Thursday, January 15, 2009

HE Returns... but what is the real problem?

After 7 weeks on the IR with a groin injury (all better now that he "pounded it pretty hard" on the weekend), Roberto Luongo returns to the crease tonight as the Canucks take on the Phoenix Coyotes at GM Place. And not a moment too soon, as the Canucks continue to let games slip away heading into the All Star break. Vancouver fans are obviously relieved to have Luongo back, but the issues facing this team still remain: This team can't find a way to win games right now. Myself, I am beginning to wonder if this team hasn't grown tired of AV's coaching 'techniques'. The Pavol Demitra demotion, and benching of Kyle Wellwood are just recent examples of a coaching staff that appear to be running out of ideas, and have begun rehashing things that didn't work last season. Sure, they've had injuries. Sure, there are players that haven't played to their potential at times. But I think we are reaching the critical point for Alain Vigneault. Either he can find a way to get this team back on track, playing solid, defensive-minded hockey with the kind of offensive outbursts that on paper we should be seeing on a nightly basis, or it is time to make a change before it is too late. I am not saying his job is in jeopardy, but you almost have to wonder why it isn't? It might be easy enough for Canucks detractors to say that this is the way things were supposed to be, this team wasn't going to make the playoffs anyways. But this team has shown at times they were as good as any team in the league, they just haven't been that way in about, oh... 7 weeks. So having Lui back in the lineup will be a huge boost. But Vigneault had better figure out how to get his charges back on the same page or he will find himself out of a job, you can bet that.

Nice to see Kyle Turris will actually play in front of family and friends tonight, unless Gretzky decides to scratch him again. That was probably one of the coldest things I have seen. Nice job, Wayne. Sami Salo is not ready to return to the lineup yet, but is getting closer. Curtis Sanford cleared waivers and has been sent to the Manitoba Moose. He is a good guy, and you know he will make the most of this. The Moose are a better squad now for sure. The Coyotes will be without Viktor Tikhinov and Kurt Sauer. Expect Wellwood to be a scratch tonight, and the Canucks have had lines of Hansen, Sundin and Demitra, as well as Pyatt with the Sedin twins in practice. The Canucks have lost 3 straight, and 5 straight on home ice and will be looking to reverse that against the Coyotes, who sit 2 points behind with a game in hand.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

You had to know this was coming...

Curtis Sanford has been placed on waivers by the Canucks this morning. The Canucks have obviously made their choice for backup, and should he clear waivers I suppose he could get sent to Manitoba, or maybe even released outright. No word yet on what will happen, but I can't see him staying around long without someone snapping him up.

Seriously? That's how you respond to the coach calling you out?

Yeah. I am that pissed. Sorry, but I am just stunned at the lack of effort and heart shown by this team lately. Maybe they will get back to playing the kind of hockey they are capable of when Luongo returns Thursday, but they should have the will and desire to at least not get outworked at home. 5 straight home losses, Edmonton and Minnesota nipping at their heels, and Calgary leaving them in their dust. Who is going to step up and lead by example? Tomorrow's game against the Coyotes is huge for so many reasons...

Monday, January 12, 2009

Now you're all gonna get it...

Luongo's back, and dog help you all... After what seemed to be an eternity, some of those nights filled with the kind of goaltending we thought was long gone from these here parts, Roberto Luongo's groin is ready to umm... rock. And not a moment too soon, either. The Flames have moved 5 points ahead, and the Avalanche are only 4 back. But with our All-Star goalie healthy, and Mats Sundin getting closer to form each game, this could spell a return to the kind of hockey we saw 2 seasons ago at this time, when the Canucks, led by Luongo were the best team from Christmas on. The Canucks will likely start Lu on Thursday against Phoenix, but I certainly wouldn't rule him out to play tomorrow night against the Brodeur-less Devils. Certainly this will help light a fire under these guys who can't be happy with the way the game ended up Saturday night. They played with the best team in the league for 50 minutes, at times much better than the Sharks, but came out empty handed. Having a goalie who can shut the door will certainly help. You can't help but think Curtis Sanford has played his last game for the Canucks, with the way Jason LaBarbera came in here. What we needed from Sanford was for him to play against other teams the way he played against us when he was with St. Louis. We never really got that from him, save for a game or two. Great guy, good in the room, but this team can do better and they showed they can rely on LaBarbera in his appearances thus far, making the Sandman the odd man out. Nice to see Ryan Johnson back as well, as he will certainly make the PK stronger, and having his faceoff ability (as well as ferocious shot blocking) is always a bonus.

Saturday, January 10, 2009


There's your minimalist game review. The Vancouver Canucks can't be taken seriously until they start showing up against teams like St. Louis (and Atlanta... feel free to add others).They looked like they might squeek out an OT point that they didn't deserve when Mats Sundin got on the scoresheet and effectively ended the game. I am not dumping on the guy, he gets a grace period from me, but holy crap that was dumb penalty. Whatever. Some will wish to sit and dwell on this one (and how Sundin is a failure already, gotta love CDC), but with the Sharks in GM Place tonight, they have more pressing concerns. Overall the Canucks need to step up defensively. While I am not saying Jason LaBarbera is blameless in this one, he certainly had an off night, so much so I would give the start to Sanford tonight. He held the Sharks off the board the last time these teams met after Corey Schneider surrendered 5, and it may inspire LaBarbera to a better outing next time. The Canucks didn't lose any ground to the Oilers as they lost 4-1 to the Sharks, and have likely lost Zack Stortini for the rest of the season. Warning, the video is pretty nasty, in a Joe Theisman kind of way. Stortini's a goof, but you never want to see someone suffer an injury like that. Souray also suffered an upper body injury last night so the Oilers have more adversity to face in the weeks ahead.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Grabovski gives the linesman a shoveski, gets some time offski...

Pardon the pun... As if to but a big handful of candy sprinkles on the steaming turd that has been the Leafs season, Mikhail Grabovski was handed a 3 game suspension for abuse of an official after shoving linesman Scott Cherrey during an altercation with Sergei Kostitsyn in the 3rd period of last night's game against Les Canadiens. This one is intriguing, as the two are former friends who have been at each other twice this season now, and Grabovski insists it isn't over. "I think he is not Belarussian now, he is French because I never fight with Belarussian guys," Grabovski said. "I don't know why he wants to fight with me. If he wants to fight, we'll go in the street and every minute of every day I'll wait for him and we'll fight", said Grabovski. Kostitsyn shed some light on the feud, saying "He talks too much in the Russian papers about me and my brother". As long as he doesn't fight like Alexander Semin, it's all good...

The Canucks are home to the lowly (yeah, I said it...) St. Louis Blues. I find it pretty amazing that Chicago has managed to improve after years of being crappy, yet with all those high draft picks the Blues continue to hoover away at the bottom of the NHL standings. There is a huge buzz on this game obviously, as Mats Sundin makes his debut in front of the hometown crowd. You can expect a playoff-like atmosphere at least as far as the Canucks are concerned. The Blues may as well enjoy it, as this is the closest they will get to the post-season this year. CDC reports LaBarbera should get the start tonight, but I won't be surprised to see Sanford go tonight against his old squad, with LaBarbera getting the nod against the Sharks tomorrow. The Canucks will have Ryan Johnson back in the lineup tonight, and have sent Alexander Bolduc back to Manitoba which means Jannik Hansen is back in the fold, I bet we see him with a lot more energy now that he has been shown he must earn his spot every night. The Blues are led by Brad Boyes, who somehow leads the team in scoring with 34 points while being a -22. Wow. Keith Tkachuk is having a decent season for an old bastard, and rookie Patrik Berglund has 25 points thus far, being one of their few bright spots. The Blues haven't played since Saturday so this long layoff may actually hurt more than help. While the Canucks have struggled against the Blues over the years (Sanford had a big role in that) expect them to steamroll St. Louis tonight as Sundin reminds Vancouver why he is still a dominant player in the NHL at age 38.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Not how I wanted to watch the game

So I had resigned myself to watching the game on tape after the fact, as I was working last night. I didn't think I would actually spend 4 1/2 hours in the Emergency Room at Saanich Peninsula Hospital getting my thumb checked out. So the posts won't be long for the next while, as 1 handed typing sucks.

Maple Leafs sign Babych, Odjick

TORONTO, ON- (BS) Hot on the heels of a trade that brought former Canucks enforcer Brad May to the Leafs from Anaheim, Leafs GM Brian Burke has gone to the Vancouver well once again, signing D Dave Babych and LW Gino Odjick. Both players were enjoying their retirements when Burke called, desperate to make changes with a Toronto team that continues to flounder. Babych and Odjick will play for the league minimum, plus knee braces. No word yet on who will be sent to the Marlies to make room for the newcomers, but Burke said he will look at who is leading the team in scoring to help make his decision.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

The Sundin Experiment- Chapter 1

And so it begins. It's been quite a journey to get to this spot, but after months of speculation, and emotions from hockey fans around the world Mats Sundin makes his debut tonight as a Vancouver Canuck. It had been thought that the Canucks would unveil him at home Friday against St. Louis, but I like the idea of him getting a game under his belt before playing for the hometown faithful. That's not to say that this isn't an important game, either. A divisional clash against a team nipping at their heels who have bested the Canucks the last time, the Canucks need a win tonight to keep pace with the Flames, who did something last night few can claim: they beat the Sharks. So with the Wild 4 points back, and the Oilers and Avs another 2 behind, a win on the road is crucial.

To expect Mats Sundin to be an influence on tonight's game beyond an inspirational and emotional one leadership-wise may be asking too much. But it seems right for his debut, only one other game, and it's in the eastern time zone, so all eyes will be on Rexall Place tonight, especially those of the Leaf Nation. Sundin and the Canucks will travel to the ACC next month, and many there are prepared to unleash their bitterness and frustration at Sundin when he arrives, much like they did on Bryan McCabe last night when the Florida Panthers rolled into town. In true Leaf fashion, it was much ado about nothing, as the Leafs lost 4-2. While some respect Sundin for his play as a Leaf (one of the greatest of all time, for sure) others treat him as a traitor for not waiving his no-trade clause last season. While my thoughts are generally once you leave the team, you play for the enemy there can be exceptions to the rule based on the player. I wouldn't have booed Trevor Linden on his return to GM Place. Todd Bertuzzi, eh... that's another story. And hate me if you want, but it could come to a coin toss when it comes to Markus Naslund's return to Vancouver. For me I guess it all boils down to heart. Leafs fans may be hurting (missing the playoffs does that to you, we know), but it's fairly naive to think that Sundin allowing himself to be traded would have had any impact on the team save for adding some young player. Do you think they would have been any happier had he gone to Detroit last season and raised the cup over his head? Face it, there's no pleasing Leafs fans.

Jason LaBarbera should get the start tonight, with Curtis Sanford back on the bench from his groin injury backing him up. Apart from the addition of Sundin, no real changes tonight, as all injuries are still status quo, though Ryan Johnson is about a week away, his broken foot healed but the broken finger still not well enough to allow his return. A key for the Canucks tonight is a quick start and a lead after 1. The Oilers have a .900 win % when leading after 1, .917 after 2 periods, but .286 and .071 when trailing the 1st and 2nd. The Canucks need to take advantage of Edmonton's awful PK, which sits 28th. LaBarbera has great stats in his career against Edmonton, winning 4 of 5 with a 1.05 GAA and .966 save percentage. The Oilers have won 2 straight, including the last match against the Canucks where they built a 3-0 lead and hung on to win 3-2. Sundin btw has 64 points in 41 games against the Oilers in his career. Just sayin'...

Former Canuck Jarko Ruutu has officially used up the last drop of his good will after the Chris Simon stomping incident as he is meeting with league officials to discuss why he allegedly bit Buffalo's Andrew Peters last night during a scuffle. To be fair, I don't think anyone deserves a facewash from Peters' stinky mitts. That being said, Ruutu appears to have Peters' thumb clenched between his teeth in the video.
The All Star game is fast approaching, and while many are still angry the league did nothing to curtail the ridiculous vote-rigging by Habs fans (sorry, I don't care how well he has played this season, Mike Komisarek is a nobody), there is more controversy over the league's picks for the reserve lineup. There always seems to be players left out so that each team can have a representative, which makes sense on one hand, but then again, is there really an All Star on the St. Louis Blues this season? So the NHL has named Roberto Luongo as it's Vancouver rep in the game. Forget the fact that Bobby Lu is on the IR, and has been since November, right? I am willing to bet even if he is ready to play, he turns down the invitation. He likely won't play until after the break anyways. That leads us to who should replace him, and more likely who should have been named in the first place. Daniel Sedin is having a hell of a season. He has more goals than many of those named, is in the top 20 in points, and has more than a dozen more points than Dustin Brown, the Kings' representative. So the league needs to replace Luongo with Daniel and all is good, right? But will they? That means some other team's goalie will get named. I think they should add rookie Steve Mason of Columbus, who has been outstanding. They likely won't, so expect Mikka Kiprusoff of Calgary to get the nod.

Our 1st podcast of 2009 will be ready to go Friday as we recap the week for the Canucks and look at back to back games against St. Louis and San Jose Friday and Saturday as Mats gets to know the fans and vice versa.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Canucks send Hansen, Schneider to the Moose

While it's no surprise that Cory Schneider is going back to the Moose, given the way he started the year, it is a shock to see Jannik Hansen headed to Winnipeg. Between time with the Sedins and a line with Kesler and Burrows, Hansen was off to a great start, and looked to be continuing the progress made last season. Somewhere along the line his play really began to drop off though, and he will now have to work his way back to the team. This is good news for Jason Jaffrey, who has done everything right since getting called back up to the team, even fighting to prove he didn't deserve to go back to the Canucks' AHL affiliate. Does this mean a certain #13 makes his debut as a Canuck Wednesday? Stay tuned...

The record's stuck... the record's stuck... the record's stuck...

Another great performance by Jason LaBarbera, another maddening shootout loss because we have guys who can't put the puck in the freakin' net... Dallas didn't really deserve a point in that game last night. Marty "Informer" Turco really saved their asses on a number of occasions, but was still the 2nd best goalie of the night. I feel for LaBarbera, who has played well since coming over to the Canucks, but only has one win to show for it. Things could change as we will know soon if Mats Sundin will be in the lineup Wednesday against Edmonton, but in the meantime the Canucks need to figure out a way to start getting wins in the shootout, or those lost points will come back to haunt them. A good night from the 4th line once again, Darcy Hordichuk is proving to be quite a good pickup for the Nucks, as well as the line of Raymond, Wellwood and Bernier, who looked dangerous all night.

Canada faces off against Sweden for gold in 15 minutes, I am calling it 5-4 for Canada. It's gonna be a hell of a game, and as a Canucks fan you have to love the way Cody Hodgson has played in this tournament. This kid will be a star, I can just feel it.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Sunday update: Nux @ Stars, Last second madness in Ottawa and more...

We will be making a few changes yet again here at WAACH, so bear with us as we implement them. Hope you all had an enjoyable holiday, I know we did here at the WAACHhouse.

Big game for the Canucks tonight as they look to get back on track on Dallas, but let's kick things off with more gushing about that incredible game against the Russians last night. The back and forth nature of that game certainly made for some high drama, as Pat Quinn's troops seemed to let their foot off the Russian team's throat everytime they got the lead. It could be a good sign though, maybe they are saving their best for last? There are still some issues that Quinn and the coaching staff will need to address before tomorrow evening's gold medal final: giveaways, and discipline. Those seemed to be the glaring issues for me in last night's game. Canadian players trying to make cutesy plays instead the smart and safe play (lord knows we on the west coast are experts on this topic...), like PK Subban in particular, were guilty of handing opportunities to the Russians when a simple pass or dump in would have sufficed. Let's not kid ourselves, these young men are under HUGE pressure to win at home, and many will never play in a bigger game than Monday night's contest, but they are there because they are the best players this country has to offer at this level, so they must be prepared to bring their A game. I was quite disappointed to hear booing during this game though. They are still kids, and booing them for not scoring on a power play, or because they couldn't stop a tenacious Russian squad from fighting back is mind-boggling. One of the nasty side-affects of being such a hockey mad nation, I guess...
The Swedes seem to be a very fast skating, skilled and opportunistic team, and Canada will need to throw everything they have at them, especially physically to come out with the gold.

The Canucks are back at home after a disappointing shootout loss in Atlanta on Friday. The good news is they play a Dallas team that despite staying over in Edmonton will still be tired. The Stars lack of success this season is a major story, Sean Avery circus aside. They have had some injuries, but a lack of production and sub-par goaltending from equipment standards informant Marty Turco has seen the once mighty Stars fall towards the basement of the Western Conference, tied with Nashville for 2nd last and so far behind division leaders San Jose they may need a GPS just to find them. The Stars are currently without Captain Brendan Morrow, Sergei Zubov, Joel Lundqvist and Fabian (Don't believe the hype) Brunnstrom, and last night lost the services of Landon Wilson after 42 seconds. He is listed as questionable. Global reported that the Canucks will have Mattias Ohlund back in the lineup tonight, after leaving the Atlanta game with an upper body injury. The Canucks are still without Roberto Luongo, Sami Salo, Taylor Pyatt, Curtis Sanford, Ryan Johnson and Rick Rypien.
The Canucks have managed to keep the ship afloat during Luongo's absence, but this win a game, lose a game streak has to stop. A win tonight will be the first time the Canucks have earned points in 3 consecutive games since November. The Stars have played better of late, battling to get to a .500 record, but they certainly aren't playing like the team that once dominated the Pacific Division this season. They did earn 8 wins in December, matching their total for the previous 2 months, but have a long road ahead if they hope to make the playoffs. It is worthy to note that those 8 wins have come since the team removed Avery from their lineup. The Canucks will be expecting a better effort from the line of Steve Bernier, Mason Raymond and Kyle Wellwood, who were pointless in Atlanta and called out by Coach Alain Vigneault to show up for tonight's contest. It's a PPV, starting at 7, and it should be a good one. The Canucks Fan Zone will be live blogging tonight, I just may pop in... not sure yet.

NOTES: Though it seems he regularly commits acts worthy of it, the Ducks Cory Perry was finally suspended by the league, this time for an elbow Friday night against the Flyers, he will miss the next 4 contests... What was funnier than Sidney Crosby's 'ready or not' tussle against Carolina? How about Alexander Semin showing that Rock Band and hockey fights don't mix... Wow. Not even sure what to say about that one...