We are nearing our 100th post. It will be a good one. Thanks for all your support so far. CC is officially on vacation for the next week. We suspect it will be quiet in Canuckland until then. Enjoy the heat.
It was announced today that long time Canuck colour man, Tom Larscheid, will be retiring after the Canucks’ opening game of this season. Some will say this is long overdue. We say not. Yeah, he’s corny. And his school boy giggling makes us cringe. But he has always been damn passionate about this team. Some have called him a homer. John Garrett is a homer. Bob Cole is a homer. But old Tommy is not. He is simply guilty of wearing his heart on his sleeve and falling in love with a team that typically wasn’t deserving of it. And we thank him for that. As the perfect foil to the very straight antics of his play-by-play partners, most notably Jim Robson and John Shorthouse, he provided exactly what the job description ordered, “colour”. He was quick to carve the team a new one when they needed it. And that was often. And he was just as quick to drive the band wagon.
Some of you will remember the mid to late 80’s when the BC Lions (for whom Larscheid also provided his one-of-a-kind stylings) moved their broadcast rights from CKNW to CFUN and took Tommy with them. That subjected us (as if the play of the team itself wasn’t torture enough) to the inane ramblings of the robustly dull Garry “Mondo” Monahan. In time, Larscheid returned. And all was well again. Though our team still sucked.
It’s been announced that Tommy’s replacement will be the Team 1040’s hockey expert, Dave Tomlinson. He’s certainly got more hockey pedigree than the American footballer Larscheid ever had. But he’s mostly calm and clinical. We’ll miss Tommy’s folksy charm and the emotional high’s and low’s he brought to every broadcast.
As with Jim Robson before him, the biggest tragedy in all this is that neither of these two Canuck icons will be on the mike the day this franchise finally gets the glory. But you know they’ll be watching. And you know Tommy will be gleefully laughing, giggling and crying…
With the Canucks’ recent signing of Mason Raymond (to a contract that would appear to be under market), they find themselves handsomely over the cap limit for the coming season, having committed more $, cap wise, than any other team. At first blush, it might seem like Mike Gillis has himself hamstrung at this point. But clearly credit is due to old baggy eyes so far. Scanning the salary commitments, you don’t see any outrageous deals (pending the play of recently acquired Manny Maholtra, Dan Hamhuis and Keith Ballard). In fact, you see a number of deals with core players that appear under market. So it would seem that Gillis is spending as much of the Aquilinis’ money as possible AND spending it wisely.
All that said, being over the cap limit (even after excluding the injured Sami Salo) and having, on average, 6 more players under contract for next season than the average team, you can bet there will be more player movement before the season begins.
Thanks to the folks at nhlnumbers.com, it’s abundantly clear that the Canucks have invested more money on defense than any team in the league save the Toronto Maple Leafs. Even if you throw out the Salo contract for now, they are still spending more than anyone save the Leafs and the Philadelphia Flyers. Now the Flyers were proof positive that a solid defense can carry AHL goaltending. As for the Leafs, let’s just say that the jury is still out. And that’s being kind; something we never are with the Leafs. There’s an obvious difference between the defense of the Flyers and the Canucks. The Flyers have two bonafide number one defensemen (Pronger and Timonen). The Canucks, while now having some nice depth on defense (like Toronto), appear to be lacking the high end talent of the Flyers. Everyone is quite excited about the Dan Hamhuis acquisition, but it’s worth noting that he was the number 3 defender on that team. The same goes for Keith Ballard, who get less minutes in Florida than Bryan McCabe and Dennis Seidenberg.
Success in the salary cap era is at least partially dependent upon getting unexpected performances from those making little money. Right now, the Canucks have 9 players under contract for next season earning less than $1 million per; only one of those is a defender (Aaron Rome). That would seem to indicate too many 4th line forwards and too many middle of the road defenders.
We’d like to see the Canucks find a forward with grit and playoff credentials. If that means losing some of our new found defensive depth, then so be it.
The combinations and permutations of what could happen are endless, but rest assured something will. Until then, get back to enjoying the dog days of summer…
Today it was announced that injury prone defender (this is apparently career injury number 40) Sami Salo has an achilles tendon injury that will keep him sidelined for a number of months. Some have reported that this injury, while announced today, occurred over a month ago (playing floor hockey). This would certainly explain the Canucks’ decision to stock pile top 4 defensemen in the last few weeks. And should end the rampant speculation about Kevin Bieksa’s impending doom.
So despite being over the salary cap as at this moment, with Salo on the sidelines indefinitely and his salary not counting, they are nowhere near a cap crisis.
So all you diehards looking for something Canuck related to ponder this summery weekend, you’ll be left wondering how much money Mason Raymond is gonna get come Monday.
In breaking news, the pinheads at the NHL front office are not taking exception to the one year $825K deal signed by Canuck winger Jannik Hansen.
In related news, those starved for controversy in Canuckville are wondering where Hansen will slot in given the apparent surplus of 3rd and 4th line wingers. Yes, these indeed are the dog days of summer. It’s hardly noteworthy when we’re wondering how to carve up ice time amongst the likes of Darcy Hordichuk, Victor Oreskovich, Alexandre Bolduc, Jeff Tambellini and Tanner Glass - all of whom are borderline NHL’ers at best. Well, perhaps it is noteworthy. But not for the reason being bandied about on the airwaves right now. Given this fine assemblance of talent, there seems little doubt that Hansen will get plenty of ice time if he can stay healthy.
So it seems that NHL commissioner Gary Bettman is not too happy with the New Jersey Devils and their 17 year $102 million contract with star winger Ilya Kovalchuk.
While this contract is certainly the most flagrant attempt at pushing the envelope of the salary cap world, it is by no means the first. Frankly, we’re puzzled why the league is taking exception now, particularly with a team that has historically been one of the most fiscally prudent. Combine that with the fact that a player like Kovalchuk (presumably a star attraction that the league would like to retain) could just as easily return to his homeland and play in the KHL without having to worry about hairsplitting the likes of this.
Is is really any more unreasonable that Kovalchuk will still be playing by age 44 than it is Roberto Luongo will be stopping pucks at age 43? Who gets to play judge and jury on these determinations, anyhow? Gary Bettman? Please. The league got what it supposedly wanted with the salary cap. And not surprisingly, teams have discovered a loophole to circumvent these restrictions.
If the NHL doesn’t like it, they need to change the rule, and not offer up somewhat arbitrary pronouncements on a contract by contract basis.
For those just joining us, in Part 1 we laid out the accomplishments of one Pavel Bure. Since that time we’ve been considering the qualifications of inductees to the Hockey Hall of Fame (HHOF) with the aim of determining what exactly it takes to gain admittance to the holy shrine. We’d love to dissect the hall and remodel it, rightfully moving some that are “in” out and vice versa. But that is work for another year. At this point, the task is simple. Can a reasonable argument be made that Pavel Bure belongs right now?
Having reviewed the list of inductees and their accomplishments, there are a number of general factors that seem to stand out:
The strong majority of the inductees are likely players the average fan has never heard off. Despite the fact that the league doubled its player count over a generation ago and we now have a professional player pool to draw from that is 5 times what it was then, the HHOF has been reluctant to increase membership on a proportionate basis. When they say the hockey business is an old boys network, they seemingly mean so literally. As it relates specifically to this discussion there are 79 wingers (both left and right) in the Hall, of which only 24 have played to any reasonable degree in the post expansion era (after 1967).
There is an emphasis placed on durability. You are hard pressed to find honourees who have played less than 1,000 games, which is 4 full seasons more than what Bure was able to amass. That said, it has happened. In modern times, Bobby Orr, Valeri Kharmalov, Mike Bossy, Pat LaFontaine, Cam Neely and, to a lesser extent, Yvon Cournoyer and Clark Gillies all had their careers cut short by injury but were still deemed worthy.
The HHOF prides itself as being exactly that; that is, it is not the NHL Hall of Fame nor the Canadian Hockey Hall of Fame. As such, it has recognized some international players who never played in the NHL (or who played shortened careers there), including, now, female players. This is a lofty aspiration given that hockey is now a global game, at least in the Northern Hemisphere. But given the lack of European inductees, it is a likely a failed ambition so far.
There is also an emphasis on Stanley Cup wins with winning players being admitted with individual accomplishments that were above average, but not exceptional, as in league leading or major award winning. In the context of hockey being a team sport, this certainly makes sense. But in the modern day 30 team salary cap era, it should become an extinct discrimination.
If Pavel Bure is to be considered based on what the HHOF has done to date, it would have to be on the basis of his offensive prowess and, perhaps, being a pioneering international player. As well, his relative dominance (measured in per game averages) would seemingly have to compensate for his lack of durability to at least the same degree as those with shortened careers already enshrined (which it does). We think his playoff record (he was the best player on a team that played the most playoff games of any NHL team in the four year span that coincided with his arrival) was impressive, but without the Cup win(s), it is a subtlety to be missed by those doing the deciding.
So where does Bure rank in goal scoring versus those in or out of the HHOF? Well, there are only 2 modern day players who scored at at a greater rate and they are both in, Mike Bossy (with virtually the same games played as Bure) and Mario Lemieux. The 2 early day players, Cy Denneny and Babe Dye, with better rates are also both in. And there is one current player with a comparable rate, Alex Ovechkin, who is essentially Pavel Bure 2.0 (or perhaps Valeri Kharmalov 3.0).
Forget about goal scoring rate for a moment, what about just total goals? Well, Bure ranks 63rd and of those in front of him, 27 are on the outside looking in. You’d think that should work against Bure’s induction. But in fact, the reverse is true. Of those 27, there were only 6 who earned as many or more major awards as Bure. The rest were simply star players with long careers, but not elite players that transcended or dominated their sport. Of those six players, only of one them (Joe Nieuwendyk) is currently eligible for induction (this being his first year for eligibility). The others are all potential first ballot inductees (Jaromir Jagr, Joe Sakic, Teemu Selanne, Jarome Iginla and Sergei Fedorov).
Pavel ranks 24th in points per game. Of the 23 in front of him, all but 2 are either already in the HHOF or are not yet eligible. The two exceptions being Kent Nilsson (who played 250 less games than Bure and who clearly benefited from playing during the high flying 80’s) and Eric Lindros. We’re sure there’s someone out there who can make a compelling argument for his inclusion - though it won’t be us.
As stated before, the HHOF has chosen to recognize international players either for their contribution at that level or their pioneering efforts at the NHL level. Of relevance to this discussion is the inclusion of Valeri Kharmalov and Igor Larionov and Slava Fetisov. Kharmalov is in despite never having played in the NHL and having his career cut short at roughly the same age as Bure, though much more tragically. Kharmalov and Bure were fantastically comparable players in a uniquely Russian game-breaking style that was the mold for Ovechkin, the most entertaining player in today’s NHL. The inclusions of Larionov and Fetisov are interesting. While both had successful NHL careers, those careers, on their own, do not appear worthy. As the best of the first wave of Russian players, they are seemingly included for this pioneering status and for having contributed mightily at the international level. We would argue that their adjustment to NHL life was easier than the trio of Russian stars that followed immediately after: Bure, Alexander Mogilny and Sergei Fedorov. All of whom arrived into the NHL as young men, as opposed to mature established stars, and all of whom excelled at the NHL all the while continuing to represent their country in international play. We would argue that in ignoring these three, the Hall is lacking internal consistency.
Pavel Bure arrived in Vancouver as if dropped from the sky. Literally and figuratively. It was pure cloak and dagger stuff getting the young superstar out of Russia and to the NHL. He almost wound up in Edmonton (who had fought bitterly for his rights) where he might have been able to avoid being cast as a malingerer; the Oiler organization, media and fan base completely experienced in how to handle superstars. He just as likely could have wound up in Detroit with his comrades; the Wings always seem to have the market cornered on the best international players. There he could have easily integrated into their European style play perhaps turning the best team of his era into a dynasty for the ages. Playing with reckless abandon reminiscent of Bobby Orr (with the wonky knees to match), he changed the fortunes of a perpetually moribund franchise falling just short of the holy grail by the slimmest of margins. Banished to the hockey graveyard of Florida, he continued to entertain and score goals, typically unaided, at breakneck pace until (just in time for an abbreviated run on Broadway) his body failed him like other enshrined superstars.
In the end, despite his lack of playoff success and durability (both seemingly beyond his control), on paper alone, he’s a match for Pat LaFontaine or Cam Neely, both esteemed members. In flesh and blood, he’s a more dynamic one-of-a-kind player than either. Statistically speaking, his offensive prowess cannot be denied and he is more than simply a borderline candidate. In reference to the 24 modern day wingers already enshrined, his statistics on a per game basis are among the best. And even on a total basis (despite the devastating injuries), he still fits in with the bottom quartile. Finally, as one of best of the second wave of Russian players (and the first wave to spend their entire careers in the NHL), he was a pioneer to international players in a sport with ever increasing global aspirations.
Things are all quiet on the Canuck front these days, save the lack of the number one prospect at propects’ camp, which we are assured is no big deal. That is likely fodder for another day. For now, we’d like to speculate on what Mike Gillis might be doing to break the logjam on defense.
The Canucks now sit with 9 defenders under contract for next season; presumably a lesson learned after the playoff collapse. And while it might seem a nice luxury to have, it makes little sense to have $7 million in cap space tied up in your 5th and 6th defenders who will be playing maybe 10 to 15 minutes per night.
Of course, the rumour mill, which seemed to start the moment the playoffs ended, has Kevin Bieksa being run out of town. As a contract commitment of the previous regime, he’s a convenient scapegoat to mask the real problems (2nd rate goaltending and 2nd rate coaching - both commitments of the current regime) that led to the early playoff exit.
One of our loyal readers proposed the idea of floating Alex Burrows as trade bait. Now this might get some of you pretty worked up. But pragmatically speaking, it makes good sense. As a top 6 forward at $2 million per season and at the peak of his career, he would be attractive to pretty much any team. There is certainly something to be said for dealing your assets when they’re at their peak value. And while we’d miss his grit and character (yes, Ron McLean, he does have character), it’s been proven that the Sedins can make 35 goal scorers out of pretty much anyone. Perhaps packaged up with the enigmatic Kevin Bieksa, we could fetch the veteran top 6 physical forward that is most lacking. Perhaps this is wishful thinking.
Trying to get inside the heads of those that determine who gets to enter an athletic hall of fame is an impossible task, no matter the sport. The mechanics of every hall of fame are distinct and the appointments often controversial. The Hockey Hall of Fame (“HHOF”) is no exception. And likely ripe for a proper dissection, but that is clearly beyond the scope of this blog. But you can pay us to write it for you.
That said, when there’s what seems to be an apparent omission (and the spurned one is a Canuck hero), you can bet we will jump on our soap box. So listen up…
We’re going to approach this in two instalments so that you, valued reader, can more easily digest and reflect. As it relates to Pavel Bure, let’s start with a summary of his career and how his accomplishments may rank.
We’ll start with his tangible accomplishments:
he scored 437 goals in a scant 702 games, a lifetime goals per game rate only eclipsed by Mike Bossy and Mario Lemieux. Yep, that’s right. Pavel Bure was a more efficient goal scorer than Wayne Gretzky or Bobby Hull or Brett Hull or Phil Esposito.
he scored 50 goals or more (the “gold standard” of sniping ability) 5 times, including 4 seasons of 58 or more (58, 59, 60, 60).
in fact, he scored 50 goals or more in EVERY season where he played more than 68 games.
he led the NHL in goal scoring 3 times; otherwise stated in 60% of his full NHL seasons.
he scored more goals in his first 3 seasons than any other player ever except Mike Bossy and Wayne Gretzky.
he scored 70 points in 64 playoff games, a point per game rate that equaled his regular season rate - no small feat considering the more restricted confines of playoff hockey.
despite having a reputation as a one dimensional player, he had a career plus minus of plus 42, including a positive rating for the 3 plus seasons he played with an otherwise unremarkable Florida team.
4 times he finished in the top 7 in game winning goals - a measure of his ability to score in the clutch.
he played in 6 NHL all-star games, once winning the game MVP award.
he was a 1st Team All Star once and 2nd Team All Star twice.
he won the Calder Memorial Trophy as rookie of the year (defeating Nicklas Lidstrom).
he was a special teams expert twice leading the league in short-handed goals while finishing either 1st or 2nd in power play goals.
bearing in mind the relevance of international play for election to the HHOF, he was a fine ambassador for his country playing in 3 World Junior Championships (where he scored a remarkable 39 points in 21 games), 2 Olympics (scoring 11 goals in 12 games) and 2 World Championships. His teams, by the way, medalled at every event he played (2 golds, 3 silvers, 2 bronze).
during the Canucks famed ‘94 Cup run he led the team in scoring and finished second overall to Brian Leetch (who won the Conn Smythe Trophy presumably since he, by the narrowest of margins, played on the winning team).
Now let us consider the less tangible considerations - including the supposed negative ones.
he managed the phenomenal goal scoring rate without (save his rookie season in Vancouver) regularly playing with a bonafide number one centre - go ahead, look it up - better yet, we’ll spell it out for you: after Igor Larionov left Vancouver, Pavel played with the likes of Anatoli Semonov, Josef Beranek, Trevor Linden (a natural RW playing out-of-position) and a washed up Mark Messier. Yep Pat Quinn never thought to play him with Cliff Ronning nor even Petr Nedved for any significant stretches. In Florida, he handed countryman and journeyman Viktor Kozlov a career best 70 points. By the time he wound up with no knees in New York, the best the Rangers could offer up for a half season were Nedved and the now completely soft-headed Eric Lindros - though the Rangers’ acquisition of Bure had Wayne Gretzky seriously wishing he hadn’t retired. The point here is that there was no Gretzky to Pavel’s Kurri, no Trottier to Pavel’s Bossy, no Oates to Pavel’s Hull or Neely, no Orr to his Esposito. Whatever Pavel delivered, he did so by himself. And in that sense, what he accomplished was (save the heroics of Mario Lemieux) unprecedented.
Bure, in the opinion of many, was the most exciting player of his generation. He had the ability to break open a game at any time. In our estimation (based on having watched NHL games in the thousands), he was the most exciting player we’ve seen (post Orr) and had he been paired with a true playmaking centre for any reasonable amount of time could have threatened Gretzky’s 92 goal record. Just an opinion. But an informed one.
As the first true superstar in Vancouver, he took the popularity of his team to new heights providing the foundation for a move to a new arena and higher levels of profitability.
Critics would be quick to point out that he wasn’t much for backchecking (though Shane Churla may say otherwise as would his plus/minus rating referred above).
Critics would also argue that he was not a team player and only cared about scoring goals (though last we checked the objective of the game is to score more than the other team).
Even harsher critics would say he was a money hungry malcontent and a disruptive element though this, if true, really needs to be evaluated in the context of time and place (a shy impressionable young man raised in Communist Russia with the world suddenly at his feet).
While we’re not sure why off-ice transgressions should matter when contemplating induction into an athletic hall of fame, some have likely frowned upon Bure’s alleged connections with the Russian mafia. Though it seems acceptable to include alleged wife beaters in the HHOF (says Bobby Hull, Denis Potvin and Patrick Roy).
Pavel’s injury woes indicate a lack of durability and this should be held against him (though you will see that didn’t elminate the chances of induction for Pat LaFontaine or Cam Neely).
If there is an acceptable criticism of Bure, it is that he didn’t necessarily make those around him better. Though certainly some players benefited from playing with Pavel. Gino Odjick would have been lucky to score 16 goals in his career let alone in one season as he did riding shotgun for Bure. The aforementioned Viktor Kozlov had his best years centreing the Rocket. Though the fact that Pavel Bure still holds the record for scoring the largest % of his team’s goals (while playing in Florida) would seem to indicate that he wasn’t always given much to work with.
So CC, that’s great. We’re exhausted reading it, but what does it all mean? Is Pavel HHOF worthy? Well, since there are no published guidelines and since the HHOF won’t comment on those they won’t enshrine, we’ve got to read between the lines. We can compare Pavel’s accomplishments to those that are in and those that are out and see what gives… Stay tuned for Part 2 and the predictable, but nonetheless, entertaining conclusion.
Naslund Hanging from the Rafters, Bure Hanging out to Dry
Now that it is confirmed that Markus Naslund’s jersey will hang from the rafters - a player with elite skill but questionable leadership ability, it begs the question “why not Pavel”?
Thankfully, Mike Gillis was asked this very question yesterday. And he seemed stumped by it, acknowledging that if Pavel meets the criteria, he will get the honour, but “we have a little ways to go with that”, adding that they wanted “people of the highest character.” Even more intriguing is that both Pavel and Markus Naslund were Mike Gillis clients when he was an agent and when they were Canuck players.
Valued reader, “Pubby666”, has asked a very intriguing question: “what has Pavel Bure done that makes successive Canuck ownership groups and management treat him so badly?”
Yes, Pavel Bure, presumably tired of playing under the Vancouver microscope, demanded a trade out of town and held his breath until he got it. And if you believe the rumours, he threatened to withhold his services during the ’94 Cup run as a negotiating ploy. But we’re sure Pavel’s side of the story might be a little different. He’s just not the type to tell it.
Let’s be clear, he was without question the most exciting player to ever hit the ice for the Canucks and, arguably, one of the most exciting players ever. We’ve seen all the superstars post Bobby Orr and he certainly gets our vote. He was simply breathtaking from the moment he took his first shift against the Winnipeg Jets until his battered knees failed him. And he put this franchise on the map. When you look around the league now whenever the Canucks are on the road you will see Canuck jerseys everywhere. That all started with Pavel. He was our first, and arguably, only superstar. Yankee Stadium was the House that Ruth Built. By the same logic, GM Place was the Garage that Bure Built. He has had as much to do with the development of the Canuck “brand” as any other player. Pavel was arguably the cornerstone of the early 90’s team that morphed from perennial bottom feeder to Cup contender. Save a couple of Stanley Cup Game 7 phantom penalties and a Nathan Lafayette goal post, Bure might well have won the ‘94 Conn Smythe trophy becoming the first Euro to do so. He scored the most famous goal in club history. And scored goals at an alarming rate in highlight reel fashion. And he loved scoring more than anyone we’ve ever seen. And he did all of this as a young Russian in a new country in 1991 - how is that for culture shock? Did he make some mistakes professionally? Sure. Did the Canucks in their handling of him? Most likely. But since when did all of this become a morality play? It’s hockey for crying out loud. There are a handful of Canadian hockey superstars who were alleged wife beaters but got their numbers retired, but we’re going to punish the Russian primma donna despite his phenomenal hockey talent and contributions to the growth of the franchise?
If Pavel is not meeting the “criteria” and Naslund is, what are we missing?
Trust Mike Gillis to give us something else to do on a glorious summer day. In case you missed it, at yesterday’s annual season ticket holder reception, it was announced that the Canucks plan to retire the jersey of Markus Naslund this season as part of their 40th anniversary celebrations.
We find this to be a most interesting development.
There is no doubting Naslund’s accomplishments as an elite NHL player:
the Lester Pearson Award (now the Ted Lindsay Trophy - the ultimate measure of respect from a player’s peers)
the 3 appointments to the NHL First All Star Team
the Art Ross trophy near misses
the Canucks scoring leader for seven seasons
the Canucks all-time scoring leader
Further, there is also no doubting that he was a class guy whose community contributions could not be questioned.
Mike Gillis maintains that the team has now defined criteria for jersey retirement and that Naslund had “all the attributes we’re looking for”.
This is where we get lost a little in the logic. Presumably, Trevor Linden and Stan Smyl both had these same attributes, too, since their numbers are already hanging from the rafters. Like Naslund, both Linden and Smyl embraced their community commitments. Unlike Naslund, they were not highly skilled players; in fact, if you were to draw up a list of the Canucks’ most “talented” players, they would not be at the top of that list. Like Naslund, both Linden and Smyl had lengthy runs as team captain. Quite certainly, it was their leadership ability that was the most crucial element to their jersey retirement.
So what can be made of Markus’ leadership ability? Well, when the accolades were flowing yesterday, there no was mention of it. And while he captained this team for their most consistent stretch of regular season success, when it came to crunch time, his team repeatedly self destructed. In Naslund’s defense, it’s not his fault that Dan Cloutier whiffed on Niklas Lidstrom’s one-hopper or that Marc Crawford lost the team or that Todd Bertuzzi lost his mind. But truth be told, Markus wasn’t a clutch player. Who can forget the “we choked” apology speech after the Canucks crapped the bed down the stretch handing the division title to Colorado? Or Naslund’s unbelievable ineptitude to score in shoot-outs (him leaving the puck at centre ice on one attempt still makes us cringe). Seriously, it got so bad that his coaches had little option but to nail his ass to the bunch for the circus shootout that you’d expect to be the modus operandi of a highly paid skilled winger.
It was always our opinion that the weight of the captaincy crushed Naslund. He was a sensitive intelligent player so much so that the enormity of THAT responsibility in THIS market was too much to bear. And some will say that’s not his fault; he didn’t make himself captain. And that’s true. But when the prodigal son (and Captain Canuck, Trevor Linden) returned from exile, Naslund had the opportunity to hand over the captaincy (as Trevor had unselfishly gifted to Mark Messier). He did not.
There is no question that there is an alarming discrepancy between the post season successes of the teams led by Smyl and Linden. For whatever reason, that’s seemingly no longer a crucial element to selection for jersey retirement. And to the extent that Naslund can’t necesarily be held accountable for the rest of his team, that’s certainly reasonable. But leaders lead? Don’t they? And are accountable for their troops when they fail?
In the end, we suppose we can get our heads around Naslund’s number hanging from the rafters. Although his leadership ability is not meeting the threshold of those before him, his tangible accomplishments are hard to argue; certainly in the relative history of the franchise. Add to that, he was, from all accounts, a nice guy. His befriending of the certifiably gruff Todd Bertuzzi ample evidence of that.
This, however, opens the inevitable can of worms. If Naslund is in, then why not Pavel Bure? As our upcoming post will unequivocally demonstrate, Pavel is a Hall of Famer. And as the Canucks only bonafide HHOF’er (or at the very least, the only bonafide HHOF candidate), it only follows that his number should be in the rafters, too. And on that basis, before Naslund. And if the Sedins (like Naslund) never advance beyond the second round of the playoffs but continue to earn the same regular season accolades, then their numbers should be there too, right? Mike Gillis says he’s not in the jersey retirement business. Now he is.
Y'all seem very good at writing/educated in hockey, thus very credible experts :D. However, could you tell us something about the people behind this blog...like who you guys are?
We love compliments. We love it more when we get questions. Even from anonymous sources. We also love irony. As in “anonymous” asking us who we are.
We are likely not as intelligent as we think we are nor as funny in person as we are on paper.
Seriously though, to date the postings come from me (a long time fan and season ticket holder). There is valued feedback and commentary from a number of loyal readers. Our aim is to write critically and intelligently on behalf of the loyal faithful. This place is not really for the casual fan nor the band wagon jumper, but the pained masses who have endured plenty and been rewarded with little. We refer to ourselves as “we” since we’d like this place to grow and include the opinions of many - even if they differ with ours.
There have been a handful of fairly recent developments in Canuckville that seem to indicate that Roberto Luongo’s reign as teacher’s pet may be coming to an end.
In the post playoff exit media scrum, Mike Gillis was asked about whether the Canucks would be entertaining stripping Luongo of the captaincy. He could have dismissed the idea completely, but did not.
That was followed by the pronouncement a few weeks later that goalie propect Cory Schneider would be given the opportunity to play a significant chunk of games this coming season; more games were promised than what any Luongo back-up have ever been permitted to play before.
And, of course, we cannot forget Coach Alain Vigneault throwing Roberto under the bus during the Chicago series by boldly (though not incorrectly) proclaiming that his goaltender was the 2nd best goalie in the series.
And just last week it was announced that the Canucks were dropping Luongo’s handpicked goalie consultant, Ian Clark, and replacing him with a goalie coach of their choosing, Rollie (the Goalie) Melanson.
At Critcally Canuck, we are on record as in favour of treating special players differently. Do whatever the prima donna wants we say. Some guys don’t have to practice everyday. Some guys get to determine when they play and with whom. But at some point if the coddling isn’t working, it should cease. And in the specific case of Roberto Luongo, the honeymoon is clearly over.
We must give old baggy eyes his due. He promised he would be busy on July 1 and, to our surprise, he was. His efforts of the last week will go a long way to determining his success or failure in this market.
As he commences the third year of his employment here, his successes for the most part have been limited to getting the core players (all acquired under previous regimes) tied up long term. While no small accomplishment, we can only assume that his predecessor would have likely done the same. His forays into the free agent market have been hit (Mikael Samuelsson), miss (Pavol Demitra) and damn lucky (we’re sure Mats Sundin is still kicking himself for not taking the 2 year $20 million dollar deal that would have crippled this franchise). His trading record is a small sample size - the Bernier acquisition was not a bust, but hardly a winner while the Ehrhoff trade looks brilliant. And of course, the drafting grade is still incomplete. And by making essentially no picks of consequence this season, he gets to carry forward the work in progress drafting record for a while longer.
In the last week, he has been able to add two quality blueliners, who on paper at least, are as good as anyone currently on the roster. The seeming lack of depth on defense connundrum now solved leaving Alain Vigneault with one less excuse heading into the coming season. And Gillis has been able to accomplish this without having to downgrade the offense that led the conference in goal scoring.
Though from our perspective, there are still some areas that need addressing.
Gills has promised to get a little bigger and tougher to play against. After the moves made so far, we are no better off in that department. By losing Bernier, while not fleet a foot, they have lost one of their consistently physical players. And while adding Manny Maholtra is a huge size improvement over wee Kyle Wellwood (whose fate is now presumably sealed), Maholtra hardly play like someone who is 6’2” and 220 pounds. And from an offensive production standpoint, he is no better than Wellwood and is getting over twice the pay. And speedy Jeff Tambellini is effectively an able replacement for the lost flash and dash of Michael Grabner. On the defensive end, both Hamhuis and Ballard are top 4 defensemen, leaving Vancouver with six top 4 defenders, but neither are big by today’s standards nor known for being intimidating players. And finally, if you believe what you read, Kevin Bieksa is the next head on the chopping block. While there are good reasons for this, he has been the most consistent piss and vinegar combatant on our blueline.
We’d like to see another player added who has a considerable playoff resume; none of the new hires have filled that void.
We do like the move to acquire BC bred players (Hamhuis and Tambellini). Pat Quinn was the first Canuck GM to tap into that wisdom and it worked wonderfully for him (Greg Adams, Geoff Courtnall, Cliff Ronning - all NHL veterans who played their best hockey in their home province).
In the end, we applaud the moves made to date and the determination to move forward. We only hope their is momentum for more…