Salvaging the Season: Getting Something out of the Remaining Six Games

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In what has essentially been a lost season – be it self-inflicted, or by injuries, or some sort of combination of everything – the Vancouver Canucks and their increasingly disinterested fanbase now find themselves struggling to grasp at straws for some semblance of a silver lining to close out the 2013-14 campaign. 

Having plummeted from the middle of the Western Conference’s pack, where the playoffs seemed in reach, to the dregs and halfway back again, the Canucks are now left in no man’s land. They find themselves with less than a 0.5% chance of making the playoffs, according to www.SportsClubStats.com

Conversely, the Canucks sudden bout of regression and emergence from PDO-Hell have moved them further from the draft lottery than most fans would like (and have been hoping ever since the playoffs started to slip away). In short: this club is inching dangerously close to entering full-Calgary Flames territory. You never want to go full-Calgary Flames.

But as is always the case, we here at Canucks Army try our very best to avoid catering to the alarmist sensibilities of the petulant section of fans. And in doing so, today I will try to bring three ways for the Canucks to get something out of these final six games. It’s not much, but it’s something..

We Need To Have a Talk About Top Sixtito

I’m not sure this is going to be an overly popular opinion, especially since it’s being heralded on the same blog that ushered in the Top Sixtito era of Canucks hockey, but.. Sestito’s kind of bad. 

He’s is a possession anchor whose presence in Vancouver’s lineup has long served as a validating force for the growing group of people who view John Tortorella’s take on the game of ice-hockey as arcane and outdated.

Yes, on the one hand, he is scoring at a better rate than Wendel David Clarkson, but that’s damning with faint praise. His value as a hockey player is borderline non-existent. Speaking frankly, I don’t really feel it necessary to use stats as proof of this, and for once I call on you to just use the bloody “eye test” you so cherish.

The fact of the matter is that the Canucks are only controlling about 44% of shot attempts with Sixtito on the ice. There’s also this little nugget:

It’s been nice pretending that Tom Sestito has some sort of talent, or something, but the sad reality is that hero, family man and Canucks Army visionary Dimitri Filipovic hit the nail on the head when he explored his “value” as a hockey player in late November. On Tom Sestito’s gargantuan hit totals:

“Why does Tom Sestito have so many hits? Is it because he’s a particularly good hitter? Is it because he’s all over the place, causing havoc for the opposing team? Not really, no. It’s actually mostly due to the fact that the other team has control of the puck an overwhelmingly large amount of the time that he’s on the ice.”

OK, so with this in mind, at what point does Tortorella pull the plug on his being in the lineup and lend those minutes to younger players with upside? Maybe a Nicklas Jensen-type player, like, say, Nicklas Jensen? Or hey, here’s a thought: send those goon-minutes Darren Archibald’s way.

Something tells me he’s more than capableHe’s also got that other thing going for him; you know, youth and potentially a longer-term future with the club.

I’ve been nothing short of borderline cruel in recent days with my assessment of Jordan Schroeder, but I’d even be happy if he saw a jump in ice-time at Sestito’s expense; or even Zac Dalpe, for that matter. The point is, the Canucks aren’t going to contend anytime soon and if they plan on doing so in the future, it doesn’t hurt to see what the organization’s younger pieces have to offer. Sixtito certainly isn’t the answer.

Can We Cut Lack Some Slack?

One can’t help but feel bad for the situation management has put Eddie Lack in. The circumstances surrounding his starting the Heritage Classic were borderline insane and things haven’t gotten any more lucid since.

While the playoffs were still mathematically possible, Tortorella felt the team’s only chance was with Lack in net. And so he rode him for 75,608,988 straight games. Fine, fair enough, I made those numbers up. But now, with six games left in the schedule and a 0.47% chance of making the playoffs, the time has come to give Lack a break.

I can understand and appreciate the difficulties involved with changing how one plays his position mid-season, and all the more-so when he’s doing it in a new city and with a new team. This, of course, has probably played a huge role in why we haven’t seen much of Jacob Markstrom since he came over in the Roberto Luongo trade. But at this point in the season, with no expectations or anything really at stake, what can possibly go wrong by starting Markstrom?

Will the Canucks slide down the standings, even closer to a lottery pick? All while sparing Eddie Lack’s glove hand from dissipating into a pile of dust? Oh no, we wouldn’t want *that*.

And What About Frankie?

Remember the offseason? You know, when we were spoon fed the idea that the Canucks were going to get younger? Yeah, good times.

A huge part of getting younger, I presumed, meant giving Frankie Corrado the sixth and final spot on Vancouver’s blueline. Then Ryan “soft minutes” Stanton came along and took the city by storm. This mitigated any outrage on my part because, well, Stanton was legitimately playing well and this meant that Corrado would see huge minutes with the Utica Comets. It was best for everyone.

But with injuries to Chris Tanev and more recently Kevin Bieksa, the Canucks have an opening at the back end of their blueline. The problem here, of course, is that Bieksa has no plan of sitting out the rest of this season to nurse his injury; because of that pride thing and all. Perhaps Vancouver’s brass can appeal to his more logical sensibilities however and convince him to maybe take a break and let his leg heal.

We all know Bieksa can play through the pain, but is it really best for the club and himself at this point? There’s not much of a season left to salvage and having “Juice” on one leg certainly won’t do it. Maybe it’s best Bieksa took a trip to the IR..

Drink the Pain Away With Us!

In honour of Alain Vigneault’s return to Vancouver, we at Canucks Army will be hosting a charity event type thing at The Pint. It’s going to be fun and stuff, so you should probably buy a ticket and come along. Who doesn’t like supporting a good cause?

  • What choice does Tortorella have but to play Sestito?

    The incompetent GM unnecessarily gave him a TWO year deal and now it must be justified…

    And what choice does Tortorella have but to play Lack?

    The incompetent GM foolishly decided to gamble on one of his project goalies as opposed to the TWO franchise goalies he inherited…

    And what choice does Tortorella have but to not play Corrado?

    This management team is going to scrape and claw for the next year or two to make the playoffs before they are mercifully terminated.

    As usual, that means ranking older players ahead of young players with the inevitable conclusion that this organization will be full-on rebuilding by the time these clowns are finally gassed…

    • Fred-65

      Correction — two year ONE-WAY deal. While the cap hit is the same for us, Sestito actually gets a raise from $650k to $850k next year. On the basis of this season. I had no idea what Gillis was thinking in giving him a contract last year and that’s before I soured so much on the management team. The fact that he continues to get ice time is unbelievable; as the post says, you don’t need fancy stats to see how terrible he is. Can’t really skate, doesn’t really hit (except to take bad penalties), and picks his fights really poorly, often with the Canucks on a scoring chance. But leading the league in PM! Of course he’s justified that contract…

      I’d prefer to see Archibald, Walsh, Lain, really anyone else on the fourth line. Dalpe has looked really promising in limited minutes playing with plugs. Having an energy fourth line would at least give us something. Instead we have Sestito and two people carrying his dead body around.

      Sadly it does look like Gillis and Tortorella will survive the great collapse. If we’d folded just a month later we’d have the house-cleaning that the Leafs will likely have because our implosion has been overshadowed by their epic fail. Instead we will have to waste a couple of more years of players near/past their prime for these management jokers to be moved on.

      • Brent

        It would have been okay if Sestito were buried in the AHL all year.

        If Aquillini wants to make a Utica Comet mascot a millionaire, that’s his choice.

        But to keep him and play him on the NHL roster all year when this team had little margin for error?

        Inexplicable.

        On the bright side, the Lack/Markstrom tandem could be the worst in the NHL next season.

        So they could help the organization land McDavid/Eichel which is a lot more promising than battling for a wildcard next year…

    • Brent

      “The incompetent GM foolishly decided to gamble on one of his project goalies as opposed to the TWO franchise goalies he inherited…”

      I seem to recall a certain poster claiming during the offseason that Luongo was done as a top tier goalie. Now that Gillis has traded him, he’s actually still a franchise-level goalie? Are you sure you’re applying your 50/30/20 rule correctly?

      • Brent

        “I seem to recall a certain poster claiming during the offseason that Luongo was done as a top tier goalie.”

        False.

        Do you have a quote to back up your nonsense?

        What I said in the offseason was that Lou had to show his performance last season wasn’t a sign that his skills had eroded. He has done that.

        I would have said the same thing had Sundin come back to play another year after his underwhelming half season performance in Vancouver.

        Better luck next time…

          • Fred-65

            And then Luongo went on to answer those questions about his skills which you seem to continually ignore…

            His save percentage is actually right around his career .919 as well as the .919 estimate using a modified version of 50/30/20.

            And I probably still would have Luongo somewhere in the 6-10 range of goalies which, as I noted in the post to which you linked, is above average.

            If you want to suggest there are only a handful of “franchise” goalies in the NHL, though, that is your choice.

          • Fred-65

            I’m not suggesting anything. You said .919 “isn’t exactly elite”, not me. Luongo posted a .917 before he was traded, so based on his performance and by the standard you set last year, he hasn’t proven anything of the sort. I, however, take no issue with Luongo’s performance. I do take issue with you jumping on both sides of the argument in your zeal to castigate Mike Gillis.

          • Fred-65

            “Luongo posted a .917 before he was traded, so based on his performance and by the standard you set last year, he hasn’t proven anything of the sort.”

            What’s that?

            His save percentage was up over .919 after his first game in Florida.

            Do you actually think the “elite”, “top tier” & “franchise” descriptions should fluctuate after a single game performance?

            I’m hardly taking both sides of the argument.

            Again, why are you ignoring the post to which you link where I note that I considered Lou to be an above average goalie PRIOR to this season in which he has shown his skills are still there?

            I consider Lou (and Schneider) to be two of the top ten goalies in the league.

            I have said as much recently.

            If that does not meet your definition of “franchise”, that’s cool.

            Do you have anything to stand on aside from trying to stir up a semantic debate about “top tier” and “franchise”?

          • Fred-65

            So you’re critiquing Gillis’ evaluation of Luongo’s play leading to his trade based on Luongo’s performance after the trade? Got it.

            And you must be the first person in history to equate the “franchise” tag with “not exactly elite”.

  • Brent

    I think Eddie Lack’s play would improve if he would simple man-up and own the fact that, yes tinkerbell, you’re the #1!

    He’s a fine goalie. He’s going through a rough patch. But the team around him is lost in a hurricane, so they aren’t much help defensively. There is some slack to be given.

    That said, j.D. you hot the nail there, but you undersold it. The circumstances around the Heritage Classic weren’t borderline insane. They were insane. And sure, it’s tough to become the #1 guy and live your dream… only it’s not. In the NHL, you are either the #1 or you’re the back up. It’s time to stop sniveling about being the #1 and own it. You’re the guy. Play like it.

    I do believe Lack is a #1 goalie in this league. Maybe not today, but next season, sure. He’s not Luongo. He’s probably not even Schneider. But he has real talent. I hope he seizes it.

    • Brent

      “Tinkerbell” is actually reserved for the Sedins…

      Get over the blatant homerism.

      If Lack (and Jensen for that matter) were on any other team in the NHL, they’d just be random guys.

      But because they play on the team for which you cheer, of course they are rare talents…

  • Brent

    The mystery to me is how Hansen stays in the top 6 with the season he’s had. He has a total of 20 points in 66 games while playing with our top players. Guys getting 4-5 minutes a game less than Hansen playing with plugs on the 3rd and 4th lines are doing better. I used to think he was a Ryan Kesler clone in the making but now I think it’s time to move him and give a better player his ice time.

  • Fred-65

    @JD:

    Signing and playing Sestito has *nothing* to do with possession. Please take a gander at this great article by Thomas Drance at the beginning of the season, when Rolston was fined for “player selection” (he didn’t take Scott off the ice):
    http://beta.thescore.com/news/302738

    Some of the coaches who are quoted were upset because they lose control of who they put on the ice. But one coach said something faaar more revealing. Let me quote:

    “”If I’m in that kind of situation and I don’t put a guy out there to protect my players, the guys on the bench are going to look at me and say to themselves, ‘what’s this guy doing?’”

    “My manager is going to ask me why I’m not protecting my players and the owner is going to ask my manager why I’m not protecting my players. The next thing you know, those guys are going to decide they are going to get somebody who is going to protect their players.””

    I’m as frustrated as anyone else by giving Sestito a roster spot, but it doesn’t look like that’s going away. At least not soon. Even good possession teams like Chicago and San Jose have the designated enforcer. (Of course, none of them give their enforcers 10+ mins, like Sestito was getting at one point…that’s just crazy, and is a complaint about Torts, and those responsible for hiring the coach.) So, to talk about Sestito in possession terms is kinda missing the point. Is there someone who can fight regularly and is good at possession? My guess that player will not fight very regularly, because after a while the coach will want him playing.

    Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think this is rational. I don’t think that having an enforcer means the players are actually protected. But when players are upset at the other team, they seem to want a lug on the bench to show their anger. Or at least that’s what the quotes from Drance’s article seems to suggest.

    This is an aside, but I also wonder if criticizing hits because it means low possession isn’t also kinda missing the point. Maybe some players throw hits to try to regain possession, at least some of the time. I could be wrong on this, but I think teams emphasize hitting as a way to wear the other team down (esp. in playoffs). And I think that some of the hitting is effective because, throw enough of them, and you injure important guys (see Orpik on Toews, or Hanzal on several Canucks).

    Half jokingly, if you really want to understand hitting’s effect on the game, maybe you need another statistic: injuries caused percentage, meaning how many injuries a player caused over hits thrown.

  • Fred-65

    Here’s a fact that IMO is often over looked Tortorella took a defence that was admired in the league and turned it into a disgrace….Edler +/- a whopping minus 30. The Defence has become most important of all unreliable. Why because the system that has stood them in good standing for so long with players good at their craft has turned into a fire drill….the man on man has been replaced by a zone defence….and it takes only ONE guy to miss his assignment and it turns into the afore mention fire drill..player scrambling try to cover for the screw up. Tortorella seems too proud to make a change and the club suffers as a result

    Sestito at very least takes care of the job assigned o him very well…oh that other players could say the same. He’s on the ice for MAYBE 4-5 minutes a game don’t try and hang the goats horns on this guy.