Thursday, August 27, 2009

We've Moved!

Checkout the new and improved Dan Cloutier for Vezina.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Mathieu Schneider Close to Signing?

Sportsnet's Dan Murphy is reporting that Mathieu Schneider is close to signing a one-year deal with the Canucks. There is no word on the financial terms but it will certainly be less than the 5.625 cap hit that Schneider was worth in 08-09. The Canucks have roughly 3.4 million worth of cap space to play with so as a result, signing Schneider would likely be Mike Gillis' final offseason acquisition baring any trades. He had 9 goals and 23 assists in 67 games last season with Atlanta and Montreal.

Schneider is clearly not the player he once was, however, he should help fill in a gap on the Canucks blue line that was left by Mattias Ohlund which, until now, has not been addressed. Mike Gillis had been on the record saying that signing another defenseman has been one of his top priorities this summer. Schneider will likely find himself playing on the third pairing with Shane O'Brien when the season faces off in October. Where Schneider's real value will hopefully be felt is on the power play where he has 99 career goals and 389 career points. There will also be questions about his durability as he has missed significant time in the last three years due to injury.

Schneider's Carrer Stats

A Very Swede Era

With all the attention surrounding the Sedins as unrestricted free agency loomed on July 1st, many people in Vancouver didn’t give a lot of thought to the fact that Mattias Ohlund would not be returning to the Canucks for the 2009-2010 season. It was almost a forgone conclusion after some of the comments that he made towards the end of the regular. The fact that Ohlund’s departure flew under the radar was only fitting for the way that he played. Ohlund was a quiet competitor that got the job done on most night. He could shut down some of the better players in the league and contribute offensively as well. In the last year or so he has lost a step or two, but Tampa Bay is getting a quality person and quality player for the next seven years or so. He’ll serve as fantastic mentor to Victor Hedman as Tampa Bay looks towards the future. While the number of people that read this blog is relatively low, I would like to do my part to send Mattias off in style and acknowledge as many of his accomplishments as I can think of because he was a class player and as a fan I appreciate the eleven years he put into the Canucks. This post will end up being long, but hopefully informative at the same time.

On June 28th, 1994, then Canucks head coach and general manager walked up the stage in Hartford and selected the six foot three Swede from Lulea HF. The fans at that time probably didn’t know what they had at that point, after all we were still licking our wounds from losing to the Rangers in Game Seven of the finals. Nonetheless, Quinn made Ohlund the thirteenth pick in the draft. When the Canucks and Ohlund could not come to terms on a contract, Ohlund spent the next three years developing his game in the Swedish Elite League. He ended up impressing as a rookie in Sweden and helped Lulea win the league championship in 1996.

As Ohlund was about to enter his fourth season after being selected in the 94 draft and still unsigned, the Maple Leafs offered Ohlund a five-year deal worth ten million. It was considerable money at the time, especially for a rookie, but Pat Quinn wasn’t going to let his first round pick walk away to Toronto and matched the Leafs offer. In a fitting twist of fate, Ohlund made his debut against the Leafs in 1997 and scored in his first NHL game. It was a goal that we would see many times over the next eleven years as Ohlund skated through center and hammered a slap shot past Felix Potvin. His efforts were noted by the NHL that season as he was nominated for the Calder Trophy as the league’s top rookie, finishing only behind Sergei Samsonov. As a nice consolation prize, Ohlund was named to the league’s all rookie team. The Canucks and their fans also recognized Ohlund’s contribution to the blue line by naming him the winner of the Babe Pratt Trophy as the team’s top defenseman. It was an award that Ohlund would win four times as a member of the Canucks (98, 00, 04, 06). In February Ohlund was also selected to the Swedish National team for the 1998 Olympics. It was the first time that teams were stacked withNHLplayers. Ohlund would record an assist in limited time for Sweden.

After two great seasons, Ohlund’s career was put into question as he was struck in the eye by a puck in a game against the Ottawa Senators. Ohlund, who didn’t wear a visor when he broke into the league would put one on permanently after eventually recovering from the serious eye injury. When he returned he was the Ohlund that Canucks fans had remembered as he scored 20 points in the second half of the season. It was not enough to launch the Canucks into the playoffs, but a healthy Ohlund in 00-01 would help the Canucks gets back into the playoffs.

In 01-02 Ohlund had perhaps his greatest season as a Canuck. He scored a career high 36 points and the Canucks made it interesting against the Red Wings before going down in six games. It was the first time that Ohlund managed to play a full season in three years as he played in 81 Canuck games that year. In 02-03 he would be limited again due to injuries but still played in 59 games where he put up 29 points. He was also a factor in the playoffs, where he chipped in 3 goals and 7 points in the 13 playoff games that season. Ohlund would miss 29 games in the 07-08 season but from this point on he was able to stay healthy and be a year long contributor on the Canucks. In 2002 he was also selected to play for Sweden in the Olympics for a second time. This time a much bigger role was expected from Ohlund, butunfortunately for the Swedes they were upset by Belarus in the quarterfinals.

For the next three seasons, Ohlund would be a model of consistency for the Canucks. He did everything that was expected of him, whether it was playing about the other teams top offensively players, killing penalties or manning the power play. He would score 34-33-and 31 points respectively between 03-04 and 06-07. In the 2004 playoffs, Ohlund made a lasting impression on the hockey world when hedropped the gloves with Jarome Iginla in the dying second of the a Canucks game three victory. In 2006 he was named to the Swedish Olympic for a third time. This time Sweden and Ohlund were rewarded with a gold medal.

This past season, (08-09) Ohlund played is final season with the Canucks and left his mark on the organizations record book. He became the Canucks all time leading scorer for defensemen as a notched his 321st career point on March 15th, 2009. Before the season was over he would extend his lead to 325. As he leaves Vancouver he is also the all-time Canucks leading goal scorer for defensemen with 93.

“Plainly, I want to to try something new. It’s going to be fun to see what happens this summer and whichNHLteams that are interested.” …. “This is a family decision, where a lot factors will play in. But at my age, it would of course be fun to end up in a club with a decent chance at winning the Stanley Cup.” (Quote taken fromHockey in Swenglish)

It was a good ride that had some good times. I don’t have any hard feelings towards him for wanting to get a fresh start somewhere else while he still can. Everyone can use a fresh perspective sometimes. His comments on the matter back in March suggest that he wanted to play for a contender which makes him signing with Tampa Bay a bit odd, but either way I will wish him the best down south.

If you’re still following along with this I appreciate you still reading, but if not then who can blame you. I just wanted to do my part to show some thanks to Ohlund’s great work on the Canucks blue line for the last twelve seasons. Please leave comments or links to Ohlund videos to help remember what great Canucks that he was.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Relief is Spelt S-E-D-I-N

As you are undoubtedly aware by now, the Sedin twins have signed identical five year contracts worth a combined 61 million dollars. It was major relief for me and losing the Canucks greatest offensive weapon would have had major implications for the present and future. Lets be honest, if they hadn’t signed long term deals the Canucks would basically be going into rebuild mode. Without an actual first line player going into free agency the team could have been falling on hard times. Perhaps Mike Gillis would have been able to put something together for the likes of Cammalleri or Gaborik, but that’s clearly not something to bank on.

Now the question is, where do the Canucks go from here? They haven’t gotten any better while the other Canadian teams in their division arguably have. The Flames added Jay Bouwmeester, but now lack depth up front with the departure of Cammalleri. The Oilers are definitely in better shape if they land Dany Heatley. Nikolai Khabibulin is also an upgrade over Dwayne Roloson in goal. Minnesota has not been very active today, but you can never count them out. Colorado is destined for another year as the doormat of the Western Conference. So where does that leave the Canucks are this point looking ahead to 09-10. They overtook Calgary for top spot in the Northwest largely due to the ineptitude of the Flames in the final month of the season. The Canucks will compete again for first place, but do they have enough to push themselves over the top?

Signing the Sedins was Gillis’ top priority this offseason and now he’ll need to ideally add another top six forward and a defenseman to replace Mattias Ohlund. It was sad to see Ohlund sign with Tampa Bay today, but I have made my peace with the fact he was not going to be back quite a while ago. The addition of another top forward would help bridge the gap between now and the future as Cody Hodgson and Michael Grabner and sure to challenge for roster spots this fall.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Canucks Pregame and Other Stuff

So, I thought now would a good time to make my way back into the wonderful world of hockey blogging when I should be writing term papers for school. Procrastination is a great thing. There has been a lot to talk about as far as the Canucks go. A big game tonight in Minnesota where the Canucks have already won twice this year. Of course I’ll weight in on the Canucks-Blackhawks brawl from Sunday night. Better late than never I suppose.

Canucks vs Wild Pregame Thoughts
Later on today the Canucks will have their first opportunity to take over top spot in the Northwest division for the first time since probably December. I’m actually not totally sure the last time they occupied top spot in the division but it’s definitely been a while. Back then I was more concerned about being overtaken by Minnesota, but interestingly enough the Wild are barely hanging into the playoff race for the time being.

Tonight’s game should favour the Canucks considering they have beaten the Wild twice at home already this season and neither of those wins included Roberto Luongo. Curtis Sanford got the call in a 3-2 win November 20th and who could forget Cory Schneider’s first NHL victory on December 5th. It was most definitely the finest game he put together during his call up here.

Also setting up well for Vancouver is the fact that the Sedin’s have typically performed extremely well against the Wild in their career and with Alex Burrows scoring on a nightly basis the top line should provide plenty of problems for the Wild defense. I’ll try and find the stats to back up the Sedin’s domination of Minnesota, and if you know them be sure to leave a comment.

For Minnesota, a loss might effectively end their playoff aspirations. With just six games to go and trailing eighth place St. Louis by three points they will need to win this game on home ice. The Canucks faced a desperate team in St. Louis and didn’t answer the call all that well, but with first place now on the line I would expect a better effort, especially against a team that they are 4-0-1 against. Gaborik’s return to the lineup has energized their offense a bit, but at this point it does not appear that it will be enough and with his desire to play in a more offensive system this might be the last time we see him playing for the Wild against Vancouver

Canucks-Blackhawks Brawl: Burrows and Eager
The Canucks soundly beating the Chicago Blackhawks on Sunday was encouraging proof that this team could indeed handle a playoff series against the Hawks. The win only evened the season series, but the last two times out the Canucks have dominated Chicago. The brawl that erupted in the third period was proof that the Hawks may indeed be worrying about the Canucks as a first round opponent and that Vancouver had definitely gotten into the heads of their potential opponent.

Dustin Byfuglien’s push in the face of Luongo was the unnecessary trigger to the start of all the fun. Up until that point it hadn’t been a particularly rough game, but I think at that point it should that the Hawks had certainly lost their composure and were perhaps trying to send a message for the playoffs. After the game Daniel Sedin disagreed by saying “it’s not 1975 anymore” but I think it was more than just being a poor loser. I don’t really have a problem with the tactics of sending a message for future games and I didn’t think the push was particularly cheap but some of the things on both sides that followed were rather embarrassing for players on both sides.

Alex Burrows is my favourite player on this team, but i couldn’t help by be disgusted that he decided to pull on Duncan Keith’s fair during their half fight. Pulling hair is just something you don’t do and I would not have opposed a one game suspension for it. Unfortunately I’m not all that surprised that it happened considering some of the things he has been accused of in the past. On the other side, Ben Eager’s MMA take down on Bieksa was dangerous and unnecessary. Bieksa is lucky his head wasn’t smashed into the ice. When you’re as big as Eager and you want to fight then do it properly instead of slamming you opponent onto the ice. His psychotic attempt to get away from the linesman was ridiculous and surprisingly did not end up in a suspension for someone who is considered a repeat offender. I like brawls as much as the next guy, but they sure bring up a lot of questionable behavior and heat up the debates on both sides.