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”.

Oct 252011
 
Jesse Belanger, Vancouver Canucks

When a friend starring at his smartphone told me that the Canucks made a trade with the Florida Panthers, I could swear I saw a glitch in the Matrix. Seriously, this has happened so many times in recent years, it actually does give me some deja vu. The Vancouver-Florida connection continued this past Saturday with news that the Panthers had sent David Booth, Steve Reinprecht and a third-round draft pick in the 2013 draft (which is the same pick the Canucks sent to Florida at the deadline last year for Chris Higgins) in exchange for Mikael Samuelsson and Marco Sturm. While Sturm is in the lineup for the Panthers tonight and Booth will line up with Kesler and Chiggins tomorrow against the Edmonton Oilers, Samuelsson remains in Vancouver as he tries to get back to 100%. However, even if Sammy wasn’t on the mend, it will be at least a few months before we can begin to pick a winner in this trade.

…but I’m sure as hell going to try anyways!

But first, let’s go through the history of trades between these two regular dance partners, who between them have swapped some rather popular NHL stars in players like Roberto Luongo, Ed Jovanovski, Todd Bertuzzi and Pavel Bure.

Before we get started, did you know that if the Canucks didn’t make the Cam Neely for Barry Pederson deal way back in ’86, the Bruins may never have drafted Milan Lucic 20 years later? It’s true! This is the sort of analysis you can look forward to in this series as I look at the Canucks/Panthers trade history and see how the deals have affected both teams at the time, today and all the time in between. You’ll see how a trade has long term consequences and shapes rosters for many years after it happens. This is the hockey version of the Butterfly effect, if you will.

Year: 1996
Canucks receive: Jesse Belanger
Panthers receive: 3rd-round draft pick in the 1996 NHL Entry Draft

Background: This might look like a relatively insignificant trade but read on! It’s probably the most important in Panthers (and perhaps Canucks as a result) history!

This was the earliest trade I could find between the two clubs as the Panthers joined the NHL in 1993 with the Anaheim Mighty Ducks. Belanger was signed by the Montreal Canadiens in 1990 but never held a regular spot in the lineup. He played a total of 23 games with the Canadiens between 1991-’93 before he was left unprotected by Montreal and selected by Florida in the 1993 NHL Expansion Draft. Belanger had his best statistical season after joining the Panthers in 1993-’94, putting up 50 points in 70 games (70GP-17G-33A-50P) but only another 67 points over the next 110 games with the organization (110GP-32G-35A-67P).

What Happened: After the trade at the deadline, Belanger played 9 games with the Canucks with a rather unimpressive statline, scoring only three goals (9GP-3G-0A-3P) in the remainder of the regular season and only two assists in 3 games during the 1995-’96 playoffs. The Canucks finished 7th in the West (1 point above 8th place the original Winnipeg Jets), losing in the first round in 6 games to the eventual Stanley Cup champion Colorado Avalanche. The Panthers, on the other hand, reached the Stanley Cup Finals for the first and only time in their franchise history but were swept by the aforementioned Avs.

Belanger was released by the Canucks the following off-season and signed with the Edmonton Oilers. After appearing in only 6 games that season for the Oilers, Belanger popped up in the NHL two more times: once with the Canadiens in 1999-’00 (16GP-3G-6A-9P) and in 2000-’01 with the New York Islanders (12GP-0G-0A-0P). The ’01 season was the end of Belanger’s NHL career although he continued to play in the minors and overseas. Today, you can find him as a member of the Saint-Georges CRS Express with which he won a Lique Nord-Americaine de Hockey (North American Hockey League) championship in 2009-’10, the same year he was named the league’s Most Sportsman-like Player and a 1st team All-Star.

Long term consequences:

Canucks: The Canucks released Belanger at the end of the season they traded for him so it’s safe to assume this trade hasn’t impacted the team long term. Today’s results: none

Panthers: With the 65th overall pick in the 1996 NHL Entry Draft, the Panthers selected Oleg Kvasha, a 6-foot left wing from Moscow, Russia. Kvasha cracked the Panthers lineup in 1998-’99 and played 146 games over two seasons in Florida (146GP-17G-33A-50P).

In 2000, he was traded in the off season by the Panthers along with fellow winger Mark Parrish to the New York Islanders for Roberto Luongo and Olli Jokinen…which simply has to be one of the most lopsided trades ever as both Luongo and Jokinen would become cornerstones of the Panthers franchise for years while Kvasha played 5 seasons for the Islanders (332GP-60G-96A-156P) with Parrish (who has also popped up with the Canucks recently on a try-out). Kvasha would be dealt from the Islanders to the Coyotes in 2005-’06, where he would finish his NHL career.

Roberto Luongo was widely considered one of the best goaltenders at the time he was the Panthers starter. The teams in front of him were questionable defensively, which showed in the number of shots he routinely faced. During his time with the Panthers (318GP-108W-154L-35T), although the wins were scarce, Luongo set single season records for saves and shots faced. Luongo would later be traded to…yes, Vancouver. Jokinen on the other hand spent 7 seasons in Florida where he was captain from 2003 to when he was traded in 2008. In 7 seasons, he played 567 games and put up 419 points (567GP-188G-231A-419P).

Luongo’s blockbuster trade brought Todd Bertuzzi, Bryan Allen and Alex Auld to the Panthers while Olli Jokinen was dealt for Nick Boynton, Keith Ballard and a second round pick in the 2008 draft.

Bertuzzi only played 7 games for the Panthers that season due to a number of injuries before he would be traded to the Red Wings for Shawn Matthias and conditional picks. Allen would remain part of the Panthers defensive core for several seasons (284GP-14G-53A-67P) before the Panthers would trade him for Sergei Samsonov. Alex Auld played 27 games for Florida in 2006-’07 before leaving as an unrestricted free agent.

The conditional pick in the Bertuzzi trade would be part of the Tomas Vokoun deal between the Nashville Predators and Panthers. Sergei Samsonov would play 20 games with the Panthers last season but is currently an unrestricted free agent. Vokoun would also leave the Panthers as a UFA but not before playing 4 seasons with the club (248GP-101W-108L-30OTL). In short, today as a result of the Luongo branch of the Kvasha/Parrish for Luongo/Jokinen trade, the Panthers have…Shawn Matthias.

Nick Boynton would play a season with the Panthers (68GP-5G-16A-21P) before signing with Anaheim the year after as a UFA while Ballard would play two full seasons (164GP-14G-48A-62P) before being traded to Vancouver at the 2010 draft for Michael Grabner, Steve Bernier and Vancouver’s 1st round pick.

Grabner was released by the Panthers last season before the Islanders picked him up on waivers on the way to his 31-goal, Calder trophy candidate season. Bernier would play a season with the Panthers but leave as a UFA (and he still is). The 1st round pick from the Ballard deal would be used to select Quinton Howden, a promising 19-year old prospect with the Moose Jaw Warriors of the WHL.

The 2nd round pick included with the Olli Jokinen deal was first acquired from the Ottawa Senators. This was the 49th overall pick in 2008 and was later traded to the Nashville Predators in a package for the 46th overall pick. Pick #46 became Colby Robak while #49 became Jared Staal. Robak is still with the Panthers organization today as part of the San Antonio Rampage in the AHL. Today’s results: Shawn Matthias, Quinton Howden and Colby Robak.

Verdict:

The Panthers obviously won this trade. Although…and I actually have to scroll up to remember his name…Jesse Belanger’s stint with the Canucks was brief, the 3rd round pick the Canucks dealt for him had ramifications throughout the history of the Panthers. Although they’ve lost many All-Star quality players that have turned up as a result of this deal, the Panthers still come out on top here with 2008 WJHC gold medalist Shawn Matthias and two early round prospects still on their roster as opposed to the brief-if-it-even-exists entry that Jesse Belanger has in the Canucks history books. The shrewdness here by the Panthers was turning two promising young players in Kvasha and Parrish (at the time they were) into better, more promising young players in Luongo and Jokinen. It really got the ball rolling for the franchise. Given the history in Florida…that’s probably the best trade they’ve ever made even if they don’t have much playoff (…or regular season, for that matter) success to show for it. Without this seemingly innocuous transaction between the two teams, perhaps Roberto Luongo never ends up in Florida…and later, as a result, Vancouver.

Nov 212010
 

[Every weekend, Canucks Hockey Blog goes out of town as Tom Wakefield (@tomwakefield88) posts his thoughts on what's happening around the NHL.]

Pat Burns

Photo credit: Toronto Star

My father’s only experience playing hockey was on outdoor rinks around Toronto, with Sears catalogues for shin pads. Yet, his lack of experience never stopped him from loving the game.

Or specifically, the Toronto Maple Leafs.

By the time I came around, it had been a long time since the Leafs had reciprocated his love. In fact, the first decade of my life (the 1980s) was spent suffering through one of the worst eras of team futility in NHL history.

My childhood is filled with memories of Saturday nights that began in hope but ended with my dad, a curse on his breath and a drink in his hand, shutting the TV off in frustration.

I thought of my father today as I learned of Pat Burns’ passing from a long-term battle with cancer.

While Cliff Fletcher gets a lot of credit for resurrecting the Leafs franchise in the 1990s (rightly deserved), it was Pat Burns who turned those personnel moves into wins on the ice.

Those 1992-93 and 93-94 Maple Leafs were a gritty, lunch-pail crew that worked their way to two Conference Finals.

For my dad, the success of these teams was a reminder of what it used to mean to be a Maple Leaf fan. To watch a team of hard-working, overachievers find their way to victory over more talented opposition.

And to have the team led by a hard-nosed, no-nonsense coach of the old-school variety.

Eventually, the window closed for Pat Burns and the Maple Leafs. He went onto success elsewhere, winning a Stanley Cup with New Jersey. If not for Hockey Hall of Fame voting shenanigans, Burns would have been enshrined a few weeks ago.

My dad never really did move on though. Despite success during the Pat Quinn era, those Pat Burns teams were the ones that held a special place in his heart, right up until he passed away in the summer of 2008.

I’d like to think there’s a chance the fan and the coach cross paths hanging out at the great big rink in the sky.

THOUGHTS ON THE FLY

  • Kudos to Dave Shoalts, who calls for the creation of guidelines for supplemental discipline. He’s absolutely right.
  • Not to be cheeky, but do we really think Nikolai Khabibulin and Martin Brodeur are significantly hurt, or are these two veteran goalies just tired of what their teams aren’t accomplishing in front of them? In Khabby’s case, he’s definitely been overworked by Coach Tom Renney.
  • Speaking of Edmonton, the Oilers’ defense may just be the worst NHL defense in a long time. They aren’t physical, can’t make a first pass, and aren’t especially quick.
  • There are some nice young pieces playing for the Islanders, but that front office is such a mess, it’s hard to imagine this team ever putting it together. They need a real coach, a real GM, and a real owner first. All this to say? John Tavares could pull a Phil Kessel and leave at the end of his first contract.
  • He’s still as brittle as chinaware, but as goes Marian Gaborik so goes the New York Rangers. If he can stay healthy he should be in the MVP mix, because the Rangers really are a different team with him in the lineup.
  • Don’t forget, HBO previews their Penguins/Capitals documentary this weekend.
  • It’s nice that the Flyers want to play Sergei Bobrovsky as much as possible, but he’s clearly tired.
  • Marc Savard has just started non-contact practicing again, and might be in the Bruins’ lineup before Christmas. It will be interesting to see, once he returns, what effect that has on Tyler Seguin.
  • Hard to believe Todd Bertuzzi is in the best shape of his career, and playing a leadership role in the Red Wings offense. He looked completely washed up when he joined Detroit.
Apr 232009
 

Before I go praising the Canucks through every high hill and low dale, I have to give credit where credit is due and that’s to the St. Louis Blues. They played a fantastic series, they were young, inexperienced, and they gave us a heck of a run for our money. The 4-0 series sweep was no indication of how close the series was and even in the last game, they were down, they got up, they tied it, and they took us late into OT before they finally fell to their final playoff loss of the Western Conference Quarterfinals.

So now the Canucks have up to 10 days off. Should I be worried? Should we start throwing up the red flags? The Canucks of old would certainly have raised question in our minds as to whether they’d benefit from such a long break. Then again, that was the Canucks squad that came out flat against most opponents many nights, that was the Canucks squad that had no secondary scoring, and that was a Canucks squad that’s specialty teams were absolutely brutal. Here’s a Canucks team that defies everything we know and love about this team as fans. They’ve shown us a level of play we never thought was possible from them, and now have me thinking that even after 10 days off they’ll be just fine.

The boys need to use the time wisely and just heal their wounds. The early round advancing was a blessing in disguise. Salo and Sundin who were healthy scratches in game 4 now have a little extra time to fix their respective injuries. Demitra could use the time, as could Luongo and Henrik Sedin who were both a little shaken up at different times in the OT series clincher. I’m sure even Ryan Johnson could use a break and take care of the bruises he’s inevitably amounted after going down for nearly every shot he can.

No matter who we face in the second round I think the break will benefit us. If we face Detroit because San Jose pulls off the comeback in their series, then we’ll face a team that’s equally rested (barring a miracle on ice by the Blue Jackets). If that’s the case then they’ll likely be a little off their game from the lack of game time too. If we play the winner of the Chicago/Calgary series, I get the feeling the winner is going to emerge after 7 games, and with that in mind, they’re going to come out tired, and beat up. So even if we’re off our game a little after the long break, the fact we’ve got rested legs should make up for the temporary out of sync play that should start to dissipate through the first period.

This is a Canucks team that we haven’t ever seen. This is the best team we’ve seen since the West Coast express saw Naslund and Bert finish 2 and 3 in the scoring race during the regular season. While we all could try and predict what might happen, we’re likely shooting in the dark because none of us would have predicted this the way it turned out.

Oct 092008
 
Oct 022008
 
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