The Vancouver Canucks are down 3-0 in the best of 7 series against the San Jose Sharks. After game 1 I felt the series was being played to a familiar tune and that tune has continued to haunt us much like Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah being covered over and over and over and over and over and over again for all eternity.
I will not dwell on what has happened. To quote that classic Bertuzzi refrain “it is what it is”. It is unlikely that the Canucks will come back from this deficit given that the Sharks are playing extremely well and there appears to be about as many good vibes in the Vancouver room as you’d find in Afghanistan right now. I also won’t give much thought to game 4. Thanks to injuries the Canucks have limited options when it comes to shaking the roster up. Vigneault isn’t about to change his game plan or systems. Whatever happens, happens, and could ultimately be nebulous.
Amidst all the “end of an era in Vancouver” talk instead I will go down the “start of a new era” road. The Canucks will be eliminated in the 1st round of the Western Conference Playoffs. Ok. Changes will occur in the Canucks organisation because of that. Ok. Fine.
But what should those changes be? The focus is on coach Alain Vigneault but there’s also assistant coaches, vice presidents, directors, assistant general managers and the general manager himself, Mike Gillis. Then there are the players. There are lots of options to shake things up and to kick off the new era of Vancouver Canucks hockey.
Alain Vigneault is the obvious “escape goat” but some questions must be raised about his assistants as well. The Canucks D has appeared unorganised for much of the season and the pairings have chopped and changed with the winds. Assistant Coach Rick Bowness runs the D and for mine he’s run it into the ground. Assistant Coach Newell Brown runs special teams and appears to have used up his bag of tricks because the Canucks finished this regular season with the 22nd ranked powerplay in the NHL. A PP that for much of the year inexplicably failed to use it’s biggest weapon from the point – Jason Garrison.
Whatever the assistants get up to has to go by the Head Coach and this is why Alain Vigneault is in trouble. Ultimately the coaching buck stops with him. Still, he can only work with the tools given to him. This is where the General Manager comes in.
The General Manager
I can see Mike Gillis falling on his sword this off season. It’s easy to fling dung on Vigneault but if you drop the cowpat and take a proper look at what has happened over the past few years with the Canucks it becomes a little more obvious that the dung should be hitting the fan in Mike Gillis’ office.
Going back to the end of the 2011 season where the Canucks were outscored and out-muscled in the Stanley Cup Final against the Boston Bruins, these are the highlights of GM MG’s transactions:
- Failed to re-sign Christian Ehrhoff, traded his rights for a 4th round pick. FAIL. Edler and the Sedins haven’t quite been the same since Ehrhoff left. Gillis has yet to find a suitable replacement to play the right side with Edler and for me this is a crucial weakness for the Canucks.
- Released Raffi Torres. FAIL. Since leaving the Canucks Torres has gained further infamy with his Jay-Z halloween costume and terrible hit on Marian Hossa, but his on ice value was obvious in Phoenix and now he’s playing extremely well for the San Jose Sharks.
- The Cody Hodgson situation. In hindsight it’s hard to look at this and think it was handled well by the Canucks. For me, the short term result of the trade is FAIL. Hodgson finished 2nd in scoring for the Buffalo Sabres this year and would have looked quite nice on the 2nd line for the Canucks while Kesler decided to keep hurting himself. Having him in the lineup would have negated the need to trade for Derek Roy (in itself a fail). Long term is another thing as Zach Kassian could still become a great player. But the Canucks are trying to win the Stanley Cup now. Kassian isn’t helping now. Hodgson could have. Arguments could be made that Hodgson’s lack of defensive instinct would never fit in the Canucks system but if a world class coach like Alain Vigneault isn’t able to adjust his lines, his game plan, to best utilise the team’s star 1st round pick and potential future captain, then there’s bigger problems.
- The David Booth trade. FAIL. This was a bet that Mike Gillis lost. In theory it was a great acquisition but the reality is that Booth was not a proven, regular, goal scorer and his inconsistency has continued in Vancouver.
- Signed Jason Garrison. FAIL. Oooo controversy. The Canucks desperately needed a right side specialist to play alongside Alex Edler. They still do because instead of getting one Gillis invested $4.6mill in cap space to Jason Garrison, who as good, not great, as good as he is, is not a right side specialist. For me it came down to having to get that right side guy to play with Edler (ala Ehrhoff), or they had to trade Edler. Instead they have Garrison forever plus Edler forever and no one to play alongside him.
- Which brings me to the bag full of no-trade and no-movement clauses Gillis has happily thrown into player contracts. Luongo, the Sedins, Kesler, Burrows, Higgins, Bieksa, Hamhuis, Garrison, Edler. All have a clause preventing them from being traded and/or waived. That’s over $45 million against next season’s $64.3 million cap committed to 10 players on a 23 player roster. If you’re lucky enough to get a player to agree to a trade then their big contract becomes a road block to said trade (Luongo’d).
- The Luongo situation. The less said about that the better, but still FAIL.
- There’s also a plethora of other little moves Gillis has executed over the years that haven’t quite worked out. The Volpatti waive, releasing Rick Rypien, extending Mason Raymond, the Sturm signing, the Pahlsson trade, the Malhotra situation (questionable), letting Sami Salo go, burning a year of Frank Corrado’s entry level deal…
Things don’t look so rosy for Michael D. Gillis. He’s made a tonne of moves and had some success (not complaining about those Presidents’ Trophies) but if you focus on the moves that have hindered this team you discover there are a lot of them. The GM should be a victim of some finger pointing.
No matter what the coaches and GM do it ultimately comes down to how the players execute on the ice. The Canucks have not been executing. Goals have dried up. Soft goals have been let in. Defense has let everyone down. There will be changes to the roster before next season, not just because of performance but also because of the salary cap squeeze that will affect the Canucks more than most teams.
For me the following current roster players are untouchable:
- Daniel Sedin
- Henrik Sedin
- Alex Burrows
- Jannik Hansen
- Dan Hamhuis
- Kevin Bieksa
- Alex Edler
- Cory Schneider
I would also not be trading Nicklas Jensen or Brendan Gaunce.
Beyond these guys I would be willing and happy to trade every single other player on the roster. Yes, that includes Ryan Kesler. I’m not a Kesler fan. As good as he can be he’s also fickle. His chirping and diving are an embarrassment and have acted as motivation for the opposition rather than for his own team (just ask the Blackhawks and the Bruins, who I would bet said something along the lines of “we are NOT losing to THESE GUYS. Anyone but THESE GUYS” at some point during the playoffs). Also, he would draw a massive return in any trade. Trade Kesler.
Ultimately whatever happens this off season it will be a different Vancouver Canucks team taking to the ice at the beginning of the next NHL season.
If it was up to me, I’d retain Alain Vigneault, I’d jettison his assistants, I’d jettison Mike Gillis and I’d give AV and the core mentioned above a new group of guys to play with. Trust in some rookies. Look to get some heart, soul and guts back into the team. It’s time for an identity change.
In the immortal words of Dewey Cox: “Goddamnit, this is a dark fucking period!”
After the loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets (which may not be as bad as we thought) the Canucks stooped even lower today, going down 4-2 against the Minnesota Wild in a very, very lackluster display. For the first time in what seems like forever Vancouver has relinquished the lead of the Northwest Division and has a record of 3-4-3 in their last 10. They sit 6th in the Western Conference with a goal differential of -1. They have the 24th ranked powerplay in the NHL and the 17th ranked penalty kill. Their team face off percentage is 48.5%, only good for 22nd in the NHL.
These are all areas of the game that the Canucks have been strong at for the last few seasons. For a team that was meant to be a contender things are not going well at all.
So what to do with the Vancouver Canucks?
Fire coach Alain Vigneault? I like AV but my feelings on this have not changed since last year’s playoffs. He’s a very smart coach and he has a great record however with the way the Canucks backed into last year’s playoffs and the way the team has played this year the question must be asked – has Alain Vigneault “lost the room”? Another question that needs to be asked is “has AV used up his whole bag of tricks?” Opposition teams appear to see the Canucks coming these days and when things go wrong mid-game he rarely seems to have the ability to pick his team up and drag them out of their funk. It may be time for Alain Vigneault to go. However given his tenure with the Canucks, his record and the fact he has a while to go on his contract I can not see him being fired any time soon.
Do they fire Mike Gillis? It’s fair to say he has made a number of moves that have not panned out. He traded for Steve Bernier. Then matched a silly offer sheet on him. He let Ohlund walk. He let Salo walk. He waived Volpatti. The Ballard trade. The Booth trade. The Pahlsson trade. The Luongo contract. The Hodgson trade (debatable). The Garrison signing added another left handed left side playing defensemen to a blueline that desperately needed a right handed right side guy. He has a questionable drafting record. On the plus side he’s also developed a winning culture in Vancouver, where second best isn’t good enough. He crafted a team that made it to game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final and that may have won if they had remained healthy. He’s signed a number of players to “discounted” contracts. On top of that he got a contract extension last year as well so it’s unlikely he’s going anywhere.
The trade option seems the most likely. The Luongo situation is still simmering, Ballard is still in AV’s doghouse and the Canucks are about to get squeezed hard by the NHL’s lower salary cap for next year. With the team struggling and in obvious need of center depth, powerplay scoring and a blueline kick in the ass, why wait until the off season to fix these issues? I can see Gillis making a trade or two before the deadline that will go some way to addressing all these issues while assisting in the salary cap situation next year. I will be surprised if Keith Ballard is still a Canuck on April 4th and I will be absolutely blown away if the Canucks have their current goaltending duo after the deadline.
As fans there is nothing we can do about the Vancouver Canucks other than sit tight, trust in AV and MG and above all else, don’t expect the unexpected. AV isn’t going anywhere, Gillis isn’t going anywhere and believe it or not the team will be in the playoffs. Whether they go far in the playoffs is another story and it could depend on what the Canucks do prior to April 3rd – the NHL trade deadline.
Yesterday the Vancouver Canucks travelled to Edmonton to take on the young “superstar” Oilers. I followed along on the NHL.com Ice Tracker. This is what I imagined happened…
(If you need some background on this insanity, see here)
00:36 VAN SHOT #23 A. Edler slap shot saved by #40 D. Dubnyk
00:38 VAN SHOT #33 H. Sedin wrist shot saved by #40 D. Dubnyk
Edler fires a low slapper through a crowd in front. Dubnyk manages to kick a leg out for the pad save but the puck deflects straight onto Henrik’s stick. He has an open net, he knows he should shoot but his natural reaction is “PASS”. Daniel screams “SHOOT”, Henrik snaps out of his revery and obliges with a weak wrister, but by then Dubnyk has slid over for the save. Twitter ignites with “The Sedins have lost it” and “the window is closed” talk.
18:38 EDM GOAL #A. Hemsky (3) Backhand, Assists: #64 N. Yakupov (2), #89 S. Gagner (7)
On the power play the Oilers move the puck around the perimeter like lightning but can’t find a decent shot. Hemsky is fed up and skates to the net, says “Anything you can do Eberle I can do better” and roofs a backhand over Luongo’s shoulder. He gets an upper body injury during the celebration.
03:10 VAN SHOT #5 J. Garrison slap shot saved by #40 D. Dubnyk
Garrison slaps one from the point on the power play. Dubnyk skates 2 metres to the left of the net to make the pointless save.
08:08 EDM GOAL #94 R. Smyth (1) Deflection, Assists: #57 A. Lander (1)
Smyth sits on Luongo’s head to get the deflection from Lander’s shot. Smyth cries.
09:33 EDM HIT #4 T. Hall hit #8 C. Tanev
Tanev collects the puck in his own zone. As the puck touches his stick everything slows down bullet-time Matrix style. Tanev smokes a spliff, eats a piece of fried chicken and sips a beer, then makes a calm, sensible pass up on the ice. Time returns to normal, with Taylor Hall bearing down on the very relaxed (and full) Tanev. Hall staples Tanev to the boards and falls over. Tanev skates back to the bench in a trail of smoke.
12:41 VAN GOAL #36 J. Hansen (1) Snap Shot, Assists: #45 J. Schroeder (2), #20 C. Higgins (3)
Hard work from Higgins, skill and vision from Schroeder, Honey Badger don’t care attitude from Hansen. Higgins forechecks hard, gets the puck to Schroeder who executes a delicious tape to tape pass across the slot to Hansen, who delays a split second and snaps it high glove side.
02:45 VAN TAKEAWAY #20 C. Higgins
Higgins sees Tanev snacking on takeaway chicken again and politely advises that he’ll have to be more careful with his takeaway choices if he ever wants to get abs to rival his own.
10:15 EDM SHOT #19 J. Schultz wrist shot saved by #1 R. Luongo
Justin “Second Coming” Schultz gets the puck. A light from heaven descends upon him like a spot light, angels sing from upon high and he fires a wrist shot straight into Lu’s chest. Lu’s eyes light up red and he laughs manically while making the \m/ sign with this blocker hand and sticking his tongue out. The angels recede and the spotlight fades. Schultz is bewildered “oh Father, how could you forsake me?”
17:43 VAN GOAL #3 K. Bieksa (1) slap shot, Assists: #21 M. Raymond (1), #36 J. Hansen (4)
Hansen collects the puck in his own zone and passes to Raymond. Raymond fires down the near side boards like a bat out of hell, skates around the boards, behind the net, out the other side, passes to Bieksa and falls down. Bieksa DRIIIIIVE. Despite having a clear view of the shot Dubnyk misses it under his blocker arm. Oiler fans insist Dubnyk is an elite level goaltender.
02:47 EDM SHOT #4 T. Hall snap shot saved by #1 R. Luongo
Daniel Sedin takes a lazy hooking penalty on a Hall breakaway. No one is surprised. Hall draws the penalty shot. Luongo starts shaking. Hall starts grinning. Hall skates in with speed to take his shot. Luongo has no clue what Hall will do. Every single Canucks fan assumes the game is over. But no, Hall has a brain fart. All thought is expelled from his mind. Instinct takes over and he fires a snap shot straight at Lu’s body. Lu makes the save, immediately starts thinking of what to tweet about the whole experience.
04:40 VAN GOAL #8 C. Tanev (1) snap shot, Assists #33 H. Sedin (6), #22 D. Sedin (5)
Daniel passes to Henrik who has a clear shot at net but he doesn’t shoot, no, he passes, as is his wont, and the puck comes to Christopher Tanev. The moment is his, now or never, Tanev knows he must unleash the fury. He shoots. The puck flutters like a beautiful butterfly towards net. Dubnyk is completely confused by the speed (or lack thereof) of the puck. The puck dips in the air at the last second, falling below Dubnyk’s glove, bouncing slowly but surely over the line. The puck stops before it hits the back of the net. Vancouver explodes in spontaneous celebration. 50,751 babies are conceived in the next 15 minutes. Tanev is drowned in champagne and resuscitated by Dan Hamhuis.
This is what actually happened:
Luongo has started the season hot. Not something any one has ever said since he became a bona-fide starter in the NHL. His October’s are famously terrible. Of course it’s January right now, but it’s still the start of the season so don’t tell Luongo. “Bobby Lu” has successfully booted Cory Schneider off the starters mound for the Canucks, with 2 wins, 2 shootout losses, 1 shutout, a GAA of 1.46 (good for 2nd in the NHL) and a save percentage of .944 (also good for 2nd in the NHL). If the skaters in front of him knew how to stretch out 2 goal leads he would have 2 more wins to his name. It was revealed today he would start in Edmonton tomorrow.
With Luongo’s strong performance and with the relationship between he and Schneider remaining positive and supportive (at least to outside eyes) folks were starting to believe that we wouldn’t see Luongo shipped out of town until after the season is done. All it took to shatter that belief was one tweet from Mr. Elliotte Friedman:
@FriedgeHNIC Spotted at PIT/WASH today: Mike Gillis and assistant Laurence Gilman
Instantly thoughts of Luongo staying on for the season were out the window. It’s been an hour and we’ve already had Marc Andre Fleury arguments, Vokoun arguments, Backstrom speculation, OVECHKIN speculation, discussion on the pros and cons of Brouwer and Neuvirth..
Let’s take a deep breath and look at this a little more closely…
Firstly, let’s look at what the Canucks need right now. Their immediate needs are a solid 2 way centre (even with Ryan Kesler skating at practice he’s a while off) and a veteran backup for Schneider. They could also use a right-handed shot on the blue line (emphasis on the word ‘shot’ – Tanev doesn’t count) and maybe another scoring winger.
Gillis and Gilman are taking in a Pittsburgh/Washington game.
Washington need a goaltender. Neuvirth isn’t taking his game to the next level and Holtby is still young and inconsistent. He may well be an elite level goalie one day but right now he isn’t and right now the Caps need elite level goaltending. Having Luongo in their net would not only make them immediately better, it would give the locker room a sorely needed boost. That Caps team is down in the dumps and who better to bring a smile to the room than @strombone1?
They have the cap space to take on Luongo’s contract – currently $6.3mill spare according to Cap Geek - but do they have the assets Mike Gillis and Laurence Gilman want in return? You can rule out Ovechkin, you can rule out Backstrom and despite his struggles you can probably even rule out Mike Green. Not only do I doubt the Caps desire to blow up their core but the Canucks have just $800,000 in cap space – Luongo’s cap hit is $5.3mill so they can’t be taking on big contracts in return.
Looking at the Canucks needs vs what the Caps may have to offer and there are few options. One is Neuvirth, who could be a reasonable backup to Schneider. He has a friendly cap hit, he’s an RFA this year and he now has 113 NHL starts with 52 wins. The other option is Troy Brouwer. He’s a Vancouver native, he’s got size and grit, he can score a few goals and play well defensively. He’s a right-handed shot. He’s also won a Stanley Cup. With Chicago. He hates the Canucks. The Canucks hate him. Would that even work? Beyond that, he’s a winger, not the center the Canucks need. To me, he’s effectively Jannik Hansen with a higher cap hit. Word is Gillis likes him and has been interested in the past but do the Canucks need him right now?
A package of Neuvirth and Brouwer for Luongo would make sense but given the apparent interest in trading for Luongo across the league, can the Canucks get a better return somewhere else?
Let’s not forget the Penguins. On the surface they aren’t an obvious destination for Luongo. They have a Stanley Cup winning goaltender in Fleury who is signed for another 3 years. They have a solid veteran backup in Vokoun. Do they need Luongo? Well… I think we all remember Fleury’s performance against the Flyers in last year’s playoffs (4.63 GAA, .834 save percentage) and he hasn’t started well this year – 5 games, 3 wins 2.54 GAA .897 save percentage.
At this point I’d like to go back to Mike Gillis’ interview with Cam Cole of the Vancouver Sun on January 21st:
“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.”
Pittsburgh is certainly a team that nobody would have picked as a genuine destination for Luongo. They have a goalie right now that they have soured on that the Canucks would not want in return. It kind of fits.
Speculation overdrive: ENGAGED.
The Penguins have the cap space – $8.5mill of it according to Cap Geek. You can forget the mega deals involving Malkin, Crosby or Letang – ain’t happening. What the Penguins do have is forward depth and a couple of decent defence prospects. Not to mention Vokoun, who could be the perfect backup for Schneider.
I would not be surprised if Luongo became a Penguin. Fleury gets shipped out elsewhere, Luongo comes over in a deal involving say, Tyler Kennedy, Olli Maata (or Scott Harrington) and a pick. I would prefer if the Tyler Kennedy part of that package were Brandon Sutter but I’m trying to be realistic here.
As I wrote this word on Twitter from Stephen Whyno (Washington Times reporter) is that the Capitals have had no talks whatsoever with the Canucks re: Luongo…
The gold medal winning combo of Crosby and Luongo back together? Don’t rule it out.
I have moved house. Due to regional Australia’s terrible internet access issues I’m not able to have a decent, proper, ADSL landline connection. Instead I am left with a wireless connection. Which is fine – I can still access all my usual internet hangouts, but the one thing that doesn’t work too well is NHL Gamecenter Live. Even at my old house on a proper connection it barely worked but now with this slower wireless connection it’s a waste of time. So I’m left with few options to catch Canucks games. Yesterday for the game against the Blackhawks I was so desperate to follow the game that I watched the NHL.com Ice Tracker for updates. It’s a very useful tool, updating all plays, listing live stats like goals, penalties, shots and hits, but it’s not exactly…. Flamboyant. For example:
“#36 J. Hansen hit #27 J.Oduya”
That could be a little love tap along the boards or it could be a massive bone crunching open ice hit of death. You wouldn’t know.
I found myself letting my imagination run wild. Kassian hit someone? The guy’s face is now on the back of his head. Daniel Sedin took a shot? It was a one timer from a behind the back no look backhand pass from Henrik. Luongo made a save? It slipped through his legs and he cleared it off the line with the knob of his stick…. Yeah.
So, the highlights of Blackhawks v Canucks, Feb. 2nd 2013 as interpreted by me via the NHL.com Ice Tracker. A game review with a difference…
03:09 VAN SHOT #2 D. Hamhuis Slap Shot saved by #50 C. Crawford
Dan “Community Man” Hamhuis mumbles to himself “I’ll show you who the real BC born & raised stud defenceman is” and from the point unleashes a 110mph slap shot from the bowels of hell. There’s a scorch mark on the ice, a trail of fire through the air. It heads straight into Crawford’s glove. “Damn”, says Hamhuis.
08:29 CHI SHOT #81 M. Hossa Wrist Shot saved by #1 R. Luongo
Hossa powers down the left side boards, straight around Alex Edler like he wasn’t even there, cuts back into the slot and fires his shot 5-hole at Luongo. Hossa would never expect it to be saved, after all, it’s Roberto Luongo we are talking about. Lu traps it between the legs, covers the gap between his skates with the glove. Hossa looks skyward in disbelief.
13:00 VAN SHOT #40 M. Lapierre Wrist Shot saved by #50 C. Crawford
Dale Weise passes the puck across ice to Lapierre, who was standing in front of the Chicago bench chirping Toews about his dimples. Weise, forgetting he’s not in the Netherlands anymore, is sure that pass will be on the highlight reel and buffs his chest with his knuckles. Lappy carries the puck into the zone and heads for the net. Johnny Oduya cuts him off at the pass and they get tangled up. Lapierre gets the puck on net but it is recorded in the record books as the weakest wrist shot in the history of all hockey. Crawford saves it even as he scans the crowd looking for Blackhawks puck bunnies.
15:42 VAN GOAL #23 A. Edler (3) Wrist Shot, Assists: #9 Z. Kassian (1), #33 H. Sedin (5)
Hank has the puck along the boards down low. Duncan Keith crosschecks him 6 times in a row in the back but Hank still manages a no look backhand pass to the front of the net, where Kassian is waiting. Edler forgets all defensive duties and swoops in from the blue line. Kassian bangs the puck into Crawfords pads, Edler taps the rebound 5-hole as both he and Kassian fall all over the Blackhawks goalie. Blackhawks fans erupt on Twitter claiming goalie interference but referee Eric Furlatt says “yeah right homeez” and declares it a good goal. Even Toews’ dimples are frowning.
From 00:00 to 20:00 BOTH TEAMS ….
Both teams snuggle up on their benches for nap time. Weise dreams of Dutch pancakes. Hansen dreams of the Hulk. Higgins dreams of finally meeting @gaycanuck. Henrik dreams of that season he scored 29 goals. Schneider dreams of stabbing Luongo with his skates. AV dreams of Aaron Rome.
04:36 VAN SHOT #21 M. Raymond Wrist Shot saved by #50 C. Crawford
MayRay skates down the near side boards, evades a check from Seabrook, skates around behind the net, turns and fires a weak wrist shot straight into the crest of Crawford. He then falls over.
07:55 VAN HIT #22 D. Sedin hit #16 M. Kruger
Daniel is fired up playing the Blackhawks again. He wants to enact some form of revenge for the Keith elbow. He sees Kruger skating into his perfect hitting area (in the corner near the boards). Daniel grits his teeth. He takes 2 steps. He launches his shoulder straight into Kruger’s as hard as he possibly can. Daniel bounces backwards, lands on his backside. Kruger skates away. “Got him”, says Daniel with a smile.
08:42 CHI HIT #2 D. Keith hit #36 J. Hansen
Keith sees the feisty Dane carrying the puck towards. He raises his elbow in anticipation…
09:42 CHI GOAL #88 P. Kane (3) Wrist Shot, Assists: #65 A. Shaw (1), #10 P. Sharp (5)
Sharp carries the puck out of his zone, short pass to Shaw who tips it to center ice where Kane is darting straight through the middle of the yawning gap between Bieksa and Garrison. Kane deploys the same move he used in that shoot out goal against Schneider in Switzerland and beats Luongo easily. Lu starts thinking of a funny tweet he can post about the goal. Fans in Rogers Arena immediately start booing, not Luuu-ing, and Twitter erupts with “When is this trade going to happen?” panic.
00:40 CHI SHOT #81 M. Hossa Wrist Shot saved by #1 R. Luongo
Hossa, power move to the slot. He remembers Lu’s 5-hole save from the 1st period and goes blocker. Lu laughs like a Bond villain and moves his blocker with in-human precision to save the goal and send the puck into the netting. Lu already has a funny tweet ready in his head for that one.
DJ Dave plays the theme from The Good The Bad & The Ugly and Crawford and Luongo line up across the ice from each other like Marty McFly and Buford Tannen, ready for shots. Little does Crawford know that Lu is shaking like a leaf below his pads. Both goalies make save after save – Crawford with confidence and skill, Lu with pure luck. Then Jordan “Don’t Call Me Smurf” Schroeder steps onto the ice. Crawford has a moment of doubt “who is this smurf again?”. Schroeder skates full speed at Crawford, yells “BONZAI” at the top of his lungs and lifts the puck over Crawford’s glove, off the cross bar and in. The crowd goes “Vancouver Wild”, which isn’t quite as a loud as “Winnipeg Sullen”.
What actually happened:
Finally the NHL and NHLPA saw some common ground (and common sense) and the lockout of 2012-2013 has not cost us a season. It’s cost us half a season. We’re in for a hectic, no holds barred 48 game schedule that is packed full of divisional games and it’s all due to kick off sometime around the 19th, 20th or 21st of January. At the time of writing this we’re all eagerly anticipating the release of the official schedule so we know exactly how many times we have to watch teams play each other 3 games in a row.
There are a few things I’m really looking forward to because we’re going to see a season’s full of NHL wackiness in the space of a few months. It’s going to be wild. Speaking of which:
1) Minnesota Wild games
I can’t believe I’m actually saying this – I am looking forward to watching the Canucks go up against those divisional “rivals” that love to hate us but we actually “nothing”. This year’s Wild team has the potential to be.. interesting. Suter, Parise, Granlund, Clutterback… there’s so much talent and character there. The addition of $200 million in salaries is sure to get the Wild fans fired up – the atmosphere at the Xcel Energy Centre should be electric every night, especially when “rivals” the Canucks show up.
2) The Edmonton Oilers
A shortened season could be just the ticket for the Oilers to make a splash, finally put all that potential to good use and get back into the playoffs. Despite the fact they’re in same division as my favorite team, I kinda like the Oilers and I definitely like some of their players. The young stars have dominated the AHL this season and now they’re back with the big club they could surprise a few teams this year. Schultz will be very interesting to watch. The Oilers need to go crazy all out every game, use that youthful energy and skill and dazzle their opponents.
3) Who will be the Canucks 2nd line center?
In a press conference just hours ago coach Vigneault said Andrew Ebbett and Jordan Schroeder will likely be battling it out for the 2nd line center job. They will be centering David Booth and Mason Raymond. Oh geez. That scares me a little. Still, I’m always excited to see young players come to the big league and make a name for themselves so I’m cheering for Schroeder. That said, certain trades are expected to happen as soon as the new CBA is ratified so that could end up throwing a new player in the mix for the role as well (Bozak?). Whatever happens, it will be fun to watch what happens.
4) The Luongo Trade
It has to be brought up. This thing has been festering for so long it’s becoming unbearable. Whatever happens, wherever he goes, whatever comes back, it will be a blockbuster. It will change the fates of at least 2 teams and it will define the tenure of GM Mike Gillis. I just want it to hurry up and get done.
NEWS FLASH: Roberto Luongo not only said he would be willing to waive his No Trade Clause *cue dramatic music* he also went a step further and requested a trade, then went another step forward and put together a list of teams that he would be willing to be traded to!
(That last step may not be accurate but let’s not let the truth get in the way of a good story)
Now comes the fun part – speculation! Speculation is a blogger’s best friend so let us grab our BFF by the hand and waltz into the mires of potential trades that the Vancouver Canucks General Manager Mike Gillis could execute in order to rid his team of the tyranny of the best goaltender that the franchise has ever known.
Let’s run through a list of potential destinations for Bobby Lu and list what the Canucks could get back in return, starting with the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Team: Columbus Blue Jackets
Worst trade possible for the Canucks
Luongo to Columbus for Jack Johnson, Steve Mason and Taylor Ellington
Pretty grim on the surface and it keeps getting darker if you dig a little deeper. Sure Jack Johnson can score the odd goal but in him the Canucks would get yet another left handed shot on the blue line and yet another defensemen who is totally iffy in his own end. The Steve Mason story is the stuff of goalie lore now, but the one positive for the Canucks having Mason would be the sage advice he could give Cory Schneider when his play skids down the gutter and into the drain after such a good start to his career. Mason’s been there, done that and he could at least make sure Schneider is wearing the right sized pads. And of course, just when the Canucks finally got rid of Taylor Ellington and his silly contract, they get him right back. No thanks.
Best trade possible for the Canucks
Luongo, Ballard and Raymond to Columbus for Rick Nash and the 2012 1st round pick.
Not only do the Canucks end the evil reign of the Overlord Bobby Lu, they shed a bad contract and a bad player AND get a star in return AND the chance to draft a star with the 2nd overall pick in this year’s draft. Booyah.
Alright, let’s get serious for a moment
Columbus is a little closer to Florida but I highly doubt that is enough to make Luongo willing to play there. He wants to win a cup and the perennial re-build going on at the Blue Jackets is not something I can see him being a part of. Also, no way in hell I want Nash wearing the blue and green with that contract. Yech.
Team: Tampa Bay Lightning
Worst trade possible for the Canucks
Luongo to Tampa Bay for Ryan Malone and a bag of pucks.
Oooo controversy. I know there’s a few Canucks fans out there that want Malone on their team but I, ladies and gents, am not one of them. We’re talking about a guy whose play is nothing like it was when he was a Penguin, a guy who should be a top 6 forward but has struggled to reach 20 goals the past couple of years and a guy who has a $4.5 mill cap hit for the next 3 years. We already have David Booth so no thank you sir. Still, that bag of pucks could come in handy at practice…
Best trade possible for the Canucks
Anything that involves Victor Hedman coming back the other way.
Yeah he’s another lefty but Hedman is big, strong and scary and is still only 21 years old. Plus he’s from the same town as the Sedins, so maybe he could form some kind of weird Swedish chemistry with them. I’m a huge Hedman fan and I would love to see him patrol the Canucks blue line like some kind of Norse demi-god. Plus he’s signed at a reasonable cap hit for the next 5 years. $4 mill per – that’s good for a demi-god.
Alright, let’s get serious for a moment
Tampa Bay is the most obvious destination for Luongo. It’s close to home and unlike the Florida Panthers they can actually afford him. Also unlike the Florida Panthers, Tampa Bay has no decent goaltender waiting in the wings. Still, you have to wonder what they can give the Canucks in return. Malone could be a factor but I doubt Gillis wants him as it gives no cap relief and Malone is getting old – don’t forget Gillis wants young players. Yzerman won’t give up Hedman for Luongo, or anyone else for that matter, so, what exactly can the Lightning throw in to make a deal possible? Picks? Brett Connelly? Oooo, now that’s a juicy prospect – home grown boy on the Canucks? BC would explode.
Team: Toronto Maple Leafs
Worst trade possible for the Canucks
Luongo to Toronto for Mike Komisarek
Need I even speak about this. I would demand Gillis’ head for this one.
Best trade possible for the Canucks
Luongo to Toronto for Luke Schenn, Nazem Kadri and that 2012 1st round pick
Oooo… yet another controversial one. Luke Schenn is much maligned but I see potential there for the Canucks. Big defensemen, gritty, right handed shot, still very young (22 years old, yo). If anyone could groom him into the best player he can be then it would be Rick Bowness. Kadri has a lot of offensive upside and he could, theoretically, be the center the Canucks need on the 2nd unit power play. And that 1st round pick would be plenty good too please.
Alright, let’s get serious for a moment
I can’t see Luongo jumping from the Vancouver frying pan into the Toronto fire. If he is human, which I assume he is (unlike Victor Hedman), he would not want all the negativity in his life any more. He’s the best goaltender in Canucks history and he’s being run out of town – the same will happen in Toronto unless he can backstop them to a Stanley Cup and let’s face it, the Leafs won’t win a Cup in Lu’s lifetime, let alone his playing career. But let’s say for a minute that Luongo would be willing to take on the challenge of playing for the Maple Leafs. Schenn is a realistic trade piece, Kadri probably isn’t and that 1st round pick will be held onto by Brian Burke like it was the key to Fort Knox after the fiasco that was the Kessel trade. I’m not sure that the Leafs have much the Canucks would actually want so the trade could be difficult to complete.
Finally, the big one, the one that I want Mike Gillis to execute above all else – the mystical 3 way trade.
Teams: Columbus Blue Jackets and Nashville Predators (can you see where I’m headed with this?)
Luongo, Ballard & Raymond to Columbus for Rick Nash
Rick Nash to Nashville for the rights to Shea freakin’ Weber
I really didn’t want to be writing about the Canucks goaltending situation again but it’s the story that just won’t go away.
Canucks coach Alain Vigneault confirmed earlier today that Cory Schneider would start tonights elimination game 4 against the Los Angeles Kings. As put by @SirCanuckles on Twitter “/Internet Explodes/”
There is no doubt any more as to who the number one goalie is in Vancouver and I’ll give you the hot tip – it’s not the emotional Italian guy from Montreal.
If I am Roberto Luongo I do not take this well. Luongo signed a 12 year contract as a the bona-fide starter for the Canucks. He’s been through it all with the team, he’s been the Captain, he’s been the hero, he’s been the whipping boy. This team was his. Was being the operative word there. Luongo is a competitive guy. If he could play every game of the regular season he would. But since he came to Vancouver he’s seen a slow decline in the number of games he has played per season. Over the past 2 seasons he’s seen a rapid decline in the number of playoff games he has played. Before last season his preferred goalie coach (Ian Clark) was shipped out in favor of Rollie Melanson – not his choice. He enjoyed having the ‘C’ by all accounts but it was taken away from him. With the exception of the big contract, Luongo hasn’t had his way in Vancouver.
Now he’s been supplanted in goal by a young upstart who has outperformed him, who has gained the favor of his team mates and who is already, arguably, more beloved by the fans and media too (Jannik Hansen and Alex Burrows impressions go a long way).
After the announcement that Schneider is starting tonight Luongo has not been made available to the media.
This situation has all the hallmarks of a bitter breakup between player and organization. I, and it seems like every other Canuck fan on the planet, am expecting a trade request from Luongo any time now.
I surmised in my last post about the goaltending situation that perhaps it was the Canucks plan all along to start Cory Schneider in road games. If Luongo had come out this morning after the announcement and spoken to the media then this theory may have had some wind behind it. But the fact that Luongo has gone into hiding says to me that this is just not the case. There’s a bigger situation coming to the boil here.
Max Lapierre was playing for Montreal during the Price vs Halak controversy and he had this to say this morning:
“Both places had two great goalies. That’s all I’ll say about it.”
Soon after the Canadiens were beaten in the Eastern Conference Finals they made their intentions for the future very clear by trading Halak to the St Louis Blues. The next season Price was extraordinary thanks in no small part I am sure to a new found confidence in knowing that he was the undisputed starter for his team.
The Canucks will have to do something similar to end the drama and settle things down well in advance of next season.
If you’re wondering who I think the Canucks should go with next season, check out my post on getrealhockey.com
I haven’t changed my mind about that. As much as I’d love to have Schneider with the Canucks long term, it’s just not the safe move. Schneider is unproven, Luongo is. Schneider could definitely be worth more on the trade market than Luongo, mainly because there will be a slew of teams scrambling to acquire him whereas Luongo will have a very short list of teams that he would be willing to play for.
The bottom line is – the Canucks need to re-affirm Luongo as the starter and get his faith in the organisation back on track, no matter what happens tonight against the Kings.
The Vancouver Canucks head into game 3 of the NHL Western Conference Quarter Finals against the Los Angeles Kings down 2-0 in the series after losing 4-2 in 2 straight games on home ice. The Canucks have not only played poorly but they have given the Kings confidence and fired them up with somewhat idiotic, antagonistic play. The Kings are on the front foot in this series and the Canucks have a long road ahead of them if they want to come back and win it.
That long road could start with a win tonight at the Staples Center in LA. The Canucks will need a big turn around in play if they want to do that. The only positive out of the first 2 games of the series was the play of their goaltender Roberto Luongo. He made several impressive and important saves over the course of the first 2 games and was the sole reason that going into the 3rd period in each game the Canucks still had a chance to eek out a win.
So heading into game 3 in LA the Canucks have chosen to start… Cory Schneider? The Canucks best player of the past 2 games will be sitting on the bench watching the most important game of the season so far? It sounds crazy. Coach Alain Vigneault has justified the decision by saying:
“Two great goaltenders, I’ve used both of them all year long. Obviously, being down 2-0 is not a reflection on the goaltending we’ve had so far, but we feel that it’s time to change the momentum a little bit – and this is one of the cards we might have.”
Captain Henrik Sedin added this little snippet:
“Goaltending has not been the problem this series. We’re trying to do something new tonight. We have total confidence in both goalies Schneids has played unbelievable when he’s been there. It’s tough for him to come in when he needs to for us – a lot of times, it’s in a back-to-back. He’s played in some tough buildings this year and he’s done a great job for us.”
Reading between the lines on these quotes brings up some awkward questions for the skeptical blogger and fan. Was starting Schneider in away games the plan all along? Despite Luongo’s strong play do the Canucks actually prefer to have the calm, professional Schneider backing them up instead of the emotional and very flappable Luongo? Is this the beginning of the end for Roberto Luongo as a Canuck?
Perhaps AV and Henrik were not speaking in half truths or media talk at all and the truth really is that they feel starting Schneider (as opposed to benching Luongo – big difference) will give the team the kick in the ass they really need.
If that is the case it is a luxury that the team would be stupid to neglect. Schneider can be every bit as good as Luongo, perhaps better. If something as simple as having a different goalie behind them makes the whole team play better then there’s no reason not to change things up every now and then.
As for the other questions this situation raises, I’m just taking the rest of this season one game at a time, just like the Canucks and Canucks fans need to. I’ll dwell on those questions once the season is done and dusted, for better or worse.
The crowd at Rogers Arena got ugly yesterday as they booed Roberto Luongo off the ice when Alain Vigneault decided to pull him in favour of Cory Schneider. I’ve said my piece about Luongo vs Schneider over at Get Real Hockey (@getrealhockey) but I felt that post needed an exclamation point of sorts. So with that in mind, ladies and gentlemen, I give you Dan Cloutier.
Yep. That guy in goal who couldn’t stop a slapper from center ice? He was the man in Vancouver from 2001 to 2005.
If you think Luongo is so bad and you want him gone, just watch that clip above, and maybe this one, and be thankful for what we have right now.