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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Nappin’ On The Job

Ray Emery

The Ottawa Senators are mired in controversy right now.

No, they haven’t lost seven games in a row, in fact they have won three games in a row and have gone 8-1-1 in their last 10 games.

The controversy stems with their $3.1 million per year goalie Ray Emery and his recent antics of late, which include showing up late to practice due to an apparent illness that was specified today as being a case of just sleeping in.

For those who aren’t up to par with medical journals, laziness -which is what sleeping in and being late for practice is- isn’t an illness, but it can be a cancer to a hockey team.

Emery, for lack of a better term, is a character.  He has flair and a huge chip on his shoulder and that is evident with his out-of-this-world suits and his swagger on and off the ice.  He likes the attention.  It may suitable to say that he is the Sean Avery of goaltending. 

So far this season, Emery has played in only 12 games compared to 58 games last year and has put up a record of 5-3-3 and a below average save percentage of .891, compared to now No. 1 goalie Martin Gerber who has an 18-5-1 record and a SV% of .926.

It is understandable how Emery can be frustrated, but the problems go beyond just lack of playing time.

It has been well documented about Emery missing flights and getting in car accidents on his way to games.  What does all this mean?  It means that his head simply isn’t on hockey like it should be, especially for a goalie that led the Senators to the Stanley Cup finals last year and a goalie that is frustrated by his lack of playing time, despite being out-played for that playing time by Gerber.

Emery is a good goaltender when he wants to be.  He has great athleticism and is a competitor when it counts, but his attitude has to change.  It doesn’t matter if your Emery, Roberto Luongo, Todd Bertuzzi or the retired Steve Yzerman, you have to get up every morning, go to the rink and work your bag off each and every day to get playing time and most importantly of all; to win.

The Sens back-up goalie is lucky he has God given talent enough to even play in the NHL and the way he acts, it could be easily taken away from him with one more act like sleeping in.  If he had’ve slept in and been late for work at any other job, he would’ve been fired on the spot and not simply sent home.

What Emery did by sleeping in was childish and disrespectful to his teammates, his coaches, his team and the fans of the Ottawa Senators and this goalie needs a severe shot in the head and a change of attitude if he wants playing time, to win and respect from his teammates and around the league.

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?