Rob The Hockey Guy

// A Vancouver Canucks Hockey Blog

One month in: now what do we think of this team?

We are just under one month into the 2010-11 edition of the Vancouver Canucks. Despite pre-season Stanley Cup predictions, this season began with a bit of a whimper. The Canucks started off the season 2-3-2, beating only bottom feeders Florida and Carolina. It also featured a fan fueled goaltending freakout of Dan Cloutier proportions.

The Goalie Controversy Myth

The season also started off with two impressive outings by Cory Schneider and a less than impressive start for Roberto Luongo. This of course started the calls by uneducated fans to trade Luongo and to allow Schneider to become the new number one goalie. The fact that the team cherry picked two easy games for Schneider didn’t seem to be taken into consideration nor the fact that Luongo is a notorious slow starter.

Recently, I attended the Canucks-Avalanche game. When the Avalanche tied the game with about a minute left, a guy behind me blurted out: “Pssh! Ten million dollars!”. Nevermind the fact that he had been playing great and had no chance on the tying goal. He was later named the game’s first star.

The city is on pins and needles ready to jump all over Luongo. He is the biggest key to the team’s success, but lets not lose perspective here. At worst, he is still going to be a top 10 goalie. Also keep in mind that his $5.3 million cap number puts him eighth in the league among goaltenders.

Back on the bandwagon

Lately, all has seemed to be forgotten. The Canucks have won four straight, with Luongo playing well and the team regaining their scoring touch. Also, for the first time since perhaps the mid-90s, the Canucks appear to have three lines that can score. It’s been a while since a Canucks third liner netted a hat trick like Raffi Torres did on Tuesday night.

Is this a playoff team?

This team will be judged on what they do in the playoffs. I get the sense that most of the city is just waiting for April, May and hopefully June, and that is to be expected. Last year the Canucks showed they have an elite first line and a very good second line. This year, Mike Gillis appears to have fixed their third line. The fourth line? That’s another story.

When/if healthy, their defense is supposed to be better although I think it may be a bit overrated. Who knows if Sami Salo will be able to return, and if he does will he be a shell of his former self? It looks like he’s going to go almost an entire calendar year without playing, which will be difficult for a player coming off a serious injury at his age. Keith Ballard is being treated as a #5-6 defenseman by coach Alain Vigneault, presumably because he is still recovering from offseason shoulder surgery. Will he get better? Presumably he will. The team also hasn’t shown that they will be able to put together a good shutdown pairing yet, so far trying to get by with Dan Hamhuis and Kevin Bieksa in that role. Hamhuis may be part of the answer, but having Bieksa in a shutdown role is madness.

In goal, Roberto Luongo should have what it takes. The whole city is nervous about him, as evidence by their complete overreaction to his early season struggles, but he is an elite goaltender. The key for him will be getting hot at the right time in the playoffs.

Trade bait

The Canucks fourth line simply isn’t good enough but luckily that is a relatively cheap/easy area to improve at the trade deadline. That will likely to be something that Mike Gillis will have to address down the road, perhaps with rental players.

Another option for the Canucks is to bring-in an impact rental player at the trade deadline to push them over the hump. In my mind, Cory Schneider is their best bet to bring in that player. If Schneider can continue his impressive play and get into about 20 games, he might become a hot commodity if a team thinks that he could be a starting goalie at his age and salary.

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8 Response to One month in: now what do we think of this team?

  1. RGC on November 4, 2010

    "My feeling is if you can get one of the five or six best goalies in the league you can spend the money. We can’t get into those guys, and the difference between the eighth goalie in the league and the 15th goalie, it’s a big difference in money. It’s not a big difference in performance.." n n- Ken Holland. n nBig money for goalies doesn't seem to be the answer in the cap era. Also, while Luongo's cap hit is 5.3 million, he is expected to play like a 10 million dollar goalie now, because we know when he's 38 and making 2 million (I don't know the exact number) he's likely not going to play like a 5.3 million dollar goalie. n nLuongo is getting by on name alone these days. He hasn't been an elite goaltender in over a year Last year he was 19th in GAA and 17th in save percentage. So far this year he is 18th and 18th. The year before that, he was 5th and 5th, and was horrible in the playoffs. So, basically, he hasn't been good in a season and a half, give or take. n nTell me why anyone should have faith in him? I hope he regains his elite status, but to say that people are wrong to be worried or are overreacting is to be a brainwashed fan (granted, I'm not calling for him to be traded, but keeping Schneider as a good, young, solid backup is a good idea, given the current circumstance). n nHis consistency is horrible, and for the most part, his good games are what his bad games should be (2-3 goal efforts), and his bad games are something that a goalie of his supposed calibur should only very rarely experience. He is not a game stealer at all. In a close game, he does not give the feeling that he will stop any and everything. He has proven that he won't time and time again, in important moments, too. n nThis is supposed to be the best team in the west. Making Henrick captain was a mistake and having to keep Bieksa was unfortunate. But none of it matters if Luongo can't play well. n nCanucks fans: stop making excuses for poor or mediocre play and just call a spade a spade.

    Reply
    • Binh on November 4, 2010

      Agreeing with the inconsistency part. n nI was watching the Raptors game yesterday and what struck me was what one of the announcers said about Tim Duncan. In talking about Demar Derozan's aspirations in becoming great, he quoted Tim Duncan as saying that his "excellence was in producing consistently."

      Reply
    • Binh Ho on November 4, 2010

      Agreeing with the inconsistency part. n nI was watching the Raptors game yesterday and what struck me was what one of the announcers said about Tim Duncan. In talking about Demar Derozan's aspirations in becoming great, he quoted Tim Duncan as saying that his "excellence was in producing consistently." n nIf Luongo is to live up to his franchise goalie reputation, he's gotta be the rock. There should be no second guessing as to whether he'll produce in the playoffs.

      Reply
    • Robert Williams on November 4, 2010

      RGC: You're not unlike a lot of people in Vancouver who seem to hold up Luongo to some kind of unattainable standards! Was last year an off-year? Sure. Goalies have off-years. Even superstar goalies. Now, it is possible that this is a sign of things to come for Luongo and that he'll plateau and become just a so-so goalie. Possible, but not probable. n nIf we want to compare Luongo to someone, how about someone who a lot of people consider the best goalie in the league: Ryan Miller. Miller is about the same age as Luongo, and since Luongo joined the Canucks, Buffalo and Vancouver have been comparable teams. Lets look at where they each ranked in the league in terms of GAA and SV% over those years: n nRyan Miller: nt GAA SV% n2007t20t15 n2008t24t29 n2009t18t8 n2010t2t2 n nRoberto Luongo: nt GAA SV% n2007t6t4 n2008t13t14 n2009t5t5 n2010t18t16 n nLooking at those numbers, there's no reason to worry. n nAs far as the playoffs are concerned, don't forget that Luongo was great in the series vs Dallas in 2007 (Canucks were shutout 3 times and still won the series) and vs St Louis in 2008 (SV% of .962, 1.000, .923, .959). He wasn't great against Chicago in 2009 (neither was Kiprusoff in the series previous, his SV% was much worse than Luongo's but nobody seems to talk about it). His playoffs last year weren't great either. n nAs for Luongo playing at age 38 with a 5.3 mil cap hit, he'll be bought out if he's terrible. n nAs for his stats being bad this year? It's still early, which is why Mathieu Garon is near the top of the stats. He may be 18th in GAA and SV%, but that outranks Bryzgalov, Rinne, Lundqvist, Ward, Brodeur, Turco, Kiprusoff, Miller, Anderson, Mason, Fleury, etc in GAA and Turco, Vokoun, Price, Anderson, Kiprusoff, Brodeur, Miller, Fleury, etc in SV%. n nStop making excuses? Get out of your bubble.

      Reply
  2. RGC on November 4, 2010

    Also, saying the key for Luongo is to get hot at the right time in the playoffs is like saying the key for a fat person to lose weight is to eat less. It's obviously true, but it goes against their nature.

    Reply
  3. Kelly Grant on November 4, 2010

    Now i'm going to think outside the box here, what currently is the role of the 4th line? The way i see it they go out there and pray to god they don't fuck up and sure as hell pray they don't ice the puck cuz then they are screwed. n nNow i'm sure the guys on the 4th line are nice guys but seriously if the only use of our 4th line is to eat minutes why don't we put out 3 skilled players. Now here is my i had to get up at 4am to go to work thought of the day, what if say we had a first round draft pick center who was more a skill guy then a grinder and we put him on the 4th line with 2 other skill guys, heck even 1 skill guy and a grinder and let them just get game experience. At least that way the 4th line has more of a goal other then wasting minutes. Now i'm not saying Hodson is ready but when he is this might an option, or for any other center we have on the farm that could use some NHL experience. n n nReady set FLAME!!!

    Reply
    • Robert Williams on November 4, 2010

      To me the role of the 4th line is to kill penalties, not get scored on, and get some hits. They also need to be able to eat up some minutes. Last year Hordichuk did very little of all 3, Rypien got hits and Johnson was terrible in all 3.

      Reply
  4. RGC on November 4, 2010

    You're right, Rob, goalies do have off years. And I'm well-aware of Luongo's great performances (especially in 2007). He can be a great goalie, without question. However, this is more than a slow start and more than one bad season. His average (sometimes poor, and always inconsistent) play dates back, like I said, to two playoffs ago. At a certain point you have to get on your Janet Jackson and ask what has Luongo done for you lately? n nRyan Miller is seen as one of the best goalies in hockey after last season. Before that, he wasn't even mentioned amongst the top. Same with Ilya Bryzgalov. Nicklas Backstrom wasn't mentioned among the best goalies in the game last year (he was prior to that lackluster season though), but so far this season he has regained his elite form. n nLuongo hasn't regained his elite form since the 2009 regular season. That's quite a long time.

    Reply

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