Hear Roberto Luongo zing Damien Cox: ‘Are you here scouting for the Leafs?’

Throughout the Roberto Luongo trade saga — which appears to have no end in sight, with Luongo starting his third straight game Friday versus the Blackhawks — Mike Gillis has remained impressively stoic. But during a January 18th interview on the Team 1040, Jason Botchford did manage to get the Canucks’ GM’s ire up with a question about whether the Canucks were asking too much for the goalie.

“The notion that we were asking for too much,” Gillis responded, “was floated in the Toronto media by a team that was extremely interested in acquiring Roberto and were using every means possible to try and force us to do something that we didn’t think was right. That’s nothing new in this business and it’s not the type of pressure that I’m going to succumb to.”

So which Toronto media members were aiding the Leafs’ public negotiations? Well, we can’t know for sure, but if you follow Damien Cox on Twitter, tweets like this one or this one certainly seem to point to the Toronto Star columnist pitching in. I’d suspect that Gillis had Cox in mind when he made the statement.

I’d also suspect that Gillis isn’t the only member of the Canucks’ organization that thinks this, especially after Roberto Luongo’s little zinger Wednesday night. Upon encountering Cox in the postgame scrum following his 3-0 shutout of the Avalanche, Luongo interrupted Cox’s question to ask one of his own: “Are you here scouting for the Leafs or what?”

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Zack Kassian isn’t fully benefiting from playing with the Sedins yet

Not long ago, the Canucks’ acquisition of a big power forward with a right-handed shot would have resulted in one reaction from fans: finally, someone to play with the Sedins.

It’s a testament to how well Alex Burrows has played with the Sedins that Canucks fans did not have that reaction when the Canucks traded for Zack Kassian. Instead, Kassian was projected as, at best, a second-line winger on the Canucks, someone to play alongside Ryan Kesler and David Booth. At worst, he could be a physical presence on the fourth line.

But now Kassian has been promoted to play on the top line and the early returns are impressive. Kassian leads the Canucks in goals with 5 in 7 games and is, in fact, tied for second in the NHL in goal-scoring. The thing is, most of that goal-scoring hasn’t exactly come as a result of playing with the Sedins, but there’s reason to believe that he will have success with them in the future.

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I Watched This Game: Canucks vs. Colorado Avalanche, January 30, 2013

Alain Vigneault shocked the city of Vancouver Wednesday morning when he announced that Roberto Luongo would get the start versus the Colorado Avalanche. The controversial decision led to a boatload of speculation on what it meant. Was Vigneault simply riding the hot hand? Had Luongo reclaimed the starter’s job? Or maybe the Canucks were playing him against an inferior opponents in the Avalanche in order to showcase him to potential trade partners?

Nevermind that the showcase theory makes no sense whatsoever. Roberto Luongo has been in the NHL for more than a decade. He’s played 730 NHL games — 789 if you count the playoffs. Speaking of the playoffs, he’s gone to the Stanley Cup Final. He’s played in the Olympics. If you’re in charge of making roster moves for an NHL team and you aren’t sure who Roberto Luongo is and what he’s about in 2013, then you shouldn’t be in charge of making roster moves for an NHL team.

But if there really is a General Manager out there so braindead and incompetent that he needs to be reminded Roberto Luongo plays goal and does so fairly effectively, I’m sure he was pleased with what he saw when he, just as I, watched this game.

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I Find This Photo Odd: Canucks leer at Amanda Seyfried

Doing my usual scan through the photos taken at the most recent Canucks game, I came across this one, of Manny Malhotra, Aaron Volpatti, Jason Garrison, and Dale Weise. Now, according to photo caption, this is a picture of the four of them “skating during warm-up prior to the NHL game against the Los Angeles Kings at Staples Center on January 28, 2013 in Los Angeles, California.”

Now here’s the thing: I never played hockey, so I can’t claim to be an expert on what skating looks like, but I do know a thing or two about leering, and I don’t see as much skating in this photo as I do creepy ogling.

So I asked myself: what could they be ogling?

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Jordan Schroeder in: how to win faceoffs and influence zone starts

When David Booth got hurt at the Canucks’ abbreviated, two-scrimmage preseason, I opined that this spelled the end of Jordan Schroeder’s chances to be the Canucks’ second-line centre on opening night. My theory: Schroeder might have had a shot when he would be skating between two veterans in Booth and Mason Raymond — much like Cody Hodgson did the year before, beating out Ebbett in training camp and lining up between Mikael Samuelsson and Marco Sturm on day one — but with the young’un Zack Kassian stepping up to fill in for Booth, I suspected Vigneault would uncomfortable doubling down on inexperience on that line by making Schroeder its centre. Hence, safe, forgettable Andrew Ebbett had the edge.

I got that one right.

Since then, however, it’s become clear that Alain Vigneault didn’t. Ebbett was quiet through the first two games of the season — quiet enough that the Canucks eventually called Schroeder back. In the Canucks’ third game, Schroeder drew in and Ebbett drew out.

But then Manny Malhotra’s wife gave birth to a baby boy, and Malhotra stepped away from the team for two games, leaving Vigneault with no choice but to dress both Ebbett and Schroeder. What followed was yet another two-game showdown between Ebbett and Schroeder for a middle-six centre job. This time, Booth or no Booth, Schroeder won it clean.

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How will we know when there actually is a goaltending controversy?

Roberto Luongo will start his second game in a row tonight against the Colorado Avalanche, a move that seems to contradict any assertions that Cory Schneider is the number one goaltender for the Canucks. If Alain Vigneault were just riding the hot hand, it would make sense: Luongo has been, objectively speaking, the better goaltender to start the season, posting a .917 save percentage and 2.21 goals against average as compared to Schneider’s .897 and 3.13.

The issue is that Vigneault has claimed that isn’t his strategy. Supposedly, he and Rollie Melanson mapped out the two goaltenders starts well in advance and it’s entirely possible that Luongo was slated to start against the Avalanche right from the start of the season. Accordingly, this wouldn’t be the sign of a goaltending controversy or any indication that the Canucks lack confidence in Schneider.

So what would? How do we know when there actually is a goaltending controversy in Vancouver?

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Relive Alex Burrows’ modified spin-o-rama, and by ‘modified’, we mean ‘really bad’ [VIDEO]

Over the past few years, Alex Burrows has established himself as one of the Canucks’ surest things on breakaways and penalty shots, most of the time by virtue of his “Blue Steel”, his go-to backhand move. We’ve celebrated it several times here on this blog, most notably in this post, which features a compilation of every single instance in which Burrows has used the move successfully.

Burrows is known for the move at this point, but as he himself said, it doesn’t matter — if he does it right, he’ll score. But it’s not entirely true. After all, the move only works because there’s still a possibility Burrows might do something else. If his going backhand shelf was 100% assured, goaltenders would simply overcommit to the right post and wait to get hit in the chest.

All that said, you can understand why Burrows might occasionally want to give goaltenders another look, and he certainly did so Monday night versus the Los Angeles Kings. His move — which involved a spin and a stutter-step before a hit post — seemed forgettable at the time, but a day later, people are still talking about it, debating both its legality and ridiculousness. So let’s take another look.

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What’s behind the Canucks’ poor starts? Severe Kesler deficiency.

The Canucks clearly miss Ryan Kesler right now in every facet of the game. Kesler wins faceoffs, kills penalties, scores on the powerplay, and wins battles against tough opposition, areas where the Canucks are struggling to start the season. But there’s a very specific area where his absence is causing some major problems: the first shift of the game.

A rough start has been the common theme through the first 6 games of the 2013 season for the Canucks, as they frequently seem to get outplayed during the first few minutes and depend on their goaltending to staunch the bleeding until they can turn things around. That first shift of the game is where it all starts.

Some call it “setting the tone,” while I call it “not getting hemmed in your own zone.” Ryan Kesler is excellent at both.

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I Watched This Game: Canucks at Los Angeles Kings, January 28, 2013

I always enjoy the atmosphere the Staples Centre brings to a telecast. It’s a boisterous enemy area. But if there’s one thing I still can’t handle about the Canucks’ visits to LA, it’s that execrable, heinous bumper video in which South Park sociopath Eric Cartman screams “Go Kings go!” over and over and over. It’s the worst. “Chelsea Dagger” is “Strawberry Fields Forever” compared to that thing. If you’ve ever read Hamlet, and wondered how, exactly, one perpetrates an ear poisoning, wonder no more. Seriously. You could commit regicide with this video.

Speaking of regicide, the Canucks did their best to off the Kings on Monday night, if by “did their best” you mean played badly, but were fortunate to have Roberto Luongo in goal. However, while they were fortunate in this sense, they were unfortunate in the sense that Luongo’s incredible play wasn’t quite enough to overcome their mediocre play — which, if you watched Luongo’s performance, should make clear how truly mediocre their play was. It was clear to me, because I watched this game.

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Jannik Hansen crosschecks a ref, because he really doesn’t care [VIDEO]

Not much went the Canucks’ way Sunday night in San Jose. The Sharks scored early and often, the powerplay went 0-for-7 (hitting a whopping 5 posts in the process), and somehow, Antti Niemi only allowed one goal (which is usually a clue that the luck is favouring San Jose, because Niemi’s not very good).

But it turns out that Vancouver did catch at least one break last night.

It happened just prior to puck drop, when Alex Burrows and Logan Couture got into it at the faceoff dot. Couture gave Burrows a little push to the helmet, which led to Burrows giving Couture a little push to the chest. This summoned Ryane Clowe, who stepped in to defend Couture, which summoned Jannik Hansen to defend Burrows.

Now, Hansen isn’t exactly the most imposing of figures, but that doesn’t mean he can’t intimidate. The trick, as Will Smith once taught Ashley Banks, is to make yourself seem absolutely insane. And how better to do that than crosschecking the ref?

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Sidelined by injury, Ryan Kesler works minimum wage jobs to pay the bills

During the lockout, Ryan Kesler wasn’t able to take anyone’s job in Europe because he was recovering from multiple surgeries. Now that the lockout is over, Kesler is making up for lost time by stealing jobs from minimum wage earners, which just seems mean and unnecessary.

Still, a guy’s gotta pay the bills, right? Except he still collected his NHL salary throughout the lockout because he was on the Injured Reserve list. Well, then. Looks like he’s just a jerk.

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I Watched This Game: Canucks at San Jose Sharks, January 27, 2013

The Canucks beat the Ducks on Friday, despite getting outplayed at even-strength, by essentially being jerks: they earned powerplays and cashed in with the man-advantage. You could tell right off the opening puck drop, or rather, before the opening puck drop, that they were going to try to do the same thing against the Sharks.

It half-worked: the Canucks did get outplayed at even-strength. Unfortunately, the powerplay floundered, fizzled, sputtered, and misfired, getting only 7 shots on 7 opportunities and Cory Schneider couldn’t bail the team out fast enough when the defence shot holes in the boat. I watched their gameplan fall apart when I watched this game.

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Behold, the most infamous toilet in Canucks history

If you opted to tune out hockey during the NHL lockout, it’s possible that you missed one of the strangest collectors’ purchases in recent memory. At an auction of over 100 items from the historic Maple Leafs Gardens, diehard fan and Toronto Lawyer Jim Vigmond somehow managed to justify bidding $5,300 for the old building’s toilet.

Some people said that this was a stupid purchase. Vigmond didn’t entirely disagree. “They’ve got a point,” he said. “But … it’s a part of an icon. I just thought … what a rare piece and just think of all of the people that have spent time contemplating in that dressing room what lies ahead of them.”

Indeed. Just think of all the famous Maple Leafs that have used that toilet to poop. Now Vigmond owns was is, arguably, the most notable toilet in Toronto Maple Leafs’ history. Sure, he spent over $5000 on a toilet, but as toilets go, he bought the best one a Leafs fan could buy.

I bring all of this up because on Friday night, with the Canucks in Anaheim visiting the Ducks, Roberto Luongo saw fit to remind us of the most notable toilet in the history of the Vancouver Canucks when he tweeted the following, with a note saying, “And this is where the magic happened……” (as well as some yucky hashtags):

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I Watched This Game: Canucks at Anaheim Ducks, January 25, 2013

The Ducks spoiled the Canucks’ home opener and Schneider’s first start as the Canucks’ new number one goaltender, thumping them 7-3. It caused endless bellyaching in Vancouver and reignited the goalie controversy, so it was only fair that the Canucks return the favour, spoiling the Ducks’ home opener.

I pointed out earlier today that it would be foolish to panic this early in the season, particularly because the Canucks had the possibility of moving up to first in the Northwest Division with a win and a Minnesota Wild loss. 10 hours later, the Canucks are first in the Northwest Division and Cory Schneider has a shutout to his credit. Panic over. Goalie controversy over.

At least until Sunday, when the Canucks could conceivably drop to fourth in the division, Schneider could give up a soft goal or two, and we’ll be back where we started. Sigh. I watched this game.

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Cabbie teams up with the Canucks for workplace shenanigans [VIDEO]

If Alain Vigneault assembled his roster based solely on chemistry, Cabral Richards would probably slot somewhere into the top nine. Whenever the interviewer waltzes into the Canucks’ locker room, the results are terrific.

Cabbie’s latest segment with the Canucks has him talking to Cory Schneider, Kevin Bieksa, and Manny Malhotra about the workplace environment when you’re playing professional hockey.

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Spitballin’ on Brendan Gaunce, intro songs, and Kassian’s MMA training

Spitballin’ (or Super Pass It To Bulis: All In, if you love adventurous acronymizing) is a feature that allows us to touch on a multitude of things really fast, because in the world of hockey, there are always lots of things to find and colour. Here are a few topics that deserve mention.

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I Find This Photo Odd: Miikka Kiprusoff is a hanger-on

It makes plenty of sense that Zack Kassian would be the enduring story from Wednesday night’s tilt between the Canucks and the Calgary Flames. After all, the winger looked great, scoring a goal, adding the shootout winner, and looking great on the first line with the Sedins. If you were handing out report cards through the Canucks’ first three games, Kassian would likely earn an A, and his game Wednesday was undoubtedly the best of the bunch.

But still, it seems odd to me that no one is mentioning that strange moment when Mikka Kiprusoff latched onto Kevin Bieksa’s leg like a squid or a leech and refused to let go.

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Shift-by-shift: Jordan Schroeder’s debut

Over four years after being drafted by the Canucks, Jordan Schroeder finally made his NHL debut. It was unspectacular: he didn’t score the gamewinning goal or make a game-saving defensive play. He didn’t even get a shot on net. But he must have done something right: in a tight game that went to the shootout, Schroeder had almost 15 minutes in ice time, including a shift in overtime.

Considering that Alain Vigneault is notoriously stingy with ice time when it comes to young players, getting 14:49 in ice time in a debut is quite impressive. Since I was watching the game as a whole, I didn’t necessarily see everything that Schroeder did during the game and he didn’t have much in the way of a stat line. He finished with 2 PIM, 1 shot attempt blocked, 1 hit, 1 takeaway, and was 1-for-4 in the faceoff circle.

So I decided to go back and watch every single shift from Jordan Schroeder and break them down. After I did so, it became very clear why Vigneault trusted him on the ice: his defensive responsibility.

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I Watched This Game: Canucks vs. Calgary Flames, January 23, 2013

The Canucks really needed this win. It wasn’t just that they were 0-1-1 heading into it. It was much worse than that. As a colleague who will remain nameless because I’m about to make fun of him pointed out to me, they weren’t just winless in their first two. They were 1-4-2 in their last seven, dating back to last postseason. Ah, but I pointed out to him that if we’re just going to trace the Canucks’ record back to arbitrary dates, we should point out that they’re actually 52-26-11 dating back to the beginning of last season. Perhaps, my colleague responded, but they’re a mediocre 1353-1455-391-83 dating back to the beginning of the franchise.

That’s almost 100 games under five hundred. You can see how badly they needed this win. Sure, it’s a big hole to crawl out of, but you’ve got to take these things one game at a time. Tonight was one such game, and I watched this game.

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‘Dale Weise follies’ proves at least one Canucks fan isn’t sold on Weise’s strong play [VIDEO]

There haven’t been a lot of bright spots for the Vancouver Canucks through their first two games, but I think most observers can agree that Dale Weise has been one of them. His strong play versus both Edmonton and Anaheim came as a surprise to just about everybody, Dutch fans excluded. It was so noticeable that Mike Gillis mentioned him in a recent sitdown with Cam Cole, and on Tuesday, Alain Vigneault promoted him to a line with Mason Raymond and Jordan Schroeder. (Or maybe he demoted Mason Raymond. We’re not quite sure.)

Weise even landed on the front page of NHL.com Tuesday, although, unfortunately, it was for the image you see above. Yes, Weise had a few lesser moments as well over the Canucks’ first weekend. Granted, it was easy to overlook them when he was making things happen at both ends of the ice, but apparently, one Canucks fan decided it was time to throw a little water on all the Dale Weise love. Youtube user “4skinWillie” — who we’ll infer from his username is 12 years old — has put together a brief collection of those lesser moments Sunday night versus Edmonton. It’s totally uncalled for. But it’s also pretty funny.

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Is a lack of lockout activity to blame for the Canucks’ slow start?

On Saturday against the Ducks, the Canucks looked flat-footed, ill-prepared, and lethargic. They looked, in fact, like they hadn’t played a hockey game in 8 months. Sunday was better, but only slightly, as the Canucks still made numerous uncharacteristic errors.Still, we’re just two games into the season. It feels odd to say that the Canucks have had a slow start; they’ve barely started at all.

With that said, the Canucks certainly haven’t been their usual selves, even taking into account the lack of Ryan Kesler and David Booth. They also had very few players active during the lockout, with only Dale Weise, Jannik Hansen, and Cory Schneider playing in Europe for any significant length of time. Beyond those three, Zack Kassian and Chris Tanev played in the AHL with the Chicago Wolves, and Mason Raymond played a grand total of two games for Örebro in the Swedish Elite League.

The rest of the Canucks skated on their own, with the largest group the one that stayed in Vancouver and practised with the UBC Thunderbirds. Is the lack of game action to blame for the Canucks’ lacklustre performance on the weekend?

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Mike Gillis says potential Luongo deal in place; 10 things that might actually mean

It went unnoticed by almost everybody, what with actual hockey being played all weekend, but for a brief moment, all was quiet on the Luongo trade front. It began the moment Tyler Bozak and Nazem Kadri scored a goal each in the Leafs’ opener and Canuck fans did the math, realized both were on pace for 48-goal seasons, and deduced that Toronto would never trade them now.

Suddenly, all that Funny Bob-to-Toronto chatter went silent. And then the Canucks crapped the bed, so there were more pressing things to speculate about, like whether Roberto Luongo should start the game he was always scheduled to start.

But on Monday night, the Luongo trade frenzy picked right back up when, in an interview with Cam Cole of Pass it to Bulis (and sometimes the Vancouver Sun), Mike Gillis suggested that the team was making some progress in bringing this saga to a close.

“We have a potential deal in place with one team that has to do something with another player that they have — and it’s not who anybody thinks it is — and so we have to wait,” Gillis said.

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Canucks recall Jordan Schroeder from the Chicago press box

The Canucks could have saved themselves the cost of a couple flights. They announced Tuesday that they are recalling Jordan Schroeder from the Chicago Wolves just four days after he was the final cut of training camp. In fact, he didn’t even play a single game with the Wolves, despite his fellow camp cuts lacing up for two games since flying back to Chicago. Maybe the popcorn in the Chicago pressbox is just better than the popcorn at Rogers Arena.

Schroeder lost the battle to center the second line to Andrew Ebbett in training camp, as Harrison predicted when David Booth injured his groin. Without two speedy, veteran wingers on the second line, Alain Vigneault was hesitant to place an untested rookie in the middle. Two games into the season, however, it is clear that the Canucks don’t even have a second line, so there’s little harm in trying to create one from scratch.

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Thanks to the Sedins, the UBC Thunderbirds believe in magic again [VIDEO]

The biggest losers of the start of the NHL season are undoubtedly the many college and junior teams that won’t have the benefit of NHL players skating with them at practice. It must have been incredible to skate alongside real NHLers, participating in drills with them, working out with them, and seeing exactly how much better they are than you.

The largest mass assemblage of Vancouver Canucks during the lockout skated with the UBC Thunderbirds, along with sundry other NHLers and free agents, even playing a charity shinny game against the college team as Bieksa’s Buddies. I have reason to believe that the Thunderbirds were grateful to the Canucks for the time they spent skating with them. That reason? They made a video stating that they were grateful to the Canucks for the time they spent skating with them. I’m pretty quick on picking up things like that.

Every single player on the Thunderbirds got a chance to express their thanks, which was a good move by UBC, as some of them are absolutely hilarious.

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Roberto Luongo and the magical 24-hour spell

If you’ve watched a lot of programs with witches (Charmed, Sabrina the Teenage Witch, et al), you may be familiar with the concept of the 24-hour spell.

The 24-hour spell is a mystical occurrence, something that happens to drastically change someone’s fate for exactly one day. Sometimes it’s good, sometimes it’s bad, but either way, it usually serves to give somebody a special perspective he wouldn’t otherwise be able to experience. It could be a body swap. It could be a sudden aging of thirty years. It could be temporary magical powers. Whatever it is, it lasts exactly 24 hours, and then, the moment time is up — zap! — everything switches back to normal (or, in the case of Groundhog Day’s 24-hour spell, it starts over again).

I bring this up because we witnessed a perfectly-timed 24-hour spell this weekend in the Canucks’ crease. You could be upset about how this weekend’s set went. Or you could marvel at the fact that you saw magic happen.

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