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CANUCKS HOCKEY BLOG

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

A Seller's Market

Teams looking for playoff depth usually look at teams that are out of the playoff race. As of today however, there seems to be more teams in the playoff race at this point of the season than in previous seasons.

As much as I don't like the unbalanced schedule, it has paved the way for an interesting sprint to the end of the regular season. With every remaining game now within the conferences and worth the proverbial four points in the standings, the playoff race becomes a lot more competitive.

For example, in the East, only seven points separate the 8th place Leafs and the 13th place NY Islanders; in the West, only eight points separate the 8th place Avs and the 12th place Sharks. And it may be too soon to write off the 14th place Capitals, who are only 13 points out of a playoff spot. To take it further, the 6th place Lightning are only six points from missing the playoffs in the East; same with the 5th place Kings in the West.



Teams still have approximately 30 games left to play, and for those teams fighting for the final playoff spots, anywhere around one-third to one-half of their games are against each other. Right now, it looks like only Pittsburgh, Columbus, Chicago and St. Louis are out of the playoff race and may be willing to trade their players to a potential playoff-bound team - that means potentially 26 teams are looking to buy and only four teams looking to sell.

In simple economics, right now, demand is extremely high and supply is extremely low. It's a seller's market and maybe that explains how St. Louis was able to command three players and three draft picks for someone who will be an unrestricted free agent at season's end. It also explains why Buffalo is able to demand a top prospect and a high draft pick for one of it's goalies - a demand that may very well be met. And it's why losing Ed Jovanovski sucks - the Canucks probably needed to give up some significant parts to gear up for a lengthy playoff run. Imagine what it would take now to replace him.

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Carnival of the NHL #18

The 18th edition of the Carnival of the NHL - the Terry Sawchuk edition - is up and running at Abel To Yzerman. This Carnival takes us through various posts, rants, musings and analysis on the NHL in the last couple of weeks, with an emphasis on goalies:

Welcome one and all to the 18th Carnival of Hockey, the Sawchuk Edition. As a rookie blogger with a mere month under my belt, thanks to Eric for letting me host and to all the hockey bloggers who have sent me plenty to choose from.

Now, why the “Sawchuk” edition?

Well, you have to understand something about us Wings fans. Like Sailors, we’re not happy unless we’re bitching about our goalies. And you have to hand it to us, we’ve had some “issues.” From center-ice escapades to two hall of fame goalies ignoring one another’s presence in the same lockerroom. Take last night for example. Wings take a 4-0 lead until Chris Osgood lets in 3 on 10 shots in the second period and is pulled for Legace going into the third. So, Legace, who is playing well lately, lets in a 5-holer of his own before holding off the Wild for a 5-4 win. And that, my friends, is the sordid recent history of Detroit goaltending in a nutshell.

So, it’s only natural that we dedicate our version of the Carnival to one of the few Wings goalies who has left a long-lasting positive impression.
Sadly, Bill, we have much in common. Lest you forget that your own Nicklas Lidstrom scored on our own Dan Cloutier from center ice in '02. I don't blame you for forgetting, however. At least you guys won the Cup.

The rest of the Carnival is here. A big thanks to Bill for hosting it.

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Monday, January 30, 2006

Case of the Mondays

Some random ramblings as I browse through the Monday morning news and try to drag my butt to my 8-to-4.



*****

In Carolina, the Hurricanes retired Ron Francis' no. 10 jersey in a simple but classy ceremony. Very Ron Francis-like. Red and Black Hockey and Sweet Tea, Barbeque and Bodychecks reflect on the occassion as well as Francis' career.

*****

Eric McErlain analyzes Roberto Luongo turning down the Panthers' five-year/$30 million contract offer. I mistakenly thought that Luongo would be an unrestricted free agent after this season. As Eric points out, this won't happen until the end of the 2006/2007 season.

Gilles Lupien, who represents Luongo, said Luongo wants a shorter deal than the offer the Panthers made earlier this month.
Anyone wanna bet that by shorter he means until the end of the 2006/2007 season?

*****

Al Strachan has this interesting tidbit in the Toronto Sun:

The New York Islanders are looking to move a few miles to upscale Suffolk County. The team won't go far because of an astonishingly lucrative TV deal that pays the team $13-$15 million annually and stretches approximately until the starship Enterprise comes back.
Assuming this deal includes every single Islanders regular season game and every possible playoff game (four home games x four rounds), that comes up to at least $228,000 per game. And that's in US dollars.

Almost makes the supposed $250,000 per game the Canucks are asking from Sportsnet seem like a steal.

*****

The NHL on NBC's TV numbers took a big dip - from a 1.5% to a 1.1% rating - on its second week. Is it possible this is because viewers couldn't find the sexy hockey player hunk in the commercials?

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Sunday, January 29, 2006

Canucks 4 Avs 3 (SO)

The Vancouver Canucks snapped a three-game losing streak with a 4-3 shootout win over the Colorado Avalanche. The win pushed the Canucks into a first-place tie with the Calgary Flames in the Northwest Division and a fifth-place tie with the Los Angeles Kings in the Western Conference. Calgary has one game in hand on the Canucks; the Canucks have two games in hand on the Kings.
Game Recaps: canucks.com . ESPN
Statistics: Score Sheet . Stat Sheet
My notes from the game:

  • The Denver Post didn't think well enough of Alex Auld to be one of the stars of the game, but he was one the biggest reason the Canucks won. Not only did he stop 40 of 43 shots in regulation and overtime, he also stopped all three Colorado shooters in the shootout. This doesn't happen in many Canucks games but I actually felt that a puck was not going to beat Auld. The two late goals that did were from in front of the net and resulted from a combination of Colorado's hard work and Vancouver's blown defensive coverages.
  • Auld's win was his 21st of the season (tied for seventh in the NHL). He also moved into 6th place in the NHL in total minutes played for the season.
  • The Canucks played with more heart and more grit than most of their recent games. They battled with the Avs all night and were even willing to scrap it out (Allen, Bieksa and Kesler all dropped the gloves). The Vancouver Province has more.
  • I thought Brendan Morrison and Jarkko Ruutu stepped up quite nicely in Naslund's absence. Morrison logged 21:02 minutes of ice-time and was solid on both ends of the ice; he finished with one assist, two shots and a +2 rating. Ruutu, of course, was very prominent in his season-high 19:31 minutes of ice-time. Taking Naslund's spot on the big line, he scored two goals - including the game-winner in the shootout - and recorded two shots and two hits.
  • Speaking of Ruutu, anyone else thought his shootout goal was eerily similar to Sidney Crosby's against Montreal?
  • This is getting to be a common note in this blog: Ryan Kesler played a very good game. Even through the team's losing streak, Kesler had been one of the hardest-working Canucks and last night, the stats backed it up. In 16:50 minutes of ice-time, he recorded one goal, three shots, one hit, three blocked shots and a 60% faceoff win percentage. He was also game in a second period fight against Ian Lapperiere.
  • Kevin Bieksa's poor defensive positioning cost him last night - he was on the ice for all three Colorado goals. I've mentioned this before and it's something he very much needs to work on.
  • On the other hand, Mattias Ohlund had a great game. He recorded one goal (short-handed), four shots and six blocked shots in 28:21 minutes of ice-time.
  • Steve McCarthy has also played better of late. He seems to be learning when to make the safe play, when to move the puck and when to pinch into the play. Good news for the Canucks defense if he can chip in similar 15 minute efforts the rest of the season.
  • Thanks to the Colorado fans who proved that there are idiot fans everywhere. I won't blame them for booing Todd Bertuzzi, but cheering when he was slashed and injured, and throwing stuff at him on the ice is just stupid. On a minor aside, I was at GM Place during the Moore incident and I can tell you that Moore received a nice ovation when he was being wheeled out. We certainly didn't cheer the fact that he was hurt.
Next up: Phoenix on Tuesday.

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Saturday, January 28, 2006

Telling It Like It Is


There have been nights when we watch the Vancouver Canucks, watch their top line, and wonder whether or not they care. Well, at least Brendan Morrison does. In an interview that appeared in today's Vancouver Sun, Morrison didn't mince any words:

"If you were to rate our performance up to date it's been very, very average," Morrison said. "It's been frustrating. I don't think there have been many games where we have really gone out and won a game for our team like we have in the past.

"Especially in a lot of these close games where we expect ourselves to go out and get it done, we just haven't for whatever reason."

(snip)

"In a game where our team needed a win and had a chance to win, we didn't do it," he said. "That's when it becomes frustrating. You can get by when you are winning games and other guys are contributing and if you're not scoring you can kind of go under the radar a bit. But in close games and you're not making a difference, that is where it is evident."

(snip)

"The biggest thing is I think we are going to have to get a couple of ugly goals," Morrison said. "Every goal we score can't be a pretty goal. We have to get some goals where we are battling in front and getting after rebounds. But we aren't even putting ourselves in that situation. We're not even getting pucks to the net. We're such a perimeter line right now and we're easy to play against."
Let's see how they respond tonight. The full article is here.

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Auld vs. Aebischer

Like their divisional rivals, the Vancouver Canucks, the Colorado Avalanche have had to answer questions regarding their goaltending for much of the season. It wasn't too long ago that Avs GM Pierre Lacroix called up Vitaliy Kolesnik and created a three-goalie controversy with Kolesnik, Peter Budaj and David Aebischer. That's not so much the case anymore as the Avs have been hot - they are 8-2-1 in their January games - thanks in large part to the play of David "No Longer The Swiss Miss" Aebischer.

On the other hand, the Canucks are on a three-game losing skid, though that was preceeded by a run of seven wins in eight games. Alex Auld was in net for all but one of those games.

Here are some stats between Aebischer and Auld to chew on before tonight's game between the Canucks and the Avs:



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$75K Waiver Rule Re-Visited


For Wade Flaherty fans, there may be some good news in the horizon. An article appeared this week in the Winnipeg Free Press addressing the $75,000 waiver rule:

Details are sparse, but it seems like Professional Hockey Players Association executive director Larry Landon is being heard by the NHL. Landon met with NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly and NHLPA executive director Ted Saskin in New York on Tuesday to outline the PHPA's objections to new recall-waiver and related salary rules instituted with this season's NHL salary cap.

(snip)

Though it's not known exactly where that number could end up, common sense says that doubling it would likely solve any problem that currently exists with player movement up to the NHL and still give the NHL some teeth regarding the rule's original intent -- to prevent teams from stockpiling good depth players and overpaying them in the minors in order to hide their salaries from the NHL cap. The NHL's minimum salary is $450,000 US.

The NHLPA would have to sign off on any deal reached.

The PHPA is also seeking a resolution to salary reductions some NHL teams have made to minor-league players' NHL guarantees. Some players, like Flaherty, have taken a 24 per cent salary reduction on their entire minor-league salary, not just on the portion of their contract that is an NHL guarantee, costing them thousands of dollars.
Except for NHL players waived and assigned by their NHL teams to the minors (see Alexander Mogilny), I don't imagine many are making over $150,000 per season. The $150,000 may still act as a salary cap on the AHL, but at least the higher threshold allows for most minor-league players to be called up by their NHL clubs.

More to follow.

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Friday, January 27, 2006

Bert-Bashing Back

I know it's hard, but you've got to let it go. For some reason, Richard Deitsch from SI and Macleans Canada decided to re-hash the Bertuzzi affair just this week.

At what point do you forgive the unforgivable? At some point you just have to.

As a Canucks fan, my only hope is that the Olympics does for Todd what the 1987 Canada Cup did for Mario.

Thanks to the boys from The Battle of Alberta for the pointer.

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Turmoil in the Center of the Universe


Is it wrong that these two pieces put a smile on my face?

From Damien Cox (via ESPN):

The Leafs, however, always operate as though they have some manifest destiny, some larger purpose, despite going so long without a championship.

Maybe it's the sellout crowds that appear, regardless of the team's record. Maybe it's the fact that the further the last Cup victory sinks into the rearview mirror, the more popular the team seems to become. Maybe it's the fact that with its own TV channel, the team has the ability to not only manufacture its own propaganda, but does so in a way that seems to convince the players and managers that they are worthy descendants of a proud tribe, regardless of what the win-loss column says.

These days, it doesn't say very nice things, particularly after six consecutive losses and seven defeats in eight games. After riding reasonably high in the conference playoff race most of the season, the Leafs have fallen to ninth and seem stabilized there only because Montreal is showing no signs of revving up its engine anytime soon.
From Stephen Brunt (via The Globe and Mail):

Here's a truth of professional sport, and of many other worlds as well. Once they start laughing at you, once you become a punchline, it's awfully tough to turn that impression around.

Babcock's reputation was so degraded because of the Araujo pick and because of the Carter deal that the television guys laughed out loud when he picked Villanueva last year. It didn't matter who might laugh last: that was the label, that's what stuck and that wasn't going away.

But who's the joke now? What name is going to make anyone who follows basketball immediately break into a smirk? The Toronto Raptors. Richard Peddie. The mantle has finally been passed by the Los Angeles Clippers, just now living down their loser reputation. It's undeniable now.

There's a laughingstock in town.
Maybe these'll put give some of those more arrogant Toronto fans a reality check. Maybe.

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Bob The Builder

Ed Willes has a nice piece today regarding Bob Nicholson and the speculation that he is being considered for Orca Bay's vacant CEO position:
One of the more revealing 15 minutes your agent spent with Nicholson concerned a conversation about Joseph Campbell, the American scholar who wrote about the importance of myths and the story-telling tradition. Nicholson sees hockey in that light: as a repository of epic stories that are handed down from generation to generation. He recognizes the game is a powerful and enduring force in Canada. He also recognizes Hockey Canada's responsibility in preserving its stories and creating new ones.

He has, in short, built many bridges and that, coupled with his managerial acumen, should make him something of a no-brainer for the Canucks. He's also a B.C. guy and, right now, the Canucks need someone who can reach out to the community, who can build bridges between the franchise and this market.
Read on.

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Thursday, January 26, 2006

Canucks 1 Red Wings 2

Three road games, three losses. Tonight, the Vancouver Canucks dropped a 2-1 decision to the Detroit Red Wings. Here's a scary thought: the Canucks are only seven points up from streaking Minnesota (five wins in a row) and San Jose (8-1-1 in their last ten games); San Jose also has four games in hand on Vancouver.

Game Recaps: canucks.com . ESPN
Statistics: Score Sheet . Stat Sheet
My notes from the game:

  • First of all, I have to give full credit to the Wings for playing a great defensive game. They won 64% of the faceoffs and allowed just 15 shots for the game.
  • At least the Canucks didn't lose because of a lack of effort this time. I thought that for the most part, they played a decent game and matched the Wings' intensity. Unfortunately, a string of penalties in the second period gave the Wings some momentum; the Wings have the best powerplay in the NHL and both of their goals came on the powerplay.
  • I just want to echo the sentiments of the Sportsnet team and say that if they had put together an effort like that against St. Louis and Columbus, those games may have ended up more positively for the team.
  • Alex Auld played a heckuva game. He stopped 33 saves on 35 shots, a lot of them from in close. He gave up some big rebounds early on but got a lot better, and maybe a bit lucky, later in the game.
  • A recurring - and very troubling - theme: the Canucks' best line, again, wasn't the Naslund-Morrison-Bertuzzi line. They didn't play horrible, but they didn't play great either. And as cliche as it sounds, for the Canucks to win (well for any team to win), they need their best players to be their best players.
  • Tonight, I thought the Canucks' best line was, again, the Kesler-Burrows-Ruutu line. The line held their own against the Yzerman and Lang lines. Kesler in particular had another strong game. He was in the Wings' faces all nights and recorded one shot, five hits in 16:03 minutes of ice-time. Marc Crawford also put him on the ice and let him take a crucial offensive zone faceoff in the final seconds of the game. (He won the faceoff.)
  • I thought Brendan Morrison had a strong, gritty game. He battled hard with Kris Draper and Kirk Maltby and was the only Canuck to win 50% of his faceoffs.
  • Remember I mentioned the Canucks' urgency on the powerplay after the Columbus game? Is anyone else tired of watching the first powerplay unit reload and cycle the puck back into their own zone for about half of the powerplay?
Next up: Colorado on Saturday.

[Edit 01/26/06, 8:58 pm]: Oops, I jumped the gun on the standings. Looks like Colorado blew a two-goal lead to the Stars. They stay one point back of the 'Nucks.

[Update 01/26/06, 9:39 pm]: Birthday girl, TV star and Behind The Jersey blogger Chrisy Hammond was at the game and shares her thoughts in this post.

[Update 01/27/06, 6:47 am]: Abel To Yzerman has a post on the game as well. The link is here.

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Who Said This?

It's awful. I don't think we were ready for the battle they were going to bring to us. I think we lost that game. I think guys were psyched out. Guys said, 'Oh, it's going to be too hard of a game. I don't want to get hit. I'm not going to sacrifice.' And it showed because they beat us to every loose puck. We gotta get our heads screwed on straight.

When you look up at the clock and there's 15 minutes gone in the first period and we have two shots, that's unacceptable. It really grinded on me, really grinded on a lot of guys in here. That's where my frustration comes from. Psychologically, we figured, 'That's how it's going to be,' and we accepted it. They get the two points.

It's only going to get harder. If we have efforts like that for two periods, that's what the result's going to be. Nobody's going to hand it to us.

Unfortunately, the above tirade wasn't made by any Canuck, though it certainly should apply. Battle. Sacrifice. Hard work. Let's hope for a better Canucks effort tonight against the Red Wings.

Quote was from Chris Drury. Assist to Sabre Rattling for the link.


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Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Banking on Bob?


Bruce Garrioch from the Ottawa Sun reports today:
There's talk Hockey Canada president Bob Nicholson will be leaving his post following the Olympics to take on the top job with the Vancouver Canucks. Sources told the Sun that Nicholson, who was passed up for the job as GM of the Toronto Maple Leafs when the club elected to hire John Ferguson Jr., would be a nice fit with the Canucks and is the leading contender. He's a British Columbia native and has brought success to the country in his role with Hockey Canada. The president's role has been vacant since the club fired Brian Burke following the 2003-04 season.
It's hard not to get too excited about the prospect of Bob coming to Vancouver. After Canada's disappointing finish in the 1998 Olympics, and many started questioning its hockey development, Nicholson revamped Hockey Canada's program - his accomplishments speak for itself, which, of course, include Olympic gold in both men's and women's hockey in 2002, gold medal in the 2004 World Cup of Hockey, and back-to-back World Junior Hockey Championship gold medals in 2005 and 2006.

Nothing like bringing the Stanley Cup to Vancouver to cap that all off.

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Don't Ask For The Schwag

It usually takes one loss for fickle Canucks fans to demand wholesale changes to the team. Imagine what it was like today after two back-to-back losses to St. Louis and Columbus. The poor folks at MOJO 730 had to deal with rant after rant after rant so I thought I'd lend them a hand.

(Disclaimer: Some calls may have been paraphrased.)
Caller: I think it's about time Naslund stopped letting others take care of things for him. Foote runs him over, send him a message. He has to be tougher. Drop the gloves.
Because that's exactly what we want our $6 million per season leading scorer to do. To drop the gloves. In Markus' defense, he gave Foote a couple of whacks back with his stick. I just wish he didn't forget that the play was still going on.

Caller: The Canucks will never win a Stanley Cup with Naslund as captain! Teams don't win the Cup with European captains! They should get rid of him! As long as Naslund is captain, the Canucks will never win the Cup! (Note exclamation points.)
Hard to argue seeing that, based on history, no team with a European captain has ever won the Cup. So why don't we give Trevor back the 'C' and hope we meet the Senators in the finals. If you think that's what it takes...
Caller: I've supported Todd Bertuzzi in the past. I've called in and defended him and bashed the Bertuzzi bashers. But after the seeing that lazy play on Letowski (on the winning goal), consider me a Bertuzzi basher. I'm tired of his act. Tired of it.
Supported him through the Moore thing, through the "does he or doesn't he want to stay in Vancouver" thing and through the slow start to the season, then you jump off his bandwagon because of that??? Sure it was a lazy play and perhaps there's no excuse for getting deked out by Trevor freakin' Letowski, but bail on him because of that?

Bert's game has been getting better as the season has gone on. And when he sets his mind to it, no one can stop him. We just wish he plays like that every single game.
Caller: The Canucks won a bunch of games when Jovanovski was injured. Other guys stepped it up. I think this proves that they don't miss him. Can they trade Jovo for a goalie?
Sure, and the Canucks can enter the playoffs with Bryan Allen as the number three defenseman, and four guys who played in the AHL last season - Steve McCarthy, Nolan Baumgartner, Kevin Bieksa and Wade Brookbank - rotating in the no. 4, 5 and 6 spots.
Caller: Who do you think was better, Gretzky or Lemieux?
I don't understand the fascination with this question. To me, it's like asking to choose between Rachel McAdams and Keira Knightley.



How do you choose between the two?

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Canucks 5 Blue Jackets 6

Well, this is a disturbing turn of events. Playing the second of a seven-game road trip, the Vancouver Canucks dropped a 6-5 decision to the suddenly surging Columbus Blue Jackets. The Canucks have lost both games so far, both to two teams that are lower than them in the standings.
Game Recaps: canucks.com . ESPN
Statistics: Score Sheet . Stat Sheet
My notes from the game:

  • The Canucks played a mostly okay game 5-on-5. It's too bad there weren't much of that going on. Both teams combined for 18 penalties (including a Rick Nash double-minor) and 15 powerplay opportunities (totalling 18:43 minutes). Columbus had nine opportunities and scored on four of them.
  • Adam Foote did his best Jarkko Ruutu impression and pissed the hell out of Markus Naslund and Todd Bertuzzi. Foote checked Naslund hard into the boards late in the game, Bertuzzi intervened, and the Blue Jackets scored going the other way.
  • By the way, Naslund didn't have the puck at the time, and with all the little tugs and hooks the refs were calling, I thought that one easily could have been called.
  • Ryan Kesler had a nice game and Crow rewarded him for it. He recorded one assist, one (official) blocked shot and five hits, centered the top line for parts of the game and logged 18:15 minutes of ice-time - his highest of the season.
  • Alex Burrows had another energetic game. His line with Kesler and Jarkko Ruutu started the game and immediately hemmed the Blue Jackets in their own zone. (The Blue Jackets, unfortunately, scored their goal on the following shift.) Burrows tied the game with seven minutes left in the third period on a beautiful goal, gathering the rebound in front of the net then deking out Marc Denis.
  • I thought Nolan Baumgartner had another solid game, especially after Ed Jovanovski left in the first period. He logged 17:11 minutes of ice-time and chipped in with a goal and a +2 rating.
  • Next time the Canucks take the ice, compare the intensity and urgency displayed by the Naslund-Morrison-Bertuzzi line with that of the other lines. Against the Blues and the Blue Jackets, they didn't show much. This is especially noticeable on the powerplay where it takes the line so much time to even get the puck into the zone.
Next up: Detroit on Thursday.

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Mario Calls It A Career


I felt bad for asking this on Saturday; today I got my answer. Super Mario is indeed calling it a career.

''The time is right because I can no longer play the game at the level I'm accustomed to,'' Lemieux said in making the announcement. ''I think the best decision is to retire as a player and turn the game over to the younger guys who are the future of this team and this league. It's a young man's game now.''

''If I could still play this game I would be on the ice,'' Lemieux said at a news conference.
The tributes started pouring in almost as soon as his press conference was announced. Kukla's Corner has put together a nice compilation of thoughts and reactions from the rest of the hockey world.

I know I'm a stats and numbers guy, but one of my favorites comes from Phil Coffey:

As it stands now, the trophy case is mind-boggling. Two Stanley Cups. Two Conn Smythe Trophies as postseason MVP. The Art Ross Trophy as the regular season's leading scorer came to Lemieux six times. The Hart Trophy as the MVP of the regular season was Lemieux's three times and he also won the Calder Trophy as the NHL's top rookie.

But I think Lemieux's career is one of moments rather than reciting statistics and trophies. Think about it for a second. If you conjure up some of the great hockey moments in the last 20 years chances are Lemieux is right in the middle of them.
Thanks, Mario, for the many memories.

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Tuesday, January 24, 2006

You've Come A Long Way, Kid

Barry Macdonald (24 Hours via Slam Sports) had some nice things to say about Nolan Baumgartner:
It just may turn out to be one of those classic, better-late-than-never stories. First-round draft choices aren't supposed to linger around in their chosen profession, hoping for a chance to finally live up to that old nemesis - potential. They are supposed to smile and say all the right things as teenage, draft-day darlings, then get on with the business of earning their millions and making management look good.

That is the best-case scenario. But it isn't always the case.

Ask Nolan Baumgartner.

He played his junior hockey in Kamloops and in 1994 was the 10th player selected in the first round of the NHL Draft - just after Brett Lindros and just before Jeff Friesen. Of the 26 players chosen in that first round, 23 have played in the NHL. None of them had played fewer games in "The Show" than Nolan Baumgartner heading into the current season. He had all of 48 NHL games on his resume last fall, scattered over seven seasons and four different organizations. He has 43 already this season.

Talk about making up for lost time.
Baumgartner's impact to the Canucks is hard to ignore. He surprised most by making the team out of training camp. And even then, not many people expected him to make any sort of significant contribution. Certainly not the sort of contribution he is making now.

For $450,000 this season, Baumgartner has provided a solid 16:13 minutes of ice-time per game. He has been one of the Canucks' more consistent defensemen during the season, and when Jovanovski was out, Baumer's been able to step it up (he averaged 19:57 minutes per game over the ten games Jovanovski was injured).

And he's still getting better. After 45 games (as of Sunday night), he has 23 points (4G-19A) and a +8 rating - the 23 points tie him for 35th overall among all NHL defensemen - and eight of those points have come in the last 10 games.

Not that I'm anointing Baumgartner as an all-star, but look at what he's done compared with a couple of marquee free agent signings:


He's not making millions, but he's certainly chipped in as much as those who do.

11 years later. Like B-Mac says, it's better late than never.

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Monday, January 23, 2006

Canucks 0 Blues 4

Cue the trade rumors again, the Jeckyl-and-Hyde Canucks have lost a game. After a four-game winning streak, the Canucks were shut out by the last-place St. Louis Blues, their second loss to the Blues this month. Almost one-fifth of the Blues total wins and fully one-third of the Blues' home wins this season have come at the expense of the Canucks. I'm sure they have February 8th marked on their calendar, the next time they play Vancouver again.
Game Recaps: canucks.com . ESPN
Statistics: Score Sheet . Stat Sheet
My notes from the game:

  • Funny how stats work. Sure the Canucks scored six goals in a convincing 6-2 win over the Habs on Saturday night; however, they scored all six goals in the first 13 minutes of the first period. Stats will now show that the Canucks haven't scored a goal in more than five periods of hockey.
  • It's hard to fault the goalie for a loss when the team in front of him doesn't score a goal and doesn't skate for two periods. That said, I wasn't impressed with Maxime Ouellet's performance at all. Too many bad rebounds and an unncessary penalty for playing the puck outside the trapezoid zone. After three starts, Ouellet has allowed 12 goals and is still waiting for his first win as a Vancouver Canuck.
  • If only the Canucks played the whole game like they played the third period. They outskated and outhustled the Blues in the third period, enjoyed four powerplays (one carried over from the end of the second period) and outshot the Blues 21-5.
  • Full credit to Curtis Sanford for saving the Blues' bacon in the third period.
  • One indicator of how much the Blues outworked the Canucks in the first two periods - they had seven powerplays, four of them coming from lazy, interference-type penalties to the Canucks.
  • Kevin Bieksa was a healthy scratch as Ed Jovanovski returned after missing 11 games due to a groin pull (or was it an injured hip?). Probably as could be expected, Jovocop was rusty - early in the first period, he gave up the puck in front of Maxime Ouellet and gave the Blues a scoring chance. He did get a bit better towards the end of the game especially when the Canucks enjoyed some extended powerplay time.
  • I thought for most of the game that the Keslers, Burrows and Greens were again the best players on the team. Except on special-teams, Burrows played a regular, energetic shift; in the third period, Kesler was rewarded and centered Naslund and Bertuzzi.
Next up: Columbus on Tuesday.

[update 01/23/06, 9:51 PM]: added Technorati tags

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Get Out And Vote!


I've got a couple of hockey-related posts on the go; I'll post them later today. For now, I want to remind Canadians to speak their voice and make sure to get out and vote in today's federal election.

The politicians have had their say - the last eight weeks have featured some of the most gruelling, some even say the dirtiest election campaign in Canadian history - and now it's our turn.

On the one hand, there are the Liberals, scandal-ridden, but who in 12 years have transformed Canada's economy from a $42 billion deficit position to the only one of the G7 nations running on a surplus.

On the other hand, there are the Conservatives, who are preaching government accountability, but have been reputed to cozy up too close to George W. Bush.

There are the NDP, champions of all socialist programs, especially public health care, but whose own leader reportedly goes to a private clinic.

And of course, there are the Bloc Quebecois, whose sole goal is a sovereign Quebec, separate from the rest of Canada.

For the still undecided voters, the Vancouver Sun has a nice recap of each parties' major platforms. The CBC also has an entire section on their website devoted for the election. Ditto canada.com.

Polls are open from 7:00 am to 7:00 pm. For more information on your specific electoral districts, you can visit the Elections Canada website.

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Sunday, January 22, 2006

Canucks 6 Habs 2

"Is it a full moon?" Jim Hughson commented after Trevor Linden scored at 13:47 of the first period to make it 6-0. The Vancouver Canucks went on to win 6-2 against the Montreal Canadiens and extend their win streak to four games. The Canucks are now 18-3-3 at GM Place and finished the Eastern Conference portion of their schedule with a 9-1 record.
Game Recaps: canucks.com . ESPN
Statistics: Score Sheet . Stat Sheet
My notes from the game:
  • The Canucks tied a team record by scoring six goals in one period (set against Calgary in January 16, 1987). The six goals were scored in a span of 12:50, third fastest in team history. If I'm not mistaken, it is also the fastest six goals in team history from the start of the game.
  • Can't blame Alex Auld for being a bit shaky at parts of the game. The Canucks were already up 6-0 by the time the Habs got their second shot on goal. Auld ended up with 24 saves on 26 shots. After ten consecutive starts, I'm sure he'll get a breather during one of the back-to-back games against Chicago or St. Louis.
  • One thing that has been more noticeable over the past few games is the increased intensity from the 'Nucks. Even with a big lead, the team continued to play hard and block shots. They officially recorded 18 blocked shots for the night.
  • I'm sure this is just coincidence, but the Canucks are 7-3 in the ten games that Alex Burrows has played in. He has five points (3G-2A) and a +7 rating in those games.
  • The Sedin line recorded 1 goal and 5 assists tonight. Over the last ten games, they've combined for 30 points (8G-22A). The Westcoast Express has 23 points (11G-12A) over the same span.
  • Because the game was decided early, Marc Crawford was able to roll his lines and give the bottom half of the lineup some extra ice-time. Only Wade Brookbank (9:10) saw less than ten minutes of ice-time.
  • Is there any reason the team can't wear those retro jerseys more often?
Next up: St. Louis on Monday.

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Saturday, January 21, 2006

Flaherty Blows His Fuse

I don't blame Wade Flaherty for going ballistic (subscription req'd.).

Normally the Manitoba Moose's best defender, veteran goalie Wade Flaherty went on the attack yesterday over the contract restriction that is keeping him from being recalled to the NHL this season.

Flaherty dismissed the NHLPA as part of the problem, not the solution, and said the NHL has stolen money from him and other players and is trying to impose a salary cap on hockey's top minor league.

His anger stems from the provision in the NHL's new CBA with the NHLPA that forces teams to expose players to waivers when they are recalled to the NHL, if that player makes more than $75,000 US in the minors. And not only is the player exposed, but the NHL team that loses him would be forced to pay half the player's salary and have it count against its own salary cap.

And the NHL, in this case the Vancouver Canucks, has also imposed its 24 per cent salary rollback on AHL players like Flaherty, who have some element of an NHL guarantee in their contract. Flaherty says that Vancouver has reduced his total salary by 24 per cent, not just his guarantee, and he claims it has taken $24,000, maybe as much as $36,000, straight from his pocket this season.
I've brought up the ridiculousness of the $75,000 waiver rule in the past, but this is the first I've heard of the 24% salary rollback forced on the minor-league players. For Flaherty, this basically means taking a double-whammy for the season.

The way the article explains it, Flaherty's deal for this season, which was signed in 2004, is for US$100,000 in the minors plus another US$50,000 NHL guarantee, totalling US$150,000. (The NHL guarantee is where a club will guarantee a player on a two-way contract so many NHL games, or failing to give the player those games, will at least guarantee his pay for those games.) After the lockout, the Canucks applied the 24% salary rollback on the US$150,000, reducing his salary to US$114,000.

Flaherty's argument:

Flaherty insists Vancouver should only have reduced his NHL "guarantee," $50,000, by the 24 per cent, that they had no business reducing his minor-league salary. He contends his salary should either be $150,000, because he's not playing in the NHL, or at worst, $138,000, rolling back only his NHL "guarantee."
And he may have a point. Despite having a career season in the AHL - he has led the Manitoba Moose with a 15-10-2 record, a 2.25 GAA, a 0.925 SV% and six shutouts (tops in the AHL) and has been named as one of the starting goaltenders in the 2006 AHL All-Star Classic - and injuries to Dan Cloutier, Flaherty has yet to be called up. Unfortunately, the $75,000 waiver rule essentially prevents him from being called up to the NHL. But if he's not playing in the NHL, then why is his non-NHL salary - his AHL salary - also being reduced? (And as an added Martin Havlat-like kick to the groin, his reduced salary isn't enough so that he isn't subject to the $75,000 rule.)

Since when did the NHL CBA also cover the AHL?

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Dear Dave


Wanna ask Vancouver Canucks GM Dave Nonis if Jovo has started talking contract beyond this season? Has Trev? What about which goalies the Canucks are interested in closer to the trade deadline? Ask away.

Nonis is the scheduled guest tonight on After Hours, which will air live following Hockey Night in Canada's broadcast of the Canucks game vs. the Montreal Canadiens. To ask your questions, you can fill out the form on their website or send an email to HNICAfterHours@cbc.ca.

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Friday, January 20, 2006

Has Mario Played His Last Game?

There's an article in the New York Times today that hinted that Mario Lemieux may have played his last game in the NHL:
Lemieux, the 40-year-old Hall of Famer who also serves as the team's captain, missed his 15th consecutive game Thursday night because of an irregular heartbeat. He also missed four games in early December with the condition, which is known as atrial fibrillation.

In his owner's box before Thursday night's game here against the Rangers, Lemieux was asked if he wanted to play again this season. "I'm not sure," he said. "I'm just taking it day by day now, hopefully start to feel better, and we'll see."

Lemieux, who came out of retirement in December 2000, was also asked if there was a chance he had played his last game. "Well, there's always a chance," he said.
I've enjoyed Mario's magic over the years, but unpopular as it sounds, part of me hopes he decides to hang them up. Aside from his health issues, he also seems to have lost a step or two.

The potential of a Crosby-Lemieux tandem had hockey fans salivating in the summer, however, that magic between the two never materialized. While Crosby came as advertised and is leading the team in scoring, Mario had scored a mere 7-15-22 in 26 games. In fact, including one five-point game early in the season, he had at least a point in only 12 of his 26 games. He had also accumulated a horrendous -16 rating.

Mario, I'm sure, provides more than a few intangibles to a young Penguins team, but I don't know that this is enough. Because of how great a player he is and because of his numerous accomplishments in the past, he will ultimately be judged by his numbers. After 26 games this season, his numbers aren't great.

I hate seeing great players hang on for too long past their prime, and in Mario's case, this may very well be the case. He deserves to leave under better circumstances than that.

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