Gillis was right

Before Nonis got canned, it did feel nice to hear him say how close the Canucks were to being an elite contender in the league, as long as everyone was healthy. And I believed him, too.

Last season they did look like a contender, winning the division, winning a tight series against Dallas and amounting the most points in team history. But then, they faced a real contender, and got killed.

So when the new boss Mike Gillis said they weren’t even close to being an elite team, it sounded shocking. But why?

Well, watch a playoff game. Watch the intensity. Watch the grit, the speed, the talent. None of which the Canucks have right now.

It would actually be humorous watching the twins coast in through the blue line playing they’re usual game oh hot potato with the puck, and getting punished by the D-man.

Sure, there were the hopes of Luongo catching fire if the Canucks could maybe squeak in to eighth place and maybe stealing a couple games. But seriously, there ain’t no off and on switch that Bobby was gonna turn on for a playoff game.

If anything, the playoffs would of messed with his head even more.

So hopefully Gillis can keep his word and pick up some hard-nosed, skilled players that are clearly needed on this team. Especially since he’s got the money to do so.

 

Proof the Smartest Hockey People Are in Vancouver

If you needed any more proof that the smartest hockey people aren’t in Toronto, but rather in Vancouver, then today, you probably got it.

The Canucks owner, Francesco Acquilini, has finally hired a brand new general manager after firing Dave Nonis such a long time ago.  Eight long, agonizing days ago.

The new boss:  Mike Gillis.  249 games played in the NHL in the 80’s and a current player agent for such players who get paid $6-million a season to score less than 30 goals.  It’s genius.  It’s simply freaking genius.

Now, not a lot of people really know Mike Gillis but he happens to be the agent for Markus Naslund, the Canucks captain soon-to-be free agent as of July 1st.  That’s if he isn’t resigned and brought back as captain yet again. 

This just goes to show that, like most Canucks fans out there who thought Nonis was an incompetent general manager for his lack of trading away some young guns for Brad Richards, the people that run the show simply don’t know jack about the game of hockey.

The message is for Gillis is simple.  He’s a representative of the players that are on the team, namely Naslund.  His job description has changed.  He can no longer adhere to the demands of players because his first and only task is to make the Vancouver Canucks a winning team.  No offence to Naslund, because he has represented the Canucks with class and dignity -there’s no question- but he has failed to win when it matters the most.  He folds.  He becomes soft.  He was a world class player, but he’s never been a world class winner.

If Gillis is to bring this franchise back to some level of greatness (maybe three playoff rounds instead of two) then he will have to part with his client Naslund.  The leader of this team should be tough, inspiring and fierce.  Naslund doesn’t have any of these traits. 

The mere fact that Acquilini brought in Naslund’s agent as the new general manager doesn’t necessarily mean Naslund will be back at all, but it seems suspicious, doesn’t it?

And the fact that Naslund might be back with the simple hiring of his agent just goes to show that there is no hockey sense in this city, and it starts with the owner of the biggest franchise in Vancouver history.

 

Cam Tucker

Farewell to the Fallen

Canucks Oilers

Part of us knew it already. But part of us didn’t want to admit it. Vancouver never had enough to make the playoffs, let alone win a round in it.

But who can blame fans for this false sense of hope?

I mean, if you thought the hot blonde babe with the mini-skirt at your school was a tease, well meet this year’s Vancouver Canucks. 

Thursday night, this low-hearted squad confirmed everyone’s deep speculations and lost a must-win game to the non-playoff bound Edmonton Oilers. All Vancouver had to do was to put together a two-game winning streak for the remaining couple games to continue playing hockey. Apparently, losing six games in the last seven was the preferred route to go.

Getting back to my original point, can you blame fans for having some hope in this somewhat-overachieved team?

Canucks diehards can make excuses all they want – injuries, schedule, blah blah – but there were more ups-and-downs in Vancouver’s play this season than a Paris Hilton sex tape, if you know what I mean. And there’s no better way to describe it then to look at the schedule starting from February 16.

It was the fight-filled good-ol’-days brouhaha matchup with the Oilers where the Canucks won 4-2, uniting the city and drawing praises from even the most passionate naysayers. Vancouver added mustard to that energy by putting together a four-game winning streak, and the reigning North West division champions were on top of the world.

But that was exactly what it was: a streak.

This high reached its climax, and Vancouver lost its next four contests (twice to Colorado, once to Columbus and Chicago). At that point, emergency rooms were overflowing from the number of injuries suffered from people falling off the bandwagon. Joining them was the Canucks’ defensive unit, seriously.

Linden

As quickly as the city reached the peak of their celebration, it dropped down to despair, desparation, and disgust. But much like that afore-mentioned hot blonde babe, the Canucks toyed with its admirer’s heart. Yes, Vancouver felt a gust of wind and jumped to a three-game winning streak, followed by, you guessed it, a back-to-back defeat.

Playoff lives were being questioned and it seemed that Vancouver answered the calls, winning another three in a row. But that was it for the uphill climb as the Canucks put the ‘reek’ in ‘streak’, and dropped it’s next four. All hope seemed lost, but wait, Vancouver wanted to give its fans a little boost by putting together a dominating performance against the Calgary Flames last Sunday.

“The dream is alive!” … for one day. It’s like losing $200 at Roulette before the ball finally lands on your number, unfortunately, you only put down $2 worth of chips, giving you a winning that’s all but a miniscule fraction of your orginial loss. You think luck is finally on your side, so you keep going, but the only outcome is defeat until finally you’re out of money.

And that wallet emptied last night, as Vancouver’s crawl to a playoff berth was cut short. There’s one more game left on Saturday but win or lose, the rollercoaster ride is already over. Fan’s hearts have been played with long enough and it’s finally time for a break in the relationship. 

It’s time to say farewell to the team for a while, and maybe a farewell forever to several members of this year’s squad. We can cry, we can bitch, we can call our friends and complain all we want, but every Vancouver fan knows one thing: We will be back next season to have our hearts played with once again.

We’re all suckers that way.

Keepin’ It Simple

Today, I’ve had a lot of time to listen to the radio shows and read the papers in preparation for tonight’s Canucks game against the Oilers.

The Canucks need to win their next two games combined with a Nashville loss to either to St. Louis tonight or Chicago on Saturday night to get into the playoffs.

There’s been talk of ‘this isn’t exactly a must-win game’ and there have been enough scenarios on who will get in depending on this and that to make one’s head explode.

So, I’ll keep this simple.

Just win.

If the Canucks want to make it into the playoffs, there’s a very simple solution.  All they have to do is score more goals then the Oilers tonight and then score more goals against the Calgary Flames on Saturday.

Too complicated for people?

Canucks vs. Oilers: Round 7

The last time the Vancouver Canucks and Edmonton Oilers played each other was just one of those nights when apparently all of hell had broken loose in General Motors Place.

The two teams combined for over 190 penalty minutes and the last minute of the game took a lot longer to play than usual because of the one…no two…no three line brawls that broke out after Alex Burrows made it 4-2 Canucks with an empty-net goal to stop the Oilers.

 Don’t expect that type of game to happen on Thursday night when the Canucks and Oilers meet for the first time since that hockey game-slash-bar room brawl back on Feb. 16.

Now don’t get your knickers in a knot just because there won’t be three line brawls.  The only reason we won’t see a repeat performance of Feb. 16 is because, right now, there is just too much at stake for both teams as they head into the final nine games of the season.

The Oilers have won nine of their last 11 games, albeit most of them in a shootout, and have climbed back into the playoff picture quietly as most of the focus has fallen on teams such the Colorado Avalanche, Minnesota Wild, Calgary Flames and Vancouver Canucks.  Not only are the Oilers just hanging around and going about their business with much of the hockey world oblivious to their shenanigans, but they’re doing it with the likes of 18-year-old Sam Gagne, Andrew Cogliano, Tyler Brodziak and a supporting cast of players that doesn’t include Shawn Horcoff -who’s out for the season with a shoulder injury- or Ryan Smyth or Chris Pronger, both have moved onto different teams in the west.

Give the Oilers credit.  They’re a young team for the most part, but they give you an honest effort every game and they don’t back down. 

The Canucks still remain the biggest mystery in the NHL’s Western Conference because they can go from a group of tough, ornrie, focused hockey players with one common goal to a team that looks better suited for the exhibition season.  The last two games for the Canucks have been some of their best hockey.  In a 4-3 win in Dallas on Saturday and a 3-1 home victory over Phoenix last night, the Canucks have looked in sync, they have played tough hockey and haven’t backed down from their opponents.  Compare that to the two losses in Phoenix and Anaheim last week where the Canucks looked demoralized and scared of their opponents.

For the Canucks, they have nine games remaining against nine Northwest Division rivals, so they basically get a three week head start on playing playoff hockey.

To make the playoffs, the Canucks need wins.  Thank you Captain Obvious!  The Canucks also need courage.  These next nine games are going to be the toughest hockey of the season because there is very little room for error and the price will be paid physically and mentally.

For both teams, the next game and the eight that will follow are going to be what tells us what either team has.  The Canucks have had their leadership, their grit, their character questioned almost everyday since the All-Star break, so Thursday in Edmonton will be a good way to test their metal.

There won’t be 192 penalty minutes again because neither team can afford to goon it up.  Don’t kid yourself though.  Thursday will be a hard-hitting, nasty dog fight where the winner will be determined by how badly that team truly wants to win.

Saddle up, buckle your seatbelt, get strapped in, use whatever cliche you want for Thursday’s tilt, because it’s going to be a doozie.

Cookie Made of Chicken

Cooke

In a game full of fights, line brawls, big hits, beauty goals and more fights, did anyone else notice that Vancouver Canucks forward Matt Cooke did not drop his mitts?

The problem with the Cookie Monster not scrapping out there against the Edmonton Oilers on Saturday night’s mock-up of the UFC was that he should have.

In the second period, Cooke threw a vicious hit-from-behind on Oilers defenseman Mathieu Roy that had the Oilers’ trainer come running out onto the ice to tend to Roy, a player who has had concussion issues throughout his career.

Following the hit, at least two of the Oilers came after Cooke to confront him about that chicken-s**t-hit-from-behind and the Canucks most over-paid should-be fourth liner didn’t feel he needed to be held accountable for his actions.  The Canucks forward escaped a penalty because the referees both missed a Matt Greene elbow on Ryan Kesler and had to level the playing field.  

Usually if a penalty is not called on a hit that is regarded as cheap, then the players on the other team administer their own brand of justice. In hockey, that’s the nature of the beast. When Greene almost decapitated Kesler’s head, Brad Isbister moved in and dropped his gloves with Greene who, to his credit, was a willing combatant for his hit.

When Cooke was confronted by the Oilers, I’ve never seen a player duck out of a situation like that so fast.  Not only did Cooke get the hell out of there as quickly as possible, but he skated away with that same old smart ass smirk that truly hides the coward within.  

Look tough, look like you run the show, but inside the only intuition is to run away, and Cooke has been doing that for years. Cooke plays with an edge, no doubt about that.  But when you go over the edge and throw cheap hits like the one he threw on Roy, as well as dozens of others through out his career as a Canuck, you have to be ready to be held accountable and the way Cooke has run away or failed to drop the gloves, it can be hard to have true justice done upon him.

My advice for the Cookie Monster: Play your game, run around, throw hits, get in people’s faces, but if you are going to go over the edge and throw cheap shots … stand up and be a man about it.  Face the heat and drop the gloves like you are supposed to in situations like that.  Get rid of that stupid, smart ass, cowardly grin and have some honor about what you’re doing before someone smacks that smile clean off of your face. 

If you’re afraid of getting hurt in a fight, just take some lessons from Mike Weaver. 

Trade Rumour A Source of Hilarity

Sundin Sweden

As I was driving around Port Coquitlam, B.C. today, I found myself in absolute hysterics, laughing so hard that I am sure the people in the cars beside me thought I was crazy.

What made me laugh so hard? 

Are you ready for this?

The newest trade rumour has the Vancouver Canucks trading Ryan Kesler, Luc Bourdon, Cory Schneider and a first-round pick in this year’s NHL Entry Draft to the Toronto Maple Leafs for Mats Sundin.

I’ll pause until you finish laughing…

Okay time is up.

The most ridiculous thing is, according to the poll question on the Team 1040 this afternoon, is that 13 per cent of people out there believe the Canucks should actually throw away four prospects to the Leafs for a 36-year-old center. 

It looks good on paper but paper does not do reality any justice.  If we were to look at the difference between how good a team is on paper compared to reality, lets look at the 1997 Vancouver Canucks roster, which included the likes of Trevor Linden, Pavel Bure, Mark Messier, Alex Mogilny and Kirk McLean, just to name a few.  That team fell apart half way through the season and the Canucks failed to make the playoffs. 

Difference between paper and reality.

Reality.  As much as Luc Bourdon has failed to impress those in Canuck land despite having played well for a kid in his position, you need him right now.  Why?  Well, incase you haven’t noticed, the Canucks defence corps can’t seem to stay healthy.  If and when the Canucks defence gets healthy is the grossly overused phrase in the city today.  Even if they did all (Kevin Bieksa, Willie Mitchell, Aaron Miller and Lukas Krajicek) come back, Sami Salo is almost a sure bet to go down, and that’s not a knock him, that’s just the reality of it.

Kesler

And why on earth would you want to rid yourself of Kesler?  Okay, so he doesn’t have the offensive numbers that everyone expects out of him, but he does a whole helluva lot for this hockey club.  Next to Daniel and Henrik Sedin, he is the most reliable forward on the Canucks. 

Now, Sundin is a good center for the Maple Leafs.  But this guy has never won anything in the Stanley Cup playoffs, in fact, since he came to Toronto, the Buds haven’t made it to the Stanley Cup finals.  He won gold with Sweden at the 2006 Winter Olympics in Torino, Italy, but no team in the NHL could be as good as Team Sweden was.  That team could’ve run the show on the Anaheim Ducks from last year with the talent they had.  The Canucks, or any other team in the NHL, isn’t Team Sweden from 2006, so we can throw out the Olympics.  The Olympics aren’t the NHL, and you don’t need a maximum of 16 wins in a maximum 28 games to win in the Olympics, you need three wins in a maximum of eight games.

These big deals aren’t always the answer.

If the two big trades of last year (Peter Forsberg to Nashville and Keith Tkachuk to Atlanta, both for role players and draft picks) taught us anything, it is that the big, sexy trade isn’t all it is cracked up to be.  Nashville went out in six games, Atlanta in four.  Gamble the future away for a first-round exit.  Yep.

The future for the Canucks is now.  You can’t disagree with that.  But to throw away three good, young players for a 36-year-old unrestricted free agent who may not resign here in the summer … come on people, get with it.  There is no guarantee that Sundin would be able to make a difference for the Canucks, and if he is traded here, there is nothing that says he will come back or not.  And if he doesn’t come back?  Well, then you’ve lost a second-line center, two prospects and a first-round pick and all for nothing.

You may as well go to the casino and throw down roughly $2 million on the number 13 at the roulette table.  Good luck!