The Canucks Didn’t Just Get Swept, They Got Swept Ironically

Photograph by: Marcio Jose Sanchez

To call the refereeing in Vancouver’s first round series sweep at the hands of the San Jose Sharks "controversial" might be putting it too mildly. When Kelly Sutherland is involved, and when you watch the calls that went against the Canucks in the 2013 playoffs, it’s tough not to get your conspiracy theory wheels spinning.

The Sharks enjoyed fourteen more power-play opportunities in the first round sweep than the Canucks did. Compounding the unbalanced number of power-play opportunities is the fact that game four was ultimately decided on a couple of power-play goal resulting directly from very iffy calls. I’m not one for blaming the referees especially not in a sweep, as tempting as it is after the way game four played out. Penalties are like bounces and it’s too easy to read something sinister into the randomness. But there is an irony here that is worth getting into after the jump.

What’s that irony? The irony is that over the past couple of years power-play opportunities have declined precipitously in both the regular season and the postseason. Tony Gallagher, for example, believes that you can point to the penalty-less game seven between the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Boston Bruins as the day the game changed in this respect (I’m not convinced by this necessarily since the decline in power-play opportunities league wide has been a longer term trend, but it’s worth noting I figure).

Over the past few years the Canucks have jettisoned offensive talent in the likes of Christian Ehrhoff, Cody Hodgson, and Mikael Samuelsson in favour of more banging-type two-way pieces in Jason Garrison, Zack Kassian and David Booth. Before that Boston series, for example, the Canucks seemed to prioritize skill at the draft table. Since 2011 they’ve drafted almost uniformly big forwards.

I don’t think it’s a stretch to argue that Mike Gillis looked at the way the game was being played, read the tea leaves, and decided that his club needed to be better, bigger and tougher to play against at five-on-five. If that came at the expense of some offense, and some power-play offense in particular, so be it.

So the Canucks spend two or three seasons remaking their club more in the image of Dave Tippet’s Coyotes, Claude Julien’s Bruins, Dean Lombardi’s Kings and Ken Hitchcock’s St. Louis Blues. They put together arguably their best five-on-five team during the Vigneault/Gillis era this season. The Canucks stop "blowing the zone" so aggressively in the defensive end preferring to have forwards collapse low, and the Sedins make a concerted (and successful) effort to improve their two-way play, even at the expense of some of their offensive firepower.

So, of course, the way this plays out is that the Canucks end up getting swept in a series in which the team they played against averaged six power-play opportunities per game. Maybe it was the team’s reputation catching up to them, not that it makes this any better.

Ultimately the Sharks on the power-play outscored the Canucks at even-strength with seven goals to six. Meanwhile the Canucks controlled play – if not the scoring chance battle – at even-strength throughout the series. But it just didn’t matter because this was a series that was decided on special teams.

Which is pretty ironic considering the way the 2011 Stanley Cup Final was officiated, or the way the calls went in the entirety of the postseason in 2012. Don’t ya think?

  • 106 and 106


    Came over from oilersnation (really trying not to troll) to see how your handling it, and QUIETLY is the answer.

    The team has no heart????

    How about the fans have no heart, either.

    Log-in and say something, guys. Drance writes a good article, and NO response (he’s lives in Toronto though, maybe that’s a reason).

    PS: losing Hodgson was a big deal, IMO. Maybe the Sedin’s should be split? Schneider gets a way better return than the albatross contract that is Luongo’s. Bad calls are bad calls, the Sharks eternally suck in the playoffs but Van was undisciplined.

    Very very excited for your off-season.

    • elvis15

      Sheesh, not trying to troll, but no heart? Have you seen the Canucks message boards? All heart and no head, unfortunately.

      As far as the article, the second last paragraph really did it for me. the rest is a salient point as well about losing Ehrhoff’s PP ability in favour of Garrison’s steady play all around, and exchanging Hodgson’s skill for Kassian’s grit, but to have it be so close 5 on 5 but so far apart in the series results just makes me that much more disappointed in the smug satisfaction Sharks fans are taking in the win.

    • ShagtheFab

      No heart? Naaahhh you have to give us time to collect our thoughts after what was the worst playoff series by the Canucks since i have been around. Are you forgetting that we, on occasion, have torched our own city.

      I think you are totally right about Hodgson, and about the Sedins too. Except id rather see them both go. Luo is as good as gone so the goaltending question is easy. So who is next on the chopping block???

      Coach V… gone. Raymond… gone. Ballard… gone.

      I am actually excited to see what happens this offseason too. What are your predictions?

      • ShagtheFab

        Lots of disappointment if you think Vancouver can win the cup next year.

        Get use to it Vancouver is an above average team right now, and it will take years before they can contend again

  • UkeeRob

    I don’t think the cup will be back in Canada anytime soon. Canadian teams can try to adjust to the type of team needed all they want, but the officiating will change concurrently. It’s not just the Canucks facing this battle. I would be very surprised if there are any Canadian teams past the second round. The cup staying in the states is what the league wants. It’s just better business. Having LA, Chicago, Boston, or any other big American city team as their champion is what the league wants period. They know they’ll always have Canadians as fans. They take our passion for the game for granted. They don’t have that luxury in the states and they know it.

    • 106 and 106

      Sure, that’s a valid conspiracy theory – the oil in 2006 (game 7), the flames (game 7 SCF), the sens, nucks –

      Teams that won: Carolina, Tampa Bay, Anaheim and Boston.

      But if the league wanted to using referring as their way of manipulating games, doesn’t it make sense that they get San Jose as many home games as possible (3 per series, especially with home advantage, right?).

      • UkeeRob

        Much more news worthy to sell a sweep vs a win in 5 or 6, also a lot less risky.

        It’s hard not to agree with the conspiracy theory. The only reason there’ll be a Canadian team in the second round is b/c Montreal is playing Ottawa (pretty questionable officiating over in that series too (against Montreal)).

  • antro

    Relax 106 – in the follow up to yesterday’s game there has been 3+ articles on here prior to Thom’s.

    If you look through them you’ll see plenty of passionate Canucks fans discussing an array of topics.

    Well said regarding the change in officiating Thom.

  • Brent

    Gee 106, I think this article just went up, give us time, we are still licking our wounds.

    It is ironic, but I think this is an anomaly. The whistles will go away again for the next round (and likely the rounds that are going on right now). I know people think it is just a canuck fan thing to blame the refs, and as Thomas has said, this was not the most important reason the we lost this series. But it is something that seems to come up. I will also remind you that it is not just always us. Remember when Chicago went down against Phoenix last year? Chicago fans were claiming a conspiracy over the calls, claiming that it was in the leagues best interest to have Phonix make it to the next round to attract a buyer. Truth or fiction? Who knows.

    But we do know that based on the Colin Campbell e-mails that the NHL does have an influence on how the games are called. I think it would be good for the game for refs to have to explain their calls after the game, may lead to more transparency. And hopefully more consistency.

    • Cheap Shot Charlie

      Chicago fans were not claiming a conspiracy over calls last year against the Coyotes. Raffey Torrez left his feet and delivered a nasty hit to Hossa. He paid a hefty price(gamewise and financially) for his actions. Other than a couple of weak goals allowed by Crawford in the net, Phoenix outright beat the Hawks!!! All the games went to overtime. By the way, Torrez had a great series for the Sharks against his old team – The Canucks!!!He appears to have made adjustments to his game while still being aggressive and physical. I would take him in a second on the Hawks.

  • UkeeRob

    A few more games is only a few more million. Having a team seen in the White House every year is PR that far out ways that. Think of the big picture, because the league does.

  • UkeeRob

    @106 has nothing better to do; his/her team didnt even make the post season…

    The loss is what it is. Sure, it’s disappointing but life goes on… hopefully this is a reality check for the organization and they realize changes need to be made.

  • billm

    Everyone can say the officiating isn’t what cost the Canucks the series. Maybe not, but it’s hard to over look at the same time.

    To date in the 2013 post season power play opportunities so far for each series

    SJS/Van 24-10
    Pit/NYI 15-15
    AnA/Det 15-14
    Tor/Bos 11-9
    Ott/Mon 15-13
    Stl/LaK 14-10
    Wsh/NYR 10-12
    Chi/Min 11-15

    Are we to seriously believe that Vancouver is just that much more undisciplined than EVERY OTHER team in the post season. I call BS.

    There were 3 closely played games in the series. In every one of the games the Sharks had more power plays in the 1st and 3rd periods. In the 2 games the Canucks had the lead at some point, the Sharks were given multiple PP opportunities to tie the game.

    Last nights game was a perfect example of how the refs used penalties to manage a close game in one teams favor. Canucks out played the Sharks in the 1st period. 2nd period the spent a large amount of time in the box sapping all the momentum they had from the 1st. Canucks owned the 3rd period, and once again once they had the lead it was just a matter of time. I even called the overtime over at NM. Sharks will get a weak call for a PP and win. Bam.

    I didn’t say anything after the Boston or LA series but I’m calling it now.There is a bias among the officials when it comes to the Canucks. It’s as plain as those numbers above to see. I have watched every game of the Stl/LA series and these two teams are beating the crap out of each other yet the series and all the other series are being called completely different than the Sharks/Canucks.

    Thought I would add one more stat line as food for thought.

    Regular season Power Play opportunities and times short handed for each team.

    SJ 169 PPO 147 TSH
    Van 165 PPO 169 TSH

    So the Sharks were shorthanded 0.87 times for every PP and the Canucks shorthanded 1.02 for every power play

    So, extrapolating that, if we are going to use regular season as some indicator of the post season

    It should either have been close to one of the following:

    24 PP for SJ and 20 for Van (0.87 of SJ PPO)
    10 PP for Van and 10.1 (round down to 10) for SJ (1.02 of Van PPO)


    • elvis15

      Here’s a post I made on CDC and a few other sites:

      I’m fine with legitimate penalties, but when the Sharks haven’t been called for the same things, even in the same game, you have to wonder about how much impact that had on any momentum the Canucks were trying to generate.

      Momentum can be a determining factor in any game if a team is given penalties – particularly if they’re early in the 1st period or late in the 3rd/in overtime. How many times did we see that in this series against the Canucks vs against the Sharks.

      Game 1: two Canuck penalties in the 1st, one in the 3rd; none in either period for the Sharks (4-2 PP in favour of SJ)
      Game 2: two Canuck in the 1st, one in the 3rd; one in 3rd for Sharks (5-3 PP in favour of SJ)
      Game 3: three Canuck in the 1st, six in the 3rd; three in the 1st, one in the 3rd for Sharks (9-2 PP in favour of SJ)
      Game 4: two Canuck in the 1st, one in the 3rd/one in OT; one in the 1st, one in the 3rd for the Sharks (6-3 PP in favour of Sharks)

      That’s a total of nine Canuck penalties in the 1st and ten in the 3rd/OT. Compare that to four in the 1st and three in the 3rd/OT for the Sharks. That’s 9/10(19) penalties compared to 4/3(7) in the opening and closing periods of the games well in favour of the Sharks. 19 to 7. 5 to 3 for penalties in the 2nd period, still in San Jose’s favour.

  • GarthButchers

    Clearly the refs are biased against Vancouver but is there anything the Canucks can do about it?
    Fans from other teams seem to believe that it is some form of karmic retribution from the 2011 season but again is there anything the Canucks can do about it?
    Get rid of AV?
    I don’t see 14, 17, or either twin going anywhere…

    • Cheap Shot Charlie

      I don’t know if the refs are truly biased against VAN. Every team goes through stretches that they have bad calls against them at bad times. Plus, I think Bieksa’s comments basically called the refs out.

      Reputation is vital in all sport. The Canucks have to rebuild their reputation from a negative back to a positive.

  • GarthButchers

    I get it, hey, I’m a Leafs fan. If anyone knows suffering it’s Leafs fans. Sorry but blaming the zebras for the loss just doesn’t cut it. In this series, I would put more blame on the goaltending, that last goal was vomit inducing. Luongo was the better goalie, but AV kept going back to Schnider, why? Pride? He made a decision during the Boston series and has stuck with it. Then there is the GM. Oi, wanting to make a hockey trade when he was trying to do a salary dump clearly didn’t work. If everything stays the same, the Nucks will have about 3-4 million to sign about 5 guys, or promote them, of which most are RFA’s. Buy out Luongo? Terrible idea, he will be a boat anchor for the next 17, count them 17 seasons, yikes! Keep Luongo for the next 3 yrs or so, to mitigate the short and long term damage of his contract. Trade Schnider, you might be able to do a hockey trade with him, get a decent return, like a 2nd or 3rd line centre and some draft picks, can’t have too many draft picks. Toronto doesn’t need a goalie, if the rumors are correct the Nucks kept calling T.O. to take Luongo at a smaller and smaller price. About the only team that would trade for him before next yr would be Pitt and they don’t have the space either. Last nights results were set in motion over a yr ago, blaming the refs won’t’ get you far, killing the penalties will, and the best killer is supposed to be your goalie. He didn’t get it done, he’s not the only reason, you need to be able to score too. Both AV and Gillis need to go with Schneider in tow. Hey I’ve been there (JFJ) I feel your pain, but in the end you guys live in Vancouver, go outside enjoy the sun, trees and mountains, I would if I was there now, you live in one of the most beautiful cities in the world, you can always throw that back in anyones face.

  • billm

    Make you wonder about the Kassian trade. We had 3 producing lines last year this year we had none.

    Kassian was on the 4th line. I guess its time to get out the golf clubs

  • antro

    If you had a deadly powerplay, like the Canucks in 2011 and SJ for a while, wouldn’t you try your luck at embellishing? Didn’t Poile or Trotz call out SJ for embellishing in 2011?

  • elvis15

    While I think the refing was pretty atrocious, the way the Sharks beat the Canucks was so incredibly similar to how the Canucks beat the Sharks in 2011.

    They even had Torres on their team. Since then, the Sharks stayed the course and got better, and the Canucks tried to turn themselves (unsuccessfully) into the Bruins.

  • ShagtheFab

    I think it’s very interesting that in virtually every matchup the penalty minutes are favoring the large market team. Montreal is having a problem similar to Vancouver. It appears as if they have instructions to help ensure that the teams with the biggest potential market make it through the first rounds. It would be very interesting to see the stats correlated of penalty minutes Vs. market population.

  • ShagtheFab

    The hit by Sedin was a penalty , however given the timing and another team facing elimination it is a hard call to make.

    BTW Kerry Fraser thought it should have been called a penalty.

    I think the Canucks have angered the refs over the years, and the Canucks are the most hated team in the NHL.

    As Raylan says:

    “You run into an jerk in the morning, you ran into an jerk,” “You run into jerks all day, you’re the jerk.

    • Cheap Shot Charlie

      I have heard a lot of people on that call today – hockey experts, and most said it was iffy at best, and not a call for OT. There were highlight hits from other games that were not called, not to mention the many such hits in the Blues-Kings. As the guys at TSN said the Shark player does nothing to protect himself. BTW that was same the guy Bieksa hit in the third to draw the penalty – and he certainly sold that call (and it was a near identical play to a non called hit on Kesler in game 3).

      There are two truths that we need to hold simultaneously. On one hand the Sharks were the better team, they executed better on the power play, etc. On the other, there was a discrepency in the calls – Bieksa was right that Couture and others did their best to embellish, both the calls late in the game were iffy, and that on the OT one, the call was made by the guy 60 feet away – the guy with the history with the Canucks from the cup final and the game in calgary this year – while the guy stationed nearby did not.

      Conspiracy theories are fun,- “just because I am paranoid, doesn’t mean they aren’t out to get me.” What I notice is the gradual takeover of the game by US born players. Think of how many captains are American born – in LA, NYR, St Louis, NJ last year, etc – and how many of the leading goalies are US – Miller, Quick, Detroit goalie, Anderson in Ottawa, Schneider. And consider how the US is starting to dominate the world juniors. I liked what someone saying about the PR value of the White House visit, and it seems the NHL is desparae to grow in the US, by expanding the number of outdoor games to include a game in LA – which btw is an outrage: the outdoor classics celebrates hockey roots being played outside in the cold – another indication that the “end of the world is near.

  • Cheap Shot Charlie

    Compare these lists:

    1. Stan Smyl, Thomas Gradin, Richard Brodeur, Harold Snepts

    2. Kesler, Burrows, Bieksa, Laperriere


    List 1: players with character, heart, tenacity, toughness, and class; underdogs in SCF and truly supported and respected by most Canadian hockey fans

    List 2: hackers, biters, whiners, divers, cheap shot-ers, and dirty, classless players not supported nor respected by anyone outside Vancouver, least of all by hockey fans in other Canadian cities (not to mention other hockey players)

    You could also compare the coaches that go with the two lists.

    Get rid of the #2s in your organization and get back to finding character people with some class and you may see your team gain much broader support (and success).

    PS While you’re at it, bring back the flying V jerseys and dump the lame hockey stick rectangle and the puking whale. Both are better than Carolina’s toilet bowl cleaner logo, but not by much…

    • Cheap Shot Charlie

      Yeah but Smyle and Brodeur didnt have the talent to go all the way. You need heart but you also need players who can score, defend and stick up for themselves. the current team doesnt have neither. The past finalists had heart but nothing else. Except bure, but then look at how the Griffths and George Mcsleeze effed him over.And goergie is now in Washington. Bet you Ovie wont stay there for most of his career, as canuck schemers usually never prosper with true wins.

      They can play dirty all the want, the problem is, they cant back it up. claude Lemieux almost took Drapers jaw off once and the Av’s still won the cup. Why? well they had a better team but they didnt apologze for it. The Canucks cant back up anything, like romes hit on norton, and got kicked to the ground. They knew that the only ones who truly believed that they were the favorites were their homer fans. They were EXPOSED. They always get EXPOSED. And they NEVER learn from it…EVER.

  • Cheap Shot Charlie

    Let’s not forget this officiating issue is a longer term trend as well:

    Van/LA series had the largest PP time differential of any series in the 1st round.

    Van/Chi series (10/11) had the 2nd largest PP time differential of any series in the 1st round.

    It’s something we’re seeing with this team year after year. We’re generally seeing these issues with specific referees (particularly in the reg season). I’ve kept track of each official and how they call Canucks game – lets just say it’s all become very clear who will and will not call for this team. Very clear. Crystal clear.

    2 biggest fears heading into the playoffs this yr was a) Edler-Bieksa pairing b) officiating
    I was right on both accounts. Both were brutal.

    I’d really like to see this team playing a different system. Somethings gotta give here. I don’t want the team blown up – but I would like to see either a shakeup or some type of councelling for the core of this team. I truly believe the psychological damage from the SCF loss has left a lasting imprint on the core players minds. All those same core players are still on this team. They need some sort of psychological help.

    • Cheap Shot Charlie

      While it is true the refs are crap and getting worse, I wouldnt be surprised if there is and always was interference from the owners and “Buttman.” That being said, there has bad calls all over the league, not just with the canucks.

      But lets not use this as an excuse. Seriously, that team is bad. Not god bad…just sad bad. this call wasnt in the 7th game OT, the canucks were down a miserable 3 games. Ala- the last 2 regular season games and the first 2 playoff games, courtesy of meltdown Luo. they couldnt win this series even if patrick roy was in goal.

      The sedins are still going around post game saying that ” they deserved to win” and “we should do this..” It’s as if they expect the league to change for them, to give them a free pass.I never heard any captain talk this way in my life. I dont know if Sedin knows that the playoffs are more difficult than the regular season but someone in that locker room should tell him to shut up. It was bad enough he lead the team by punching Marchand glove with his face. Someone please tell him that hes not getting paid to be a nice guy or make excuses. Gretzky didnt fight, but at least he lead by example, scored goals,had passion, had accountability, had a mean-steak and could make his team mates better. Sedin can none of the above. Maybe the Sedins think that because he;s such a nice guy, they can give him a cup, for free. Wouldn’t that be an accomplishment?

  • Cheap Shot Charlie

    The whining about the refs is lame. Pathetic really. Maybe global warming is a myth and 9-11 was fake too. Man up and admit the Nucks couldn’t score, couldn’t PK and had bad goaltending. Never mind bad coaching and TERRIBLE GM’ing.

    This series was lost when Gillis let his ego get in the way, completely bungled Loungo and ended up with way too much cap space locked up in 2 goalies . He wasted assets and cap space he desperately needed in scoring depth because he wouldn’t admit he made a massive screw up with Lou’s contract and even worse how he handled things over the past year.

    The complete circus around goaltending cost this team.

    Conspiracy theory….. Is that how Calgary AND Edmonton, two of the smallest markets in the entire league made it to game 7 of the finals? From a promotional perspective the last thing the league would want it Edm or Cal in the finals. But in the real world (where 9-11 DID happen and Ogopogo isn’t roaming near Kelowna) the league doesn’t control outcome of games.

    Give it a rest, by blaming the refs it only makes Vancouver fans look like whiney baby sore losers.

  • Cheap Shot Charlie

    The Sedins need to show up & play hockey, not skate around the ice directing the officials on what the calls should be! If you show up the officials what do you think the result will be? Sure there’s always some questionable calls in a hockey game but that’s not the reason the Nucks lost! The Sharks were better!

  • Cheap Shot Charlie

    That’s exactly fitting for such a class less organization, as we all saw 2 years ago during the stanley cup games, continued bad karma for this team!