Daniel Wagner Responds to Ritch Winter’s Response

At the beginning of the month, I wrote a post regarding the source of the complaints over Cody Hodgson’s ice time. I advanced the theory that the source may well be Ritch Winter, Hodgson’s agent who may have spoken to Tony Gallagher, who then ran with the comments on the radio and in The Province. It was speculative, certainly, but I felt there was enough circumstantial evidence to ask the question.

What I didn’t expect was for Ritch Winter himself to write a 6400 word blog post a month later in response.

Mr. Winter did not take kindly to my conjecture and used it as a springboard for discussing the issues with hockey journalism as a whole. In the process, he touched on Ayn Rand, Ben Franklin, Thomas Paine, President Obama, the Tea Party, and Moneyball. It’s a long read, but an interesting one.

To be honest, he makes a very good point about me and the article I wrote. Unfortunately, he then proceeds to miss that point.

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Did Cody Hodgson take Manny Malhotra’s job? Mark Spector thinks so; Jonathan Willis does not

If you’ve been following this blog for awhile, you’ve likely figured out by now that Daniel is far more of an advanced stats guy than I am. That said, while I may not be a massive fan of tables and math, I’m still of the mind that it’s absolutely vital to pay attention to a few of the underlying numbers, especially in regards to the Canucks. Otherwise, you run the risk of coming to some spotty conclusions.

If you’re not following Alain Vigneault’s deployment strategies, for instance, you’re simply not getting the full picture. No NHL head coach pays more attention to zone starts, and it informs every aspect of his players’ statistical production. In Manny Malhotra’s case especially, if you understand his role, you’ll discover that his scoring and plus/minus stats border on completely irrelevant.

If you were only looking at Malhotra’s basic numbers, it would be reasonable to make the conclusion that Sportnet’s Mark Spector made on Friday, when he wrote the following:

“You have to believe GM Mike Gillis would move Manny Malhotra, whose job has been claimed by Cody Hodgson. But with 13 points and a minus-7 this season, we are sad to come to the accepted conclusion that Malhotra’s game has simply not returned in whole after the serious eye injury he suffered last season.”

While there are elements of this paragraph with which I agree (I’ll get to that), there are also elements that show a misunderstanding of how Hodgson and Malhotra are deployed.

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Video: Five minutes of Jim Hughson freaking out over Roberto Luongo saves

Jim Hughson can get a bad rap out East, what for a seeming proclivity towards Vancouver, but if you share that proclivity, he’s pretty enjoyable. Say what you will about his passion for Hockey Night in Canada’s fiftieth consecutive Battle of Ontatio; Hughson is at his best when he calls the Canucks and few complain when CBC taps him to do so.

Some of his finest calls come after Roberto Luongo makes a big save. Immediately followed by “Great save Luongo!” or “Oh what a stop by Luongo!”, it’s typically a highlight of the telecast (provided you can overlook the fact that the desperation stop was likely necessitated by a massive defensive lapse).

With that in mind, Youtuber HockeyFans101 has created this five-minute video. What separates it from other highlight videos? It isn’t just full of amazing Roberto Luongo saves — it’s full of Jim Hughson calling them.

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Canucks-centric highlights of the 2012 NHL All-Star Game

The 2012 NHL All-Star Game might have been a letdown if you were expecting playoff intensity, but for everyone who went in expecting a fun game of shinny featuring some incredibly talented hockey players, the game completely lived up to expectations.

For Canucks fans, there were a number of highlights, with Daniel and Henrik Sedin playing a major role up front, while Alex Edler was second in icetime for Team Alfredsson and third overall in the game.

Henrik tied Daniel Alfredsson’s team-high with 3 points, while Daniel (Sedin, that is) had two points of his own. And, while Edler was held off the scoresheet, he did tie Scott Hartnell and Shea Weber with a team-high plus-2 rating in a game Team Alfredsson lost by 3 goals.

Check out the highlights after the jump.

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The Vancouver Wellwoods need a sponsor; it should probably be you

For the uninitiated, the Vancouver Wellwoods are PITB’s official women’s road hockey team (what, your blog doesn’t have one?). We’ve been boosting them since last January, when we discovered that we share a mutual affinity for Kyle Wellwood, as well as a mutual disdain for training.

They blogged for us from last year’s Redwood Cup (where they finished as the runners-up), they’ve entertained us with videos, we played a street hockey game as last year’s Five Hole For Food event in Vancouver, and they’ve even gifted us a couple of those baby blue t-shirts with the inverted McDonald’s logo and the tiny heart.

They are our pals. And now they need new jerseys.

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Video: Joey the Junior Reporter talks to the Sedins (and others who we totally don’t care about)

Along with the 54 all-stars and rookies in Ottawa this weekend, a whole host of members of the media descended on the nation’s capital to cover the festivities. One of them, however, is significantly more adorable than the rest. As cute as Bob McKenzie is, that reporter was undoubtedly Joey the Junior Reporter.

In case you’re not familiar with the Chicago whiz kid, he got his start at the age of 5, asking the Blackhawks the truly tough questions, like “Who’s da biggest turkey on da team?” and “How much money didja get from da toof fairy?” of Duncan Keith.

Most impressively, the 5-year-old had been a Blackhawks fan for 6 years at the time.

Now, with over a year of experience under his belt, Joey has taken his act on the road and briefly chatted with the Sedin twins during the All-Star media day. Check it out.

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How to fabricate a successful Canucks trade rumour

With only a month to go until the 2012 NHL trade deadline, you can expect to come across a ton of absurd Canuck-related trade rumours in the next 30 days. Anywhere from most to all of these rumours will not come true. This is because the majority are fabricated by people with no more inside information than you have. They have absolutely no source, and they derive their rumours from either sheer fabrication, simple logic, or an uneasy marriage of both. The best of these rumours are then disseminated as possibilities. Fabricating a Canucks’ trade rumour only takes a few minutes, and if done correctly, can provide untold amusement.

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Alex Edler will not be in the Hardest Shot contest, let’s all be outraged

Theodore Roosevelt once said, “Speak softly and carry a big stick.” While I have no proof of it, it seems like Alex Edler has taken Roosevelt’s philosophy on foreign policy as his own personal philosophy. Alex Edler is quiet, humble, and reserved, but also has a massive slap shot from the point.

Edler is a three-time winner of the hardest shot competition at Canucks Superskills, and topped out the radar gun at 103 mph in 2009. Which makes Daniel Alredsson’s decision not to use Edler in the Hardest Shot competition at this year’s All-Star Game absolutely baffling.

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Drance Numbers: Does Mike Gillis think Travis Moen can suppress shooting percentage?

Since the Canucks’ defeat in the Stanley Cup Finals at the hands of the rough and tumble Boston Bruins, the acquisition of size and grit has become an obsession within the Canucks fanbase. (Obsession might even be under-selling it; the word “fetish” may well be more accurate). According to many, the team needs more of both, especially in the bottom six.

To this end, Travis Moen, who made up one third of the best checking line in recent memory alongside Rob Niedermayer and Sami Pahlsson on the 2007 Cup-winning Anaheim Ducks, has become a favoured object of desire for fans of the team.

Yesterday morning on the team 1040, TSN’s Pierre Lebrun indicated that the Canucks were likely to take a long, hard look at the winger, now with the Montreal Canadiens. “When I look at the Canucks,” Lebrun said, “I think they’d like to add some grit in their bottom-six forward group. I look at a guy like Travis Moen… that’s the kind of guy they have their eye on. He’s a UFA July 1, so he’s your typical rental. A lot of teams like him. But I think Vancouver will be in that mix.”

Canuck fans got excited. As I’ve taken to saying, the Vancouver fanbase at the moment has a raging collective Moener.

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Midseason report card: PITB grades the Canucks

With the Canucks’ 2011-12 season more than half over, it’s time for some midseason report cards. Who passes? Who fails? (Hint: nobody fails. We have a strict “no player left behind” policy.)

Full disclosure: We don’t really like giving the players grades. It’s not that We’re hippy liberals that subscribe to a no-grades, let-the-students-teach-the-teachers model of education. We just think it’s silly to grade the players when they all have such different roles and skillsets. How can you possibly judge Dale Weise and Daniel Sedin on the same curve? You can’t.

But this post was requested by superiors, and we at PITB are acquiescent to a fault.

These grades are therefore based on our observations both of what players are capable of overall and of how close they’ve come to that this year. There are, therefore, a lot of subjective assumptions, so please bear that in mind when spewing your rage-filled disagreement in the comments.

Finally, just as in school, grades range from A to F (with E conspicuously absent from a system that rates a students’ knowledge of the alphabet). But, unlike grade school (and perhaps in homage to advanced statisticians), there are no pluses or minuses in our system. You simply get an A if you were excellent, a B if you were good, a C if you were average, a D if you were poor, and an F if you fail.

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Edler and the Sedins join Team Sweden at the NHL All-Star Game

A Canuck didn’t get picked until Round 9 and, unsurprisingly, he wasn’t picked by Zdeno Chara. Daniel Sedin, the defending Art Ross winner and 9th in scoring this season, was the 18th pick of the draft. Including the Captains and Alternates, Daniel was the 22nd player to join one of the All-Star teams.

If that seems odd, his brother Henrik is higher in league scoring and went 8 picks later in the 13th round, also to Team Alfredsson. Despite getting picked later than his brother, he managed to chip in a Grade-A chirp when asked about playing against his brother in the last All-Star Game: “It was nice to play with some good players last year, finally.”
Alex Edler, fifth in scoring amongst defencemen, was the last blueliner picked in the draft, having to wait until round 15 before getting picked by – surprise, surprise – Daniel Alfredsson.

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Don’t forget about Steven Reinprecht

One of the most amusing moments of this week’s two-game set between the Abbotsford Heat and the Canucks’ affiliate Chicago Wolves came Wednesday night, during the announcement of Jordan Schroeder’s 3-0 goal. As soon as Schroeder’s name came over the loud speakers, the crowd popped like he was a wrestler preening at the turnbuckle. It was a cheer that far exceeded the one Wolves’ forward Steven Reinprecht received on any the four goals he scored during the visit.

It’s not surprising. Safe to say nobody — except, perhaps, any family he has in the area — came to the Abbotsford Entertainment and Sports Centre to see Reinprecht. But he was impossible to miss this week.

Again, Reinprecht scored four goals during the visit: two in the first period Tuesday, and another two in the second period Wednesday, doubling his goal total on the season. (When told he might have established himself as a scorer, Reinprecht joked, “That doesn’t bode very well for what I had going.”) While the Canucks’ brass made the short jaunt East to see what their future looked like, Reinprecht seemed determined to remind them that he was a viable option right now.

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Hear Jannik Hansen’s hilarious reaction to Pamela Anderson visiting the Canucks’ dressing room

A week ago, we shared with you Jannik Hansen’s unique response to spotting Gene Simmons at the glass during a warmup skate, when the Danish winger went full honey badger, ignoring all manner of decorum and asking the KISS frontman to sign his stick then and there. It was in keeping with what we’ve come to learn about Hansen over this season and last: that dude don’t care. If he sees something he wants, be it a puck or an autograph or a plate of delicious cheeseburgers (speculation), he’s simply going to take it.

That in mind, can you imagine Hansen’s reaction if he had known local legend Pamela Anderson was at Tuesday night’s game? He wouldn’t have just approached her for an autograph; he’d have leaped into the stands mid-shift, thrown her over his shoulder and climbed into the rafters. Unfortunately for Hansen, he didn’t learn about Anderson’s visit — not only to the game but to the Canucks dressing room — until it was too late.

But his reaction was still money. Here it is, courtesy our pals at the Team 1040.

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Let’s get Cory Schneider to speak more often

While Cory Schneider and Roberto Luongo have been putting up eerily identical numbers for a while now, it’s no secret to Canuck fans that one of the major differences between the two netminders is that Schneider is an ace with it comes to media dealings. Where Luongo resorts to ill-timed gallows humour and can occasionally get himself into trouble by misspeaking or underplaying his sarcasm (not to mention making some genuinely creepy faces), Schneider is well- and soft-spoken, and he makes his points clearly and intelligently.

That in mind, I was ecstatic when I heard that Luongo had made the exceedingly wise choice to plead the fifth when asked about Tim Thomas’s decision to opt out of the Boston Bruins’ White House visit, and I was pleased as punch when I learned that Schneider, on the other hand, had not.

Sure enough, Frecklesnoot had some intelligent things to say (and if you want an example of how correct he came, consider that the Globe’s Eric Wilbur also gnashed his teeth and agreed with the Canuck backup). So what did he say?

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Canucks for Kids Fund helps launch Mindcheck.ca in memory of Rick Rypien

One of the main reasons I appreciate the Vancouver Canucks so much is the work they do in the community. Whether it’s large donations like those made by the Sedin twins to BC Children’s hospital or helping to build a playground at a school in Burnaby, the Canucks are constantly and personally involved in charity work around the city of Vancouver and province of British Columbia.

On Tuesday, the team announced that the Canucks for Kids Fund (CFKF) is helping to launch Mindcheck.ca, a resource website to increase awareness and understanding of mental illness. The website will be part of the legacy of Rick Rypien, who passed away last August after a long struggle with depression.

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I Watched This Game: Canucks vs Edmonton Oilers, January 24, 2012

Last game before the All-Star break. Opponent from the basement of the conference. A busy schedule of community outreach. There were a number of reasons why the Canucks could have been distracted from playing hockey on Tuesday night, but the team seemed entirely focussed on taking care of business.

Far more focussed than I, at least. Through the haze of a nagging cold, I watched this game.

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Is this Sami Salo’s final season?

After Sami Salo successfully defended his hardest shot title at Canucks Superskills on Sunday, there was some confusion over just what he said to Dan Murphy in the ensuing interview. “Alex Edler has won this event the last couple of times,” Murphy asked, “Did you feel it was time to take it back?”

“I think he gave it back,” Salo said, smiling. “My career is ending, so he wanted to make me feel good.”

Salo’s words raised a number of eyebrows. Did he just announce his retirement?

Yes and no. No, he didn’t retire then and there, and Salo reiterated and softened the quote after the event, telling the media, “Alex knows I’m close to the end of my career so I think he gave it to me.” In short, this wasn’t an official announcement of any sort, especially since Salo’s healthy and will be in the lineup for Tuesday night’s tilt with the Edmonton Oilers.

However, it was a hint that this will more than likely be Salo’s last year in the NHL, something that can hardly be a secret inside the room. When it comes to the 2011-12 season, make no mistake: this one’s for Sami.

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Should Cody Hodgson be on the first unit powerplay?

The Vancouver Canucks have the best powerplay in the NHL, but you wouldn’t know it from their last 15 games. The Canucks have gone 9-for-55 in that span for a percentage of 16.4%. That’s including the game against Boston when they went 4-for-11. Take that game out of the equation and you get some ugly-looking math.

While Sami Salo’s injury against Boston hasn’t helped, the Canucks powerplay was struggling even before he got injured. While his victory in the hardest shot competition in the Canucks Superskills on Sunday may be an indication that Salo is close to returning to the lineup, the Canucks need to consider all options to fix the ailing powerplay.

One of those options should be promoting Cody Hodgson to the first unit.

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Manny Malhotra just got Baby Keslurked

Team Blue edged Team White 14-10 at the Canucks for Kids Fund’s annual Super Skills event Sunday, with Keith Ballard winning the fastest skater, Sami Salo defending his hardest shot title, and Alex Burrows claiming the accuracy competition. But, more important than the victors in the individuals events was that the afternoon also yielded the latest, greatest Keslurk.

Manny Malhotra is the victim this time, bombed during an interview with Sportsnet’s Dan Murphy after one of the events. While the two chat, Kesler sneaks in behind them for the Keslurk. But, in a nifty new twist, the Kesler bombing the interview isn’t Ryan — it’s his one-year-old son Ryker. Bear witness to baby’s first Keslurk.

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I Find This Photo Odd: Kevin Bieksa is a big blowhard

Last postseason, Kevin Bieksa caught flack for dropping the gloves with San Jose Sharks’ forward Patrick Marleau. Sure, Marleau initiated the fight in an ill-advised attempt to showcase his toughness and recently-questioned guts, but the mismatch was so evident that Bieksa was criticized just for acquiescing the request.

In retrospect, it was even more of a mismatch than we thought. As it turns out, Bieksa doesn’t even need to throw punches to knock Marleau off his feet. He can do it with little more than a mighty exhalation.

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I Watched This Game: Canucks vs San Jose Sharks, January 21, 2012

It’s amazing what a three-day break between games will do for a hockey team. For the first time in a while, the Canucks actually looked fresh to start the game. At even-strength, the Canucks dominated possession and out-scored the Sharks 4-1. Unfortunately, the referees called some penalties and Logan Couture plays for the Sharks, scoring a shorthanded and a powerplay goal to keep the game close.

The Canucks at even-strength and special teams were like two different teams playing two different games. I watched both of them when I watched this game.

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Kevin Bieksa’s custom mad lib on his life story, milk hot dogs and his animal nickname

There are plenty of reasons why the opposition might dislike Kevin Bieksa (the photo above, for instance, depicts him taunting the TD Garden crowd after the Canucks’ recent win in Boston), but for local bloggers like ourselves, he’s a godsend.

From his decision to join Twitter (as per our campaign) to the milk hot dogs thing to the disclosure of the Canucks’ grand and hallowed tradition of animal nicknames, Juice has been feeding us gold all year long, and during a slow news cycle like the one we’re currently experiencing, Bieksa’s contributions are even more appreciated.

Our pal Derek Jory recently played Alex Haley to Bieksa’s Malcolm X, collaborating on a custom mad lib that provides insight into many of Bieksa’s running gags, as well as valuable hockey advice (“Wear a jock, but never pee in it”) and thought-provoking handshake safety questions (“With so many diseases, should we adopt the ‘head bow’?”). Be sure to Read Bieksa’s full mad lib at Canucks.com, but let’s take a look at some of the highlights.

Here’s Bieksa and Jory on milk hot dogs (which 2012 is apparently the year of):

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Drance Numbers: Chris Tanev’s demonic possession

Drance Numbers is the silly research wing of PITB. While Messrs. Wagner and Mooney blog nationally and solve mysteries, Drance Numbers will look into the minutiae of quantifiable NHL data and bore you with it every Friday. Today, Drance looks at Chris Tanev’s legion-like possession skills.

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Manny Malhotra takes the shortest shifts in the NHL

Few seem to understand the value that Manny Malhotra brings to the Canucks. The Vancouver Sun’s own Fan Attic, for instance, recently argued that Malhotra is paid too much for his role as a fourth-line centre, noting his lack of point production, his minus-6 plus/minus, and his lack of hits.

Unfortunately, this fails to really account for what Malhotra contributes to the Canucks. He is certainly being paid more than the average fourth-line centre, but this is because he isn’t an average fourth-line centre. The way that he is used on the ice is essentially unprecedented in the NHL and is a key reason the Canucks are successful as a team.

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Hardcore Fans: Super adorable toddler likes Canucks, does not like Bruins

There comes an age when children are old enough to make up their minds about which sports teams they like and which teams they don’t. Prior to that age, however, they simply repeat what they’re told by the grown-ups around them. As an example, I present to you this video, in which hardcore fan Isaac uses his babysitting time with toddler Sarah to ensure that she is appropriately pro-Canucks and anti-Bruins.

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