Mar 132011
 

Some weekend thoughts:

  • I’ve had a hard time putting into words what a pleasure it is to watch Hank and Danny night in night out this season. Usually, I just end up making squeaky noises that only dogs can hear. But I mean really they cycle the puck like two freakin identical wizards, and they’re sandwiching Stamkos at the top of the NHL standings. (Don’t you think Stamkos looks SO much like the main kid in The Sandlot? If you have not seen The Sandlot stop reading and go find it right now.) Hanky won it last year and Danny has a real shot to win it this year. I know brothers have both won the scoring race before but TWIN BROTHERS haven’t (potentially) in BACK TO BACK years. And on top of that they’re wonderful people to boot. If I were an NHL head honcho I would be marketing the crap out of these two which they would both probably hate. And if I were an NHL head honcho I would have to be a stuffy old white dude which is so not me. So I’ll let that dream die.
  • After thinking Rick Rypien was just going to sort of disappear into the sunset it was incredibly nice to see him being interviewed and ready to get back on the ice in Manitoba. With the fourth line trades Gillis made at the trade deadline he’ll be in tough to make the Canucks again but it’s just lovely to see that he’s feeling better after his personal leave and is happy and excited to play hockey again. I brought my Rypien jersey out of hibernation the other night and it felt gooood. I felt like knocking some heads together. You know, in a fun way. Not a brain killing kind of way. Rypien is sporting the most divine beard. I hope he keeps it. I wish playoff beard season was year round.
  • I had a lot of feelings after the Chara hit this past week that have been covered by other people a million times by now but I will say that it made me want to gather up my hockey playing family members and wrap them in pillows and bubble wrap. I’d never want them to stop living their dream but it’s a scary sport at times. The NHL can and should be at major fault for how they deal with discipline and dangerous hits but until the players themselves want to do something bold and brave and take a stand nothing is going to change.
  • Dangerous hits give you uncomfortable feelings over why you follow NHL hockey in the first place but then there are games like the Canucks/Sharks game on Thursday night to show you EXACTLY why you do. It was mesmerizing. My heart was beating so hard for the entire third period and overtime it felt like it was going to pop right out of my chest. Cory Schneider was a grade A stud. Still not quite sure he only got 3rd star for a 44 save effort many of them highlight reel variety as well as stopping all 3 Sharks shooters in the shootout. Schneids is going to make a team VERY happy when he is eventually traded. I hope they appreciate Ginger Jesus. It was a shame that game had to end in the ridiculous shootout. If any game deserved 20 minute OT…bring on the playoffs! I may not survive a Canucks/Sharks playoff series. The whole heart popping thing may be an issue.
  • Canucks fans looked they were having a blast watching the road games in LA, Anaheim, Phoenix, and San Jose. That’s definitely on my bucket list to follow the team on a road trip. The “sunshine” trip is definitely the way to go after a rainy Vancouver winter. I’ve been to Scotia Bank Place in Ottawa and the Bell Center in Montreal for the draft but I’ve never seen a game in a road arena. Where would you want to go to watch your team play?
Mar 082011
 

From the sounds of things, Rick Rypien is ready to make his return… with the Manitoba Moose.

From Ken Wiebe:

There was no other wheeling and dealing for the Manitoba Moose as the American Hockey League roster freeze came to pass on Monday.

But as the list was released Tuesday morning, there was an interesting development. Forward Rick Rypien was among those on the in-residence players who can be used when the Moose find themselves in an emergency situation — as they do now with any combination of three or more players out of the lineup due to injury, recall or suspension.

Feb 142011
 

[Every Monday, Katie Maximick takes your questions and gives her take on the Canucks in her own cantankerous style. If you have any questions about the Canucks, send it to her via Twitter (@KMaximick)]

Aaron Volpatti, Vancouver Canucks

After a successful weekend working with Five Hole for Food’s hockey event on Granville in the pouring rain, my cold is worse than ever, and as result, perhaps I’m even a bit more cantankerous than usual.  However, I’ll try not to let this affect my answers to your Canucks-related questions.

Andrew asks: What do you think of the rookies that have been called up and put on our 4th line? Is it a good idea to keep changing them up? Is MG or AV giving them enough opportunity? Who has stood out the most for you?

Katie: Holy four questions at once! Remember I’ve taken quite a few cold meds today, Andrew. I’ll try to tackle some of these.

So far Guillaume Desbiens, Raffi Torres, Cody Hodgson, Aaron Volpatti, Jannik Hansen, Tanner Glass, Mason Raymond, Jeff Tambellini, Mario Bliznak, Alex Bolduc, Victor Oreskovich and Rick Rypien have all played on the Canucks’ fourth line this season. That’s quite a lot of juggling, even for AV’s standards.

The part the Canucks are struggling with is finding a centre for this line, which Ben Kuzma said this morning may be filled with Zenon Konopka from the Islanders by the trade deadline. Hodgson, despite a decent showing, was sent back to the Moose last week, supposedly because he was only showcased on the roster for some NHL experience.

Out of the fourth-line callups, I like Volpatti the most because he’s tough and hits hard. I also enjoyed seeing him play on the Moose before he was called up. I’d like to say CoHo but I didn’t see enough of him to get a solid opinion.

Jared (@JThompsondesign) asks: Is there any news on Rypien? Would he get in the line-up right now if he was available?

Katie: Still no update released on Rypien, and yes I think he would be played because the fourth line needs a centre (as mentioned above) which Vancouver hasn’t been able to fill since Rypien took his leave of absence in the first place. In my opinion the Canucks could also use his fighting skills, seeing as no one took on Getzlaf after his hit on Hamhuis. No doubt Rypien would have stepped up.

Ollie asks: Hey Katie, I always enjoy your column and I’ve been meaning to ask you. What do you think Alain Vigneault’s favourite word is?

Katie: Does the sound of gum being chewed make a word? What about a smirk? Damnit. Okay, then I’d say “Pyatt.”

Trent asks: With the Canucks leading the league and starting to look like Cup favourites, what would be the impact to the team’s fans if in fact they don’t win the Cup? Worse yet, how would the city react to the team if they were upset in the first round to say, the Flames? Similarly, are the Canucks going to be a powerhouse for years to come or is the window closing and this their chance?

Katie: Another multi-part question! You guys really want to take advantage of this head cold, don’t you?

A lot of long-time fans have recently admitted to me that they’re not getting their hopes up for exactly this reason: they’re used to disappointment, and don’t want to risk feeling the same emotional blow many experienced in ’94, or even in the past 10 years. The hype pelting the loyal fan base from the media seems to be blocked by an invisible force field to keep feet grounded, heads clear and hearts protected. Needless to say Vancouver would be a quiet, sullen city for a month afterward, and the bandwagon would be quite empty for a while.

If Vancouver lost in the first round with THIS roster? I think there could possibly be a riot on Granville if the Canucks got ousted to rivals like the Flames or even the Backhawks that early – joking, but not impossible. But Vigneault would be fired 100 per cent. No way would the Aquilinis keep AV around if Vancouver were ejected from the playoffs in the first round. Not this year. The media would also have a ball with this, as speculation of purging would be high. Personally I’d be very upset and disappointed, but I’d still be cheering for Vancouver next October.

The Canucks will be a good team for a while because they’ve locked in their best players for many years and have a pretty decent roster of call ups available in Manitoba. Gillis has done well for Vancouver and I believe he’ll continue to do so.

Fiann asks: Other than your blatant open lusting for Bertuzzi, what’s YOUR most embarrassing moment specific to reporting/blogging on the Canucks.

Katie: Hey, I don’t find my love for Bertuzzi embarrassing at all. I find it awesome (he scored twice on Sunday, by the way). Shockingly, I haven’t had an embarrassing moment. I’ve had more pleasant surprises than awkward ones. The worst is probably just publishing a typo and getting flamed for it because I didn’t edit before posting. Note to writers: always re-read before you submit, especially when you’re a girl writing about hockey and people assume you don’t know anything about the sport anyway. LOL.

This was a long post, and I can’t believe I sat upright long enough to finish it. Enjoy your week, Canucks fans, while I enjoy more extra-strength Benylin.

Jan 042011
 

With Rick Rypien having left the team indefinitely to take care of personal issues we’ve had several games to see if his presence has really been missed. Has it really? I wouldn’t say so.

Before we go any further, let’s make it clear that I feel for the guy and hope he can get back on track as soon as possible. He’s not in a good place and no one deserves to be there. That said, can the Canucks afford to keep a guy like him in the dressing room? Do they have to afford keeping him? I can’t even imagine what’s going on with him but we all know that what makes the media is just the tip of the iceberg.

I love Rick Rypien’s energy and David-vs-Goliath-like mentality as much as the next guy, but since his leave of absence from the team, it’s become clear that that aspect he brought to the team isn’t key to the Canucks’ fourth line. We already knew that of course, and since his absence, the likes of Jonas Andersson, Joel Perrault, and now Aaron Volpatti have been able to hold the fort just fine. If anything, the logjam of forwards and the chemistry the Canucks have had lately has only served to make management’s decisions even harder – a good problem to have.

With Rypien gone, the onus on fighting seems to have disappeared. Or when it’s been necessary, guys like Volpatti and Tanner Glass have stepped up. Even Kevin Bieksa seems to have remembered his mean streak and is starting to get grizzly in games. We wanted Bieksa to get a little more fired up, we wanted him to get physical be it with his hits or his fists and it seems like the exodus of Rypien has created that. It’s likely a coincidence that the two were best friends and that this turn in Bieksa’s play is unrelated altogether, but Bieksa’s been playing some of his best hockey since Rypien left the team.

One thing Rypien’s absence has done, however, is push this team to take another step towards being a skilled team through four lines. Darcy Hordichuk was brought in by Gillis because he wasn’t just a one dimensional goon. As Gillis said at the time, Hordichuck could skate and had hands on top of his knuckle chucking abilities. That turned out to be far from the case (at least it was last season), but Gillis has worked to create a fourth line that is responsible in their own end, can handle the heavy duty assignments, but can also contribute offensively. This season the Canucks’ fourth line has already chipped in with 8 goals; last season, they combined for only 6 goals. The Canucks have managed to test their depth by rolling through the likes of Andersson, Schaefer, Perrault, Desbiens and Volpatti. Meanwhile, Tanner Glass, who has been able to contribute in different ways (he already has 3 goals, 8 points and also gets regular shifts on the PK), has made himself a mainstay on the fourth line.

In Rypien’s absence, Gillis and Vigneault have worked to create four lines that are more multi-dimensional and not easy to shut down. The Canucks can play a finesse game, but just as easily, they can go to the gritty areas and can crash and bang with the best of the league without sacrificing skill. The best example of this is Jannik Hansen. While Mason Raymond was injured, Hansen fit in comfortably on the 2nd line; however, with Raymond’s return it looks like he’s heading back to the fourth line. While Raymond played his first game back on the fourth line, if you swap those two out you still have a very talented checking winger that can provide offense playing on your fourth line.

The Canucks are on a roll right now, there’s no doubt about that. What’s impressive is they’re managing to win games in all shapes and forms. They came back against Edmonton, they blew out Columbus, they can win the tight games as they did against Colorado. As a team confidence is at an all time high, but they’re also built so that every line is a threat. Colorado saw first hand that even the Canucks fourth line can burn you as it was the fourth line that earned the Canucks two points. The Canucks logjam at forward and the depth they have created only serves as an advantage come the postseason.

As much as I love Rick Rypien, his leave of absence may have helped shape the Canucks into a deeper, more balanced and more versatile team.

Nov 252010
 

The Canucks have granted Rick Rypien an indefinite leave of absence for personal reasons.

Not surprisingly, the Canucks aren’t releasing any details but have pledged support for their player.

Neither player nor club has ever explained Rypien’s months-long leave of absence two years ago, and it doesn’t appear any details will be offered this time, as coach Alain Vigneault refused this morning to discuss the latest leave. But Rypien’s “personal” issues are widely believed related to the 25-year-old’s mental health. The Canucks will be doing everything they can to help him.

It would be easy to speculate on what the root causes of Ryp’s problems are but that would be inappropriate. For his sake, I just hope he takes advantage of the team’s support and gets the help he needs.

Oct 222010
 

[Every weekend, Canucks Hockey Blog goes out of town as Tom Wakefield (@tomwakefield88) posts his thoughts on what's happening around the NHL.]

In honour of Katy Perry’s recent “cleavage-gate” on Sesame Street, let’s play a game of “One of These Things Just Doesn’t Belong Here.”

The Chicago Blackhawks. The New York Islanders. The Dallas Stars. The Pittsburgh Penguins.

Behold the top four teams in NHL standings.

Which one doesn’t belong?

If you guessed the New York Islanders, you’d be wrong.

Sure they’re probably not a playoff team, but their youngsters have taken a step forward and coach Scott Gordon has them executing a fast, aggressive, puck-pursuit style.

Also, let’s not forget that the Eastern Conference is kinda like the Solange Knowles to the Western Conference’s Beyonce.

No, the team that doesn’t belong is the Dallas Stars.

Sure, the Stars have started the season at 5-1.

Yet they’re 23rd on the powerplay, and 30th on the penalty kill.

They’re also 30th in the league in shots-on-goal per game (averaging roughly 23), and 28th in the league in shots-on-goal against (averaging roughly 36).

So how are they winning games?

Two reasons.

First, Kari Lehtonen has been nothing short of incredible, starting all six games and sporting a .927 save percentage. He’s single-handedly keeping the team in games.

Second, the Stars are having ridiculous success playing 5-on-5.

Historically, the ratio of goals-for to goals-against when playing 5-on-5 is usually around 1:1. The best teams score at a rate of 1.5:1, the worst at a rate of 0.5:1.

The Dallas Stars are outscoring their opposition at close to a 3-to-1 rate.

This just isn’t sustainable.

Unless Kari Lehtonen is this year’s Ilya Bryzgalov, the Dallas Stars are probably enjoying the only success they’ll know this year.

THOUGHTS ON THE FLY

  • Speaking of the Stars, The Hockey News’ Ken Campbell wrote this week that their ownership situation is starting to look a lot like that of the Coyotes.
  • They say Tampa coach Guy Boucher is an innovator. One thing he’s brought to the NHL: hard game day skates for his players. It’ll be interesting to see if this continues over the course of an entire season. The team looked gassed against Florida earlier this week.
  • They’re sitting at 4-3 but there are concerns in Denver. Kyle Quincey has seemingly regressed, they’re having trouble finding wingers for Matt Duchene and Milan Hejduk looks like he’s skating with a piano on his back.
  • Three pieces of free advice to the NHL to prevent another Rick Rypien situation. First, mandate that home teams have to provide tunneling over access to the visiting team’s bench. Second, implement the “eye-in-the-sky”, 3rd referee system they tested at the Molson Hockey Summit, and have that ref call violent act-related penalties (i.e. no tripping, icing or offside calls). Third, current NHL suspensions and fines hardly act as a deterrent. It’s time to work with the NHLPA to increase their severity.
  • Ken Holland’s “3-on-3” overtime idea is an intriguing one, but it reinforces the notion that games are decided by a team’s best players. Does a fourth line really matter anymore? Which fan pays to watch a 4th line play anyways? If you got rid of fourth liners all together, how much of the game’s worst violence would be eliminated?
  • Tyler Myers has been Buffalo’s worst defenseman so far. Coach Lindy Ruff thinks teams have scouted Myers offensively, and it’s up to him to mix his game up a bit.
  • They’re raving about Willie Mitchell in Los Angeles, especially the communication between him and Drew Doughty. Doughty’s also been more physical this year than in previous years.
  • Coach John Maclean is still trying to find the right fit with Ilya Kovalchuk. Zack Parise isn’t working out, as both he and Kovalchuk like to carry the puck. The latest player to get a chance to centre Kovalchuk is youngster Jacob Josefson.
  • If a lack of toughness on the Sens’ blueline is their biggest issue (it isn’t, but that’s a topic for another day), how long before the Sheldon Souray rumours start picking up steam?
Oct 222010
 

I still stand by my post about Rypien. He did act like a moron and he did disappoint me as a fan. But Justin Bourne has a really interesting post up on Puck Daddy about fan abuse from a NHL player’s perspective that explores Rypien’s side of things more clearly.

I’ve heard the comparison this week that the NHL is the equivalent of a workplace. And you’re not allowed to grab and be tempted to punch a paying customer in your workplace. A good code of conduct to be sure but the NHL is a very untraditional workplace. Am I going to have someone booing me and swearing at me and making inappropriate comments about my gender identity while I sit there and collate copies? Not so much. You would hope that an incident like this wouldn’t happen but these guys aren’t cyborgs. They lose their cool and do stupid things just like anyone of us would. I hope the Canucks, the NHL, and the Wild can apologize to that fan and everyone can move on without a stupid law suit.

That was an interesting game against the Hawks. It was nice to see how well the Canucks matched up with the Cup champs. But the offensive output is incredibly weak unless your last name is Sedin and the team as a whole looked frustratingly out of sync at times. Vancouver curses even formerly hardy iron man like defencemen to injury (Ballard and Hamhuis). If a defensive pairing of Bieksa and Parent doesn’t have you crying to your mummy while clutching a rum bottle you’re a stronger person than I am.

Luongo was fabulous in regulation and then an absolute disastah in the shootout. WHY does AV never make them practice the damn shootout!?!? Manny Malhotra is a faceoff god. He’s at SIXTY.EIGHT percent for the season! I have a case of Manny Fever. Danny Sedin is such a tasty treat to watch right now. His shootout goal was gasp worthy. He could hit 50 goals at this rate! There are some good signs here. Hopefully with Alex Burrows coming back fairly soon and some defencemen getting healthy the guys will get on a real roll.

[Editor's note: I don't mean to hijack Alix's post, but I do want to add one thing. While I don't condone what Rypien did - and let's be clear that we all think what he did was wrong - it's interesting to read Justin's perspective on this. When I worked at GM Place, I obviously heard fans taunt players from opposing teams. Some were made in the name of good, clean fun; some were vulgar and crude. I heard fans taunt Shawn Kemp about his whores and Chris Pronger about his wife. Once, a fan standing by the players' tunnel even challenged Steve Francis to hit him. (IIRC, his exact words were, "Francis you're a mother f******. You're p**** a** b****. What are you gonna do, hit me? Come on hit me mother f******.") If Kemp, Pronger or Francis had roughed up any of these fans, it would still be wrong. But to be honest, I don't think the fans who yelled and taunted those things would have been completely blameless either. Respect is a two-way street, and paying any amount of money for a ticket doesn't buy the right to treat anyone in a derogatory manner. Again, I'm not blaming the fan the Rypien incident; I'm just saying that some fans, unfortunately, do cross the line. - J.J.]

Oct 222010
 

After 7 games last season, the Vancouver Canucks had 6 points (3-4-0). After the first 7 games this season, they have – yes you guessed it – 6 points (2-3-2).

First 7 games2009/20102010/2011
GF3.002.14
GA3.292.57
PP31.0%25.9%
PK74.2%80.6%

The Canucks aren’t scoring as much but they’re not allowing as many goals against either. Given this, it’s probably not surprising that their powerplay isn’t as good but their penalty kill is better.

As much criticism as Luongo has received in the last couple of days, his save percentage after the Canucks’ first 7 games is slightly higher this season (6 GP, 1-3-2, 175 shots against, 0.903 save%) than it was at the same juncture last season (7 GP, 3-4-0, 161 shots against, 0.870 save%).

He’s doing this too with a defense missing 3 of its top-5 in the last couple of games, a depth issue the Canucks didn’t have to deal with last season until, IIRC, sometime in November.

A couple of days ago, GM Mike Gillis mentioned that he would review this team after 9 games – conveniently, just before the Canucks get a 6-day layoff. Alex Burrows should return shortly after that and the Kevin Bieksa rumor mill seems to be turning again. (Darren Dreger was quoted on TSN last night that, “As soon as the Canucks can move Bieksa, they will.”) Who knows what Rick Rypien’s status will be at that point – he’s been suspended for 6 games and will be eligible to return on November 6th against Detroit – and whether or not Jeff Tambellini or Peter Schaefer will still be with the team.

The Canucks may be in same position (points-wise) as they were at the same point last year, but the fans aren’t happy. Maybe it’s the elevated expectations this season or perhaps it’s their style of play. Certainly, the Canucks have looked great in some games and obviously not in others. The bottom line is, we expect more from this team, and if they truly want to be seen as contenders, then they need to play with more consistency, more effort and more finish.

Oct 202010
 

J.J. covered the Rick Rypien/fan altercation quite well already (complete with video) but I’ll add some personal thoughts. After Ohlie left for the Lightning and broke my heart Rypien became my new favourite Canuck. I love my checkers and my defencemen. I have his jersey in my closet and I mentioned him in my recent bio for the blog.

Anyways, his move last night was disgusting and stupid. Most likely the Minnesota Wild fan was saying something rude and insulting but you can’t try to fight a fan like you fight another player on the ice. You just can’t. They paid money to be there. You’re pissed off because you’re losing and they may be chirping like an idiot but suck it up princess and walk to the dressing room with some class.

Bettman cares way more about a fan and good PR for the NHL than he does Rypien. He’s going to get a fair sized suspension from the NHL and there’s a good chance he’s held out even longer by the Canucks. Rypien is one of several guys that can play on the 4th line. I wouldn’t be surprised at all if he played some games in Manitoba. At least he didn’t actually punch the guy. There’s that.

As a quick side note, I’m surprised the NHL doesn’t insist on teams having some kind of structure in place that separates the players from the fans more effectively. Then you wouldn’t risk an obnoxious fan and a bone headed player making contact like they did here.

I took my Rypien jersey off halfway through the game and it’s going to take a lot for me to put it back on. It’s silly in a way because we don’t know these players personally and they don’t owe us anything but they can still make you feel horribly disappointed. It may be time to buy that Hank Sedin jersey I’ve been cooing about.

Oct 192010
 

Lord knows Rick Rypien plays with a lot of emotion. But it’s one thing for him to channel emotions to spark his team and another to lose control of them.

Rypien should expect a not-so-good morning phone call from Colin Campbell. If the swift reaction on Twitter – from Canucks fans and every other hockey fan alike – is any indication, he should expect a suspension. And especially after ESPN and all those US networks that don’t normally show hockey highlights start playing the clip on their nightly sports shows, expect it be a hefty one.

I’m not sure what the fan said to trigger such a reaction from Rypien, but that’s irrelevant. He lost his cool – and that’s not cool.

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