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The trade deadline is approaching. It's a little less than a month away, just 27 days left before frantic phone calls are made and triggers pulled too fast. It's my second most favourite NHL-related time of the year, just behind July 1, because I get to whine, complain, yell, laugh, praise, and wonder how close Pierre McGuire can creep up to Darren Dutchyshen before Dutchyshen completely loses it on live TV (I swear it's going to happen someday). It's also a great reason for me to stay home, glue my butt to the couch, and watch TSN until my eyes melt. So exciting. <img src="http://2010vancouver.ca/mikegillis.jpg"class="imageFloatRightFramed">But are the Canucks even major players this year? Given that the Canucks are first in the West and in virtually no danger of falling out of the top eight, the team is obviously a buyer. But this is a team that never has been major deadline players under Mike Gillis. Over the past two trade deadlines, only three trades have been made, all of them last year. In Gillis' first season, the Canucks' last trade before the playoff run was a minor league swap (Mike Brown for Nathan McIver, who was waived by the Canucks the day before and claimed by Anaheim). It was never believed that the Canucks would be major players anyway, having signed Mats Sundin on December 18 and thus having little cap room to do anything else. To Gillis, signing Sundin was the equivalent to a trade deadline blockbuster, but without having to lose any long-term assets. Last year, the Canucks made three separate swaps, the only substantial piece being Andrew Alberts (the others by Yan Stastny and Sean Zimmerman), who was much maligned last year but has improved tremendously this year. Are we in store for another low-key trade deadline? I don't think there's any reason to suggest otherwise. The Canucks are interesting in adding pieces, not losing them (those Ehrhoff trade rumours are ridiculous and not worth discussing, and Schneider's staying), and while the pipeline is now replenished with some attractive pieces, it doesn't seem as if Gillis is willing to part with any particular player. Despite rumours of Cody Hodgson being on the move, I think largely fueled by a public semi-feud between the two camps regarding Hodgson's back injury, i would be shocked if Gillis gives up on his first ever draft pick. It was a pick that Gillis himself believed was a step in a new direction, a direction that shied away from "safe" picks which had been so common with Brian Burke and Dave Nonis, to players that had the right high-end mixture of talent and character. Losing Alex Edler to back surgery was a big blow but even by placing his remaining cap hit on the LTIR it doesn't open enough space for the Canucks to acquire anything substantial anyway. Like Sundin, the return of Sami Salo could be considered the Canucks' big deadline acquisition. In the playoffs, there is no salary cap, and if Edler and Salo can return by the opening round, the Canucks' six-man group, as noted before the season started, is the league's deepest. <img src="http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/7/79/Zenon_Konopka.jpg/220px-Zenon_Konopka.jpg"class="imageFloatLeftFramed">But that doesn't mean Gillis shouldn't work the phones to plug two glaring holes: a injury-free, regular fourth-line centreman and a veteran player with plenty of playoff experience. Ideally, the two holes can be plugged by a single player, but if Gillis had to pick it should be the former. While experience is considered a luxury, it sure can be overrated. The team has already established its leadership group going forward and will rely heavily on the Sedins, Kesler, and Luongo to show what they can do to avoid another second-round exit. The Sedins will now enter the playoffs with over 60 games of playoff experience each and with few substantial roster changes over the past two years, most of the current Canucks will already have over 20 games and two separate playoff runs under their belts. So who can fill that fourth-line role? Not many. The first requirement is that the player be an impending UFA. It's important to acquire a player that is not signed beyond the 2010-11 season unless it's a two-way deal, which gives Gillis an escape plan should a rookie (Hodgson, Schroeder, Bliznak, Bolduc, etc.) be favoured for a roster spot next year. The second requirement is that the player has to win at least 50% of it's face-offs. While the Canucks do have three of the league's best centremen, having a dependable fourth will help. In the grand scheme of things the Canucks may not necessarily need him to win, but every play counts in the playoffs and it might give the team a better night's sleep if they didn't have to use Tambellini or Glass in a defensive zone face-off after an icing call.The only player that fits the bill, as Ben Kuzma has noted before, is the Islanders' Zenon Konopka, a big, strong fourth-line centre who is ranked sixth in the NHL if face-off %. Konopka's been on my radar for awhile as a fourth line player with some major sandpaper (250+ PIM last year) but his face-off ability is something that has gone under the radar the past two seasons, in large part because he was under-utilized by Rick Tocchet in Tampa Bay. He'll cost a mid-round pick, a minor price to pay. But how busy the trade deadline will be depends entirely on the market. There are four obvious sellers (Edmonton, Ottawa, New Jersey, and the NY Islanders) but none have any real attractive pieces, the most high-profile being Alex Kovalev, but he comes with a major red flag and seems destined to finish his career in the KHL. There are another four teams (Columbus, St. Louis, Florida, and Buffalo) that have an outside shot at making the playoffs but probably won't and will most likely be sellers at the deadline as well, especially Florida, which is slowly beginning it's rebuilding process. There is, of course, Toronto, who really should be a seller by this point already but haven't declared so, perhaps out of some misguided sense of self-worth, but have a great trade piece in Tomas Kaberle. That leaves 21 teams that are potential buyers. That's a lot, but we can narrow down the list even more. There are three teams that cannot afford to add salary due to ownership issues: Dallas, Phoenix, and Atlanta. There are two teams that have traditionally been non-buyers, Nashville and Carolina, who may be major players only if ownership gives the green light (unlikely). <img src="http://www.timescolonist.com/sports/1566473.bin?size=620x400"class="imageFloatRightFramed">Vancouver and Detroit are in a good position to finish in the top two spots in the West but don't have any cap space to add anybody from outside the organization. Like I said before, Salo's return is Vancouver's big move and Detroit would love to have Pavel Datsyuk and Dan Cleary back. Pittsburgh and Boston are headed towards the postseason but have little cap space to work with, which means Ray Shero probably won't find a winger for Crosby (again) and the Bruins are already pretty deep. San Jose, Chicago, Calgary, and Montreal are in danger of not making the playoffs. All four teams already have or currently trying to create some space for deadline deals. San Jose (Torrey Mitchell) and Montreal (Cammalleri, Markov) may have space to work with due to injuries, while Chicago (shuttling Nick Leddy back and forth from AHL) and Calgary (waiving Ales Kotalik) are making personnel changes. It's a TBD situation for all four but it'll be difficult. The Wild, Flyers, Rangers, and Capitals can perhaps add one extra body of note. The Capitals may choose not to make a move considering that Alex Ovechkin is "saving himself" for the playoffs (not buying the theory) and the Rangers eagerly await the return of Brandon Dubinsky and Ryan Callahan. The Ducks and Kings have roughly $4 million in cap room, giving them some good options, and both teams could use more help. My bet would be on the Kings to make the big splash but given their disappointing season thus far you have to wonder if Lombardi should stand pat and give the current Kings a vote of confidence and emotional boost. If my math is correct, that leaves two teams: Tampa Bay and Colorado. Greg Sherman is one of the league's most secretive GMs and who knows what he's up to, but my bet is that he doesn't do anything substantial. He's obviously a very smart GM and it would be wise for this young Avs team to grow together as a group in the playoffs. His only noteworthy deadline deal last year was swapping young players (Wojtek Wolski to Phoenix for Peter Mueller and Kevin Porter) and not acquiring a seasoned veteran, one of which (Scott Hannan) he has already dealt this year. That leaves Tampa as the real, true, major buyer at the deadline. It's been a fantastic season for Steve Yzerman and company and they seem destined to win the Southeast. A great season with tons of attention on superstar Steven Stamkos and stable ownership means that their pockets will be looser. But they have to be careful. Nothing erases memories of a good season faster than a quick exit in the first round (ask the Thrashers, who finally made the playoffs as the Southeast champs in 2007, made a huge deal of acquiring Keith Tkachuk, but bowed out in 4 games after being outscored 17-6 and become the butt of everyone's jokes again) so the Lightning would be wise to avoid this pitfall. Coming soon: a look at the players most likely to be moved.
The turn of the calendar provides an opportunity for some reflection so this week's column (our seventh edition for those keeping count...ever wonder why I never numbered them before? Seems a bit silly) looks back on the best of December, reveals the true meaning of a New Year's Bash, and counts down a list of those we have forgotten over the past decade. Also, read on to find out who takes home this week's coveted Number Crunching Player of the Week Award. (Published Sunday, January 3rd, 2010 - despite what the Entry Date may suggest). 10-4 ON ONE GREAT DECEMBER <img src=http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2009/12/dec2009_ehrhoff_t.jpg class="imageFloatLeftFramed">Thursday's improbable come-from-behind win over the St. Louis Blues not only ended 2009 in style for the Vancouver Canucks, it also helped the Canucks to close out the calendar year with a record-setting month. With the victory, the Canucks finished the month of December with an impressive 10-4-1 record marking the first time in team history the Canucks have ever reached double digits in the wins column in December. Their previous best December came during the 1992.93 season when they went 9-1-1 during the final month of the calendar year. It also marked the first time the Canucks have hit a double digit win total in a single month since March 2009. Last season, Vancouver's record during the month of December was 6-7-1. A VERY "GOD JUL" FOR THE TWINS <img src=http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2009/12/dec1509_hank_2_t.jpg class="imageFloatRightFramed">December was not only a record-setting month for the Canucks as a team, it was one to remember for both Daniel and Henrik Sedin who each set new personal career-highs for points in a single month. Daniel netted 22 points (9-13-22) in 15 contests during December surpassing his previous career-high of 20 points in a single month (also 15 games) which he set back in March 2007. The only Canuck to record even greater numbers in December was Henrik who amassed a staggering 25 points (5-20-25) in 15 games tying him for fifth spot for most productive month in Canucks history with Alex Mogilny who also had 25 points (12-13-25) back in February 1996 (albeit Mogilny played in two less games). Henrik's previous high for most points in a single month was 19 (7-12-19) recorded back in the 15 games he played in March 2009. The record for most points in a single month by a Canuck is still held by Stan Smyl, who netted 31 points (10-21-31) in 16 games played during March 1983. NEW YEAR'S BASH INDEED <img src=http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2010/01/jan0210_richardsbur_t.jpg class="imageFloatLeftFramed">Nashville may be Music City, but apparently the best hits these days emanate from Dallas. According to the stats trackers at the American Airlines Center, the Canucks nailed their opponents with a season-high 40 hits (their previous high was 27 achieved twice earlier this season) in their first game of 2010 on Saturday afternoon only to be out-done by the hometown Stars who responded by hitting the Canucks back 49 times - marking the most hits a Canucks opponent has netted this season (eight more than Carolina's 41 back on December 5th). The 89 combined hits between the Canucks and Stars also marked a season-high in a single game for the Canucks this season. The previous high for most combined hits in a single game for Vancouver this season was 63. Guess where that game took place? Dallas (November 6th). THE BEST OF HORDI <img src=http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2010/01/jan0210_hordibarch_t.jpg class="imageFloatRightFramed">Number Crunching would like to congratulate forward Darcy Hordichuk who appeared in his 400th career NHL game earlier this week on Tuesday in Phoenix. In honour of the 29-year old's milestone mark, Number Crunching presents the top four Hordi stats of the season: 1. Canucks record when Hordichuk records a point: 2-0-0 (that one was easy!) 2. Canucks record with Hordichuk in the lineup: 17-9-1 3. Canucks record when Hordichuk gets into a fight: 3-3-0 4. Canucks record when Hordichuk records a shot on goal: 3-1-1 WE HARDLY KNEW YE <img src=http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2009/10/oct25_schneider_rr.jpg class="imageFloatLeftFramed">Inspired (or perhaps uninspired) by Mathieu Schneider's short-lived career as a Vancouver Canuck - which unofficially came to an end this past week after just 17 games and five points - Number Crunching goes through the history books to pick out this past decade's top five We Hardly Knew Ye Canucks: <img src=http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2009/12/dec0809_Osweden2_rr.jpg class="imageFloatRightFramed">5. Magnus Arvedson: 8-7-15 in 41 GP, 2003.04 After six seasons playing with the Ottawa Senators which included a Selke Trophy nomination in 1998.99, GM Brian Burke managed to lure the then-32 year old free agent away from our nation's capital and to the West Coast proclaiming him to be not only a great defensive forward but also a solid secondary scorer as well. Things didn't quite work out that way for Arvedson. He struggled early to put up points and just when he started to look more comfortable with his new team, he suffered a knee injury in a game against the Washington Capitals that proved to be career-ending. <img src=http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/bc/images/images/inbydate06/oct1706/chouinardgame_t.jpg class="imageFloatLeftFramed">4. Marc Chouinard: 2-2-4 in 42 GP / Tommi Santala: 1-5-6 in 30 GP, 2006.07 A pair of Dave Nonis acquisitions from the 2006.07 season share the fourth spot on our list. First, there was Marc Chouinard who had just come off a career-high 30 point season with the Wild and was supposed to be the answer to all of Vancouver's third line worries. He managed just two goals and four points before being placed on waivers and banished to the AHL. He hasn't been back in the NHL since. At last report, he was plying his trade with the Cologne Sharks in Germany. At the same time, there was Tommi Santala - heralded as the best fourth line centre money could buy. A combination of healthy scratches, injuries and time spent in the minors limited Santala to just 30 regular season games with the Canucks. He somehow did manage to crack the lineup for one playoff game that season. After 2006.07, Santala went home to Finland. <img src=http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2009/02/feb1809_ottawa24_tt.jpg class="imageFloatRightFramed">3. Mats Sundin: 9-19-28 in 41 GP, 2008.09 Well we all knew this was coming didn't we? It's not that Sundin's stint as a Canuck was terrible but for the former Maple Leaf, the buzz was bigger than his bite. It took until mid-December before Sundin officially put his name on the dotted line but it took even longer for the player the Canucks thought they would be getting to finally show up. Sundin looked slow and sluggish to begin his Canuck career and when he finally did find his game in the playoffs (eight points in eight games), he wasn't able to help extend Vancouver's season beyond the second round. After a brief flirtation this past summer, Sundin officially announced his retirement prior to the start of the 2009.10 season. His time in Vancouver may have been short-lived but he did set one unofficial record for selling the most number of jerseys with a shelf-life of less than four months. <img src=http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/bc/images/images/inbydate05/oct0305/mccarthy_t.jpg class="imageFloatLeftFramed">2. Steve McCarthy: 2-4-6 in 51 GP, 2005.06 It had all the makings of a great story: local boy returns to play for his hometown team. What could go wrong? Everything as it turns out for Steve McCarthy. The Trail, BC native was a point producing defenceman during his days in junior playing with the Edmonton (later Kootenay) Ice but never did seem to find that part of his game in his first five NHL seasons in Chicago. The Canucks hoped bringing him back to his home province would spark a resurgence of that offensive flair but that would not be the case. McCarthy lasted just 51 games in a Canucks uniform before being dealt to the Thrashers. Upon his departure, he made some less than kind remarks about the Canucks organization mostly concerning the relationship between team captain Markus Naslund and Todd Bertuzzi. McCarthy spent the 2008.09 season in the KHL before returning to North America this season where he is currently playing with the Chicago Wolves of the AHL. <img src=http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/bc/images/images/inbydate05/nov1505/clouts_t.jpg class="imageFloatRightFramed">1. Martin Brochu: 0-3-0 record with a 4.17 GAA in 6 GPI, 2001.02 After opting not to re-sign veteran netminder Bob Essensa during the off-season, GM Brian Burke decided in the early part of the season that the best backup to pair with the still relatively fresh-faced Dan Cloutier was the immortal Martin Brochu, who had all of two NHL games worth of experience prior to joining the Canucks. Needless to say, the Brochu era in Vancouver didn't last very long. The Anjou, Quebec native made just six appearances in a Canucks uniform (clearly he didn't last long on most nights as he racked up just 216 overall minutes) and had a .856 save percentage. He was soon after replaced by Peter Skudra, who lasted parts of two seasons with the Canucks. After his short Canuck stint, Brochu played just 32 more total minutes in the NHL. NUMBER CRUNCHING PLAYER OF THE WEEK <img src=http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2009/10/oct15_samuelsson_rr.jpg class="imageFloatLeftFramed">Mikael Samuelsson: Two goals and three points in three games The week did not start off very well for the veteran Swede who learned last Sunday that he won't be participating in the 2010 Winter Olympic Games in February after being left off Team Sweden. The snub was clearly taken personally by Samuelsson who made some rather off-colour, although very straight-from-the-heart remarks regarding not being selected. Team Sweden's loss was the Canucks' gain, however, as Samuelsson seemed to use the disappointment from being left behind as motivation. He snapped a 14-game goal drought with his tally against the Coyotes on Tuesday (his first goal since November 28th versus Edmonton) and added another marker on Thursday helping his team recover from a 3-0 deficit for a win in St. Louis. Samuelsson ended the week riding a four-game point streak - his longest since a five-game streak back in late October. CRUNCHED BY THE NUMBERS <img src=http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2008/10/SHARKS_CANUCKS_PRE_11_tt.jpg class="imageFloatRightFramed">Rick Rypien: Zero points and 15 penalty minutes in three games Ignore the zeroes in the respective points columns because we all know Rick Rypien's primary focus isn't to provide offence, but the feisty forward from Coleman, Alberta nets the dubious distinction this week for his match penalty on New Year's Eve in St. Louis. We figure Rick's to blame for the whole hand-taping incident since referees never make mistakes, right? For the record, the 15 minutes worth of penalties in that contest for Rypien marked a regular season career-high in a single game for Rypien. Last season in the playoffs, he did manage to rack up 24 penalty minutes in a single game on May 2nd - Game 2 of Vancouver's Western Conference Semi-Final series against the Chicago Blackhawks in which his team lost 6-3. On that night, Rypien earned a 10-minute misconduct just over six minutes into the game and then earned another 10-minute misconduct in the final frame to go with a pair of minor penalties.