Mar 032014
 
Source: Getty Images via NHL

Canucks owner Francesco Aquilini and GM Mike Gillis.
Source: Getty Images via NHL

This week could be the most important week for the Vancouver Canucks organization in a long, long time.

First, let’s set the background.

The Canucks can’t win. They’ve lost 9 of their last 10 games, and have only won 6 games (6-14-4) since Christmas.

They can’t score. They’ve managed to score 3 goals in a game just 4 times since the calendar turned to 2014, and their 2.33 goals per game average this season is their lowest since 1999, when their roster included illustrious players like Peter Zezel, Harry York, Bill Muckalt and Darby Hendrickson.

The Sedins are having their worst seasons, well, ever. As so are Alex Burrows and Alex Edler.

Off the ice, it’s not much better. Ryan Kesler wants out. GM Mike Gillis is on the hot seat, if not with the owners, then certainly with the fans. Interest in the team is down. Tickets sales are down. Corporate sales are down.

But perhaps the cherry on top?

The Canucks somehow managed to bungle what should have been a great celebration of hockey – the Heritage Classic at BC Place – and instead turn the focus once again to the obviously strained relationship between the team and Roberto Luongo.

When word got out on Saturday night that the Canucks were starting rookie goaltender Eddie Lack at the Heritage Classic, reaction from Canucks fans was swift. And it was mostly negative. In fact, while goaltending controversies usually tend to divide Canucks fans, the decision to sit Luongo for this unique event instead united them. Perhaps it’s the existence of social media, but even in the dark years of the Mike Keenan/Mark Messier era, I don’t remember so much anger directed at the team – and management – as was directed at them yesterday.

The scene at BC Place this afternoon was surreal. Lack, who had played his guts out all year, was getting booed, not for his play, but rather because he wasn’t Luongo. Luongo, who most had written off last year, sat on the bench, unhappy, angry and refusing to speak with the media after the game.

If there was ever a perfect prelude to the week the Canucks are supposed to start sending season ticket renewals (and selling playoff ticket packages), everything that’s transpired in the last week – together with the lack of on-ice success the last couple of months – were definitely not it.

These should be interesting times for this organization. It’s no secret that Canucks fans are fickle, and in fact, the appetite for all things Canucks has dwindled in the last couple of seasons. All you have to do is look around the arena and see the empty seats, or see the suites which no longer have corporate sponsors attached to them (for example, the Best Buy Club is now just Club 500 and the River Rock Club is now just The Club), or view the frequent ads for ticket promotions not seen in several seasons.

Certainly, the Canucks will have their work cut out for them as they start reaching out to season ticket holders. In 2011, at the peak of their success with this current core, the season ticket renewal rate was at close to 99%. They even managed to build a long wait list for new season ticket holders. But in the last couple of seasons, that renewal rate has decreased. At the season ticket renewal event in 2012, a Canucks account rep stated the renewal rate was around 97%; this season after the lockout, the same rep stated it was at around 95%. Already for next season, the organization is expecting an even lower renewal rate – I’ve heard rumors it could be as low as 85%. The wait list has helped in the meantime; however, they’ve already exhausted most of it.

Which brings us back to this week.

The NHL’s trade deadline is this Wednesday, March 5th, and with core players such as Kesler, Luongo, and perhaps even Edler in play, the Canucks have a prime opportunity to reshape their roster and re-inject some hope for the people who invest big dollars in them.

The question is how GM Mike Gillis goes about accomplishing that.

Ideally, any trades for Kesler, Luongo and Edler – all still very good players, regardless of what Twitter says – should net the Canucks some good, young players, which should speed up the rebuilding process. Kesler alone is attracting a lot of interest, and if Gillis plays his cards right, he could net the Canucks at least one, maybe two, young, top-6 forwards and some high draft picks. Imagine adding the likes of Brayden Schenn, Sean Couturier, Scott Laughton, Brandon Sutter, Derrick Pouliot and/or Beau Bennett to a youth core that already includes Eddie Lack, Zack Kassian, Chris Tanev, Bo Horvat, Hunter Shinkaruk, Nicklas Jensen, Brendan Gaunce and Frankie Corrado.

That’s not a bad group to start a rebuild. But do they inspire enough confidence in their season ticket holders and corporate sponsors? I mean, nothing says “give me your money now” than we’ll be good in a couple of years.

The other side of the coin is the need for this organization to make the playoffs. A couple of years ago, it was estimated that each playoff home game brings in roughly $2-$3 million in revenue. Even assuming the team makes it and flames out in the first round, that’s still a lot of money – almost enough to buy out David Booth in the off-season – especially for an owner who already has a lot of money tied up in developing his office towers around the arena.

So do they start the rebuild now – and start selling hope now? Or do they make another push, with this most of this current core intact, and hope to catch lightning in a bottle? For those who do invest thousands of their hard-earned dollars on the team, what would they rather see?

It’s obvious the Canucks, not too long removed from the 2011 Stanley Cup Finals and back-to-back Presidents’ Trophy wins, have gone stale. It’s obvious fans are mad – a lot of them already speaking with their wallets – and want change.

This week, the team has an opportunity to respond. It will be interesting to see how they do.

Mar 022014
 

SpezzaHSedin_HCjerseys_DL
(Photo credit: nhl.com)

Ottawa Senators (26-23-11) at Vancouver Canucks (28-24-10)

The Vancouver Canucks will take on the Ottawa Senators at BC Place for the 2014 Heritage Classic. And wouldn’t you know it, it’s snowing as we speak in downtown Vancouver.

Cold Snap

Just as cold as the weather outside is the Canucks’ offence. They’ve scored a grand total of 6 goals in their last 6 games, and not surprisingly, they’ve lost all but 1 of them. The Sedins, though they’ve been playing a bit better since the Olympic break, haven’t scored in 2013. Alex Burrows hasn’t scored since the 2012/2013 season. In fact, much of the Canucks’ offence over the last quarter of a season has been provided by Ryan Kesler, Chris Higgins and Jannik Hansen, and Kesler, who has goals in consecutive games and leads the Canucks with 21 goals for the season, may or may not want to be traded before Wednesday’s trade deadline.

Goaltending Controversy, pt. 10438

According to TSN, it is expected that backup goaltender, Eddie Lack, will be getting the start today. If he does, it will be his third consecutive start. It will also be a huge slap to the face of starting goaltender, Roberto Luongo. “I’ve always wanted to play in an outdoor game, so I was excited when I saw we got one this year and I was looking forward to it.” Luongo said. Unfortunately, that might not happen. Canucks coach, John Tortorella, said he will announce the starting goaltender today before the game. Let’s hope saner heads prevail.

Feb 262014
 
Kes-burr

Well the Olympics have come and gone with Canada seizing glory and a gold medal to boot. It was fun while it lasted but now it’s time to shift our focus back to the remainder of the NHL season and a Canuck team in disarray. The upcoming stretch drive will surely be tense and stressful on fan and player alike as teams scramble to cement their position in the post-season.

As of late, there have not been many smiles within the Canucks locker room as they have suffered an abysmal start (if you can still call it that heading into March) to the year 2014. The players look sullen, depressed and aggravated in post-game interviews and media scrums. Perhaps, in this lies the problem. Anyone who has played sports knows that when you have fun you play well and when you play well you have fun. Yes, I realize these are professional athletes making millions of dollars but all of them started playing hockey not for money but for the love of the game. The team camaraderie and locker room horseplay constitute a large part of what makes this game so great. The Canucks have a history of comedic moments and they often coincide with strong team-play (Kesler’s 2010-2011 interview bomb-skills anyone?) Perhaps a little humor and laughter could spice up what seems to be a stale energy in the locker room.

Here are some of the funnier off-ice moments from past seasons:

5) Rookie Dance-Off – Alex Edler, and the late Luc Bourdon show off their moves in an epic battle at a charity event. Who knew quiet and solemn Edler was such an accomplished break-dancer?

4) Luongo Poetry – Roberto shows off his linguistic skills in a TSN segment. Lou wearing spectacles, a scarf and a paper-boy hat whilst referencing Byfuglien’s “big ass”. Need I say more?

3) Ryan Kesler Interrupts Pelvic Exam – This one’s pretty self-explanatory. Kesler calls a doctor with some good news and catches him in a somewhat “compromising position”. Hilarity ensues.

2) Dale Weise and a Missing Helmet – Someone hides Dale’s helmet and panic starts to set in. I wonder if he would have been this worried when Vigneault was the head coach?

1) Kesler Bomb – En route to a 40-goal season Kesler started a new trend in the locker room which became known as the “Kesler Bomb”. No one was safe – everyone was a potential target.

Feb 192014
 
Jean Levac/PostMedia News

Jean Levac/PostMedia News

I’m still shaking as I write this. Dear Hockey Gods we almost lost to Latvia. LATVIA?!

  • Major props goes to the Latvian goalie Kristers Gudlevskis. Insane play. Insane effort. Insane heart.
  • @MaltbyMVP tweeted “This isn’t Canada sucking. This is Latvia playing their heart out. You’re an idiot if you think otherwise.” And he’s 100% right. 57 shots on goal is Canada playing well. 54 blocked shots and saves is Latvia and their goalie doing everything possible to pull off a miracle. And 1 shot attempt not hitting the net was just Latvia cheating and the Refs missing it. No other way to look at one of their players, not the goalie, swiping the puck out of the crease as it starts to trickle past the line. But that just put Karma in a Team Canada jersey so in the end, it worked in our favor.
  • Hey Luongo Homers, are you finally going to give Carey Price some credit? I am not a Price fan. I am not a Luongo fan. To be honest, I thought that after game 2 Luongo should have been the one to keep getting the starts. But Babcock thought otherwise and Babcock knows what he’s doing. Today proved it. Price kept us in this. If you can’t give him that then you’re truly letting emotion (for Luongo) override hockey smarts and common sense. Now should Price start against America? I guess so if only because the US’s strongest weapon right now might be Phil Kessel and Price has faced him more. But that said, Lu beat the US team once… barely, but it was an important win.  To be honest I don’t have 100% confidence in either Lu or Price in against the USA. Do you? If so, which one and why?
  • Paging the Top Forwards in the World! Please proceed to the net – and put the puck in it!  We absolutely have to start finding a way to score more. Like I said, this almost-loss wasn’t that we weren’t trying. But I personally feel we haven’t scored enough in any of our wins except Austria. We need to see goals from Perry, Toews, St. Louis and Crosby. And more from Getzlaf and Carter. And have Weber and Doughty keep doing what they’re doing. Then and probably only then are we going to be able to beat the USA in regulation. It seems like a lot of “If Onlys” but hello, these are truly the best forwards in the world. If they can’t do it (all at once) who can? And it’s now or never Team Canada. Truly. No exaggeration. It is now or never.

So do you have a prediction for USA-Canada? What do you think the score will be? Tell us!

And where are you watching? This Canadian has taken Friday off work and will be screaming/cheering her lungs out from her West Hollywood apartment. How about you?

Feb 162014
 

Drew Doughty scored 3 goals in his last 28 games for the Los Angeles Kings. He’s had 3 goals in 3 games for Team Canada. Clearly he was conserving his abilities for the Olympics and as a Canadian, I’m okay with that. But I’m pretty sure the popping sound I’m hearing around LA today is Kings’ fans heads exploding.

Subban should be dropped in and Vlasic pulled out. Or Bouwmeester. I am not a PK Subban fan. I wasn’t even sure I wanted him on Team Canada because his attitude and his preference to play a bit dirty and arrogant isn’t an Olympic asset. But he was tight and controlled in his one game and played smart. He was noticeable in a good way unlike Bouwmeester and Vlasic today. Bouwmeester was unnoticeable and Vlasic was noticed for ridiculousness and sloppiness.

So now it’s the Swiss, who we had to beat in a shootout last time so no one better think this is an easy ride. The easier ride would have been if we won in regulation. However maybe we’ll face Latvia. I count no one out because it’s the Olympic and crazy things can happen.

Also, since we’re on the topic of the Swiss, you know who won that shootout in 2010? Sidney Crosby. For those who forgot, he did do more than that very last goal of the games. I feel the need to bring this up because the “Sid sucks’ tweets have already begun. There is no Country in the world that doesn’t know he’s the best in the world so, as Finland did so well, they are all going to make a point of shutting him down. And we should be ok with that because while they’re concentrating on Sid we have Toews, Doughty, Carter, Tavares and every other second and third and fourth best player in the world to score instead of Crosby. Remember that.

I heard on twitter (so it must be true and I’m too lazy to Google it) no undefeated team has ever won gold. Every men’s hockey gold medal has been won by a team that has lost a game along the way. Does that worry you? The way I see it is, That said, if a Country is going to buck a hockey trend, what better Country to do it than Canada?

Who sits the next one? I say it’s got be Vlasic and Kunitz.

Who is in net? I don’t care either way because Price and Luongo are both playing solid but I will say this. I think we need to start solidifying stuff and the goalie is where we should start.

Tell us your thoughts on who gets the net, who gets scratched and what we need to do to be the first team to go undefeated and win gold?

Feb 142014
 
Getty images

Getty images

A shutout and the first Team Canada natural hat trick since 1956. And a Nation breathes a sigh of relief. This is more like it.

  • Roberto Luongo saw as much action in the first 5 minutes as Carey Price saw in his whole game. And he handled it better. I have nothing against Price. I know he’s a great goalie.  I’d even be okay with the argument Price is a better NHL goalie. But Luongo is an amazing Olympic goalie. 2010 proved it and this shutout game keeps proving it.  So if the Canucks ever make it to another serious Stanley Cup playoff run can we put the Olympic decorations back up in Rogers and pretend it’s an Olympic run? Maybe he’ll do better that way.
  • I don’t know if this ‘Bring a Buddy’ selection process was worth it. At this point it doesn’t seem to be. Patrick Sharp was sitting this one out and Jonathan Toews did just fine without him. Chris Kunitz hasn’t made much of an impact.  He’s not scoring off The Kid and Crosby is making plays without him just fine. So far it hasn’t hurt us but it hasn’t helped us either. So much for that established chemistry people said these guys would have.
  • I am a HUGE Jeff Carter fan. I make no apologies for that. I’ve been going to Kings games consistently for a year now. Carter’s got great defensive skills and can find the net from any angle. He’s also one of the best skaters I’ve seen. Really good especially considering his size (6’4, 198 pounds in case you don’t know). I was shocked so many people thought he was the wrong choice for this team. Today he proved me right. If you’re still on the fence about him being on this team you legit suck.  End of story.
  • Did you notice Subban much? Me neither. That’s a good thing. In the NHL he gets a little too much attention for bad plays and ego trips. Glad to see he can reign it in and be a team player.
  • My heart-melting moment: Carter getting the puck for Luongo and Lu telling him to keep it for himself. God, I love a good Bromance moment, especially on Valentine’s Day!
  • So who starts in net against Finland? Do you think Carter and Marleau have earned their spots now? Do you put Sharp back in? Do you keep Kunitz in? Subban?

Tell us your thoughts!

Feb 092014
 

I supposed all good things eventually had to come to an end. Before last night’s game, the Canucks had won 11 consecutive games against the Toronto Maple Leafs, dating back to November 2003.

So much for that.

But you know what’s still going? The Canucks’ losing streak.

This two-week Olympic break couldn’t come soon enough.

Read more #TGATT goodness past the jump.

Feb 072014
 

Can we at least beat the Leafs on Saturday night?

Read more #TGATT goodness past the jump.

Feb 062014
 

184264657_slide
(Photo Credit: canucks.nhl.com)

Vancouver Canucks (27-22-9) at Montreal Canadiens (30-21-6)

To say that the Vancouver Canucks are struggling is an understatement. For starters, they’ve lost 5 games in a row, and are 4-11-3 in their past 18 games. They can’t score – averaging just 1.88 goals per game over their last 18 games – and they can’t keep the puck out of their net – allowing an average of 3.16 goals against per game over that same span. They’re battered physically – the injury list includes regulars Henrik Sedin, Chris Higgins, Mike Santorelli, Brad Richardson, Dan Hamhuis, Kevin Bieksa and Chris Tanev – and I’m sure mentally as well.

Tonight’s opponents, the Montreal Canadiens, are faring a bit better. At least they are now. After losing 5 of 6 games a couple of weeks ago, the Habs have bounced back nicely and are 3-1-1 in their last 5 games. Goaltender Carey Price has had a lot to do with that turnaround, stopping 130 of 134 shots (0.970 save %) and posting 2 shutouts in that span.

This is the second and final meeting between the Canucks and Habs this regular season. The Habs won the first meeting back on October 12th, and of course, Price paid a huge part in that victory, stopping 40 of 41 Canucks shots that night.

Tonight’s game is being billed as the battle for the starting goaltender spot for Team Canada in Sochi in just a week from now. (Poor Mike Smith.) Winner gets first crack at the starter’s spot? Or maybe first pick of beds in the Athletes Village? I’m sure Luongo – and the Canucks – will settle for getting the two points tonight.

Feb 042014
 

456606403_slide
(Photo Credit: canucks.nhl.com)

Vancouver Canucks (27-21-9) at Boston Bruins (35-16-3)

Remember when the Canucks met the Boston Bruins last time in December? Remember how good they looked in beating them 6-2 at Rogers Arena?

Neither do I.

As good as the Canucks were that night, they’ve been far from outstanding since then. Since scoring 6 goals that night, they’ve scored just 42 goals in 22 games – for those counting at home, that’s a 1.91 goals per game average over an entire quarter of a season. They were shut out by the Detroit Red Wings last night – the third time they’ve been shut out in the last 11 games – and they’ve now lost 4 games in a row. Or more importantly, they’ve only won 4 games since the calendar turned to 2014.

On the other hand, the Bruins seem to be doing okay. They’ve won 3 of their last 4 games, and don’t seem to have a problem finding the back of the net; their 3 wins were by scores of 6-3, 6-2 and 4-0.

#silverlinings

If there are any silver linings in the Canucks’ recent play, it’s that Eddie Lack and Roberto Luongo have consistently shown up and given their team at least a chance to stay in games.

Eddie Lack has been great. Last night against the Red Wings, he made 28 saves on 29 shots, many of them of the sensational variety. In his last 6 starts, he’s allowed just 1 goal in 4 of them; but in perhaps what typifies the Canucks’ offensive woes right now, they somehow managed to win just 1 of those 4 games.

After Lack started the last two games, Roberto Luongo will be back in net tonight. His save percentage (0.920) and GAA (2.30) this season are still among the top of the league. He stopped 41 of 43 shots against the Bruins in December; however, he hasn’t played in Boston since the 2011 Stanley Cup Finals. For those of you who have repressed those memories already, Lu gave up 15 goals on 66 shots and was pulled twice in 3 starts.

Dun dun dun.

The objects in your rear view mirror are closer than they appear.

As the Canucks continue to struggle, their grasp on the final wild card playoff spot in the Western Conference is also weakening. After last night’s game, they’re a single point ahead of the 9th place Phoenix Coyotes, who, by the way, hold two games in hand over the Canucks. They’re also only 4 points up on the Dallas Stars, Nashville Predators and Winnipeg Jets, who are all tied with 59 points and currently hold 10th, 11th and 12th place, respectively, in the Western Conference.

%d bloggers like this: