Thursday, July 29, 2010

Tom Larscheid Retires, Leaves Gaping High-Pitched Laugh-Shaped Hole

"Let's face facts: Jan Bulis is just a dumb hockey player."
~ Tom Larscheid

It was announced today that after 33 years as the Canucks radio color commentator, Tom Larscheid will only be calling one more game. He and John Shorthouse will call the season opener against the LA Kings and will subsequently hang up the headphones and mic.

Tommy is a legend in Vancouver and he will be sorely missed. He had a way of bringing the game to life on the radio that is hard to match. As a former football player, he wasn't always the best analyst of the game of hockey, but he had an infectious enthusiasm and a straight-shooting personality. He was always up front with his homerism, but wasn't afraid to call out players (like Jan Bulis), when they weren't performing up to par. He was blunt, but fair, and it always felt like he was the fan's representative in the booth, upset when the fans were upset, happy when the fans were happy.

He could also turn a phrase like few others. "Bingo, bango, bongo, his name is Roberto Luongo." That line wouldn't have worked coming from anyone other than Tommy. He talked about "fire in the belly," "calling the coppers," and laughed his incredibly recognizable high-pitched laugh. He's also given some memorable lines for, well, other reasons, such as the infamous "I just came from the Canucks dressing room and Pavel's groin has never felt better."

He's been hinting at retiring for almost five years now, but he kept signing on for one more year. I knew this day was coming, but I was hoping he'd get a chance to call the Canucks winning the Stanley Cup. He was there for 33 years of futility, calling both the Canucks appearances in the Finals ("He'll play on crutches!"), but never saw them hoist the Cup.

He will then be replaced by Dave Tomlinson, who is the exact opposite of Tommy in many ways: cynical, dry, and knowledgeable. The Team 1040 broadcasts will be the poorer for it.

Farewell, Tommy. Enjoy your retirement: you've earned it.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Return of Ego the Living Planet

I know Harrison said "back to hockey" in his last post, but the off-season revelations of the extent of LeBron James' ego have been fascinating. The latest development is the posting of an article on by Arash Markazi, who gave a first-person report from inside the over-the-top weekend-long party LeBron was paid to host in Vegas. The article was subsequently removed, but an enterprising fellow saved it in its entirety and uploaded the story for all to enjoy.

Ball Don't Lie covered the highlights of the article, so I won't go too in-depth. Suffice it to say, I endorse the new nickname of Mr. Cool Cakes, though I bemoan the fact that my own new nickname for LeBron, Ego the Living Planet, likely won't catch on.

Here's my favorite part of the festivities:

About a dozen security guards, moving their flash lights, direct us to a roped off section on the dance floor of Tao next to a couple of apparently nude women in a bathtub full of water and rose petals. [...]

Carter, LeBron's' childhood friend and manager, begins dancing around James like Puff Daddy in a Notorious B.I.G video. A giant red crown-shaped cake is brought over to James while go-go dancers dressed in skimpy red and black outfits raise four lettered placards that spell out, "KING." Carter grabs a bottle of Grey Goose and pours a quarter of it on the floor and raises it up before passing it off.

When I think of a Vegas party, it definitely features naked bathtub ladies. Okay, that's not the least bit true. His "manager" dancing around him is incredibly silly and the ridiculous self-promotion of the "KING" placards is a little sad. You can see the bottom of the placards in the picture above.

Best quote from the "king" himself comes in reference to a drink server suspended above the club floor:
"I wish they'd have one of these girls with no panties do that instead of the guy."
Wow. That's unfortunate.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Jimmy Kimmel Asks Kids How Much They Think NBA Players Make

This is from Ball Don't Lie, my favorite basketball blog on the internet, and I'm reposting it because, well, the kid in the green polo shirt is perhaps the best kid ever made. If you are some sort of hypocritical Luddite who can spend time on the computer but not watch Youtube videos, here is what you're missing: Jimmy Kimmel asks kids how much they think NBA players make. Since kids are hilariously underinformed, they guess way low and it's cute. But the kid in the green polo has a world-weariness, a sense of ennui--a self-awareness in regards to his childish ignorance--that makes him seem about a billion years old. It's funny.

Anyway, back to hockey.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Have you seen this paragraph?

No, seriously, have you seen this paragraph? This is Brad Zeimer from the Vancouver Sun, raising an eyebrow at the secrecy around Sami Salo's injury.

Salo has obviously been told not to talk. I called him on his cell phone in Finland on Friday and we had a crystal-clear connection. When he answered, I said, 'Is this Sami?' and he said 'yes.' I said, 'Sami, this is Brad Ziemer from The Sun.' Then Sami suddenly had a hard time hearing me. "Hello, hello, hello," he said, before hanging up.

I find this absolutely hilarious. This is the strangest paragraph written about Sami Salo since that time his testicle exploded, which, come to think of it, wasn't that long ago. What is the deal with this guy? I believe he is insane.

Fun with Letters to the Editor: Blackhawks Whinging Edition

As a subscriber to The Hockey News, I get the digital issues delivered by e-mail before they hit the shelves. A letter in the upcoming August 2nd issue caught my eye. Mr. Scott Saxton of Lasalle, Ontario, has a rather, shall we say, innovative solution the Chicago Blackhawks off-season woes. Follow along with me!

I hate the NHL salary cap. I am not a Blackhawks fan, but what is happening to their club frustrates me as a hockey fan.

Strong words to start off with. The NHL salary cap certainly has its flaws, as has been adequately proven by the Ilya Kovalchuk fiasco of the past couple weeks, but clearly, Mr. Saxton has his eye specifically on the dismantling of the Blackhawks’ Stanley Cup winning roster that has seen Byfuglien, Ladd, Versteeg, and others all shipped out of town.

The NHL should reward greatness and allow it to run its course. The salary cap only serves to dismantle progress and promote athletic communism.

Wait, athletic communism? Clearly we have leapt from the foothills of discourse into the lofty peaks of gross hyperbole. Even in the post-salary-cap NHL there are the haves and the have-nots. And yet, a team like the Nashville Predators continues to perform better than teams with significantly higher payrolls, such as the New York Rangers or Minnesota Wild.

And no one seems to be advocating “From each according to his ability, to each according to his need,” or else we might get some bizarre attempts from second-tier NHL players attempting to establish their need for a comically oversized diamond ring as if they were factory workers in Ayn Rand’s “Atlas Shrugged.”

Why punish the clubs who excel and get it right? Why not reward them?

Yes, let’s reward the Blackhawks for the absurd contracts they gave to Cristobal Huet and Brian Campbell, the ones that necessitated shipping out so many players. Huet, after all, played such an integral part of the ‘Hawks Stanley Cup run, earning every penny of that $5.625 million contract. And those bonus-laden contracts given out to so many of their young stars, giving them a carry-over cap penalty of $4.2 million is completely an example of a team “get[ting] it right.”

Example: the Stanley Cup champion could get an exemption to exceed the salary cap by $5 million during the season of their defense.

You know, like the Blackhawks did last season when they won the Cup, essentially exceeding the cap by $4.2 million in bonuses.

And really, nothing says dynasty like allowing a team an unfair competitive advantage.

This would allow them to re-sign integral parts or even further bolster a championship-caliber team. Don’t think this idea has legs?

This idea has many things, but definitely not legs. Maybe a couple armpits and half a buttcheek.

Well, at least let’s get this conversation going.

Let’s not.

Something must be done.

Something was done. The Chicago Blackhawks fired Dale Tallon.

The NHL is in the entertainment business. Watching a whole slew of middling teams slog it out each spring to see who is the best of a homogenous bunch is not entertaining.

Personally, I appreciate that the salary cap forces teams to get creative with how they build a team. With the salary cap, you can’t just fling contracts indiscriminately at free agents anymore, as if you were building a house by tossing a bunch of bricks in a pile and hoping for the best. Of course, that doesn’t stop some general managers, but building a team in the new NHL requires intelligence, foresight, and a solid plan. Dale Tallon demonstrated none of these things.

We want to see greatness. We want to see champions. The last team standing doesn’t necessarily give us this.

And yet, year after year, the San Jose Sharks have been on top of the Western Conference, the Red Wings have competed for the Stanley Cup, the Washington Capitals have exerted regular season dominance, and the Pittsburgh Penguins keep pissing off the rest of the NHL by being good, allowing for more marketing of Sidney Crosby.

Heck, even the Chicago Blackhawks have managed to keep their top-six forward unit intact this off-season, still have a formidable top-four defensive corps, and are a waive of Huet away from being neatly under the salary cap again.

Again, the reason the Blackhawks have had deal out their Stanley Cup winning team like a deck of cards isn’t because the salary cap is bad for certain values of badness; it’s because Dale Tallon gave out some terrible contracts while he was a GM. Huet was paid $5.625 million to be a backup goalie last season and Campbell was paid $7.14 million to be the third defenceman.

Don’t cry for the Chicago Blackhawks, Scott. They got what they paid for: one year with Lord Stanley. And only one.

Mason Raymond Signs, Avoids Arbitration

In retrospect, Cobie, it's a much bigger deal that you met Mason Raymond. Our apologies.

News is coming in this morning that the Vancouver Canucks and Mason Raymond have reached a contractual agreement on the steps of the courthouse. The numbers? 2 years, 5.1 million. That's a $2.55 million cap hit, and I do believe that sound you just heard was millions of Canucks fans breaking their jaws, especially after superagent J.P. Barry suggested Raymond was looking for between $3.5 and $4m.

My reaction to this signing? I love it. Gillis gets Raymond at a reasonable cap hit for two years. This is brilliant, because if he turns out to be a one-season wonder as a genuine top-six forward, he's still got a ton of value as a speedy checker. Even if his scoring numbers dip a little bit, Raymond is worth 2.5. As well, if Raymond turns out to be everything last season indicated, he's worth far more than 2.5, and joins Alex Burrows and Mikael Samuelsson as remarkably underpaid top-six forwards. If Raymond outprices himself with two excellent seasons going forward and the Canucks can no longer afford him, the Canucks have bought themselves two years to see Hodgson, Schroeder, Rodin, or another of their young forwards develop into the spot. For Raymond, this puts him in a brilliant position to get a ton of money as a free agent in the prime of his career, which is likely why he agreed to what might otherwise seem like a fleecing. It might also have been because nobody likes being told what they're worth monetarily, and how it's not as much as they think.

As well, the Canucks have deftly managed their cap and are now in a good position to take a little bit of salary back if and when they trade Kevin Bieksa. All good things. Chalk this one up to another Mike Gillis win.

Skeeter's Thoughts

The deal has been confirmed according to Jason Botchford: Mason Raymond has signed a 2-year, 5.1 million dollar deal just before his arbitration hearing. Mike Gillis flew out from Vancouver on Saturday to get the deal done. The sound you're hearing might not be millions of Canucks fans breaking their jaws: it may just be a collective sigh of relief. Ever since reports came out that Raymond and his agent were seeking 3.5 to 4 million dollars in arbitration, I've been worried. While I never thought he would be awarded more than $3.5 million a season, I'm guessing the Thrashers never thought Clarke MacArthur would be awarded $2.4 million.

So to hear that Mike Gillis got him signed prior to arbitration for a deal with a mere $2.55 million dollar cap hit? That's a great way to wake up on a Monday morning.

It seems clear that Raymond's agent, J.P. Barry, was more concerned about the term of the contract than the dollar amount. While Raymond would certainly have been awarded more in arbitration, it likely would have been a one-year deal, with Raymond still being a Restricted Free Agent at the end of it. A two-year deal takes Raymond into Unrestricted Free Agency: if he performs up to his potential over the next two seasons, Raymond will price himself out of the Canucks lineup and receive a nice payday for some other team and the Canucks will get one hell of a bargain for those two seasons.

Well played, Gillis, well played. Now to figure out what to do about Salo and Bieksa.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Twenty Reasons the NHL Rejected the Kovalchuk Contract

By now, you've likely heard the news that Ilya Kovalchuk's contract with the New Jersey Devils has been rejected by the NHL. You've probably also learned that Kovy's contract was rejected despite the NHL approving a host of similar contracts that utilize the same loophole in their current collective bargaining agreement. Wondering why this one broke the camel's back, so to speak? Well, we at PiTB did a little sleuthing, and it turns out there were at least twenty perfectly good reasons, reported (exclusively!) below:

  1. Stipulation excusing Kovalchuk from the backcheck contravenes the CBA.

  2. It is impossible to calculate salary cap hit of "OMG all the money".

  3. Portion stipulating that play-by-play announcer Mike Emrick must call Alex Ovechkin "Bride of Kovalchucky" during all Washington visits to New Jersey contravenes the CBA.

  4. Lou-Bucks are not a valid currency.

  5. The sheer immensity of the contract roused Lord Chaos, who realized it had been a while since he had done anything head-scratchingly contradictory.

  6. NHL learned of Lamoriello's plan to bench Zach Parise mid-season and come down from the GM's office to be Kovalchuk's center.

  7. Having spent so much time calculating Phoenix Coyotes home attendance figures, numbers above 10,000 are impossible for Gary Bettman to comprehend.

  8. NHL learned of Lou Lamoriello's plan to get the money by building a death ray, pointing it at United Nations, and holding the world's powers hostage.

  9. Enormity of contract meant that the Devils could no longer afford to sweep the ice with zambonis; proposed cheap replacement, Lindsay Lohan's nose, deemed unacceptable.

  10. "Shots Vodka Bonus" contravenes the CBA.

  11. NHL announces that, just like PiTB, they have fallen in love with Kyle Wellwood, and no contract will be approved until somebody signs him.

  12. NHL simply looking out for Kovy's best interests: nobody wants to spend a lifetime in New Jersey.

  13. Outrage over BP oil spill made NHL brass sensitive to any instance of something circumventing a cap.

  14. Upon second look, NHL discovered the last seven years of the contract were to be paid in "Itchy & Scratchy Money," which, because it's not accepted anywhere, doesn't count against the cap.

  15. Gary Bettman still holding out hope for Alex Ovechkin and Ilya Kovalchuk to make the Decision to join Ilya Bryzgalov in Phoenix and form Russian superteam in 2021.

  16. No-trade clause that kicks in for 2018 confused NHL war room in Toronto, as they don't understand what a kicking motion is.

  17. Upon hearing Pierre McGuire announce it, Gary Bettman got scared when phrases "Jersey Devil" and "monster contract" were used so close together.

  18. Contracts so long they can be considered hereditary contravene the CBA.

  19. Upon learning contract was drawn up by New Jersey mafia, NHL realized that KHL is merely a truncation of "killhole", and New Jersey's plan to bury him in the KHL for the last six years of the contract were far more sinister than anybody could have imagined.

  20. After forgetting how to tie his shoes, Gary Bettman decided to crack down on loopholes.

Anyway, that's all I've heard. Perhaps you've heard of some additional reasons? We'd love to hear them in the comments.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Jannik Hansen Will Re-Sign with the Canucks

Jonathan Willis made an excellent post on Hockey or Die today about the benefits of arbitration for fringe and depth players in the NHL. Essentially, the main benefit for a fringe player is not necessarily that he'll be awarded a higher salary but that his team will be forced to re-sign him if the arbitrator awards a salary below a certain cut-off point.

Right now, the Canucks have only two players going to arbitration; Shane "Pain Lion" O'Brien wisely elected to forgo arbitration and accept his qualifying offer, while Tanner Glass was headed to arbitration before Gillis stepped in and signed him, and no one's in a huge hurry to re-sign Mario Bliznak and Eric Walsky. That leaves Mason Raymond and Jannik Hansen as the two remaining RFA's, both of whom filed for arbitration. Of the two, the cut-off point clearly won't affect Raymond, who will most likely be awarded between 2.5 and 3.5 million in arbitration, well above the suspected 1.3 million cut-off.

For Jannik Hansen, however, arbitration will likely net him a one-way deal between 600,000 and 800,000, which fits right in under the cut-off. The Canucks won't be able to walk away from that decision and likely won't want to. It will, however, give Hansen a leg-up going into training camp. With a one-way contract, he's less likely to be sent down to the Manitoba Moose, which may help him find a spot on the third or fourth line. Players on two-way contracts like Victor Oreskovich, Alexandre Bolduc, Jeff Tambellini, and prospects Sergei Shirokov, Cody Hodgson, and Jordan Schroeder may be more likely to get sent down than Jannik Hansen.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Bulis Update!

As much as we love Jan Bulis here at PiTB!, I admit that I haven't kept up with his career post-Canucks. Turns out he's doing quite well for himself over in the KHL for Atlant Moscow Oblast. Sparked by this post over at Hockey or Die, which informed me that Bulis played on the top line for the top-5 hockey team, I looked into Jan's stats over at the Atlant Moscow Oblast website.

Last season, Bulis scored 43 points in 38 games, good enough to land him at 17 on the list of top scorers in the KHL. He also grew out his hair from the odd cueball look he sported in the NHL. He now looks significantly less weird.

Applying the same equivalency numbers Jonathan Willis used for Zherdev, Jan's season translates to these NHL numbers over an 82 game season:

82GP - 30G - 22A - 52PTS

While I sincerely doubt anyone in the NHL is paying attention to Jan Bulis right now and I equally doubt he's interested in going from a top line in the KHL to spot-second-line duty in the NHL, an equivalent 30 goal season is quite nice for the former piggybacking star.

Well done, Bulis, well done. We here at PiTB! wish you all the best in your upcoming season.

Friday, July 09, 2010

Sharks Sign Niklas Hjalmarsson to Offer Sheet

Enough basketball. Here's some hockey news for you, from

"The San Jose Sharks have signed Blackhawks restricted free agent defenceman Niklas Hjalmarsson to a free agent offer sheet, signing the defenceman to a four-year, $14 million dollar contract.
Chicago has seven days to match the offer. If the team does not match it, they will receive San Jose's first and third round picks in the 2011 NHL entry draft."

Whoa! I don't feel bad for Chicago, because they just won the Stanley Cup, but this has to hurt for the fans, watching a young team that could have been a dynasty just get picked apart, piece by piece. And for those saying Dale Tallon over in Florida is a tiny god, keep in mind that he is the one who mismanaged the player salaries and timing of contract renewals, as well as overspent in free agency so perfectly as to allow this to happen. And that is why he's no longer with the Blackhawks.

Thinking 'Bout Last Night... or, How Lebron James Ruined His National Brand

Awesome screengrab from Ball Don't Lie.

I watched the Lebron James trainwreck last night. Likely, you did too. I'm sure when the ratings come in, we'll all be as embarrassed as we were when we realized that we had made Titanic the highest grossing film of all time. We were duped, y'all. When Lebron announced he was going to Miami, I felt terrible about it. Not because he was leaving Cleveland--that much I expected. It was because of how he did it and where he went. It was because of what it proved about his arrogance, his immaturity, and his sense of entitlement. It was because it showed what he cared about, what he didn't, and how messed up his priorities were. I felt terrible because, in one fell swoop, Lebron destroyed his brand and his reputation. Now, I've been holding in a lot of perturbation with Lebron, his handlers, the pandering owners in Cleveland, and so much more. I wanted to let it all out. I was going to storm in this morning with a scathing tirade on the guy.

But Adrian Wojnarowski over at Yahoo! Sports said everything I wanted to say, better than I could ever say it in an article titled Easy Come, Easy Go For King James. I've never agreed with one of his articles more--this is a fantastic piece of sports journalism. Please read it. Here are a few highlights.

As the worst idea in the history of marketing unfolded, James looked trapped somewhere between despondence and defiance. His bumbling buddy Maverick Carter had walked him into the public execution of his legacy, his image, and there was a part of James that clearly wished he could turn back through the doors and hide. Only, it was too late. No going back now. James goes to the Miami Heat, Cleveland goes into a basketball Hades and LeBron’s legacy becomes that of a callous carpetbagger.

Oh my, yes. This was a terrible idea. Rather than saying goodbye to his hometown team behind closed doors, he dumped them live, on national television. Maybe he was masking guilt and maybe he was masking elation, but it was a cold, cold moment and James looked like a heartless robot doing it. It seemed careless, and could only serve to cast him as a villain. When he licked his lips just before announcing his decision, he may as well have been the serpent from Genesis, attempting to destroy humanity and steal away man's eternal joy. Legacy destroyed. And DecisionWater? Really? Let's move on.

So now people are cheering Dan Gilbert’s manifesto tearing apart James, but no one contributed more to what the world witnessed on Thursday night than the owner’s enabling of James and his inner circle for seven years. Gilbert is the biggest con going, a man who makes his fortune peddling mortgages, and he’ll make his next on casinos in downtown Cleveland. He sells illusions for a living, and now he’s selling the biggest of all: that he’s a victim here, that James betrayed everyone. That’s a lie, and no one ought to dare buy it.

Yes! Dan Gilbert's idiotic manifesto is classic revisionism, desperate to vilify Lebron before people realize he enabled this giant jerk. Over the last seven years, to hear Lebron tell it, Gilbert owed it to him to surround him with talent. It's garbage, and somebody should have told him that years ago. The Cavaliers weren't Lebron's team. They were Cleveland's team. Lebron simply played for them. Gilbert owed it to Cleveland to surround Lebron with talent. But, he held Lebron up over the city, and Lebron held him hostage for it. Lebron talked about the things he's done for Cleveland. What things are those, Lebron? You didn't deliver the championship, and you quit on the team two postseasons in a row. But nobody stood up to you, and that's not your fault. Don't you think, Cleveland, that you should have been told that Lebron wasn't returning a single phone call or text from Cleveland ownership? Gilbert should have exposed Lebron years ago. This is like being dumped by a boyfriend with a penchant for violence. If the relationship was so terrible, why did you stay? Because the sex was good? Gilbert looks like Stella Kowalski in A Streetcar Named Desire: Abused, ignorant, careless, and equally at fault for what happens to Stella, the naive and melancholy dreamer who only wants to be happy again. And while Stanley was the aggressor, Stella deserved blame for enabling the attack on Blanche. Sound familiar? Let's move on.

So there was LeBron James, the MVP, the man of the hour, sitting in the middle of his own “Truman Show” on Thursday night. His personal network ran his commercials and celebrated his greatness and let him hijack a platform to build his brand and break hearts. He can never go home again now, and he can never completely rebuild what he let his cast of buddies talk him into losing that night. He’s taking his talents to South Beach, and the kid going away for the first time will have some party down there. After all these years, it was clear he had been coddled and protected and ultimately prepared to do one thing: Take the easy way out. Wherever he was going, he looked conflicted, lost and completely confused.

Preach it, Woj. Everyone, please do yourselves a favour and read the whole thing.

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

I Watched This Summit: Canucks Summer Summit, July 7, 2010

The Vancouver Canucks held their annual Summer Summit tonight, making several big announcements and answering the questions of season ticket holders. On-stage were Orland Kurtenbach, Mike Gillis, Victor de Bonis, and Stan Smyl with John Shorthouse and Jim Robson asking the questions to start off the evening.

And, because it's the off-season and I care way too much about the Canucks, I took the time to watch the summit live on Let's face it, I'm starved for Canucks news and I hope that you are too. Otherwise, no one would bother reading this post.

A couple of the announcements were expected and anticipated, such as the reveal of the 40th Anniversary sweater and the introduction of a couple of the new arrivals to the Canucks for the 2010-11 season. Others were more surprising. Here's a quick recap of the event and some thoughts on the announcements.

The Big Announcements
  • The biggest announcement, of course, is the retirement of Markus Naslund's #19 on December 11th of the upcoming season. While I'm sure this will spark many debates among Canucks fans as to whether the honour is deserved, personally, I'm thrilled. Naslund revived the franchise when he arrived from Pittsburgh, becoming one of the most important Canucks of all time. He's the all-time franchise leader in goals and points, and was the key component of one of the most exciting scoring lines Vancouver has ever seen in the West Coast Express. But equally important, he played a big role in the community, along with his wife Lotta. They gave freely of their time and energy, much of it to Canucks Place and BC Children's Hospital. Markus is a special player who is very deserving of having his number retired along Smyl and Linden.
  • Like many other NHL teams, the Canucks will be establishing a Ring of Honour for those players who may not be ideal candidates for a sweater retirement but still contributed to the history of the Canucks organization. The first to be honoured on October 26th will be Orland Kurtenbach, the Canucks first captain and former head coach. This is a great move by the organization, as there are many players that could be honoured. Orland is a great choice to be the first inductee. Three other players will be inducted this year. Possibilities could be Richard Brodeur, Kirk McLean, Thomas Gradin, Pavel Bure, and Wayne Maki. The one player that the Ring of Honour should take out a restraining order on to ensure that he has no contact with it, whether in person or by phone: Mark Messier.

Smaller Announcements and Answers to Questions
  • The team formally introduced Manny Malhotra and Dan Hamhuis as members of the Canucks. It's a good thing they showed up, as John Shorthouse was looking dangerously under-dressed in his polo shirt amongst all the suits. Fortunately, Manny and Hammy were appropriately casual. Hamhuis slipped in a jab at Nashville, noting that the attendance at the Summer Summit was awfully similar to the attendance at a Predators home game in November. Shortly after, while drawing a ticket for a prize, a fan jokingly booed when he announced it was a red rather than green ticket. Shorty jumped in, "Your first boo! No, no, it was Hamhuuuuuis."
  • Shorthouse used the opportunity of the announcement of Naslund's jersey retirement to ask about the possibility of Pavel Bure receiving the same treatment in the future. Gillis clearly was not expecting the question and gave a classic GM's non-answer. To be fair, Bure could be inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame and would be the first player who played the majority of his career in Vancouver to receive that honour. I don't see it happening; it's more likely he'll find a place in the Ring of Honour.
  • Then came the questions from the season ticket holders, the majority aimed at Mike Gillis. The first was about Russians and the KHL: no Russians other than Shirokov will be competing for a spot on the Canucks and it appears that Kirill Koltsov won't be coming over from the KHL any time soon. Gillis went as far to say that the risks with Russian players and the KHL mean that he'll be likely to pick more Western Canadian kids than Russian kids in the future.
  • Best line of the evening easily goes to Gillis. A fan asked "Why don't we have a cool intro like the Flames or Oilers?" Gillis's response: "I'd rather have a hockey team." Killer line.
  • Gillis was actually quite funny all night, with a number of great one-liners. He really seemed to enjoy himself.
  • Alex Burrows, according to Gillis, is ahead of schedule after his shoulder surgery and may be back in time for the beginning of the season. His agent had previously suggested Burrows might not be back until October or November, so hopefully Gillis is right.
  • Who will wear #2 next season, Ballard or Hamhuis? Hammy suggested that in these types of cases, it usually comes down to the number of games played. Convenient.
  • Unfortunately, our favourite weirdo, Kyle Wellwood, is on his way out. Gillis wished him the best and hopes that he finds a place to play through free agency.
  • And finally, Gillis confirmed once again that Cory Schneider will be the backup in Vancouver, but also expressed the desire to sign a "veteran, young goaltender" to be their third-stringer/starter for the Moose. It's kind of difficult to get someone who's both veteran and young. Yann Danis might work; he's been a respectable backup at the NHL level. He's 29, but he could be a decent pickup. Barry Brust is younger, but has less NHL experience. Thankfully, I'm not the GM of the Canucks.

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

From the 'What If' Files: GM Place Renamed Lebron Place!

It was a typical day in Vancouver when Mike Gillis approached the podium. The media had gathered for the surprise press conference, expecting to hear only the mundane news that GM Place, the Canucks home since 1995, would be rechristened for another major sponsor. Telus Place. The Pattison Pavilion. Any number of names would have appropriately underwhelmed. But then Mike Gillis dropped the bomb. "Effective immediately," he announced, "GM Place will be known as Lebron Place."

The sudden explosion of hundreds of flash bulbs kicked off a frenzy of activity. Voices rang out from the crowd. Gillis was asked to explain himself. And that's when the walls came tumbling down. "Lebron James has signed a max, $200 million, ten-year contract to play with the Vancouver Grizzlies." And, as though anticipating the next question, he added, "Yes, the Memphis Grizzlies will be coming home." Lebron James emerged from behind a curtain. "I am the greatest," he said. "I'm so great I can resurrect the Vancouver Grizzles. People of Vancouver. I am yours. Love me." It was the greatest day in the history of Vancouver.

*sigh* It's a slow news day.

Sunday, July 04, 2010

Wellwood's World (Chapter I)

Amidst all the big news about recent Canuck acquisitions, awards achieved, prospects camp, the draft, and everything else that's made this offseason fairly interesting, we may be losing sight of the fact that some beloved Canuck alumni are on their way out the door. For us at PiTB!, the greatest of these is Kyle Wellwood. Despite all the things he did well (stickhandling, faceoffs, getting the puck out of the defensive zone, fancy passing), Wellwood was overshadowed by the things he did poorly (shooting, physical presence, being normal, regular passing), and will most likely not be back. While he was unfairly maligned, and actually did a surprisingly excellent job filling the Canucks third-line center position, Wellwood never did enough to impress us on the ice. That his incredible skill rarely translated into tangible results was stupefying, and that his coach would have gleefully replaced him with any other center capable of the job was evident. But somehow, for two years, Wellwood held the spot. Skeeter appreciated what he brought more than I: looking at the stats, he was incredible defensively, despite what it looked like. I tended to flip-flop, often arguing he needed to go for not producing, right up until he scored a big goal or, more often, made a neat play that resulted in nothing. From a stats perspective, he was not incredible offensively, his 18-goal season aside. (Wellwood fancied himself a playmaking center, but only got 20 assists in two seasons with Vancouver.) Hockey or Die was downright baffled by his presence in the NHL.

What Skeeter and I both agreed on, however, was that Kyle Wellwood was weird. He was pudgy. He rarely emoted, and when he did, it looked like this. He had a soft spot for Ayn Rand's lesser works. He used a little, teeny-weeny hockey stick that made it easy to handle the puck and impossible to shoot it with any velocity. Photos indicated he didn't care much about women, preferring to ogle spaghetti, read a book, or be confused by them. Contrasted with Kesler, he appeared to be the least competitive hockey player ever, once remarking that he could not understand how Ryan could take the game so seriously. Wellwood was a strange bird.

And we loved him. We mourn for his loss. We want him back and we are fighting back the urge to be happy with the Manny Malhotra signing. Only Welly satisfies.

So here's what's going to happen: we're not going to let him go. Something tells me Kyle Wellwood is going to find another hockey team looking for a strange center, be it in the NHL (doubtful), the AHL (perhaps), or Europe (ding ding ding!). And wherever he goes, we're going to follow his career in a little feature that we would like to call Wellwood's World. Watch for the Wellwood's World update at least once a month going forward.

And Kyle, if you ever find this blog, let us know you love us as much as we love you.

The Invitees: Part Two in a Two-Part Saga

Part One of this epic two-part saga can be found here.

It's important to note that none of the invitees to the Canucks Summer Prospect Camp are expected to sign with the Canucks. The Juniors in College will likely return to school for their Senior years, some will get a chance to try out for the Manitoba Moose, and other undrafted players went undrafted for a reason. There are exceptions, of course. 2009 camp invitee Kellan Tochkin was signed by the Canucks after a great camp and a solid season with the Everett Silvertips, posting 74 points in 72 games. He slipped through the draft because of his size (5'9", 170 lbs), but Mike Gillis obviously saw enough potential to sign him to an entry-level deal prior to returning him to the Silvertips for the 2009-10 season. Tochkin increased his goal total from 20 to 28, but saw his overall points drop slightly. He will be attending the camp again this year, this time as a legitimate Canucks prospect.

Yesterday, we covered 6 of the 13 invitees to this year's camp, starting on Tuesday, July 6th. Here are invitees 7 through 13:

Matt Fraser - Left Wing
6'2" - 207 lbs - May 20, 1990
Red Deer, AB

The first thing you need to know? Fraser has his own page on, with 11 fights in the WHL last season for the Kootenay Ice. He had 117 penalty minutes in 65 games, but combined that with some decent point totals. He scored 32 goals in those 65 games, good for 25th in the league, along with 24 assists for 56 total points in his third full season in the WHL. He also improved on the defensive side of the ice, jumping from -31 in 2008-09 to +20 last season. This performance earned him his first taste of professional hockey as the Peoria Rivermen of the AHL signed him for the final weekend of the season after the Ice were eliminated from the playoffs. Fraser is also known for his work in the community: he was named the WHL's Humanitarian of the Year for 2009-10 for his efforts with the Shoot for the Star program raised over $14,000 for the East Kootenay Regional Hospital.

James Henry - Left Wing
5'8" - 180 lbs - Mar 11, 1991
Winnipeg, MB

Surprisingly, this under-sized winger from the Vancouver Giants also has his own page on This video is my personal favorite, as you get to see the pint-size Henry pop a larger Chilliwack Bruins player with a massive hit before he's challenged to a fight. This past season saw his PIM jump from 68 to 128 minutes as well as a modest increase in point production. Where Henry truly shined was in the playoffs, as he started off the post-season on an 11-game point-scoring streak with 14 total points. He finished off the playoffs with 16 points in 16 games. This outburst of scoring showed he is more than just a high-energy, pint-sized pugilist. Or a potential third-string goalie for the Giants. It'll be a test to see if his smaller size can handle the physical punishment of his scrappy style of play at the professional level.

Tayler Jordan - Left Wing
6'6" - 200 lbs - Feb 8, 1990
Wynyard, SK

Jordan will be the tallest player at camp by a good 2 inches. Like the previous two players, he has a page on Unlike Fraser and Henry, Jordan doesn't put up points to go with his penalty minutes: in his career with the Portland Winter Hawks, he has 451 PIM and 15 points in 171 games played. This will actually be his second prospect camp, as he attended the Columbus Blue Jackets training camp last summer. Any professional opportunity he has will be on the 4th-line as an enforcer.

Pierre-Olivier Morin - Left Wing
5'11" - 162 lbs - Apr 23, 1991
Trois-Rivieres, PQ

Morin led his QMJHL team, the Lewiston MAINEiacs, in scoring this past season with 65 points in 67 games, tied for 29th in the league. The undrafted winger is eager to earn a contract with the Canucks but will need to impress the coaching staff with the same skill, grit, and coach-ability that originally got him drafted into the QMJHL. He looks like a player that will compete hard for the puck and has enough skill to know what to do with the puck once he's got it. He did have a very low shooting percentage at 8.8% last season and only 9.7% the season before. It's fair to say he's not a sniper, but he was in the top 15 in the league in assists, so he may have some playmaking potential.

Scott Zurevinski - Centre
6'2" - 190 lbs - Jun 4, 1988
Saskatoon, SK

Zurevinski scored 30 points in 39 games as a Sophomore with Quinnipiac University. The Bobcat Junior has been named the captain for the upcoming season, showing his clear leadership qualities. He was also named the team's Rookie of the Year for 2008-09. He is characterized as a solid all-around player with a physical presence and will be relied on heavily offensively as the only 3 players who finished above him in points last season are outgoing Seniors. According to this article, Zurevinski was actually offered a contract by the Canucks this offseason for the maximum allowable for an entry-level deal, but he declined and chose to return to Quinnipiac. His size and scoring touch are his best attributes and clearly Gillis sees some potential.

Michael Houser - Goalie
6'2" - 188 lbs - Sep 13, 1992
Wexford, MI

Houser is the youngest invitee at only 17 years old and the youngest player at the camp overall, beating out Sawyer Hannay by just 7 days. Houser was actually ranked 11th overall amongst North American goaltenders entering the 2010 draft but slipped through. He played 25 games for the London Knights, going 17-4-1 with a .900 SV% and 3.10 GAA. He'll be the starter in London next season and will likely be picked up in the 2011 draft. Many OHL fans on were surprised to see him go undrafted this year, citing his athleticism and lateral movement. He was also one of four goalies named to the 2010 USA National Junior Evaluation Camp and names Roberto Luongo as his favorite player.

Keith Kinkaid - Goalie
6'3" - 180 lbs - Jul 4, 1989
Farmingville, NY

Finally, we have Keith Kinkaid rounding out the goaltending corps for the prospect camp. Kinkaid was the starter for Union College in the NCAA, posting a 12-8-3 record with a .912 SV% and a 2.48 GAA as a freshman and was named the team's Rookie of the Year. It appears that Kinkaid also attended the New York Rangers camp, which was held from June 28th to July 2nd. Considering that NCAA players can't accept any compensation from professional teams, he'll need to make the trek from New York to Vancouver on his own dime. In 2008-09, Kinkaid was named the NAHL's MVP and Goaltender of the Year, leading all goaltenders in SV%, GAA, wins, and shutouts. However, he went undrafted and attended the Rangers summer prospect camp last year as well.

I hope you've enjoyed this brief look at the invitees to the prospect camp. It took me far longer than I expected to collate all of this information. I'll definitely be keeping an eye on the camp throughout the week to see if any of these unknowns make a name for themselves.

What is Kevin Bieksa's Problem, Anyway?

I wonder what's going through Kevin Bieksa's mind these days. Everybody from Mark Spector to your grandma knows that he's on the block, that Gillis is fielding offers from all over the league, and that he'll likely have to move before training camp begins. That has to be an awful, awful feeling. Apart from feeling giddy when Dustin Byfuglien was sentenced to life in Atlanta, I tend to have sympathy for hockey players who are suddenly forced to uproot their lives. People get upset when players get no-movement clauses--even more so when they invoke them--but how wonderful would it be to do something you love without the looming threat that you'll be forced to move against your will? Caught up in trade rumours and with one foot out the door, does Kevin Bieksa deserves our sympathy?

He certainly won't be receiving our love. Fans are still furious over the swan dives that gave Kris Versteeg a free path to the net in game four of the Chicago-Vancouver series, and for most of us, it was the last straw. Guys like Tatoes over at have been banging the drum for years, but the paradigm has shifted, and he's no longer in the minority: Vancouver fans no longer want Kevin Bieksa.

Some continue to bang his drum. Bieksa can bring grit, offense, and a genuinely surly attitude. It's hard to forget his 42-point season, which, at the time, drew some comparisons to Jay Bouwmeester and garnered some Team Canada chatter. His inconsistent regular-season play has been blamed on those freak muscle lacerations, and it's certainly a convincing argument. Here's poster RUPERTKBD with a very, very valid point:

Here's something for you to try:

Take a sharp metal instrument and slice the muscles and tendons in one of your legs. Then spend a few months healing and rehabbing. Finally, as soon as you are physically able, step back into the pressure of playing in the fastest, most physical league in the world, playing a sport that relies heavily on the use of your legs.

Before I forget, for maximum effect, this procedure should be repeated two years in a row.

Absolutely correct. Bieksa's leg injuries have no doubt affected his ability to be the sort of player he was before they occurred. But the circumstances have not been enough to prevent AV from joining the ranks of those fed up with Juice. Mark Spector claims Alain Vigneault has soured on him also:

[...] people who are close to the Canucks say that head coach Alain Vigneault isn’t real big on Bieksa anymore. He wanted more responsibility this past season, we’re told, and when he got it in the playoffs he was not reliable.

Unreliable indeed. Here's the problem: injuries or not, Bieksa is inconsistent on a cosmic scale. Let's recall that his damningly poor play to throw game four came on the heels of his history-making game-winner in game three. Bieksa's successful pinches lead to game-winning goals. Problem is, his stupid mistakes tend to as well. It seems to me that AV is tired of the dizzying disparity of his play and its results. Kevin Bieksa is a defenseman capable of playing at the high level of the NHL's elite defenseman. Recall that he had 43 points the same season Jay Bouwmeester had 42, and cashed in for nearly $7M a season from the Flames. But Bieksa is not an elite defenseman, because, for every moment where he looks like Jay Bouwmeester in Florida, there's a moment where he looks like Jay Bouwmeester in Calgary: unimpressive, sometimes downright detrimental.

Spector also states, "Either Bieksa thinks he’s better than he is, or for some reason, he’s not playing to his potential." In truth, it's both. Kevin Bieksa knows that he can be better than he's been the last two seasons, and I'm sure it's weighing heavily on him that he's gone from help to hindrance. That he's had to ask for more responsibility, rather than simply being worthy of it (as he was back in 08-09) must tear him apart. Problem is, when he gets it, he's trying to do too much, trying to force an all-star resurgence, and it's affecting his play. Don't be fooled by that smug, surly look on his face: it's not overconfidence, it's frustration--frustration that he can't get back to where he once was. Maybe, for a time, the injuries held him back, but I think he's physically strong. It's his mental strength that's taken a beating. A change of scenery and a fresh start can only help.

So don't feel bad for Kevin Bieksa. A trade might yield larger returns for him than they do for us.

Saturday, July 03, 2010

The Invitees: Part One in a Two-Part Saga

As you now know (because we told you) the Canucks Prospect Camp begins on Tuesday, July 6th. 36 prospects will be attending the camp, 13 of which are invitees that have not been signed or drafted by the Vancouver Canucks. Most Canucks fans have at least a passing familiarity with Vancouver's pool of prospects, but just who are these 13 players invited by Mike Gillis and the Canucks organization?

Maury Edwards - Defence
5'11'' - 176 lbs - Mar 16, 1987
Rocky Rapids, AB

Edwards played for the University of Massachusetts-Lowell as a Junior last season and was a 2nd Team All-American in 2009 and was the team's MVP in 2009. He's known for his offensive upside and great slapshot. His scoring took a massive dive last season, from 29 points in 38 games in 08-09 to 15 points in 38 games in 09-10. His goals dropped from 11 to 4. The hope would be that he could re-capture his offensive ability from just one year ago and transition it to the professional game. He's also an intelligent guy, named to the All-Academic team all three of his years at UMass Lowell. Edwards will be the oldest player at the prospect camp, at the ripe-old age of 23.

Brendan Ellis - Defence
6'2" - 206 lbs - Jan 5, 1989
Kelowna, BC

Ellis played for the Westside Warriors of the BCHL and was named Top Defenceman in the Interior Conference for the 2009-10 season and was selected to the all-star team. He was the third-highest scoring defenceman in the BCHL and is the all-time franchise leader for points from defencemen for the Warriors. His point totals jumped from 20 to 58 this season. Ellis plays in all situations for the Warriors, quarterbacking the powerplay, killing penalties, and matching up against the opponent's top lines. He has a scholarship to Merrimack College for the upcoming school year.

Taylor Fedun - Defence
6'0" - 190 lbs - Jun 4, 1988
Edmonton, AB

Fedun was a Junior at Princeton University and is studying Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering. He led all Princeton defencemen in scoring this past season, with 17 points in 31 games, good for 10th in the conference. He was named to the 2nd-team All-ECAC last season and was awarded Princeton's 1941 Championship Trophy for best representing the "winning spirit of the 1941 championship team and in so doing was an inspiration to his teammates," which may indicate some leadership ability. After his freshman year, Inside College Hockey praised his two-way abilities and called him a complete player, mentioning specifically his patience and intelligence with the puck matched with toughness and tenacity away from the puck.

Kevan Miller - Defence
6'2" - 200 lbs - Nov 15, 1987
Los Angeles, CA

A Junior out of the University of Vermont, Miller is known primarily for being a solid defensive defenceman. His coach has called him a "fierce competitor and a great leader." He was an Assistant Captain for the Catamounts this past season and has been named their Captain for the 2010-11 season. Prior to entering Vermont, he played soccer and lacrosse as well. Unfortunately, that's about it as far as available information on Kevan Miller goes. But you can see him throw a pretty sweet hit at around the 34 second mark of this Youtube video.

Kevin Clark - Right Wing
5'8" - 160 lbs - Dec 29, 1987
Winnipeg, MB

In March of this year, Kevin Clark signed with the Manitoba Moose on an amateur tryout contract out of the University of Alaska-Anchorage. He responded with 3 points in 9 regular season games and 2 points in 4 playoff games, earning him a more permanent spot on the roster. Clark was a proficient goalscorer for the Seawolves, with 23 goals in 36 games in his Senior year. He also racked up the penalty minutes, with 89 PIM and a similar amount in his Junior year. The vast majority of those minutes are from minor penalties and he's known for being hot-headed. He was apparently on Twitter all of last season, but the account appears to have been deleted. He did score a goal on his first shot of his first shift, showing that he's not afraid of going to the front of the net. And this UAA hockey fan blog names him the team's MVP and praises his grittiness. Not bad. He'll need that grittiness as an under-sized forward.

Jack Downing - Right Wing
6'3" - 200 lbs - Mar 16, 1989
New Canaan, CT

Like Kevan Miller, Jack Downing comes from the University of Vermont. He scored 21 points in 36 games as a Junior last season, good enough to tie for fourth on the team. The only three players on the Catamounts to score more points than Downing last season are departing Seniors, so he'll be expected to step up his offensive game. Downing seems to be a true power forward, using his size to deliver punishing checks, combining that with good offensive instincts. His coach suggests that he has a good two-way game: combine that with his shooting ability and size and it's no wonder Central Scouting had him ranked 105th overall amongst North American skaters going into the 2008 NHL entry draft. However, instead of being a late round draft choice, he slipped right through and went undrafted. Downing might be a player to keep an eye on, as power forwards often take a bit longer to develop and learn how to use their size effectively.

We're just getting started. Come back tomorrow for Invitees 7 - 13 in Part Two of the epic Two-Part Saga.

Canucks Prospects Camp is Big-Time News Now

In case you missed what happened on July 1st, please know that it was really exciting. It was so exciting, in fact, that fans are clamoring for more news--all the news, even. And until Mike Gillis announces that he's traded a defenseman or two for a top-nine forward, there will be nothing that even comes close to meeting the rabid demand for high-end Nuckworld news. Our insatiable appetite has us clamoring to know everything we can about Canucks prospects camp which begins Tuesday, July 6th. This is not big news, people, but information about the 36 young hockey players that have won a special trip to Grouse Mountain has been leaking for the past two days. That's right: the Canucks prospects camp is news of such magnitude that there have been leaks. Ladies and gentleman, I give you: the offseason. So what can we tell you? First, we can tell you who isn't going to be there: veterans. Also, top prospect Cody Hodgson.

But don't panic. Naysayers and pessimists have been waiting for the bottom to fall out on this kid's potentially stellar future with the Canucks since he was drafted. You might recall the hullabaloo last year when he opted not to train with Dave Gagner. Maybe you even remember Pierre McGuire crapping himself when he found out the Canucks had acquired Manny Malhotra to personally assassinate Cody. Disregard all of it, especially the Pierre McGuire stuff. He's more of a Washington Capitals expert. Assistant GM Lorne Henning explains why Cody's better not coming:

Hodgson won't need to attend the sessions, Henning said, as the Canucks' top draft pick in 2008 (10th overall) has already been to two of them previously and it's deemed he's better off staying in the Toronto area to continue his training there.

At this point, we just want to make sure he's ready for camp,” said Henning. “It's just that we don't want to get him away from his routine. He's already acclimated with all this so there's really no need to bring him in.”

Okay, good. So who is coming? All five of the Canucks 2010 draft picks, for instance. Here's your complete list. Note that Players in italics are invitees who have not been signed or drafted by the Canucks.

2010 Canucks Prospects Camp Complete Roster

Andersson, Peter-- D 6’3” 194 Kvidinge, SWE Apr 13 1991
Connauton, Kevin-- D 6’1” 196 Edmonton, AB Feb 23 1990
Edwards, Maury-- D 5’11 176 Rocky Rapids, AB Mar 16 1987
Ellington, Taylor-- D 6’2” 209 Victoria, BC Oct 31 1988
Ellis, Brendan-- D 6’2 206 Kelowna, BC Jan 5 1989
Fedun, Taylor
-- D 6’0 190 Edmonton, AB Jun 4 1988
Hannay, Sawyer-- D 6’4” 192 Moncton, NB Sep 6 1992
McNally, Patrick-- D 6’2” 181 Glen Head, NY Dec 4 1991
Miller, Kevan-- D 6’2 200 Los Angeles, CA Nov 15 1987
Oberg, Evan-- D 6’2” 165 Forestburg, AB Feb 16 1988
Polasek, Adam-- D 6’2” 194 Ostrava, CZE July 12 1991
Price, Jeremy-- D 6’1” 194 Milton, ON Sep 26 1990
Sauve,Yann-- D 6’3” 220 Montreal, PQ Feb 18 1990
Tanev, Chris-- D 6’2 185 East York, ON Dec 20 1989

Anthony, Steven-- LW 6’2” 205 Halifax, N.S. Mar 21 1991
Clark, Kevin-- RW 5’8 160 Winnipeg, MB Dec 29 1987
Downing, Jack
-- RW 6’3 200 New Canaan, CT Mar 16 1989
Fraser, Matt
-- LW 6’2 207 Red Deer, AB May 20 1990
Friesen, Alex-- C 5’10” 189 Niagara-on-the-Lake, ON Jan 30 1991
Froshaug, Mats-- LW 6’2” 209 Oslo, NOR July 31 1988
Henry, James-- LW 5’8 180 Winnipeg, MB Mar 11 1991
Jordan, Tayler
-- LW 6’6 200 Wynyard, SK Feb 8 1990
Matson, Taylor-- C 6’0” 185 Mound, MN Sep 16 1988
Morin, Pierre-Olivier-- LW 5’11 162 Trois-Rivieres, PQ Apr 23 1991
Rai, Prab-- LW 6’0” 190 Surrey, BC Nov 22 1989
Rodin, Anton-- RW 6’0” 176 Stockholm, SWE Nov 21 1990
Schneider, Stefan-- C 6’4 206 Vernon, B.C. Dec 13 1989
Schroeder, Jordan-- C 5’8” 183 Prior Lake, MN Sep 29 1990
Tochkin, Kellan-- RW 5’9” 179 Abbotsford, BC Feb 15 1991
Volpatti, Aaron-- LW 6’1 196 Revelstoke, B.C. May 30 1985
Zurevinski, Scott-- C 6’2 190 Saskatoon, SK Jun 4 1988

Cannata, Joe-- G 6’1 200 Wakefield, MA Jan 2 1990
Houser, Michael-- G 6’2 188 Wexford, MI Sep 13 1992
Iilahti, Jonathan-- G 6’1” 176 Vaasa, FIN Apr 27 1992
Kinkaid, Keith-- G 6’3 180 Farmingville,NY Jul 4 1989
Lack, Eddie-- G 6’4 183 Norrtalje, SWE Jan 5 1988

Will any of these guys play with the big club next year? Absolutely. Evan Oberg has already played five games with the Canucks, and you have to think he might do it again this year. If Yann Sauve's shows he's made some strides in training camp, he'll be near the top of the call-up list. Jordan Schroeder flat-out wowed everybody in his brief stint with the Moose at the end of last season, and he's likely to push Cody Hodgson for a roster spot out of training camp. Some people think they might both make the team. One of these five goalies is likely the starter for the Moose, which means he's warming the big-league pine if Luongo or Corey Schneider pulls a groin. My dark horse pick to don the Orca after October would be Aaron Volpatti, the gritty, two-way winger from Brown University that might turn out to be an upgrade on Tanner Glass. Only time will tell.

Friday, July 02, 2010

Ryan Kesler and Jack Johnson Hang Out in Bedroom

Ryan Kesler is, of course, the cover-boy for 2K Sports NHL 2K11. Apparently he's going on tour with 2K Sports in an RV, promoting the new game coming out for the Wii. That's all well and good, but I'm a little concerned about his proclamation that the master bedroom is "where all the magic happens" only to see LA Kings defenceman Jack Johnson sitting in his bed. Ryan, you are a married man! A father even. For shame.

There's also some scandalous talk about how good Kes looks in spandex. The rampant flirting is more than a little awkward, capped off with Johnson claiming that "every squirrel finds a nut," an analogy wherein Kesler is the squirrel and I will say no more about that.

That said, I enjoyed NHL 2K10 last year and I'll surely pick up 2K11 when it comes out. Full disclosure, I do not own a PS3 or XBox 360, so I can't play the likely superior EA NHL games, which is a shame. The 2K games are the only option on the Wii, at least until the Gretzky-sponsored NHL Slapshot comes out with its fancy mini-hockey-stick peripheral.

I Watched This Frenzy: Free Agency Day, July 1, 2010

I don't know where you were yesterday, but I'll always remember where I was. I was deeply enmeshed in my first liveblogging experience, sharing a desk with Skeeter while we hosted the Spectacular 1st Annual PiTB Free Agency Day Meta-LiveBlog Spectacular (the S1APiTBFADMLBS, for short). And what a day it was for the Canucks, who made four notable signings. It was also a pretty good day for the TSN panel guys, who have been somewhat hung out to dry on big hockey news days in recent years, for Pierre McGuire, who won the opportunity to stand too close to someone new this year (where was Dutchy anyway?), and for my wife, who was called on to make us breakfast and lunch while we hammered away at our keyboards. Frankly, the only person I can think of who might not have had any fun was Darryl Sutter, who is likely he didn't lose his arm, reaching back through history. (We know how cold it gets when you time travel, at least according to Back to the Future.) Suffice it to say, a good time was had by all. Let's get into the Canucks signings:

The Canucks Sign Dan Hamhuis
Definitely the biggest Canucks free agent signing of the day, and, considering all the hype around the guy and how the rights to speak to him privately were passed around as though he were The Girl Who Uses Tongue at a "spin the bottle" party, maybe the biggest overall. While the early Gonchar signing was for the most money, Hamhuis was considered the prize of the day. The deal has some heft to it, coming in at $4.5m for six seasons. On paper, Dan Hamhuis is officially our #1 guy. Is he? The jury's out on that. Somewhere, it was said that the Canucks now lead the league in number three defensemen, but is that the worst thing? The jury's out on that too. Put another way, the Canucks lead the lead in guys you'd be comfortable averaging over twenty minutes a game. There's nothing negative about that.

If there's a trend with Mike Gillis, it's signing guys with upside, guys he believes might be able to have a bigger role. It makes sense. Undervalued guys are obviously a big part of his moneyball philosophy. Mind you, they're also the only guys available. I've heard a number of fanboys lament that while, yes, we got Hamhuis, we didn't get a guy like Pronger or Weber or Keith or Doughty. I've heard it said that we're a superstar defenseman away from winning a Stanley Cuo. Right, and the Philistines were one One True God away from being the best military nation in the Bible. It's not exactly something you can just flip a switch and fix. Gillis did what he could: he got the best player available, with the belief he might be even better than we've been told. Here's hoping.

While Hamhuis was the #3 defenseman on Nashville, the Preds are a team with two of the best defenseman in the NHL. It's not like he was being beaten out for ice time by Ryan O'Byrne. We're talking about Shea Weber and Ryan Suter here. For people with concerns, consider that the Predators' leading scorer was Patrick Hornqvist, with 51 points, good for 91st in the NHL. Despite this atrocious fact, Nashville still made the playoffs, and fared as well against the Blackhawks as any other team that faced them, largely because their defense corps is stupid good. Dan Hamhuis was a gigantic part of that. And now he plays for us.

So what sort of defenseman is he? I'm sure that's probably covered elsewhere, so I won't belabor it. I will say, however, that he apparently loves to hip check, much like Keith Ballard. This means that spotting a Canuck on the positive end of a hip check won't be like spotting El Chupacabra, for once. That's a good thing. Hamhuis also has some offensive upside. Put those two things together, and you get this:

Consider that Hamhuis, who can do the thing we see above, makes Kevin Bieksa--who stars in this clip--expendable. So what are the downsides to this signing? Well, from where I'm sitting, there aren't many. Granted, his cap hit is high, but consider first that he took a paycut and denied a bunch of attractive destinations, and second, that, in a surprising turn of events, he was not given a no-trade clause. Hamhuis can be moved without too much difficulty, if need be. Verdict: this is an acquisition chock full of win, and I am ecstatic about it.

The Canucks Sign Manny Malhotra
Until the Hamhuis thing broke, this was the big news of the day. Earlier, the Canucks signed Manny Malhotra, the guy that could have been had for chump change a year ago, after Columbus had decided they didn't want him. He wound up with San Jose where he was a lights-out faceoff man all season and playoffs, was a reliable third-line checking center that played top-six wing at times, and showed some grit. A real turnaround year for him, right? Wrong. Turns out that's exactly what he's done for the last six years. Why did Columbus let him go for nothing? I heard one of their radio guys joke that Columbus fans called him as fifth-line center. It makes no sense, but we're about to find out, for $2.5 mil. a year for 3 years.

But don't panic. Not only were we not the only team to chase him this summer, but we were one of many teams that offered him over $2 mil. to be our 3rd center. People are going to gripe about this signing, but, if they do, remind them of how the NHL has changed. The playoff game-changers aren't the superstars. For the last half-decade, it's been the third-line checking centers: Rob Niedermayer, Jordan Staal, Dave Bolland, et al. Matt Cullen fetched a 2nd round pick at the trade deadline last year, and he went for a $3.5 mil. yesterday. This has become a crucial position, and while Cody Hodgson might have been able to fill it, Mike Gillis couldn't take that chance. After a few years of Kyle Wellwood impressing people by being up to the job, Gillis needed somebody who would do more than impress simply by showing up. That's what Malhotra brings.

On the negative side, that contract is a lot. In fact, it's the same contract Mikael Samuelsson got, except this one has a limited no-movement clause. Is Manny worth it? We'll see, but if he's not, we're not absolutely stuck with him. Let's talk about the NMC. Don't panic. It's not, contrary to some report, a NTC. This clause gives Malhotra some veto power, but it doesn't give him ultimate veto power. I'm not surprised. Gillis has some numerous times he won't ask a player to waive a no-trade clause. That's an integrity thing. Here, he won't have to if Malhotra winds up on the block; Gillis has merely promised to let Malhotra have some say if a move comes up. That's beyond fair.

I like this deal. Consider that Malhotra is paid to be the veteran presence on our third line, and he'll likely stay there no matter what. Unlike last year, where our third line was all over the map, Gillis has established Manny Malhotra, who can play all three slots, as the mainstay on it. This gives us the option of letting a ton of our young players fight it out to skate with him. Verdict: good deal. Fills a major hole for us. This was the move Mike Gillis had to make. That's why he paid so much to make it.

The Canucks Sign Joel Perrault and The Canucks Sign Jeff Tambellini
I have less to say about these two moves, as I don't really know what to expect here. Neither Perrault nor Tambellini are really known as crash-and-bang style guys. Instead, they're prospects on the verge of washing out. Both these guys have a ton of talent and impressive junior resumes, but, to the chagrin of their former teams (the Coyotes and Islanders, respectively), it's never translated to the NHL. In both cases, however, there's more than enough potential for a gambler like Mike Gillis to offer them $500,000 deals and see if they pan out. What's the harm? Relatively speaking, $1 mil. is chump change to test drive a couple of former first-rounders, and if even one of them pans out, we're in luck. The claim here is that these guys have solid enough two-way games to play on the third-line, and since Gillis expects his third-line to be physical, they make be stretched a little more than they were elsewhere. Tambellini has already been trying to develop a reputation as a fighter. Considering they'll likely be competing for spots with the best prospects the Canucks have, it should only boost the level of competition and motivation Canuck draft picks have to make this team.

Do these guys honestly have a shot? Maybe. Perrault might be a good fit as a fourth-line center, but he'll have to battle Alex Bolduc, Mario Bliznak, Rick Rypien, and any training camp walk-ons for the spot. Jeff Tambellini's in tougher, likely fighting against Cody Hodgson, Jordan Schroeder, Sergei Shirokov, Victor Oreskovich (and maybe Nikita Filatov) for a spot. If neither guy makes the cut, they'll help the Moose stay competitive, and since the waiver wire is so seldom used these days, provide excellent depth in the case of regular-season injuries.

Here's the thing nobody has mentioned yet. Tambellini is a perfect replacement for Michael Grabner. They're similar players, though Tambellini is a little stronger. They both play left wing, they both skate extremely well, and they have both failed to live up to their billing. It certainly allays any unease I had over losing Grabner in the Ballard trade. Verdict: I am okay with these moves.

And finally, if this does not provide concrete enough explanations of how these guys will affect the team, take a look at this image, courtesy of Nucks Misconduct.
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