Sunny Dhillon

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About Sunny Dhillon

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  1. <table width=75% align=center><tr><td><img src="" style="float: left; padding-right: 4px;">Whenever someone finds out I work for the Vancouver Canucks and get to go into the press box – which is fairly often since I shout it from the roof-tops – the first question is invariably the same: is Farhan Lalji really a robot sent back through time to destroy life as we know it? Yes. Yes he is. The second question is just as frequent. “Dude, what’s it like in the press box?” Generally, I make something up about how Dave Nonis and I spend all three periods creating outlandish trade proposals and then post them on the forums just to irritate Vancouver fans. But I suppose it wouldn’t kill me to answer the question honestly… unless it somehow does… which would suck. Members of the media enter GM Place through a security checkpoint. I’m not sure if I’m really allowed to say much more about it than that. Those who make it past the Rancor get in, those who don’t get… eaten? Is that what the Rancor does? Yeah, let’s go with that. From there, the media-only privileges really start to kick in. We have our own express elevator that takes us to and from the press box. Of course, when this elevator breaks down – as it did after Thursday night’s game against Nashville – reaching the players is virtually impossible. Which is why I’m all but convinced those wire-cutters in Markus Naslund’s locker had something to do with it. When the elevator doors open on the press box level, there’s a stack of documents waiting nearby. These documents include statistics on the upcoming game, statistics on the entire league and statistics on how many Vancouver media members Rancor has eaten both that night and lifetime. Huh, I’d always wondered what happened to John Conners. You might have already heard of the next element: the seat list. Designed to simply alert those in the press box as to which chair is theirs, the seat list is a fixture on sports talk radio and the Interweb because it also details how many scouts are in attendance and from which team. For Thursday’s game, former Canucks head coach Bob McCammon and former Los Angeles King Pat Conacher were both on hand, as were a couple of scouts from Tampa Bay. I guess it’s safe to assume the T-Bay guys were looking at Luc Bourdon with the same lustful “What were we thinking when we missed the boat on that?” gaze that Tyra Banks gets from the male classmates who picked on her for being too tall. “What’s that? We had it wrong on the package for the 1-4-0 Mike Smith, the shootout specialist, and the 31-year old grinder? You don’t say?” One of the biggest press box perks – at least in theory – is the $10 buffet. The reason I put a minor asterisk on that is because I always get a pat on the back from one of the guys when I eat the White Spot burgers instead. In fact, one of the scouts told me that GM Place has the worst cuisine of any press box in the entire league (MSG evidently has the best). And, of course, because I just shared that tidbit with you, my next buffet entrée is sure to be Chicken a la Spit. But all is not lost on the food front. In the press box, we also have an unlimited supply of free popcorn. At least I think it’s free. Now that you mention it, no one’s ever really told me that for sure. I kind of just take it and walk away. To go with the popcorn is presumably-free soda, coffee, and water. And if you’re thinking to yourself, “Wow, Sunny must have considered putting all that stuff into his pockets and then selling it on the 300 level,” then you’ve got me pretty well figured out. But apparently – and this was as much a shock to me as anyone else – consumers don’t want to buy popcorn out of my pockets. Weird, huh? Once the feeding frenzy is over, it’s time to get to work. And no stint in the Canucks press box is complete without someone opening up their computer and complaining about the lack of Wi-Fi. That’s right, GM Place requires an actual LAN connection. This once led to Pierre LeBrun asking if he could borrow my Ethernet cord when I was done with it. I don’t really remember much else about that night because Nick Kypreos was sitting next to Pierre and all the fumes from the fifth circle of hell were making me incredibly dizzy. The view from the press box, at least in my eyes, is unparalleled. There are some who like to be as close to the ice as possible and that’s fine. But the overhead perspective allows you to see everything, often before it even unfolds. Yeah, you heard me: the press box lets you see into the future. How else do you think we can tell when a Sedin is about to take a penalty in the offensive zone? By simply guessing because it happens all the time? Pssh. Of course, if the future-watch is too stressful and you miss something, there’s no need to fret. Televisions mounted above the press box replay the action far more often than the jumbotron does. And a special PA announcer relays all the critical events to us a second time, usually a couple of minutes after John Ashbridge makes the original announcement. Now, before you ask, no, there isn’t someone who’s paid to help us go potty. He’s actually a volunteer. Speaking of which, there’s one bathroom per gender in the press box. The men’s consists of one stall and one urinal. The women’s consists of… yeah right, I ain’t going out like dat. The men’s room is particularly busy during intermissions, as all the male media members race to get the lint off of their corduroy blazers. By this point, you might be thinking we’re pretty spoiled in the press box, and I haven’t even mentioned our very own 50/50 ticket sellers and dudes who hand out newly updated stats sheets between periods. But it’s certainly not all good news. For example, Fin’s t-shirt cannon can’t possibly generate enough height to reach the press box. There’s the already-mentioned lack of Wi-Fi. And there’s also… hmm… it’s a little cold sometimes? Being in the press box truly is an experience unlike any other. Everything a person could want and need is readily available. In fact, we’re so ridiculously pampered that it’s a little embarrassing to talk about. Hmm. I think I’ll stick with the making-up-trade-rumours-with-Nonis story from now on. </td></tr></table>
  2. <table width=75% align=center><tr><td><img src="" style="float: left; padding-right: 4px;">Sometimes The Best Trades Are The Ones You Don’t Make It was hard not to chuckle as Pierre McGuire said it. The Vancouver Canucks were the losers at this year’s trade deadline? Reallllly? Well, Pierre is a gifted hockey analyst. Sure, the sheer volume of his commentary is enough to set off all the car alarms within an eight-mile radius but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t know what he’s talking about when it comes to deadline day. This does. On March 9, 2006, when Canucks GM Dave Nonis acquired Mika Noronen, Sean Brown, Keith Carney and Eric Weinrich, McGuire announced to the TSN audience that Vancouver was his trade deadline winner. How’d that work out, Pierre? <img src="" style="float: right; padding-right: 4px;" />Well, Noronen played in 4 games and had a goals-against-average of 3.52. He fled to Russia soon after and hasn’t been seen in these parts ever since. Brown had zero points and a -3 rating in 12 games. Still, in comparison to the other two blue-liners Vancouver acquired that day, Brown was essentially Bobby Orr. Carney was a -5 in 18 games. The lasting image of the perpetually slow-footed Carney in a Canucks uniform, at least for me, is of the “defenseman” kicking a puck past Alex Auld into the Vancouver net. Never before and never since has one goal entirely summed up a player’s stay with a given team. And Weinrich? Well, just by saying his name out loud earlier today I made three young children cry. He was a disaster. His yellow visor must have been made of banana peels because Weinrich slip-slided his way to a -13 rating in 16 games. I actually had to triple-check those numbers to make sure they weren’t worse than I remembered. They were not. But then again, individual accomplishments might not have been that important because the Canucks made a lengthy playoff run. What’s that? They didn’t even make the postseason? Reallllly? But Pierre had them as his deadline winner! <img src="" style="float: left; padding-right: 4px;" />Such is the problem with trade deadline day. TV’s talking heads blather on and on about how the teams that didn’t make any moves were the losers and how those who were active magically made themselves better. It’s not that cut and dry. Despite what some Canucks fans might think, making moves just for the sake of making moves is foolish. So is overpaying just to convince your fans you’re not asleep at the wheel. Nonis did neither. And by holding on to his key assets, in Kesler, Edler, Bourdon, Schneider, et al, Nonis made Vancouver a trade deadline winner. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go buy a new hearing aid. McGuire blew my last one out. </td></tr></table>
  3. <table width=75% align=center><tr><td><img src="" style="float: left; padding-right: 4px;">How quickly things can change... Roberto Luongo had just stopped Mike Modano in the shootout. Trevor Linden strolled towards centre ice with a chance to win the game for Vancouver. Canucks fans couldn’t have planned it any better; they were sitting on top of the world. Here was Vancouver’s resident penalty shot expert with the game on his stick. The last time I checked, the Flames were losing and the Wild had blown a third period lead. Even the Predators were having a tough time with Carolina. Linden was going to bury this and the Canucks were going to walk out of Dallas with two points. Their playoff hopes would be rejuvenated. I could feel it.<img src="" style="float: right; padding-right: 4px;" /> To which fate replied: feel this! Linden’s wrister clanked off the post and stayed out. Although the shootout continued, I knew at that point the Canucks weren’t going to win it. Sure enough, after successive misses by Daniel Sedin, Ryan Kesler, and Taylor Pyatt, it was over. Vancouver had left an all-important bonus point on the table and taken a serious gut-punch. More frustrated than Dave Nonis when someone asks him about not drafting Anze Kopitar, I turned off the TV for a couple of hours. It wasn’t until I caught a glimpse of the Sportsnet ticker later that night that I felt even worse. The Flames had come back from a 3-0 deficit after two periods to beat Phoenix 4-3 in a shootout. J.P. Dumont had scored for Nashville with eight minutes to play to give the Predators a 1-0 win. And the Wild had earned a point by losing to Detroit in overtime. From the highest of highs when Linden stepped over the boards a few hours earlier, this was the lowest of lows for Canucks fans. Despite playing a tremendous game without five of their top six defensemen, the Canucks had, essentially, lost ground in the Western Conference playoff chase.<img src="" style="float: left; padding-left: 4px;" /> Forward to Thursday night. The Canucks appeared listless and uninspired for the first forty minutes against Atlanta. After Pascal Dupuis made it 1-0 Thrashers midway through the second, even the most optimistic of Canucks fans could be forgiven for thinking that would be it for the night. It didn’t look like the Canucks would ever score; it didn’t look like they even cared. Worse, division-leading Minnesota and Dallas were in a scoreless draw and looked poised to play one of those “Let’s take it easy until overtime so everyone gets a point and no one feels bad” type of games. Nashville had taken an early lead against Tampa. The Flames were facing off against the terrible-of-late Chicago Blackhawks. And Phoenix was at home against a struggling Columbus squad. But then, just as quickly as things had gone from good to bad for Canucks fans two days earlier, they went from bad to good. <img src="" style="float: right; padding-right: 4px;" />Daniel Sedin got Vancouver on the board with a powerplay goal six minutes into the third. Alex Burrows added what would be the game-winner less than five minutes later. In Minnesota, Nik Hagman scored what would be the only goal of the game as his Stars knocked off the Wild in regulation. Tampa rallied and beat Nashville in overtime. The Blackhawks shocked Calgary at the Saddledome and the equally-surprising Blue Jackets knocked off Phoenix in the final game of the night. I suppose part of being a sports enthusiast is overreacting when your team wins or loses. Everything is life or death; melodrama is par for the course. But with 27 games remaining, this is one Canuck fan that’s going to do his best to take every uplifting win and heart-wrenching loss in stride. The Western Conference is simply too unpredictable to do otherwise. </td></tr></table>
  4. <table width=75% align=center><tr><td><img src="" style="float: left; padding-right: 4px;">With all due respect to Adriana Lima, she’s got nothing on this Canucks team. Lima, of course, is the international supermodel best known for her work with Victoria’s Secret. A simple Flickr search of her name produces hundreds of images of the scantily-clad Brazilian bombshell, not to mention a heart attack for whoever’s doing the typing. (I’m writing from the hospital at this very moment.) But what you might not know about Adriana – that’s right, we’re on a first-name basis – unless you read GQ is that she’s the world’s most famous self-professed virgin. That’s right, the woman you’ve seen prancing down the runway in little more than a bra, panties, and angel wings has yet to let anyone reach fourth base. That led to the inevitable: men all around the world unofficially crowned Lima as this planet’s greatest tease. But in a stunning twist, Adriana’s been knocked from her throne. The reason? January’s Vancouver Canucks are a far bigger tease than she ever will be. <img src="" style="float: right; padding-right: 4px;" />Take last night’s game against Dallas, for example. Steve Ott made it 4-1 Stars seven and a half minutes into the third period. Most Canucks fans thought, “Game over.” I, essentially, thought the same thing. But my slightly-underdeveloped brain added a twist. “Game over, they’re going to lose 4-3.” Sure enough, Ryan Kesler made it 4-2 less than four minutes later. Markus Naslund then made it 4-3 with 81 seconds to play. How’d I know that would happen? Do I possess some sort of psychic ability? It’s certainly possible; sometimes when I’m playing Super Mario, I can sense an enemy coming before he even enters the screen. But the more likely explanation is that we’ve seen this show from the Canucks before. A lot. Down 3-1 to the Wild on January 21, Taylor Pyatt brought Vancouver within a goal by beating Niklas Backstrom with 29 seconds left in the third. It was as close as Vancouver got. <img src="" style="float: left; padding-left: 4px;" />Down 4-2 to the Kings on January 19, Mason Raymond capitalized on an LA turnover and beat Jason LaBarbera with just over four minutes to play. It was as close as Vancouver got. Down 4-2 to Phoenix on January 11, Pyatt again brought Vancouver within one, this time with eight and a half minutes remaining. It was as close as Vancouver got. Are you seeing the theme? I hope so, because my arms are getting tired from beating this dead horse. Vancouver will do just enough to get back in the game and make you think, “Hey, maybe they’re going to pull this one out.” But then? Bupkis. Despite what the local media might tell you, Vancouver’s problem isn’t just putting the puck in the net. They’ve proven they can do that. Vancouver’s problem is putting the puck in the net at the right time. When it’s early in the first period and the Canucks have numerous chances to grab the early lead, they can’t finish. <img src="" style="float: right; padding-right: 4px;" />When it’s late in the third and they’re down by two or three, Vancouver’s forwards turn into a group of Ovechkins. Whether they’re simply gripping their sticks too tightly when the game is on the line, or playing with a certain looseness when down by more than one goal, this Canucks team has shown its ability to get to the clutch; they just can’t quite come through during it. As a result, Vancouver’s earned its title as the world’s greatest tease. It’s one contest I’m hoping they’ll lose in the very near future. </td></tr></table>
  5. <table width=75% align=center><tr><td><img src="" style="float: left; padding-right: 4px;">While watching the Markus Naslund 1,000 game hoopla last week, I got to thinking: is it weird that the Canucks presented Markus with flowers before the LA game? Is he a big flower enthusiast? Are hockey players routinely given flowers for reaching milestones? The one time I needed Scott Oake to provide me with some clarity, he was nowhere to be found. Typical. Anyway, once I gave up with that line of questioning, I started wondering which current Canucks might someday join Markus and Trevor Linden in the 1,000 game club. Ranking the other guys on the roster from least likely to reach 1,000 games to most likely, here’s what I found. Not Gonna Happen 22. Curtis Sanford: With 82 career appearances at age 28, Vancouver’s backup netminder is about as likely to get to 1,000 games as… well, I am. 21. Mike Weaver: The undrafted defenseman is on his third club in four years and has never played more than 53 games in a single season. Unless he develops a way to play until he’s 60, that pace isn’t going to cut it. 20. Byron Ritchie: Byron just reached the 300 game mark at age 30. Barring injury (as is the case with all these predictions), Byron should set a career high in games this season but the former Hartford Whalers draft pick would need to register eight similar seasons to even sniff 1,000. 19. Jeff Cowan: The Bra-barian is nearing 400 career games but with the diminished role of enforcers in today’s NHL and the fact that he’ll be 32 this September, Cowan might not get too far beyond 500. 18. Kris Beech: The good news? The 26-year old former first rounder has played 193 games in his NHL career. The bad news? Only 94 of those games have come in the past three seasons and Beech has been with five clubs since 03-04. 17. Brad Isbister: Would you have guessed that Izzy’s played in more NHL games than Sami Salo? Me neither. But his 519 appearances at age 30 prove otherwise. However, like Beech, Isbister’s bounced around a lot, playing for six teams overall and four in the last four years. He’ll be hard-pressed to stick with the big club long enough to make a run at 600, never mind 1,000. 16. Aaron Miller: At 669 games, Miller’s more than two-thirds of the way there. But he’ll be 37 later this year and his body’s got more mileage on it than… hmm, I’m going to stop right there. 15. Sami Salo: The Finnish MacInnis has missed 55 games in the last two and a half seasons and has only played more than 70 twice in his nine-year career. At his current pace, he would need to play about eight more seasons to reach 1,000 games. No dice. Outlook Not So Good<img src="" style="float: right; padding-right: 4px;" /> 14. Alex Burrows: An interesting case, to be sure. He didn’t make his NHL debut until he was 24 but Alex has missed just one contest since the beginning of last season. His 173 games at age 26 are similar to Beech but his defensive skills make it more likely he’ll be a regular for years to come. However, he’ll have to avoid injury into his mid-to-late 30s and probably improve his offense to make a run at 1,000. Not too likely. 13. Kevin Bieksa: Much like Burrows, Bieksa got off to a late start and made his NHL debut at 24. And while he was a mainstay in the lineup last season, Bieksa’s been out for most of this year with a calf injury. The only reason he might have a better chance at cracking 1,000 than Burrows is that his hard-nosed defensive play is likely to be in demand for years to come. Provided his leg heals, of course. 12. Matt Cooke: The Cooker’s 553 games at age 29 have him on a solid pace but he’s proven to be awfully brittle of late. He played only 53 games in 03-04, then missed 37 more with jaw and ankle problems the following season. While he appeared in 81 games for Vancouver last year, a groin injury kept him out of the lineup for all but one of the team’s playoff games. Matt’s recent troubles putting the puck in the net also don’t bode well for his run at 1,000. 11. Roberto Luongo: Patrick Roy is the all-time leader in games played by a goaltender with 1,029. For Roberto to even near him, he would need seven more seasons in which he played at least 70 games or ten seasons in which he played at least 60. Godlike as he may be, it’s hard to envision Luongo playing at that pace into his late 30s. 10. Willie Mitchell: Like Bieksa, Willie’s hard-nosed style could keep him in demand for the better part of a decade. In fact, I can see a 39-year old Mitchell sporting the Dave Babych moustache and commandeering the Canucks cup run in 2015-16. But do you realize he’s played more than 70 games in a season only once? With 431 games at age 30, Willie will have to keep his current pace going for about eight more seasons. Can he do it? Sure, but it’s far from a given. <img src="" style="float: left; padding-left: 4px;" />Stranger Things Have Happened 9. Mason Raymond: Of all the decisions, this is the one I wrestled with the most. I know, I know, he’s only played 26 NHL games. But Mason is just 22, he’s a great skater, he has offensive flair, and he’s smart out on the ice. If you can give me a reason to mark him down, please feel free. I’m also well aware that this is a huge jinx I’m putting on Raymond so if anything happens to him, feel free to swing by my house with a flaming torch. I’ll even help you swing it. 8. Lukas Krajicek: 24 years of age with more than 200 games under his belt. But Krajicek has missed 15 contests the last year and a half and injuries, or perhaps the fear of injuries, are the reason I didn’t rank him higher. Lukas seems to take more of a physical pounding than any other Canucks defenseman, to the extent that I’m not sure his body will make it to 1,000 games. 7. Taylor Pyatt: The Pieman made his NHL debut at age 19, which means he had played 200 games before many of his current Canucks teammates had ever sniffed the big club. Assuming he stays healthy for the rest of this season, Pyatt needs to average about 75 games per season for seven seasons to reach 1,000. Since he’s still just 26, it’s definitely within reach. 6. Ryan Kesler: Another guy who started young, Kesler also made his NHL debut at 19. The now-23 Kesler has appeared in just over 200 games. But he’s had some injury problems, as evidenced by last season’s hip and finger issues. These could just be freak injuries that meant nothing, or they could be freak injuries that hint at the fact Kesler’s body is more brittle than we realize. We’ll just have to wait and see. Looks Good<img src="" style="float: right; padding-right: 4px;" /> 5. Alexander Edler: As with Raymond, there’s a lot to like here. Edler’s just 21 and should near 100 games by the end of this season. His play seems effortless at times (in a good way) and his defensive zone smarts are well beyond his years. Expect him to be an NHL regular for the better part of the next decade and a half. If that’s the case, 1,000 games won’t be a problem. 4. Brendan Morrison: Mo’s consecutive games played streak finally came to an end at 542 due to wrist surgery. But he’s shown he can play through pain and with 665 games at age 32, he only needs about four more seasons of Brendan Morrison hockey to reach 1,000. Here’s betting he does it. 3. Mattias Ohlund: Mattias’ numbers are quite similar to Morrison’s. He’s played in 669 games – all as a Canuck – but where he gets a slight advantage is in age; Ohlund’s one year younger. Mattias should creep past 700 games this season, which would mean he only has to average 75 games for the next four seasons to follow. It’s certainly doable. Bet The Farm 1. Daniel Sedin and Henrik Sedin: How could they not appear on a list together? It simply can’t be done. Daniel and Henrik share the top spot because they should both pass the 550-game mark by the end of this season, at age 27. Despite playing their cycle game in the dirty areas, the twins have shown a remarkable ability to avoid injury. Daniel’s missed 14 games in his seven year career, and just one over the last three and a half. Henrik’s been even harder to keep out of the lineup, having missed 10 games overall, while playing the 82 in four of his six full seasons. Since he’s played in four more games, Henrik’s ceremony should come a week before Daniel’s. That slacker. </td></tr></table>
  6. <table width=75% align=center><tr><td><img src="" style="float: left; padding-right: 4px;">Imagine. You’re at General Motors Place and it’s the final regular season home game for the 2007-08 Vancouver Canucks. The hated Calgary Flames are in town (just in case you’re wondering what that smell is). It can all mean only one thing: it’s team awards time! Willie Mitchell wins the Babe Pratt for best defenseman. Alex Edler takes home the Fred J. Hume as Vancouver’s unsung hero. And before you know it, there’s only one trophy left to present: the MVP, the Cyclone Taylor. A faint “LUUUUU” is heard somewhere in the upper bowl and soon resonates throughout the building. Roberto Luongo starts skating towards the middle of the ice. He knows what’s coming. Unfortunately for him, so does Daniel Sedin. <img src="" style="float: right; padding-right: 4px;" />As soon as Roberto’s back is turned, Daniel lunges off the bench with a steel chair, WWE-style. A girlish shriek from Dion Phaneuf alerts Roberto to the coming danger… but it’s far too late. Daniel drills Luongo with a chair-shot that can be heard from here to Ornskoldsvik. As Roberto crumples to the ice, Daniel grabs the Cyclone Taylor for himself and races out of the building, diving headfirst into a moving Benz driven by brother Henrik. Now let’s face it: this is the only way you can ever see Daniel touching the award for team MVP, right? Well, it shouldn’t be. Daniel Sedin is proving he’s just as valuable to this Canucks team as anyone else, despite being left off the all-star team… again. <img src="" style="float: left; padding-left: 4px;" />Heading into play Thursday night, Daniel has scored eight times in his last eight games. The rest of his team has tallied just 12 goals over that same stretch, with two of those markers actually coming via the shootout. Eliminate the shootout winners by Pyatt and Edler, and Daniel has accounted for 44 percent of his team’s goals since December 20. Ilya Kovalchuk doesn’t score at that rate. Alexander Ovechkin doesn’t score at that rate. Heck, even Pamela Anderson doesn’t score at that rate (sorry Fin). It’s not just that Daniel is scoring, though his five-game goal scoring streak is certainly impressive. It’s more that he’s scoring big goals. His tally Tuesday night against the New York Islanders and Rick Dipietro tied a game that could very easily have slipped away from a deflated Vancouver team after Luongo gave up a softie early in the third. Daniel’s marker the previous game, against the other New York team, provided Vancouver with some much-needed insurance as it gave the Canucks a 2-0 lead late in the third. <img src="" style="float: right; padding-right: 4px;" />Daniel produced the first goal of the game December 31 against Calgary. Ditto against Anaheim on December 30. And #22, who now has 20 goals on the season, good for 19th best in the NHL, had the game-winner December 20 against Dallas. Despite his heroics, Daniel’s only been in the three stars twice over this hot stretch. But that shouldn’t be too surprising. After all, this is Vancouver. We don’t celebrate offensive achievements here. That would make it far too difficult to continue churning out stories day after day about how offensively challenged this team is, despite the obvious fact they have a sniper performing at a superstar level. Perhaps swinging a steel chair is the only way Daniel will ever get some media attention. Perhaps it’s the only way he’ll get the recognition he deserves </td></tr></table>
  7. <table width=75% align=center><tr><td><img src="" style="float: left; padding-right: 4px;">The holiday season is once again upon us. While we Vancouverites do a tremendous job of supporting the food banks and the children’s charities and the homeless shelters this time of year, there is one group we’re letting down: professional hockey players. Now I know what you’re going to say. “Dude, what are you talking about? These guys make hundreds of thousands, if not millions of dollars, per year. How can we be letting them down?” Well, you see, the Canucks do a lot for this city, this province. They boost morale, give us something to watch on TV, and provide us with conversation starters for those awkward 40-minute cab rides. Do we ever give these players anything for their trouble? Nope. In fact, when they don’t sign our autographs or tap our hands we lash out at them. Well, I say, no more! Let’s repay the Canucks for the joy they provide us! Let’s get them all presents! Now you might be wondering, what kind of present should I get my favourite Canuck? Well wonder no more because here’s my first annual Vancouver Canucks Holiday Gift Guide. (Note: There probably won’t be a second guide. But doesn’t everything sound cooler when it’s annual?) Management Dave Nonis – We live in the Facebook age, when everyone has compromising photos of everyone else. So surely one of you must have a shot of Glen Sather stealing a hot dog from a New York City vendor, or Dale Tallon cutting in line to get his hands on a Nintendo Wii. Forward that photo on to Nonis and the Canucks GM can get the gift he’s truly after: a top six forward at a ridiculously low price. <img src="" style="float: right; padding-left: 4px;" />Alain Vigneault – Are you a coach who likes to juggle his lines? Are you tired of seeing the same old combinations out on the ice? If so, the Line Juggler 2000 is for you! The Line Juggler 2000 automatically downloads your team’s roster and spits out four lines that are sure to confuse even the dearest of fans. Roberto Luongo at centre with Willie Mitchell and Libor Polasek on his wings? Why not? Anything’s possible with the Line Juggler 2000! Made in China. Gifts You Won’t Find In Stores Trevor Linden – Let’s see. This might very well be Trevor’s final season in the National Hockey League. And in November 2008, the city of Vancouver will have its mayoral elections. So why not give Trevor a gift that keeps him in our lives for another few years? Vote Linden For Mayor: He Put Jeff Norton Through The Glass. Henrik Sedin – Remember Fulton Reed from the Mighty Ducks movies? The kid with the slapshot so powerful that it knocked a goalie backwards into his own net? Well, for all his phenomenal playmaking skills, Henrik’s slapshot still has all the strength of a sick puppy. So sign up the Vancouver centre for a shooting lesson with Fulton, then sit back and enjoy as netminders around the league voluntarily lunge from their creases. Daniel Sedin – Since Bob Cole seems intent on calling him Daniel Sundin, do the Canucks winger a favour and legally change his name for him. You know, just to avoid confusion. Byron Ritchie – Put a call in to Will Smith and see if you can borrow that memory-wiping device from Men in Black so we can forget Ritchie was a Flame for the last couple of seasons. It’s hard to embrace a player when you know he used to cheer for Dion Phaneuf to succeed. <img src="" style="float: left; padding-right: 4px;" />Mattias Ohlund – Ever since Ohlund tied Jyrki Lumme for most career goals scored by a Canucks defenseman, he’s been snakebitten. The Curse of the Jyrki has claimed another victim. Go into your bathroom and say Jyrki Lumme three times while looking into the mirror. That should break the spell. If Lumme suddenly appears in the process, ask him what it was like to see Robert Reichel cry. Alexander Edler – I have yet to hear anyone come up with a satisfactory nickname for Edler and since it looks like he’s going to be a staple on the Vancouver blueline for the next decade, this should be priority #1 for Canucks fans. Alex the Elder? The Elder Statesman? The Next Victim of the Curse of the Jyrki? We have to come up with something. Aaron Miller – Miller has scored just 24 goals in more than 650 NHL games. Three of those tallies have come against Anaheim, including the only two-goal game of Aaron’s career (December 16, 2001). All Miller wants for Christmas is a schedule that lets him face the Ducks 82 times per season. Fortunately, that sounds right up Gary Bettman’s alley. Get Your Debit Card Out Markus Naslund – We’ve all seen it. That clip of Markus on the jumbotron that airs during every home game and introduces the guests in Nazzy’s Suite 19. As much as it pains me to say this, Naslund is clearly reading off the cards and turns in an acting performance that would make Jessica Alba wince. Let’s chip in and get Markus some acting lessons… from Jessica Alba. You know, just so we can see her around town and stuff. <img src="" style="float: right; padding-left: 4px;" />Ryan Kesler – Kesler has shown a real knack for getting under the other team’s skin and has taken some cheap shots for it (see: Gaborik, Pronger). Borrow #17’s helmet and take it down to your local Best Buy. Have speakers mounted into it and set up a microphone system that allows you to warn Ryan when someone is gunning for him. Sami Salo – Since Sami has to wear the full cage, have some fun with him. Buy him an ice cream cone and insist he eat it while wearing the cage. Award him bonus points if he follows Jughead’s lead and melts the ice cream with a lighter, then drinks it through a funnel. Matt Cooke – If any Canuck plays a game that doesn’t correspond to his size, it’s the Cooker. Despite his small stature, the pesky Cooke is always at the center when a brouhaha ensues. Let Matt see how the other half lives: buy him a pair of skates with six-inch heels. Jeff Cowan – A female fan threw her bra onto the ice following a Cowan goal last season. Complete the ensemble: throw Jeff some panties. Better yet, throw him Miikka Kiprusoff’s. Lukas Krajicek – Lukas gets crunched into the boards more than any other Canuck d-man. Buy several dozen boxes of chocolates and send them out to various Northwest Division forecheckers on Krajicek’s behalf. After all, there’s no way one male hockey player sending another chocolates can possibly backfire. Willie Mitchell – Mitchell already carries one of the longest sticks in the NHL, allowing him to effortlessly take away the passing lanes. Buy him an even bigger one, a stick so long that it stretches the entire length of the rink. If anyone complains, suggest Roger Clemens injected the stick with HGH and run. The Walking Wounded Roberto Luongo – Vancouver’s star netminder is currently out of the lineup with bruised ribs. To get on his good side, surprise him with a chest protector made entirely out of bubble wrap. If that fails to impress, dive in front of Bobby Lou whenever you see a slapshot coming. Sure, the puck might hurt, but come on, it’s Luongo! <img src="" style="float: left; padding-right: 4px;" />Brendan Morrison – Mo’s out indefinitely following wrist surgery. Since he likely won’t be able to fish, offer to go with him and work his rod. But try to phrase it a little better than that. Kevin Bieksa – Bieksa’s also out indefinitely and has a deep gash in his right calf. Do the right thing: offer him your right leg. If you’re attached to it, insist Kevin take the left and make due. Either way, let’s get him back on the ice ASAP. Don’t Sweat It, Santa Already Gave Them Their Presents Taylor Pyatt – Does any Canuck have more puck bunnies than Pyatt? Has any formal study ever been done on this? Regardless, with a legion of female fans cheering his every dump-in, Pyatt doesn’t need anything for Christmas. In fact, feel free to steal his stocking to even things up a little. Alex Burrows – Alex got his gift when he scored a goal this season that wasn’t waved off by the officials. In fact, Santa also gave him a second gift when he blessed the Vancouver winger with wicked breakaway moves. Curtis Sanford – While the Sandman undoubtedly didn’t want Luongo to get injured, he has to be pleased that with Saturday’s game against Edmonton he’s already started as many contests this season as Dany Sabourin did all of last season. Goaltenders just want to play and Sanford’s getting the chance to do that for the ferocious, predatory, black-finned Orcas. Whoa, that’s a lot of description. When did I turn into Nancy Henderson? Brad Isbister, Mike Weaver – Both men have had trouble finding a regular NHL gig. Isbister’s played for four teams in the past four seasons and six overall. Weaver’s with his third club and has never played more than 53 games in a single season. Both have gotten an opportunity to see some ice in Vancouver. If you feel like that’s not present enough and want to get something on top, go with… I don’t know… a Saved by the Bell DVD box set? The Farm Boys Luc Bourdon, Mike Brown, Jannik Hansen, Jason Jaffray, Drew MacIntyre, Mason Raymond, and Rick Rypien,: Each man has been called up by Vancouver at some point this season. And when you really think about it, isn’t getting a plane ticket out of Winnipeg the greatest gift of all? </td></tr></table>
  8. <table width=85%><tr><td><img src="" align="left" hspace="4">I’ll just go ahead and say it: I don’t understand all the fuss about Sidney Crosby coming to Vancouver. I don’t understand why some tickets for Saturday’s game are going for $600+ on Craigslist. I don’t understand why we’ve had to endure wall-to-wall Sidney coverage ever since the Penguins touched down in Alberta. And I don’t understand why the Sportsnet Ontario crew is following Crosby around Western Canada, thereby violating our restraining order against Nick Kypreos. <a href="" target="_blank"><img src="" align="right" border="0" hspace="4" vspace="1"></a>Please don’t take this as an indication that I don’t know how talented Sidney is. I do. Please don’t take this an indication that I’m not familiar with Crosby’s stats. I am. And please, please, please don’t tell me that he’s only 20 years old because, by that logic, Dakota Fanning should wow me. Like the designated driver at a New Year’s Eve party, I’m just not as interested in this as everyone else is. The last time I can remember Vancouver being this giddy about an athlete coming to town? Michael Jordan’s first visit. (You could make the case that David Beckham’s appearance last month had a similar feel, but let’s not delude ourselves into thinking that had anything to do with sports.) The reaction to Jordan made sense. He was a three-time MVP, a three-time NBA champion, and not only the best basketball player in the world but also the most recognizable athlete on any of the seven continents. <a href="" target="_blank"><img src="" align="left" border="0" hspace="4" vspace="1"></a>Granted, Crosby did win the NHL’s MVP award last season but he’s not even the unanimous choice as the league’s best skater. Vincent Lecavalier, Alexander Ovechkin, Joe Thornton and Rory Fitzpatrick are right up there with Sid. But with the buzz Crosby’s established, you’d think he’d cured polio. (I’m being told we’ve already cured polio but you get my drift.) It’s a little too much, too soon for Sidney. He’s not quite at the level where the entire city needs to shut down because he’s here. Do I think he has the potential to get there? Absolutely. But until he does, count at least one person out of Sidneyfest 2007. Some other observations/notes: - When he was at the top of his game, Todd Bertuzzi had a subtle push-off he would use in front of the net to gain some space. But as more and more opposing defensemen complained, Bertuzzi, more and more, headed to the penalty box. I was reminded of this as I watched Markus Naslund take an interference penalty early in the first period against Nashville. Naslund tried to set a pick to free up his linemates and was busted for it. This came just one night after Henrik Sedin was penalized for a similar play. It makes me wonder if the refs have noticed this little wrinkle the Sedins and Naslund utilize so well. Who told? - One facet of Alexander Edler’s game that has gone largely unnoticed? His discipline. Because the young Swedish defenseman is so positionally sound, he’s only taken three penalties, all minors, so far this season. I don’t even play for the Canucks and I’ve taken four! - A lot has been made, and rightfully so, of Mattias Ohlund’s strong play since early November. But for all the credit Ohlund’s getting for his willingness to jump into the rush, doesn’t Lukas Krajicek deserve even more? Krajicek looks like a young Brian Leetch out there. He’s constantly jumping into the play, whether it be to lead the break or set up the back door. Very exciting to watch. - It’s December 6th and Curtis Sanford already has more wins as Roberto Luongo’s backup than Dany Sabourin registered all of last season. - Shaw Cable continues to prove it’s a hockey fan’s worst nightmare. It’s bad enough that the company didn’t provide NHL Centre Ice until it was shamed into doing so this season. It’s bad enough that Shaw first said it wouldn’t carry Canucks games aired on Sportsnet HD, then recanted when it got some bad press and threw them on a pay-per-view channel. And it’s bad enough that they divert less resources to their telecasts than other providers, meaning the same Canucks feed looks much better on Bell than it does on Shaw. But blacking out a game that’s almost through one period? How does that even happen? What broke? - Watching Fin a couple of weeks ago, I couldn’t help but feel that maybe he’s been doing the same shtick for a little too long (eg. biting people’s heads). He needs a new angle. And if television has taught me anything, it’s that a child is the answer! My preferred name for Fin’s kid? Quatchi. Crap, that’s taken. Umm… blow-hole? Ok, clearly I’m not good at this. Feel free to submit your own suggestions. </td></tr></table>
  9. <table width=100%><tr><td><img src="" align="left" hspace="4">Some quick thoughts after the game of the season (so far): 1) Upon leaving GM Place, I raced home to re-watch the game on television, eager to see what the TSN panel said about the Pronger cross-check. I was quite disappointed, to say the least, with what I saw. For all the rants we’ve been forced to endure from the TSN talking-heads about how players don’t respect each other anymore, no one had a problem with Pronger cross-checking Kesler in the back two seconds after the puck was already in the net. Leading the charge was Pierre Maguire, who shrugged off the incident by saying, “Kesler will be fine, he’ll just have a little mark on his ribs,” while Ryan was still being looked over by a trainer. Once the crowd, understandably, started booing Pronger at every turn, Maguire credited the Anaheim defenseman for being a warrior and for elevating his game when in a hostile environment. In retrospect, Maguire would have just been better served if he said something to the extent of, “Look, Chris Pronger’s one of my favourite players. I routinely choose him as my monster of the game. I’m not going to bad-mouth him because I dream of a day when Chris, Dion Phaneuf and I can tie the knot.”<a href="" target="_blank"><img src="" align="right" border="0" hspace="4" vspace="1"></a> Unfortunately, that didn’t happen. If one TSN employee deserves any credit for trying to point out it was a dirty play, it’s Darren Dreger, who was making that claim until he was shouted down by Bob McKenzie and Mike Milbury. McKenzie, by the way, had the gall to suggest Kesler was faking his injury. “Kesler, I don’t know if he’s trying to sell it or whether he’s really hurt, got caught in a bad spot.” In Bob’s defense, he wouldn’t really pay much attention to a cross-check anyway unless Richard Peddie delivered it to Larry Tanenbaum. 2) And while I’m letting TSN have it, how could the network not cut to the Canucks-Ducks game for BC viewers instead of forcing them to sit through the final moments of the Leafs and Habs? If this had just been a regular game for the Canucks, then fine, let the game at the ACC finish up. But with Todd Bertuzzi returning to Vancouver for the first time since being traded 18 months ago, I’ve got to think more BC viewers would be interested in that than watching a zamboni circle the ice in Toronto. Just a thought. 3) In regards to Bertuzzi, I have to say, I was pretty nervous for him heading into Tuesday night’s game. I was convinced Vancouver fans would boo Bert mercilessly, forgetting all the good #44 did for this franchise. But Bertuzzi got a nice hand when his name was announced in the starting lineup and an even louder one when he first hit the ice. Coming from an often-sarcastic, borderline-rude Vancouver crowd, it really was nice to see. 4) Has anyone else realized that when the Canucks host Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins on Saturday, December 8th, it will end a stretch in which Vancouver played on only one of seven Saturday nights? How many games did the other Canadian teams get on CBC’s Hockey Night in Canada over that stretch? Toronto: 7. Ottawa: 6. Edmonton: 5. Montreal: 4. Calgary: 4. <a href="" target="_blank"><img src="" align="left" border="0" hspace="4" vspace="1"></a>5) Lastly, even though it’s not directly related to the Canucks, I have to get my two cents in on the Olympic mascots. Ever since Quatchi, Miga, and Sumi were introduced to the world yesterday, there’s been a lot of complaining. A lot. It seems that many adults have forgotten that mascots generally aren’t designed for their benefit. They’re for the kids and the kids, for their part, seem to love the little critters. Still, everywhere I go I hear people complaining about how the characters look too cartoonish, how the characters aren’t created to scale, even how the name “Sumi” sounds suspiciously like “sue me.” Thus, I propose a new Olympic mascot be created and named, “The Vancouver Complainer.” The Complainer will be charged with going around the city between now and 2010 to complain about all of Vancouver’s shortcomings, no matter how minor. Raining too much? Complain. Construction too loud? Complain. Too many attractive women on the street? Complain. Such a character would truly catch the essence of the city of Vancouver. In fact, now that I think about it, such a character would probably catch the essence of this very blog. </td></tr></table>
  10. <table width=100%><tr><td><img src="" align="left" hspace="4">If there’s one lesson to be learned by Canucks fans after Leafs Nation suffered a collective coronary earlier this week, it’s this: making panic trades with your good, young goaltending prospects will only come back to haunt you. Tuukka Rask, a former first-round pick of God’s Team, was shipped off to Boston in June 2006 for Andrew Raycroft. The deal made little sense at the time. Rask was coming off a mesmerizing performance at the World Juniors in which he was named the tournament’s top goaltender. Raycroft was coming off an abysmal season with the Bruins in which he allowed more men to score than Tara Reid. But Leafs GM John Ferguson, eager to formally stamp out the Ed Belfour era in Toronto, got caught up in the wheeling and dealing that’s become synonymous with NHL Draft weekend. On the same day Alex Tanguay went to Calgary, Pavol Demitra was traded to Minnesota, and just 48 hours after Roberto Luongo became a Vancouver Canuck, Ferguson bit the bullet and traded away his top goaltending prospect for some magic beans. <a href="" target="_blank"><img src="" align="right" border="0" hspace="4" vspace="1"></a> The rest, as they say, whoever they are, is history. Raycroft struggled so severely in his first year in Toronto, turning in the league’s 32nd best goals-against-average and 36th best save-percentage, that the team was forced to give up first, second, and fourth-round picks just to bring in former Shark Vesa Toskala as a replacement. Rask started the year in Providence but flew out of the gate, compiling a 7-2-0 record and 2.10 GAA, forcing Boston to call him up. And who, coincidentally, at least if you believe Bruins head coach Claude Julien, did Rask’s first career start come against? You guessed it: those very same Leafs. Rask was the first star as Boston knocked off Toronto 4-2 at the ACC Tuesday night. Reading the message board rants and listening to the doomsday phone calls, it became clear that Leafs Nation wasn’t just upset about blowing another third period lead on home ice. No, Toronto fans were angry because this goaltender who was supposed to lead them to the Holy Grail for years to come was now nothing more than the one who got away. Every single time Rask squares off against the Maple Leafs, Toronto fans will have a sick feeling in the pit of their stomachs. Every single time Rask kicks out the pad or makes a glove stop, Leafs fans will think, “He should have been doing that for us.” Tuukka Rask is to the Leafs what Scott Kazmir is to the Mets, what Kevin Garnett is to the Timberwolves, what Jay Buhner is to Frank Costanza. And he’s what Cory Schneider could end up being to the Canucks if Vancouver fans ever get their way and ship the goaltending prodigy out of town. No other Vancouver property in recent memory has been mentioned as frequently in trade talk in the forums than Schneider. If I had a nickel for every time someone tried to package Schneider, Jan Bulis, and a second-round pick last season, I’d own the Canucks. <a href="" target="_blank"><img src="" align="left" border="0" hspace="4" vspace="1"></a>“Let’s trade Schneider, Bulis, and a second rounder for Peter Forsberg.” “Let’s trade Schneider, Bulis, and a second rounder for Ryan Smyth.” “Let’s trade Schneider, Bulis, and a second rounder for peace in the Middle East.” It’s worth noting that the third deal almost went through, but when the Middle East asked for Nathan McIver, Dave Nonis walked. The mantra from Canucks management has seemingly been that prospects can be traded if the move helps Vancouver for several years to come. If trading Schneider landed the team a young sniper in the mold of Nathan Horton or Jeff Carter, for instance, management would at least consider it. But if Schneider has to be dealt so the Canucks can rent a player like Forsberg for 17 games, as Nashville did last season, Vancouver rightly isn’t interested in the short-term move. As Canucks fans, we should be very grateful of that fact. Watching Forsberg skip out of town after a quarter of a season and inevitably waiting for Schneider to light it up in a Flyers uniform would have been gut-wrenching, regardless of how crowded Vancouver’s goaltending situation may currently appear. If you don’t believe me, just ask a Leafs fan. You’ll probably find a few at your local emergency room. </td></tr></table>
  11. <table width=100%><tr><td><img src="" align="left" hspace="4">Run for your lives! Randy Myers is coming into the game! That was the reaction of many Toronto Blue Jays fans during the 1998 MLB season. The Jays had acquired Myers by signing the free agent reliever to a three-year, $18 million contract the previous winter. It was during a weird phase for Toronto, in which the Jays organization deluded itself into thinking it was a World Series contender when it was anything but. Oddly enough, that phase continues today. Myers was deemed to be the final piece of the puzzle, a shutdown closer coming off a 45-save season with Baltimore in which he was an all-star and finished fourth in voting for both the American League MVP and Cy Young awards. What could possibly go wrong for Toronto by signing the 35-year old pitcher to a long-term deal for an average salary of six million dollars? In one word: a whole heck of a lot.<a href="" target="_blank"><img src="" align="right" border="0" hspace="4" vspace="1"></a> Myers’ overall numbers as a Jay can be a bit misleading. He compiled 28 saves in 33 opportunities in a Toronto uniform. That percentage puts him roughly on par with the work done by closers such as Mariano Rivera and Bobby Jenks this season. But it was the way Myers collected those saves that had him traded to San Diego just over four months into the campaign. Nothing was easy. Myers would routinely enter a game with his team up by three runs and quickly give up two. He’d then load the bases before recording a strikeout or double play to get out of the jam. This happened all the time. Jays fans were terrified by the sight of Myers jogging out of the bullpen as they knew their hearts would be pounding uncontrollably in just a matter of seconds. A once-comfortable lead was destined to nearly fade away under the closer’s watch. But Myers somehow managed to get the job done the majority of the time, albeit just barely. So what does any of this have to do with the Vancouver Canucks? Well, it turns out this Canucks team has a little Randy Myers in it. Vancouver uses every tiny bit of breathing room at its disposal to narrowly escape with two points, often leaving its own terrified fans curled up in the fetal position. Take Friday night’s home win against Colorado, for instance. Vancouver took a 1-0 lead into the third period but couldn’t hold it. The Canucks were bombarded by the Avalanche for much of the frame, including a late Colorado powerplay. Vancouver managed to escape with the overtime win after a lucky bounce off a Colorado defenseman. <a href="" target="_blank"><img src="" align="left" border="0" hspace="4" vspace="1"></a> The 3-2 victory over Calgary the night before followed a similar theme. Vancouver took a 3-0 lead into the third period. But rather than make things easy for themselves and their fans, the Canucks gave up two goals in 33 seconds to let the Flames back in it. A tense final minute concluded with the Flames buzzing around the Vancouver net, just barely missing out on tying the game. Randy Myers couldn’t have scripted it better himself. On November 3, the Canucks held 3-1 and 4-2 third period leads against Colorado at the Pepsi Center. But Vancouver found a way to make it interesting both times, with Brad Isbister taking a holding penalty that allowed Marek Svatos to make it 3-2, and the entire team falling asleep on a Svatos breakaway that made it 4-3 in the final minute. Again, Vancouver held on for the win by the narrowest of margins. On October 26, the Canucks had a 3-1 lead against Washington with three minutes to go. Then Taylor Pyatt took a high-sticking penalty that allowed Alexander Ovechkin to make it a 3-2 game. Sami Salo took a slashing penalty just 19 seconds after the goal, giving the Capitals a golden opportunity to tie things up, though they eventually ran out of time. Finally, on October 6th, the Canucks held a 3-1 lead against the Flames going into the third. But Vancouver gave up two goals to Daymond Langkow in just over six minutes, sending the game to overtime where Daniel Sedin poked one past Miikka Kiprusoff with five seconds remaining in the extra frame.<a href="" target="_blank"><img src="" align="right" border="0" hspace="4" vspace="1"></a> The Canucks have narrowly escaped with two points after holding third period leads. On four of those occasions, they’ve been up by more than one goal but been unable to keep their opponents from rippling the mesh and drawing near or even. This might very well be a source of concern for Canucks fans, but if Randy Myers taught us anything it’s that it is possible to win games in which you nearly give up your full lead but hold on by the skin of your teeth. It’s nerve-wracking, but it somehow works. In which case Canucks fans might want to consider setting up appointments with their cardiologists as soon as possible, because with the way this Vancouver team looks intent on making things interesting in the third period, we’re due for one heart-thumper of a season. </td></tr></table>
  12. <table><td><img src="" align="left" hspace="4">It’s only fitting that the next game for the slumping Vancouver Canucks comes against the much-hated Calgary Flames. After all, these Canucks are the Calgary Flames. Now quit vomiting for a second and hear me out. This Vancouver team is built around tremendous goaltending, strong defense, and has a great deal of difficulty putting the puck in the net. Sound familiar? It should. The 07-08 Vancouver Canucks mirror the Calgary Flames of years past. Those Flames teams also shared one other trait with these Canucks: they were notoriously slow starters. In Miikka Kiprusoff’s first year with Calgary, the Flames were just one game over .500 through the first two months of the season before a red-hot December righted the ship. The next season, Calgary was 4-7-2 through October and fans were panicking that the decision to trade the tractors for season tickets was a mistake. But the Flames found their game in November, winning 10 of 13 contests. <a href="" target="_blank"><img src="" align="right" border="0" hspace="4" vspace="1"></a> Even the 06-07 Flames struggled out of the gate, opening with a 3-6-1 record. It’s worth noting, however, that that Flames team had a different makeup and more offensive mindset than seasons past, with Alex Tanguay, Kristian Huselius, and Daymond Langkow each now capable of providing legitimate scoring depth. Regardless, the point is that these similarly built Calgary teams struggled out of the gate just as much as Vancouver has this season. Yet for each of the years mentioned, the Flames made the playoffs. In one, they claimed a division title. In another, they went all the way to the Stanley Cup Finals. What then to make of all the doomsday warnings circulating around Vancouver less than a quarter of the way into the season? Absolutely nothing. While every team wants to get off to a good start, it’s not necessarily required to play great hockey in October to guarantee a playoff berth. Teams that are accustomed to playing tight-checking, one-goal games have the uncanny ability to string together long winning streaks that make up ground on other clubs. Take Calgary, for instance. In each of the last three seasons, the Flames were able to work around a tough start by putting together months in which they regularly won 8, 9, or even 10 games.<a href="" target="_blank"><img src="" align="left" border="0" hspace="4" vspace="1"></a> Can’t Vancouver do the same thing? Well actually, they already did. Last season, the Canucks were under .500 as late as Christmas. But then Santa, or Mr. Hanky, depending on your belief system, brought Canucks fans an extra special present: a team that learned how to play together and won 8, 8, and 11 games in the following three months, respectively. That team didn’t essentially turn it around until January. Yet here we are in early November and the panic across the city seems much more severe. So while it’s tempting to put on a Chicken Little mask and run around claiming the sky is falling, it’s not necessary. And while you might be convinced that drafting Anze Kopitar would have the Canucks 14-0-0 right now, it ultimately doesn’t matter a great deal. There’s still a lot of hockey left to be played. There’s still a lot of time for Vancouver to find its game. We’ve seen it before. </td></table>
  13. <table><td><img src="" align="left" hspace="4">I guess it turns out FOX was just ahead of its time. In 1996, the network, which then carried NHL action in the US, introduced a glowing puck for its television broadcasts. Called “FoxTrax” by company executives and “What the hell is that?” by everyone else, the puck emitted a blue on-screen glow when it was controlled and a red streak when it was shot faster than 70 miles per hour. The idea came about because the central complaint of American viewers, even more common than “There aren’t enough flaming car crashes in this sport,” was that the puck was too hard too follow. If it glowed, the argument went, more viewers would not only tune in, but more importantly, would stay tuned in. Of course, FoxTrax was a terrific failure (think: Sega Dreamcast, the XFL, and Nick Carter’s solo career). While FOX received positive feedback from some new viewers, hockey purists denounced the dumbing down of the coolest game on earth. FoxTrax died in 1998. <a href="" target="_blank"><img src="" align="right" border="0" hspace="4" vspace="1"></a> I myself didn’t really care for the feature. Which is why I find it extremely ironic that I’m now wishing someone would bring FoxTrax back. You see, I, like many others out there, have been spoiled by high definition television. I simply can’t watch a TV program that isn’t in HD. I spend more time thinking about how bad the program looks than paying attention to what’s going on. Take Friday night’s non-HD game in which the Canucks battled the Washington Capitals, for example. I simply could not find the puck because it seemed like someone had smeared Vaseline onto my television screen. I felt like Roberto Luongo out there, ducking my head left and then right, trying to peek around the screen to see where the puck was. Non-HD TV was my Chris Clark. The Canucks won the game 3-2, though I only know that because of Jim Hughson’s commentary. My own two eyes failed me. I think the Capitals put on a late charge and almost tied the game in the final minute, led by Alexander Ovechkin. But without HD, it’s hard to read the name on the back of the jersey. It might very well have been Dmitri Khristich wreaking havoc out there. <a href="" target="_blank"><img src="" align="left" border="0" hspace="4" vspace="1"></a> I envy those who’ve never seen a game in HD. I wish I could go back to the days when my simple little analog television was all I needed to enjoy 60 minutes of hard-hitting action. But high definition has ruined me. It’s left me completely unable to follow the action in a non-HD game. I need FoxTrax just so I can again figure out what’s happening on the ice. Bring back FoxTrax. Please. </td></table>
  14. <table><td><img src="" align="left" hspace="4">I really dislike Jerry Maguire. It’s 40 minutes too long. It disguises itself as a sports movie when it’s actually a love story. And it’s forever cursed Western society with, “You had me at ‘hello.’” So imagine my dismay now that I find myself taking a page straight out of Jerry’s handbook. In the film’s opening minutes, Maguire has a vision. Tired of the cut-throat and shallow world of sports representation, in which he’s a top gun, Jerry drafts a 20-page mission statement aimed at cleaning up the system’s inequalities. Like Maguire, I, sitting at my computer late one night, had a utopian vision for all Canucks fans. <a href="" target="_blank"><img src="" align="right" border="0" hspace="4" vspace="1"></a> In case you missed the news, the band Radiohead recently made their new album, “In Rainbows,” available for download through the group’s official website. The cost? Zero dollars. And zero cents. If fans want to donate when they download the album, they’re more than welcome to. If they’d prefer to hold on to their money, that’s fine too. And that’s when it hit me, when I learned what I should aspire to do in my new role as a Canucks blogger: I should get the organization to implement a similar pay-if-you-want-to philosophy for all regular season and playoff games. Think about it. It’s a win-win situation for everyone! The Canucks organization would generate an unprecedented amount of good PR by invoking such a policy. The streak of consecutive home sell-outs would continue into the next millennium. And unsightly scalpers would no longer congregate around GM Place since they would be rendered moot. The Canucks players would be under far less stress out on the ice, since fans who’ve paid zero dollars for their tickets are far less likely to boo the team than those who’ve paid an arm and a leg. <a href="" target="_blank"><img src="" align="left" border="0" hspace="4" vspace="1"></a> And those same fans would be able to attend as many games as they wished, provided they were willing to wait out the inevitably long lineups. I ask you, who loses in that setup? Sure, maybe the organization won’t make as much money as it does now, since ticket revenue will undoubtedly fall to $4.21 a game. Total. But it’s just money, right? This utopia I’ve envisioned as your Canucks blogger is worth far more than mere colored paper. I just wish I could remember what happens to Jerry Maguire at his workplace once he hands his mission statement in… </td></table>
  15. <table><td><img src="" align="left" hspace="4">Microsoft had just released the original Xbox. Nintendo had followed a few days later and launched its Gamecube. And after a 28-game stint as a Washington Capital, Trevor Linden had barely rejoined the Vancouver Canucks. Yes, a lot has changed since the Philadelphia Flyers last visited General Motors Place on December 31st, 2001. Thankfully, even more is about to. After long affirming that the NHL’s unbalanced schedule is necessary to build divisional rivalries, commissioner Gary Bettman shifted course last month when he conceded that a change needed to be made and that more out-of-conference games needed to be played. Bettman’s epiphany came as a surprise to many. He had long been the unbalanced schedule’s staunchest supporter. What could possibly make him change his mind? What force could be so strong? I’ve figured out the answer. Gary Bettman watches “24.”<a href="" target="_blank"><img src="" align="right" border="0" hspace="4" vspace="1"></a> You see, in season four of the hit television show about Jack Bauer’s efforts to save the world, beleaguered President Logan makes a shrewd move. When the lead terrorist is killed and potential conflict with the Chinese is diverted, Logan, who’s been on the wrong side of the day’s key issues, develops selective amnesia. He ignores the mistakes he’s made and dares everyone around him to point out that he wasn’t onboard all along. No one does. Bettman, who’s been under fire for months for his unwillingness to change the schedule format, is now following Logan’s lead. He’s no longer trotting out statistics about how 60 percent of NHL fans are in favour of the unbalanced schedule. Instead, he’s focusing on the good that will come from a city like Vancouver seeing the Flyers more than once every six years. <a href="" target="_blank"><img src="" align="left" border="0" hspace="4" vspace="1"></a> Don’t think that’s been his point of view all along? Prove it! And so, when Philadelphia returns to Vancouver again next season, or the season after, don’t just thank the security guy at GM Place for letting you into the building. Don’t just thank your mom for buying you the ticket. Thank 24. Thank President Logan. They made it all possible. </td></table>