Photo credit:© Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports
The Stanchies: Hronek’s Canucks debut, Kuzmenko’s record, and a tribute to John Garrett
10 months ago
The Canucks defeated the Sharks 7-2 on Thursday night, but that is of little consequence. No, the biggest news of the night was when John Garrett announced on air just before the start of the third period that this would be his last season calling Canucks games.
For many Canucks fans, they grew up with John Garrett. He was a consistent part of their Canucks experience, almost like a friend you always hung out with when you watched the games. Garrett’s natural charm and down-to-earth style resonated with the fan base, and even during the darkest of losing seasons, the chemistry between Shorthouse and Garrett became something to look forward to. Sure, the Canucks were losing 9-1 and Tyler Myers just accidentally drop-kicked Thatcher Demko in the head, but Garrett and Shorthouse were about to have an impassioned debate over burger toppings, so why bother getting upset?
Their ability to pick their spots during lulls in the game, and their ability to know when to be serious versus when to let loose is something that needs to be studied by any up-and-coming BCIT students. That ability to ride the line between respecting sports so much that it becomes life or death to you but also knowing that at the end of the day, sports are silly and dumb so sometimes you just have to laugh at it, is a hard one to walk. Garrett and Shorthouse did it perfectly.
It was also clear they enjoyed working together, and that carried over the airwaves, as they truly were one of the best play-by-play teams in the entire league, their chemistry better than anyone. John Garrett felt like everyone’s favourite uncle and you won’t hear a bad word spoken about him. What you saw on TV is what you saw in person, just like I experienced when I first started out in this business. I met him at a Chicago Wolves game in Abbotsford and he couldn’t have been nicer, and even signed a box of Kraft Mac and Cheese for me. It didn’t matter who you were, John Garrett treated you with respect and dignity.
Canucks games won’t feel the same without Garrett around, and I don’t think any mention of ketchup will ever occur without everyone collectively thinking of John. He brought a levity that is sorely needed in sports, a charisma that is often thrown to the wayside in favour of a streamlined bland corporate approach. Vancouver can be a tough market to navigate, but John did it perfectly. It truly felt like he was “one of us” when watching the games because damn it, he is one of us. Just another person watching and waiting to see if the Canucks are ever going to win the Stanley Cup.
But don’t let his folksy charm fool you, he was still quick as a whip when it came to breaking down the game of hockey. He had a very discerning analyst’s eye when needed, and even during the game Thursday night, he correctly picked out the fact Phil De Giuseppe tipped a goal initially awarded to Quinn Hughes.
Whoever steps into his role next has a giant shadow to work in, but knowing John Garrett, he would be the first person to cheer them on. That’s just who he is. He once selflessly gave Wayne Gretzky a car at an All-Star game I believe (that’s how I choose to view it).
So to John, I raise a glass of ketchup in your honour and I proudly say you are one of the best to ever do it. Your presence has impacted more people than you will probably ever realize, and have inspired countless people to try and get into the business. I hope you have nothing but happy days for the rest of your journey.
Hail to the king.
Best from the man himself
Best banana energy
This is why he drinks Pepsi. He needs that caffeine to really bust out the starter announcements.
Best tidy piece of business
Christian Wolanin probably deserved a spot on the team out of training camp, but having an elite AHL season under your belt and then playing extremely well during a late-season NHL contract isn’t a bad path either.
The Wolanin signing represents the kind of business fans were clamouring for during the Benning regime. You know, the one where you put together depth in the AHL and then use those guys on cheap contracts to plug up your bottom six rather than spending 3 million on someone because Ovechkin dragged them to a Stanley Cup.
Brisebois, Wolanin, Dries and Philly Di Giuseppe have all played well and contributed for this Vancouver Canucks team. Are they world-beaters? Of course not. Will they all be on the team in the next 3-4 years? Probably not. But are they affordable and help you manage your tight salary cap? Hell yes.
This is the future people wanted in Vancouver, so credit has to be given to Allvin and co. for leaning into the AHL stockpile so heavily.
Best serene but aloof
James Reimer’s nightmare scenario of multiple men bearing down on him at once occurred rather quickly after the drop of the puck:
That is of course Philly Delight winning the board battle and feeding the puck up to Brock Boeser who attempts to slide over a pass to Ethan Bear, who misses the net. Boeser’s evolution into Hank Sedin, wherein he passes 99 times for every shot he takes, continues, but you know what? It’s kind of a fun ride.
I know, I know, Boeser sniping goals and flicking his hair back to catch the rays of sunlight at just the right moment is seared onto the brains of Canucks fans everywhere, but for a player whose smart hockey doesn’t necessarily make for good TV (in that he doesn’t engage physically, he tries to outsmart his opponent with stick work) it’s nice to see him being successful with distributing the puck this season. It feels like fan outrage against him has diminished somewhat as people can point to the handsome Thor-looking fellow making passes to people who never seem to score for him.
Ethan Bear is the problem, you see, not Brock Boeser. It’s called the Kyle Wellwood/Steve Bernier theorum.
Best we can rebuild him
Jimothy Timothy Miller has seemingly found his inner Rip Wheeler again, as he has made the issue of the second line centre spot on the team seem like not a big deal:
Bo Horvat was clearly an important player for this team, but the fact he was traded and JT Miller has seemingly stepped up and made his absence downright palatable? I don’t think many people saw that coming. The broadcast mentioned how the Canucks had a Hank Sedin/Ryan Kesler combo that was the envy of the league, and how this EP40 and JT Miller combo might be trending in that direction, and I think that’s a fun way to look at it. They are clearly two very different players, but when JT Miller is on his game, he really can play like Ryan Kesler offensively.
Also kudos to James Reimer’s homage to Collin Delia by freezing in place and doing a mime routine after being beaten blocker side.
Also the NHL really needs to award assists to the other team if it leads directly to a goal like this. Hertl earned that apple, damn it.
Best welcome to the Kuzmenkshow
Gold standard stuff from AK96:
I could play with Elias Pettersson and he could probably bank in 5 goals off of me during a season, but as I always say, there is something to be said about players who think the game on the same wavelength. My buddy Pavel would always make these amazing passes to nobody during hockey, before I realized had I been skating to the proper spot it would have gone right to me, leaving me wide open with a great shot attempt. When you think the game at an elite level, you just see the ice differently.
Elias Pettersson has probably made that kind of pass a hundred times to a player that just hits the goalie or goes wide, but here Kuzmenko has the confidence and skill to cut to his backhand and flummox Reimer to the point of questioning all of his beliefs.
Did Kuzmenko celebrate with a banana and Pepsi on the bench? Sadly we don’t know, because the cowards at Sportsnet refuse to install a Kuzmenko iso cam. Why does Greg Shannon hate me?
Best quick retort
The Sharks pretended it was going to be a battle for at least a few minutes during the game, when Tomas Hertl got his 20th goal of the season off of a bad JT Miller line change:
This is actually a perfect example of the JT Miller discourse earlier in the season, versus now.
Earlier in the season, this bad line change would have been the third one of the game, and it would have been book-ended by him not back checking on two goals. There was a reason people were calling him out, and it’s because we know how much better JT Miller can play.
So when JT has this line change go awry, it doesn’t matter, because he is back checking hard, he is scoring points, and he’s not smashing his stick and trying to murder Collin Delia for not sprinting from his net fast enough.
This is Jimothy Timothy Miller.
Earlier season was Mr. Miller.
Best bold bet
Although it pains me to speak ill of one of my best friends, I do have to admit that Logan Couture enjoys a solid head snap now and then.
Best new guy doing new guy stuff
The debut of Filip Hronek was highly anticipated in Vancouver because it’s been a while since we’ve seen a reliable right handed d-man that can move the puck efficiently.
And honestly, Fil was pretty darn impressive against San Jose. His ability to move the puck up the ice with ease was the biggest thing that stood out to me, whether he was under pressure or not. He simply made the right play 9 times out of 10, and that kind of consistency is what you’d die for from your back end.
One simple proper breakout from Hronek leads to Kuzmenko almost scoring on a rush to the net:
Again, this isn’t like he’s doing blind, no look, 360 spinning passes. But don’t discount the ability for a d-man to skate with the puck, draw in a defender, and then fire off a perfect pass to a player already in stride. No bouncing it into his skates or throwing it behind the player, no, he just airs it out perfectly like Josh Allen hitting Diggs for a touchdown.
You know I loved Luke Schenn. I would help that guy move if he asked me to, that’s how much I respected him. But there have been so many plays this season where the Canucks seemed stalled during games due to, and Rick is going to love this, east/west hockey. Going left and right in your own zone is fine, but Hronek’s ability to skate with the puck and find a player skating north hard and fast? That’s invaluable to an NHL team.
Best more handsome than pretty
Speaking of efficient signings, Dakota Joshua has been another very solid player for the Vancouver Canucks. Unlike Alex Chiasson, he doesn’t need to score all his goals in the last 10 games of a season, he just spreads them out like a normal person:
James Reimer does his best to stop progress, but ultimately fails as Joshua evolves right around him.
We should also give credit to Garland for that slicker than coconut oil microsecond delay right before he feathers the pass over to Joshua. That assist brings Garland up to 27 apples on the season, putting him 7 assists back of Kyle Wellwood’s season-high assist total with the Maple Leafs in 2005.
Yes, that is now twice I have mentioned Kyle Wellwood, and if you’re asking if I am going to make a third one before this article is over, you’re goddamn right I am.
Best mic drop
Jeff drops stats and James Reimer for a living.
Best short lived gains
He secures the bag then peaces out, he’s truly living the dream.
Best carrying himself erectly with conscious yet unpretentious dignity
Sometimes Elias Pettersson tries to dangle the impossible dream, just because he can:
Elias Pettersson could try and ride a tiger on the ice while juggling flaming tennis balls before trying to score a goal and I’d honestly assume he was going to pull it off. The faith and confidence I have in Elias Pettersson is the complete opposite of what I had in my parents’ approval of me.
Would Kyle Wellwood have completed that dangle for the goal?
No, of course not, but he would have tried it just the same. He was a man possessed at times.
Best Fil Harmonic
Agent Cody Labancs had one mission and one mission only: Cross check Elias Pettersson into the boards:
Labanc lined this hit up from a comically far distance, so it was nice to see Hronek step in and showcase his displeasure with Kevin’s actions.
The resulting power play didn’t score a goal (The Canucks went 0/5 on the night, worse than when Lexie died on Grey’s Anatomy) but they did hit a post letting James Reimer know they could have scored if they wanted to:
The best part about this? John Garrett seeing it hit the post and then saying that Reimer still hadn’t made a good save yet.
Just the absolute best ever.
Best putting in the work
JT Miller back checks, and as a result, the Canucks get a 3 on 1 out of it:
Now, Brock Gretzky is a passer now, so I get that. I really do.
But I have to say, I’d want Brock to shoot that puck there 10 out of 10 times.
Don’t get me wrong, that’s a solid pass and Quinn Hughes could shoot against the grain and catch Reimer moving. That could be a pretty goal.
But it’s James Reimer in net. Just shoot the puck or talk about welcoming anyone into your home, either way he’s going to get rattled and probably let the puck in.
Best making it look easy
The Chaos Giraffe set up Conor Garland for the Canucks fourth goal and it was a really nice pass:
James Reimer somehow makes himself look really small in net, like Felix Potvin jumped out of retirement, leaving Garland enough time to get the puck off of his skate and backhand the puck into the net.
That goal was Garland’s 13th goal of the season, and I know you’re asking, where does that put him in relation to Kyle Wellwood? Wellwood had 18 goals in 2008, so he needs four more to tie Kyle.
It’s the Kyle Wellwood rule. If you don’t see Kyle Wellwood on tv you should be asking yourself “where’s Kyle? What’s Kyle up to?”
Best at least he tried
The Canucks power play, as noted earlier, was as woeful as when Opie looked at Jax one last time:
The good news is at least Brock shot the puck here and didn’t try and feather it through to Kuzmenko.
Best Hronek Effect
Hronek ended the night with 24:25 of ice time, beating out Quinn Hughes 23:39. It felt at times like Quinn Hughes was going to end up playing 35 minutes a game, so in terms of load management, having a guy like Hronek that Tocchet can lean on will be invaluable for this team.
Best time management
I won’t lie, when Garrett announced his retirement I straight up blanked out for six minutes of the third period. Let’s just assume Tyler Myers spun around randomly and hey maybe Kuzmenko skated around the net a couple of times.
What I do know is Hronek was solid and dependable all night long:
Cutting off passes and then handling the front of the net like this? That’s the kind of game you always wanted from Tyler Myers. Can Myers do that? Of course he can, he’s a giraffe who skates, he can do anything he puts his mind to. Does he do it consistently? No, because he is a pure agent of chaos and it goes against his very being.
If Hronek can come in and provide this kind of defence night in and night out? Well then you can see why the Canucks were so high on this player.
Best whoops, there it is
Kuzmenko had himself a little bit of a turnover, which led to him gassing out on the back check, which then led to a shorthanded goal:
Hey, Phil Kessel proved to us that you don’t need to be Rod Brind’amour to play at the NHL level, but it feels like Rick Tocchet is going to have a very firm cardio game plan he is going to want players to follow in the off-season.
Fans might need to start trading fruits and vegetables for sticks next season.
Best Russian Machine
Podkolzin, on the other hand, seems like the perfect fit for the Tocchet system. Much like The Anvil, Podkolzin works hard and plays hard, finishing checks and never turning down a board battle. The problem for him has always been the lack of goals. For whatever reason, his gameplay hasn’t translated to a lot of scoring.
Well, until this play:
I know it’s James Reimer, but if Podkolzin keeps hitting up zone entries like that and unleashing JT Miller like wrist shots, those goals will happen sooner and more often. Just a brilliant goal from Podkolzin.
Best make him suffer
The Canucks made it 6-2 when JT Miller circled down low until he found room to feed Quinn Hughes at the point:
As noted by John Garrett, Philly Delight got the deflection on the puck, causing James Reimer to have to have to deal with the ramifications of De Giuseppe’s tip going right through him.
Best honk when you drive by Vern Fonk
Just more fantastic stuff from Hronek, to be honest:
He stuffs the wraparound attempt down low, then stays on top of the puck and harasses his check into flinging a desperate backhand pass along the boards. Then after Fil gets up, he puts himself in position to be an outlet along the boards, and ends the play with a perfect pass up the middle.
This is as the kids say, the good shit.
Best finishing touches
And if six goals weren’t enough for you, why not make it seven:
Having seen the Canucks be dead inside for many a blowout loss, I certainly saw the signs of a team that wanted nothing more than for the season to be over when the Sharks “defended” this goal.
Once again it was Philly Delight making a tremendous check along the boards, which caused Erik Karlsson to give up on a hockey career and just kind of flail about like your post-college resume.
Sheldon Dries, who we know has a solid scoring touch, got his 11th goal of the season with a move that Harold Druken would approve of.
Best jersey Botch
Best final thoughts
Easy win for the Canucks, and I do have to say it’s nice that we’ve all accepted the Anti-Tank ways of this team. There’s no more screaming about losses or wins, we just kind of sit back and accept whatever happens. The team just can’t help themselves, they always have to go on a run to end each season.
You can see the kind of roster this team is going to try and put together, and for better or for worse, we are entering a couple of seasons of this team going for that quick retool.
Will it work? Who knows. Probably not.
But at least Hronek’s beard is here for the ride.
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