The Canucks in Review - A Reader Submission
One of our loyal readers (dirtbikes4me) has put together an impressive review of this Canucks’ season, which we are taking the liberty of posting here. At Critically Canuck, we are we, and not always me. Though yours truly has also taken the liberty of inserting comments because me is also we.
Apologies for the extended commentary, I hope I’m not overstepping here.
You are not. We welcome the passionate, but critically minded feedback from everyone. It’s difficult to separate your heart from head sometimes, but that’s the kind of process we like to see.
Like many of you, I gauge the performance of the Canucks each season by their playoff success. This season, well, we all know what happened. The Canucks uninspired and early exit from the playoffs is simply a convergence of several
negative issues all at one time. Last year’s run proved the opposite as many positive situations converged to make a run all the way to a game 7 final.
Yes, it is quite easy to find much good fortune in what happened last season. Which can only mean that expectations for this season may have been a little too high.
Ultimately, however disastrous the final out-come of this past season, there still exists a plethora of “What if?” scenarios. Just for some fun, imagine if Luongo started that game in Boston and he ‘soiled the mattress’ so to speak. Or Cody Hodgson was not traded. What if Daniel hadn’t had his head handed to him on the end of a viscous elbow? What if Luongo and Schnieder played like average goalies over the season or in the playoffs?
If Luongo or Schneider had struggled for any significant stretches, this team would have been simply struggling to make the playoffs - forget about a top seeding. As easy as it is to ventilate Gillis for the Hodgson deal, the outcome for this season would have been the same, if only slightly deferred.
The commonly held belief is that Vancouver simply lacked in scoring generated by grit. It is one thing to score on the rush, but if the team loses all the little battles on the ice, they rarely generate any earned quality offensive chances. They also seemed to lack the drive and chemistry to go deep. With the exception of the Boston game, Daniel’s return in the playoffs and the stellar net-minding of the dynamic duo, the team played uninspired hockey. I am forced to wonder if there were other factors in play within the dressing room. How well did this group gel by the end of the season? Was there enough time for the players to form bonds with their line mates?
There was certainly an urgency that was missing for pretty much the entire season. Chalk that up to a physical and mental burnout or a coach they had tuned out. The latter question is a very good one. This team was seemingly trying to reinvent itself down the stretch - as much as Mike Gillis says they were not changing horses midstream, that is exactly how it appeared - what should have been an 82 game exhibition season turned into twenty instead. Both AV and MG are accountable for that.
With Kesler and other notable Canucks ailing in the stretch, it became painfully obvious that the team also lacked in depth. It was interesting that the Canucks went 8-1-1 in their last ten games, but as we all know, only two of the final ten
games were against playoff contenders with a win in LA and an overtime loss in Chicago. Presidents trophy? Aside from the apparent benefits of securing home-ice advantage, who cares? Home-ice meant squat any-ways.
How do we know they don’t have depth? This season should have been about getting significant ice time for young players like Hodgson (or Kassian) and Chris Tanev. This hardly happened. Instead AV rode his horses all season so much so that some of his best players were playing hurt by season’s end.
Here is my breakdown of this past season, playoffs and some predictions. I invite you to comment and tell me I’m totally right or totally wrong. Discuss.
Roberto Luongo Season: B+ Playoffs: B+ Stats: 31-14-8 2.41GAA .919 %
After his annual early season “crappy goaltending” phase, Luongo really kicked it into high gear. He seemed to shed some the arrogance and theatrical components to his game and his persona. I am sad to seem him go, arguably the best net-minder the Canucks ever had. Anxiously awaiting how MG will deal with this.
We can’t agree more except to add that it is time for him to go. Given his history for volatile playoff play and the emergence of Schneider, he is placed in an impossible situation. For his own good (and the team’s), it is time.
Cory Schneider Season: A Playoffs: A Stats: 20-8-1 1 1.96GAA .937%
The Canucks new #1? You kind of get the feeling that he is ready. Well respected team guy. Who will MG sign to back him up? My guess, MG and Schneider will agree to a front-loaded 4 year $4.25 mil per season deal. I get the feeling that he would forgo free-agency in a couple of years to stay with this team while the window of the core group is still open to contend.
He’s the new number one, for sure. It’s not like he has a say in it either. He can’t go anywhere else yet. What will be most interesting will be the length of the contract. The team will want something long. Schneider, no matter the amount of money, will likely want to have the option for an exit in the short term. After all, he’s witnessed first hand how hard this market is for a goalie.
Daniel Season: C+ Playoffs: B 72 gp 67 pts
Just under a point a game pace, this past season was lack-lustre for Daniel. Barring injury, he will bounce back next year if the Canucks can get an Erhoff style D, the ref’s start calling the game properly and the Canucks can capitalize on the ensuing power-play chances.
We suspect that Daniel and Henrik will continue to be productive for the long term, perhaps not to the levels of past years, but certainly at a point per game pace. These guys simply have too much pride to rest on their laurels. Further, their success has been owing more to the cerebral than it has the physical so the aging process shouldn’t hamper them as much as it would others.
Henrik Season: B Playoffs: B+ 82gp 81 pts
Overall, even at a point a game, Henrik had his struggles this season, never a big goal-scoring threat anyway, he seemed to lose some of his scoring touch this season,though he managed a couple in 5 playoff games, including 3 assists.
Like Daniel, with a reffing clampdown, the addition of a true power-play quarterback, Henrik will score 20+ goals next season. I do worry about Henrik’s / the teams reliance on Daniel, but that really speaks to a lack of depth.
It is hard to believe that Cody Hodson’s desire for ice time couldn’t have been satiated by what happened down the stretch this season, whether it was due to the struggling Kesler or the injured Daniel, he could have had ice time aplenty.
Burrows Season: B Playoffs: C- 80gp 52pts
A respectable season for a first-liner, finishing second to Hamhuis +29 with a +24 on the season. Going into the final season of his bargain contract, and if he sticks with the twins, I’m guessing a 65+pt campaign. Like many of his line-mates, he disappeared in the playoffs. I wonder if AV’s line-juggling was the cause or if Burrows simply ran out of gas.
Burrows is one of those guys who gets the most out of himself every game. His success owes almost entirely to his determination. It’s sometime hard to raise that bar at playoff time. The big question about Burrows will be how he fits in the salary structure in the longer term. How much of a discount would he be prepared to take at the end of next season? He’s never made the big money. You couldn’t excuse him for chasing it then. On that basis, he should be considered as prime trade bait.
Kesler Season: C Playoffs: C+ 77gp 49pts
He came back to early, and played hurt or less than 100% all season. Irreplaceable second line center. His NTC is going to kick-in because he is here for the long-haul. If he given some line-mates, gets and stays healthy, expect a 65+pt season. Booth, a deeply religious guy with a pentchant for killing bears for trophies, and Kesler with his modeling / partying ways, didn’t seem like they had any chemistry.
The revolving third spot on the line needs to be solidified.
Injuries aside, it just might be that Kesler’s previous season was the high water mark, never to be touched again. Not that the alternative is a bad thing. Someone at the coaching or management level needs to step in and insist that this guy respect his body more. Take the time to heal yourself for the good of us all. He is really that thick headed?
Booth Season: C- Playoffs: D 56gp 29pts
I would say a total bust of a season. Showed flashes of strength and skill, but failed to live up to the hype. 3 more years left on a pricey contract. I guess the upside is, if he can find his groove with Kesler, and stays healthy, I would hope to see 55+pts from this guy. Anything less during this up-coming season, and the Booth experiment should be considered a failure. As for the playoffs, again, another top 6 guy that was MIA.
Frankly, Booth sucks. His hockey IQ is so low, he makes Russ Courtnall look like an egghead. Flash. Dash. No finish. No defense. No play making. And lots of money tied up in him.
Higgins Season: B Playoffs: D- 71gp 43pts
Arguably the most consistent forward this past season, Higgins seemed to play beyond expectations, however if penciled in as a second line guy, he will still need to improve. He was tied for a team-worst -3 through 5 playoff games. Given that he is in the final year of his contract next season, if he can control his staff infections, and play-out a full season, I think he can reach the 55pt club. This assumes that he plays in a top-six role.
Well said, this guy gets a pass for a miserable playoff. We know he’s got playoff game after last season’s run. And he endured a lot this season and prevailed otherwise.
Edler Season: C+ Playoffs: D 82gp 49pts
AV simply played this guy to much this past season. Despite scoring 2 goals during 5 playoff games, Edler simply ran out of gas and as a result, sucked-it hard. Tied for fourth in scoring during the season, Edler finished with a +/- of 0. Playing what seemed to be 207 minutes per game, it was no surprise that he managed 49pts. Conditioning and less minutes will lead to a better playoff run next year. Edler to me was the most frustrating player in the post-season, too many brain-farts. He is going into the final year of his contract, so I see him matching his point total from last season, and a greatly improved playoff performance. It certainly can’t get any worse.
At the season’s midpoint, we claimed that the inconsistent Edler was not going to be the next Scott Stevens, but at least, he wasn’t the next Michel Petit. We take that back. All the tools, but no tool box.
Hansen Season: B+ Playoffs: C+ 82gp 39pts
I really liked Hansen’s play this year. He is only one of a few Canucks this season to have truly earned his contract. He was one of the few with energy during the playoffs, but was not enough of a difference maker. I see him as a potential second liner, as he consistently plays with a style of someone with something to prove. If he is allowed to break-out, he could hit 50pts.
It looked like the Danish Dash was going to validate our twenty goal prediction, but he fell just short. Like you’ve noted, was arguably (not that it’s saying much) the Canucks’ best all around playoff performer.
Raymond Season: C Playoffs: D 55gp 20pts
0.36 points per game average will not get it done as a second liner or a third liner. Coming of a broken back, he deserves some credit and slack, but the RFA is in limbo. GMMG did indicate in his end-of -season presser that Raymond is still
part of the Canuck’s plans. This seems to however fly in the face of MG’s opinion that the club needs to upgrade with size and strength. Whatever the case, for Raymond to stick around, he will have to except a short-term deal with a pay-cut. Raymond will have to seriously work-out in the off-season and work very hard to try to find his timing again if he is to have any success with the Canucks or any team in the up-coming season.
Raymond is done in Vancouver. There is speculation that the Canucks might sign him and deal him, but if there was any market for him, they would have done so at the deadline. While it’s easy to say that he should get a free pass after the horrible back injury, we forget that he sucked for all of last season, too. Like another previous ladies’ favourite in this town, Taylor Pyatt, he doesn’t seem to have the gumption to compete consistently at the NHL level.
Lapierre Season: C+ Playoffs: C 82gp 19pts
Like Hansen, I thought Lapierre had a good year. He proved to be a versatile third and fourth liner, and often provided the team with a boost of energy when others could not. He is going into the last year of his deal at $1million per, so I see
him doing just slightly better with 25pts. A good character / depth guy.
Fully agreed. When AV had him playing on the first line, that was the death knell on this season. Seriously, guys that have bounced around the league for years as character depth guys don’t all of a sudden become first liners on elite teams. Even if they are French.
Malhotra Season: C Playoffs: C- 78gp 18pts
In the final year of his contract, I don’t see much in the way of Malhotra improving from last season. Great in the face-off circle, but not much beyond that. Like Raymond, he deserves some slack. Malhotra is greatly respected in the dressing room, but is nearing the twilight of his career. I can see him traded this off-season as the face-off specialist experiment seems to have failed, if not, he will stay on the fourth line.
Ah yes, the one-eyed one trick pony. Sorry, that’s cruel. He deserved a better fate this season. But unless he is really as valuable in the room as everyone makes him out to be, he should be moved if at all possible.
Salo Season: C+ Playoffs: D- 69gp 25pts
Too many factors yet to be determined before Salo gets re-signed in Vancouver. He had a good, carefully managed regular season, but had 0 points and was a -3 in the playoffs. If AV sticks around, Salo likely will not. He was worth his 2 million last season, and stands to get a small raise. This might not fit with MG’s plans.
Salo could be better utilized we think. As the playoffs showed, when the play is amped up, he looks like an old man. Which he is. But for a team that was lacking a power play quarterback, he didn’t get much time there. We’d like to see him retained, playing 50 to 60 games, most of it on the power play. It’s called the Paul Reinhart special and it worked wonders back in the day.
Bieksa Season: C+ Playoffs: C 78gp 44pts
Decent season for a top-four guy, played hurt at the end of the season and through the playoffs. Vancouver’s #1 paid D-man needs to take it to the next level. His play is almost indicative of a player deemed as over-rated. If he is healthy, this guy can do it. But will he?
Bieksa gets too much criticism in this market. The problem is not with him, but with the Canucks lacking a true number one defenseman. Bieksa is not it. Neither is Dan Hamhuis. Nor Alex Edler. If Bieksa is manning your second pairing, all is good.
Hamhuis Season: C+ Playoffs: B 82gp 37pts
Imagine if Webber signed with Van and partnered with Hamhuis. A consistent, healthy season is what Hamhuis brought with a decent playoff effort. If his concussions are a thing of the past, I can see a repeat next year with +40pts.
Bang on. Hamhuis is perfect to play the silent steady partner to an elite defender.
Ballard Season: C Playoffs: C 47gp 7pts
Overpaid and underachiever. Gillis must move this contract this off-season. If AV stays, I can’t see Ballard as anything but a top 7 or 8 d-man. $4.2 per season for 3 more years is just to much money.
It’s easy dump on Ballard for underachieving, but his coach has done a nice job of putting him in situations where he can only look bad. How this guy gets no power play time, while the likes of Dan Hamhuis does, is just bizarre. As much as Gillis may have overestimated Ballard’s potential, Alain Vigneault has done everything to make Ballard (and thus Gillis) look bad.
Rome Season: C+ Playoffs: C 43gp 10pts
Can AV’s favourite guy overcome injury? One game in the playoffs finishing with a 0 +/- rating. He may command a hefty price as a UFA going into this summer. Van may benefit from a discounted contract if Rome is willing.
A perfect depth guy we’d think, but like you’ve noted, the price may not be right.
Tanev Season: C+ Playoffs: C 25gp 2 pts
An RFA this summer, Van will qualify and sign him this summer. With a respectable rookie campaign, young with veteran smarts, Tanev will get signed by Van.
There is much to like here. And while there is talk of areas he needs to improve, there is nothing wrong with what he brings - consistent, near mistake free play.
Alberts Season: C 44gp 4pts
One final year left on his contract, this depth player will look to elevate his game.
To us, he and Rome are somewhat redundant. Rome is a little more versatile, but can’t see the need for both with Gragnani and Kevin Connauton in the system.
Pahlsson Season: C Playoffs C- 19gp 6pts
I just don’t see this UFA coming back, certainly not with a contract worth more than $1.25 million per.
We’ve always thought he was overrated. Defensively sound play at forward is not rocket science. It can be learned by anyone that is determined to do so. Let’s see someone with some upside.
As for Ebbett, Weise, Volpatti and Bitz, your guess is as good as mine with what will happen with these guys. I guess as a RFA, Weise will be the most likely to stay, along with resigning UFA Ebbett.
We’re not sold on Ebbett. Yes, a decent skill guy, but the way the league has regressed, that may not mean much. And doesn’t Jordan Schroeder fit that bill anyway? We liked what we saw from Volpatti. As for Bitz, the guy just can’t stay healthy.
Kassian The jury’s still out. Hope he pans out as MG expects him too.
It’s clear what the attraction is with Kassian. He’s a big boy and can skate. But we truly expected some meanness. There was none. That’s disturbing. Even when Cam Neely struggled here in his youth, you could tell he was nasty. And even Jim Sandlak would occasionally awake from his slumber and pound someone. The common excuse is his youth. But geez, isn’t that when you’ve got the most angst?
Gragnani RFA, hard to tell what will happen here. He’s a young player with potential according to some hockey analysts.
He’s certainly smooth. But soft. Really soft.
GM Gillis I can’t see FA replacing Gillis at this time. After-all, the club finished first overall with a very respectable 51-22-9 record. With the pending Luongo situation, 11 UFA’s and 8 RFA’s to deal with this off-season with the main and minor-league club, it would seem to much of a risk to bring in someone new to the helm at this time. I also see AV starting next season with the club, though I suspect that he will be on a very short leash as expectations will be much higher to get off to a good start to the season. GMMG is facing his toughest off-season challenges to date. How he navigates this time will ultimately determine if he gets an extension before the new-year.
We found Gillis’ season ending support of AV to be surprisingly strong. As a GM, that’s your first card to play when adversity strikes. And he seems to be prepared to stand by his man even if it means losing his job? Wow. Whatever Rick Ley had on Pat Quinn, AV seemingly has on MG.
AV If Gillis stays on as GM, I can’t imagine that AV will be let go this off-season. Again, AV and MG guided the team to first overall, that has to mean something. If AV can manage to guide the club to a strong start of the season, I would say he has a good chance of coaching the team into next-year’s playoffs. Ultimately, it is up to GMMG as to the tools he gives AV to make it work. If AV and the team get off to a bad start, look to see AV replaced before December. Though unfounded and denied by the great-one himself, rumours have been circulating that Gretzky and FA have shown an interest in possibly working together. It what capacity that would be is not clear, however imagine Gretzky replacing AV and Mac T replacing Bowness. I’d be curious to know if GMMG has any type of history with Gretzky. I am one of those guys who believe if there is smoke, there is generally some fire.
Wow, that’s a rumour we had not heard. The Canucks’ window of opportunity to work with Gretzky should have closed when they gave him that midnight ultimatum as a pending free agent signing all those years ago. The Great One hasn’t shown that he’s got a superior intellect for managing a hockey team. Please say this isn’t true.
It’s hard to believe that a competitor like Gillis would walk away from a job that is still undone. If he does not return, that will reflect most poorly on ownership.
As for Hodgson, if what MG says istrue, then it is what it is and it is up to Kassian to show if MG made the right decision or not in acquiring him at the trade deadline. Remember, when Mogilny was acquired, it was soon learned that he was considered a ‘cancer’ in the dressing room, and if memory serves me correctly, the 95’ and beyond Canucks declined after their amazing 94’ cup run (one could argue that not only was the team lacking skill in 1995 and beyond, but lacked good chemistry also). If Hodgson’s actions were a legitimate distraction for the club, then all MG should be judged by is if he traded Hodgson to early.
We think that MG’s throwing of Hodgson under the bus is completely classless no matter what happened. There are two sides to every story and Hodgson is not talking. But we know two things. Gillis drafted Hodgson on the basis that he had remarkable character. And Hodgson had his coach publicly proclaim that he was a malingerer, when he was actually suffering from a serious injury. So either Gillis erred badly in his estimation of Hodgson OR the team owed him an acceptable apology (one he obviously didn’t get) for the “misunderstanding” about his injury. Much like when Pavel Bure left town, the management group has done too much to make the player look like the villain. It’s lame.
Any-ways, sorry for the long manuscript, it has been quiet on the board lately, so hopefully my input can generate some comments or opinions.
Thanks for contributing. Please continue to do so.
On an unrelated topic, the NHL player that I hate right now is D. Brown.
Indeed. Hard to believe that he might have been had at the trading deadline.