When I asked how long the current Canucks’ defence pairings would last on Tuesday, I didn’t expect the answer to be “less than a day.” But I did suggest that at the first sign of trouble, Dan Hamhuis and Kevin Bieksa would be immediately reunited, and Tuesday night’s game against the Chicago Blackhawks was trouble (with a capital T, which rhymes with D and that stands for Defence).
The sheer number of breakaways and odd-man rushes given up by the Canucks ensured that something would change on the backend and, sure enough, word came out of practice Wednesday morning that all three defence pairings had been switched up.
As expected, Hamhuis and Bieksa were reunited — tearfully, probably — but the Canucks didn’t just reset everything back to the way it was at the start of the season. Jason Garrison, the Canucks’ biggest free agent acquisition, was moved down to the third pairing with Keith Ballard, while Chris Tanev was promoted to the second pairing with Alex Edler.
Since Garrison is being paid a lot of money, seeing him on the third pairing is causing some consternation in Canucks nation. Has he joined Keith Ballard in a lavish, $8 million doghouse, a dog mansion, if you will? Not exactly. His demotion isn’t just about how he’s been playing, but how the entire defence corps has been playing.Continue Reading —›
The reaction to Jannik Hansen’s hit on Marian Hossa was immediately polarized. Reactions ranged from outrage and demands for 8-15 game suspensions to incredulousness that a penalty was even called on the play. We fell somewhere in the middle: it looked unintentional, but was still careless and resulted in a hit to the head.
Harrison theorized that Hansen would get a one-game suspension due to the recklessness of Hansen’s action and Hossa’s injury history, even though it was essentially an accident.
Brendan Shanahan only half-agreed. Hansen did get suspended one-game, but in the video on the suspension, Shanahan appeared to think the hit was worth far more than that, making his decision completely baffling.Continue Reading —›
The Canucks first meeting with the Blackhawks this season was a massive disappointment. It lacked the emotion, excitement, and intensity of a typical game between these two teams. There was no rancor on either side, making for a dull affair. When Roberto Luongo stopped Patrick Kane in the shootout, they smiled at each other and laughed, like it was a game of shinny. It was enough to make one wonder if the air had been completely let out of the rivalry.
Turned out they were just saving all their hate for their second matchup of the season. This game had all the best and worst elements of a fantastic playoff game: controversy, terrible reffing, emotion, back-and-forth scoring chances, and stupendous goaltending. It was a complete gong show. It was a hot mess. It was an incredibly stupid game. And it was entertaining beyond belief.
I enjoyed every minute that I watched this game.Continue Reading —›
Alain Vigneault has the tendency to shuffle his forward lines like a magician shuffles cards: most of it is sleight-of-hand and nothing really changes in the end. He and Rick Bowness have frequently done the same with defence pairings in the past over the last couple seasons, but certain pairings tended to stick together and avoid the juggling.
When Christian Ehrhoff was with the Canucks, he was all-but-inseparable from Alex Edler. At one point, Kevin Bieksa only hit the ice when Willie Mitchell was at his side. Over the last couple seasons, it’s been Bieksa and Dan Hamhuis who have been attached at the hip. Other pairings were malleable, but those pairings were, at the very least, semi-permanent.
Heading into this season, the pairing of Bieksa and Hamhuis, affectionately and disgustingly known as HamJuice, were a given. Keith Ballard and Chris Tanev, who performed well when paired together in the previous season, were assumed to be the bottom pairing. That left the newly-arrive Jason Garrison to play with Edler, something I had been anticipating ever since he signed with the Canucks.
It looked like the defence pairings were about as set in stone as they could possibly be. But it took just 5 games for those stones to be thrown to the ground and broken up like the Ten Commandments.Continue Reading —›
The Canucks are going to be in a very strange and unfamiliar situation on Tuesday: everyone will be healthy. Or, at least, as healthy as they can possibly be this season, considering Manny Malhotra is evidently done. On Sunday night, Alain Vigneault made the announcement that David Booth was cleared to play and would be back in the lineup at some point during the Canucks’ upcoming four-game road trip.
Astonishingly, in the time it took Ryan Kesler and David Booth to return to game action, no one else on the roster suffered a new injury, meaning the Canucks needed to clear a roster spot to reincorporate the shoot-first winger. With Jordan Schroeder playing well, that left three options: Andrew Ebbett, Andrew Alberts, and Cam Barker.
Because the Canucks are committed to keeping both Alberts and Barker in the package, where they’ll be worth more someday, Ebbett was placed on waivers Monday. Like the rest of the Canucks, he’ll be heading to Chicago. Unlike the rest of the Canucks, he’ll be staying there, so long as he doesn’t get picked up by another team.
Let’s take a look at what Booth’s health means for the Canucks (beyond the fact that they’ll be able to play him now).Continue Reading —›
If it was a Hollywood movie, this game would have gone very differently. First of all, Henrik’s franchise record-setting point would have come in the dying seconds of overtime, with his record-tying point tying the game with 0.1 seconds left in regulation. Also, the Sedins would look like the guy who played the Winklevoss twins in The Social Network. The Canucks would have won this game against all odds and an important lesson about perseverance would have been learned. Henrik would have been carried off the ice on the shoulders of his teammates, while he was simultaneously carrying the Stanley Cup, because it would have been game seven of the Finals.
Alas, Hollywood doesn’t make movies about freakishly consistent Swedish twins who break franchise records for Canadian hockey teams, particularly ones that are not underdogs. No marketability. Since I couldn’t watch a movie with a tear-jerking, inspirational ending, I watched this game.Continue Reading —›
Alain Vigneault may have always thought of Aaron Rome as a star, but he actually became one this past off-season when he signed in Dallas. Rome received a lot of love from the Canucks’ coach thanks to his safe and boring style of play. In many ways he was the ideal depth defenceman, who could be relied upon to keep things simple and prevent scoring chances, at both ends of the ice.
In Dallas, however, Rome is currently playing significant minutes for the Stars on their second pairing and on the penalty kill. At least, he is when he’s in the lineup. He missed 7 games near the beginning of the season with a groin injury and the flu, but has played well since returning. For Rome, signing in Dallas wasn’t just about the money, but about the chance to play a more significant role in a team’s top-four.
And now, he’s returning to Vancouver for the first time since signing with the Stars. We want to take the time to reminisce on Rome’s finest moments in his three seasons with the Vancouver Canucks. It’s probably not going to take very long.Continue Reading —›
New Canucks blog Bure’s Triple Deke has spent its brief time on the internet absolutely killing it with quality content. They are an excellent addition to the Smylosphere and one of the things they do best is the compilation video. Their YouTube account has several videos worth watching, from Henrik’s top 5 assists in 2011-12 to their comprehensive tribute to Alex Burrows’s patented backhand deke.
In the wake of Thursday’s announcement that Manny Malhotra is done for the season, they have produced the top 5 moments of his career as a Vancouver Canuck. Like Sex Bob-Omb, Bure’s Triple Deke is here to make you get sad and stuff.Continue Reading —›
Canucks fans got both good and bad news today, both revolving around the team’s centres. The bad news came first, and it was devastating: Manny Malhotra was placed on Injured Reserve, with the announcement that he’s expected to miss the rest of the season. Malhotra has long been one of my favourite players on the Canucks, taking on the thankless job of enabling the Canucks’ offence by starting predominantly in the defensive zone, winning faceoffs, clearing the puck, and getting off the ice.
His two-way ability was clearly diminished after his devastating eye injury, but he was still effective in the faceoff circle and was among the league leaders, winning 65.3% of his draws. Losing him from the lineup significantly impacts the Canucks’ depth at centre.
Fortunately, there was some good news to soften the blow. After practice, Ryan Kesler was coy with the media about how close he was to returning to action. Alain Vigneault, on the other hand, didn’t beat around the bush, saying, “He’s been medically cleared to play and all indications are he’s ready to go.”Continue Reading —›
When Manny Malhotra missed the Canucks’ game against the Minnesota Wild on Tuesday for “personal reasons,” eyebrows were raised as to what those reasons might be. It turned out to be more serious than anyone thought, as the Canucks announced that Malhotra has been placed on Injured Reserve and will miss the remainder of the 2012-13 season.
It’s now quite clear why Mike Gillis was confident that there would still be a spot for Jordan Schroeder once Ryan Kesler returned. With Malhotra gone for the rest of the season, the Canucks’ have a hole at centre ice that needs to be filled. It’s possible that Kesler will return as early as Friday’s game against the Dallas Stars, at which point Schroeder would likely move to the third line, with Maxim Lapierre centring the fourth line and taking the bulk of the defensive zone faceoffs.
The real question now is, what does this mean for Malhotra’s future? The speculation is that his eye injury from 2011 has deteriorated his vision to the point that he will have to retire, but will stay with the team in some capacity.Continue Reading —›
Prior to the start of this season, Maxim Lapierre suggested that he was going to be chirping opponents a lot less when he was on the ice. For the most part, it seems like he’s followed through so far. He’s been avoiding most of the scrums and has only gotten yappy a few times at the bench.
It’s been important for Lapierre to stay focussed on his play: with Ryan Kesler out of the lineup and the announcement that Manny Malhotra is done for the season, Lapierre has been relied upon more at centre than ever before. He’s had to take a lot of faceoffs, particularly in the defensive zone. He’s currently second on the Canucks in total faceoffs, behind Henrik Sedin.
Shutting his mouth has seemed to have an unintended negative consequence: he’s not drawing anywhere near as many penalties. Unfortunately, he’s still taking his share of penalties so, overall, is putting the Canucks on the penalty kill more often than he’s putting them on the powerplay.Continue Reading —›
Tuesday night’s contest between the Canucks and Wild may have been lacking in overall entertainment value, but the few highs made up for the many lows. All three goals scored in the game were top-notch, pretty goals, with Jannik Hansen’s tally the prettiest of them all, thanks to the efforts of Mason Raymond, Keith Ballard, and Jordan Schroeder. (Back off, Bieksa, you didn’t do anything. You just stood there.)
But there was one other thoroughly entertaining moment in the game. The Wild tried to get Alex Burrows off his game all night, starting in the first period when Zenon Kenopka tangled with the Canucks winger, leading to coincidental minors for the two of them. That was a bad trade-off for the Canucks, as Burrows has 131 more goals in his career than Kenopka. But Minnesota’s plan to agitate culminated in the oddest moment in the game, when Mikko Koivu straight-up jacked Burrows’s glove right off his hand.Continue Reading —›
Games against the Minnesota Wild used to be an interminable bore. They still are, but they used to be too.
It was hoped by many that this would be the game that Henrik Sedin tied and then surpassed Markus Naslund’s franchise record in points. It was not to be, as the Wild were intent on making this game a slog with minimal scoring chances and little end-to-end play. While the Sedins dominated the offensive zone, they just couldn’t get the puck past Darcy Kuemper, who was starting his first ever NHL game. As per usual, however, the Canucks found a way to win thanks to great goaltending, secondary scoring, and offensive contributions from the defence.
Frankly, I have no idea why anyone would want Henrik to break the record against the Wild. I would be okay with him going on a brief cold streak, then breaking the franchise record against the Chicago Blackhawks next Tuesday, which would be much more satisfying. So, honestly, I’m kind of glad that Henrik didn’t get a point when I watched this game.Continue Reading —›
Everybody knows: Henrik is the passer, Daniel is the shooter. Henrik racks up the assists, while Daniel racks up the goals. This has been true throughout their careers, so it shouldn’t be a surprise when Henrik goes through a long stretch of games without putting the puck in the net. And yet, with Henrik just one point back from surpassing Markus Naslund’s franchise record of 756 points, there are still rumblings of concern throughout the media and fanbase.
Henrik has yet to score a goal this season, going 11 games without scoring. At this point, he’s one of only five Canucks skaters without a goal this year.Continue Reading —›
When Dale Weise won the fastest skater competition at the Canucks Superskills on Sunday to the tune of “Highway to the Danger Zone,” the reaction from Canucks fans was one of incredulity. Even Joey Kenward seemed shocked at the arena, saying, “I know a lot of your teammates are going to be surprised that you won the fastest skater competition, but you’re not surprised at all.”
Weise’s deadpan reaction was perfect: “No, not at all.”
The shock was understandable. When you think of speedsters on the Canucks, the names Mason Raymond, Jannik Hansen, and Jordan Schroeder come to mind. Maybe, you think of Keith Ballard, who won the fastest skater competition last year and whose mobility is his greatest asset. Weise doesn’t even enter into the discussion.
In fact, Canucks fans generally have a low opinion of Weise, mainly because of the role they see him playing. When the Canucks picked him up off waivers from the New York Rangers last season, it was essentially because Steve Pinizzotto got injured during the pre-season and their next best option was Victor Oreskovich. Weise was coming in as a fourth-liner and was expected to do typical fourth-line stuff: bang, crash, and fight.
The problem is that Weise is not a particularly good fighter. While he’s a willing combatant (most of the time), he’s not the kind of guy who strikes the fear of God in the opposition. Since he didn’t fight particularly well and only scored 8 points in 68 games, some Canucks fans decided he wasn’t much use and needed to be replaced.Continue Reading —›
One of my favourite events during the Canucks’ season is the Canucks for Kids Fund Superskills Competition. It’s fun to see the Canucks in a loose, carefree setting, and the lower price point is great for families that might not be able to get out to Rogers Arena to see the team otherwise. It also helps raise money for a fantastic cause. The work that the Canucks for Kids Fund does in British Columbia is invaluable, doing everything from supporting BC Children’s Hospital to launching Mindcheck.ca in memory of Rick Rypien.
I’ve been to several of these events and the Canucks tend to put on a good show, as it’s one of the few times when the Canucks can really let their personalities and fun side show on the ice. While I wasn’t able to make it out to Rogers Arena on Sunday for the 2013 edition, the Canucks were kind enough to stream the event live on YouTube and, sure enough, it provided plenty of fun and surprises.
For instance, did you know that Cam Barker is actually on the Canucks? That’s right, his signing wasn’t a hoax. But that was just the first of many surprises to come. Here are 10 of my favourite moments:Continue Reading —›
While I have no proof, I have a sneaking suspicion that Canucks prospect Nicklas Jensen wanted to play this season in the Swedish Elite League so that he would be sure to be available for Denmark’s national team for Olympic qualifying. The country’s final Olympic qualification tournament was on home ice in Vojens, and they were the highest ranked team in their group, consisting of themselves, Belarus, Slovenia, and Ukraine.
Denmark won their first game on Thursday, shutting out Ukraine 2-0. With Slovenia beating Belarus 4-2 on the same day, Denmark just needed to beat Slovenia on Friday to ensure their first ever Olympic berth. Instead, the much lower-ranked Slovenians shocked Denmark 2-1, earning their first ever trip to the Olympics. That unfortunately means that neither Jensen nor Jannik Hansen will be travelling to Sochi in 2014 to play in the Winter Olympics.
Poor Hansen. He made no secret of the fact that one of his motivations for going to Europe during the lockout was getting in shape for these qualification games. Then the NHL got it together a month before he could help the team. His presence may have made a difference.
Instead, both Hansen and Jensen will be watching Sochi on television. Between that and the fact that Roberto Luongo — a lock to make the team, even if some pundits are saying otherwise — likely won’t be a Canuck by then, there doesn’t look to be much Canuck representation at the Olympics.Continue Reading —›
The great thing about Russian nesting dolls, or matryoshka dolls, is that they can take up as much or as little shelf space as you want. Have plenty of room? Display the entire set! Minimal space? Condense them all into one! Somewhere in-between? Hey man, don’t make me do all of your thinking for you. Figure it out.
I’m not sure how big the intersection of the Venn diagram of Canucks fans and people who want to own matryoshka dolls would be, but I imagine that there are a few of you out there. If that is the case, this set of Canucks nesting dolls might be for you. The only problem is that three of the five players depicted by the dolls are no longer on the Canucks.Continue Reading —›
We’ve been extolling the vices of Jannik Hansen a lot over the past few months — his violence and behaviour, his inability to be calmed down, his cross-checking of referees, and his fictional elbows to the unmentionables — but he also has a fair number of virtues. He’s a speedy, defensively sound two-way forward, who’s great on the forecheck and penalty kill.
Also, after his goal against the Minnesota Wild on Thursday, Hansen is tied for third in Canucks scoring with 6 points in 10 games. To put it another, more exciting and inflammatory way, Hansen has the same number of points as Henrik Sedin.
While we’ve long said that Hansen is an underrated playmaker, this new scoring pace is still a surprise. He’s on pace for 49 points if this were an 82-game season, a full 10 points more than his career-high last season. Unfortunately, it’s not likely to happen.Continue Reading —›
Somehow, Cory Schneider getting the start in this game became just as controversial as him not getting the start in the previous three games, which is pretty silly. It also overshadowed some of the other storylines heading into this game, such as Jordan Schroeder playing in his home-state for the first time as a Canuck, Daniel Sedin not scoring a goal in 5 games straight, or Alex Burrows returning to the top line.
The storyline that most interested me is whether the Minnesota Wild are still as terrible as they were last year. How much of a difference would the addition of Zach “RZA” Parise and Ryan “Roto-Rooter” Suter make? Turns out, not much. The Canucks came out and dominated the first period, setting the stage for a fairly easy road victory. While there were bumps along that road, the Canucks ran over the Wild like they were talking on a cell phone. And, like a rubber-necker driving past a car accident, I watched this game.Continue Reading —›
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.Continue Reading —›
We’ve been waiting for this one a long time. With his noticeable calm and poise on the ice and his great underlying possession numbers, Chris Tanev has become a favourite for both mainstream media and the fancy stats crowd in the Smylosphere. But, while he’s done a lot to impress in the first 62 games of his NHL career, he had yet to score a goal.
Fact is, for all his poise and solid defensive play, Tanev had a complete muffin of a shot. Actually, that’s incorrect: he had an incomplete muffin of a shot. It wasn’t even the muffin-top, which is the best part of a muffin, but the lousy part wrapped in paper that nobody likes: Tanev had a muffin stump of a shot.
It’s not like Tanev was unaware of this: he spent part of the off-season working on his release, and it does look much improved. He also looks a lot more confident about using it. He had 15 shots in each of his first two seasons, for a total of 30 in 54 games. He’s already up to 7 in just 9 games this season. And one of those shots beat Devan Dubnyk for his first NHL goal, the overtime winner on Monday night against the Edmonton Oilers.Continue Reading —›
For a few brief, merciful days, all the talk of a Roberto Luongo trade in the media had been replaced by talk of a goalie controversy in Vancouver. We complained about the hype, questioned what would actually constitute a goalie controversy, and scoffed at how Alain Vigneault giving a world-class goaltender consecutive starts while he’s on a hot streak could even be called controversial.
But really, it was a relief.
For once, we could stop the endless speculation about potential Luongo trade destinations, returns, and whether he would even get traded at all. Instead, we could focus on a rather pleasant problem: which of the Canucks’ two fantastic goaltenders should start each game?
Unfortunately, it couldn’t last. Eventually the rumour mill would start up again; this time around, it was kicked into gear by a visit by Mike Gillis and Laurence Gilman to the Verizon Center for a game between the Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins. This, of course, immediately led to speculation from every corner of the media landscape that the Canucks were working on a trade with the Capitals, with Luongo the centrepiece. That included Sports Illustrated, who need to pay closer attention to their photo captions.Continue Reading —›
Throughout his brief tenure with the Vancouver Canucks, Zack Kassian has shown an impressive willingness to head to the net. It makes sense: he’s a big body, so he can take up a lot of daylight. Plus he has good hands in tight. The goalmouth is a good place for him to be.
Of course, occasionally, when you’re rushing the crease, you’re going to run into the guy that lives in there, and on Friday versus the Chicago Blackhawks, Kassian did exactly that. The result is this strange little photo.Continue Reading —›
There were plenty of reasons to get excited for this game. The storylines! The drama! The controversy! It was Duncan Keith’s first game against the Canucks since he concussed Daniel Sedin with a dirty cheap shot last season. It was Roberto Luongo’s third straight start despite Cory Schneider supposedly being the number one guy heading into the season. It was the red-hot Chicago Blackhawks against the water-treading Vancouver Canucks, in the first game of the season between these two rivals.
Yes, there was a lot of hype heading into this game, and none of it paid off.
It seemed pretty clear that both coaches wanted their players to avoid the emotional rollercoaster like we saw when Buffalo played Boston the game after Milan Lucic took out Ryan Miller. Both teams played a controlled, defensive style and there were minimal post-whistle scrums and such that we’d see in even a normal game between these two teams. Luongo played well, easily justifying Vigneault’s decision. It was disappointing.
Well, it was disappointing to anyone who actually believed the hype. While it wasn’t the prettiest game, it’s always nice to watch a win, which I managed to do when I watched this game.Continue Reading —›