Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Ryan Kesler Nominated for Selke Trophy

Congratulations to Ryan Kesler.

The hard-working, gritty, defensively-responsible forward who had a breakout offensive year this season was just recognized league-wide for his checking prowess.

Kesler was one of three forwards nominated for the Frank J. Selke Trophy, given each year to the league's best defensive forward.

In a season where Roberto Luongo was overlooked for the Vezina, it is fitting that Ryan Kesler was nominated for the year-end gala.

While Kesler is more than deserving of his nomination and the award itself, it is probably safe to say that Vancouver fans were more than prepared for another oversight by the powers-that-be.

It makes it all the better that Kesler achieved this honor for a season in which he played his way from the team's third line to its quasi-first-line alongside Pavol Demitra and Mats Sundin. With 26 goals and 59 points, he ended up also being one of the team's top scorers, behind only the Sedin twins.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Post-Season Excitement? Expectations?

Well, this year's rendition of the Vancouver Canucks has to receive a lot of credit for doing what seemed impossible and surmounting a 13-point deficit to win the Northwest Division. Despite the general sentiment on the airwaves that this is not a big deal, I for one do take pleasure in knowing that we already have cause to raise another banner to the relatively barren Vancouver rafters.

That said, there seems to be a lot of excitement around town, and rightfully so. And there seem to be some high expectations around town, and rightfully so. But a lot of people appear to be throwing around phrases like "best Canucks team ever" and "best shot at the Stanley Cup ever."

This, unfortunately, is not the case. I am not saying the Canucks can't go all the way this year. But to say that this team is better than the Canucks squads that stepped onto the ice from 1991-1994 is looking at the present lineup with rose-colored glasses.


Even if you give Roberto Luongo a slight edge over Kirk McLean at that time (and that is not a given, as McLean, like Luongo was a Vezina finalist during this period) then you are left comparing the skaters. And this year's team doesn't fare all that well against early nineties Canucks.


The Sedin twins would just barely edge out the combination of Cliff Ronning and Geoff Courtnall, and this would be literally by a hair.

That leaves your next two big name forwards, Mats Sundin and Pavol Demitra (today) to be balanced against Trevor Linden and Pavel Bure, both in their prime. While Sundin and Demitra have been stepping up their game somewhat as of late, this is an enormous and overwhelming victory for Linden and Bure. Are you telling me you wouldn't trade today's Sundin and Demitra for 1993's Linden and Bure? If you would, send me a note and we'll see what other kind of deals we can work out.

Of course, overlooking Ryan Kesler and Alex Burrows would be a huge mistake. So we could pit them against the next two early nineties Canucks on the depth chart, maybe Murray Craven and Greg Adams (or Petr Nedved up until 1993). Maybe the gritty Sergio Momesso? For 1991-92, another division championship season, we also had Igor Larionov. Either way, I am willing to give it to Kesler and Burrows by a hair, but if you think the margin is any greater than that, you weren't paying attention to Greg Adams or Murray Craven when they were playing.


This years forward lineup drops off fairly steeply after this group. You have your Wellwoods and Berniers. The early nineties had Martin Gelinas (probably a better corollary for Burrows or Kesler) or Anatoli Semenov or a fading Jimmy Carson / Jim Sandlak / Tom Fergus. I'd give the edge here to the early nineties, but you can call it a wash again if you like.


Today for enforcement, we have the capable Darcy Hordichuk. In the early nineties, we had the best in the game, Gino Odjick. Edge, Gino. In fact, I would put Sergio Momesso on par with Hordicuk in this regard, and I would also put Tim Hunter well ahead. The 1994 Canucks were a tough team.


And finally, there is the defense corps.

Today's top six: Willie Mitchell, Mattias Ohlund, Sami Salo, Kevin Bieksa, Alexander Edler and Shane O'Brien.

This is a pretty solid top six, and a very solid top four.

But when you look at the top six for 1993-94: Jyrki Lumme, Jeff Brown, Dave Babych, Gerald Diduck, Dana Murzyn and whoever we pick as #6 (Jiri Slegr, Adrien Plavsic, Brian Glynn, Bret Hedican or Robert Dirk -- probably Hedican) you are left with not only a stronger roster from top to bottom, but a more balanced blueline with three very capable offensive defenseman in Lumme, Brown and Babych. And there is pretty much NHL depth all the way down to the tenth D.


Anyway, this year's Canucks are a pleasant surprise and a good reason for hope...

But don't sell short the great teams of the past.

Monday, November 17, 2008

7th Man: Rest in Peace

Well, it's unofficially official. If you whisper the words "seventh man" around the marketing brass at Canucks headquarters, you will probably hear a chorus of, "What? Never heard of it."

The rest of the team will probably take the fifth for fear of self-incrimination.

Never to be acknowledged in public again, the #7 banner will be silently brought down one night in the off-season when the doors to GM place are locked. The banner will be buried and the person who buried it will probably be shot so that its location remains forever secret.

The #7 banner will join Rasputin and Jimmy Hoffa, never to be seen again.

And I almost feel a little bad, because somewhere deep down, I think the masterminds behind the short-lived phenomenon actually meant well. Too bad Cliffy and Gino had to be briefly sullied by the whole experience, but the mud will dry and flake away in a matter of months. By the time the Olympics roll around, if you mention the words "seventh man" anywhere in Vancouver, you will probably hear a chorus of, "What? Never heard of it."

Let's hope nobody got fired over this thing. It really could have been worse. Not much, but it is theoretically possible.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Kyle Wellwood: Memorable World Juniors 2003 Goal

Well, there has been much ado about Kyle Wellwood this year, from his spare tire to his Juice-o-matic diet to his team lead in goals. In a bit of World Juniors trivia, Wellwood is credited with one of the nicest goals in the tournament's history. Here is a clip of his 2003 feat.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

7th Man: A Night Off from the Ceremony...

Well, there was no 7th Man ceremony at last night's 4-0 win over the Nashville Predators, marking the first home game without that aspect of scripted fan involvement since the ritual was introduced (a couple games) earlier in the season.

Was it simply a night off to give the fans a couple extra days to adjust to the new "tradition"? Was it a quiet euthanizing of the ceremony, pretending that it had never happened? Was there nobody willing to step into the skates of the 7th man that night and feel as awkward as Gino Odjick seemed to the previous game?

I've been more than a little critical of the way the notion was introduced to the fans...out of left field, involving a Canucks legend like Cliff Ronning in a gimmicky "Let's Make a Deal" style ceremony. But the fact remains that fans shouldn't be all that bent out of shape if the organization wants to celebrate and involve them.

It may well be that the manner in which the 7th man was first introduced will have caused the concept to die on the vine. One thing I learned from the vast wisdom of Head and Shoulders commercials is that you never get a second chance to make a first impression.

Perhaps if they stick with it, that game show hockey stick thing will eventually become a distant memory and fans will look forward to the opportunity to lace up the proverbial skates as the 7th man for a game. Or perhaps the whole thing will become a distant memory, idea included. Let's see if Number 7 resurfaces at the next game...

Canucks History: Petri Skriko

Before there was the lifeline, the Canucks' offensive fortunes rested largely on the shoulders of three men: Tony Tanti, Patrik Sundstrom and the team's first-ever Finnish player, Petri Skriko.

These three gifted forwards produced a large portion of the scoring enjoyed by Canucks teams of the 1980s. Skriko led the team in scoring twice (1986 and 1989). He was also named NHL player of the month in November 1986.

Petri Skriko played almost his entire NHL career in a Vancouver uniform, a career that saw him score 183 goals and 405 points (373 as a Canuck) in 541 games. He wore a Canucks jersey from 1984-1990 before bouncing quickly between Boston, Winnipeg and San Jose at the end of his NHL run.

His NHL days were, however, sandwiched by two lengthy stints in professional European hockey, from 1979-84 and 1992-99. He finished his competitive European career with impressive totals of 335 goals and 742 points in a mere 438 games.

Skriko was named the Denmark player of the year in 1995 (34 goals and 83 points in 35 games) and 1997 (49 goals and 109 points in 48 games). He was also given the honor of having his #9 jersey retired by SaiPa of SM-Liiga, where he commenced his European career.

He represented Finland twice as an Olympian, in 1984 and 1992.

Martin Brodeur Out: Vezina Up For Grabs

With Martin Brodeur out for 3-4 months, this will mark the first year in a decade where he does not place 70+ games, and one of the few years in recent memory where he will not compete (or be a lock) for the Vezina Trophy.

With that in mind, it's time for the best of the rest to step up and take advantage of the small blessing fate has bestowed upon them. Who is going to seize the moment?

After a slow start, Roberto Luongo now has 3 shutouts at the team's 13-game mark. That puts him on pace to break Tony Esposito's modern record of 15 in a season.

Don't expect him to keep up that phenomenal pace of goose eggs, but it's the sort of statistic that could allow him to do what everyone has been waiting for and scribble his name on what has essentially, for the last decade, been Martin Brodeur's trophy.