Jun 122012

1. The Los Angeles Kings have begun their royal coronation, and they got on that championship road by defeating the Canucks in the first round in five games. That means that for three straight years Vancouver has been defeated by the eventual Stanley Cup champions (Chicago, Boston, and now Los Angeles). I’m not one for superstition but how many teams would like to line up against the Canucks in the first round next spring?

2. When watching the rest of the NHL playoffs, I always find it a little unnerving when Canucks fans cheer for the team that ousted them, in this case the Kings. Canucks fans feel better about the fact they lost to the eventual Stanley Cup champions. Sure, it means the Canucks lost to the best team, but it doesn’t mean the Canucks were the second-best team in the postseason. To me, a loss is a loss; there is no second place when there’s 16 teams and just one champion.

3. Love him or hate him, Drew Doughty was fantastic and a huge reason why the Kings got to the promised land. He was delivering production close to a point per game and was +11 in the process. Most memorably, his Bobby Orr-like goal in Game 2 of the Finals turned out to be a real turning point in that series. Canucks fans have to ask themselves if they have anyone like Doughty in their system. Is Alex Edler the answer? I don’t think even Canucks management knows for certain.

4. The pace of games in the playoffs were at a snail’s pace on occasion, depending on the team you watched. Vancouver has built its team around an up-tempo style, but considering the success of guys like Dustin Penner this spring, you have to wonder if that philosophy needs to change. The Canucks picked up David Booth in November for the purpose of making their team faster, but I’m not sure anymore if that’s a winning recipe.

5. Craig MacTavish resigned as head coach of the Canucks’ AHL affiliate yesterday in order to become the senior VP of hockey ops with Edmonton. You get the sense that once he learned Alain Vigneault would be back behind the Canucks bench next season, MacT had little reason to stay. It’s obvious he wants to be a head coach at the NHL level again and he knew that wouldn’t happen with Vancouver any time soon.

6. That leaves a head coaching hole with the Chicago Wolves that the Canucks need to fill. There are a few good candidates to take the spot; a week after hiring Bob Hartley as their next head coach, the Flames decided to let Craig Hartsburg go. Hartsburg has coached Canada to world juniors gold in 2008 and prior to taking the associate coach position with Calgary was the Everett Silvertips bench boss.

7. Another option to take over is Scott Arniel, who was canned from the Columbus Blue Jackets this past season. Sure, Arniel had a rough go in his time in Ohio, but any coach would with Steve Mason between the pipes. Arniel was treasured during his time with the Manitoba Moose and while he currently works for the Canucks as a scout, you know he’ll be eager to get behind a bench once again. Both Hartsburg and Arniel would be excellent choices.

8. Sticking with coaching talk, no one knows what was said in the meetings leading up to Alain Vigneault’s renewal, but it’s clear there needs to be a change in how Vigneault approaches his players. Vigneault is a coach known to loosen the reins on his players a bit, but that will have to be different this upcoming season. Fans weren’t happy with the dives and yapping coming from players, and the leadership to remedy those problems starts with the head coach. Vigneault would be best served by implementing a tighter ship; dive and yap and you can find yourself stapled to the bench.

9. Call it a hunch, but I suspect trade activity will pick up considerably as the NHL Draft gets closer. There’s a ton of uncertainty with regards to a possible work stoppage and the temporary increase in the salary cap, but that shouldn’t deter general managers from bolstering their teams. The increase in cap space should give teams incentive to make moves they wouldn’t normally make, and perhaps the Luongo trade saga fits that equation.

10. Only Mike Gillis holds the cards, but the Luongo saga continues to unfurl. Some fans want assets coming back that can help the Canucks win now, but isn’t freeing up $5.3-million in cap space the biggest asset? This summer isn’t exactly a ground breaker in terms of free agents available, but freeing up that much space and adding an extra million in a cap increase could give Vancouver the chance to land a really, really big fish.

11. Continuing on with the Luongo rumours, a lot of people have thrown out Jake Gardiner and Luke Schenn’s name when mentioning the Toronto Maple Leafs, but how about Cody Franson? The Memorial Cup winner with the Vancouver Giants is a product of the Nashville system where defencemen are bred like prized racehorses, and at 24 is still a blueliner with potential.

12. Some have asked about what the real chance the Canucks have at signing soon-to-be free agent Justin Schultz. Schultz is a product of the U of Wisconsin and while there teamed up with current Leaf Jake Gardiner. Now both players were once draft picks of the Anaheim Ducks, but Gardiner was traded to Toronto in a package for Francois Beauchemin. Hard to say for certain, but perhaps Schultz’ feelings towards Anaheim soured when they traded his partner. This isn’t to say Schultz will follow Gardiner to Toronto, but if the Canucks could land Gardiner in a deal for Luongo…

13. If the Canucks are hoping to sign Cory Schneider to a new contract, they better get it done soon. Not just because Schneider could be eligible to receive offer sheets, but because of the Tim Thomas effect. Now that Thomas is taking a year off from hockey, Tuukka Rask’s bargaining power as a restricted free agent just got bigger. Rask and Schneider are goalies with similar career trajectories, and if the Canucks want to avoid paying Schneider upwards of $4-million a year, they’d best get a contract hammered out before Rask does.

14. For those in the trade Schneider camp, word is that Jets goaltender Ondrej Pavelec is being lured by a KHL team. A restricted free agent in July, the potential offer from the KHL team is said to be substantial. If Pavelec pulls a Radulov and bolts, a certain redheaded Canucks goalie is known to be a fan favourite in the ‘Peg. Hmm…

15. The NHL Draft is on June 22 and fans are wondering who the Canucks will target at 26th overall. I’ll have more in my draft preview, but given Jordan Schroeder and Anton Rodin’s strong strides in development this past season, the team should be looking at a defenseman with this year’s pick. And considering the abundance of blueliners in this year’s crop, that’s a pretty safe deduction to make.

Dec 152010

There are several interesting storylines in tonight’s game between the Vancouver Canucks and the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Alain Vigneault vs. Scott Arniel

Before Arniel signed a three-year contract with the Jackets, he was frequently mentioned as a possible AV replacement. After all, Arniel coached the Manitoba Moose to some very good seasons (like AV did) and took them to the Calder Cup Final (unlike AV). If GM Mike Gillis ever decided that he’s had enough of Vigneault’s man-crush on Kevin Bieksa, surely Arniel would have been one of the favorites to step in behind the Canucks’ bench. Now, Arniel has taken his act to Columbus, where he has led the Jackets to their best start in franchise history.

Ryan Kesler vs. RJ Umberger

The Canucks drafted both Kesler (2003) and Umberger (2001) out of Ohio State University. Linemates while at OSU, they probably would have renewed acquaintances with the Canucks, that is until their individual contract negotiations caused a rift between them.

Things have been nasty between them since.

This year, Kesler and Umberger are both alternate captains for their respective teams. Their stats are similar: Kesler has 21 points (12G-9A) in 29 games while Umberger has 20 points (8G-12A) in 29 games. Both have a plus-5 rating.

Special teams vs. Not-so-special teams

The Canucks have the best powerplay in the league (25.0%). The Blue Jackets have the second-worst (11.7%).

At Rogers Arena, the Canucks’ PP rank 8th (21.6%). On the road, the Blue Jackets’ PP rank 17th (15.1%).

The Canucks have the 6th-best penalty-kill in the league (85.0%). The Blue Jackets’ PK is ranked 22nd (80.5%).

At Rogers Arena, the Canucks’ PK rank 8th (85.7%). On the road, the Blue Jackets’ PK is the fourth-worst in the league (76.4%).

Jun 152010

The search for Scott Arniel’s replacement as head coach of the Manitoba Moose appears close to being concluded. From Ben Kuzma (Vancouver Province):

Claude Noel could succeed Scott Arniel as head coach of the Manitoba Moose, The Province has learned.

The Vancouver Canucks have interviewed Noel to fill their AHL affiliate vacancy after the interim Columbus Blue Jackets bench boss was replaced by Arniel on June 8. Noel has a year left on his contract, but has an out-clause if he joins another organization.

“He’s a very well thought of guy in the industry, has a terrific record and takes a great deal of pride in the teaching component and preparation component to get [players] into the NHL,” said Canucks general manager Mike Gillis, who will interview other candidates and could reach a final decision within a week.

I’m trying to think if there’s ever been another instance when one organization’s minor-league head coach switched positions with another organization’s head coach (albeit Noel was only Columbus’ head coach on an interim basis), but am drawing a blank. Interesting swap anyway if Noel does indeed come on board.

Jun 082010

According to Aaron Portzline (Columbus Dispatch), the Columbus Blue Jackets have hired Manitoba Moose coach Scott Arniel as their new head coach.

After a two-month search that included one public rejection, the Blue Jackets have hired Scott Arniel to be their coach, The Dispatch has learned via multiple NHL sources.

Arniel, who has coached the AHL’s Manitoba Moose the last four seasons, will be introduced at a news conference at 3 p.m. Tuesday. Neither Arniel nor Blue Jackets general manager Scott Howson would comment when contacted by The Dispatch.

Arniel is the third straight Moose head coach to make the move to the NHL. The others, of course, are Randy Carlyle (Anaheim) and Alain Vigneault (Vancouver).

Apr 082009
Dec 012008
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