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 quick topics.
Canucks remove both big shooters from their first unit on the powerplay
The Canucks currently have one of the worst powerplays in the league, converting on just 10.3% of their opportunities. It was one of the concerns when John Tortorella was hired, as his teams haven’t been known for their powerplay prowess and the Canucks’ powerplay struggled last season. Still, with the personnel they have available, the Canucks should be better.
So it wasn’t surprising to see Tortorella and the coaching stuff fiddle with the powerplay recently, but it is surprising to see what they came up with. They removed both Alex Edler and Jason Garrison from the first unit, electing to go with just one defenceman: Dan Hamhuis.
It’s an odd decision, since Hamhuis is not known for having a heavy shot from the point and his career high for goals in a season is 7, dating back to his time with the Nashville Predators at the beginning of his career. Garrison’s career-high is 16, while Edler tallied 11 goals in his best season. Hamhuis is, however, a decent passer, with his season-high 33 assists in 2011-12 better than either Garrison or Edler’s.
The new unit instead casts Ryan Kesler as the big shooter at the point, while Alex Burrows takes his former role as a net front presence. In theory this makes sense, but Burrows has never been able to translate his proficiency in all other areas of the game — five-on-five, the penalty kill, the shootout, and being a jerk between the whistles — into success with the man advantage.
This new formation saw some immediate success, with Kesler scoring less than 30 seconds into their first opportunity together, but they haven’t scored on 5 opportunities since, making the new powerplay barely more effective than the old powerplay, albeit in a limited sample size.
As much as the Canucks need to fix the powerplay, divesting the first unit from two of their biggest weapons doesn’t seem to be the right approach. Edler had the third most powerplay points on the Canucks last season and led the team in powerplay goals, while Garrison had 3 powerplay goals himself and had 9 in his previous season with the Panthers.
Alain Vigneault putting things together in New York
Vigneault’s tenure with the New York Rangers got off to a terrible start, as they won just one of their first 5 games and were 3-7-0 after 10 games. The rough start had many Rangers fans eager to put Vigneault’s head on the chopping block, but it was also interesting to see the reaction from some Canucks fans.
It didn’t take long for Vigneault’s haters in Vancouver to declare the Rangers’ start as proof that he was an awful coach and had, in fact, always been an awful coach. We have also always been at war with Eastasia.
In any case, things are coming around for Vigneault’s Rangers, who have finally had some games at home. They’ve won 5 of their last 6, including making a statement with a 5-1 victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins. This brings them back up to .500 with an 8-8-0 record, enough to put them in 8th in the Eastern Conference.
Henrik Lundqvist is back to his usual self, Ryan Callahan has 7 points in the last 5 games, Carl Hagelin has 6 points in the last 4 games, and Derek Stapan has 5 points in the last 4 games. Things are finally going right and the Rangers are once again looking like one of the better teams in the East, which means they’re way, way worse than the Canucks.
No, seriously: the Canucks are currently 6th in the Western Conference with 24 points. That’s more points than the Tampa Bay Lightning, who are first place in the Eastern Conference. The East is awful.
Can we just talk about Zack Kassian’s moustache for a moment?
It’s November, which means many NHLers will be participating in Movember, the event in which people promote awareness of men’s health issues by growing the manliest facial hair they possibly can. While Kassian cheated slightly by just modifying a previously grown beard instead of starting fresh at the beginning of November, he still has a pretty solid, if slightly creepy, ‘stache.
He also appears to be the only Canuck actually growing a moustache for Movember, though Roberto Luongo is using a special Movember mask and auctioning it off at the end of the month. It’s possible other Canucks are also growing moustaches, with their efforts just too sparse thus far to tell, but it appears the beard is a more popular look for the Canucks this year.
Jason Garrison, Ryan Kesler, Chris Higgins, and Darren Archibald all have thick beards, while Brad Richardson, Chris Tanev, Eddie Lack, and Kevin Bieksa have patchier efforts, and the Sedins have their typical well-groomed orangeness. It’s a shame that the youngest player on the team has to carry the moustache torch all on his own. Hopefully he can convince some others on the team to tame their beards into proper Movember moustaches.
Canucks’ 2013 3rd-round pick, Cole Cassels, has a 4-goal game
Cassels was one of the least-heralded Canucks picks at the 2013 draft, with the flashier first round selections of Bo Horvat and Hunter Shinkaruk getting a lot of attention, along with Jordan Subban who boasted a well-known name. The best that scouts said about him was that he was good at everything, but not really great at anything, which isn’t generally a path to excitement for fans.
Suffice it to say, Cassels has exceed all expectations. After scoring 43 points in 64 games last season, Cassels has taken on a larger role with the Oshawa Generals and is thriving, scoring 27 points through 19 games, making him the highest scoring prospect in the Canucks’ system.
Last week, Cassels caught everyone’s attention with a 4-goal game against the Ottawa 67′s and someone was kind enough to put all 4 goals up on YouTube:
The first thing I noticed is how fortunate Cassels was to score those goals, as all but one came from simply being in the right place at the right time, and two of them were scored while the Generals were on a 5-on-3 powerplay. That discounts, however, that being in the right place at the right time is a legitimate skill and the hand-eye coordination and soft hands to corral rebounds and deposit them into the back of the net.
The one goal that wasn’t scored off a rebound also features a nice wristshot that Cassels places just over the left pad and inside the far post. While it was on a 5-on-3, there’s no getting around how perfectly placed that wristshot was.
However he scored those goals, the fact remains that Cassels is having a phenomenal season. We’ll likely revisit him in an upcoming edition of The Prospector, as he’s turned into a real asset for the Canucks.Tags: spitballin