Bad teams and perspective - Weekend Watchability Index

Cam Charron
March 07 2014 01:19PM

lalongo henrik
Ah, those were the days.

I'm typing these words up at 6:09 on a Thursday evening, between the afternoon and the evening curling draws at the Brier. It's not that I find curling more exciting than hockey, but I don't think I've watched a full Vancouver Canucks game beginning-to-end since their game against Toronto right before the Olympic break, and before then, well, yeah.

I was born in Vancouver, grew up in Vancouver and have lived 98% of my life in British Columbia. I've also spent about 40% of my life watching sports. It would shock my 15-year-old self that my 25-year-old self doesn't watch Canucks games all the time anymore, nor particularly cares where they finish in the standings. I'm not sure quite what did me in, but I haven't cheered for a goal since the Stanley Cup riot (well, except that time Chris Tanev happened). 

There's a TV behind me tuned to TSN replaying the Todd Bertuzzi and Steve Moore incident on repeat, doing a 10-part series because of the 10-year anniversary of March 8. 2004. Yeah, I was at that game too. I remember the date.

What strikes me about the Canucks this season is how bad they appear versus how bad they are in reality. The Canucks are 17th in the league in PDO and 10th in Corsi close. They're 4th in shots for on the powerplay and yet 29th in shooting percentage. (Stats from Thursday night from ExtraSkater.com) They've been decimated by injuries. There's a legitimate case to be made that the Canucks have been unlucky this season, but I don't think that there's a legitimate case to be made that the Canucks are still among the league's upper echelon of teams.

When I last checked, the Canucks were down 3-0 to Dallas (and wound up losing 6-1). The Stars have been my adopted team over the last couple of seasons, so that's not all that bad. I really like Jamie Benn. The Stars have a real shot to not only make the playoffs, but make some noise.

As I see it, there's little reason to keep this current management group and coaching staff together for another season. Possibly a worse sin than being bad - the Canucks have become boring. Mike Gillis has become obsessed with size in the post-Stanley Cup era, and John Tortorella somehow got an entire city that watched Henrik and Daniel Sedin skate around opponents for a decade convinced that toughness wins out. Tom Sestito Top Sixtito has become a running joke.

With Daniel injured, Henrik ineffective and Roberto Luongo traded, we're running out of bright spots on this team. During the summer I personally "retooled" my expectations for the Canucks: the goal was no longer to win Presidents' Trophies or Stanley Cups, but to simply be good enough to help Henrik become the Canucks first ever player with 1000 points. That would secure him entry into the Hall of Fame. But even that looks to be in Jeopardy lately. Henrik has 40 points this season and still has 168 left to go in four-and-something years as a player in his mid-30s (assuming he plays out his contract until the very end). It may go down to the wire.

But some perspective is necessary. Everything has fallen apart and things look bleak, but it's an interesting contrast since, ironically, about 25 fanbases would be completely envious of what Canuck fans got to experience since about December 27 2002. Since then the Canucks have won 131 more games than they've lost. They've never finished a full 82-game season below 39 wins and missed the playoffs just twice. Both years they've missed the playoffs they were in the race right up until the end, missing by a combined total of six points. They've won seven playoff series and were serious contenders for two generations worth of teams.

That's over right now, and a period of rebuilding begins. I don't know how long it will take, but in the meantime, if you're a hockey fan, here are some good games for you to watch on the weekend:

WEEKEND WATCHABILITY INDEX

Every weekend game is ranked on three factors: the quality of the two teams involved, the potential for absurd goal totals, and the proximity of both teams to playoff races.

FIVE STAR GAMES

Boston Bruins @ Tampa Bay Lightning - Saturday @ 4:00 p.m. Pacific

The hook: I'm not entirely sure how my formula will react to the loss of Martin St. Louis, but the Lightning are still a high-quality team that need wins to avoid being caught in the race for the Wild Card. Both teams have excellent offences and goaltending and have much better offensive depth than defensive depth, so this could be either a hard-fought, high-chance 1-0 game or a wide open 7-6 shootout. Or something in between.

Pittsburgh Penguins @ Anaheim Ducks - Friday @ 7:00 p.m. Pacific

The hook: Pittsburgh is on the second half of a back-to-back. Both teams are susceptible to being beaten by high puck-possession teams but they're just goal-scoring machines right now. Also, a chance to scout eventual Canuck Brandon Sutter.

FOUR STAR GAMES

St. Louis Blues @ Colorado Avalanche - Sunday @ 5:00 p.m. Pacific

The hook: The highest-ranked Conference III game on the week! Ryan Miller, who has thus far seen Conference opponents Phoenix and Nashville, gets his first big test against a real Western Conference team. Miller so far has a .921 save percentage as a Blue, compared to .923 with the Sabres this season, proving once and for all that the Buffalo Sabres are better at restricting shot quality against than Ken Hitchcock.

Detroit Red Wings @ New York Rangers - Sunday @ 9:30 a.m. Pacific

The hook: Wait, you're hungover and won't be watching the Brier bronze medal game? You probably deserve to watch a game with David Legwand and Riley Sheahan potentially playing Top Six roles.

New Jersey Devils @ Detroit Red Wings - Friday @ 4:30 p.m. Pacific

The hook: There may be something wrong with my formula, but these two teams have the highest combined even strength Corsi of any game played this weekend, and they're also going up the same time as Buffalo and Florida, which, wait… isn't that Roberto Luongo's first game since the trade? Okay, scratch that. Don't watch this one at all. Jaromir Jagr 700 goals watch is over anyway.

Boston Bruins @ Florida Panthers - Sunday @ 2:00 p.m. Pacific

The hook: There's a chance the Panthers might become a watchable team with a good goaltender. They've had decent puck possession numbers for a couple of years but train wrecks in net. Brad Marchand will probably do something stupid.

Ottawa Senators @ Winnipeg Jets - Saturday @ 12:00 p.m. Pacific

The hook: A noon-time, nationally-televised game between two offensive teams that can't buy a save and need every win in a competitive playoff field? What's not to love here?

Phoenix Coyotes @ Washington Capitals - Saturday @ 4:00 p.m. Pacific

The hook: Mike Ribeiro's anticipated return to Washington, right? May be worth to turn on Gamecentre unless the HNIC game between Philadelphia and Toronto devolves into complete chaos, which isn't all that unlikely of an event.

Montreal Canadiens @ San Jose Sharks - Saturday @ 7:00 p.m. Pacific

The hook: My formula ranked Calgary-Vancouver as the worst game of the week, so this is a pretty good alternative. My fearless prediction: Marc-Edouard Vlasic is on the ice for two P.K. Subban points, and Subban subsequently sends the game tape, a trade demand, and a Xerox of his butt to Steve Yzerman.

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Cam Charron is a BC hockey fan that writes about hockey on many different websites including this one.
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#1 Wyatt
March 07 2014, 01:39PM
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Love watching the struggles of this canucks team. karma at it's finest. no cups. now a fresh re-build. fail...

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#2 NM00
March 07 2014, 01:51PM
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To each their own.

But it's a little surprising that an analytically-inclined mind cares about who gets into a political shrine known as a hall of fame.

Roberto Luongo might not make it into the hall of fame which is beyond dumb.

Another major sports league refuses to induct no-brainer-by-any-metric candidates like Roger Clemens & Barry Bonds.

Who cares...

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#3 Spikey
March 07 2014, 01:55PM
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it's just one more week until the afl season starts

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#4 north island #1
March 07 2014, 02:55PM
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Well, on the bright side of things Micheal Grabner and the Isles are coming to town this Monday.I`ve always been Grabner fan,and I hated that trade.(Along with the coaching staff and scouts).I remember it as a knee jerk reaction to Gillis and the Nucks losing all the defencemen that year with injuries.It started Gillis on that long road that he`s presently on of train wrecking the team.Grabner has had kind of an off season,due to injuries and a suspension.But lately he`s been on fire with 3 shorthanded goals.He`s got that sniper quality about him,(like Cody),amazing speed, and god knows the Canucks could use that right now.I hope he lights it up Monday night,and I hope Gillis is sitting next to Aqu, that would be funny,and might be the final nail in Mike Gillis`s coffin.

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#5 The Benevolent Orca
March 07 2014, 03:57PM
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north island #1 wrote:

Well, on the bright side of things Micheal Grabner and the Isles are coming to town this Monday.I`ve always been Grabner fan,and I hated that trade.(Along with the coaching staff and scouts).I remember it as a knee jerk reaction to Gillis and the Nucks losing all the defencemen that year with injuries.It started Gillis on that long road that he`s presently on of train wrecking the team.Grabner has had kind of an off season,due to injuries and a suspension.But lately he`s been on fire with 3 shorthanded goals.He`s got that sniper quality about him,(like Cody),amazing speed, and god knows the Canucks could use that right now.I hope he lights it up Monday night,and I hope Gillis is sitting next to Aqu, that would be funny,and might be the final nail in Mike Gillis`s coffin.

Agreed on Grabner. That was such a bad trade. He's lighting it up and I feel would have been well equipped to play on the 2nd line with Kesler. Somewhat like the Seguin/Benn duo. One amazing two-way forward and a speedy sniper.

One of many many bad trades by this GM.

I really feel the Canucks have an identity crisis right now. A few years ago it was all about speed and skill. Then after the 2011 loss they decided they need to get bigger and stronger. Now at the trade deadline Gillis says we need to get younger and faster.

I really feel like they need to decide on a direction and stick with it for a couple years.

Personally, I feel speed and skill is the only way to go. Look back 10 years at the winners. Minus Boston, every team was built around speed and skill.

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#6 Samson
March 07 2014, 06:29PM
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I hate the "we weren't tough enough" narrative about that finals loss. We lost that series because of injuries.

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#7 Samson
March 07 2014, 06:31PM
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I still think Henrik played hurt in that series.

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#9 CLuke
March 09 2014, 03:45PM
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The Benevolent Orca wrote:

Agreed on Grabner. That was such a bad trade. He's lighting it up and I feel would have been well equipped to play on the 2nd line with Kesler. Somewhat like the Seguin/Benn duo. One amazing two-way forward and a speedy sniper.

One of many many bad trades by this GM.

I really feel the Canucks have an identity crisis right now. A few years ago it was all about speed and skill. Then after the 2011 loss they decided they need to get bigger and stronger. Now at the trade deadline Gillis says we need to get younger and faster.

I really feel like they need to decide on a direction and stick with it for a couple years.

Personally, I feel speed and skill is the only way to go. Look back 10 years at the winners. Minus Boston, every team was built around speed and skill.

Agreed, but for more than a couple years. Sometimes it takes more than a couple years for a plan to bear fruit.

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