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.

 

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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

TSC Top 10 Biggest Canadian Moments in the WJHC

Jonathan Toews

To show we, at TSC, have no life, here are our choices for the top Canadian moments at the World Juniors:

 1987: Canada and Russia were involved in a bench-clearing brawl at the 1987 World Junior Hockey Championships in what became known as the “Punch-up in Piestany”.  With game officials not knowing how to diffuse the mess on the ice, the arena lights were shut off in an attempt to regain control.  That failed, and when the final punch had been landed, both teams were disqualified from the competition.

1993: Canada takes home the gold medal in Gavle, Sweden after finishing 6th the following year.  Canada, led by Martin Lapointe, beat Russia 9-2 and then defeated a Swedish team comprised of Peter Forsberg and Markus Naslund by a score of 3-2 to clinch the gold.

1995: Canada wins its third consecutive gold medal in Red Deer, Alberta, finishing the tournament 7-0-0.  Due to the NHL lockout that year, Canada featured a lot of destructive talent and scored 49 goals in seven games.

2006: After sending Kyle Chipchura in all alone to score an empty-net game-winning goal against the U.S. in 2006, Steve Downie is elbowed by Jack Johnson in the head.  Downie remained in the tournament and Johnson became public enemy No. 1 in Canada that year, as well as the next.

2003: In one of the most exciting games in World Junior Hockey history, Jeff Woywitka scores to give Canada a one-goal lead against the Americans.  The goal erupted the crowds in Halifax, which could be heard in Vancouver, while TSN’s Gord Miller gave one of the most neck hair-raising calls on the goal of all time.

1999: Roberto Luongo stole the show in Winnipeg for Team Canada in a 3-2 loss to the Russians in overtime of the gold medal game.  Luongo faced 40 shots and was the only reason that game remained close.  Simon Gagne had a breakthrough tournament as well, scoring seven goals and tallying eight points in seven games.

2004: Rostislav Olezs is the recipient of a massive Dion Phaneuf hit that kept the Czech forward down for several minutes at the 2004 World Junior Hockey Championship in Helsinki, Finland.  The term “That’s a Dion!” was coined the day by TSN hockey analyst Pierre McGuire.

Dion Phaneuf

2005: The following year, Pierre McGuire came up with a new term to show his enthusiasm for Dion Phaneuf.  “Bam! Bam! That’s a double-Dion!” was used to describe two hits that Phanuef threw within the span of less than two seconds.  The turnover led to a Team Canada goal and more importantly, its first gold medal in the WJHC since 1997. 

2006: Again with Brent Sutter behind the bench in Vancouver, Team Canada goes undefeated at the 2006 WJHC and captures back-to-back gold medals.  Steve Downie emerged as one of Canada’s best players, scoring the winning goal of the gold medal game against Russia, while Justin Pogge captured his third shutout of the tournament.

2007: Canada and the U.S.A. lock horns in another epic battle between the two powerhouse teams in the semi final in Leksland, Sweden.  Tied through 60 minutes of regulation and 10 minutes of overtime at 1-1, Canada and the U.S.A. went seven rounds in the shootout before Carey Price stopped Peter Mueller to give Canada the win and a shot at a third straight gold medal.  Jonathan Toews scored three times in the shootout, including the game winner.  Canada went on to defeat the Russians in the gold medal game by a score of 4-2. 

Canucks Dismantle Ducks

What a fabulous return to Vancouver that was for Todd Bertuzzi.  Not only did he score five goals in a 9-0 Anaheim victory over the Vancouver Canucks, he was also named first star and given a key to the city by Mayor Sam Sullivan.

Then Bert woke up this morning and reality hit.

Matt Cooke Goal

His return to the city that was arguably the biggest influence on his professional hockey career was overshadowed by a dominating 4-0 Canucks victory over the Ducks.

Of all the Canucks games this year, this one ranks right up there as one of the best all-around team efforts as Alain Vigneault’s crew got contributions from Markus Naslund with his 11th of the season, Cooke on his fourth of the season and emerging star Ryan Kesler, who picked up his sixth and seventh goals of the season.

What was even sweeter about this win was that the Canucks knocked off the defending Stanley Cup Champs on home ice, where Vancouver had not beaten Anaheim since 2002, according to TSN.  Not only did Vancouver, the hottest team in the NHL right now, beat the Ducks on the scoreboard, they beat them to pucks and won a lot of the battles along the wall against much bigger players like Chris Pronger, Sean O’Donnell and Ryan Getzlaf.

Cooke, who scored the third Vancouver goal on a deflection off of a Alex Edler shot from the point, was a thorn in the Ducks’ side all night as the spark plug caused numerous scuffles with his opponents and got the Canucks going in the second period with a relentless fore-check and board-shaking hits.  That’s the way No. 24 has to play every night if he wants to be successful on this team and for the team to be successful.  He isn’t a 30-goal man, it just isn’t going to happen.  However, if he hits, pesters the other team without taking penalties and can chip in on the odd goal then he becomes a valuable asset to this hockey team.

You can’t blame J.S Giguere for the loss tonight.  His team did him no favours by taking penalty after penalty in the later part of the second period and the first few minutes of the third period, which ultimately led to Kesler’s beautiful second goal of the night. 

By the same token, Roberto Luongo simply outplayed his nemesis at the other end.  Luongo, for what it is worth, was named Pierre McGuire’s Monster Performer on the night and rightfully so.  Extending his shut out streak to just over 135 minutes, Luongo kept the Canucks in the game during the first period that saw Anaheim direct 15 shots at the Canucks goalie.  The rest of the game, Luongo faced just 11 shots to preserve his third shut out of the month.

All-in-all, the Canucks’ play tonight was that type of effort needed to win a championship.  That was the effort that most hockey fans witnessed when Anaheim dominated the regular season and the playoffs last year on their way to winning the Stanley Cup.  The trick is to keep it up until the middle of June.

Quick question out of curiosity …  On a night that saw the Canucks pulverize the Ducks, did anyone else even notice Todd Bertuzzi out there?

Todd Who.  Not a question, but a statement.

Bert’s Back In Town!

Todd Bertuzzi

Finally the hockey game we have all been waiting for.

 Todd Bertuzzi’s return to the place that made him a superstar, as well as the place that helped bring down that stardom.

Bertuzzi, finally healthy and playing, comes into town in maybe the most anticipated return to Vancouver by a professional hockey player since Pavel Bure, yet I offer up one question: Who gives a you-know-what?

Everybody in this city is so wrapped up about whether or not the hulking winger will be booed or cheered in the place that made him a hero and a zero in the span of of eight seasons with the Canucks.  It doesn’t matter what reaction this guy receives because quite frankly, he isn’t worth a reaction.

Yes, you heard correctly and here’s why he isn’t worth a reaction.

He didn’t do anything.  Okay, he put a lot of points on the board in the ’01-’02 season when him and Naslund were combined on a team that got beat out in the first round by the Detroit Red Wings.  He put up a lot of points the following season as well, including just two goals in 14 games during the playoffs in which the Minnesota Wild came back from a 3-1 deficit to beat the Canucks in the Conference Semifinals.

Then there was the year after that, where the “most dominant power forward” signed a brand new, multi-million dollar contract with the Canucks.  That was the year he demolished Steve Moore after posting just 17 goals until the fateful night.  He was on pace for 21 goals.  Bertuzzi then got suspended for the rest of the season and was reinstated following the NHL lockout, but not before the Canucks were eliminated by the Calgary Flames in the first round prior to that lockout.

The following year, Bertuzzi scored 25 goals and produced 71 points and was minus 17 in 82 games.  If memory serves correctly; the Canucks didn’t make the playoffs.

Now, not all of the past playoff and regular season failures are Todd’s fault, but for a guy that gets paid the amount of money he did in this city and for the hype that follows him about how great a hockey player people think he is, he did nothing.  Naslund can be considered in that category too.

The mark of a great player – which some people believe Bertuzzi to be – is measured by success in the playoffs. Bertuzzi hasn’t done anything in the playoffs to be even recognized as a good hockey player.

What is lost in this outrageously ridiculous situation is the fact that there is a hockey game between the defending Stanley Cup Champs and a team that is striving and has the potential to be champs themselves.  The Ducks knocked out the Canucks in the Conference semi’s last year and physically dominated the series, dating back to the regular season.

The focus that matters is the game between the Ducks and Canucks and this game will be a huge indication of what kind of a team the Canucks really have this season.  The Ducks have struggled to establish dominance, and being the defending champs, they should be played accordingly.

Todd who?