Is AV’s goalie strategy as simple as this?
This is a new Friday feature combining a healthy mixture of observation, analysis, and foresight on the Vancouver Canucks. If you’d like to get at me about anything covered in this column, follow me on Twitter at @yyjordan and let’s start a textual relationship (wink).
1. I’ll begrudgingly start with the goalies. So much has been said about this already, so I’ll just point this out: Cory Schneider played 7 straight games in late November/early December last season, simply because he was playing too well to take out. Roberto Luongo was phenomenal against the Kings and shutout the Avs on Wednesday, so playing him against Chicago is consistent with what we’ve seen from Vigneault. Mike Gillis said the goaltending situation has "played out the way we thought it would", and AV confirmed Gillis had input on Lou getting the start Friday. Is Vigneault simply playing the hot hand, or is Gillis insisting Lou start to up his trade value? There’s no need to "showcase" Lou to anyone at age 33, but it doesn’t hurt to keep his rare talent fresh in the minds of those GMs with struggling goaltenders right now.
2. Cory Schneider "isn’t crying himself to sleep", and he’ll have his chance to reclaim his #1 spot soon enough. I don’t know where this mindset comes from that a player’s "confidence" or however you want to define it needs to be handled with the care of a Fabergé egg. Schneider gets paid a lot of money to play hockey. He can handle it.
3. Going into the 2011-12 season, the Canucks had an obvious need for a top six forward. It didn’t take long for Gillis to address that need by bringing in David Booth. This year, the team could use another right-side defenseman and maybe a reliable centreman. It feels like Gillis is doing the same thing this year by seeing what he has in the first handful of games before pulling the trigger on something. The obvious points to Roberto Luongo being involved, but what if it’s something we’re not expecting? AV has changed the way he’s utilizing his defenseman slightly, and when he did that with his forwards last season, a trade soon followed.
4. Jason Garrison scored his first goal as a Canuck in Wednesday’s game against the Avalanche (just letting you know because if you read CA you’re likely a stats nerd and therefore don’t actually watch the games). It was perfect timing, as I had just spent the majority of the day defending him on twitter. As Drance pointed out in this post, the flack Garrison has been garnering early in this season is underserved. Much of that flack comes from his struggles on the first power-play unit, while fans watch Sami Salo get off to a hot start in Tampa on the strength of a ridiculously high PDO.
5. The rampant negativity throughout the Vancouver media early in the season — in particular since the shootout loss to the Kings — has been driving me nuts. Whether they are bringing up Salo’s stats as a not-so-subtle dig at Garrison or creating imaginary losing streaks, it’s insufferable and pointless. I understand they have stories to write every day, but surely that can be done without trying to incite panic over every lost faceoff?
6. Many of the criticisms towards the Canucks almost seem to ignore the fact that the team is missing their most important player. Play at even-strength, face-offs, the power-play…all will be helped immensely by the return of Ryan Kesler. It doesn’t mean the team is above criticism right now, but you just can’t replace the presence of an elite two-way centreman. The Smylosphere produced two quality takes on Kesler this week: one from Drance and one from those other guys.
7. Despite the team’s early up-and-down play, one constant positive has been the play of their young players: Zack Kassian, Jordan Schroeder and Chris Tanev. I love the mentor role that the Sedin twins have taken with Kassian. The twins asked Zack to train with them in the summer, and they really seem to enjoy having him on their line. He’s exactly the type of player that this team needs right now.
8. The way Kassian and Schroeder are playing, there could be a bit of a glut at forward once Ryan Kesler and David Booth return. The question mark is the 3rd line centre position — if it’s Schroeder (and I think he’s earned it with his play), it likely means both Aaron Volpatti and Dale Weise are out of the lineup. Both have proved their worth with relentless hitting and a willingness to scrap, which AV no doubt loves. This issue, along with the goalie situation, can be filed under "good problems".
9. How awesome is it that the official Canucks site is putting up news links every day, many of them to local blogs? It just proves that if you beat people over the head with enough quality content, sooner or later they’re going to listen 😉
10. Here’s a fun game. The possibility of NHL expansion has been a popular topic lately, with talk of a new arena in Markham, Ontario. During the last NHL expansion draft in 2000, teams were given the option of protecting one goalie, five defensemen, and nine forwards, or two goalies, three defensemen and seven forwards. Simple question: if you’re Canucks management, who do you protect?