Posts Tagged 'Canucks'



Pass me the peanuts and Cracker Jack

Newly anointed Canucks GM Mike Gillis has evidently seen fit to address the concern, raised in various corners of the media and blogosphere, that he does not have the requisite experience or expertise in terms of drafting and developing young talent.

(As any Canucks fan can attest, this is a problem inextricably tied to the historical ineptitude of this franchise and, thus, an obvious point of concern with any new management personnel.)

In a candid interview with Iain MacIntyre of the Vancouver Sun, Gillis expounds upon his philosophy concerning the evaluation of player personnel (amateur and professional scouting as well as trade and free agent acquisitions).  Namely, his vision of applying sabermetrics, popularized by the management team of the Oakland Athletics and now used widely as a talent assessment tool in Major League Baseball (e.g., ‘Moneyball’), to hockey.

Essentially, the modus operandi is this: talent can and should be evaluated, comprehensively, based on rigorous analysis of objective statistical data, down to the most infinitesimal of statistical minutiae. In baseball, where the game itself tends to play out as a series of limited statistical possibilities in each and every situation of a game, the method is evidently compelling. Players can be assessed based on statistical breakdowns of performance under various conditions and according to certain variables.

In hockey, the import is less obvious, however. Although hockey players, like most professional athletes, are judged according to a variety of statistical output, the game itself is arguably less reducible to a (reasonably) predictable series of limited possibilities. Moreover, isolating sub-statistical data, e.g., what effect player A might have on a particular play in game situation X, may be questionable given the fact that the kind of binary scenarios that tend to play out in baseball games (e.g., pitcher vs. batter) are mitigated in hockey by the (potential) effects of other players on the ice. Now, this is not to say there is no import; only that the analytical force of sabermetrics may be reduced, to some extent, within the enlarged parameters of possibility within a hockey game.

At any rate, the question for Canucks fans is merely whether there is enough import for the team to markedly improve its historical failure in identifying, developing and capitalizing on player personnel.

Gillis has certainly done well to identify a plan and articulate a philosophy when it comes to team-building (something that never seemed to come to the fore with his predecessor). While it does not entirely allay my concern noted earlier, I must admit that I am impressed by his preparedness for the undertaking.

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New blood

It appears as though the Canucks have their new GM all but confirmed.

Much to the pleasure of his Vancouver media cheerleader, Tony Gallagher, the Canucks are poised to announce “super agent” Mike Gillis to the post, as early as today.

This may come as a surprise to some, particularly if you made note of owner Francesco Aquilini’s stated commitment during his rambling press conference, announcing the dismissal of Dave Nonis, to bring in someone with experience. I suppose Gillis’ ‘experience’ as a player agent and former NHL player would count, provided you are comfortable with equivocation and verbal sleights of hand.

At any rate, the hiring of Gillis immediately invites two comparisons to recent hirings of otherwise inexperienced player agents: one, to the ill-fated experiment in Phoenix with Mike Barnett (total disaster); the other, to the championship-producing hire of Pierre Lacroix by Quebec (brilliant success).

The question for Canucks fans, of course, is which one Gillis resembles more.

My suspicion, for what it is worth, is the latter. Admittedly, this is chiefly due to my blinkered optimism that Gillis is, indeed, the brilliant hockey mind he is often credited as in the media. Moreover, I suspect that, if nothing else, he will be able to attract high quality players to Vancouver based on his credentials as an agent and his rapport with a large numer of current players.

My one concern, however, is his ability to assess young talent (i.e. drafting acumen). It is often said, rightly, in my view, that long-term, sustainable success in the NHL is built through the draft. (Consider, as the example par excellence, the Detroit Red Wings–when was the last time they were not a top-tier team?) Gillis has, due to his lack of experience, done nothing to indicate he is a shrewd judge of talent. True, any GM will rely heavily on his scouting staff for these assessments but, then, the Canucks are not exactly blessed with talent in that area, either. Order of the day for Gillis, upon starting this job, will be to put in place a scouting staff that assuages concern, on the part of people such as myself, about his ability to identify and develop young talent.

If Gillis can address this perceived unknown (or shortcoming, depending on how you judge his putative inexperience), then I think the Canucks may have made a wise decision here.

 UPDATE:

The Globe and Mail is reporting that the Canucks have called a press conference for 11 a.m. Pacific Time to announce Mike Gillis as GM.

Nonis canned

When the Canucks failed to qualify for the playoffs for the second time in three years, many hockey pundits and even more Canucks fans anticipated a change in personnel.

Less anticipated, perhaps, was that GM Dave Nonis would be the first to go. With few details available yet, it has been confirmed by TSN that Nonis has been fired.

I suppose the move makes a modicum of sense. After all, Nonis has been GM for the aforementioned three seasons. One playoff appearance in three years for a team that routinely spends at or near the salary cap is unacceptable. Moreover, Nonis must shoulder a large portion of the responsibility for not addressing this team’s painfully obvious shortcomings (i.e. a lack of offensive talent / scoring ability).

That said, it is important to remember that Nonis made arguably the best trade in Canucks history: acquiring Roberto Luongo and Lukas Krajicek for Todd Bertuzzi, Bryan Allen and Alex Auld. Also, it is worth pointing out that the 2005-2006 team, which missed the playoffs, was for all intents and purposes his predecessor Brian Burke’s team. Finally, a case could be made that Nonis lacked sufficient financial maneuverability to acquire the offensive talent this team needed due to his being saddled (or saddling himself) with Markus Naslund’s six million dollar cap hit (at the time it seemed like a much better move).

Still, at the end of the day, the inescapable fact is that this team took a considerable step backwards this year. That should not have happened.

The Aquilini ownership, who, let’s be clear, did not hire Nonis in the first place, have determined that accountability for this starts with Nonis.

I say, who can blame them?

Gentlemen! I have your scapegoat…

Canucks overall record: (38 W-30L-10T), winning pct.: .551

Canucks record October 5,2007 – November 1, 2007: (5-8-0) ,winning pct.: .386

Canucks record November 1, 2007 – February 21, 2008: (27-14-8), winning pct: .632

Canucks record February 21, 2008-March 30, 2008 : (8-8-2), winning pct.: .500

So why these dates? Why all the losing?

This guy….

 This Guy

 Gp: 30  G:2   A:8   +/-: – 10

F – this

What can be more ignominious than a collapse against your most hated rivals in a game that could have put you a point out of first place in the division and solidified your grip on a playoff spot?

Perhaps going out the very next night and losing to the team one place behind you in the standings due to an effort that can most delicately be described as exceedingly reprehensible.

The Canucks have now lost three games in a row, each time against a division rival. (Then, again, it bears keeping in mind that all remaining games are against division rivals.) The Canucks now have five games remaining and sit, currently, in eight place in the Western Conference. The Canucks hold a meagre two point lead over the ninth place Nashville Predators.

It doesn’t get much more disconcerting, does it?

Actually, it does.

Consider this:

  • Both the Canucks and the Predators have five games remaining;
  • The Canucks play Minnesota, Calgary, Colorado, Edomonton, and Calgary (again), all but one of whom are playoff teams;
  • The Predators play Columbus, Detroit, St. Louis (back-to-back), and Chicago, all but one of whom are not playoff teams;
  • The Canucks are likely to play at least one and possibly two or three games without Roberto Luongo, who will return to Florida to be with his wife when she delivers their baby; and
  • Oh, yes, it appears that the Canucks have seen fit to take the last two weeks of the season off.

Unfortunately, only one of those points is not factual.

alfredeneuman.jpg

Right?

Wrap-up: Canucks Vs. Wild

When you don’t have editors, things get done too late-this is an example…

Went to the Canucks vs. Wild game on Friday.  Courtesy of Bush’s work we got Club seats, row 4, inline with the visitor’s end faceoff circle.  I will give you the recap of the night with no structure:

For predrinks and dinner we went to the Kingston Pub.  This place has to be considered the best Canucks bar in Vancouver.  Why people go to the Shark Club, I just don’t know.  They have a pre-game menu where they will serve you your food in 15 minutes or less so that you can go and enjoy the game!!! What a great idea.

From the bar, walked down to GM place.  First stop, Authentix store to purchase a Trevor Linden jersey.  Let me say this, I was committed to buying the jersey no matter the problems.  First problem, price $240!!!  WOW, guess you have to put your wallet where your heart is.  Second problem- no “home” blue.  This isn’t too big of a problem as I have no preference either way.  Put on the “away” white, and it fitted like a glove.  But wait- what is that in the corner?  A blue Linden jersey.  Have a look at it, see that it has tie-downs…. it is the official jersey.  Cool! I mean if you are getting a jersey, why not get the real deal.  Have a look at the price $495.  And the white jersey was purchased.  Called my friend who works for the Canucks, she came down and was able to get me $50 off the jersey… it pays to have friends.

Got to our seats, ordered a few beers from our seats (man I love club seats).  Watched the Wild warm-up.  Derek  Booradard is HUGE.  He towers over everyone on the team. Pouillot must weigh 150 lbs, the guy is scrawny.  The Wild seemed loose and were enjoying their warm-up.  I would think that they would be nervous but didn’t seem the case. 

Our seats were good for atmosphere, bad for following the game.  It is fine line to walk, but that being said you can follow the game from home on the TV, I will take atmosphere  every time.  On a sour note, I am disappointed with ‘Canuck’ fans.  No one in my section was wearing a jersey, half of them weren’t even following the game, the people in front of me showed up at the end of the first and didn’t hear any fan support for good hockey plays.  They did cheer the goal and hits… 

It seemed as if the Upper bowl had great atmosphere, got some chants going and cheered hockey plays. 

Alright let’s talk Canucks, from up close and personal-

Mike Weaver is good.  I was shocked as I expected him to stand out as the worst defenseman.  Not the case, good hustle, smart plays and played with intensity.

Who was the worst defenseman?  Kevin Bieksa.  Couldn’t believe how out of place he was.  An example, skating beside Pyatt crossing the Wild’s blueline he skated ahead of Pyatt, forcing Pyatt to cover the point.  Play was broken up and Wild were now breaking out with Pyatt as a defenseman. 

Ryan Shannon is impressive.  Good hustle and gets into all the spots he needs to.  Witnessed him digging three pucks, doesn’t go to the net but seems to be in the right place otherwise. 

The Sedins are so impressive in puck control.  What is impressive is how they use a short pass (5 feet or less) and how they disrupt their checkers before they get the puck.

Mitchell rules! Better in person as you can see him behind the play positioning himself.  Did not see the deflection go in off of him, the puck is hard to follow on shots.

Salo’s goal was too fast.  Shot, goal.  impossible to follow, how goalies stop point shots, I don’ t know.

Luongo is huge.  A big guy and when he lines up to the puck you can not see net.

Brett Burns will be a top defenseman in this league.  He is really good.

 Unfortunately, the Canucks lost.  It was great going to the game and experiencing the game from so close.  The Canucks have used one of their 2 losses I have spotted them, so I see them winning tonight against the Flames

We got nine more games to go……

Up until the mini three game win streak the Canucks are on, I felt as if Canuck fans were part of Johnny Cash’s “25 minutes to go,” where the countdown was on for our imminent doom.

 However, the noose is untied and I am back behind the reins of the bandwagon with my partner in crime RJ.  I wouldn’t say we jumped off, but rather braced ourselves for impact.

 So were is this sordid bunch heading in the next few days????

Oh SHIT!!! 9 interconference games.

I have to say that this is the hardest stretch of games the Canucks (and the Northwest) have faced all year.  The only bright spot for all is the ‘short’ travel.

 And how does the schedule layout for the Canucks??  Let’s check that out….

You kidding me?  Two back to backs, one of which is a home and away.   Also a three game road trip in the mix.  Not so good.  Well the flames end with a three game trip and have two back to back games, seems even.  Going over to the AVS website I see that Jordan Leopold is a lover of (awful) music and that they have no back to back games.    I don’t want to dwell, but how can you be a music lover and have that bad taste in music?  The Wild play tonight in San Jose and have one back to back game.  Oilers have one back to back game and 4 on the road.  I have to say that the NHL schedulers have this one right.  The next nine games are going to be some intense hockey, and with the race so tight going into this stretch- the best team will win the division.

So who is going to win the division?  Naturally the Vancouver Canucks.  I am going to make like the Sports Action guy (who never gets the games right) and “Lay the hammer down!.”  They wil be 6-2-1 during this stretch.  Anyone agree?

Smooth Jimmy Apollo.

“Well let me chime in on that one H… In order to assess the record in the next nine games, you have to look at all factors including ice conditions, travel distance,  offensive output, crowd noise and various in game promotions…. but as far as the Canucks go 6-2-1, sure why the hell not!!! I am going to make it my lock of the week.”

Right on, thanks Smooth Jimmy Apollo.

Why the optimism?  Lets look at the Canucks record against the Northwest.  Well the Canucks started the season against the Northwest at 9-0-2.  Currently they are 12-6-5 against the NW (Colorado sporting the best interdivision record of 15-8-1).  I will say that most of the Canuck defeats came during times of intense injuries.    On the injury front, to finish this post, James Mirtle’s comprehensive blog has the total number of man games lost to injury for all teams, who would of thought Florida would be tops.  With the Cancuks on a roll, I see them finished how they started.

Another reason for optimism- the rallying call of Trevor Linden.  For some reason sports teams need a reason to play, and if listening to what has been said- Trevor Linen gave the Canucks a reason.  Much like Gretzky did for the olympic team in salt lake, Linden gave the team a spark when it was needed. I am going to say it right now- BEST CANUCK EVER.

Final reason- Luongo.   Roloson is doing his thing right now (that is play like shit all year and then become a star when counted on) and Flames have the Kipper who can be unbeatable at times. But who is the goalie you would want to see in the pipes for your team? Thought so…  I believe he will stand up and deliver 8 of the best games of the season, and one bad one.

 By the way- have row 4 tickets for Friday’s game.  Look for Bush in her Black Canuck V jersey and me in my NEW TREVOR LINDEN JERSEY!!!