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Found 16 results

  1. Tucked away on the second page of NHL.com's 'Summit Speak' videos is a short clip of Pierre McGuire questioning Gary Bettman's stance on the NHL's participation in the Sochi Olympics. Unsurprisingly, Bettman remained reluctant to clarify his position and refused to take a stance for either side. This isn't news but there are some things that we can take from Bettman's comments. <img src="http://www.chriscreamer.com/images/logos/64/1784/full/7059.gif"class="imageFloatLeftFramed">Bettman doesn't think the fact that the NHL hasn't made a decision isn't that big of a deal. It really isn't but it just shows you that the NHL is a reactionary league. Their decision-making speed is akin to that of an Ent. The NHL will wait until the International Olympic Committee announces the broadcasting rights and the NHLPA to officially name a new president. I'm all for doing the necessary research before making an informed decision but the NHL needs to make a decision. It does not need to take a hard-line but it needs to make its intentions known. The NHL is the world's premier hockey league and it needs to act as such. I don't see a negative if the NHL declared right now that they intend to send their players to Sochi. With the enormous success of the Vancouver Games it gives hockey a boost and the NHL wouldn't have to worry about Alexander Ovechkin skipping out on the Capitals' games just to play for his country. For politicians like Bettman and Bill Daly, I'm surprised they haven't thought of this yet. If the NHL has to reverse its position it would be because the owners and GMs are unwilling to risk their players in a high-pressure, high-intensity tournament that could result in injury or fatigue and lost games. As Ken Holland notes these NHL players are paid to play in the NHL, not in the Olympics. If Bettman says he wants the NHL to go but gets vetoed by the owners and the Board of Governors, well, for once the crowd may be a little nicer to Bettman. But what Bettman really cares about is money. He is, after all, waiting to see what sort of broadcasting package the IOC can give him. To Bettman, the Olympics are a "mixed-bag," both negative and positive for the NHL, but even as Bettman admits, mostly positive... provided that the Games are played on North American soil. This again ties back to broadcasting rights in which time zones will be a topic of discussing. Should the gold medal game be played at 7:00 PM Sochi time, that's 11:00 AM eastern time, a relatively manageable time since it will most likely be played on a Sunday. If, like the Vancouver Games, Sochi wants their gold-medal game to be played at noon local time and have the closing ceremonies that night, the game would be played at 3 AM eastern time. Neither scenario puts the game in a position to draw big numbers. Another reason Bettman may be reluctant to send NHLers overseas is the poor showing North American players have had abroad. North American viewership numbers depend directly on the on-ice performance of Canada and USA and both fell flat on their faces at the Nagano and Turin Games. The other two times, both played on North American soil, drew in record numbers and surprise, surprise, both Canada and USA played in the two gold medal games. Bettman has a very small sample size, but from the previous four games he has concluded that Canada and US seem to fare poorly when on home ice. There are various reasons why both North American squads flopped in 1998 and 2006 but Bettman, and he does have a case, seems to think that the travel and lack of home crowd support (especially for the US when compared to Canadians abroad) may lead to poor performances and ultimately poor TV numbers. What was most confusing to me, however, was that Bettman seems to think that whether or not someone has been to Sochi is a factor that determines the participation of NHLers. I say it doesn't really matter. I bet you more than three-quarters of Canadians have never been to Salt Lake City prior to the Games. Who cares if anyone knows where Nagano or Sochi are? Do you think the average European knows where Salt Lake City is right off the top of his head? It's a clever trick to divert the crowd's attention and cast doubt over their heads. The NHL needs to stop being a reactionary league and take a stand. Bettman has often said that the goal of creating the southern belt teams was to generate hockey interest in the US. I feel that one of the best ways to promote the game is through the Olympics. Look what Vancouver did for USA Hockey. None of the other three major sports, baseball, basketball, and American football, share as much popularity as hockey at the Olympic level. Baseball is no longer an Olympic sport (a shame, really) and American football was never one. Most Canadians aren't too interested in international basketball unless Steve Nash is playing and the NBA features just one Canadian team anyway. The Olympics are a golden opportunity for the NHL to showcase the world's talent. The World Juniors is dominated by Canada and the US, the World Championships don't feature as much talent, and the Canadian Spengler Cup squad is made up of mostly NHL cast-offs playing for European clubs. Angela Ruggiero commented that Wayne Gretzky gave hockey a major boost in California. Since Atlanta, Florida, and a host of other American teams seem to be mired in mediocrity and don't feature any Gretzkys or Sidney Crosbys, the Olympics could be Bettman's greatest promotional tool. It's ironic how Bruce McNall, the former Kings president who engineered the Gretzky trade and convicted felon ended up having more of an impact on USA Hockey than Gary Bettman.
  2. http://www.guardian.co.uk/sport/2010/feb/15/vancouver-winter-olympics-2010 above is the link to unofficial British idiot, Lawrence Donegan, who is now infamously known for his comment that these Olympics in Vancouver are the "worst games ever." Now, let's think about this rationally. There are two things that bother me with this comment and it has nothing to do with the fact that I am Canadian. (or does it...) Firstly, what are the qualifications for someone to actually say that "these are the worst" Olympic Games...? There have been 48 Olympic Games since its inception in 1896, some 114 years ago in Athens. I would imagine that to make such a pompous remark, Lawrence Donegan would have had to have seen most of these 48. Let's just say he saw half of them at 24. That would mean that he would have to have been watching the games critically since 1964. If I watch 3 Vancouver Canucks games over the course of an 82 game schedule, would anyone care about what opinions I have of the team? Who does this Lawrence Donegan think he is and how can he be so quick to judge these games when we are 7 days into them? I hope this is not how people in Britain actually think. Does one media member speak for the rest of their country? Is this how Brits feel about our hosting of the games? Perhaps if it's not, someone should either shut this guy up, or speak out. I can't wait for the Olympics of 2012, because now the games in Mother England had better live up to our Canadian expectations. But who am I to criticize? That’s not very Canadian of me now is it.
  3. Canada captured an Olympic Winter Games record of 14 Gold medals in Vancouver and in honour of the Canadian Olympic Team, Number Crunching tries for a Gold medal performance in this first blog back since the Olympic break where we look back at the best of the Men's Ice Hockey tournament as well as ahead to the NHL's Trade Deadline on Wednesday. And of course, find out who takes home the Gold as the Number Crunching Player of the 2010 Winter Games. MEDAL HAUL <img src=http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2010/02/FEb2810_gold_rr.jpg class="imageFloatLeftFramed">Canada came away with a record medal haul at the 2010 Winter Games, but the Canucks didn't do too shabbily either with three players returning to the team each with a medal of their own. Roberto Luongo (Canada - Gold), Ryan Kesler (USA - Silver), and Sami Salo (Finland - Bronze) will each have something to show off to their teammates when they re-join the team in Columbus. Their respective performances marked the first time since the NHL allowed players to participate in the Olympics that the Canucks have had players return to the team with medals in all three colours. However, the three medals is not a Canucks record for most medals won at a single Olympic Winter Games. That count is five which was set in 2006 in Torino when Mattias Ohlund along with Daniel and Henrik Sedin returned with Gold medals while Sami Salo and Jarkko Ruutu returned with Silver medals. Overall, the three medals from the 2010 Winter Games brings the Canucks total medal count to 11. Below is a list of Canucks Olympic medalists since 1998: Roberto Luongo (CAN): 2010 - Gold Ryan Kesler (USA): 2010 - Silver Sami Salo (FIN): 2010 - Bronze Mattias Ohlund (SWE): 2006 - Gold Daniel Sedin (SWE): 2006 - Gold Henrik Sedin (SWE): 2006 - Gold Sami Salo (FIN): 2006 - Silver Jarkko Ruutu (FIN): 2006 - Silver Ed Jovanovski (CAN): 2002 - Gold Pavel Bure (RUS): 1998 - Silver Jyrki Lumme (FIN): 1998 - Bronze DEMO-NSTRATION OF SKILL <img src=http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2010/02/Feb2710_demo_rr.jpg class="imageFloatRightFramed">Slovakia may have come up short of medaling in the Men's Ice Hockey tournament but as far as individual performances go, they certainly did own the podium in terms of points scored led by the Canucks' own Pavol Demitra. Demitra led the tournament with 10 points (3-7-10) while teammate and Chicago Blackhawks forward Marian Hossa finished second with nine points (3-6-9). Team USA and New Jersey Devils forward Zach Parise finished third with eight points (4-4-8). Prior to Demitra, the last time a Slovak player led the tournament in scoring was in 1994 at the Lillehammer Winter Games. In fact, the top three scorers from that tournament were all Slovaks with Zigmund Palffy leading the way with 10 points (3-7-10) followed by Miroslav Satan (9-0-0) and Peter Stastny (5-4-9). That year, however, the Slovaks came in a disappointing sixth place despite winning their pool in the preliminary round. Demitra also became the first Canucks player since the NHL began participating in the Olympics in 1998 to lead the Men's Ice Hockey tournament in points. The only other Canuck to ever reach a top-three finish in points was Pavel Bure in 1998 when he notched nine goals in six games played helping Russia capture a Silver medal in Nagano. Bure finished one point shy of tying the tournament lead in points behind Bronze medalists Teemu Selanne (4-6-10) and Saku Koivu (2-8-10). SO LONG, FAREWELL? <img src=http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2009/10/oct0809_hans02_rr.jpg class="imageFloatLeftFramed">With the NHL trade deadline coming at noon PT on Wednesday, March 3, there will be plenty of anxious Canucks players wondering if they will suiting up to face the Red Wings that night or hopping on a flight to parts currently unknown. While getting dealt is usually a shock to the system, there are five current Canucks on the active roster who knows what it's like to be moved on deadline day. Below is the list of current Canucks who have been involved in a deadline day deal: Ryan Johnson: Traded on deadline day 2000 from the Florida Panthers to the Tampa Bay Lightning for Mike Sillinger. Darcy Hordichuk: Traded on deadline day 2002 from the Atlanta Thrashers to the Phoenix Coyotes for a package including Kirill Safronov and the rights to Ruslan Zainullin. Brad Lukowich: Traded on deadline day 2006 from the New York Islanders to the New Jersey Devils for a third round draft pick. Willie Mitchell: Traded on deadline day 2006 from the Minnesota Wild to the Dallas Stars for Martin Skoula and Shawn Belle. Steve Bernier: Traded on deadline day 2008 from the San Jose Sharks to the Buffalo Sabres for Brian Campbell. As far as the Canucks as a team goes, since 1980 they have made 43 deals on trade deadline day although one was later nullified after the late Peter Zezel refused to report to Anaheim following a trade on deadline day 1999. The Canucks last made a trade on deadline day in 2008 when former GM Dave Nonis shipped Matt Cooke to the Washington Capitals in exchange for Matt Pettinger. NUMBER CRUNCHING PLAYER OF THE 2010 WINTER GAMES <img src=http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2010/02/feb1710_luongo_rr.jpg class="imageFloatRightFramed">Roberto Luongo: 5-0 record with a 1.76 GAA and a .927 save percentage. Pavol Demitra received strong consideration after his tournament leading 10 points but it's hard to argue against Roberto Luongo who in the end was the lone Canuck to leave the Vancouver Games with a Gold medal around his neck. Luongo opened the tournament with an 8-0 shutout over an out-matched Norway team and at the time, the general belief was that the win against Norway would be the only action Luongo would receive in the tournament. That quickly changed after Canada opted to ride Luongo heading into the elimination portion of the tournament. Luongo posted an 8-2 win over Christian Ehrhoff and Team Germany in the Qualification Playoff game and then recorded a 7-3 win over a powerful Russian team the next night in the Quarterfinal. From there, he made some crucial late saves in a 3-2 win over Pavol Demitra and the Slovaks in the Semifinal before coming up with a clutch performance in an overtime victory over Ryan Kesler and the Americans in the Gold medal game in what was undoubtedly the biggest game of his career. CRUNCHED BY THE NUMBERS <img src=http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2010/02/feb1910_twins_rr.jpg class="imageFloatLeftFramed">Daniel and Henrik Sedin: Combined one goal and five points in four games played A fifth place finish in Vancouver after winning the Gold medal in 2006 in Torino was definitely not what the Swedes had expected coming into the tournament and a less than stellar tournament for Daniel and Henrik probably contributed to their disappointing result. The trio of the twins and Mattias Weinhandl combined for just one goal in the tournament, that belonging to Daniel Sedin in a game against Belarus. In fact, out of the twins' five total points in the tournament, four of them came in that preliminary round game against Belarus. Both of Henrik's two assists in the tournament came in that game against Belarus while Daniel Sedin had one goal and one assist in that same game. Daniel also added an assist in Sweden's 3-0 win over Finland in their final preliminary game. Both Daniel and Henrik were shutout of the point column in Sweden's shocking 4-3 loss to Slovakia in the Quarterfinal game.
  4. First off, a big congratulations to the Big Red Machine, winning gold on home ice. Canada's 14 gold medals, if you haven't heard for the millionth time now, is the most by any country in Winter Olympics history. It's no small feat, and as cliched as it sounds, Canada's success has really united its people from coast to coast. The importance of "Own The Podium" was not lost in the eyes of the government and this is great news for the traditionally under-funded Canadian athletes, with the federal budget expected to double its annual contribution. With such initiatives from the Canadian government expect more and more gold medals for Canada's trophy case. It seems only fitting anyway, amidst the Molson, HBC, and Tim's commercials that we should be good at "conquering winter." Sure, the Americans won more medals, but we can always say we won the most golds, and perhaps the ones that mattered to us most. In both men's and women's hockey the Canadians were victorious over their southern rivals, even though the women's post-game celebrations drew the ire of the IOC. But, as Roy MacGregor says, "so what?"<img src="http://media.nj.com/star-ledger/photo/-da5f91bb0cd558bd_large.jpg"class="imageFloatRightFramed"> The USA-Canada game was one for the history books and I don't remember Salt Lake even coming close to receiving as much hype as it did. If Gary Bettman still doesn't understand why NHL players need to be in Sochi, then I'm not sure if anything in this world will convince him. Hockey in North America is reaching its peak, with USA Hockey introducing a slew of new stars. Hockey Canada has always had a steady stream of quality talent, but Sidney Crosby has garnered the most attention since Wayne Gretzky. The gold medal game drew the highest TV ratings since the 1980 USA-USSR game and it shouldn't surprise anyone that a vast majority of the American viewers were from the north. However, let's hope that the high viewership in cities without NHL franchises, like San Diego, doesn't give Bettman any funny ideas. Some, however, remain quite pessimistic about hockey's staying power in the States. Of course, it doesn't help Bettman that none of USA's marquee talents play on Southeast Division teams. The days of European dominance, and questions of whether the North American development programs are heading in the right direction or not, are over. Jaromir Jagr, Peter Forsberg, and the stars of yesteryear don't dominate the NHL anymore. Finland and Sweden have probably seen the last of their stars from the '90s, while Russia is re-thinking their strategy and selection process. So disappointing was their performance this year that their Olympic Committee head Leonid Tyagachev has resigned after pressure from President Dmitry Medvedev. Just one day after the Closing Ceremonies, the NHL was right back at it again. I must admit, and I'm sure I'm not alone here, that I was suffering from the Olympic hangover and didn't even realize the NHL had resumed playing until I saw the boxscores. If there was any drawback to the Olympics, and this is a minor one, to say the least, was the somewhat uneventful trade deadline. Despite featuring a record number of players, I felt that most of the moves were lateral moves at the very best, with GMs trading for the sake of trading. Here's some winners and losers... The clear winners, I think, were two playoff teams: the Kings and Capitals. With such a young team, Dean Lombardi made an astute move and got veteran leader Jeff Halpern. The price may have seemed a little steep for the journeyman centre, with Teddy Purcell and a third rounder going the other way, but with the Kings' organizational depth it was something they could afford. I think the Capitals missed some of Chris Clark's presence so they got former Canuck Scott Walker and the underrated Eric Belanger. Milan Jurcina returns to Washington and they also got Joe Corvo as well, and the price wasn't bad. The Capitals really made themselves a contender in this one and I have a feeling they'll top Pittsburgh this time around, despite getting Alexei Ponikarovsky. The Pens just don't seem to be playing as well this year - perhaps the novelty of not having Michel Therrien behind the bench is wearing off a little. Phoenix was surprisingly active during the deadline but I think the bigger story is their success, not their acquisitions. There was, I think, a clear loser on this day and I think that's the Oilers. The 'Canes unloaded what players they didn't need, but at the end of the day the Oilers were still saddled with the same group of players they began the season with. Only two trades materialized for them: shipping Lubomir Visnovsky to Anaheim for Ryan Whitney and then Steve Staios to Calgary for Aaron Johnson and a pick. Unless Johnson impresses, he probably won't be back next year while Whitney's signed through 2013. Whitney perhaps isn't the type of player that brings a new attitude to the locker room, something that Steve Tambellini has been wanting to do, but the Oilers had to take some salary back. Some people wonder why the Oilers struck a trade with the Flames, but I really think that speaks to the futility of the Oilers' position. They obviously didn't have Calgary in its mind as a trading partner, but the lack of interest from other teams, or the reluctance to part with picks and prospects, probably pushed the Oilers to them. They have some immovable assets there. It's a long road ahead for the Oilers. The sweeping changes didn't come and the team will probably make more noise at the draft. Sam Gagner may be the only player really worth keeping but it's a shame he has to toil there. <img src="http://profile.ak.fbcdn.net/object2/1850/125/n55157749204_7654.jpg"class="imageFloatLeftFramed">The Canucks made some depth moves, acquiring Yan Stastny, Andrew Alberts, and Sean Zimmerman. Zimmerman probably won't see any NHL time in his career, Stastny's a call-up at best, while Alberts is a decent depth defenseman. Seeing as how Kevin Bieksa is still out with an injury and Willie Mitchell's status unknown, Mike Gillis didn't make any moves to shore up the blueline. I was personally pulling for Dan Hamhuis, but the Predators elected to keep him for the rest of the year despite his impending free agency. Gillis' big move last year was getting Mats Sundin, but nothing this year. It's perhaps a vote of confidence from Gillis for this team, but it's still missing some pieces before it's a contender in a tough conference. But of course, I'll still be cheering for the blue and green. Back to the NHL we go!
  5. What an absolutely dominant performance by Canada last night in a 7-3 rout of Russia, the performance we've been looking for since the opening game against the Norwegians. After a close shave against the Jonas Hiller-led scrappy Swiss squad and a disappointing loss against the rough and tumble Americans, the Canadians responded with two convincing wins. The key last night wasn't so much that Mike Babcock completely outcoached Vyacheslav Bykov, or that Alex Ovechkin, Ilya Kovalchuk, Alex Semin, and Pavel Datsyuk were next to ineffective, or that the Russian holes on defense were completely exploited, or that Evgeni Nabokov played one of the weakest games in his career (and will no doubt be subject to some ribbing by the Sharks' quadruplets). The key last night was that the Canadians got an extra game to fine tune their chemistry and were able to ice four complete lines. It was quite surprising, but also quite comforting, that even when Sidney Crosby and Scott Niedermayer were held off the score sheet the Canadians were still able to pull of such a convincing win. The Canadians were able to execute, scoring a number of tic-tac-toe plays in which Nabokov had no chance, including a partial two-on-one break led by Jonathan Toews off a Mike Richards pass that led to a beautiful Rick Nash goal. That line was clearly the best line last night, not only completely shutting down the Russians' top line but also scoring. Ovechkin and Semin combined for 6 shots and -4 on the night. It's hard to single out who didn't play well last night, but Patrice Bergeron logged less than five minutes and Chris Pronger continues to play mediocre hockey. He's nowhere near Niedermayer's class. When I did my last pre-Olympics post I did mention, and Pierre LeBrun did as well, that the Russians' KHL contingent could be a drawback. I think last night it was pretty clear it was a mistake. The Russians' KHL players combined for -12 last night, with captain Aleksey Morozov logging just under twelve minutes of ice-time. Sergei Gonchar, Ovechkin, and Datsyuk, all of whom play in the NHL, both logged more than 20 minutes. I thought it was a curious decision not to take the KHL's leading scorer Sergei Mozyakin, instead taking Alexander Radulov and Sergei Zinovyev, both of whom finished in the minus. Zinovyev played just 8:49, the least out of any Russian forward. <img src="http://d.yimg.com/a/p/sp/getty/8b/fullj.a8f3670ece6600bb7eec1ce1d04972f6/a8f3670ece6600bb7eec1ce1d04972f6-getty-95659033mh128_ice_hockey_qu.jpg"class="imageFloatLeftFramed"> The physical play, once again, was set by the Canadians and the Russians didn't have anybody to counter. While Ovechkin's hit on Jagr was quite entertaining, the Russians couldn't keep up. Before the Olympics began I did see that as a potential problem, and which is the main reason why when I made my picks I made sure Evgeny Artyukhin was on that squad. I do agree that this win, by far, was the most convincing in this tournament even though face-offs could use more work. However, I think more interesting happenings were occurring outside of the Russia-Canada match-up. Didn't I say the Finns would be in the mix? Miikka Kiprusoff made 31 saves for the Finns who will play the US in the other semi-final. The win wasn't an easy one to swallow - Pavel Kubina stopped checking Niklas Hagman to retrieve his helmet only to allow him to score the eventual game-winner. Kubina had lost his helmet during play and under international rules playing without a helmet could result in a minor penalty. The rule created some controversy, including Hagman's own admission that it's a "stupid rule." Either way, from the looks of things the Finns may very well finish with the bronze. The Finland-USA game should be a well-fought one and really could go either way, but I'll have to go with the 1980-inspired Americans and Ryan Miller on this one. I think the biggest storyline of the night, however, was Slovakia's upset of Sweden. The defending champions won't medal in this tournament, despite relying on a veteran squad. Led by Pavol Demitra's three points, who is playing the best hockey I've ever seen him play, and Jaroslav Halak, the Slovaks are have already achieved their highest finish at the Olympics. Henrik Lundqvist made just ten saves in the loss, and coach Bengt-Ake Gustafsson continued to rely on his veterans, even if they're essentially playing on one leg: Daniel Alfredsson logged 19:28, Henrik Zetterberg 18:58, Johan Franzen 17:46, and Peter Forsberg 16:07. On the other hand, the NHL's highest scoring duo was surprisingly limited to secondary roles, to me especially, as Henrik Sedin finished with 13:43 and Daniel Sedin with 13:23. Meanwhile, Patric Hornqvist, Loui Eriksson, and Nicklas Backstrom all logged more ice-time than the twins. Gustafsson's reliance on players based on age seems to be extreme at best. I didn't get to see much of the game, but it seems as though the Sedins played well enough but failed to execute. The Slovaks have an uphill climb with Canada next, especially when they're firing on all cylinders. Halak has been amazing but the Canadians are clearly the best team in the tournament now. Expect the gold medal game to be a re-match between the US and Canada and it will be a barn burner.
  6. Before we begin anything, first, take a deep breath. Okay, now we're ready to go. The game came as advertised, although for Canadians everywhere (or for those who may cheer for Canada) the loss was devastating. It's not the gold medal game, not yet, but it might as well have been. With an electric, playoff-like atmosphere, the US fended off a multi-faceted Canadian attack, who were unable to beat Vezina favourite Ryan Miller, who stopped 42 shots in the win, while at the other end of the ice Martin Brodeur allowed 4 of 23. There is simply no question who was the better goalie tonight and in a short tournament like this, goaltending can be the difference between a gold medal finish and a sixth place finish. It's a good thing that Canada has a great insurance policy. I do believe that Brodeur has played himself out of this tournament. Even though the Swiss and Americans were much tougher opponents than the Norwegians, he didn't come up big in the big game. He played the puck way too much tonight and he is no Marty Turco, that's for sure. Brian Rafalski's goal also came at the expense of Brodeur's puckhanding, as was Chris Drury's goal (more on him later) on a missed poke check. I'm not exactly sure what he's been trying to accomplish with those moves, and most people have been vilifying him already. It's not all on him though - Canada's defense scrambled in their own zone multiple times and a lack of communication seems to be the problem. I'll bet that Luongo gets the start against the Germans on Tuesday and may very well be the man from here on out. The Canadians didn't play terribly - in fact, I thought for the most part they played quite well, but it left people wondering where the hell did the sudden burst of energy in the last two minutes came from. Okay, the answer is obviously desperation, but where was that all game? The Americans didn't generate a lot of shots, but they did pressure the Canadian defense that looked flustered at times and forced Brodeur to make some tough saves, although I don't think he made the game any easier for himself. The Americans played with more desperation and their jubilant goal celebrations are indicative of that. They executed better than the Canadians tonight. Speaking of defense, Drew Doughty is an absolute lock for Canada for every Olympics from here on out. Despite fanning on a potential game-tying goal, he looked great on the ice - smooth, calm, and composed. He was the exact opposite of four-time Olympian Chris Pronger, who logged only 14:05 to Doughty's 23:20. Pronger was a lock for everybody's picks for Canada's this year, but you have to wonder if that really was the right decision. Let's face the facts though: Pronger, at 35, is still one of the better defenseman in this league, but his best days are behind him, having last won the Norris ten years ago. His skating, never a strong suit to begin with, has regressed and he was never a particularly intelligent hockey player either. His size was and always will be an asset, but his lack of mobility was completely exploited by the much smaller but faster American forwards. His veteran presence was not felt in this game at all, unlike Scott Niedermayer's. The loss raises questions, but you really have to wonder if Steve Yzerman should've taken Mike Green or Stephane Robidas instead. It was definitely the kids who had the better night tonight, with a very strong performance from Jonathan Toews and Mike Richards, even though he played less than 13 minutes and finished with a -2. They played with urgency and an extra jump in their game that wasn't seen by the veterans of the team. It again makes you wonder if guys like Steven Stamkos should've made the squad. Ironically, for the younger American squad, it was the veterans that pulled through. It's funny how that works sometimes. <img src="http://d.yimg.com/a/p/sp/getty/4b/fullj.64cbaf35c88c44bd8dbb35714c4b03a4/64cbaf35c88c44bd8dbb35714c4b03a4-getty-95657025mw057_ice_hockey_da.jpg"class="imageFloatLeftFramed">I made my picks for USA, there was one player that I couldn't cut no matter how poorly his season was going: Chris Drury. He was even my pick for captain. Captain Clutch, he of the 47 overtime winners, knows how to win. A lot of people wondered why Brian Burke selected the Rangers centre, but it's easy to see why now. Drury has just 10 goals and 22 points this season, but his veteran presence, face-off ability, and tenacious forecheck really set the tone. He's not the most talented player, but through hard work he gets his stuff done. Along with Miller, there are shades of Mike Eruzione and Jim Craig there. You know USA wants to win gold. Badly. Sometimes I wonder if Canadian hockey players may be just a touch too humble. The Americans generated a lot of scoring chances on individual play, especially Rafalski's goal and some stickhandling clinics put on by Patrick Kane and Bobby Ryan. The best chances for the Canadians came when the big kids, Eric Staal, Rick Nash, Ryan Getzlaf, and Corey Perry drove the puck straight to the net. Too often are Canadians looking for that extra pass instead of taking the shot. There were 45 of them tonight, but if takes 45 just to score 3 on Miller, then shoot 65 times. Ability only goes so far, as I'm pretty sure Miller would've liked that Sidney Crosby goal back, before numbers take over. This is going to sound silly, but the Canadians were a little too unselfish with the puck. Everyone parked their egos at the door, but at the same time someone has to step up and say, "I'm gonna be that guy." Joe Sakic was "that guy" in 2002. Part of the reason a single player hasn't stood out yet may be because Mike Babcock has decided to spread the ice-time around. Only 2 Canadians played less than ten minutes (Brent Seabrook and Patrice Bergeron) compared to the Americans' 4 (Ryan Malone, Joe Pavelski, Phil Kessel, and Ryan Whitney). On the flip side, only 2 Canadians topped 20 minutes tonight (Doughty and Duncan Keith) while there were 4 for the Americans (Brooks Orpik, Ryan Suter, Jack Johnson, and Rafalski). There's a clear hierarchy on Team USA as to who gets the ice-time and who doesn't, while it's not so clear on Canada because there's such a wealth of talent and versatility. I have a feeling that some Canadian players need more ice-time to find their rhythm and be effective. The physical game from the much bigger Canadians was there, but not enough. Neither Dustin Brown nor Ryan Callahan are big players (both stand around 5'11"), but when they're on the ice, they're speeding bullets and will hit anything they see. Neither player hit the scoresheet, but they don't need to get score to have their presence felt. Ryan Kesler also helped in that department, including scoring the empty netter on a lazy backcheck by Perry that iced the game. It was a humbling experience, to say the least, for the Canadians. They didn't make the road any easier for themselves, now having to face Germany before a dangerous Russian squad. Who knows though - maybe the Canadians just planned to do it this way all along.
  7. Many people have touted this tournament as the "best of the best." Sweden begins their quest to defend gold. It will be Alexander Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby's first foray in the Olympics, carrying on their rivalry from their day jobs. It is, for the first time ever, played on Canadian soil with all-stars from the best professional league in the world. It's hard to find arguments to disagree with all these things, and should the two heavyweights, Russia and Canada, face-off in the final, expect a much-hyped, much-awaited re-match in Sochi in 2014, should Gary Bettman and the International Olympic Committee come to an agreement. The key match-ups, including Czech Republic-Slovakia, Finland-Sweden, Canada-USA, and Canada-Russia, will no doubt draw the biggest crowds. The big names have already been spoken for, but here are some other things to keep an eye out for (in no specific order). 1. Sweden's youth... or lack thereof. Head coach Bengt-Ake Gustafsson went with a veteran heavy lineup, hoping that some of the winning experience from 2006 will translate to the same result. While there are no Crosby or Ovechkin-type heavyweights in their lineup on offense, the Swedes always play a smart and complete hockey game. Whenever you have Nicklas Lidstrom patrolling the back end and Henrik Lundqvist in net, you have a good chance of winning. But the youthful enthusiasm of young stars must not be overlooked. True, sometimes the atmosphere can overwhelm and throw inexperienced players off their game, but they also do provide energy and spark on the bench. Sometimes, veterans can develop a bit of a "been there, done that" attitude that is ultimately detrimental to the team. 2. The Sedins... at the top of the world. The Sedins have established themselves as bona fide top liners in the NHL. For that, they deserve a pat on the back for really giving the Canucks really good bang for the buck after signing identical extensions. But now, they're on the top line for the defending gold medalists and will be relied on heavily. No longer can they hide behind the shadows of Markus Naslund, Peter Forsberg, or Mats Sundin. Now is the time to show the world what they can really do. They ended their road trip with their heads in the clouds, including a terrible showing in a 6-2 loss in Minnesota. The pressure on them, especially from hockey mad Sweden, is massive. We'll have to see how they respond. 3. Russia's KHL contingent and leadership roles. I noted before that Russia's promise to take a significant number of KHL players might come back and bite them in the butt, and Pierre LeBrun at ESPN agrees. Leadership has always been somewhat of a problem for the Russians because their individual play is absolutely brilliant, and it did come as a surprise to me when Aleksey Morozov was named as captain. Morozov has not played on North American ice since 2004 and has been penciled in on the fourth line. While Ovechkin and Ilya Kovalchuk will serve as the alternates, it's a little curious to me that key veterans like Pavel Datsyuk, Andrei Markov, Sergei Gonchar, and Sergei Fedorov won't have letters on their chests. The argument is that it's "just a letter" and perhaps Canadians just pay a little too much attention to who wears the 'C', but I wonder who will really lead this team. 4. Finland - the team everyone forgets. The Finns aren't flashy, nor do they wish to attract a lot of attention to themselves. What they do, however, is play a tough, gritty game that always seems to catch other teams off-guard. For Saku Koivu and Teemu Selanne, wearing the 'C' and the 'A' respectively, this may very well be their last tournament, and it may be the coming out party for players like Valtteri Filppula and Sami Lepisto, both entering the prime age of their careers. Miikka Kiprusoff and 2006 tournament MVP Antero Niittymaki will man the pipes. Keep in mind that the Finns have won silver and bronze in the past three tournaments. If any team has a shot at upsetting a medal favourite, it's these guys. <img src="http://4.bp.blogspot.com/_fw7iF68JR8k/Rx1O6ALIuBI/AAAAAAAAHP8/Ge5SpxoGXKo/s320/nhl_g_gretzkylemieux_195.jpg"class="imageFloatLeftFramed">5. The kids are alright. It's been a long, long time since the NHL, and international hockey overall, has showcased this many young and talented players. For Crosby and Ovechkin, age 22 and 24, respectively, this may already be the defining moment of their careers. Wayne Gretzky and Mario Lemieux were only 26 and 22 at the 1987 Canada Cup. The Americans haven't had this much talent since the early 1990s and have just 4 players born before 1980's Miracle on Ice. Brian Burke went on record to say that they picked Jon Quick over Craig Anderson in the end because of his age. Steve Yzerman chose youth over experience with Jonathan Toews and Drew Doughty, the only player born after 1988 in the tournament. This may perhaps be the biggest tournament they will ever play in their lives. Bonus. Flashback: 1996. Remember when Sergei Fedorov scored 107 points and won the Selke? Remember when Ziggy Palffy scored 43 goals? Remember when Jaromir Jagr scored 62 goals and had 149 points? Those numbers are still staggering. 14 years ago, these three players were at the height of their popularity and dazzled the world with their immense skill. Today, they are little more than relics of the old guard, expected to more lead than score. This is their ultimate swan song - the chance to represent their country in the most prestigious tournament in the world. Let the games begin.
  8. It will be only another three days before the Olympic torch enters BC Place and it will be exactly a week today when Canada will step onto the ice to show the world what they can really do after a devastating seventh place finish at Turin. The Games coincide with what has been traditionally the toughest stretch in a grueling 82-game NHL season, in which the travel and general wear and tear catch up to players, resulting in injuries to key players. For the 12 teams that will take part, some of them have already named roster replacements, while others are awaiting word on their original selections' health before making any changes. Szymon Szemberg of the IIHF has notified teams that they have until February 15, the day before the first games, to make changes. <img src="http://cdn.bleacherreport.com/images_root/image_pictures/0002/4984/random_key_38803_file_st.louis.martin.1_feature.jpg"class="imageFloatRightFramed">The return of Dan Boyle is a big sigh of relief for Canada because he's a truly underrated defenseman with amazing skating and puck-moving ability. A lot of people credit Vincent Lecavalier and Brad Richards for Tampa's 2004 win, but Dan Boyle and Martin St. Louis were equally vital. The big news today, however, is Ryan Getzlaf's sprained left ankle. He is listed as day-to-day and may very well heal in time for the Games but with these type of injuries it is impossible to tell how long he will be out for. Getzlaf was in crutches after the game but X-rays were negative and he will undergo further testing today. Should Getzlaf not be able to make the trip, who takes his spot with Corey Perry? Well, I think it's quite obvious that will be Eric Staal, who has 34 points in 29 games since December and plays a fairly similar game. For those concerned with handedness, Staal is a lefty while Getzlaf a righty, but the new replacement could fill that void. For me, there are two players that Canada can take and they're both from right shots: Steven Stamkos or Martin St. Louis. Jeff Carter (also a righty) may creep into the conversation here and may get the nod because of his size, but Stamkos is having a far superior season. My personal choice would be St. Louis because I think his strong play this season has been overlooked and he is an Olympian vet, so throwing him into this situation won't be anything he can't handle. On a roster that is full of centreman, having St. Louis, a natural winger, could help. Scott Niedermayer isn't having a good season either and all eyes will be on him to right his game and lead the team. As a winner at every single level, Niedermayer isn't a stranger to pressure. With a strong supporting cast that is by far, I think, the best in the tournament, Canada's defense should be one of few worries of the coaching staff. Canada's defense has a little bit of everything - speed, size, skill, strength, and even youth in the highly regarded Drew Doughty. The big head scratcher for Mike Babcock and company is to figure out which players get the big minutes and which ones sit. A lot has been made about goaltending as well, with Martin Brodeur, Roberto Luongo, and Marc-Andre Fleury struggling. Brodeur, Canada's undisputed #1, has allowed more than 3 goals in his last 5 games with a 2-3 record during that stretch. The Devils blew a 2-0 lead last night against Philadelphia. Luongo had a fantastic game in Boston but lost his previous game and was pulled in Toronto. Fleury has allowed 13 goals in his last 3 games and had a save percentage far below his usual .906 mark in that stretch. Is it fatigue? It could very well be with all three goalies heavily relied upon by their respective teams. Some argue that coaches, especially ones with Olympic commitments like Jacques Lemaire, should rest his starters in preparation for the Olympics but that won't happen - the NHL is their day job and they're paid to win, so naturally it's their only focus until the opening game against Norway. Either way, Canada is walking into the tournament with their three best goalies, even if they are currently being outplayed by Steve Mason and Marty Turco. Exactly who the hero will be remains to be seen. <img src="http://www.cbc.ca/gfx/images/sports/photos/2008/10/30/bogosian-zach-081010.jpg"class="imageFloatLeftFramed">USA has already lost two of their original selections. Paul Martin is out with a broken arm and won't be 100% by the start of the Games and Mike Komisarek is going to have season-ending shoulder surgery. Brian Burke swiftly announced Ryan Whitney and Tim Gleason as his replacements. While Whitney hasn't exactly had a stellar season, he is logging almost 25 minutes a night for the struggling Ducks while Gleason will replace Komisarek's defensive zone presence. While I like the majority of USA's roster, I would've picked Matt Greene (Grand Ledge, MI) and Zach Bogosian (Massena, NY) instead, to continue Burke's trend of a youth movement, even though it's not like Whitney (26) or Gleason (27) are that old. Greene has been vital to the Kings' success and is their best defensive player. While Bogosian has really cooled off and has just 20 points with -13, he is the future of USA's defensive corps along with Erik and Jack Johnson. If anything, Bogosian will be USA's seventh man and it would perhaps do him some good to just soak up the atmosphere. The USA are underdogs, but it's the way they like it. Just ask Mike Eruzione and the 1980 squad. <img src="http://www.cbc.ca/sports/columns/newsmakers/gfx/evgeni-malkin-250.jpg"class="imageFloatRightFramed">Russia will perhaps be Canada's biggest challenge because their offense is, by far, the best in the tournament. When Ilya Kovalchuk and Evgeni Malkin play on your second line, you have an embarrassment of riches in the goal-scoring category. However, there are two things to note. First, I think Russia shot itself in the foot when they announced that half of their roster will be made up of players from the KHL. I think hockey politics took the front seat here because Russian officials were much too eager to show the world that the KHL is on par with the NHL, but let's face it, the world's best players are in the NHL. If the Russians win gold, then they have a point, but if they lose, it shows that the NHL is still the superior league. Second, defense remains the big issues because their top two defenseman, Sergei Gonchar and Andrei Markov, are both known more for their offensive talents than defense. The Russians can outscore anybody, but the question is whether or not they are good enough in the defensive zone. Talented forwards Alexei Kovalev and Alexander Frolov were the notable absentees, and even if their consistency at the NHL level is suspect, they are top performers for Russia - Kovalev has 10 points in 14 games for Russia in two Olympics and Frolov has 15 points in 16 games in two World Championships. Sergei Mozyakin, one of the top performers in the KHL year-in and year-out, was also another omission. Semyon Varlamov has been out since December with a groin injury and his replacement will be Alexander Eremenko, the fourth goalie at camp, but the issue is largely irrelevant because Evgeni Nabokov and Ilya Bryzgalov are the clear 1-2. The Swedes may be hit by injuries the hardest, with both veterans Tomas Holmtrom and Niklas Kronwall questionable for the tournament. Let's not forget that despite his selection to the roster, it is still not 100% sure whether or not Peter Forsberg will play. Assuming that all three will be unavailable, Johan Franzen, who recently returned from injury, will get the first looks. Forget about Mikael Samuelsson - even if he's asked he's already said he'd say no. If Franzen isn't ready, than the Swedes could go with more checking ability in Fredrik Sjostrom, or scoring ability by reaching into their own backyard and pick Johan Davidsson from HV71 Jonkoping of the SEL. The captain and team's leading scorer for the past two years, Davidsson is having another strong season and gives the Swedes another representative from the SEL despite not having played at the international level since the 2007 World Championships. Since former Washington Capital and coach Bengt-Ake Gustafsson (son Anton is in the Caps' system) has been adverse to selecting younger players, Victor Hedman, who wasn't even on the original shortlist, probably won't be picked. Instead it may very well be Alex Edler, who I felt should've belonged in the first place, or another Red Wing in Jonathan Ericsson, or Chicago's underrated Niklas Hjalmarsson. Whatever the case, Sweden will almost undoubtedly be in play during the medal rounds due to their incredible chemistry. Daniel and Henrik Sedin are expected to anchor the top line in front of their home crowd while Henrik Zetterberg and Daniel Alfredsson will form the second. Finland will make some noise because like Canada and USA, they will benefit from a smaller ice surface with their North American style of play. Tuomo Ruutu and Niklas Backstrom are both on the injured reserve and it seems unlikely either will make the trip. While they are very good NHLers, especially Backstrom, it won't hurt them significantly. Miikka Kiprusoff will man the pipes while Antero "Sushi Roll" Niittymaki will back him up and is more than capable of handling the load, having won MVP honours at Turin. Nashville's Pekka Rinne will most likely be the third string. Jussi Jokinen and Lauri Korpikoski would be my first choices as Ruutu's replacement, both versatile players but lack Ruutu's physical play. There will be a good chance that the games will be decided by shootouts and Jussi Jokinen may be the best in the league, along with Jonathan Toews. The scrappy Finns are considered underdogs in this tournament but do have the ability to make some noise. Teemu Selanne and Saku Koivu, the leading scorers at Turin with 11 points each, are both returning. Neither the Czechs nor Slovaks have any injuries, the only medal round threats to not have any. It works in their favour, but they face a very steep uphill climb in the tough Group B (Russia, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Latvia). The Slovaks, who finished fifth in Turin, are headlined by a healthy duo of Marian Gaborik and Marian Hossa, while Zdeno Chara continues to patrol the blueline. There is no obvious strength on the Slovak squad, but there's no obvious weakness either. If the goaltending holds up with Jaroslav Halak and Peter Budaj, the Slovaks have a good chance of finishing in the bronze medal game. The team is headlined by a big batch of veterans, including Jozef Stumpel, Pavol Demitra, and Miroslav Satan. Gaborik is the Slovaks' youngest forward and he is 28. Like Sweden, the Slovaks will lean on veteran leadership, good goaltending, and timely scoring to get them through the tournament. For 37-year old Ziggy Palffy, who came out of retirement in 2007, this will most likely be his last opportunity to win a medal. A veteran-heavy team may not necessarily be a bad thing - for one, the team could fall flat on its face like Canada in 2006 or be a surprising contender like USA in 2002. Given the talent pool it seems unlikely the Czechs will finish third again, although it's not out of the realm of possibility. Like the Slovaks, the Czechs don't have any weaknesses, but rather just a solid, well-rounded team. What gives the Czechs an edge over rest of their competition, however, is their ability to score. The undersized Tomas Plekanec will be the team's top centreman, but what the team lacks in depth down the middle is more than made up for on the wings with Martin Havlat, Patrik Elias, Milan Michalek, Martin Erat, Tomas Fleischmann, and, of course, Jaromir Jagr. To be honest I though the Czechs would stock up on some more firepower because that's their obvious strength, but instead chose to exclude Jiri Hudler, Vaclav Prospal, and even Milan Hejduk, a curious decision to say the least. Tomas Kaberle, Marek Zidlicky, Filip Kuba, and Pavel Kubina makes up a nice defensive corps, while shot-blocking machine Zbynek Michalek (271 in 2008-09 was 33 more than second place Brett Clark, another underrated defenseman) will be the shut-down man. There will be no Dominik Hasek to confound shooters, although Tomas Vokoun is certainly no slouch. Odds to win Gold: Canada (1:2), Russia (2:1), Sweden and USA (6:1), Czech Republic (12:1), Finland (18:1), Slovakia (40:1) Go Canada Go!
  9. <img src="http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2009/11/nov1709_chbsmall_smallt.jpg" class="imageFloatLeftFramed"> Now that the Canucks last home game before the Olympics is done it's time to look forward to those 45 days away from GM Place that includes a 14 game road trip interrupted by the Olympics for two weeks. The Canucks leave GM Place in the hands of VANOC and embark on a 14 game road trip which has a lot of fans worried because going into this road trip they currently own the second worst road record amongst any of the playoff teams in the East and West. That doesn't paint an accurate picture though as the Canucks in their last 10 games away from home, after a terrible start on the road this year, are 6-3-1. The Canucks main concern isn't even going to be the first half of the trip: Jan. 30 at Toronto Feb. 2 at Montreal Feb. 4 at Ottawa Feb. 6 at Boston Feb. 9 at Tampa Bay Feb. 11 at Florida Feb. 12 at Columbus Feb. 14 at Minnesota The first half of the trip the Canucks do a swing through Eastern Canada and if there's one thing the Canucks have been able to do it's devour teams in the East. When you look at the East teams the Canucks are playing they have better goal tending, and the fact that they rarely see these teams gives them the advantage because the other team's lack of familiarity should let the Sedins run rampant. The six of the first eight games on the road swing should be a breeze. Even if the Canucks go 6-2 through that stretch that'll be a fantastic lead up to the two week Olympic break. The tough part is after the Olympic break. The Canucks six games after the Olympics looks like this: March 2 at Columbus March 3 at Detroit March 5 at Chicago March 7 at Nashville March 9 at Colorado March 10 at Phoenix In the first eight games of the road trip the Canucks play only one, maybe two playoff teams (depending on the standings fluctuation). In the back end of the road trip, post Olympics, they're ploughing through some of the toughest teams in the West and taking on a list of Western Conference playoff teams. They're also hitting four teams in the Central Divsion, a division they've improved against lately but one that has been unkind to them all season. The other concern for the Canucks is going to be the Olympic hangover. This could work both for and against the Canucks. The Canucks are going to have 7 of their stars play throughout the two weeks and you have to imagine fatigue will kick in. The rest of the team should be nice and rested, but it's a double edge sword if the rest just leads to a sluggish start and they take a few games to find their legs. That being said every NHL team is in the same boat so that should even the playing field and the Canucks stars will have to lead the team having been the ones that played through the two weeks off. The thing everyone's going to be watching the most on this trip though is going to be Henrik Sedin's play. He leads the NHL in the points race going into this road trip, but of the 76 points he's scored this year, 49 of them have been on home ice. That's the most by any NHL Player this season, but means if Henrik is going to contend throughout the remainder of the season his road numbers are going to have to go up drastically. This road trip is going to define the Canucks season. It's been said before and sounds somewhat cliché, but it plays a role in determining whether the Canucks chase a playoff spot down the stretch or sit comfortably while watching the rat race, and it's going to determine just how good Henrik Sedin really is. Either way, with the last three games of the regular season versus NW division opponents, you can't help but think this season is going to come down to the wire yet again. <img src="http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2009/11/nov1709_mozy_small.jpg" class="imageFloatLeftFramed">Richard Loat writes for Canucks Hockey Blog and is a fan of the underdog – first Bryan Allen, then Alex Burrows, and now Jannik Hansen. His passion for the Canucks led to the Canucks Hockey Blog and a lot of #Canucks tweets on his Twitter account.
  10. Note: This is a slighty older entry from my blog, but I was invited to come here and contribute in the Fan Zone, so I'd figure I'd go the lazy route for my debut and go with reruns. The stats are a little off because I had written this prior to the Dallas game. That said, enjoy! So we're officially at the midway point of the season. We have a relatively solid understanding on how things look right now in the NHL. For the Canucks, things are looking good, as they're starting to carve out a playoff berth and are playing some great hockey. It's a good time to do some evaluating of talent, which is what this post is about. Today marked the announcement of America's men's hockey roster and as expected, Ryan Kesler was named to the squad, making it the first time he'll be representing his nation at the Olympic level. That by itself is a major accomplishment and is something Ryan Kesler can take pride in. I would suggest, though, that Kesler's Olympic nomination provides a great opportunity for the 25 year old. Namely, that he has a great chance to capture the attention of the collective hockey media, a group that rarely has all of its attention focused on the west coast, nevermind Vancouver proper. This isn't meant to be a 'TSN = Toronto Sports Network' jab. I understand that the majority of the larger markets are out east (Toronto, Montreal, New York, Boston, etc.) so it's understandable that most writers will be paying attention to teams that they cover. Given the fast turnaround you have to have with being a journalist, most publications don't have the luxury of staying up until midnight to cover west coast games. Fortunately, they won't have much of a choice in the matter when the Olympics roll around, as the NHL shuts down to let their top players participate. Why would this be important? Well, aside from having a shot at winning some hardware at the Olympics, Kesler also has a chance to gain some fans in the press that may not otherwise have watched him. This would have implications for winning the Selke trophy, awarded to the best defensive forward. The winner is selected by members of the Professional Hockey Writers' Association. Yeah, I think you can see where I'm going with this. While the Olympics won't have a direct impact on earning Selke votes, they're a good way to showcase oneself and get your name out there because everyone will be watching. Fans of the Canucks know that Kesler is a great two way player and we also know that Kesler has really come on in recent memory. Prior to last season, he was typically tasked with shutting down the top forwards on opposing teams and has been a key component in the Canucks penalty killing unit pretty much since his arrival with the club. He was seen as a good defensive forward, but questions about his offensive capabilities abounded.Last season, most critics were silenced, as he went on an offensive tear, setting a career high in points. This season, he is well on his way to his third straight 20 goal season and is on pace to surpass 60 points, which would be a new career high for him. We, the fans, know that Kesler is a great player. The problem is getting the message out there to the rest of the hockey world. Kesler's got some brand recognition right now, thanks to the votes he received last season as he was the second runner-up for Selke voting. The Olympic nomination puts his stock at an all-time high and thanks to issues plaguing the other Selke finalists from last year (Detroit's injury woes and Philly just sucking in general), Kesler stands poised to earn his first piece of NHL hardware. It's not all about making friends with the media, though I'd argue that it helps significantly. Kesler also has the stats to back up both a Selke nomination and a Selke win. For the purposes of this article, I'm going to compare Kesler against Datsyuk and Richards, as well as Patrick Marleau, Tomas Plekanec and Travis Zajac, all players who have been getting some consideration for a Selke nod this season as well. I'll be looking primarily at their stats from this season and last to try and explain why Kesler has a great chance at winning the Selke. Short Handed Kesler logs a lot of time on the penalty kill. Last season, he spent more time on the PK than the other six players listed. His numbers are slightly lower this season, but that's because the Canucks have been taking less penalties and are on pace to actually take less minors than they did last season. In addition to playing slightly less, Kesler has also not been on the ice for as many goals against, on pace for 20 compared to 28 shorthanded GA last season. Datsyuk, thanks to Detroit being such a disciplined team, doesn't log a ton of minutes on the PK, but when he is out there he is quite good as he only allowed 15 goals against on the PK last season and has only been around for 3 this season. At first glance, Plekanec seems to compare well to Datsyuk on the penalty kill: the Hab was on ice for only 9 goals against shorthanded last season while getting a comparable amount of icetime to Datsyuk. This season, however, his minutes have more than doubled and he's on pace for 18 goals against. Marleau tends to be rather consistent, year over year his penalty killing numbers are looking to be more or less on pace, although he has logged more time on the PK this season (due to the Sharks taking more trips to the sin bin.) Richards and Zajac are two interesting players to compare, as Richards was a Selke nominee last year while Zajac is getting some praise this season. However, Zajac doesn't seem to be an effective penalty killer: despite seeing the 4th least amount of playing time last season and the 5th least of PK time this season, he was 2nd overall in shorthanded goals against in 08/09 and tied for third this season. For Kesler, we see that he's a horse on the penalty kill and that his short handed goals against have been improving, as he was on the ice for 32 GA in 07/08, 28 last season and on pace for 20 this season (which would put him one better than his short handed GA in 06/07 of 21. Remember, Kesler was serving primarily in a shutdown role that season and was on our third line.) Marleau is arguably his biggest competitor here as he's been seeing more icetime without a noticeable increase in goals against. Richards, who was 2nd in icetime last season, has seen a greatly reduced profile on the PK but is having a terrible season as a penalty killer. Plekanec and Zajac don't look that great when compared to Kesler, while Datsyuk remains quietly efficient. Selke Nominees based on penalty kill: Datsyuk, Kesler and Marleau 5 on 5 Play Note: Keep in mind that I'm referring to 5 on 5 play here, not +/-. Plus/Minus considers short handed goals scored, which is what I'm not really looking at here. So if you see discrepancies when I'm talking about players being plus or minus, that's why. Kesler struggles a bit here, based on Goals For and Against. His differential is the smallest out of all the players being compared here as last season his differential was +6. It's better than Plekanec's -7. But when compared to everyone else, it gets pretty ugly. Richards and Marleau were both +13, Zajac was +24 and Datsyuk +36. Things are a little better this season, as Richards and Datsyuk have both struggled and are both a +4. Zajac leads the way, as he's +17 5 on 5. Marleau is also looking good as he's a +15 this season. However, Kesler is a -1 5 on 5 and Plekanec is a +2. Not good company to be keeping. A possible explanation for this would be that Kesler typically draws up against opposing team's top lines, while guys like Marleau, Datsyuk and Zajac are on teams that are stacked up front and are playing against lesser lines…but I'm not familiar with how players on these other teams are utilized by their coaches and in some instances there have been situations where the coaching staff has changed (notably with Jersey and Montreal, who both switched to more defensive minded coaches this season.) That said, Kesler isn't that great 5 on 5, while other players are, whatever the reason may be. Icetime doesn't really explain it, either, as Kesler averages the least amount of even strength time per game and is middle of the pack for total icetime. Zajac and Marleau are the clear winners here, as they have a great 5 on 5 differential and they eat up a lot of even strength minutes. Richards as well, especially when you factor in how horrible Philly has been all season. Five on five play is certainly Kesler's weakest area when thinking about Selke aspirations although he is no slouch. Selke Nominees based on 5 on 5 play: Marleau, Richards, Zajac Overall 'Defensive' Statistics This is where things get interesting. Looking at some other stats, like blocked shots, giveaways, takeaways and faceoff percentage, we begin to see some players really start to assert themselves, both for bad and for worse. Plekanec would be the worst of the lot. Looking at him year over year, an increased role seems to have hurt him, as he's coughing up the puck with more regularity and his faceoff stats have dropped below 50%, the only player in this group that has done so for this season. He has become far more adept at blocking shots, though, but when you factor in his PK and 5 on 5 performance, an increase in blocked shots is hardly cause for celebration, as he's regressed more overall, which has to hurt his chances. Richards isn't the greatest faceoff guy (49% last season, 51.6% this season) and he is a turnover machine, but he is a great shot blocker, having led all forwards (alongside Chris Drury) in blocked shots last season. Richards is like Plekanec in that he is okay in some areas but excels in others (and is also vastly more talented than him!) Marleau, on the other hand, has actually gotten better at hanging onto the puck, as he has slightly more takeaways than giveaways at the midway mark, a vast improvement compared to last season where he has 46 takeaways and 61 giveaways. He's also managed to slightly improve his shot block and faceoff percentage. If he can keep it up, having a demonstratable area of improvement will help. Datsyuk is the model of consistency with these stats, as he continues to be very talented at stealing the puck, is on pace for the same amount of shots blocked (although he isn't a great shot blocker) and he remains at the head of the pack with a solid faceoff percentage (56% last season vs. 56.9% this season.) Zajac as well, although his faceoff percentage has slipped by about 3% this season (53.1% to 50.9%) Kesler has been a beast in ALL of these categories. He had the third most takeaways last season (behind Richards and Datsyuk) and the second best ratio behind only Datsyuk this season. He's also a shot blocking fiend (2nd last year and leading the way this season) and is second best at faceoffs with 54% effectiveness last season and 55.4% this season (again, behind only Datsyuk.) No other player is as good as Kesler in all categories and this is why he is such a great two way player. Selke nominations based on 'Overall Defensive Stats': Datsyuk, Marleau, Kesler Offensive Performance Like or not, offense is a factor when it comes to deciding who wins the Selke. The award is for the best 2 way forward, and the other end of the ice is where goals are scored, so, yeah. Unlike last year, where Richards and Datsyuk were offensive juggernauts (80 and 97 points respectively), both players have cooled down significantly when it comes to offensive production. This is no doubt because of the Flyers struggling this season and the glut of injuries the Red Wings have suffered. While unfortunate, having them fall off the map does open things up for other players, as the offense is, more or less, on a far more even playing field. Plekanec leads the way offensively, with 46 points. If there's one category that Plekanec has on lockdown it would be offense. That said, there are glaring problems in other areas, as discussed earlier, which really take the shine off of him being a great 2 way player and one worthy of Selke consideration. What is noteworthy here, though, is that Plekanec has had significantly less powerplay icetime than the rest of the players I'm looking at: most players are around the 125-130 mark for PP time, while Plekanec has only had 104. All but one of his points has come from 5 on 5 play. Marleau is on pace to slightly improve his numbers from last year, but looks to be doing it primarily through scoring goals, as he's on track for 50. His offensive stats, when combined with his performance in other areas and being more or less consistent year over year makes him very attractive for potential Selke voters. Zajac has also rbeen reliable with his offensive production, as he's on pace for more or less the same offensive totals as last season. Kesler is as well, but he has the added bonus of doing it essentially 'on his own', critics of Kesler would say that his going on a tear coincided with the arrival of Mats Sundin and that he rode both Sundin's and Demitra's coattails last season to career highs. Well, Sundin is retired and Demitra hasn't played all season, which means Kesler has been generating his offense with a combination of Mason Raymond, Mikael Samuelsson and Michael Grabner. Grabner is a rookie and Kesler can't be 'leeching' off of him. Raymond's been the only one to have shown any consistency through the course of the season, as Samuelsson has been streaky. It's an important distinction that has to be considered when looking at Kesler's numbers. Selke nominees based on offense: Kesler, Marleau, Plekanec Conclusion I think that Kesler stands a very good chance of earning another Selke nomination if things continue along the pace that they're at for all players involved. He's great on the penalty kill, does all the 'little things' that defensive players do and is being consistent with his offense. The other two players I see making some Selke noise are Patrick Marleau and Travis Zajac, who garnered a number of votes last season. Plekanec I can't see getting too many (outside of the Quebec based writers), as he seems to be struggling defensively with an increased role. This becomes especially true if his team doesn't manage to make the playoffs. While things may be different if the Red Wings weren't the walking wounded or if Philly was playing better overall, Kesler is the only nominee from last year who is still looking dangerous. If he has a strong Olympics and is able to turn some heads and get his name out there by having a great tournament, he has an excellent chance at winning the Selke. Especially since it's entirely possible that Patrick Marleau may get lost in the shuffle amidst all the other great Team Canada players. He's got the resume, he just needs to be able to win the 'interview', so to speak. Trevor Presiloski is a Westerner stuck out East in Toronto. You can check out his website, which features more coverage on the Canucks, at http://www.trevorpresiloski.com. He can also be found over on Twitter at twitter.com/nettrashcan. He is also a fan of chinchillas and regularly partakes in Chinchilli Day.
  11. As the date for Steve Yzerman to reveal his team fast approaches, and after a whole two months of countdowns, it is now time to reveal my picks. So without further ado, here it is: GOALIES Martin Brodeur Roberto Luongo Marc-Andre Fleury DEFENSEMEN Scott Niedermayer 'C' - Shea Weber Chris Pronger 'A' - Dan Boyle Duncan Keith - Brent Seabrook Jay Bouwmeester FORWARDS Rick Nash - Sidney Crosby - Jarome Iginla 'A' Patrick Marleau - Joe Thornton - Dany Heatley Martin St. Louis - Ryan Getzlaf - Corey Perry Jonathan Toews - Mike Richards - Mike Fisher Brenden Morrow And that's your 23. There's no doubt about it - the league's best goaltender this year will be the starter and that's clearly Brodeur. Hanging up another gold medal along with breaking Terry Sawchuk's shutout record will be a year to remember. Luongo is the hometown favourite and will get the nod as the backup but Fleury has the big game experience. He was arguably Pittsburgh's MVP last year. The three goalies are heads and shoulders above any other Canadian goalie in the league. The name that will draw the most amount of debate will be Washington's Mike Green. The league's leading scoring defenseman with 36 points in 37 games is an offensively talented player that deserves a spot on any team - just not this one. Big question marks were raised about Green's defensive play, and while it has improved by a significant margin this year, his key contribution - offense - is almost nullified by the presence of Niedermayer, Weber, Boyle, and Keith. While you can't replace or replicate Green's offense, his defense is still considered a liability. Mike Babcock noted that on defense Canada has the ultimate edge over all the countries so I think he'll be looking for players that can really play both ends of the ice rather than specialize in one area. Two Flames, Dion Phaneuf and Robyn Regehr, have also been omitted because I don't feel either bring something indispensable to the table. Phaneuf is no doubt a talented player who loves the atmosphere and the big games but sometimes he gets a little carried away, resulting in dumb penalties that can really put his team in a hole. How well he responds to a loud Vancouver crowd is a big question mark. While Regehr has been a big-time shut-down player for the Flames, his offensive skill is limited and his skating ability is not in the same league as the top six, save maybe Pronger. Canada's ability to get up and down the ice quickly will be a deciding factor in the tournament. TSN made a big deal about having three right-handed shots and three-left handed shots in the top six. While that will be taken into consideration, I doubt that is a major deal breaker. Babcock has only one right-handed regular on his Detroit squad (Brian Rafalski) and they seem to do just fine. It'll make things easier to have more right-handed shots but I don't think it's a necessity. Either way, I have followed the same pattern but I daresay even though I have Keith as the third pairing it would not surprise me if he ended up moving up. Drew Doughty will be a favourite pick for those who want Canada's new batch of young stars to step in. At just 20 years old, he's the go-to guy for Terry Murray and the surging Kings. He logs big minutes and comparisons to Niedermayer aren't unfounded - he plays a more offensive style and uses his skating to cover a lot of ground. He's smart and poised with the puck. But there's just simply too many players to pick from and the pressure is going to be immense. I think the deciding factor will be that Doughty has only one full regular season under his belt and too little experience at the international level. The defending gold medalist Swedes went with experience, and so will Canada. <img src="http://www.canada.com/entertainment/health+will+play+role+canada+final+roster/1936967/1936982.bin?size=620x400" class="imageFloatLeftFramed">The first two forward lines were easy to pick. Crosby plays with Bill Guerin and Chris Kunitz, two power forwards, so putting him between Nash and Iginla shouldn't be much of a problem. Canada's top line has enough hustle, skill, and strength to carry the team. This will be Crosby's first Olympics and what better way than to make his debut in his home country and as the tournament MVP? The second line was also easy because I've decided to take the San Jose trio. A lot of pundits who picked the trio have split them up and I don't see the logic behind it. It's clear that Marleau thrives with his two usual linemates, why not just keep them together? The chemistry is already built-in. There's no sense in taking Marleau if you're not going to play him in an offensive role. Getzlaf and Perry was another pair that was easy to pick, but what of the left winger? You could take a dark horse left winger like Mike Cammalleri or Dustin Penner, or even a lefty centre like Jordan Staal, Eric Staal, or Vincent Lecavalier. Since I don't think Cammalleri or Penner deserve spots, you can count them out. Lecavalier and Eric Staal are interesting choices because despite their disappointing seasons they're extremely talented players and maybe a selection to this team will rejuvenate their game. Jordan Staal will also be a popular pick but I don't think his offensive talents are suited for that line and he plays much better at centre than on the wing. If he is picked he'll be a fourth-line player, not a utility third line, which is why I went with the right-handed Martin St. Louis. The third highest scoring Canadian and a natural right winger will play the left side simply because he can. I think St. Louis is a very creative and smart player who is all heart. He's the engine that drives Tampa Bay. The fourth line will generate the most debate. Mike Richards was always my pick for the fourth line centre job and there he will stay. He's had his up and downs this season but he is still a very good two-way player that brings an edge to the game. He has always done a magnificent job for Canada so I don't see why he can't do the job again in February. Toews was also an obvious pick but will have to play on the left side because of Richards' lack of versatility. Another centre, will be rewarded for his strong play this year and that's Mike Fisher. He's another capable two-way player that has really flourished under Cory Clouston and his confidence is at an all-time high. Either way, all three players can take face-offs and Babcock can use them as he pleases. Brenden Morrow takes the last spot and even though he hasn't done much in terms of putting the puck in the net, he's one of Canada's most rugged and tough forwards. If Canada needs a little spark on their team expect him to draw in. Morrow lined up on Richards' wing during the original Red-White scrimmage in August. You can debate for hours on the exclusion of goal-scoring machine Jeff Carter and Canada vet Shane Doan, but I don't think either player has played well enough to warrant a spot. Don't write them off just yet though - injuries could happen between now and the start of the Games. Still keep your eyes on Lecavalier, the Staals, Patrice Bergeron, and Brad Richards as well.
  12. Another week and the list continues to get shorter. This final week of scouting and evaluation will be absolutely vital for Olympic hopefuls, especially for bubble players like Drew Doughty, struggling veterans like Brenden Morrow and Shane Doan, and players who have clawed their way into consideration, like Patrice Bergeron. GOALTENDERS 1 (1) Martin Brodeur, NJ (.887 SV% isn't pretty, but chalk up two more wins for Canada's starter) 2 (3) Marc-Andre Fleury, Pit (3 straight wins over rivals with only 4 GA in that span) 3 (2) Roberto Luongo, Van (2.29 GAA and .920 SV%, but team can't find consistency) There's no denying that Brodeur's the starter. But who's the backup? Do you go with big game experience with Fleury or the big talent with Luongo? That's a question that Mike Babcock will have to decide. Either way, he's seen enough of Luongo in the West and Fleury in the Cup finals to make an informed decision. <img src="http://cache1.asset-cache.net/xc/81543922.jpg?v=1&c=IWSAsset&k=2&d=17A4AD9FDB9CF1934B869679A269F9CC97725D4CC68B1803B01E70F2B3269972" class="imageFloatLeftFramed">DEFENSEMEN 1 (2) Duncan Keith, Chi (there's really no stopping this guy - 2nd to Boyle in West scoring among d-men) 2 (3) Shea Weber, Nsh (the Preds are rolling and he's +7 in December) 3 (4) Brent Seabrook, Chi (will play shutdown role if selected, +13 is second to Toews on Hawks) 4 (1) Mike Green, Wsh (a really quiet week in which the Caps offense was shut down) 5 (5) Dan Boyle, SJ (how good is he against tough competition? Faces off against Keith tonight) 6 (7) Drew Doughty, LA (zero-point week is a minor blip, comparisons to Niedermayer aren't premature) 7 (8) Chris Pronger, Phi (he's a lock, but his recent play suggests otherwise) 8 (6) Jay Bouwmeester, Cgy (an ugly -4 week but still the front-runner from the Flames) 9 (12) Dion Phaneuf, Cgy (two PPG is nice, but Canada not short on offense) 10 (11) Scott Niedermayer, Ana (-7 in December. Selection or non-selection will both spark debate) 11 (13) Robyn Regehr, Cgy (his shut-down role already taken by Seabrook) Drew Doughty is the player to watch here because he might be a better pick than Jay Bouwmeester. There are four locks as of now: Niedermayer, Pronger, Weber, and Keith. That's your top four core right there and the next three will depend on what sort of team Steve Yzerman wants to ice. Boyle would be a lock if it weren't for Mike Green because both players dominate in the offensive zone but not so much in their own. I left Regehr on the list because I think he could be a surprise pick but I'm not totally convinced yet. FORWARDS 1 (1) Sidney Crosby, Pit (despite only 11 PP points he's still fourth in league scoring) 2 (2) Joe Thornton, SJ (just one game last week but had a hand in all 4 SJ goals) 3 (3) Jonathan Toews, Chi (slow starter was confident in abilities - 18 points in last 19 games) 4 (5) Martin St. Louis, TB (he's a bubble player but his 38 points are tied with Perry) 5 (7) Ryan Getzlaf, Ana (and the goals come rushing in - 3-game goal streak) 6 (11) Jarome Iginla, Cgy (his bounce back ability is amazing - 5 points this week) 7 (10) Rick Nash, Cbs (-11 isn't pretty but pair him with Crosby and it'll be magic) 8 (12) Patrick Marleau, SJ (if Canada takes Marleau, they should keep the SJ line together) 9 (4) Dany Heatley, SJ (a rare-0 goal week but still only 3 away from league lead) 10 (6) Corey Perry, Ana (just 1 assist and -3 but he's got the right mix) 11 (13) Mike Fisher, Ott (season's no fluke - scoring 5 goals in each month) 12 (16) Mike Richards, Phi (keeps fading - point totals last three months: 12, 11, 8) 13 (22) Steve Stamkos, TB (probably in line for a disappointing cut, but he's a lock for 2014) 14 (23) Jordan Staal, Pit (like brother Eric he's been surging but he's more versatile) 15 (24) Patrice Bergeron, Bos (TSN's favourite boy is picking it up but a depth player at best) 16 (15) Brad Richards, Dal (is he back? Offensively yes, but defense not quite) 17 (9) Mike Cammalleri, Mtl (30 points is great but only 5th among Canadian LWs) 18 (8) Dustin Penner, Edm (how, when, where do you play him? Tough questions for enigma) 19 (21) Brenden Morrow, Dal (not so hot outside of Dallas - 11 points in 19 away games) 20 (17) Jeff Carter, Phi (he'd be a good linemate for M. Richards... but that's about it) 21 (25) Shane Doan, Phx (he's a solid player but he's not producing) The two most notable omissions are Vincent Lecavalier and Eric Staal. Despite Staal's recent surge I don't think either player has shown enough to warrant a spot on this team. They've been disappointing all year and Canada has the luxury of depth, much to the two big centres' dismay. I've left Penner and Cammalleri on the list because I think they should be considered. Both are dark horses but have performed extremely well with little or zero help. They are the only two bright spots for what will seem like disappointing season for the Oilers and Habs. I've also kept Jeff Carter because most pundits still have him on their lists even though I don't think his play warrants any more consideration. There are other players out there that can put the puck in the net. Definitive locks are Nash, Crosby, Iginla. I would put Joe Thornton in that group but Hockey Canada has always seemed adverse to selecting him, God knows why. Getzlaf, Perry, and Heatley are three others that I would consider locks, but not in the same group as Crosby and co. As promised, my picks for Sweden, Czech Republic, and Russia: CZECH REPUBLIC G Ondrej Pavelec, Atl G Marek Schwarz, Mlada Boleslav (Extraliga) G Tomas Vokoun, Fla* D Roman Hamrlik, Mtl D Tomas Kaberle, Tor – A* D Filip Kuba, Ott* D Pavel Kubina, Atl* D Zbynek Michalek, Phx D Jaroslav Spacek, Mtl* D Marek Zidlicky, Min* C Jiri Hudler, Dynamo Moscow (KHL) C David Krejci, Bos C Tomas Plekanec, Mtl C Josef Vasicek, Lokomotiv Yaroslavl (KHL) LW Patrik Elias, NJ* LW Milan Michalek, Ott LW Vaclav Prospal, NYR* RW Radek Dvorak, Fla RW Martin Erat, Nsh* RW Tomas Fleischmann, Wsh RW Martin Havlat, Min RW Milan Hejduk, Col - A* RW Jaromir Jagr, Avangard Omsk (KHL) – C* RUSSIA G Ilya Bryzgalov, Phx* G Evgeni Nabokov, SJ* G Semyon Varlamov, Was D Sergei Gonchar, Pit – A* D Denis Grebeshkov, Edm D Dmitri Kalinin, Salavat Yulayev Ufa (KHL) D Fedor Tyutin, Cbs* D Vitaly Vishnevsky, Lokomotiv Yaroslav (KHL) D Anton Volchenkov, Ott* D Sergei Zubov, SKA St. Petersburg (KHL) C Pavel Datsyuk, Det* C Viktor Kozlov, Salavat Yulayev Ufa (KHL)* C Evgeni Malkin, Pit* LW Alexander Frolov, LA* LW Ilya Kovalchuk, Atl – C* LW Sergei Mozyakin, Atlant Mytishchi (KHL) LW Alexander Ovechkin, Was* RW Maxim Afinogenov, Atl* RW Evgeny Artyukhin, Ana RW Alexei Kovalev, Ott – A* RW Alexei Morozov, Ak Bars Kazan (KHL) RW Alexander Radulov, Salavat Yulayev Ufa (KHL) RW Alexander Semin, Was SWEDEN G Jacob Markstrom, Brynas IF (SEL) G Henrik Lundqvist, NYR G Mikael Tellqvist, Ak Bars Kazan (KHL)* D Alexander Edler, Van D Tobias Enstrom, Atl D Jonathan Ericsson, Det D Kim Johnsson, Min* D Nicklas Lidstrom, Det – C* D Johnny Oduya, NJ D Mattias Ohlund, TB* C Nicklas Backstrom, Was C Johan Davidsson, HV 71 (SEL) C Henrik Sedin, Van* C Samuel Pahlsson, Cbs* C Henrik Zetterberg, Det – A* LW Loui Eriksson, Dal LW Tomas Holmstrom, Det LW Fredrik Modin, Cbs* LW Marcus Nilson, Djurgardens IF (SEL) LW Daniel Sedin, Van* LW Fredrik Sjostrom, Cgy RW Daniel Alfredsson, Ott –A* RW Mikael Samuelsson, Van* * = 2006 Olympian
  13. In light of Steve Yzerman's comments that the selection progress is an ongoing one, I think it's about time I trim this list down. There will still be key battles down the stretch, including questions regarding Mike Green, Drew Doughty, Steve Stamkos, Brad Richards, and co. Players I don't think have any shot at all anymore will be eliminated. GOALTENDERS 1 (2) Martin Brodeur, NJ (3-win week means he's fast past the post with 20) 2 (1) Roberto Luongo, Van (six wins in past eight starts, outstanding .923 SV% at home) 3 (3) Marc-Andre Fleury, Pit (where's the consistency? SV% for last three months: .918, .892, .910) 4 (4) Marty Turco, Dal (he's staying in the mix, but has uphill climb to unseat Fleury) 5 (5) Carey Price, Mtl (same situation as Turco, but has the upper hand with youth) Cut from camp roster: Cam Ward, Steve Mason DEFENSEMEN 1 (1) Mike Green, Wsh (may not hit 30 goals again but improving defensively) 2 (5) Duncan Keith, Chi (against the Sabres he only blocked five shots) 3 (7) Shea Weber, Nsh (leads Preds' deep, talented, young defensive corps) 4 (9) Brent Seabrook, Chi (t-2nd on team with +10 and averaging 23+ TOI/G) 5 (8) Dan Boyle, SJ (4-game point streak snapped due to injury to thigh - now DTD) 6 (2) Jay Bouwmeester, Cgy (notched 0 points in 3 games and loss to MIN hurts) 7 (11) Drew Doughty, LA (has almost equaled point total from last year and improved +27 overall) 8 (13) Chris Pronger, Phi (projected 55 points would be best total since 2007) 9 (3) Dan Hamhuis, Nsh (Preds only 4 points behind CHI, third most TOI/G on team) 10 (4) Stephane Robidas, Dal (just 1 assist in Dec. and Stars are weaker than 8 losses suggest) 11 (6) Scott Niedermayer, Ana (is he still a lock for the team? Doubters beginning to emerge) 12 (10) Dion Phaneuf, Cgy (will he or won't he? Pointless in last five contests) 13 (16) Robyn Regehr, Cgy (two straight losses to division teams and -1 in both) Cut: Francois Beauchemin, Brent Burns, Marc Staal<br style=""> <br style=""> <img src="http://cache2.asset-cache.net/xc/74428123.jpg?v=1&c=IWSAsset&k=2&d=17A4AD9FDB9CF1936C93A00DCCA1DB504763725A630ACA9FA7CFF610D5B4FC25" class="imageFloatCenterFramed"> FORWARDS 1 (1) Sidney Crosby, Pit (back in the top five, five points in last 4) 2 (6) Joe Thornton, SJ (Sharks 1-5 in Dec., but on pace for first 100+ point season since 2007) 3 (5) Jonathan Toews, Chi (5 goals in last 7, 13 shots in last 3 games) 4 (10) Dany Heatley, SJ (may hit 50+ goals again, but more because of Thornton) 5 (12) Martin St. Louis, TB (don't think he's a lock but 3 points hard to ignore) 6 (2) Corey Perry, Ana (Ducks keep losing, but only way Perry gets cut is via injury) 7 (4) Ryan Getzlaf, Ana (hard to separate him from Perry, but on pace for only 15 goals) 8 (15) Dustin Penner, Edm (will he or won't he? Most intriguing player of 2009-10) 9 (13) Mike Cammalleri, Mtl (natural winger with 4 points for team deep at C) 10 (11) Rick Nash, Cbs (notches first goal of December but Jackets struggling) 11 (3) Jarome Iginla, Cgy (held pointless in last four losses but still on pace for 40+ goals) 12 (7) Patrick Marleau, SJ (unlike Thornton, not scoring in last five losses with just one goal) 13 (25) Mike Fisher, Ott (you really have to like the way he plays – another 4 points) 14 (26) James Neal, Dal (has an outside shot to make the squad) 15 (21) Brad Richards, Dal (despite reputation as two-way player, only third season with +) 16 (18) Mike Richards, Phi (has 3 points to start week then 3 goose eggs) 17 (23) Jeff Carter, Phi (snaps drought with 2 goals, one of them GWG) 18 (-) Patrick Sharp, Chi (a vet leader on a very young team) 19 (19) Eric Staal, Car (talent gives him consideration but play does not) 20 (20) Vincent Lecavalier, TB (6 goals is bad enough, but 0 on the PP) 21 (8) Brenden Morrow, Dal (points streak snapped and losing ground) 22 (9) Steve Stamkos, TB (it'll come down to him or Toews and he's losing) 23 (17) Jordan Staal, Pit (doesn't need to score but defense needs to be Selke-calibre) 24 (-) Patrice Bergeron, Bos (what he does well doesn't show up on stat sheets) 25 (16) Shane Doan, Phx (like Morrow provides grit and skill but both struggling) 26 (-) Marc Savard, Bos (a great playmaker but Boston struggling and so is he) Cut: Dan Cleary, Simon Gagne, Milan Lucic, Andy McDonald, Derek Roy, Jason Spezza And as a bonus here are my picks for the other Olympic squads. I'll reveal Russia and Sweden next week, and my final picks the week after that. Stay tuned! TEAM SLOVAKIA G Peter Budaj, Col* G Jaroslav Halak, Mtl G Jaroslav Janus, Erie (OHL) D Zdeno Chara, Bos – C* D Milan Jurcina, Was* D Richard Lintner, Dynamo Minsk (KHL) D Andrej Meszaros, TB* D Andrej Sekera, Buf D Boris Valabik, Atl D Lubomir Visnovsky, Edm* C Martin Cibak, Spartak Moscow (KHL) C Michal Handzus, LA - A* C Jozef Stumpel, Barys Astana (KHL)* RW Marian Gaborik, NYR - A* RW Marcel Hossa, Dynamo Riga (KHL)* RW Marian Hossa, Chi* RW Juraj Kolnik, Geneva-Servette (Swiss-A) RW Branko Radivojevic, Spartak Moscow (KHL) RW Stefan Ruzicka, Spartak Moscow (KHL) RW Marek Svatos, Col* LW Ladislav Nagy, Severstal Cherepovets (KHL)* LW Peter Sejna, ZSC Lions Zurich (Swiss-A) LW Richard Zednik, Lokomotiv Yaroslavl (KHL)* TEAM FINLAND G Niklas Backstrom, Min G Miikka Kiprusoff, Cgy G Pekka Rinne, Nsh D Lasse Kukkonen, Avangard Omsk (KHL) D Toni Lydman, Buf* D Petteri Nummelin, HC Lugano (Swiss-A) D Joni Pitkanen, Car* D Anssi Salmela, Atl D Sami Salo, Van* D Kimmo Timonen, Phi – A* C Valtteri Filppula, Det C Olli Jokinen, Cgy* C Mikko Koivu, Min* C Saku Koivu, Ana – C* C Petteri Nokelainen, Ana LW Sean Bergenheim, NYI LW Niklas Hagman, Tor LW Jussi Jokinen, Car LW Lauri Korpikoski, Phx LW Ville Leino, Det LW Tuomo Ruutu, Car* RW Jere Lehtinen, Dal* RW Teemu Selanne, Ana – A* * = 2006 Olympian
  14. Another week, another countdown. Expect the races to get heated especially after Steve Yzerman announced that the team will be announced on December 30th, moving it up one day. Brian Burke has announced that he will be picking his Team USA too, as just for kicks I've done so as well. GOALTENDERS 1 (3) Roberto Luongo, Van (best Canadian goalie this week: 2-0, 1 SO, .970 SV%) 2 (1) Martin Brodeur, NJ (NJ now division leaders with 103rd SO but 5 GA vs. Luongo) 3 (2) Marc-Andre Fleury, Pit (great showing against CHI but loses to lowly CAR) 4 (7) Marty Turco, Dal (Stars still inconsistent but Turco shining in last two with 1.45/.952) 5 (5) Carey Price, Mtl (loss to Toronto hurts but bounced back with wins over BOS, PHI) 6 (4) Steve Mason, Cbs (Hithcock not losing confidence, but 3.90 GAA and .831 SV% gives reason to sit him) 7 (6) Ray Emery, Phi (winless in last 5 starts with 5.36 GAA and .814 SV%) DEFENSEMEN 1 (4) Mike Green, Wsh (4 points against rival Flyers, +4, 1 GWG) 2 (9) Jay Bouwmeester, Cgy (perfect on PK but 0-12 PP in December) 3 (6) Dan Hamhuis, Nsh (if not Weber it's Hamhuis - 2 points, +2, 4 PIM) 4 (2) Stephane Robidas, Dal (showed spark with fight but needs to score to get noticed) 5 (1) Duncan Keith, Chi (just one assist and -5 to start December) 6 (3) Scott Niedermayer, Ana (posting worst shooting % since 1997 and on pace for worst +/- ) 7 (5) Shea Weber, Nsh (quiet week but one of reasons Preds 5 games over .500) 8 (8) Dan Boyle, SJ (Sharks score ten goals but Boyle has hand in only one, also 0-11 on PP) 9 (7) Brent Seabrook, Chi (struggling in December like Keith) 10 (10) Dion Phaneuf, Cgy (minutes continue to be taken by Bouwmeester) 11 (16) Drew Doughty, LA (great bounce-back ability: 2 points, +5, GWG) 12 (15) Francois Beauchemin, Tor (4 points and +7 in last five wins in seven games) 13 (11) Chris Pronger, Phi (8 games without point and -5 in that span, team in shambles) 14 (14) Adrian Aucoin, Phx (Coyotes winners of five straight and 2 assists from steady vet) 15 (20) Ed Jovanovski, Phx (just one goal but Coyotes are winning) 16 (12) Robyn Regehr, Cgy (also feeling the effects of Bouwmeester - just 18:40 TOI vs. SJ) 17 (19) Brian Campbell, Chi (only Hawk on list to post +, but still underwhelming) 18 (17) Kyle Quincey, Col (Avs had 2 PPG all week and Quincey on ice for both) 19 (13) Marc Staal, NYR (has a tough hill to climb and Rangers are plummetting) 20 (18) Cam Barker, Chi (can he? Teams hesitant to bank on young PP QB at $3m+) 21 (21) Michael Del Zotto, NYR (continues free-falling with -9 in last 5 games) <img src="http://www.cyberpresse.ca/images/bizphotos/435x290/200909/16/108733-sidney-crosby-roberto-luongo-mike.jpg" class="imageFloatCenterFramed"> FORWARDS 1 (1) Sidney Crosby, Pit (losses hurt but can't fault his individual play - 3 G, 4 Points) 2 (10) Corey Perry, Ana (streak snapped, but 15 goals and 8th in SOG with 106, has to make team) 3 (2) Jarome Iginla, Cgy (losers of 2 of last 3 and zero goals from Iggy) 4 (24) Ryan Getzlaf, Ana (what possessed me to drop him to 24 last week? Oops.) 5 (13) Jonathan Toews, Chi (Hawks have lost only 2 in regulation since his return) 6 (5) Joe Thornton, SJ (ten game point streak snapped by Calgary) 7 (4) Patrick Marleau, SJ (crucial month for Marleau, 2 goals in win but nothing in losses) 8 (7) Brenden Morrow, Dal (in midst of 7-game point streak but Dallas not consistently winning) 9 (3) Steve Stamkos, TB (tough week with 4 games and inconsistent TOI given by Tocchet) 10 (14) Dany Heatley, SJ (playing responsibly - in one-goal games averaging more than 20 TOI) 11 (6) Rick Nash, Cbs (8-goal October, 7-goal November, 0-goal December thus far) 12 (19) Martin St. Louis, TB (scores in bunches but woeful -13 in losing games) 13 (21) Mike Cammalleri, Mtl (2nd hat trick, 4 goals, 2 GWG, Gainey's best investment by far) 14 (15) Travis Zajac, NJ (20 points in 20 wins, 5 points in 8 losses - it's not coincidence) 15 (8) Dustin Penner, Edm (how valuable is he now? Just saw him traded for Brodeur in fantasy) 16 (25) Shane Doan, Phx (on pace for worst year since 2007 - little urgency in his play) 17 (17) Jordan Staal, Pit (5-point October, 10-point November, 2 goals in last 3) 18 (9) Mike Richards, Phi (losers of 5 straight and zero points, in danger of losing spot, captaincy) 19 (18) Eric Staal, Car ('Canes 2-0 in December but Staal yet to score in winning game) 20 (26) Vincent Lecavalier, TB (picking up play or showcasing skill for potential move to MTL?) 21 (16) Brad Richards, Dal (half of points come from PP but Stars 0-9 last 3 games) 22 (23) Mike Ribeiro, Dal (gives up easily - 15 points in 13 wins, 8 points in 16 losses) 23 (22) Jeff Carter, Phi (six-game goal-less drought longest since 2007-08) 24 (12) Derek Roy, Buf (played just 15:56 against NJ - little versatility to speak of) 25 (28) Mike Fisher, Ott (2 more goals - crossing fingers for M. Richards to drop out of favour) 26 (30) James Neal, Dal (forget how November ended - 11 shots, 2 goals in December) 27 (20) Jason Spezza, Ott (drawing the ire of Melnyk and Murray, once again in the rumour mill) 28 (29) Dan Cleary, Det (3 goals in last 4... but probably not even considered anymore) 29 (11) Rich Peverley, Atl (naysayers singing "I told you so" - pointless in last 4) 30 (27) Andy McDonald, StL (last multi-point game was November 10) Dropped out: Cam Ward (laceration), Brent Burns (concussion), Simon Gagne (hernia), Ryan Smyth (upper body), Milan Lucic (ankle) TEAM Ryan USA: C Chris Drury, NYR - A* C Scott Gomez, Mtl* C Ryan Kesler, Van C Joe Pavelski, SJ C Paul Stastny, Col LW Ryan Malone, TB LW Zach Parise, NJ LW Bobby Ryan, Ana RW Ryan Callahan, NYR RW Brian Gionta, Mtl* RW Patrik Kane, Chi RW Phil Kessel, Tor RW Jamie Langenbrunner, NJ - C D Zach Bogosian, Atl** D Erik Johnson, StL D Paul Martin, NJ D Brooks Orpik, Pit D Brian Rafalski, Det - A* D Ryan Suter, Nsh D Ryan Whitney, Ana G Craig Anderson, Col** G Ryan Miller, Buf G Tim Thomas, Bos Omissions from original camp roster: Jon Quick, Tom Gilbert, Ron Hainsey, Jack Johnson, Mike Komisarek, Rob Scuderi, David Backes, David Booth, Dustin Byfuglien, Mike Modano, Kyle Okposo, TJ Oshie Notable omissions: Tim Connolly, Bill Guerin, Jason Pominville, James van Riemsdyk, Keith Tkachuk * = named to 2006 roster ** = not on original camp roster
  15. <img src="http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2009/12/dec0209_canada_rr.jpg" class="imageFloatRightFramed">First, I'd like to thank Derek Jory for inviting me to blog here and share my thoughts about everything hockey, but mostly the Canucks. Second, I welcome all readers and don't be afraid to comment or provide some feedback. What keeps blogs going are its readers and none of us would be here without your support. Third, my original blog home is at www.canucks.hockeyanalysis.com and posts from that site will be available here. Go check it out - David Johnson runs the site and there are other individual team blogs that are constantly being updated. Now that we've got all that out of the way... for those of you who don't know, I've been doing a Power Rankings list of all Team Canada hopefuls in preparation for the 2010 Olympics. Please keep in mind that these ranks don't necessarily reflect the depth chart rank or the chances of the player making the squad, but merely a week-to-week look at their performance. I expect Steve Yzerman and Hockey Canada to take players that are playing their best before the break, which would explain why former favourites like Vincent Lecavalier are currently on the outside looking in. So, without further ado, here's this week's list! The list will be updated every Monday until the countdown to New Year's Eve at which point the team roster will be announced. GOALTENDERS 1 (4) Martin Brodeur, NJ (3-0, 0.97 GAA, .963 SV% - need we say more?) 2 (3) Marc-Andre Fleury, Pit (surging Pens now 3-0 after brief hiccup) 3 (2) Roberto Luongo, Van (2-1, .917 SV% only loss came vs. SJ) 4 (-) Steve Mason, Cbs (solid numbers across the board, 2.28/.928) 5 (1) Carey Price, Mtl (1-1, 2.92 GAA, coming back down to earth) 6 (-) Ray Emery, Phi (0-1, 4.24 GAA, .840 SV%) 7 (4) Marty Turco, Dal (0-2, 4.11 GAA, .876 SV%) DEFENSEMEN 1 (1) Duncan Keith, Chi (just piling them on - 4 assists, +3) 2 (2) Stephane Robidas, Dal (10 points in last 10) 3 (5) Scott Niedermayer, Ana (6 points in last 7) 4 (3) Mike Green, Wsh (just 1 assist, but good defense means +4) 5 (13) Shea Weber, Nsh (rocket of a shot but poor Nashville depth hurts) 6 (15) Dan Hamhuis, Nsh (2 points, +3, 4 PIM, and hit of the week) 7 (7) Brent Seabrook, Chi (slow but steady - 1 goal, 1 assist) 8 (9) Dan Boyle, SJ (-4 is ugly, but still indispensable on PP with 2 PPG) 9 (6) Jay Bouwmeester, Cgy (Key to Flames' streak) 10 (14) Dion Phaneuf, Cgy (hard to knock on him but at this point a longshot) 11 (8) Chris Pronger, Phi (Flyers losing their flight) 12 (-) Robyn Regehr, Cgy (solid defensively, even chipping offensively on PK) 13 (-) Marc Staal, NYR (one of few Rangers playing well) 14 (12) Adrian Aucoin, Phx (returns by lighting the lamp) 15 (-) Francois Beauchemin, Tor (Leafs playing better but still not winning) 16 (10) Drew Doughty, LA (losing consistency, which makes Canada's choice easier) 17 (-) Kyle Quincey, Col (Avs floundering, but still finding ways to score on PP) 18 (11) Cam Barker, Chi (junior standout still unable to fully adjust to prime time) 19 (4) Brian Campbell, Chi (goose eggs, Hawks winning, he's not a factor) 20 (-) Ed Jovanovski, Phx (injury woes continue) 21 (-) Michael Del Zotto, NYR (after hot start, Rangers stinking and Del Zotto is -7) FORWARDS 1 (19) Sidney Crosby, Pit (breaks all rules with 5 points) 2 (5) Jarome Iginla, Cgy (20 points in 14 November games) 3 (9) Steve Stamkos, TB (gets knocked into own bench but right back up) 4 (12) Patrick Marleau, SJ (3 goals, chemistry, chemistry, chemistry) 5 (1) Joe Thornton, SJ (5 assists - if he gets cut it would be a mistake) 6 (21) Rick Nash, Cbs (young Jackets either surging or self-destructing) 7 (-) Brenden Morrow, Dal (4 goal week means tied with team lead with 11) 8 (18) Dustin Penner, Edm (losing Hemsky hurts, but not showing it with 4 points) 9 (13) Mike Richards, Phi (2 goals and shut-down centre for Canada) 10 (14) Corey Perry, Ana (Ducks record 18-game point streak) 11 (-) Rich Peverley, Atl (2 goals, both GWG) 12 (22) Derek Roy, Buf (good offensive player, but no room for him) 13 (8) Jonathan Toews, Chi (PK, PP, EV he does it all - versatility will be key) 14 (6) Dany Heatley, SJ (it happens - rare zero-goal week) 15 (17) Travis Zajac, NJ (2 more assists for 3-0 Devils) 16 (-) Brad Richards, Dal (a PP specialist? 3 of 4 assists came from PP) 17 (-) Jordan Staal, Pit (8 points in last 9, seeing PP #1 time) 18 (-) Eric Staal, Car (welcome back with 4 assists, but 'Canes still mediocre) 19 (3) Martin St. Louis, TB (10 points over two weeks) 20 (-) Jason Spezza, Ott (so talented, yet only 2 goals and little help) 21 (10) Mike Cammalleri, Mtl (nothing extra in the tank to show Yzerman?) 22 (24) Jeff Carter, Phi (9 goals in first two months not nearly enough) 23 (16) Mike Ribeiro, Dal (not exactly what Yzerman's looking for) 24 (15) Ryan Getzlaf, Ana (Perry, not Getzlaf, carrying team) 25 (20) Shane Doan, Phx (doing something with little help) 26 (-) Vincent Lecavalier, TB (7 points in six, then goes 0 in last 2) 27 (-) Andy McDonald, StL (Blues scoring woes and McDonald's production related) 28 (2) Mike Fisher, Ott (spot and role already taken by M. Richards) 29 (-) Dan Cleary, Det (nevermind point totals, not even effective on forecheck) 30 (-) James Neal, Dal (suspension hangover? 0 points, -4) Dropped out: Cam Ward (laceration), Brent Burns (concussion) Milan Lucic (ankle), Simon Gagne (hernia), Ryan Smyth (upper body) NB: Last week's ranks are in brackets. Since Yzerman has publicly stated that some players have played themselves into consideration, I have expanded the list to players who were not originally on the shortlist. And ranks for previous weeks: November 16, November 9, November 1, October 26, October 19 I am a regular CanucksCorner and you can find me as username jchockey. Please check out the site as well! Brian's done an excellent job maintaining it and Tom Benjamin's blog is one of the best and often discussed on HNIC's Satellite Hotstove.
  16. <img src="http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2009/10/116x66_1_103009.jpg" class="imageFloatLeftFramed">A break in the schedule and with 21 games already in the books equals a good time to review the first quarter of the Vancouver Canucks 2009.10 season. At the outset of the season, if told the Canucks would be sitting at 11-10-0 after the first 21 games, there may have been cries of outrage among those in Canuck Nation. After all, this was a team that had stated from the beginning that getting off to a good start would be crucial to their playoff hopes given their enormous 14-game road trip (actually an eight-game trip before the Olympic break plus a six-game trip coming out of the Winter Games) beginning in late January and stretching through to mid-March. <img src="http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2009/11/nov1809_luongo_t.jpg" class="imageFloatRightFramed">21 games into this season, however, and it is still virtually impossible to gauge this season's version of the Canucks. At no time during this season have the Canucks had the benefit of a fully healthy lineup and not only have the amount of injuries been staggering, they've been to the likes of some of Vancouver's key performers including Daniel Sedin and Roberto Luongo. Strictly going by the numbers, the Canucks are behind their pace of last season. After 21 games in the 2008.09 campaign, the Canucks sat first overall in the Northwest Division and third overall in the Western Conference. This season, the Canucks entered Wednesday trailing the division-leading Colorado Avalanche by seven points after the same number of games played. Keeping in mind that game no. 21 of last season happened to be a key turning point for the team's fortunes as it was the afternoon contest in Pittsburgh where the Canucks lost Roberto Luongo for what turned out to be a 24-game stretch, barring the same misfortune and with Daniel Sedin's return on the horizon, the Canucks expect to be in a much better position as far as their roster is concerned as they drive towards the mid-way mark of the season. As far as individual performances go, here are some of the best and worst of the first quarter of play for the Canucks in 2009.10: THE POSITIVES Henrik Sedin (12-11-23 in 21 GP) <img src="http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2009/11/nov1109_daniel_t.jpg" class="imageFloatLeftFramed">For Henrik to have 23 points at this stage of the season is no shocker. For him to be able to do so without the winger who's been his linemate since he was in diapers is a bit of a surprise. 17 of his 23 points have come in the 17 games since Daniel's injury. The biggest surprise with Sedin is that, after last Friday's hat-trick, he finds himself with a team-leading 12 goals. He's currently on a pace for a 40-plus goal season although it's probably a safe bet his goal pace won't continue through the rest of the season especially when Daniel gets back into the lineup as Henrik will likely to go back to his more familiar role of set-up man. However, it's probably a good thing for the Canucks to know that if they did choose to split the Sedins somewhere again down the line, Henrik at the very least can hold his own and actually can find the net on a regular basis. Ryan Kesler (5-14-19 in 21 GP) <img src="http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2009/11/nov3_kesler2_t.jpg" class="imageFloatRightFramed">Last year's Team MVP looks to have picked up right where he left off last season as he's been one of Vancouver's most consistent point producers so far this season. The biggest change with Kesler is whereas last season much of his success was attributed to playing with Pavol Demitra and Mats Sundin, this season Kesler has been the one credited for sparking improved play among some of his new linemates. He had showed good chemistry with Michael Grabner (prior to his injury) and seems to be a big reason for some of Mason Raymond's offensive success of late. After 21 games played last season, Kesler had just 13 points (5-8-13). He's had a reputation of getting stronger as the season goes along so he'll definitely be a player to watch for the Canucks as they near the midway mark of the season. Mason Raymond (8-5-13 in 21 GP) <img src="http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2009/10/oct1709_wild03_t.jpg" class="imageFloatLeftFramed">After two seasons of tantalizing Canuck fans with his blazing speed but frustrating them all at the same time with his inability to finish, Mason Raymond looks like he's finally been able to put it all together. Raymond had just 23 points (11-12-23) all of last season (all career-high numbers) but is on pace to shatter all of those numbers providing he can stay healthy and not go into one of his trademark prolonged slumps. Last season, he teased Canuck fans posting 10 points (5-5-10) in his first 13 games but went into a funk for most of November. After bouncing back with a decent December, he went into hibernation again for most of the rest of the season. He had just four points from January to the end of the regular season. Canucks fans are certainly hoping for a different path for Raymond this season. Honourable Mention: Christian Ehrhoff/Andrew Raycroft <img src="http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2009/11/nov0509_ehrhoff_t.jpg" class="imageFloatRightFramed">Christian Ehrhoff came to Vancouver with the reputation as a point-producing defenceman and so far he hasn't disappointed. He leads all team blue-liners with goals (3) and points (12) but perhaps most surprisingly, he leads the team with a plus-nine rating. The biggest knock on Ehrhoff coming from San Jose was his defensive game but that hasn't been an issue so far. Last season, he finished minus-12 with the Sharks. We don't expect to see too much of Andrew Raycroft from now until the midpoint of the season (barring injury to Roberto Luongo) but give him credit for keeping the ship afloat during the six games Luongo was out. His 2.18 GAA and .916 save percentage still have him ranked as statistically the best goaltender for the Canucks this season. If the season were to end today, his GAA would be the best by a Canucks netminder since the NHL lockout. THE UNDERACHIEVERS Kyle Wellwood (0-1-1 in 17 GP) <img src="http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2009/09/Sept_23_09_RAR_8_t.jpg" class="imageFloatLeftFramed">He was last year's feel-good story but the only thing Kyle Wellwood's feeling this season is the heat after getting off to the worst start of his NHL career. For a player who redefined himself as a goal-scorer last season Wellwood's lack of shots this season have been especially alarming. Through 17 games played, Wellwood has just 17 shots on goal - an average of one per game. He has had more than one shot on goal in just three of his 17 games played this season. Last season, he had 94 shots in 74 games played. Kevin Bieksa (1-10-11 in 21 GP) <img src="http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2009/10/oct15_bieksa_t.jpg" class="imageFloatRightFramed">After scoring 11 goals and netting a career-high 43 points in 2008.09, much more was expected of the Grimsby, Ontario native coming into this season. However, it's been a struggle for Bieksa at the offensive end of the ice. Bieksa hasn't scored since opening night in Calgary although his point production has been somewhat better in recent games as he has four assists in his last four outings. It's hard to compare his production this year versus last since he missed eight of the first 21 games (ended up missing 9 of the first 22 games overall) with injury. However, through Vancouver's first 21 games last season, Bieksa had already tallied three times and had the same number of points as he does right now despite appearing in just 13 of those first 21 games in 2008.09. Alex Edler (0-10-10 in 21 GP) <img src="http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2009/11/nov0509_prewild03_t.jpg" class="imageFloatLeftFramed">He had gotten progressively better in each season since entering the NHL, so Alex Edler's sudden struggles this season are a bit hard to explain. He had a career high in goals (10) last season but has yet to find the back of the net in 2009.10. He is also on pace for the first time in his career to finish on the minus side of the plus-minus rating. But before Canuck Nation starts going into a panic, consider that Edler had an equally slow start through the first 21 games of last season (which included two missed games due to injury). At this time last season, Edler had one goal and five assists. Seven of his 10 goals last season came on or after January 31st. Dishonourable Mention: Alex Burrows <img src="http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2009/11/nov1009_blues09_t.jpg" class="imageFloatRightFramed">12 points (4-8-12) in 21 games and a shared spot in the top-five of team scoring isn't too shabby but, based on the way he finished last season, it's understandable why Canucks fans are considering this start to be a disappointing one for Burrows. In his defence however, Burrows point production isn't too far off from where he was at this time last season. Through the first 21 games of the 2008.09 season, Burrows had 13 points (6-7-13). It's easy to forget that Burrows didn't really hit his stride until he was placed on a line with Henrik and Daniel Sedin last season, but with Daniel's injury he hasn't had that opportunity much this season playing mostly on makeshift lines. One thing that's been noticeable looking at his numbers this season is that he's spreading the points around in more games. He has just one multi-point game this season whereas last season, through the first 21 games, he already had four multi-point outings. THE JURY'S STILL OUT Steve Bernier (6-4-10 in 19 GP) <img src="http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2009/10/oct1509_sportscelebs15_t.jpg" class="imageFloatLeftFramed">He is the NHL's version of Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde. On some nights, he can look like a dominant power forward and goal scorer. On others, you'd have to check the official roster to see if he's dressed. What we can tell you about Steve Bernier is that he's off to a slightly better start this season than he was in his first year as a Canuck. Through the first 21 games last season, Bernier had five goals and nine points. He has six goals and 10 points so far this season and that's playing in two fewer games after he had to sit out a pair of contests earlier due to a bout with the flu. Coming out of last Friday's win over the Avalanche, the Bernier bandwagon is full again thanks to his first two-goal game of the season. Where it will be five, or 10, or 15 games from now is anybody's guess. Mikael Samuelsson (8-7-15 in 21 GP) <img src="http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2009/10/oct28_samuelson_t.jpg" class="imageFloatRightFramed">When the Canucks signed Mikael Samuelsson away from the Red Wings in the off-season, they figured that being in the right scenario he could be a consistent 20-goal scorer (even though he had only reached the mark once in his career). A quarter into the season, he looks like he's certainly everything the Canucks have said he will be. However, for those who read the Game Notes on a regular basis, you'll also know that Samuelsson tends to play his most productive hockey in the month of October and this season that appears to be no exception. After 12 points in 14 games during the season's opening month, Samuelsson has managed just three points in seven games in November. Through the first 21 games last season with Detroit, Samuelsson had five goals and 18 points. Sami Salo (0-2-2 in 14 GP) <img src="http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2009/08/aug1009_pic_t.jpg" class="imageFloatLeftFramed">With just two assists at the quarter mark of the season, it's tough to suggest Sami Salo's start is anything but a disappointment. However, Salo gets the nod in the "jury's still out" category for the reason that the Canucks seem to be in a transition mode with Salo in terms of his role with the team. His penchant for injury makes it tough for the Canucks to consider him an everyday player. Instead, it almost seems like an added bonus when Salo is in the lineup. Certainly, the Canucks would love to see more production out of him when he does suit up. But even then, the Canucks re-tooled this off-season adding Christian Ehrhoff and Mathieu Schneider and, combined with the likes of Kevin Bieksa and Alex Edler assuming they will eventually snap out of their respective funks, have four defencemen who can be relied on to generate offence from the back end meaning the pressure on Salo should be lightened somewhat. At this point last season, Salo had one goal and eight points despite missing four of the first 21 games with injury. Vancouver's 2008.09 record from Game No. 22 to Game No. 41: 8-9-3 Daniel writes the Tale of the Tape preview prior to each Canucks game. More of his work can be found here.