Rob The Hockey Guy

// A Vancouver Canucks Hockey Blog

The Replacements

The Replacements - Let It Be

In a weird twist this season, the Canucks have all 8 of their defencemen healthy (defencemen usually are the most injury prone), and a whole whack of injuries to forward, and then of course there’s Roberto Luongo. The result has been a lot of dull hockey, with the team trying to play more defensive due to their lack of fire power. With that said, here’s a review of the replacements for Luongo, Daniel Sedin, Pavol Demitra and Ryan Johnson (as well as Kyle Wellwood and Rick Rypien here and there).

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Michael Grabner:

Chicks are digging the speedy Austrian sniper, and why not? Grabner has been impressive with the big club. He has five points in his first nine NHL games and has been generating a lot of scoring chances. Unfortunately, a replacement for this replacement will be needed. Grabner was lost to an ankle injury that he suffered during the pre-game hallway warm-up. It’s been that kind of season for the Canucks (kind of reminds me of when the Canucks lost all those defencemen in the 2007-08 season and Lukas Krajicek slipped on some ice and injured himself).

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Tanner Glass:

Glass has looked good thus far. Sunday’s game against Colorado was probably his best, notching a goal and hitting a crossbar. He’s been pretty reliable, finishing all of his checks and responsible in his own end.

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Aaron Rome:

The Canucks’ forward (forward!? Yes, forward) has been impressive since being moved from defence. Vigneault moved him from defence to forward because of all the injuries up front, and must have sure liked him there. He lead all Canucks forwards in ice time in Friday’s game versus Anaheim. That’s clearly ridiculous, but he hasn’t looked out of place at forward (unlike Mathieu Schneider who looked completely lost in his one game at forward… Vigneault clearly hasn’t heard of not being able to teach an old dog new tricks).

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Alexandre Bolduc:

Bolduc, like Grabner, has also been injured since being called-up. While healthy, he played pretty much error free, but didn’t offer anything notable.

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Sergei Shirokov:

The “Pocket Russian Rocket” hasn’t been able to lift-off as of yet. In six games in the NHL, he has been unable to get a single point and is a minus four. Disappointing, sure, but even more disappointing is that he hasn’t been noticeable. He has been sent to the Moose a couple of times already, and continues to rip it up down there, but so far he hasn’t been able to translate that to the NHL level.

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Andrew Raycroft:

Raycroft has played pretty well in his limited action. I thought he was unfairly pulled in the loss to Anaheim on Friday, but responded with a shutout against his old team, the Colorado Avalanche. He wasn’t tested a lot against Colorado, but still, I have more confidence in him than any back-up goalie they’ve had since Alex Auld. He should get all of the starts until Luongo comes back.

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Ah oh, not Luongo! Injury Update

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Roberto Luongo, yet again, is injured. He’ll be out at least a week with a rib injury. Whether or not it’s only a week remains to be seen, as Canucks management has been known to downplay injuries in the past. This marks the third straight season where Luongo will miss time due to an injury. Does this mean he can’t handle the ridiculously large workload the team gives him every year? Probably not, I tend to think it’s just a matter of being in the net more often gives you more opportunities to get injured.

This means that Andrew Raycroft and possibly Cory Schneider will get an opportunity to play. Raycroft looked great in preseason and his limited game action this season, but he hasn’t played for a while and would surely be rusty. We’ll see how that goes. I think he has the ability to step his game up, but we all know what usually happens to the Canucks when they’re without Luongo, nevermind when they do it with a bunch of injuries.

Here’s the rest of the injury updates:

-Ryan Johnson’s injury apparently isn’t as bad as originally reported

-Sami Salo and Daniel Sedin are ahead of schedule

-Rick Rypien is ready to go

-No news for Jannik Hansen and Pavol Demitra

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November 2009 Calendar Featuring Rick Rypien!

Tonyz Tanti and I were talking and decided that for this coming month, there’s no one on the roster more deserving of being featured on a Calendar Wallpaper than The Ripper. So we present to you the Canuckz.com November 2009 Calendar Wallpaper featuring Rick Rypien! The design idea? We’re imagining Rypien mailing home to mom after each of his battles: “Look mom! See who I beat up today!” Or something like that.

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Download here (missing a weird resolution that you use that we don’t have? Post a comment to let us know and we’ll gladly add it!):

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Comeback Payback in Chi-Town

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The Canucks silenced the boisterous United Centre crowd with a gritty 3-2 third period comeback victory on Wednesday. The win was big, not only because it was their first road win of the season and against a hated team, but because of how they won:

-They came back on the Hawks, a team known for coming back on other teams
-They outshot the Blackhawks, the first time that Chicago has been outshot this season
-Roberto Luongo was outstanding, especially when the score was 2-1 for Chicago. He especially came up big during the lengthy 5-on-3 man advantage in the third period
-Michael Grabner (!) scored. And he looked like a sniper while doing it.
-They hit! Willie Mitchell’s hit was the turning point of the game.

Injury News:

Rick Rypien has a groin injury (surprise surprise), prompting the question: who is the most injury-prone player on the Canucks? They’ve got a few candidates including Rypien, Salo, Demitra and Schneider.

Speaking of Mathieu Schneider, he appears ready to go. He has been cleared to play, so we will most likely see him on Sunday against the Oilers. He is inegligible to play Saturday because he was placed on 10 day injured reserve.

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Strip Shootout!

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Check out this video taken from the Tampa Bay Lightning practice. The team played a game of “strip shootout”. Basically it’s like strip poker, with the shooter removing an article of clothing every time they don’t score. Martin St Louis appears to be the big loser, having to remove a whole lot of equipment. Gary Bettman, are you watching this? Sounds like a great idea for the skills competition at All Star Weekend to me!

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Come on Louie!

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Question: what do Mike Smith, Cristobal Huet and Vesa Toskala have in common? Answer: they’re the only NHL starting netminders with a worse save percentage than Roberto Luongo this season. That’s right, he’s 27th in save percentage among starting goalies! He’s also 26th in goals against average among starters. I know it’s early, but it’s not THAT early. We’re seven games into the season, that’s 8% for you math junkies. At what point does this become a concern? It’s freak-out time for a few message boarders, but I say give it a couple more games. But he’s got to be their best player, no excuses.

Luongo is known for slow starts, but not like this. This is the worst start to a season he’s had as a Canuck, with arguably the best team in front of him. They’ve limited the shots on goal that he’s faced, and he needs to be able to play well in games where he sees limited shots. I’m still optimistic that he’ll get out of this funk, but if the funk lasts a little too long, it may cost them a playoff spot. It may also cost him a spot on Team Canada.

An elite Roberto Luongo makes the Canucks an elite team. A sub-par Luongo makes the team a sub-par team. It’s as simple as that.

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Memo to Grabner: Your time is NOW

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Recently called-up Michael Grabner will make his NHL debut tonight tonight when the Canucks play the Flames. The speedy winger has been thrown right into the fire, playing the club’s chief rival on the top line with Henrik Sedin and Alex Burrows. Grabner will never get a better opportunity to succeed than this to finally prove he’s NHL worthy and he’d better excel or there may not be many chances left for the young Austrian sniper.

Lets review. He was the Canucks’ first pick, 14th overall in the 2006 entry draft. He currently sits as the only forward taken in the first round to have yet to play an NHL game. Players picked behind him include many youngsters already making a significant impact in the NHL: Claude Giroux, Simeon Varlamov, Patrik Berglund, Nick Foligno, Milan Lucic, Steve Mason and Cal Clutterbuck. Last season, he lead the Manitoba Moose in goals, notching 30 in 66 games. He has never been able to translate that success at the NHL level, preseason included. He played in a team high seven preseason games this year, scoring zero goals and one lone assist. Just for some perspective, that put him 20th (20th!) in scoring on the team.

Grabner is now 22 years old, not as young as he used to be, and is getting a chance with a team that has Daniel Sedin, Pavol Demitra and Jannik Hansen out of the lineup for significant periods of time. If he plays anywhere half decently, he should be given a long look in a scoring role. Will he succeed? Don’t bet on it. Personally, I would have liked to see Sergei Shirokov back. Shirokov grossly outplayed Grabner in the preseason and has more points in Manitoba. If Grabner can go from brutal in the preseason last month to good in the regular season, I will be pleasantly surprised.

(A little motivation for Grabner)

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The Injury Bug Strikes Again

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It appears the injury bug has bitten the Canucks early this season. It started with lingering injuries carrying over from last season for Pavol Demitra and Mathieu Schneider. Then it was Jannik Hansen, who was injured on the last game of the preseason. Now, even worse news. The Canucks will be without iron-man Daniel Sedin and (what’s the opposite of iron man?) Sami Salo.

Daniel Sedin broke his foot after being struck by an Alex Edler slap shot, he’ll be gone 4-6 weeks. This means that Daniel Sedin will miss the most games he’s ever missed in a single season, since his NHL debut in 2000. It also means that twin brother Henrik will get a long stint on a line without Daniel for the first time in his career. How will he fare? It will be interesting to find out.

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Sami Salo will also be gone for 4-6 weeks with a knee sprain suffered in their last game against Dallas. For all the joking about Salo’s injury woes, he will be sorely missed. Everyone knows about his big shot, but he is most valuable to the team with his role on the shutdown pairing with Willie Mitchell. I feel bad for the guy. He’s suffered a lot of injuries, to no fault of his own. Some guys’ bodies are just more durable than others in my view. It’s not like he runs around recklessly like Rick Rypien or anything.

Speaking of Rick Rypien, how about a little time-out to watch this again!?

So where does this leave the team? Well, luckily they have depth. Losing a top 4 defenceman a few years ago would have meant power play time for Patrick Coulombe. Luckily, Salo’s ice time can be absorbed by their other regulars. Capable reserve defenceman Aaron Rome will see his first action as a Canuck and, if you read between the lines, Mathieu Schneider should be ready to go, probably as soon as his long term injury reserve time expires on October 25th.

Daniel Sedin’s’ role will be tougher to fill. Guys like Steve Bernier, Mason Raymond and Kyle Wellwood will need to step it up, but this is the time where the Canucks really need a pleasant surprise from prospects Sergei Shirokov or Michael Grabner (though I wouldn’t hold your breath).

***Update*** Looks like Grabner will get into his first NHL game.

But the number one way the Canucks can withstand all these injuries? You guessed it: Roberto Luongo. Luongo has the ability to steal games, and he may need to do a bit of stealing coming up.

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Random thought of the day:

Isn’t this an Olympic year for the NHL? Isn’t the NHL supposed to be compressing their schedule to accomodate the two-week break? If so, why on earth are the Canucks on a stretch of 1 game in 8 days this early in the season? That’s a schedule that more resembles the CFL, not the NHL. I know that there are many factors that go into the schedule, including building availability, and the NHL’s desire not to go head-to-head with MLB playoffs and the NFL, but could they please give the Canucks a bit of a break?

With the horrendous road trips the Canucks have coming due to the fact that GM Place will be occupied with pre/post Olympic use, you’d think the NHL could have thrown in a couple of road games now, instead of in February and March. For those counting, the Canucks have an eight game road trip before the Olympics and a six game road trip after the Olympics.

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Vancouver Canucks Fans = 5th Most Annoying in Sports

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Courtesy of Spike.com:

It’s remarkable how arrogant the fan base of a team with zero Stanley Cups, no Hall of Fame players, and two homoerotic Swedish twins that seem physically afraid of the playoffs can act. It’s literally mind-boggling! These days, when they’re not too busy demanding trades on local radio shows or reminiscing about that year they almost signed Wayne Gretzky, you can usually find Canucks fans preaching about how hosting Jarome Iginla and the Canadian Olympic team will finally establish their city as a genuine hockey town (sort of like how marrying Lamar Odom made Khloe Kardashian a real celebrity – legitimacy by association).

Next time you see a suspected pyramid schemer in the corner of a trendy wine bar sporting a $200 hair cut, $900 suit, and emanating a distinct air of scumbag from his Drakkar Noir-soaked pores – go ahead and ask him about Kevin Bieksa, because odds are he’s a Vancouver Canucks fan and doesn’t want to cry himself to sleep again before throwing out obscene predictions about the Norris Trophy.

If you’ve been reading from the start, you’ll know that I don’t disagree at all (except for the part about the Sedins whom I heart just fine)! Stop being douchebags, Canucks fans! Stop freaking out over a “poor” 3 game start to the season. NEVER EVER plan a Stanley Cup parade after the 1st round again! Etc.. Sheesh.

It’s also idiots like this that give Canucks fans a bad name. His name was Richard and he completely disowned the Canucks during their losing streak last year, saying he would never ever watch them again. He even cancelled his cable! Later, he proceeded to jump back on the bandwagon after they went on a winning streak. Here’s some of what he wrote-in to the Province:

My heart can’t take it any more. I’ve been a Canucks fan for over 30 years. Every year we are fooled into believing this will be THE year or at least this year will be a better year.

I fall for the hype every time, but after last night’s game … something died in me.

I’ve never felt that disappointed by a loss in my life. I was so upset, in fact, that it carried over to my relationship with my wife. I snapped at her over the dumbest of things. She was an innocent bystander and not a hockey fan. That anger that was wrongly aimed at my wonderful wife was an anger so powerful I couldn’t contain it. An anger expressed because of my emotional tie to a stupid sports team.

I will never let that happen again.

I proved to myself that watching, cheering and supporting the Canucks has finally come to an end. Period.

The time I wasted watching the Canucks games I will now spend with my wife and daughter.

Douchebag.

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What's Wrong With this Team?

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They’re 0-3 and in less than one week have gone from cup contenders to talentless bums (according to the bandwagon douchebags anyways). Well, the fact of the matter is that this team isn’t as good as those early season predictions (loyal Canuckz.com readers already knew this after reading this post) and they’re not as bad as their 0-3 record suggests. I think what’s wrong with the Canucks is a combination of them getting cocky, believing their own preseason hype, and being out of sync. Being out of sync can be attributed to them not icing a single game in the preseason with their full line-up. I believe they kept too many prospects right to the final game of the preseason. So that’s the bad news.

The good news is, they’ve actually played pretty well in large portions of all three games. The Canucks have outplayed their opponents in about 70% of their games, but haven’t been able to score. Conversely, their opponents have capitalized on their chances, putting Luongo and company in a big hole.

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Random Thoughts

More good news: Luongo won’t be this bad for long and the Canucks won’t be this snake-bit for long.

When the Canucks have played with urgency, they’ve been very good. The problem is that by the time they decided to play with urgency on Monday night, they were down by three goals. Same thing against Calgary.

The Canucks penalty kill needs to get better. Their opponents have absolutely lit them up on the man advantage: Columbus was 1-3, Colorado was 2-6, and Calgary was 2-3. You can’t expect to win with penalty killing like that.

Ryan Johnson has been on the ice for all six goals against while shorthanded! Not good for someone who is supposed to be a penalty killing specialist. Rick Rypien has been on for three of them. Ryan Kesler and Alex Burrows haven’t been on for a goal against while on the penalty kill.

Five of the six power play goals against have been scored by the other team’s second unit.

Maybe they ought to keep one of Burrows or Kesler on the ice at all times while on the penalty kill.

The Sergei Shirokov experiment may be over. Alain Vigneault juggled his lines after they were down 4-1 against Columbus and Shirokov ended up on the 4th line with Ryan Johnson and Rick Rypien. Shirokov’s old linemates, Ryan Kesler and Mikael Samuelsson, were much more effective playing with Mason Raymond in the 3rd period. Look for Tanner Glass to be inserted into the lineup against Montreal.

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What are the game presentation people doing at GM Place? The Canucks are now hitting the ice to some mellow song by Cold Play after a sappy intro on the big screen. Not surprisingly, this put the home crowd a bit to sleep to start the game. I know it was Columbus on a Monday night, but I have never seen a quieter home opener to start the game, and the game presentation certainly contributed to it.

Anybody notice that there were an awful lot of tickets available for the home opener? It’s become abundantly clear that the sellout streak has ended (unless you count giving away hundreds of tickets) and it’s not because of a lack of fan support. Simply put, the Aquilinis have now priced people right out of the building. Seriously, how many people can afford to spend over $200 on a mediocre corner seat in the lower bowl, for Columbus on a Monday night no less? The entire city of Vancouver is crazy about this team right now and for the Canucks to price tickets so high that they can’t sell them is just plain greedy.

And now, something to help cheer us cheer up…

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