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.

FORWARDS

Manny Malhotra – C

Malhotra’s not scoring like last year, but it doesn’t quite seem fair to blame him. Last season, he was the third line checking centre. This season, Cody Hodgson has bumped Manny to the fourth line, where he starts nearly every shift in the defensive zone and is relied on to do little more than win the faceoff, take the puck past the red line, and get off the ice. But his faceoff win rate is down ever-so-slightly, and that’s unforgivable.

Alex Burrows – A

Through 47 games, Burrows has 32 points, 18 of which are goals. He’s playing in all situations, he’s staying out of trouble, and he hasn’t bitten a guy, speared a groin or grabbed a chunk of hair all year. Progress.

Daniel Sedin – B

The reigning scoring champion and players’ MVP gets a B for simply being ho-hum excellent. Oh, he’s eighth in NHL scoring? Yawn. Why not first? We know he’s capable of it. And if you ask me, he hasn’t done enough to distinguish himself from his brother.

Henrik Sedin – B

Surprise, surprise, Henrik gets the same grade as his brother. In case you hadn’t noticed, they’re very similar.

Jannik Hansen – B

Hansen has taken something of a step back in terms of his physicality, but he’s scoring more, so it balances out. “B” is for “Balance.”

David Booth – B

“B” is for “Booth.” I don’t have much else to go on. He hasn’t been here that long and he missed a month of action, so it’s hard to get a read on him. Here’s what we know for sure: He shoots from anywhere, and like a death in the first act, he drives the play forward. He also has the best hair on the team.

Andrew Ebbett – C

The “C” stands for collarbone, which was broken in Boston. Here’s to a speedy recovery.

Mason Raymond – C

The good news: Raymond’s broken back hasn’t changed his playing style at all. The bad news: that means all the same criticisms apply. Raymond has speed and he can stickhandle remarkably, but, like a man that hates yoga, he also tends to disappear for long stretches.

Chris Higgins – A

Apart from a brief period in which he was made sluggish by anti-infection antibiotics (dude got bit by a zombie), the man we call “Kiss Huggins” has been the Canucks’ go-to energy guy all season. Also, the “A” stands for “Abs.”

Ryan Kesler – C

Few would argue that Kes didn’t rush his return from surgery, and he’s struggled from the outset as a result. But don’t get down on him just because he’s not scoring. Get down on him because he set the bar so high last year.

Aaron Volpatti – D

Volpatti scored his only goal of the year and threw out his shoulder in the same game, so those two things cancel each other out.

Cody Hodgson – A

When was the last time the Canucks boasted a top 5 NHL rookie forward like Hodgson? Trevor Linden? Pavel Bure? Petr Nedved? Okay, Nedved kills the point a bit, but Hodgson has proven that he’s a special talent.

Maxim Lapierre – B

Anyone unhappy with Lapierre’s play is crazy. Not only has he been excellent defensively and chipped in with a few goals here and there, but he’s even shown a newfound willingness to drop the gloves. Granted, he doesn’t win a lot of fights, but considering his strategy is curling into a ball and screaming “Not the face!”, you could argue he’s also had very few outright losses.

Dale Weise – B

Weise has his detractors, but if you remember that this is his rookie season, he’s been fantastic. He’s chipped in a few goals and, unlike previous fourth liners, He’s not a defensive liability. Sure, he doesn’t win a lot of fights, but he wasn’t claimed off waivers to win fights. He was claimed so there was an excuse to demote Victor Oreskovich, and he’s filled that role to a T.

DEFENCE

Kevin Bieksa – A

His erratic play sometimes drives fans bonkers, but Bieksa also drives possession better than anyone else on the backend. Though he always draws the opposition’s toughest assignment, he’s still on pace to record 40 points for the first time since 2009. Plus he’s the team’s best quote, and in the media, that gets you a pass.

Aaron Rome – B

Unsurprisingly, the goals he was scoring in bunches in November have dried up, but Rome has never been the guy counted on to produce offense from the back-end. He has, however, been as reliable and steady as expected, with the exception of his tendency to break his hands. Knock it off, Rome. “B” is for “Brittle bones”.

Alexander Edler – A

“A” is for All-Star, as Edler is the first Canucks defenceman to go to the All-Star game since Ed Jovanovski. He is in the top-five in scoring among defenceman and is on-pace for a career-high 57 points. It’s hard to miss Christian Ehrhoff when Edler has twice as many points.

Keith Ballard – C

It’s hard to separate what we’ve observed of Keith Ballard’s skillset from what his contract indicate, but by either metric, he hasn’t been good enough. Ballard hasn’t scored since opening night, and he still can’t crack the top-4, primarily because, like the bakery two blocks from my house, he can always be counted on for one good turnover. But he’s the best bottom pairing defenseman in the league, right?

Dan Hamhuis – A

Hamhuis is the heart of the Canucks defensive corps. Not only does he limit more scoring opportunities than a chastity belt, but he has capitalized on his increase in power-play usage and is providing more offense this season. And yet, he’s hardly noticeable.

Andrew Alberts – B

Alberts finds himself the odd man out at the moment, but he’s quietly having his best season as a Canuck. His short-handed effectiveness is severely under-rated, and his ability to separate opponents from pucks has reared its head more often this year than in the past. Also, he’s partnered surprisingly well with Keith Ballard, and their success together allowed the Canucks to weather Sami Salo’s injury without taking too much of a hit in the standings.

Sami Salo – A

Before going down with a concussion, Sami Salo had been the most consistent Canucks defenseman. He’s the rock on Edler’s right-side, and his presence helps allow the gifted Swede to freelance on the offensive side of the puck. Salo is still on pace to score 10 goals for the first time in five seasons, and you’ve got to give the guy credit: this season, it took a dirty hit to injure him. In past seasons, certain sea breezes did the trick.

Alex Sulzer – C

He’s hardly stood out and I’d wager that many of you have no idea he even plays for the Canucks. As a defenceman, sometimes that’s good, though, right? When he has been noticeable, however, it’s been for the wrong reasons.

GOALIES

Cory Schneider – B

Discounting October, Schneider has been just as good as Luongo this season. Counting October, he’s been better, and picked up the win in an emotional game against the Bruins. He’s 6th in the league in save percentage, but he has faced easier competition overall.

Roberto Luongo – B

After a typically terrible October, Luongo has been solid enough to dismiss all talk of a goalie controversy in Vancouver, which is in and of itself an impressive accomplishment. He’s still a ways away from the league’s best, but he’s been as good as he’s needed to be.

 

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25 comments

  1. Zach Morris
    January 27, 2012

    Pass It To Bulis: A

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    Rating: +54 (from 54 votes)
    • Zach Morris
      January 27, 2012

      Despite talk of a blogtroversy and doing some other stuff in their free time (like having children and associate editor-ing a huge hockey blog), the minds behind Pass It To Bulis have so far kept up their blog’s unreasonably high daily amounts of Canucks content. More reliable than Dan Hamhuis, wittier than Kevin Bieksa and more even-keeled than Cory Schneider, Pass It To Bulis is clearly the hockey blogosphere’s MVP.

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      Rating: +67 (from 67 votes)
  2. J21
    January 27, 2012

    “When was the last time the Canucks boasted a top 5 NHL rookie like Hodgson?” Do you mean “like Hodgson” as in “bearing some kind of similarity to Hodgson”, or as in “in the same way that Hodgson is a top-5 rookie”?

    If the latter, it’s Mattias Öhlund, who was a Calder Trophy runner-up. If the former, I guess you’d have to go back to Trevor Linden, but make the supporting cast he had to work with about a thousand times better such that he’s not immediately the go-to guy on a pretty terrible club.

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    Rating: +8 (from 10 votes)
    • typical average canucks fan
      January 27, 2012

      i don’t know who trevor or mattias are, but if they played for the canucks they must be awesome.
      NUCKS FOR THE CUP 2012!!!!!!!!!11

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      Rating: +6 (from 8 votes)
  3. Gabrielle
    January 27, 2012

    I’m glad you gave kudos to Andrew Alberts, he has been good. Remember when he first arrived in Vancouver, how much we hated him? He’s redeemed himself hugely.

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    Rating: +12 (from 12 votes)
    • Amor de Cosmos
      January 27, 2012

      Indeed. I’ve been big on Alberts since that dreadful series against the Kings when he got a penalty every shift. He handled it with totally equanimity, and gradually but inexorably played himself into form. He’s almost zen-like in his centredness and every team needs someone like that. He’s not the greatest player in the world but he knows it and it doesn’t matter. Win or lose he’s the Dharma Buddha behind the blue line, the stillness that gives meaning to the action. A very cool dude in fact.

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      Rating: +4 (from 4 votes)
  4. peanutflower
    January 27, 2012

    “not the face”. God, not the face, please. I’m embarrassed two times: I didn’t know it was Weise’s rookie year — that changes everything. He even gets a pass for trying to hard to be cool on Twitter and stuff; and I take back everything I said and thought about Cody. I’m sorry. He’s great. He’s great and getting better. That’s what’s so exciting, no?

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    Rating: +9 (from 9 votes)
  5. tom selleck's moustache
    January 27, 2012

    “Not the face!” Funny, that was my go to move growing up.

    Burrow’s, Lapierre’s and Salo’s reports made me laugh out loud. Thanks for that.

    I would have give Hansen an A though, just for his smile inducing Honey Badger-ness. That’s got to be worth some extra credit marks.

    And I’ve really enjoyed seeing Hodgeson’s emergence this season. It’s been great seeing the skills that he has on display and, more importantly, be able to use them effectively to become a significant contributor to the Canucks’ ongoing success this season so far.

    PLEASE, GOD! LET THIS BE THE YEAR!

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    Rating: +7 (from 7 votes)
  6. Dr. Au Fu Yoo
    January 27, 2012

    This team of almost rans does not have the gas to go all the way..They are still short 2-3 pieces to the puzzle. A top 4 D man with size and with some scoring. Two big wingers with the midas touch that are not afraid to mix it up in defence of the smaller forwards. Mason Raymond and Ballard are on the block come trading deadline. Luongo has not exercised his demons yet and may never. I will be so happy even if they get to the conference final but a cup is not in the cards this year.

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    Rating: -16 (from 18 votes)
    • Zach Morris
      January 27, 2012

      That’s the spirit

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      Rating: +11 (from 11 votes)
    • Daniel Wagner
      January 27, 2012

      I also notice they don’t have Gretzky, Roy, and Orr on this team. Clearly, an imperfect team.

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      Rating: +21 (from 21 votes)
    • Steeeve
      January 27, 2012

      Maybe not exercising demons is a good thing, no? They may just get bigger and stronger, and more athletically capable. THEN WHAT?

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      Rating: +14 (from 14 votes)
    • Rob
      January 28, 2012

      Yes but, exercising demons is a tough job, and takes a strong leash.

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      Rating: +5 (from 5 votes)
  7. sarah
    January 27, 2012

    Awesome list! I’d be tempted to exchange Schneid’s and Bieksa’s grades, but that’s just a personal thing. Juice has been bugging me with his ‘too cool for school’ demeanor on the ice and Schnieds has been very impressive [particularly one game...can't quite put my finger on it...]

    Out of curiosity, are you guys planning on doing the bandwagoner’s guide again this year? That was one of my favourite posts from last year.

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    Rating: +2 (from 4 votes)
  8. Hips
    January 27, 2012

    Where’s the cheatsheat guys?

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    Rating: +1 (from 1 vote)
    • Harrison Mooney
      January 27, 2012

      Urm…. we got busy. We *might* save it for the 1st of February now… for reasons pertaining to web traffic.

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      Rating: +2 (from 2 votes)
  9. Hips
    January 27, 2012

    Gosh, first you say last week, then this week, now next week? You’re like me in high school.

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    Rating: +3 (from 3 votes)
  10. akidd
    January 27, 2012

    grading is tough stuff. and kudos for not holding back. you see it a certain way and that’s it. you think bieksa has had a better season than the sedins or schneider and you just go with that. the honey badger idea just keeps popping up. wanna give kev an ‘A’ you give him an ‘A” not going to let a little thing like 14 kadrillion turnovers get in the way. ‘A’ for you kevin. it is done. but let’s pick it up sedins. they stopped carrying the team offense the last 3 weeks. get the lead out. and you too schneider.

    b for booth, c for raymond. i’d like to see the calculations for that one too.

    but keeping us entertained during all-star week by any means necessary gets a huge pass.

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    • Harrison Mooney
      January 27, 2012

      akidd, as you’re one of the few Internet commenters who can be counted on to bring hardcore snark respectfully, I appreciate you.

      As I said, these grades are based on what I feel these players are capable of juxtaposed with what we’ve seen from them so far this season. Also, I wasn’t allowed to give pluses or minuses, meaning the Sedins’ B+ looks far, far worse than Bieksa’s A-. In truth they’re not that far apart.

      And Bieksa’s been better than you’re giving him credit for.

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      • akidd
        January 27, 2012

        cheers, harrison. and your gracious receiving of the snark ain’t too shabby either. i’m more like the andy jones ‘can dish it out but can’t take it “guy (would post a link but nothing on youtube.)

        i’d have given kevin an A last year easily. which is why if it’s grading based on a player’s abilities then he’d have to get a B comparing to last year. still, he’s got more responsiblity this year and hopefully most of the ‘bad kevin’ stuff came out early this year. i’d like him around 23-24 mins per i think.

        and while in the no plus/minus category i can see how the twins might have been seen to have just missed excellent because of the past 3 weeks i also like a lot of the adjustments i see them making. i think they’re more physical and edgy this year. also they are cagier and have displayed improved risk management. i see them as continuing to get smarter and better this year which, for guys already operating on such a stratospheric level, to me, deserves an A.

        and schneider has done everything he’s been asked to do with excellence.

        but ya, grades…uh, never liked them… tell your bosses to stop stressing everyone out.

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  11. Christine
    January 27, 2012

    Accurate. Although I agree with the poster who says Schneids and Bieksa’s grades should be exchanged. Higgins has definitely grown into his role in Vancouver. Probably the best forechecker on the team. I’m not too worried about Kesler because I believe he can and will pick his game up. The twins lack of point production lately is a bit startling though, but they always turn it around.
    But I agree. Maxim dropping the gloves makes me smile.

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  12. Jason
    January 27, 2012

    Agree with C rating for Maholtra, but surprised. PITB has been pumping his tires for weeks like he’s one of the premier defensive players in the league. Good to see you’ve come around on that. In a clutch situation, I’d rather Burrows or Kesler or Hansen or Raymond or Lapierre or Higgins and maybe even Weise on the ice to protect a lead. You got it right. Manny’s been a C grade player only.

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    • Daniel Wagner
      January 27, 2012

      He’s still one of the premier defensive players in the league, but his role has been diminished this season. He’s capable of more than he’s giving right now, definitely, which is why he gets a C, but he’s still the guy I want on the ice to defend a lead. Don’t confuse a C grade for Manny for something else. He’s still essential to the Canucks’ success.

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  13. Steve
    January 29, 2012

    I only disagree with one rating and that is Alex Edler and I would give him a “B” versus an “A”

    Some will call me nuts as he has indeed been great in both offense and defense but the issue I have had (and other media members have pointed out as well) is that he has been inconsistent in several games this year.

    I’m sure I’ll get flamed for such a comment but check the game tape and maybe you’ll agree.

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  14. mike
    February 1, 2012

    In addition to the diminished role of Malhotra, I would suggest that perhaps coming off a significant injury has likely affected his play this year.

    Also, as for Hansen, the hitting seems to have dropped off a bit but I think that is to be at least somewhat expected when playing with more offensive minded players. More focus and effort going into getting into scoring position, maintaining possession, etc. Less of a chip, chase and hit role.

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