Keith Ballard at Forward: The Great Experiment

Patrick Johnston
March 26 2013 02:59PM

This post requires you to take a moment and consider an alternate reality.

It requires you to step back and allow yourself to consider a player without any preconceptions, to consider what talents a player has and then to make a judgment on his position. There's no consideration for a player's salary, or how he was acquired. This is simply about talent.

Ok, you ready?

Let's go talk about Keith Ballard, NHL forward.

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Game #33 Preview: Blue Jackets @ Canucks

Dimitri Filipovic
March 26 2013 01:56PM

The Canucks look to get by Fedor Tyutin and the Columbus Blue Jackets on Tuesday night.

Thanks to a scheduling quirk resulting from the lockout, the Vancouver Canucks and Columbus Blue Jackets face each other on Tuesday night for the 3rd time in 19 days. The first two contests took place in Ohio and were, um, fairly painful to watch. The matchups featured a game that ended in a shootout, a game that was decided in overtime, and just 5 goals total in over 129 combined minutes of play.

The Canucks are coming back home off of a thoroughly successful roadtrip, and are winners of four in a row. But I'm sure the visiting Blue Jackets - who are 7-1-2 in their past 10, themselves - will try their best to stop both that streak, and the fans from having any fun.

For what it's worth, the last time I made mention of how few goals I was expecting heading into a game, the Canucks beat the Nashville Predators by a score of 7-4. Just remember who to thank if this one goes that way.

Read Past the Jump for More on the Game.

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Bold Moves: The Keith Ballard Trade

Thomas Drance
March 26 2013 01:12PM

Photo Credit: Jeff Vinnick via NHLI/Getty

This hockey season for the first time in his tenure as General Manager, Mike Gillis is beginning to feel some heat in the Vancouver sports market. Since he was first hired back in 2008, he's largely been immune to critcism and mostly that's for good reason. He's nailed the details, racked up one of the best win/loss records in the NHL and his team made it all the way to game seven of the Stanley Cup Final. In doing so, he's built up a fair bit of capital on the "good will" front.

But that capital is evaporating as quickly as Vancouver's strangehold on the Northwest Division. Part of the reason that the court of public opinion has slowly begun to turn against Mike Gillis is, in part, that for the first season since 2008-09 Vancouver's PDO (PDO is the sum of a team's shooting percentage and save percentage, and functions as a shorthand measurement of puck luck) isn't two standard deviations above the mean. 

But it's his performance on the trade market where the criticism of Mike Gillis begins to really pick up some urgency. This week we'll profile four "bold moves" that Mike Gillis has made over the past three seasons. We'll point out the particular areas where Mike Gillis has spent his "good will" and invested in a handful of assets from whom he's recouped a limited return so far. That series begins today with the Keith Ballard trade. Read past the jump.

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On the Waiver Wire: Should the Canucks Put in a Claim on Jussi Jokinen or Kaspars Daugavins?

Thomas Drance
March 26 2013 11:12AM

Jussi Jokinen owns the faceoff circle.

Mike Gillis noted in an interview on the Team 1040 recently that there has been more waiver action this season than we've ever seen in years past. Today there are a couple of intriguing names on waivers in Jussi Jokinen and Kaspars Daugavins, and neither of them is a player of the "one-dimensional fourth line enforcer" variety. With the Canucks forward group so depleted by injury that the team has turned to playing Keith Ballard out of position at left-wing, should they hazard aclaim in on either of these two forwards? 

We'll evaluate on the other side of the jump.

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Does Jannik Hansen Belong on the Power-Play?

Thomas Drance
March 26 2013 09:14AM

Mason Raymond gives Jannik Hansen credit for a set up that led to a goal.
Or maybe he's telling him that he can't pass and looks foolish on the power-play?
Photo Credit: Harry How/Getty Images North America

It's not a secret that the Canucks power-play smells like stilton this season. While it appears to me that the systems are mostly fine - especially through the neutral zone - the execution, the habit of getting outnumbered down low in puck battles and the personnel's overall reluctance to shoot have contributed to a ghastly 13.4% power-play conversion rate. That's good for 29th in the league, quite a shocking fall from grace for a team that has consistently generated shots at an elite rate with the man-advantage and has capitalized on power-play opportunities at a top-five rate over the past several seasons.

There's no doubt that this an area of the game where the Canucks really miss Ryan Kesler, who has been by far their most efficient power-play goal scorer since the 2009-10 season. In Kesler's absence, the Canucks have struggled mightily to find a suitable replacement and all of Zack Kassian, Alex Burrows, Jordan Schroeder and Jannik Hansen have been given a look in this spot. It's a veritable ploughman's lunch of round holes and square pegs.

Recently Jannik Hansen has emerged as the coaching staff's first choice, a tactical selection which Tony Gallagher recently described as a "pathology" because apparently Jannik Hansen "has demonstrated over and over again that he can't pass the puck very well." Yeah okay. Let's unpack Gallagher's nonsense claim after the jump.

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