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Canucks Report

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Blame for Canucks' first round defeat to the Sharks starts at the top

Alan O'Sullivan
May 8th, 2013

Photo from Flickr/VaguelySerious

In the end, it was a disaster which was surprisingly easy to predict. The inconvenient evidence has been accumulating since the trade deadline all the way back in 2012 — when Canucks management decreed an abrupt system change, forever neutering what was once the most vaunted offense in the league.

But we'll get back to that. 

Playoff Canucks will surprise, for better or worse

Alan O'Sullivan
Apr 29th, 2013

Photo from Flickr/spazzbot

We now return to your regularly scheduled programming. The Vancouver Canucks—carrying their usual, cocksure swirl of complete unpredictability—are back playing games into May. Questions of Roberto Luongo’s mental acuity abound, and we don’t know which goaltender will start Game 1.

Has it really been a whole year? Has anything changed? Where are we?

We recall last April, when this team limped into the playoffs with no time or any bother for the regular season, and hardly much more for the lowly first round. The Stanley Cup (Final) hangover was real and it drained the city and the team of any emotion for anything that wasn’t the real fix: Conference Semi’s and onward. It was an interesting tactical approach—to apparently not give a damn, even when heading into the playoffs—and in hindsight the results were unsurprising.

Mike Gillis' very bad, very uncharacteristic year

Alan O'Sullivan
Apr 4th, 2013

Photo from Flickr/spazzbot

If there’s a word which summarizes the Mike Gillis and Laurence Gilman philosophical approach to running a sports franchise it would be this: Control.

Not in the sense of micromanagement or outright tyranny — but in terms of mitigating catastrophic risk and weighing the dice for sustained group success.

This year — this calendar year — that strategy has been on the ropes, if it’s even been in the mix at all.

Essentially, ever since he took over the General Manager reins in 2008, Mike Gillis has attempted to build a team which would be more or less impervious to the rigours and hazards of an 82-game NHL season: Injuries, slumps, fatigue, contract squabbles... anything which could — by itself — derail the ability of the team and organization to succeed over a significant period of time, or significantly curtail its options going forward.

Once ‘arrogant’ Canucks now look like they’re just going through the motions

Alan O'Sullivan
Mar 29th, 2013

Photo from Flickr/kempedmonds

When you get to the end of most long, multi-installment film franchises you’re usually treated to a clumsy pile of recycled, familiar elements that are trotted out to replicate previous successes.

You’ve seen this movie before, you say to yourself, two or three times, and now the whole thing is just stale. It leaves a sour taste for fans of the franchise, because it suggests the peak has passed — with the best of it gone forever.

You probably see where this is going.

The Vancouver Canucks are once again nonchalantly idling down the stretch, meandering toward the postseason like it’s a private members club to which they feel they have exclusive entry rights, regardless of how poorly they’re dressed or how foul they’re acting on the way up to the front door.

“We’re from the Northwest Division, step aside.”

There’s nothing to tell them to act otherwise. They’re winning games and coasting through long stretches of the season, again.

Canucks' stubborn disrespect of the shootout impossible to make sense of

Alan O'Sullivan
Mar 7th, 2013

Photo from Flickr/iwona_kellie

For a team which has gone to so many great lengths in an effort to achieve every possible measure of competitive advantage, the Vancouver Canucks’ carefree and careless approach to the shootout is growing harder and harder to reconcile.

The Canucks have hired sleep doctors (even signing them to exclusive contracts so that no other team in the league can use their services) to maximize the rest patterns of each individual player. They do this because they generally have the league’s heaviest travel schedule, due to geography.

They’ve hired nutritionists and team chefs to optimize player eating habits with three-square meals a day and provide each player with take home meals if necessary. They do this because they know (some) young men might not put the effort into making highly nutritious meals on days off, or while away from the rink. 

Complacent Canucks riding for a fall

Alan O'Sullivan
Feb 27th, 2013

Photo from Flickr/Mafue

You have to wonder how much Vancouver Canucks President and General Manager Mike Gillis identifies with Kevin Spacey’s character in House of Cards. The on-ice product of his hockey team is at once impressive, disappointingly ugly, and hinting at inevitable disaster.

Five games shy of the halfway mark of the shortened post-lockout season and his team is just about exactly where it should be: Third in the Western Conference and first in its division, streaking toward home-ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs.

Loss of Malhotra leaves Canucks in faceoff 'fancy stat' flux

Alan O'Sullivan
Feb 18th, 2013

Photo from Flickr/Loxy!!

The line between Manny Malhotra and the need to trade Roberto Luongo sooner rather than later might be finer than anyone realized. 

The Vancouver Canucks decision to shut Malhotra down for good late last week inspired one of the more pessimistic conspiracy theories in recent memory. It argued that the team strung Malhotra along — knowing he was in danger of being seriously injured on account of his eye injury — until Ryan Kesler returned to action and the faceoff circle. Then they sent him packing.

Canucks' winning ways masking bad habits

Alan O'Sullivan
Feb 8th, 2013

Photo from Flickr/Dinur

Ten games into the season and the following two statements are true simultaneously: Buffalo Sabres’ winger Thomas Vanek is on pace for 99 points in 48 games, and the Vancouver Canucks are on pace for a 67-point season and another easy Northwest Division title.

The second trend line is about as useful as the first, meaning they’re both fairly useless.

Vanek’s trajectory would see him churning out a level of production unseen since the days when Wayne Gretzky was tossing out 180-plus point seasons like he had six or seven of them taking up room in his garage. The Canucks, meanwhile, would raise no eyebrows at all if they met expectations and casually captured the Northwest. Which they will, barring disaster.

And yet, on merit, it’s all a bit upside down.

Vancouver fans and media suddenly rediscover that Roberto Luongo is an elite goaltender

Alan O'Sullivan
Feb 1st, 2013

Photo from Flickr/carsonballer14

Breaking news: Roberto Luongo is an elite goaltender – change everything. 

No excuse for Canucks poor play, and Ryan Kesler won't save them

Alan O'Sullivan
Jan 29th, 2013

Photo from Flickr/taminator

It’s easy to spin the poor play of the Vancouver Canucks into a simple tale of rust and acclimation. The excuses are many. 

Their best all-around player, Ryan Kesler, is on the shelf. They’re without top-6 winger David Booth. They’re out of game shape from the lockout. Players are adjusting to new linemates and new positions. And in the case of games against the San Jose Sharks and Edmonton Oilers they’re playing teams who’ve had many of their best players playing competitive hockey in Europe or the AHL for months.

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