Rob The Hockey Guy

// A Vancouver Canucks Hockey Blog

Mike Gillis' Search For a "Puck Moving Defenceman"

He’s out there somewhere… isn’t he? It seems ever since Ed Jovanovski signed with the Phoenix Coyotes three summers ago, the Canucks have been trying to find a “puck moving defenceman” (that’s the buzz word of the year for Canucks fans) that can make a good first pass and run the power play. Not that the Canucks don’t have decent offensive blueliners already. Kevin Bieksa is a good all-around defenceman, but is not a true power play quarterback. Sami Salo and Alex Edler both have the big shot from the blue line, but they don’t rush the puck up the ice with ease and they each need a lot of time to load up their canons. So who will it be? Who is available? Who can fit under the cap? All legitimate questions that depend on who the Canucks will move (and believe me, it will be somebody) to make room. That player will be a forward, which will make room for a defenceman.

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How about Anton Babchuk? This article out of Carolina from the News & Observer states that Babchuk, a restricted free agent, will be traded. Apparently the Hurricanes are not looking for a forward in return, rather they are interested in a prospect or draft pick instead. That’s not great news for the Canucks, who are thin on prospects, but deep on forward. While this is the case, Gillis could always trade one of his forwards for a draft pick to lessen the impact of losing a draft pick for Babchuk.

So who is Anton Babchuk!? He’s a 25 year old defenceman who in his first full season in the NHL last season scored 16 goals (5th best in the league last season) and 19 assists. He was also a plus 13 (second to only Eric Staal on Carolina last season). He was at his best on the power play, notching 9 power play goals. To put that in perspective, consider that Salo, Bieksa and Edler each scored only 5 power play goals last season. Babchuk is also 6’5″ and has a great slap shot that he can get away quickly.

Don’t believe me? Check this out:

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Hats Off to JR, Roenick Calls It a Career

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Jeremy Roenick officially retired from the NHL today. A lot of people remember him as being a bit of a jerk or a loose canon, but he was a lot more than that. He was one of the most entertaining players both on and off the ice. Back-to-back 50 goal seasons in Chicago in 1991-92 and 1992-93 and three straight 100 point seasons between 1991-94 were his best seasons. He also went to the Stanley Cup Finals in 1992 and won a World Cup with Team USA in 1996. He never won a Stanley Cup though, but he joins great company with that distinction.

Anyway, what better way to look back at some of his greatest moments than to look back at his early years with the Chicago Blackhawks…

….And some of his funniest moments! Enjoy:

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courtesy of pauliewood.com

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Canucks Re-sign Hansen

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The Canucks have re-signed RFA Jannik Hansen to a two-way deal worth $550,000. Hansen would have to clear waivers in order to go to the minors, and I think it’s unlikely that he wouldn’t be claimed by another team if they tried to send him to Manitoba. This is an interesting deal for the Canucks. Hansen is a nice role player to have, but he’s also the 13th NHL forward that the Canucks have signed (14 when you include Cody Hodgson and 15 if you include Michael Grabner). Consider that most NHL teams only carry 13-14 forwards, and it’s only a matter of time before Gillis pulls the trigger on a deal for a defenceman.

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Sportscaster of the Week

Every Tuesday, Canuckz.com profiles a Canadian sportscaster. Sometimes they’re sportscasters we like, sometimes they’re ones we don’t. Last week we featured an underrated old guy, this week we feature an annoying young guy: Jason Portuondo.

Portuondo, for those that don’t know, is an anchor for Sportsnet Connected who has brought us some quotes that even the “boom goes the dynamite” guy would find lame. Continually he tells us “remember to wash your hands after you.. FLUSH” (basketball), “that old Beatles song: all you need is… GLOVE” (baseball/hockey), and “E-fence, that’s right, E-fence, because there was no D!” (any sport). Ouch.

Maybe what annoys me most, as a Canucks fan, is the fact that he can’t pronounce the word “Canuck”. Shouldn’t that be a prerequisite to getting a job as a sportscaster in this country? There’s only 6 teams here, you should probably know them.

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Management Shakeup in Canuckland? Zimmerman Looks To Be on the Way Out

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Rumours are swirling that Canucks president and CEO Chris Zimmerman is set to resign. A little surprising, seeing as how he was hired less than three years ago. In his time with the team, Zimmerman has overseen many changes, including a new general manager, new jerseys, a new scoreboard, and numerous other improvements to in-game presentation.

UPDATE: It’s official, Zimmerman’s out!

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Spotlight on Mason Raymond

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One of the biggest wild cards heading into the 2009-10 season will be Mason Raymond. After a mildly impressive rookie season in 07-08, Raymond was supposed to take the next step in the 08-09 season. He started well, scoring 10 points in his first 13 games on the second line. After that, he sputtered, ending the season with an unimpressive 23 points in 72 games. The former 2nd round pick was shuffled in and out of the lineup, and between lines. He seemed to find a bit of a home on the third line towards the end of the season, with Kyle Wellwood and Steve Bernier. Regardless, he is supposed to be a scorer, and failed to produce enough offence last season.

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So what can we expect this season? Things could go in a lot of different directions. If the team doesn’t make a move, then one of Raymond, Kyle Wellwood, or Cody Hodgson will see time in the press box or on the 4th line. But don’t bet on the golden boy Hodgson being in the press box. Furthermore, if Michael Grabner makes the team, that will bump one more player down the depth chart. It is time for Raymond to sink or swim. If he fails to produce 20 goals this year, he will be written off as a bust. There is lots of competition for roster spots at the moment, so he will have his hands full.

I am cautiously optimistic about Raymond this year. He did take a step back last season, but he showed flashes of brilliance, and has undeniable speed and a hard shot. A lot of prospects follow a bad 2nd year with a breakout 3rd year in the NHL (expect Sam Gagner to have a breakthrough season in Edmonton). If he does, he will have to prove that he belongs in the top 6-9 forwards currently on the Canucks roster and could find himself on a line with the likes of Demitra, Wellwood and Kesler. If he doesn’t, he could find himself shuffling through the lines, and spend time in the press box.

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Wellwood Back for Another Season… at $1.2 million

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While Wellwood’s salary/term has yet to be figured out, in an interview with the TEAM 1040, Wellwood’s agent said that he would be back in Vancouver. Apparently Wellwood’s demands were not high enough for the Canucks to walk away from.

So what’s next? This now gives the team 10-11 top 9 forwards (assuming that Cody Hodgson and/or Michael Grabner are ready for prime time). I’m expecting a trade for a defenseman before training camp. Stay tuned…

***UPDATE*** Wellwood’s arbitration case has been settled. TSN is reporting that Wellwood has been awarded a one-year deal worth $1.2 million. Great deal for the Canucks. Good in the shootout, good on the power play, good on faceoffs, and as he proved in the playoffs, good defensively. He provides a lot of intangibles, and still has a lot of upside.

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Canadian Sportscaster of the Week: Vic Rauter

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Every Tuesday, Canuckz.com will profile a Canadian sportscaster. This week is Vic Rauter.

Over the course of his career, Vic Rauter has done it all. Recently, I saw him on Sportscentre doing the highlight packages. I, for one, think he is quite possibly the most underrated Canadian sports broadcaster of all-time! His style is unique to himself and he is very articulate. Oh, and of course, his signature line “MAKE THE FINAL.” Brilliant. In recent years, he has taken a limited role with TSN, who instead have replaced him in favour of cookie-cutter Fox News type personalilties. Give me guys like Vic Rauter over them any day. Here are a couple samples of his best work:

“BUNBURYYYYY!!!”

“MAKE THE FINAL!”

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Nazzy Speaks! Jersey Retirement Next?

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Good article in the Province this weekend about about Markus Naslund. For the first time since his retirement, Naslund spoke candidly to Province reporter Jim Jamieson about life after hockey. This of course means that the debate of whether or not to hang his #19 from the rafters of GM Place has heated up. When asked about it, Naslund said “It’s very flattering. If you ask any athlete, to have your number retired is one of the most flattering things you can have happen. It would be a great honour”. Typical response from a guy who has been a class act throughout his whole career.

So should Naslund’s number be retired? It will surely serve as great debate for Canucks fans. I think it should (and will), but I don’t think it will be retired this season. The memory and bitterness of Canucks fans is still too great about Naslund’s final 2-3 seasons in Vancouver. People have forgotten about the amazing seasons he had for the franchise. If people can forget that Pavel Bure demanded a trade and sat out most of the 1998-99 season while still under contract and want his number retired, surely a lot of people will want Naslund’s number retired in a couple of years from now.

For those of you against having Naslund’s number retired, consider this: he is the all-time franchise leader in goals and points (while playing fewer games in a more defensive era than Smyl or Linden). At the top of his game, few in the league compared to Naslund. His best two seasons in 2001-02 and 2002-03, he scored 40 and 48 goals, doing so in a very defensive era of the league. In 01-02 and 02-03, only Jarome Iginla (52 goals in 01-02) and Milan Hejduk (50 goals in 02-03) scored 50 goals in a season. When you compare that to Bure’s best two seasons in a Canucks jersey (back to back 60 goal seasons in 92-93 and 93-94), you can see just how impressive Naslund’s achievements were. Bure’s first 60 goal season was a time when Mogilny (76 goals), Selanne (76 goals), Lemieux (69 goals) and Robitaille (63 goals) all scored more than him. Bure lead the league in goals in 1993-94, but not by much. Hull, Fedorov, Andreychuk, Shanahan, Graves, Sheppard, Modano and Neely all scored 50 or more goals (Neely actually scored 50 goals in 49 games that year). My point here is that Naslund’s best years were comparable to that of Bure’s (who would have his jersey retired had he not demanded to leave town), and his all-time numbers eclipse that of Linden’s and Smyl’s (who both have their jerseys retired).

Now I know what all of you are probably saying, “Naslund didn’t have any success in the playoffs.” While it is true that Naslund never reached the 3rd round with the Canucks, his playoffs could hardly be called failures. In his prime (2001-02 to 2003-04), Naslund scored 25 points in 27 playoff games. His best playoff came in 2003-04 when he was playing hurt (courtesy of Steve Moore) and was without Todd Bertuzzi. He got 9 points in 7 games that year, playing with Brendan Morrison and Matt Cooke. The Canucks playoff failures were more due to the team not having any kind of above average goal-tending (Cloutier’s goal from centre ice in 2002, Cloutier’s .868 SV% in 2003, and the Cloutier-Hedberg-Auld combo in 2004). Ask yourself this, would Bure and Linden be looked at the same if Kirk McLean hadn’t made “the save” in 1994 to keep their season alive? Of course not. Naslund never got a chance to do the things that Linden and Bure did in the playoffs because he simply wasn’t given the opportunity. Maybe that’s just bad luck for him, but I think he did enough in the playoffs to warrant his jersey hanging in the rafters.

So should the Canucks retire his jersey? Give your opinion in the comments section.

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What is Garth Snow Doing?

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No, not what is he doing here with Charles Wang, but this time the former goaltender has gone goalie shopping crazy! Three weeks ago, Snow signed former Oilers #1 goalie Dwayne Roloson to a two-year deal. Yesterday he signed former Flyers #1 goalie Martin Biron to a one-year deal. All fine and dandy, until you consider that they already have Rick DiPietro and his 15 year contract (he has 12 years left on that by the way). Surely they’re not getting ready to trade DiPietro… are they? Who knows on Long Island, where this doesn’t even crack the top 10 weird things they’ve done in the last few years.

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Top 10 “weird” things the Islanders have done in the last 15 years:

  1. Traded the best young goalies in the league (Roberto Luongo) along with former #3 overall draft pick (Olli Jokinen) for Oleg Kvasha and Mark Parrish. Why did he do this? See #2.
  2. Drafted Rick DiPietro #1 overall, passing over Dany Heatley and Marian Gaborik.
  3. Traded Zdeno Chara, the #2 overall pick (Jason Spezza) and Bill Muckalt for Alexei Yashin. Chara for Yashin one-for-one would have been a steal, same with Spezza. Heck, Muckalt one-for-one would have been better than having Yashin’s crippling contract.alexeiyashin
  4. Signing Alexei Yashin to a 10 year, $87.5 million contract. Ten year contracts are all fine and dandy, for young guys who are consistent. Not exactly something Yashin has ever been accused of.
  5. Hiring Neil Smith on June 8, 2006 and then FIRING him one month eight days later! Really did their due dilligence in that hiring. And who did they replace him with? See #6…
  6. Hiring your backup goalie (Garth Snow) as your new general manager. No need to pay your dues or anything, here’s the most important job in the organization, Garth.
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  7. Signing Rick DiPietro to a 15 year contract. The move could have been a good one if he stays consistent for 15 years and stays healthy. Whoops.
  8. Trading for rental Ryan Smyth in exchange for Robert Nilsson, Ryan O’Marra and a first round pick. I’ve got nothing against trading for a rental player, but trading 3 good young players for a good (not great) player just to help you squeak into the playoffs and get beat in the first round? Not smart.
  9. Trading Todd Bertuzzi, Bryan McCabe and a 3rd round pick (Jarkko Ruutu) for Trevor Linden. Linden was on the down side of his career while Bertuzzi and McCabe were both highly touted prospects who went on to having some very productive years.
  10. Allowing Mike Milbury to keep his job for so long. Milbury was the GM in Long Island for over 10 years! When you consider that #1, 2, 3, 4 and 9 on this list are courtesy of Milbury, you can really see how crazy this was.

(Any mention of Mike Milbury on this blog shall be followed by a video of him beating a man with his own shoe)

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