Archive: Posts about Canucks
June 16th, 2011, 5 Comments »
The Canucks’ failure to win the Stanley Cup yesterday feels very familiar to this long time Canucks fan. They’re a team that rarely fails to disappoint.
I’m sorry to say that my affection for the team significantly declined during the playoffs. It’s easy to see, among the team’s floppers, passengers and drama queens, why the Canucks were vilified around the league.
That said, one of the great things about supporting a sports team is that hope springs eternal. Every failure or shortfall is temporary, for the new season is only a few months away. This also holds true for the World Cup and Olympics, though the downtime is longer.
But the season is over, and NHL draft day is seven
eight days away. This seems like an excellent time to assess the team’s performance, and think about what the roster might look like in October.
I’d expect the team to bid farewell to Raffi Torres and Maxim LaPierre. Assuming that Malhotra and Hodgson are the team’s third and fourth-line centres next season, there’s no room for LaPierre, though he did exceed expectations in the playoffs.
I hope that Vancouver can re-sign Jannik Hansen and Chris Higgins, both of whom acquitted themselves well as speedy, versatile forwards. I also liked the energy and size that Oreskovich brought to the roster as a fourth-liner.
The Canucks are a team built on speed and skill. As was desperately evident in the Boston series, they lack grit. The Sedins can be intimidated into impotence, and didn’t have much protection from the other forwards. The team could benefit from one or two hulking forwards that strike fear into the opposition. When they’re not scoring goals, the team’s top nine forwards just aren’t scary enough.
After Hodgson, the team’s top forward prospects seem to be Jordan Schroeder (at 5’9″ and 175 lbs, also not scary) and Billy Sweatt. They seem like long shots to make the team this fall.
The Canucks’ defense was stellar all season, and through most of the playoffs. The group’s performance declined after losing Dan Hamhuis, and to a lesser degree Aaron Rome.
Financially, the team is likely going to have to rid themselves of one of Bieksa, Erhoff and Ballard. The first two are unrestricted free agents, and the third is very unpopular with the head coach. NHL teams have historically overpaid for free agent offensive defensemen, so I hope they keep Bieksa and Ballard, and let Erhoff go to somebody with deep pockets.
It’s time for Sami Salo to go on permanent injured reserve. He’s had an admirable career, but he looked old and slow in these playoffs.
Chris Tanev was a revelation through the regular season and the playoffs, and deserves a regular roster spot next year. I hope that Ballard will be given a solid shot next season, either to showcase him for a trade or to solidify his role on the team. Rome is a Vigneault favourite, so I’d expect that he’ll be back.
There are a number of promising defensive prospects in the Canucks’ system–Kevin Connauton, Billy’s brother Lee Sweatt, Peter Andersson and so forth. None, as I understand it, are sure-things, but there will be some spirited competition in training camp for the final roster spot among them.
The current NHL thinking is that you only need an average goalie to win a Stanley Cup. Unfortunately, you can still lose to an extraordinary one. In terms of comparing the play of various players on Boston and Vancouver, Luongo was outplayed by the largest margin. He simply wasn’t good enough. The rest of the team is also culpable, but they were let down again and again by their goaltender.
Luongo’s emotional fragility really worries me. I don’t see him getting over that any time soon.
It’d never happen, but I’d like to see the team trade Luongo and take a chance on young Cory Schneider. I doubt they could actually find a team willing to take on Luongo’s albatross of a contract.
Instead, the team’s really obligated to move Schneider and let him be the starting goalie that he seems ready to become. I wouldn’t be surprised if that deal happened at the draft next week.
I like Alain Vigneault a lot. Until the playoffs, I thought he’d done an excellent job of the tactical details of his work, and apparently managed the egos in the dressing room. However, particularly during the Boston series, he was out-coached by his opposite number. For example, he failed to address the team’s floundering powerplay.
More importantly, the team’s intensity routinely flagged. This, I think, is a symptom of them not listening to their coaching staff. NHL coaches have a shelf life, and Vigneault may be reaching the end of his.
Until Luongo’s playoff implosion, General Manager Mike Gillis looked like a genius. All those goals took the shine off his decision to give Luongo a 12-year contract. Other than that, though, Gillis’s work has been excellent. I quite enjoyed this long profile of Gillis in The Globe and Mail last month.
This year’s playoff run must have been an absurd windfall for the team. They hosted 14 of a potential 16 home games. In game one, it’s estimated the team made $6.9 million in revenue for the four home games. The figure rises to $3.69 million per game in ticket revenue alone in the Stanley Cup finals. And remember, they don’t pay the players in the post-season.
Next Fall’s Roster
The team will no doubt make some moves in the off-season, but what might their roster look like in early October?
Somebody gritty like Joel Ward-Malhotra-Hansen
A cheap backup goalie
UPDATE: I was looking at the wrong column in Cap Geek, so it turns out that Samuelsson, Raymond and Rome are under contract for another year. I’ve adjusted this post accordingly.
5 Comments »
May 25th, 2011, 6 Comments »
In 1994, I remember watching the Canucks’ improbable run to the Stanley Cup Finals in the basement of my parents’ house. My recently-blended family was arrayed on couches, and I sat on the floor, my back against the coffee table. I wanted to be as close to the television as possible.
It was a thrilling run. I remember how my girlfriend was dismayed by how Felix Potvin collapsed into his net after Greg Adams’ series-ending goal against Toronto. I remember how Trevor Linden put the team on his back in the final game against New York, scoring two goals and hitting everything on the ice, despite having cracked ribs. I remember Nathan LaFayette, a fringe player who only had 187 games in the NHL, hitting the post late in game 7 against the Rangers. So close.
I was in Vancouver for the 1982 run, and I probably witnessed some of it. I don’t remember it, though, as I was only eight years old. Cut me some slack.
At the start of the year, I said that, on paper, this is the best team the city has ever had. They played the regular season like that, and, despite some confidence problems, have looked good in the playoffs.
For the past week weeks, I’ve also been saying that the Canucks deserved a few lucky breaks. Their opponents seem to have fortune on their side, with dubious goals scored from behind the net or when Luongo is out of position. But Vancouver didn’t seem to be getting the easy goals. Until last night.
Last night, the break came when Alex Edler’s dump-in took a bizarre carom off a stanchion and bounced at a 90-degree angle toward Kevin Bieksa. Bieksa, apparently the only person in the building who saw the puck, fired a worm-burner of a shot that beat the perplexed San Jose goaltender.
And so, with that lucky break, they’re off to the Finals. I’m hardly an objective observer, but I like their chances. And so does
Sky.Net, I mean, NHL 2011.
Do you remember where you were during the 1994 playoff run?
6 Comments »
January 6th, 2011, 1 Comment »
Last night was an mix of emotions for this sports fan. First, there was the collapse of the Canadian World Junior team in Buffalo, New York. It was dismaying, but it’s probably good for the Canadian hockey psyche to remind ourselves that, you know, other nations are pretty good at the frozen game, too.
As the game ended, we rushed out to get to the Canucks-Flames game. It followed the (refreshingly typical) pattern of the Canucks doing just enough to win, beating the Flames 3-1 while being outshot 44-21. Roberto Luongo was, to use the colloquial, seriously pissed to lose his much-deserved shutout with about 10 seconds in the game.
The icing on the Canucks victory was that I won a signed Henrik Sedin jersey. During the game, the Canucks displayed a call to action on the big screen–tweet your section, row and seat to @VanCanucks, and one lucky winner gets a jersey. I did so, and huzzah!
As with most celebrities, Sedin’s signature is not more than an abstract scrawl. Sort of “hd sd”.
I took a professional interest in what my odds of winning were. I did a quick count on Twitter, and based on my very quick calculation, it looked like about 250 people entered the contest. The attendance to the game was 18,860, so that means about 1.2% of fans tweeted. That seems like a good result, in light of the fact that the message was displayed only once on the big screen.
In any case, thanks to the Canucks organization for the jersey!
1 Comment »
July 1st, 2010, 2 Comments »
We interrupt talk of the World Cup and lingerie models to discuss the Canucks recent player movement. Today is the start of the free agency period, enabling teams to sign (typically older) players who have reached the end of their contracts. It’s a frenzy of deal making and over-spending general managers.
The Canucks made two sizable deals today, signing BC-born, hard-nosed defenceman Dan Hamhuis to a six year, $4.5 million/year deal and BC-by-marriage (his wife is Steve Nash’s sister) defensive forward Manny Malhotra to three years at $2.5 million a year. They also signed spare parts Jeff Tambellini and Joel Perrault. Add the draft-day trade for Keith Ballard, and Canucks GM Mike Gillis has been a busy man.
To his credit, Gillis has recognized and addressed the team’s defensive deficiencies. The team simply couldn’t deal with the Blackhawks’ speed and size during last year’s playoffs. None of these players are going to pot a lot of goals, but goal-scoring hasn’t been a problem for the Canucks in recent years.
I like that both Ballard and Hamhuis are just 27, and coming into the prime of their careers. The team also got significantly meaner. The forwards aren’t a particularly physical bunch, but Ballard and Hamhuis can dish out punishment from the back-end (heh).
The team almost certainly bids farewell to concussed Willie Mitchell, Kyle Wellwood, Pavol Demitra (good riddance) and Andrew Raycroft (as I write this, I see he’s signed with Dallas), all free agents. With eight NHL already under contract (if they sign restricted free agent Shane O’Brien, that’s nine) they’ll almost certainly trade odd-man out Kevin Bieksa for help up-front and to clear up some salary cap space.
So, what might the opening night roster look like? I know Burrows won’t be back for the start of the season, but I’m slotting him in to make a fully healthy roster (knock on wood):
Sedin Sedin Burrows
Raymond Kesler Samuelsson
Hansen Malhotra Rypien
Rypien Hodgson Glass
If Gillis can trade Bieksa for a bonified third-line forward, then that’s an encouraging roster for the 2010 season.
2 Comments »
May 10th, 2010, 4 Comments »
Doesn’t Roberto Luongo look a bit like Count Chocula? Maybe it’s just the widow’s peak, but…
I don’t think I’ve ever eaten Count Chocula. I looked around on the web, and there’s a lot of concern that the cereal has been discontinued. That’s apparently not the case, as you can buy it on Amazon.
4 Comments »
January 11th, 2010, 6 Comments »
This past Satuday I went to the Canucks game–my first game in a couple of years. North American sports arenas are, of course, obsessed with distracting you at every stoppage in play. One common tactic is to show people in the crowd on the Jumbotron (or whatever it’s called–the giant cube of screens in the middle of the arena).
Most people, when they recognize themselves on the Jumbotron, seem utterly delighted to be shown to 20,000 other people. I’d say that the ratio of delight to embarrassment was 90% to 10%.
I started wondering about why this was. Surely if you asked those delighted people to give, say, a three-minute speech in front of 50 people many of them would be terrified. And yet they’re pleased to dance, flash the devil horns or otherwise act zaney for 20,000. Why is this?
One side note on this: I’ve got a friend who fears that she won’t recognize herself should she be shown on the Jumbotron. She routinely makes a subtle, peculiar hand gesture as the camera pans the crowd in order to spot herself.
6 Comments »
December 29th, 2009, 14 Comments »
Somebody on Twitter mentioned that “the Canucks game just got way more interesting”, so I visited TEAM 1040′s website to listen to the end of the game (it’s a pay-per-view game, so there’s no regular TV broadcast. I’m happy to pay for a game occasionally, but not when it’s Phoenix.). TEAM 1040 is running a web poll at the moment, asking “Who is the hottest Canuck?”. Check out the results:
For those readers who are not hockey fans, Daniel and Henrik Sedin are identical twins. They look like this:
Though he looks about 15, I’d say Raymond deserves the lead. Here he is sandwiched between Rebecca and Alanah (the photo is by John):
14 Comments »
September 2nd, 2009, 4 Comments »
The Canucks signed star goalie Roberto Luongo to a humongous 12-year, $64 million deal today. The many non-sports fans among my dear readers should keep reading, though, as there’s an interesting business angle to this story.
The NHL operates under a salary cap system. For the 2009-2010 season, teams aren’t permitted to pay their players a collective salary of less than $40.8 million (call that the ‘salary underpants’, maybe?) and no more than $56.8 million.
This system, also used in other professional sports leagues, encourages parity and fairness among the teams. Teams in big cities like New York, can’t buy a championship by waving big money under the noses a slew of star players. On the other hand, a nefarious owner can’t, for whatever reason, operate a team on minor-league salaries. The NHL cap is only four years old but, by my estimation, so far, so good.
There are lots of ways, some legitimate and some dubious, to manipulate your salary cap ‘hit’–what your salaries are counted as against the cap–throughout the year. There’s even a slangy job title for the numbers man inside your organization who pays attention to these things–he’s a ‘capologist’.
A Handy Loophole
Most hockey players hang up the skates around the age of 35 or so. So why have the Canucks signed a 12-year contract with the 30-year-old Luongo that would have him playing through his 43rd birthday?
The deal, you see, is front-loaded. Luongo will earn much more money in the first few years of his contract than the last few. In fact, in the last two years, he’s only (forgive me, but this is professional sports) earn $2 million and $1 million respectively.
However, when the league calculates how a player’s salary impacts the salary cap, they take the average per year salary. When his contract kicks in next year, despite the fact Luongo makes $7 million in the first year, the ‘cap hit’ the league counts is only $5.33 million. This gives the Canucks valuable flexibility in managing the salaries of the other 22 players on the roster.
Will Luongo play until he’s 43? Almost certainly not. He’ll retire when he’s ready, and decline however much money is left on his contract.
It’s a loophole, and one that’s being exploited by several teams at the moment. It will be closed in the next few years, but everyone expects these existing super-long contracts to be grandfathered in.
Training Camp is Just Around the Corner
With Luongo signed long term, I like how the team is shaping up this fall. They recently acquired some defencemen who should be able to fill Ohlund’s skates, and the signing of Mikael Samuelsson seems like a wise move. It would be great if Cody Hodgson or Michael Grabner could make the team, too.
Luongo’s deal makes blue-chip prospect goalie Cody Schneider a high-value, tradeable asset. I expect GM Mike Gillis to hold off until well into the season before the goalie is moved, though. Gillis will assess the team, decide what they need, and use Schneider to buy it.
What do you think? Is the Luongo super-deal a good thing?
4 Comments »