Friday, February 11, 2011

What Do You Want, Canucks Fans?

After Wednesday's loss against the Anaheim Ducks, the prevailing opinion amongst Canuck fandom was that the Canucks got outmuscled. This opinion could be heard from callers on the Team 1040, read on threads posted on, and absorbed by osmosis from articles written by Brad Ziemer (you wouldn't want to actually read them). This sudden outcry was simultaneously baffling and expected. Baffling, because the goals scored against the Canucks were largely due to breakdowns in defensive coverage and not being outmuscled along the boards or in front of the net. Expected, as Dan Hamhuis left the game after a borderline hit from Ryan Getzlaf and no one stepped up to fight him.

Never mind that none of the Canucks actually saw the hit happen. Never mind that it looks like a perfectly innocent hit until Hamhuis crumples to the ice. Never mind that there honestly wouldn't have been any point in fighting Getzlaf. The lack of response from the Canucks in that moment is apparently indicative of a team-wide lack of toughness.

Fine. Let's say I agree.

Fastforward a couple days: Cody Hodgson gets sent down to the Manitoba Moose. Victor Oreskovich gets called up. A skilled young rookie who may not be ready for the physical play of the NHL goes down to the AHL to play more minutes and further seasoning. A big body who has played NHL-level hockey before is brought up. He's a physical presence, a guy who can crash and bang and occasionally drop the mitts. Oreskovich can be summed up in a word: tough. Clearly, this is the kind of move that the fans were calling for.

The response: callers on the Team 1040 complaining about Hodgson not getting a chance. Posters on crying foul. Random fan bloggers on the Vancouver Sun website shocked.

On one day, Canucks fans and media are bemoaning the lack of toughness on the Canuck roster. A couple days later, a move is made that increases the Canucks' overall team toughness, and Canucks fans and media bemoan the move. And all this after the Canucks' first loss in seven games. What do you want, Canucks fans? Do you even know what you want?

This shouldn't have been a surprise. Harrison had it mostly right when he described the purpose of the fourth line as prospect development. But it's not necessarily about getting on the ice during the games. It's not even necessarily about evaluating their ability to play at the NHL level. It's about familiarity with the team, the routine, and the practice regimen. It's about knowing what it is to be a Canuck. It's about creating familiarity, so that when these players need to step into the lineup in high-pressure situations (ie. the playoffs), they are facing only one challenge instead of two.

In the end, this move isn't about increasing team toughness or disrespecting a top prospect: it's about acquainting each of the Canucks' prospects with the NHL experience so it's not a shock later on. This makes complaints in the wake of Hodgson being sent down to the Moose even more ludicrous. Hodgson will be back in the NHL before too long; in the meantime, he'll get first-line minutes with the Moose while playing 6 games in 9 nights. But 20 games from now, as injuries crop up, I don't want Oreskovich to be facing his first NHL action of the season as the playoffs approach. I don't want him to be trying to figure out the Canucks' morning routine or the practice schedule with the weight of playoff hockey on his mind.

And seriously, people calling into the Team 1040: chill out.


  1. The Ziemer link goes to an Ed Willes Vancouver Province article? Was this the one it was supposed to go to?

  2. Ack, good catch Lexie. Had a whole bunch of pages open at the time and copied in the wrong link.

  3. This whole "tough" storyline is just a battered dead horse.
    But I'm concerned on an ethical point of view.
    Do we accept to put pressure on our guys so that they are mentally ready to injure the other guys?
    I say no. I'm not putting my money if the team goes for "tougher". A win is never worth a player injury, neither in our team nor in the other.

    After that, it's also true that accidents happen, but I'm not sold on that one.

  4. Haha, I think I opened it about 5 or 6 times, trying to figure out if I had hit the hallucination stage of tired!

  5. Agreed, if AV had wanted a fight with Getzlaf or some proxy (Parros?), he would have put Volpatti on the ice to chat with him. I think the management doesn't think this team isn't tough enough, I think they're worried about how they are going to get through the next month without 3 top defencemen.

    Looking at, the Canucks are way down, middle of the pack in fighting majors this season (25...Detroit is at the bottom with only 8). In seasons past, they used to be near the top. I think that's the general strategy of this team. Let Toronto fill their stadium with fights. This team tries to play good hockey.

  6. That's why I can't stomach the call-in segments on Team 1040 (or any other sports radio for that matter) Ninety percent of the calls are knee-jerk reactions or uninformed chumps...a week or two ago I heard a guy mention that the 4th line was looking pretty good with Rypien on it.

    Anyhoo, as to the point at hand I think the "toughness" issue is overrated. Time and again, Gillis has referenced the Red Wings as the model, specifically the way that they punish over-agressive opponents by having an effective PP. So far, so good on that front, I'd say. How many times this year have opposing forecheckers hesitated, even just a little, because they fear the Canucks PP? We'll never know.... unless we had some sort of retroactive mind reader thingy....but I would bet it's a lot, and that's an intangible but pretty effective tool that's allowed the Canucks to play an undeniably effective quick-transition type game.

    I'm as disappointed as anyone (maybe more) to see Hamhuis go down. But having Tanner Glass (or, hypothetically Zack Stortini, Zenon Konopka, etc) jump over the boards 3 minutes later to wrestle around with George Parros proves nothing, and doesn't fix Hamhuis' head.

  7. Your continued shots at Brad Ziemer crack me up. Awesome. Also: good article.

  8. Good post Skeeter. The team 1040 callers sometimes drives me up the wall with their comments.

    And I think it makes it worse because it deters people who may have thought about their answer from calling in.

  9. Most of the comments made by Team 1040 callers and posters are typical knee-jerk reactions that ignore the facts. A reasonable person cannot call for changes after the 11th RT loss of the season - first loss in 7 games - 3rd RT loss in 2011.

  10. Do people actually read forums as a genuine source of fan reaction? It is by far the worst message board I've ever come across, sports team or not. The place is only a few step ups from 4chan. I hate to say it but even the Flames message board is more respectable. Hell, even the Sharks have intelligent posters on their message board.

    As always, excellent post. The stuff you guys produce is by far the best on the interwebs. I have yet to read an article and react negatively.

    Cheers Boys!

  11. great post, danielson!

  12. What's wrong with 4chan?

    Never mind, I know the answer. But really, no one goes to 4chan for intelligent commentary.

    As for the Flames board, I've spent time there. It's less active but that doesn't mean its average IQ is higher than CDC.


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