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The Week Straight Up:

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Thomas Drance: With the Vancouver Canucks’ relatively short preseason concluded, the club is set enter the 2013-14 NHL season with a teenager in the top-nine (Hunter Shinkaruk) and David Booth healthy somehow.

Which begs the question: of those two surprising developments, which was less likely?

Jeff Angus: I’ll say Shinkaruk making the team was much less likely (oh and look at that, he’s been sent down afterall so I was right). Even though Shinkaruk was re-assigned, I thought he had an impressive camp. He was largely an afterthought this summer when fans and media were putting their projected rosters together.

Yeah the Canucks have said all summer that they want to get younger, but most people were paying attention to Brendan Gaunce, Nicklas Jensen, and Bo Horvat. Shinkaruk was thought to be further away from the NHL, plus Vancouver’s more obvious need was at center as opposed to the wing.

After a very strong training camp and a couple of standout preseason performances – not to mention the injury to Nicklas Jensen and the suspension of Zack Kassian – Shinkaruk almost got a chance to prove that he’s ready for the NHL, even at the age of 18 (he’ll turn 19 in October).

Drance: Yeah that wrist shot of his is just nasty. Anyway the Canucks made the right call: keeping an undersized major junior player is more of a Steve Tambellini move.

In other Canucks-related news, the team traded for a couple of forwards in Zac Dalpe and Jeremy Welsh on Saturday night. If nothing else those two add some bottom-six centre depth. It’s something the team has needed desperately since the spring of 2010, frankly.

But more than just depth, the Canucks need "quality depth" and a player who can at least hold the puck in the opposition’s end while Ryan Kesler and Henrik Sedin catch their breath. What are your thoughts and expectations for Dalpe in Vancouver? Is he a reasonable bet to be more productive than the likes of Jordan Schroeder or Mike Santorelli?

New Canucks forward Zac Dalpe
Image via wikimedia commons


Angus: I liked Dalpe’s game a lot coming out of college, but he has completely stagnated in the Carolina system. However, he isn’t alone in that regard. Drayson Bowman and Zach Boychuk are two other young players for the ‘Canes who came in with a lot of hope and promise, but failed to do much beyond the AHL level. Maybe Carolina’s player development isn’t up to snuff?

Dalpe is a powerful skater who probably has to be in some sort of scoring role at this point. His defensive game isn’t up to the quality that you need from a checking line center.

I’m not sure he is going to be more productive (or better, regardless of how you want to quantify or measure that) than either Schroeder or Santorelli, but he is another option. For a team with some significant holes up the middle, there is no such thing as too much competition.

Drance: I love how competition is essentially just a synonym for "serious problems" in hockey!

"The Flyers are excited about competition in the crease between Steve Mason and Ray Emery!" or "There’s lots of competition for a top-4 role on the Flames blue-line!" Henrik Sedin would be proud of that spin.

It’s going to be interesting, however, to monitor whether or not one of Santorelli, Schroeder or Dalpe can grab this opportunity and run with it. All three players are sort of fringe NHL guys, but if you squint hard enough, you can maybe see one of them helping a line break even while facing secondary (or preferably tertiary) competition.

Maybe one of those three will emerge as a true third-line centre, or maybe not. Regardless of how this shakes out it’s clear that centre depth is this teams major Achillies heel going into this season. Otherwise how do you think the Canucks stack up in the new Pacific Division? And is there anything about the New Division you’re looking forward to watching in particular?

Angus: I have always been a fan of Schroeder’s, and I think he has a future in this league (perhaps in a depth-scoring role similar to the one Kyle Wellwood used to fill with the Canucks).

I think right now the Canucks are clearly a step behind San Jose and Los Angeles in the Pacific. As for what I’m excited about in the new Pacific Division, I’ll give you four words: More California road trips!

Drance: And then (relatively) quick drives down the I-10 to Phoenix.

Angus: Also fewer Minnesota road trips!

Drance: Fewer Canucks v. Wild games would’ve meant more to me three years ago. That was when the Wild were as entertaining as Howie Mandel, before they added a few players worth watching in Jonas Brodin, Zach Parise and Ryan Suter. But I bet the team won’t miss those flights, and I bet Luongo won’t miss Xcel.

Angus: Also, in the new Pacific Division, the Canucks will play more games against exciting rivals like LA, San Jose, and Anaheim.

Drance: Hey you forgot the Oilers!

Angus: To me, Edmonton isn’t really a rival yet. But now that they have a competent GM in charge of things, I can see that changing in short order.

Drance: Me too. I think MacTavish is a smart guy but, then again, has a General Manager who claims the likes of Steve McIntyre and Luke "I’m not a skilled hockey player" Gadzic on waivers (not to mention signing Ryan Jones this off-season) really earned his "competent" stripes? 

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Image via wikimedia commons

Henrik Sedin to score under 88.5 points

Angus: Was failing to reach the point-per-game mark in 2013 a sign of things to come for the Sedins? Maybe, maybe not. Whatever side of the argument you may be on, here is some food for thought as to why I don’t think Henrik Sedin will record more than 88.5 points in 2013-14.

First of all you have to consider that there’s better competition in the Pacific Division. The Canucks can’t just feast on Calgary, Edmonton, Minnesota, and Colorado any more. They have to play regular matchups against superior teams from California.

Then there’s the obvious factor: age. The Sedins turned 33, and generally skill forwards tend to begin their decline (if it hasn’t started already) around this age.

Finally you have to take into account the upcoming change in their roles on the Canucks. Under Alain Vigneault, the Sedins were very offense-oriented players. Under John Tortorella, they will kill penalties and take on more defensive responsibilities. These are tough and taxing minutes, and it will mean that they won’t be quite as fresh for every offensive zone start as they have been in past seasons. YOU CAN BET THE OVER OR UNDER ON HENRIK’S POINT TOTAL HERE

Drance: I think that’s quality analysis and agree with you. But who wants to bet against the Canucks captain? If late in the season Henrik is playing a game and has 88 points, do you really want to be pissed when he sets up Burrows for a goal and records is his 89th? That just sounds unpleasant to me, even though your suggested Henrik bet is a relatively safe one.

So anyway I’m going to go with something a bit more positive, so our readers can still find a solid bet and root for their favorite players to accomplish stuff. Here we go:

Daniel Sedin to score more than 30.5 regular season goals

Now on the face of it, this doesn’t look like a particularly safe bet. After all Daniel has only scored more than 30.5 regular season goals in two of the past five years. 40%? That doesn’t sound like good odds!

But essentiall you’re gambling mostly on Daniel Sedin staying healthy. Fact is he’s scored at a pace that would’ve exceeded 30.5 regular season goals over 82 games easily in four of the past five seasons. The seasons where it didn’t happen? Last year in the lockout shortened 2013 campaign.

Did Daniel’s goal totals sag because he "lost a step"? Is he getting too long in the tooth to score goals at an elite rate in the NHL? I don’t think so, I think his issues were percentage related and I think he’s due to bounce back. Let’s look further at Daniel Sedin’s shooting percentage over the past five seasons:

Daniel Sedin Total SH% Total Goals EV SH% EV Goals 5on4 SH% 5on4 Goals
2008-09 10.9% 31 8.6% 22 8.3% 6
2009-10 12.9% 29 9.3% 21 12% 6
2010-11 15.4% 41 8.9% 23 31% 18
2011-12 13.1% 30 7.5% 17 17% 8
2012-13* 8.7% 21* 5.8% 14* 11.1% 3*

Daniel’s 5-on-4 shooting percentage wasn’t actually all that out of whack with his career norms last season, but his shooting percentage at even-strength nose dived.

Maybe some of that is age, but I don’t really think it is. Daniel’s shot-rate (on a per game basis) was actually higher in 2013 than the season previous, and generally one would expect that any age-related decline would show up in his ability to generate shots before it shows up in the percentages.

So yeah it seems more likely to me that Daniel Sedin was a bit snake bit last season, and that the percentages will regress in his favour at even-strength. I think Daniel should manage in the neighbourhood of 23-24 even-strength goals this season, which means he’d only need six power-play goals and a shorty or two to exceed 30.5 total goals. I think he’ll manage that this year, and I’d be willing to put my money where my mouth is on this. CLICK HERE TO BET THE OVER OR UNDER ON DANIELS 2013-14 GOAL TOTALS


Great moments in the history of the Sharks – Canucks rivalary.
Image via Wikimedia commons

Canucks @ Sharks – Thursday Oct. 3rd at 7:00 PM PST

Angus: The Canucks head back to the scene of the sweep from this past April. San Jose is entering the season with high expectations, and they are returning pretty much the exact same team that made quick work of Vancouver in the first round of the postseason a few month ago.

Antti Niemi has developed into one of the game’s top goaltenders, and San Jose’s drafting and development have allowed them to extend their window to win by more than a few seasons. The Canucks are hoping to follow in that same model, but who will emerge as their Logan Couture? There doesn’t appear to be anyone on the immediate horizon this season.

It will be interesting to see how the defensemen on Vancouver’s side come out of the gate. Tortorella wants them to play aggressive, but the Sharks are a deadly counter-attack team.

Take the home team here, even with the fact that they are heavy favourites.

Drance: Yeah I think the Sharks are going to win the Pacific this season. Even with Raffi Torres out, they’ve got so much top-end skill and some pretty impressive young grinders in Tommy Wingels and Matt Nieto. The Canucks are overmatched where it counts against San Jose…


Oilers @ Canucks – Saturday, Oct. 5th at 7:00 PM PST

Angus: Now that the Oilers have a capable GM running the team, this should once again become a pretty exciting rivalry. The Canucks have beat up on the Oilers (for the most part) over the past few years, but it is only a matter of time until Edmonton’s talent starts to make the difference.

Devan Dubnyk is a very underrated goaltender, and Edmonton made some solid signings this summer to improve a defensive group that was in serious need of renovation. Missing in action for the Oilers will be Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Sam Gagner, the latter of whom is still recovering from a nasty jaw injury after taking an errant Zack Kassian stick last week.

Edmonton may be ready to compete with the Canucks, but they will be in tough without their top two centers for this one. Take the home team.

Drance: Roberto Luongo has struggled to hold his own against the likes of Taylor Hall, Nail Yakupov and company in his last few outings. I’d bet he’s looking forward to this one in particular, just to show Edmonton’s uber-talented kids that he can still hack it. On the other hand it is October and the Oilers will be motivated after the Canucks roughed them up in the preseason. So I’m going to take the Oilers to win this game, and for the Canucks to start the season 0-0-2.

Canucks @ Flames – Sunday, Oct 6th at 5:00 PM PST

Drance: Do we have to cover it? Easy win for the Canucks.

Angus: I almost feel sorry for Calgary hockey fans. Almost.

  • Big Cap

    You mention Sedin will be facing “regular match-ups against superior teams from California.”

    Could you guys do something to clarify the way the new Pacific division schedule breaks down?

    Maybe I’m missing something, but Vancouver played LA, SJ and Anaheim 4 times in 2011-12, this year they play them 5 times. I don’t see how 3 more games out of 82 makes for the daunting schedule I keep hearing about.

    Plus, they get 32 games against an inferior east instead of the previous 18.

    The division will definitely be tough to get out of came playoff time, but I don’t see the regular season as being much different. But this isn’t being discussed. Am I missing something?