the offensive zone on numerous occasions (including back to back offside calls caused by Burrows’ indecisiveness).  Two of the Flyers’ three even-strength goals were directly caused by poor line changes and the Canucks’ scrambly defensive play often reminded me of my tier 9 roller hockey team.  Throw in a powerplay that wasn’t particularly aggressive nor urgent (especially in the later stages of the third period) and it all added up to a very uneven performance.
  2. Post-goal let downs.  The Canucks gave up goals immediately following three of their four tallies.  After Mikael Samuelsson’s first period goal, James Van Riemsdyk scored 73 seconds later.  Following Henrik Sedin’s goal in the second period, Jakob Voracek scored less than two minutes later.  And after Daniel Sedin’s important game-tying goal in the third period, Andrej Meszaros scored the game-winner for the Flyers almost exactly a minute afterwards.  Thus, every time the Canucks seemed to gain a bit of momentum, they handed it back to the Flyers.  It was an uphill battle all evening.  The Canucks have not started strong in any of their first three games.  Part of last season’s success was the team’s ability to get a lead and then protect it.  The Canucks will need to work harder to earn some early leads.
  3. Stanley Cup hangover?  Are you allowed to call it a Stanley Cup hangover if you didn’t actually win the Stanley Cup?  Nevertheless, the Canucks aren’t the only Stanley Cup finalist struggling out of the gate.  The Boston Bruins have just one win in four games and it’s against inferior competition (two of the losses came against Colorado and Carolina).  Horton, Krejci, Lucic and Chara have combined for a total of only 3 points.  Contrast that to the 15 combined points of the Sedins, Burrows and Edler (in only 3 games).  Of course, it’s extremely early and many things will change as the season progresses.  However, Canucks fans can take solace in the fact that our Stanley Cup nemesis has started off slowly as well.
  4. Top-ranked anthemist?  Firstly, is anthemist even a word?  And secondly, who on earth ranks them?  And thirdly, shouldn’t a “#1 ranked anthemist” be able to keep time with the organist?

The Canucks will hardly have any time to lick their wounds or feel sorry for themselves as they take on another perennial powerhouse in the Detroit Red Wings on Thursday night.  Let’s hope that Vancouver plays a tighter game and avoids the post-goal let downs on their way back to the win column.

Oct 032011

[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.]

After a remarkably short hockey summer, we’re already just a few sleeps away from the start of the 2011-12 NHL season and the Vancouver Canucks’ home opener against the Pittsburgh Penguins sans Sidney Crosby.  As the pre-season comes to an end, here are some Things That Make You Go Hmmm:

  1. The first power play unit.  I was at the Canucks’ final exhibition game, a 4-1 victory over the Edmonton Oilers this past Saturday night.  While I was impressed with many things, I was very unimpressed with our first power play unit.  Granted, the full unit only played a couple of games together but on Saturday night their execution was quite sloppy.  Alex Edler and Mikael Samuelsson had trouble at the point: they were both unable to get shots off and had trouble keeping the puck inside the zone on numerous occasions.  With Samuelsson’s defensive shortcomings (mostly because he’s not a defenceman), I think it’s quite risky that he’s manning the point.  I would much rather see Sami Salo and his wicked slap shot at the point, although I’m not sure who would want to stand in front of the net to screen the goalie and look for deflections.  Speaking of which, it’s obvious that the Canucks are going to miss Ryan Kesler’s effective net presence on the power play… it’s simply not a strength of Alex Burrows’ game.
  2. Getting off to a good start.  October has traditionally been quite unfriendly to the Canucks.  Over the past five seasons, the Canucks have a 29-27-3 record in October, amassing only 61 of a possible 118 points.  Part and parcel to the club’s performance is the play of goaltender Roberto Luongo, who is traditionally a slow-starter.  Luongo, like all of the veterans, only played in a few pre-season games but he looked extremely sharp on Saturday night.  As mentioned above, the Canucks employed a strategy of playing the veterans in only a couple pre-season games after last year’s long playoff run.  The purpose was two-fold:  to give the players a bit more rest and to make them hungrier coming out of the gate.  We’ll see if it translates into a strong October performance.  And we’ll see if other teams follow suit if the Canucks do well right off the bat.
  3. Lamenting my hockey pool choice.  On Sunday, I hosted an annual hockey pool for my buddies and wound up picking 4th overall.  Not surprisingly, Steve Stamkos went first, Daniel Sedin went second, and Alex Ovechkin went third.  I spent my 90 seconds agonizing between picking Henrik Sedin (and his guaranteed 90-100 points) and the ultimate wild-card Sidney Crosby.  You’d think it would be an easy choice for an avid Canucks blogger, a no-brainer.  But, for whatever reason, I decided to take a chance on the guy who will NOT be playing at Rogers Arena this Thursday night.  As the rest of the guys in the room started to murmur, I immediately regretted my decision, especially after the next poolster took Hank within 0.7 seconds of me taking Crosby.  Oh well… I hope the winner of the pool will do something nice with my 35 bucks!

Will the Canucks be able to leave their slow October starts in their rear-view mirror?  We’ll get our first indication this Thursday night. 

Sep 272011

Our season preview series continues today with some thoughts on forward Mikael Samuelsson.

What we remember:

After a career-high 30 goals in 2009/2010, Mikael Samuelsson lit the red lamp just 18 times in 2010/2011 as he tried to play through a leg injury for much of the regular season. The only current Canucks player to ever get his name on the Stanley Cup, Samuelsson’s postseason was also cut short – he didn’t play again after game 5 of the Canucks second round series against the Nashville Predators – and he underwent sports hernia surgery.

What we expect:

Samuelsson is one of the players the Canucks will count on the most to provide some secondary scoring while Ryan Kesler and Mason Raymond recover from their respective injuries. He’ll most likely start in a top-six role as well as replace Christian Ehrhoff’s spot playing point on the powerplay. In a nutshell, he’ll be expected to produce and be given every opportunity to do so. It won’t hurt that he’s entering his contract year.

Reality check:

Does Samuelsson have another 30-goal season in him? The reality is, his 18 goals last year is closer to his four-year average while playing with Detroit (17 goals per season).

He said it:

“The biggest thing is being in it again mentally. Start now because it’s going to be a long season. We have the pieces to do some damage again, but that being said it’s not a guarantee. Anything can happen. We should make the playoffs and go from there.”

- Mikael Samuelsson on the Canucks’ chances to get to the Stanley Cup Finals again

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