Reading Between the Lines

When listening to the tone in Markus Naslund’s voice today when he was talking about the style of play of the Detroit Red Wings, he seemed happier to watch the Wings than playing for the Canucks.

He spoke of how he admires watching the Red Wings play a style of play that Naslund loves to play.  He also said Detroit has the world class players to play that puck possession style that is much a good offence as it is a good defence.

But here’s the problem with Naslund.  His goal totals were dwindling before the last two seasons.  He went from 48 goals in 2003 to 35 goals in 2004 to 32 goals in 2006 before falling even further down in goals with 24 in 2007 and 25 in 2008.

He can’t blame or even hint that Canucks coach Alain Vigneault and his defensive style of play is the reason for Naslund’s lack of goals in the past two years and, quite frankly, a lack of passion that is so blatently obvious when you watch him play or watch him in the media scrums after games and practice.

He can’t blame Vigneault because Naslund makes $6 million a year and if Naslund had the skill everyone still believes he has, he would be able to adapt.  Everyone in the league had to adapt when the NHL came out of the lockout.

Being a good player is being able to adapt to situations, whether it’s after a large hit, adapting a pass behind you in full flight, adapting to a different coaching style.

Naslund is soft.  Let’s face it.  He’s a poor choice for captain and if he does indeed come back, the first thing he should do is pass of the ‘C’ to Willie Mitchell, someone that will battle tooth and nail in the trenches, a place where playoff hockey is won and lost.

Naslund can’t do that.  If he wants to come back, he better learn to adapt, better figure out how to rekindle that passion and he better realize he got paid a crap load of money and he should put up or shut up.  Best situation possible is that common sense kicks in for Canucks GM Mike Gillis and he doesn’t decide to bring Naslund back, even for a pay cut.

Inject new life.  Naslund is not a winner, and even when he had Todd Bertuzzi and the West Coast Express, he couldn’t win.  It’s time to bring in a winner.  It’s not a matter of him being a European.  Take Detroit for example.  But Naslund isn’t the calibre of player that Henrik Zetterberg or Pavel Datsyuk are, in fact it’s not even close.

Seeing as how the Canucks organization feels it’s time for a change, then they should take that theory and not even offer Naslund a contract.  His time in this city is done.  Bringing him back will only prove that no one in this city has any kind of hockey sense.

 

Forsberg a Bust

The Colorado Avalanche  were knocked out of the playoffs last night at the hands of Johan Franzen and the Detroit Red Wings and, surprise surprise, Peter Forsberg was no where in sight.

He was injured.  Again.  In a series against the most lethal offence in the league, Forsberg was in the press box with a back injury.  He was plagued with a groin injury and a back injury in the playoffs, and as a result, missed almost the entire series against Detroit.

Now, having him in the line up wouldn’t have made much of a difference.  The Wings were going to win.  They have a more potent attack, they control the puck in every area of the rink and their defence are by far the best team in the NHL when it comes to making that first pass out of the zone.  Their goaltending is better too.  And yes, Chris Osgood is better than Dominik Hasek.

What is most troublesome about this whole situation with Forsberg is that the Avs put all their eggs in one basket.  They signed a guy with a long history of injuries that keep him in and out of the line up every three or four days, something that disrupts the evenflow of a team.

What was Avs general manager Francois Giguere thinking when he signed Forsberg for $1 million to play the last third of the regular season and only seven of 10 playoff games.  Why sign a guy who is the furthest thing from durable for that kind of money? 

Was the fact that he spent almost 10 months in his home country of Sweden while nursing a foot injury not a sign that his time as an NHL player has passed by?

Simply put, Forsberg was a bust.  His acquisition was stupid in the first place.  It was ill-advised, and there are more players out there who could’ve come into the Avalanche for less money and no one would have to worry about their durability.  Forsberg, in 16 total games with the Avs this year, racked up 19 points.  That’s not bad, but no one remembers how many points you get when you’re in and out of the press box because your constantly injured and aren’t in the line up when it matters the most.

Canucks former general manager Dave Nonis was canned for his lack of signing Peter Forsberg just days before the trade deadline and his lack of trading Ryan Kesler, Mason Raymond, Alex Edler and a first, second and third round draft pick in this year’s draft.  He got fired for sticking to his guns and not relying on a plan that has as much chance to blow up in your face as it does to succeed.  Giguere should get canned today for his taking a risk on a player that can’t get into the elevator to go to the press box without tweaking a groin or hurting his back.

Bringing Forsberg back was the stupidest decision made this year by a general manager.  It was pointless.  It was a waste of money and a roster spot that could’ve been better spent. 

New Canucks general manager Mike Gillis.  Don’t sign Forsberg.

Shoot ‘Em Like Detroit

Henrik Zetterberg

Besides having the best defencemen in the league and some dynamic young forwards, there is one glaring reason as to why the Red Wings are the best NHL team.

They shoot the puck.

It might sound too simple but there’s no other possible explanation.

Heading into tonight’s schedule, the Red Wings average 34.6 shots on goal a night, ranking them first in the league. In comparison, Vancouver stands 25th in that same category with 26.2 shots average. 

More shots means more opportunities to record a goal; it’s the basic tactic which players learn at a young age. Detroit is second behind Ottawa with 172 tallies so far this season and to add to that impressive stat, the Red Wings are first in lowest shots against with a 23.8 average.

The Red Wings shoot from anywhere, and sometimes the most obscure shots finds its way through the opposing goalie’s equipment. Leading the pack for them is Henrik Zetterberg, who has 232 shots, putting him second in the NHL behind Alex Ovechkin. Vancouver just needs to watch some of Detroit’s games to understand their success.

How often do you hear a fan yell “shoot the puck!“? It’s like a broken record at GM Place.

The most obvious non-shooter for Vancouver would probably have to be Sami Salo. Even though he has considerably one of the hardest slappers in the league, he always hesitates to wind up. With 64 blasts on net so far, he only has one measly goal, and six assists. And how many times has he missed the net?

Sami Salo

Markus Naslund is also a target for criticism, especially since he used to lead the league in that department. The star forward might find results if he only plays more selfish by sniping the puck, instead of passing it off. 

Vancouver’s top shot getter is Daniel Sedin, who records a total of 144. Imagine how many more goals he would have on his stats sheet if he brought the puck in front of the net instead of cycling with his brother.

It’s like Gretzky’s old quote, “You miss 100 per cent of the shots you don’t take.”

In order for the Canucks to start piling up the numbers offensively, they have to start piling up the numbers on the shots-for column. The constant passing and the need to make the “perfect” play won’t do the team any good if they can’t put the puck on the opposing net.

A slap shot from the point can magically pinball it’s way into the net, but it seems like Vancouver’s pointmen don’t understand that concept. The forwards need to test the goaltender as much as they can, whether from awkward angles or from anywhere in the offensive zone. It’s pretty frustrating to watch a team control the play in the opposing area and not manage a shot on goal, and that frustration is always re-occuring with the Vancouver team.

It’s a fundamental skill, and a simple solution. Detroit has managed to stick with their system and game plan of bombarding the other goaltender with pucks, and look where they sit in the standings. Alain Vigneault needs to instill that ideology into his squad.

It’s like a secret recipe for Detroit that no one else seems to figure into their strategy. 

Think shot, think simple. It’s Red Wings’ hockey 101, and definitely a lesson this Vancouver team can learn. 

Why Forsberg Does Not Belong in Vancouver

Peter Forsberg

By no means is this post meant to put anyone’s opinion down or belittle anyone that writes or leaves comments on this site.  It is simply a look into why Peter Forsberg does not belong in Vancouver.

It’s simple.  My colleague Hosea said it best in his last post when he referred to Forsberg as injury-prone.  I honestly cannot remember back to a season in the last five years where the gritty, yet skilled, Swede has not spent some amount of fairly lengthy time on the injury-reserve list.

It is unrealistic to believe that a player that would play the regular season at maybe 75 per cent health and then magically help carry a team to the Stanley Cup finals at roughly 75 to 70 per cent.  Keep in mind that over the course of a seven-game series and as you go further into the playoffs, there are few on a team who don’t have some kind of injury.

Now, there are some that would argue that, yes, Forsberg could get the job done based upon what Steve Yzerman did in the 2002 playoffs that saw the Red Wings captain help lift his team to a Stanley Cup.  Yzerman’s performance that year was remarkable, as he played through the entire playoffs with one healthy leg and was a major contributor in all facets of the game in the Wings championship run.

Valid point.  However, one could argue that Yzerman had the help of the following: Sergei Federov, Brendan Shanahan, Brett Hull, Nicklas Lidstrom, Chris Chelios, Henrik Zetterberg, Pavel Datsyuk, Luc Robitaille, Tomas Holmstrom, Igor Larionov, Dominek Hasek and Dan Cloutier.  Okay, maybe that last one was a bit unfair … still bitter. 

Sorry to say, but that 2002 Stanley Cup team had four solid lines that could score basically whenever they wanted to.

Would Forsberg help?  Maybe for a few games, but based upon the last few years that have seen Forsberg in and out of the lineup with nagging injury after nagging injury, he just isn’t worth the risk.

There is always a risk in trades or signing free agents because the game of hockey is a risky game.  It is fast, it is physical and it can take its toll on the body of a player who goes into the playoffs at 100 per cent health.  Forsberg, with an ankle injury that keeps experiencing set backs, is not at 100 per cent, not even close.

Forsberg, because he is too much of a risk due to injury, is not a good fit for the Vancouver Canucks.  I await your criticism.