RK17 Returns…

For the first time in his NHL career, when Ryan Kesler hits the ice in Rogers Arena on November 20, 2014…it will not be for the home side. It is his second game facing his former team but first at the arena that he once called home. How will the crowd respond to his return to Vancouver? Will there be cheers to welcome back a former franchise player who gave this city some incredible memories for over ten years or will he be met with boos to acknowledge the way in which he left?

KeslerDucksFlashback to last season when the rumor mills spun out of control that Ryan Kesler wanted out of Vancouver. Follow up that memory with the incessant denial on the part of Ryan Kesler, that of course those were only rumors and he wanted to finish his career as a Canuck. And then came that fateful day in June at the 2014 NHL draft when rumor became fact and Kesler had been traded to the Anaheim Ducks.

Love him or hate him, there is NO changing the fact that Kesler was a HUGE part of the Vancouver Canucks success in recent history. He may not have left in the best possible way BUT prior to his feisty exit, he gave this city and this team some incredible franchise moments. More than ten years of history that will in no way be changed, no matter what the final outcome is when Kesler returns to the arena he once called home with his new team. Ryan Kesler has moved on. The Vancouver Canucks have moved on. BOTH sides have moved on and BOTH sides being in the same division will have their paths cross multiple times during a season.

I always loved Kesler’s tenacity on the ice and ability as a two-way forward but I was definitely disappointed in the way he left. I have no doubt that he will have success with Anaheim and that the Canucks will have their own success moving forward. When the puck finally drops between the Canucks and the Ducks in Rogers Arena, the dust will settle and one team will walk away with two points. No matter which way the crowd views Kesler when he skates out with his new team, there is no changing the history he gave this city and there is no erasing his new chapter with Anaheim.

As always, until next time, nuck said.

Sarah E.L.

 

A Prelude to the 2014-2015 Season

IMG_0071The 2014 off-season felt even longer than usual with having missed the playoffs BUT a new season is just around the corner! The Young Stars Tournament in Penticton, BC will give the fans an up close view of the team’s prospects prior to the start of training camp when they will join the veteran players to prepare for the pre-season.

This year the team will face some BIG questions moving forward with the many changes that have happened since their summer began…

Will Trevor Linden handle the pressure of transitioning from former player to being an NHL executive?

IMG_0686April 9, 2014 will go down in Vancouver Canucks history as the day Captain Canuck came home and was crowned Mr. President! Fans were ecstatic to learn Trevor Linden was returning to the franchise to help bring back the excitement to the game. Of course, with his new work also comes great expectations and every decision he makes will be forever debated. He has had his work cut out for him since that first day on the job as he aims to help the team find their way back to the WIN column. His work began as soon as he suited up for day one, and his work will continue as long as he remains with the team.

First order of duty he had to find a GM and the rumors that swirled about Jim Benning being hired became FACT when Linden made the official announcement. Benning and Linden (Team Lindenning, if you will) went into the draft saying they meant business and they wasted no time in making ripples in the water. It’s no secret that Ryan Kesler wanted out and wanted out, NOW…and had only TWO destinations in mind, limiting the possibilities of what the team could get in return. By the end of the draft, Kesler was no longer a Vancouver Canuck, the team had 2 first round picks, and acquired many new players both through the draft and various trades.

The work in the off-season was far from done, the team still needed a coach.

Will the Canucks adjust to yet another NEW coach?

DesjardinsThe outspoken Torts era did not last after a disastrous 2013-2014 season where nearly everything went wrong and by season’s end the team said “Adios, Torts”. The hiring of a new coach was not something that Trevor Linden and Jim Benning took lightly and they interviewed many candidates before hiring Willie Desjardins. Desjardins is coming off a championship season with the AHL’s Texas Stars. Having coached in the WHL and AHL, this is Desjardins first NHL head coaching position(he previously served as an associate coach with Dallas). Perhaps, Desjardins seems like an outside the box choice because of his limited NHL experience but perhaps that is exactly what the team needs…to start thinking outside the box.

Desjardins is a players coach that has succeeded at every level that he’s coached at and has more than earned his chance at the NHL level. From day one he has been putting the time in with meeting the veterans, newly acquired players AND meeting the prospects….yes the prospects because every player within the franchise/system needs to and will be on the same page moving forward. Does that sound refreshing from last year’s approach of which the coaching staff was hardly ever, if at all with the prospects in any capacity.

Last year’s new system was absolutely foreign to nearly the entire roster and it showed on the ice, each and every game. This year Desjardins will be coming in with his own system but one that will encompass helping the Canucks to rediscover their previous successful areas and strengthening the areas that need the team needs to be stronger. It may seem like that is too much to many on the outside but already this new coaching staff seems to be putting in the work with all of the players within the organization from top to bottom. Will that be a challenge? Yes, but the most difficult challenges can be the ones that are the most rewarding.

Ryan Kesler is long gone in So-Cal. How will the Canucks fill the Kesler void and will anyone take his place?

KESLERAdios Kes! The simple truth is that NO, no one will replace Ryan Kesler, but with his vacancy in the line up there is ample opportunity for MANY to step up. As much as the fans loved Kesler’s tenacity on the ice as one of league’s top two-way players, the fans HATED the way he exited, burning bridges on his way out the door. Kesler may not have left the team or this city on the best of terms, but that does not take away from his talent on the ice and the many good memories that he gave this city.

No one will replace him and nor should they, each player should have their own story. Kesler has moved on, and that opens a gap in the Canucks offensive line up creating a HUGE opportunity for more than one player to step up and play a bigger role. Will that player be Nick Bonino who was acquired in the Kesler trade or a ready to play Zack Kassian or will an unpredictable candidate pop up during training camp? Unfair comparisons will be made all year long between Kesler and whoever takes his place but only time will tell us the answer and perhaps surprise everyone in the process.

Will the Sedins rebound? Will everyone else?

SedinTwins2Last year, was a terrible season by both the Sedins. Last year they were told to change their playing style, played big PK minutes, struggled on the power-play, Henrik (the iron man who had not missed a game in 10 years!) missed 12 games AND the Olympics but probably should have missed more due to injuries, and Daniel missed 9 games due to injuries. The twins combined for 21 games missed due to injuries and that does not include the scare in the final game of the season that saw Daniel taken off the ice on a stretcher. Luckily, for Daniel and the Canucks, he proved to be okay with little or no after effects.

Now some may say that the Sedins are fading and that we can only expect the point totals to continue decreasing over the next four years. I disagree. Yes, it is true that twins did not produce last season as we’ve grown accustomed to year after year; and yes they struggled all year long but you cannot expect to change HOW they play as Torts did and expect them to yield the same offensive results. Changing how they played, changed their on-ice results and disappointed many fans expectations. They are a huge part of the team’s offense and they will be called upon to be a big part of that this year. If the Sedins are given the opportunity to return to their roots and focusing on offense along with being productive on the power-play, then I have NO doubts that they can find their way back to producing a point-per-game pace.

Let’s be completely frank, nearly every player on the roster had a terrible season under the new Torts system aside from maybe Chris Tanev. There were moments when the team shined (vs. Boston in December) but those were quickly overshadowed by the continuous downward spiral that began in January after the Torts hallway tirade. Does that mean that they will never find their way again? No. Injuries, suspensions and losing streaks have a way of getting in a player’s head and changing the way they carry themselves on the ice. – THAT happened to a more than a few of the roster players last year and at times, it was difficult to watch. The thing about players who have an off year, is, that they train harder in the off-season and they come back hungrier to prove themselves the next year. The team has had a long off-season to prepare for the 82-game battle and they all are determined to BE better and PLAY better than what they did last season. It’s a NEW year with a blank slate and everyone has an opportunity to start over. Will there be players that struggle? Probably, but there will also be players who will surprise everyone.

Will Ryan Miller rediscover his Vezina captivating ways?

MILLER3Ryan Miller is an impeccable athlete and while the last few seasons have been far from perfect for him, he still has a lot that he wants to accomplish. There are those who say they think he will do well, those who think he will falter and those who hope to see yet another goalie controversy. As for me, I simply wish him the best, hoping that he will further mentor Eddie Lack while together they will stabilize the back end. It would be incredibly refreshing to see THIS city and the FANS simply support BOTH their goalies from the START, don’t you think?

I have a feeling that Ryan Miller will be winning over a lot of fans this year. He did enjoy playing in Vancouver during the Olympics except for maybe that epic OT goal from Sidney Crosby, but this time he will have something he didn’t back then, the HOME crowd will be on his side!

Will the team be playoff bound in April?

I know that looking at this team on paper, that it will be no easy task to get into the playoffs, but I also know that anything can happen during an 82-game season. If getting to the playoffs was easy, then every team would be there every year and it would not be an epic battle for the Stanley Cup. I think that, yes, this team very well could be playoff bound in April, surprising a lot of people and I understand why there are many who say no, that it is a pipe dream.

Can things really be as bad as they were in the 2013-2014 season?

Let’s be honest, can things really be as bad as they were last year? Everything that could go wrong, DID, and watching the team some nights was like a nightmare. Remember the Islanders game (yes that 7-goal third period)? Henrik getting injured, not once but twice…did ANYONE see that one coming?

I cannot promise that things will be perfect or that things will not fall off the rails once again this year. All I can say is: that there will be ups, there will be downs, there will incredible moments that we never saw coming and shocking moments that will take our breath away, there will be moments that break your heart, and there will be moments that make you stand still. No matter which of these moments that there are more or less of on the 82-game journey that makes up the regular season, I would not trade one of them away. Each season is a unique experience and a forever part of a team’s forever changing history.

I look forward to watching history unfold this season, whatever it may be when the Vancouver Canucks return to the ice on October 8, 2014.

As always, until next time, nuck said.

Sarah E.L.

2013-2014 Season Debrief

It has been a few weeks since my last post but I’m back with a glimpse of what this last year held for the Vancouver Canucks. The 2013-2014 season is now wrapped for the Canucks and it featured a little of bit of everything from the good

to the bad. It will be an off-season full of questions, answers, changes and preparations for the new season around the corner. Today, we will debrief by taking a closer look at the bad and the good that made up the Canucks 2013-2014 season.

First let’s look at the not so good and follow it up with all of the good that did happen despite the final outcome.

The BAD:

November saw inconsistency that was not solved until December only to be broken apart by January with an unnatural influx of injuries.

The Canucks iron man, Henrik Sedin was injured not once BUT twice which delayed his 1000th game from being played prior to the Olympics in early February to March 12th vs Winnipeg. Have I mentioned that out of the probable injuries….NO ONE expected Henrik to be on that miss extended time list once let alone twice.

Andrew Alberts suffered a concussion late December in a game vs. Calgary where he was hit from behind into the boards. He never returned to the lineup and as of the end of the season was still suffering concussion symptoms. The league NEVER reviewed the hit or awarded any discipline for the hit that sideline Alberts for the season and the foreseeable future.

Mike Santorelli suffered a season ending should injury that took him out of the line up in January ending his Cinderella heroics for the home team.

Daniel Sedin was sidelined due to injuries more than once this year which only added to the team’s scoring woes in the second half of the year.

Alex Burrows suffered from multiple injuries(a broken foot, broken jaw, the list goes on!) that were only added to the frustration of not scoring goals.

Torts stormed the Calgary Flames dressing room following a first period brawl between the two teams. While I loved his intent to defend his players, he should not have gone anywhere near the visitor’s dressing room. The result was Torts being suspended for 6 games.

Zack Kassian struggled early in the year which was not helped by an 8-game suspension.

The Canucks lost the Heritage Classic. As a result of the controversial choice to start Eddie Lack over the Canucks franchise leading goalie Roberto Luongo were forced to hear the fans chant WE WANT LU! for a good 2-3 solid minutes midway through the game.

Following yet another season where things started off well but evolved to Luongo being relegated to the role of back up….finally saw the Canucks make the deal that could never be made. March 4, 2014 Roberto Luongo was traded to the Florida Panthers. Best of luck in Florida LU!

The panic that ensued on social media when a VANCOUVER reporter sent out a tweet that the Canucks had traded Ryan Kesler….(which thank goodness was shortly proven as false!)

Missing the playoffs for the first time since 2008.

Following a disappointing year, Mike Gillis was relieved of both his General Manager and President duties. (Gillis worked with the Canucks since the end of the 2007-2008 season & NOT everything he did was terrible.)

In their final game of the season on home ice Daniel Sedin was hit from behind into the end boards by the Calgary Flames forward Paul Byron. Daniel Sedin collapsed, laid very still and was unable get up off the ice…cuing medical trainers and paramedics to bring a stretcher. Daniel was taken off the ice on a stretcher and straight to the hospital. Byron received a 5 minute penalty on the play which was deemed as ENOUGH discipline by the league. A very scary moment for Daniel, the team, and the fans and while it was later revealed that he would be okay…I’m sorry BUT ANY hit that SENDS A PLAYER off the ice on a stretcher and to the hospital SHOULD deem more than a quick review with NO supplemental discipline. Perhaps if it had been Crosby or Toews that had been taken off the ice on a stretcher, the league would have taken the incident more seriously. The NAME of a player and the LOGO of the team they play for SHOULD NOT matter when it comes to moments like that one…EVERY player should be held accountable. (*I apologize for the mild rant…but that HIT & its zero concern by the NHL really severely bothered me…)

The GOOD:

The Canucks had their best October in years including a 7-game road trip that saw them post a 5-1-1 record.

The announcement of the the Sedins re-signing with the Canucks for 4 more years. SO GLAD that the Sedins will be back in blue and green for four more years! No one set of brothers has quite displayed their quiet yet commanding professionalism both on and off the ice.

Pavel Bure’s #10 was FINALLY lifted to the rafters as his jersey was officially retired by the Vancouver Canucks on November 2, 2013. The team also beat the Maple Leafs 4-0 on home ice on the banner night, making the evening a WIN-WIN.

BC born and raised Mike Santorelli became an unexpected hero for the home fans as he seemed to always find a way to make the play that made a difference. Santo showed versatility by being useful no matter where he played in the line up and scoring many a clutch goal. Santo was on a roll as the NHL’s best steal prior to his injury with his low cap hit & absolute limitless work ethic.

December was a month when the team could do almost no wrong. They picked up points in all but one game. My FAVOURITE moment during December was the game versus the Bruins…the team was absolutely determined and took over the game after a timely time out by Torts early in the game.

Daniel Sedin and Alex Edler brought home silver medals from the Sochi 2014 Olympic games. Dan Hamhuis and Roberto Luongo brought home gold medals from the Sochi 2014 Olympic games.

The Canucks participated in their very first outdoor game experience when they hosted the Ottawa Senators at BC Place as part of the Stadium Series in the 2014 Tim Horton’s Heritage Classic.

Henrik Sedin played in his 1000th game both of his career and in a Canuck uniform. (March 12, 2014)

The 2014 Canucks for Kids Fund Telethon held on March 19th, raised over $500,000 to help kids in BC!

Shawn Matthias was acquired in the Roberto Luongo deal with the Florida Panthers. He showed some amazing skill and potential in the final stretch. He will be one to watch if he stays with the team next season!

Alex Burrows may not have found the back of the net as much as he would have liked (he did eventually break through with a few beauties!) but his game still had a lot of positives…he was purposeful in most areas of the ice and a large part of the team’s first half amazing PK unit!

Ryan Kesler score 20+ goals for the 6th time in his career.

Ryan Kesler setting the record straight that he didn’t ask for a trade and that he hopes to stay with the Canucks for the entirety of this career.

Zack Kassian became a beast hitting his groove in final part of the season despite the final outcome. He will be fun to watch next season!

Following the news of Mike Gillis being let go, the rumor mills were spinning that Trevor Linden was returning to the Canucks. Rumor became FACT on April 9, 2014. Trevor Linden returned to the team that drafted him and where he played 16 of 19 seasons when the Canucks named him, the new President of Hockey Operations.

The Canucks are not partaking in the post season but hey there is a silver lining in getting a top 10 draft pick! The Canucks will draft 6th overall in the 2014 NHL draft in June.

In CONCLUSION: So ends the tale that was the 2013-2014 Vancouver Canucks season. Yes, it was not perfect in any way shape or form and yes the end was disappointing but there is plenty to be excited about for the team’s future despite what most of the local media might say. The Canucks prospect pool with the likes of Frankie Corrado, Brendan Gaunce, Hunter Shinkaruk, Bo Horvat, Dane Fox, etc. is a very exciting group of players nearly ready to make their mark on the NHL.

The first half of the season expectations were very high and then came the injury brigade that took the team by storm. I cannot recall ANY season where a team was so overtaken by injuries throughout the year…it felt absolutely absurd at times. Sure nearly everything that could go wrong did and everyday felt like there was yet another injury or incident that affected the roster…but sometimes that is just how it goes. There will be bad seasons for every team just like every team will have great seasons, but not one season will ever be exactly the same.

Every season is an 82-game journey full of ups and downs, twists and bends…and sometimes if you’re lucky that journey extends into the post season but if it does not extend that does not change the thrill of the journey…it may be disappointing but it does not change my loyalty.

I would have loved to see my Canucks in the madness that is 2014 playoffs but I understand why that did not happen and I know that there is work to be done before the puck drops on the 2014-2015 season. Still even so I am optimistic for the off-season and upcoming season and mark my words they will make the post-season next year! (I know not everyone will agree that statement…but hey that’s okay, we don’t have to always agree. Let’s wait and see what happens come next April!)

OH and ONE LAST note before moving on…Eddie Lack never asked for the cards he was dealt. He never came in with the intent to steal Luongo’s spot and send him packing. Roberto Luongo was and is a player that Lack idolizes and was an incredible example of what being a professional both on and off the ice should look like. Goalies never get the credit or the respect they deserve in the NHL, particularly from the fans…especially when a season does not go according to plan. Vancouver fans have been very hard on their goalies…LOVING them when all goes well and absolutely tearing them down when things are wrong. Let me remind you, that while goalies will steal games for their teams…they do need a little help in the scoring department to win games as well. Lack had the weight of an entire city thrust upon his shoulders when Luongo was traded. It could not have been easy to see his mentor leave and suddenly all the pressure was on him. I remind that you LU advised us(the city) to take care of Eddie during his tenure! He deserves a chance to prove himself and wouldn’t it be something to see this city show their support for their goalie from the very beginning? Eddie Lack is a star in the making and will make his mark yet on this team…all we need to do moving forward is support him and allow him the chance.

Looking ahead there will be questions that will need addressing during the off-season and come October.

QUESTIONS:

Who will be the Canucks select with their 6th overall draft pick? Draisaitl? Ehlers? Nylander? Virtanen? Ritchie?

Will the team be able find a way to come together as a cohesive unit for the 2014-2015 season?

Will Torts return as coach for a second season or will he be let go as the team brings in a new voice? (Honestly I don’t quite think it fair to judge Torts one year where nearly everything that could go wrong did….I’d like to see him have a second chance to prove what he can do when he has a nearly 100% healthy roster!)

Will Trevor Linden be able to find a way to bring the team together with the right combination of current players, new players, coaching staff? Can he complete the puzzle?

Who will be named as the Canucks new General Manager? (Lots of names being thrown around from current assistant GM Gilman, to Benning to former players. Linden said there WILL be a GM in place prior to the draft at the end of June.)

What moves will be made in the 2014 off-season that will impact the team in the new season?

What will the final roster look like at the start of the 2014-2015 NHL season?

The above questions are merely just a few of MANY questions that I have seen and heard since the season came to a close. It will be a long off-season for the team, but it will also be an opportunity for them to comeback EVEN stronger and MORE determined come September. None of them were happy with the ending and all of them expressed a desire to come back and prove that sentiment when they return for the new season.

Are you ready for a wild ride Canuck nation? It is not going to be a quiet summer by any means as the team looks to find the missing piece(s) of the puzzle prior to the puck drop on the 2014-2015 season..

In the mean time are you all enjoying the madness that has been the 2014 NHL playoffs so far?

As always, until next time, nuck said.

Sarah E.L.

 

OLYMPIC DREAMING…

The Olympics are drawing ever closer every day as athletes are announced for their respective teams and sports…BUT none cause the endless debates like that of the hockey rosters.

Will they or won’t they announce the players who SHOULD be locks or who we deem has earned a spot? Will the rosters reflect the best players in the NHL given that the players were officially given permission to partake in the games if they were called upon by their countries? Will there be standout players from other leagues? Will some players that “should have been” named to the Olympic rosters be left off?

In answer to all of the above questions: YES, YES, YES and YES. The NHL is full of talent from all around the globe AND every roster has been debated ad nauseum from the moment the 2014 Olympics were on the horizon, and will continued to be debated until the final buzzer of the gold medal game [and probably beyond as the 2018 games sneak up on us and everyone will have opinion how to improve the rosters that were named for the impending games in February].

The Canucks will be sending 7 regulars from their lineup to the Sochi 2014 Winter Games in February. For these 7 Canucks [& many other players league wide], the Olympic dream is becoming a reality when they put their country pride on the line.

ROBERTO LUONGO & DAN HAMHUIS will both be sporting the maple leaf in red & white when they represent CANADA at the 2014 SOCHI games in February.

ROBERTO LUONGO & DAN HAMHUIS will both be sporting the maple leaf in red & white when they represent CANADA at the 2014 SOCHI games in February.

Roberto Luongo being named to Team Canada should come as no surprise to anyone, he has international experience AND he was after all a BIG part of 2010 GOLD MEDAL team. For all the critics out there, let’s take a closer look at Roberto’s resume in the last four years.

Going back to the start of the 2010-2011 season Roberto Luongo has posted a very respectable 94-45-24 overall record and 14 shutouts in 163 games played.

2010-2011: 38-15-7. *4 shutouts. *0.928 SV %. *2.11 GAA. [Career best numbers]

2011-2012: 31-14-8. *5 shutouts. *0.919 SV%. *2.41 GAA.

2012-2013:    9-6-3.  *2 shutouts. *0.907 SV%. *2.56 GAA.

2013-2014: 16-10-6. *3 shutouts. *0.922 SV%  *2.22 GAA. ***We’ve only just passed the 1/2 mark & Luongo could still catch his career best numbers in SV% & GAA that he posted in the 2010-2011 season! 

It’s hard to believe that despite all the drama that Luongo has endured, his consistency has hardly wavered in his on ice play. People didn’t think that he’d be a game changer in the 2010 games but I remind you of his SAVE on Demitra in the last minute of the Slovakia game that secured Canada’s place in the GOLD medal game…that my friends was a game changer…that stop was the difference between bronze and gold qualification. Playing in the Olympics will only serve to raise Luongo’s game to another level.

Dan Hamhuis will be representing Canada and perhaps that surprise a lot of people yes? True Hamhuis struggled to start the season and it wasn’t always pretty to watch BUT in the last 6 weeks with the injuries piling up on the back end, Hamhuis has been called upon to help solidify the blueline [he leads the team in the +/- category with +12! That’s impressive considering that Edler who has only played 27 games mind you, is at -12].

Most people tend to forget that he represented Canada in the 2013 World Championship and played impeccably well defensively on the same BIG ice that will be required in the SOCHI games. His experience on the big ice will only serve to help Hamhuis thrive on the Olympic stage. The Olympics are going to be a great experience for Hamhuis to learn from moving forward.

Ryan Kesler will represent the USA in the 2014 SOCHI Winter Games in February!

Ryan Kesler will represent the USA in the 2014 SOCHI Winter Games in February!

Ryan Kesler has had an interesting 4 years since his 2010 silver medal performance to say the least! He started on a high posting career highs and winning the 2011 Selke trophy before being dogged by injuries 2 years in a row before finally being able to play 100% healthy as this current season began. In the last 4 years, Kesler has accumulated 164 points [84 goals, 86 assists] in 221 games played.

He seems to have rediscovered his determination that he lost when he was overcome with the injury bug.Torts has a lot to do with Kesler finding his game again. When Ryan Kesler in 100% healthy he is almost always a game changer on your roster. He will be an asset to team USA.

Alexander Edler, Henrik and Daniel Sedin will represent Sweden at the 2014 SOCHI Winter Games in February.

Alexander Edler, Henrik and Daniel Sedin will represent Sweden at the 2014 SOCHI Winter Games in February.

Henrik and Daniel Sedin will be representing Sweden at the Olympics for the 3rd time when they go Sochi. They come to the team with an incredible amount of experience both in the NHL and on the international stage. In the spring of 2013 they won the GOLD medal at the World Championship. In the last 4 years the Sedins have combined for 508 points [149 goals, 359 assists], back to back Art Ross Trophies, 1 Ted Lindsay award, 1 Hart trophy and mesmerizing the league with their ridiculous chemistry that Canucks fans are lucky to watch every night. The Sedins will be able to utilize their sedinery ways with the assistance of the likes of Zetterberg and Kronwall!

Alexander Edler will also be representing Sweden as he makes his Olympic debut [Edler was also a part of the 2013 GOLD medal World Championship team]. Edler when 100% healthy which he will be prior to the Olympics, is an asset to the blueline from his shot blocking, big hits, defensive play and timely scoring [& oh yes he can score in the shootout!].

All three of these players will be an asset to team Sweden in Sochi as they look to find the formula that made the team successful in Turin.

Yannick Weber will  represent Switzerland at the 2014 SOCHI Winter Games in February.

Yannick Weber will represent Switzerland at the 2014 SOCHI Winter Games in February.

Yannick Weber perhaps does not have the most NHL experience BUT he will be representing Switzerland for the SECOND time as he debuted with his home country in the 2010 Olympics. Weber has been very solid for the Canucks since being recalled from the farm team [due to the injury bug that hit the defense!]. His shot from the point can be lethal when unleashed.

Olympic dreaming…will soon be reality for Roberto Luongo, Dan Hamhuis, Henrik Sedin, Daniel Sedin, Alexander Edler and Yannick Weber. The 2014 Sochi Winter Games are drawing near and will draw the attention of the world as we all hold our collective breath waiting for the puck to drop. Every country will be vying for gold BUT only ONE can walk away with coveted prize of hockey gold.

Are you ready?

As always, until next time, nuck said.

Sarah E.L.

December 2 Remember

Happy New Year hockey fans!

While we will all be keeping our eyes on the 2014 Winter Classic and the announcement of the USA Olympic hockey roster[Congratulations Ryan Kesler!], I will be taking a closer look at the December that was for the Canucks. Spoiler alert: it was fantastic!

November was NOT a good month for the Canucks as they could not solve the riddle of how to win back to back games no matter how good they played. November was the month they survived and December was the month they thrived.

In December the team posted an impressive 10-1-2 record picking up 22/26 points.December wasn’t exactly easy either as the team lost Burrows, Sestito, Edler, Stanton, Luongo and Alberts to various injuries throughout the month. Sestito is the only one to return to the line up so far.

Coming into December the Canucks had not posted back to back wins since October…which sounds pretty unbelievable YET it is very true. They knew they had to be better from top to bottom and it would require everyone to step up. Points are vital to divisional standings and the wildcard spots…and while they have not yet caught the leading Anaheim Ducks, they have closed the gap between themselves and LA and San Jose as they have stacked up some points.

Step up indeed they did. They opened December with 7 straight, yes you read that right…7 straight WINS including 5 straight at home and points in 8 straight over all.

During that 7-game win streak there were some stand out performances from a few players in particular. The line of Higgins-Kesler-Santorelli showcased some fantastic chemistry while the goal-tenders each posted shutouts.

The month opened with Ryan Kesler leading the charge with back to back 2-goal game performances against Carolina and Nashville.

The Canucks saw their 2-goal lead disappear very quickly when Carolina scored twice in 10 seconds early in the middle frame to tie the game. The team could have easily buckled in that moment BUT instead Ryan Kesler was quick to take back the lead for the Canucks.

Kesler put on a show in the third period against Nashville and made absolutely certain the team took two points home.

Phoenix came calling and the Canucks were trying to catch them in the division standings as the gap between the two was closing.

Now this game would end up going to overtime before the Canucks eventually won BUT this goal from Henrik is just ridiculous:

After Phoenix came the young Colorado Avalanche who have been aptly coached by the ever colorful Patrick Roy. The Canucks were in complete control of this game from the puck drop however as the Higgins-Kesler-Santorelli line took care of the offense while Luongo stood on his head to lead the team to a 3-1 victory.

The stand out in this game aside from Luongo’s stellar goal-tending was Mike Santorelli who has quickly become a fan favourite as he has been easily one of the most consistent players all season long.

Did I mention the BIG wins against Boston and Chicago? The atmosphere in Rogers Arena during the Boston game was electric, as loud as a playoff game. It was the first time the Bruins have played in Vancouver since June 15, 2011 and the while the stakes were not high, both teams wanted this victory. Both the Canucks and the fans were ready for this game…and the fans made sure to be heard all game long. Did I mention the unconventional time out called by Torts early in the 2nd period that turned the tide back to the Canucks and they never looked back.

Canucks went into the madhouse following a disappointing game in Dallas [their ONLY regulation loss in the month] and did not have the start they hoped for as the Blackhawks took a 2-0 lead. Cue the comeback kids…Daniel Sedin tied the game midway through the third period forcing this game to go to extra time. Over time did not solve the game although Santorelli came awfully close to tying the game with the clock winding down. Eddie Lack took part in his first NHL shootout…an 8 round shoot out in the mad house…and came out on the winning side stopping the likes of Kane, Toews & Hossa!

Have I mentioned the injury bug that bit the team in the very first game by taking away Burrows with a broken jaw. Alex Edler and Ryan Stanton were soon to follow…and left our defense seriously drained. Luongo’s injury came in late in the month against Winnipeg and was determined to be day-to-day and left Eddie Lack with the reigns to manage until such time that Luongo returns to the lineup. Lack has been more than capable in helping this team close out the month 2-0-1 picking up 5/6 points including posting his 2nd NHL shutout in his career and in the month. The latest injury came as the month drew to a close to Andrew Alberts, who suffered a concussion after taking a hit from Brian McGrattan early in the game against Calgary.

The injury bug hits every team (just look at Pittsburgh!) and if they want to have success they have to find ways to win despite missing key pieces. Injuries while frustrating, allow an opportunity for other players to step into a bigger role and bigger minutes as they help the team move forward. December is a month in which not every win was pretty but the team has had to redefine the ways in which they have won while different role players have stepped up as hero.

Torts has made it clear since day one that shot blocking and special teams would be vital to his team’s success. Special teams will be key as they always are moving forward and the Canucks will look to keep improving their power play and penalty kill teams. Shot blocking is expected of each and every player in every situation [5-on-5, 5-on-4 or 5-on-3]. If I have mentioned their power play once, I’ve mentioned it 100 times…it is no secret they struggled with the man advantage early but it has most definitely improved as of late [6 power play goals in their first 20 games, 13 PPG in their last 21 games]. Special teams may not win you every game BUT success long term is much easier attained when your special teams are successful. The Canucks have relied heavily on their strong penalty kill and slowly their power play is catching up as December closed and the season progresses. **Did I mention they have the league’s number ONE ranked penalty kill?

It truly was a December to remember,

As 2014 begins, January will see the return of Luongo, Burrows and potentially Edler. There is no sense in rushing Luongo with Lack’s steady play, but the belief is that Luongo will be back in the lineup by the weekend road trip in California. Alex Burrows will be a spark plug as he always is when he is in the lineup when he makes his comeback. Burrows does more than just score goals, he does all the little things and is a huge asset to our penalty kill unit. Alex Edler will be a welcome addition back to the backend as the defense has taken a few hits thanks to various injuries. Lucky for the Canucks, they have been able to rely on Hamhuis and some unexpected depth but they will gladly welcome back some regulars as the season moves forward. A healthy line up will be key to having success down the stretch and into the playoffs.

41 games in, we are officially at the halfway point in the season, can you believe it? 41 more games remain during which we will see an Olympic break as the Sochi games take the world captive. 41 more games before the playoff madness of a new playoff format will unfold and the wildcards are determined. 41 games before the real work begins for all the playoff contenders.

The Canucks closed 2013 with an impeccable 10-1-2 December and an overall 23-11-7 record in the first half of the season. Here’s to a great 2014 for the Canucks and all the teams in the NHL. It’s going to be a wild ride to the finish and we are lucky to be able to watch as it unfolds.

December to remember indeed as the Vancouver Canucks posted a 10-1-2 record. (Eerily similar to their December 2010 when they posted a 11-1-2 record)

Here’s December 2013 at glance! December to remember indeed as the Vancouver Canucks posted a 10-1-2 record. (Eerily similar to their December 2010 when they posted a 11-1-2 record)

October was the month that the Canucks surprised a lot people as they adjusted to Torts’ style. November was the month that the Canucks survived. December was the month that the Canucks thrived and will be looking to build upon that success as they open 2014 with a New Year’s Day game against Tampa Bay [yes I know, not quite as big as the Winter Classic BUT the 2 points that come with it are vital with the ever tight in the Pacific Division].

***The Team Canada Men’s hockey team Olympic roster will be announced January 7, 2014. [& I expect one or two Canucks to be named to that roster..see what I did there?].

As always, until next time, nuck said.

Sarah E.L.

Quick Turnaround

From panic following the first loss of the year to MASS celebration over the first win.

Mind you, I know more than a few people panicked following Edmonton’s quick start on the scoreboard after which they were given a power play. Turns out there was no reason to panic as the Canucks were quick to respond by scoring short-handed to tie the game at one. By the end of 40 minutes the team had established a 5-1 lead and would go on to win the game 6-2.

The Canucks did a lot of good things in this game. Positives from Game 2:

  • Canucks put 44 shots on net [All Canucks registered a shot on net except Weber]…whereas after game 1 everyone was asking why they didn’t shoot the puck more.
  • A fiery Ryan Kesler accounted for 9 shots and a fight.
  • Luongo played solid with 21 saves.
  • 6 different Canucks scored goals [Richardson, Hamhuis, Hansen, Daniel Sedin, Kesler, and Garrison].
  • Special teams were once again in top form: accounting for 2 short-handed goals and a power-play goal.
  • 2 goals were scored 18 seconds apart.
  • The Sedins combined for some #sedinery racking up 5 points.
  • Torts once again establishes he doesn’t care what others say but rather the effort the team puts on the ice.
  • The win came in front of the home crowd.

Long story short, the team played one of the best games I have seen them play in nearly 2 years. Aside from the early goal by Edmonton, Vancouver was in control of this game. That being said, it was one game and one game does not make a season. We will take the win and move on to the next one.

There is little time to savor the victory as the team is back at it again in Calgary tonight. The focus shifts to Game 3 and looking to gain their first road win. Back to back games always represent a challenge. They will need to play with the same tenacity that won them Game 2 but also stay disciplined as special teams are always a factor in every game. Best of luck tonight Canucks!

Will you be watching tonight? Puck drop is at 5:00 PM [pacific time] on Sportsnet.

As always, until next time, nuck said.

Sarah E.L.

T’was the night before the NHL trade deadline…

T’WAS THE NIGHT BEFORE THE NHL TRADE DEADLINE:

T’was the night before the NHL trade deadline,

when all through the league not a GM was supposed to stir,

when suddenly more than 10 deals were made and the quiet was but an echo

as teams began making deals in the days prior to deadline day.

Hockey fans and media alike thought themselves ready for the circus

while they made dream predictions for their teams and their prospective playoff hopes

and coaches hoped that the difficult decisions would not be theirs to make or break the team

as they prepared for the media storm that would inevitably follow a busy trade deadline.

When all of a sudden one team made a move that shook league to the core,

fans and media sprung to sports centre and social media to share their collective reactions

as the players looked to each other as to what this would mean to their team and their playoff hopes,

and the hours became minutes, and the minutes became seconds as the eve of the trade deadline slipped away as all must now see what will follow each move.

These are but a few thoughts surrounding each team tonight as we all wait to see what tomorrow’s circus shall bring. We do not know what it means just yet, but many teams have begun to make big moves prior to the big day which is slightly out of the norm.

So far the notable moves are these:

Jarome Iginla was traded from the Calgary Flames to the Pittsburgh Penguins in exchange for prospects and a 1st round draft pick.

Brendan Morrow was traded from the Dallas Stars to the Pittsburgh Penguins in exchange for a prospect and a draft pick.

Douglas Murray was traded from the San Jose Sharks to the Pittsburgh Penguins in exchange for two draft picks.

Jaromir Jagr was traded from the Dallas Stars to the Boston Bruins in exchange for prospects & a draft pick.

Kent Huskins was traded from the Detroit Red Wings to the Philadelphia Flyers in exchange for a draft pick.

Jordan Leopold was traded from the Buffalo Sabres to the St.Louis Blues in exchange for two draft picks.

Michal Handzus was traded from the San Jose Sharks to the Chicago Blackhawks in exchange for a draft pick.

Jay Bouwmeester was traded from the Calgary Flames to the St.Louis Blues in exchange for two prospects and two draft picks.

Robyn Regehr was traded from the Buffalo Sabres to the LA Kings in exchange two draft picks.

Marc-Andre Bergeron was traded from the Tampa Bay Lightning to the Carolina Hurricanes in exchange for Adam Hall and a draft pick.

Derek Roy was traded from the Dallas Stars to the VANCOUVER CANUCKS in exchange for a prospect and draft pick.

Ryane Clowe was traded from the San Jose Sharks to the New York Rangers in exchange for three draft picks.

There is bound to be a media storm in the final minutes of the deadline tomorrow as the clock winds down to 12 PM[pacific time]. What will happen? Will your team be improved? Will favourites be moved? Will new favourites emerge? Will one team steal all the thunder with one big move? Will any teams stand pat? All will be revealed and once that clock strikes 12, all rosters will be set until the end of the season. We will have to wait and see what this trade deadline has in store for us!

I would like to say WELCOME to CANUCK NATION, Derek Roy! We look forward to seeing you help the Canucks down the stretch this year! This is a great pick up by the Canucks and will help address a gaping hole in centre and also allow the option of having Kesler play wing when he returns. Rumor has it that MR.RK17 could be slipped back into the line-up this week. Roy is expected to arrive in Vancouver for practice with the team tomorrow. In acquiring Roy, the Canucks gave up defense prospect Kevin Connauton, best of luck in Dallas!

In other Canuck news, today marks Chris Higgins re-signed with the team. He signed a 4-year $10 million contract extension[an annual hit of $2.5 million]. This guy plays with so much heart, great to see him get rewarded.

The Canucks are officially 3/4 through this shortened season. The team sits tied with the Minnesota Wild in points and are locked in a battle for the division title. The stretch drive begins now. #GoCanucksGo!

Keep your eye on the trades tomorrow as you never know what will happen, and the most active time will be in that final hour as some teams may surprise us!

As always, until next time, nuck said.

Sarah E.L.