Apr 142014
 

In typical 2013/2014 Canucks fashion, the Canucks ended their train wreck of a season with a 5-1 plastering of the Calgary Flames. I mean, 5 of their 36 wins this season were against the Flames.

Read more #TGATT goodness past the jump.

Mar 262014
 
bert

Step 1: Draft hulking forward with average skating ability but flashes of offensive upside. Step 2: Thrust player into spotlight using unfair comparisons and unrealistic expectations. Step 3: Criticize said player’s slow development despite young age and minimal professional experience. Step 4: After a few years of disappointment, give player chance on second line or better because of a cavalcade of injuries. Step 5: Take credit for supposed 3-year plan when player succeeds.

And so goes the tale of the power forward – a much sought after, but rare commodity in the modern era of the NHL. These types of players often take longer to develop and can be frustrating as hell for management and fans, but with the right professional climate, can ripen into a force to be reckoned with. The Canucks have been searching for this type of player ever since they were bounced in the Game 7 of the 2011 Stanley Cup Finals by a group of nasty SOB’s in black and yellow uniforms.

Some of these guys fight, some of them drive wide, and some of them dole out bone-crunching hits. The bottom-line is they all do what they do with POWER.

The top 5 Canucks power forwards are:

5) Zack Kassian: The best is yet to come for this big-bodied winger, but this season has seen him take a step in the right direction. All but one of Zack’s 23 points have come at even-strength so just imagine what this guy will do when he gets a shot on the power play in the future.

4) Greg Adams: Not the edgiest player, but a big body and terrific balance, Adams lives on in Canucks lore for this famed goal that sent Vancouver to the cup final.

3) Ryan Kesler: He hits, he fights, he’s a big body and a terrific skater. Kesler doesn’t always get credit as a power forward but he does all the things a prototype power forward should. Solid on both sides of the puck, Kes often does battle with opposing teams’ power forwards as well.

2) Trevor Linden: The ultimate Canucks captain, Linden put his body on the line for the team time and time again. He was a major part of the Canuck run in ’94 and at times was dominant along the boards. Linden had excellent balance and what he lacked in skill he made up for in physicality.

1) Todd Bertuzzi: If a player is used as the model for the term “power forward”, you have to assume he was a pretty good one. Bertuzzi was dominant in the early 2000′s including posting a 46 goal, 97 point season on the Westcoast Express line. Despite this, Bertuzzi never really returned to form after being suspended in 2004 for the infamous “Steve Moore Incident”.

Mar 142014
 
The Canucks have already met and beaten the Capitals once this season, can they do it again? (Photo Courtesy: canucks.nhl.com)

The Canucks have already met and beaten the Capitals once this season, can they do it again without Kesler?
(Photo Courtesy: canucks.nhl.com)

The Canucks won their last game against the Winnipeg Jets last Wednesday.

Alex Burrows not only scored his first goal of the season, but he scored twice.

Chris Higgins and his washboard abs scored the winning goal in the shootout. (Yes, the Canucks won in the shootout.)

Wait, aren’t we supposed to be tanking?

The playoff race continues tonight for the Canucks as they face a similarly-desperate Washington Capitals team. Both the Canucks (30-28-10) and the Caps (30-27-10) have 70 points, good for 10th place in the Western Conference and 11th place in the Eastern Conference, respectively. The playoff door hasn’t shut completely for either team, but unless they can string together some a lot of wins, it’s surely about to close pretty quickly.

The Great 8

While it’s been a disappointing season overall for the Caps, Alex Ovechkin at least is having another good season. He leads the league with 44 goals; meanwhile, on the other side of the ledger, the Canuck’s big 3, Henrik Sedin, Daniel Sedin and Ryan Kesler have combined for 45 goals all together. Not that this matters much tonight with Danny and Kes both out with injuries, but the stat kinda makes you cringe, eh?

Zack is Back

Zack Kassian is back tonight after serving his 3-game suspension.

Burr is Back

Well, we hope so anyway. With 2 goals, 6 shots and 5 hits, Burr is coming off what is easily his best game of the season. Maybe with the proverbial monkey off his back now, let’s hope Burr is back for good.

Kes is Out

It sounds like Kes suffered a sprained knee from Jim Slater’s knee-on-knee hit last Wednesday and will miss a couple of weeks. The injury looked a lot worse when it happened. That he’ll be able to come back for the last couple of weeks of the regular season is good news or bad news, depending on which side of the “should the Canucks tank” you fall on.

With Brad Richardson out as well, we may be looking at a lineup with Hank, Shawn Matthias, Jordan Schroeder and Zac Dalpe down the middle.

Scary.

Mar 112014
 

It looked for 40 minutes, didn’t it? They had a 3-0 lead entering the third period. I mean, how the hell do they blow a 3-goal lead in the first 3 minutes of the third period?

Read more #TGATT goodness past the jump.

Mar 072014
 
220px-Ryan_Kesler_2009_training_camp

There are no reasons. HAHAHA!

……………..

I’M KIDDING, of course. Chin up, kids. Sure, we’re all a bit shell-shocked at the events that have (or have not) transpired over the past two days but let’s take a deep breath and try to find a silver lining. I’m not going to talk about potential deals. I’m not going to talk about draft picks. I’m not going to talk about prospects, hearsay, speculation, fairy dust. I’m going to talk about what Ryan Kesler, personally, brings to a team with oh so many holes in it. Let me remind you that, without Kesler, this season would be toast. Tag on toe. But as slim as it seems, with him in the lineup, the Canucks still have a chance to make the big dance. I don’t know about you, but I will be clinging to the hope of playoffs until game 82 (or whenever they are mathematically eliminated). Kesler gives the Canucks a shot at least for the last few weeks of this season and if the time comes to move him later on, I look to the NHL entry draft. But that’s all in the distant future.

Kesler is here now and there are a number of reasons to be happy about this, despite what the critics may say. It should come as flattering and a testament to how good a player he is, that so much talk this deadline surrounded Kes. He’s here to stay (at least for now) and here are 5 reasons why that is a good thing for the Canucks.

5) His Penalty-Killing: Kesler established himself as a defensive forward long before he broke out as an offensive threat. A Selke award winner and one of the best two-way forwards in the league, his strengths lie on both sides of the puck. This shorthanded goal took place only a week ago proving this guy is still making an impact despite the recent drama.

4) His One-Timer: It’s no secret the Canucks have struggled mightily on the powerplay the last couple years. We’ve seen small measures of success when Kesler is near the point or in the slot tapping his stick for a one-timer. Here he absolutely destroys a puck top corner against San Jose in last year’s playoffs.

3) His Hitting: When Kesler gets angry he likes to through his big frame around, and with his speed and size, he can do some pretty good damage. Playoff time is where you really see Kesler let loose. Case and point: Niklas Hjalmarsson pasted into the glass, 5 feet in the air.

2) His Wrist-Shot: One of the reasons Kesler scored 41 goals in 2010-2011 was that no one knew about his wrist shot. He was able to walk across the blue-line and surprise goalies from far out with a blistering wrister. Now they know better, but he still puts away 20+ goals every year with this bad boy.

1) His Tenacity: This guy plays with an edge. The biggest reason why Kesler was such a sought after commodity was that he plays with some playoff-attitude night in and night out. He sticks up for his team and doesn’t shy away from the gritty aspects of the game.

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.

Mar 012014
 

Sure, the game had its moments. Like Ryan Kesler scoring – shorthanded – in his first game back from injury, in his first game since word got out that he had requested a trade out of Vancouver. Like Eddie Lack standing on his head again, allowing just one goal for the 6th time in his last 8 starts. Like Keith Ballard returning to Rogers Arena (playing in the game and not sitting in the press box).

But let’s be reality here. Canucks vs. Wild games aren’t the most exciting games at the best of times, and last night’s was no different. Perhaps fittingly, it ended in an extra long shootout – seven rounds, to be exact – that was only extra long because no one could score.

Read more #TGATT goodness past the jump.

Feb 272014
 

Welcome back from the Olympic break, Canucks fans.

How about we break that 7-game losing streak, eh?

Read more #TGATT goodness past the jump.

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.

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