What happens when a lifelong Canucks fan & a lifelong Maple Leafs fan collaborate on a Mid-Season Evaluation of the Vancouver Canucks? At this point in the post we have no idea.
We have gotten VcB editor & life long Canucks fan Karm and writer and life long Leafs fan Robert together here to discuss/debate a few key points from the first 41 games in the Canucks schedule.
Topic #1: The crease:
Rob: Right now in the NHL I can think of at least 5 teams that would kill to have Cory Schneider as their #1 goalie. This team would be on the outside looking in if it wasn’t for Schneider. He has been consistent when called upon by the team and that “C” word has been lacking in Luongo’s game since he became a Vancouver Canuck. Can Mike Gillis and the Canucks afford to resign Schneider in the off-season? To be honest I don’t think they can afford to let him walk.
Karm: 5 teams? I’d say more teams than that. Despite what some fans and so-called fans would say, I think Luongo has been pretty much himself so far. He always starts off slow, this year was no different and now he’s looking like the superstar we all know that he is. Also, I think the injury to Luongo early on was a blessing in disguise. He’s been forced to play less games, thus he’ll have more left in the tank for another long playoff run. That being said, Schneider has definitely proven that he can be the number 1 goalie for any team and the Canucks will have a tough decision to make this year. Trade him, keep him or let him walk?
Rob: Ok then, you are Mike Gillis & it is two days before the trade deadline. Luongo has been steady, Schneider contributes a few more wins & keeps his stats around where they are now. Do you listen to offers? And if so what would it take for you to trade him?
Karm: Of course you listen to offers, the team has about 3 to 5 years to contend for the cup and if you can fill a whole you do it. A replacement for Erhoff perhaps. You can never have enough defenseman come playoff time.
Topic #2: The Sedins:
Karm: The twins are fine. Their success will ultimately be measured in the playoffs, that’s all they have left to prove. They have gotten harder, better, faster, stronger this year. Damn that Kanye West twitter rant from last week has rubbed off on me.
Rob: I think Henrik & Daniel took what the media and in many cases what other players around the league were saying about them and improved their toughness in the off-season. They both seem stronger on the puck in all areas of the rink, they still have this uncanny ability to find one another on the ice with a tape to tape pass and as I write this they sit #1 & #3 in league scoring. What more could you ask for? Oh wait, I know: consistent playoff contributions.
Topic #3: The returns of Kesler & Raymond after surguries:
Rob: When Mason Raymond got folded like an accordion in the corner in the finals last year I was not sure how he was going to look once he returned to action. Now after his return he looks to be the exact same player as when he got hurt. You’d think after a scary injury like that he would be tentative to go into the corners to battle for pucks but he still uses his speed on the fore check to deep in the zone and fight for pucks.
Kesler had a Luongo start to his season. Coming back from late off-season surgery it looked like Kesler wasn’t quite 100% when he joined the team. Now in early 2012 he is back to (I hate this term) Beast Mode.
Karm: I too was surprised by Raymond’s play. If anything, he looks like he’s less scared to go into the corners. His speed can kill, he just needs to finish better. With respect to Kesler, I think that whole Naked Kesler thing got to his head, with that behind him he is back to “Beast Mode”.
Rob: I feel like “Naked Kesler” is still in your head. I honestly think Raymond is secretly on the trading block. I would hate to see him leave, but I know there has to be more than one team out there looking for a young player with speed to burn.
Karm: He is, that vision is forever stuck in my head. dammit! Trading Raymond isn’t a popular idea in Vancouver at least amongst the female fan base, but if the right offer comes along he’s expandable.
Topic #4: Dan Murphy’s Suits:
Rob: Hands down the most stylish sports broadcaster in the game right now. Tailored jackets, pocket squares, splashes of colour in the ties. Murph has game.
Karm: You got a thing for Murph, don’t you? But yeah the man has impeccable taste. Murph = Harry Rosen, The other guys = 2 suits for $99 during a Moore’s sale.
Topic #5: The play of the newest Canucks (David Booth, Max Lappariere, Chris Higgins):
Karm: All three of these players have been welcome additions. I think Chris Higgins play has surprised most fans. Right now the man can do no wrong. Lappy fulfills his role well, chips in with points whenever he can and soon Ron MacLean will do a whole segment on HNIC on him. Can’t ask for any more from him. As for Booth, he was a great pickup and he compliments the second line well.
Rob: Max Lap is chugging along at the pace most expected from him. Once his playoff beard comes back so will that clutch element of his game. My opinions on Higgins & Booth so far this year is not complete. Both showed good flashes but have not been able to put together long enough stretches in the lineup to decide.
Topic #6: How can the team improve in the second half?:
Karm: I still think the team is in need of another defenseman. It’s only a matter of time before Salo* goes down with a paper cut. Also I still think we need a Chris Neil type of player. However, there aren’t too many out there like that. Other than that the team is geared up for another long cup run as experience is no longer an issue with this team.
Rob: I’ve always been against teams picking up a “rental player” down the stretch to help in the playoffs. Adding a d-man who still has time on their contract would be best. I think the current depth the team has at the blue line will lead to little if any new additions being made to the team.
Who would you go after to help the blueline?
Karm: Tim Gleason, Josh Gorges, Toni Lydman and a hail-marry to get Shea Weber. I still think they let Erhoff go because they think they have a shot at getting Weber in the near future.
Topic #7: What happens on trade deadline day in Vancouver?
Rob: One of two things that result in the same outcome: Either Raymond or Schneider get traded in exchange for a stay at home defense man or another player along the lines of Max Lap. The addition of Booth in my mind made Raymond expendable. I expect him to go for a dman in his 30s with a wealth of experience.
Karm: I think they go after Chris Neil or someone like that and another steady defenseman.
Topic #8: How will the season end this year?:
Rob: Losing in game 6 of the Western Conference Final to the LA Kings. The Kings go on to the Stanley Cup Final where they lose to the Maple Leafs in a hard fought 7 game series. Toronto wins and Vancouver riots AGAIN.
Karm: Leafs, in the finals (laughs)? What, is the league planning on going back to 6 teams. The Canucks will win it all this year. Ron MacLean will be pissed off and Vancouverites won’t riot, but the rest of the lower mainland I can’t speak for. Look for more LV purses on sale in sizzling Surrey the next day.
Rob: All you need to do is get into the playoffs to have a chance. I see Burke cashing in on the Ducks fire sale and adding a player or two *cough-GETZLAF-cough*.
Topic #9 (via @jpettifor): Who benefited more from having Brian Burke as GM?
Rob: Burke is by far one of the best managers in the NHL today. He’s is candid, un-afraid and willing to pull the trigger if the deal is right. In Vancouver he orchestrated a legendary draft day deal to get the Sedin twins. He was also responsible for drafting Ryan Kesler. Those three players are the nucleus of forwards in Vancouver. On the flip side, Burke brought in Phil Kessel in Toronto, made a one-sided trade to get Dion Phaneuf, has made a slew of under the radar deals to get an array of young NCAA & CHL propects. It took a few years for the Canucks to reap the rewards of Burke’s efforts and it is the same in Toronto. I think it is too early to tell.
Karm: Burkie is one of those guys you love when he’s on your team and hate when he’s not. His fingerprints are all over this Canucks team and right now, I’d say the Canucks benefited more. However, like you said it’s too early to tell.
Topic #10 (via @rossalec) Who has the better all around player Canucks or Leafs?
Rob: I would have to go with the Canucks and my favorite player on the team Ryan Kesler as the best “all around” player on both clubs. Can win face offs, can score, has speed, can hit and he isn’t afraid to get in the dirty areas on the rink.
Karm: Kesler may the best all around player in the league.
Rob: The Leafs do have the best pure goal scorer though in Phil Kessel. I dare you to come up with a Canuck who is a better pure goal scorer.
Karm: Even better than Burrows? I kid, I kid. It pains me to say it but you’re right. Daniel Sedin is the only one that comes close.
*It should be stated that this document was created prior to the Canucks versus Bruins game that put Sami Salo on the shelf with a concussion