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Quarter Mark of the Season


Are you satisfied with the Canucks so far?  

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So here we are, with game number 20 coming up on Wednesday. Pretty much we're at the 1/4 mark of the season now. Hard to believe, still feels like October. Currently, Vancouver sits 2nd in the Pacific, and 7th in the West with a 7-6-6 record, which admittedly is not very good. Take out the loser point and the only teams worse than us are in Alberta. But, however, we are transitioning, and the youth are shining, which is something Vancouver hasn't seen in maybe over a decade. So, I want to hear your opinions so far in the season:

Who's the best player so far?

Who's the worst player so far?

What's been the best surprise so far?

What's been the worst surprise?

What was the best game of the year so far?

What was the worst game of the year so far?

I'll go first.

Best Player: Really tough call for me, but I'm going with 2. Brandon Sutter and Ryan Miller. MIller's been the only one keeping us in games recently, he's been pretty good, especially given how poor he fared last year. Sutter as well has exceeded expectations, and not only has been an offensive spark, but a defensive block we've needed since Kesler left. His injury is really hurting Vancouver, it's pretty clear, especially on the PK.

Worst Player: Yannick Weber. How Weber has a job in the NHL baffles me. He's been even worse than he was last season, and he was pretty bad then. The big difference is Weber isn't scoring like he was last year, so his dreadful defense has been even more noticeable this season,

Best Surprise: Jared McCann, Ryan Miller, and Luca Sbisa. I'm giving a nod to Hutton as well, who has defied all expectations to not only be on this team, but playing well, but I have to give the edge to Jared McCann. After the pre season, I was excited for McCann, but I didn't think he'd last past 9 games. 17 games, 6 goals, 2 assists, and +5 later, man an I happy to be wrong. This kid has been the energy spark Vancouver's been lacking. Not only is he improving his offensive game, but his defensive game is also translating very well to the NHL. I wasn't expecting him to be on the team for at least another year or two. McCann's been even better then expected. Miller and Sbisa too, both are bouncing back very well from really bad seasons last year. Sbisa's defensive game has come a long ways, and Miller isn't letting in as many softies as he did last season, as well as not getting blown out frequently.

Worst Surprise: Dan Hamhuis and Radim Vrbata. Hamhuis has been regressing for a bit now, but this year he's just been brutal. He's playing as well as Bieksa did last season, which is really alarming. I love Hammer, but I would not be against a trade. Same goes for Vrbata. Guy looks so uninterested this year. What happened to the 30+ goal scorer from last season? 

Best Game. The 5-1 Spanking we laid on the Habs. Best team effort of the season. Spanking the best team in the league at the time too no less. McCann scoring twice on Price too was just so good!

Worst Game. The 4-3 OT loss we just suffered to the Habs tonight. The Devils game is a pretty close second, but this one takes the cake. 3-0 lead, totally dominating, only to give up yet another shorty and stop playing all together. Should have been a win. Unacceptable. Markstrom was the only reason why this was close.

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Not satisfied at all.  

I didn't think Virtanen was ready to make the team, and nothing has changed my mind.  Power forwards take a while to develop.  But I hate that stupid NHL-CHL transfer agreement.  19 years old players should be AHL eligible.  However, I'm extremely happy that McCann made the team (he's ready).  

Ben Hutton was an awesome surprise, and I think Baertschi has done alright, despite what WD thinks.

Radim Vrbata has been downright atrocious, experiencing a seemingly steep decline that looks permanent.  Yannick Weber has been awful too; I expected him to take a step forward this year, and instead he took a step back.  Hamhuis has played sub-par from what I expect of him, but I guess I expect too much.

Lastly, Bo Horvat has definitely struggled.  The advanced stats really seem to hate him.  However, I'm fine with this, because he's an investment in the future.  I really do see him being a beast.

Silver lining: This team has had a ridiculous number of 1 goal games and overtime games, many of which we have lost.  However, with a little more luck and a little more effort, many of those games could have easily been wins.  If this team pulls it together, they can definitely make the playoffs.

Moves to make: Trade Vrbata, but that isn't easy.  We need to pump Vrbata up and make him appealing, then dump him for picks/prospects when his value is high.  And as much as I really do like Chris Higgins, we don't have room for him when Prust returns (and next year we'll have Gaunce & Shink available).  We should be able to get a decent return for Higgins, who will provide serviceable depth for whichever playoff bound team grabs him (maybe the Habs again?).  Again, the Canucks need picks and prospects, especially defensive prospects.

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A few more losses than I expected, but I don't think anyone can truly say they're surprised about how we're playing during this transitional phase. We've got some very inexperienced rookies playing with some aging vets, and the players entering their prime years were never expected to put up top numbers. 

The biggest surprises (positive and negative) have all surrounded our D though. Tanev keeps on chuggin', Hutton has played above and beyond what most could have expected, Sbisa was playing better than what some credit him for, and Bartkowski has been a decent surprise skating wise and he isn't exactly a liability on the ice. I'd like to see more consistency out of Edler and Hamhuis, but Hammer is aging, and Edler, well, I'm not sure what his deal is. I just wish he would play every game like he did against LA in what, 2010? Beastly. 

I agree with Matt_T about Virtanen not necessarily being NHL ready, but I'd rather have him here than in the CHL. Until the AHL rules change, that's how I'll feel about all players in his position. It's not like he's getting his butt kicked out there, he just needs some more experience, which as of now happens to be at the best level possible. 

Vrbata is no surprise, you could see it in his body language at times last year after he was moved of the top line. It is a disappointment though that he hasn't contributed more, but he's had some chances and bad luck. I wonder if he'll request a trade.

Miller has played as expected: solid. Markstrom is showing his chops, although he had a tough loss tonight made a pile of saves to keep the team in the game for what is probably my biggest surprise:

another 1 goal loss. 



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I'm actually very surprised by Horvat's increased role on the team. He seems to be the go-to guy right now for every situation: PP, PK, babysits two rookies and the most defensive-zone draws of any Canucks center. I believe his production will spike during the second half of the season when he's more comfortable with his increased ice-time.

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If you consider the fact that our team is about half kids half veterans in a transition period and rebuild, I suppose 2nd best in the division isn't too bad.

However, the matter of the fact is that we're not ready to contend, we're supposed to be developing young players and teaching them good habits in the NHL and teaching them how to play the right way and win games. In that regard, we have failed.

Our team is borderline .500 right now, and the only reason our standings look so good is because we're in the weakest division in the NHL. Worse than anything else is the way we've lost games, and that cannot be good for a young players development - losing leads constantly over and over again, with zero clutch scoring or clutch efforts, and next to no leadership on this team.

It's one thing for the veterans like the Sedins, Burrows, Miller, Hamhuis and Edler to APPEAR to be teaching the rookies to play the right way, but it's another thing when they clearly do not produce on the ice. Coaching staff and the veterans simply haven't been a good enough role model for the kids IMO so far because they're pissing away leads and victories, and not scoring clutch goals or putting up clutch performances when they matter most. The work ethic has been there at times, and then completely absent at others. How are rookies supposed to learn from that? We need players who can play a full 60 minutes and teach the kids how to play right for an entire game, and that's just not happening so far.

From an individual-basis, here goes:

Sedins - fantastic offensively, far better than I expected. I though they'd be down to a 60 point pace if not lower but they look strong so far. Defensively is a whole other matter and I think they've taken a big step back in that regards. They look lazy out there and as if they're above playing defence. That's just the worst thing they can be showing the kids right now. They need a kick in their pants by the coaches because they have to be showing the kids how to play hard defensively as well.

Hansen - unbelievable so far. A workhorse defensively and scored clutch goals offensively. He's the sort of veteran the kids need.

Burrows - as above. Really gelling nicely with the young guys, Burr and Hansen are what this team need right now for the youth. Gritty scorers who give it their all and play hard defensively.

Sutter - I didn't expect him to be this good or this clutch either. Just as Hansen and Burrows have done, he's scored big goals, played hard defensive minutes and is a rock down the middle for us. You only notice how good he is when he's injured really, he's far better than Bonino and worth the 2nd + Clendening upgrade cost so far.

Baertschi - A bit inconsistent so far, when he's good he's very good but when he's invisible there's no point dressing him. I just think he's got a lot of untapped potential and WD isn't tapping it properly. He might be able to unleash it better on a more north-south high flying team like say Washington, but we need to find a way to play him better. Either with better linemates or a better on-ice strategy because the dump-and-chase doesn't work for him, or the cycle. Promising signs though.

Vbrata - our worst forward so far. This is the sort of veteran we DO NOT NEED right now. Lazy and poor positioning defensively, plays hard at times and shows out-bursts of skill but he's looking old and out of place this season. We can decide to be patient and hope he clicks but I don't think he will - we've got to move him along now.

Higgins - just like Hansen and Burrows, Higgins plays very hard and is a fantastic veteran to have on board.

Dorsett - similar to Hansen, Burrows and Higgins but not as offensively gifted. Still, he brings toughness that those guys above lack.

Prust - just like Dorsett, was one of our best forwards before he got injured. He, Dorsett and McCann were IMO our best line. That's how you integrate rookies and veterans, and they formed a brilliant line together. This team needs Dorsett and Prust in the lineup together. I was skeptical about the Kassian trade but Prust brings exactly what this team needs.

McCann - best wrist shot this team has seen in a while and the kids got some rediculous offensive hockey IQ. He's been a stud for us offensively, is scoring at a 20-30 goal pace so far despite getting 3rd and 4th line minutes with absolute plugs as linemates. He makes his linemates look better and although he'll need to bulk up physically over the Summer, he's held his own defensively too. McCann tracks back hard and plays a solid 200 foot game. Can't ask for much more from him, he's been a great 4th line center so far.

Cracknell - probably the best injury fill in we could have had from Utica so far, his puck handling skills and size are very underated and he's scored some big goals for us. Looked good positionally on the PK whenever he gets it and is a great 5th center to have. Again, can't ask for much more from Cracknell.

Virtanen - looked pretty decent for about 4 of his 9 first games, threw some big hits and was all over the ice but WD said it himself - it's hard to maintain that style of play for a kid over a longer period of time. Everyone knows I'm not a fan of drafting Virtanen let alone keeping him on board instead of sending him to junior and now we're seeing why. He is clearly not ready for the NHL and I have no idea why the boneheads in management and coaching decided to keep him on board. If they thought they could fast-track his development by keeping him on with McCann as opposed to sending him back to a crap Calgary team, looks like they'll be wrong. He's struggling out there, and I fear his development is about to regress a lot. Hopefully WD can fix this mess he's created by playing him with a veteran who can mentor him properly.

Gaunce - brilliant two games played, nice goal from in front of the net. That big body and net presence is something the Canucks lack and I think we need to see more of Gaunce to be honest. I'd take Gaunce in our bottom-6 over Virtanen any day.

Shinkaruk - played a very safe game against Montreal, was far too nervous it seemed and couldn't generate much offence due to the style of play the coaches wanted. He was dumping a lot of pucks that he could have skated on with. I'd like to see him in another game but no early returns.

Edler - he's been up-and-down this season, shutdown some real stars and then the gaffs worked their way into his game in the last road trip. His offence has been surprisingly good though and his shot is looking a lot better, but he hasn't played very physically this season and is starting to make mistakes. Looks like even Edler might be fatigued or playing a bit injured, or just not good enough to be a #1 defenceman in this league anymore (he is getting old).

Tanev - just like Edler, not as stable as he has been before but he's a workhorse for this team who has been our stable defensive defenceman all season long. We really missed his short absence.

Hamhuis - looking a lot slower out there defensively but positioning-wise he's probably the best on this team. Not much physicality, his passing's a bit off and his skating's really regressed from last season but he fills an important 20+ minutes still and is hopefully a good leader on this blueline.

Weber - played fantastically I thought in his first 3 or 4 games of the season, really started to make me reconsider my thoughts on Weber, and then his true form came about. He's one of our worst +/- players and for good reason - he is far too weak physically to be in this league let alone in the West. Weber has been bounced off pucks in the defensive zone and gets bullied in front of the net. He just can't handle forwards in his own zone and is terrible defensively. Offensively, he hasn't contributed a whole lot. Skating looks great but his shot isn't doing enough this season to cover up his terrible defensive play.

Sbisa - from what I remember he was relatively stable defensively this season and played a lot meaner and more physically which is what this team needs after losing Bieksa. We need a physical presence on our blueline and for a 5th defenceman Sbisa is perfect.

Bartkowski - his play has improved over the last few games (opposite to Weber) and is looking a lot better skating and getting out of his own zone, but his game discombobulates when the pressure rises. That's when he makes mistakes and gets caught out of position. Still, he's racking up assists on some nice passes up the ice but just like Weber, I don't think he's strong enough to contend with the bigger forwards in this West (although he's a bit better than Weber in that regard).

Hutton - the definition of a two-edged sword. He's been our best defenceman at eluding the pressure and getting the puck out of our own zone so far this season, and has been making some lovely passes up the ice. His shot almost always finds its way through and his offensive abilities are probably second to none on this Canucks blueline. However, his real troubles are just like Bartkowski - positioning in the defensive zone and timing. Of course he's a rookie and he'll learn timing, but he's been off a few times defensively. I just hope he can get the opportunity to play with Tanev at some point on the right side because he'd be a perfect partner for him.

Miller - one of the best goalies to start the season in the NHL, then WD works him into the ground. Sure Markstrom was injured but I'd rather play Bachman for a couple of nights to give Miller a rest than what we just did, which was absolutely fatigue him. Now we've got a fatigued number 1 goalie with shattered confidence and a rusty Markstrom. Hopefully Miller gets a bit more rest now and can get back to that top form like at the start of the season when he was our clear MVP.

Markstrom - looked good at times but he's letting in bad goals, just like that game tying goal and game winner against Montreal. He'll get more games but to be fair you can't expect him to steal games for us when he's getting faced with A-grade scoring chances time and time again. This defence is nowhere near good enough to bail Markstrom out and that's what he really needs to break into this league.

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We are playing young guys (5 rookies so far this year plus Horvat), and we are in the mix for a playoff spot.

It is better than I thought (mainly because of Anaheim being atrocious and not any particular merit of our own), but pretty much exactly what Linden and Benning said would happen.

I am not sure how folks can be upset, the young guys are being given chances and probably even getting more minutes than they can handle at this point in their development.  It is a fine line between giving them experience and feeding them to the wolves to fail miserably.  If you are clamoring to play more kids, I don't know that we have any more left in the system anywhere near ready.  Shinkaruk and Gaunce make perfect injury call ups to get experience.

When you play young guys, you get inconsistent results.  Baertschi is going the way of Vey, but Hutton has probably been our 2nd best defenceman (behind Tanev who up until late last year I would have called expendable because his style of play is so similar to Hamhuis).

MCann is here for the season, Virtanen will almost certainly be loaned out to the Canadian Junior team unless something in his game evolves drastically between now and then (or we have a wicked lot of injuries).  It is not even impossible that he gets loaned out and we bring Gaunce in for an extended look as a replacement.

Horvat isn't terrible, I wouldn't quite call it a sophomore slump... but he has some room to get back to his form of late last season.

Really, if you get a little more production from our veterans which will certainly come at some point, we are at the top of the division.  Even if Vrbata had 2-4 more goals we would have won an extra couple games.

The Sedins look to be on pace for the 70-80 points you could expect from them.

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ok I'll bite

Who's the best player so far? Hansen. Only one who's brought it consistently.

Who's the worst player so far?  Weber. He looked promising last season before the playoffs, and I'd hoped that was an aberration.

What's been the best surprise so far?  McCann+Hutton. Don't even look like rooks already.

What's been the worst surprise?  Hamhuis. I know he's past his prime, but he's falling hard.

What was the best game of the year so far?  Capitals. Only game we've played where the opponent was a true contender firing on all cylinders, and we stood tall.

What was the worst game of the year so far?  Kings. They were off to a slow start and we owned them. It was fun at the time but might have inflated some heads.


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Who's the best player so far? Hansen/Sutter Both have played really well all year

Who's the worst player so far? Weber, no questions asked.

What's been the best surprise so far? Hutton/Mccann

What's been the worst surprise? Vrbata

What was the best game of the year so far? 5-1 win over mtl

What was the worst game of the year so far? Buffalo loss

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If I look at:

The standings. 

The player turnover from last season.


Our overall play

I am satisfied, and borderline impressed. we are competitive every night. Soon the bounces will start to go our way and we will rise. Every single season we get into one of these mini slumps and all of you react exactly the same. It is like clockwork. 


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About where I expected to be in the win/loss column.

Lucky for us the division really  sucks.

As expected the most glaringly bad part of the lineup is the d-corps.

But it is very frustrating to have squandered so many points and to have such lousy special teams. Fix those things and we would be comfortably in first in the division.

The trials of a Canucks fan.


At least we have some decent youth to look forward to.
Really loving Hutton.

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Nice to see that the NHL has the loser points otherwise we as fans will be calling for the head of WD and focusing on getting a high draft pick next year.

20 games and 20 points, about a point a game, no reason to panic at this point.  If this trend continues, they would get 82 points at the end of the season which of course is not enough for the playoffs (or barely squeaking in considering how the conference is weak). 

I'm sure they will make some moves and hopefully go on a tear towards the end of the season. (It's not how you start but how you finish)

I hope they will be like the Kings back in 2011-12 season where they got hot at the right time and won the Cup despite finishing in the 8th seed.  Post season is a totally new ball game compared to the regular season.  The main objective is getting there during the regular season while in the post season, it's all about strategy as the two head to head teams get a feel for each other.  (Also beneficial for the Canucks in the event it does go to OT as there is no 3 on 3)

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I'm a bit concerned that we have let, what 6, games get away from us? And our record in OT / shootouts.

So I have questions about Willie. When we had AV we practically never lost a lead. That goes to effectively controlling match ups from the bench; teams strengths and weaknesses. WD is just not as sharp in that regard. But my observations here are not all bad. I expected to have some inconsistencies because we have so many young players in the line up. As long as the young guys develop, and Willie is a development coach as far as I am concerned, not here to win a championship, I'll be fine. I'll reserve judgement till I see how Jake, Ben & Jared, possibly others are doing later in the season.. For now Willie gets neither a pass or fail; but what I call a leave alone and observe?

Hutton is welcomingly, the biggest surprise. He really helps our D line. He needs work, not in fallible. He got walked outside by Fleischmann for the game tying goal the other night. But brings a breath of needed skills! McCann is barely a whisper behind and poised to be the better surprise possibly? Happy to have both!

Weber has been the biggest disappointment. Not surprise, cough, I did not expect much from him.

Hank remains our best player & continues to earn my respect!

I have been happy with Millers play. Excited by Markstroms.

Vrbata, pooey.

Hamhuis gets too much whipping. He's fine.

Jake is exactly what I expected, and I'm fine with him.

Tanev is a surprise! He is bigger and stronger. His skating and steely nerve is what it always has been. But he now has some of the physicque to battle more effectively and it shows! I doubted this would happen earlier in his career (get stronger) so I take my hat off to him!

Sbisa has proven, by being out, that he brought something we needed. Prust, I was wrong again there, does as well. We're not closing out games without their physicality to battle and handle match ups. Both are thumbs up plusses from me.

Hansen and Burrows have illustrated why they are still Canucks.

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Who's the best player so far?  Ben Hutton/Jannik Hansen

Who's the worst player so far? Dan Hamhuis/Radim Vrbata...just awful

What's been the best surprise so far? Ben Hutton

What's been the worst surprise? Edler/Hamhuis

What was the best game of the year so far? Montreal win

What was the worst game of the year so far? Montreal loss

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too many blown leads.

can even win an OT game. Imagine if they are .500 3 on 3? They would be leading comfortably in this anemic division.

D got worse than I expected after Sbisa got injured. The vets like Edler and Hamhuis aren't doing well enough. Hutton was a surprise, but he isn't Jack Eieckle.

with a healthy roster, this team might able to make playoffs. Need grit from Prust, Sbisa, and playmaking/faceoff from Sutter. BO struggling with faceoffs, and that makes PK worse.

special team is the weakest link, PP gives up chances more than it creates. PK dropped on the road trip to below average. Can't win without decent special teams.

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Best Player: This is tough for me. I think it's a toss up between Miller, Hansen, Burrows, and Sutter. Miller has been really solid for the team, despite him going through what looks like fatigue, in addition to being hung to dry by the defense. Hansen, Burrows, and Sutter have been clutch and bring a lot to the table. I love their grit, and defensive prowess, and their ability to produce behind the Sedins. 

Worst Player: Weber. He's got a good shot from the point, but with him in the line up, he's really making me miss Sbisa's toughness and grit. 

Best surprise: Hutton and McCann. Both have started their rookie seasons with a bang, and bring a lot of value to the team.

Worst surprise: Vrbata and Hamhuis. Hammer started looking better during the last Habs game, but age is definitely starting to catch up with him. Not sure what's going on with Vrbata, but he needs to starting potting his shots home for him to be of any value to the team.

Best game: I enjoyed the first Calgary game, where everything looked like it clicked from the get go.

Worst game: The Maple Leafs game. That was the first game I saw this year where I got incredibly upset by a combination of terrible plays and terrible calls. A much deserved and frustrating loss.

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