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Thoughts and opinions of Mike the Yankee

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Mike the Yankee

<p align="center"><img class="photo" src="http://cdn2.sbnation.com/imported_assets/428449/suitcase_wideweb__470x3400_medium.jpg" alt="Suitcase_wideweb__470x3400_medium" width="330" height="240" /></p><BR>

<p><a href="http://www.secondcityhockey.com/2010/4/10/1414464/your-transplanted-hawks-fans">I saw this over at SCH</a> and thought it was a great idea, knowing full well that many <a href="http://www.sbnation.com/nhl/teams/VAN" class="sbn-auto-link">Canucks</a> fans are dispersed all over the map, some as far away as China and Austraila while others are across the pond in England or Italy. Over this past season we've had separate threads for Vancouver fans in the Northeast, Bay Area, Ohio, So-cal and Texas.</p>

<BR>

<p>And here we are again, united in playoff fury. If you're one of the transplants like myself and want to see who is around your area who can take in the playoffs with you, please use this fanpost as your chance to list where you are and maybe find some other VAN fans, get together and cheer on Vancouver from afar.</p><BR>

See how some folks respond over at Nucks Misconduct.<BR>

Mike the Yankee

One of the interesting aspects about Henrik Sedin suddenly being thrust into Crosby and Ovechkin's spotlight is that you have a number of puckheads trying to figure out why the sudden rise after nine seasons.

It's not as easy as you may think.

Take for instance the SI mention the other day about Hank being the magazine's mid-season player of the year. Farber suggested that, without Daniel around to finish the passes, Henrik essentially had to shoot more. Said Farber:

"While Henrik's goal production has been ascribed to a belated willingness to shoot, this is only fractionally correct. (He averaged 2.25 shots per game in the first four matches with Daniel, then 2.28 in the ensuing 18 and 1.90 after Daniel returned on Nov. 22.) He's simply been firing from better goal-scoring locations. "He took a big responsibility to show everyone he could play without me," says Daniel, who entered the season with 70 more goals than Henrik, and who hadn't been separated from his twin for more than a few games in their careers. "He also had to show himself, I think."

So picking his spots better is one idea.

Over at Hockey Or Die, Jonathan Willis has another take which I highly suggest you check out. In essence he argues that Hank's season isn't a breakout at all and nor is that a bad thing. Much of this revolves around his current shooting percentage (21.4%) in comparison with his career shooting percentage (13.2%).

Unlike Farber, Willis doesn't believe not having Daniel around is the reason why Hank's shooting percentage has jumped since - to start with - the shooting percentage can be unreliable: "it fluctuates seemingly at random, and it's more likely a run of shots just going in then any fundamental shift in Henrik's mentality." Hank's shooting percentage has fluctuated throughout his career (20.5% in 2001-02 then 9.9% the following year and, post lockout, he jumped up to 15.9% before dropping back to 7.5%). And those totals were while playing with Daniel (who himself has had shooting percentage ups and downs) so the lack of playing time together may not be the reason.

Also Willis poses a hypothetical that if you extrapolate out Hank's numbers this season without Daniel over an 82 game stretch, it looks like:

Without Daniel: 46 goals, 36 assists, 82 points, 0 +/-

With Daniel: 30 goals, 104 assists, 134 points, +57

So Hank's numbers are actually worse without Daniel (you can cite a number of things, from increased defensive responsibilities, more defensive zone starts, different line combinations that AV had to use, etc). As Willis suggests "Every single coach in the game will take a 30-goal scorer who is on the ice for 57 more goals for than against over a 46 goal-scorer who gives everything back the other way." Can't say I'd argue with that at all.

And as long as we're talking about Hank's shooting percentage, stats God Gabe Desjardins also looked at it and has some not surprising, but still sour news: odds are Hank falls back to earth. After compiling data on other 20% shooters during 100-shot intervals over the last four seasons, Gabe concludes:

Now we know that anyone who could put away 20 shots out of 100 is a better-than-average shooter. The distribution of all shooters, shown in red, is much less likely to generate a 20% shooting spree than the blue bar chart. Indeed, the average shooter who went 20-for-100 had a 13.2% shooting percentage overall, exactly the same as Henrik Sedin's career shooting percentage. They all had these great runs where they looked like they'd finally figured out how to be truly elite NHL scorers, and they all eventually went back to how they'd done in the past. All evidence points to Henrik regressing to the talent level he established over his career.

Regardless of why, Willis says that it's not a breakthrough season for Hank simply because the twins were already elite players:

Both Sedins have been simply incredible players since the lockout - Henrik's tied for 10th in scoring over that time span, within 10 points of players like Jarome Iginla and Vincent Lecavalier, and ahead of higher-regarded players like Martin St. Louis, Eric Staal, Henrik Zetterberg, Marian Hossa and Rick Nash. Also if interest: of the top-100 scorers since the lockout, exactly six have a better plus/minus than Henrik's plus-79 rating (since going minus-2 as a rookie, Henrik's never had a negative plus/minus). This was already a player who should be recognized as one of the league's best players.

This is very much in line with what Mirtle wrote prior to last year's playoffs. The Sedins "arrived" awhile ago.

Of course, most of us knew that in one way or the other. There will still be those who knock their lack of playoff experience and perhaps there is some lingering truth to that. Others still may knock their perceived lack of toughness, though I'd suggest those people aren't actually watching them play. But to argue they are anything short of spectacular players at this point is absurd. And to think Hank's production is coming during the first year of his new contract when he could just have easily mailed it in.

I love seeing what Hank is doing and will continue to look for some indicators to explain it. But it's equally possible many Canucks fans don't care. This team is, after-all, one that has never had a Hart Trophy winner in its history so just to have his name bantered about in consideration is a thrill (as too is waking up some of the Eastern media folks who don't see him on a regular basis).

And perhaps even better is that Daniel is back, Burrows is seemingly scoring at will and the three are now the most productive line in team history.

Now about that third line...

Mike the Yankee

<p> </p>

<p style="text-align: center;"><img title="Canucks Xmas" src="http://image.blingee.com/images17/content/output/000/000/000/637/561653284_1477592.gif" border="0" height="225" alt="Canucks Xmas" width="400" /></p>

<p>(The image? Oh, I was reading Canucks Hockey Blog today and saw that<a href="http://canuckshockeyblog.com/?p=2396" target="new"> Alix Wright had made a Hank The Tank Superstar animated pic</a>, so I tried one). Speaking of CHB, check out their post called <a href="http://canuckshockeyblog.com/?p=2414" target="_blank">"Canucks Christmas Gifts From The Canucks Blogosphere." </a>I mentioned that I wanted to give Steve Bernier new hands for Christmas. Then he pots one last game. Way to ruin my gift idea, Steve.</p>

<p>I'd like to take this time to thank each and every one of you who drop by the site to read, comment and/or post material at Nucks Misconduct or here at the Fanzone. It's always a pleasure attempting to keep you up to date and mingling with you all through thick and thin.</p>

<p>Merry Christmas! Enjoy the holidays and the time with your family and friends! As for me, I'm going to skip the turkey dinner and spend time looking for Mathieu Schneider. I was thinking about checking out the tracks for the SkyTrain first, then the old age home second. Just wanna give him a Christmas card and a brotherly hug and let him know that it's all going to be alright.</p>

<p>-Sean Zandberg</p>

<p align="center"><b>*************************************<br /></b></p>

<p><a href="http://cdn2.sbnation.com/imported_assets/340127/canucks1980_001.jpg"></a></p>

<p style="text-align: center;"><img class="photo" src="http://cdn3.sbnation.com/imported_assets/340127/canucks1980_001_medium.jpg" alt="Canucks1980_001_medium" /></p>

<p align="center"><i>(<a href="http://www.nucksmisconduct.com/2009/12/23/1218182/more-good-stuff-from-joe-pelletier">Image from Joe Pelletier's Xmas post</a>)</i></p>

<p>First off, my apologies for being MIA in the past few weeks. As some of you may know, I'm busy moving myself from NYC to San Francisco and, because I have a dog, I opted to drive. Across country. In winter. Because I'm an idiot. But soon it'll be done, my random nights in odd motels over and I'll be on the left coast finally (which I understand is the best coast?).</p>

<p>In the meantime, I want to echo what Sean said above and thank everyone for being part of our little home here. Sean and I are about two months away from our first anniversary here at NM (and almost three years at canucks.com...wow!) and it's been a hell of a ride, due in part to our wildly inconsistent yet ever lovable Canucks and to you all for making the extra effort all worthwhile.</p>

<p>No matter what country or time zone you find yourself in, have a great time with your family and friends. And rest up since we're barreling into 2010 with Olympic and NHL playoff gold in mind.</p>

<p>- Mike (Yankee Canuck)</p>

Mike the Yankee

<table border=0 align=center width=80%><tr><td><img src=http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2007/07/mikeblog.gif border=0 align=left vspace=1 hspace=4>Four plus hours, one Amtrak train, one NY subway, two Metro jaunts, two cups of shockingly bad coffee and one viewing of Factotum (Oh Matt Dillon, you crazy drunk) and I finally see the Mecca of my journey: the Verizon Center in downtown Washington, D.C. The majority of the country is preoccupied this evening with the NASDAQ, whatever the hell Palin said or some quaint novelty dubbed “baseball”; I’m more concerned about this free meal I get with the media pass that the always brilliant canucks.com staff helped me land for tonight’s game against the Washington Capitals.

Since I have no idea what the rules are or even what the media pass allows me to do (for instance, can I go split popcorn with Gary Bettman? Or, failing that, how about splitting nachos with Kyle Wellwood?) I decide I am going to make a new friend with the first person who speaks to me. Sadly for her, that person was Amy, a media relations assistant for the Caps. As security went through my laptop bag ensuring I’m not with Al Qaeda (almost positive I’m not) I go for broke:

“Amy I have a terrible question.”

“Oh, what’s that?” she says after looking up from the long press list in front of her.

“I’ve never done this before so I’m not terribly certain what the pass allows me to do inside.”

Taking pity on me, she explains that it provides access to watch the game from the press box on the sixth floor of the arena and access to the press room and locker rooms in the basement. She recommends I head to the press room where I can grab some pregame notes and also the meal pass. Or, if I wish, she said I could head up to the press box and start setting up. Too late though, she had me at “meal pass”.

<img src=http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2008/10/mike_the_yankee_blog05_10608_t.jpg border=0 align=right vspace=1 hspace=4>I make my way downstairs into the belly of the arena. Along the wall are some ceremonial lockers of past Capital greats and in front of me opens a cavernous garage where Vancouver's bus is parked. I head left down a plain hallway into the press room. As I should have expected, all the media folks were leaving as I arrived. Strike one: Mike misses the meal pass.

No matter, I am here for the game after all. After checking out more of basement area, I decide to head up to the press box and immediately get lost. I end up asking a security guard at the same time as James Duthie (or at least I think it was him!) does. He and I walk the hallways towards the elevator silently; he has a job to prepare for and I am raking my brain to figure out his name. Little did I know this would happen multiple times that evening.

We get in the elevator along with an EMT crew pushing a stretcher and other assorted medical tomfoolery. My internal dialogue goes as such: “ Well Mike Green has a charity box, Ovechkin has a box, maybe this is the ‘Brashear crew’ who attend every home game just in case the former Canuck enforcer decides to feed someone their back teeth.” I never get my answer as the crew gets off on the first floor; Duthie and I continue up to the sixth.

<img src=http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2008/10/mike_the_yankee_blog02_10608_t.jpg border=0 align=left vspace=1 hspace=4>The elevator opens to another plain hallway with one sign: Press box on the left. (That’s a lie, there was another sign about not bringing concession stand food into the press box. Ponder why that’s a rule because I had no clue). After passing a TV studio, the bathrooms and a small eating area (as it turned out, my free meal will be popcorn and pretzels which is akin to my normal meals) I finally enter the press box: two levels of seats unfold before me, maybe enough to accommodate 50 sitting people alone. Eight flat screens hang above the lower level of seats. Walking towards the back leads to two or three different TV studios and passing them leads to the far side of the press box with an identical layout. In short, it's huge.

I see no seating assignment so I causally ask another writer is he knows of one. He doesn’t so he just guessed at his seat; since confusion loves company, I guessed at mine too. As I set up the computer near the broadcast booths, I scan the virtually empty Verizon center. It’s about 70 minutes until game time and the most activity in the stadium includes an annoying strobe light (for goal celebrations?) and what appears to be a Caps commercial filming down behind the home team’s net (I learned later it was actually Ovechkin doing a 'rock' marketing video). Over the next several minutes, I watch the arena staff prep the arena and the zamboni takes a final spin before warm ups. The doors open and fans begin to pour in.

Meanwhile, more media folks start piling in behind me. Dan Murphy is easily the most recognizable. Without looking too much like a stalker, I keep my eye out for Kirk McLean (who I thought did the PPV’s) but I don’t see him. However, I see another goalie-turned-TV talking head: Daryl ‘The Razor’ Reaugh and he keeps sneezing. I wonder why he’s here until I see the Versus logo on some equipment bags. Ohhhh, they’re covering this game? Back in 2007 I was openly critical of Versus’s mediocre coverage of the Dallas/Vancouver playoff series and of Reaugh for being an unabashed on-air Dallas supporter. And now the crew and he are literally standing behind me. It'd be poetic justice if they all ended my evening by clocking me in the head with a TV camera in retribution (this is hockey afterall, maybe there’s a press code?) but obviously he has no idea who I am and has more class then the fantasy I make up. Oh well.

<img src=http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2008/10/oct1308_caps08_t.jpg border=0 align=right vspace=1 hspace=4>As the press seats fill up, I get a sneaking suspicion I am in the wrong seat. I ask another event staffer who is plugging in phones (one landline for every two reporters) if a seating list has been posted and she says there usually is but not tonight. She asks what team I’m with and then suggests moving because I am sitting in the thick of the Capitals press section. I ask if the Vancouver press sits on the other side of the broadcast booths and she says nope that’s where the scouts sit (ohh, to be a fly on the wall over there). She says the safest place is the lower level in front of me so I, along with an equally lost Reuters writer, make our way down.

A Caps employee comes around and hands us the starting line up’s as well as other assorted packs of statistics. One packet is an Excel lover’s dream, filled with what had to be every stat in the entire NHL. The game notes packet was even cooler, listing all those tidbits that reporters thrive on: injuries, transactions, lifetime series notes, the “note of the night” which was that the Caps have won 11 straight when Ovechkin scores two or more goals and lastly the “Five more notes a media person should not be without” section with more details on Ovechkin, the Caps defense, Vancouver’s recent streak against Washington and an utterly obscure fact on Brooks Liaich (his last four regular season goals have been game winners).

With the warm ups over and the crowd ready, the home team makes their appearance and the Verizon Center springs to life with a hell of a lot of noise. True to their marketing, the Verizon Center is a literal sea of red and #8 jerseys are everywhere. I manage to spot some vintage Canuck jerseys sprinkled liberally into the mix. Be a Canuck fan, will travel.

<img src=http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2008/10/mike_the_yankee_blog04_10608_t.jpg border=0 align=left vspace=1 hspace=4>Finally, the puck drops and immediately my computer crashes, a cosmic middle finger after all this time. With the reboot downtime I get a chance to view the press activity in full swing. The TV’s are showing either the Versus or the PPV feed, reporters are frantically typing away at their laptops or discussing elements of the game amongst themselves. A calm voice on the intercom system above us pops on occasionally to recap the latest play or penalty if the press didn’t catch it. And, oh yeah, the game is in full swing five levels below. It’s actually comical: we’re here to watch a game and inspect it from every angle, but we sit a room with every media distraction you could ask for. It just shows how talented some reporters truly are if they can extract facts and figures coming at them from multiple angles while keeping an eye on the ice in front of them.

As the game (ever so painfully) progressed, I make friends with the lady to my left who turns out to be 'CapsChick' who runs the Caps blog A View From The Cheapseats. She is doing a liveblog over at the NHL Fanhouse and I popped in to check out the conversation. She then points to a gentleman on my right and it’s Eric McErlain, probably the closest thing to a godfather of NHL bloggers. Clearly the Capitals have embraced bloggers as I learn that both of them have year long press passes, giving them the chance to check out the games from the press box and report on them live as often as they can. Eric has been covering the Caps since back in 2004 and this is the most invigorated he has seen the Capitals fans since the first days of Jagr back in 2001. I ask what it's like to have such amazing access to his hockey team and he took time to stress the dedication of the staff behind the Caps; the event staffers, the media relations team, the marketing team, the equipment guys, everyone. Each person works so hard to support the product the guys put out on the ice.

Mercifully the game ends and I enjoy one final view of Demitra's shiney bald head as he heads back to the locker room with the other Canucks. I pack up my stuff slowly but reporters around me, who obviously have done this a million times, cleaned up more quickly and dashed off for the locker rooms. I followed a few scouts (who were talking about Mason Raymond) back down into the basement and made my way to the Canucks side. I had a mental list of questions I thought I would ask Kesler or Burrows if the opportunity presented itself but I suspected after a game like that no one would be in the mood for my shenanigans.

<img src=http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2008/10/oct1308_caps02_t.jpg border=0 align=right vspace=1 hspace=4>The post-game odor from an NHL dressing room is not for the faint of heart but at least helped me navigate the basement hallways for a final time. The media was all over the outside of Vancouver's dressing room as the trainers and other Vancouver staffers darted in and out. I glanced towards the exercise bikes on my right; I locked eyes with Willie Mitchell who was peddling somberly as he discussed the game with a trainer. Before long Shane O'Brien staggered out in the direction of the bikes, his body language to me seemed to scream that he was annoyed (I remembered he was inadvertently screening Luongo for the Jurcina goal) and probably embarrassed by the team's performance. It was then I decided I didn’t even want to bug these guys with my questions. They just had a bad night, are getting a ton of questions about their play, are probably going to get an earful from Vigneault (if they haven’t already) and need to put this behind them and prepare for the Stanley Cup champs later in the week. I, for one, had seen so much in one night about the behind the scenes of a game that seeing my guys wear their hearts on their sleeves in the aftermath of a loss was enough.

As the rest of the reporters asked their questions or packed up and readied themselves for another night of travel, I made my way out of the stadium and found myself in the middle of a celebratory army of Caps fans. A band was playing on 6th street and chants of “C-A-P-S CAPS CAPS CAPS” echoed down the adjacent, empty avenues. As I moved with the mob I couldn't help but think that despite Vancouver’s poor showing, it was amazing to view a game from the media perch. An incredible amount of media activity in such a short spurt yields a tremendous amount of game insight and analysis; like hockey itself, it happens so quickly. Then, just as suddenly, it ends and the cycle goes on to repeat. Night in and night out. For seven straight months.

The Metro ride I took home was yet another sea of red. Somehow (mercifully?) I managed to end up standing next to two fans in Vancouver Linden jerseys.

“No worries," I smirked, "only 79 more to go."

</td></tr></table>

Mike the Yankee

<table border=0 align=center width=80%><tr><td><img src=http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2007/07/mikeblog.gif border=0 align=left vspace=1 hspace=4>The end of summer is such a great time. Sure, we'll all miss the bikini's but I tire of hearing the same ol' excuses about "missing sunny weather" or "Backyard BBQ's are the best." Last I checked the sun still shines in the fall and BBQ's aren't impossible in the snow. In fact, with some some winterly dedication, seared & seasoned meat by-products can be yours no matter what the tilt of the Earth's axis is relative to the plane of its revolution. <br><br>

Yup. <br><br>

And, naturally, the first sniff of a new hockey season can return. Few things suck more then trying to be a hockey blogger in late July when the best you can do is analyze hockey player vacation habits or real estate transactions ("Did you hear? Nylander sold his condo near the Potomac meaning that he, um, recognizes its a bad time to have four mortgages"). At least this summer we had that Swede - henceforth known as "he who will not be named" - to keep us entertained and informed; honestly who knew there were so many free online Swedish translator tools out there? Trevlig! <br><br>

<img src=http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2008/06/jun2408_camp07_t.jpg border=0 align=right vspace=1 hspace=4>So with training camp now within tooth-spitting distance, it seems like an ideal time to roll out a thoroughly unscientific and woefully subjective list of training camp predictions to whet the appetite until the bag skates begin. Shall we? <br><br>

<b>1. Grabner will be on the ice for opening night </b><br><br>

I don't pretend to have special sources nor am I friends with his doorman, but the guy who shared the lead in goals with the Moose last year should have a good camp. He was knocked in the media last year for not showing up prepared for camp, so a year later expect him to come in ready to shatter expectations that he's a one dimensional player. Like Raymond before him, his time is now and I, for one, welcome our new budding Austrian overlord. <br><br>

<b>2. Rypien will make it through the entire year with no injuries</b><br><br>

We've been waiting eagerly for the Rypien train to hit full speed for a few seasons now. Sadly, he's been snake bitten with finger and groin injuries but here's hoping he can make his presence felt during camp and, if need be, at the NHL level at a more consistent level. Besides, Darcy Tucker calls the Northwest home now and I'll be damned if Vancouver sits by and doesn't silence him early, often and with extreme prejudice. <br><br>

<img src=http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2008/06/27_hodgson03_t.jpg border=0 align=left vspace=1 hspace=4><b>3. Hodgson won't make the team, but will make you smile inside</b><br><br>

You really want him to make the team? Na, no need to rush the young Linden-in-training anymore then necessary; let him enjoy being 18 for a bit before the entire city starts analyzing his every move like an impatient mother at a family wedding. But after hanging out for a summer at the Dave Gagner Power Play Training Centre and Smoothie shop, he should give us all a preview of why he was worth the first round pick back in June. <br><br>

<b>4. Who's hungrier: Jaffray & Hansen? </b><br><br>

Both Jaffray and Hansen are on the bubble to make the team (remember, I said this was subjective). Assuming Grabner stays on course and the rest of the chips fall where they must, there may only be room for one of these guys come opening night. Jaffray showed us last year he had the goods while Hansen was a post season step-in two years ago and bolstered his YouTube resume this past summer by embarrassing the Leaf’s Kaberle at the Men’s World Ice Hockey Championships. So I think that should be the deciding factor: call up Fletcher and see if we can borrow Kaberle for a day. His job would be just to hang around center ice and see which guy can pull off a move that embarrasses the Leaf's number one defender more. If you make him cry or get him traded to Florida, you're in. <br><br>

<b>5. A new record for preseason penalties will occur between September 22-23. </b><br><br>

A home and home with the Oilers to start the preseason off? The same team that eliminated these guys back in April? The same two teams that, back in February, tallied 14 fighting majors, eight misconducts and 193 penalty minutes in about 90 seconds? The same two teams filled with eager youngsters with nothing to lose? Mike Brown?! Yes, yes, a thousand times yes. <br><br>

<img src=http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2008/08/aug2008_skate10_t.jpg border=0 align=right vspace=1 hspace=4><b>6. Bernier will be needing a new nickname</b><br><br>

For every Taylor Pyatt-like project that succeeds, you have a Brad Isbister wart in the middle of your face. So while it's safe to say that Bernier and Wellwood are similar reclamation projects, it's Bernier who may turn up to be the most pleasant surprise. He cut his teeth with Marleau and Thornton down in San Jose and just needs the benefit of ice time. If he can earn it, then the sky's the limit. And, ya, his nickname previously was 'Big Bear' but I think we can improve on that. <br><br>

<b>7. Luongo will be better then the last time we saw him walk on water</b><br><br>

Right, hardly a longshot prediction, but he himself admits he had could have played better at the end of last year. He has a new team in front of him, a leadership void he's ready to help fill and his family actually living in B.C. this time around behind him. All in all, it sets the stage for Lui to push himself even harder then we've seen him do so far. Crazy isn't it? And bad for the rest of the league at the same time. You should be smiling reading that. <br><br>

<b>8. Fin will have his best season ever</b><br><br>

Fueled by making out with Pamela Anderson last year, Fin's renewed since of vigor and mammalian pride will reach its pinnacle when he dusts off Thunderbug, Tampa's mascot, at center ice during a charity event. Upon returning home he'll be lauded at GM Place and rewarded with another high-profile make out session, though this time with Lindsey Lohan (once she's busy ruining what's left of Michael Phelps that is). <br><br>

<img src=http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2008/08/aug1508_demitra03_t.jpg border=0 align=left vspace=1 hspace=4><b>9. Demitra will make you remember what having a sniper is like</b><br><br>

It's been a number of years since we last saw a Canuck player who had the talent to be even remotely considered a sniper. But Demitra should help change that; he's been terrorizing Vancouver for a few seasons now from Minnesota (*spits*) so it's time for some payback. Next to the Sedins, Demitra will give us the best highlight goals we've seen in years. <br><br>

<b>10. The Flames won't win any preseason games</b><br><br>

Sure it doesn't count for much, but it sets a good precedent for the beginning of the season. And the rest of the season for that matter.</td></tr></table>

Mike the Yankee

<table border=0 align=center width=80%><tr><td><img src=http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2007/07/mikeblog.gif border=0 align=left vspace=1 hspace=4>We can still beat Colorado.

Unlike fans of other teams, Canuck fans don't often get to revel in the basking warmth and feel good vibe that usually accompanies a hockey trade. Some teams - the Rangers and Wings come to mind - seemingly never stop year to year, but outside of the obviously wonderful Luongo/Bertuzzi deal (once again: thank you Mike Keenan) I feel you have to go back to the Moginly trade for Morrison in 1999 to find something of a talent-for-talent roster change. Big free agent signings don't happen here too often; Willie Mitchell signing here after the lockout was the last big name (a great move especially now that we need a captain) and Anson Carter before that was a great signing for one year.

But, with a new GM, a great deal of cap space and the promise of more offense, I think most Canuck fans can be forgiven for being more eager then usual when it came to the stroke of noon last Tuesday, the start of free agency. Maybe you did what I did: stuck at work, make sure no one is looking, then furiously hit F5 on the keyboard to make TSN's website tell me something different. Anything.

<img src=http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2008/07/gillisctv_t.jpg border=0 align=right vspace=1 hspace=4>Friendly tip: I learned cursing at my machine only makes the co-workers call HR.

As the day moved into the late afternoon, vigorous use of the browser refresh wasn't doing much: Brunette, Theodore (*snicker*), Rolston, Raycroft (*roaring laughter*), Campbell all move. Gillis gets Wellwood to sign on the dotted line, tried to lure David Backes out of St. Louis without losing a first rounder (a move that caused John Davidson to devour an entire cattle farm in anger) and inked Darcy Hordichuk so that I presume we can all watch with child-like glee when Colorado's Darcy Tucker feels like mouthing off. Day two: Huselius, Hossa, Weight, Avery all move. Ryan Johnson signs as a Canuck and Sanford returns to ride the pine behind Lui. The sting of losing Naslund on day three is offset (slightly) by the acquisition of Steve Bernier from Buffalo on day four.

After a quiet weekend, here we are again. Hockey starts in less then three months but it took a mere week for Canuck land to plunge into panic mode.

Now, if you are a optimist, you like what Gillis is doing: going all in on the Sundin bid to make him the new face of the offense, upgrading the third and fourth lines, acquiring a budding power forward in Bernier while not losing anyone on defense nor prospects (except MacIntrye who is bound for Nashville). You can argue he is moving on from the Burke/Nonis days, not with a similar money-burning emphasis as say the "I created a good team on my XBOX" Tampa Bay Lightning guys, but in a more calculated long-term approach.

<img src=http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2008/05/may1408_mellanby02_t.jpg border=0 align=left vspace=1 hspace=4>Or, if you are more prone to fits of profuse cynicism, maybe you think he has tripped over his own legs running out of the GM gate: all the big name free agents are gone, no moves at the draft, some of our key players are gone or likely about to leave, we have more Scott Mellanby type players then most teams and you see $10 million dollars for an aging center and think back to the late 90's and that bald free agent clown from New York who has made it impossible for me to this day to even look at a cue ball without clenching my teeth.

I certainly don't envy the summer Gillis has ahead for himself but can appreciate the "damned if he does damned if he doesn't" position that he is in. So while we can debate all we want if he's done a good job or not, we can at least all agree (I think) on two things right now:

First, he's not done. He said that on Friday outside a George Michael-packed GM Place. And a side note...George Michael? C'mon people, please put more effort into your entertainment options.

Secondly, he is putting a stamp on this team. You may not like it (not sure I do yet) but he seems to be willing to target very specific players regardless of financial or professional consequence (the Sundin and Backes offers prove that).

The only offensive upgrades that have arrived so far - Wellwood and Bernier - coincidentally have similar pros and cons: both benefited from playing alongside huge centers (Sundin and Thornton respectively) and were lighting lamps for a good part of 2005 and 2006. But then both suffered slumps and coming off of last season one was getting few minutes on the fourth line after multiple injuries (Wellwood) or being moved at the trade deadline with whispers of conditioning problems moving along with him (Bernier).

I appreciate a good Taylor Pyatt project as much as the next guy, but what happens if one of these two become the Marc Chouinard project instead? To be fair, Gillis could have given Hossa $9 million a year and he could have become a Marc Chouinard project for all we know (Sorry to keep using you as the measuring stick Marc).

<img src=http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2007/09/camp07_09082007_t.jpg border=0 align=right vspace=1 hspace=4>Regardless, there simply hasn't been enough time that has passed to know what this team will be come training camp, so either you are confident Gillis is on the job sniffing out leads like a bloodhound or you have been googling John Tavares wondering what all the hype is. Both feel right depending on your perspective but we have to revisit it in September and give Gillis time to finish the remodeling.

Sorry, one more thing I think we can agree on: IF this is the team that takes to ice in October, I think we can still beat Colorado with Raycroft in net. So there's a few wins right there. Now about the rest...</td></tr></table>

Mike the Yankee

<table border=0 align=center width=80%><tr><td><img src=http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2007/07/mikeblog.gif border=0 align=left vspace=1 hspace=4>The thing about sports is so many people follow it, often times with great passion, because in part it gives us a reprieve from the stresses of life and, yes, having to deal with some of the more unpleasant parts of simply being human. Bad day at school or work? It’s ok, the game’s on.

Some others may jump headlong into books, meditate, some dedicate every ounce of themselves to families or volunteering, some go into a bar and don't leave until dawn; whatever the case, we all need our outlets to relax and enjoy the time we have.

So when sports suddenly departs from the script we expect and reminds us of the very things we quite likely don't want to be thinking about, it feels even more personal, more unfair and more tragic.

<img src=http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2007/09/luc01_09082007_t.jpg border=0 align=right vspace=1 hspace=4>I never met Luc (heck, I've never met any Canuck...damn time zones) but we all felt like we "knew" him to some degree. Just as with every guy on the team: they're our guys, our soldiers, our "family" (After all, "we are all Canucks"). We crunch their numbers like GMs, watch their shifts, scrutinize their mistakes and root for them so badly to succeed. Why? Since we are basically living through them and their success; if they succeed, in a roundabout way, so do we.

Don't believe me? Picture the Canucks winning the Stanley Cup and Luongo holding that chalice over his head to the deafening roar of an ecstatic GM Place. Feels good huh?

Luc was special because of how he came to the team: the #1 pick from the Crosby draft, promised to be the anchor of the blueline for years which, with the lockout ending and hockey's long nightmare ending, just whetted the appetite for fans even more. We saw even more of him this year because of how depleted the defense was due to injuries.

<img src=http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2008/03/MAR3008_Canucks-Flames06_t.jpg border=0 align=left vspace=1 hspace=4>I remember his second goal like it was yesterday; against Tampa Bay, the Canucks came roaring out of the gate and Alex Burrows found Bourdon all alone (I wrote at the time he was 'filthy wide open') and he blasted it home over Karri Ramo. I remember then thinking "there it is, that's the guy we drafted!". As Steve Tambellini said of Luc, "He was just on the cusp of realizing what he was going to become...we all were just starting to see the real person."

That, in and of itself, makes it all the more sad and unfair.

I've heard and read a lot in the past 24 hours on how much he'll be missed and that makes perfect sense. But something about just missing seems too passive to me. I like it better when I hear he'll be remembered; on the forums of this very site someone recommended giving money in his name to Canucks Place and, since then, I have seen at least three independent Canuck blogs pick that sentiment up and spread the word. The NHL is having a moment of silence prior to the third game of the Stanley Cup finals (easily one of the biggest games of the year) for Bourdon to help honor and remember him.

The simplest way to remember him, obviously, is just not to forget him. Remember the name Luc Bourdon as a part of the greater family we're all in. A name we can't forget because we can’t forget him during his brief time here as one of our guys, our soldiers and our Canucks.

</td></tr></table>

Mike the Yankee

<table border=0 align=center width=80%><tr><td><img src=http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2007/07/mikeblog.gif border=0 align=left vspace=1 hspace=4>Pretend you're Dave Nonis and it's the trade deadline. Your team is floundering left and right, your defense corps is a mess and Jay Feaster gives you a call. You guys get to talking about the kids, golf averages and this last season of Lost and then come up with a wacky idea: he'll trade you his 51 point getter (and nifty -25 +/- guy) Brad Richards for Luc Bourdon, Cory Schneider and the first, second and third round picks in the (presumably) 2008 draft.

Feaster, sensing he's dealing with a desperate man, soon counters with adding Ryan Kesler and Alex Edler to the mix [note: since no one knows what the proposed new offer was, let's assume for the sake of argument that Edler cancels out Bourdon and Kesler replaces the 1 and 2 picks, so now it's Richards for Edler, Kesler, Schneider and a third rounder. Feaster chucks in an extra winger or, more likely, some defenseman for good measure.]

End result is as you know: Richards/Holmqvist move for to Dallas for Smith, Halpern, Jokinen and a fourth rounder in next year's draft. Nonis does nothing, the Canucks miss the playoffs and Nonis now misses (maybe) his job.

<img src=http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2008/03/mar1508_stars02_t.jpg border=0 align=right vspace=1 hspace=4>My question: would anyone fault Nonis for not pulling the trigger on this?

This isn't a knock against Richards, he's definitely worth the high package. But since we know Vancouver is damn near in shambles and was going to go through some significant upheaval before Nonis was let go anyway, would anyone have been happy with the few bright beacons in this darkness all being moved at once? Kesler and Edler should be building blocks for the next chapter of this team. We know Schneider is projected to be an future blue chip goaltender and his first season numbers in the AHL would indicate he's on track. And then anywhere between one and three picks to compensate because we can't add a player like Jokinen to the final counter offer?

All for one guy? A guy who was having a horrible season on a team with a lot more offensive talent then Vancouver did. A guy who in Vigneault's defense-first system could have become just like Naslund?

<img src=http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2008/02/jan3108_bolts11_t.jpg border=0 align=left vspace=1 hspace=4>I certainly don't blame Feaster for trying and I really don't blame him for coming back to the table to ask for proven players. I don't even blame him for rejecting Vancouver's final offer whatever it was.

But by not budging on a trade with these names at this point in the Canuck's history knowing what we know now? We owe Nonis a huge, huge "thank you".

Thank you Dave. </td></tr></table>

Mike the Yankee

<table border=0 align=center width=80%><tr><td><img src=http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2007/07/mikeblog.gif border=0 align=left vspace=1 hspace=4>We have to start sacrificing something different to the hockey gods. Seriously, what a fickle bunch of cruel deities.

So that big old fat lady has sung on yet another season of hockey for the Canucks. In the miserable aftermath of it all, it seems that you can recap the 2007-08 season with three simple words: failure to execute.

Nothing dramatic, surprising or Earth-shattering about those three words obviously, but you can past all the preseason promises and post game quotes and just stare at those words.

It wasn't for a lack of heart. Markus Naslund, who I sorely want to see back in that Orca uniform, adjusted his play again this season and while he isn’t the sniper he was in past seasons he still was a force in the offensive zone and played his heart out most games.

It wasn't for lack of character. Roberto Luongo, the bedrock of the team, was racking up frequent flier miles going across the continent splitting both family and professional duties. Coming back for the Wild game was impressive and trying to keep his team afloat down the stretch, even when his own play faltered a bit, showed his character and desire to win.

It wasn't for lack of commitment. Trevor Linden, despite being scratched several times this season, was still out there trying to earn his place on the team he loves with every opportunity he had. His two goals against Calgary on Sunday proved how much of a warrior the 20-year-veteran still is to this day.

<img src=http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2008/02/jan3108_bolts03_t.jpg border=0 align=right vspace=1 hspace=4></a>It wasn't for all the injuries. Sure losing Ohlund, Krajicek, Salo, Morrison et all had its impact. But in their first season as NHL players, Edler, Raymond, Shannon (technically his second season) and Jaffray all showed they can contribute to this team's success. Other guys like McIver, Brown, Rypien and Hansen were all called upon when needed and helped plug holes that otherwise would have forced Nonis to make a trade to keep the team afloat.

Nope it was simply the lack of execution, the same issue that has plagued this squad since Anaheim showed them the door in the playoffs last year. Luongo can steal games, but running up the score can sure seal those playoff berths (only three teams in the bottom ten of scoring are playoff-bound: Ducks, Rangers and Devils). When they needed them, this squad couldn't get that one score they sorely needed; if the Sedins, Naslund, Pyatt, Burrows and Kesler couldn't get on a roll, all of the Isbisters, Pettingers and Ritchie's in the world couldn't provide that extra effort Vigneault's boys required.

However, a few things shouldn't be forgotten in this morning's apathy:

1. The Canucks are barely missing the playoffs, by 1-3 points. Consider they had 10 OTL's over the span of the season; if they won just two or three of them, we'd all be getting ready for next week while Nashville would be left wondering what happened.

2. The Northwest will continue to be up for grabs next year. This time last year, the Canucks clinched the division while the Avs just missed the playoffs and the Flames squeaked in. Now the Avs are in, the Wild (*spits*) are the champs and the Flames again squeak in. In fact only the Oilers are being gentlemanly with their continual suckage year to year. With any luck, the Canucks will be right back in the thick of things next year.

<img src=http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2008/02/feb2508_nonis_t.jpg border=0 align=left vspace=1 hspace=4></a>3. If the rumors are true, then this summer will be the first time Dave Nonis has a good deal of money to spend in the NHL cap era. And he'll have an entire Province of people to remind him from now until October 5th that changes are needed. He HAS to be active during the draft and the offseason to address the team weaknesses. Moreover, it's not often a team gets a goaltender in his prime like Luongo so it'll be all the more crucial to get the right group in front of him on offense. That time is now.

As Canuck fans, we've all been here before. The feeling buried down in the pit of your stomach?. Yup, that monkey is back. But unlike previous years, we know the core of this team can do amazing things. We know when healthy that this team's defense is solid and the goaltending is almost unmatched. We just didn't see enough of that this season and, now, have to wait through an offseason of retooling to see what the new version of the Canucks will feel like on the eyes.

In the meantime, may I suggest that sitting back and watching the Flames, Wild and Avs all get bounced in the first round could be a solid cure for that bad taste in your mouth this morning? A crying Iginla? An injured Forsberg watching from the pressbox? Lemaire with that confused smirk on his face? Sure, we may not get to root for the good guys this spring, but we sure as hell can enjoy watching our rivals lose.

He who gets his Schadenfreude last gets the Schadenfreude best. Oh yeah, I'm already there...

</td></tr></table>

Mike the Yankee

<table width=80% align=center><tr><td><img src=http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2007/07/mikeblog.gif border=0 align=left hspace=4 vspace=1>Remember in Batman (the older one mind you, before Joel Schumacher

vomited all over the franchise) where an angry Michael Keaton grabs a

fire poker, smashes a lamp and screams at the Joker, "You wanna gets

nuts? C'mon, let's get nuts!"<br /><br />

That phrase keeps popping up in my head when I watch Vancouver games.<br /><br />

Think of it: 138 games lost to injuries this year so far, primarily on

the blue line. Their top four - Mitchell, Ohlund, Bieksa and Salo -

have just been running back and forth to the infirmary. It's made the

pressure on the team's back end that much harder; hell, Vancouver's

tied for last in the league with ten OTLs showing how hard it is for

the defense to clamp down in the OT frame alone.<br /><br />

And yet, there they are, still in the NHL playoffs?<br /><br />

"C'mon, let's get nuts!"<br /><br /><a href=http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2008/02/022108_preds12_b.jpg target=_blank><img src=http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2008/02/022108_preds12_t.jpg border=0 align=right hspace=4 vspace=1></a>

We can thank Luongo obviously who must be amazed at the idea that he's

missing last's year healthier, yet similarly offensively plagued team.

Despite the hard times, Mr. Clutch has the 4th best save %, 7th best

GAA and is 3rd best in shutouts (6) in the league.<br /><br />

We can also thank the kids: Edler, Shannon, Raymond, Bourdon and

Jaffray. Every time the IR list gets longer and the offensive draught

gets more dire, one of the new generation of Canucks (babynuck?)

stands up and helps keep this team competitive. Edler alone leads all

rookies in average shifts per game.<br /><br /><a href=http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2008/03/MAR0608_Canucks-Predators10_b.jpg target=_blank><img src=http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2008/03/MAR0608_Canucks-Predators10_t.jpg border=0 align=left hspace=4 vspace=1></a>

Then there's the Nashville game. Where on this blue orb we call Earth

did that offensive explosion come from? Ranking in the bottom five of

scoring in the league, the Canucks scored seemingly at will, chasing

Dan Ellis in the first (you see his frozen expression when Burrows

scored?) and leaving Chris Mason ready to cry as the Canucks just kept

coming at him all 60 minutes. After four straight losses, what exactly

did the team drink prior to the drop of the puck to get that outcome?<br /><br />

Who cares?! "Let's get nuts!"<br /><br />

Honestly, on paper the numbers don't look good and they arguably

shouldn't have a chance at the top eight in the conference, but they

still actually do. They didn't go out at the trade deadline and stock

up excessively on wingers in anticipation of a long spring, but here

they are. They aren't sitting at the top of their division, but

they're only three points out of that slot anyway.<br /><br /><a href=http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2008/03/MAR0608_Canucks-Predators03_b.jpgg target=_blank><img src=http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2008/03/MAR0608_Canucks-Predators03_t.jpg border=0 align=right hspace=4 vspace=1></a>

Think about this: you know the most dangerous thing in the NHL

(besides Jordin Tootoo on a sugar high from Red Bull and Skittles)? A

team on a roll entering the playoffs, especially when it's a lower

seed about to tackle a top seed (ask your local Red Wings fan that).

So what if this team, this "Bad News Bears" on ice as they are shaping

up to be, can roll off a winning streak here and there and push their

way into the playoffs with authority? You think a lot of teams want to

tangle with a confident Canucks squad, bolstered with youth,

world-class goaltending and that spunk and swagger of a team that

simply has nothing to lose?<br /><br />

Oh yeah, this could be good.<br /><br />

"C'mon, let's get nuts!"

</td></tr></table>

Mike the Yankee

<table width=90%><tr><td><img src=http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2007/07/mikeblog.gif border=0 align=left hspace=4 vspace=1>Is it possible that somewhere between a happy Eli Manning and a frustrated Mats Sundin lays the duty of Markus Naslund and the fate of this season's Vancouver Canucks?

Sure, why not? My insomnia and frequent hits to the head over the years say yes!

In what I promise will be my last football reference for this hockey season, my geographic locality made it fundamentally impossible to not have noticed the Giants huge NFL Superbowl win over the Patriots on Sunday (why impossible? When the pregame starts at 6:00 AM on most channels, I call that impossible. Also they drugged the water and start killing kittens if you don't watch, it's actually quite abrasive and not very friendly).

At any rate, what Eli Manning did in the final two minutes of that game was what I imagine he spent his whole life trying to perfect: go out there, get the team down the field and get it done. Period. No need for a big speech or overblown antics, just go. With a mad amount of luck on his side, Manning quietly and efficiently did just that, denying the Pats their drive for a perfect season and turning New England fans into a rather surly, sullen bunch of chowder eaters.

<a href=http://cdn.nhl.com/mapleleafs/images/upload/2007/12/sundin640panthers2.jpg target=_blank><img src=http://cdn.nhl.com/images/upload/2007/12/tor_fla_action_122207_thumb.jpg border=0 align=right hspace=4 vspace=1></a>On the other end of the sports spectrum you have Mats Sundin, the ever beleaguered Swedish captain of the even more beleaguered Toronto Maples Leafs. In what had to kick Toronto area Molson sales to their highest peak of the year, the Leafs rolled over and played very dead (to the tune of 8-0) against the Red Wing...er no...the Florida Panthers on Tuesday night. I repeat, the Panthers, the Richard Zednik-laced Panthers.

Nearing his mental tipping point, Sundin did what few Swedes not named Ulf Samuelsson do: showed his anger; as the Toronto Star recapped it, "Sundin so clearly fed up with the whole thing that, in an episode of uncharacteristic belligerence, he slammed defenseman Bryan Allen under the crossbar." First off, who's Bryan Allen? Secondly, a Swedish captain showing something close to raw emotion at his team's inability to get the job done on the ice? Wow, pinch me.

Enter Markus Naslund, another Swedish captain on a team that is flirting with disaster. Luongo may be the soul of the team, but Naslund has just as much responsibility - no, even more - to elevate his play and carry the team through the rough patches. Rough patches like, oh, an incredible rash of injuries along the blue line and having Manitoba bail the big boys out. Rough patches like being 21st in the league in scoring. Rough patches like being 2-5-3 in their last ten with Edmonton nipping at their heels for last in the division. Succeeding in the face of these rough patches is what creates great captains, hell it's what creates legends.

<a href=http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2008/01/JAN1908_Kings-Canucks16_b.jpg target=_blank><img src=http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2008/01/JAN1908_Kings-Canucks16_t.jpg border=0 align=left hspace=4 vspace=1></a>In the Dallas game earlier this week, Nazzy did just this, almost single-handedly keeping the team in the game with his two goals in regulation and SO tally. That's Nazzy being like Manning: go out there and get the job done. But Naslund can't do that every night. So, while it's not in his nature, what if Naslund responded like Sundin during a game where the team falls asleep? You think seeing their captain get visibly frustrated and show some raw emotion won't spark younger guys like McIver, Bourdon, Edler, Raymond, Jaffray and now Fitzgerald? I'd argue these guys will be just as motivated by Luongo standing on his head to make a save as they would be to see Naslund make a statement, either with his stick or through an occasional, infrequent "episode of uncharacteristic belligerence".

It's not do or die time yet and there's still a lot of hockey to be played. It's foolish to count out a team that has Luongo in net, but this isn't last year’s amazing winter stretch; Lui will need a lot more offensive support to get through the next few games if not weeks. I, for one, want to see Naslund rise to the occasion and help spark the team around him with whatever tools he has, be it through with the puck at the end of his stick or with a cross check. Either can be defined as a spark and that’s what the team is going to desperately need.

And, hey, if he needs some pointers? Call Sundin! With Toronto playing like they are, I'm sure he's got some ideas on speaking softly but wielding that big stick with extreme prejudice.

</td></tr></table>

Mike the Yankee

<table width=90%><tr><td><img src=http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2007/07/mikeblog.gif border=0 align=left hspace=4 vspace=1>A few random musings from the dude's who's life has finally settled to a point where he can direct most of his gerbil-like attention back to the only sport and team that matters.

"Killing Me Softly with His Blues"

-Lori Lieberman

I play a little mental game when the Canucks are in a shootout and I encourage you to try it. It's called "Oh no, I'm Roberto Luongo in a shootout!" Here's how you play: pretend you have to be perfect enough for Linden to score once. If you mess up though, then you have to pray to various deities that anyone else can score so you can escape with two points. Here's the trick though: no cursing. None at all. Is that Crosby barreling down on you? Tough, keep it PG mister. Try it, it's quite hard. Imagine having to go six rounds exclaiming "ahh fiddlesticks!" while waiting for Edler of all guys to score. And, after you play it, you can appreciate Luongo's contribution to the team even more and will make your mom proud simultaneously.

<a href=http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2007/12/dec0807_canuckvspenguin05_b.jpg target=_blank><img src=http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2007/12/dec0807_canuckvspenguin05_t.jpg border=0 align=right hspace=4 vspace=1></a>

I GOT A LOT OF PROBLEMS WITH YOU PEOPLE!

- Frank Costanza during Festivus

My apologies, after years in a university and multiple internships, I really thought my voodoo skills were far more acute when I unleashed them on Calgary in the offseason. I truly felt my ability to mind warp their management into hiring Keenan would cause a biblical meltdown (you know, sort of like the one we saw a few years ago?) and we could all chuckle mightily at them. Kiprusoff getting yanked after one goal, Huselius would be reduced to sucking his thumb and clutching a blanket under the bench and Iginla's groin would take more abuse then Britney Spear's mind. But nooo...there they are messing around with the Northwest lead with Vancouver. I will hit the books much more over the coming weeks I promise. Fingers and chicken legs = crossed.

“You know the good part about all those executions in Texas? Fewer Texans”

- George Carlin

It’s almost sacrilegious to request everyone root for a team in Texas, but this one doesn’t have Turco, Nagy or an aggressively hideous third jersey. Please root for the Cowboys on Sunday against the Giants; there’s nothing more funny then watching my city of Manhattan get all moody when sporting outcomes don’t go their way. And we have a few more months until A-rod makes an appearance anyway, so an NFL letdown will warm me at night until the Rangers get disqualified from the post season. And then you’re all invited for free drinks on me*.

<a href=http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2007/11/nov2307_blues08_b.jpg target=_blank><img src=http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2007/11/nov2307_blues08_t.jpg border=0 align=left hspace=4 vspace=1></a>

You're Mr. Lebowski. I'm the Dude. So that's what you call me. You know, that or, uh, His Dudeness, or uh, Duder, or El Duderino if you're not into the whole brevity thing.

- The Big Lebowski

Quietly lost in the season so far is Alex Burrows is on pace to smash his career totals in goals and points and has already surpassed his career best in assists, shorthanded goals (leads the team) and game winning goals. Not bad for a dude who is 16th on the team in in TOI/G and bounces between the third and fourth lines. Having agitators who can provide some offense and special teams help is what I believed helped that Disney team get a Cup.

* = Note I didn’t say what kind of drink, so no funny faces when I hand you a Sunny Delight or a Shirley Temple.

</td></tr></table>

Mike the Yankee

<table width=90%><tr><td><img src=http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2007/07/mikeblog.gif border=0 align=left hspace=4 vspace=1>The world is indeed a small place, meaning that sometimes you’ll see an old friend you haven’t see in years while buying a can of Coke at the store and, moments later, you’ll see an ex-girlfriend from high school (who you NEVER wanted to see again) on TV as an NFL cheerleader...at which point you punch a hole in the wall and develop a new understanding of why apartments are rented with security clauses. But in the sports world it's even smaller so there are times we, as fans, get to see some old faces swing back our way and reminisce about what once was.

As it so happens, this week we get two of those old faces back to back

Last night's tilt brought the return of Brent Sopel to GM Place. Good old Sopes, a fan favorite from 2000-2004 before being shipped off to two different asylums (Long Island & Los Angeles) before Dave Nonis reeled him back during last year's playoff run.

Sadly, Sopel couldn't be retained due to that whole salary cap thing and now skates for his dinner money with the upstart Blackhawks. The astute reader will note my lack of listing any statistics or waxing poetic about his defensive prowess suggests I don't miss Sopel; well, you'd be spot on (and I'm not even mentioning the Kentucky waterfall haircut or the cracker incident).

<a href=http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2007/11/sopelchicago_b.jpg target=_blank><img src=http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2007/11/sopelchicago_t.jpg border=0 align=right hspace=4 vspace=1></a>

So it was with distinct pleasure that my Sunday TV viewing included Kesler dumping a 19-year-old over the boards into Sopel's lap and, moments later, Sopel taking a delay of game penalty that lead to Morrison's first period goal. I'm much happier seeing Bourdon and Edler come to the rescue of an injury-plagued Vancouver defensive core then Sopel's rampant miscues, but am happy as hell he's still in our conference and willing to put his team at a disadvantage whenever possible.

This leads us to Todd Bertuzzi returning as a member of the Anaheim Ducks tomorrow night. Amazing to think it’s only been a year and a half since “the trade” that sent Bertuzzi to the other side of the continent. So do you think fans should boo old #44? I think you should definitely boo, just not him. You should absolutely boo Pronger (in fact, if you don't you have no soul), you should absolutely boo Rob Neidermeyer (it WAS an elbow hit in game five you clown) and hell you can even boo Brad May, but Bertuzzi should get a Messier-esque approval from the rafters of GM Place down to the ice level.

<a href=http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2007/11/bertuzzianaheim_b.jpg target=_blank><img src=http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2007/11/bertuzzianaheim_t.jpg border=0 align=left hspace=4 vspace=1></a>The guy made his name as a Canuck between 2001-2003, posting 85 and 97 point seasons alongside Naslund and Morrison. He became the defacto power forward for a handful of years and Vancouver benefited from it, at a time when the Sedins were still learning how to skate at the NHL level. Even in his most notorious moment on ice, it was still done defending (no matter what someone tells you) the current captain of this team. He was moved to give him a chance to resurrect his career and, in return, is ANYONE out there upset with Luongo backstopping Vancouver for years to come? Some will boo because they never liked him, but I hope most remember that this guy was a monster for a team that rarely gets these sorts of players. And, after you applaud Bert, then go back to wanting various members of the Ducks to plummet to the ice with groin strains. Sound fair?

There are no other old faces to look forward to for the rest of the season (unless you move a rock and find Anson Carter under it), so getting two back to back isn't bad. And we should all keep those fingers crossed that L.A. gets the injury bug and has to recall Cloutier. Can you imagine Cloutier V Luongo in GM Place? It's a small crazy world indeed.

</td></tr></table>

Mike the Yankee

<table width=90%><tr><td><img src=http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2007/07/mikeblog.gif border=0 align=left hspace=4 vspace=1>I am forced (at gun point sometimes) to at least know what is going on in the Yankees world if not vehemently care about it. See, the Yankees own my town and thus will make the front page of the papers quicker then you can say "Ghostrider was a terrible movie." The Yanks are used to winning at all costs no matter who they have to kill, so when the city had to watch their rivals cruise to their second championship this decade while the Yanks, simultaneously, lose the best player in the history of our species to pick up a bat and swing it (Alex Rodriguez) you can imagine the degree of utter chaos and bedlam surrounding it all.

It's not too far off, honestly, from how the Canucks are being talked about these days. It's getting to the point where you'd think they’re the heir apparent to the 1974-75 Capitals:

"Oh they have a million injuries and Luongo isn't any good anymore"<a href=http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2007/11/van_vs_nas_gallery_5.jpg target=_blank><img src=http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2007/11/van_vs_nas_gallery_5_t.jpg border=0 align=right hspace=4 vspace=1></a>

"Oh they're last in shots per game"

"Oh the playoffs are a pipedream now"

"Oh they're last in faceoffs won"

"Oh [insert some statistic and then start profusely crying right HERE]"

Gotcha. Understood. Nothing's working. The Sedins are slumping, Vigneault's ornery, Mitchell's annoyed, Krajicek's injured, Bieksa's lucky to have his one leg entact, Rypien's got a case of the Sami Salo's, Sami Salo has a case of the Sami Salo's, etc, etc, etc. This squad isn't doing much right these days.

Then I think..."69 dude". Don't read into that, just remember Bill and Ted said it and look how happy they were a few decades ago. Perhaps Keanu Reeves is a prophet? Discuss amongst yourselves.

No, there are still 69 games left. That's over 3/4's of the season. Nothing is over so it's a bit premature to start acting like the Canucks are 0-13 and haven't scored a goal yet.

So they'll have to play from behind for the foreseeable future, so what? You never want to be in that position but sometimes that level of adversity proves your mettle as a team. Anyone recall a certain Calgary Flames (ugh) team that has a mediocre start in 2003-04 only to find their rhythm in the winter months and steamroll into the postseason? Or ditto the 2005-06 Oilers (UGH) who started the year even worse and found their legs later on? Its sports: part of the fun is the unexpected craziness.

<a href=http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2007/11/van_vs_nas_gallery_2.jpg target=_blank><img src=http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2007/11/van_vs_nas_gallery_2_t.jpg border=0 align=left hspace=4 vspace=1></a>

So before anyone starts talking about Vancouver’s chances for the first pick in the 2008 entry draft, why not see what the boys, Vigneault and Nonis can do with the majority of the season that's left in front of them? These guys took us all by surprise last year, it's just time for that second act (preferably sooner rather then later). They have many of the pieces they need, they just need to get that rhythm back, that “winning is contagious” mentality back and that sweet swagger of knowing they can ice any opposing team when they put their minds and sticks to it.

One last thing: Don't boo Luongo, we fans damn near canonized him a mere six months ago. He’s not the problem and he’s the face of the team, so booing him is stupid.

Instead, just keep saying "69 dude" to yourself, giggle accordingly and pass it on. Nothing's over yet, not be a long shot.

</td></tr></table>

Mike the Yankee

<table width=90%><tr><td><img src=http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2007/07/mikeblog.gif border=0 align=left hspace=4 vspace=1>I know I am beginning to hate myself for these musical references in blog titles. But now that song is stuck in your head isn't it? You're welcome, go rock out in the bathroom mirror.

So this anticipation is just a killer isn't it? If you bounce around the intraweb you'll see preview after preview and best guess after best guess of what this season will become. Not wanting to be left out of the fun (I'm immensely shallow like that) let's look at the top 10 burning issues for Vancouver this season:

1. Is it even remotely possible for Luongo to get any better?

Yes, at least conceptually. Then again if he does improve vastly on last season I'd be concerned he's not actually human which may break some sort of league by-law about the biological origins of players. Thanks a lot Bettman, way to limit the game.

2. Will Matt Cooke stay healthy enough this season in order to play his style of game and make other players unhealthy?

God I hope so. With Pronger and Bertuzzi on one team, we need that element to the game. Plus, with Cooke's hits, the humor factor goes up accordingly.

<a href=http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2007/09/sep2607_sharks04_b.jpg target=_blank><img src=http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2007/09/sep2607_sharks04_t.jpg border=0 align=right hspace=4 vspace=1></a>

3. Is this finally Kesler's year to be the man?

Bieksa and Pyatt had their turns last year; I'd argue it's Kesler's time to step up and make Bobby Clarke proud! Us too obviously, but you know Bobby is watching.

4. Why is Saturday, December 8th important to you?

Sidney who? Malkin what? No no, the name you'll cheer for is feisty Finn Jarkko Ruutu (YAHR koh ROO too, practice makes perfect).

5. Are all bathrooms in GM Place properly installed with "Luongo Overtime Emergency Kits"?

As the Boy Scouts say, it's good to be prepared.

6. Who will the Sedins bless with their offensive cycling madness this year?

Taylor Pyatt? The man-child Mason Raymond? Captain Naslund? Ryan Shannon? Brad Isbister? And is it too late to talk to the Sedin's parents and see if the team can get exclusive rights to their entire genetic line?

<a href=http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2007/09/sep2607_sharks03_b.jpg target=_blank><img src=http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2007/09/sep2607_sharks03_t.jpg border=0 align=left hspace=4 vspace=1></a>

7. Would you trade in Morrison's 512-game iron man streak this year for an uptick of 20 points in production?

I know I know we all want both. Man we're so greedy!

8. Will Curtis Sanford become a Sudoku grand champion?

He has a lot of time on his hands, so why not? By the way, have you seen his mask? This team hasn't had a mask like that since Corey Hirsch's Psycho lid. Wow. Maybe we need a "painting with Curtis" fun-time hour where we can all sketch incredibly scary masks and sing camp songs. Perfect for Halloween (and Valentines Day)!

9. Curious what's left in Trevor’s tank?

I think he showed us all last year the answer to that. If he was stuck on any other drowning team (cough, cough ISLANDERS cough, cough) the skates would likely be hung up permanently. This guy is an amazing warrior; we're lucky to have him out there again.

10. Will the Canucks as a team finally shake that "no offense" monkey off their back?

I'm far from a statistician, but I am positive they will get more then 82 goals this year. That means, for the most part, you're guaranteed to see a goal a game. What, you want more? Sheesh, I was right with question #7, we are a very greedy lot.

<a href=http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2007/08/aug2207_linden01_b.jpg target=_blank><img src=http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2007/08/aug2207_linden01_t.jpg border=0 align=right hspace=4 vspace=1></a>

Bonus Track - Will the Canucks fend off snow-based landslides, the origins of fire, oil riggers and whatever that animal thing is on the Wild uniform to retain the NW Title?

Well, I'm biased in my answer. What's yours?

</td></tr></table>

Mike the Yankee

<table width=90%><tr><td><img src=http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2007/07/mikeblog.gif border=0 align=left hspace=4 vspace=1>Raise your hands if you can't stand the Flames or Oilers. (Those of you who didn't can go walk into oncoming traffic. No no, don't do that, you could end up hurting someone's car)

Sure, it's only a preseason game, but Wednesday night was a quick glimpse into the tempo and atmosphere of what facing the Calgary Flames, Version 3.Keenan-0, will really feel like.

Since we gentle Canuck fans know pretty much what Keenan is like, it wasn't a terrible shock at all to see the fists fly and stick chops all night long. Poor Alex Burrows had to contend with Eric Godard, who's three inches and 30 lbs his superior, a mere 201 seconds into the first. Other Calgary players - Conroy, Phaneuf and Hale - all made their presence felt rather bluntly throughout the game.

<a href=http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2007/09/09192007_flames03_b.jpg target=_blank><img src=http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2007/09/09192007_flames03_t.jpg border=0 align=right hspace=4 vspace=1></a>

The damndest thing though: the scoreboard was showing a 1-0, 2-0, 3-0 and finally a 4-0 score all in favor of the Canucks. Alexander Edler opened the floodgates against Calgary pipelord Miikka Kiprusoff and, after Kipper was pulled, Jason Jaffray, Michael Grabner and Ryan Shannon took their turns abusing back-up Curtis McElhinney (someone call security, I doubt that's a real name). The Flames, for all of their obvious complexes, just couldn't solve Roberto Luongo or Corey Schneider all evening long.

Sure, it may mean nothing, but tell that to Luongo when he stonewalls a team with his arch nemesis chewing ice and barking orders behind it. And I won't even bring up that Schneider held the down shutout fort in his first sniff of NHL-caliber action because, well, that would be just silly.

And how do you follow up that game? By taking on a team with even more of a complex: the Oilers. In between about a zillion hooking, fighting and holding calls, there was actually a game in there as both squads showed off their new digs in a see-saw match. Ryan Kesler and camp standout Mason Raymond showed some flashes of brilliance, Shaun Heshka picked up two assists and Shannon once again played strong. The very green defensive core limited Edmonton to a meager 10 shots. True, MacTavish got to unleash his prized off-season acquisitions - Penner and Souray - but lost in that was that Vigneault got to unleash his: Brad Isbister (also known as 'The Taylor Pyatt project 2.0'). Isbister played a strong game, but waited until the final three seconds to finish off a 2-on-1 (hmm, wasn't that Souray on the ice at the end there?) to dust off his old team.

<a href=http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2007/09/sedin_b.jpg target=_blank><img src=http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2007/09/sedin_t.jpg border=0 align=left hspace=4 vspace=1></a>

I know I know, it all means nothing. It's just preseason, see what happens in two weeks, the rosters aren’t even set yet blah blah blah. The devil's in the details sometimes and the devil here is that the Canucks withstood two straight games from nasty rivals and won them with strong efforts from the kids and veterans. You can't but help get that sneaking suspicion that this team is ready to go out and defend their divisional title and then some.

C'mon Oct. 5th...move faster!

(You can put your hands down now)

* A million apologies to those who caught the Motley Crue reference for the title of this post. I, too, am disappointed with myself and am walking into traffic right now.

</td></tr></table>

Mike the Yankee

Take Off!

<table width=90%><tr><td><img src=http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2007/07/mikeblog.gif border=0 align=left hspace=4 vspace=1>You know how an airplane has to burn all the fuel on take off just to get to a cruising altitude and fly smoothly the rest of the way? Well, that’s September to us hockey fans: it’s the launch - finally! - of the hockey season. And it couldn’t come any faster; any longer without it and I may have started caring about Arod’s poor ankle or what guy on which NFL team is in jail for what.<br /><br />

What are you excited for? Seeing the Sedins zip around like the Swedish cycling demons that they are? Seeing warriors like Naslund and Linden put the new jerseys on their backs and lead this team to another divisional title? Or seeing opposing players sigh, curse loudly to themselves, and stare upwards at the arena rafters after Luongo stymies them yet again?<br /><br />

OK, sure, it’s all of the above.<br /><br />

Currently though, it’s time to get psyched to see the kids at the prospect camp show their stuff and play the role of dark horse in hopes of cracking the big squad come opening night against the Sharks. Sure, it’s a long shot, but that’s part of the fun isn’t it? The prospects camp, if nothing, is usually a time to see the future of the franchise and what up and comers could turn into a Bieksa or a Sedin (obvious reference to an identical twin brother aside). <br /><br />

Here are a few to keep your eyes on in the next several days:<br /><br />

<a href=http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2007/09/rookietest5_09062007_b.jpg target=_blank><img src=http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2007/09/rookietest5_09062007_tt.jpg border=0 align=right hspace=4 vspace=1></a>Luc Bourdon – I know, it’s hardly a shock to not cite the biggest prospect in the club so far, but even Bourdon would be hard pressed not to admit last year’s flirtation period with the Canucks was disappointing. He ended up playing nine games, but didn’t record much more then 4 PIM’s in that time. Critics said he looked wildly out of place and a year of that weighing on the 2005 first round pick’s mind should bring a new mindset to camp this year. And while the Canucks top six defensemen is currently pretty damn deep, imagine how much deeper it gets with a revitalized Bourdon ready to take his play to the next level.<br /><br />

Cory Schneider – He’s the most talked about guy in the media this past off season even though he’s never played a second for the Canucks or even stepped foot on the ice for the Moose. Schneider, the Canuck’s 2004 first round pick, bolted Boston this summer for the comfy confines of the Vancouver organization, but in doing so, leaves Boston College as one of their best goalies ever. Last year alone he had 15 shutouts (a school record) and helped guide them to an NCAA National Championship. In fact, no goalie in the NCAA played more minutes (2,516:33 to be precise) and more games (42) then Schneider. Hmm, having one workhorse already backstopping the Canucks and another ready to test his mettle with the Moose? Go ahead, try and complain about that depth I dare ya.<br /><br />

<a href=http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2007/09/rookietest1_09062007_b.jpg target=_blank><img src=http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2007/09/rookietest1_09062007_tt.jpg border=0 align=left hspace=4 vspace=1></a>Michael Grabner – May as well get the first rounders out of the way all at once! This speedy 2006 first rounder spent most of last year in the WHL with the Spokane Chiefs, but was third on the team in points and then jumped to the Moose in the AHL for a handful of games. Grabner is still progressing obviously (Nonis went on record this summer saying he needs to bulk up), but has the pressure of the first round pick on his shoulders and may use that to try and make a statement at camp this year. Besides, last I checked the Canucks could use as many goal scorers as they can possibly find and Grabner may be a big answer to that, if not now hopefully soon.<br /><br />

Jannik Hansen – I’m not sure you’re a bonafide Canuck fan if you’re not pulling for Hansen. You can ignore his time with the Moose last year where he was sixth in points if you want, but you can’t ignore his call up with the big squad during the first round against Dallas. During that series where we all saw some regular Canucks struggle, Hansen always seemed to jet down the ice and make something happen. And, hey, he’s the first Dane to play ever in an NHL playoff game. Hansen’s just a feel good story waiting to happen and maybe that time is now.<br /><br />

<a href=http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2007/09/rookietest9_09062007_b.jpg target=_blank><img src=http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2007/09/rookietest9_09062007_tt.jpg border=0 align=right hspace=4 vspace=1></a>Mason Raymond – Maybe the darkest horse of them all falls to Raymond, a University of Minnesota-Duluth player who opted to forego his final years at school for a chance in the bigs. This second round pick of the 2005 draft, Raymond was top point-getter on the Bulldogs, tied for second in points last year in the entire WCHA and lead the league in assists and power play points. He joined the Moose for eleven games at the end of the season and then, out of no where, Dave Nonis mentioned him this summer as a potential hidden gem at the prospects camp. Go for it Mason, the big guy called you out. No pressure at all!<br /><br />

There’s plenty to like about this group and - along with Bliznak, Coulombe, Edler, Rahimi and Simek – it’s a great time to keep your eyes and ears peeled to see what level of play the future of the franchise has. As an added bonus, it’s a great opportunity for you to get taste of some hockey before the real season begins.<br /><br />

So sit back and keep those trays in their upright and locked position (or you won’t get any damn peanuts and we’ll sit the annoying screaming child directly behind you). Who knows what’ll happen at the prospect camp, but hey, we’re all Canucks right? It’s time to cheer on the baby ‘nuckers.</td></tr></table>

Mike the Yankee

<img src=http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2007/07/mikeblog.gif border=0 align=left hspace=4 vspace=1>Hockey never feels further away then it does when the calendar is stuck in the middle of July. Making matters worse, we fans didn’t get a huge trade to keep us fat, happy and talking until the first leaf drops in the fall either. That's not to say Sir Dave Nonis, while his counterparts drunkenly emptied their wallets at the start of free agency, hasn’t been a busy guy this offseason. Let's take a look at the newest Canucks and see what they'll offer the team when the regular season rolls around:

Brad Isbister – This is the biggest UFA that has come to town all summer (hold your applause). Stands to reason because Isbister's a big boy. A rather big boy; in fact, he's bigger then anyone on the 2006-07 Vancouver roster except Taylor Pyatt. Even with that size, some folks may raise an eyebrow at a guy who couldn't use that size to the best of his ability on the Coyotes, Islanders, Oilers, Bruins and Rangers. Then again, those teams didn't have Jack Adams...ahem...Alain Vigneault at their helm. If Vigneault can tap into some of the raw talent that this 3rd round pick from the 1995 draft has, then he should be a welcome addition to the club.

Byron Ritchie – Last year it was Willie Mitchell's turn to make a triumphant return home and this time it's Ritchie's. In addition, anytime you can pry away a guy from a competitor in your own division, it is a good move. No one is going to mistake Ritchie for Iginla or Tanguay, but like half of the Cup-hoarding Duck roster, he brings a good deal of needed grit and scrappiness. He is also coming off a career year (although it’s just 14 points, but hey, it’s 14 more then I have!). If he can earn some ice time on the third or fourth line, he could turn into a mini-Matt Cooke, and since we have Cooke anyway, just imagine how many teams will LOVE to see the Canucks across the ice?!

<a href=http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2007/07/jul1707shannon01_b.jpg target=_blank><img src=http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2007/07/shannoncup_tt.jpg width=120 border=0 align=right hspace=4 vspace=1></a>Ryan Shannon – Funny to think Shannon is the lone Cup veteran on this team at the rusty old age of 24. Shannon is a lot like Ritchie: a guy who has been fighting to keep his slot at the NHL level and will now get a great chance with Vancouver. The knock against Shannon is his height (5'9'') but he overcame that during last year's preseason with Anaheim when he notched six goals and 13 shots in five games. The previous year Shannon scored 86 points in the AHL which was second amongst rookies. You get the gut feeling Shannon has a lot more he wants to prove and one can only imagine what lies ahead if he gets some quality ice time on a team that desperately needs some clutch goals.

Curtis Sanford - The unenviable job of backing up a workhorse like Roberto Luongo this year falls to Sanford, formerly of the St. Louis Blues and the "I always beat the Canucks when I play them" syndrome (5-0-0-2 lifetime against Vancouver). You likely won't see much of Sanford (and if you see too much of him then the Canucks have a whole host of new problems) but he's an upgrade to Sabourin in terms of sheer experience (64 games played and an even-steven 26W, 26L, 2.79GAA, .901SV%) and shouldn't have too much of a problem keeping the team afloat if Luongo needs some rest.

<a href=http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2007/07/pyatt04_b.jpg target=_blank><img src=http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2007/07/pyatt04_tt.jpg width=120 border=0 align=left hspace=4 vspace=1></a>Don't forget that Nonis also brought back Pyatt after his career year along while locking up Jeff Cowan (ahh, the bras...), Lukas Krajicek and Ryan Kesler and also extending Kevin Bieksa’s deal. Moreover, Nonis has locked up many of the younger prospects. Take your pick between Cory Schneider, Jason Jaffray, and Juraj Simek who are now joining a youth corp alongside. In a season or two, we'll all know these names by heart.

So sure, the summer is boring for hockey, so I guess we’ll just have to take heart in that the core of the NW Division champions remains predominantly intact, they have some new blood coming who are eager to prove their worth, they have more experience in net and have signed some top prospects ready to showcase their stuff.

Now take a deep breath, be happy and go outside and enjoy it. Besides, you'll be spending all of your fall and winter indoors staring at the computer anyway, right? That's right, we all will.