Canucks Army Postgame: Taking one on the chin, literally

Sup, ladies? Glen Gulutzan doesn’t have a care in the world.

You could spend your entire Saturday night sitting down, with a bottle of your liquor of choice, writing out a list of everything that has gone wrong with the Vancouver Canucks since the end of December. Obviously the root of all of the struggles is the extensive number of injuries they’re dealing with, but that’s a pretty weak excuse.

Every NHL team deals with their share of adversity on that front over the course of an 82-game season, and this team simply wasn’t prepared for it back when they should’ve been. It also doesn’t help that their coach has completely and utterly ran them into the ground, with another listless 3rd period doing them in once again.

Losing to the Toronto Maple Leafs, and as a result snapping an 11-year steak which we’ve all come to know and love, is just the latest notch on the belt of embarrassing head scratchers, en route to what will hopefully be a high lottery pick at the end of the tunnel. But before we get there, we need to dig through all of the rubble.

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The Rundown

What is there to say? The Canucks started the game off by taking two quick, unnecessary minor penalties; which on paper didn’t seem like a wise idea, considering the 4th ranked power play the Leafs came into the game with. They managed to kill both off, though, and actually wound up controlling play thereafter. 

They were rewarded for their efforts with a goal (which wound up proving to be the only one of the night), mostly thanks to the controversial coaching decision by Randy Carlyle to put Vesa Toskala in for the final minute of the opening period. I’m sure that Ryan Kesler will take it all the same:

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.. aaaaaand then it was all basically downhill from there. In what has become an enduring trend for the Canucks, they completely ran out of gas in the final 20 minutes. I’m not in the room so I have no idea what the actual strategy was, but I wouldn’t at all be surprised if it was "hold on for dear life and hope to survive the rest of this game!".

That’s usually not a recipe for success, and that proved to once again be the case on this night. The Leafs dominated the first handful of minutes in the 3rd period, and it just seemed like it was a matter of time before the score changed. I think that fans of the team had become resigned to the fact that the Canucks could only hold onto that 1-goal lead for so long. Just on my Twitter timeline alone, there was a "waiting for the other shoe to drop" feel to the discussion.

But what they probably weren’t ready for was the guy who would be doing the damage..

Yep. That’s Mason Raymond, who the Toronto Maple Leafs signed for a cool $1 million in the offseason after his former team figured his time with them was done. He now has 16 goals on the season, which for those scoring at home, is 3 more than Daniel Sedin. He’d be tied with Chris Higgins for 2nd on the team, which is damning with faint praise, but still.

It’s a real shame how his tenure in Vancouver had concluded, and I thought it was pretty dumb how he was treated and perceived by the fans here. I’m thrilled to see him succeeding, even if it is in Toronto. Anyways, Phil Kessel wound up putting the Leafs up for good with a wicked shot that Roberto Luongo had no chance on. Hopefully we’re not seeing this same sequence play out again before our very eyes in the next 2 weeks..

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As I alluded to with the title of this post, the 3rd goal against bounced off of Alex Edler’s face and in. When it rains, it pours. My main takeaway from that sequence was that it was pretty perfect that Tyler Bozak got credit for a 2nd assist after everything that had to happen for the puck to actually go in. I guess they all count the same in the long run.

The Numbers

Chart via Extra Skater

There isn’t anything overly noteworthy in terms of individual numbers that jumps off the page at me, except for one thing: I have no idea what on earth happened to Zack Kassian and David Booth in this game. They’ve looked good next to each other whenever they’ve been granted the opportunity to play with one another, but against the Leafs they were a total tire fire. 4 shot attempts for vs. 16 against is as bad as it gets. 

Meanwhile, Alex Burrows and Daniel Sedin had an ~70 corsi for %, yet once again failed to generate a goal. I’d like to think that the math will eventually even itself out and that they’ll go on a multi-goal tear sometime soon following the break, but at this point, who knows with them?

I never would’ve thought in my wildest dreams that these two would be struggling the way they have been this season. It’s difficult to make a sensible prediction for how a completely ridiculous situation like this will wind up playing out. All I know is that I, too, would like some answers. 

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You can read more on this game over at Leafs Nation, where Cam took a look at it from a Leafs perspective.

The Conclusion

The Canucks don’t play again until February 26th, which is probably a good thing. While a lot of things can happen in two weeks – like Henrik Sedin recovering to look like at least 75% of what he used to be, Alex Burrows resorting to black magic in an attempt to score a goal, and Daniel Sedin finding a good HGH provider – we need to keep things in perspective.

With all of today’s action in the books, the Canucks now find themselves in the bottom-10 of the NHL. According to Sports Club Stats, the team has a 23.75% chance of making the playoffs. And I don’t necessarily think that’s a bad thing.

It’s just a little subplot to keep in mind, I guess. What would you rather see if you were a fan of the Vancouver Canucks: for them to squeak into the playoffs and once again lose in 4/5 games (and in turn, once again picking out of a mediocre draft slot), or for them to have a high lottery pick to show for all of the unfortunate viewing experiences we’ve been subjected to over the past month. Enjoy your Saturday night, and just keep that question in the back of your head over the next couple of weeks. I’m sure it’s a topic that we’ll be spending a lot of time discussing..

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As for the coverage on this blog moving forward, please do continue to check back in. At the very least we’ll have some prospect stuff, to go along with coverage of the Olympic games.

  • Even if this season goes straight to hell and Vancouver picks in a lottery spot, they’re not guaranteed a blue-chip prospect this year. Reinhart, Bennett, Ekblad, and Draisaitl are all kinda meh as far as potential top-5 picks go.

    Although even having this discussion is a pretty damning statement on how this year has gone.

  • Sell high on Higgins to a contending team.

    Wait for the off-season and convince one of Bieksa or Edler to waive their NTC unless a steal presents itself before the deadline and they agree.

    Hope Hansen turns his game around for the final stretch – entertain offers for him in the off season.

    Remove Gillis in the off-season.

    The remainder of this year: tank tank tank. The season is toast.

    Resign to the fact that by doing so, next year is also a write off. Our prospects just aren’t ready. Give Horvat, Shinkaruk, Fox, Gaunce and possibly Corrado a full season in the AHL. Hope Jensen figures his s*** out.

    Reload for 2015-2016.

    • Ca-nuckle head

      I’m glad that someone else subscribes to the buy low sell high philosophy. It is the only way to accumulate wealth in the real world (other than inheriting a trust fund or marrying rich), and should be the MO of this team if it wants to be a serious contender again.

      • elvis15

        The objective isn’t to accumulate wealth when it comes to the NHL though. The owners and players are already making plenty of money. Buy low sell high makes some sense, but not if you want to keep selling and the stuff you buy never makes it to the level of the stuff you sold.

        But I’ll finish with this: Don Cherry believes we’ll come back after the break and not only make it into the playoffs but come in as a hot team that other teams won’t want to face.

        That’ll hinge on what the Sedins and Burrows can do, and if that’s nothing much, then that’ll be our fate. If they can get back to a legit top 6 offensive scoring level again, then it won’t be an issue to have Higgins, Kesler and Kassian carrying the secondary load.

  • argoleas

    Something smells in Vancouver, and right now, I think the GM is mostly to blame for the current situation, but let’s see how this season plays out. Maybe they come back and finish strong, squeak into the playoffs and win a series. If they suck coming out of the break for 4-5 games, then I hope they just tank, sell assets for young players/picks this year and next, and invest in proven scouts…

    • Marsh

      I think it was fairly obvious even a couple years back that Vancouver’s prospect cupboard was looking pretty bare. The recent injury string just made that weakness damaging now instead of a couple years down the road. That one’s on the GMs.

      The performance of previously reliable players is down on the coach. Torts preference for video and rest over practicing and plans makes sense in the context that he plays his stars so intensely, but the power play in particular looks like they need time together to come up with and practice new plays now that other teams have adopted to their previous tactics and returning injured players (take your pick, there are plenty) need more, not less practice to get back up to speed.

      I assume that no matter how the rest of the season turns out, there will need to be a very long debrief with both the Canucks and Comets coaching staff on what went wrong, what can be fixed, and how to manage their AHL affiliate to develop their prospects (and hopefully provide better than replacement-level reinforcements in the face of protracted injuries in the future.

  • Marsh

    The lowest of many lows. I’ve rarely seen such bad luck with the Canucks combined with a total lack of confidence (Burrows looking like he wanted to pass back to Schroeder on that 2 on 1 and fanning on it anyway). We were lucky not to get scored on earlier and as must have happened a hundred times this season, the tying goal and I think the winning one too happened when Hansen failed to clear the puck on at least three clear chances to. I just don’t get the play to draw it back into your own end when you have two forecheckers on you and you could chip it out off the boards.

    Burrows, Hansen, Daniel looked absolutely terrible.

    On the plus side during this disaster I’ve actually enjoyed seeing the potential that Schroeder, Kassian and tonight at least Corrado (without the anchor of Sauve) seem to have. That seems to be the only plus side of this garbage injury-plagued season — that Tortorella simply doesn’t have the bodies to do much else other than play some of the youngsters.

    It doesn’t get much worse than a road trip where you lose to the Leafs and Bruins the two teams I hate most in the league.

  • antro

    Hmmm. I think the question now is how do you get any players in return from teams that will load up. Higgins has a limited NTC, not sure what that means. But that’s a long contract to take on. Hansen doesn’t have an NTC, but it’s a long contract. Maybe get a pick for Richardson? Or Diaz? Weber? Hey, maybe someone will take Booth off the books?

    @Thats_Offside: so you’re saying that the Canucks don’t even know which year to suck.

  • Graphic Comments

    The playoffs are just as much of a crapshoot as the draft. I’d take a shot at going in as an underdog over a draft pick that may or may not pan out in 5 years any day of the week.

    • Ca-nuckle head

      Yeah but the draft becomes more of a crapshoot after the first 5-10 picks and you have less likelihood as a mediocre team that squeaks in to really do anything. Yes, we might go on a stellar run but at this point even with all hands on deck it’s hard to see how we’d consistently beat the Chicagos of the league. Doesn’t it make better sense to roll the dice on at least quality picks in the first three rounds to buttress the system so we don’t have the gong show of this year? Pittsburgh has had at least as many injury problems as us but they seemed to weather it all pretty well in part because of being able to plug in very serviceable AHL call ups.

    • Youppi_Ki_Yay

      The fact that Canuck discussion has been reduced to this with so much hockey left to play makes the Olympic break a very welcome one in my house. In that spirit, I’d rather roll the dice and enjoy the race between some pretty good teams and see where we fall. I can’t wait for the stretch run but it’s been an overload of hockey to get here. I need a break, so I can only imagine how the players are feeling.

      Last year and the year before, everybody thought we were hurt by coasting into the playoffs. This year we finally have to scratch and claw a little and people are already calling for the tank….absolutely ridiculous. This isn’t Alberta. The draft fairy doesn’t solve everything.

    • Marsh

      I’ll order the T-shirts.

      But Gillis is going for some Swiss guy named Forfeit Pick, a 6-4 center with good defensive skills, good character but questionable offensive skills.

  • Marsh

    If it’s any comfort, Utica is playing much better lately, even with all the call-ups. 5-1-1 in the last 7. Players improving, coach getting used to the AHL?

  • Marsh

    Picking in the top 5 would be better than squeaking into the playoffs and picking 16th, but it’s more likely that the Canucks are going to finish somewhere between 7th and 10th in the West, and will pick somewhere between 10th and 20th. If it’s a choice of picking 17th, making the playoffs, and having an outside chance of winning a round or two, I’ll take that over picking 14th and missing the playoffs.

  • Ca-nuckle head

    Wouldn’t take much for this team to turn it around. A couple of healthy bodies back and a couple more guys contributing on the score sheet would make all the difference. They start picking up wins heading towards playoffs and then they have the momentum and the confidence to compete. I am just trying to be a bit optimistic here. All that being said I don’t want to see MG buying come trade deadline time.

    I’m not ready to see a fire-sale on this current roster.

  • ktowncanuck

    Two points. Firstly, is it just me, or does anyone else think that Kassian is one of the extremely few(if not the only) offensive spark on this team, and should be getting twice the icetime he is currently getting. He should also be given a shot on line 1/2 for an extended period.
    What is burrows doing on the first power play or the first two lines. He really should be sent to utica for about 2 months of conditioning and puck shooting.
    My second point relates to number one. So far, Tortorella has escaped any criticism here. His so called system is not working. For some reason, he does not like Kassian. Its no secret he doesnt like Booth, as that was made abundantly clear right at the beginning of the year. Yet, along with Kassian, Booth is getting not nearly the icetime he deserves, based on his play in the past few weeks. I do not think Tortorella has the ability or the objectivity to continually assess players. He makes a decision on a player, and that’s that. That was his history in NYC also.
    This team is out of shape. They need to skate. They need to shoot…lots!
    That is bad coaching.

    • elvis15

      I totally agree about kassians ICETIME and his offensive spark….he played well with more under sully and was showing real confidence…. Then torts came back and he’s stapled…. Ridiculous… The vets are making the same gaffs and not producing yet oodles of ICETIME… What’s up with this doghouse bollocks…

  • Ca-nuckle head

    Take off the rose colored glasses. Time to tank it, if we’re lucky we could be picking somewhere around seven to ten. Make some trades get picks and prospects and start rebuilding for three years down the road.

  • elvis15

    @Graphic Comments:

    Wasn’t it last year that the Sharks were looking like a borderline team? There was even talk of trading Boyle, if I remember correctly (probably blowing smoke). Then at the trade deadline they traded Douglas Murray and somebody else. Of course they made it, and made the Canucks’ postseason very short.

    The point is that the Canucks can see if there’s something to be had, cut some salary, and still work hard for the playoffs. It doesn’t have to be completely tanking and trying to sell everyone off.

  • ktowncanuck

    In the last three 82 game regular seasons, the 8th place team in the West has accumulated 95, 97 and 95 points respectively.

    While it’s entirely possible that a number of teams cluster together and 91-94 points is enough to qualify for the playoffs in the West, it certainly shouldn’t be counted on.

    The Canucks would have to go 14-8 to hit 91 points (the lowest point total in an 82 game season of a West playoff team in the salary cap era).

    They would have to go 16-6 to hit 95 points.

    They would have to go 17-5 to hit 97 points.

    To be sure, one or more of the bubble teams in the West may very well do this.

    But I doubt it’s the team that has run their top players into the ground during the first 60 games…

    • andyg

      One thing that they will have in their favor is 13 home games and no brutal eastern swings. Travel to the east is a killer.

      I took a holiday this year and the time change was 4hrs. It ruins me for the first 2 days up and and on return.

      This why the Canucks need to be able to role 4 lines.

  • Youppi_Ki_Yay

    I thought this was going to be a tough year from the moment the artificially low salary cap for this season was enacted. The Canucks have a fair number of good players signed to deals friendly under the old cap. That didn’t leave them anything near the space to add enough depth under this season’s cap, and they lack the prospect depth to fill holes from within.

    I’m not sure that means it’s time to blow it up. Rather, Gillis should look to move a player or two if he can acquire good, younger players who are under team contract control. He has to think of the state of the organization, not just the state of the season. Offloading all his good players after a poor half season would be foolish.

    These next few months will define Gillis as a GM. I believe the end of this season marks the first out in Luongo’s contract, where Luongo’s side can submit a five team trade list. Making that deal will be a challenge. Gillis also has to compete for UFA’s during a summer in which a rising cap means everyone will be throwing gobs of money around.

    • ktowncanuck

      But the reality is why would other teams want to take our problems off our hands? I think it’s not realistic to think that we can get anything in a fire sale of Burrows or Hansen or Booth or anyone else who’s underperforming. I also think it’s disastrous to try and trade them when they’re value’s so low, even if those who have them waive their NTCs. The worst thing we could do now, however, is mistake what we have for more than it is and get rid of more prospects for not much.

      The reality is that the one rental we got last year cost us too much not because he’s not a good player — Derek Roy’s certainly done well in a complementary role this year — it’s that we got him coming back off injury and put into a role that didn’t seem to fit him. Additionally the rest of the top players were simply put not top players. That seems to be a similar case this year. It’s not a one shot fix and I really worry that simply getting by will leave us in a worse case for the years ahead.

      The numbers NMOO posted above about the record we’d need to reach a 90-point threshold are instructive. If we truly go on a tear like that well I suppose that’s a different story, entering the playoffs on a tear. Though it really depends on the kind of hockey we are playing. If we’re winning as we were in December, running our top players ragged, without the PP clicking and with puck luck playing as big a role positively as it is now negatively, I’d have a hard time picking us to go far in the playoffs. That would leave us with a mid-low first round pick and we’ve not exactly fared well with those the last little while.

      • Marsh


        Strange things are done in the land of trade deadline…

        Douglas Murray gets two second rounders
        Ryane Clowe gets a 2nd round draft pick, 3rd round pick and a conditional 2nd.

        The danger now is the Canucks team is so terrible it would be easy to undervalue Higgins and Hansen.

        One thing I hate is talk of “tanking”. Anybody who has professional pride won’t tank. I doubt if Gillis kept much respect from the players and Torts if he pushed the team to tank. It also doesn’t always work. Last year the Flames gutted their team of vets and went from possibly drafting second to drafting 6th, playing many rookies. Really, if you were a player, would you go along with tanking?

        • Marsh

          I don’t think any player purposefully tanks. I think teams have in the past — certainly Pittsburgh did in the Mario Lemieux sweepstakes (which is why we now have a lottery — by trading their top players and (if I remember correctly) resting some others. But it’s also clear when some players have tuned out of the season. I don’t see it happening here but I also think it’s counterproductive to make a big push for not a lot of result.

          I also don’t think it’s a guaranteed strategy to do poorly, but the odds are better when you do. As someone said earlier, it’s still a crapshoot. I went back to look at Chicago’s draft history and it’s clear that what they’ve really done well in the recent past is to fill out their team with excellent complementary players, beyond the obvious hits of Kane and Toews. A lot of their other high first rounders didn’t pan out — Beach, Skille, Barker (though of course they stole Leddy with him) — so years of sucking wasn’t a guarantee of the current success.

      • Youppi_Ki_Yay

        I’m not saying fire sale, and I’m certainly not saying we should be in the rental market. But some roster churn is needed. I would guess it would start by trading a D-man, especially since they have Stanton, Tanev and Corrado ready to jump in.

        Of the forwards, I think probably they have more market value than you realize. Hansen has shown enough in the past that someone is bound to think he just needs a change of scenery.

        The only problem I see up front is Burrows. I understand why he got the contract he did — he so outperformed his last one. But I really worry that he won’t perform up to this one, and he’ll become a cap albatross going forward.

  • Marsh

    Knock softly at the door for four more seasons and get middling draft picks, or, trade away some assets for youth, get a couple high draft picks and have a rebuilt core in 4-5 years. Obviously it’s not as cut and dry as all that. Calgary chose the former, Edmonton the latter route, and we all know how that worked out for both teams.

    With a salary cap I think every team is going to have peaks and valleys. I also think it’s the teams that realize they have peaked who are going to have the smallest valleys.

  • Marsh

    Too many “TOOS”. Too many old players, too much money paid to them, too long contracts, too many “no trade clauses,” and too few prospects – oh dear……………………

  • Marsh

    All I can do is echo what others have said here: this team can’t do a fire sale. In this market, it maKes little sense. There won’t be this silly sell-outs situation you have in Edmonchuck where fans are paranoid if they don’t go Katz will move the team. This is Lotus land, where if the team stinks the fans find something better to do. I’ve seen two incarnations of that (80’s and late 90s). Bad hockey on the promise of a better tomorrow doesn’t wash here.

  • Marsh

    I don’t know if this team can win the Stanley Cup but I do think that they can remain competitive.

    A lot of people are trippin’.

    With more cap space, a reshuffle of the core, prospects graduating, and a better understanding of the coaches system, this team will turn it around.

    It’s just not happening this season.

  • Marsh

    I for one want a high draft pick. I said it this past summer, I am reiterating it tonight – this team won’t get past SJS, LA or Chi in the playoffs. Any acquisition they make a trade deadline won’t help their chances.

    The thing is, I don’t think they are far off. A top 6 winger and tough minutes 3C away from competing. But they lose that advantage if they trade away someone from their back end to acquire either of those Hoefully, although unlikely – they can pick those up this summer. Perhaps Horvat, Gaunce or Jensen is ready to step up in the big club.

    kassian is a top 6 player already, but Torts refuses to use him there. Why? I don’t know. This team can’t score goals, or keep possession of the puck – but hey the guy who can do both is playing on the 3rd and 4th line most this season. It all makes so much sense. So, for all the roster issues this team has -it won’t matter if Torts continues to live in the stone ages. Overusing your top players, placing emphasis on blocking shots are neanderthal coaching techniques from the 80s. It’s landed this team with an exhausted and unproductive top 6. More injured players from shotblocking in 50 games than I can remember in an entire season previous. And a piss poor puck possession team who can’t score. That’s a recipe for disaster. One that I predicted last summer when they hired him.

    Hiring Torts was their biggest mistake, Canucks fans are just seeing it now.