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Found 20 results

  1. http://www.chillerinstinct.com With the Canucks entering Game 7 of the Western Conference quarterfinal against the vilified and rival Chicago Blackhawks, one must put the goal-keeping controversy aside and think solely upon the team's play as just that - the team. In the past, that is what foiled the attempts put forth by Vancouver versus Chicago in the playoffs. The Blackhawks as a team were superior to the Canucks. Without getting into specifics and hashing all kinds of statistics and such, the intangibles will be the deciding factor. Period The depth of the team will become the focus of British Columbia in the months to come, win or lose. Win - the Nashville Predators come calling. Lose - well, management's effectiveness and the players on the depth chart will be scrutinized against their pay cheques, consistency, heart, etc. The team simply must perform better and seize the moment; mistakes have simply not been the realm of only Roberto Luongo and Cory Schneider. On my website, Chiller Instinct, I have linked the 2011 Stanley Cup Playoff Preview show with the talents/hosts of Goal Mouth Radio and The Blueline: Hockey Talk Radio in which I predicted Vancouver to win in Game 7. Round Two is also a possibility and new content is on each site weekly if you happen upon them. We went over each and every series and struck a lot of gold in contrast to the play we've witnessed since mid-April. I stood by the assumption that Toews and Co. would not go away lightly. That said I believe that Vancouver will prevail 4-2 in tonight's deciding game. Enjoy hockey enthusiasts; this is one for the ages... 26 April 2011 / Robin Keith Thompson http://www.chillerinstinct.com
  2. It's playoff hockey time, my favourite time of the year. It's the time of year when lying on the couch watching playoff hockey at 4 PM and opening up the window for a nice breeze constitutes as "enjoying the nice weather." Whatever, with the MLB regular season and both NBA and NHL playoffs starting this might as well be my winter hibernation. And lo and behold, the greatest time of the year has also given us the best possible matchup in the first round - and it's certainly not because I think they're the shakiest team going in (that's Los Angeles from the West and Philadelphia from the East for me). I want the Blackhawks because I want to kick their butts. There is no question that the Canucks are the best (regular season) team this year and with Salo, Edler, Bieksa, Hamhuis, Ballard, and Ehrhoff all healthy, our confidence should be at an all-time high. When the Canucks do beat them (in 5 games, no less), it'll be a little less satisfying because their big "Boogey Man" from last year is hitting the courses early with the rest of the Atlanta Thrashers. It just wouldn't be as sweet a victory without Dustin Byfuglien looking dejected on the Blackhawks bench, but a series win is a series win, and the Canucks will have the final trump card. <img src="http://www.vancouversun.com/sports/2995856.bin?size=620x400"class="imageFloatLeftFramed"> Other than the Boston-Montreal series (way too many storylines, the best being Price vs. Thomas), no other series has the potential to be more historically significant in a rivalry than this one. (I guess you could count Philadelphia-Buffalo, who will meet for the 9th time in history, but some of those series have been duds). Consider the consequences: if the Blackhawks manage to upset, they WILL have Vancouver's number. A 2 vs. 3-seed series could go either way, but if an 8 seed upsets the league's best team, they walk into the second round with sky-high confidence (which is also a reason why when lower seeds upset in the first round they tend to win in the second too). If the Canucks win, they are now the league's best team without any supposed weaknesses. Only Detroit will be viewed as a potential weakness but only because of their pedigree and reputation and goaltending's an issue. San Jose might be a really tough opponent too if they could bring the same intensity to brought in their final regular season tune-up but their depth doesn't hold a candle to the Canucks'. Either way, it's going to be an interesting series, blowout or not. Here's 5 things to watch for: 1. Roberto Luongo enters this series as the X factor (again and again) and this time's there's really no excuses – the Canucks have given him the rest during the season he obviously needed to stay fresh. He's said so himself, he's playing the best hockey of his career. Alright, Roberto, show us what you've really got. You may have a gold medal around your neck but we want the parade. And for the record, I don't think Luongo's leash is very long (if things go really south there's no way you don't play Schneider even though he is a rookie). 2. Who steps up their game for the Hawks? The depth isn't there and other than the usual suspects (Toews, Kane, Hossa, Sharp) their best offensively gifted player is Michal Frolik who has 3 goals in 28 games. Tomas Kopecky will stir up some trouble but he should be easier to handle since he's about 50 lbs. lighter than Byfuglien. It's nothing a Kevin Bieksa-stare can't handle. 3. The only guy I've seen who's always been able to really get the Sedins off their game is Dave Bolland. Unfortunately, along with Troy Brouwer, both are unlikely to dress for the series opener. Bolland has a concussion and with those things it's always dicey. Like I said, if the Canucks win it won't be quite the same, but they're still the Blackhawks, no? 4. Maturity is often the issue with Ryan Kesler and Alex Burrows and by distancing themselves from any extracurriculars Kesler cracked the 40-goal barrier. There were times though, where you could see the old Kesler start to creep back, especially when his wingers weren't making the plays or when things weren't going right for himself. It's going to be a pressure packed series and there will be all the more need for Kesler and Burrows to stay on an even keel. (As an aside, my two picks for the Hart are between Daniel and Corey Perry, but I also think that Kesler's the team MVP. How does that work? How does the second-best player on his team be considered for the Hart? Honestly, I don't even know. I can't really explain it until you watch a Canucks game. Also, shouldn't the Canucks should given an award to Mr. Kesler for his little sit-down with Ryan? Without him, no 41-goal Kesler.) 5. That's compared to the Hawks, who sounded more relieved to be just in the playoffs. They didn't bring their A game against Detroit (with shaky goaltending) and they had to count on Marc Crawford and the Stars to choke (who didn't see that coming?) to make it into the top 8. Some of the players couldn't even watch the game. When that happens the players are more relieved than psyched to play in the playoffs. If the Blackhawks can go from "happy to be there" to "brand new season" mode before game one they will be much more competitive. The Hawks entered last summer as a team with a lot of swagger and confidence. That's definitely not the story anymore. Can and will the Canucks take care of that? For more hockey stuff visit my new (still kind of under construction) site Armchair Hockey. Click for my Eastern Conference Preview, Hart, Jack Adams, Selke, Norris, and Masterton picks. Western Conference Preview and Vezina, Calder picks coming soon.
  3. The trade deadline is tomorrow and in all likelihood the Canucks will not be making any changes. It's understandable, given the status quo with the Canucks atop the league with a healthy 15-point lead over second-place Minnesota in the division. This team boasts some really high-end skill, but given the recent performances of Mason Raymond, the on-and-off play of Mikael Samuelsson, and the general ineffectiveness of the bottom six save Tanner Glass and Manny Malhotra on most nights, you have to wonder if this team is deep enough offensively to win the Cup. I'm not trying to be negative nor am I pushing the panic button, but it certainly a legitimate question to ask. When I envisioned the Canucks winning the Cup, I had imagined that Cody Hodgson, Jordan Schroeder, or some young player on a rookie contract would play a significant role on the team. Given how there is now more emphasis on building through the draft with the CBA, no team can win the Cup without significant contributions from cheap players. When the Blackhawks won, Patrick Kane (3.725), Jonathan Toews (2.8), Andrew Ladd (1.55), Brent Seabrook (3.5), Dustin Byfuglien (3) and Duncan Keith (1.475) all had cap hits under $4 million. The same goes the 2009 Penguins with Evgeni Malkin (3.834) and Jordan Staal (2.2). Even the runner-ups share the same trend: the 2009 Red Wings had Henrik Zetterberg at a $2.65 million cap hit and Johan Franzen was earning a shade over $1 million while the 2010 Flyers featured a breakout from Claude Giroux. The point is, you need cheap players to significantly outperform the value of the contracts. The players I've listed can easily double or triple their original value on the open market. It's not enough for a $3 million player to produce $4 million-type numbers. You need a Zetterberg or a Toews, who both were under $3 million, to give you $6 million-type, MVP-type production to win. Since it's very unlikely that a veteran can outplay the value of his contract due to their relatively older age and lack of upside, the only way to get such "value contracts" is to deploy cheap yet effective young players. Looking up and down the Canucks roster and salary structure, nobody on our current roster fits the bill except Alex Burrows, who is currently struggling. Everyone is at or close to market value and nobody's going to significantly outperform the value of their contracts. Particularly concerning are the forwards, where it often feels as though the Canucks don't have any weapons other than the Sedins and Ryan Kesler. Nobody else scores on a real consistent basis and the Canucks are so close to the cap that adding a significant forward without losing a roster player is out of the realm of possibility. Mike Gillis has already gone on record to say that he doesn't want to move anyone. That's also another way of saying that should anything go wrong, the Canucks will have to look for the answer internally. <img src="http://cache4.asset-cache.net/xc/90321829.jpg?v=1&c=IWSAsset&k=2&d=77BFBA49EF878921CC759DF4EBAC47D06676A481A1E3B5C1F1C3E993EFDEA9D9664B3929E18EEB79E30A760B0D811297"class="imageFloatRightFramed">In steps Cody Hodgson. The highly touted prospect's cap hit is just $1.67 million and I think he does have the ability to make some significant contributions. It may not be this year, but he is signed until 2013. However, it's ridiculous to even think that he can make any sort of contribution, or even begin to, if he's stapled to the bench and playing five minutes a night. How is Hodgson, or any player, going to improve playing five minutes a night? That fourth-line centre spot has been a joke all season (anyone miss Ryan Johnson yet? I do), featuring a handful of call-ups in Alex Bolduc, Mario Bliznak, and Joel Perrault and players playing out of position with Jeff Tambellini, Raffi Torres, Glass, and even Raymond. I'd rather have Hodgson playing significant minutes in Manitoba and bring up a player who is a short-term solution. If not, Gillis better go out and grab someone... like Zenon Konopka. But, of course, Gillis will have to go through Vigneault first, because there's no use acquiring a player Vigneault ultimately is reluctant to use (Ballard). Vigneault is notoriously stubborn, and more often than not he's right, but how long is he going to stick to his guns? The thing with Vigneault is, if he doesn't like you, he's not going to put you in a position to succeed, which makes the odds for the underdog even worse. Even though Max Pacioretty didn't approach the situation the right way in Montreal, he was certainly right when he spoke out against Jacques Martin using him in the bottom six. A talented offensive player, Pacioretty knew he couldn't succeed without playing in the top six. It's a logical argument - you put scorers in your top six and checkers in the bottom six. So what, exactly, does playing Hodgson exclusively on the fourth line accomplish? Sergei Shirokov showed some great hands with Kesler but by the end of the next game he was on the fourth line again. Keith Ballard, who has some nice offensive instincts a kin to Jovanovski's in his ability to jump up on the play (I swear I'll stop the comparison someday), gets less powerplay ice-time than the decidedly average Aaron Rome (0:31 to 0:15 per game - granted, Ballard doesn't have a slapper but still). Tambellini is better than Raymond in a checking role with his physicality, but despite Gillis and Vigneault singing his praises he refuses to move Tambellini from the fourth line. By putting Kesler on the top powerplay unit (not even Vigneault's own idea) the Canucks have the league's powerplay, but the second unit is also suffering. Burrows and Raymond, two (fairly) regulars on the second unit, have just 5 PPG combined (they had 12 last year), one less than Henrik's season total. The Canucks feature three of the league's top 15 scorers this year (costing roughly $17 million combined) but the offensive depth of the team suffers for it. So this brings me to my next point. There's no point in trying to keep Christian Ehrhoff beyond this season. This ridiculous rash of injuries to our blueline aside, with Ballard, Hamhuis, Edler, and Bieksa, who I would re-sign, is a pretty good four-man group growing forward. It's comparable to Pittsburgh's Letang-Orpik-Martin-Michalek group, which I would say may be one of the deepest four-man groups in the league. Seeing as how Seabrook and Byfuglien both signed deals worth more than $5 million per season, the market value for Ehrhoff is extremely high. If he isn't willing to take a salary around $4 million, there's no point in keeping him because this Canucks squad needs another legitimate top six forward. Samuelsson is not the answer and it's becoming increasingly clear that Raymond is not either, despite me having him pegged for 30 goals before the season. Kesler's frustration is written on the wall. It couldn't have been clearer last night. He's tired of carrying the second line. Of course, this doesn't mean Ehrhoff's going to be dealt at the deadline. Far from it, but depending on how well Ehrhoff and the team performs in the playoffs, he could be a huge trade chip at the draft on June 24. For more hockey material, visit my new website, www.armchairhockey.net or follow me on Twitter @jasonchen16. Thanks for reading.
  4. Christmas for the hockey fan is coming soon. As the deadline approaches, several teams have started to jump the gun. This is the first time I remember deals being completed several weeks before the deadline. Some of the big names have already been moved while I imagine others are waiting for the market to settle down. With Ottawa and Toronto both getting a head start on selling their assets, I don't imagine there will be a lot of big trades on deadline day but that won't stop the TSN crew from re-hashing the same trades for about six hours. To save you some time here's the breakdown on the trades so far. February 9 - Toronto trades Francois Beauchemin to Anaheim for Jake Gardiner and Joffrey Lupul People think Lupul's a salary dump, and he is for Anaheim, since at $4-plus million a year he's just too expensive as a third-line winger. That being said, he's going to be a huge lightning rod for Leafs fans. But Lupul can still score. Like Keith Ballard, this entire season has been a transition year for Lupul, who's practically missed an entire year due to various injuries and a serious infection. Don't write him off yet. Cody Hodgson (the Canucks parallels will stop, I promise) was written off by many after the entire controversy over his bulging disc last year but when he scored his first NHL goal people were all too ready to jump back on the wagon. In Beauchemin, the Ducks get an experienced defenseman back on a blueline that is completely devoid of any sort of depth and who played his best hockey under Randy Carlyle. Gardiner's an interesting piece. I remember when he was drafted - your prototypical strong-skating defenseman that would be valued in today's NHL. Gardiner's averaging a point per game in his third year at Wisconsin, but that's hardly a barometer for any kind of success. His own coach, Mike Eaves (father of Patrick), admits that he's got work to do before he makes the NHL. Hard to tell if his collegiate success would translate to the big leagues - Patrick Wiercioch, a second-round pick from University of Denver by Ottawa, was a similar big-bodied, able skater averaging a point per game, but has only scored 6 points in 48 games for Binghamton. February 9 - Florida trades Alexander Salak and Michael Frolik to Chicago for Jack Skille, Hugh Jessiman, and David Pacan I love this trade for Chicago... puke. Michael Frolik is the most talented player in this deal, just edging out Salak. I don't imagine we'll ever see Skille live up to his seventh-overall potential (Kopitar, Marc Staal, and Stastny were still all available) but he's got the potential to be a second-line winger, although he might be much better suited for a third line role. For a team that's lacking depth, Frolik's a good pick-up for Chicago, able to relieve some pressure off Toews, Kane, Sharp, and the oft-injured Hossa. The scales would really tip in Chicago's favour is if Salak pans out. He played one season in the AHL last year before returning to Sweden on a loan to Farjestad BK, where he's been the best goalie in arguably the second-best league in the world. But let's take that with a grain of salt - this is the same Swedish Elite League that hailed Jonas Gustavsson as "The Monster" and was the league's best goalie. (What does that tell you about the NHL?) <img src="http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/5/53/Mike_fisher_predators.jpg"class="imageFloatRightFramed"> February 10 - Ottawa trades Mike Fisher to Nashville for 2011 1st round and 2012 conditional picks Of all the trades that have been made, this has been my favourite. Did anyone notice how fired up Fisher looked last night in a Predators jersey? Did anyone notice how packed the rink was? Shades of Mike Fisher circa 2006-08, folks. Not only did the Preds get a very good player in Fisher, who will most certainly excel under Barry Trotz, with the possibility of Carrie Underwood appearing in more games it immediately sparks more interest. There's not much competition - the Memphis Grizzlies bleed money and the Tennessee Titans just recently fired long-tenured coach Jeff Fisher and cut ties with supposed franchise QB Vince Young. I asked ESPN's Pierre LeBrun over Twitter about Underwood's presence and he said that it "definitely" will raise the profile of the Predators. Fisher's fired up - he's in a city that his wife loves and on a team that wins games with a style of play that's very similar to his. (When this whole Fisher/Underwood in Nashville thing works, and honestly, this union might as well come from a Disney movie, at the rate hockey pros are reeling in high-profile entertainment stars, when do you think that Gary Bettman will start enforcing a "celebrity" clause, in which the player has to play for his girlfriend's hometown team? That means Mike Comrie heads to Hollywood - or Dallas? I believe Hilary Duff is from Texas and Comrie's a player I can see Marc Crawford using - and would prevent future dumb trades like Calgary sending Dion Phaneuf and Elisha Cuthbert, both Albertans, to Toronto for some pucks and a waterboy in Matt Stajan.) <img src="http://phillysportscentral.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/02/kris-versteeg2-e1297880213906.jpg"class="imageFloatLeftFramed"> February 14 - Toronto trades Kris Versteeg to Philadelphia for 2011 1st and 3rd round picks You probably can't get a better deal than that for a player miscast as a top-line forward. The shifty Versteeg is a great depth player and would excel on a team where he doesn't have to be solely responsible for setting up Phaneuf's cannons or trying to find Phil Kessel. All Versteeg needs is a swift kick in the butt, and not from Ron Wilson, who's mixed signals should probably be translated into some sort of manual. (Did he really mean what he said when he thought Jeff Finger was good against Joe Thornton? One of life's greater mysteries). And Peter Laviolette's smart, giving Versteeg his much-wanted #10, and as athletes know it's a little more special when you get to wear your number, and by starting him on a line with Mike Richards and Andreas Nodl, two of the most competitive players on the Flyers' roster. Laviolette's hoping the work ethic rubs off on Versteeg and I think it's going to work. February 18 - Ottawa trades Brian Elliott to Colorado for Craig Anderson Someone explain this trade to me because I don't get it. Let's compare the two: Elliott: 13-19-8, .894 SV%, 3.19 GAA, 3 SO, RFA '11, age 25 Anderson: 13-15-3, .897 SV%, 3.28 GAA, 0 SO, UFA '11, age 29 How the heck do the re-building Sens improve on this deal? There's absolutely no return at all in this deal. Anderson, who I lauded as a great value signing by the Avs two years ago and then cautioned against fantasy owners overrating the guy this year, walks as a UFA on July 1. The two goalies are obviously struggling, but would you trust a 25-year old or a 29-year old to get better next year? It's a no-brainer, it's Elliott. He has more long-term value and he's a RFA, meaning that the Sens could very well get another year from him. But Anderson? He's not even better than Elliott this year. The only redeemable facet of this trade for Ottawa is if Anderson re-signs with them, but again, wouldn't you rather have Elliott, who has more upside, to tend the pipes? Honestly, Bryan Murray couldn't have gotten a third or fourth-round pick for Elliott? C'mon, man! <img src=" February 18 - Boston trades Mark Stuart and Blake Wheeler to Atlanta for Rich Peverley and Boris Valabik I have no idea why Nashville gave up on Rich Peverley, one of the more underrated centremen in the league. It's too bad he plays a position that can be so diluted, but he wins well over 50% of his face-offs regularly (55.5% this year) and has the ability to put up 40 points easily. He's a great pick-up for Boston, who asides from Patrice Bergeron, doesn't have a centreman capable of winning more than half the face-offs he takes. Valabik's a huge defenseman, but he's probably more well-known in Vancouver as being the guy who made the mistake of challenging Rick Rypien, thinking he had an easy win. Playing alongside fellow countrymen Zdeno Chara should allow him to learn a thing or two about playing in this league, but when you have cement feet you can only go so far. Also, I'm glad Blake Wheeler ended up in Atlanta. Here's a guy who outright said "no" to Gretzky and Phoenix, completely pissing Gretzky off, a major hockey no-no, then signs with an Original Six franchise thinking that it might be better for his profile. Well, as they say, karma's a b... February 18 - Toronto trades Tomas Kaberle to Boston for Joe Colborne, 2011 1st round and a conditional pick Can we declare Boston as the winners of the trade deadline already? They essentially got Peverley, Kaberle, and Chris Kelly for Joe Colborne, who still may or may not turn into a bust (odds are he doesn't). While I still think Philadelphia is the more talented and deeper team, the Bruins aren't going down without a fight. The Bruins still don't have a legitimate scoring threat after losing Kessel (yes, Kessel's a scoring threat - let's not underrate him just because he's a Leaf) and it's quite likely they'll finish the season with just a single 30-goal scorer (team leader Lucic is 6 away and Horton has 14, which means we really should give up on the dream that Horton would ever become a first-line power forward) while Philadelphia will have two snipers (Briere-28, Carter-26) and Mike Richards. But Kaberle does bolster an anemic powerplay (18.1%, 14th) while the Flyers lag behind at 17th. And also I think Peter Chiarelli has the entire southern Ontario region at gunpoint. <img src="http://nucksiceman.com/wp-content/upLoads/2010/10/Cory-Schneider-fantasy_g_schneider_3001.jpg"class="imageFloatLeftFramed">And just so we can end this post on the Canucks, can I just say how absolutely terrible we've been looking out there? The lack of NHL-calibre ability on the blueline is one thing, but this team just doesn't have any jump. It looks like Kesler's hurting a little and I haven't seen a Sedin-esque Sedin cycle in a long time. And that's not mentioning that Christian Ehrhoff is making dumb plays and coughing up pucks like Bryan McCabe. We didn't deserve to win against St. Louis or Nashville last night and Cory Schneider stole a game in Minnesota. You can't win games like that in the playoffs. Sooner or later you'll find out that goaltending can only take you so far before your players have to start putting the puck in the net on a more regular basis. And, really, it's a legitimate question, but if the Canucks meet the Wild in the first round, how long of a leash do you give Luongo before you put in Schneider? If the Canucks split the two home games (possible) and the Wild win their first at home (possible), do you go back to Luongo or play the odds with Schneider? Hmmm...
  5. I must admit it's weird not seeing mounds of snow on the streets in December, seeing how as I have spent the majority of the past four winters in Nova Scotia. But either way, it's the season of giving. So, in honour of that, here are your 20 worst trades in the NHL since the lockout! In chronological order! Hooray! August 3, 2005. Edmonton trades Eric Brewer, Jeff Woywitka, and Doug Lynch to St. Louis for Chris Pronger. The advent of the salary cap and a potential new ownership meant the Blues had to shed salary to make themselves more financially attractive. Brewer remains in the Blues organization and is their current captain but isn't expected to last beyond this season. Woywitka shuttled between the AHL and NHL for some time and is currently in the Stars' organization. Lynch, a former second round pick, has played the last three years in Austria. Pronger would sign an expensive five-year extension and was a smashing success with the Oilers in his first season, leading them to the finals. August 26, 2005. Minnesota trades Zbynek Michalek to Phoenix for Erik Westrum and Dustin Wood. The Wild saw Michalek, who was undrafted, in 22 games and decided he wasn't worth their time before sending him to Phoenix. What a decision that turned out to be. Westrum played only 27 games at the NHL level and has been playing in Switzerland for the past couple of seasons while Wood never saw time in the NHL. Michalek spend five productive years in Phoenix, leading the league in blocked shots one year and guiding the Coyotes to their first postseason appearance since 2003. <img src="http://www.bestsportsphotos.com/images/t_20631_07.jpg"class="imageFloatLeftFramed">November 30, 2005. Boston trades Joe Thornton to San Jose for Marco Sturm, Brad Stuart, and Wayne Primeau. This trade eventually cost then GM Mike O'Connell his job. O'Connell, to be fair and honest, wasn't a bad GM - Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci were both drafted by him - but he often butted heads with owner Jeremy Jacobs, who refused to open his pockets to retain their prized free agents like Sergei Gonchar and Brian Rolston. The Bruins were struggling at the time, and perhaps misguided by his anger towards ownership, he traded Thornton for three depth players. The trade sent the Bruins back five years. Thornton would go on to notch 92 points in 58 games with the Sharks and win the Art Ross that year. Primeau and Stuart lasted two season each before departing and Sturm was recently sent to Los Angeles for free. Interestingly enough, O'Connell is currently the Kings' Director of Pro Development. December 5, 2005. Philadelphia trades Patrick Sharp and Eric Meloche to Chicago for Matt Ellison and a 3rd round pick in 2006. Ellison played just 7 games for the Flyers over two seasons before moving onto Milwaukee in the AHL and then the KHL for the past two seasons. Meloche did not play a single game for Chicago and is suiting up for his fourth season with Straubing in the DEL. Sharp, however, has become one of the leaders of a young Blackhawks franchise. Unable to find quality playing time on a deep Flyers roster, Bobby Clarke gave him a chance by shipping him to Chicago, where he has become one of the league's most versatile and intelligent players. Sharp's 11 goals in last year's playoffs was tied for the team lead with Byfuglien. Sharp is shooting for his 5th straight 20-goal season. June 23, 2006. Florida trades Roberto Luongo, Lukas Krajicek, and a 6th round pick to Vancouver for Todd Bertuzzi, Bryan Allen, and Alex Auld. For all the hate Dave Nonis has drawn in this city, this should be the deal that negates everything. Luongo, as we all know, is an elite goalie with an Olympic gold medal. Bertuzzi was never quite the same since the Steve Moore incident and lasted just 7 games in Florida before being swapped for Shawn Matthias. Auld was horribly miscast as a starting netminder and the steady but unspectacular Allen remains the only souvenir for Florida in that trade. Oh, and that supposed throwaway 6th rounder? Turns out the Canucks got a pretty decent prospect. You might've heard of him. Sergei Shirokov? <img src="http://miamisportsblog.com/wp-content/uploads/2007/10/luongo.jpg"class="imageFloatRightFramed">June 24, 2006. Toronto trades Tuukka Rask to Boston for Andrew Raycroft. Probably angry that Vancouver was making all the headlines around the league, John Ferguson, Jr. and the Leafs panicked and made a goalie move of their own, moving promising netminder Rask for former Calder winner Raycroft. To be fair, the Leafs had another netminder in the system, Justin Pogge, but he turned out to be a bust. Raycroft is now a career journeyman and backup, and while Rask is stapled to the bench due to Tim Thomas' otherworldly play, he is arguably the most promising goalie in this league. February 3, 2007. Boston trades Kris Versteeg to Chicago for Brandon Bochenski and a conditional 5th round pick in 2008. This was a trade that flew completely under the radar, perceived to be a rather insignificant minor league deal. Versteeg has since been moved to Toronto, but he was a key cog in the Blackhawks' makeup and was a vital secondary scorer with Patrick Sharp and Marian Hossa. For a team that doesn't have a lot of high-end offensive skill, the Bruins would probably like a re-do for this one. As for Bochenski? After teasing fans with 13 points in 20 games playing alongside Jason Spezza and Dany Heatley, he had trouble sticking with NHL clubs and despite being a very talented AHL scorer (33 goals in 35 games once), he now plays in the KHL. February 27, 2007. San Jose trades Josh Gorges and a 1st round pick (Max Pacioretty) for Craig Rivet and a 5th round pick in 2008 (Julien Demers). At the time, it was a good trade for San Jose because the Sharks were ready to win now and Rivet gave them one good year, with 35 points and 104 PIM. But it's these kind of deals that have really cost San Jose, who are struggling to keep up with their younger and better stocked Pacific Division opponents. Rivet was traded to Buffalo for two second round picks (Bill Wrenn in 2009 and the other sent to Carolina, who took Mark Alt) and, most likely due to injury, has seen his play nosedive. Meanwhile, Gorges has become one of Jacques Martin's most dependable defenseman and regularly plays against top opposition and logs 20 minutes a night. Pacioretty has yet to find his place in the NHL but he's a player with good offensive potential with 32 points 27 AHL games and 3 points in 3 NHL games this year. <img src="http://cache.daylife.com/imageserve/01cFg5M41QfN8/340x.jpg"class="imageFloatLeftFramed">June 18, 2007. Nashville trades Kimmo Timonen and Scott Hartnell to Philadelphia for a 1st round pick. You can't entirely blame David Poile for this one. The Preds were going through ownership trouble amidst accusations of financial fraud with minority owner William Del Baggio, and could not retain any of its stars, despite at one point being able to land Peter Forsberg for a playoff push. The Flyers quickly locked up the two players and both have been vital to the franchise since. The two players combined for 28 points in last year's postseason. But the real kicker for me is that the 1st rounder the Preds acquired was their own and had been traded to Philadelphia last year for, you guessed it, Peter Forsberg. Perhaps the only redeeming fact is that the Preds used the pick to select former Giant defenseman Jonathon Blum, and I know better than to question the Preds' scouting department when it comes to blueliners. February 26, 2008. Tampa Bay trades Brad Richards and Johan Holmqvist to Dallas for Mike Smith, Jussi Jokinen, Jeff Halpern, and a 4th round pick in 2009. Unable to foot the bill for their star players' salaries, the Lightning elected to part with Richards, who was in the third year of a 5-year, $39 million contract. Diminishing point totals scared management into action, but you'd think for a former 91-point player they could've gotten a better deal. Smith hasn't posted more than 14 wins a season in his career. Jokinen was later traded for a bag of pucks. Halpern is now in Montreal and that 4th rounder was later sent to Edmonton. Meanwhile, Richards posted yet another 91-point season last year and should the Stars elect to deal him, they'll certainly get a better haul than what Tampa got for him. July 1, 2008. Edmonton trades Joni Pitkanen for Erik Cole. The Oilers should've seen this one coming. Cole scored 30 goals in 60 games the year Carolina won the Cup, but dropped to 29 and then 22 before the Oilers snagged him. His tenure in Edmonton lasted just one disappointing 16-goal year before he was shipped back to Carolina, where a slew of neck injuries has really affected his production. Cole's point production the last five years since 2006: 61, 51, 27, 15, 16. Pitkanen, on the other hand, has emerged as one of the league's best unheralded puck-moving defenseman, having notched 46 points last year and with 18 in 29 this year is poised to hit that 40-point mark again. <img src="http://cache3.asset-cache.net/xc/77804113.jpg?v=1&c=IWSAsset&k=2&d=77BFBA49EF878921E86F5CE8BE5D78FB39989BC62F51603617BBE599935116B54EB022E0AB10AD13"class="imageFloatRightFramed">July 4, 2008. Tampa Bay trades Dan Boyle and Brad Lukowich to San Jose for Matt Carle, Ty Wishart, a 1st round pick in 2009, and a 4th round pick 2010 (James Mullin). Boyle had just signed a six-year, $40 million extension in late February, but just four months later ownership decided that his contract was not economically feasible and forced him to wave his no-trade clause. While San Jose's playoff woes have been well-documented, Boyle has been one of the best offensive blueliners in the league, posting two consecutive 50+ point seasons and 18 points in 21 playoff games with the Sharks. Carle suited up for just 12 games in Tampa Bay before moving on to Philadelphia, Wishart is still developing in the AHL, and the 1st rounder was packaged to Ottawa for Andrej Meszaros, who had 33 points and -18 rating over 2 seasons in Tampa, despite totals of 39, 35, and 36 in the three previous seasons with Ottawa. December 14, 2008. Anaheim trades Andy McDonald to St. Louis for Doug Weight, Michal Birner, and a 7th round pick in 2008. For now, Saku Koivu will do, but before that the Ducks had an awful time trying to find secondary scoring. McDonald and Getzlaf formed a fantastic 1-2 punch down the middle when the Ducks won the Cup in 2007, but figured Doug Weight, six years older, was the better option. The Ducks' 2008 campaign didn't last past the first round and Weight left for Long Island. Birner has since returned to Finland and the Blues eventually re-acquired their 7th rounder in a separate deal and drafted Paul Karpowich. McDonald has 154 points in 199 games (0.77 ppg, vs. Koivu's 0.65 ppg) for the Blues. Getzlaf's current point total is nearly double Koivu's and the Ducks continually rely on their big line of Getzlaf, Corey Perry, and Bobby Ryan. February 7, 2009. Carolina trades Wade Brookbank, Josef Melichar, and a 4th round pick in 2009 to Tampa Bay for Jussi Jokinen. Jussi Jokinen wasn't adjusting well to life in Tampa Bay, with just 16 points in 46 games in his first full season with the Lightning. Arguably the league's best shootout player, Jokinen netted 30 goals for Carolina last year playing alongside Eric Staal, and while he's off to a slow start this year he's still third in team scoring. As for Tampa? Neither Brookbank nor Melichar are in the system, and that pick was later traded to Toronto for Richard Petiot (no longer with Tampa), only to be forfeited by the league due to a dispute over Jonas Frogren's contract. So, really, the Canes got a 30-goal scorer and showed off the Leafs' infinite front office wisdom for free. I'd say that's a pretty good deal. <img src="http://www.spox.com/de/sport/ussport/0903/Bilder/christian-ehrhoff-san-jose-sharks-nhl-514.jpg"class="imageFloatLeftFramed">August 28, 2009. San Jose trades Christian Ehrhoff and Brad Lukowich to Vancouver for Daniel Rahimi and Patrick White. Nonis will be remembered, quite unfairly, as the GM who went off the board and chose Patrick White in the first round in 2007. After Nonis was fired and Mike Gillis stepped in, it was made apparent to him that White, who had scored only 13 goals in 81 game over two seasons at Minnesota, was not in the Canucks' long-term plans. The Sharks were in a cap bind with the acquisition of Dany Heatley and were forced to jettison Ehrhoff, who had hit the 40-point plateau for the first time in his career. Ehrhoff finished his first campaign with Vancouver with 14 goals and +36 with over 22 minutes per game. Rahimi has since returned to Sweden, unlikely to return, and White has just 1 goal so far in his senior year. September 12, 2009. Ottawa trades Dany Heatley and a 5th round pick (Isaac Macleod) to San Jose for Jonathan Cheechoo, Milan Michalek, and a 2nd round pick. Bryan Murray had his hands tied with this one because Edmonton truly offered a better deal, one that centred around Dustin Penner. Cheechoo was already a shadow of his former self and the 2nd round pick was later flipped to the Islanders for Andy Sutton, now with Anaheim. Michalek, the younger brother of Pittsburgh's Zbynek, is a big, bruising winger, but has just 7 goals in 31 games this year. He's struggling big-time and can't even provide secondary scoring the Sens desperately need. Heatley, on the other hand, was one goal shy of 40 in his first season as a Shark last year. September 18, 2009. Boston trades Phil Kessel to Toronto for a 1st (Tyler Seguin) and 2nd round pick (Jared Knight) in 2010, and another 1st round pick in 2011. In defense of Brian Burke, I don't think anyone predicted the Leafs to finish second last. The jury's still out on this one but with another trying season that 1st rounder in 2011 looks to shape up to be a top 15 pick for an already deep Bruins squad. Seguin, despite being a healthy scratch lately, has wowed with his speed and hands, while Kessel continues to labour and is on pace for just 27 goals. Toronto's 75 GF is only higher than New Jersey and the Islanders. The scales in this trade could still in the Leafs' favour, especially if Seguin or the 2011 1st rounder doesn't pan out, but the chances of that happening are quite slim. January 21, 2010. Calgary trades Dion Phaneuf, Fredrik Sjostrom, and Keith Aulie to Toronto for Matt Stajan, Niklas Hagman, Jamal Mayers, and Ian White. In a trade that features marquee talent, the team getting the most talent always wins, so score this one for Toronto. Stajan and Hagman are the only remaining Flames from that trade and while both have been quietly producing the team scores too few and far between and rank 2nd last in the West. While "Neon Dion" hasn't fared much better in Toronto, he's by far the most talented player out of this group and Keith Aulie, as I've said before, is an absolute keeper. Keep in mind Toronto's one the youngest teams in the league and they're trending up, unlike Calgary. June 24, 2010. Chicago trades Dustin Byfuglien, Brent Sopel, Ben Eager, and Akim Aliu to Atlanta for Marty Reasoner, Joey Crabb, Jeremy Morin, New Jersey's 1st round (Kevin Hayes) and 2nd round picks (Justin Holl) in 2010. July 1, 2010. Chicago trades Andrew Ladd to Atlanta for Ivan Vishnevskiy and a 2nd round pick in 2011. We all know how this happened. As much as Dale Tallon was instrumental in building that Cup-winning squad, he was also terribly inept at handling the cap and didn't file RFA paperwork on time and, as a result, had to overpay to keep his team together. He was fired for his blunder and Stan Bowman was left to clean up his mess, inevitably leading to a mass dump of players to Atlanta, who had just hired Rick Dudley, Tallon/Bowman's assistant in Chicago, as GM. Reasoner was later swapped for Jeff Taffe while Crabb left for Toronto as a UFA when the Hawks still didn't have cap room to keep either. The Thrashers, meanwhile, have a blueliner garnering Norris talks in Byfuglien (33 points in 34 games), named a new captain in Ladd, and have serviceable depth with Sopel and Eager and a decent prospect in Aliu. The Thrashers sit atop the Southeast Division, a place where the Caps had been comfortably sitting for the past 3 years. The Hawks? Currently sitting 8th in the West with 14 losses, third most in the West, and in danger of following in the footsteps of Edmonton and Carolina, both teams who finished in the Finals yet missed the playoffs a year later. <img src="http://cache.daylife.com/imageserve/0c9f0M9dRg3Je/x350.jpg"class="imageFloatRightFramed">November 30, 2010. Washington trades Tomas Fleischmann to Colorado for Scott Hannan. The Avs were moving in another direction, and as a fast and speedy team the cement feet quota had already been taken up by Adam Foote. The Caps were loaded with talent but still couldn't figure out how to play defense, and with the emergence of centres Marcus Johansson and Mathieu Perreault, Fleischmann was expendable. The trade made sense for both teams but it couldn't turn out any more lopsided. Since moving to Matt Duchene's left wing, "Flash" has re-found his offensive game, putting up 11 points in 9 games and named the NHL's second star of the week. Despite snapping their losing streak against Ottawa, Hannan hasn't provided the defensive presence the Caps were looking for and is a woeful -9 in 9 games. And there you are, the 20 worst trades since the lockout. There have been some big ones, including the Marian Hossa-Dany Heatley, Jay Bouwmeester, and two more Chris Pronger trades, but in those trades I felt at least both teams have been able to walk away with something substantial. Even the Antoine Vermette trade netted the Sens a decent prospect in Robin Lehner. No trade is fair - there's a reason why some teams continue to struggle while others remain consistently good. I was tempted to touch on the Ilya Kovalchuk trade, but it wasn't the trade that killed the Devils, it was that extension over the summer. Tracking the picks that have been moved over the years has been a real pain, but here's an interesting tidbit I found. I was originally going to include the Edmonton-Anaheim deal that sent Pronger to the Ducks but I held back because of this little nugget. In exchange for Pronger, the Oilers received Joffrey Lupul, Ladislav Smid, Anaheim's 2007 1st rounder, 2008 2nd rounder, and another conditional 1st rounder. The 2007 1st rounder was sent to Phoenix, who selected Nick Ross, and the 2008 2nd rounder was sent to the Islanders, who took Travis Hamonic. The conditional 1st rounder would be awarded on the condition that the Ducks reach the finals. (I vaguely remember an article that said Oilers brass were rooting for the Ducks so they could get that extra first rounder.) Anyway, the Ducks did make the finals in 2007 so their 2008 first rounder, 22nd overall, was given to the Oilers. And who did the Oilers end up picking? Jordan Eberle. Hope you enjoyed this post. Happy holidays, folks.
  6. The Canucks finished November with a 8-4-1 record, but there was one game everyone had their eye on: Saturday, November 20, a nationally-televised matchup against the Chicago Blackhawks. While Chicago may have lost several pieces to Atlanta and other teams, they were still the team that had eliminated the Canucks two years in a row from postseason play. The Canucks were overcoming two straight losses, a tough 4-3 OTL in Buffalo, extending their winless streak at HSBC Arena to seven-plus years, and a 3-1 loss to the Penguins, which was supposed to be a preview of two potential Cup finalists. The Hawks were coming off a 7-2 loss to Calgary the night before. It certainly was a 'measuring stick' game, a test of resiliency between two very good teams. The result? A 7-1 drubbing at the hands of Chicago, an absolute shellacking in which Roberto Luongo was chased yet again, though at times through no fault of his own. The performance, if you could call it that, raised questions of whether this Canucks squad was truly ready for the same challenges that await them in the playoffs. To answer these questions, my friend Matt Sze (pronounced 'zee'), a fellow blogger who runs SzeSpeak: The Thinking Man's Blog has kindly joined me for this discussion. JC: The Hawks showed great resiliency by bouncing back from a terrible loss in the second night of a back to back. The Canucks followed up that effort with another loss against a hot Phoenix team. Resiliency is a key component of any good hockey team and in both games the Canucks just didn't seem to have any legs. Attitude reflects leadership, so the age-old question is, was Henrik the right choice as captain? It's no secret that for most North American kids, the ultimate dream is winning the Cup. For many Europeans, it's winning Olympic gold. MS: There was no other choice. Kesler's too young and plays an emotional game, something that can work against him. I'm not so sure Daniel was a good pick to wear the 'A' but Bieksa was a great choice. He has had a long tenure with the Canucks and provides some much-needed fire from the back end. And in regards to that Cup vs. Olympic gold argument, I don't buy it. All athletes are wired the same way - it doesn't matter what the prize is, athletes play to win. As former NFL coach Herm Edwards said, "you play to win the game." Getting to the pinnacle of any sport requires hard work, so to criticize the Sedins or anybody for lacking the desire to win is unfair. JC: I'm going to have to disagree, because I still think it makes a difference... Maybe I'm just a traditionalist and perhaps Lidstrom was just an anomaly... But what about Alexandre Daigle? The guy famously said he played hockey purely for the money. MS: Well, he didn't become a number one overall pick on talent alone, but he made some bad life decisions that eventually led to an unspectacular career. JC: The Canucks have been eliminated two consecutive years by the Hawks. Because Luongo and the Sedins are the best players, they have taken the brunt of the criticism, and a lot of it isn't unfounded. It seemed as though fortunes would be reversed in last year's playoffs, but the Sedins then vanished for stretches. Can our top players elevate their play? <img src="http://cache2.asset-cache.net/xc/73882764.jpg?v=1&c=IWSAsset&k=2&d=77BFBA49EF8789215ABF3343C02EA54831A838CD875A9477EF75E5B296482BCE804B3618D4BA3975"class="imageFloatLeftFramed">MS: I don't think Luongo has ever demonstrated that he could elevate his game, except in that 2007 series against Dallas, his first ever playoff appearance. He may never elevate his game to that level again, but most times it's the other guys, the supporting players, that step up their games. Patrick Kane is a key player for Chicago, but prior to that Finals against Philadelphia it had mostly been Jonathan Toews, and Kane ended up with the series winner. When Pittsburgh won the Cup, it was Max Talbot who scored the game-winner. Pascal Dupuis, Matt Cooke, and Talbot all raised their games. JC: So what's the difference between those players who can elevate their games and those who can't? Is it emotion? Attitude? I think one of the reasons Henrik was so successful last year was because of his swagger. He had that "yeah, I'm the best player in the league" attitude. When Daniel came back, it seemed to have disappeared. MS: Right now - emotion, attitude, swagger - Henrik doesn't have it. But in the regular season I don't think there's any need for it. It's going to build up. The only guy that does show some swagger is Bieksa. The Sedins are quiet players. I think Henrik giving Bieksa the 'A' is a challenge for him to get back to his former level. Those 42, 43 point seasons may be an anomaly but he's still an effective player when his head's on straight. JC: So who's the X factor for the Canucks in the playoffs? MS: Well, obviously it's Luongo. For me, it's two players: Mason Raymond and Jannik Hansen. We know that Raymond's got great speed and can put the puck in the net, but but he hasn't elevated his game in the playoffs yet. (In 22 playoff games he has only 7 points.) The other is Hansen, because he has the feistiness needed to make things happen in the postseason. I remember back in that Dallas series, Stars fans were going, "who is this guy?" JC: Gillis made an honest attempt to make this team better this offseason. If there's anything I noticed this year, it's that this team is so much faster. Speed kills, but we don't know how that will translate to playoff hockey. MS: We are faster and bigger, but I don't think we're grittier than we were last year. Torres isn't really an upgrade hitting-wise over Steve Bernier. Malhotra's an upgrade over Wellwood but he's not the sort of guy who'll just lay guys out. We really won't know the playoffs. The playoffs are tighter defensively but the Sedins are good playoff players because they won't necessarily create the room, but they can certainly find the open areas. They make space with their playmaking, not their physicality. They're 30 years old - still relatively young - and are still learning how to play better with each passing playoff series. JC: Alright, the real questions. Do the Hawks have our number? Vigneault hasn't announced who is starting Friday vs. Chicago, but I think you can't not start Luongo. Starting Schneider is a clear white towel message. MS: Ohhhh. Not right now, but certainly last year. We've been blown out only once this season. If the Canucks put up a good fight, what else do you want? Maybe the Hawks will be better in the season but come playoff time their lack of depth will hurt. Vancouver was vastly overrated last year. We were the underdogs in that series - the four best teams were Detroit, Chicago, San Jose, then Vancouver. The thing about the West is, any team can beat any team. The level of parity is so high, if you're off your game one night it can result in a disaster. If there is a mental edge, it's what they've done in the past. The Canucks have to continue to ride Luongo but also depends on how he losses the game. The team collapsed as a whole. Losses means the team has to look at itself as a whole, not just the goalie, unless there were some flagrantly bad goals. The Canucks have one of the best sports psychologists on staff. Chicago's lower in the standings. The Canucks should be better. JC: What about the Wings? We usually play moderately well against them. MS: No, they don't have our number either. We play the Wings tough, all the time. The Canucks just recently won 6-4 against them. That being said, the Wings are still the best team in the West, and in a 7-game series I'd still take the Wings because their best players can elevate their game. So far, the Canucks' players haven't. Guys like Dan Cleary, Tomas Holmstrom, and Johan Franzen are good in the regular season, but great in the playoffs. Kesler, Burrows, and Raymond weren't so good last year. Let's not let the Sedins off the hook - they should elevate their game too, but I do think they were better than Naslund and Bertuzzi. Depth is key. JC: If you look at some of the league's best playoff performers - Crosby, Mike Richards, Datsyuk, Zetterberg - these are guys who play in all situations of the game. The Sedins don't kill penalties. Part of the reason is because they don't have to, and also by blocking shots you're risking injury, but the upside is that when your team can't find their rhythm, you can get your best players more involved in the play. If I were to build a team, I'd like to have a franchise player I can play in every situation. MS: The Sedins not playing PK doesn't hurt them. If they're not on the ice because the team's constantly killing penalties then the team has to be more disciplined. The Canucks aren't built around 2 players, and that gives the Sedins the opportunity to really focus on one thing (scoring). The Sedins are great talents, but the Canucks don't have a standout talent like Ovechkin or Crosby. There is no shining star. The Canucks are built like a football team - you need everyone to perform their specific role for them to succeed. If special teams can't produce then you hope the depth can hold up. <img src="http://cache1.asset-cache.net/xc/86020661.jpg?v=1&c=IWSAsset&k=2&d=77BFBA49EF8789215ABF3343C02EA54809ADCC78F7DA45A9E4E03DA6F564D905B4F7DACE93165AFCE30A760B0D811297"class="imageFloatRightFramed">JC: One thing I really noticed that year was the lack of net presence. Chicago had Byfuglien, Ladd, and Eager in Luongo's face the entire time. The Canucks have trouble against the Blues because David Backes is cemented in front of the net. MS: I agree, and that's my only bone to pick. It certainly adds yet another dimension to our potent attack. We lack that physical element. We're bigger, in fact, we always have been, but I don't think we're grittier than before. Torres can be a perimeter player sometimes too. We are missing a David Backes type. It's demoralizing for teams to have someone in front of the net you can't move. The Canucks defense was torn about by Byfuglien. Edler wasn't strong enough, Bieksa had the strength but not the frame. I think that's why Alberts could surprisingly play a big role on this team when it comes to clearing the crease. Look what Andy Sutton was able to do in Ottawa. He put players flat on their butts all the time. JC: It almost feels like this team is built for the regular season than the playoffs. If you look at how the Flyers were built last year, them going deep shouldn't be all that surprising. They had great veteran leadership and a great mix of size, talent, and grit. I picked the Flyers to upset that year because I knew they could go far. MS: I'm gonna play the devil's advocate and say it depends on who they play. Against almost all the teams they're good. The Canucks have trouble with Chicago, and I know that contradicts with what I said previously, but you just don't know how this team will fare against this version of the Hawks in the playoffs. Last year, Quenneville totally outcoached Vigneault. I think, line for line, other than that top line with Zetterberg and Datsyuk, we have the advantage in regards to the other 9 forwards, so I like how we match up against the Wings. JC: Let's talk Luongo, since he's the biggest X factor. I don't like his contract, and there are people who are already saying Luongo's overpaid, but he's still one of the better goalies in the West. What do you think? MS: Luongo's play has slipped but I think Kiprusoff's play has slipped more. A quarter of the way through the season, my top 5 West goalies are: Bryzgalov, Hiller, Backstrom, Quick, and Halak. But in the playoffs everything changes. I don't like the Luongo extension either - it's pro-rated, but I think if we could get him just a shade cheaper at around $5 million we might be able to afford to keep Bieksa. He brings an element no other defenseman on our team does and maybe he does need a change of scenery but we need players like him in the playoffs. JC: Vigneault says the window for this team to win is between now and 1 or 2 years down the road. I tend to agree with him. Canucks in 5 years - how many Cups? 1? 2? None? MS: I have to disagree with Vigneault. I think the window longer than that. Edler and Raymond are still young. The Moose is well-stocked. Granted, Luc Bourdon's untimely death set this franchise back a little, but it's more like a ten-year plan. Ideally, our top players will be ready to make a significant impact in 5 years. Look at the Red Wings. From 1980 to their Cup win in 1997 (their first in ages), they were eliminated from the playoffs 11 times, and only 4 times did they at least reach the Conference Finals. When you're building a team you're going to fail a lot in the beginning, because that's the feeling you have to know to succeed later on. Vancouver has no tradition of winning and that works against them. Vigneault is no Scotty Bowman, but at least the consistency is there. Would you rather be successful long-term or be a potential one-hit wonder like the Hawks with their cap issues? They still have yet to sign Seabrook and could only afford Marty Turco. Don't get me wrong, Chicago could still end up being competitive but it will be difficult. Maybe it's because I haven't lived through 40 years of disappointment, but we have to be patient. As long as we draft well, we'll stay competitive. It wasn't too long ago people were labelling Hodgson as a bust, but history has shown that the World Jrs. MVP, and it should've been Hodgson, no doubt, go on to have good NHL careers. (Past winners include Eberle, Malkin, Ovechkin, Parise, Cammalleri, and Iginla). The Canucks and Blackhawks face-off Friday night. We'll have to see what kind of team we really have.
  7. It's a rare time when I fully agree with Bob McKenzie, and apologies to former NHLers Matt Barnaby and Mike Johnson, but I do agree that the NHL was right to suspend Niklas Hjalmarsson his hit on Jason Pominville who is out indefinitely with a concussion. The other suspension this week was handed to Islanders defenseman James Wisniewski, who made an obscene gesture towards the Rangers' Sean Avery and was likewise suspended for two games. There are two problems here that have my scratching my head. First, people who say Hjalmarsson should not be suspended boggles my mind, especially after all the ambiguity that was (supposed to be) erased surrounding blindside hits over the summer. Second, that Wisniewski was suspended for a relatively harmless gesture. Barnaby and Johnson contend that Hjalmarsson's hit is not suspension-worthy for different reasons. Barnaby believes Hjalmarsson shouldn't be suspended because he didn't have the intention of hurting Pominville. Johnson says it's a good hockey hit and that it happens more than once in every hockey game and it was the boards, not Hjalmarsson, that gave Pominville the concussion. Both former NHLers make fair points, but they're missing the big picture. Over the summer the NHL added a new rule to its book on the heels of Marc Savard and David Booth's concussions, giving the referees to penalize players for blindside hits to the head. Was Pominville's head the target of Hjalmarsson's hit? I don't think so, but nonetheless it was a blindside hit that caused a concussion. If you're to follow the rulebook word for word, then Hjalmarsson's hit is not worthy of a suspension. But if the NHL wants to limit these concussions, they have to make all blindside hits illegal, regardless of how, when, and with which part of the body contact was made. Blindside hits aren't just dangerous when the head is targeted, they're just dangerous in general. It's quite clear in the replay that Hjalmarsson hit Pominville from behind his right shoulder so the league was right to suspend Hjalmarsson, although I do think the penalty was a little too light. This was a great opportunity by the NHL to show a no tolerance policy for blindside hits and as usual they completely dropped the ball. Compared to Hjalmarsson's hit, Wisniewski's gesture was relatively harmless. Was Wisniewski's gesture funny? I think it was, especially when considering the victim was Sean Avery, although it must've been a little awkward, from one guy to another. Was it inappropriate and immature? Definitely. Was there potential for anyone to be physically hurt from that incident? No. For that reason alone, that Wisniewski's gesture did not physically harm anyone, I don't think he deserves a suspension. It's definitely worth a hefty fine because it makes the NHL and the Islanders look bad and players need to be reminded that they are playing in front of children and they are considered professionals representing more than just themselves. If anything, it should be an internal issue for the Islanders. They are the biggest losers. If Wisniewski is to be suspended, it shouldn't be by the NHL, it should be from the organization for a blatant lack of professionalism. My verdict? Hjalmarsson gets three games and Wisniewski gets fined for $40,000, a little more than one game's worth of salary before taxes. But you know what? I'm kind of glad Wisniewski did that. It's entertaining. Look how many headlines and discussions it has sparked. Hockey players are often criticized for being too boring and now when their personalities shine through, the league suspends them. See, if it wasn't for Avery's big mouth (he also provided a gem of a quote when asked about Wisniewski's gesture) he'd be a decent hockey player but he gets it. He understands that for the league to generate interest and become an ultimately more marketable product their needs to be personalities. It's what sells. As much as the NBA hates to admit it, Ron Artest does help sell tickets. Chad Ochocinco too. Avery knows he's not the poster boy for the NHL so he's happy to play the villain. Unfortunately for Avery, and to a certain extent the league, no one's taking the bait. Hockey players know when to shut up and play. When everyone refuses to play along just for the sake of drama, the end result is that Avery just looks like a dumb jerk mouthing off to no one in particular. The NHL needs to protect its image and its product which is why I understand their decision to suspend Wisniewski, even though I disagree with it. But more importantly, the NHL needs to protect their players because the best measure of their success is tied to its on-ice product. When talented players like Jason Pominville, John Tavares, and Marc Savard are sidelined, the quality of hockey becomes worse. On a Canucks-related note, they face off against the hapless Ducks tonight. After just averaging 1.5 goals in their first two games the Canucks have a great opportunity to open the offensive floodgates. So far this season the Canucks' supposed potent offense hasn't looked very dangerous.
  8. "It's the repetition of affirmation that leads to belief. And once that belief becomes a deep conviction, things begin to happen." - Muhammad Ali. For the Vancouver Canucks, in their 40th year in the league, there are only four words: "We. Want. The. Cup." <img src="http://vancouverite.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/04/kesler.jpg"class="imageFloatLeftFramed">Some wins will come easier than others, but make no mistake, the Canucks are the team to beat in the West. For Cup contenders facing the Canucks, it is a chance to familiarize themselves with a potential enemy in June. For teams looking to re-build, it provides a golden opportunity for young players to play against the league's best. Unlike Colorado or Phoenix last year, the Canucks aren't going to surprise anyone. Henrik Sedin is the reigning league MVP and twin brother Daniel is just as good. Ryan Kesler will see plenty of Selke Trophies on his shelf before his career is over and Roberto Luongo can always show off his Olympic gold when people question his ability to win big games. But let's not get carried away - there are 82 grueling regular season games to be played and three Western Conference teams that the Canucks must show they can beat before they become the last team standing. The San Jose Sharks have been the West's best team for the past two years but like the Canucks during the West Coast Express' heyday, they still can't win the big game. In the five years since the lockout, all the Sharks have done is win the Pacific Division three times, eclipsed the 100-point mark four times, and claimed the President's Trophy once. But the Sharks always seem to lose their bite when the games start to really count, bowing out from the semis in three straight years and an even more abysmal showing two years ago after being ousted in the opening round by the Ducks. It was only last year did the Sharks manage to parlay their regular season success into the playoffs and reached the Conference Finals, even if only to be swept by the eventual Cup-winning Blackhawks. While becoming one of the four teams remaining is certainly quite the accomplishment, to say the Sharks were satisfied would be an understatement. The Sharks' first ever Conference Final appearance may be short, but now this team knows how to get there. Even with losing captain Rob Blake to retirement and swapping Evgeni Nabokov for a cheaper tandem in Antero Niittymaki and Antti Niemi, this is a team that has finally learned how to win and that's a dangerous thought. What's more dangerous than a team that knows it can win is a team that has already won and for the Detroit Red Wings they have something that no other Cup contender has: a wealth of experience. Since the lockout, the Wings have averaged 113 points a year, dipped below 50 wins just once (last year with a depleted roster), and been to the Finals twice. Nicklas Lidstrom has 247 games of playoff experience under his belt, over 100 more than Daniel and Henrik combined. Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg are no strangers either, Datsyuk having two Cup rings and Zetterberg a former Conn Smythe winner. Even the Red Wings' newest addition, Mike Modano, brings plenty of experience with a Cup ring of his own and over 150 games of playoff experience. Detroit is my pick to win the Cup (but I'd love to be proven wrong) and any road to the Finals will have to go through them. And the last time the Canucks met the Wings in the playoffs? 2002, when the Canucks were eliminated in the opening round after blowing a 2-0 lead in a series that is now only remembered by this goal. As the saying goes, "three time's the charm," but as the Canucks strive for their third straight division title you can bet that a third consecutive 4-2 semi-finals loss to Chicago won't be happening again. The Canucks simply won't allow it and a weaker Blackhawks squad would be hard-pressed to deal out the same punishment a third time. Make no mistake, the Canucks would love to see the Blackhawks in the semis again, if only just to show that the two previous playoff meetings were merely flukes. Still, the Blackhawks do have the Canucks' number and are the defending Cup champions. Even with less depth don't be surprised if Jonathan Toews wills this team deep into the playoffs. No other team in the West can deal as much psychological damage to the Canucks as the Blackhawks and as any NHL player will tell you, the playoffs are mentally taxing as they are physically. <img src="http://www.showtimetickets.com/hockey-tickets/wp-content/uploads/2010/05/Roberto-Luongo-photos.jpg"class="imageFloatRightFramed">All three teams are tough opponents but nothing the Canucks cannot handle. The truth is, the Canucks' toughest opponent is themselves. Since the 2000-2001 season, the Canucks have made the playoffs seven times but have lost in the semis four times and the quarters three times. During that same span the Canucks have been division champions four times but were upset in opening round by Calgary in 2004 and lost 4-1 to the Ducks in 2007 in the semis after escaping Anaheim with a 1-1 record. Then it was losses to Chicago in consecutive years in the semis in which the Canucks allowed an uncharacteristic 12 goals combined in elimination games. Despite his 112-point regular season performance Henrik Sedin was not a major force in the playoffs and neither was twin brother Daniel and both disappeared for stretches. Kesler had just one goal while Mason Raymond capped off what would've been a great season with just 4 points in 12 playoff games. Roberto Luongo had the worst playoff run of his career and his save percentage dropped from .913 to .895 which led to a subsequent ballooning of his GAA from 2.57 to 3.22. Cup-winning teams should not and do not self-destruct. If the Canucks want to win they just simply have to stop shooting themselves in the foot.
  9. With Ryan Getzlaf healthy and Corey Perry's emergence as the West's best power forward, the Ducks boast one of the league's best duos. What should be concerning is their defense. The Ducks are expecting Brett Festerling, Brendan Mikkelson, Stu Bickell, Luca Sbisa, and perhaps Cam Fowler, if he makes the team, to log consistent NHL-calibre minutes, but if they can't then the Ducks' atrocious 251 GA (fourth-worst in West) could look even uglier. Offense: B, Defense: C+, Goaltending: B- Other than Jarome Iginla, the Flames are chock-full of underachievers (Matt Stajan, Olli Jokinen, Alex Tanguay, Jay Bouwmeester) and good depth players (Rene Bourque, Nik Hagman, Ian White). Given the strength of the Western Conference and the lack of consistent weapons the Flames boast making the playoffs will be a challenge. Miikka Kiprusoff is once again expected to play at least 75 games given the relative inexperience of his potential backups (Henrik Karlsson, Leland Irving). Offense: B-, Defense: B, Goaltending: B Oh, how the mighty have shot themselves in the foot. Dale Tallon's mismanagement of the cap has given Stan Bowman headaches with no outs. It's a good thing Tallon has a good eye for talent with a whole new slew of youngsters ready to make their mark for the defending champs having lost a bunch of good depth. The Hawks are finally under the cap but have a questionable duo of Marty Turco and Corey Crawford manning the pipes. If the goaltending can't hold then forget about a second consecutive Cup title. Offense: A-, Defense: A, Goaltending: C+ <img src="http://nimg.sulekha.com/sports/thumbnailfull/craig-anderson-2009-10-15-23-10-58.jpg"class="imageFloatLeftFramed">Like Phoenix and Buffalo, a big reason for the Avs' success was the play of Craig Anderson. Unfortunately for him, he doesn't come with either Ryan Miller or Ilya Bryzgalov's pedigree. The Avs won't catch anyone off-guard this year because there most likely won't be any breakout performances (Chris Stewart) or surprising rookies (Ryan O'Reilly). Kyle Quincey has become the Avs' best blueliner but he's going to have a big workload in front of him and Anderson needs bailing out. Offense: B, Defense: B, Goaltending: B- Columbus was just on the cusp of breaking out before Steve Mason hit the sophomore wall and the whole team imploded. The team has the pieces in place, although they may be one top pair defenseman away, to be a playoff team. All that has to happen is for everybody, especially Derick Brassard, to perform. Rick Nash is slowly growing into his leadership role and Antoine Vermette still has untapped potential. The Jackets are a young team led by rookie coach in Scott Arniel but GM Scott Howson's acquisition of seasoned veteran Chris Clark will help smooth the bumpy ride. Offense: B+, Defense: B, Goaltending: B- One thing about Marc Crawford's squads is that they can really score. That's all great but it's worth nothing if you can't defend and win some games. The six highest paid players on the Stars' payroll have no-trade clauses and none of them, save Loui Eriksson, are entering their prime. With the uncertainty behind the ownership of the Stars, the club has been forced to cut costs. The team has a good group of talented individuals but it's a club that's in limbo. They're not exactly contending for the playoffs and not exactly re-building (which they should) either. Joe Nieuwendyk has provided more stability than the failed Les Jackson-Brett Hull experiment but it hasn't gotten off to a good start. Offense: B, Defense: B-, Goaltending: C+ <img src="http://nbcsportsmedia.msnbc.com/j/msnbc/Components/Photo_StoryLevel/080515/080515-Nicklas%20Lidstrom-vmed-234p.widec.jpg"class="imageFloatRightFramed">Never count out the Red Wings, especially when Nicklas Lidstrom is back to give one last kick at the can. Given the cap troubles of the Hawks and their cost-cutting measures, the Red Wings are in a position to re-take the Central Division crown. It's a golden opportunity for the Wings this season with Jiri Hudler back and GM Ken Holland added some great depth in Mike Modano and Ruslan Salei. Johan Franzen is healthy. If Valtteri Filppula can play like we all know he can, watch out. Offense: A-, Defense: A, Goaltending: A- It's hard to get excited about the Oilers' upcoming season but they will feature a bevy of potential superstars: Taylor Hall, Magnus Paajarvi-Svensson, Jordan Eberle, and Linus Omark. If you're going to watch the Oilers don't expect a win but do expect some razzle-dazzle from its youngsters. The franchise is clearly in re-building mode but I'm not sure if they've found the right coach in Tom Renney. With Sheldon Souray most likely gone 27-year old Ales Hemsky is considered a veteran and will have to help these players grow.. Offense: B-, Defense: C+, Goaltending: C The Kings have been inching towards the top ever so slightly since drafting Anze Kopitar. There's a good collection of young talent, veterans (Ryan Smyth, Michal Handzus, Rob Scuderi), and prospects (Brayden Schenn, Thomas Hickey, Colten Teubert, Jonathan Bernier) for the Kings to forge ahead. They will be big players at the deadline, looking for that extra piece. While they have no game-breaking winger yet, which was why GM Dean Lombardi went after Ilya Kovalchuk, the Kings still have a very solid group that can compete. Willie Mitchell stabilizes the blueline and Drew Doughty has become of the true elite blueliners in this league. Offense: A-, Defense: A, Goaltending: A- After committing some big dollars to Martin Havlat (with a few parting shots at Chicago) and a promise from rookie coach Todd Richards to implement a more attacking system, the Wild responded by finishing 13th in the conference. The Wild were relatively quiet this summer save for Mikko Koivu's overpriced extension and the signing of Matt Cullen, but the general belief in Minnesota is that this team can play much better. There's toughness up front with this group but a little short on skill. Brent Burns is still the major X factor and if he plays well he's a great spark for the Wild attack. Offense: B-, Defense: B-, Goaltending: B+ Anyone who appreciates hockey has to appreciate the Predators. Led by GM David Poile and Barry Trotz, one of the league's best coaches, the Preds play a blue-collar game and win on a consistent basis. Never mind that they've never won a single playoff series – that they've managed to even make the playoffs consistently with such a strict payroll budget is astounding. Expect more of the same this year. Some things just don't change. Offense: B, Defense: B+, Goaltending: B+ If the Phoenix Coyotes can win 50 games again this year Dave Tippett may be the best coach in the league. The roster isn't anything to smirk at but it's not exactly intimidating either. The Desert Dogs' fate will be solely based on the play of Ilya Bryzgalov. Picking up Ray Whitney was a shrewd move for a young team and if they can get Kyle Turris and Oliver Ekman-Larsson to make significant contributions they are a dangerous team. But count me in as one of those doubters, especially after losing shot-blocking machine Zbynek Michalek. Offense: B+, Defense: B, Goaltending: A- Some people don't think the Sharks can win without Evgeni Nabokov, but with an offense that features at least two 40-goal scorers (Dany Heatley, Patrick Marleau) and one of the league's best playmakers in Joe Thornton, there's no shortage of weapons up front for Todd McLellan although the bottom six isn't great. Dan Boyle is best powerplay quarterback in the West and Marc-Edouard Vlasic's production can't dip any further. Whether or not this team can succeed in the post-season is yet another question. Offense: A, Defense: B+, Goaltending: B+ Things were looking so good in St. Louis when they took a giant step back. There's enough talent up front even but David Backes and Brad Boyes need to regain their scoring touches. Jaroslav Halak is more than an adequate replacement for Chris Mason. Erik Johnson is a stud defenseman but they still need Eric Brewer and Barrett Jackman to stay healthy. Easier said than done, of course. Offense: B, Defense: B-, Goaltending: B+ <img src="http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3416/3276791653_6041358afd.jpg"class="imageFloatLeftFramed">Bar none, the Canucks are the best team in the West. This isn't just some hometown bias working here, it's the truth. No other team can match the Canucks' depth, up front or on the blueline, and there shouldn't be any questions in net... unless Keith Ballard knocks out Roberto Luongo. We may see Mason Raymond score 30 this year and while many didn't like the Raffi Torres signing, I definitely did. After losing out on Arron Asham you can't go wrong with a former 27-goal scorer with some sandpaper for only $1 million bucks. Offense: A+, Defense: A, Goaltending: A STANDINGS 1. Vancouver2. San Jose3. Detroit4. Chicago5. Los Angeles6. Phoenix7. Nashville8. Calgary9. St. Louis10. Colorado11. Columbus12. Minnesota13. Anaheim14. Dallas15. Edmonton
  10. More often than not, I agree with Brian Burke - the World Hockey Summit in Toronto that is coming to its conclusion was a fantastic idea... if you could fork over the $450 ticket price and believe that the NHL is willing to implement changes. To me, the Summit is a re-hash of ideas, some great, some not so much, but certainly by no means having a direct impact on hockey in general because of its lack of execution. Increased scoring, financial viability of certain teams, expansion, and the CBA were again the major topics of conversation, some of which are worth discussing. <img src="http://www.tsr.ch/xobix_media/images/tsr/2008/swisstxt20080512_9077705_0.jpg"class="imageFloatRightFramed">Even though the NHL is struggling to keep some of its franchises afloat, there has always been talk of expansion, but not necessarily the kind that adds more teams, but rather the geographical kind. In my mind, there's no doubt the Coyotes are going to move, but the question remains when and where. Winnipeg and Quebec City are the oft-discussed destinations in Canada while south of the border the usual culprit, Kansas City, remains the most intriguing option. But what of overseas expansion? It's no secret that hockey is big in Europe and if the NHL is interested in generating revenue, Europe already has an established fan base, unlike the majority of the southern teams in the US. However, International Ice Hockey Federation President Rene Fasel is steadfastly against the idea. The underlying motivation behind Fasel's position isn't holding a grudge against Gary Bettman for refusing to commit NHL players to the 2014 Sochi Games, but more for protecting the interests of the European hockey leagues and indirectly, the NHL. The NHL boasts the world's best hockey players in the world but also the biggest revenue streams. As much as Alexander Medvedev thinks the KHL is more lucrative and more talented, that's just not the case. Ray Emery, who spent a season with Atlant Mytishchi, says the competition isn't even close and I'm inclined to agree. If the KHL, who often boasts about its player salaries exemplified by its offer to Ilya Kovalchuk (reportedly close to US $20 million a season, tax free), can't compete against the NHL, then neither can any of the European leagues. By establishing an European division, the NHL can essentially wipe out those leagues. Obviously there will be some fan loyalty to consider, but if the best players play in the NHL's European division, that's where the fans will go. Fan support is clearly dictated by the success of a team's on-ice product. Earlier this summer, Russia's most storied hockey franchise, Moscow Dynamo, whose alumni include Pavel Datsyuk and Alexander Ovechkin, folded. If a team of that stature can fold, and while the KHL's financial instability isn't mirrored in the Swedish Elite League or the Finnish National League, it's not inconceivable that other storied franchises like MoDo or Jokerit Helsinki could fold as well. Even if the NHL is willing to pump millions of money into an European division, the logistics would be a major headache. Flight costs, scheduling, and game times are just some of the major problems it will encounter. If the Canucks were to play in Stockholm, they'd have to travel over 7500 km (airplane fuel is slightly more expensive than the already ridiculous prices they charge you at your local gas station) and a 7:00 PM game time in Stockholm translates to 10:00 AM Vancouver time. This severely decreases TV viewership and even if the games are played on weekends some die-hard Canucks fans would find it hard to get up that early. If the Canucks play at home at 7:00 PM, it's 4:00 AM in Stockholm and at that hour there's almost no point in broadcasting the games, especially if the NHL wishes to charge Swedish TV networks a premium for showcasing NHL talent. It's an idea that just won't work on any level and should be laid to rest. The second issue worth discussing is again, the salary cap. Even though Kovalchuk's original deal with the Devils was voided by Richard Bloch, it looks like he's going to be a Devil anyway. While other teams have knocked Kovalchuk's door, I think it's his intention to remain a Devil. You have to wonder if the Kings would've made a second pitch to Kovalchuk had they not signed Alexei Ponikarovsky upon hearing Kovalchuk's 17-year pact with New Jersey. The Kings still have ample cap room but having an extra $3.2 million in the bank could've changed things. If the NHL was so intent on preventing these "cheat" contracts from happening, why not dole out a real punishment, like preventing the Devils from re-negotiating with Kovalchuk? At the end of the day, when Kovalchuk is once again in the red and black, the Devils and Kovalchuk will merely shrug their shoulders. The Devils still got the player they wanted with (most likely) another ~$10 million per season salary contract, albeit shorter. Preventing re-negotiations between the two sides may be crossing the line for the NHL but it's a league that clearly doesn't believe in reason or logic. <img src="http://1.bp.blogspot.com/_S-6RkogBLCs/SZQTkclNhaI/AAAAAAAAArk/rmYHVhfx7hk/s400/DSC_0497.JPG"class="imageFloatLeftFramed">The Hawks have also been whining about how inflexible the cap is and may have to loan Cristobal Huet to the Swiss National League A. The victim here is clearly Huet, not the Hawks, and frankly I'm a little disappointed the Frenchman hasn't sounded off. Since day one the Hawks have little confidence in their $5.625 million goalie and have come up with oh-so-original idea to either banish him to the AHL or loan him to European teams. Whether or not you agree Huet is starting material is debatable, but he is a NHL-calibre goalie. Teams that have clearly made mistakes, like Washington with Michael Nylander and the Rangers with Wade Redden, should be punished by having those salaries count against the cap regardless of where they're banished to. The Rangers, and more recently the Caps, now have deep pockets and aren't afraid of paying players to just simply go away. Unlike Phoenix, those organizations don't have problems paying their players but do have problems understanding how the cap works. By this time, entering the sixth year of the current CBA, there should be no excuse. The CBA is far too flexible and makes it far too easy for teams to make their mistakes go away.
  11. This summer wasn't supposed to feature big name free agents. Marian Hossa. Marc Savard. Chris Pronger. Roberto Luongo. Most people aren't shocked this deal was struck down. I wasn't either. When it was announced Kovalchuk's contract was going to be investigated you knew this wasn't headed anywhere good. I was, and still am, surprised an investigation was conducted in the first place. <img src="http://assets.nydailynews.com/img/2010/07/20/alg_resize_ilya-kovalchuk.jpg"class="imageFloatLeftFramed">Now that arbiter Richard Bloch has nixed Ilya Kovalchuk's deal with New Jersey, it has set off a chain of events that the NHL may never recover from. It's a PR disaster - a league that identified its mistakes too late and now is set to potentially undo a number of transactions that would affect all 30 teams, directly or indirectly. I said in my previous blog post that the NHL's decision to investigate Kovalchuk's contract was a poor one because precedent had been set and it was no secret that all the very, very long-term contracts signed before Kovalchuk's were designed to circumvent the cap. The NHLPA agrees with me - from TSN: "The NHL Players' Association argued that those four deals were approved and that Kovalchuk's deal should be approved as well." It's a simple and logical argument. Remember when Luongo's contract (among others) was signed the NHL had already investigated and deemed it acceptable? Now they're saying it might not. Which is it? This entire fiasco stinks of a small, small man determined to make some sort of history and make everyone play by his rules, not the CBA's or NHLPA's. The issue that should strike a little fear in Canucks fans' hearts is that if Bloch rules Luongo's contract in violation of the CBA he immediately becomes an unrestricted free agent. Scary thought, huh? Rest assured that even if Luongo's contract is voided he will re-sign in Vancouver because this is where he has the biggest chance to win but since these "cheat" contracts aren't allowed it means Mike Gillis will have to retain him at a higher cap hit. A higher cap hit means more cap casualties and the Canucks are still around $2.5 million over the cap. Most players whose contracts may be voided will choose to remain with their respective teams for both monetary and non-monetary reasons. But there are teams who stand to gain from having such long-term contracts voided, like the Bruins, who have been trying to get rid of Marc Savard's contract for awhile (more on that later). <img src="http://tenderslounge.files.wordpress.com/2008/10/roberto-luongo-c-on-mask.jpg"class="imageFloatRightFramed">I get why the NHL doesn't like the deal and I agree it's preposterous, but it's not just Kovalchuk's. What's done is done. The CBA wasn't perfect and it seems like Bettman is taking these "cheat" contracts as a personal slap to the face. Lou Lamoriello is a bold GM who isn't afraid to make some controversial moves but this one was just too bold for Bettman's taste. (There are conspiracy theorists out there that claim this Kovalchuk contract was a sham in the first place and was designed to give Bettman impetus to investigate other "cheat" contracts further but I say that's a pile of poo - Lamoriello wouldn't stoop that low.) The more interesting contract is actually Hossa's. Since Luongo's $64 million, 12-year extension doesn't kick in until this year, there's relatively little penalty. It will require Gillis to get creative once more but no harm, no foul because technically speaking Luongo's contract hasn't kicked in yet. But not Hossa's. Signed in 2009, Hossa's already played out one year of his 12-year, $63.3 million contract. Voiding Luongo's contract also means Bloch has to void Hossa's. In a side-by-side comparison, the two extensions are similar in term, dollars, and structure. So what happens then? If Hossa's contract is to be deemed void then it is void retroactive to July 1, 2009, before Dale Tallon/Stan Bowman built a Cup-winning team. It would mean that the Blackhawks won the Cup with an illegal player and given the impact Hossa had on that team, you could argue that perhaps that Cup shouldn't belong in Chicago. Here's my guess: Luongo, Hossa, Henrik Zetterberg, Johan Franzen (funny how Gillis, Chiarelli, and Tallon/Bowman have been mentioned but not the NHL's golden boy GM, Ken Holland), Vinny Lecavalier, and Duncan Keith's contracts won't be voided because their salaries in the final years of their contract won't dip below $1 million, which seems to have been the cut-off point Bloch has arbitrarily decided on. Savard's will because he is 1) set to earn just $525,000 per year for the last two years of his contract, and 2) be 40 when it expires, and as Bloch is quick to point out there aren't too many NHLers who play past their 40th birthday. But it's a contract that doesn't kick in until this upcoming season so it's no harm, no foul. Savard will sign with the Leafs and Peter Chiarelli saves himself from a headache even though he loses Savard for nothing. Voiding not one, but two, might even make the NHL look better. The strange one will be Chris Pronger's, whose contract, like Savard's, sees him earn $525,000 over the last two years of his contract. But the Flyers are on the hook for the entire length of that contract so it may be possible that Bloch decides that's enough punishment for Paul Holmgren. If Pronger's contract is deemed not in violation of circumventing the cap then it'll have to be on different grounds than Kovalchuk's. There's no way Bloch can declare Kovalchuk's contract void and Pronger's valid if the criteria is 1) "playable" length and 2) the sub-$1 million pay in the final years of the contract. There's been a lot of talk about signing contracts in good faith. Gary Bettman breeds none. <img src="http://www.vancouversun.com/business/3084395.bin?size=620x400"class="imageFloatMiddleFramed">
  12. <img src="http://msnbcmedia.msn.com/j/ap/devils%20kovalchuk%20hockey--810173562_v2.rp350x350.jpg"class="imageFloatLeftFramed">Ilya Kovalchuk was all smiles and cracking jokes when he signed a record-breaking 17 year pact with the Devils for $102 million. Even with a declining Martin Brodeur and the future in net uncertain, by signing the Russian sniper the Devils look to remain playoff staples for the next decade. That all came to a crashing halt today. Kovalchuk is now stuck in limbo as the NHL rejected his new contract today citing that both sides are trying to circumvent the cap. The NHL believes that neither Kovalchuk nor the Devils believe that he will play out his contract in its entirety, at which point Kovalchuk will be 44 years old. It's quite obvious that the NHL is making a judgment call on Kovalchuk. The NHL is essentially saying that 1) Kovalchuk can't possibly want to play in the NHL at 44 years old, or 2) that he can't play at the NHL level at 44 years old due to declining skill. It seems as though Gary Bettman has forgotten that up until this year Chris Chelios, at 48 years old, was a NHLer. For comparison's sake, when Chelios was 44 years old in 2006, he suited up in 81 games for the Red Wings, posting 11 points with 102 penalty minutes and a healthy +22 rating. <img src="http://www.chicagonow.com/blogs/blackhawks-confidential/gary-bettman1.jpg"class="imageFloatRightFramed">It also bothers me that Bettman is stepping in now. It's absolutely absurd. Where was he for the Marian Hossa contract? When Dale Tallon signed Hossa last summer, he was 30 years old and awarded with a 12-year contract, making him 42 years old when he retires. Johan Franzen and Henrik Zetterberg will be 41 when their contracts expire in 2021. You don't even have to look to far beyond our backyard for another example: Roberto Luongo's new contract, which kicks in this upcoming season, will take him to 2022, at which point he will be 43 years old. Luongo's combined salary for the last three years of his contract? $3.618 million. Kovalchuk's contract isn't the first of his kind. Lou Lamoriello didn't set any precedents. All of these contracts were designed to circumvent the cap by lowering each players' cap hit. If Bettman is calling Lamoriello a cheat then he is also calling out Tallon, Ken Holland, and Mike Gillis, some of the brightest minds in hockey today. All of these contracts were designed to circumvent the cap to a certain degree. I would be very, very surprised if the NHLPA doesn't file a grievance. I would understand Bettman's actions better had this been part of the new CBA, but this is still the one that was agreed on since the lockout. This CBA has proven to be a failure: traditional non-hockey market teams are still struggling, contracts are longer and more lucrative than ever, and there still hasn't been the parity Bettman has been talking about. And what of Kovalchuk? Is he still a free agent? Do the Kings wait for the league investigation to be over or do they move ahead to Plan B? What about the Devils? Does Kovalchuk, one of the league's premier players, head to the KHL for greener pastures now? What's Bettman's plan? Where is this going to go? Kovalchuk's contract may have sent ripples across the league but Bettman's actions and decisions will make waves. This is going to be interesting.
  13. For the second straight year, on the same exact day, in the same exact scenario, the Canucks fell flat on their faces. I think if you could point to one determining factor in the series, it was that the Canucks just couldn't match the Blackhawks' drive and talent. Despite Shane O'Brien and Kevin Bieksa stepping up their games, they still couldn't quite match the impact Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook, and even former Canuck Brent Sopel had for their teams. Jonathan Toews' drive to win was unmatched, Patrick Kane couldn't be contained, and Antti Niemi was just good enough to beat the Canucks. In my previous post I said the number one to watch was Game 6. I kind of regret writing that now. I finished the game in its entirety, from the national anthem to the post-game interviews (more on that later) and I can't help but feel dissatisfied about the Canucks' effort. Asides from Kyle Wellwood, I don't think anybody brought their A-game. You could point out that several key players, including Sami Salo and Ryan Kesler, were playing with a considerable amount of pain, but both of them even said it's not an excuse. You play hurt in the playoffs. Yet, somehow, we dealt less mental and physical damage to the Hawks - if not, they certainly didn't show any weakness. Had we peppered Niemi with 50 shots I would've been a little more satisfied, but in an elimination game the Canucks only managed 30 and lacked the same intensity the Hawks showed all game. I don't like how the Canucks responded after a convincing win to force another game at GM Place. And that brings me to the post-game interviews. I was never one of those that particularly liked Mike Gillis and Alain Vigneault's decision to make Roberto Luongo captain. I certainly was skeptical and noted how it was perhaps a sign that no one in the dressing room was fit to wear the 'C'. A little concerning, to say the least. After Luongo backstopped Canada to a gold medal and Henrik Sedin elevated his game to set a new franchise record in points in a season, a lot of questions about the Canucks were erased. But after last night's performance, the same questions are raised again. Is Luongo a big-game player? Are the Sedins too soft? Is our team deep enough? Is Luongo the right choice as captain? For me, at least, I know the answer to the last question is a resounding "no." <img src="http://d.yimg.com/a/p/ap/20100512/capt.d97d09ba4ee34ce2be0fddfb75f3c7e9-d97d09ba4ee34ce2be0fddfb75f3c7e9-0.jpg"class="imageFloatLeftFramed">Why do I say that? Asides from a logistical perspective, having a goalie as a captain really limits the role of a captain. Because goalies cannot cross the red line, communicating with referees and other players can be quite difficult. For the most part, ceremonial face-offs and communication with the referees have been assigned to a committee of leaders rather than one singular individual. But I think the most telling part of the Canucks' playoff run were the post-game interviews. When bombarded with a plethora of questions regarding the Canucks' play, Luongo's most common answer was, "I don't know." Kelly Hrudey on CBC was highly critical of Luongo at his (apparent) refusal to comment on how poor his game was but that's not the reason I'm more than a little annoyed. As a captain and face of the franchise, an "I don't know" answer tells me that this team obviously lacks any clues as to why and how they lost. I realize that it takes days, even months, to digest a loss as devastating as this one, but certainly "I don't know" is not an answer. 94% of voters on The Province website said Luongo will not be captain next year. The most interesting interview, I thought, was the guy who had the least to say, and that was Ryan Kesler. "Words can't describe how I feel right now." Playing with a nagging shoulder injury, Kesler sounded like he was the Canuck that took the loss the hardest (although I'm sure everyone took the loss hard). Kesler's passion shows on the ice and he certainly didn't make any excuses. To him, the Canucks just came up short. Really short. Vancouver fans are no stranger to disappointments. After 40 years of futility we've seen just about everything. But never have I ever seen any Canucks team fail to salute the fans after the end of the season. That perhaps was the most frustrating part of the game. Sure, most fans booed and with the way the Canucks showed up to this game I wouldn't want to stick around the rink any longer than I should, but there are fans who still cheer for them through the tough times and who still genuinely care. Vancouver's a passionate hockey town and for the team to ultimately disrespect their fans like that is discomforting. The majority of the fans left the rink with a sour taste in their mouths but that's no excuse to not acknowledge the support Vancouver fans have given the team all year. I want an apology. Not so much for the poor performance in Game 6 but rather how the Canucks showed their appreciation to their fans. I guess there's always next year.
  14. 30. That was Canucks hockey at its finest. Even at the Madhouse, the Blackhawks lacked that extra step all night. But that's what's most frustrating about the Canucks - they can't play their game on a more consistent basis. <img src="http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2009/03/mar1909_ob3_b.jpg"class="imageFloatLeftFramed">29. I was never a fan of Shane O'Brien, especially in game four when he took two bone-headed cross-checking penalties. No one has ever questioned his toughness but you can't help but notice that his game has improved drastically. His skating and his hockey smarts are two things that have really jumped out at me this season. 28. Will the real Ryan Kesler please stand up? Much like Alex Burrows, Kesler has struggled to find his game in the second round after a fantastic regular season and an even better performance at the Olympics. It's not like Kesler's invisible - that's more Pavol Demitra than anyone - but he hasn't made a big impact in games like we all know he can. 27. Roberto Luongo was better, but not fantastic. He didn't exactly steal the game, although there were more Hawks chances than I'd like to see. It's not exactly like the Hawks are an easy team to play against either. 26. Special teams is vital, especially if it's not the regular season. The Hawks powerplay didn't look nearly as dangerous and Dustin Byfuglien wasn't as noticeable as he was in Game Four. The Canucks didn't allow a single PPG in four penalty kills. A rarity these days. 25. If there was a goat for the entire series, I'm not picking the less than spectacular Luongo. It's Daniel Sedin. Having accumulated only 28 PIM all season, the twin without the 'A' has 12 PIM in 11 games and just one powerplay goal. Daniel was clearly rattled by David Bolland in Game Four and a lot of the penalties he's been taken have just been plain dumb. There was a collective sigh of relief for Canucks Nation when the Canucks came out strong again in the second period after a late hooking call on Daniel. Perhaps this is the reason why Alain Vigneault gave Henrik rather than Daniel the 'A'. 24. Kyle Wellwood can be a blast to watch. He's perhaps one of the best stickhandlers in the league in close quarters, but ask him to do it while skating at full speed and, well, it's probably not going to happen. But either way, I think he was one of the best players out there last night (along with Kevin Bieksa and O'Brien), and I think most will agree. He may be only one of the few returning UFAs and he won't come much more expensive than his current salary ($1.2 million). 23. It's a foregone conclusion that Pavol Demitra is gone after this season. I didn't expect him to be back next year but his overall lack of effort just solidified my case even more. 22. Never mind Patrick Kane - he's a slick puckhandler with great vision and soft hands, but it doesn't seem like he'll be anything more than that. Perhaps it's because his development into a NHL star has paled in comparison to Duncan Keith and Jonathan Toews', but even after a couple of seasons in the league I don't think he's improved his defensive game any, if at all. I don't expect Kane to win the Selke, Kesler's going to do that this year, but I know some Hawks fans that cringe when they see 88 loitering around the defensive zone. 21. Kris Versteeg is one of those sneaky fast players that plays hard. If anything, his spirited tilt against Patrick Eaves was a testament to his heart and grit. 29 other teams would love to have him. Asides from Toews, for obvious patriotic reasons, he may be one of my favourite Hawks. Don't shoot me. 20. If the Canucks advance to the finals it won't be because Henrik, Luongo, Alex Edler, or even Christian Ehrhoff elevated their play. It's because of the return of Ryan Johnson, who returns to his regular fourth line spot. The underappreciated centre won 8 of 9 draws (he single-handedly raised the Canucks' FO% by 5%), blocked 2 shots, and dished out 1 hit in 11 minutes of ice-time. One thing that you can depend on Johnson for is quality minutes. Against San Jose defense will be huge, now with Patrick Marleau and Joe Thornton (finally) hitting their stride. <img src="http://habsinsideout.com/files/hio/imagecache/littleimage/images/0subban_0.jpg"class="imageFloatRightFramed">19. How about that PK Subban? The kid oozes poise and confidence on the blueline and with Hal Gill questionable for an elimination game and Jaroslav Spacek's expected to return (although not necessarily at 100%), expect Subban to log 20 minutes. He's already averaging 18:41 and don't be surprised if Jacques Martin assigns Subban to Sidney Crosby. 18. It's funny how much ink Jaroslav Halak is getting, but once the playoffs are over expect the Halak vs. Carey Price debates to continue. Habs fans have fallen head over heels with Halak but I caution against jumping on the bandwagon too soon. One good season does not make for a good goalie. I'm not doubting Halak's ability, but I am a little appalled how fast people throw Price under the bus. But, I guess that's just Montreal for you. 17. The Flyers have always wanted that elite netminder, but ask any Philly fan and they'll say that Ron Hextall was the last good goaltender they had. But what's Hextall's career save percentage? A rather pedestrian .895. What Flyers fans miss is the toughness and pugnacity Hextall brought to the table but those goalies don't grow on trees. In fact, I think a case can be made to jettison Ray Emery (in all likelihood won't be re-signed, anyone else think he has a career in MMA?) and enter the 2010-11 season with Brian Boucher as the number one and Michael Leighton as the backup. Neither come with starting goalie pedigree (Boucher was a former 22nd overall pick), but the Flyers are a team built for the playoffs and all they need to do is to make it. They got lucky and drew the declining Martin Brodeur in the first round, but Boucher has always traditionally played better when it counts. His regular season numbers aren't exactly stellar (.900, 2.72 GAA career) but his playoff numbers are significantly better (.915, 2.17 GAA career). A Boucher/Leighton tandem will save them money and allow them to keep Simon Gagne. If anything, this would be a one season experiment. I've always felt some backups never get the chance to show what they can really do. 16. Everyone's been saying how easy it was to shut down Alex Ovechkin but how about Crosby? He's almost been a non-factor in the series but like Mike Babcock, Dan Bylsma will live or die with his best players on the ice. Evgeni Malkin, last year's Conn Smythe winner, has been invisible for stretches of the game. I actually think the best Penguin in this playoffs has been Kris Letang. So much for finding the right wingers - Ruslan Fedotenko has zero points and Alexei Ponikarovsky was a healthy scratch recently. 15. The new Bobby Orr statue that commemorates the 40th anniversary of his goal against St. Louis will be unveiled tonight. The Bruins are looking to eliminate the Flyers at home (they will) and advance to the Conference Finals where in all likelihood they will face Pittsburgh, which will no doubt be a spirited bout. After facing the 6'7" Gill, Crosby will yet again face another giant, this time the 6'9" Zdeno Chara. Expect more frustration and shattered sticks. Marc-Andre Fleury needs to outplay Tuukka Rask if the Pens want to advance. 14. If there were any doubts over Doug Wilson's job security in San Jose, the Sharks' first appearance in the Conference Finals in six years certainly wiped it all away. Joe Thornton, surprisingly, came up huge and he's been playing really well. But the big coming out party is for "Little Joe" Pavelski, who I thought along with Ryan Kesler, Ryan Miller, and Brian Rafalski was one of the best players for USA. 13. Just a little story on Pavelski. After playing two years at the University of Wisconsin, Pavelski signed an entry-level contract at $850,000 in the summer of 2006. Despite his spectacular college numbers (101 points in 84 games, James van Riemsdyk only collected 74 in comparison), Pavelski initially didn't expect to make the team. He was absolutely shocked when he walked into the locker room one day and saw his familiar #8 (his college number) waiting for him at his stall. He knew then that he had made it. Even his mother has often commented about how the entire family was surprised at how good he was at the game. It's this kind of modesty that really makes great players. The kind of modesty that makes you work hard at your game day-in and day-out. 12. That San Jose made the Conference Finals must be great news for Gary Bettman. After interest in hockey in California began to fade after the Ducks' struggles, the Sharks have finally found that playoff success and the Kings are becoming relevant again. If you were to argue for Bettman's side that hockey will work in non-traditional markets, California is a great example. Former Vancouver Giants standout Jon Blum is from California and a big reason he got into hockey was because of Wayne Gretzky. We could see a big boom in hockey interest in California very, very soon. <img src="http://media.scout.com/media/image/63/634544.jpg"class="imageFloatLeftFramed">11. Back to college hockey - if anyone gets a chance, watch the NCAA Frozen Four. I personally dislike watching basketball in general, especially the NBA, but March Madness is a different animal altogether. Just imagine the hype, the skill, the determination, and the hard work, but just on ice. It's a spectacular tournament that unfortunately really doesn't garner enough attention. The player that I've been watching all year and think could have a great NHL career? Former Wisconsin captain Blake Geoffrion (whose squad finished second this year to Boston College), the grandson of Hab legend Boom-Boom Geoffrion and wears #5 in his honour. If there was any family that knows how to shoot the puck, it's the Geoffrions. 10. It's about time the NHL made an award for executive of the year, although I wish they would name it. There is no question that this year's winner is Don Maloney, much like this year's Jack Adams should go to Dave Tippett. What they've done together in Phoenix has been incredible. Should the Coyotes move to Winnipeg, they will already have a solid management group in place, a key ingredient to a successful hockey franchise and ensure that the "new" Jets won't be stuck in expansion mediocrity in its infancy. 9. Next award to introduce? How about an award for most assists? There's a minor award for one of the useless stats in hockey with the +/- award, so why not one for helpers? This isn't some sort of ploy to get Henrik another trophy (he will win both the Hart and Pearson) but playmaking is an art form but is somehow less glamorous than goal-scoring. Let's change that. 8. There's little doubt in my mind that the new hardware being handed out this year is somehow tied to the fact that for the foreseeable future the NHL Awards will be held in glitzy Las Vegas. 7. I'm going to refrain from making any predictions about who will come out of the west for fear of jinxing our dearly beloved, but I am going to say that the East won't be winning the Cup this year. Although I'm sure Bettman is just absolutely jonesing for a Chicago-Pittsburgh tilt. Ratings would be through the roof. 6. My avid golfer dad and I enjoyed the brief absence of Tiger Woods from the PGA Tour. It's not that we don't like the way he golfs - his aggressiveness and competitiveness is second to none - but it's the way he carries himself on and off the course (no more needs to be said here). If you remember, it wasn't too long ago when Woods made a little comment about how "no one watches hockey," which prompted "Mad Mike" Milbury to dub him "http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4f9hfH_zGKE," I can't help but think how ignorant that comment is. USA Hockey is providing a new surge of talent and if the Olympics were any indication at all, it's going to become really relevant again. That Tiger Woods, the world's most marketable athlete behind LeBron James (the scandal actually did The Masters a favour), is turning a blind eye towards his own country's feats and accomplishments is downright ignorant and frustrating. This has gone on long enough. Now for a short top five things to watch for. 5. Steven Stamkos at the World Championships in Cologne, Germany. He will be Canada's #2 pivot for years to come behind Sidney Crosby. Stamkos is already better than Eric Staal, Vinny Lecavalier, or Ryan Getzlaf when they were his age. No surprises here, but Matt Duchene is also another player to watch and will end up having a more brilliant career than John Tavares. Which is why the Oilers should go with potential and smarts rather than raw skill by selecting Tyler Seguin over Taylor Hall. In fact, maybe Steve Tambellini can dupe Peter Chiarelli into thinking that the Oilers are going to take Hall and somehow swindle a low pick from them to guarantee them that they'll take Seguin first overall. <img src="http://d.yimg.com/a/p/sp/getty/aa/fullj.d76d2121d550e807b3205e740e4a4921/d76d2121d550e807b3205e740e4a4921-getty-98570716jj019_detroit_red_w.jpg"class="imageFloatLeftFramed">4. Nicklas Lidstrom may have played his last game as a Red Wing and it's a shame that it has to end on a low note, especially after falling to Crosby and the Pens last year. Had the Wings won the Cup Lidstrom's decision to retire would be much easier, but like most veteran players who are on the fence (Mike Modano included), there's always that question of "what could've been." Either way, congratulations are in order for both Modano and Lidstrom. 3. Mark Messier selected the squad for Canada at Cologne and no doubt the Canadians will achieve some form of success due to the abundance of talent. But managing a NHL team is a different. There's salary caps, trades, negotiations, and PR disasters (the Rangers still have Sean Avery). I certainly hope Messier's success at the international level doesn't somehow get translated into a lengthy NHL managing career. On second thought, that might not be a bad idea. 2. The Canucks somehow played better with 4.5 defensemen (sorry, Andrew Alberts). With Sami Salo expected to out with a potentially ruptured testicle (ouch... but follow it on twitter @salostesticle) this will be a test to how the Canucks respond. The home team has the losing record in this series but look for GM Place to be rowdy as ever. 1. The number one thing to watch? Game Six. Duh.
  15. A win in Game 5 at the United Center keeps the Canucks' hopes of re-writing history alive as their quest to avoid having a similar fate this year against the Blackhawks as they did in 2009 continues for at least one more game. And since this year's theme for the playoffs is History Will Be Made, Number Crunching explores some of that history that has already been re-written so far in the 2010 playoffs for the Canucks. SPEED KILLS <img src=http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2010/05/may0510_flying_t.jpg class="imageFloatLeftFramed">To say the Canucks' start to Game 4 on Friday was their worst ever start in a playoff game is no exaggeration. Brent Seabrook's goal just 18 seconds into Game 4 set a new record by a Canucks' opponent for fastest goal to start a playoff game. The previous fastest goal to start a playoff game by a Canucks' opponent came from Jeff Halpern of the Dallas Stars back on April 13, 2007. Halpern scored 24 seconds into Game 2 of the Stars' Quarter-Final series against the Canucks that year. Seabrook's tally, however, was nowhere close to the all-time Blackhawks record for fastest goal to start a playoff game. That record belonged to forward Ken Wharram who set the mark way back on April 13, 1967 with a goal nine seconds into a playoff contest against the Toronto Maple Leafs. The NHL's all-time record for fastest goal from the start of a playoff game belongs to Don Kozak of the Los Angeles Kings who tallied six seconds into a contest against the Boston Bruins on April 17, 1977. OVERPOWERED <img src=http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2010/05/may0910_hawks08_t.jpg class="imageFloatRightFramed">The four power play goals surrendered by the Canucks in Game 4 on Friday not only was a high for the Canucks in the 2010 post-season, it established a new dubious franchise record for most power play goals against in a single playoff game. Vancouver's previous record for most power play goals surrendered in a single playoff game was three - something they had fallen victim to eight previous times most recently in Game 3 of their opening round series against the Kings. Three of the Blackhawks' power play goals on Friday came off the stick of Jonathan Toews, who incidentally tied an NHL record for most power play goals in a single game. Toews became just the 11th different NHL player (12th time overall) to score three power play goals in a single NHL playoff game. The record was initially set by Red Wings' forward Syd Howe (no relation to Gordie) on March 23, 1939 in a game against the Montreal Canadiens. The most recent player to accomplish the feat prior to Toews was Valeri Kamensky of the Colorado Avalanche. Kamensky notched the feat, coincidentally, in a 7-0 win on April 24, 1997 over the Chicago Blackhawks. The other players who have tallied three power play goals in one playoff contest are: Sid Smith (DET), Phil Esposito (BOS), John Bucyk (BOS), Denis Potvin (NYI), Tim Kerr (PHI), Jari Kurri (EDM), Mark Johnson (NJD), and Dino Ciccarelli (x2, DET). FIRST-MINUTEMEN <img src=http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2010/05/may0910_hawks10_t.jpg class="imageFloatLeftFramed">Goals coming in the opening minute of a game involving the Canucks were a rarity during the regular season so it was a bit unusual to see it happen this week in back-to-back games. During the 2009.10 regular season, the Canucks were involved in just five games where a goal had been scored in the opening minute. While it may seem like a huge advantage to have a lead less than one minute into a game, it didn't quite work out that way in the regular season at least as far as games involving the Canucks were concerned. Teams that scored one minute or less into a regular season contest involving Vancouver this season won just two of the five games where it occurred although in the playoffs they are a perfect 2-0. The following is a list of the first minute scorers in games involving Vancouver this season: October 27 vs DET - Henrik Sedin @ 0:30 - 5-4 Red Wings November 10 @ STL - Andy McDonald @ 0:18 - 6-1 Blues January 30 @ TOR - Phil Kessel @ 0:52 - 5-3 Canucks February 12 @ CBJ - Rick Nash @ 0:22 - 4-3 Canucks March 30 vs PHX - Alex Burrows @ 0:37 - 4-1 Canucks *May 7 vs CHI (Game 4) - Brent Seabrook @ 0:18 - 7-4 Blackhawks *May 9 @ Chi (Game 5) - Christian Ehrhoff @ 0:59 - 4-1 Canucks *Denotes playoff game. A MESSAGE TO THE BOYS FOR GAME 6 Statistics and other information appearing in this blog are for entertainment purposes only and a sense of humour is recommended when reading. E-mail the author here or follow him on Twitter.
  16. I was lucky enough to attend last night's game and after Shane O'Brien's weak holding penalty a fan sitting in front of me stood up and yelled, "where's Gary Bettman?" If that didn't sum up the game, I don't know what did. A disappointing 5-2 loss puts the Canucks behind 2-1 in the series, but perhaps more concerning was the way the Canucks handled themselves. Some believe the loss can be attributed to the Canucks' more physical play, but I don't think that was it. I don't think it was the Hawks that got under the Sedins' skin either. I think, quite simply, the Canucks just didn't have an answer to big Dustin Byfuglien (with a name like that it still baffles me how it's pronounced "BUFF-lin"). Credit to Byfuglien though, Vancouver's new public enemy number one, especially after he pretty much flipped off the crowd after scoring a goal, for realizing how hated he is in Vancouver and totally embracing the role. No player on Vancouver's roster could match Byfuglien's physicality and the fact that he played with Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews certainly created some room for him. While he definitely was a huge factor for the Hawks' win, the referees certainly were THE factor. I have never ever seen or been to a game where officiating has been this bad. Let's call a spade a spade - had the game been called more fairly the game would've been closer, or even produced a different outcome. Alain Vigneault side-stepped questions about the officiating, and on one hand I understand that 1) he doesn't want to get fined, and 2) he's not going to make any excuses for his team. But it's times like these where I wish players and coaches were given more free reign to sound off. By fining and reprimanding players there's zero accountability with the league and its officials (the Stephane Auger incident was sort of swept under the rug) and I don't need to remind everyone that the discipline office is anything but. The league, refs, and Bettman sit nice and smug on their little high chair and when someone speaks up against them they're quick to punish them. <img src="http://d.yimg.com/a/p/sp/getty/c5/fullj.0d17be1458e00e6d3c1de2fd186c3cb2/0d17be1458e00e6d3c1de2fd186c3cb2-getty-98501666rl20_kings_canucks.jpg"class="imageFloatLeftFramed">The only player that I thought could have the same effect Byfuglien had on Roberto Luongo (who had a so-so night - he fought to control the rebounds all night and cost him the second goal) was Steve Bernier. After logging close to five minutes in the opening period with a couple of strong shifts with Kyle Wellwood, I thought he was going to score a goal for sure, after all, I was wearing his jersey that night. But alas, Big Steve found himself in Vigneault's dog house again, and had just one shift in the second and just another 2:18 in the final period for a grand total of 7:36 of ice-time that night. I am a little baffled, and I do know better than to question one of the league's best bench bosses and a former Jack Adams winner, but physicality and size was obviously something that was missing in the game and I felt Bernier could've really at least made the night a little harder to bear for Antti Niemi. Bernier's not known to be a good skater or good puck-handler and did have some trouble getting the puck out of his own zone, but I don't think he was alone that night in that department. Alex Burrows finally lit the lamp and a lot of people criticized him for his unnecessary penalties, especially the one on Brian Campbell. Burrows has been playing well and he's finally getting the bounces. Unfortunately, even though his goal could've provided a big momentum shift, it clearly wasn't the case as the Canucks came out flat in the third and Marian Hossa made them pay. Speaking of coming out flat, whatever happened to Pavol Demitra, the Slovakian Superman? Ask him to play for his country and he's suddenly one of the world's top players, but ask him to play in a pressure-packed situation at home against a rival and he decides not to show up. He was barely visible on the ice last night except for a lazy penalty in the first. It's a little concerning to watch the team squander a 2-0 lead and then take a 5-2 loss, and some wonder if the mental fortitude that escaped the Canucks last year is escaping them again this year. Daniel Sedin in particular was rattled by the mouthy Dave Bolland. Kudos for O'Brien and Burrows stepping in and I forgive them for the misconducts, because let's face it, the game was long lost at that point and those two seemed to be the only players that were doing something about the harassment the Sedins were getting. Game Four is at GM Place and expect the Canucks to come out flying. How the Canucks handle themselves in that game will really tell us what sort of team we have.
  17. With just one Canucks playoff game to dissect this week, Number Crunching takes a page out of the playbook of our road warriors and gives Game 1 the full court press with the best stats from the Round 2 series opener. And because we're just so darned nice out here on the West Coast, we decide to give a shout out to a long-lost friend who just couldn't be here with us. BALANCING ACT <img src=http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2010/05/may0110_hawks24_t.jpg class="imageFloatLeftFramed">By combining on Vancouver's fifth and final goal of Game 1 against the Blackhawks, Michael Grabner and Rick Rypien became the 17th and 18th players, respectively, to tally a point during the 2010 playoff run for the Canucks - giving the Canucks the same number of players with a point they had in their entire 2009 playoff run. Through all Game 1's played in second round (i.e. excluding games played on Sunday), Vancouver not only leads all currently active playoff teams in goals with 30 (tied with the Pittsburgh Penguins) but their 18 players with a point also leads all teams still in the post-season. The Sharks and the Canadiens are right behind the Canucks with 17 players each with a point so far in the 2010 post-season, while the Blackhawks bring up the rear with just 14 players to have recorded a point. The Canucks also saw Kyle Wellwood and Michael Grabner become the 13th and 14th players, respectively, to tally a goal for them in this year's playoffs - giving them the lead among all active playoff teams in that category as well. The Red Wings and Penguins have the next highest total with 13 goal scorers each while the Flyers have the fewest among teams still alive with only eight different goal scorers. Last season, the 2009 Stanley Cup Champions Pittsburgh Penguins finished the playoffs with 16 different goal scorers and 20 different skaters who recorded at least one point. PLAYING KEEP-AWAY <img src=http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2010/05/may0110_hawks09_t.jpg class="imageFloatRightFramed">A big reason the Canucks managed to keep the Blackhawks' potent offense largely in check during Game 1 was because of their puck control. The Canucks committed just four giveaways in Saturday's contest - the fewest so far for them in the 2010 post-season. The low number of giveaways was actually a trend for the Canucks during the regular season at the United Center as well. In their two regular season contests played in Chicago, the Canucks combined for just five total giveaways. Vancouver's record during the regular season when they committed five-or-fewer giveaways in a game was 19-8-2. During their first round series against the Kings, the Canucks committed an average of 10.7 giveaways per game - the most being 16 (Game 6) and the least being seven (Game 5). ONE AND DONE <img src=http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2010/05/may0110_hawks08_t.jpg class="imageFloatLeftFramed">Roberto Luongo had one streak entering Game 1 on Saturday that he was more than happy to see come to an end. Luongo gave up just a single goal to the Blackhawks in the series opener snapping a streak of 10 consecutive games where he had given up multiple goals-per-game dating back to April 1 in the regular season. The streak of 10 games where he had personally given up two-or-more goals was the third longest single season streak for the netminder since he joined the Canucks in the 2006.07 season. Luongo's longest streak as a Canuck where he gave up multiple goals each game was 14 games from January 15, 2009 to February 24, 2009. Followers of the Canucks will remember that span took place upon Luongo's return from missing 24 games with a groin injury. His second longest streak was 11 games from January 8, 2008 to February 5, 2008. Luongo's longest streak of multiple goal games surrendered during the 2009.10 regular season was six games. He suffered through two such streaks during the regular campaign - first from January 9 to January 21 and again from January 25 to February 9. ON THIS DAY IN STANLEY CUP HISTORY (MAY 2) <img src=http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2010/01/205x115_3_13010.jpg class="imageFloatRightFramed">Number Crunching is a fully fledged member of Canucks Nation but that doesn't mean we don't welcome fans from across the NHL to read this blog. Today, we offer this little shout out to any Number Crunching fans reading this from Toronto. We know your beloved blue-and-white was not invited to this year's playoff party (your invitation must have been accidentally sent to Boston) but here's something that will turn that frown upside down: 1967: With the oldest lineup in Final history, the Toronto Maple Leafs defeated the Montreal Canadiens 3-1 in Game Six to win the 1967 Stanley Cup. The Leafs' roster included 42-year-old goalie Johnny Bower and 41-year-old defenseman Allan Stanley as well as seven others at least 30 years old. Toronto center Red Kelly played his 65th game in Final competition, setting a Stanley Cup record later tied by Montreal's Henri Richard. (Courtesy of Total Stanley Cup - NHL 2010 Playoff Media Guide) Statistics and other information appearing in this blog are for entertainment purposes only and a sense of humour is recommended when reading. E-mail the author here or follow him on Twitter.
  18. What a wild playoffs. I've been so caught up with everything that I had neglected to add new entries. Apologies. As a gift, here's everything that's been on my mind for the past 2 weeks. <img src="http://d.yimg.com/a/p/sp/getty/89/fullj.7a91908a184526bbb821a5fc3389d855/7a91908a184526bbb821a5fc3389d855-getty-98063257.jpg"class="imageFloatLeftFramed"> - Colorado just simply ran out of steam. Craig Anderson looked exhausted at times and the game time Peter Budaj saw I'm sure gave Anderson some much needed rest, however brief. Matt Duchene hit a wall and had an obvious difficulty adjusting to the more physical playoff hockey after an outstanding rookie season. Chris Stewart really had a coming out party and could become a legitimate 30-goal power forward. The Sharks almost became another punch line to a choking joke again and even though San Jose can breath a sigh of relief, they still won't make it past the second round. Even Dan Boyle was reluctant to talk about his Game 3 gaffe. If they do, it'd be totally on the shoulders of Boyle, Joe Pavelski, and Devin Setoguchi. The Sharks' vaunted Big Three have once again pulled their disappearing act. Joe Thornton has 3 assists in 6 games and is -4. Patrick Marleau has 3 points and is -2. Dany Heatley has 0 goals in 5 games. You really have to wonder how long Doug Wilson is willing to hold on to this core. And you also have to really wonder if Thornton can really be considered a franchise cornerstone anymore. - There's no secret that there's a double standard in the NHL and their failure to remain objective in all their disciplinary actions just makes the joke even worse. Zdeno Chara should've been suspended as per league rules but he wasn't, and you can expect the same with Marian Hossa for his hit on Dan Hamhuis. To make matters worse, Hossa was the Game 5 hero, giving the Blackhawks a 3-2 lead against a Nashville squad. I didn't think Chicago would have this much trouble against a team that pales in comparison in talent, but it just goes to show how far blue-collar hockey can get you. The Hawks will have no problem closing this out on the road or at the United Center. <img src="http://d.yimg.com/a/p/sp/capress/d8/fullj.1ee1ab3e17070f7eef2792201806597f/capress-hkn_kings_canucks-232609823.jpg"class="imageFloatRightFramed"> - The Kings skated with such confidence that it totally disrupted with the Canucks' play and if not for Mikael Samuelsson's (he's been fantastic since the "Sweden Snub") shooting the Canucks wouldn't be in this position. Roberto Luongo still really hasn't found his game while the defense can be criticized, his .882 SV% and 3.11 GAA just won't cut it. The penalty kill has been awful, and for those who wonder how Ryan Johnson and his one-goal season can justify more than a million dollars per year, well, there's your answer. Meanwhile, the usual suspects continue to march on. Henrik and Daniel and Ryan Kesler have continued their great regular seasons. The return of Steve Bernier was big, and the always under-appreciated big forward has caused some havoc in front of the Kings net. I think the last 7-2 thrashing totally shot down whatever confidence the Kings had. Give credit to the Kings - they're a young squad that really exceeded expectations this year, and they're going to be Pacific Division heavyweights for a long time with Anze Kopitar up front and Norris-nominee Drew Doughty on the blueline. If the Canucks can't defend the Kings, they'll have headaches with the Blackhawks. Again. - I think in the Detroit-Phoenix series, experience has really tilt the scales in the Wings' favour. Admittedly I haven't been following this series as closely as the other, but each Red Wing win looks more and more convincing. After an ugly 7-4 win, the Wings have absolutely clamped down on Phoenix's offense, with two goals allowed in their last two games. Pavel Datsyuk's simply a magician on ice and he's led the Wings' attack. Nicklas Lidstrom has remained relatively quiet (as usual) but I somehow expected a little more out of him considering that this may be his last NHL playoffs amidst rumours of retiring or returning to Sweden. Usually, half the teams that make the playoffs one year don't make the playoffs the following year (Edmonton and Carolina being the most extreme examples, no Rangers, Blues, Flames, Ducks this year). I have a feeling Phoenix and Colorado will both fall victim to this because the biggest reason for their success has been their goaltending. Ilya Bryzgalov and Craig Anderson have had outstanding seasons but they'd have to do it again to prove to me they're not one-trick ponies. - There's no way the Habs can limit the Caps to one goal again. That simply won't happen. Bruce Boudreau was noticeably flustered with his team's lack of offense in Game 5, but they'll find their game soon. You can shut down Alex Ovechkin for one game, but not an entire series. I really think the wild card here isn't goaltending, but rather Mike Green. Green has just 2 assists and is the Caps' fourth highest scoring defenseman behind USA World Jr. hero John Carlson, Tom Poti, and deadline pick-up Joe Corvo. Alex Semin only has one assist and is driving everyone crazy - he earns $6 million next year on a one-year contract and if he doesn't perform then he will be trade bait. Much like LA's Alex Frolov, Semin's desire to compete has been questioned. I've been impressed with the Habs' effort despite being a much less skilled and smaller team, but I think for the most part they've responded well. Size wasn't an issue here but look for the Habs to address that need at this year's draft where there's plenty of big-bodied centres. - I called the upset, and it was Philadelphia. They were simply built for the playoffs and the Devils just couldn't overcome their aggressive play. The Scott Hartnells, Mike Richards, and even Dan Carcillos of the Flyers simply outworked the Devils. Ian Laperriere required 60-70 stitches to fix his face after taking a shot and it's the little instances like that that can tell you about what sort of personality the team has. They'll face Washington next round (if they win) and that's a tough match-up. All you need in the playoffs to go far is a hot goalie and the Flyers have just that with Brian Boucher. At the heels of the Devils' elimination, it should be no surprise that the rumour mill has started to turn again. With a third straight first round exit, I think it's a definite sign that Martin Brodeur can no longer be the man. His .881 SV% and 3.01 GAA was awful for his standards and it has sparked rumours that Lou Lamoriello may be going after Carey Price. - The Boston-Buffalo series was certainly one that caught me by surprise. I knew that neither team would score much, and I thought Buffalo could hold off Boston's physical attack before the fatigue would set in the second round, but I guess I was wrong. Both goalies have been incredible and I still can't really pick which team is going to win, but I'll have to stick with Buffalo and hope they can win two straight. If the Sabres do win, it'd make me 8 for 8 in my predictions. The winner of this series won't last past the second. After Lindy Ruff told the media that whether or not Thomas Vanek would play would depend solely on him, it's going to be very difficult for Vanek to say no, no matter how far away from being 100% he is. - The Sens played great despite missing some several key pieces and going against two of the most offensively talented players in the league and Selke nominee Jordan Staal. It's tough enough beating all three of them, but with a strong supporting cast (although not as strong as the Pens would like) they prevailed. The series does put the Sens in a bit of a curious position, as moving forward they'll have to decide if either Pascal Leclaire or Brian Elliott is their number one guy going forward, or if they're just going to split everything 50-50. - Very quickly, that sets up San Jose and Detroit, Vancouver and Chicago, Washington and Philadelphia, and then Pittsburgh-Buffalo/Boston. It's going to be a dandy, because I see Detroit and Chicago in the Conference Finals and another Pittsburgh-Washington showdown before Chicago claims the Cup. Bold? Maybe. - The obsession with getting the right match-ups has set a new record for too many men on the ice penalties. It's going to cost a team mightily in the Finals and it'll have to be pinned on the coach. Poor bench management leads to poor communication and it won't necessarily be the players' fault. - John Tavares didn't make the list of Calder nominees that includes Detroit's Jimmy Howard, Colorado's Matt Duchene, and Buffalo's Tyler Myers. It's not that Tavares didn't have a good season - he did, with 24 goals to tie for the lead with Duchene but it was Tavares' -15 that didn't do him any favours. If it were my pick it'd be Howard. Duchene was one of Colorado's top scorers and Myers was Buffalo's top defenseman, but both I think were real beneficiaries of having Anderson and Ryan Miller in net. In hockey the most important position (arguably) is in net and without Howard the Red Wings wouldn't have made the top 8. He's much older but he's the most worthy of the league's top rookie award. - The race for the Selke essentially comes down to two players: Pavel Datsyuk and Ryan Kesler. There's no contest for the third candidate, Jordan Staal. I was a little perplexed by Staal's nomination, but in part because Datsyuk and Kesler are in a class of their own. You could replace Staal with Jonathan Toews, who I felt should've gotten a vote, and it still wouldn't have been a contest. Kesler will be hard-pressed to beat Datsyuk for the award but I think considering Kesler's showing at the Olympics and his offensive breakout it's his time to claim the award. - The Lady Byng Trophy is usually the least respected major award and it's not totally fair to give it that label and but indeed it is less glamorous. Datsyuk gets his second nomination this year while Brad Richards and Martin St. Louis both enjoyed great seasons. However, I think Datsyuk will go empty-handed once again and St. Louis, who was snubbed by Canada, will take the award. <img src="http://cdn.nhl.com/blackhawks/images/upload/2009/01/chi_129_6.jpg"class="imageFloatLeftFramed"> - The most interesting race will be for the Norris Trophy. This year's list of candidates features three first-timers with Duncan Keith, Mike Green, and Drew Doughty. I'm still a little uneasy over Green's nomination because his defensive game is nowhere near Keith's (glug glug) or Doughty's. Someone please make a Bobby Orr Award or something for best offensive defenseman. Anyway, back on topic, has anyone else noticed that none of those 3 players are feared for their hitting? It's clearly a changing of the guard not so much in terms of age, but definitely style of play. All three are incredible skaters. Chris Pronger was never an incredible skater. If it weren't for Green's nomination I think it would've went to Shea Weber. My pick is without a doubt Duncan Keith, no question. - Nashville can't even sell out their playoff games against a division rival. Once again, the futility of hockey in non-traditional American markets should give Gary Bettman an idea of what exactly is going on down there but of course he believes they are still viable markets. Bettman got absolutely lucky with the Coyotes' success this season. It also shows, however, how a successful team, no matter the location, can be with the proper management. It sounds like Tampa Bay is headed in that direction but apparently Martin St. Louis wants no part of it and has reportedly requested a trade. - The draft lottery didn't unveil any surprises, but the Oilers are still shrouded in mystery as to who they're going to pick. They've recently re-vamped their front office by firing assistant GM Kevin Prendergast and a number of trainers, but you have to wonder when Steve Tambellini's going to start touching that roster. If I were the Oilers, I'd draft Tyler Seguin and blow up that entire roster. If Tambellini had to pick one player to not trade regardless of the offer, it'd be Sam Gagner. The kid's a wizard with the puck and competes hard. - It's playoff hockey time and we've already seen our fair share of blood, bruises, and shattered teeth courtesy of Eric Belanger. The winner of this year's playoffs will be the team that has lost the most teeth and pints of blood combined. It's always been like that though. Here's to the Canucks and Kyle Wellwood losing all his teeth. Go Canucks Go!
  19. When I tell people I live and breathe hockey, one of the most common answers I get is: "You like hockey? Really!? It's so barbaric! They fight all the time!" In a way, it is true. Grown men on skates in post-whistle scrums hacking, pushing, shoving, punching, trash-talking, fighting. What most people don't understand, and most often than not it's because they've had very little exposure to the sport either by watching or playing, is that there is a "hockey code" involved. I once tried to explain this to a friend of mine to justify all the "barbaric" things that happen on the ice but there were times where I really stumbled on my words to convey my message. It's not something easily understood. There's a certain honour when it comes to dropping the gloves and hitting someone, something that has clearly been lost as evidenced by this week's crazy sequence of events. It's hard to pinpoint exactly when hockey players lost respect for one another. Hits to the head, elbows, kneeing, slew foots have been just a few of the instances this year in which hockey players lost their ability to make good decisions. Mike Richards' hit was a poor decision. As was Matt Cooke's hit on Marc Savard, Patrice Cormier's elbow on Mikael Tam, and most recently James Wisniewski's hit on Brent Seabrook. It certainly doesn't help hockey's image when papers like the Boston Herald are actively calling for a punishment on Matt Cooke. This is head-hunting at its best. This all gives hockey a bad image. I'm a little shocked that Gary Bettman hasn't publicly said anything about the matter or the Herald's front page (... on second thought, I'm actually not). The last time an (alleged) head hunt was called ended in a nasty situation that involved a season-long suspension and fractured vertebrae. The NHL took huge five steps forward with the success of the Olympics with an all North American final but its image has once again suffered because the league has proved incapable and inefficient once again to really address the issues. In fact, I think the Pittsburgh-Boston game Thursday night was a great example of why the league really needs to get rid of the instigator rule. <img src="http://d.yimg.com/a/p/rids/20100319/i/r3602461247.jpg"class="imageFloatRightFramed">First, I thought the Bruins responded in a great way to the incredible amount of pressure on them to exact revenge on Matt Cooke. Cooke knew what was coming too and obliged when he was challenged by Shawn Thornton in a spirited tilt (kudos to both). Thornton was tossed from the game for throwing punches when Cooke was vulnerable on the ice, but I'm glad that it didn't get worse, because really, it could've. Never mind the Bruins lost, that was asides from the point. Had Cooke declined the offer to drop the gloves (and he does have a history of doing that) the pent up rage of the entire Bruins squad and Boston crowd could've escalated into something much worse. In regards to Wisniewski's hit on Seabrook, had there been no instigator rule, I don't think the hit would've happened. Instead, Wisniewski would've dropped the gloves whether Seabrook was willing or not. In some ways, a spirited tilt in which the play is dead and the referees and linesmen's focus is on the fight, and in which Seabrook doesn't necessarily have to be as aware of the surroundings around him, makes it a much safer option than skating 20 feet and slamming Seabrook into the boards when he isn't looking. At least in a fight Seabrook has a chance to defend himself. It was clear Wisniewski wanted to send a message. I find it hard to believe that retaliation wasn't something he had in mind when he skated from his own bench and flew into Seabrook like a RPG. Fighting needs to stay in the NHL. Blindside hits and the instigator rule have to go. Respect, for the players and sport alike, needs to be earned again.
  20. Can't wait until tomorrow to read the Canucks.com Tale of the Tape preview? Here's a sneak peak of the scouting report versus the Blackhawks. After a bit of a sluggish start to the season through October and the early part of November, the Chicago Blackhawks are starting to recapture the form and swagger of the team that made it all the way to the Western Conference Final last season. In typical Blackhawks fashion (at least over the last year or so), they've done so by intimidating opposition defenders with their embarrassment of riches in offensively-gifted skaters. The Blackhawks are among the top scoring teams in the Western Conference, but even that doesn't tell the whole story. They've managed to continue their scoring ways despite not having yet replaced Martin Havlat's 29 goals and team-leading 77 points from 2008.09. (His replacement, Marian Hossa, is expected to make his Blackhawks debut sometime on their current six-game road trip). They also had to deal with the absence of captain Jonathan Toews for six games earlier this season after he suffered a concussion during Chicago's last game against the Canucks. While it's not surprising to see the two Patricks (Kane and Sharp) atop their leading scorers list, the Blackhawks have gotten plenty of contribution offensively from their entire lineup. With the exception of Colin Fraser, every Blackhawk player that has played 10-or-more games this season has recorded at least one goal. What most people might find surprising about the Blackhawks is that they've also been one of the Western Conference's and the League's best teams in terms of goals against. They have surrendered just 49 goals in 21 games played and a big reason for that has to do with the improved play of netminder Cristobal Huet. After giving up three-or-more goals in five of his first six starts of the season and looking like he was about to have his starter's role usurped by Antti Niemi, Huet has rebounded quite nicely giving up three-or-more goals in just two of his last 11 games. There is a chance that the Canucks could see Antti Niemi in net tonight as Huet and the Blackhawks played last night in Edmonton although with three days off after this game in Vancouver, the Blackhawks may opt to continue to ride Huet's hot streak. Huet was solid last night in Edmonton stopping 25 of 27 shots in a 5-2 win. He did not start against the Canucks back on October 21st. Niemi played that night and made 28 saves on 31 shots in the losing effort. Niemi has not started since November 6th in a 4-3 shootout loss to the Colorado Avalanche. Read the complete Canucks.com Tale of the Tape preview here. (Updated on the morning of each game)