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 172014
 

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(Photo credit: lightning.nhl.com)

After defeating Roberto Luongo and the Florida Panthers yesterday afternoon, the Canucks are hoping to close their 4-game road trip with back-to-back wins, which, if they pull off, would be their first win streak in a couple of months. But more importantly, it would keep their faint hope of making the playoffs alive, potentially inching to within a point of the 8th place Dallas Stars, who currently hold the final wild card playoff spot. The Stars will, however, have 4 games in hand.

Nevertheless, hope, right?

Celebrating a Cup Win

The Tampa Bay Lightning will end a 6-game home stand tonight by celebrating the 10th anniversary of their Stanley Cup win in 2004. Torts, of course, coached the Lightning back then, and will likely receive a hero’s welcome from the home crowd. (Cynically, we’ll suggest there are some Canucks fans who would prefer he stays there.)

We honestly don’t know what’s more depressing – that Torts hasn’t been able to coach the Canucks this season with the same amount of success as that 2004 Lightning team, or that the Tampa Bay freaking Lightning have won a Stanley Cup.

Top Line Sighting

The top line has come alive in the last few games. After a loooong scoring drought, Alex Burrows has 3 goals and 3 assists in his last 4 games. Nicklas Jensen, who is filling in for the injured Daniel Sedin has goals in back-to-back games. There hasn’t been many bright spots for the Canucks this season, but seeing Jensen have some success at the NHL level – at least for now – is one of them.

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 152014
 

Lose a bunch, win one, lose one, win one, lose two – the story of the Canucks’ 2013/2014 season.

The Canucks did play well. Even their power play looked like a real power play with scoring chances and stuff you should expect to have when you have one more guy on the ice than the other team does. But we’re way past the point of relishing moral victories. And with last night’s 4-3 loss to the Washington Capitals – and the Dallas Stars getting a point against the Calgary Flames – they fall further back of the playoff picture.

Read more #TGATT goodness past the jump.

Mar 132014
 
horvatbo640

We all could have predicted the epic slumps by the Sedins, Burrows, Edler, and Booth right? Well, maybe Booth, but for the most part this year has been a huge surprise and not in a good way. The offence has completely dried up and the players look fatigued, unemotional and simply out of sorts. Management is underfire constantly from the fans and media and change could be coming soon.

I, for one, consider this year an anomaly. Typically, when players get into the twilight of their careers, their play simply goes a bit downhill, not right off a cliff. I believe this core still has some good hockey left in it and I expect to see some more predictable stats next year. That being said, on the EXTREMELY rare chance that I am wrong, we may have to look to a younger, greener core, one with lots of questions, albeit lots of potential. In this countdown, I’ve compiled a list of those young hopefuls that the organization expects will eventually fortify a solid team. We’re going with the youngins’ here so only 90′s babies allowed (sorry Chris Tanev and Eddie Lack). A lot of ifs and maybes on this list, but hey, that’s the fun of being a sports fan, isn’t it?

The top 5 up and coming Canucks are:

5) Frankie Corrado: A young, composed d-man who seems to be cut from the same cloth as Chris Tanev. Not an offensive force but reliable and poised. Probably no less than a year removed from being a mainstay on the Canuck blueline.

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4) Hunter Shinkaruk: Not exactly a physical force or an intimidating player, Shinkaruk relies on his skill and positioning to provide offence. One of two 2013 first round draft picks, Hunter looked like one of the better young prospects during the preseason and even chipped in with a few goals.

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3) Nicklas Jensen: The Canucks’ first round draft pick in 2011, Jensen brings size and skill to a team which needs both. The big Dane has been slow to develop but was the most productive Utica Comet before his latest call-up to the big squad.

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2) Zack Kassian: Already a regular on the Canucks, Kassian is getting better every game. While he was coveted for his grit, it’s his passing and powerful skating that has kept him with the club. If Kassian can crack the top 6, expect good things offensively.

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1) Bo Horvat: The number 9 overall pick in the 2013 NHL entry draft came at a heavy price. In losing Cory Schneider, the Canucks gained Horvat, a skilled, clutch forward with future captain written all over him. They need Bo to step in and be an impact player. Plain and simple.

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Sep 082011
 

For the second year in the row the Canucks are hosting their Young Stars Tournament in Pentiction. This year they will be joined by prospects from the Calgary Flames, Edmonton Oilers, San Jose Sharks and Winnipeg Jets.

Whether you’re making the trip to scout the potential Canucks in person or following along at home, I have your prospect primer right here.

Today we have some top forwards to watch:

Steven Anthony

In March, the Canucks signed Steven Anthony to a 3-year entry level contract. With a Memorial Cup win under his belt, the 20 year-old is setting his sights on the AHL this season. After recording 60 points and an impressive plus-35 in the regular season he missed most of the post season due to a knee injury. He did still score 12 points (5 goals and 7 assists) in the 14 games he played.

Darren Archibald

The Canucks may have found an incredible steal when they signed Darren Archibald last December. With his size, toughness and scoring ability it’s hard to see why he was overlooked by the entire league for so long.

The 6’3″, 210 lb., 21-year-old scored 41 goals and 25 assists in the OHL last season. Now, admittedly I do have a soft spot for players who make the NHL without getting drafted, but despite some inconsistencies earlier in his junior career there is no reason to believe that Archibald can’t make an appearance on the Canucks fourth line at some point this season.


Keep an eye on him in Penticton and he just might show you something special.

Alex Friesen

20-year old Alex Friesen also played his final season with the Niagra Ice Dogs last season, finishing fourth in team scoring with 66 points (26 goals – 40 assists). That stands out, not only as a career high but also as a testament to the steady progress he made through four years in the OHL. Although he does handle the puck well, what caught my attention was his physical play. He already has an impressive list of fight cards at hockeyfights.com and this hit on Taylor Hall means that Oilers fans won’t need to come up with their own reasons to hate on him.


Friesen won’t be ready to make the NHL jump this season, but he is an incredibly hard worker and should be worth keeping an eye on in the next few years.

Nicklas Jensen

18 year-old Danish boy Nicklas Jensen was selected by the Canucks in the first round of this years draft. And not just so fellow countryman, Jannik Hansen, would have someone to talk to in the locker room.

After being named Rookie of the Year in the Danish league (which, to be fair, isn’t saying all the much when coming from a country that has produced a grand total of seven NHLers…ever), Jensen was drafted by the Oshawa Generals. He spent last season there – his rookie season in the CHL – and recorded 58 points (29 goals – 29 assists) in 61 games.

A combination of quick skating and nice hands made the kid a tough guy to defend against in juniors, but he’ll need to grow into his 6’2 frame before turning pro. He could prove to be entertaining to watch in Penticton, but Danish Canuck fans will have to make due with Hansen for the time being.

Jordan Schroeder

Some people have viewed first round pick Jordan Schroeder as a potential draft bust, but I think it’s much too earlier to call it just yet.

After receiving a lot of attention at his first NHL training camp last September, Schroeder was set to have a promising season with the Moose. He recorded 3 assists in his first game of the season. Unfortunately, he suffered a high ankle sprain in December, sat out 16 games and was never the same afterwards. He recorded just 28 points in 61 games, plus another 6 points in the postseason.

With Vancouver appearing to be looking for some size and grit this season in seems unlikely that Schroeder, who weighs in at 180 and is listed as a generous 5’9, will crack the starting roster, at least not this season.

Bill Sweatt

Bill Sweatt joined his brother Lee as a potential Canuck last preseason after failing to sign a contract with the Toronto Maple Leafs earlier in the summer. Although he didn’t crack the NHL in his first attempt, I was prepared to like him before he even rolled into town. Not only did he provide another brotherly connection on the Canucks roster, he also managed to piss off Toronto fans before he even hit the ice, adding a bit of zest to his background (late in the season he was still getting the occasional angry tweet from Toronto haters).

Sweatt excelled in Manitoba last season, recording 46 points (19 goals – 27 assists) in 80 games, good enough to finish second in team scoring. This will be Sweatt’s second Young Stars tournament, so he’ll be coming in with more to prove this time around, especially if he wants to see more than the three NHL games big brother Lee played last season.

Prab Rai

Local boy Prab Rai received a lot of attention at last years prospect camp. Not only does he hail from Surrey, but should he ever make the jump to the NHL, he’ll be only the third player of East Indian descent to do so (after Manny Malhotra). A solid back story was further enhanced by the fact that the kid could actually play some hockey.

Rai has some serious speed on the ice and handles the puck well, although he tends to stay away from high-traffic areas. Rai hoped to spend the 2010-11 season with the Manitona Moose, but a nagging back injury essentially lost him his rookie season.

If he has made a full recovery he could stir up some excitement this season. After all, everyone loves cheering for a home town boy.

So what do you think? Any chance we’ll be seeing any of these guys on Vancouver ice? Let me know!

Jun 242011
 

I’ll be honest. I didn’t think Nicklas Jensen would last to the no. 29 pick. I didn’t even consider it.

Going into the draft, Jensen was ranked 21st by NHL Central Skating, 22nd by International Scouting services, 24th by TSN and 19th by The Hockey News.

Already 6’2″ and 188 lbs., he’s a power forward-type with good hands and good skill. He’s known as a smart hockey player too, which I’m sure GM Mike Gillis liked.

Jensen, who plays for the Oshawa Generals, just finished a fairly productive first season in the OHL. He recorded 29 goals and 58 points in 61 games. He added another 7 goals (team lead) and 11 points in the OHL playoffs.

Here are excerpts of what some of the experts wrote about him.

From NHL Central Scouting:

Nicklas has adjusted very well to the OHL. His puck-handling and play-making ability are excellent. He has an excellent wrist shot that he gets off quickly.

From TSN:

Scouts love his size/skill combo, has the physical attributes to be a top-line power winger.

From True Hockey:

The 6-foot-3, 185 pound right winger is recognized as a strong two-way forward with a lethal combination of great shooting skills and smooth skating. He is projected to develop into a playmaker at the NHL level because of his vision and ability to find his linemates in tight areas. One area that scouts criticized early in the season was his lack of consistency from game-to-game. Although he will need to round out that aspect of his game, there is no doubting his potential based on his play as of late.

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