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  1. As Canucks fans continue to live in the here and now, digesting every morsel of Vancouver playoff hockey, it's easy to forget the stepping stones that brought them this far. Mike Gillis, Alain Vigneault, and Rick Bowness have proven the cream rises to the top So often in professional sports, media and critics either directly or indirectly raise the question: What have you done for me lately? For the moment, let's fail to adopt that mentality, and recall a former General Manager for the Vancouver Canucks, Brian Burke. For that matter, let's involve another, Dave Nonis. While it's impossible to say what would have evolved were they to stay longer, the results they produced are irrefutable. The Western conference finals we are witnessing involve a solid number of players that these former GM's brought in during their tenure. You may recall one of them from the third period of Game One - With the game on the line, this Hart Trophy candidate laid his body down to block a slap-shot. Sure, he didn't score a goal or register a point in the game, but his importance to the outcome can't be understated. By now you must realize I'm referring to Daniel Sedin, one half of the oh-so-important tandem Burke brought in. He fervently worked the phones and 1999 Draft floor to obtain the 2nd and 3rd picks to ensure Henrik and Daniel would play together, in Vancouver. Keith Ballard works on his slap-shot under the tutelage of Assistant Coach Rick Bowness (photo courtesy of Harry How/ Getty Images) It would be an understatement to say that, prior to the Sedin-era, the Vancouver Canucks organization had challenges developing talent from within. Suffice it to say that Shawn Antoski, significant though he was in a trade, didn't pan out. Even 'can't misses' such as Petr Nedved, wound up improving their game, but only once they were dealt to another organization. Even more specifically, only now are they seeing dividends from investments developed in Manitoba in the farm system with the Moose. Cory Schneider is the first real bonafide Canuck goaltender produced in quite a span, thanks largely in part to Dave Nonis, who also saw promise in Ryan Kesler, and Alex Burrows. For reference, we need only look back on Troy Gamble, Mike Fountain and Kevin Weekes (the latter brought in via trade). Now, players such as Cody Hodgson and Sergei Shirokov that have been called up to the parent club show similar promise as the next generation of in-house talent. Sergei Shirokov (#25) and Jeff Tambellini (#10) stretch during Western Conference Finals practice at Rogers Arena Ultimately, although GM's have a lot to do with the process, there are others involved that drastically alter the final product that a team ices. One cannot acknowledge the contributions of Burke and Nonis without giving kudos to the Ownership group. Francesco Aquilini, the Managing Director of the Aquilini Investment Group has, like the Vancouver Canucks team he owns, grown and progressed. He hand-picked Mike Gillis, a retired player and player agent, which raised eyebrows across the league. But like so many of his other business decisions, Aquilini paved the way for a seeming stroke of genius. Gillis was instrumental in keeping Henrik and Daniel Sedin away from the free agency market. He flew to Sweden and negotiated identical $30.5 m deals hours before the July 1st deadline. He immediately set his sights on Roberto Luongo, whose four-year contract, signed by Dave Nonis, was coming to an end. Luongo imposed a Sept. 13 deadline before ceasing negotiations for the upcoming season. Several days after, Gillis signed Luongo to an historic 12 year, $64 million contract. Gillis also signed unrestricted free agent Mikael Samuelsson, and emerging Kontinental Hockey League prospect, Sergei Shirokov (pictured earlier). The Canuck Way will soon examine other integral components responsible for the exciting product we see before us in the 2011 Western Conference Finals.
  2. With the Vancouver Canucks advancing to the Conference finals for the third time in franchise history, the debate is on: Who would they rather face, the Detroit Red Wings or San Jose Sharks? Roberto Luongo celebrates from his knees shortly after making his last save in Game 6 (photo courtesy of Frederick Breedon/ Getty Images) Of course, for the time being, the Canucks have the luxury of taking a well-earned 'breather' until either Saturday or Sunday. They jumped out to a 2-0 lead against the Predators at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville Monday night, guiding home a tight defensive effort to close the series. Henrik Sedin spoke to the feeling of putting away a plucky Predators team, anchored by solid defense and goaltending. "Relief," started the Canucks captain. "It was one of those series where they get on a roll and win this game, and all of a sudden there's a seventh game. That's the playoffs. There were a lot of ups and downs, so we are happy." But Ryan Kesler, who almost literally put the team on his back and delivered the series, insists the team isn't congratulating itself yet. "We have bigger things in mind," stated the leading playoff point producer. We're not just going to be satisfied making it to the conference finals." Kesler set up both goals in the series clincher, and was in on a remarkable 10 of 14 goals in the series overall. Ryan Kesler: "We have bigger things in mind. We're not just going to be satisfied making it to the conference finals." The Canucks now await the victor from the San Jose - Detroit series, where the Wings have erased a 3-0 deficit, and trail 3-2. Another Selke trophy (best defensive forward) finalist, Pavel Datsyuk, has hoisted his team and led the way with several clutch performances. So, who would the Canucks rather play - The Red Wings or the Sharks? Although the regular season encounters can only reveal so much information regarding possible playoff match-ups, let's see how they fared in each 4 game set. Canucks vs Detroit Red Wings: Series tied 2-2 (Canucks take 6 of 8 possible points) Nov. 6 - (6-4 win) Canucks pepper Wings goaltender Jimmy Howard with 23 shots in the third period, scoring 3 times in that span. Niklas Kronwall and Manny Malhotra score twice. Dec. 22 - (4-5 OT loss) Both teams shoot the lights out, combining for 84 shots. The Sedins both score, but Henrik Zetterberg bags a couple, including the overtime winner. Jan. 8 - (1-2 Shootout loss) Roberto Luongo and Jimmy Howard record a dazzling .970 save percentage; Jiri Hudler scores the lone shootout goal, killing the Vancouver fans' Saturday night buzz. Mar. 23 (2-1 win) Both goalies put on another superb display, and the twins produce Daniel's 39th and 40th goals of the season. Luongo stops 39 of 40 shots. Both team captains, Henrik Sedin and Shea Weber, shake hands at center ice - the previous two years this was the Canucks' queue to exit the playoffs (photo courtesy of AP Photo) Canucks vs San Jose Sharks: Canucks win series 3-1 (take 7 of possible 8 points) Nov. 26 - (6-1 win) San Jose outshot the Canucks 33-32, but Luongo stymies the Sharks, Keith Ballard scores his 1st as a Canuck, and Mikael Samuelsson records a pair of goals. Jan. 3 - (4-3 win) The Sharks score 3 in the second period, but Alex Burrows and Daniel Sedin lead the way with a goal and an assist each at the HP Pavilion, dubbed the "Shark Tank". Jan. 20 - (1-2 shootout loss) Roberto Luongo and Antti Niemi headline this affair; San Jose outshot the Canucks 46-37, uber-rookie Logan Couture scores in regulation, and Joe Pavelski scores the lone goal of the shootout. Mar. 10 - (5-4 shootout win) Cory Schneider gets riddled with 48 shots, but is perfect in the shootout. Alex Burrows, Sami Salo, Mason Raymond and Daniel Sedin record singles, with Burrows sealing the shootout with it's only goal. Interestingly, though many Canucks fans have voiced their desire to avoid San Jose in the conference finals, Vancouver sported a better regular season record against them. Fans cite the Sharks physical style of play as being their main deterrent to playing them in the third round of the playoffs. A common thread for the Canucks is that 6 of the 8 games played against the Sharks and Red Wings were decided by one goal. One thing all Canucks fans can agree on, though, is that they hope the Red Wings win Game 6, extending the series and hopefully tiring out their next round opponent. Memories 17 years in the making, I'm Larenzo Jensen with The Canuck Way
  3. After infamously being dubbed "the best player to not yet score in the NHL playoffs", Ryan Kesler scores twice in the Canucks 3-2 overtime win in Nashville. Kesler is surrounded by teammates after tipping home the overtime winner (photos courtesy of AP Photo) One year ago, during their playoff series against the Los Angeles Kings, Roberto Luongo was asked about the play of Ryan Kesler. "He's a warrior. That's all you can call him, a warrior." Canucks fans hearts sagged after a disappointing loss in Vancouver in double overtime. Much attention has been focused on the lack of offensive contributions from key Canuck sources, including (but not limited to) Henrik and Daniel Sedin, and Ryan Kesler. In Kesler's defence, though, many point to his shutdown performance on Jonathan Toews. Just prior to the playoffs, The Canuck Way examined Ryan's importance to the team, in several aspects of the game. Though he's had some very exciting performances throughout the regular season, lending over to the playoffs, Game 3 in Nashville might have been his most important in a Canucks sweater. He paid the price all night, scoring an important first powerplay goal, and set up Chris Higgins for another. With the Canucks on the power play for a hooking call that he drew against Shea Weber, he deftly tipped a Mikael Samuelsson point wrister for the win. "It feels good to get this one and good to go up 2-1 in this series," Kesler told reporters post-game. Former Canuck Shane O'Brien watches helplessly after he failed to block a Mikael Samuelsson wrist shot that Kesler deflects 5-hole on Pekka Rinne Fan reaction in Nashville closely emulated (Predator winger) Jerred Smithson's, who smashed his stick over the crossbar after Kesler's goal. Following suit, a fan threw their beverage onto the ice in the Nashville zone, while others rained their orange towels onto the playing surface as the Canucks celebrated. Predators coach Barry Trotz took a dim view of the penalty call that led to the overtime opportunity. "He chicken-winged the stick and kept moving, and really if you look at it, Webs is trying to pull his stick out of there. I've seen it before. One of the earlier games, he drew a couple of penalties by chicken-winging the stick and just holding it there, and keep moving and see if he can sell it." Predator center David Legwand, who opened the scoring shorthanded, echoed his coach's thoughts. "It's a horrible call. Obviously they're going to think it's a good call, but Kesler's obviously holding his stick. I don't know if (referee) Timmy Peel had a date or something, but he wanted to get out of here pretty quick, it looked like. It's a tough way to lose a game." In typical fashion, Kesler was unapologetic. "He was hooking me. I thought it was a good call. We were the harder working team tonight, and we deserved that one." Leading 2-1, the Canucks now have a chance to take a strangle-hold on the series. Game Four resumes at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville at 5:30 PST. With The Canuck Way playoff action, I'm Larenzo Jensen
  4. With just enough momentum swings to keep the fans at Rogers Arena guessing, they still went home with a renewed sense of optimism: The Canucks CAN beat the Blackhawks. Viktor Stalberg and Sami Salo jostle while Roberto Luongo makes a pad save (photo courtesy of Rich Lam/Getty Images) The shift after taking a holding penalty, Jannik Hansen opened the scoring for the Canucks, adding validity to the importance of "role players" in the playoffs. Hansen's hands, as CBC color commentator Jim Hughson was coined, might be catching up to his feet. His second in as many games was important on a number of levels. With 41 seconds remaining in the first period, Patrick Sharp took a tripping penalty, which the Canucks capitalized on 30 seconds into the 2nd period. Daniel Sedin set a screen in front of Corey Crawford, and tipped a Christian Ehrhoff point shot while jumping. Cody Hodgson and Alex Burrows gather to help Alex Edler celebrate his late 2nd period goal Chicago call-up Ben Smith (third star) had a gift-wrapped deflection off Luongo's trapper end up on his stick, with a half-open net to shoot at. Brian Bickell got around Kevin Bieksa on the left wing, shot a sharp angle shot, which Luongo only got a piece of with his glove. But the games' 2nd star, Alex Edler would put the Canucks back up by a deuce, with 14 seconds remaining in the frame. He slapped a seeing eye shot from the point, that Ben Smith's stick barely glanced, but it was enough to get up and over Crawford's shoulder. Roberto Luongo makes a save as ex-Canuck Ryan Johnson tries to redirect the puck (photo courtesy of AP Photo) But the Hawks were determined to insert some deja vu from the last two playoff series against the hard-luck Canucks. Within two minutes of the third period, Viktor Stalberg did Yeoman's work on the forecheck, and got off a quick wrister from the right wing boards. He surprised both Alex Edler and (subsequently screened) Roberto Luongo; it was the perfect height, just a foot off the ice below Lui's trapper. Daniel Sedin deftly took a breakout pass off his right skate, then took the puck deep into Chicago territory with line-mates Henrik and Burrows in support. The Chicago defense hesitated, long enough for Daniel to stop, tee it up, and bury it top shelf. The crowd had barely settled back into their seats, when Ben Smith pounced on a Michael Frolik rebound, renewing a nervous energy amongst the capacity crowd. "There was no panic," insisted Ryan Kesler. "We were calm the whole way. I'm confident in this group. We don't panic, just stick to our system and stay solid. It's a different team this year. We're growing together, and we've been through this before." They certainly are and have, and Canucks fans are elated that this year, everything seems different, highlighted by the fact they are heading to Chicago leading the series two games to none. What happens next in the Windy City? Stay tuned to The Canuck Way for more Playoff coverage...
  5. Amidst all the story lines heading into the Canucks and Blackhawks third straight post-season match-up, Ryan Kesler's maturation process is perhaps the most under-reported. Ryan Kesler battles Anton Babchuk for position during the last game of the season (photo courtesy of AP Photo) I recall the solemn and hushed tone in Kesler's voice as he was interviewed by reporters some 10 1/2 months ago. He was being asked whether players on the team, himself included, were playing hurt in the playoffs. Whether he was choking back tears, or was simply frustrated beyond belief, no-one save for himself knows the real truth. Speaking of truth, I will admit that Kesler has been one of my personal favorites, but after listening to Alex Burrows answer the same question, I will also admit Kesler's response showed some immaturity. As time would tell, Alex Burrows was playing with a shoulder that required off-season surgery, that would force him to miss the first 11 games of the season. The difference being that Ryan Kesler dwelt more on the fact that he was injured, while Burrows refused to use it as a crutch. He said that in the Playoffs, everyone plays hurt, -it's just the way hockey is in the spring. Canucks fans are hoping they'll see Kesler celebrate like this more than once during this year's playoffs (photo courtesy of Rich Lam/Getty Images) Using Alex Burrows to illustrate Kesler's development is interesting in itself, because although Kesler got a taste of the NHL first (28 games 2003/04), he and Burrows both started to get regular duty during the 2005/06 season. But Burrows is four years older than Kesler, having paid his dues in the East Coast Hockey League before making the transition to the American Hockey League. Last year, Kesler scored 25 goals and recorded 104 penalty minutes. During the playoffs, he played 12 games, with 1 goal and 9 assists. Not long after Kesler's interviews where he spoke to being injured, Mike Gillis sat down with him during team exit meetings. He showed him a clip of Jonathan Toews battling for the puck during their series with the Canucks. He got cross-checked, then another to be knocked down. He got up, and shortly thereafter, the Blackhawks scored. This year, Kesler scored 41 goals, and recorded 66 penalty minutes. Many hockey pundits will agree that Kesler is the best 2nd line center in the NHL, and on many teams, would pivot the top line. For the Blackhawks, Duncan Keith and Brian Campbell will be charged with the task of shutting down the Sedin twins along with Alex Burrows. While not carved in stone, it should mean that Kesler will draw the Brent Seabrook and Chris Campoli pairing on defense. Whether Joel Quennville decides to match Patrick Kane's line centered by ex-Canuck, Ryan Johnson, or go with his checking line of Brian Bickell, Jake Dowell and Michael Frolik, also is unknown. Regardless of who he plays against, Canucks fans should find Kesler's growth from last season a very interesting subplot. When you tie for first on your team in scoring, and fourth overall in the League, you're bound to get some attention. The Canucks playoff hopes could literally hinge on whether he's grown and matured enough to handle the spotlight. Strap in for more Playoffs done The Canuck Way! Thanks for reading, I'm Larenzo Jensen
  6. With two games remaining in the 2010/11 regular season, it's time to show some love for individual achievements within the teams' structure. Disclaimer: These are NOT official releases; the selections are yet to be announced. They are just my personal opinion, and in turn, open for debate and discussion. Ryan Kesler often keeps you on the edge of your seat with anticipation for what he'll do next Cyrus McLean: Awarded to the highest scoring Canuck and pretty self-explanatory, Daniel Sedin has this all but locked away, currently with 100 points. Considering 95% of goals have both Henrik and Daniel in on the scoring, and Daniel has an 8 point lead over his brother, Daniel will receive the Cyrus McLean. Molson Cup Trophy: Most Molson Cup selections. Typically, the winner of this award was the winner of the Cyrus McLean, so there's strong indication Daniel Sedin will win this award as well. That being stated, the official count hasn't been released, and Ryan Kesler could be in the mix, but Daniel is favored. Fred J. Hume: "Unsung Hero" is the designation of this award. It's quite interesting to look at this award and past recipients, and compare the style of players. Past winners include Martin Gelinas (twice), Jarkko Ruutu, and Alex Auld. This season, the player that has exhibited the grit, perseverance and dedication to his role in my mind is Jannik Hansen. The industrious Dane has become an integral part of the Canucks checking system, and is perhaps the teams best fore-checker. I'd need extra hands were I to count the number of times fans at Rogers arena have cheered his efforts as he headed to the bench after a penalty kill. Most Exciting Player: There could be a real argument here for another award to Daniel Sedin, but much like past winner Alex Burrows, Ryan Kesler has truly brought fans to their feet this season. His end to end rushes, his diligent work on the penalty kill, his solid hitting on the fore-check give him the check-mark here. Although he could stand to pass a little more once inside the blue-line, it's just nitpicking. He is by far and away the most exciting second line player, not just for the Canucks, but in the NHL. Even Walter "Babe" Pratt would shake Christian Ehrhoff's hand for his excellent 2010/11 season. Apparently Luongo has been impressed too (photos courtesy of Rich Lam/Getty Images) Walter "Babe" Pratt: Awarded to the "Best Defencemen", it would be difficult not to give the nod to last years' recipient,Christian Ehrhoff. Of course, I'm a Dan Hamhuis supporter, and seeing what he's done for Kevin Bieksa's game this year, he deserves consideration. As far as pure defending goes, I'd award that to Hamhuis in a heartbeat. But Ehrhoff should finish the season with 50 points, and it is an "all-around" category, much like the Norris trophy itself. He's had some luck in the health category, something few Canuck defencemen can boast, which has helped his numbers. It would be a closer race if Bieksa and Edler hadn't missed significant time due to injuries. Cyclone Taylor: "Most Valuable Player" is quite an honor to bestow upon a team member, and speaks volumes to their worth within the organization. Several players come to mind, including last year's recipient, Henrik Sedin. Roberto Luongo has had a very understated year also, turning in what could be a career season in Vancouver. Fans have also thrown Ryan Kesler's name into the mix, especially after a red-hot first half of the season. But if you took Daniel Sedin off the team, I feel that would immediately change Vancouver's status as "Contender" to "Pretender". Not just for the 41 goals he's potted, nor the 100+ points he's contributed, but also for the class, the example and leadership qualities (yes, I'm referring to Daniel) he exudes. In my mind, the team would suffer most if they had to play without Daniel, and for that reason, he has my vote for Most Valuable Player.
  7. Some musings on the Vancouver Canucks, and what it would mean if the Stanley Cup Playoffs were to start today. Kesler: "Hank, did you really just squeeze that backhander top shelf? Of course you did!" Though they have six games remaining, the Canucks would face their playoff nemesis of the last two seasons, the Chicago BlackhawksThey would still have set a franchise record for most wins in a season, with 50Vancouver would already be guaranteed one trophy, the President's trophy (for best record in the NHL regular season) Christian Ehrhoff sneaks a wrister past a surprised Mathieu Garon in Columbus (photos courtesy of AP Photo) Three defensemen would be shelved because of injury, Alex Edler, Dan Hamhuis, and Andrew AlbertsBe one road win shy of a franchise record nine straight away from home (can still be accomplished in Nashville today)Would own the best power-play record in the league, 69 goals for, and 25.3 % efficiencyBe tied for best penalty kill with the Pittsburgh Penguins at 86.3 %Daniel Sedin follows in brother Henrik's footsteps, and earns Art Ross trophy (most points during the regular season)Kevin Bieksa and Dan Hamhuis tie for second best plus/minus in the leagueRoberto Luongo records third best goals against average and save percentage: 2.18, .927%, has most wins with 35 Jannik Hansen and Matt Calvert work for the puck in the 2nd period in Columbus, Ohio Daniel Sedin notches 40 goals, third most in the leagueRyan Kesler shatters previous best in goals (26 in 08-09) with 36Henrik Sedin crowned leagues best set-up man with 70 assistsWith six games to go, a large number of these stats won't change too drastically. The standings watch won't end until April 10th, but many Canucks fans are eager to see who their first test in the playoffs will be. Juicing up for the playoffs? Stay tuned to The Canuck Way for all the excitement and team developments!
  8. So at the end of the day, still no Zenon Konopka. That's unfortunate. I really think he could've helped. But Mike Gillis had the most productive deadline day of his career, bringing in veterans Chris Higgins from Florida and Maxim Lapierre from Anaheim. On a day in which little activity was anticipated, in part due to the large number of trades that occurred weeks before the deadline, Gillis accounted for 1/8 of all total trades. This despite Vancouver supposedly being one of the quietest teams. How do these two players change the overall makeup of the team? <img src=""class="imageFloatRightFramed">Chris Higgins, #20 The former Yale University product was selected 14th overall by Montreal in the 2002 draft, a year that produced very few impact players. The 2002 class produced only four all-stars (Rick Nash, Jay Bouwmeester, Alex Semin, and Cam Ward) and Higgins is only one of four players to have scored more than 100 career goals. However, Higgins' offensive struggles in recent years has been well documented, having been traded three times in the past two years, having been part of the deal that sent Scott Gomez to Montreal and Olli Jokinen to Calgary. While his 20-something goal-scoring days are over, Higgins is still a big-bodied forward with good skating ability who is able to play in the top nine. Maxim Lapierre, #40 Lapierre is an agitator, a fourth-line centre that brings speed and tenacity to the lineup. Another Montreal pick from the 2003 draft, Lapierre was instrumental in the Habs' upset of Washington last year. His speed, size, and general physicality caused problems in the offensive zone. But like Burrows and Kesler in year's past, Lapierre's antics, chirping and diving (he was once penalized for it in a playoff game) to name a few, began to limit his effectiveness as a hockey player. His (somewhat public) feud with Jacques Martin over his diminishing playing time earned him a ticket out of town, where even the grumpy Randy Carlyle couldn't harness him (Lapierre played 3:09 in his last game as a Duck and had started out on the third line). But like I've said before, if Gillis was to acquire a player, he better run it by Vigneault because there's no point in acquiring a player if your coach won't play him. That won't happen here with such an established veteran locker room presence with a clear focus on winning the Cup, and not to mention that Vigneault was once Lapierre's junior coach. Of course, lost in the shuffle is former Minnesota-Duluth star MacGregor Sharp (what an awesome name), who was acquired along with Lapierre from Anaheim. If Minnesota-Duluth rings a bell, it should: Mason Raymond was a Bulldog for two years, as was Evan Oberg, who went to Florida for Higgins. Current NHLers Jason Garrison (Florida) and Matt Niskanen (Pittsburgh) are also Minnesota-Duluth products. While Minnesota-Duluth is not exactly known as a NCAA powerhouse, it has become one of the better programs today, currently ranked 11th according to US College Hockey. However, Sharp is not expected to have a significant impact for Vancouver or Manitoba. And what did the three players cost us? A minor leaguer in Joel Perrault, two 3rd round picks, and Evan Oberg, who has since been leapfrogged by Chris Tanev, Lee Sweatt, Yann Sauve, and perhaps Kevin Connauton on the depth charts, making him expendable. You can certainly say that Gillis got great value, not sacrificing anybody on the current roster or significant prospect in the pipeline to nab two NHL veterans. But what about Marty Reasoner and Zenon Konopka, two players featured heavily in the Canucks' rumour mill? Well, there are reports that since Reasoner's wife is expecting soon, it didn't seem right for Tallon to deal him. Kudos to Tallon. And Konopka? The early rumour was that the Ducks were about to acquire the big centre but balked at Garth Snow's 2nd round pick asking price, which, to say the least, is idiotic. And we continue to wonder how and why Snow still has a job. <img src=""class="imageFloatLeftFramed">While Lapierre will most certainly become a fixture on the fourth line, finally giving the team stability in that spot, the more interesting case is Higgins. He certainly has the ability to put the puck in the net but so do Mason Raymond and Jeff Tambellini and Mikael Samuelsson, but it's not the ability that's in question, it's the consistency. Higgins isn't the most consistent player by any means but at least he gives Vigneault other options after a clearly frustrated Kesler was trying to keep his mouth shut after a painful loss against Boston. Higgins can line up on the left wing on the second line with Samuelsson on the right, or even on the third line alongside Malhotra should Raymond or Tambellini re-find their touch. Given Higgins' size and physicality, it should relieve a little pressure off Kesler's shoulders, who has taken a beating every night on the powerplay and neither Raymond nor Samuelsson are as willing as Kesler to mix it up in the corners. That's not mentioning that Vigneault has lost so much faith in the rest of his lineup that Kesler's TOI/G has soared to over 22 minutes a game (including 26+ vs. Montreal) for the last six games. Even Sidney Crosby only averages around 22 minutes a night. But for the moment, Kesler will have to continue to keep his mouth shut because Higgins is still two weeks away from playing due to a fractured thumb. With the acquisition of Higgins, I hope Raymond hears the message loud and clear: score or sit. EDIT: Looks like Lapierre will be wearing 40, not 24. NOTE: I feel like I've been getting away from blogging about the Canucks, and since this is a Canucks site, I need to get back on track. For a breakdown of all the big deals, visit or follow me on Twitter @jasonchen16. Thanks for reading.
  9. Wednesday's match-up with the Nashville Predators highlights the two very different paths that both the Canucks and Predators have taken in the NHL. One of the NHL's longest serving coaches, Barry Trotz, has done a lot with a little. The Nashville Predators, with the 8th stingiest payroll in the league, have essentially taken a page from the Minnesota Wild playbook. Henrik Sedin collides with Krys Barch and James Neal during third period action Monday (photos courtesy of Canadian Press/ Darryl Dyck) They ice a team rife with defensive talent, much of which they've shrewdly drafted, and instituted a tight, smothering defensive style. Oh, and they have also been dynamite drafting goaltenders as well, picking up Pekka Rinne (9-2-0, 1.62 GAA last 11 games) 254th (8th round) overall in 2004, and fellow Finn Anders Lindback (10-4-2, .915 Sv %) 207th overall in 2008. We're not sure what they're feeding them over there, but both are towering - Rinne at 6'5, Lindback is 6'6. They cover a LOT of the 4x6 net behind them; Rinne is slated to start against the Canucks. Aaron Volpatti celebrates an assist on Henrik Sedin's tally after finding Sedin streaking to the net Canuck fans recall an era in the not so distant past when defensive hockey was the credo, with Roberto Luongo tethering the teams' hopes of success. This during a time when the Sedins and Kesler were still coming into their own as offensive stalwarts, on the cusp of being elite talents. If you can't score a lot of goals, you better not allow very many, which has indeed been the focus of the Nashville Predators for several seasons now. Though they're not unique in this aspect, the fact that defenseman Shea Weber (Sicamous, B.C.) is their leading point producer this season (8 goals, 21 assists for 29 pts) speaks volumes. Nashville snuck out of the deep 2003 draft with another heist, nabbing Weber with the 49th pick, and is widely considered the best player on the team. Ryan Kesler tips a puck past Kari Lehtonen, marking a career high in goals [27] (photo courtesy of Canadian Press/ Darryl Dyck) All indications are that this will be another tight, close-checking affair. The teams have identical goals against averages, 2.35, though the Canucks definitely have the offensive edge coming in, scoring 3.29 goals a game (3rd). The Predators are 23rd at 2.59 goals for per game. But where it counts most, in the standings, the Preds are 4th in the Western Conference with 60 points, and are a good bet to make the playoffs. That being said, the San Jose Sharks and the Minnesota Wild only trail by 5 points, so they certainly aren't a lock. Only Boston (111) and Pittsburgh (114) have allowed fewer goals than Nashville (117). With the Canucks coming off a seven goal outburst against the Dallas Stars, it will be interesting to see how they adjust to the difference in style. Defensively, Vancouver had a very strong outing, feeding off the counter-attack, and generating offense from odd-man situations. Last season, the Canucks and Predators played four times, splitting the season series 2-2. Wednesday's match-up is their first of the season, and they will play 3 more times following the All-Star Break (which is 5 days for Vancouver). The Canucks should have a decided personnel advantage, as the Predators are without several key players. Wingers J.P. Dumont (neck), Steve Sullivan (upper body), and forwards Marek Svatos (knee) and Matt Lombardi (concussion) are all side-lined due to injury. With a victory, the Canucks would pull even with the Philadelphia Flyers for most points (71) in the NHL, though with fewer wins. Following the Vegas/ line favorites to win the Stanley Cup (9/2), I'm Larenzo Jensen with files from the Canadian Press and CanucksHD
  10. <img src=""class="imageFloatRightFramed">Sitting at the top of the league with 55 points in 38 games, the Canucks are in an unfamiliar territory. Always considered a division favourite and top 5 team in the West, having not lost a game in regulation since December 5 vs. St. Louis and going 11-0-2 afterwards, a slim lead over Colorado has expanded to 10 points and 1 game in hand and the Canucks are now the heavy favourites to win the Presidents' Trophy, the first in franchise history. It's unfamiliar territory for a franchise not exactly known for winning, but with a stunning effort in a 4-3 road win over San Jose in a playoff-like atmosphere, even the most cynical fan is asking himself if this is the best Vancouver Canucks team ever assembled. The blue and green are en route to a franchise-record third consecutive 100+ points regular season finish and also a third straight division title, but neither of the previous squads had cracked the 50-win barrier nor advanced past the semifinals. Is this the year that everything changes in Vancouver? Most teams will be over the halfway mark by the end of the week so now's a good time to break down the roster and see what the Canucks have in store for the rest of the year. Had Daniel Sedin been healthy all season last year, 2010 could've been the season the Canucks finished first overall in the West. Chicago had just three more wins and San Jose two more, and could Daniel have made up that difference? Definitely. If Henrik was good for 113 points, then Daniel was good for at least 105 as well. They're ranked 4th and 5th in league scoring, with Henrik having a one-point edge. They've been the most consistent point-producers in the NHL since the lockout, but the big difference this year is that they have been unbelievably good on the road. Henrik has 320 home points vs. 302 on the road in his career, but this year has 28 of his 50 points on the road. Daniel has 303 at home and 293 on the road, but has 31 of his 49 points on the road. It's a little unfortunate that neither player will ever win MVP if both remain healthy, because there's just no way to decide which is more important than the other (perhaps Henrik, but only slightly). Just to don't ask the Sedins to play on Wednesdays - the Sedins' combined career +/- based on the day of the week: Sundays +26, Mondays +34, Tuesdays +69, Wednesdays -2, Thursdays +38, Fridays +32, Saturdays +77. And what does that tell us about them? That they suffer from middle-of-the-week-itis, just like everybody else, except that they're really good at hockey. <img src=""class="imageFloatCenterFramed"> While the Sedins have been the engine driving the league's second-ranked offense, clicking at 24.8%, Ryan Kesler has been undoubtedly the team's MVP. He's on pace for 41 goals and plays more than any other forward. He's second on the team in shorthanded ice-time and first in powerplay ice-time (yes, more than the Sedins). In my mind, he's a franchise centre in the Mike Richards mold. If you were to build a team, after taking an elite point-producing centre and locking down your first line, nobody is better than Kesler on that second line. Nobody. Will he reach 40 goals though? I'd wager no, but continue what he's been doing away from the puck - 60 hits, 41 blocked shots, 32 takeaways, 57.3% faceoffs won, discipline - and he's a lock for the Selke. Anything short of winning would be a complete travesty and the whole city should mobilize and march on Gary Bettman's house in protest. We knew that Manny Malhotra was a great in the circle, but did it warrant a three-year deal worth $7.5 million with a limited NTC? I guess since good face-off guys are so hard to come by, especially ones that can play a regular shift, unlike Zenon Konopka or Yanic Perreault, it's certainly worth it. For a team that depends so much on puck movement and puck possession, Malhotra was totally worth it. He wins 63% of his faceoffs, and is just 0.2% of the league from Dave Steckel (a hugely under-appreciated, under-valued player). It's no fluke - he won more than 60% in San Jose last year and 58% the year before in Columbus. He's found a market where he can thrive, not having to shut down the opposition's top line or worry about putting the puck in the net. The Canucks' PK ranks 5th in the NHL and has just allowed one shorthanded goal. The only gripe I have with Manny? While he wins more than 60% of his face-offs both at home and on the road, he has just 4 assists in 20 games and -5 on the road but 13 points in 18 home games and +6. It's nothing new though, Malhotra has always been much, much better at home than on the road, something that is worth keeping an eye come playoff time. Any Stanley Cup contender needs a strong supporting cast. Alex Burrows was sidelined early in the season and struggled with timing early on but has found his groove - he has 6 points in 6 games, and while the argument could be made that any player could play reasonably well with the Sedins, nobody does a better job on this roster than Burrows. Both him and Kesler made concerted efforts to tone down their extracurriculars, but Burrows doesn't have the respect of the league. Dan Boyle was noticeably irked by his high-sticking penalty because Burrows still has a reputation for being a diver. That's not going to help in the playoffs when special teams is a true premium. Like Burrows, Raymond's just coming back from injury but even on the fourth line he hasn't missed a beat, scoring a goal in his first game since breaking his finger. While I pegged Raymond to score 30 goals this year, he's unlikely to hit that total but he will have a chance to turn heads in the playoffs, where a much more physical game has clearly derailed his play. He has just 7 points in 22 career playoff games. <img src=""class="imageFloatCenterFramed"> Jeff Tambellini, Tanner Glass, and Jannik Hansen are three key players in the Canucks bottom six (along with Malhotra) that are keys to the Canucks' success. Tambellini's found a team that caters to his particular talents. The Canucks move the puck well, which allows Tambellini to show off his speed along the boards, and they pass the puck around a lot (almost too much, sometimes) and he's not afraid to shoot the puck. He's a great triggerman for a team that doesn't have a lot of shooters up front. He's also shown a willingness to take the body, with 50 hits in 28 games. He's far from your average one-dimensional offensive player. In Raymond's absence, his offense was more than adequately replaced by Tambellini, who has since been demoted to the fourth line upon Raymond's return. Hopefully Tambellini doesn't get demoted, because he's a good player to have on your roster. Glass is a true blue-collar player. He's the reason why teams don't need any Darcy Hordichuks or Raitis Ivanans anymore, because he can skate, hit, fight, and handles the puck well enough to pin the opposition defense. Hansen is a speedy forward, absolutely vital on our PK with his puck pursuit and he rarely gives up on a play, if ever, but like Raymond he struggles in the playoffs with just 4 career playoff points. How good is Hansen? Take away the offensive side of Kesler's game and the two are quite similar: JH 77 hits to RK's 60, JH's 24 takeaways to RK's 32. It's fun watching these three guys play, even if they're not the most exciting (until Tambellini picks a corner coming down the right wing) or most talented. The two forwards I have the most trouble watching are Mikael Samuelsson and Raffi Torres. For a guy who needs to shoot the puck a lot to be successful, Samuelsson doesn't hit the net much even when he shoots (31 missed shots, 2nd to Dan). At 34 he won't be hitting the 30 goal plateau anymore and while he's currently 4th in team scoring he could finish 7th or 8th by the end of the season. He's better off on the third line because he's an atrocious passer and marginally better stickhandler. Torres is just streaky. He plays with an edge that is there one game but absent in the next. If the Canucks want to go deep these two players have to hit their hot streaks at the right time. The Canucks benefited huge when Samuelsson went on a tear with 8 goals in 12 playoff games. And what can I say of arguably the league's best defense that hasn't been said already? The Canucks are first in the league in goal differential, quite a feat considering that none of our blueliners are elite material. It's certainly an offense by committee, not like in Pittsburgh with Kris Letang or Boston with Zdeno Chara. Ehrhoff and Edler have combined for a +19 rating and 48 points. The two skate very, very well and jump up in the play at the right times. They're so underappreciated (more on that later) that you can't imagine what sort of attention they'd be getting if they played for an East team. Moving forward, given our cap space, you wonder if we can really retain Ehrhoff, who's an UFA at the end of the year. Dan Hamhuis and Keith Ballard have both made Canucks highlight reels with their patented hip checks, with each at least upending an opposition once a game. I've actually been most disappointed with Hamhuis - perhaps it's because my perceptions of him as a more physical defenceman playing alongside Shea Weber and Ryan Suter - but he plays more like Willie Mitchell without the ridiculously long stick and has better mobility. I'm appalled at times with some of his giveaways and his blocked shots total, just 29, is less than one per game. This entire season may be an adjustment season for Ballard, so the best has yet to come, but he's our best shot blocker and the way he jumps up into the play (sometimes ill-advised and too deep), really reminds me of Ed Jovanovski. His 4 points aren't reflective of his offensive capabilities and Vigneault has used him rather reluctantly on the second powerplay unit, instead opting for Hamhuis. Kevin Bieksa was a big name in the rumour mill to begin the season but he's solidified his status as a top four guy in our lineup. No one else on our defense plays with an edge like he does, except Alberts, but Alberts doesn't have the same mobility or offensive weapons. The imminent return of Sami Salo raises some interesting questions because of the Canucks' cap bind, and while Bieksa was rumoured to be on the block to make room for the hard-shooting Salo, he's quickly become an untradeable asset again. If we can somehow get Salo into the lineup without sacrificing Bieksa or a forward, could you imagine what would happen? This team already leads the league and they're going to get even better. The Canucks were noticeably better with Salo in the lineup last year and it gives us a chance to get rid of Rome, who serves little purpose other than to give the other five defenseman a breather or two. As awkward as Alberts looks with the puck, he's one of our most physical defenceman. Honestly, I just can't wait to get rid of Aaron Rome. I don't think he brings anything to this team that we don't already have but you had to admit he's a huge upgrade over Eric Weinrich, Ossi Vaananen, or some other extra defenceman plug we manage to get for a pick at the deadline. The biggest reason for our success? Our away record, which at 7 games above .500 is an extra 14 points for a team that plays average hockey on the road. The reason? Roberto Luongo. Last year's road record: 13-14-1, 3.07 GAA, .894 SV%. This year: 8-5-2, 2.59 GAA, .907 SV%. Luongo's still a far superior at home than on the road, but his stats have improved. It's not where the Canucks would like it to be, since his home record is a staggering 10-3-1, 2.25 GAA, .926 SV%, but you hope that Luongo can at least find a happy medium at home and on the road when all's said and done. <img src=""class="imageFloatLeftFramed">Is this the best Canucks team ever? I certainly think so. In terms of top-end talent nothing beats the Mogilny-Bure duo, but they were never healthy at the same time and the team couldn't win any games. Mogilny's best year as a Canuck, his first, with 55 goals and 107 points, was wasted with Bure appearing in only 15 games and an atrocious Kirk McLean in net. We have a splendid first line, a spectacular second-line centre, a bottom six that can hit, skate, and score, a very capable and mobile defense, and a goalie who still has some good seasons in him. The Canucks are tops in the league in every single relevant category: 25 wins (t-1st), 8 losses (1st), .724 point % (1st), 3.42 g/g (1st), 2.45 ga/g (5th), 24.8% PP (2nd), 85% PK (6th), 56.3% faceoffs (1st). The worst part about all these league leading stats? The Canucks still don't get any respect. As of today, the Canucks' rank in all-star voting by position: forwards Henrik (23rd), Daniel (24th), Kesler (52nd); defencemen Hamhuis (25th), Ehrhoff (36th), Edler (38th); and Luongo (10th) The only wrinkle? Of the 24 times the Presidents' Trophy has been awarded, only 7 have gone on to win titles. It's clearly not a barometer for postseason success but we're looking pretty good right now.
  11. The Canucks finished November with a 8-4-1 record, but there was one game everyone had their eye on: Saturday, November 20, a nationally-televised matchup against the Chicago Blackhawks. While Chicago may have lost several pieces to Atlanta and other teams, they were still the team that had eliminated the Canucks two years in a row from postseason play. The Canucks were overcoming two straight losses, a tough 4-3 OTL in Buffalo, extending their winless streak at HSBC Arena to seven-plus years, and a 3-1 loss to the Penguins, which was supposed to be a preview of two potential Cup finalists. The Hawks were coming off a 7-2 loss to Calgary the night before. It certainly was a 'measuring stick' game, a test of resiliency between two very good teams. The result? A 7-1 drubbing at the hands of Chicago, an absolute shellacking in which Roberto Luongo was chased yet again, though at times through no fault of his own. The performance, if you could call it that, raised questions of whether this Canucks squad was truly ready for the same challenges that await them in the playoffs. To answer these questions, my friend Matt Sze (pronounced 'zee'), a fellow blogger who runs SzeSpeak: The Thinking Man's Blog has kindly joined me for this discussion. JC: The Hawks showed great resiliency by bouncing back from a terrible loss in the second night of a back to back. The Canucks followed up that effort with another loss against a hot Phoenix team. Resiliency is a key component of any good hockey team and in both games the Canucks just didn't seem to have any legs. Attitude reflects leadership, so the age-old question is, was Henrik the right choice as captain? It's no secret that for most North American kids, the ultimate dream is winning the Cup. For many Europeans, it's winning Olympic gold. MS: There was no other choice. Kesler's too young and plays an emotional game, something that can work against him. I'm not so sure Daniel was a good pick to wear the 'A' but Bieksa was a great choice. He has had a long tenure with the Canucks and provides some much-needed fire from the back end. And in regards to that Cup vs. Olympic gold argument, I don't buy it. All athletes are wired the same way - it doesn't matter what the prize is, athletes play to win. As former NFL coach Herm Edwards said, "you play to win the game." Getting to the pinnacle of any sport requires hard work, so to criticize the Sedins or anybody for lacking the desire to win is unfair. JC: I'm going to have to disagree, because I still think it makes a difference... Maybe I'm just a traditionalist and perhaps Lidstrom was just an anomaly... But what about Alexandre Daigle? The guy famously said he played hockey purely for the money. MS: Well, he didn't become a number one overall pick on talent alone, but he made some bad life decisions that eventually led to an unspectacular career. JC: The Canucks have been eliminated two consecutive years by the Hawks. Because Luongo and the Sedins are the best players, they have taken the brunt of the criticism, and a lot of it isn't unfounded. It seemed as though fortunes would be reversed in last year's playoffs, but the Sedins then vanished for stretches. Can our top players elevate their play? <img src=""class="imageFloatLeftFramed">MS: I don't think Luongo has ever demonstrated that he could elevate his game, except in that 2007 series against Dallas, his first ever playoff appearance. He may never elevate his game to that level again, but most times it's the other guys, the supporting players, that step up their games. Patrick Kane is a key player for Chicago, but prior to that Finals against Philadelphia it had mostly been Jonathan Toews, and Kane ended up with the series winner. When Pittsburgh won the Cup, it was Max Talbot who scored the game-winner. Pascal Dupuis, Matt Cooke, and Talbot all raised their games. JC: So what's the difference between those players who can elevate their games and those who can't? Is it emotion? Attitude? I think one of the reasons Henrik was so successful last year was because of his swagger. He had that "yeah, I'm the best player in the league" attitude. When Daniel came back, it seemed to have disappeared. MS: Right now - emotion, attitude, swagger - Henrik doesn't have it. But in the regular season I don't think there's any need for it. It's going to build up. The only guy that does show some swagger is Bieksa. The Sedins are quiet players. I think Henrik giving Bieksa the 'A' is a challenge for him to get back to his former level. Those 42, 43 point seasons may be an anomaly but he's still an effective player when his head's on straight. JC: So who's the X factor for the Canucks in the playoffs? MS: Well, obviously it's Luongo. For me, it's two players: Mason Raymond and Jannik Hansen. We know that Raymond's got great speed and can put the puck in the net, but but he hasn't elevated his game in the playoffs yet. (In 22 playoff games he has only 7 points.) The other is Hansen, because he has the feistiness needed to make things happen in the postseason. I remember back in that Dallas series, Stars fans were going, "who is this guy?" JC: Gillis made an honest attempt to make this team better this offseason. If there's anything I noticed this year, it's that this team is so much faster. Speed kills, but we don't know how that will translate to playoff hockey. MS: We are faster and bigger, but I don't think we're grittier than we were last year. Torres isn't really an upgrade hitting-wise over Steve Bernier. Malhotra's an upgrade over Wellwood but he's not the sort of guy who'll just lay guys out. We really won't know the playoffs. The playoffs are tighter defensively but the Sedins are good playoff players because they won't necessarily create the room, but they can certainly find the open areas. They make space with their playmaking, not their physicality. They're 30 years old - still relatively young - and are still learning how to play better with each passing playoff series. JC: Alright, the real questions. Do the Hawks have our number? Vigneault hasn't announced who is starting Friday vs. Chicago, but I think you can't not start Luongo. Starting Schneider is a clear white towel message. MS: Ohhhh. Not right now, but certainly last year. We've been blown out only once this season. If the Canucks put up a good fight, what else do you want? Maybe the Hawks will be better in the season but come playoff time their lack of depth will hurt. Vancouver was vastly overrated last year. We were the underdogs in that series - the four best teams were Detroit, Chicago, San Jose, then Vancouver. The thing about the West is, any team can beat any team. The level of parity is so high, if you're off your game one night it can result in a disaster. If there is a mental edge, it's what they've done in the past. The Canucks have to continue to ride Luongo but also depends on how he losses the game. The team collapsed as a whole. Losses means the team has to look at itself as a whole, not just the goalie, unless there were some flagrantly bad goals. The Canucks have one of the best sports psychologists on staff. Chicago's lower in the standings. The Canucks should be better. JC: What about the Wings? We usually play moderately well against them. MS: No, they don't have our number either. We play the Wings tough, all the time. The Canucks just recently won 6-4 against them. That being said, the Wings are still the best team in the West, and in a 7-game series I'd still take the Wings because their best players can elevate their game. So far, the Canucks' players haven't. Guys like Dan Cleary, Tomas Holmstrom, and Johan Franzen are good in the regular season, but great in the playoffs. Kesler, Burrows, and Raymond weren't so good last year. Let's not let the Sedins off the hook - they should elevate their game too, but I do think they were better than Naslund and Bertuzzi. Depth is key. JC: If you look at some of the league's best playoff performers - Crosby, Mike Richards, Datsyuk, Zetterberg - these are guys who play in all situations of the game. The Sedins don't kill penalties. Part of the reason is because they don't have to, and also by blocking shots you're risking injury, but the upside is that when your team can't find their rhythm, you can get your best players more involved in the play. If I were to build a team, I'd like to have a franchise player I can play in every situation. MS: The Sedins not playing PK doesn't hurt them. If they're not on the ice because the team's constantly killing penalties then the team has to be more disciplined. The Canucks aren't built around 2 players, and that gives the Sedins the opportunity to really focus on one thing (scoring). The Sedins are great talents, but the Canucks don't have a standout talent like Ovechkin or Crosby. There is no shining star. The Canucks are built like a football team - you need everyone to perform their specific role for them to succeed. If special teams can't produce then you hope the depth can hold up. <img src=""class="imageFloatRightFramed">JC: One thing I really noticed that year was the lack of net presence. Chicago had Byfuglien, Ladd, and Eager in Luongo's face the entire time. The Canucks have trouble against the Blues because David Backes is cemented in front of the net. MS: I agree, and that's my only bone to pick. It certainly adds yet another dimension to our potent attack. We lack that physical element. We're bigger, in fact, we always have been, but I don't think we're grittier than before. Torres can be a perimeter player sometimes too. We are missing a David Backes type. It's demoralizing for teams to have someone in front of the net you can't move. The Canucks defense was torn about by Byfuglien. Edler wasn't strong enough, Bieksa had the strength but not the frame. I think that's why Alberts could surprisingly play a big role on this team when it comes to clearing the crease. Look what Andy Sutton was able to do in Ottawa. He put players flat on their butts all the time. JC: It almost feels like this team is built for the regular season than the playoffs. If you look at how the Flyers were built last year, them going deep shouldn't be all that surprising. They had great veteran leadership and a great mix of size, talent, and grit. I picked the Flyers to upset that year because I knew they could go far. MS: I'm gonna play the devil's advocate and say it depends on who they play. Against almost all the teams they're good. The Canucks have trouble with Chicago, and I know that contradicts with what I said previously, but you just don't know how this team will fare against this version of the Hawks in the playoffs. Last year, Quenneville totally outcoached Vigneault. I think, line for line, other than that top line with Zetterberg and Datsyuk, we have the advantage in regards to the other 9 forwards, so I like how we match up against the Wings. JC: Let's talk Luongo, since he's the biggest X factor. I don't like his contract, and there are people who are already saying Luongo's overpaid, but he's still one of the better goalies in the West. What do you think? MS: Luongo's play has slipped but I think Kiprusoff's play has slipped more. A quarter of the way through the season, my top 5 West goalies are: Bryzgalov, Hiller, Backstrom, Quick, and Halak. But in the playoffs everything changes. I don't like the Luongo extension either - it's pro-rated, but I think if we could get him just a shade cheaper at around $5 million we might be able to afford to keep Bieksa. He brings an element no other defenseman on our team does and maybe he does need a change of scenery but we need players like him in the playoffs. JC: Vigneault says the window for this team to win is between now and 1 or 2 years down the road. I tend to agree with him. Canucks in 5 years - how many Cups? 1? 2? None? MS: I have to disagree with Vigneault. I think the window longer than that. Edler and Raymond are still young. The Moose is well-stocked. Granted, Luc Bourdon's untimely death set this franchise back a little, but it's more like a ten-year plan. Ideally, our top players will be ready to make a significant impact in 5 years. Look at the Red Wings. From 1980 to their Cup win in 1997 (their first in ages), they were eliminated from the playoffs 11 times, and only 4 times did they at least reach the Conference Finals. When you're building a team you're going to fail a lot in the beginning, because that's the feeling you have to know to succeed later on. Vancouver has no tradition of winning and that works against them. Vigneault is no Scotty Bowman, but at least the consistency is there. Would you rather be successful long-term or be a potential one-hit wonder like the Hawks with their cap issues? They still have yet to sign Seabrook and could only afford Marty Turco. Don't get me wrong, Chicago could still end up being competitive but it will be difficult. Maybe it's because I haven't lived through 40 years of disappointment, but we have to be patient. As long as we draft well, we'll stay competitive. It wasn't too long ago people were labelling Hodgson as a bust, but history has shown that the World Jrs. MVP, and it should've been Hodgson, no doubt, go on to have good NHL careers. (Past winners include Eberle, Malkin, Ovechkin, Parise, Cammalleri, and Iginla). The Canucks and Blackhawks face-off Friday night. We'll have to see what kind of team we really have.
  12. The Vancouver Canucks first true 'comeback' win of the season came in a slightly bizarre, but memorable fashion against the Anaheim Ducks, Wednesday night. The teams had met only once earlier in California, with the Ducks skating to a 4-1 win. Whatever the reason, the Ducks seem to have it out for the Canucks, and for years, players the ilk of Paul Kariya, Teemu Selanne, and Corey Perry have posed problems. Problems that were not kind to Vancouver's Goals Against Average. With an exhaustive 10 round shootout win the night previous in Edmonton, the Ducks had energy early and Perry opened the scoring less than 5 minutes in. Ryan Kesler, who was easily the best player on the ice, as he has been for past few games, responded for the Canucks on the powerplay. He deflected a Christian Ehrhoff point shot, bringing Roger's Arena into the game. They hadn't been seated more than a moment as Jeff Tambellini scoured the slot for rebounds, and got one off a Mason Raymond wrister eleven seconds later. Joffrey Lupul notched it at two with his first goal in a year since returning from back surgery. Corey Perry found Teemu Selanne cross-ice during a 2-on-1 with Alex Edler off for a tripping penalty. Selanne notched the 616th goal of his career with a labelled wrist shot over Luongo's left shoulder with 17 seconds remaining in the second frame. Rookie defenseman Cam Fowler had a strange goal go in off Alex Edler, who pursued Todd Marchant right up to the Canucks goalcrease off the rush.Up until the 8:42 mark of the third period, Ducks goaltender Curtis Mcelhinney had been brilliant in goal. The former Flames' backup made key stops on both Henrik and Daniel Sedin, particularly in the third period. But his luck ran out as Christian Ehrhoff sizzled one from the point, catching McElhinney squarely in the mask. The puck dropped down to Daniel Sedin who added his 15th of the season. It was a game-changing moment, because it stirred a lot of contention as to whether the referees should have blown the play dead or not. In International rules, the play is whistled dead immediately if a goalie stops a hard shot with his head. But in the NHL, it's up to the referee's discretion. The play unfolded very quickly, and though McElhinney was down from the initial shot, he got up, skating toward their bench, hunched over and bleeding. He had to be helped to the dressing room. New second line addition Jeff Tambellini scored the only goal of the shootout with a perfect shot over (replacement) Jonas Hiller's shoulder. Though Selanne, Perry and Lupul all scored in regulation, Roberto Luongo stopped each of their shootout attempts. "My teammates bailed me out with two goals in the third," said Luongo, who stopped 16 shots through regulation and overtime. "We haven't come back from behind once in the third period at all this year, so we were due for one." Vancouver entertains the Tampa Bay Lightning Saturday, then fly to Edmonton right after for an early Sunday evening affair. With files from AP Photo, I'm Larenzo Jensen on The Canuck Way
  13. With three regular season games under their collective belt, the Vancouver Canucks have a win, a regulation loss, and a 'tie' (overtime loss). Tonight during their swing through California, they rematch against the team that gave them the latter. Peter Schaefer gets welcomed to the 2010/2011 regular season by Kings phenom defenceman, Drew Doughty The Canucks travel to Los Angeles with their 40th anniversary home opener freshly spoiled by the visiting Kings. But whether revenge, or a somewhat restless fanbase is the motive, no one knows for sure. It's not that the Canucks are having a poor start, but rather, it's the heightened expectations for the club this season that might take it's toll. There are definitely positives to take out of their early record, including the fact that newly appointed captain Henrik Sedin appears to be adapting seemlessly to his new role. Another factor, perhaps equally as important, is that after surrendering the captaincy, Roberto Luongo hasn't allowed it to impact his performance negatively. Traditionally, Luongo starts slow and finds his rhythm in later November, but stopped 72 of his first 74 shots, and doesn't appear phazed by the role-change. The top line for the Canucks has been producing well, but secondary scoring has been challenged so far (all photos courtesy of Yardbarker) Analysts from the Team 1040 radio station spoke after the loss to the Ducks about the importance of picking up points during this "easier" section of the schedule. With the Canucks top line garnering most of the points thus far, the pressure is mounting for Ryan Kesler and Mason Raymond, both of whom had career seasons last year. Ryan Kesler, who had 25 goals and 50 assists, deflected any negativity that might pervade their early drought. "We're getting Grade A scoring chances. It's just a matter of time before they start going in." Kesler received a promotion to the 1st powerplay unit with the twins. "We're still getting a lot of chances. That's the important thing." The Canucks continue to search for their fourth line identity, and are still trying different combinations to that end. Center Rick Rypien became the third pivot in as many games, replacing Jeff Tambellini, who only lasted one game in relief of incumbent Alex Bolduc, who is out with a high ankle sprain. Though Rypien is better adapted to a grinding fourth line role, he still isn't a natural center, and his failures in the faceoff circle ended the experiment last season to convert him. Jeff Tambellini hasn't fared much better, so the team might look to either Cody Hodgson, Mario Bliznak or Joel Perrault from Manitoba. With Hodgson or Bliznak, the Canucks would again be calling on inexperienced players to fill the void, making the cut of Brendan Morrison that much more curious. Willie Mitchell is hit by Alex Bolduc, who later suffered a high ankle sprain, in the Canucks' season openener. The Kings won in the shootout, 2-1 The Canucks expect a similar tight checking game against the Kings (2-1-0), based on their season opener. If their playoff matchup indicated anything, it's their uncanny resemblance to the Canucks, from team structure to player development. The main difference, not just this year but in general, are the expectations placed upon the teams. In a market dominated by NBA basketball and baseball, the Kings don't occupy the same sort of limelight that the Canucks do. It makes for an interesting case study between the weight of expectations on a professional team and results from such pressure. At the end of the season, don't be surprised if we see further startling similarities drawn between not only the Los Angeles Kings' ability, but also their point totals in relation to the Vancouver Canucks. While it is early in the season, one can't help but wonder if tonight we're witnessing a fore-gleam of another potential early playoff match-up. Ryan Kesler on 2nd lines opening three games: "We're getting Grade A scoring chances. It's just a matter of time before they start going in."
  14. For the second straight year, on the same exact day, in the same exact scenario, the Canucks fell flat on their faces. I think if you could point to one determining factor in the series, it was that the Canucks just couldn't match the Blackhawks' drive and talent. Despite Shane O'Brien and Kevin Bieksa stepping up their games, they still couldn't quite match the impact Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook, and even former Canuck Brent Sopel had for their teams. Jonathan Toews' drive to win was unmatched, Patrick Kane couldn't be contained, and Antti Niemi was just good enough to beat the Canucks. In my previous post I said the number one to watch was Game 6. I kind of regret writing that now. I finished the game in its entirety, from the national anthem to the post-game interviews (more on that later) and I can't help but feel dissatisfied about the Canucks' effort. Asides from Kyle Wellwood, I don't think anybody brought their A-game. You could point out that several key players, including Sami Salo and Ryan Kesler, were playing with a considerable amount of pain, but both of them even said it's not an excuse. You play hurt in the playoffs. Yet, somehow, we dealt less mental and physical damage to the Hawks - if not, they certainly didn't show any weakness. Had we peppered Niemi with 50 shots I would've been a little more satisfied, but in an elimination game the Canucks only managed 30 and lacked the same intensity the Hawks showed all game. I don't like how the Canucks responded after a convincing win to force another game at GM Place. And that brings me to the post-game interviews. I was never one of those that particularly liked Mike Gillis and Alain Vigneault's decision to make Roberto Luongo captain. I certainly was skeptical and noted how it was perhaps a sign that no one in the dressing room was fit to wear the 'C'. A little concerning, to say the least. After Luongo backstopped Canada to a gold medal and Henrik Sedin elevated his game to set a new franchise record in points in a season, a lot of questions about the Canucks were erased. But after last night's performance, the same questions are raised again. Is Luongo a big-game player? Are the Sedins too soft? Is our team deep enough? Is Luongo the right choice as captain? For me, at least, I know the answer to the last question is a resounding "no." <img src=""class="imageFloatLeftFramed">Why do I say that? Asides from a logistical perspective, having a goalie as a captain really limits the role of a captain. Because goalies cannot cross the red line, communicating with referees and other players can be quite difficult. For the most part, ceremonial face-offs and communication with the referees have been assigned to a committee of leaders rather than one singular individual. But I think the most telling part of the Canucks' playoff run were the post-game interviews. When bombarded with a plethora of questions regarding the Canucks' play, Luongo's most common answer was, "I don't know." Kelly Hrudey on CBC was highly critical of Luongo at his (apparent) refusal to comment on how poor his game was but that's not the reason I'm more than a little annoyed. As a captain and face of the franchise, an "I don't know" answer tells me that this team obviously lacks any clues as to why and how they lost. I realize that it takes days, even months, to digest a loss as devastating as this one, but certainly "I don't know" is not an answer. 94% of voters on The Province website said Luongo will not be captain next year. The most interesting interview, I thought, was the guy who had the least to say, and that was Ryan Kesler. "Words can't describe how I feel right now." Playing with a nagging shoulder injury, Kesler sounded like he was the Canuck that took the loss the hardest (although I'm sure everyone took the loss hard). Kesler's passion shows on the ice and he certainly didn't make any excuses. To him, the Canucks just came up short. Really short. Vancouver fans are no stranger to disappointments. After 40 years of futility we've seen just about everything. But never have I ever seen any Canucks team fail to salute the fans after the end of the season. That perhaps was the most frustrating part of the game. Sure, most fans booed and with the way the Canucks showed up to this game I wouldn't want to stick around the rink any longer than I should, but there are fans who still cheer for them through the tough times and who still genuinely care. Vancouver's a passionate hockey town and for the team to ultimately disrespect their fans like that is discomforting. The majority of the fans left the rink with a sour taste in their mouths but that's no excuse to not acknowledge the support Vancouver fans have given the team all year. I want an apology. Not so much for the poor performance in Game 6 but rather how the Canucks showed their appreciation to their fans. I guess there's always next year.
  15. In the 2010 NHL playoffs, Vancouver draws the 6th seeded Los Angeles Kings, whom they bested 3 games to 1 in their 4 game season series. Mason Raymond has the puck knocked off his stick by Drew Doughty of the Los Angeles Kings April 1st, 2010 at the Staples Center When covering playoff series in Fantasy leagues, I will often refer readers first to the season series. It doesn't always tell the full tale of the tape, and there are always anomalies, but usually offers a rough, workable outline. I'm not a full on mathematician, but percentages and probability rate factor into most sports. I haven't seen the "Las Vegas line" for this series, but I'm assuming Vancouver is a favorite to win this series. Being a Western conference team, the Los Angeles Kings and Vancouver Canucks were scheduled 4 regular season games. Using this as my reference point, the numbers indicate the Canucks won the lions share, 75% of the games this season. Here's a quick breakdown of those contests: Henrik Sedin signals to the bench prior to a first period faceoff against the Kings in Los Angeles April 1st(Photo by Harry How/Getty Images) Oct. 29, 2009 - Whether a fan of the shootout or not, it's here, and it favored the Canucks. Scott Parse opened scoring in the 1st period, and Mikael Samuelsson answered in the 2nd period. Samuelsson would also roof a beautiful backhand shot past Jonathan Quick in the shootout. Andrew Raycroft was an anchor in net, making 30 stops earning a .967 sv %. Vancouver wins 2-1. Nov. 26, 2009 - Wayne Simmonds officially registers himself as a pain in the Canucks side. The 21 yr old scores the Kings lone goal and forechecks with aplomb. Burrows, Henrik, Glass and Wellwood reply for the Canucks, as Luongo begins to overcome a slow start, improves to 8-8-0. Jonathan Quick makes 30 stops and records a .909 sv %. Dec. 14, 2009 - The Kings get a good taste of the Canucks 2nd line, who outworked a tired L.A. team. Ryan Kesler broke open the scoring 64 seconds in on a nice setup from Mikael Samuelsson and Mason Raymond. Sami Salo pounds one in from the point on a play made by the twins, though Alexander Frolov cut the lead with 7 seconds to go in the 1st period. Raymond finished off a nice play by Kesler and Shane O'Brien with 5 minutes to go in the third. Luongo makes 24 saves for a .960 sv % and improves to 14-10-0, as the Canucks win 3-1. Mikael Samuelsson hasn't been talked about much prior to this playoff series, but he should be a factor, especially considering Oct. 29th game (Images courtesy of Yardbarker) Apr. 1, 2010 - The Canucks wish that the 8-3 score listed in the newspapers was indeed an April Fool's joke leader, but it wasn't. Sports journalists have a hay day at Roberto Luongo's expense, quoting "His worst game ever" and "Career low" (.724 sv %) in their columns. A number of sub-plots also rose to the surface, including Vigneault's reluctance to pull Luongo despite the run-up score. Power forward Dustin Brown leads the way with a hat-trick, while Frolov, Kopitar, Stoll, Williams and Handzus contribute singles. Kyle Wellwood pots a pair, and Ryan Kesler scores in a losing cause. Jonathan Bernier earns the win with a .900 sv % and 27 saves. Without Willie Mitchell to help clear the crease, the writing is on the wall for the Canucks defense: Luongo must be protected (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images) Honestly, I can't think of a better lesson for the Canucks to learn from in their final regular season meeting with Los Angeles. "We can't sit back," said Ryan Kesler, one of the league's top defensive forwards, who had a breakout offensive year (75 pts). "If we change our game and become a defensive-minded team we're not playing to our strengths. We have who I think is the best goalie in the NHL and he allows us to take chances offensively." Based on the 2009/10 season, the law of averages argues that the Canucks should take this series. Roberto Luongo should be one of the deciding factors in this series, leveraging them above the Kings and their inexperienced goaltending tandem. The Sedins are rolling in hot and should prove too much for the Kings, who are going to have a very difficult time limiting Vancouver's cycle. Canucks in 6. Playoff series have a way of producing rivalries, and it seems inevitable there will be even less love lost between Vancouver and Los Angeles post-playoffs With files from Yardbarker, Getty Images and The Province, I'm Larenzo Jensen Need more 'Nucks?
  16. It was a good week in Canuck Nation if your name was Ryan and appropriately in this week's edition of Number Crunching, we pay tribute to the Ryans as we look back at the best and worst statistics in the week that was. Read on to find out who takes home this week's Number Crunching Player of the Week Award...could it very well be Ryan's for the taking? THE BEST OF KES <img src= class="imageFloatLeftFramed">The big news of the week for the Canucks came off the ice on Friday when Ryan Kesler officially put his name on a brand new contract extension that will see him remain in Vancouver colours until 2015.16. In honour of Kesler's new deal, Number Crunching presents the top six Ryan Kesler stats of 2009.10: 1. When Kesler scores, Canucks win. Vancouver's record this season when Ryan Kesler tallies a goal is 15-5-0. 2. When Kesler has been held point-less this season, Vancouver's record is only 8-13-2. 3. Through 72 games played, Kesler leads all Canucks in power play goals with 12 - four more than second place Mason Raymond who has eight. The 12 PPGs are a career-high for Kesler, besting the 10 PPGs he had in 2008.09. Coming into this season, he had scored just 15 total career power play goals. Incidentally, Vancouver's record when Kesler scores a PPG this season is 8-4-0. 4. Kesler's 13-game point streak from February 6 to March 14 shattered his previous career-high entering this season which was five games. Earlier this season, Kesler tied his previous career-best point streak twice. During his 13-game run, he tallied six goals and 15 points. 5. Through 72 games played, no other Canuck forward has had more average ice-time than Ryan Kesler's 19:51 per game. In terms of overall ice-time through the whole season, Kesler sits behind only Christian Ehrhoff (1,652:54) and Alex Edler (1,472:28) with 1,429:53. 6. No stat better describes Kesler's desire to have the puck than his 74 takeaways this season through 72 games played - leading all Canuck players. Alex Burrows has the next highest number of takeaways this season with 63 while Henrik Sedin is in a distant third place with 38. Kesler had 74 takeaways in all of last season. He has been the Canucks' leader in takeaways for the past two consecutive seasons and is on his way to making it three straight. OH JOHNNY BOY <img src= class="imageFloatRightFramed">Kesler wasn't the only Ryan who had reason to celebrate this week as Ryan Johnson was all smiles after breaking an 82-game goal-less drought on Thursday against San Jose. Johnson entered that game as Vancouver's leader for longest goal drought. With Johnson finally getting the goal monkey off his back the new Canucks' leader in the category is defenceman Aaron Rome, who following Saturday's game against Detroit is now at the half-century mark in games played without a goal. The goal against the Sharks was also the fourth career game-winner for Johnson. Two of his three goals as a Canuck have been game-winners. He scored the GWG against the New York Rangers back on November 19, 2008 - his first career goal as a member of the Canucks. Johnson now has a game-winning goal in three consecutive seasons. BLINK AND YOU'LL MISS IT <img src= class="imageFloatLeftFramed">The Canucks have seen plenty of team and personal records fall this season but they probably were not too thrilled with the mark that bit the dust on Saturday against the Red Wings. Red Wings goals scored five seconds apart by Todd Bertuzzi at 12:34 of the second period and Pavel Datsyuk at 12:39 of the second period during Vancouver's 4-3 overtime loss on Saturday set a new franchise mark for fastest two goals by a Canucks' opponent. The previous record was seven seconds, initially set back on October 19, 1976 in the first period of a game against the New York Islanders when Bob Nystrom scored twice in seven seconds - 8:34 and 8:41 - in what ended up as a 6-1 Islanders victory. Over 14 years later, the mark was tied when the Flames' Joe Mullen and Doug Gilmour scored seven seconds apart in the first period in a 5-1 Calgary win on March 3, 1990. Just less than five years after that, the feat was once again repeated by the Rangers' Pat Verbeek and Niklas Sundstrom, who also scored seven seconds apart in the first period against the Canucks in a 5-2 Rangers victory on October 24, 1995. It seems safe to suggest that the all-time NHL mark for fastest two goals will never be surpassed, if it is even ever repeated. A pair of ex-Canucks had a hand in setting that record as members of the Minnesota Wild. Jim Dowd and Richard Park scored three seconds apart (19:44 and 19:47 of the third period) in a 4-2 victory by the Wild over the Chicago Blackhawks on January 21, 2004. FLORIDA FLASHBACKS <img src= class="imageFloatRightFramed">For the first time since becoming a Vancouver Canuck, Roberto Luongo reached the half-century mark in saves in a single regular season game when he recorded 50 stops on 54 shots in a 4-3 overtime loss to the Red Wings on Saturday. Luongo's previous high for saves as a Canuck in a regular season game was 49 - set back on February 21, 2008 in a 3-2 shootout win for the Canucks over the Nashville Predators. Prior to Saturday, the last time Luongo was forced to make 50-or-more saves in a single regular season game was over four years ago on December 18, 2005. On that night, Luongo's Florida Panthers were out-shot 55-34 by the Washington Capitals but Luongo stopped all-but-two shots in a 3-2 victory. Incidentally, the 54 shots surrendered by the Canucks to the Red Wings overall on Saturday not only marked the most shots they have given up this season but also the first time they have surrendered over 50 shots in a single regular season game since the aforementioned game on February 21, 2008 against the Predators (they surrendered 51 shots that night). Vancouver's all-time record for most shots against in a single regular season game is 60. That was set back on February 25, 1971 against the Boston Bruins during the Canucks' inaugural NHL season. Vancouver lost that game 8-3. NUMBER CRUNCHING PLAYER OF THE WEEK <img src= class="imageFloatLeftFramed">Kyle Wellwood: Two goals and three points in four games played. Kyle Wellwood has taken his fair share of shots for his lack of offensive production particularly near the start of the season so now that he's playing some of his best hockey of the year it seems only fair to give him his share of praise. The 26-year-old has not only found the net with more regularity since the second half of the season began, but his newly-formed line with Mason Raymond and Jannik Hansen has given the Canucks a legitimate third-line scoring threat - something Vancouver really has not had much of on a consistent basis throughout the whole season. Wellwood's two-point (1-1-2) outing against the Red Wings on Saturday was his fourth multi-point game of the season - double what he had all of last year. With 22 points (11-11-22) on the season and 10 more games left on the schedule, he would need to average one point every two games to equal the 27 points he had last year in his first season as a Canuck. CRUNCHED BY THE NUMBERS <img src= class="imageFloatRightFramed">Shane O'Brien: One goal and three points in two games played. First, let me preface this by saying Shane O'Brien (rhymes with Ryan) being tagged with this dubious distinction actually has absolutely nothing to do with his play this week. By all accounts, O'Brien was fantastic in his return to the lineup not only finishing with a plus-two rating but chipping in with three points and a rare goal as well. If the Canucks had their way however, they might just ask Shane to stick with piling up the assists rather than netting any goals himself. If there are two things Canuck observers have been able to surmise from watching O'Brien the last two seasons it's that: 1. O'Brien can only score against Central Division opponents. Counting his playoff goal versus Chicago last season, O'Brien has also scored against St. Louis and Detroit. 2. When O'Brien scores, the Canucks don't win. Canucks lost 7-5 in Game 6 against Chicago in the Western Conference Semi-Final and also lost 3-1 to the Blues back on December 20th of this season prior to Saturday's overtime loss to the Red Wings. The O'Brien curse, as it were, only began after Shane joined the Canucks. Prior to coming to Vancouver, O'Brien's previous teams (Anaheim and Tampa Bay) were not only 3-1-0 in games where he had scored, but O'Brien personally notched the game-winning goals in each of those three wins. The best news for Shane and the Canucks? Vancouver will not see another Central Division opponent the rest of this season barring a playoff match-up.
  17. So much for breaking off contract talks until the end of the season. Just two hours ago, the Canucks announced that they have re-signed RFA Ryan Kesler to a six-year contract worth $30 million. Mike Gillis has been awfully busy of late, first calling up Michael Grabner in light of Mikael Samuelsson's injury then signing Jordan Schroeder to an entry level contract after a finishing a disappointing sophomore year with the Minnesota Golden Gophers. Schroeder is likely to suit up Sunday for the Moose to make his highly anticipated professional debut after winning gold with the US at this year's World Junior Championships and becoming the US' highest scorer in world junior history along the way. Players coming from the CHL must be at least 20 years of age by December 31 of the season or play four years of junior to be eligible to play in the AHL, but because Schroeder is coming from the NCAA, he can start playing anytime after he turns 18 (he's 19 now, and 20 by September 2010). Cody Hodgson was allowed to play in the Moose's playoff run last year because the Brampton Battalion's season ended early, making him exempt from the rule. Contract numbers have not been released for Schroeder, but my guess is that's around the rookie maximum of $900,000 plus bonuses, which could be roughly $1-2 million, making his salary cap roughly in the $2-3 million range, much like the Kings' recently signed Brayden Schenn. For Kesler, a question of simple math means that his cap hit will be $5 million per year (surely, the NHLPA won't reprimand him this time) and will remain a Canuck until the 2015-16 season, making him and Roberto Luongo the only players signed for that season. This is a fantastic signing by Gillis, locking up the Canucks' most versatile pivot for the next six years at a very reasonable price. With 64 points and counting, Kesler has emerged as one of the league's best centres. What he lacks in offensive output he makes up for in defense and energy as he will be considered for the Selke year-in and year-out along with perennial favourite Pavel Datsyuk ($6.7 million) and Philadelphia's Mike Richards ($5.75 million). The Ohio State product has come a long way in the NHL and has indeed been a great find by the Canucks. Not since Trevor Linden have the Canucks drafted (1st round, 2003) and cultivated a player that has won the hearts of many by playing blue-collar hockey. Kesler didn't enter the organization with as much as pizazz and hype as Linden and took a few years before establishing himself as a two-way player but what an incredible journey that has been. Kesler's point totals (23, 16 in 48 games, 37, and 59) has increased in each of the past season's and when everyone thought he had hit his offensive ceiling last year, he (along with Alex Burrows) proved everyone wrong. With Kesler signed, the Canucks have six other RFAs to deal with (Mason Raymond, Jannik Hansen, Alex Bolduc, Tanner Glass, Shane O'Brien, Aaron Rome) and that's not including prized goaltender Cory Schneider. Kesler was the big fish that all teams had been keeping an eye on but now he's off the market. I think it's safe to say that Raymond, Hansen, Glass, and possibly Bolduc will be re-signed while the futures for O'Brien, Rome, and Schneider aren't as clear. In light of these recent movements, here's what the Canucks cap structure will look like for next year (numbers courtesy of CapGeek): <img src=""class="imageFloatCenterFramed">
  18. The Canucks are on a high after picking up seven out of a possible eight points (3-0-1) but Number Crunching is going to take a page from Flo Rida's book and tell you about the "low, low, low, low, low, low" from this past week of Canucks hockey. But one thing that's definitely not low is the recipient of this week's Number Crunching Player of the Week Award, who will be revealed if you read on. THE BIG O <img src= class="imageFloatLeftFramed">Canucks head coach Alain Vigneault suggested on Sunday that, after playing their eighth game in 13 days, his team ran out of gas towards the end of game against the Flames and no statistic proves that better than the big goose egg sitting in the third period shot column. According the Canucks Media Guide, it is the fifth time in team history that the Canucks have failed to register at least a single shot in an entire regulation period. The last time that happened was over two years ago on October 21, 2007 in the second period of a game against the Columbus Blue Jackets. The Canucks did go on to win that game versus Columbus by a final score of 4-1 despite being out-shot 36-19 overall that evening. Oddly enough, in the same Sunday game against the Flames, the Canucks also had one of their best periods as far as shots-on-goal are concerned. Their 20 shots in the first period were just shy of their season-high of 22 in a single period set back on October 30, 2009 against the Anaheim Ducks when they notched the feat in the third period of a 7-2 loss. OPEN SEASON ON RAZOR <img src= class="imageFloatRightFramed">On Thursday in Phoenix, the Canucks saw goaltender Andrew Raycroft turn in one of his best performances of the season despite a shootout loss - even more impressive considering the lack of support they gave him in the form of blocked shots. Statisticians at the Arena in Glendale credited the Canucks with just three blocked shots in that contest, marking a season-low for Vancouver in that category. The previous season-low was five blocked shots, which the Canucks had recorded three previous times this season (Dec 10 vs ATL; Dec 14 vs LAK; Jan 7 vs PHX). The Canucks have failed to record double digits in blocked shots just 17 times this season through 69 games played posting a record of 9-7-1 in those games. Through 69 games this season, the Canucks have blocked a total of 841 shots - an average of 12.2 per game. You didn't really think this whole blog could make it through without looking at some of the highs from this week, did you? KES MAKES IT FIVE <img src= class="imageFloatLeftFramed">Ryan Kesler certainly provided a big high this week when he became the fifth Canuck to tally his 20th goal of the season joining Alex Burrows, Mikael Samuelsson, Henrik Sedin, and Mason Raymond. The five 20-plus goal scorers matches last year's total when the Canucks saw both Sedin brothers, Kesler, Burrows, and Demitra all reach the 20-goal plateau. With Daniel Sedin sitting at 19 goals this season, it is a matter of when and not if they will have at least six 20-goal scorers this season which would mark the most 20-goal scorers that Canucks have had in a single season since 1995.96. In 1995.96, the Canucks had seven 20-goal scorers in Alex Mogilny, Trevor Linden, Martin Gelinas, Russ Courtnall, Cliff Ronning, Markus Naslund and Jesse Belanger. Naslund and Belanger, however, joined the Canucks part-way through the season and scored the majority of their respective goals with their previous team. The last time the Canucks had six-or-more players score 20-plus goals all for the Canucks was in 1992.93 when they got 20-plus goals from seven players: Pavel Bure, Petr Nedved, Trevor Linden, Geoff Courtnall, Cliff Ronning, Greg Adams and Dixon Ward. They also had an eighth 20-goal scorer on the roster in Murray Craven although all of his 25 goals that season came with the Hartford Whalers before he was dealt to Vancouver. The most 20-goal scorers the Canucks have had in a single season is eight: 1980.81 and 1984.85. (Canucks goals only). TOP OF THE HEAP <img src= class="imageFloatRightFramed">Congratulations this week goes out to Henrik Sedin who recorded career assist no. 416, all with the Canucks, and in the process became the franchise's most prolific assists man surpassing the record held since 2008 by Trevor Linden. What is even more impressive is Henrik's rapid pace at scaling the assists mountain. His 416th assist came in his 715th game with the Canucks. Trevor Linden recorded his final assist as a Canuck in his 1,138th game with the team on April 1, 2008. For trivia fans, Linden's final assist as a Canuck came on a goal by Willie Mitchell against the Colorado Avalanche. NUMBER CRUNCHING PLAYER OF THE WEEK <img src= class="imageFloatLeftFramed">Mikael Samuelsson: Six goals and 10 points in four games played. If you close your eyes and listen real carefully, you can still hear the faint sound of sobbing coming from Swedish Olympic hockey coach Bengt-Ake Gustafsson. Samuelsson, who was snubbed by the Swedish Olympic team apparently because Mattias Weinhandl was going to be a better fit playing with Daniel and Henrik Sedin, finally got his chance to play on a regular basis with the twins this week and he definitely delivered the goods. Samuelsson opened the week with his first career hat-trick against the Avalanche on March 9 and by the end of the week had new career-high marks in goals (30) and points (53). The worst thing to happen to Samuelsson this week is he saw his career-high six-game goal streak come to an end on Sunday against the Flames although he continued his point streak with an assist in that contest giving him points in seven straight games to end the week. The seven-game point streak not only matched a season-high previously set from December 27, 2009 to January 9, 2010 but gives him another shot at going for a career-high eight game point streak when he faces the Islanders on Tuesday. CRUNCHED BY THE NUMBERS <img src= class="imageFloatRightFramed">Mason Raymond: 0 points and a minus-four rating in four games played. He had a rough start to the week in Colorado on March 9 when Coach V decided to bench him after he made terrible giveaway in his own zone resulting in a goal against in the game against the Avalanche (he had a season-low 8:06 of ice-time that night) and the week did not get much better for the third-year pro after that. A healthy Demitra and a red hot Samuelsson meant no room for Raymond among the top-six forwards and, consequently, the 24-year-old was dropped down to the third line playing alongside Kyle Wellwood and Jannik Hansen. His four-game point drought this week marks the third time he has gone four-or-more games without a point. His season-long point slump is five games set from November 29, 2009 to December 8, 2009.
  19. It is not quite the same as winning a Gold medal but a 3-1-0 record for the Canucks in their first week back is definitely reason for celebration in Canucks Nation. And another reason to celebrate is because Number Crunching returns for edition No. 12 as we look back at the best stats from the week that was in Canucks hockey. As always, find out who earns this week's honour as the Number Crunching Player of the Week. THE ROAD LESS TRAVELLED <img src= class="imageFloatLeftFramed">If the Canucks manage to finish this season with a record above .500 on the road, it will be by far the most difficult path the Canucks have ever taken in franchise history to secure a better than .500 record away from their home arena. This season, the Canucks moved above the .500 mark on the road for the first time in their 32nd road game this past week after their 6-3 win in Detroit gave them a record of 16-15-1 on the road at the time (they ended the week with an overall record of 17-16-1 on the road). Out of the seven previous times the Canucks have finished a season with a record above .500 on the road, the longest it had ever taken them to initially move above .500 was six games. That mark was set in 2003.04 after the Canucks opened their road season 0-2-1 before winning their next three straight games away from GM Place to move above the bar for the first time that year. They would end up finishing that season with a 22-11-8 record on the road. In addition to 2003.04, the Canucks have also finished with above .500 road records in the following seasons: 1991.92, 1992.93, 1995.96, 2002.03, 2006.07 and 2008.09. FIRST TO 40 <img src= class="imageFloatRightFramed">The Canucks recorded their 40th victory of the season on Sunday afternoon in Nashville and in the process set a new franchise record for being the quickest Canucks team to reach the 40-win mark. This year's team, which recorded the 40th victory in their 65th game of the season, narrowly beat out the 2006.07 team that recorded win No. 40 in game No. 67 that season. The 2006.07 team still holds the franchise record for most victories in a single season with 49 although this year's squad figures to give them a good run for that mark as they have 17 games remaining to try and net 10-or-more wins to break the old record. The following is a list of 40-plus win Canuck teams with the number in the brackets indicating the game in which they reached the 40th win of the season, respectively: 1991.92: 42 wins (71)* 1992.93: 46 wins (76)** 1993.94: 41 wins (81)** 2001.02: 42 wins (80) 2002.03: 45 wins (70) 2003.04: 43 wins (79) 2005.06: 42 wins (74) 2006.07: 49 wins (67) 2008.09: 45 wins (74) 2009.10: 40 wins and counting (65) *denotes 80-game season *denotes 84-game season THE PATH OF LEAST RESISTANCE <img src= class="imageFloatLeftFramed">The Detroit Red Wings typically offer a tough test for the Canucks each time the two teams meet but if you thought Wednesday's game in Motown was a bit of a cakewalk for the visitors, there is one key statistic that would back up that assertion. The Red Wings, who saw starting netminder Jimmy Howard yanked in the contest, did little to support either of their two goaltenders in that game blocking just three shots in the entire contest. The three blocked shots marked the fewest blocked shots by by a Canucks opponent this season. Prior to Wednesday's game, the fewest blocked shots a Canucks opponent had this season in a single game was six which had happened twice: San Jose (November 29, 2009) and New Jersey (December 2, 2009). Up to and including Vancouver's contest against Nashville on Sunday, the Canucks have had an average of 13.1 shots blocked per game. The Canucks, meanwhile, have averaged 12.3 blocked shots per game this season through 65 games played. The Canucks have a record of 7-6-0 this season in games where they have had fewer than 10 shots blocked. 149 TO 100 <img src= class="imageFloatRightFramed">Congratulations to Canucks' netminder Andrew Raycroft for picking up his 100th career NHL victory this past week on Tuesday with a 4-3 overtime win over the Columbus Blue Jackets. Raycroft became the 149th all-time netminder to 100 NHL victories and joins the likes of currently active goaltenders such as Phoenix's Ilya Bryzgalov, Minnesota's Niklas Backstrom, St. Louis' Chris Mason and Columbus' Mathieu Garon to have recorded their 100th NHL victory during the 2009.10 NHL season. NUMBER CRUNCHING PLAYER OF THE WEEK <img src= class="imageFloatLeftFramed">Ryan Kesler: Three goals and five points in four games played. If Ryan Kesler carried any frustration with him after narrowly missing out on an Olympic Gold medal in Vancouver just over a week ago, he clearly decided to take out some of that out against his NHL opponents. The Livonia, MI native was a one-man wrecking crew at times leading the Canucks in goals and points this week while in the process extending his career-high point streak to nine games (five games prior to the Olympic break and four games after). Honourable mentions include Alex Burrows, who proved two weeks off wasn't enough time to cool down his hot stick as he also had three goals this week, and Mikael Samuelsson, whose "demotion" to the third line didn't stop his goal scoring abilities as he also finished with three goals this week. CRUNCHED BY THE NUMBERS <img src= class="imageFloatRightFramed">Roberto Luongo: 2-1-0 record with a 4.29 GAA and a .875 save percentage. Call it an Olympic hangover but there were times this week when the man protecting the Canucks' net looked quite dissimilar to the man who led Canada to an Olympic Gold medal just over a week ago in Vancouver. The Canucks' captain started his week off with a decent outing in Detroit stopping 28 of 31 shots in a 6-3 win but proceeded to have arguably his worst outing since Game 6 of last season's Western Conference Semi-Final on Wednesday in Chicago. Luongo was yanked after giving up five goals on just 14 shots to the Blackhawks in the first period - the third time in his last nine games that he has been taken out of a game for performance reasons. Discounting his performance at the Olympic Winter Games, Luongo has not managed to record wins in consecutive starts since a six-game win streak from January 16 to January 27. He has a chance to bump that slump this upcoming week after ending last week off on a high note making 33 saves on 35 shots in a come-from-behind 4-2 win over the Predators on Sunday afternoon.
  20. 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= 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= 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= 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= 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= 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.
  21. It's no secret that the Canucks want to keep Ryan Kesler. But the other 29 teams in the league want him as well. The Selke nominee becomes a restricted free agent on July 1 and Mike Gillis wants to keep Kesler in the fold, preferably for the foreseeable future... but contract talks haven't gone well and have been put off until the end of the season. Reports indicate that the Canucks have made a pitch for roughly $4 million per season, but Kurt Overhardt, Kesler's agent, and his camp have countered with an offer that is around $5 million. It's not a big discrepancy, but sometimes that $1 million does make a difference - it leaves room for that extra rookie or depth player that is earning close to the league minimum. The Canucks have 13 players signed for next year with roughly $17 million in cap space, meaning that the rest of the roster will make roughly $1.7 million each. The Canucks have the luxury of the Sedins and Luongo signed long-term to affordable contracts, meaning that Gillis is very unlikely to go after the big names in free agency. For Overhardt, the whole ideal has been frustrating: "It's disappointing because based on the marketplace, it's not a difficult deal to get done for a core player like this." <img src=""class="imageFloatLeftFramed">It's true that Kesler will probably earn more on the open market, UFA or RFA, but that goes for almost any player. The fact that 29 other teams can bid on that player leads to an inevitable inflation of salary. In regards to Kesler's worth, I think $4 million sounds right, but $5 million doesn't sound too far off either. Maybe $4.5 million, Mr. Overhardt? I have every confidence that the Canucks will be able to re-sign Kesler to a long-term deal, because let's give credit where credit is due - Ryan Kesler is a vital cog on the Canucks and everyone knows this. But despite his immeasurable worth, let's not forget that it was less than a year ago when Kesler publicly stated that players should take hometown discounts in order to help their team and it caused a bit of a rift with the NHLPA. It's not as though the Canucks can't afford giving Kesler $5 million, but both sides have to keep in mind the implications of his new extension on the roster as a whole. The Canucks cannot tie up too much money in any position. Willie Mitchell is a UFA this summer and Mason Raymond's due for a raise. Whatever Kesler signs for will most likely be a factor in those negotiations as well. Please stay, Kesler.
  22. Larenzo

    Six Pack for the Road

    The Vancouver Canucks said 'adieu' to GM Place on a high note Wednesday, grabbing their sixth straight win, amidst a controversial slashing call. Roberto Luongo bails out Alexander Edler after he coughed up the puck to Blues' leading goal-scorer, Andy McDonald (16 goals) With an unparalleled 14 game road trip on the horizon, the Canucks did themselves a solid, leaving GM Place (the Garage) behind for 45 days on winning terms. The win vaulted the hot hockey club into sole possession of 1st place in the Northwest division, leap-frogging the Colorado Avalanche. The Canucks played catch-up after Keith Tkachuk shelfed a nice cross crease pass over Roberto Luongo's trapper. Mason Raymond, the game's first star, put the Canucks ahead with his second of the night, fooling Conklin with a fake slapshot, before beating him stick side. The 2nd line combined for 7 points, with Raymond adding an assist on Christian Ehrhoff's game-winner with 7:48 remaining in the third period. Ryan Kesler, who was named the game's third star, had a fantastic night as well, with three assists, and was 9 for 13 (69%) in the faceoff circle. Ryan Kesler gives the NHL's 4th most penalized player, B.J. Crombeen (117 PIMS), a close shave The controversy ensued after the Blues' Paul Kariya whacked at Henrik Sedin, who was starting out of the Canucks zone with the puck. The near-side official didn't make a call, but the back-side official raised his arm. The slash hit Henrik on the left glove, forcing his hand off his stick, and loss of puck control. In most cases, where a trip or a slash would result in an offensive chance for the guilty party, the call is made. That was the case here, and the Canucks, who are 4th in the NHL with a 22% power play efficiency, capitalized. "Whether we agree with them or not is irrelevant," said Blues goalie Ty Conklin in reference to the official's call. "You've still got to kill them off." Conklin finished with 31 saves. Despite Alex Burrows' screen, he and the twins' were held off the scoresheet for the first time in 13 games T.J. Oshie tied the game midway through the third period, chipping a pass from David Backes high over Luongo's blocker. The Sedin line, who earned a combined 30 points over the last 5 games, were held pointless, but the 2nd line helped negate that. "That's part of winning consistently. You need secondary scoring to chip in," said coach Alain Vigneault. "We put a lot of emphasis on making sure we continued the streak we were on and we ended the homestand properly." The 'Nucks begin their well-documented road trip starting in Toronto against the Maple Leafs Saturday, for Hockey Day in Canada. Notes: Not that Mike Gillis has the time to read this, but concerning the rumors surrounding trading David Backes for Cory Schneider - please don't do that. Backes has 1 goal in 16 games, and would really only be removing an opportunity for any number of other Canucks waiting for their chance. Schneider might not play for us for awhile, but his value certainly outweighs any short-term stopgap. Who wants to play: Who doesn't belong? A) Rick Rypien B- Darcy Hordichuk C) Erik Johnson D) B.J. Crombeen (answer at bottom of page) Here are the game highlights, courtesy of Pouya from CanucksHD: Canucks vs Blues - game highlights (just click) Larenzo Jensen, with files from AP Photo / Canadian Press, Yahoo Sports and CanucksHD (youtube) Catch the Canucks road trip at Answer to Who doesn't belong question: C) Erik Johnson, the defenseman who has more points than the other 3 forwards combined...
  23. It may not be the most highly anticipated game during the Olympics, but there is sure to be lots of talk when Team Canada meets Team USA on Olympic ice in Vancouver. And when the puck drops between these two juggernauts, Ryan Kesler will become Team Canada's number one enemy. It's been well documented and recorded that before this year, the only time that Team USA had defeated Canada in the World Juniors was when Kesler was on that team in 2004. Kesler will have a rare opportunity to make a special name for himself if he can pull the feat twice; the latter opportunity as a full NHL pro. Ryan Kesler As Vancouver fans already know, Ryan Kesler needs no introduction to the rest of the league. A Selke nominee in 2009, Kesler has made his living in the NHL by antagonizing the opposition with his gritty, physical play and his knack for getting under the skin of even the iciest players in the league. Yet, those intangibles that can make a team into a Stanley Cup contender may be the same element of surprise that could push Team USA from underdogs into gold medal finalists. With the advantage of an NHL-sized rink, there's plenty of opportunity for Kesler to crash, bang and hit all of his hated rivals in the NHL while representing his country. And while playing in the NHL is every hockey player's dream career choice, there's no doubt that playing for one's country is the absolute height of representation. If Kesler was a Selke nominee in the NHL, it'll be frightening to imagine what he'll be capable of when fueled with an entire nation's hopes and dreams. Canucks fans hope to see a lot of red, white and boos. In truth, it won't be the first time that Kesler has dipped into the love/hate relationship with the city of Vancouver. Much like a past that both parties regret, during Kesler's early years in Vancouver, the Livonia, Michigan-born native was the scapegoat for disappointed fans and the future alternate captain faced his share of criticism, which climaxed in 2007 when Kesler signed an offer sheet from Philadelphia worth 1.9 million dollars. When Vancouver opted to match the sheet, it was like a new opportunity to make a new future. And Kesler hasn't looked back since. There's no doubt that Kesler loves the Canucks and loves the city; an adoration that is mutual among the team's fanbase, but nobody will be pulling any punches when it comes to gametime and number seventeen may even get in the face of his captain; Roberto Luongo. And although the entire country will be rooting for Kesler to walk away from the tournament with nothing to show for, there are reasons to be excited about how Kesler will respond after the games. Certainly, the Canucks organization are hoping that whatever the outcome of the international event that the team are the true winners when the dust settles. For the Orca Zone, I'm Canorcas.
  24. Canorcas

    Mister America

    It may not be the most highly anticipated game during the Olympics, but there is sure to be lots of talk when Team Canada meets Team USA on Olympic ice in Vancouver. And when the puck drops between these two juggernauts, Ryan Kesler will become Team Canada's number one enemy. It's been well documented and recorded that before this year, the only time that Team USA had defeated Canada in the World Juniors was when Kesler was on that team in 2004. Kesler will have a rare opportunity to make a special name for himself if he can pull the feat twice; the latter opportunity as a full NHL pro. Ryan Kesler As Vancouver fans already know, Ryan Kesler needs no introduction to the rest of the league. A Selke nominee in 2009, Kesler has made his living in the NHL by antagonizing the opposition with his gritty, physical play and his knack for getting under the skin of even the iciest players in the league. Yet, those intangibles that can make a team into a Stanley Cup contender may be the same element of surprise that could push Team USA from underdogs into gold medal finalists. With the advantage of an NHL-sized rink, there's plenty of opportunity for Kesler to crash, bang and hit all of his hated rivals in the NHL while representing his country. And while playing in the NHL is every hockey player's dream career choice, there's no doubt that playing for one's country is the absolute height of representation. If Kesler was a Selke nominee in the NHL, it'll be frightening to imagine what he'll be capable of when fueled with an entire nation's hopes and dreams. Canucks fans hope to see a lot of red, white and boos. In truth, it won't be the first time that Kesler has dipped into the love/hate relationship with the city of Vancouver. Much like a past that both parties regret, during Kesler's early years in Vancouver, the Livonia, Michigan-born native was the scapegoat for disappointed fans and the future alternate captain faced his share of criticism, which climaxed in 2007 when Kesler signed an offer sheet from Philadelphia worth 1.9 million dollars. When Vancouver opted to match the sheet, it was like a new opportunity to make a new future. And Kesler hasn't looked back since. There's no doubt that Kesler loves the Canucks and loves the city; an adoration that is mutual among the team's fanbase, but nobody will be pulling any punches when it comes to gametime and number seventeen may even get in the face of his captain; Roberto Luongo. And although the entire country will be rooting for Kesler to walk away from the tournament with nothing to show for, there are reasons to be excited about how Kesler will respond after the games. Certainly, the Canucks organization are hoping that whatever the outcome of the international event that the team are the true winners when the dust settles. For the Orca Zone, I'm Canorcas.
  25. 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 He can also be found over on Twitter at He is also a fan of chinchillas and regularly partakes in Chinchilli Day.