Monday, October 31, 2005

Rob To The Rescue

Dan Cloutier suffered a concussion as a result of a collision with teammate Nolan Baumgartner during Saturday night's game in Colorado. He will be out at least a week. Cloutier bashers will be happy to know that Alex Auld will assume the starting goaltender role, albeit temporarily. The Canucks have also recalled goalie Rob McVicar from the Manitoba Moose to back-up Auld.

McVicar's recall demonstrates a new clause in the CBA regarding minor-league call-ups:

Any player in the minors who makes more than $75,000 has to clear waivers before he can join the big club. If the player is claimed off waivers, each team is responsible for 50 percent of his salary which will count against the cap.
Based on play in the early season, Flaherty is the Canucks' no. 3 goalie. He has a 4-2-0 record, including 2 shutouts, a 1.74 GAA and a .943 SV%. By comparison, McVicar has 2-1-0 record, a 2.25 GAA and a .919 SV%. Flaherty's $114,000 minor-league contract, however, means that he is subject to waivers, and the Canucks obviously didn't want to risk another team picking him up. With McVicar's recall, the Canucks aren't rewarding the next best player in their system, they are simply calling up the next player whose contract works best with the new CBA. Flaherty was one of those opposed to the "$75,000 rule" - and now that he's been directly affected by it, you can bet he's even more opposed to it now.

Flaherty is only the first Canucks player to be directly affected by this rule, and he certainly won't be the last. As much as the rule restricts teams' ability to reward well-performing and well-paid players in their minor league systems, it also restricts teams' ability to send underperforming and well-paid players back to the minors. For example, some arguments can be made that after 10 strong NHL games to start the season, Nolan Baumgartner has regressed slightly. Especially in the last two games against the Avalanche, he was less than stellar and made key mistakes that led directly to Colorado goals. In previous years, the Canucks would have been able to send a message and ship Baumgartner to the Moose. However, he too is subject to the $75,000 rule this season, and even if the Canucks wanted to demote him to the Moose and reward a Jason Doig or a Kevin Bieksa, he would have to be placed on waivers first. Much like in Flaherty's case, it is unlikely the Canucks would want to risk losing Baumgartner to waivers, and deservedly or not, would instead keep him up in the big leagues.

To quote Tom Benjamin, remember the days when NHL teams were permitted to hire the best player available?
posted by J.J. Guerrero, 4:49 PM | permalink/comments (3) | AddThis Social Bookmark Button | Share on Facebook | Hype It Up! |

Sunday, October 30, 2005

OT: Thumbs Down to Black Top Cabs

My buddy and I waited for AN HOUR AND A HALF for a cab last night. Here's why:

(after being on hold with Black Top Cabs for 20 minutes)

Me: Hi, can I get a cab? I'm at Shine Nightclub on the Cordova side.

Black Top Cab (BTC) operator: Sure, no problem. Just wait there.

Me: My name's J.J.

BTC operator: I don't need your name. I'm gonna send a cab over, just flag it down.

Me: There's a few other people waiting here. Can you send the cab for me?

BTC operator: Just flag him down when he gets there.

Me: There's a few other people waiting here. Can you send the cab for ME?

BTC operator: I'm gonna send one over. Just make sure you get in front of everyone else.

An hour and a half and no cab later, my buddy and I decided to walk to the Fairmont Waterfront hotel, hoping that we'd have better luck if we waited at a hotel taxi stand. No luck. We left the hotel, hoping that we'd have better luck flagging a cab somewhere else. We did. We managed to flag a cab on Georgia and Howe. Lo and behold, it happened to be a Black Top cab.
Me: We were waiting for an hour and a half for a cab. What's the deal?

BTC driver: We were busy tonight.

My buddy: Ummm... I was just wondering... we flagged you down on the street. Were you on your way to pick up a fare? Were we better off waiting on the street than calling?

BTC driver: We get the call to go somewhere, but if someone flags us down within 3 minutes, then we can pick him up.

My buddy: What about the people that call to be picked up from an address, like a house or a hotel?

BTC driver: Well, someone else should pick them up.

My buddy: Do you call it in? Does your company send another car over?

BTC driver: I don't know. On a busy night, you should just wait on a busy street.

My buddy: So there's no point in calling?

BTC driver: At this time (approx. 3:30 am now) we don't care about the hotels. They're not a preference. We all go to Granville.

My buddy: What about the people who aren't on Granville?

BTC driver: They should just walk there. It's quicker.
Actually, what's quicker is deleting Black Top Cabs from my cell phone speed dial.
posted by J.J. Guerrero, 12:29 PM | permalink/comments (3) | AddThis Social Bookmark Button | Share on Facebook | Hype It Up! |

Canucks 3 Avalanche 4

The Vancouver Canucks finished their three-game road trip with a 4-3 overtime loss to the Colorado Avalanche. They finished this road trip with an even 1-1-1 record. The game recap is here; the score sheet and stat sheet are here and here.

My notes from the game:

  • Alex Auld replaced Dan Cloutier in the first period after Cloutier was knocked into the post by Nolan Baumgartner. Though he took the loss, Auld was steady for most of the game, rarely caught out of position.
  • Apparently, Cloutier won't be able to fly home with the rest of the team - sounds like he has a concussion - and it should be interesting to see how Auld fares with suddenly becoming the team's no. 1 goalie.
  • I can't wait to see Bryan Allen back.
  • I thought Steve McCarthy looked as comfortable as he has ever looked in a Canucks uniform. He made better decisions with the puck and looked to be communicating a lot more with his teammates. He finished the game with 20:24 minutes of ice-time and four blocked shots.
  • Colorado drew nine penalties from the Canucks; the Canucks only drew four from Colorado. Mattias Ohlund was the biggest culprit, taking four minor penalties - two for hooking and two for high-sticking.
  • Bertuzzi had his best game of the season. He was aggresive, he skated, and he actually SHOT the puck. Matt Cooke's goal was a direct result of Bertuzzi's beautiful end-to-end rush around all five Colorado players on the ice.
  • Bertuzzi is most effective when he is selfish. Without Naslund on his line, he can afford to be. I should note that he spent most of the night with Ryan Kesler and Matt Cooke. If I was Crawford, I'd be tempted to keep that line together.
  • Is Anson Carter still on the Sedin line?
Next up: Minnesota on Wednesday.
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Saturday, October 29, 2005

Avery Makes No Apologies

Given the opportunity by Sportsnet to speak his side on his recent controverial comments, Avery makes no apologies:
... Everyone is entitled to an opinion...
On his comment regarding French-Canadians:
... I wouldn't have said it if I didn't mean it... I wish it didn't get much attention as it did...
On his ensuing apology:
... I didn't apologize for what I said... it was an apology if I offended anyone...
On the alleged racial slur directed to Edmonton Oiler George Laraques:

... That's just something between George and me... I think he just wants to be on TV...
The Sportsnet Hockeycentral panel admitted to appreciating Avery for being candid, though they acknowledged that a fine line exists being candid and being a boor. In my own personal opinion, Avery is a boor.

(I apologize for not having a link to the transcript of the interview as the segment just aired. I will post the transcript later if I can find it.)
posted by J.J. Guerrero, 3:26 PM | permalink/comments (1) | AddThis Social Bookmark Button | Share on Facebook | Hype It Up! |

Accountability In The Aftermath

In the aftermath of their 6-2 thrashing to the Avs, it was somewhat admirable not to hear the standard hockey clichés from Canucks players. There were no mincing of words or making excuses. Just accountability and the plain, honest truth about the way they played. Or didn't play.

While some may be more inclined to blame the new rules or lousy officiating, the Canucks - from head coach Marc Crawford to captain Markus Naslund to the rest of the team - simply reiterated what we watched and owned up to their horrible play.

Marc Crawford: We gave up far too many soft goals in just poor, soft coverage -- it wasn't anything more than that -- down deep in our zone.

Markus Naslund: It was terrible. We knew they were going to rebound from the game they had in Vancouver [a 6-4 Avalanche loss last Saturday]. It's inexcusable. These are huge games every time we play them. It's inexcusable for us to come out like we did.

Dan Cloutier: Three [goals] down low wasn't good. That's where they killed us. In the first 10 minutes, every time they came into our zone they would create scoring chances.

Sami Salo: We didn't work, battle or make good passes. You could sense in the morning skate that we weren't really sharp and it showed.

Brendan Morrison: Last night, I was really upset and disappointed because I felt I let my teammates down. As a guy who's looked at as a leader, that's disappointing. Mentally, I felt I was ready. Then I go out and make bad decisions early in the game that led directly to goals. I probably cost us the game early on and I'm going to challenge myself to be better.

Brendan, I hope the whole team does.

Todd Bertuzzi: We want a lead [in the Northwest Division]. And we want a big lead. We want to try to take off on them.
The Canucks get another chance tonight.
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Friday, October 28, 2005

Canucks 2 Avalanche 6

The Vancouver Canucks lost their first of two games in Denver against the Colorado Avalanche 6-2. The game recap is here; the score sheet and stat sheet are here and here.

I was originally thinking of a one-word post to sum up the game last night - the word being "horrible" - but after a good night's sleep and some time to simmer down, here are my notes from the game:

  • The Canucks adjusted to daylight savings time a couple of days early as they didn't start playing until a few minutes left in the second period. Before that, they were a mess of turnovers, lazy passes, turnovers from lazy passes, penalties, disorganized powerplays and even worse penalty-killing. The Avs took it to them and built a 6-1 lead in the second period, to the delight of the Avs fans.
  • I'm not blaming the officiating for the loss - trust me, I give the Canucks full credit for the loss - but that was some of the most inconsistent officiating I've ever seen last night. They let a few hooks and holds go, but called a phantom goaltender interference call on Jovanovski and a cross-checking minor on Ohlund when him AND Blake were battling in front of the crease. There was also a call on Steve McCarthy when he stayed with a Colorado player, who ran into him and fell. At certain points of the game, it looked like the old NHL with a very random sprinkle of the new NHL.
  • Does Bryan Allen mean that much to the team this year? The defensive zone coverage looked like a Chinese fire drill out there.
  • So did the Naslund-Morrison-Bertuzzi line.
  • IMHO, Bertuzzi has played his most aggresive hockey when he's not with with Morrison and Naslund. When he's with Kesler and Cooke, he takes the puck to the net and actually shoots when he has the opportunity to. Bertuzzi finished with 6 shots last night and 4 of them were in the third period - when he was with Kesler and Cooke.
  • Hopefully, the 'Nucks build on their third period momentum. In that third period, they set a team record by outshooting the Avs 23-0, but alas a period does not make a game.
Next up: Colorado (again) on Saturday.
posted by J.J. Guerrero, 6:57 AM | permalink/comments (0) | AddThis Social Bookmark Button | Share on Facebook | Hype It Up! |

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Public Enemy No. 1

The Vancouver Canucks visit the Colorado Avalanche tonight for their first time since the Bertuzzi/Moore incident. The Avalanche will be hell-bent on revenge, not because of Bertuzzi's hit on Moore, but because they lost 5-4 to the same Canucks on Saturday night. When asked about the atmosphere surrounding games against the Canucks, Avs captain Joe Sakic said:

We're not concerned about it. The fans will be into it, but as players, we're just trying to win a hockey game. That's what our focus is going to be on. We have a great rivalry here with Vancouver. They've got a great hockey team. Our goal is just to try and win the hockey game.

Colorado fans, on the other hand, are a different story. To them, Bertuzzi is public enemy no. 1 and many are still angry over his hit:

Bertuzzi is a thug and he should be treated like one. He was allowed to come back too soon.
One Avs fan was candid enough as to the type of hostile reception Bertuzzi should expect:

You're going to have fans throwing stuff at him. They're going to be spitting on him when he comes out.
Do I hear bounty?

I hope not, and to be sure, Colin Campbell and company will be in attendance for tonight's and Saturday's game. Me, I'll be in attendance at Mahoney's on Robson St. to watch the game.
posted by J.J. Guerrero, 7:06 AM | permalink/comments (0) | AddThis Social Bookmark Button | Share on Facebook | Hype It Up! |

Musing on McCabe

While hockey pundits east of Manitoba and west of Quebec sing praises of Bryan McCabe's fast start, I muse on the trade that once brought McCabe to the Canucks:

After 56 games with the Islanders, Bryan was traded on February 6 with Todd Bertuzzi and a third-round draft pick (Jarkko Ruutu) to the Vancouver Canucks for Trevor Linden.
Two all-stars PLUS one of the biggest pests in the league for Trevor. Safe to say that Islanders GM Mike Milbury didn't have his job long after that. Oh... wait a minute.

On a side note, anyone else find it interesting that Milbury's bio - the second paragraph in particular - doesn't mention the Linden trade. Or the Luongo trade. Or the Spezza trade.
posted by J.J. Guerrero, 6:44 AM | permalink/comments (0) | AddThis Social Bookmark Button | Share on Facebook | Hype It Up! |

Canucks Sign Jason Doig

From canucks.com:

Vancouver Canucks Senior Vice President and General Manager Dave Nonis announced today that the Canucks have signed free agent defenceman, Jason Doig.

In keeping with club policy, terms of the deal were not disclosed.Doig, 28, will report directly to the Manitoba Moose of the AHL, Vancouver’s minor affiliate, where he has played in five games this year, notching two points (0-2-2).

Doig signed a five-game professional tryout contract with the Moose at the start of the season and. it's obvious the Canucks liked what they saw. But with Nolan Baumgartner playing the best NHL hockey of his career and Steve McCarthy on a one-way $750,000 contract, I'm curious to see if and when Doig will be called up.
posted by J.J. Guerrero, 6:38 AM | permalink/comments (0) | AddThis Social Bookmark Button | Share on Facebook | Hype It Up! |

Dear Brett

Brett Hull obviously touched many people during his illustrious career, as evidenced by this collection of letters posted on Darryl Reaugh's Dallas Stars blog.

My personal favorite:

I had to retire a bit premature compared to you. I didn't want to. You made me. Why didn't you shoot wide some times Brett? Why did you always have to shoot it where I wasn't? Why didn't you pass to someone I could stop? Someone like Sergio Momesso or Steve Tuttle. Why Brett? Why? Oh, by the way, I named my dog Hully. It's a blonde mutt that I lay the boots to daily.

- Red Wing netminder Tim Cheveldae (who Hull scored on the most)
But only because it is the first time I've seen Sergio Momesso mentioned anywhere near the same breath as the Golden Brett.

Thanks to Tom L. from Sabre Rattling for the assist.
posted by J.J. Guerrero, 6:29 AM | permalink/comments (4) | AddThis Social Bookmark Button | Share on Facebook | Hype It Up! |

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Canucks 3 Wild 1

The Vancouver Canucks extended their win streak to six games by beating the Minnesota Wild 3-1 last night in Minnesota. With the win, the Canucks improved their record to 8-1-1 and have now matched the fastest start in team history. Jarkko Ruutu opened the scoring with his first goal of the season and Alex Auld stopped 27 of 28 Wild shots to pace the Canucks. The game recap is here; the score sheet and stat sheet are here and here.

My notes from the game:

  • Alex Auld was steady again. He had some rebound control problems late in the game, but he still made the saves when he needed to. A lot of Minnesota's shots were good quality - in close or wide-open - and Auld stopped all but one of them. He is now a perfect 3-0-0 for the season, and while scoring is up around the league, he is sporting a 1.67 GAA and .936 SV%.
  • Anyone else have problems with the pay-per-view feed? I missed the last 6 minutes or so of the first period.
  • Maybe it's just me... but the more I watch Anson Carter, the more I wonder if his chemistry with the Sedins is overrated. He's not a good puckhandler and he doesn't seem overly strong. In fact, he seems to lose the puck or gets knocked off it a lot. I know the Sedins are off to a good start, but Anson only has 4 points (2-2), and most of the Sedins goals come from feeds to/from one another. I know the line has only been together for 10 games, but I actually wonder how much Carter has had to do with the Sedins' early success.
  • There was a sequence in the third period when, on a 4-on-4, the Canucks held the puck in their offensive zone for more than a minute. Naslund was skating circles - literally - around the Wild and the team produced 2 or 3 good scoring opportunities.
  • Bryan Allen has my early vote for unsung hero. I don't even want to think of what the defense would be like if he hadn't stepped up. Solid, stay-at-home type, who plays the body and blocks shots - exactly what this team needed. So far he has looked good in a bigger role and like he can handle his 19 minutes of ice-time per game.
Next up: Colorado on Thursday.

(Edit @ 4:47 PM: I erroneously had the Canucks win streak at seven games. It is, in fact, only a six-game win streak. I think I was thinking ahead to my post-game review tomorrow night.)
posted by J.J. Guerrero, 6:48 AM | permalink/comments (0) | AddThis Social Bookmark Button | Share on Facebook | Hype It Up! |

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Behind The Blog

Christy Hammond from Behind The Jersey writes a regular feature called Behind The Blog.

For those of you who don't know what Behind the Blog is, it's an email interview conducted to allow you to get to know the writer behind the blog. I ask the blogger questions about his/her passion for hockey, their favorite team, their blog, and NHL questions.
This week, she is featuring yours truly and Canucks Hockey Blog. You can read Behind The Blog here, and a big thank you to Christy for the opportunity to participate.
posted by J.J. Guerrero, 5:04 PM | permalink/comments (0) | AddThis Social Bookmark Button | Share on Facebook | Hype It Up! |

Fedor To Debut With Rangers

Former Canucks prospect Fedor Fedorov is expected to make his debut with the New York Rangers. It'll be interesting to see if the Rangers have as much success with Sergei's little bro as they have so far with Marian's little bro.
posted by J.J. Guerrero, 5:02 PM | permalink/comments (0) | AddThis Social Bookmark Button | Share on Facebook | Hype It Up! |

On Sutton and Boulton

A big thumbs-up to the NHL for suspending Andy Sutton and Eric Boulton of the Atlanta Thrashers. In separate incidents last week, Sutton and Boulton took unnecessary headshots to Darcy Tucker of the Toronto Maple Leafs and Paul Ranger of the Tampa Bay Lightning respectively. I've said it before and I'll say it again - there is no room for headshots in my NHL.
posted by J.J. Guerrero, 4:53 PM | permalink/comments (0) | AddThis Social Bookmark Button | Share on Facebook | Hype It Up! |

Updated NHL Power Rankings

A week after receiving a barrage of backlash from hockey fans here on the West Coast, TSN has released their new, weekly NHL power rankings with the Vancouver Canucks moving up from no. 17 to no. 4. But before Canucks fans start crediting their e-mails and such for this lofty ranking, remember that the Canucks just finished a perfect four-game homestand and remains on top of the division and near the top of the conference, and it, in fact, deserves this ranking.

Other weekly power rankings: ESPN . Sports Illustrated
posted by J.J. Guerrero, 4:44 PM | permalink/comments (0) | AddThis Social Bookmark Button | Share on Facebook | Hype It Up! |

And You Thought We Had Goalie Problems

Mired in a six-game losing slump that saw the team allow 23 goals in that span, the Edmonton Oilers sent goaltender Ty Conklin to the Hamilton Bulldogs of the AHL for a conditioning stint. To help back-up Jussi Markannen, the Oilers then recalled Mike Morrison... from the ECHL. Oh my.

I know Canucks goalies receive their fair (or unfair) share of criticism and this kind of story really makes me appreciate what we have.
posted by J.J. Guerrero, 4:41 PM | permalink/comments (0) | AddThis Social Bookmark Button | Share on Facebook | Hype It Up! |

Projecting The Cap

Did some quick number crunching in light of the recent 12% escrow payment required from the players. If the 12% number holds true until the end of the season when league revenues are calculated, it means that this season's total league revenues will equal approximately $1.5 billion. This, in turn, means that next season's salary cap will equal $35 million; the salary floor will equal $19 million.

For teams like the Canucks who are estimated to use the entire cap amount of $39 million this season, it will be interesting to see how they will shed approximately $4 million in salary in the off-season. League-wide, it will be interesting to see how many elite free agents will end up in traditionally low-salary teams with tons of cap space like Washington, Carolina and Minnesota.
posted by J.J. Guerrero, 4:39 PM | permalink/comments (0) | AddThis Social Bookmark Button | Share on Facebook | Hype It Up! |

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Canucks 6 Avalanche 4

The Vancouver Canucks completed a perfect four-game homestand by beating the Colorado Avalanche 6-4. The much anticipated rematch produced none of the nastiness that has come to follow recent games between the two teams. The game recap is here; the score sheet and stat sheet are here and here.

My notes from the game:
  • Thanks to three early powerplay opportunities, the Avalanche jumped to a good start, but Dan Cloutier played huge for the Canucks. He finished with 28 saves on 32 Colorado shots.
  • Speaking of Cloutier, his rebound control was a lot better. I think I noticed only one or two saves last night that he gave up big, juicy rebounds on.
  • I think it's fair to say that the Canucks are no longer a one-line team. In the past week, other players besides Morrison, Naslund and Bertuzzi have contributed and scored; last night, the Sedin line was great and looked dangerous on most shifts. Daniel Sedin scored two goals - both thanks to beautiful passes from brother Henrik.
  • Seems like I've brought up scoring from the 'd' a lot recently. Well, last night they scored twice (from Bryan Allen and Ed Jovanovski) to bring their season total to 10 goals. The way they have been scoring, can we call the d-men the Canucks third scoring line?
  • Actually, maybe not the third scoring line, the top 3 scoring d-men - Jovanovski, Salo and Baumgartner have combined to score 6 goals and 24 points. Ohlund has also chipped in with 3 goals and 4 points. Meanwhile, Sedin, Sedin and Carter have combined to score 7 goals and 18 points. Is the defense corps the real second scoring line?
  • Probably as most people outside the media expected, there were none of the anticipated rough stuff during the game. Just a good, hockey game. Colin Campbell was in attendance and I'm sure the league would have had a stern word or two with both teams prior to the game. After Thursday night's sloppy game, it was nice to see two talented teams play good hockey.
  • Pundits usually like to point out that coaches trust and favor players who are on the ice for the game's most crucial moments. For what it's worth, with the score at 5-4 in the final seconds, Crawford put out Morrison, Linden and yes, Jarkko Ruutu. Linden scored his empty net goal on this sequence.
Next up: Minnesota on Tuesday.
posted by J.J. Guerrero, 3:52 PM | permalink/comments (0) | AddThis Social Bookmark Button | Share on Facebook | Hype It Up! |

Saturday, October 22, 2005

The Rematch

If not for "the incident", tonight's game between the Vancouver Canucks and the Colorado Avalanche would have been just another game between bitter divisional rivals. The Canucks ended the Avs nine-year reign atop the Northwest Division last season and tonight's game would have simply been billed as the first game of the season between the two teams. But as fate would have it, tonight's game is not simply that, it is also their meeting since "the incident", and when the NHL released its regular season schedule in the summer, it instantly became one of the most anticipated games of the season.

When the Canucks, and especially Todd Bertuzzi, skates onto the ice tonight, the entire hockey world will be watching. But will the game live up to its hype?

Both teams have undergone roster changes since "the incident". No fewer than a dozen players who played on March 8, 2004 are with neither the Canucks nor the Avs; one has switched sides. Gone From Colorado are Paul Kariya, Teemu Selanne, Darby Hendrickson, Riku Hahl, Peter Worrell, Adam Foote and Derek Morris; Brent Sopel, Mike Keane, Sean Pronger and Johan Hedberg are no longer with the Canucks. Of course, the victim himself, Steve Moore, isn't back with the Avs either. One of the guys he's suing, ex-Canucks GM Brian Burke is now with the Ducks.

Also since "the incident", Todd Bertuzzi has skated side-by-side with prominent Avalanche players like Joe Sakic, Rob Blake and Alex Tanguay. During Team Canada's orientation camp in August, Tanguay said:

I wish he could be playing in Colorado with me. He has such a big presence. He can hold onto the puck and slow down the game to his pace. With his size and strength he can play a little bit different game than anybody else. It's fun to play with a guy like that. It gives you more time to get open and more time to do your thing.
Even Brad May, one of Bertuzzi's best friends and a co-defendant in Moore's lawsuit now also plays for the Avs.

It certainly seems that almost everyone directly involved has moved past "the incident". Or at least trying to. When approached by the media, Bertuzzi has regularly brushed off questions regarding it. Before the Canucks game against Phoenix on Thursday, Terry Frei from Denver attempted to ask Bertuzzi about tonight's game, after which Bertuzzi responded:

I've got Phoenix (on Thursday night), and I think that's disrespecting Wayne (Gretzky) and the Coyotes, and I won't do that to them.
His teammates are equally reserved in their responses to similar questions:

Everything else surrounding the game is pretty much put on by the media. We, as well as the Colorado players, feel it's a dead issue. It's something that happened. We've moved on and they've moved on. We're different teams.
Colorado captain Joe Sakic agrees:

The Vancouver thing, you guys are blowing it out of proportion. Everything is in the past. We're moving on. We just want to win games.
It's true. It's just another game. Or at least it woud have been anyway.

Postscript: My brother obviously didn't check the NHL calendar when he decided to get married today. As such, I will regretfully miss the game at GM Place and will instead be watching the game via the CBC broadcast. Also, I will most likely post the post-game review later on Sunday as there is a good chance I will be hungover on Sunday morning. Cheers!
posted by J.J. Guerrero, 8:38 AM | permalink/comments (0) | AddThis Social Bookmark Button | Share on Facebook | Hype It Up! |

Friday, October 21, 2005

Canucks 3 Coyotes 2

The Vancouver Canucks remained unbeaten at home, beating the Phoenix Coyotes 3-2. The Canucks outshot the Coyotes by a 38-24 margin and Matt Cooke's controversial third-period goal turned out to be the game-winner. The game recap is here; the score sheet and stat sheet are here and here.

My notes from the game:
  • The score was extremely flattering for the Coyotes. The game would have been over in the first 6 minutes if not for the play of Curtis Joseph. The Canucks - especially Markus Naslund - have had his number the last couple of years, but he was great tonight. I was surprised that he wasn't the first star of the game.
  • The game itself was choppy - there were a lot of penalties - though I think both teams played sloppy hockey for most of the game.
  • Bertuzzi was a force again tonight. Every time he was on the ice, it just felt like he was going to do something, like he was going to skate by or ward off his check and create a scoring chance. And he usually did. Think he knew Team Canada GM Wayne Gretzky was watching the game?
  • Ditto for Jovanovski.
  • For the second game in a row, another high-stick to one of the Canucks' d-men went undetected by the refs. Behind the Canucks goal, Ladislav Nagy got his stick up on Steve McCarthy and cut him on the lip. I know the refs have a billion rules to enforce now (well, they always have, it's just they decided not to call half of them in recent years), but they just cannot miss high-sticks. Someone correct me if I'm wrong, but linesmen are allowed to call stick infractions, are they not?
  • Trevor Linden is struggling, but you can't discount what he means to this team. He was a key reason the Coyotes, down 3-2, didn't score on two late 5-on-3's. He blocked shots and was always in good position to prevent those diagonal, cross-ice passes. On those 5-on-3's, the Coyotes couldn't do much more than pass the puck around the point or along the side boards.
  • With Jovanovski's and Baumgartner's goals (both their firsts of the season), the Canucks six defensemen now account for just under 30% of the team's goals this season. As a group, they have scored 8 goals and 28 points. I haven't looked at other teams' d-stats, but I think it's a safe bet that as a group, the Canucks have the highest scoring defensemen in the league.
Next up: Colorado on Saturday.
posted by J.J. Guerrero, 9:50 AM | permalink/comments (3) | AddThis Social Bookmark Button | Share on Facebook | Hype It Up! |

Toronto Sports Network Power Rankings

TSN released their most recent NHL power rankings. Ottawa is no. 1 and - hold for this - Toronto is no. 2. If you're trying to look for the Canucks, you have to scroll to the bottom of the page... then click on the link to go to teams 16-30 - the Canucks are no. 17.

The Leafs are no. 2 why? Because they're one game over .500? Or because they scored 9 goals against the last-place Thrashers - 7 of them on the powerplay when the game was out of hand?

The no. 17 Canucks, on the other hand, have won 6 out of their 8 games, including their last 4 in a row. They are also 1st place in the Western Conference and are leading the entire NHL in points. (Okay, in fairness to TSN, I believe they were only in 1st place in their division and 2nd place in the Western Conference when the rankings were done.)

I now also understand TSN is callling Toronto the land of sunshine, rainbows and lollipops.
posted by J.J. Guerrero, 9:28 AM | permalink/comments (3) | AddThis Social Bookmark Button | Share on Facebook | Hype It Up! |

Avs Decline Options on Sakic, Blake

From TSN.ca:
In a move to save some money under the cap, the Colorado Avalanche have declined to pick up the 2006-07 season options on forward Joe Sakic and defenseman Rob Blake.

The Denver Post reports that the team will save roughly $700,000 in cap space this season because team payroll is based on the combined average of a player’s total contract. Sakic and Blake signed five-year deals with Colorado in 2001 with a team option for a sixth year. They would have each earned close to $7 million had the options been picked up. Both will become unrestricted free agents on July 1, unless they sign contract extensions with the club before then.

Sakic, who was drafted 15th overall in the 1987 Entry Draft has previously stated his desire to finish his career with the Avalanche.
Never mind the last sentence, cue the Sakic-to-Vancouver rumors.
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Wednesday, October 19, 2005

OT: Reaction to the NBA Dress Code

Player reaction following NBA commissioner David Stern's instituting a new dress code for his players came fast and furious today. Perhaps to remove the league's "thuggish" image, the new dress code includes a stipulation that "chains, pendants or medallions (cannot be) worn over the player's clothing".

Indiana Pacers' forward Stephen Jackson:

I think it's a racist statement because a lot of the guys who are wearing chains are my age and are black.
Like this guy.

Denver Nuggets' center Marcus Camby:

I don't see it happening unless every NBA player is given a stipend to buy clothes . Guys who haven't been wearing suits and don't own suits, it will be really hard to get them in time for the season (needing to be specially made for tall players).
It should be noted that Camby is slated to earn $7 million this season. But then, this is the same league that features Latrell Sprewell, who apparently can't feed his family on $14.6 million per season. And y'all thought NHL players were greedy.

I don't see why players are opposed to the dress code. It only applies to when players are participating in official league business - ie. games, press conferences, etc. - during which they are representing the league. It makes sense that the league would want its players to look prim and professional at those events. Heck, most of us in the real world have a dress code when we go to work.

Portland coach Nate McMillan gets it:
It's important that the players understand they have to respect the game. They have to respect the league. And they have to respect the fans. You must be a professional at all times.
A professional athlete playing in a professional league looking professional. What a concept.
posted by J.J. Guerrero, 11:19 PM | permalink/comments (0) | AddThis Social Bookmark Button | Share on Facebook | Hype It Up! |

Team Canada Submits Long List For Turin

37 players were invited to Team Canada's Olympic orientation camp in August; today, 81 players made the long list. Wayne Gretzky and Team Canada's management and coaching staff today submitted a list of 81 prospective players that will form Team Canada's 23-man roster for the 2006 Turin Olympics. The list includes 49 forwards, 23 defensemen and 9 goaltenders.

As a management and coaching staff, the task of reducing this list to 23 players will be challenging as we strive to defend Olympic Gold in Turin.
Most of the players on the list are off to strong starts this season. Especially in case of injuries, the long list ensures that a potential replacement is eligible for the final roster.

For the younger players - Crosby, Richards, Carter, Phaneuf, Chouinard, Bouchard, etc. - being on the list sends a signal that they are on Team Canada's radar. Even if they don't make the final 2006 roster, they have reason to believe they are at the very least being considered for future versions of Team Canada. For the veteran players, knowing that their roster spots are not guaranteed can perhaps motivate them and make sure that there are no let-downs in their game.

The final roster is due on December 22nd.

(PS. Cam Ward???)
posted by J.J. Guerrero, 10:43 PM | permalink/comments (0) | AddThis Social Bookmark Button | Share on Facebook | Hype It Up! |

Canucks 6 Blackhawks 2

The Vancouver Canucks extended their win streak to 3 games with a 6-2 win over the Chicago Blackhawks. Morrison, Naslund and Bertuzzi combined for seven points, and Dan Cloutier stopped 24 of 26 Chicago shots. The game recap is here; the score sheet and stat sheet are here and here.

My notes from the game:
  • How's this for balanced scoring - the Canucks had five different goal scorers for the third game in a row. Daniel Sedin, Sami Salo, Markus Naslund, Mattias Ohlund (2 goals) and Brendan Morrison all scored for the 'Nucks. Morrison's goal was his first of the season.
  • After a somewhat sluggish start to the season, the Westcoast Express seem to be finally rolling. Tonight, they combined for seven points; Morrison (1-2) and Bertuzzi (0-3) had 3 points each and Naslund scored his 6th goal of the season.
  • Cloutier was a lot better tonight than his last two starts. He made the saves when he needed to make them, and never allowed the Blackhawks to get back into the game.
  • On the other end, Khabibulin didn't look good at all. Maybe it's playing behind a much less experienced defense than the he one he played behind in Tampa? Or maybe the $6.75 million in his back pocket is weighing him down.
  • How did the ref miss Barnaby's high-stick on Jovanovski? It happened right in front of him.
  • Maybe it's because he was playing against the team that gave up on him, but Steve McCarthy had a solid game. He skated well, moved the puck well and even threw some hits. He logged a season-high 16:04 minutes of ice-time and finished with 4 hits, 3 blocked shots and a +2 rating.
  • Anyone else think the Canucks have the best fourth line in hockey right now? Not only are Goren, Ruutu and Linden shutting down the opposition, they are creating their own offensive chances. They also have roles on the special teams - Linden and Ruutu take regular shifts on the penalty-kill; Goren plays on the powerplay.
Next up: Phoenix on Thursday.
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Monday, October 17, 2005

Carnival of the NHL #11

Jes Gőlbez of Hockey Rants is the host of the latest edition of the Carnival of the NHL. In this 11th edition - an edition Jes calls "Angels Fall First" - he puts together the latest rants and rumblings in the NHL.

Welcome one, welcome all to the Hockey Blog Carnival #11 here in the Land of Broken Dreams, known to the locals as Vancouver. It’s a dark, rainy, and depressing place. The surrounding doom and gloom tends to put me and the other locals in a rather foul mood most of the time.
Ahhh... but I thought we were only in a foul mood when the hometown teams lose. Without further adieu, the link to the Carnival is here. (Warning: This carnie is not for the faint of heart.)

Thanks for hosting a most entertaining carnival, Jes.
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Havlat Goes Out Kicking

Literally. The NHL suspended Ottawa Senators forward Martin Havlat for five games for kicking Boston Bruins defenseman Hal Gill during last Saturday night's game.

I was pushed on the net, I was falling down... I didn’t want to hurt the guy, but it was just an automatic reaction.
I don't doubt it was automatic - after all, Havlat has previously been suspended for the same infraction - but it's also reckless. The skate blade is dangerously sharp and can cause serious injury. I apologize for bringing up the gory image, but remember when Clint Malarchuk's neck was accidentally sliced by a player's skate? He lost so much blood that doctors had to rush him to hospital to save his life. Much like with their sticks, players simply must be more responsible with their skates. There's no excuse for misusing them. Especially on purpose.

Hockey Country and Sisu Hockey also weigh in on the Havlat suspension.
posted by J.J. Guerrero, 11:05 PM | permalink/comments (2) | AddThis Social Bookmark Button | Share on Facebook | Hype It Up! |

Goaltending Update

I wouldn't be a Canucks fan if I didn't post about the team's goaltenders:

Is it too early to suggest a goalie controversy?

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Sunday, October 16, 2005

Canucks 5 Stars 2

The Vancouver Canucks opened their four-game homestand with a 5-2 win over the Dallas Stars. Lee Goren scored the game-winner early in the third period and Alex Auld stopped 18 of 20 Dallas shots. The game recap is here; the score sheet and stat sheet are here and here.

My notes from the game:

  • In just 7:46 minutes of ice-time, Lee Goren had 1 goal, 1 hit, 1 fight and 4 shots. He was also a +1 for the night. Not a bad stat line, especially for a fourth liner.
  • The Stars looked tired tonight and had trouble keeping up with a speedy, determined Canucks team. They looked especially frustrated and undisciplined, giving the Canucks 10 powerplay opportunities, including two 5-on-3's; the Canucks scored 3 powerplay goals.
  • For the second game in a row, the Canucks got 5 goals from 5 different players - Daniel Sedin, Salo, Goren, Bertuzzi and Park. Sedin's and Goren's goals were their first of the season.
  • Brendan Morrison played an agressive game - probably his best game of the season - especially on the penalty kill. However, he was once again held off the scoresheet and only has 2 assists in 6 games so far.
  • Besides the Stars' weak second goal, Alex Auld looked solid again in net. His save of the night came off a Bill Guerin one-timer - Guerin was wide open in front of the crease - with the Canucks only leading by one goal in the third. Including his win against Detroit, he is now 2-0 for the season and has only allowed a total of 4 goals.
  • Still with Auld... interesting quote from Marc Crawford during his post-game conference. Asked about Auld's play tonight, Crawford smiled and said something like, "... that's what you want from your... (pause)... goaltenders... for them to make the timely saves..." Part of me thought he stopped himself from using the word 'back-up' to describe Auld. Also thought the 'timely saves' comment may have been a bit of a shot on Cloutier. Okay, I'm psycho-analyzing.
  • Sami Salo again led the defensemen with 26:52 minutes of ice-time, but the rest of the minutes were fairly spread out over the rest of the defense. Ohlund and Jovanovski logged 21 minutes each; Allen and Baumgartner played 17 minutes each; and Steve McCarthy played a season-high 15 minutes. I like it as it means 1.) all six defensemen are playing well and 2.) the top-3 aren't logging 25-30 minutes - a lot of minutes in an 82-game season. (Baumgartner's minutes are on the high side, but this is partly due to the Canucks being on the powerplay a lot.)
Next up: Chicago on Tuesday.
posted by J.J. Guerrero, 11:33 PM | permalink/comments (0) | AddThis Social Bookmark Button | Share on Facebook | Hype It Up! |

A Couch Potato's Dream

It's typical, rainy, October Vancouver weather and I don't mind. On the tube today, there is the usual assortment of NFL games, the CFL Lions are playing the Montreal Alouettes, both the ALCS and NLCS are on Fox, the defending NHL champs Tampa Bay Lightning are playing Alexander Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals on NHLTV... and of course my Vancouver Canucks are playing the Dallas Stars. Cold Case, Law and Order CI and Grey's Anatomy all have new episodes tonight. Global TV is featuring a Family Guy marathon.

And I wonder why my girlfriend decided to visit her mom in Abbotsford today.
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Hull Hangs 'Em Up

In an emotional press conference yesterday afternoon, Brett Hull announced his retirement from a plentiful 20-season NHL career. Known for his goal-scoring ability, Hull finished with 741 career goals (third on the NHL all-time career list after Gretzky and Howe), including 265 on the powerplay (second on the NHL all-time career list). 110 of his goals were game-winners (third on the NHL all-time career list).

Hull was a three-time 70-goal scorer (1989/1990, 1990/1991, 1991/1992). In 1990/1991 and 1991/1992, Hull scored 50 goals in the first 50 games of the season, making him the only player other than Wayne Gretzky to accomplish that feat twice. He also set an NHL record in 1990/1991 for most goals by a right-winger by scoring 86 goals. Hull was a two-time Stanley Cup champion, a World Cup gold medallist, a nine-time NHL all-star and was the Hart Trophy winner in 1991 as the league's MVP.

As much as he has accomplished during his career, the grinds of 20 NHL seasons finally took their toll on Hull's 41-year old body.
There's an old expression, and I don't know who said it -- `The mind is willing but the body isn't, I wish no one had to do this because it's so hard, it's hard because you never think you're going to grow older and be unable to live up to the expectations you set for yourself.
Good on Hull to realize when he couldn't contribute as much as he wanted to or felt he should. In 5 games in the new wide-open NHL, he only managed 1 assist and a -3 rating. In his last game, he only saw 8:46 minutes of ice-time. Obviously far cries from his career average and unfortunate as he was always vocal about the declining scores in the pre-lockout NHL.

That's what infuriates me about the game: the fact that... scoring... is the one thing I love to do, and it's almost like you are not allowed to do it anymore.
And now that the league is correcting this, it's too bad Hull won't be around.
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Saturday, October 15, 2005

Canucks 5 Wild 3

The Vancouver Canucks bounced back from Wednesday's humiliating loss and defeated the Minnesota Wild 5-3 last night. Marc Crawford juggled his lines and five different Canucks forwards scored a goal. It's good to see a much stronger effort from the team. The game recap is here; the score sheet and stat sheet are here and here.

My notes from the game:

  • Todd Bertuzzi was moved from the top line and onto one with Ryan Kesler and Matt Cooke. The line gave Minnesota fits all night. Bertuzzi, especially, played more like Vintage Todd. Kesler and Bertuzzi both scored their first goals of the season, albeit Todd's was an empty-netter.
  • Richard Park had, easily, his best game as a Canuck. Playing on a line with Brendan Morrison and Markus Naslund, Park didn't look out of place and had a 3-point night (1G, 2A).
  • With three lines scoring last night, I wonder if Crawford will stick with these line combinations for a while.
  • Bryan Allen also had a strong game. He was physical and didn't get beat a lot and finished a plus-3. He even occasionally jumped in and joined the play. Allen brings a physical element to the defense and the Canucks need him to have games like this more regularly.
  • Cloutier gave up 3 goals in 13 shots. The third Minny goal (a screened shot from the point) no way he would have seen, but the first was off a gawd-awful rebound. Auld should start one of the upcoming home games - the Canucks play the next four of their games at GM Place - but I wouldn't be surprised if Auld started the first of the four.
Next up: Dallas on Sunday.
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Friday, October 14, 2005

Shut Avery Up

My early vote for doorknob of the year goes to Sean Avery. Earlier this week, he was alleged to have called Edmonton forward Georges Laraque a derogatory slur. This isn't the first time Avery had spouted off thoughtless and racist remarks.

During the lockout, he was asked about the possibility of the NHL losing teams. His response:
"I think they can eliminate a lot of Europeans that come over that are mediocre and take a lot of jobs."
After teammate Jeremy Roenick was hit by Denis Gauthier in the preseason - a hit deemed clean by everyone including Roenick - Avery said the hit was,

"... typical of French guys in our league with a visor on".
Notice a trend yet? I do and it's surprising that the league has done little more than to slap him on the wrist. The NHL wants to promote itself more positively and grow the game more globally. It recently signed a European TV deal. How can the league sell themselves to the European market when one of their own is taking shots at Europeans? The league's response to the Gauthier incident:

Mr. Avery's recent comments were insensitive and inappropriate. The National Hockey League takes great pride in the diversity of its player base and repeatedly has made it clear to the players and Member Clubs that comments of this type are not acceptable. In a communication sent to all Clubs yesterday afternoon, the League expressly reiterated its position in this regard and indicated that similar misconduct in the future would result in the imposition of League discipline.
Which brings us back to the future and the Laraque incident. Avery denies that it happened. But according to reports, Edmonton coach Craig McTavish was among those who confronted Avery regarding the incident. That McTavish became involved gives some credibility to Laraque's claims. As does the Oilers organization taking the extra step of filing a formal report with the league. And despite Avery's denials, Laraque is standing by his story.

"I heard it or I wouldn't have (reported it). This is pretty serious stuff, something you don't play around with."
I agree. This is serious stuff and the league should look at it more seriously. Avery is out of hand and it's time for the league to shut him up.
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Thursday, October 13, 2005

Canucks 0 Wild 6

In the first of two games in a row in Minnesota, the Vancouver Canucks lost 6-0 to the Wild. Much like Raffi Torres in Edmonton, Dwayne Roloson celebrated his birthday in style, stopping all 33 Vancouver shots. I suppose it's good to get games like these out of the way early in the season. The game recap is here; the score sheet and the stat sheet are here and here.

My notes from the game:

  • The Canucks were never really in the game. They had all sorts of trouble generating offense early in the game. In fact, at one point the shots on goal was 12-3 in favor of Minnesota. The Canucks picked it up in the third but it was too late at that point.
  • I thought Steve McCarthy looked better tonight. He skated well. Still fumbled with the puck, but at least his legs seem to be getting there. I sincerely hope his early season struggles is just due to rust - he only played 25 games in 2003/2004 and didn't play anywhere during the lockout - and having to adapt to a new system.
  • I wonder if I'm being an optimistic homer... but especially after his fight with Alex Henry, Todd Bertuzzi played some of his better hockey. He started handling and protecting the puck better. Later in the game, he even drove towards the net a couple of times. I hope tonight's game woke him up.
  • Actually, I hope tonight's game serves as a wakeup call for the entire team.
  • A tale of two games. Dan Cloutier kept the Canucks close, but Foy's flukey goal (to make it 3-0) seemed to rattle him. He had stopped 20 Minnesota shots at that point before letting in 3 of their last 8 shots, including Bouchard's on a penalty shot. I'm sure Canucks fans will scream for Auld to start Friday's rematch; I have a feeling Crawford will stick with Cloutier.
Next up: Minnesota (again) on Friday.
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Wednesday, October 12, 2005

What Partnership Means to the NHL

Salary cap, escrow, who cares? The NHL is back. And so is Vancouver Canucks Op Ed. In this post, they offer the following new logo for the NHLPA.

Nice. Vancouver's 2010 Olympic logo, Ilanaaq, reminds some of a hockey goalie. This one kinda reminds me of Sean Avery.
posted by J.J. Guerrero, 5:19 PM | permalink/comments (0) | AddThis Social Bookmark Button | Share on Facebook | Hype It Up! |

Marchment Is Not The Answer

The Calgary Flames yesterday inked free agent defenseman Bryan Marchment to a one-year contract. Part of the reason for the Flames' early struggles is that their defense - at the beginning of the season ranked by many, including myself, as one of the deepest in the league - has been constantly beat by quicker forwards, resulting in numerous penalties and powerplay goals against them. In their first four games, the Flames have allowed 11 powerplay goals in 25 opportunities (a mere 56% PK success rate).

Especially at 36 years of age, Marchment hardly seems to be the answer. His skating isn't/has never been that great; his hits have been mostly controversial - ask Doug Weight, Mike Modano, Joe Nieuwendyk and Greg Adams. In fact, the way the game is being called in the new NHL, Marchment may actually be more of a liability. And the way the Flames have killed penalties so far this season... well, let's just say I think I'm gonna be one, happy Canucks fan.
posted by J.J. Guerrero, 4:57 PM | permalink/comments (0) | AddThis Social Bookmark Button | Share on Facebook | Hype It Up! |

Letterman on Hockey

From last night's Late Night Show with David Letterman:

The No. 1 Reason the Yankees Aren't in the Playoffs Anymore:

"Who can concentrate on baseball when hockey is back?"
Amen, Dave. Amen. The rest of the top 10 is here.
posted by J.J. Guerrero, 4:51 PM | permalink/comments (1) | AddThis Social Bookmark Button | Share on Facebook | Hype It Up! |

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Canucks 4 Wings 2

The Vancouver Canucks overcame an early 1-0 deficit and beat the Detroit Red Wings 4-2 last night at the Joe Louis Arena. The Sedin line led the team with 5 points and Alex Auld stopped 28 shots. The game recap is here; the score sheet and stat sheet are here and here.

My notes from the game:

  • The rest of the forwards finally decided to show up. Sedin, Sedin and Carter combined for 5 points, including Henrik's and Anson's first goals of the season, and were a combined +7 for the night. Matt Cooke and Richard Park (empty net) also scored for the first time.
  • Cooke earned his money tonight. He was his usual agitating self and sparked the team with some solid hits. He also scored the tying goal on a breakaway after forcing a turnover in the Detroit zone.
  • Alex Auld started his first game this season and stopped 28 of 30 Detroit shots, including a couple in the final seconds to preserve the win. Hopefully, he can continue to give Cloutier a breather every third game or so and keep Cloutier relatively fresh for the playoffs.
  • In three games so far, Steve McCarthy has looked lost and tentative. I thought he was mostly responsible for Detroit's second goal when he let Tomas Holmstrom cruise to the front of the net. Probably his most telling stat is that he only played 11 minutes, none in the last 10 minutes of the game.
  • Wade Brookbank was interviewed between periods and he mentioned that he expects to play in at least one of the two games in Minnesota. I wonder who he will draw in for - McCarthy, Baumgartner or Goren?
  • Sami Salo again led the time with 26:24 minutes of ice-time. He also assisted on Henrik's goal to extend his point streak to three games. He now has 5 points (1G-4A) and is tied with Markus Naslund for the team lead in points.
  • The Canucks held Detroit without a powerplay goal after Detroit scored five against the Flames the night before.
Next up: Minnesota on Wednesday.
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The Battle of Alberta

Hands up if you thought the team from northern Alberta would have the early edge over the one from southern Alberta. The Edmonton Oilers won again tonight, improving their record to 3-0. On the other hand, the Calgary Flames lost tonight to the Avs by a score of 7-3; their record falls to 1-4. The Flames have now let in 6 goals or more in 3 of their first 4 games, and their opponents have capitalized on 11/25 powerplay opportunities - a success rate of 44% - I'd love to be a fly on Darryl Sutter's wall.

There's a good battle brewing in Alberta. For news and posts on the Oilers and the Flames, make sure you pass by the aptly-titled blog "The Battle of Alberta".
posted by J.J. Guerrero, 6:54 AM | permalink/comments (1) | AddThis Social Bookmark Button | Share on Facebook | Hype It Up! |

Monday, October 10, 2005

Some Early Returns

While some of you are digesting turkey, I'm digesting some early returns from the first weekend of this new obstruction-free, offense-oriented NHL season:

  • Through this first weekend of the season, teams have combined to score 251 goals - an average of 3.14 goals per team per game. The average over the 2003/2004 regular season was 2.57 goals per team per game. So far, teams are scoring 0.57 goals per game more than last season - a 22% increase.
  • The crackdown on obstruction has resulted in an average of 7.84 penalties called against each team per game. The average over the 2003/2004 regular season was 5.75.
  • These penalties have produced an average of 6.84 powerplay opportunities per team per game, and have resulted in 1.19 powerplay goals per team per game. This means that a little more than one-third of the goals scored so far have come from the powerplay. In 2003/2004, teams averaged 4.24 powerplay opportunities and 0.70 powerplay goals per game; under 30% of the goals scored came from the powerplay.
The objective of the NHL's "higher standard of officiating" was to "increase the number and quality scoring chances per game". One weekend in and it seems like they are on their way to achieving it.

(Stats from NHL.com)
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Big Guy Still Has A Big Heart

From today's Vancouver Sun:

Bertuzzi did not comment on the all the boos he heard Saturday night. But there were at least two Alberta fans who were cheering for the Canuck winger. Marvin and Roberta Lipka of Lethbridge were staying at the same Edmonton hotel as the Canucks. Marvin Lipka, who suffered a serious stroke two years ago that has left it difficult for him to speak, approached Bertuzzi for an autograph in the hotel lobby. "He was extremely cordial, he shook both of our hands twice, and we thought 'wow, we'll get this framed,'" Roberta said. A short time later two tickets to the Saturday night's game arrived at their hotel room courtesy of Bertuzzi. "My husband was in tears," she said. "It was such a nice gesture."
With all the negative media attention Bertuzzi has received, it's nice to read articles like this. Like most of us, Big Bert has made a regretable mistake, and now he's trying to make up for it. In the end, that's all we can ask for.
posted by J.J. Guerrero, 11:36 AM | permalink/comments (1) | AddThis Social Bookmark Button | Share on Facebook | Hype It Up! |

Happy Thanksgiving Day!

To all the Canadian folks who visit this blog... have a Happy Thanksgiving Day! With everything that has happened around the world in the past year, there are plenty to be thankful for, not the least of which are our health, our safety and the gift of good family and good friends.

And now back to our regularly-scheduled hockey talk...
posted by J.J. Guerrero, 11:31 AM | permalink/comments (0) | AddThis Social Bookmark Button | Share on Facebook | Hype It Up! |

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Paging The Second Line

The Vancouver Canucks lost their first game of the season, falling 4-3 in a shootout to the Edmonton Oilers. The game was tied 3-3 after overtime, before Raffi Torres and Ales Hemsky beat Dan Cloutier in the shootout; Markus Naslund and Todd Bertuzzi were unable to beat Jussi Markannen. The game recap is here; the score sheet and stat sheet are here and here.

My notes from the game:

  • For the second game in a row, Markus Naslund scored two goals. His season total of four goals ties him for the league lead. Unfortunately, he is the only Canucks forward to score so far. The other Canucks goals have been scored by Sami Salo and Mattias Ohlund.
  • The second line of Sedin, Sedin and Carter have been invisible in two games - a departure from their strong preseason showing - and have yet to score a point between them. In fact, the line has been unable to generate anything offensively that in two games, they only have two shots between them. Both from Daniel.
  • Hard to blame Cloutier on the first three Oilers goals. Especially on the last one, the defense has to do a better job of clearing that area out from in front of Cloutier. The Canucks need a crease-clearing defenseman. But we haven't heard that before, have we?
  • Speaking of the defense, I don't know how much longer the Canucks can rely on their top 3 (Ohlund, Jovanovski and Salo) to log 30 minutes per game.
  • Full credit to the Oilers' defense. They blocked shots and forced a lot of turnovers in the neutral zone. The Canucks had a hard time setting up their offense.
Next up: Detroit on Monday.
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Saturday, October 08, 2005

Moose Moves

Mike Keane and Jason Doig have both signed professional tryout contracts with the Manitoba Moose. With last season's key guys like Ryan Kesler, Lee Goren, Jason King, Tyler Bouck and Nolan Baumgartner sticking with the parent Canucks, and Peter Sarno and Jeff Hereema moving on, the Moose will welcome the addition of Keane and Doig. This off-season, Keane attended the Leafs training camp and Doig attended the Canucks'.

The professional tryout contracts allow Keane and Doig to showcase their game to potential NHL suitors. These contracts run for a maximum of 25 games at a time and can be renewed or terminated by either the player or the team.

I wouldn't be surprised if one or both eventually sign with the Canucks. Keane of course played with the team in 2003/2004 and provided a stabilizing veteran presence, especially after the Bertuzzi/Moore incident. Doig, who last played for the Capitals, was being counted on for the team's third pairing on the blueline, but was hampered by injury and only able to play in one preseason game.
posted by J.J. Guerrero, 11:16 AM | permalink/comments (0) | AddThis Social Bookmark Button | Share on Facebook | Hype It Up! |

Bye Bye Fed Fed

The Vancouver Canucks traded Fedor Fedorov to the New York Rangers for Jozef Balej and a conditional draft pick. Balej's scouting report:

Assets: Possesses an excellent scoring touch and a deceptive shot. Usually pots goal-scorers' goals because he knows where to position himself. Is very accurate.
Flaws: Is slight in stature and will need to increase his strength to better handle NHL defenders. Must work on his play without the puck.
Career potential: Second line winger.
Despite an up-and-down preseason, Fedorov was unwilling to accept the Canucks' two-way contract offer. (Funny that he is being assigned by the Rangers to the AHL's Hartford Wolfpack.) He feels he belongs in the bigs, but was unable to prove so on a consistent basis. This trade might give him the fresh start he needs, especially as he is going to a rebuilding Rangers organization that doesn't have as much depth up front as the Canucks.

This is an excellent trade for the Canucks. Most Canucks fans were resigned to receiving a low or conditional draft pick in return for Fedorov. But they not only received that draft pick, they also acquired a prospect - one with considerable upside at that - for him. Balej was recently considered one of the top players in the AHL. In 2003/2004, he scored 55 points in 58 games in the AHL and was chosen to represent Planet USA in the all-star game. The Rangers thought highly enough of him to acquire him when Montreal traded for Alexei Kovalev. Balej is expected to report to the Manitoba Moose this weekend.
posted by J.J. Guerrero, 11:01 AM | permalink/comments (0) | AddThis Social Bookmark Button | Share on Facebook | Hype It Up! |

Payback Time

In a post a couple of months ago, I estimated that the players would most likely have to forego another portion of their salaries to escrow. According to a TSN report, this will be the case for at least the first quarter of the season.

TSN's opening-day salary research indicates the excess spending is at least $110 million higher than the $907.5 million cap or ceiling, an aggregate total of at least $1.0175 billion. In order to balance that "over-spending," the players owe the league at least $110 million and it translates into a minimum 10 per cent withholding on their pay cheques for the first quarter of the season.
This is of course based on an estimated $1.7 billion in revenues - or a $400,000 decline from the previous season's. If this holds true to the end of the season, then the players would take another 10% pay cut on top of the 24% they already gave to end the lockout. Naslund's contract, for example, would go from $6 million this year to $5.4 million; Iginla's from $7 million to $6.3 million; Heatley's from $3.5 million to $3.15 million; etc.

The good news - well sorta good news - for the players is that hockey fans have come back strong - there is relatively-high renewal rate on season ticket sales, a new OLN TV deal to replace the one with ESPN, a new 10-year digital radio deal (XM) - and it is possible revenues won't decline as much as expected. If this is the case, the (excess) escrow amount will simply be returned to the players, though I'm sure this is small consolation to the players who, in the meantime, are paying back some of the money they have earned to bring back the game.
posted by J.J. Guerrero, 10:28 AM | permalink/comments (0) | AddThis Social Bookmark Button | Share on Facebook | Hype It Up! |

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Opening Night Roundup

I realize this post is a little late - late night at the game, early and long day in the office - so I thought I'd simply link you to last night's game roundups from my fellow bloggers.

  • The Vancouver Canucks, of course, opened the 2005/2006 with a 3-2 win against the Phoenix Coyotes. Markus Naslund led the team with 2 goals and Dan Cloutier stopped 30 of 32 shots. The complete game recap is here; the score sheet and stat sheet are here and here; as well, Vancouver Canucks Hockey Blog provides its own game recap here and Tom Benjamin provides his analysis here.
  • In what will be his regular feature, James Mirtle shares his notes here; Jes Gőlbez shares his thoughts on opening night here; Eric McErlain feels good about looking back at boxscores instead of CBA-related stunts and provides his NHL roundup here; Paul from Kukla's Corner has his usual assortment of news and posts on opening night here.
A couple of personal notes:
  • During the pregame introductions, the team showed the "My NHL" ad clip but with Canucks game footage spliced in and the "warrior" putting on a Canucks jersey - for me personally, this had a much better effect. I wonder if the league is planning on playing similar versions in each local market.
  • The Northwest Division championship banner was already hanging on the rafters before fans were let in. I know it's not the Stanley Cup banner, but it still would have been nice to see it raised.
  • On top of the miniature Stanley Cup "premium' gift from the league, the Canucks also handed out mini, replica banners prior to the game.
posted by J.J. Guerrero, 10:33 PM | permalink/comments (0) | AddThis Social Bookmark Button | Share on Facebook | Hype It Up! |

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

The Boys Are Back In Town

Guess who just got back today?
Them wild-eyed boys that had been away
Haven't changed, haven't much to say
But man, I still think them cats are crazy
Click here (opens Windows Media Player).
posted by J.J. Guerrero, 6:48 AM | permalink/comments (0) | AddThis Social Bookmark Button | Share on Facebook | Hype It Up! |

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Fearless Predictions

Less than 24 hours before the puck drops for the first meaningful game in 16 months, I offer my fearless predictions for the season:

Art Ross Trophy: Joe Thornton
Hart Trophy: Jarome Iginla
Norris Trophy: Ed Jovanovski
Calder Trophy: Alexander Ovechkin

Western Conference Finals: Vancouver vs. San Jose Sharks
Eastern Conference Finals: Boston vs. Ottawa

Stanley Cup Finals: Vancouver over Ottawa

Let's hear yours. :)
posted by J.J. Guerrero, 10:19 PM | permalink/comments (1) | AddThis Social Bookmark Button | Share on Facebook | Hype It Up! |