With our top blogger out for the season I make my long unawaited return to the MyHockeybuzz blog area thing. Although I originally intended on posting a regular blog, being in Mark Gage's shadow is no easy pill to swallow and it was clear with him on board there was no point in writing a blog that was not going to be read. However, that being said, Gage is gone, so hopefully my voice will be heard!
I'm going to start off by saying what this team needs, and making a bold prediction on how each need will be met. Feel free to tell me I'm wrong and why, because I likely will be wrong.
More then anything this team needs a true first line player. Obviously Mats Sundin jumps to mind, and he would certainly be the quick fix. I hope that if he is signed Mats will take less then the 10m offered as a way to show fans he really isn't all about the money. Sundin remains a pipedream, and other avenues must be addressed. It has been long rumoured, discussed and criticized, but the fact of the matter is Jason Spezza remains the most likely and possible first line player available for the Canucks to acquire. Ottawa is going to want a good return on the kid so Ohlund, Raymond and Grabner will be heading Ottawa's way. Let's throw a 5th round pick in from Ottawa as well. Hey, you never know, Bieksa was a 5th rounder.
Second on the Canucks list of needs is a true number one defenseman. Vancouver has five 2nd and 3rd defenseman in Mitchell, Ohlund, Bieksa, Salo and Edler. With good old Burkie being appointed in Toronto, and his former toy Nonis soon to join him, a deal between the Leafs and Canucks could be starting to form. Burke said he wants to make the Leafs harder to play against, and who is harder to play against on the Canucks then Kevin Bieksa? We all know Burke loves Kevin, and we all know Burke hates Europeans. Leafs get Bieksa, Rypien, Oullet and a 1st round pick in exchange for Kaberle and a 2nd round pick.
I may as well finish this blog with a recap of my pre-season roster analysis. You'll find my initial discussion of each player italicized just below their name followed by my new breakdown.
07/08: 29-45-74p ~ 1yr/3.575m
Our top sniper needs to be at his best this season. At age 28 he is entering what is generally regarded as a scorer's prime. Daniel needs to have a career year for all parties involved as he approaches free agency.
Dec.1 08/09: 11-11-22p
Dominant and invisible at times, it has seemed like Daniel has more often then not been the latter of the two. He has yet to be split up from his brother for more then a handful of shifts and has failed to pull the trigger a few times in key situations. I predict he signs for at 5.5 for 3-5 years, a good deal for him and the organization.
07/08: 15-62-76p ~ 1yr/3.575m
Like his twin Daniel, Henrik needs to have career numbers. He's shown he can score in the pre-season, but he needs to continue that trend coming into the season. Hopefully he can feed some passes towards his new linemate, which will make shutting the top line down a little harder for the opposition.
Dec.1 08/09: 3-19-22p
On pace for the exact same point total as Daniel. Their consistently matching point production is creepier then their appearance. The least valuable of the two Sedins, Henrik takes too many minor penalties, most notably hooking. He needs to keep his feet moving in order to stay out of the box. His cycle game is becoming too predictable as well and he needs to head back to the drawing board. Similiar contract to Daniels at 5.5/3-5 years.
07/08: 16-16-32p ~ 1yr/2.5m
St. Louis' offer sheet puts the Canucks in an awkward position with Steve. Big numbers mean a big contract next summer. Steve needs to gel with the twins, and needs to avoid an "Anson Carter" disaster when we need to resign him.
Dec.1 08/09: 5-4-9p
Well the Canucks successfully avoided an Anson Carter disaster only to incur a Steve Bernier disaster. Bernier has been a colossal disappointment this season, but I don't expect Gillis to give up on him just yet and his services will be retained this offseason for a fairly sizable discount. Bernier has bounced from 1st, to 2nd, to 4th line all season and hasn't looked comfortable or produced on any. He does take the body well, but the Canucks aren't paying him to do that.
07/08: 15-39-54p ~ 2yr/4m
Gillis' biggest signing, and his biggest gamble. Pavol will be the biggest factor in Gillis' hiring being a success or failure. He suggested that his offense was stifled by Minnesota's defense first system: we sure hope so!
Dec1. 08/09: 7-6-13p
Injuries continue to plague this veteran, but he has been effective when he is healthy and has been one of the Canucks best forwards as expected. Demitra has been a fine replacement for Markus Naslund, but he has to stay healthy to maximize his value. Pavol was playing the part of a playmaker too often at the beginning of the season, choosing the pass over a shot too often, but he has since found a healthy balance between the two.
07/08: 9-12-21p ~ 2yr/.883m
Mason is the epitome of a wildcard. His pre-season display was nothing short of promising. Chemistry between him and centerman Demitra is already forming and the Canucks are poised to reap the benefits. Raymond needs to bulk up his paper-thin frame to avoid further injuries.
Dec.1 08/09: 6-6-12p
Raymond has been somewhat of a disappointment after burning out of the gates early in the season. He has incredible speed, mediocre hands and even less ability to keep his head up and make the pass. Raymond can too often be seen ripping up and down the boards with the puck until he eventually stripped of said disc. He has, however, shown he can unleash a quick shortside snipe every so often and can catch a goalie off guard if they don't hug that post tight enough. He will be invaluable next season as a dropping cap will make his .883m salary an easy fit into any lineup.
07/08: 16-21-37p ~ 1yr/1.575m
Demitra specifically asked for Pyatt, so Pyatt he'll get. This is Taylor's job to lose and there is no shortage of players chomping at the bit to take his spot. Regarded as terribly inconsistent, Taylor needs to shake off the 07/08 campaign and come out of the gate strong.
Dec.1 08/09: 3-6-9p
It was Taylor's job to lose and he lost it. Pyatt has again been inconsistent and his lack of finish has cost him at least half a dozen goals. His price tag is too steep for what he brings and I doubt Canucks management will retain him. Pyatt will be packaged in a trade of Gillis can find a taker or he will be shown the door this summer.
07/08: 21-16-37p ~ 2yr/1.75m
There was talk of Kesler taking a more prominent role in the Canucks offense, namely a top 6 spot. It looks like he'll remain on the 3rd checking/pest line. Kesler's offensive upside can no longer be ignored, and I'd like to see him get some powerplay time to show it off. Still a solid two-way center, he can only get better.
Dec1. 08/09: 5-8-13p
Kesler has spearheaded what is considered one of the best third lines in hockey. Ryan has shown modest improvement this season and his work on the penalty kill goes more or less unnoticed by many. Kesler plays nearly 20 minutes a night, however a large chunk of his time is on the PK. The third line suits him best as he has absurd amounts of chemistry with his linemates, and the checking role keeps his even strength minutes down so he can log more PK time. What more can you expect from this guy?
07/08: 12-19-31p ~ 1yr/.483m
Currently the least paid Canuck on the roster, Burrows is the ying to Kesler's yang. The second half of one of the better pest duos in the league, Alexandre should be getting a hefty raise next summer if he even matches his production from last season. Burrows showed tenacity and competitiveness in the pre-season, and we love it.
Dec.1 08/09: 6-7-13p
Look out Alexandre Burrows because Pierre McGuire has a hard-on! Burrows has dethroned Dion Phaneuf as Pierre's latest man crush, and for good reason. Burr steps up in big moments, makes great decisions with the puck on the PK, and continues to be the third most hated player in the league. We gotta give 1 and 2 to Avery and Ruutu. Word of mouth says that Burrow wants to remain in Van City but at what price remains to be seen. He won't be making as much as his buddy Kesler, but he'll likely be good to triple his current salary. Dinner's on Burrows boys.
07/08: 0-0-0p ~ 1yr/.508m
The most notable part of Hansen's career thus far has been his brief appearance in the 06/07 playoffs versus Dallas. While only registering 1 assist in 10 games, Jannik created opportunities and rarely was a liability. He has shown he can play extremely well with Kesler and Burrows, and I can't see him leaving their line anytime soon. Short of a meltdown, Hansen should make a fine addition to the third unit.
Dec.1 08/09: 3-9-12p
Hansen seems to have lit his linemates fuse and the three of them are probably the Canucks most consistent line. Jannik has played exceptionally well for being thrust into such a role in his first NHL season. He has been unable to finish time and time again however, and it could definitely hurt the numbers on the scoresheet and his contract. I doubt he will be moved off the third line anytime soon though, they just play too well together.
07/08: 5-13-18p ~ 2yr/1.1m
Obviously not brought on board for his offensive contributions, Johnson will be a solid centerman for the fourth line. Touted as a faceoff specialist, our fourth unit should have the puck more often then not which, hopefully, should translate into less goals against. Ryan rarely takes penalties, and should log some good numbers on the penalty kill.
Dec.1 08/09: 1-2-3p
My unsung hero of the Canucks, Johnson's contributions to the team are as immense as they are unnoticed. His veteran presence is surely felt in the lockerroom and his blocked shots have likely made him a favourite of the Canuck tendies. If you watch Johnson closely in a game you will see he makes the little plays time and time again, rarely making a bad decision. It was Captain Canuck himself who said it's the little things that make a player great during big games.
07/08: 1-2-3p ~ 3yr/.775m
He loves to fight, and Gillis loves to pay him to fight, as shown by his three year contract. Although slightly undersized as far as enforcers go, Hordi will scrap anyone and make them remember. Darcy is a huge upgrade from recently departed Cowan (who I think lost every fight last season.) I'm excited to watch the Stars/Canucks games, as this already heated rivalry has been taken to new heights with the Hordichuk-Avery conflict tossed into the mix.
Dec.1 08/09: 1-0-1p
Darcy is on pace to score a season hat trick, but he hasn't done too much on the ice. He throws some big hits and has had a couple scraps, but more or less I would say Hordichuk has been mostly uneffective. It is always nice to have him in the lineup against tough teams though, and it's hard to find a reason to scratch Hordi for any of the players ready to replace him.
07/08: 1-2-3p ~ 1yr/.522m
Ripper! He finally makes the big club, and who can't say they're happy to see it. The current Grouse Grind champion rode his big heart all the way to the Canucks opening roster. Arguably the most fearless fighter in the NHL, Ripper uses his boxing pedigree to successfully scrap opponents much larger than himself.
Dec.1 08/09: 2-0-0p
Rypien is injured again, and is on pace for death this season. This kid cannot catch a break and at this rate his body won't last much longer. After an incredible season opener in which he utterly destroyed Brandon Prust, Rypien has slowed down a fair bit and injured himself to boot. Hopefully he repairs quickly so we can get his piss and vinegar style back in the lineup.
07/08: 1-0-1p ~ 1yr/.522m
Brown will likely serve as a depth player up front. He provides a little grit and fairly sound play. The Canucks don't expect too much from him, and I don't think he expects to play a whole. Barring injury, we shouldn't see him much, but when we do, he's good stuff.
Dec.1 08/09: 0-1-1p
Yup... read above.
07/08: 8-13-21p ~ 1yr/.550m
I have a feeling Wellwood will make his way into the starting lineup more often then not as the season progresses. He will likely take Rypien's spot on the fourth line to start, but look to see Vigneault experiment him on our second line from time to time. His obvious offensive skill will be sorely missed when he is scratched, and a goal starved Canucks team will have no choice but to give him a chance.
Dec.1 08/09: 9-3-12p
Well it seems my prediction panned out, but who predicted this? I guess eating broad leaf lettuce and carrot sticks did the kid some good. Wellwood is absolutely sick with the puck and his 3 assists do no justice to the amount of goals he has been the sole reason for. Here's to hoping Gillis holds on to the RFA this summer.
07/08: 2-10-12p ~ 2yr/3.5m
Willie won't dazzle you with the puck, but he'll knock you on your ass if you try the same on him. Our defensive specialist remains our most important piece on the blueline. Even with our new up-tempo system as described by Mike Gillis, the value of Mitchell cannot be underestimated. He surely provides a huge presence in the locker room and leads by example.
Dec.1 08/09: 1-7-8p
Mitchell has been great for the Canucks this season and he continues to earn his paycheck night in and night out. Among the league leaders in +/- Willie is great to have on the ice in almost any situation. Although he is not a true #1 defenseman, he get's the job done for the Canucks. Count how many times the commentators talk about how long his stick his. The count is at way too many for this season.
07/08: 2-10-12p ~ 3yr/3.75m
After an abysmal season last year, which saw Kevin's point total drop from 42 to 12, as well as his calf being severed, Kevin enters arguably the most important year of his career. Bieksa needs to use this year to establish himself as a premium defenseman in the NHL, and not a one year wonder. Three years of a 3.75m cap hit could seem like a very long time if Kevin does not return to form. Fingers crossed.
Dec.1 08/09: 3-8-11p
Injury strikes Bieksa again due to his rough and tumble attitude. Bieksa hasn't quite lived up to his expectations this season. Although he is getting a fair amount of points for the number of games he has played he needs to pot more goals on the power play. Kevin also needs to start making smart decisions with the puck as he is the causing too many turn overs and can more often then not be a liability on the ice. Willie can't clean up his mess every game.
07/08: 9-15-24p ~ 1yr/3.5m
Captain Consistency, Ohlund has been a source of relief on our back end for years. His solid play in both ends of the ice makes him a fan favorite. Remarks by Mattias have cast a shadow of doubt on his return next season. This, combined with an emerging Edler, leads me to believe he will not be in a Canucks uniform for the 09/10 season. Until that time, he's a damn good defenseman.
Dec.1 08/09: 2-8-10p
Ohlund still a Canuck, and my prediction remains in limbo. Injuries have emphasized Ohlund's value to the Vancouver organization, but this could only make him even more expendable as his value could have taken a bit of a leap. Due to his strong play I am starting to rethink my pre-season forecast of his departure, but who knows. There is nothing to say about his play but standard Ohlund, which is a good thing.
07/08: 8-17-25p ~ 3yr/3.5m
The "Finnish Al MacInnis" looks to have returned to form this season. His booming shot from the point has already been felt this season. From his own words he feels injury free for the first time in a long time, but don't expect it to last. If Salo plays 82 games this season I will eat my own fecal matter; Trust me, I'm not worried.
Dec.1 08/09: 2-8-10p
Salo's injury leaves me with some breathing room as I don't have to eat my own faeces if somebody had called me on it. He has had a mediocre season and his play appears to be on its way down. What happened to the boom? Salo remains a 2nd/3rd defenseman.
07/08: 8-12-20p ~ 1yr/0.550m
Edler thrived under the ice time he received due to injury. He was the bright spot among a blueline of disaster, and all eyes are on him for a breakout season. Look for him to take Ohlund's contract and ice time next season. Edler should be a cornerstone on this team for years to come.
Dec.1 08/09: 1-6-7p
Edler has already taken Ohlund's contract but his play needs to increase significantly if he wants to take his icetime. Edler is caught too many times making bonehead plays and he needs to work on covering his own end.
07/08: 4-17-21p ~ 1yr/.950m
Once a promising young player, O'Brien doesn't have many raving reviews anymore. He's a big guy, but he's still trying to find a way to use his size effectively. Shane stays healthy throughout the season, so picking him up brings some much needed assurance that we'll have more NHL ready defenseman in our lineup then last season. O'Brien is yet another player brought in with a promising past and a suspect future. Gillis may be looking to find a diamond in the rough, and by the sounds of the Canucks' positive attitude in the dressing room, he might get one.
Dec.1 08/09: 0-3-3p
Third in league penalty minutes, and surely first in minor penalties, O'Brien has taken on an extremely physical role in Vancouver. He remains a work in progress, but he needs to stop taking so, damn, many, penalties. Shane had 5 minors in one game against Minnesota. FIVE minors! He could make Michael Jackson jealous with that count.
07/08: 1-1-2p ~ 1yr/0.560m
Big guy, tough, depth. He will battle O'Brien for the 6th spot on the team and stands a decent chance of winning it. Rob will probably play against the tougher teams in the league. Maybe he will be inspired by the play of his prospective linemate Edler; Chances are not good.
Dec.1 08/09: 0-0-0p
Chances were not good, and chances remain not good. Davison has suited up for 7 games for the Canucks this season. Have fun in the press box this year buddy.
Manning the Crease
07/08: 35W-29L-9OTL ~ 2yr/6.750m
Where to begin? Named the Captain of the Canucks, the entire season hinges on the play of this man. Talk about pressure hey? After a sub-par season, as far as elite goalies go, Roberto is on the verge of what we hope is a comeback season. By all accounts he is fired up and ready to go. His daughter is born, his wife is likely used to living in Canada (let's hope we don't have a Pronger/Nylander on our hands), so let's see him play some damn hockey. Anything less than a Vezina nomination would be below expectations, but I fully expect him to win it. One thing our fearless leader needs to improve is his shootout performance. Most teams have figured out that a simple stick-glove deke puts Roberto on his back, holding his mitt inches above the ice in despair.
Dec.1 08/09: 11W-5L-2OTL
After a slow start, and a red hot stretch of games that saw the Canucks shut out 3 teams in a row, the unthinkable happened.
I roll out of bed to read the box score of the Canucks game. Luongo 1 save? Confusion sets in. I look up the shift chart on NHL.com to see when he played, and I notice a headline. Luongo injured in Canucks win. I wake up in a daze. I am covered in vomit, likely my own, but I suspect my roommate. I smell something distinct. I change my pants.
Why God? Why do you take this from us when we have so little to be thankful for? I am cancelling my belief for life.
07/08: 4W-3L-1OTL ~ 1yr/0.650m
Sanford gets paid to ride pine. How bad can it be? He always shows up when he plays, and his teammates love him. As long as Curtis keeps this level of commitment to his organization there will always be a spot on the roster for him.
Dec.1 08/09: 3W-2L-0OTL
How can you not love the guy? Sanford steps in no questions asked and shuts the door on the two teams who are coming off of a Stanley Cup series, not to mention the much hated Wild. He does what we pay him for and then some. Sanford will stay next season, and don't doubt it for a second.
Dec.1 08/09: 0W-1L-0OTL
Schneider made his much anticipated Canucks debut in Calgary, arguably one of the roughest barns in hockey, and he did not disappoint. Despite letting in a softy, Schneider made big saves from start to finish. He was always calm and alert, and never seemed to get flustered or overwhelmed when things got a little crazy. His mechanics and positioning are flawless and he just needs to work a little on his reflexes and butterfly. Cory has a tendency to go down a little too early and a little too often, which was evindent in Calgary, but he has definitely shown a lot of promise.