Jun 272012
 
Vancouver Canucks

Photo credit: canucks.nhl.com

1. Some fallout from the NHL Draft: Is it possible that, after the Cody Hodgson fiasco, the Canucks are doing more “background checks” on possible NHL draft picks? I found it interesting when Mike Gillis said that Brendan Gaunce has “good parents, good potential, and good leadership”. Wait, good parents? Sounds familiar.

2. You could make the argument the Canucks were ecstatic that Gaunce was available to them at pick 26. Outside of the offensive upside, there isn’t a ton separating Gaunce and Hodgson. Gaunce wore an ‘A’ for Belleville last season and is close to a lock when it comes to getting a spot on the Canadian world juniors team next winter.

3. Are the Canucks just steering clear of drafting WHL players completely? The club has now made 25 consecutive selections without taking a single WHL player. The last was Morgan Clark (2008, 7th round), and for the last ‘successful’ WHL pick outside of the traded Michael Grabner, you’d have to go all the way back to 1995 when Brent Sopel was a 6th round selection.

4. There was a rough reception for the Canucks on Day 2 of the draft, when they selected all overage players with their remaining picks. A lot of people cried uncle when the team could easily have signed the players over the summer without sacrificing picks. Perhaps the club wants to draft more mature players who could be ready in 2 years as opposed to 3 or 4.

5. How sold are you on the “draft the best player available” mentality? The Canucks certainly aren’t, given most of the drafted players could’ve been available later.

6. One team that didn’t draft the best player available was the Calgary Flames, who took Mark Jankowski when they could’ve arguably had him in the second round. Canucks fans who went through the Patrick White fiasco in 2007 know the pitfalls that can follow when a marginal prospect goes in the first round.

7. The Canucks didn’t make qualifying offers to Victor Oreskovich, Marc-Andre Gragnani or Andrew Ebbett, allowing all to become unrestricted free agents. Oreskovich and Ebbett aren’t total surprises, but steps had to be taken for Gragnani to avoid becoming a UFA in the first place, so the fact the club didn’t extend a qualifying offer is a bit shocking.

8. The problem with Gragnani is that he’s a good to great player in the AHL, but a fringe player in the NHL. Either the Canucks didn’t think he was worth a contract, or Vancouver has another defenseman coming into the system soon…

9. Also sounds like Aaron Rome won’t be returning to the Canucks. Unfortunately, the biggest impact Rome had in a Canucks uniform was for his hit on Nathan Horton which arguably cost the Canucks the Stanley Cup. Rome certainly wasn’t an impact player on the blueline during the run, but the team had been crippled by injuries beforehand so his suspension didn’t help matters.

10. With Rome and Gragnani cast out by the Canucks, who’s going to fill the void? It’s been floated around the Twitterverse that Sami Salo will be back for another year, but that still leaves a spot or two on the blueline open.

11. You can put together an opinion that Vancouver is opening a roster spot for high-profile UFA Justin Schultz to come to the Canucks, but nothing can be certain at this point. You could also argue the Leafs traded Luke Schenn so that they could free a roster spot for Schultz as well.

12. Is Toronto off the table for the Canucks and Roberto Luongo? Trading Luke Schenn, who was rumoured to be offered straight up for Luongo, certainly seems to answer that question.

13. Florida is said to be the frontrunners for Luongo now, but GM Dale Tallon questions whether or not the Cats can fit a gargantuan contract like Luongo’s into the equation, though reportedly, Florida ownership have no problems having to pay Luongo ten more years.

14. The other problem is the Canucks are said to be asking for one of Florida’s top young players: Erik Gudbranson, Jonathan Huberdeau, Dmitry Kulikov, and Quinton Howden. The first two are unlikely acquisitions, given they were top three selections in the NHL drafts the last two years.

15. Big congratulations are in order for Pavel Bure, who was elected to the HHOF yesterday. As a fan who grew up idolizing Bure as a child, the Russian Rocket spawned a generation of hockey fans in this city. And whether or not you believe he deserves to have his jersey hanging in the rafters of Rogers Arena, his place in the Hall is simply unquestioned.

Oct 052011
 

Today’s quickies, a bunch of links, clips, news and other tidbits about the Vancouver Canucks.

Ryan Kesler

Photo credit: ESPN

Feb 102011
 

From CDC:

Vancouver Canucks President and General Manager Mike Gillis announced today that right wing Victor Oreskovich has been recalled from the Manitoba Moose of the AHL. Aaron Volpatti has been re-assigned to Manitoba.

Oreskovich, 24, has appeared in 31 games for the Moose this season, recording 11 points (4-7-11) and 27 penalty minutes. The Whitby, Ontario native has played in 50 career NHL games, collecting six points (2-4-6) and 26 penalty minutes.

Volpatti, 25, has split the season between the Moose and Canucks. He has registered six points (0-6-6) in 26 games in Manitoba and two points (1-1-2) in 15 games with Vancouver, including his first NHL goal.

Oct 042010
 

[As we approach the start of the NHL regular season, members of the Canucks blogosphere give their two cents about your Vancouver Canucks and address the issues, questions and expectations of the team in their 40th year anniversary.]

Bill Sweatt, Vancouver Canucks

You won’t receive a lot of argument here if you say that this preseason was relatively boring. With a stacked roster, the Canucks had few openings. And of the players fighting for those jobs, no one stood out more than the others.

Still, some players managed to move themselves up or down the Canucks’ depth chart. Alex Bolduc and Guillaume Desbiens look like they’re going to make the team’s opening night roster, while Shane O’Brien and Darcy Hordichuk played their way down to Manitoba.

In an otherwise uneventful preseason, who did we think made the biggest impression?

J.J.: IMHO, the Sweatt brothers improved their stock considerably this preseason. What Lee lacks in size, he makes up for in speed, smarts and the ability to make the right play and move the puck quickly out of the zone. He’s smaller than the prototypical NHL defenseman, but he showed that he’s not scared to mix it up with the big boys in the corners. Billy obviously has big-league skill and big-league wheels. What he lacks is big-league finish. Much like Mason Raymond did a couple of years ago, hopefully Billy can work on this in Manitoba. I think he’s played himself into consideration to be one of this year’s first call-ups.

Richard: The Canucks have so much depth they don’t need to look at prospects to fill holes this year. That said, Victor Oreskovich’s play in the preseason and the way he’s used his size is something that’s definitely moved him up. The Canucks have lacked bottom-six size for years and Oreskovich, when he eventually makes the team, will be a welcome fit.

Chris: I can’t believe I’m going to say this, but Andrew Alberts of all people has helped himself find his way into the 6th or 7th defensive spot. He’s shown that if given the appropriate number of minutes (say five or six.. okay.. maybe a few more), he’s a relatively decent addition to the blueline. If he were ever able to figure out what the word discipline means, and maybe understand how to better use his size in a manner that doesn’t draw the attention of the zebras, he’d be a beast of a player to see in front of you.

Sean from Nucks Misconduct: Alexandre Bolduc and Tanner Glass were terrific. They have earned roster spots. I liked Peter Schaefer more and more as preseason went along, but we shall see what Gillis and company have planned for him soon enough. Brendan Morrison played so well and it’s unfortunate he didn’t make the squad. But, management knows best. I still like the team moving forward.

Sep 182010
 

The CHB crew are up here in Penticton for Canucks training camp. The 58-man camp kicked off today and here are some things I noticed from day 1:

  • Eddie Lack looked good. The 6’5″ goaltender is the tallest of those checking into camp and covered a lot of space in net. Given Cory Schneider is likely going to be Luongo’s back up, Lack looks poised to take that starter’s position with the Moose.
  • Billy Sweatt (Canucks fans’ newest favourite Twitterer – follow him at @billysweatt) looked very good out there. He’s got great speed and seemed to always have the puck stick to his stick. He reminds me a lot of Mason Raymond from a few years ago. He doesn’t have any finish but if he can work on that aspect of his game. The kid could have a big year on the farm.
  • The Canucks bottom-six looks like it’s going to get bigger this year. Malhotra, Torres and Oreskovich are all upgrades on some of the players that filled bottom-six roles last year. The Canucks needed to get bigger and Gillis has done a god job of bringing in players that meet that requirement with sacrificing skill and speed. Torres looks mean, Malhotra looked good in some face-off drills, and Oreskovich was skating very well for a guy of his size. He also managed to plaster Billy Sweatt along the boards. The guy is going to bruise and I wouldn’t be surprised at all if he made the Canucks fourth line.
  • Brendan Morrison was getting feisty when he had to. It was clear he’s here to take his PTO to the next level and the general buzz in the locker room is that he’s going to make this team. He brings a lot of leadership to the table and I’d go as far as say that I wouldn’t be surprised if he was given an ‘A’ if he makes the team.
  • Peter Schaefer, the other interesting invite to camp, didn’t look out of place. After training with Peter Twist for the last year, he seems as quick as ever.
  • On defense, Lee Sweatt and Dan Hamhuis looked particularly good. At one point, Sweatt, who loses four inches to Hamhuis, laid him out, picked up the puck and fired a laser under Louie’s glove. I know it’s just training camp, but it still looked good.
  • Hodgson skated with the Canucks C group that took no contact. This group included Alex Burrows Prab Rai, Steven Anthony and Shawn Weller amongst others. Jordan Schroeder, the other prospect everyone has their eyes on was almost invisible. He skated with the Canucks A group in the morning and was barely noticeable.
  • Sergei Shirokov continues to fly under the radar. He was out and skating, but without the hype surrounding him last year he just quietly did his thing without standing out.
  • After watching Andrew Alberts skate today I’ve come to the following conclusion: For a big guy he can skate really well. He’s a perfect number six or seven defenseman, however the Canucks moved him up to the fourth and fifth spot last year which placed him out of his comfort zone and amplified his flaws. His size would be a huge attribute to the blue line if we weren’t so stacked but he really didn’t look as bad as on the ice as he did last year.
Sep 092010
 

One of the things the Canucks have lacked in recent years has been size. Now entering his third season with the team, Gillis has groomed a team of finesse and skill players but this off-season he took steps towards addressing the size issue as well. Last year, Gillis built a team that was good enough to win the Northwest Division title, but in the NHL’s second season, they found out that they just weren’t big enough to compete with the likes of Blackhawks. (Yeah I said it.)

Things have changed a little bit this off season.

Goodbye Kyle Wellwood (5’10″, 181 lbs.), hello Manny Malhotra (6’2″, 220 lbs.). Goodbye Steve Bernier (6’2″, 216 lbs.), hello Victor Oreskovich (6’3″, 225 lbs.). Ryan Johnson (6’1″, 199 lbs.) wasn’t re-signed; Raffi Torres (6’0″, 223 lbs.) signed. Combined, the new guys recorded 75 points (35 goals-40 assists); the old guys only combined for 52 points (26 goals-26 assists).

At least on paper, Gillis seems like he added size without compromising skill.

Last year we asked Wellwood to be grittier, Rypien to take on the giants of the NHL, and Glass to throw his weight around. Needless to say, they weren’t always effective and we unfortunately watched while the Blackhawks – Byfuglien – ran Luongo over and over and over again. Gillis has now addressed this and the bigger bottom-six is going to go a long way to making this team better. A potential third line of Malhotra, Torres and Hansen is probably the best third line the Canucks have had in a long time. At the very least, they’re bigger and better than the combination of Wellwood, Bernier and Glass and this should make a difference right off the bat. It’s long been said that a good team is able to roll all four lines and the Canucks are on the verge of being able to do this.

Gillis built the core of this Canucks team around speed, skill and finesse. Now he’s surrounded that with big, multidimensional players who can actually play too. Come playoff time, a skilled Canucks team that doesn’t get pushed around will be a very dangerous team to play.

Jun 262010
 

It’s no secret that the Canucks’ biggest need this off-season was to beef up their defense. UFA-to-be Willie Mitchell’s return was uncertain and defensive prospects Kevin Connauton and Yann Sauve were at least one, maybe two or more, years away from making the big club. So yesterday, on NHL Draft Day, GM Mike Gillis sent the Canucks’ 1st round (25th overall) draft pick, Steve Bernier and Michael Grabner to the Florida Panthers and acquired Keith Ballard and prospect Victor Oreskovich.

Keith Ballard hip checks Patrick Kane

The Canucks filled a need by acquiring Ballard. He is a legitimate top-4 defenseman with the ability to play big minutes. Among all NHL defensemen in 2009/2010, he ranked 55th in average TOI , 30th in total ES TOI and 32nd in total SH TOI. Those weren’t easy minutes either; according to Behind The Net, he had the 8th highest “quality of competition” among all defensemen who played at least 60 games.

Ballard adds a physical component in the Canucks’ back end. He finished last season with 201 blocked shots – 3rd among all NHL players – and 156 hits – 26th among NHL defensemen and 44 more hits than Canucks team leader Shane O’Brien.

He also has history with Canucks assistant coach, Rick Bowness (assuming he is re-signed), from their Phoenix days and should fit in nicely with a defensive core that already includes Alex Edler, Christian Ehrhoff and Sami Salo. (Yes, I know Kevin Bieksa is still a Canuck.)

In a nutshell, Ballard is the kind of defenseman the Canucks were looking to add to their lineup. He is the kind of defenseman Jarred Tinordi and Dylan McIlrath, if the Canucks had selected them with their 25th pick, could be, and the kind of defenseman potential free agent targets, Dan Hamhuis and Anton Volchenkov, are. But as highly-touted Tinordi and McIlrath are, it would’ve been a stretch to expect either one to step into the lineup and help the team immediately. And of course, there’s no guarantee that Gillis would’ve been able to sign Hamuis, Volchenkov or any other top-4 defenseman in the open market.

In fact, Ballard may be quite comparable to Hamhuis – both are 27 years old and both are good skaters who play a solid two-way game – though Ballard probably plays a bit more physically and has historically averaged more points. At last report Hamhuis was looking at a multi-year contract in the $4.5 million per year range and his rights have been traded twice in the last week; on the other hand, Ballard is signed for 5 more years at $4.2 million per year.

There will be Canucks fans out there who won’t like this trade because of who Mike Gillis gave up. Some feel that Gillis could’ve simply waited a week and then signed a top-4 defenseman without giving up Bernier, Grabner and a first-round pick who could turn out to be a real player. Jason Botchford (Vancouver Province) has a good analysis of this trade in response to that perspective:

Let’s look at what the Canucks gave up for Ballard — their 2010 first-round pick, Bernier and Michael Grabner.

The easiest decision was unloading Bernier. Despite a career of opportunity, including chances to play with Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau, Derek Roy, Thomas Vanek and the Sedin twins, he hasn’t made it work with any of them. Maybe if he was healthy, which he wasn’t last year, he could have found a home on the Canucks’ third line. But he doesn’t have the speed to be an impact player. He’s a tweener who doesn’t fit on a decent team. Dumping his $2 million is a benefit for the Canucks. A big one.

Next is the first-round pick. Gillis said his scouts were disappointed when they learned he was sending his only pick in the first three rounds to Florida. It must have felt like the scouts wasted a season of pavement pounding, number crunching and skill analysis. But, if they did their job, it makes this trade much, much better.

Heading into the draft, Gillis revealed he wasn’t bullish on this draft class, especially at defence.

(skip)

The key component of the deal is Grabner, a flashy prospect who has speed, scoring touch and promise. But let’s be real. He’s a defensive mess, can’t kill penalties and is consistently reluctant to go to the net. He’s soft. He wasn’t going to play this year. The Canucks didn’t want him on their third line and had no room for him in their top six.

So there you have it. To acquire Ballard, the Canucks gave up some forward depth, one they can afford with Cody Hodgson, Jordan Schroeder and Anton Rodin ready to move their way up the depth chart, and a late first round pick which (most likely) wasn’t going to help them win the Stanley Cup next year. They may have paid a steep price to address a need, but you know, you have to give to get.

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