Posts Tagged 'RJ'

From snowy Toronto to, er…snowy Vancouver?

I am going to take a brief blogging hiatus for the next week or so, as I am heading home to Vancouver for the holidays.

Among other activities planned, H and I – the proprietors of this infrequently visited blog – will be attending the Canucks-Oilers game on Boxing Day.  If we’re not too drunk by the time we get to the game, we might take some pictures.

Sadly, now that I work and live full-time in Toronto, I don’t get home to Vancouver much anymore.  And I get the opportunity to attend Canucks games at GM Place even less.   Needless to say, the trip has me excited.

Well, I was excited; now I am nervously analyzing worst-case scenarios.  Rather unsurprisingly, Toronto has been buried by a relentless winter storm over the past few days, wreaking havoc on travel arrangements in-and-out of the city.  Considerably more shocking is that Vancouver, too, is being blanketed by a deluge of snow, making travel in-and-out of the city similarly challenging.

I trust that with my flight scheduled for Monday night, I’ll make it by Boxing Day for the game.  I’d like to make it back for Christmas and all, but as long as I’m sat in my seat at the Garage on Friday, I’ll be happy.

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Mats Sundin is coming…to town

As you are no doubt already aware, Mats Sundin has signed with the Canucks for the remainder of the 2008-2009 season.

Unfortunately, I was tied up playing Santa Claus for these lovely ladies at their show in Toronto last night and the co-author of this blog was happily celebrating his anniversary.  Neither of us is equipped with BlackBerries or anything, so suffice it to say that we are a little late on the draw when it comes to Sundin.

Since a lot of people have already weighed in on the transaction, let me get down to business and identify what I think are the positives and potential negatives associated with Sundin coming to Vancouver.

Positives 

  • The addition of a proven point-a-game player like Sundin, even at his age, gives the Canucks two bona fide scoring lines.  As I have been at pains to point out, the Canucks have had no trouble scoring this season (the team is currently ninth overall in goals-per-game, with a ratio of 3.03).  Sundin, you would imagine, will only further solidify the Canucks’ scoring credentials.
  • One area of glaring weakness for the Canucks this season has been the power play.  Currently 16th overall at 18.6 per cent, the Canucks will be helped immensely by a player such as Sundin, who is a proven power play producer.
  • The addition of Sundin gives the Canucks the top-line centre the team has sorely lacked in recent years.
  • With fellow Swedes Mattias Ohlund, the Sedin twins, and Alexander Edler already on the roster, and former Leaf teammate – and linemate – Kyle Wellwood playing in Vancouver, Sundin should integrate into the dressing room well (see below for my caveat).
  • Mike Gillis’s resolve to wait for the player he thought would make this team a legitimate contender further persuades me that the man has a fully considered plan in place that he is unwaveringly committed to, and that he is not going to be a fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants GM.

Potential Negatives

  • I can’t help but wonder, notwithstanding Gillis’s stoic claims to the contrary, that Sundin chose to come to Vancouver ultimately because his preferred team, the New York Rangers, could not make room for him.  The fact he only signed a one-year deal – and not the two-year deal on the table from the Canucks initially – lends some credence to this notion.
  • If my concern about Sundin’s motivation is valid, then I also wonder how committed he will be to the cause in Vancouver.  Admittedly, I don’t have the impression (based on Sundin’s history) that he is a man out to collect paycheques, but the possibility exists that he might be here mainly for the money.
  • I wonder how well the dressing room will adjust to a player walking into the team as the putative ‘star’ player, especially since it appears that the Canucks are such a tight-knit team this season.  (Let’s not forget that the last time the Canucks tried something like this – cough – it was a spectacular failure and wreaked havoc in the dressing room.)

Mitigating Factors

  • The Sundin deal is only for the remainder of this season.  If it doesn’t work out, no harm done – Sundin leaves after the season and the Canucks have given up nothing except cap space.
  • Sundinhas a reputation for being an amiable – if sometimes quiet – member of the dressing room with the Leafs.  I can’t imagine that his personality could unleash the terror that, say, Messier’s did after he arrived.
  • Sundin wears the label of someone who ‘hasn’t won anything’ (in the NHL) around his neck like an anchor.  That may be motivation enough to ensure that Sundin is a valuable asset come playoff time.

On the whole, I think the positives outweigh the potential negatives by a significant margin.

I, for one, can’t wait to see Sundin in a Canucks uniform.  (I also have all the more reason now to find myself some tickets on Ebay for the Canucks’ visit to the Air Canada Centre in February.)

A personal memory of Trevor

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To celebrate the retirement of Trevor Linden’s #16 sweater on Wednesday night at GM Place prior to the game against the Edmonton Oilers, I want to re-state something I said in a post about his impending retirement from the NHL at the end of last season.

Trevor Linden may not be judged a superstar over the course of his career but one thing he was unfailingly is a leader. He took this team to within two goals of winning that elusive Stanley Cup in 1994, a year no one who has ever followed the Canucks will forget. (The picture above really does say it all.) He stood accountable for everything this team did and did not accomplish during his time in the city. Most of all, he took this team into the community and made fans feel like the team meant something to the city. (Trust me, growing up in the 1980s in Vancouver the team had little to no marked presence in the city.)

I would like to share a personal memory of Trevor Linden, as my own tribute to the man and what he means to the city of Vancouver and Canucks fans in particular. When I was about 11 years old (this is 1991), Trevor made an appearance at the local Safeway in Coquitlam and my mum took me and my brother to go see him. After waiting in line for a solid hour, we eventually walked up to the table where Trevor was seated. To this day I remember vividly how young he looked (he was 21 or so at that time). I remember also being completely in awe. I asked him to sign my Trevor Linden rookie card and a copy of Breakaway (the old Canucks program) with his photo on the cover. Trevor happily obliged, of course, but he also asked me whether I played, who my favourite player was, etc. He was, as he is now and always has been, a genuinely niceman, even as a 21 year old kid. I asked him if he could make sure the Canucks would finally win the Stanley Cup. He said he would do his best.

It makes me profoundly sad–and I mean this with the most sincerity and feeling I can muster–that Trevor never did and now never will (at least not as a player) lift the Stanley Cup wearing a Canucks sweater. As much as you can say this, he deserved it. We deserved it.

I hope one day, when the day finally comes for Vancouver fans to celebrate a Stanley Cup, Trevor Linden is there to experience and share in that victory.

So long, Trevor.

When people here in Toronto (where I live now) ask me why Trevor Linden’s sweater is worthy of retirement, I recount this particular story from my childhood growing up in the Lower Mainland.

Prior to Linden, my Canucks hero was Patrik Sundstrom.  With all due respect to Sundstrom (and Orland Kurtenbach and Stan Smyl), that simply highlights how utterly bereft of hockey heroes this city was before his arrival on the scene in 1989.

What ultimately matters most is the impact the man had on hockey and the relationship between the city of Vancouver (and the province of British Columbia, more generally) and the Vancouver Canucks.

He made the fans proud to be Canucks fans.  And for anyone that grew up in and around the city in the 1980s, that is no small feat.

Dear Canucks, thanks for listening

First off, let’s forget that this happened. Alain Vigneault summed up my feelings succinctly with his summation of the debacle at Rexall Place on Saturday night:

I really don’t have one positive thing to say about this game. We got outplayed, we got out everything-ed in all areas. They deserved to win hands-down.

With that said, let’s talk about tonight’s game. In particular, I want to highlight how impressed I was with the Canucks. Two aspects of the performance stand out: first, the Canucks’ resilience after going down 2-0 early in the first period; second, burying the Panthers when they had the opportunity.

As to the first point, I will admit that when the Panthers scored twice off-the-bat, I thought the game was effectively over. In my defence, I’ll offer up as an excuse some carried over frustration, on my part, after the embarrassing non-effort in Edmonton. Coming out of the gate as flat as the Canucks did after that performance, on home ice no less, made me think the Canucks were not going to have it tonight. Thankfully, I was wrong.

As to the second point, I have repeatedly called attention to the Canucks profligacy when it comes to chances to put teams to the sword this season, resulting in a window of opportunity for the opposition that is too often exploited for my liking. Tonight, with the game tied 2-2 in the second period, the Canucks on the power play, and a delayed call against Shawn Matthias, Pavol Demitra scored his second of the game off of Jay Bouwmeester’s skate to put the Canucks ahead. Then, with Matthias in the box, Kyle Wellwood batted a pass from Daniel Sedin cleanly out of the air at the side of the net to put the Canucks ahead 4-2. Finally, for good measure, Ryan Kesler took a Kevin Bieksa pass off the boards for a breakaway, while short-handed, and buried a backhand into the roof of the net to put a final point of emphasis on an explosive second period.

Nice to see the Canucks addressing what I think has been the most disconcerting weakness of the team thus far this season.

Debunking myths

Hockey punditry, as an enterprise, is not exactly the domain of intelligent discussion. 

Nonetheless, what you do expect from a pundit, especially an ex-player, is some kind of keen insight about the game.

Unfortunately, pundits have been largely bereft of such insight when it comes to assessing the Vancouver Canucks. 

Since the decline of the heady days of the ‘Westcoast Express’ it seems almost axiomatic that the problemwith the Canucks is a lack of offensive production.  Turn on Hockey Night in Canada, the NHL on TSN, the Score, and Rogers Sportsnet, listen to the Team 1040, or read the papers.  The same message abounds: the Canucks can’t score; and, by extension, the team relies exclusively on Roberto Luongo for success.

While this oft-repeated claim certainly held weight in previous seasons, it no longer does in 2008/2009.  At this point, 28 games into the season, the Canucks are eighth overall in the NHL in team scoring, with an average of 3.04 goals per game. 

Put simply, the Canucks problem is not scoring goals.  (I certainly have my own view about what, precisely, the Canucks most glaring problem is.)   

The time for pundits to acknowledge this is well past due.

The beat goes on

My reaction to the 5-4 shootout loss to Colorado tonight is succinctly captured with the sentiments expressed in this post.

Once again, the Canucks had the opportunity to bury an opponent.  Up 4-3 late in the third period, Jannik Hansen took an exquisite stretch pass from Alex Edler for a breakaway on Peter Budaj.  Unfortunately for the Canucks, Hansen shot the puck well wide of the net.

Mere minutes later (with 2:48 remaining), Avalanche defenceman Daniel Tjarnqvist scored an ugly goal on Cory Schneider to tie the game, effectively sending it to Overtime.

Say what you like about the two bad goals from Tjarnqvist and Ryan Smyth on Schneider, the game was there for the taking.  Had Hansen scored, the two points would have been all but secured.

Opportunities lost

An inauspicious 0-2 start to the Canucks seven-game road trip is not the only cause for growing concern among some Canucks fans.  More disconcerting, perhaps, is the Canucks’ frustrating inability to put teams to the sword when the opportunity arises.

Last Thursday, at home against the Flames, the Canucks squandered a two-man advantage in the second period.  At that point, the Canucks were up 2-1 and could have easily made it 3-1.  Instead, the Flames were ignited and went on to win the game 4-3.

Last night, on the road against Columbus, the Canucks were up 2-1 in the third period when Daniel Sedin was gifted with a clear-cut breakaway courtesy of an exquisite stretch pass from brother Henrik.  Daniel proceeded to fire the puck directly into the pads of Blue Jackets goalie, Steve Mason.  The Blue Jackets then answered back with two goals in the final 11 minutes to win the game, 3-2.

A lot of pundits like to wax ecstatic about the Canucks supposedly anemic offence (the Canucks are actually 10th overall in team scoring) and, correspondingly, their dependence on spectacular goaltending from Roberto Luongo. 

The fact of the matter, though, is that in the eyes of an every game observer the Canucks most glaring deficiency is a lack of killer instinct.  Quite simply, the Canucks are exceedingly profligate when it comes to burying chances to put teams away.