It’s Friday, the Canucks have earned a split on their current road trip, and now it’s time for: “Cheers and Jeers!”
This regular feature was originally started by Canucks Army forefather Cam Davie during the 2011-12 hockey season. Now that I’m the old hand at this here Canucks hockey blog (that happened… quickly), I figure it’s my turn to carry on tradition.
This week, on the other side of the jump, I give some props to Zack Kassian, NHL discipline, and our great country while showing a big thumbs down to the San Jose
SharksShorks and Third Line Centre Brad Richardson.
Cheers – Let’s hear it for Zack Kassian, who is not often described as wily, but made a smart move on Thursday night to avoid a too many men on the ice bench minor.
Kassian saw Alex Burrows tied up and knew the Canucks had too many men, so he hid from the counting officials by jumping onto the St. Louis Blues bench. Most people assumed that he’d dropped the ball and mistaken the Blues bench for his own (wishful thinking perhaps?), but it turns out he was in full control of his instrument. A smart move by a guy not known for them.
Jeers – I want to dole out some criticism to the San Jose Sharks (who shall herein be referred to as the Shorks so long as John Scott playing D is a thing), who are playing brutal team defense despite their respectable 4-3-1 record. The Sharks are getting pummeled on the shot clock consistently, and at the moment are the fourth worst defensive team in the Western Conference by goals allowed per game. Here’s the rub though, the teams worse than the
SharksShorks have mostly had trouble in net (Colorado, Edmonton, Arizona), while Niemi and Stalock have performed respectably.
The Shorks’ problem is that they’re just spending too much time in their own end of the rink, and so far, have managed a worse shot attempt differential at even-strength than the Maple Leafs. The Maple Leafs!
San Jose isn’t the only team that’s likely to turn it around that is struggling enormously to control the flow of games. After all, the traditionally dominant Kings are similarly performing poorly. But they at least have the whole “depleted defense corps” excuse going for them (Jake Muzzin finally made his regular season debut last night). The Shorks? They can’t fall back on that.
In particular I think San Jose’s poor results are so annoying because, in part, I suggest it’s from a brutal tactical decision to move Brent Burns back to defense. So far the Shorks are controlling just over 43 percent of all shot attempts with Burns on the ice, a particularly drastic number when compared to his high-end results as a forward. Burns as a forward was a singular experience, from his forecheck battle-cry to his chemistry with Joe Thornton – he made the NHL more fun when he was playing up front. On the back-end he looks lost. Basically they went and took a pale Alex Ovechkin imitation and made him into a less responsible, less consistent Kevin Bieksa. That’s just stupid, stupid, stupid.
If San Jose really wants a top-end defenseman, maybe they can arrange to trade Burns for Dustin Byfuglien. That way the Jets get the power forward they’re willing to shoot themselves in the foot for, and the Shorks get the imposing defensive presence they’re willing to shoot themselves in the foot for.
Cheers – The Stephane Quintal (non-interim) era has yet to see its first suspension, which is pretty amazing. It would appear that the NHL game is getting safer and players are doing more to avoid the sorts of dangerous plays that so often made hockey fans and commentators foam at the mouth in recent years.
Is it just a coincidence that this new era of relative player safety has coincided with the decline in the usage of enforcers? I suspect it is not.
Obviously at some point we’ll see a big hit, a cheap play, a dangerous elbow to the cranium intentionally thrown. We’ll take signs of progress seriously though.
Jeers – Brad Richardson, man. He’s a good checker signed to a reasonable contract. He’s an excellent penalty-killer and he’s improved enormously in the face-off circle. He’s a guy that can help a good team win games – in the right role.
He has never been used in the right role throughout his Vancouver tenure, and he’s just not an everyday third-line center. He’s still better in that spot than Andrew Ebbett or Jordan Schroeder so whatever – we won’t complain too much. Still, it’s become my least favorite thing about watching Canucks games, watching Zack Kassian make pretty plays and feeding his center a gimme, only for that center to be Richardson, and the puck to stay out of the net.
Cheers – An extra cheers today for Canada, for Cpl. Nathan Cirillo, for Patrice Vincent, for Barbara Winters, for Margaret Lerhe, for Martin Magnan, for Samearn Son, for Kevin Vickers. And yes, to the Pittsburgh Penguins.
As a nation we have our issues, but man, this is a great fucking place.