Mar 112010
 

With most teams in the NHL you can point to one player on the team who is the face of the franchise. The Capitals belong to Ovechkin, the Penguins belong to Malkin, the Islanders are Tavares’ and the Kings are Kopitar’s. The list goes on but the point is most teams have one face, one super star that either makes or breaks the team based on how they play. With that concept in mind, these Canucks once were Luongos. The face of the 2006-07 franchise-record-49-Win Canucks, was Luongo. He won his first career playoff series single-handedly, and lost his second career playoff series single-handedly.

Since then this team has evolved around a core group of players that are a combination of to tier forwards, rock solid blue liners, a passionate goalie and a desire to win. That being said, this season has exemplified one thing in particular: The Canucks don’t have one leader, they play as a team. This year’s Canucks define exactly what a team should be and that’s been the story all year. I can remember just how many times over the years I’ve said, “We need secondary scoring, the top lines are in a slump”, and the Canucks haven’t had the depth or talent to pull it off.

When you look at this year’s team, secondary scoring was at one point the only reason we didn’t tank. Through the Canucks injury problems all year, through the slumps, and the highs and lows, there has always been someone to step in and take over. In one particular game it was Ryan Johnson and Tanner Glass against the Avalanche resulting in Johnson’s first multi-point game of his career, in another it was Mason Raymond who decided to go on a streak. When the Sedins came back and the Canucks needed to turn things around Burrows took over, but post Olympics it’s been Kesler who’s carried the team. With the Sedins in a pre-Olympic slump as a result of a snubbing Samuelsson has stepped his game up. What’s even more impressive is that Samuelsson has stepped his game up during the Canucks most critical point in the season.

Between Henrik’s offensive outburst, Burrows’ nose for the net, Samuelsson’s response to the snub, Raymond’s breakout year and Kesler’s ascent to the next tier of forwards, it’s no surprise that this team doesn’t have one singular face. This team has learned to find a way to win. What’s more important, and most important is they’ve found a way to win without having to rely on Luongo to perform near miracles on an almost nightly basis. The Canucks chemistry is at an all time high and with the number of players having career years what makes this year’s edition of the Vancouver Canucks unique is their ability to step up individually and carry this team when it needs someone to take the reigns. The most perfect example was Samuelsson and his second period hat trick against the Avalanche, but in the streaks various different Canucks players have thrown together it’s clear that when there is a hole in the offense or defense someone steps up.

On a blue line that has struggled from the get go and had to give more responsibility to the likes of everyone’s favourite Canuck Shane O’Brien, Christian Ehrhoff has come in and stepped up. The German Olympian who is having an outstanding year on the blue line has scored key goals for the Canucks on several occasions this season. Heck, even O’Brien has buttoned down and become a responsible defenceman. While he might have the odd defensive breakdown, he’s strayed from racking up the penalty minutes and he’s stepped up to the increased responsibility as the Canucks infirmary tries to spit players out as fast as they come in.

This year’s Canucks are not defined by one player but by many. They’re not defined by one success story, and the story around this year’s team has not been about individuals. It’s been about a team that’s had to come together over the adversity of injury, the obstacle of the NHL’s longest road trip, and the sportsmanship of a game which saw players go from teammates to rivals and back to teammates in the span of two weeks. This year’s Canucks are defined by their city, their fans, and their desire to win. This year’s Canucks are defined by a coach that’s on the verge of being a miracle worker, and players that buy into the team picture. This year’s Canucks are defined by players that step up when they have to, not when they’re called out to. This year’s Canucks define what it means to be a team.

Nov 242009
 
Mason Raymond

Photo credit: canucks.com

At quick glance, Mason Raymond’s stats in the early part of this season look very similar to the early part of last’s. This season, he has 14 points (8 goals and 6 assists) in his first 23 games; last season, he had 12 points (6 goals and 6 assists) in the same number of games.

The big difference is, Raymond started last season with 10 points in his first 13 games before going into an 8-game pointless streak. (He would also have a 10-game pointless streak and a 12-game one later in the season.) This season, he started slowly with 3 points in his first 13 games before putting up 11 points in his last 10 games. If anything, he’s playing better and with more confidence with each passing game.

It was obvious during training camp that May Ray was determined to take a big leap forward this year. He came into camp bigger and with a more aggressive game. He always had speed to burn. But this time, he’s skating towards the net instead of behind it. He’s winning battles in the corners instead of shying away from them. He’s making plays with the puck instead of getting knocked off it. More recently, he’s been one of the most dangerous Canucks – if not the most dangerous – and his 10 points in November so far lead all Canucks skaters.

Can he keep it up?

So far, his play indicates that he can. He’s been given a regular shift in the top-six, and much like Kesler did last year, he’s made the most of his opportunity. And there’s no sign of him slowing down.

Sep 132009
 
Kevin Bieksa

Photo credit: canucks.nhl.com

I’ll be going to training camp today so keep an eye out on my Twitter feed. In the meantime, here are some Canucks-related links on the Interweb:

May 152009
 

- Cody Hodgson made his Moose debut tonight and scored his first pro point as the Moose took game one against the Aeros 2-1. That’s so exciting! If Canucks fans get what they’re hoping for, Cody won’t spend much time at all with the Moose, but it’s nice to see he’s fitting in so well. It sounds like Cory Scheider was great as well because the baby Canucks were outshot 32-18. It’s going to be good news for Gillis if guys like Cody, Cory, and Michael Grabner can step in for the big team next season. Game summary here

- The Canucks website is putting out specials about the mum’s trip and the players that brought their mummies and they are absolutely charming. So far we’ve learned that Willie Mitchell was in the shower when the Devils drafted him and asked his Grandma to take a message, Ryan Kesler was the only 8 year old that knew what backchecking was, Alex Burrows’ mummy asked him to speak to her class of students, and Mason Raymond knows how ride a horse and played hockey with his dog.

- Darcy Hordichuk wrote his last blog of the season and it is pretty delightful. It’s been fun learning a bit more about him behind the scenes and he really seemed to love playing in Vancouver this past year.

- Richard and J.J are doing a great job of covering the Canucks UFAs and the whole discussion over keeping Lui or not, so I figured I would do a little research about some of the baby draft picks the Canucks could possibly pick in June. I went to the draft last year and it was a total blast. These little babies in suits make me cooo. You just want them to do well. We’ve got to pass this off season somehow, so look for that in the next few days.

- My most favourite Swede and hockey boyfriend Matty Ohlund is really sounding like he’s leaving Vancouver. It makes me a sad panda but I guess all good things have to come to end eventually. He’s a classy gent and he understands and I’m sure he’ll be fab wherever he goes. But anyways, darlings, this means I’m going to be out a favourite player next season. Any thoughts on what Canuck I should line up for next season? I might do a series of posts on that later in the off season. It’s going to be jumping around here don’t you worry!

Apr 062009
 
Mar 302009
 
Mar 202009
 
Mar 132009
 

My mother-in-law is coming in from Abbotsford and my sister-in-law is coming in from Vernon today to watch the Canucks game with me and Tracy. Both are big Canucks fans, but for whatever reason, Tracy and I have never seen a live Canucks game with either one of them. Needless to say, we’re very much looking forward to tonight.

*****

The Kings are as streaky a team as you’d find these days. They’ve won 3 in a row at home after losing 4 in a row on the road; but just before that, they lost 4 straight home games and won 5 of 6 road games.

Amazingly, the Kings, currently in 13th place in the West, are still in the thick of the playoff race. They’re only 5 points back of 7th place Edmonton and 8th place Dallas, and they have games in hand against every team in 7th to 12th place.

The Canucks are best not to take the Kings lightly. They did on Monday night and it cost them 2 points. I hope they don’t make the same mistake tonight.

*****

Mattias Ohlund’s next point makes him the highest-scoring defenseman in Canucks history. I probably shouldn’t admit this, but I was kinda hoping he would go point-less in the 2-game CA trip so that he could break the record at home. Tonight’s a good night, don’t you think?

*****

I don’t need to remind anyone that the Canucks’ PK sucks as much as Paris Hilton’s movie career. But after allowing 2 PPGA against the Kings on Monday, they killed all 6 Anaheim powerplay opportunities on Wednesday.

Against the Ducks, Mason Raymond took Taylor Pyatt’s place next to Ryan Johnson on the PK. Was Vigneault trying to send a message after Pretty Eyes was on the ice for both of the Kings’ powerplay goals (because publicly calling him out – and Johnson – wasn’t enough)? I don’t know.

What I do know is that those 2 PPGA were the first 2 that Pyatt was on the ice for since March 31st against the Minnesota Wild. That’s a stretch of 16 games where he logged 24:53 minutes of PK ice-time. Considering the team allowed 14 total PPGA during the same stretch, his numbers are actually quite impressive.

(And no, Tracy did not make me write this.)

*****

Back to the Kings for a second.

Tony Gallagher (Vancouver Province) has a good piece on Kings defenseman Drew Dougthy this morning.

The great players in the NHL are not easily impressed when they see a good young player entering the league, usually preferring to wait and see how they do before getting overly excited.

They say all the right things on the record of course, so you read that crap all the time. But what they really think is always kept quiet. But when Rob Blake saw Drew Doughty skating with Kings players in L.A. before heading up to San Jose late last summer, he couldn’t believe his eyes. He went out of his way to bring him up in a quiet conversation earlier this season, saying “This guy is gonna be really good.”

Now that we see him ourselves, we know what he was talking about. Not scheduled to make the Kings for sure this season after being taken No. 2 overall last summer, he’s averaging close to 24 minutes a game and he’ll likely reach many of the bonuses that could see him make upwards of $3.5 million.

Doughty, Jack Johnson, Kyle Quincey and Matt Greene is a pretty damn good – and young – defensive core. That’s on top of Anze Kopitar, Dustin Brown, Oscar Moller and the rest of a pretty damn good – and young – forward group.

This is a going to be a good Kings team in the next year or two.

Mar 102009
 
Mar 052009
 
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