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CANUCKS HOCKEY BLOG

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Crawford Canned

While the Vancouver Canucks were slumping their way through the season, I asked if the team had the right mix of players, and if so, is Marc Crawford still the right coach for them. Today, Dave Nonis, at least in part, answered that question.

The move isn't surprising. After a season of failed expectations, everyone expected the team make some changes. Rightly or wrongly, Crawford is the first casualty.

The Canucks hired Crawford in 1999, the season after the team finished 24 games under .500 (23-47-12). The team posted 30, 36, 42 and 45 wins in his first four seasons as head coach, then won the Northwest Division in 2004. Crawford is the winningest coach in Canucks history (246 wins), but for whatever reason, could not translate the team's regular season success into the playoffs.

Eric Duhatschek (Globe and Mail) said that, in firing Marc Crawford, Dave Nonis took the easy way out:
Dave Nonis took the easy way out Tuesday – and that's not the same thing as saying that Nonis's decision to fire Marc Crawford as the Vancouver Canucks' head coach was easy. In Nonis' short tenure as the Canucks' general manager, loyalty is a quality that he clearly values. It's why he kept, more or less intact, the team he inherited from Brian Burke - in order to give the players a chance to win a championship that they themselves believed was within their grasp.

When they failed to do so – and even the most pessimistic of observers couldn't have imagined a scenario where the Canucks would actually miss the playoffs this past season – something had to give. For now, that something – or that someone – was Crawford, the man that landed in Vancouver after winning a Stanley Cup with the Colorado Avalanche and presided over a mostly successful program in his seven years at the helm.

The wheels came off this year and in the end, Nonis found himself facing the age-old dilemma. Does he fire a lot of players (difficult, considering how many them had underachieving seasons and/or possess no-trade contracts)? Or does he tie the can to the coach whose voice, frankly, a lot of them had tired of hearing, probably even before the season began?

After a week of reflection, Nonis took the less risky path and Crawford probably saw it coming all the way. Intuitively, Crawford would have understood that Todd Bertuzzi, the Canucks' most controversial player last season, would be playing for a different coach next year. It just wasn't clear if that would happen in Vancouver, or somewhere elsewhere in the NHL. Nonis didn't commit to trading Bertuzzi yesterday, but the fact that Crawford is now out of the mix will make it far easier to retain him, if that's the way the organization wants to go.
Barry Melrose (ESPN) adds:
I think coaches are fired way too quickly in the NHL, I've always thought that. It's way too easy to blame one guy, but that's the way the league is. When you don't win and you're not where you're supposed to be as a team, someone has to pay the price, and it's usually the coach.

Pat Quinn lost his job a week ago, and now it's Marc Crawford.

I know some have said that this decision came down to the Vancouver Canucks "choosing" between Crawford and Todd Bertuzzi. I don't believe that. I wouldn't be surprised if the team still moves Bertuzzi this summer. But when you move a player like Bertuzzi, you better get something good in return. Because when Bertuzzi is on his game, he can be one of the best in the world. At the same time, the Canucks might take a chance and keep Bertuzzi in the hopes that a new coach can get to him.

But back to why Crawford is out. The team just didn't play well, especially down the stretch. The team lost six of its last eight games, and the Canucks didn't play with the same intensity as their opponents. It seemed their opponents wanted to be in the playoffs more and Crawford couldn't get the team fired up.
This was something that Brendan Morrison alluded to after the team's final game against the Colorado Avalanche:
The Canucks said they saw a different Crawford this year, one who had mellowed during the lockout, one who was trying a new, more hands-off approach.

"He wasn't as hard on guys as he was in the past," Morrison said. "I think that was part of his plan -- to put the onus on guys in the room to take over the team and hold each other accountable."

There were only a handful of times during games, practices and postgame interviews when Crawford showcased his fiery, emotional side.

Other than Morrison, he didn't publicly call out a player during the season, something he often did in past years.

"There is no question that, at times, he was more lenient than he had been in the past," Morrison said.
Perhaps, too lenient.

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Friday, April 21, 2006

A Red Hot Video

I'm guessing the Calgary Flames won't be using this promotional video for this year's playoff run, though honestly, I think Canucks fans would enjoy watching Iggy, Darren McCarty and Dion Phaneuf rock the mic like it was 1987.

Thanks to a reader, Alex, for the link.

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Thursday, April 20, 2006

Me vs. Maggie

Maggie The Monkey has made her picks. It's time to make mine.

Western Conference Round 1:

(1) Detroit Red Wings vs. (8) Edmonton Oilers

Detroit in 5. (Maggie picks Detroit.) If there's ever a time for Peca and Pronger to prove they're worth their dollars, and for Roloson to prove he was worth a first-round pick, this is it. Unfortunately, Yzerman, Shanahan, Datsyuk, Zetterberg, Lidstrom, Schneider and Legace (second in the NHL with 7 SO) may just be too much for the Oil. (Footnote: I'm picking - and cheering - for the Wings to win the Cup.)

(2) Dallas Stars vs. (7) Colorado Avalanche

Dallas in 6. (Maggie picks Colorado.) In the past three regular seasons, Marty Turco has recorded 41, 37 and 31 wins. His playoffs, however, have been a different story with only seven wins in 17 games. (Canucks fans should be well aware of this syndrome.) Good thing for the Stars, Jose Theodore isn't exactly having a stellar season; he only has one win in five games with the Avs.

(3) Calgary Flames vs. (6) Anaheim Mighty Ducks

My heart says Anaheim in 7; my mind says Calgary in 6. (Maggie picks Calgary.) Thanks to their one playoff run in 2004, the Flames have a bit more experience than the young Ducks. And, you never bet against Kipper's goaltending and Iggy's will. Still, if the Ducks can force their speed game on the Flames and Giggy stops the puck at the most critical times, anything is possible. Besides, wouldn't you love to see Brian Burke get his revenge on the Flames?

(4) Nashville Predators vs. (5) San Jose Sharks

San Jose in 6. (Maggie picks San Jose.) The Preds have done okay despite not having Tomas Vokoun, Steve Sullivan and Marek Zidlicky for the last part of the season. They ended the season on a six-game winning streak, but facing the red-hot Sharks in the playoffs - San Jose only had six regulation losses since the Olympic break - without your second-leading scorer, top defenseman and starting goaltender is a different story all together.

Eastern Conference Round 1:

(1) Ottawa Senators vs. (8) Tampa Bay Lightning

Ottawa in 5. (Maggie picks Tampa Bay.) The only thing that will stop the Senators from advancing is if Ray Emery (2-4-1 in seven April starts) can't stop the puck.

(2) Carolina Hurricanes vs. (7) Montreal Canadiens

Carolina in 6. (Maggie picks Carolina.) For most of the regular season, I never really got the impression that the 'Canes were for real. After Eric Staal's (100 points) and Martin Gerber's (38 wins) breakthrough seasons, Rod Brind'amour's resurgence, and the 'Canes second division title in four seasons, I have no choice but to pick them.

(3) New Jersey Devils vs. (6) New York Rangers

Devils in 7. (Maggie picks NYR.) The Devils finished the regular season with 11 wins in a row; the Rangers lost their last five games and six out of their last nine. The Devils are peaking at the right time, especially Martin Brodeur, who beat Mikka Kiprusoff for the league lead in wins (43 - also tying his career high), Brian Gionta, who currently has an active 15-game point streak (12G-13A-25P, +11), and Scott Gomez, who has 25 points (9G-16A) in his last 14 games.

(4) Buffalo Sabres vs. (5) Philadelphia Flyers

Flyers in 7. (Maggie picks Buffalo.) The Flyers arguably have one of the most well-balanced team in the league. From their defense out. In late March, Robert Esche conceded his starting job to Antero Nittymaki; yesterday, Philly named him as their starter for game 1. Ryan Miller (30 wins, including five in his last seven starts) will keep the Sabres close, but I still like Forsberg/Gagne over Drury/Briere.

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Gary's Dilemma

Just prior to the start of the 2006 playoffs, the NHL head honchos had a lot to say, and one of the key issues addressed was how the league was going to officiate the games.

First, Gary Bettman:

The fact is, and I guess it's the beauty of the standards that Stephen has implemented for the officials and for the game, is that this is the standard: You call it when you see it. You call it in the first period, you call it in the last period, you call it in overtime. You see the standard being violated, you call the penalty.
Then, league Senior VP Colin Campbell:

We don't want them (the referees) to be the difference - that is what everyone used to say. The referee can't determine the outcome of the game. The players determine the outcome of the game, and your officials have to call those when they see it. And as Gary said, we're not after a quota to prove it. All we're after is to get the right call. We don't want the phantom calls, we want the right calls. If the player decides with two minutes left when an opposition players makes that break and drives to the net and it's a tie game or one-goal difference and he decides he has to hook him, hold him or commit another foul, the referee has to call it.
Finally, head referee Stephon Walkom:

"If they see a foul in the game, I fully expect they'll react to it."
Call me skeptical, but I have to see it to believe it. The fact is - at least recently - is that NHL referees have always swallowed the whistle during the playoffs. Intensity of the games, of course, is much higher in the playoffs. Perhaps more importantly, so is the league's profile. Frankly, I'm not so sure the league and its referees, when their games are most intense and most watched, are willing to spoil their marquee games by calling many of the same tugs and hooks like they did for most of the regular season. Or are they?

Colin Campbell again:

And there will be lots of screaming and shouting and they will accuse the officials of determining the outcome of a big game and costing some franchise millions of dollars. But to make this work, those are the things we're going to have to endure, and we'll hear lots of it during the playoffs, but that's part of the big growing pain.
I'll let Tom Benjamin respond to that:

Fine. Here's a message to Gary Bettman. I don't really have an emotional interest in the games but I'm still interested enough to sit down and watch. I'm not, however, interested in watching the Red Wings and Oilers trade power plays and I won't watch officials suck the intensity out of playoff hockey.

As soon as a parade to the penalty box starts in any game I'm finding something else to do.
Talk about being caught between a rock and a hard place. Either there will be too many penalties or a lot of mugging. In playoff hockey, I'm not sure yet if there is a happy medium.

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Auld Going To Latvia

From TSN:
Team Canada is taking shape for the 2006 World Championship in Latvia.

Coach Marc Habscheid's team has already confirmed participation of two goaltenders and five skaters, with more confirmations expected imminently.

The players who have accepted invitations to play on Team Canada, which opens the World Championship tourney in Riga on May 5, are as follows:

Goaltenders Alex Auld of the Vancouver Canucks and Marc Denis of the Columbus Blue Jackets; Forwards Patrice Bergeron and Brad Boyes of the Boston Bruins, Sidney Crosby of the Pittsburgh Penguins, Kyle Calder of the Chicago Blackhawks and Mike Comrie of the Phoenix Coyotes.
Auld played with Brad Boyes in the 2001 World Junior Hockey Championships; Jay Bouwmeester, who also played for that 2001 team has been invited, but has yet to accept.

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'Nucks Surfing

Whatever GM Dave Nonis had with him to the draft drawing last year when the Vancouver Canucks snagged the no. 10 overall pick, he might want to have with him again today. The 2006 NHL draft drawing will take place at 9 AM today and the Canucks will win the rights to anywhere between the 10th and 14th overall picks.

*****

While we're talking about the draft, Matt MacInnis (Hockey Futures) has a round-up of the Canucks' ten European prospects who played in Europe. One name of note is Kiril Koltsov, who of course, spent some time a couple of years ago playing for the Manitoba Moose:

Koltsov enjoyed a career season this past year while skating for Avangard Omsk. He was amongst the elite Super League defensemen on a short list with very few names, including former NHLers Dmitri Yushkevich and Alexander Giroux. The young defenseman stood out at both ends of the ice, finishing the 2005-06 season in a four-way tie for the top defensive sniper position with 13 goals. It is the ease and effectiveness with which Koltsov quarterbacks the power play and joins the offensive rush that makes him so valuable in an opponent’s zone. Koltsov not only produces points, but also makes his linemates better, as he distributes the puck and forces the opposition to keep him in check instead of concentrating on the other four Avangard players on the ice.

As one of the top blueliners in Russia, Koltsov will represent Russia at the World Championships in Riga, Latvia. The 2005-06 season did not go to waste as some were worried. While before the young defender was considered a strong prospect and one of the top young blueliners in Russia, after this season, he is considered as one of the elite Russian defensemen outside the NHL. At this point, however, Koltsov has very little to gain from the developmental perspective if he remains in Russia. Financially, Avangard may make it more appealing for him in the short run, but Koltsov likely already sees the writing on the wall with the significant drop in talent in the Super League this past summer and the likely imminent departure of other talented players back to the NHL.

More from Matt here.

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Looking for a team to cheer for for the playoffs? Vancouver's other hockey team, the Vancouver Giants, start their WHL Western Conference championship finals series against the Everett Silvertips tomorrow night at the Pacific Coliseum.

There's also the Manitoba Moose, who start their AHL playoff series against the Syracuse Crunch tomorrow night.

*****

Back to the NHL... I'll post my round 1 playoff predictions tonight. Hope I do better than Maggie the Monkey.

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Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Auld In The Spotlight

Vancouver Canucks' team MVP, Alex Auld, was "In The Spotlight" on NHL.com today:

The 2005-06 NHL season officially fell into the "disappointment" category for the Vancouver Canucks when the team failed to qualify for the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

But chances are, the season would have been far worse for the Canucks if it hadn't been for the solid play of Alex Auld in goal.

Between Jan. 24 and April 15, Auld started 31 of the Canucks' 33 games, finishing the season at 33-26-6 with a 2.94 goals-against average. Prior to this season, he had only appeared in 14 total NHL games in his career, which shows just how different the 2005-06 campaign has been for the 25-year-old native of Cold Lake, Alberta.
Click here for the rest of the article.

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Post-Weekend Wrap-Up and Thank You

Because of a busy Easter weekend, I didn't get a chance to post a recap after the Canucks/Avs game on Saturday. The game pretty much epitomized the entire season - inconsistent play, a blown lead and not good enough defensive coverage - but it was good to see the boys at least pull off the win in OT and go out on a positive note.

The players came and cleared out their lockers on Sunday and many in the media have already offered their post-mortems for the lost season. Here is a wrap-up:

"I don't think we had an identity" (Ben Kuzma, Vancouver Province)
Lost in translation.

It's one summation that makes sense of a season gone terribly awry for the Vancouver Canucks, who have missed the playoffs for the first time in five seasons.

Did coach Marc Crawford's message to team leaders fall on deaf ears? Did they not sell it to their peers, and was that dressing room as disjointed as rumoured?

Clearly, something was amiss.

One player, speaking on the promise of anonymity, said who hung out with whom wasn't the problem. Leadership and accountability were the issues that translated into indifferent on-ice performance.
Was Crawford too soft? (Jason Botchford, Vancouver Province)
The Canucks said they saw a different Crawford this year, one who had mellowed during the lockout, one who was trying a new, more hands-off approach.

"He wasn't as hard on guys as he was in the past," Morrison said. "I think that was part of his plan -- to put the onus on guys in the room to take over the team and hold each other accountable."
Bertuzzi vows to return 'with a vengeance' (Tony Gallagher, Vancouver Province - subscription req'd.)
"After one call I remember talking to one of the refs. I won't say who, but I said something like 'What was that.' He yelled back at me 'Go f--k yourself or I'll give you another one,' even though I had an 'A' on my jersey. I never felt I could play my game all year.

(snip)

But for me, the worst thing was this stuff about Markus (Naslund) not being a good captain and he should give up the 'C'. That is so off the mark it's ridiculous.

"He's the greatest leader that's ever worn that jersey and to me, he's the greatest person I've ever met, and for him to be vilified and ridiculed like that... that was wrong and he doesn't deserve it.

(snip)

About the likelihood he'll be traded, Bertuzzi said: "That's not something I can control. As far as I know I have another year left and until I'm told something else, I'll be back here. But I've had some wonderful support here and those people I'd really like to thank."
Where does rebuilding start? (Ed Willes, Vancouver Province - subscription req'd)
"We're not going to roll the team over," said GM Dave Nonis. "You can't make that many deals these days.

"That said, we're more open to doing something than we've ever been. I'm willing to talk to anybody about anything."
'I want to be back' (Elliott Pap, Vancouver Sun)
After a year of misery for both his team and himself, the unpredictable Todd Bertuzzi had one more surprise for all and sundry to digest: He wishes to play for the Vancouver Canucks again next season.

"I want to be back," Big Bert declared after the Canucks' final game, a 4-3 overtime victory Saturday over the Colorado Avalanche.

"I should be back," he added. "I'm under contract and until I'm told otherwise not to show up here, I'll be preparing myself at my summer home in Kitchener to come back and help this team out."
Three decisions, only one Jovanovski (Cam Cole, Vancouver Sun)
And so we come, in a roundabout way, to the fellow Dave Nonis cannot lose, no matter what he decides about the coach.

Ed Jovanovski is not as polished an all-around defenceman as the understated Mattias Ohlund and he's only half as exciting as Markus Naslund, but there's no single player on the Canucks whose subtraction from the roster removes more of the team's vitality. That came as a considerable surprise to the outsider.
Linden willing to soldier on, if Canucks will have him (Iain MacIntytre, Vancouver Sun)
"The bottom line is: I don't want to play anywhere else," Linden said after his 1,001st game in a Canucks' uniform ended Vancouver's season miserably short of the Stanley Cup playoffs. "This is the only place that I've ever wanted to play. I feel like, mentally and physically, I have a lot to give."
Get Carter a priority (Elliott Pap, Vancouver Sun - subscription req'd.)
Anson Carter, new Vancouver Canucks hero, needs a new contract - and he's not lacking leverage.

The 31-year-old completed his first season on the wet coast Saturday by dethroning Markus Naslund as team goal-scoring leader, netting 33 to Naslund's 32. He aided linemates Daniel and Henrik Sedin in their emergence as impact performers and caught the fancy of the fans too, as they voted him the team's most exciting player.
It's not all about money (Ben Kuzma, Vancouver Province)
A pending unrestricted free agent, the Canucks defenceman knows suitors will call July 1 should Vancouver not extend his expiring $3.99-million-US deal.

However, Jovanovski also knows his hockey and home environments are of equal consideration. It may sound corny, but Jovanovski really loves Vancouver, his teammates and the fact he's anxious to lead the charge to redemption in the fall.

So, it's not all about all those zeroes on the end of the cheque.
Bertuzzi blamers went over the top (Ed Willes, Vancouver Province - subscription req'd.)
OK, we know he was minus-17 and a disaster in his own end this season. And we know he hasn't done himself a lot of favours over the years. But somewhere along the line, Canucks fans have lost all perspective on Bertuzzi.

This year he finished with 71 points amid circumstances that can charitably be described as trying. That was also more than Jarome Iginla, Marty St. Louis, Saku Koivu and a lot of others.
He doesn't like to talk about it, but Naslund was playing hurt (Jason Botchford, Vancouver Province - subscription req'd.)
He said he is reluctant to talk about injuries because with that talk comes ready-made excuses.

Naslund admits he hasn't been healthy since October, a month he had seven goals in 12 games. A month the Canucks finished 8-3-1.

Some time afterwards he suffered a groin injury that never healed. He refuses to go into detail about how the injury impacted his play this season. But he did allow this:

"I had to fight through games [right to the end]," Naslund said. "I really haven't been healthy since October. It's been a long year and something that I don't want to go through again."
Dejected Canucks brace for changes after lost season (Grant Kerr, Globe and Mail)
All you need to know about the failed season of the Vancouver Canucks is that their most valuable player, as determined by the fans, was goaltender Alex Auld, who was No. 2 on the depth chart at the beginning of the schedule.

The Canucks went on to miss the National Hockey League playoffs for many reasons: they underachieved, had poor habits defensively and didn't reach the necessary competitive level until it was too late in the race.

They still managed to win 42 games, including a 4-3 overtime decision in the finale against the Colorado Avalanche on Saturday, but failed to qualify for the postseason for the first time since 2000.
One more note from the weekend: Saturday's game was the final Canucks radio broadcast on CKNW 980. Starting next season, Canucks hockey games will be broadcast on TEAM 1040. Tom Larscheid, who has spent the last 27 years as the team's color commentator had quite a tearful goodbye. You can hear him via the CKNW audio vault - Tommy's goodbyes start in the final couple of minutes of the 9:00 PM hour on April 15th, then to the first few minutes of the 10:00 PM hour.

*****

On that note, I see that Vancouver Canucks Op Ed and Canucks Corner have already said their thank-you's; I, too, would like to THANK YOU for making this blog's first season a very successful and enjoyable one. I first started writing this blog simply as a way of recording the highs and lows of being a Canucks fan. I never ever expected close to 30,000 visitors to come by and share them with me. (I added Active Meter in mid-August then switched to StatCounter in late December.) To everyone who visited this blog during this season and the many bloggers with whom I had the pleasant opportunity to meet, talk to and link with - again THANK YOU!

Now, just because the Canucks season is over doesn't mean I'm going to call it a summer just yet. There's still a couple of months of hockey left to be played - including by the Vancouver Giants and Manitoba Moose - and also, this off-season promises to be one of the Canucks' more active ones. There's the draft lottery this Thursday, the World Championships in May (there should be a few Canucks playing), the NHL Awards Show and NHL Draft in Vancouver in June, and of course, the start of the free agency season in July (the Canucks only have seven players under contract for next season).

It should be a good "off-season". I hope y'all stick around for it.

Cheers!

J.J.

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Saturday, April 15, 2006

The Final Curtain Call

For the first time in six years, the Vancouver Canucks will play a meaningless game when they close the 2005/2006 season tonight against the Colorado Avalanche. For the final time, we will cheer for this group of players, most of whom we cheered for for six years, some of whom won't be back next season.

And that's what makes the early end to this season hard to take.

For six years, Canucks fans have invested emotions into this team. Not only have we come to know the way they play the game, but we actually feel it with them. When we listen to audio clips of John Shorthouse and Tom Larscheid, most likely we can recognize the call and visualize the play. That's how much we have come to know these guys.

We know about their tendencies: the forwards' cutesy drop pass as they enter the zone; the Sedins' slap pass; Bertuzzi's one-armed power move; Nazzy's wrist shot from just under the right faceoff circle that somehow goes into the net; Jovanovski's left-to-right deke when he rushes the puck; the list goes on and on and on.

And here's VCOE with some similar sentiments:

Being Canuckle-Heads as so many like to call us (and that’s when they’re being polite!) we haven’t seen our team blown apart for a very, very long time. Unlike so many other NHL teams, the Vancouver Canucks have held their “identity” for more than half a decade.

Now, they’re facing a process which is likely to break that identity apart in the coming months. Thinking about this, when I watched this tribute video (below the jump) I was struck by how familiar all these faces are, and how strange it will be to lose some of them.

Everyone, including us, wants to make the Stanley Cup Finals, but there’s something to be said for “knowing” your team over the long haul.

These are the guys that have been through the “fight” with all of us.
Following are a couple of video clips from DVDs that the Canucks sent to season ticket holders during the lockout - the first one focuses on the 2003/2004 season and the second features the core from the time they were put together in 2000. (Note: These clips are fairly large - please be patient as they load.)



In six years, this group of players have taken the Canucks from the basement of the NHL to become one of the league's more successful teams. For the final time tonight, I'm gonna be at GM Place to cheer them on, if not for this failed season, but for the memories of the last six.


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Friday, April 14, 2006

Nazzy and the C

Iain MacIntyre offers a look at Markus Naslund and his 'C' in today's Vancouver Sun:
Naslund, who wore the captain's C like an anvil this season, said it was his least enjoyable season in the NHL, but not so awful that he wants to stop playing in Vancouver. He has two years remaining on his contract.

"There's been way too much negativity," Naslund said. "It's been hard. I'm sure it's been hard on everyone. You've got to get some distance and take a look at the big picture and see what went wrong."

Could the changes include the captaincy?

"You get questioned lots," Naslund said. "It's a legitimate question. If they want me as captain, I still feel proud to be chosen. But there are a lot of things that come with it. I don't think people know everything -- the pressure that comes with that responsibility."

Naslund has served honorably as captain for six years. It's time for someone else -- Ed Jovanovski, if he's re-signed? -- to burdened with the responsibility that even Naslund would admit has at times affected his performance.

He needs to be free to just play again.

"It's a matter of pride," Naslund said when asked if he could remain a Canuck if his C were changed to an A. "You're put in a lot of situations on the team. If you want to be part of the team, then you do whatever it takes to be successful."
The quote is not interesting because of its timing - Markus said this after the Canucks were eliminated from playoff contention last night - but more so because we know he always speaks from his heart. Even as the Canucks retool this offseason, I don't see Markus in the firing line. I can, however, see him put his 'C' out there.

Markus has represented the Canucks organization well in the past - this is the first season since he took over captaincy of this team that they won't be in the playoffs - and if passing on the 'C' is what it takes for him to return to form and the team to be successful, then so be it.

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Canucks 3 Sharks 5

Todd Bertuzzi summed it up best after last night's loss to the San Jose Sharks:

"It makes you sick to your stomach, but that's what has happened the whole year," said winger Todd Bertuzzi, one of those who could have a new hockey address next season.

"I don't even know how to explain it. It's not a very good feeling. I don't know what is going to happen now."
He may be speaking for all Vancouver Canucks fans. The Canucks' loss eliminates them from the 2006 NHL playoffs, the first time since 2000 they will miss the postseason.

Game Recaps: canucks.com . ESPN
Statistics: Score Sheet . Stat Sheet
It still feels surreal and frankly, I don't feel like doing a full game recap. I thought the team played hard, but again, couldn't get it done on the defensive end. As good as their defensive play were against Edmonton and Minnesota in mid-March, they were just as awful ever since. Blowing third-period leads is no way to grab a playoff spot.

If there's anything positive from the loss - you know me, I'm always looking for positives - it's that we know now that this isn't the core that's going to bring the city its first Stanley Cup. They couldn't get it done in the clutch-and-grab era; they couldn't get it done in the new NHL. At least now we have some sort of closure and if anything, the Canucks can begin the process of moving on.

If you think Canucks fans are taking this especially hard, James Mirtle explains why. And just to add a little more salt to our wounds, well, I'll let VCOE and Kukla's Corner give you the background on a bet we now wish was never made.

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

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posted by J.J. Guerrero, 9:04 AM | permalink/comments (0) | AddThis Social Bookmark Button | Share on Facebook | Hype It Up! |

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Na-Na-Na-Na

The best news today so far (besides hopefully a Canucks win and a Ducks win) comes courtesy of the LA Times (via Jes Gőlbez):

Sean Avery's brief and volatile career with the Kings came to an end after an argument with assistant coach Mark Hardy during practice Wednesday, a source with the team said.

Avery met with General Manager Dave Taylor and interim Coach John Torchetti after practice and then did not travel with the team to Phoenix, where the Kings play the Coyotes tonight.

A spokesman for the Kings said that while Avery was not suspended, he will not play in the final three games of the regular season or the Stanley Cup playoffs, should the team manage to qualify.

"We're moving on without him," the spokesman said. "We have informed Sean of this."
Jes adds:

It was like standing at the bus stop, and trying to ignore the crazy/talkative guy that is making everyone else feel uncomfortable. I'm hoping Avery has to beg an NHL team for a job.
No objections here.

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Canucks 4 Sharks 5 (OT)

The Vancouver Canucks have favors to ask of both the Anaheim Mighty Ducks and the Colorado Avalanche - beat the Edmonton Oilers. Please.

With last night's 5-4 OT loss to the San Jose Sharks, the Canucks, not only need to win both of their remaining games, but also need the Oilers to lose at least one of theirs. There's a chance that the Canucks will win both of their games and the Avs lose all of theirs; in this case, both teams will be tied with 94 points, but unless the Canucks beat them by more than six goals on Saturday, the Avs win the tiebreaker.

Game Recaps: canucks.com . ESPN
Statistics: Score Sheet . Stat Sheet
My notes from the game:
  • The Canucks are now 1-3-2 in their last six games. Not exactly a sprint to the finish, eh?
  • It's been almost four years since I've seen Joe Thornton play and I almost forgot how dominating of a player he was. Part of the knock on him when he played with the Bruins was how he refused to shoot the puck, but that doesn't matter when he can control the puck and set up his teammates. Last night, he gave the Canucks' defense fits and dished out four assists.
  • A couple of readers commented how I didn't comment on Alex Auld's play after the Anaheim game (I forgot). I'm going to make sure I mention him this time - the loss is not all Alex Auld's fault. While I was leaving the game last night, a few guys had some choice words about Auldy's play and about how he allowed five goals. I blame him for one (maybe two) goals, but the rest were the result of some awful defensive breakdowns.
  • The OT goal was especially awful as Todd Bertuzzi came off the bench and allowed Erhoff to skate unimpeded into their zone. Ten seconds later and Erhoff got the puck and scored the game-winner.
  • The Sedin line was tasked with playing against the Thornton line all night. While they didn't keep Thornton off the score sheet, they at least managed to match his output. Henrik had two assists; Daniel had three points (1G-2A); and both finished with more than 20 minutes of ice-time.
  • I thought Brendan Morrison had a good, energetic game, and it looked like Markus Naslund fed off the energy. Both were active on the forecheck and good coming back. Nazzy, while he only recorded one goal, created a few more scoring chances.
  • I thought Ryan Kesler and Alex Burrows also had good games. Both created turnovers on the forecheck and actually also created a some good rushes for themselves. If they only had more finish...
Next up: San Jose tonight.

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Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Back In Control


Who loves the Detroit Red Wings? We do, we do. Thanks to the Red Wings' 2-0 shutout of the Edmonton Oilers last night, the Vancouver Canucks once again have control of their own playoff destiny. It's almost appropriate that Playland opens this weekend, what with the rollercoaster of emotions of the last couple of weeks.

The Canucks have won their two previous meetings against the Sharks this season, although both games were played before the Joe Thornton trade. And we all know the huge impact Thornton has had on 50-goal scorer Jonathan Cheechoo and the Sharks.
"With that duo, you have to play off a little bit and try to buy time and wait for help," added Baumgartner. "And with Thornton down low in the corners, you can't really go to him. It's like Jaromir Jagr. As soon as you feel him on your back, he's so strong that he takes it to the net and you're left in the dust. You have to play a solid positioning game against them and not buy into the temptation to jump at them."
The Sharks are hot - they sport a 33-14-7 record since acquiring Thornton - but the Canucks say they're up to the challenge:
"We're not going to get in through the back door so we're going to have to face this challenge head on," said Canucks winger Anson Carter. "That's how I see it and that's how the guys in the room see it, too."
We've seen in the last couple of weeks, however, that knowing and saying are far different from doing. Right now, Canucks fans just want them to "do".

*****

On a related note, a big thanks to Jonathan Woodward for the mention in today's Globe and Mail. :)

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The Movie Analogies

If you're a hockey buff and a movie buff, you want to read Adam Proteau's piece as he summarizes each NHL team's 2005-2006 in Ebert and Roeper-like fashion.

Here's the movie he compares the Vancouver Canucks to:

Movie: Failure To Launch
Summary: A big-ticket, big-name team panders to its ego and meanders through the second half of the season, more than likely resulting in the Canucks missing the playoffs.
Real Review: "How, exactly, did an idea with this much star power ... manage to misfire?" -- Peter Howell, Toronto Star

I had a good chuckle reading the LA Kings one:

Movie: Derailed
Summary: A promising start to the year is wrecked by a torrent of injuries -- for the third straight season -- to the Kings' most important players. Coach Andy Murray lost his job because of it and GM Dave Taylor could be next.
Real Review: "For the over-initiated, it smacks of been-there, done-that." -- Jeanne Aufmuth, Palo Alto Weekly
Check out the rest of the piece here.
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Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Big Money For A Good Cause


On a more serious note, it was heartwarming to see Canucks fans come out and help make the 16th Annual Canucks for Kids Fund fundraiser a huge success.

This year, the event raised $893,136, which doesn't include the $3.5 million that the BC government also contributed (subscription req'd).

Well done, folks!

(Photo from canucks.com; taken during the annual pumpkin carving event at Canuck Place)

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posted by J.J. Guerrero, 4:57 PM | permalink/comments (0) | AddThis Social Bookmark Button | Share on Facebook | Hype It Up! |

A PG-Rated Party

If there was ever any consolation in the Vancouver Canucks losing to the Calgary Flames in last season's playoffs, it was that we got a good and amusing look at how some Flames fans of a certain gender celebrated their team's success. Fortunately or unfortunately, the Red Mile is no more.
The Red Mile is dead and hockey fans should just stay away from 17 Ave. S.W., says the cop leading Calgary's zero-tolerance clampdown on playoff partying.

Deputy police chief Dale Burn said there will be no Red Mile on his watch, and officers will swarm the area, both in uniform and undercover, to charge anyone caught breaking the law.

(snip)

Burn's crowd-control plan, which starts tonight during the Flames' home-stand against Anaheim, includes reducing 17 Ave. traffic to one way, and closing part of 5 St. S.W.

Women who try to revive the notorious breast-flashing that marked the Flames last playoff run in 2004, will find their efforts come at a price, said Burns.
That's too bad. It looked like a lot more fun than rioting

Postscript: This post was written tongue-in-cheek. In no way does this blog condone public nudity or rioting.

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10 Sports Things To Do Before I Die

Christy Hammond asks her readers to make a list of sports-related things they want to do in their lifetime. Here are mine.

Some of my highlights already include being at a bunch of Vancouver Canucks playoff games, this year's Canucks road trip to Alberta, being at the Canada-US World Junior Hockey Championships game this past December, and working the NHL All-Star game in Vancouver in 1998 (and helping Glen Sather and John Muckler find their seats).

Some more I want to add to the list are:
  1. To watch the Vancouver Canucks win the Stanley Cup
  2. With the Leafs on the other end of the ice
  3. To be a part of the Winter Olympic games (can't wait for 2010!)
  4. To watch a Duke vs. North Carolina basketball game
  5. To watch an NHL game in every NHL city (3 down, 27 to go)
  6. To watch an NBA game in every NBA city (6 and counting)
  7. To see Steve Nash win an NBA championship
  8. To experience at least one of the great non-North American sports events (ie. running of the bulls in Spain, Tour de France, European soccer or Australian Rules Football)
  9. To attend a US college football game
  10. To interview an NHL player for this blog

Make sure you stop by Christy's and share your list.

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Canucks 2 Ducks 4

Is 95 points enough? It has to be now. In one of the strangest games I’ve ever seen – and one with the worst puck luck for the boys in blue – the Vancouver Canucks outplayed the Anaheim Mighty Ducks but lost the game 4-2 and lost control of their playoff destiny.

The loss leaves the Canucks in ninth place, two points behind the Edmonton Oilers. They have 89 points and must now sweep their remaining games to reach the magic 95 number.

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

  • The Canucks had a nice rush after the opening faceoff, only to have Scott Niedermayer go the other way immediately after and score the first Ducks goal 35 seconds into the game.
  • Not only did the Canucks throw 41 shots at Jean Sebastian-Giguere, they also recorded 25 missed shots. They controlled much of the play but simply couldn’t capitalize on them. 14 of 18 Canucks skaters recorded shots on goal, and all 14 recorded at least a couple.
  • Give the team credit. Going into the third period, despite a 33-10 shot advantage but being down 4-1 on the scoreboard, the Canucks, unlike in games past, didn’t give up and maintained good pressure on the Ducks. What killed their momentum were a couple of awful bad penalties to Eric Weinrich and Jarkko Ruutu. Weinrich took his while he initially had possession of the puck; Jarkko took his when he ran into the Ducks goalie during a Canucks rush. Jarkko didn’t play another shift after that.
  • It’s amazing how Jovanovski adds to the offensive style of this team. Part of the reason the Canucks were able to maintain offensive pressure on the Ducks was because of Jovo’s ability to jump into the play and keep the puck in the Ducks’ zone. In 22:09 minutes of ice-time, Jovo put up five shots on goal.
  • I can’t question the Canucks’ effort tonight. However, that means very little with the team’s playoff chances slipping away. Not only do they need to win three games in a row – the last time the Canucks won three games in a row was more than two months ago – they also need either Edmonton to lose one game in regulation or San Jose to lose three of their remaining four games.
Next up: San Jose Sharks on Wednesday.

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Monday, April 10, 2006

Superstition


Stevie Wonder once sang:

When you believe in things that you don't understand,
Then you suffer,
Superstition ain't the way

Try convincing the Vancouver Canucks of that. With an unbeaten 4-0 record while wearing their vintage jerseys and their playoff lives on the line, the Canucks are donning their classic retro stick jersey when they face the Anaheim Mighty Ducks tonight.

A Ducks win and they clinch a playoff spot and further muddy the Canucks' post-season picture; a Canucks win and they move into the Western Conference's top eight and bump the Oilers to ninth place.

I'm crossing my fingers, knocking on wood and bringing a rabbit's foot to tonight's game for a Canucks win.

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Sunday, April 09, 2006

Canucks 3 Flames 2

Perhaps it was the return of Ed Jovanovski, but the Vancouver Canucks played with the determined passion that had been missing for most of the season. They stayed with the Flames hit-for-hit, shot-for-shot, and created plenty of scoring opportunities against a very good Calgary defense. And when the game was on the line, Bertuzzi suddenly turned to Bertuzzi version 2002, laying out Dion Phaneuf with what was arguably the best hit of the Canucks' season (video), then taking the puck to the net.

In overtime, it was Eddie Jo himself who played hero and scored the game-winner (subscription req'd).

"I'm just a small piece of the puzzle," Jovanovski protested. "One guy coming back into the lineup isn't going to flip a switch. It doesn't work that way."
It did last night.

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