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.

Nov 232013
 

Well, that was a big monkey of their backs.

After 5 consecutive losses, a stretch in which they scored a grand total of 6 goals, the Vancouver Canucks busted out of their slump in a big way, and beat the Columbus Blue Jackets by a 6-2 score.

Here’s hoping this is the start of some good puck luck for the good guys.

Read more #TGATT goodness past the jump.

Nov 132013
 

Brad Richardson , Christopher Tanev, Jason Garrison, Mike Santorelli

Photo credit: canada.com

With 20 games now in the bag in the Vancouver Canucks’ 2013/2014 season, here are some good, some bad, and some surprises and disappointments.

It’s Torts’ team now.

It wasn’t a surprise when GM Mike Gillis decided at the end of last season to fire long-time Canucks coach, Alain Vigneault. It was, however, perhaps a bit more surprising when the guy he tapped to succeed AV’s gum-chewing, hands-off approach with a gruff, known taskmaster in John Tortorella. By the end of last season, much was made about the complacency that developed, maybe in part because of AV’s player-friendly approach, and Torts’ coaching style was as far-removed from this as possible.

He is, indeed, more vocal behind the bench – and off it, I suppose. He’s more hands-on, and we’ve seen him make in-game adjustments. He relies heavily on stars like the Sedins and Ryan Kesler, all of whom sit in the top 5 among forwards in average ice-time. He’s shown he’s willing to give more ice-time to players who are going, or sit those who aren’t. He’s not afraid to play anyone in any situation, except maybe the 4th line.

But despite this, the doom and gloom that a lot of us predicted hasn’t materialized. And in fact, we can argue that Torts has even had the desired effect on this team. For the most part, gone is the complacency and casual play. On most nights in this early season, the Canucks forecheck hard and battle hard along the boards. Regardless of the score, they play an aggressive style and keep their foot on the pedal, which has helped them overcome deficits – only 4 teams have more wins than the Canucks when trailing after the first period, and only 1 team has more wins than them when trailing after the second period.

At the Canucks’ Summer Summit, Tortorella said he wanted the Canucks to be aggressive and to be tough to play against. And 20 games in, we’re beginning to see this. It’s Torts’ team now, and it looks like the Canucks are buying what he’s selling.

The Sedins are still stars.

A few years ago, before they signed their current contracts, numerous armchair GMs wanted the Sedins gone. Believe it or not, back then, a fair number of Canucks fans were willing to trade them for a bag of pucks and then use the cap money they save to sign Olli Jokinen and Marian Gaborik. It’s unthinkable now, especially after a couple of Art Ross trophies, a Lester Pearson trophy, and some modest (by this franchise’s standards) playoff success.

Or so you’d think.

This summer, there were once again rumblings from the bandwagon that the Canucks were better off to let the Sedins walk through free agency. Or trade them to a true Cup contender and kickstart a rebuild. But once again, at least through the first quarter of the season, they’re proving their doubters wrong. With 20 points (3 goals and 17 assists), Henrik Sedin sits 13th overall in NHL scoring, just 3 points back of league leader, Sidney Crosby. He’s recorded at least a point all but 4 of the 20 games he’s played. (Though 3 of those 4 games were the Canucks’ last 3 games.) Daniel isn’t far behind either. With 17 points (7 goals and 10 assists), he sits 24th overall in NHL scoring. Even at 33 years old, they’ve both taken on more responsibility, now taking a regular shift on the penalty-kill and already logging more PK time through 20 games as they have in the last 2 seasons combined.

As a famous person once said, they get knocked down, but they get up again, and they’re never gonna keep them down.

The newbies have fit in nicely.

There are some of us who probably still have the memory of signing or acquiring the likes of Marco Sturm, Samuel Pahlsson and Cam Barker fresh in our minds so it was somewhat acceptable when we looked cynically at Mike Gillis’ reset this off-season, which included signing Mike Santorelli and Brad Richardson, and picking up Ryan Stanton from waivers.

But with 3 guys who were pencilled in the Canucks’ top-9 – Jannik Hansen, Jordan Schroeder and David Booth – spending significant time out of the lineup due to injuries, the newbies have actually done quite well in their place. Santorelli, who hails from Burnaby, sits 4th in team scoring – behind just the Sedins and Kesler – with 12 points (5 goals and 7 assists). Richardson sits 6th with 5 goals, including 2 shorties, and 10 points in just 13:33 minutes of average ice-time per game (8th among Canucks forwards). And Stanton has been dependable in his 14 minutes per game in a third pairing role. Plus, Stanton has also contributed 7 points (3rd among Canucks defensemen). Santorelli, Richardson and Stanton have been pleasant surprises early this season.

The powerplay has been powerless.

There was a stretch midway through last season during which the Canucks scored 2 powerplay goals in 52 powerplay opportunities – a whopping 3.8% success rate – in 20 games. They finished the 2012/2013 season with a 15.8% success rate (22nd in the NHL), which was 4 percentage points lower than their success rate in 2011/2012 (19.8%, 4th in the NHL), which was almost 5 percentage points lower than their success rate in 2010/2011 (24.3%, 1st in the NHL).

In response, out went Newell Brown and the drop pass. Well, at least out went Newell Brown. And in comes Jason Garrison to the first PP unit. Wait, never mind, scratch that.

Despite changes in their roster and behind the bench, the Canucks’ powerplay hasn’t changed much. Okay, it has. It’s even worse now than it was last season, sputtering at a woeful 9.7% (28th in the NHL, ahead only of the Winnipeg Jets and Florida Panthers), and having only scored 6 powerplay goals in 20 games this season.

At least the PK is okay.

With a penalty-killing rate of 89.4%, the Canucks currently have the best PK in the NHL. Not only that, they’ve also scored 3 shorthanded goals, which is tied for 2nd in the NHL. Add to this that they’ve been shorthanded longer than all but 7 teams, and you have to admit, the PK has been one of their bright spots.

Luongo’s been good, but he needs to be better.

By Roberto Luongo’s usual October standards, he actually had a good start to the season and currently sits in the top 10 in wins among all NHL goaltenders. But behind the 9 wins in 16 games – only 6 goalies have more wins than he does – are some pretty average numbers. His 0.911 overall save percentage ranks him just 26th among all NHL goaltenders. His 2.41 GAA ranks him 21st. He has a 0.910 save percentage on even-strength (51st), and a 0.914 save percentage when the Canucks are shorthanded (23rd). Lu’s been good. But if the Canucks have any hope in getting out of the tough, tough, tough Pacific Division, they need him to be better.

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