Friday, July 21, 2006

The Big Day

Who knew that preparing for a wedding was a lot of work? I've always thought the groom's job was to just show up at the church. Anyway, I apologize for not posting at all in the last couple of weeks, but things have obviously been quite hectic with our big day being tomorrow. The Canucks have also been busy and I've quickly posted some of my notes in today's posts.

I'll be back briefly next week before Tracy and I take off for Whistler (our favorite second home) for a week and a half. Not sure how much I'll be posting then, but seeing that's it's our honeymoon, I'm guessing not a lot unless something major happens (like the Canucks re-signing Anson Carter or Trevor Linden or something).

After that, I'll be back for regular posts and if all things go well, a new layout for this site, a couple of new features and an updated blogroll. (To those who sent me emails about link exchanges and such, I'll respond when I get back.) Thank you all for continuing to stop by and I'll talk to you again soon.

[update: 08/06/2006, 6:58 PM]

Thank you everyone for your notes and emails of well-wishes. It really was a memorable day. I just wanted to share one of our photos from the big day.

Now back to our regularly-scheduled hockey talk. :)

[update: 09/04/2006, 12:56 PM]

Links to "official" wedding photos, other wedding photos and photos from the champagne reception in Whistler.

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New To The Canucks Family

Even with the Vancouver Canucks getting close to its self-imposed $42.5 million cap, the team added a couple of players to its roster for the upcoming season. They signed another former Minnesota Wild, Marc Chouinard, and traded for Buffalo Sabres forward, Taylor Pyatt.

Chouinard's TSN scouting report:

Assets: Has great size and reach. Is good on face-offs and does the little things in order to survive the NHL game. Can play both center or right wing.
Flaws: Has skating issues. Was supposed to put up much bigger offensive numbers in the pros but has been a major flop in terms of production.
Career potential: Checking line center.
NHL.com also did a nice spotlight on Chouinard earlier this year. Click here for the article.

Pyatt's TSN scouting report:

Assets: Boasts a tremendous combination of size and skating ability. Has sound body-checking skills, and is both defensively aware and an emerging offensive talent.
Flaws: The jury is still out on his offensive upside. Tends to struggle in the hockey sense department.
Career potential: Power forward.
Now, I'm not anointing Pyatt as the next Todd Bertuzzi, but it's interesting to note that Todd was traded to the Canucks at about the same age and with some of the same potential and while putting up similar numbers.

The Canucks also rounded up the rest of their coaching staff, naming Rick Bowness, Mike Kelly and Barry Smith as Alain Vigneault's assistant coaches.

Comments/Questions: Feel free to post in the comments section or email me at gocanucksgo10 (at) hotmail (dot) com.

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The Vancouver-Victoria Connection

From the official Manitoba Moose site:

In a joint announcement today, the Manitoba Moose and Vancouver Canucks announced a new developmental affiliation agreement with the Victoria Salmon Kings of the ECHL. The agreement is a one-year contract that will see the Moose and Salmon Kings work together for the first time in order to develop players within the Canucks organization.

“We are pleased to enter into a new partnership with the Victoria Salmon Kings,” said Moose General Manger Craig Heisinger. “In the past, we have been very successful at developing players at the ECHL level, such as Jesse Schultz and Alexandre Burrows, among others. We are confident this will continue in the future with the Salmon Kings.”

The Salmon Kings finished the 2005-06 season with a 26-37-9 record, good for fifth in the West Division. On June 8, 2006, Victoria hired Tony MacAulay as the second head coach in the franchise’s short three-year history in the ECHL. MacAulay finished the 2005-2006 season as Head Coach and Director of Hockey Operations of the Trenton Titans (ECHL), where he helped the defending Kelly Cup Champions reach the American Conference playoffs.

Victoria Vice-President of Hockey Operations and General Manager, Dan Belisle, is a veteran of establishing partnerships between professional hockey leagues. In 2004-05, Belisle established the first NHL affiliation in Boardwalk Bullies (ECHL) history, when they partnered with the NHL’s New York Islanders and the AHL’s Bridgeport Sound Tigers. Prior to that, while at the helm for the New Orleans Brass (ECHL), Belisle secured affiliations with the San Jose Sharks and Nashville Predators. In addition, while with New Orleans, Belisle worked with the Montreal Canadiens and the Edmonton Oilers.

“This is a historical day for the Victoria Salmon Kings. We are very excited about the opportunity of working with these two prestigious teams and helping to develop talent for their clubs,” said Belisle.

Since 2002-03, the Moose had been affiliated with the Columbia Inferno. In the four seasons the two organizations were formally affiliated, the Inferno compiled a record of 154-104-30.
As can be expected, the Salmon Kings are thrilled with this new affiliation, one that gives the ECHL team some instant credibility. In a market that is only a ferry ride away from Vancouver and boasts more Canucks fans than Salmon Kings fans, it also gives the ECHL team plenty of cross-marketing opportunities.

But the bigger impact may be on the ice.

For Victoria, it makes the player recruitment process that much easier. Instead of coming to play for a team that lacks a track record, the Salmon Kings offer the opportunity of advancement within the umbrella of a pretty decent organization. Look for younger and higher-skilled players to wear the mighty fish uniforms this season. Look for players and management to have more incentive to perform -- and make the playoffs.

And you Western Hockey League fans should appreciate the fact that this is a new breed of Salmon King and that some of the players we see on the ice here may actually find their way to the big pond that is the NHL.
And now, the big pond is less than two hours away.

Comments/Questions: Feel free to post in the comments section or email me at gocanucksgo10 (at) hotmail (dot) com.

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Face of the Franchise, part 2

Now, from one face of the franchise to another. Prior to the start of the free agency period, the Vancouver Canucks declined to exercise their $1.52 million option on Trevor Linden's contract. Trevor doesn't have a contract yet for the upcoming season, though media reports suggest that Dave Nonis isn't too worried.
"We'll sit down with Trevor in the next week and he's very aware of our situation and what our expectations are," Nonis told TEAM 1040 AM on Wednesday.

"And I still expect that Trevor will be in our lineup when we open up next year."
It is hard to imagine the team fielding a roster without no. 16. It will be equally hard to see him don another jersey. Call me sentimental, but it wasn't right when he left in 1998; it's not right now either, even with all the turnover the Canucks have had this offseason.

The fact is, Trevor is still a serviceable forward, albeit in a much more limited role. He is also an integral part of the team's core of veterans and is now the lone remaining member of the team to have ever played in the Stanley Cup Finals.

Probably most importantly, with assistant captains Ed Jovanovski and Todd Bertuzzi now gone and the team wanting to incorporate more of their young prospects into the lineup, Trevor's leadership becomes more valuable. Remember that when young guys like Ryan Kesler, Alex Burrows and the now-departed Fedor Fedorov first broke into the Canucks' roster, that he was skating alongside them.

Wonder why?

Any young player would see what Trevor has accomplished in this league and what he has meant to this team and have no choice but to listen.

Dave Nonis should as well.

Comments/Questions: Feel free to post in the comments section or email me at gocanucksgo10 (at) hotmail (dot) com.

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Face of the Franchise, part 1

Manitoba Moose fan favorite and its face of the franchise for the past nine seasons, Jimmy Roy, decided to pack his bags and head to the German Elite League (via Ken Wiebe, Winnipeg Free Press):

During an informal media gathering to discuss his departure, Roy said it was an emotional decision but felt it was time to pursue another path.

"I know the grass is not always greener on the other side but after what I've gone through the last two years, I have to find out for myself," said Roy, who had 101 goals, 212 points and 1,434 penalty minutes in 603 career games with the Moose.

Roy's role with the Moose during the past two seasons was slightly diminished because of American Hockey League roster rules which limit the number of veterans teams can dress on any given night to five and Roy was often the sixth.

When his number was called, Roy showed he could still contribute and often garnered plenty of ice time, even in crucial situations.
As had been the case for most of his career, upon announcing his decision, Jimmy showed just how much of his heart he wears on his sleeve:

"Showing your emotion is no good for the team and you're part of the team so you have to do your part," said Roy, a product of Sioux Lookout, Ont., who now lives in Winnipeg. "I've known for a while that I don't want to sit in the press box anymore. I want to be a part of something and make a contribution on the ice still. I think I'm still capable of doing it. Maybe this is my way of dealing with it."
An AHL all-star last season, there was no shortage of good words for him. Here's Moose GM Craig Heisinger:

"He's given us a lot more than we've given him," said Heisinger. "To say that somebody is going to replace Jimmy, that's just not going to happen. Both sides have been excellent for each other's development.

"Jimmy has defended his teammates for all nine years that he's been here. And he probably scored the most important goals in franchise history in the biggest games. Now we're going to have to find somebody else to score them."
And here's Heisinger again, showing just how much Jimmy is valued by the organization:

Heisinger said it's a day he's prepared for during the past few seasons but that he's not prepared to close the book on Roy just yet.

"I'm not sure this is the end of the story," said Heisinger. "I think it's a bookmark of a chapter and we'll see what happens in the next year or two. I just find it hard to believe that when Jimmy hangs it up, that he won't be a Manitoba Moose."
Gary Lawless expresses more of the same in a nice piece in the Winnipeg Sun:

For the unsuspecting newcomer who requests No. 21 this fall at Manitoba Moose training camp, here's a quick list of what watchers will expect of the candidate inside that jersey:
Score giant overtime goals, provide selfless defensive play, display willingness to fight larger opponents on a near-nightly basis, visit hospitals, read to schoolchildren, be first out of bus to help trainers unload equipment, answer to media after games when most players have headed for refuge of trainer's room, provide Winnipeg dentists and plastic surgeons with endless work, sign autographs at grocery stores or restaurants or funeral homes or ice fishing huts, market franchise year-round and generally be the type of player every owner, coach and mother would love.

Jimmy Roy, who for the last nine years has worn No. 21 for the Manitoba Moose, is leaving to play this season in Germany for the Iserlohn Roosters. The Moose aren't just losing a player. They're having a hunk of their soul ripped away. Roy, the pride of Sioux Lookout, has long been the glory of the Moose, Winnipeg and Manitoba. They don't come down the pipe like this 170-pound redheaded slice of gristle very often. Don't think the Moose don't know it.
And if any of the Moose newcomers go for Jimmy's jersey, Gary has some advice:

So for now, No. 21 is empty and so is the stall in which Roy has sat these last nine years. Camp will open this fall like it does every year and the Moose will move on. And maybe some rookie fresh out of junior will want the number he's worn since his days as a pee wee.

Do yourself a favour kid, just walk away from the sweater.
And finally, some parting words from Jimmy Roy here (audio).

Comments/Questions: Feel free to post in the comments section or email me at gocanucksgo10 (at) hotmail (dot) com.

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A Fresh Start In Florida

After Todd Bertuzzi faced the Miami media for the first time since being traded to the Florida Panthers from the Vancouver Canucks, Greg Cote (Miami Herald) wrote a nice piece on him:

You meet Todd Bertuzzi for the first time and you start with the pleasantries, of course. Small talk. Hockey stuff. Did the trade surprise you, and what do you think of the Panthers, and et cetera and so forth. But everything is leading somewhere else, somewhere darker, and you know it, and he knows it.

South Florida's newest NHL star, the goal-scorer counted on to end the club's long playoff drought, moves a pinch of Kodiak tobacco from a tin to under his upper lip after a while and looks you in the eye as he opens the door slightly, just enough.

"It was uncomfortable and very distracting," he says, meaning this past season with the Vancouver Canucks. "It was tough to stay focused. Maybe the fresh start is what was needed. No strings attached."
I personally hope that that's what he gets. Most Canucks fans, while disgusted at the Moore incident, were quick to forgive and forget. Todd, the person, had strong ties to the Vancouver community and it made it easier to see and accept his remorse.

Panthers fans have already started to see this side of him as well - since his arrival in Florida, Todd has already formed "Bertuzzi's Buddies", a charitable program in which he donates tickets to underprivileged kids for Panthers' home games.
Bertuzzi still feels remorse, but the tears have dried. His family -- his wife of 10 years, a daughter, 7, and a son, 5 -- has received death threats. Police details have accompanied him on road trips. Booing and derision have chased him in visiting arenas throughout the NHL.

The prices paid by victim and attacker cannot be compared, but Bertuzzi has paid some, too, for his solitary act of cowardice masquerading as hockey machismo.

He thinks Panthers fans will welcome him and says, "I think fans will enjoy me," and he'll be right, if he is the 40-goal scorer he says he can be again, and if he backs up his claim, "I am not coming here to not make the playoffs." This franchise has had no scorer other than Pavel Bure capable of offense like Bertuzzi, at his best, can bring. And no playoff victories since 1997 make Panthers fans a generous, forgiving lot.
Just like Canucks fans.

Comments/Questions: Feel free to post in the comments section or email me at gocanucksgo10 (at) hotmail (dot) com.

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Friday, July 07, 2006

Scotty Comes Home

Paul Friesen (Winnipeg Sun) has a nice piece about Scott Arniel, the former Jet, returning to Winnipeg as the new Manitoba Moose coach:

Never mind that the Manitoba Moose found a head coach.

The big news yesterday was that Brendan and Stephanie Arniel got their dad back. Not to mention Lia Arniel will have somebody around to do the shovelling this winter.

The announcement that Scott Arniel has become the fifth head coach in Moose history could be summed up by the last three words of the man's acceptance speech at the downtown arena.

"I'm back home," Arniel said, and you got the impression nobody has ever been happier to have landed a job in Winnipeg.

No, he wasn't born here. But, like former Moose boss Randy Carlyle before him, Arniel has become an adopted Winnipegger.

Sometime after being drafted by the Jets 25-odd years ago, he fell in love with the place.

"Originally I used to go home every summer, back to Kingston," Arniel said. "Off and on, all the places I've played over the years, I always ended up back here. My wife's from here, my kids know Winnipeg ... this is home to them, as well. I love the city, I love the area, I love the friends I have here away from the game. It's just perfect."
It may be, but it took Arniel three tries to get the gig - he had previously lost out to Randy Carlyle and Alain Vigneault.

Arniel spent the last three seasons as an assistant coach with the Buffalo Sabres. Here's what GM Darcy Regeir had to say (via Winnipeg Free Press):

"If people ever wonder how badly he wanted to be a head coach, all you have to do is look at the sacrifice he made, especially from his family's point of view," Regier said. "I think he's a great choice, for the team and for your fans. We're thrilled for him and we're sorry to lose him."

Regier, while he was working for the Islanders, first met Arniel when he was playing for the IHL's Utah Grizzlies.

"I was meeting (coach) Butch Goring and he made a point of saying to me that there's a guy in that room who's going to be an outstanding coach someday," Regier said. "He introduced me to Scott Arniel. He's a student of the game, he's passionate about it, he's always learning and he's got a great work ethic. That always stuck with me."
Canucks assistant GM Steve Tambellini concurs:

"I can tell you about his enthusiasm, his intelligence and his poiseafter having gone through a Stanley Cup run (with Buffalo)," said Vancouver vice-president and assistant GM Steve Tambellini, in Winnipeg for the announcement. "With his history with Manitoba, I can't think of a better person not only lead the Manitoba team, but to lead Vancouver prospects."
Arniel's playing and coaching stats are here (via hockeydb.com).

Comments/Questions: Feel free to post in the comments section or email me at gocanucksgo10 (at) hotmail (dot) com.

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Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Revolving Door

While I was away spending an extra long weekend in Vernon, BC, Dave Nonis has been busy retooling and reshaping the Vancouver Canucks. To recap:

Daniel and Henrik Sedin both sign 3-year/$10.725 million contracts

After career seasons, Dave Nonis somehow managed to get 2/3rds of last season's top line to forego two years of unrestricted free agency at only $3.575 million per season. When you consider that other first-liners Jason Arnott and Marc Savard signed for much more ($4.5million/season and $5 million/season respectively), this is a pretty good deal.

It's not a stretch to think that the Sedins would have commanded $4-4.5 million in the open market. If you think about it, the Canucks are essentially paying them $1.725-2.725 million each for this coming season. Not bad for a couple of 70-point (and improving) players.

Ed Jovanovski signs a 5-year/$32.5 million contract with the Phoenix Coyotes

Not much the Canucks can do about Jovanovski leaving. With Luongo's $6.75 million cap hit this season, there simply wasn't enough cap space to fit another big contract.

Personally, Jovo's loss will probably prove to be the most significant this coming season. In the new NHL where teams need some good speed and a good first pass to get out of their zone, the Canucks have now lost their best breakout guy. (They also lost Nolan Baumgartner, arguably their second-best breakout guy.)

By the way, anyone find it funny that in the clutch-and-grab era, the Canucks loaded up on speed and finesse players, but in the wide-open, new NHL, have committed to a more defensive style?

Nolan Baumgartner signs a 2-year/$2.4 million contract with the Philadelphia Flyers

With the Canucks' defense decimated by injuries, Baumgartner filled in quite admirably and put together the best season of his career. He posted career-highs in games played and all statistical categories, and his +11 also tied him for the team-lead. All for the league-minimum $450,000. I would've liked to see him back in a Canucks uniform, but his $1.2 million salary can pay for the Canucks' third pairing.

Jason Botchford (Vancouver Province) has a nice piece on Baumer here.

PS. If Tracy and I had known that Baumer was going to leave this off-season, we probably would have named our dog Willie.

Willie Mitchell signs a 4-year/$14 million contract

I like this signing. I've been a Willie Mitchell fan since he took on Bertuzzi in 2003, and plus, I always like it when a BC boy comes home.
In a conference call with the Vancouver media Sunday afternoon, Mitchell spoke at length about how excited he is to return home to play in British Columbia. He was a huge Canuck fan as a kid and Mitchell said some of his best Christmas memories are of heading to Vancouver to catch a couple of Canuck games over the holiday break.

"We jumped in the ruts there, as all of us do on the north end of Vancouver Island, and head down to Nanaimo and took the ferry across. It was kind of a tradition for me and my family anyways. My dad is a mechanic back on the north end of the Island so at Christmas time it was commonplace for a kid who dreamed about playing in the NHL to go down and watch the Canucks play. We'd always come down at Christmas and watch a couple of games at the Pacific Coliseum."

The lure of returning home to play in Vancouver proved too great to resist for Mitchell, who was traded at the deadline last season to Dallas. The Stars, as well as a number of other teams, tried to sign Mitchell.

"Playing in a Canadian city where hockey is No. 1 is something that really appeals to me," Mitchell said. " It's fun to go to the rink. I think in a Canadian city you are expected to win and I kind of like that. I like that pressure. As a player I like the things the Vancouver staff has kind of been doing and feel that I can help complement their team in a defensive role. Obviously they signed Robert Luongo, a star goaltender, and as a defenceman hopefully I can work well with him and add a little different element to the Canucks that maybe they haven't had, maybe being a little tighter defensively."
Knowing that the Canucks want to focus more on the defensive side of things - no worries, Canucks fans, apparently the team is not going to resort to playing the trap - I'm as comfortable with Luongo, Mitchell and Krajicek in front of the net as I would have been with Auld, Jovo and Allen.

Jarkko Ruutu signs a 2-year/$2.3 million contract with the Pittsburgh Penguins

With Ruutu's departure, the Canucks have now lost all three pieces of the original Linden deal in 1998, though I suppose you can kind of argue that in a way, Linden brought the Canucks Daniel Sedin and Roberto Luongo.

I imagine the Penguins have a bigger role in mind for Jarkko. I love what he brought to the team, but $1.15 million/season for a third or fourth-liner whose career-high is 17 points? In a cap world?

Here's what Penguins GM Ray Shero had to say:
"(Ruutu) plays hard, he plays to win and in terms of changing the dynamics of the team, he's a step in the right direction," Shero said. "He's always played a role on good teams, and he knows what it takes to be a good teammate. He's not a fun guy to play against, but having said that, he understands the game, he has good hockey sense and he can play with good players."
He's right, but still... $1.15 million per season?

Dan Cloutier is traded to the Los Angeles Kings for a 2007 2nd round draft pick and a conditional draft pick in 2009

Quite frankly, after the horrible season that Cloutier had and the number of other goaltenders on the trade block, there probably wasn't much of a market for his services. Thank goodness the Kings like ex-Canucks goalies.

Dean Lombardi put his positive spin on the trade:
"I think it's important to have an established goaltender," Kings general manager Dean Lombardi said. "I think some of his best hockey's ahead of him. This kid's a competitor."
How much of a competitor? Check out VCOE for an oldie-but-goodie video clip.

Anson Carter still waiting for a contract

Apparently, Carter is looking for a three-year/$9 million contract and the Toronto Maple Leafs are interested in him.

If he gets his money, good for him. I doubt, however, that it would be from Vancouver.

Comments/Questions: Feel free to post in the comments section or email me at gocanucksgo10 (at) hotmail (dot) com.

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