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Kassian rises to power, Canucks clutch first win

Alan O'Sullivan
Jan 24th, 2013

Photo from Flickr/Loxy!!

If Zack Kassian is still a 'young player learning the game' imagine how good he'll look in another few months or a year. If the 22-year old hadn't been on the ice last night against the Calgary Flames it's hard to imagine the Canucks crawl their way into overtime and the shootout, let alone emerge with the All Kassian Victory they did.

His gorgeous three-effort second period goal, four recorded hits, and his jaw-dropping shootout winner were just the highlights. And they were impressive, but they don’t really tell the whole story.

Kassian was the best player on a line featuring two Art Ross Trophy winners, and it was the second game in a row where you could safely say that without being accused of embellishment.

This from a guy with 47 NHL games under his belt.

Alain Vigneault's recipe for disaster

Alan O'Sullivan
Jan 21st, 2013

Photo from Flickr/VanCityAllie

If there are silver linings perhaps the biggest one is this: There’s just enough time to fly Ryan Kesler to Lourdes and back before the Canucks next game on Wednesday night. If opening weekend is any indication though, they might plunk him on the wrong flight and forget the return ticket.

We jest. To a point. 

The sky is not falling, the goalie controversy is overblown, and this team is still too talented to be taken down by some (lots of) lockout rust. But shortened seasons are unforgiving to late-comers, and while the sample size is small and the panic has come comically early there’s a tiny margin for error this season before it will quickly be too late. The Canucks have already lost out on three of four points when they need to be clipping steadily along at the opposite pace to guarantee a playoff spot.

Yes, they’re already in a hole. Absurd as that fact is.

Canucks camp: second-line problems

Alan O'Sullivan
Jan 16th, 2013

Photo from Flickr/clydeorama

Opening night against the Anaheim Ducks is less than four days away for the Canucks, and they’re already facing more question marks than fans during their abbreviated free-to-the-public on-ice training camp sessions.

News that underwhelming top six winger David Booth would be out four to six weeks with a groin pull sent much of the local ‘blogosphere’ and ‘twitterverse’ into a frenzy on Tuesday afternoon, a mild panic that was somewhat misplaced but which wasn’t entirely without merit.

Booth’s departure amplifies the loss of Ryan Kesler, who’s still in the limbo of recovering from two off-season surgeries to both his shoulder and wrist. There’s no timetable for Kesler’s return, and seeing him hit the ice in a surprise first appearance on Monday morning inspired little confidence he’s close to making any additional surprise appearances any time soon. The loss of Booth turns that Kesler-sized crater in the Canucks’ roster into a slightly larger, harder to stomach crater.

Canucks and NHL face a gloriously chaotic half-season of extra pressure

Alan O'Sullivan
Jan 11th, 2013

Photo from Flickr/Sébastien Launay

Hockey Night in Canada announcer Bob Cole has never worked a game so dull or so meaningless that his natural excitability couldn't spruce it up a notch or two or twelve. But in a 2011 playoff series between the Boston Bruins and Montreal Canadiens he bumped into the opposite problem: An overload of events so exciting and so dramatic that all he could muster was "Everything is happening!"

It's an infamous call among hockey fans — often cited and hashtagged on twitter during extremely busy days on the NHL newswire — and it will be put to the test over the coming days and weeks of a shortened season and compressed NHL schedule. 

Worthless NHL lockout produces little change

Alan O'Sullivan
Jan 7th, 2013

Photo from Flickr/briweldon

It was always going to end this way, with cooperation and compromise begrudgingly conquering greed and bluster. 

No one thought the process would take four months, or that the impetus for serious negotiation would stem from a place of fear, but the mechanics of the final chapter were always fairly well known and expected from the beginning: The owners would push, the NHLPA would resist as long as it could, and a deal would be reached on the owners side of the middle ground. 

The players resisted longer than most expected — hardly bending — and the owners pushed longer than most expected, hardly caring. They both bickered over projected growth and revenue while the same bickering threw into question all projected growth and revenue. And because of that Python-esque absurdity we lost four months of the NHL only to emerge from the rubble with a verbal agreement on a new collective bargaining agreement that could have been had in June or July. Easily. 

Despite dropping salary cap, Canucks have enviable options

Alan O'Sullivan
Jan 3rd, 2013

Photo from Flickr/bridgetds

News of gradual progress in the NHL collective bargaining talks continue to seep out, and one of the spicier nuggets this morning is the leagues proposal to grant two compliance buyouts per team prior to the start of the 2013-14 season. If that comes to pass the coming off season will be a frenzy of page-turning and slate-cleaning, league-wide. 

And despite the consternation in these parts about a dropping salary cap limit and a Canucks team already up against it with only 12 roster players signed (not including Roberto Luongo), the Canucks could actually enter that frenzy with over $20-million dollars in cap space. 

Impossible? Hardly. 

According to James Mirtle at The Globe and Mail, the Canucks have $55.4-million committed for 2013-14, with the salary cap expected to drop to $60-million at the lowest. That would leave Vancouver with $4.6-million in cap space. 

Canucks could face sloppy shortened season when lockout ends

Alan O'Sullivan
Nov 30th, 2012

Wikimedia Commons

If and when the lockout ever ends, and teams race back to the ice with pulled hamstrings and exploding groins everywhere, it would be wise to temper expectations with regards to the local one.

Certainly not “Nathan MacKinnon is ours” tempered, but not “ We can plan the parade route now” either.

The conventional wisdom back in August and throughout September and October was that a lockout shortened season could benefit an older Canucks roster that was nursing an injured Ryan Kesler.

The Pavel Bure collective memory has no clothes on

Alan O'Sullivan
Nov 11th, 2012

Wikimedia Commons

There comes a moment in the growth and maturity of something — person, sports franchise, anything — when idealism gives way to reality, and some degree of acceptance and understanding kicks in.

Call it the “this is it” tipping point: When the something in question stops fretting about what it isn’t, hasn’t accomplished yet, or what it doesn’t like about itself, and more or less accepts what it already is.

For the Vancouver Canucks and Pavel Bure, the “this is it”.  The tipping point is here. 

With his entry into the Hockey Hall of Fame on Monday, the franchise's historically rocky relationship with 'The Russian Rocket' — its greatest pure talent — has been stripped, baring naked the shoddy excuses that are continually trotted out to prop him up as a player not entirely worth being celebrated.

Canucks' winger Kassian is a lockout 'winner'

Alan O'Sullivan
Oct 23rd, 2012

Photo form Flickr/Loxy!!

As far as the Vancouver Canucks forward ranks go, Zack Kassian is clearly the principle up-and-comer—a young and plastering power forward with surprising quickness and gifted hands. At just 21 years old, his time to grow and develop into being an everyday impact NHL player is exactly now.

He’s fertile ground, and he needs to blossom.

So the longer he stays out of the NHL, the better.

It sounds counter-intuitive, but as far as his NHL career goes, Zack Kassian is right where he needs to be: one step below it in the AHL with the Chicago Wolves. 

NHL lockout is robbing Canucks fans of Sedins' finite superstardom

Alan O'Sullivan
Oct 16th, 2012

Photo sourced from Flickr user Loxy!!

The mood around Vancouver with regard to the Canucks and how the NHL lockout effects them has been mixed, to say the least—the arguments full of caveat and asterisk and couched in maybes and what-ifs.

They hinge on X-factors and unknown variables and there’s no need to rehash them here because there’s only one argument left worth making now: the longer this lockout goes the more harm it does to the Vancouver hockey fan, and for one reason and one reason only.

The lockout is throwing what few seasons of elite level play that Daniel and Henrik Sedin have left in their 32-year old bodies straight into the wood-chipper. And it’s outrageous.

There should be marching in the streets.

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