[Inspired by Arsenio Hall's "Things That Make You Go Hmmm…", Clayton Imoo talks about Canucks-related things that make him go hmmm… You can follow Clay on Twitter at (@canuckclay) or on his website, Clay's Canucks Commentary.]
Did something exciting happen on Monday? I’m not going to analyze the trades from earlier this week as my esteemed colleagues at CHB have done a great job of that already. Instead, I’m going to look at a few other Things That Make You Go Hmmm:
1. Will you be Seeking Stanley…six weeks early? Yesterday, Chris and I represented CHB at the media launch for Seeking Stanley, the Saturday evening hockey show on CBC hosted by Shane Foxman and Karin Larsen. We had a great time meeting other media folk and meeting Shane, Karin and other CBC on-air personalities (I really enjoyed chatting with Gloria Macarenko as well…she is both lovely and personable…but I digress). More importantly, we got to learn a bit about the CBC’s plans and high hopes for Seeking Stanley after a successful debut for the show during last year’s memorable Canucks playoff run.
Seeking Stanley promises to be Canucks-centric and will start airing this Saturday already and will be on for the remainder of the season from 10:30pm – 11:00pm PST. With the Canucks playing on six consecutive Saturdays until the end of the season, viewers can look forward to a plethora of post-game coverage, analysis and interviews.
We appreciated the opportunity to hang out in the studio over-looking the corner of Hamilton and Georgia. In fact, some of the most interesting stories were Shane Foxman’s recollections of the riots of June 15, 2011 as they had a perfect (yet dangerous) view of everything happening in front of Canada Post. Some other highlights: the free t-shirts, meeting other writers, my argyle sweater getting a bit of play on Twitter, and the delicious sliders. At the end, your favourite Canucks blog was the only ones left standing as we shut the place down. Coincidentally, it was about the same time that the food ran out.
Seeking Stanley has a beauty as their first game this Saturday: it’s the long-awaited (haha) return of Cody Hodgson, Christian Ehrhoff and the underachieving Buffalo Sabres.
2. Showdown for first overall…with the Blues? Last week I wrote about the great anticipation for the Canucks-Red Wings tilt – one that saw the Canucks snap Detroit’s impressive 23-game home winning streak. Since then, the Canucks have leap-frogged the Red Wings in the standings. Meanwhile, another team has caught up to Detroit as well.
Thus, tonight’s game between Vancouver and St. Louis is for first overall in the league. The Blues have quietly put together a remarkable season under coach Ken Hitchcock. They have the second-best home record in the entire NHL (26-4-4, just behind Detroit) and they have the stingiest defence, allowing a mere 1.91 goals per game. They are getting decent offensive production from David Backes, TJ Oshie, and young defencemen Alex Pietrangelo and Kevin Shattenkirk. Also, David Perron is having a strong season (with 13 points in his last 13 games) after missing the first two months with post-concussion syndrome. The goaltending has been stellar, with the tandem of Brian Elliot and Jaroslav Halak rivaling other combos in the league, including the one here. After a few years of being a good but not great team, the Blues have matured into arguably the hardest team to play against in the NHL. They lead the season series with the Canucks two games to one heading into tonight’s game.
3. A chance at immortality…at least for a few years. When I first joined CHB at the tail end of last season, the tagline on our website was: “We’ll be nice to Kevin Bieksa, we promise”. Bieksa’s emergence as a top-two d-man coupled with the potential in Cody Hodgson led to the change to: “The Cody Hodgson Era Begins”.
Well, the Hodgson era (here at least) was a short one. So now, we’re looking for a new tagline.
Per Chris’ post yesterday, we’re giving you a chance to offer suggestions. If we end up picking yours, you will win a $25 gift certificate to the Donnelly Group. More importantly, you will know that your contribution will be viewed by the thousands…or at least hundreds…of CHB visitors every single day.
Think you have what it takes? Then see all of the details here.
Thanks for reading. I’ll be at Rogers Arena for both tonight’s game against St. Louis and Saturday’s game against Buffalo. Send me a tweet if you’re there too and maybe we’ll pass each other in the concourse. Or at least we can pretend we did.
[Every week Caylie King reviews the Canucks week that was and previews the Canucks week ahead. You can follow Caylie on Twitter (@CayKing).]
The Canucks end a 6-game road trip in Phoenix tonight and then head back home for a 7-game home-stand. This isn’t the same team we saw a few days ago in Dallas. With the addition of Zack Kassian, the Canucks addressed their need for a big, physical bottom six forward. Unfortunately, the Cody Hodgson era is over here in Vancouver, but veteran center and Stanley Cup winner Sami Pahlsson will slot into the lineup and help in a defensive shutdown role.
Hopefully Canucks fans can put aside their emotional attachment to Cody and give Kassian and Pahlsson the chance to blossom here in Vancouver. Remember, Kassian is not here to replace Cody. He is here to address the need for size, grit and toughness. He has the potential to fit nicely into this lineup and prove that he belongs in this league.
63 GP, 40-16-7, 87 points (1st in Northwest Division, 1st in Western Conference)
Tuesday, February 28, 2012 vs. Phoenix Coyotes (6:00 PM start, away)
The Coyotes have been one of the hottest teams in the league recently; they have had a remarkable February so far, going 10-0-1 in their 11 games. They currently lead the Pacific Division and sit in 3rd place in the Western Conference.
This will be the 3rd meeting between the two teams. The Canucks have won both previous games by a combined score of 6-1. In the season series, Ryan Kesler leads all skaters with 3 points (1G-2A) and a plus-3 rating; Keith Yandle has been the only Coyote to score a goal against the Canucks so far this season.
Ray Whitney, who may be small in stature but plays big and with so much heart and determination, leads the Coyotes in assists (39) and points (57). He also has the team’s best plus/minus rating (+24). Whitney has recorded at least a point in 15 of his last 17 games; he has 21 points (4G-17A) in that span.
Thursday, March 1, 2012 vs. St. Louis Blues (7:00 PM start, home)
At the start of the season, few thought that the St. Louis Blues would be leading a tough Central Division and be sitting in 2nd place in the Western Conference with 19 games to go. The Blues are currently riding a 3-game win streak and have won 10 of their last 14 games.
This will be the last game of the regular season between these two clubs; the Blues have won 2 games and the Canucks have won 1.
Goaltender Brian Elliot backstopped the Blues in both of their wins. T.J. Oshie leads the skaters with 4 points (2G-2A) and a plus-4 rating.
Patrik Berglund has been an assist machine recently recording with 7 assists in his last 7 games. He also sits 4th in team scoring with 30 points (13G-17A).
For the Canucks, Alex Burrows has 3 goals and a plus-3 rating against St. Louis. Also, Daniel Sedin recorded the overtime winner back in January.
Saturday, March 3, 2012 vs. Buffalo Sabres (7:00 PM start, home)
At the start of the season, Canucks fans had this came circled for the return of Christian Ehrhoff. Little did we know it would also mark the return of Cody Hodgson. Hodgson was traded to Buffalo for Zach Kassian on trade deadline day. Canucks Nation wishes Cody well in Buffalo and hopes that he gets the opportunity to shine in a top-6 role. Buffalo is currently 6 points out of a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference and hope that Hodgson’s addition will help as they make one, final push for the postseason.
This is the first and only meeting between the two clubs. The Sabres have had some success against Northwest Division opponents this season, going 2-0-0 so far).
Captain Jason Pominville has been hot with 12 points (6G-6A) in his last 11 games. He also leads the Sabres in goals (23), assists (36) and points (59) this season.
In only 3 games played in the month of February, Cory Schneider continues to show why he is one of the best – if not the best – backups in the league today. He’s won 12 of his last 14 starts.
He was also the main reason the Canucks left New Jersey with 2 points last Friday. After an emotional, streak-breaking win against the Detroit Red Wings last week, the Canucks came out flat and didn’t have much left in the tank against the Devils. All Schneids did was stand on his head and stop 30 of 31 shots he faced.
This season, Schneids has an impressive 14-5 record this season along with an equally-impressive .930 save percentage, which is good for 4th > best in the NHL. He also has a 2.19 goals against average, which is 8th best in the league.
Prior to the trade deadline, there was much speculation about whether or not Mike Gillis would deal Schneider. Thankfully, GMMG made the decision to keep him despite his RFA status next season. Schneider and Luongo were the best goalie tandem last year, winning the Jennings award, and they have continued on with their success this season. It gives the Canucks a lot of confidence knowing that Schneider has shown now too that he can step into high-pressure, hostile situations and handle big games.
Ken Hitchcock has more than 500 wins, a .590 career winning percentange and a Stanley Cup to his credit.
But he’s never won the Jack Adams Award for NHL Coach of the Year.
With all due respect to the great work John Tortorella, Dan Bylsma, Kevin Dineen and Mike Babcock are doing with their respective teams, Hitchcock should win his first Jack Adams Award this year.
The impact he’s had on the St. Louis Blues has been incredible. To illustrate this, let’s take a look at how each of this season’s coaching changes have played out.
|Team||Goals For||Goals Against||Shots For||Shots Against||Powerplay||Penalty Kill|
Pre-hiring: St. Louis was 6-7 (.461 points %)
Post-hiring (as of February 14): St. Louis is 28-8-7 (.733 points %)
Under Hitchcock, the Blues have shaved almost a goal-a-game off their defense, while improving their special teams astronomically. The powerplay, penalty kill and winning percentage improvements are the biggest gains amongst any of the new coaches. Carried over an 82-game season, the Blues under Hitchcock are playing 120-point hockey.
Pre-hiring: Los Angeles was 15-14-4 (.515 points %)
Post-hiring: Los Angeles is 12-5-7 (.646 points %)
Sutter has done exactly what many expected of him when he was hired – he’s ignored calls for more offense and tightened the screws defensively to an even greater extent than Terry Murray. Unexpectedly, this approach is working quite well, as the Kings have gone from playoff question mark to an almost certainty… especially if they can add some offense at the deadline.
Pre-hiring: Anaheim was 6-14-4 (.333 points %)
Post-hiring: Anaheim is 16-11-5 (.578 points %)
Under Boudreau Anaheim’s top offensive players have woken up, improving Anaheim’s offence by more than half-a-goal per game. Meanwhile, “Gabby’s” also tightened up the defence (roughly two-and-a-half less shots per game). The penalty kill hasn’t been as good though.
It’s interesting – the three coaches who have (arguably) had prior success at the NHL level have had the biggest winning percentage improvement amongst all teams that changed coaches.
Pre-hiring: Washington was 12-9-1 (.568 points %)
Post-hiring: Washington is 16-14-4 (.529 points %)
Hunter’s clamped down even more on the Capitals offense than Boudreau had prior to his firing. While this has led to a better goals against average, Washington is giving up more shots, and is taking fewer shots than before. The powerplay’s improved, but it certainly looks like the Capitals under Hunter are a borderline playoff team at best.
Pre-hiring: Carolina was 8-13-4 (.400 points %)
Post-hiring: Carolina is 13-12-7 (.516 points %)
Muller’s helped the offense get going, although one could argue the improved play of Eric Staal has been the major difference maker here. Goals against and shots against are slightly worse, while the penalty kill is much poorer.
Pre-hiring: Montreal was 13-12-7 (.516 points %)
Post-hiring: Montreal is 10-13-2 (.440 points %)
The coaches may have changed, but according to these numbers players aren’t playing all that differently for Cunneyworth than they were with Jacques Martin. The sad fact for Cunneyworth supporters is that Martin won with this team and the new coach isn’t. Montreal is taking fewer shots but their powerplay is improved. Honestly there is nothing here to suggest Cunneyworth will be a head coach beyond this season.
Pre-hiring: Columbus was 12-24-5 (.356 points %)
Post-hiring: Columbus is 6-9-1 (.406 points %)
In fairness to Richards, the Blue Jackets season was lost well before he took over the reigns as coach. Nonetheless, it does look like the team is playing worse for Richards then they did Scott Arniel. The powerplay improvement could be inflated due to the small sample size (Richards has coached just 16 games for the team).
THOUGHTS ON THE FLY
James Mirtle in the Globe and Mail asked an interesting question Monday – which rebuild is better, the Leafs approach or the Oilers approach?
Ultimately, the answer to this question can only come years from now, when the young promise on each roster has been fulfilled (or not fulfilled, for that matter).
However, as the continued success of the Detroit Red Wings (and continued failure of the Columbus Blue Jackets) suggests, there are franchise factors that can have a major impact on the development of a successful team.
Good ownership is one of these factors. Every fan wishes their team had an owner not only with deep pockets but an ego that demands on-ice success.
A strong front office is another factor. Management that can create an organizational culture that breeds success, dedication and trust. One that can analyze the on-ice product, adapt to new innovations around the league and make difficult decisions when the time comes. A strong front office includes a talented scouting staff that can find NHL-level talent beyond the first round on a consistent basis.
An excellent coaching and training staff is another factor. Staff who can execute management’s vision, communicate with the modern player, know their hockey Xs and Os and can make sure each player is ready to compete on a nightly basis.
Given these factors, the more relevant question to ask right now is which franchise, Toronto or Edmonton, has the people in place to execute its rebuild most effectively?
Toronto’s ownership, even with Rogers Communications and Bell Canada taking over controlling interest, seems like it will be entirely focused on the bottom line for the conceivable future.
Meanwhile, in Oilers owner Daryl Katz, Edmonton has a passionate, deep pocketed owner who cares about the success of the hockey club. His communication skills leave something to be desired, but most fans will take an engaged owner over a faceless board of governors any day.
Ownership Edge: Oilers
Say what you will about Brian Burke, but he’s won a Cup; helped build the Canucks on- and off-ice into the juggernaut they are today; and has a league reputation as an honest, straight-shooter who takes care of his players.
Sure, speeding-up the Leaf rebuild process by targeting young, established NHL players didn’t exactly pan out. However it did bring the Leafs Phil Kessel and Dion Phaneuf, two B+ level talents.
What Burke has done well though is surround himself with the deepest (and most expensive) front office in the league, and used what draft picks and money (for college players) he’s had to rebuild the Leafs prospect pool (currently ranked 8th by Hockey’s Future).
Meanwhile, Steve Tambellini has had a puzzling start to his career as an NHL General Manager. Hiring Pat Quinn and Tom Renney to serve as co-coaches was the first head-scratcher. Giving Corey Potter a 2-year contract extension after less than a season’s worth of experience is another. The Oilers front office has been slow to address team weaknesses of size and defense as well.
The Colin Fraser trade dispute was a reputational hit, and something that will add to the Oilers’ struggles to attract free agents. At least Hockey’s Future ranks their organization 4th in terms of prospects, so it looks like the team is drafting well. That seems about the only edge it has on Toronto though.
Front Office Edge: Leafs
Neither Toronto’s Ron Wilson nor Edmonton’s Tom Renney should be considered an elite coach. Both have had limited success doing what their respective GMs have asked of them. Wilson’s implemented an up-tempo style, even when his roster was littered with players who couldn’t play that style very well. Renney is teaching the young Oilers how to become better professionals, but the team has been among the league’s worst for three years running.
There are things to like about both team’s assistant coaches. Toronto’s Scott Gordon has had the powerplay among the league’s best all year, while Greg Cronin seems to have fixed the penalty kill (no goals against in 15 games). Edmonton’s Associate Coach Ralph Krueger is an international coaching legend, with strong communication and motivational skills.
The biggest difference between the two teams in this area is the training staff. The Oilers have been cursed in recent seasons by the injury bug, punishing a team with little-to-no depth. Injuries haven’t had the same impact on Toronto’s improving roster.
Coaching Edge: Leafs
Any discussion of which rebuild is better has to take into consideration who is executing that rebuild.
Both the Leafs and Oilers are flawed organizations with young, talented rosters. But while Edmonton may have higher-end talent on-ice, right now Toronto has stronger people off-ice. As a result, the Leafs seem like the better bet to realize their potential.
THOUGHTS ON THE FLY
With the NHL Trade deadline a little less than a month from now, speculation is heating up.
Actually, that is a bit of an understatement. Speculation isn’t just heating up, it’s already reached a good rolling boil. We’ve entered the silly season of trade rumours people, where Ryan Getzlaf could be traded to the Toronto Maple Leafs, you know, just ‘cuz.
It’s not just fans or the media that can get swept up in the euphoria that is the trade talk. General Managers can too. With that in mind, here are the four worst trade decisions that could be made by a General Manager in the NHL today.
4. Trade Jeff Carter from the Columbus Blue Jackets
Granted, Carter has had a difficult first season in Columbus. He’s looked lethargic when he’s been healthy (which hasn’t been nearly as much as the team had hoped).
Carter remains a one-shot scorer though and a first-line centre talent. He’s the type of player you rarely find on the trade market (the last first line centre to be traded was Joe Thornton back in 2005-06).
In Carter, Rick Nash and Ryan Johansen, there is a good offensive core in place in Columbus. God knows there are other teams trying to build around less up front (cough Phoenix, Florida, Winnipeg to name three cough cough).
Now it could be that the Blue Jackets just want to save themselves some money and get Carter’s $5.27 million off the books. This is incredibly short-sighted thinking. The Blue Jackets need wins to generate revenues. They need talent on the roster to produce wins. Eventually, that talent gets paid, and scoring talent of Carter’s ilk can get a lot more expensive than $5.27 million a season.
Moving Carter doesn’t get the Blue Jackets anywhere closer to wins in the short-term, and is not guaranteed to save them much money in the long-term.
In short – it would be a trade that doesn’t make much sense.
3. Trade Ryan Miller from the Buffalo Sabres
At one point, it could be argued he was the best goalie in the game, but these days Ryan Miller is pretty, pretty, pretty average . His performance and outspokenness has made him a lightning rod in Buffalo where pre-season optimism has turned into a season-long nightmare.
A great goaltender gives an NHL team a chance to win every night, and turns poor or mediocre teams in all other areas into playoff participants. Miller was once great – there’s no question he could be great again. The smart move in Buffalo would be to consider goaltending “secure” (Jhonas Enroth is a talented youngster who’s earned more time in the crease) and address other needs.
You know, like the Swiss Cheese defense of Tyler Myers, Christian Ehrhoff and Robyn Regehr that would have trouble defending against a minor bantam team some nights.
2. Trade PK Subban from the Montreal Canadiens
PK Subban isn’t your typical NHL player – he’s colourful, opinionated and openly confident – and this has frequently contradicted with the conservative, conformist culture established by the Canadiens in the era of Bob Gainey, Jacques Martin and Pierre Gauthier.
There are few NHL defencemen that offer the same combination of physical gifts, offensive instincts and passion for the big moment as Subban does. He will be an NHL star, and will one day find himself in Norris consideration.
You can count the number of Stanley Cups won by teams without a strong offensive defenseman on one hand. Trading Subban would be akin to the Canadiens admitting they don’t have any plans to truly compete for a Stanley Cup in the near future.
1. Trade Brendan Morrow from the Dallas Stars
For all the hulabaloo about trading Jarome Iginla from Calgary, the potential trade of Brendan Morrow from Dallas would be the bigger mistake.
Uncertain Stars ownership has wrecked havoc on the franchise’s off-ice fortunes. Now, with new owner Tom Gaglardi in the mix, the team needs to re-establish its relationship with the Dallas community.
Morrow is an obvious, important player around which to build this new relationship. He’s one of the few remaining links to the championship-calibre teams Dallas iced in the late 90s and early 2000s. Moreover, he is the type of character leader that can shape and inspire not only a locker room, but a fan base.
With one of the lowest payrolls in the league, the Stars don’t need to jettison salary. They should move other pieces before moving their captain.
THOUGHTS ON THE FLY
Now that every team has played their 40th game, it’s time to even the playing field once again and see what’s really been going on in the NHL.
Last time, I made special mention of a team’s special teams, goals for and goals against performance for the season.
This time, to learn a bit more about an individual team’s strengths and weaknesses, each squad was ranked in six categories*:
Teams were then ranked and put into groups of five, with those ranking 1-5 in each category designated “great,” 6-10 “good,” 11-15 “above average,” 16-20 “below average,” 21-25 “poor,” 26-30 “awful.”
(* – Stats were taken as of Thursday, January 12th, once all teams had played their 40th game.)
The Western Conference After 40 Games:
1. San Jose Sharks (53 points)
Games 21-40: 3rd in Conference (26 points)
Games 1-20: 1st in Conference (27 points)
SVPCT: Good / SHA: Great / GF: Above Average / GA: Good / 5-on-5: Great / SHF: Great
Notes: One of the most complete teams in the NHL and one of the toughest teams at 5-on-5 (tied with St. Louis for 3rd overall). Surprisingly, Michal Handzus (1 goal, 10 assists) had almost as many points as Joe Thornton (3 goals, 11 assists) in the second quarter. Martin Havlat, who found a way to hurt himself hopping the boards onto the ice, has been a bust.
2. Chicago Blackhawks (52 points)
Games 21-40: 5th in Conference (25 points)
Games 1-20: 3rd in Conference (27 points)
SVPCT: Poor / SHA: Above Average / GF: Great / GA: Below Average / 5-on-5: Good / SHF: Good
Notes: This is a team getting it done with offense, as the penalty kill and goaltending have been inconsistent all season. Marian Hossa (20 pts in the second quarter) looks like he’s five-years younger. Secondary scoring was absent in games 21-40. Dave Bolland (3 goals), Viktor Stalberg (4 goals) and Michael Frolik (2 goals) struggled.
3. Vancouver Canucks (51 points)
Games 21-40: 1st in Conference (30 points)
Games 1-20: 11th in Conference (21 points)
SVPCT: Good / SHA: Above Average / GF: Great / GA: Good / 5-on-5: Good / SHF: Good
Notes: A dominant second quarter revealed the Canucks look ready again for a long playoff run. Ryan Kesler was almost a point-per-game player in December (14 points in 15 games). For all the fan criticism, Keith Ballard was +10 in the second quarter.
4. Detroit Red Wings (51 points)
Games 21-40: 4th in Conference (26 points)
Games 1-20: 5th in Conference (25 points)
SVPCT: Good / SHA: Great / GF: Great / GA: Good / 5-on-5: Great / SHF: Great
Notes: Those of us waiting for the Red Wings to collapse into a rebuild will probably wait forever, as it looks like Valtteri Filppula (9 goals, 18 points in the second quarter) and Jiri Hudler (9 goals, 16 points) have finally established themselves as scoring threats. Meanwhile, Pavel Datsyuk (24 points) and Henrik Zetterberg (just 4 goals but 20 points) keep rolling. Interestingly, Nicklas Lidstrom had a pedestrian games 21-40 (2 goals, 7 points).
5. St. Louis Blues (51 points)
Games 21-40: 2nd in Conference (29 points)
Games 1-20: 9th in Conference (22 points)
SVPCT: Great / SHA: Great / GF: Below Average / GA: Great / 5-on-5: Great / SHF: Good
Notes: It didn’t take long for the Blues to play Hitchcock hockey did it? Sure, St. Louis still has trouble scoring, but the powerplay’s improving (9.2% in the first quarter, 18% during the second quarter). Meanwhile, the Blues goalie tandem was dynamite in games 21-40. Both Brian Elliott (7-4, 1.91 goals against, .931 save percentage) and Jaroslav Halak (6-0-3, 1.95 goals against, .929 save percentage) played like all-stars.
6. Minnesota Wild (48 points)
Games 21-40: 11th in Conference (21 points)
Games 1-20: 2nd in Conference (27 points)
SVPCT: Great / SHA: Awful / GF: Awful / GA: Great / 5-on-5: Below Average / SHF: Awful
Notes: It seems pretty clear that amazing start to the season was built on a house of cards – there’s a lot not working in Minnesota. After a hot start, Niklas Backstrom has been average lately (.908 save percentage in December), while the team’s goals against in the second quarter was almost a full goal higher than the first quarter (from 1.98 to 2.75).
7. Dallas Stars (47 points)
Games 21-40: 8th in Conference (23 points)
Games 1-20: 7th in Conference (24 points)
SVPCT: Above Average / SHA: Awful / GF: Above Average / GA: Below Average / 5-on-5: Good / SHF: Below Average
Notes: The Stars will be one of the teams in the Western Conference fighting tooth-and-nail for a final playoff spot. After a great start, Sheldon Souray was cooling off in the second quarter prior to his injury (3 assists, -1 in 14 games). Meanwhile, Stephane Robidas was a -6 during games 21-40. In Kari Lehtonen’s absence, Richard Bachman was solid (2.56 goals against, .917 save percentage) while Andrew Raycroft was not (3.49 goals against since November 23rd).
8. Nashville Predators (46 points)
Games 21-40: 10th in Conference (22 points)
Games 1-20: 6th in Conference (24 points)
SVPCT: Above Average / SHA: Poor / GF: Above Average / GA: Above Average / 5-on-5: Below Average / SHF: Awful
Notes: Another team trending downward thanks to disappointing goaltending play. Pekke Renne was rather human for games 21-40 (2.95 goals against, .904 save percentage). Rookie Craig Smith had just 1 goal in the second quarter, while Patric Hornqvist had 2.
9. Los Angeles Kings (45 points)
Games 21-40: 9th in Conference (22 points)
Games 1-20: 8th in Conference (23 points)
SVPCT: Great / SHA: Good / GF: Awful / GA: Great / 5-on-5: Poor / SHF: Good
Notes: During the second quarter, the Kings only scored three or more goals four times. Stats like that are why coaches get fired. Simon Gagne went goalless for December (2 assist in 12 games), while Jack Johnson was -6 during games 21-40. The team desperately needs a sniper – do they have enough to put into a package for Zach Parise? Goaltender Jonathan Bernier would have to be in the mix.
10. Colorado Avalanche (43 points)
Games 21-40:6th in Conference (24 points)
Games 1-20: 12th in Conference (19 points)
SVPCT: Below Average / SHA: Good / GF: Poor / GA: Below Average / 5-on-5: Awful / SHF: Above Average
Notes: For being a young, skating team, the Avalanche sure have a tough time scoring. Youngsters Matt Duchene (3 goals, 8 points), Paul Stastny (5 goals, 8 points) and David Jones (2 assists) all struggled in the second quarter.
11. Phoenix Coyotes (42 points)
Games 21-40: 12th in Conference (17 points)
Games 1-20: 4th in Conference (25 points)
SVPCT: Good / SHA: Poor / GF: Poor / GA: Good / 5-on-5: Above Average / SHF: Below Average
Notes: Pretty easy to see why they fell so far in the second quarter – Mike Smith returned back to earth (13 games, 5 wins, 3.38 goals against, .894 save percentage). Key forwards Shane Doan (3 goals, -7) and Martin Hanzel (2 goals) were MIA during games 21-40.
12. Calgary Flames (41 points)
Games 21-40: 7th in Conference (24 points)
Games 1-20: 13th in Conference (17 points)
SVPCT: Above Average / SHA: Below Average / GF: Awful / GA: Above Average / 5-on-5: Poor / SHF: Poor
Notes: It hasn’t been a great season in Calgary, but the Flames were a playoff team during the second quarter. One of the reasons was an improved powerplay, which helped the team score enough to win games. Naturally, Jarome Iginla was at the centre of this improvement (9 goals, 21 points, +7 in 20 games), although Olli Jokinen was right behind (7 goals, 19 points, +2). In the absence of Mark Giordano, Derek Smith stepped up (9 points), leading all Flames defensemen in scoring in the second quarter.
13. Edmonton Oilers (35 points)
Games 21-40: 15th in Conference (13 points)
Games 1-20: 10th in Conference (22 points)
SVPCT: Above Average / SHA: Below Average / GF: Above Average / GA: Above Average / 5-on-5: Poor / SHF: Awful
Notes: Introducing the worst team in the Western Conference during the second quarter. Yes, their defense is AHL-caliber, but some blame on the Oilers’ collapse should fall on the shoulders of the team’s veterans. Shawn Horcoff (4 goals, -8) and Ales Hemsky (2 goals, -4) underperformed, while Ryan Smyth (4 goals, 12 points, +2) was only marginally better.
14. Anaheim Ducks (30 points)
Games 21-40: 14th in Conference (14 points)
Games 1-20: 14th in Conference (16 points)
SVPCT: Awful / SHA: Below Average / GF: Poor / GA: Awful / 5-on-5: Awful / SHF: Awful
Notes: The fabulous core of the Ducks got rolling in the second quarter. Teemu Selanne (7 goals, 20 points), Corey Perry (11 goals, 21 points), Bobby Ryan (10 goals, 16 points) and Ryan Getzlaf (3 goals, 15 points) sparked the offense. However, a lack of depth and poor goaltending (Jonas Hiller had a 3.32 goals against and .892 save percentage in games 21-40) has kept Anaheim near the bottom of the Western Conference.
15. Columbus Blue Jackets (27 points)
Games 21-40: 13th in Conference (15 points)
Games 1-20: 15th in Conference (12 points)
SVPCT: Awful / SHA: Good / GF: Awful / GA: Awful / 5-on-5: Awful / SHF: Above Average
Notes: At the time of this study, Columbus was one of only six teams with a team save percentage under .900 (they were at .894). For what it’s worth, league average at the time was .912. Players playing their way out of town: Antoine Vermette (3 goals, 2 assists in the second quarter); Derick Brassard (2 goals, 5 assists); and Vinny Prospel (2 goals, 10 points). Could someone explain how keeping Ryan Johansen in the NHL (2 goals, 4 assists during games 21-40) is helping him develop into a top-six NHL forward?
If someone you know is in a car crash, the first thing you want to know is how badly hurt they are.
The 2011-12 season of the Columbus Blue Jackets has been an epic car crash.
But in the grand scheme of things, they’re not too badly hurt.
Why? Just like someone struggling with addiction, sometimes you have to hit rock bottom to start your way back to the top.
For the Blue Jackets, this year has been rock bottom – and the path to the top is pretty clear.
Here’s why the future isn’t all that dark in Columbus:
1. The first overall pick this year is a dandy.
Nail Yakupov has been heralded as the best Russian prospect since Alex Ovechkin and has drawn comparisons to Pavel Bure. Unlike many of the Russian forwards that come to play in the NHL, Yakupov has strong on-ice vision and knows how to use his teammates (witness the 4-assist game against Canada in the World Juniors). A torn meniscus shouldn’t dampen his NHL future, and he’s already stated he doesn’t want to play in the KHL. If the Blue Jackets remain as the worst team in the NHL and don’t lose their first overall pick in the draft lottery, Yakupov could have the same impact as Crosby, Malkin, Ovechkin and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins have had on their respective teams.
2. They already have a veteran superstar to build and market the team around.
Rick Nash has never had an elite centre to play with, and for the most part has been almost a lone-gunman his team’s attack, making it easy for the opposition to defend against him. However, he remains an elite talent, with great speed for a power forward and terrific goal-scoring hands. In many ways, he could become what Jarome Iginla came to mean to the Calgary Flames, both on the ice and in the community. The Blue Jackets would be fools to move him. Besides, teams when trading a superstar of Nash’s standing rarely get equal value back in a trade (witness the Joe Thornton deal from Boston years ago).
3. Their attendance woes are greatly exaggerated.
One of the great myths propagated by hockey media (particularly Toronto hockey media) is that Columbus is just another failed NHL expansion team destined to move.
Well hold on a minute.
From 2000-2004 Columbus was actually a top-15 market attendance-wise in the NHL, peaking at 8th overall in the league in 2001-02. Granted, years of on-ice incompetence eventually wore the lustre off of going to Blue Jackets games. But if you look at the history of the franchise (2000-present), they’re actually only 21st in league attendance:
|Rank||Team||Average Attendance (2000-present)|
|2||Detroit Red Wings||18, 859|
|21||Columbus Blue Jackets||16,168|
|24||Carolina Hurricanes||15, 441|
|25||New Jersey Devils||15, 157|
|26||Anaheim Ducks||14, 988|
|27||Nashville Predators||14, 935|
|29||Phoenix Coyotes||13, 823|
|30||New York Islanders||13, 090|
The success or failure of a hockey market can only truly be measured once the local team has experienced both sustained success and failure.
Columbus has only known failure. It’s not a stretch to think the team will fill their building again once the team enjoys some success.
4. It doesn’t take a rocket science to see where this team needs to improve.
Let’s get this out of the way first. Scott Howson has been at best mediocre, at worst a failure, as Blue Jackets general manager. The remainder of this season, and what he can accomplish in the off-season, will decide if he remains the team’s architect in 2013.
Howson has already stated Columbus is open-for-business. There’s a nice breakdown of who could be moved here. Who the team ships out though is almost secondary to the importance of what it brings back.
In this case, the only acceptable return is a goalie who can make a difference night in, night out at the NHL level.
The Steve Mason era has to end. Other than during Mason’s rookie season, the team’s goaltending has been among the league worst. A great team can win with average goaltending. A rebuilding team can only win with great goaltending.
The Blue Jackets need to find that goaltending – that is priority no. 1. Maybe it’s Jonathan Bernier in Los Angeles; Cory Schneider in Vancouver; Thomas Griess in San Jose; Anders Lindback in Nashville; or Sergei Bobrovsky in Philadelphia. Maybe it’s 2012 unrestricted free agents Tomas Vokun in Washington or Ray Emery in Chicago. Maybe it’s a a draft pick like Andrei Vasilevski. Maybe it’s prospect Mark Dekanich, who has been knocking on the door in Columbus for awhile but can’t seem to stay healthy.
Whoever it is, the Blue Jackets must turn that perennial weakness into a position of strength for the team to turn around.
The most consistently successful teams in NHL history are those that build from the goaltender out. It’s time Columbus followed the blueprint.
THOUGHTS ON THE FLY
[Every week, Caylie King looks at the Canucks week that was and the Canucks week ahead. You can follow Caylie on Twitter (@cayking).]
The Canucks started the week with a shootout loss to the San Jose Sharks and followed it up with a dominating 3-0 win over division rivals, the Minnesota Wild. Then came the most anticipated game of the season – a rematch against the defending Stanley Cup Champions, Boston Bruins. And it didn’t disappoint. Despite being hyped up all week long, it lived up to its expectations and more. It felt like we were right back in the Stanley Cup Finals, and though while the Canucks prevailed, the end result was just another two points in the standings. There were big fights, huge saves and controversial hits. It doesn’t matter what team you cheered for, this was a game for the ages.
42 GP, 26-13-3, 55 points (1st in Northwest Division, 1st in Western Conference)
Now in his 5th season with the Canucks, Jannik Hansen has really come into his own. He does the small things and wins the little battles, and his speed, grit and determination is evident in every shift. The Honey Badger is already having a career year with 12 goals and is just 6 points from tying his career-high of 29 points.
Manny Malholtra has seemed to have lost some of his edge this season after overcoming a horrendous eye injury last season. Although he sits 3rd in the NHL in faceoffs (58.0%), other parts of Manny’s game have deteriorated. He doesn’t seem to be as aggressive or has often struggled to win the one-on-one battles. He only has 3 goals and 7 assists in 42 games – a pace of about 20 points, which would be his worse season statistically since the 2002-2003 season. That said, it’s worth noting that Uncle Manny’s faceoff skills and work on the penalty kill are still critical to the Canucks.
Monday, January 9, 2012 vs. Florida Panthers (4:30 PM start, away)
The Canucks recalled Mike Duco on Sunday, and it’s perhaps fitting that he will make his Canucks debut against his former team, the Florida Panthers.
Leading the Southeast Division and sitting in 3rd place in the Eastern Conference, it’s safe to say that the Panthers have been one of the biggest surprises in the first half of the season. Much of their success is due to big off-season acquisitions like Kris Versteeg (38 points in 40 games), Tomas Fleischmann (34 points in 41 games) and Brian Campbell (33 points, 2nd among all NHL defensemen), just to name a few. These are not the same Panthers from previous seasons; they have built a whole new identity and look to make the playoffs for the first time since 1999-2000 season.
In last season’s meeting, the Canucks came out on top with a 2-1 victory. Daniel Sedin scored both goals and Roberto Luongo made 41 saves for the win against his former club.
Tuesday, January 10, 2012 vs. Tampa Bay Lightning (4:30 PM start, away)
The Lightning are currently on a 3-game losing skid and have not had the success that most expected after making it all the way to the Eastern Conference Finals last season. They currently sit in 13th place in the conference.
In last season’s meeting in Vancouver, Steven Stamkos scored 3 points (2G-1A), including the overtime winner.
Despite his teams’ struggles, superstar Steven Stamkos is having another good season, averaging over a point a game. He leads the team in goals (28 – also tops in the NHL) points (45). In his last 6 games, he has 8 goals, including 2 game-winning goals.
Thursday, January 12, 2012 vs. St. Louis Blues (5:00 PM start, away)
If the Panthers are the early surprise in the East, the St. Louis Blues are definitely one of the surprise teams in the Western Conference. Currently, they’re sitting in 4th place in the tough Western Conference. They have won their last 3 games, outscoring their opponents 12-4.
The Blues have won both meetings this season against the Canucks. T.J. Oshie leads the team with 2 goals, 2 assists and a plus-4 rating in those matchups. Brian Elliott recorded both wins for the Blues.
David Backes is tied for the team lead in goals (13) with T.J. Oshie and Alex Steen. He also leads the team in points (29). Backes has an active 3-game point streak (2G-2A-4P).
Sunday, January 15, 2012 vs. Anaheim Ducks (6:00 PM start, away)
Considering their firepower up front, it’s shocking how badly the Ducks are doing this season. Despite changing their coach, the results haven’t changed much and they currently sit in 14th place in the Western Conference.
The Ducks and Canucks have already played each other twice this season – both in Anaheim – with both teams winning one game each. Bobby Ryan and Andrew Cogliano both have a goal and assist against the Canucks this season; Daniel Sedin leads the Canucks with 2 goals, 2 assists and a plus-5 rating.
Corey Perry, the league’s reigning MVP, is tied with Bobby Ryan for the team lead with 15 goals and is second in scoring with 32 points.