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new canucks

If the Canucks will go anywhere in the next few years, these guys will need to work.

Ok, so I’ve been a bit busy working with other things.  I know, I know, what could be more important than blogging for no recognition, pay or credit on my own site to a world of people who don’t leave comments and don’t reblog the site?  It seems unfathomable that I should have taken such a layoff, given the enormous boon of dividends that online blogging provides.  It truly is a wealth of rewards.

irish settler

“Work is thy own reward!”

But, in the interest of fueling the long used saying that “work is its own reward”, a saying surely initiated by some poor sap toiling away for some unscrupulous bastard in the early colonial years when half of Ireland was convinced that starting a farm in the Hudson Bay lowlands was a great idea, I will continue to provide the world with my invaluable insights.

So, I will preempt this all by explaining that, while I have been away from blogging about the Canucks, I have not been away from the work that is hockey.  In fact, just the other day I was at a Giants game during which my date received a souvenir to the head by ways of a flying puck.

A pool of blood, five hours in Burnaby General Hospital and six stitches to the scalp on a first date was definitely not the kind of reward that work should provide, but it did serve as a reminder, of sorts, that there is a silver lining. In the world of calamities, and a pencil thin scar just below the hairline not being the worst of calamities one could think of, I got to thinking about the game of hockey again and how the work of it is represented in life and life represented through it.

stack burger

Seriously, the Milestones stack burger? Well worth the work.

Tonight, however,  I took the safe route.  Work, nonetheless, but safe.  I decided to get a stack burger at the Cambie Milestones, where there were, literally, more people serving than actual customers and Patrick Hernandez’s “Born to Be Alive” blared in the background as the Canucks worked for a 1-0 lead.

A little work to find Craft paid off.

A little work to find Craft paid off.

Later, I decided to work at hunting down a more vibrant atmosphere and cabbed it to Athlete’s village where I sat on the long bar at the eponymously named tavern “Craft”, admiring the Canucks efforts on one of the many screens, the sports version of a silent drama playing out in front of me as more contemporary music than the stuck-in-the-eighties Milestones could provide (but did I mention the stack burger?).

Tonight I watched something I haven’t seen since maybe 2011, and no, I’m not referring to two clowns from Toronto who were cheering on the Ducks out of spite that their team can’t seem to make the playoffs in a year when everyone is actually trying to lose games.  I watched a team.  A real team.  Working.

The truth is that I’ve been there, watching, praying, hoping and lamenting every day, every game that it would finally culminate in what I saw today against Anaheim.  The Canucks have arrived, and they’ve done it through hard work, proving that it truly is its own reward.

horvat vs burns

Bo Horvat worked Brent Burns and Stanley Cup winner Niemi for his 9th goal.

I’ve been working hard watching this team closely all season, and I probably had lots to say about Willie Desjardins being selected to coach the Canucks, the trade of Ryan Kesler, or the promotion of Bo Horvat, the play of Ryan Miller, both good and bad, the surprising consistency of the team, the sucking of Kassian, Vrbata as an all-star, the rise of the Dorsett’s and the Mathhias’s, the injuries and then the resurgence of Kassian along with Eddie Lack finding his game again, but, hey, why work at recapturing all of that when another more appropriate saying (in this case) trumps them all:

Go Canucks.

Go.

And keep working.

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Roberto Luongo went from the chosen one, to the scapegoat to the martyr.  How will he be remembered in Vancouver?

Roberto Luongo went from the chosen one, to the scapegoat to the martyr. How will he be remembered in Vancouver?

Never has there been such a divisive force in Canucks history.  When Canucks fans think of the best goalie to ever wear our colours, the statistics would indicate that it was always Roberto Luongo, but when Canucks fans think of Canucks who have given service to the team and community, other names come to mind:  Trevor Linden, Daniel and Henrik Sedin, Markus Naslund, Stan Smyl, Kevin Bieksa, Alex Burrows, Kirk Mclean.

Now that a couple of weeks have elapsed since the biggest trade in Canucks recent history since, perhaps, the trade to acquire him, Roberto Luongo’s legacy is worth considering.  Just what is it that he contributed to the Vancouver Canucks and our community and did he truly bleed the Canucks’ colours?

In his later years with the team, Luongo became a caricature of himself as "strombone1" took over.

In his later years with the team, Luongo became a caricature of himself as “strombone1” took over.

For such an important player, it seems his worth was all related to the ups and downs of what ensued on and off the ice.  This is not to take anything away from Luongo’s time with the Canucks own charitable work with Canuck Place, his sponsorship of a box at Rogers Arena for underprivileged children to watch games and his patience overall with a Vancouver fan base running on anxiety and post traumatic stress from narrow losses in two of three Stanley Cup Finals, for in that sense Luongo has been pulling the company line.  But, when someone’s heart isn’t in it, it just isn’t in it and, other than the time leading up to the 2011 run, Luongo’s heart hasn’t been in it, let’s face it.

Fans are quick to point out that this is a mess created by Gillis, and in that respect I agree.  There was an opportunity to make Luongo a longtime Canuck by simply challenging him to accept a fair contract for market value and typical terms, rather than a lifetime contract, with too many guarantees and the unorthodox granting of the captaincy role to a goaltender.  Mike Gillis would surely take that one back beyond any contract he’s signed. Ever since that day, there has been a slow erosion in the relationship between team and player which led the team to trade him back to Florida for virtually nothing.

Many Canucks fans will cite the Schneider and Luongo controversy as the beginning of the end.

Many Canucks fans will cite the Schneider and Luongo controversy as the beginning of the end.

But, still, the question remains “why Florida?”.  Here the player is to blame for where his heart truly lies, in every sense of the word “lies”.  It is understandable when Cory Schneider looks like the next real deal that Luongo wants to be traded to a team with at least a playoff opportunity, but now that Florida seems destined for lottery picks for at least the next two seasons, the limitation in destinations appears like a lifestyle choice over a career move.  The brighter sunlight and dimmer media lights seems suited for a goalie whose battered confidence is in need of low-pressure easy street for a while.

Florida offers friends and family, a warm place to read a paper on a sun deck and expectations that are non-existent — a far cry from Vancouver, where the inhospitable winter months, with weeks of rain and sleet in the four hours of daylight are a metonym for the narrow and grim focus the city attains for their beloved Canucks.  Living in Vancouver every day of one’s existence isn’t as easy as it looks in the sunny pictures.  You have to have a methodical and hardened type of focus to make it through those months, a type of focus that would allow one to, say, survive an onslaught of seemingly insurmountable pressure when what one would rather do is be in a sunny destination relaxing with a Mai-Thai in a swimsuit.

Luongo's legacy... can't keep his mouth shut.

Luongo’s legacy… can’t keep his mouth shut.

In the end, Luongo will be remembered for a number, the number “1”.  “1” as in one raised arm to inform the referee about a penalty as Corey Perry blows an easy one by him in overtime of the 2007 Stanley Cup playoffs.  One bad contract and one bad decision to make him the sole captain of the team.  One Stanley Cup finals run during which the team lost by one game.  One bad trade to the one team he wanted to go to in the one market that doesn’t care whether there’s an NHL team or not in their city. One gold medal… not two.  One larger than life player, riding a fine line on social media as “strombone1” who couldn’t put the team on his back the one time they needed him to in the one game that meant the most for the franchise.

One bad decision after another, Luongo wasn’t sent to Florida because it was a good trade.  He was sent there because everyone needs to move on from one weird era of Canucks history.

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Corey Perry would love a repeat of his 2010-2011 season in which he won the Hart trophy after scoring 50 goals.

KEY SUBTRACTIONS

After the Ducks signed backup Jeff Deslauriers, and with the expected return to health of Jonas Hiller there doesn't seem to be a place in Anaheim for Ray Emery.

Andreas Lilja, D
Josh Green, LW
Kyle Chipchura, C
Jason Jaffray, LW
Jarko Ruutu, LWk
Ray Emery, G

KEY ADDITIONS

Andrew Cogliano, C
Mark Bell, LW
Jean-Francois Jacques, LW
Patrick Maroon, LW
Andrew Gordon, RW
Brian McGratton, RW
Mathieu Carle, D
Kurtis Foster, D
Nate Guenin, D
Bryan Rodney, D
Matt Smaby, D
Jeff Deslauriers, G

QUICK PICKS

Not much doubt about the NHL's top line today. Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry celebrate a goal with Bobby Ryan. Get used to it.

Ryan Getzlaf, C:  Part 1 of hockey’s best line.  He’s a first round option for any pool pick.  Played only 67 games last season and still managed 76 points.  He’s a proven passer and clutch performer in every facet of the game.  Plays point on powerplays sometimes.  Needs to avoid getting hurt, and he does play physically, so that’s a risk.  Will be counted on to do the same as always for Anaheim this season.

Corey Perry, RW:  Part 2 of the greatest line in hockey today, and the league’s 2011 Hart Trophy winner, Corey Perry is another top round selection in 2011.  He might not get another 50, but it’s conceivable that he gets 40 and approaches the 90 point plateau again.  Was the Ducks, and the league’s best player the last two months of the season or so.  Can he get red-hot again?

Bobby Ryan, LW:  Part 3 of the best line in the NHL today, and arguably the weakest link on the chain, but not by much.  Has outstanding offensive acumen and uses all of his 6’2″ 200 lb. frame to his advantage.  Perfect compliment to Getzlaf and Perry.  Will be in the 70’s easily once again.

Lubomir Visnovsky, D:  Potentially the quickest D-man in the league and possessor of outstanding vision and puck possession skills, You would think Lubomir will be challenged to collect another 68 points this coming season, but his totals could approach the same marker or more.  The team has more depth on the back end now, so his freedom to roam could even increase.  With additional health to Jonas Hiller, Lubomir might lead the league in scoring for defenders… again.

SLEEPERS

Koivu, pictured here trying to set up fellow geriatric Teemu Selanne, will play for a new contract in 2011-2012. Motivation enough.

Toni Lydman, D:  Looks after his back-end first and foremost.  His +32 last year was near the best in the league. Chipping in around 30 points doesn’t hurt in the least and he usually averages nearly double the PIM’s from his 40 last year.  Not spectacular, but won’t hurt your plus/minus rating at all.

Andrew Cogliano, C/LW/RW:  Versatile forward who has offensive upside in Anaheim, especially if he plays with Selanne, who is rumoured to return.  Gets 40 points automatically, so a boost in points to about 55 isn’t unreasonable to expect on a team with one of the best offenses in the NHL.

Saku Koivu, C:  He is playing for a new contract, so his numbers should at least stay the same, if not show a slight improvement.  55 points isn’t unreasonable for this player at his age.

BUYER BEWARE

His knees bark at him constantly now, but Selanne is still one of the best scorers in the league. Enjoy him while he lasts.

Teemu Selanne, RW:  He’s not signed yet, and is going to be 41.  He still has some of the best hands in the game, but last season was his best year in 4 years.  Either he’s the ageless wonder, or father time will catch him at some point.  I should think he’s worth a pick if he’s back, but I don’t know about getting 80 points again.  Look for about 70 points this season, which is still fantastic at any age.  That’s why he’s a first ballot hall-of-famer.  Assuming he signs, of course.

Jonas Hiller, G:  He’s an all-star calibre goalie with elite skills with enviable lateral movement.  There is, however, no cure for Vertigo and it is a condition that can recur.  A goalie with vertigo is about as useful as a phone with no batteries.  If he plays a full season, he’ll make Anaheim a better team and could end up with 40 wins.  I’m not saying don’t take him, just examine your other options closely before doing so.

PREDICTIONS

Hattrick Payne says:  When all is said and done, the Ducks have a team worthy of consideration for elite status in the NHL.  They appear to boast the best number one line in the NHL with the unstoppable combination of Perry, Getzlaf and Ryan, and have excellent offensive support throughout the lineup.  Their goaltending problem of a year ago centred around the health of Jonas Hiller, who is reportedly ready to go.  Their defensive depth has improved through free agent additions, and provided the team signs Selanne, which everyone expects they shall, Anaheim should have a difficult team to beat in 2011-2012.  Several players on the roster have won a Stanley Cup before, so perhaps all that is needed is the motivation of a new season and a first-round exit at the hands of the Nashville Predators last season.  They still have plenty of wiggle room in their salary cap, even after the presumable happens when they sign Selanne.  Look out NHL, the Ducks are armed for war.

Jonas Hiller will want to show everyone that his battles with vertigo are a thing of the past this coming season.

Claude Lebut Says: You are only as strong as your weakest link, and there don’t seem to be too many weak links on this team in 2011.  Even their backup goalie, Jeff Deslauriers saw significant minutes with Edmonton so he has enough experience to cover for a while in case Hiller is sick with Vertigo again.  I really wonder why Selanne always waits so long to decide on a new season…. maybe he just doesn’t want to think about it until it begins, but I’m pretty sure a guy who can still play in the world’s best league won’t shut it down early.  He will want to win the battle of old men vs. Jagr this season I’m sure.  Veterans Koivu, Blake and Beauchemin are all playing for new contracts, so they could have rejuvenated seasons.  Coach Randy Carlyle always has his team tough and ready to play.  It doesn’t matter where they’ve been the last few years, these players know how to get it done in any situation.  I like Anaheim to have a great year.


Mark Twain says: If you should rear a duck in the heart of the Sahara, no doubt it would swim if you brought it to the Nile.

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