My latest post for Get Real Hockey, in which I dissect some of Mike Gillis’ comments and throw in a bit of Lu for you too.
The Cody Hodgson issue has been beaten to death over the past little while, especially today, so I decided not to touch on it and just let MG’s comment stand on its own.
(In reality I’ve been awake since 4.30am and I neglected to write about it in this post :/ )
Lots of things went wrong for the Vancouver Canucks this post season. Daniel Sedin was out. Henrik Sedin was almost knocked out. Ryan Kesler pouted so much he played like he was out. Coldplay completely stole their momentum after game 4. Guts McTavish’s Twitter ball avatar simply would.. not.. change. Still, you can’t dwell on the negative. Instead, let’s take a leaf out of the Zombieland Rulebook and enjoy the little things about the 2011-2012 edition of the Vancouver Canucks.
- Jannik Hansen had a career year offensively. He finished the season with 16-23-39 and a +18. That’s 7 goals and 10 points higher than last season’s totals. Plus he earned himself a new nickname:
- Maxim Lapierre still has a face every opponent of the Canucks wants to punch but he backed up his extra curricula activities with strong play between the whistles this season. He led the team in hits with 244 in the regular season (good for 11th in the NHL) and did something many people never thought he would – fight. Max dropped the gloves 7 times this season, including once at center ice at TD Garden against Gregory Campbell. He played at center and wing in the bottom 6 and when called upon to fill in on the 1st and 2nd lines he never looked out of place. Plus, he’s responsible for this:
- David Booth was traded for in October, got hurt, then came back to be voted the Most Exciting Canucks Player by the fans. Not sure I agree with that one, but he had his moments. Strangely enough, for me it wasn’t his goal scoring that was the highlight, it was his fight with Mark Olver. Booth is very Christian, so you wouldn’t expect him to lay the smack down like this:
- Manny Malhotra may not quite be the same player he was before his horrific eye injury last year but the simple fact that he is out there is truly incredible.
- Cody Hodgson made the pipes sing on 2 of the most memorable goals of the Canucks season:
Such sweet music. I’m concentrating on the positive so I’m not even going to mention “the trade” here. Oh wait, I just did. Damnit.
- But it was Aaron Rome who kicked off the impressions this season, doing his best Ray Bourque as he scored 3 goals in 4 games back in November. Rome finished the season with a career high 4-6-10 but was a career low -4. (Sorry, I’m trying to be positive!)
- January 7th 2012. Rematch day against the Boston Bruins at TD Garden. In many ways this was the semicolon that punctuated the sentence that was the Canucks’ season. After this game things changed – nothing was quite the same. The Canucks won in Boston, which is something many thought they could never do. They won it on the back of special teams, which was something they could not do in the Stanley Cup Finals. Cory Schneider was in goal – the first true sign that the Canucks may go to him in vital games. It was a memorable win, one that partially soothed the wounds left behind from last season.
- Finally, the Vancouver Canucks won a 2nd straight Presidents’ Trophy. Despite what everyone says this is a great achievement and one the Canucks should be proud of.
It’s a long wait until next season and there will be lots of head scratching and cynicism to deal with during that wait. I’ll do my best to remember the good times (I’ll probably read this post 20 times) and remain excited and hopeful for the next NHL season.
I watched the Buffalo Sabres beat the New York Rangers 4-1 this morning (Australian time) and I took a few things from it.
1. I watched the MSG feed and they have a super slow-mo camera. I’ve seen these cameras used in cricket and it never occurred to me how perfect they would be for hockey. The super slow-mo shots of Lundqvist’s and Miller’s saves were awesome. Seriously Sportsnet or Canucks or whoever controls the cameras, get a couple of these for Rogers Arena in time for the playoffs.
2. Lindy Ruff is using Cody Hodgson in all situations and the kid looks good. Ruff had him out on the powerplay, on the penalty kill (where he was great) and, shock horror, taking defensive zone face-offs and he didn’t miss a beat. For the record, Hodgson finished 11-21 at the dot, including a 5-7 performance in the closely fought 3rd period.
3. If I was to write a game review of this game it would go something like this: Rangers block lots of shots. Rangers get hurt. Rangers lose game.
John Tortorella obviously wants all of his players to step in front of shots. It seems to work for them given the strong season they’ve had so far. Thing is, despite the recent lull, the Canucks have had a strong season too and blocking shots is something the Canucks aren’t particularly good at. Alex Edler leads the Canucks with 120 blocked shots, good for 45th in the NHL. The Rangers have 2 players in the top 10 (McDonagh with 169 and Girardi with 165).
It seems NHL players listen to their coaches (unless they play for the Capitals). If they get told to go and block shots, they don’t think about it, they just do it (as described by Dan Girardi in the 1st intermission on MSG yesterday). If Alain Vigneault wanted his Canucks to block more shots they would. He hasn’t.
Here’s why: it’s dangerous. It’s a long regular season and if you get hit with a puck in the wrong place you could be out for a while. Just ask Mats Zuccarello. Last night he skated across almost the entire rink to get in front of a shot. It hit him in the wrist, fractured it and now he’s out indefinitely. I don’t understand that play. It was gutsy, yes, and showed lots of heart. But it was a shot from the point with a clear line to the net, which was completely covered by one of the best goaltenders in the world. Henrik Lundqvist had that shot covered, just like he did the other gazillion times the Rangers blocked a shot. Now the Rangers are down a player for no good reason. Why do it so much when you have Henrik freaking Lundqvist in net? If Dan Hamhuis or Alex Burrows had their wrist broken making that play I would be furious.
I’m not saying don’t block shots at all. What I am saying is that I understand that if the Canucks reluctance to block shots this regular season is a directive from the coaching staff. It’s all about the playoffs for Vancouver and after injuries and fatigue slowed them down last year I think it’s a great idea to save the big blocked shots and relentless physical play for when it matters – the playoffs.
Hockey Night in Canada on CBC
Mark Lee, Kevin Weekes
Without a doubt Kevin Weekes’ suit. I don’t know what the hell that was but on After Hours Scott Oake called him Steve Urkel and it suited (pun not intended!).
I also got a chuckle out of Mark Lee accidentally calling Ville Leino “Ville Lamo” during the call and not correcting himself. Yes Mark, I heard you.
Now Onto The Game:
Eric Furlatt, Kyle Rehman
Not great. After Brad Boyes potted his goal play went on for almost 2 minutes before they decided to review it. It was so obviously a goal they should have blown the whistle and just pointed to the spot. There was a bad miscall on a Pahlsson almost breakaway and I think Rome’s penalty for his shoulder to shoulder/head hit on Ennis was iffy at best.
Sabres 5 Canucks 3
Booth 2 (13)
Leino 2 (6 of the most expensive goals in the NHL)
Ennis EN (7)
2 weeks ago this game looked like a fairly innocuous regular season game between 2 expansion siblings, with the highlight possibly being the Canucks fans booing Ehrhoff on his first return to Vancouver, or Luongo and Miller battling again in Rogers Arena for the first time since the 2010 Olympic gold medal game. How that dastardly trade deadline changed things. All of a sudden it was the big highlight game in the aftermath of “that trade”, the one where Cody Hodgson (and Alexander Sulzer, ahem) played his (their) first game against his (their) old team. The one where Zack Kassian gets his chance to destroy his old, and reportedly small, team mates. The one where Marc-Andre Gragnani gets to show Lindy Ruff just how useful he can be. Suddenly there was more than enough incentive to watch this game.
This was almost the complete opposite to the St. Louis Blues game. Lots of fast and frenetic action and attacking play from the Canucks, especially in the 2nd, as they tried to climb their way out of a very big hole that Luongo dug for them.
Luongo, after being stellar against the Blues and excellent since the New Year, let in 3 goals on 7 shots and was pulled after just 5:10 in the 1st period. The first Leino goal was particularly weak, letting a long wrister go 5-hole. Leino’s 2nd goal came after Luongo lost his stick and tried to swat the puck away with his blocker. He swatted it straight onto Leino’s stick, who must have thought it was Christmas with a gift like that for him.
Was Luongo caught day dreaming about his Olympic gold medal? Or was he suffering a little after catching a Mason Raymond shot up high in the neck area in the pre-game warmup? The only thing besides glass that Raymond has hit with his wrist shot in weeks and it’s Luongo’s head. Typical. Raymond’s night didn’t get any better. He waffled around the ice at high speed, as usual, and eventually played his way to the 4th line.
This allowed Zack Kassian to play on the 2nd line with Kesler and Booth and he picked up a goal and an assist against his old club. To me Kassian looks good on that line. Physical, energetic and at least good enough to feed off his linemate’s good play. Unlike Raymond.
Sabres started the game with Hodgson and in the first shift Sami Salo gently ran him into the boards behind the net. I thought it was a loving gesture from the gentle Finn. Ryan Kesler obviously prefers a hard style of love because he tried to beat the bejesus out of Hodgson the rest of the game.
Vancouver really needs the Sedins to find their scoring touch again. The twins had one great shift in the offensive zone but didn’t produce anything. They looked average on the PP too. If the Canucks want to go deep in the playoffs again and maybe, just possibly, go one win better, they are going to need the Sedins to get their asses into gear again.
Some folks are bemoaning a boring trade deadline day. Obviously those folks are not fans of the Vancouver Canucks, Buffalo Sabers or Nashville Predators. Jebus what a crazy day. Here’s my take on some of the more interesting trades to go down on the trade deadline day 2012.
Nashville Predators acquire Andrei Kostitsyn from Montreal Canadiens for a 2013 2nd round pick & condition 2013 5th round pick
The first sign today that Nashville are going for it. They already have stellar goaltending and a super beefy defence but they need scoring. Who better to go for that Sergei Kostitsyn‘s older brother Andrei? Ahh… Yeah. Maybe? We’ve seen this show before. The Kostitsyn brothers are not the Belorusian answer to the Sedins. That said, the Preds have made something out of Sergei. He’s playing much better in Nashville than he ever did in Montreal and I suspect David Poile and Barry Trotz think they can invigorate Andrei’s game in a similar way. He doesn’t bring Rick Nash level talent to Nashville’s top 6, not by a long shot, but look out for Andrei to pot some timely goals come playoff time.
Nashville Predators acquire Paul Gaustad & 2013 4th round pick from Buffalo Sabers for 2012 1st round pick
So, not ready to call it a day, Nashville give up a 1st round draft pick for Paul Gaustad. If that was the asking price for a defensive centre like Gaustad no wonder the Canucks traded for Sami Pahlsson (see below). Gaustad is big (6’5″ 212lb) and from what I’ve seen of him, plays defense first. I don’t really understand the Predator’s need for a player like him given the existing make up of the team, except to say that they must be really keen to beat the living crap out of the Canucks in the playoffs this year.
Vancouver Canucks acquire Samuel Pahlsson from Columbus Blue Jackets for 2 2012 4th round pick (one from the Islanders) and prospect Taylor Ellington
In retrospect, this should have been the harbinger of doom for Cody Hodgson fans in Vancouver. Instead, it spawned blog posts like this one. I mean really, another centre? We should have seen the writing on the wall. Anyway, enough Hodgson (for now). I have a theory on the Pahlsson trade. The Canucks wanted to trade for him so that no other team could acquire him and then play him shift after shift against the Sedins in the playoffs. Pahlsson trained with the Sedins in the off season before his 2007 Stanley Cup winning season with Anaheim (he also played with them years earlier for MODO Hockey in Sweden). In the playoffs that fateful year the Canucks came up against the Ducks in the 2nd round and Pahlsson completely shut them down, almost single handedly. He went on to finish the playoffs 3-9-12, +10 and with a Stanley Cup ring on his finger. Many people considered him to be one of the most important reasons for the Ducks’ success that year. Since then Pahlsson’s value has dropped significantly after so-so outings with the Chicago Blackhawks and Columbus Blue Jackets. With Hodgson gone I can see Pahlsson sliding into the 3rd line centre role and the Canucks will be hoping that he can regain his 2007 playoff form this year.
I know technically these were 2 separate trades but I can’t help but believe they are intrinsically linked. You don’t just trade Cody Hodgson for Zack Kassian straight up. You just don’t. To me, these 2 trades actually equal Cody Hodgson for Zack Kassian and Marc-Andre Gragnani.
This was the big daddy of trades this year. The one that shocked everyone, from the fans to other GM’s to the players themselves. It came so late that the trade was announced quite a while after the deadline had passed. The press and fans were so keen for something exciting, something bold, that the second there was even an inkling of Hodgson getting traded, Twitter almost exploded. News got out so fast that Chris Tanev read it on his phone while he and Hodgson were out walking, even before Mike Gillis could get to the phone to tell Hodgson himself.
Hodgson is in the running for the Calder this year. He’s proven himself at the NHL level. Kassian has not. He’s only posted 7 points in 27 games with the Sabres this year. But Kassian is a big boy, plays a really gritty game from the right wing and has put up decent offensive numbers in lower levels of the game (77 points in 56 games for Windor in the OHL in 2010-2011). He could be the second coming of Milan Lucic. He could also be the second coming of Steve Bernier. Gulp. But I think not. Kassian to me is blue chip, the real deal, and if not this year then in years to come he will be a beast next to Kesler or the Sedins.
Gragnani is the dark horse in this deal. I truly believe Mike Gillis has been looking hard at this guy for a while. There’s mixed reports out there about him and I’ve personally never seen him play, but +10 on a shitty Sabres team this year has to mean something. All I hope from him is that he fills in nicely for Ballard and somehow helps to reduce Salo’s ice time down the stretch.
Hodgson meanwhile gets to move back east, much closer to home and (probably) will get top 6 time on a team that will give him every chance to be their franchise cornerstone. I think Cody will flourish with Buffalo and in years to come will be a great captain for them.
Most laughable trade of the day has to go to the Rangers and Blackhawks:
New York Rangers acquire John Scott from Chicago Blackhawks for a 2012 5th round pick
John Scott is the absolute true definition of a pylon. Not only can you skate around him like he was one, but he’s so big you could probably use him as a pylon. Not often you can say a team overpaid for a player by giving up a 5th round pick, but the Rangers certainly did here. I hope for the Rangers’ sake they never have to play him this year.