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Hockey, Sports

SixPack: Luongo's still got it, Panthers beat Canucks

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Omar Dec 10, 2016 12:54 pm 1,209

Don’t be fooled by the score (a 4-2 win by the Panthers), or the fact Vancouver was within a goal in the third.

The Canucks deserved to lose.

Not because of the players’ efforts. They played hard and they wanted to win. They were competitive and they weren’t outclassed. Skill-wise at least.

But after having three power plays in the second period, Vancouver entered the third down 2-0. One minute into the final frame, they were down 3-0. Then they switched the lines and Willie Desjardins decided it was time to play the Sedins with Loui Eriksson – his self-admitted best chance at goals.

Any surprise it was too little to late?

Any surprise they weren’t able to reproduce their 5-1 score from Tampa Bay, won on the shoulders of fourth liners?

They had five shots on those three power plays, wasted away largely because Brandon Sutter continues to be rolled out on the top unit. It pretty much kills the advantage of being one man up.

If I’m not being clear, I’m putting this loss on the coach’s shoulders. Good effort, bad lines.

Need more convincing? Read on.

1. Balanced lines don’t win games

In case you haven’t noticed, it’s become cool to rip the Sutter + Sedins line combination.

It’s such an obviously a bad idea, even Steve Simmons and his famous “eye test” would see it. The underlying stats do too, by the way. Canucks Army and Sportsnet’s Dimitri Filipovic showed that.

I’m not going to rehash the stats, except to mention that Dimitri’s article shows Sutter is one of the worst linemates the Sedins have ever had.

The most baffling thing about all this is apparently Willie knows it. Here he is after Tuesday’s game, from Dan Murphy’s portion of that Sportsnet article:

“I feel a little bit that Eriksson with the twins gives us the best chance at offence. And they scored the last game they were together and they scored tonight. When we get behind, I see it as a combination sometimes.

“The whole game, I like Sutter there. I think it just depends on the game and how the guys are playing.”

To quote everyone’s favourite TSN 1040 radio host: This is mind numbing.

It says a lot about the way Willie sees the game. He prioritizes having balanced lines above all else. In a game where the team that scores the most goals wins, he builds lines thinking, what will make this line strong in their own end?

Not in the offensive end.

Not for putting pucks in the opponent’s net.

In their own end.

Look, I’m trying to understand what he’s thinking, and I may be wrong. I’m trying to figure out why Sutter and the Sedins are still a thing and why their new $6-million scorer, Loui Eriksson is stuck playing with third and fourth liners.

From his quote above, the “balanced lines” explanation makes sense. What makes a lot less sense is Sutter’s constant spot on the power play, or Granlund being glued to Eriksson.

What’s the point of having balanced lines on the power play? Just score.

The only explanation that make sense for those last two is that the current regime is trying to make their acquisitions – Sutter and Granlund – look good by giving them plum linemates and giving them tons of playing time.

Don’t believe me yet? Look at the forwards’ ice time this game:

Eriksson 18:33
Sedin 17:08
Sedin 17:01
Sutter 16:33
Granlund 15:43
Horvat 13:55
Burrows 12:59
Baertschi 12:05

Granlund played nearly two more minutes than anyone on the line that’s been the team’s best offensive threat – Horvat, Baertschi, Burrows.

If that doesn’t blow your mind, nothing will.

2. Guddy’s return

Erik Gudbranson returned to Florida with the Canucks after playing three seasons for the Panthers and it was heartwarming.

Not as heartwarming, Nick Kypreos’ take on Gudbranson before the game:

“We spoke about this seven days ago against the Toronto Maple Leafs, Gudbranson bringing that physical, emotional passion to the game. He has not disappointed since coming. You can sit there and argue whether he’ll be a 1, 2, 3 defenceman, but this was another example against New Jersey where he drives that emotional tone …

When you talk about the emotional gap between the Bo Horvats and the Sedins, this might be the perfect guy that can segue that young and old situation, and at just 24 years of age, you may be looking at the next captain.”

So, Kypreos clearly doesn’t watch all of Vancouver’s games, because other than the Toronto and New Jersey games, Gudbranson has not brought that physical presence on a consistent basis.

More often than not, we’ve seen the Gudbranson who inspires tweets such as this one:

guddytweet

Next captain? Many in Vancouver are wondering if the Canucks should even extend him past this season, given he’ll be asking around $5-million/year.

Of course, “many in Vancouver” rarely influences Benning, and I can easily see them throwing a large contract at him, followed by the explanation that he’ll be very important in transitioning the team to a younger core.

3. Skill-e-d goals

Alec Baldwin’s Trump has been getting a run for it’s money as world’s best impersonation for a couple games now.

Here’s Skille doing Crosby for the second game in a row against Florida.

And here’s another skilled goal. Not Skille goal. A skilled goal. It’s by Daniel Sedin and Troy Stecher, you see.

Yes, it was scored on the same power play I’ve been tearing down, but realize Brandon Sutter had nothing to do with it. It was a simple point shot-deflection play.

4. Stech Curry plays D

The little guy drives offence like his life depends on it, and he does stuff like this on defence too.

That’s a Jagr 2-on-1 pass aimed at Seth Griffith.

He’s incredible. That’s all.

5. More on those NTCs

If you live in Vancouver, there were two things you couldn’t miss this week:

  1. Vancouver must be the worst city in the world at dealing with snow.
  2. The Canucks will not be asking players with NTCs to waive.

Like ice falling off bridges onto Vancouverites’ cars, Canucks management pummeled the second message into our heads through every media outlet they could find.

On Friday, Jim Benning appeared on the TSN 1040 morning show, and he repeated his now well-scripted explanation:

“There’s a couple reasons why I wanted to put that out there about not trading the guys with no trade contracts. The first reason is I wanted to be honest with our players and our fans … the other reason is I want to try to limit the unnecessary distractions so the players can focus on getting better and winning games.

“The players we have left that have no trade clauses are some of our best players and they’re important to the development of some of our young players … We’ve moved some no trades the last few years since I’ve been GM, but the players we have left are important veteran players that bring our team experience and leadership, and we’re going to keep them.”

On Wednesday, Ray Ferraro spoke with TSN 1040 about the potential revoking of the NTC free trade agreement, and he made some great points:

“I’m surprised sometimes with some of the comments Jim Benning and Trevor Linden make, because they seem to contradict themselves a little bit …

I understand these guys have no movement clauses, and I understand and I somewhat admire the morality of honouring those contracts, but if you’re just going to sit there and take a lump of coal for those guys as you get into the end of the year, I just don’t know how that helps your franchise at all. Because the answer is it doesn’t.

To not move them, to not even explore it, to me is crazy. Why not go to a no trade guy and say give me eight teams you would go to … I’ll do my best to send you to one of those eight, and if I can’t make the deal, you’re going to stay …

I know they didn’t sign all these contracts, but that’s not to say it’s not their problem anymore. It is.”

Maybe it won’t be by the end of the season?

6. HERE IS POSITIVITY

Is this true?

Haven’t I been pushing the name “Stech Curry” all season? Did I not write an article saying Vancouver’s lack of points in the standings don’t do justice to their underlying numbers?

Don’t I give Miller full credit every time he steals a game by citing shot attempts and possession numbers?

Yeah, I did, and I do, but that’s ok. It’s nearly Christmas, so if you want more positivity, here it is:

  1. The Canucks’ defence looks miles better than it did last season. Edler and Tanev – their two best defencemen – have been injured, and the remaining guys are doing alright. Remember last year when injuries had Matt Bartkowski playing top-2 minutes, and Sbisa in the top four? And the year before when the Bieksa-Sbisa combo was a (very slow-moving) thing?
  2. Horvat looks amazing and there are a couple exciting forward prospects developing, plus Demko in net.

Is the “heavy lifting” in the rebuild done, as some have said? Sure, maybe if you want to look like this at the end of the heavy lifting.

skinny

No, there’s a lot more to do, BUT rebuilding the defence before the forwards is actually good idea. If you look at where other team’s rebuilds have hit snags – Edmonton for years, and even Toronto now – it’s lack of defensive talent.

In the next few years, the Canucks can draft and develop forwards – it happens quicker with forwards than defencemen – and they can trade their more-valuable blue line currency for scorers.

I’m not sold that Benning should be the one making these moves, as his blockbuster trades have brought guys like Sutter, or that Willie should be coaching them, but if the team puts another, more forward thinking, analytical GM in charge, he’ll have a good base to work with.

Bonus Content

Since I’m “borrowing” the Bonus Content section from Wyatt here I might as well go all in on the borrowing from him because this was the tweet of the night.

If you found that funny, what about this winner?

This time, Wyatt showed his journalism chops, getting to the bottom of the sexiest man in the building’s story.

wyattchest

Should’ve known we wouldn’t find an actual Canucks fan this hardcore right now.

Note: Thanks to Ryan for his always colourful and artistic gifs


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Omar
Sports writer with Daily Hive Vancouver; University of Kings College journalism grad; worked at TSN.ca and 24Hours.

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