Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Der Führer Never Liked Those Neutral Swedes

Now the scheit certainly did hit the ventilator far beyond the Canuck shores. My question is: Why is Mike Keenan so angry with the Canucks missing the playoffs?

Even Nazis can see what is wrong with the Canucks.

Nathan Smith--Another Stellar Character Draft Pick

Ah, Brian Burke...the NHL's best GM. Let's get an update on one of the genius's top draft picks while he was the Canuck GM.

Former WHL "star" Nathan Smith seems to have gone all Dino Ciccarelli on us. Dino, of course, made a stop in DC whereas Mr. Smith seemed headed anywhere but Washington on his late-night foray sans his Wilkes-Barre Penguins gear.

Sadly, the only exposure Nathan's getting is now in the AHL although he is on a bit of streak.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Whiteout the Whiteout

Am I missing something? The Penguins pulled the old "whiteout" giving out free white T-shirts for tonight's Game 1 vs. the Rangers. Yeah, yeah, yeah, the Pens won on the night 5-4 but they had to claw back from a slow start falling 3-0 down early on.

So, why the whiteout? It never worked well for the Winnipeg Jets all those years, and it nearly did not work tonight at the Mellonhead Arena. I just never got the whiteout. If anything fans should wear the black so the puck is harder to see among all the black T-shirts and jerseys.

From the city that gave sports the Terrible Towel of Pittsburgh Steelers' fame, why are the Pens aping an idea from a city that not only lost its NHL franchise but also never really did anything in the playoffs?

Thursday, April 24, 2008

My Kingdom For A Backup Goalie

This may sound counterintuitive, but if new GM Mike Gillis wants to keep Bingo Bango Luongo happy, he needs to find a better CuJo-like backup goalie and convince Coach Vigneault to play that backup a minimum of 13 games.

If the ultimate goal is winning a Stanley Cup...or even going deep into the playoffs, playing over 70 games a season will not get you there.

Here are the regular season GP by the Final Four goalies over the past three playoff seasons.

Ana--Giguere 56 GP
Ott--Emery 58
Det--Hasek 56
Buff--Miller 63

Car-Ward 28
Edm--Roloson 43
Buff--Miller 48
Ana--Giguere 60

TB--Khabibulin 55
Calg--Kiprusoff 39
Phil--Esche 40
SJ-Nabokov 59

Conclusion: Uberstar all-world, but overworked, goalie = no Cup for you!
Fresh (preferably young) goalie = shot at glory.

Meaning, maybe Bob Gainey is onto a good thing dumping Cristobal Huet for Carey Price.
Hey, stranger Steve Penney-ness has happened in Montreal in past playoffs.

Riot on, Hab fans!

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

This Gillis Better Be Better Than the Last Gillis

So Markus Naslund's agent is now the Canucks' GM. Look out, Toronto, our soap opera may be better than yours! Well, hopefully, he is no Mike Barnett as far as agents becoming GMs.

One hopeful sign is the guy has character. He took on agent (and I use that term very loosely) Alan Eagleson after that fraud artist starting screwing Mike Gillis out of some of his disability cash from his NHL playing career ending.

Other than that let's just hope he has a better run than the other Gillis the Canucks employed in the past. All I remember about "Jere" Gillis was #21 being another of those colossal Canuck first round draft pick failures. His best season was 23 goals in his rookie season and that was pretty much it. He did score 50...with some team called the Solihill Barons in the British Hockey League. So he had that going for him.

Hopefully, Mike Gillis has a whole lot more going for himself...and can light a fire under Captain Markus.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Free At Last! Brian Burke is Free At Last!

With the Anaheim (Not Mighty Anymore) Ducks one and done, the "Brian Burke is headed here (Vancouver), there (Toronto) and everywhere (take your pick) as the new GM" rumors will go nuclear. Maybe, just maybe, some teams will step back and realize he is maybe not the best hockey GM on the planet.

I would argue the Cup-winning Ducks of '07 were made more by Bryan Murray's draft picks (Perry, Getzlaf, Lupul--the player that netted the Dux, Pronger in the deal with Edmonton) with a helping hand from Burkey (the Pronger and Beauchemin pickups being primary). As Canuck fans know, Burke's '07/08 was more atypical of the moves Brian tends to make. Like Mike Keenan, he loves "assembling the troops" hence the signing of Todd "all of 0 G 2 A in the playoffs" Bertuzzi and the re-signings of Teemu Selanne and Scott Niedermayer halfway through the season. Problem was he had already signed Mathieu Schneider to replace Niedermayer. This created the salary cap problem that basically created no backup plan in the playoffs when J.S. Giguere faltered and Doug Weight turned out to be...well, not Andy McDonald.

The Burke-ster tried to trade backup netminder Ilya Bryzgalov during the fall, but ending up having to put him on waivers. Phoenix said thank you very much and turned their season around thanks to Ilya's 26-22-5 a record with a phenomenal .921 save pct. Maybe the Desert Dogs did not make the playoffs but they did make things a whole lot more interesting in Glendale, AZ.

The loss of Bryz-y also meant when Anaheim drew Dallas in rd. 1 so Giguere was their only option (apologies to rookie backup Jonas Hiller). Given Giggy had his troubles vs. Dallas during the season (.877 save pct, 3W 5L), it was sort of in the cards that the Stars knew how to get to the Ninja Turtle Man. Bryzgalov was certainly a key guy (.937 career playoff save pct) in spelling Giggy when things got rough, especially in '06 when the Dux went three rds (that was the season Giggy was distracted during the playoffs by his young kid's medical problems).

Then when Corey Perry went down and had to miss the first three games vs. Dallas, it was time for Doug Weight to step up since Andy McDonald was long gone to St. Louis. The 35 y/o Weight, with all that playoff experience, managed all of 1 assist vs. Dallas in rd. 1.

Sure, Pronger reverted to his old St. Louis days by taking stupid penalties and Stephane Robidas did a great Zubov impersonation helping the Dallas powerplay (10 PP goals in the series) to keep on clicking, but the seeds of the Ducks' "lameout" were sown by a certain GM who mismanaged his roster the season following the Cup run.

Now was it worth re-signing Teemu Selanne and Scott Niedermayer? Maybe in Selanne's case it's a wash, but the "Playoff Beard To End All Playoff Beards" Norris Trophy D-man had no jump at all maybe bar Game 5. Niedermayer ended up with just two assists and was a minus player in the series. Scott is headed to the Hall, but he might want to rethink that retirement idea.

So Brian Burke has "won" a Cup, and I'm sure whatever team gets him will be happy when he drafts those Nathan Smiths and Kirill Koltsovs for them. Until then, thanks, Brian, for giving us the Sedins! I enjoy cycling now so much I'm actually thinking of entering the Tour de France.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Mark Cuban gets it

Excuse taking the Canuck bus off the road for a little side trip to Seattle. The NBA has just voted 28-2 to move the Sonics to that megalopolis of Oklahoma City. The only owners to vote against the move were the Dallas Mavericks' Mark Cuban and the Portland Trail (no longer "Jail") Blazers' Paul Allen.

OK, so Allen's vote makes sense from the Northwest rivalry POV...or maybe he feared that Microsoft backlash from angry Seattleites would cause his wealth to drop from megabillions to billions in a nanosecond. The Cuban vote is really the lone voice of sanity in this mess proving he paid attention during Econ 101:

Greater Seattle population: 3.2 million
Major corporations HQed there: Microsoft, Nintendo America, Amazon.com, Starbucks, Real Networks (yep, your Real Audio there on the Interwebs) and Boeing (well, its manufacturing plant)
Known for: Coffee, grunge, rain, hydroplane races, JP Patches, Ivar's and Ichiro

Greater Oklahoma City population: 1.2 million
Major corporations HQed there: Devon and Chesapeake Energy...and, uh, Tumbleweeds Inc.
Known for: Hosting the World Cup of Softball!

Then again maybe NBA Commish David Stern thinks OKC is in Europe and is the first franchise in that new NBA Trans-Europa Express Division that will turn the NBA into a sport bigger than soccer. Pretty much meaning it'll become more half-court with less scoring. Just like soccer!

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Escape from Bob Cole

We all know Bob Cole is well past his expiry date, but CBC still insists on wheeling him out. Unlike days of Lafleurvian yore when the Habs might be broadcast on CBC's French channel, unless you have RDS, we're sort of stuck with Bob "Boston player passes to Boston player" Cole doing the B's-Habs series...or are we? The good news is anyone with a digital terminal or a dish can still catch the series and avoid Cole altogether.

On Shaw anyway turn on the usual Channel 280 (you know the one where the Nux PPV games are usually on) and you get TV Free Cole. You may have to brush up on your Chinese dialects, but hockey is still hockey in any language. Yes, the CBC which has experimented with broadcasting games in different languages this year has decided to go all Mandarin for this year's playoffs on its alternate feed.

Ah, it's like the Mother Corp of hockey broadcasting has finally joined the 21st century and the puck truly does rise in the Far East.

Carey Price's ode to Patrick Roy showboating that turned the game the B's way was all the sweeter in Mandarin.

Nonehead Is Suddenly A God?

Did I miss the last few seasons in Canuckland? The majority of media here and across the continent seem to think that Dave Nonis actually did a good, and even a great job, putting together the current Canucks team. Some suggest he has actually has planted the seeds for future success (= an underachieving regular season followed by a flukey run to the Final?).

My guess is the media, like us fans, grew so bored by the style of play that Yogi Bear (aka Alain Vigneault) created, they began having delusions and thought Ryan Kesler was actually Mike Richards and that Alexander Edler was really Mike Green. Sure the Canucks have some talent but nothing compared to even the teams behind them like the Oil or the Hawks.

As far as cap space that's all well and good but Nonehead's track record at getting ready for primetime free agents to sign and come out to the Wet Coast has been poor. It seemed like Minnesota's drecks--Marc "Don't Call Me 'Guy' " Chouinard, Richard Park and yes, you Willie "get a shorter stick so you can actually hit some forwards with passes" Mitchell are not exactly the second coming of Gretzky, Kurri and Coffey.

Let's slice through all the "we have the best goalie in the world you should sign with us" mantra. Big-buck, big-name free agents did not flock to Buffalo in the Hasek era nor did they descend on the New Jersey swamp while Brodeur was in his prime. OK, Roy in Colorado might've swayed the pickups of guys like Rob Blake, Ray Bourque, etc., but then again, Pierre Lacroix also had some trump cards on the forward line, too.

Bottom line is no freewheeling top scorer is going to choose a team based on a world-class goalie who fronts New Jersey West. It's either money or a chance to play with an equally (or better) talented forward ("Hello, Ryan Smyth, this is Joe Sakic, come on down!").

So where to from here?

Well, before panic sets in about having a GM in place for the draft, Burkster and Nonehead did not exactly draft well so it's hardly likely even if Steve Tambellini is still the interim GM that he could do any worse running that show.

Basically, time to cut the Pat Quinn acolytes' cord and get a proper regime in that will build an actual team that will stop talking about our "core."

Plus I even forgot to mention how Nonehead basically got nothing for UFA Ed Jovanoski last season and will leave the new GM with nothing in return for '08 UFAs Markus Naslund and Brendan Morrison. Good job, Dave. You wouldn't change anything, eh?