Last week, the Vancouver Canucks held a couple of town hall meetings with season ticket holders, in which President Trevor Linden and GM Jim Benning outlined the direction of the team, such as it is, and defended themselves against accusations of general incompetence.
Notably absent from accounts of this meeting was any discussion of head coach Willie Desjardins. The Canucks bench boss seems to me to be coasting along in the wake of terribleness left by the front office. Lost amid the annoyance of the stupid money given to Derek Dorsett is the fact that Dorsett is getting more ice time than youngster Jake Virtanen, with no benefit to the club at all. Sven Baertschi is only barely ahead of Brandon Prust. Jared McCann is dead even with Adam Cracknell. For an organization that’s prioritizing youth development at the moment, these decisions are incredibly odd, but with Benning flushing assets down the toilet on the waiver wire every week and blundering through trade after trade, nobody seems to pay attention to the coach.
Desjardins is not a tactically strong coach. He was roundly out-coached in last year’s playoffs by Bob Hartley. His stubborn refusal to deploy the Sedins for offensive zone faceoffs to maximize their output, as Alain Vigneault did during his tenure, has cost the club countless scoring opportunities this season.
Desjardins was this regime’s guy. He was the anti-Torts. The one to nurture the kids after a year of neglect. It’s no surprise, then, that odds-makers don’t favour him to be shown the door any time soon. If, though, the Canucks are really serious about making the playoffs every year during this rebuild, he’ll need to be replaced sooner rather than later.
If July 1 brings talk of trades, arbitration and free agent contracts, then August 1 is when hockey fans get down to the serious business of being impatient pricks on Twitter.
Goodbye, Bonino Phone
The Canucks sent Nick Bonino and prospect Adam Clendening to Pittsburgh for career third-liner Brandon Sutter. On the whole, people in Vancouver were not happy. Imagine the sadness emanating from the Raffi household, for example. There just wasn’t time to record that Boninophone track that dammit should have happened no matter what you say, and BOOM, the Canucks essentially traded Ryan Kesler to the Ducks for Brandon Sutter’s 3rd line minutes.
Of course, once Bob McKenzie confirmed the trade, hand-wringing, hair-pulling and all-around whinging ramped up in seconds.
@Kent_Wilson The best part is that it's becoming more likely that the Canucks saw Sbisa as the central piece in the Kesler deal.
YVR haters don’t even stop when a player leaves the Vancouver roster. Ex-Canuck and Scrabble aficionado Tanner Glass takes one on the jaw in chart form: the Glass-to-Crosby scale, based on production vs possession, favours the Penguins. Fancy stats people tend to dislike Sutter, generally speaking.
Cooler heads made an appearance, too. (Jeez, I can’t believe I’m on the same side as Tony Gallagher on this one. The difference? I make more hockey-related supporting arguments in 121 characters than ol’ Radio Face does in 500 words.)
I like the acquisition of Brandon Sutter for the #Canucks. Good grit and flexibility to play middle six minutes & PK/PP2.
As always, the jury is out until we see results on the ice. But let’s be honest: the Vancouver Canucks are not going to play an entertaining, up-tempo brand of firewagon hockey, a la 2011. Brandon Sutter gives them some consistent sandpaper, however, to compete against a never-say-die Flames squad and those dirty, rotten, stinkin’ bastards who call themselves the Anaheim Ducks.
Current crop of Canucks lacking personality
Vancouver fans are still stinging from the dump of Eddie Lack’s meagre salary. Do I think he’s a number one goalie? No. Should he have been given away for meaningless late draft picks? No way, Jose. There goes our boy Ed showing off his new pads, which alas feature the Carolina Toilet Flush:
For those who don’t like to gram the insta (did I do that right?), those pads look like this:
How many goalies will paint the Great Wall on their masks?
The 2022 Winter Olympiad will be held in Beijing, which means the NHL will be under more pressure to extend its agreement to allow players to play for Olympic gold. There’s so much money involved in China, both above board and under the table, that not even Gary Bettman can let ego get in the way of a deal.
If you thought Puck Daddy’s Jersey Fouls posts were entertaining before, wait until you see a generation of new fans wearing counterfeit Team USA Crosby sweaters.
I only hope Dave Bidini, he of the wonderful book Tropic of Hockey, gets a piece of the action somehow. Outside of ex-pat teachers lacing up the skates in backwater rinks of Mongolia, ol’ Dave was the first person to give hockey in Asia any serious attention.
Russell and Jason go with off-season hockey for episode 70: mostly Canucks stuff, but we throw some Brandon Saad and Phil Kessel in there for good measure. Bonus CanCon with Trooper hitting up the outro track.
Sofa Surfer Girl by the Orchid Highway
Scars, plasma and exposed dermis, oh my!
Canucks bleeding out
Sell low, buy pretty much nothing
So long Eddie, so long Shawn, so long Juice
Vancouver media and their goldfish attention sp…
Prust is trade bait at the deadline
What about Ryan Miller & the twins?
Brandon Saad gets PAID
Will Phil Kessel finally hit 40 goals?
Three Dressed Up as a Nine by Trooper
Thanks for Listening
Adios, Mr Kassian. May your IQ be always in your favour.
Russell and Jason wax poetic on a range of hockey topics, from Mike Babcock’s monster contract to Brian Burke’s monster ego and Ilya Kovalchuk’s monster cajones.
• Pop Tart Girl by the Orchid Highway
• The Russians have left the ice
• McKayla is unimpressed with Ilya Kovalchuk
• Kudos to Alex Ovechkin
• Mike Babcock is a Leaf. What a shocker
• Kessel & Phaneuf, your days are numbered
• Brian Burke, one ego to rule them all
• Will there be apotheosis for Babs in T-dot?
• Who will be GM?
• The Wreck of the Maple Leafs Season — a parody by Peter Gross
We at Pucked in the Head don’t hang our heads in shame and tears just because the Vancouver Canucks had their behinds handed to them by the low-down, dirty, rotten, head-shottin’, potshottin’, ball-droppin’ Flames. Nay, we hold our heads high and own our team’s decades-long failure to bring a Cup to the west coast. At least we’re not the bloody Leafs, right?
And so, we put our heads together and prognosticate the second round of the Stanley Cup playoffs for your scoffing pleasure.
New York Rangers vs Washington Capitals
Jason: Kudos to the Capitals for skirting past the New York Islanders, but even with Alex Ovechkin honouring defensive assignments they won’t have enough to get past the Vigneault-led Blueshirts. Lundqvist outsaves Braden Holtby in a series whose brevity belies hard-fought games. Rangers in five.
Chris: If there’s anything to indicate that Washington can take New York in a best-of-seven, I haven’t seen it. The Rangers steamrolled Pittsburgh and then took the weekend off while the Islanders gave the Caps all they could handle. (That’s right: Eleven shots on goal is about all the Capitals could handle.) Ovechkin may be the best player in this series, but New York is deeper, and Alain Vigneault shouldn’t even need a full pack of lozenges to out-coach Barry Trotz. Rangers in five.
Montreal Canadiens vs Tampa Bay Lightning
Chris: Should be a barn-burner. The Lightning netted a whopping 41 more goals than the Habs during the regular season, but Montreal’s defence was much stronger. On recent form, my money goes to Tampa. They dispatched Detroit without a single goal from Steven Stamkos, and you can only hold that man off the score sheet for so long. Meanwhile, the Canadiens were lucky to get past Ottawa in a game six where a referee’s untimely whistle cost the Sens a tying goal in a contest they dominated. Lightning in seven.
Jason: Kudos to the Bolts for getting past the ageing wreck of a Red Wings team that barely made the post-season. I mean, the Wings have only been mired in a Mike Babcock will-he-or-won’t-he story all year long, and got to Game Seven on the strength of a handful of nobodies ruddering a ship full of greybeards. The Habs, on the other hand, have been the class of the East for a couple of seasons, boast perennial candidates for the Norris and Vezina trophies, and ride the winds of the most powerfully emotional fan support in North American sport. Individually, what’s not to love about seeing PK Subban flatten Steven Stamkos? These guys have been playing hockey against each other for twenty years already, and damned if it ain’t more fun every year. Canadiens in six.
Anaheim Ducks vs Calgary Flames
Jason: Do we really have to talk about this? Where the Canucks and Flames both exceeded expectations by just making the dance in the first place, the Ducks have been promising a deep run for years. Getzlaf, Kesler, Perry, Beauchemin, Fowler… This roster is deeper than any of the wrinkles walking into Botox clinics around the Honda Center. The Flames are hard-working, sure, but they’re just a bunch of Grade Eight boys hanging about in the corner, ogling the good looking seniors across the gymnasium floor. Ducks in two and a half.
Chris: Seeing the Flames in the second round is enough to make me want to vomit like I’d just eaten undercooked fowl. Undercooked, by the way, is exactly what I expect these particular fowl to be at the end of the Pacific Division Final. The Flames are a terrible possession team, and their luck won’t get them close enough to roast the Ducks. The Saddledome crowd helps Hiller steal one from his old team, but Ducks in five.
Chicago Blackhawks vs Minnesota Wild
Chris: Devan Dubnyk has been outstanding, but I’m not convinced he can hold off the Hawks’ firepower. Both teams have high-end defencemen that can do a number on the opposition’s top line, but the Wild lack the offensive depth that Chicago has in spades. One ray of hope for Minnesota: Corey Crawford is in net, and Chicago conceded 21 goals to a similarly dubious offensive team in Nashville. The goaltending disparity will keep the series interesting, but Chicago outscores its problems. Hawks in six.
Jason: The Chicago Blackhawks have somehow flown under most people’s radars this season. Jeez Louise, people, this team is full of all-Stars, Olympians and beauties who fuckin’ work their nuts off, and has won two of the past five Stanley Cups. As for the Wild, Thomas Vanek has been promising to do something important in the playoffs for years, but hasn’t helped a team win anything since the 2003 Golden Gophers took the NCAA championship. Maybe it’s unfair to saddle the guy with his teams’ lack of success, but damnation, does this guy ever know how to pull a disappearing act in the post-season. Ryan Suter can’t do everything, man. Hawks in five.
A tough week for Vancouver sports fans, as the Canucks, Whitecaps and Stealth all lose on home turf. Is there light at the end of the rainy, oil-slicked tunnel?
• Sofa Surfer Girl by the Orchid Highway
• Vancouver Canucks: plosion guards extraordinaires
• Russell sucks at basketball brackets
• The Canucks outperformed expectations
• The Flames deserved the win
• Stats don’t apply to the Calgary Flames
• Call-in shows feature some… interesting people
• Breaking: Willie Desjardins is 114 years old
• Don’t bring a nativity scene onto the ice
• If you don’t like the twins, you’re a bad person
• People still talk trash about Luongo
• The Sediins & Bobby Lu will be in the Hall of Fame
• Russell: Break up the Sedins
• Vrbata-Bonino-Higgins: a great third line
• Refrain: The twins need help
• Help! by the Beatles
Pucked in the Head is proud to welcome Richard Davalos (@QuakesFan84) and his Playoff Beard Diary. For those growing facial hair, we salute you! Just… maybe not for much longer.
Who wants to go to Vegas? Twenty-one years ago the Vancouver Canucks were in this exact position, down three games to one to the Calgary Flames, but that’s right where the similarities end. Unlike 21 years ago the Canucks are the higher seed and get two of the next three at home. Unlike 21 years ago, the Canucks scored two or more goals in every game in the series heading into game 5. Unlike 21 years ago, there was no debate about who would start each game in net.
This year’s Canucks are down to their final chips. They’re staring at the dealer holding a king to their 6 and 5. There’s no choice but to double down and go for broke for a shot at playing one more hand.
I can haz Sportsnet voiceover job now please?
Seriously though, what the hell is Willie Desjardins doing? He’s trying to goad the Flames into chasing the Canucks in the offensive zone when that has never been their style. They sit back and wait for you to shoot at them, then they take the puck, drive into the zone, hold it in deep and make it a hell of a task to get it out. The Canucks are doing the equivalent of chasing cards, hoping that if they just keep making the same bets over and over again, the deck (or shoe, if you like 3+ deck blackjack) will eventually turn and put them back in the positive.
Pucked in the Head is proud to welcome Richard Davalos (@QuakesFan84) and his Playoff Beard Diary. For those growing facial hair, we salute you!
When it comes to watching Canucks playoff hockey, there is no difference between self-congratulation and self-flagellation. The first five minutes of the game are all “whoo GO CANUCKS GO!” and the final five minutes are “I’m not sure how much of this I can take,” *Calgary scores*, “Why do I put myself through this?”
It’s good to be watching playoff hockey and experiencing impotent frustration again. Feelings of wanting to be alone for a while after a loss, where would I be without you? Happier? Ehhh, happiness is overrated.
The team that makes the least number of defensive mistakes will win this series.
Yell at Luca Sbisa all you want, it’s completely off base. Yannick Weber was the one who decided that the best way to clear the puck from the defensive zone was up the middle, hanging Sbisa out to dry defending a spontaneous 3-on-1. There’s even less for a fan to do in that situation, other than hope that Eddie Lack makes the save. Pick your poison, Canucks fans: defensive issues or goaltending issues. One is easier to fix, provided you don’t hand a major source of it a three-year deal with an AAV of $3.6 million.
Around the League
St. Louis does it again. Is there really any other team with a bigger case of the playoff yips the last ten years than the Blues? They are 8-18 in their last five playoff appearances (including this year) and they’ve been swept twice. For a team in its prime, St Loo is underachieving at a level that could see coach Hitchcock fired outright, or at the very least sitting squarely on a scaldingly hot seat. There’s the bad luck of running into a buzzsaw every year, and this is not that. With Kevin Shattenkirk presumably back at 100%, there’s no excuse.
No suspension for PK Subban after his hack at Mark Stone’s wrist, resulting in a microfracture and putting the Calder candidate’s availability for Game Two and beyond up in the air. I was satisfied with the original five-minute major given to Subban for the infraction, but was iffy on whether it deserved a game misconduct since it was not as hard of a slash as it could have been. Then again, that’s like saying, “getting shot once is not as bad as getting shot four or five times”. I wouldn’t want to take a hack to the wrist at any strength. If the NHL is serious about removing dirty play from the game, the five-and-a-game call for even potentially injurious hits need to be doled out regularly. Suspend the infraction, not the injury.
Any fears of Anaheim getting upset by Winnipeg should have greatly diminished after Game One. Anaheim was the faster, deeper, stronger team, and the Jets looked completely sluggish in the third period. It also doesn’t help that the Jets’ captain took out Ondrej Pavelec in the pregame skate, undoubtedly affecting the Czech goalie’s mindset in the opening minutes. Regardless, the final stanza of that game was all Anaheim, and Winnipeg was just holding on for dear life. A repeat performance in Game Two and the atmosphere back at MTS for Game Three won’t be sufficient to boost the shallow Jets back into the series.
Pucked in the Head is proud to welcome Richard Davalos (@QuakesFan84) and his Playoff Beard Diary. For those about to grow facial hair, we salute you!
It’s NHL playoff time, and that means it’s playoff beard time!
The playoff beard is the primary tradition come playoff time in the NHL for players, but over the last 15 years, the beard-growing has caught on with fans who now do not shave until their team is eliminated. The refusal to shave is a tradition started in the 1980s by the New York Islanders. Those unholy, talented bastards didn’t shave until they were eliminated or won the Stanley Cup, whichever came first. The only team since the Islanders to win the Cup without partaking in the superstitious tradition was the 1994 New York Rangers, who refused to participate in any tradition started by the rival Islanders. (Sorry, Canucks fans, but we can’t just pretend it didn’t happen.) I love this tradition beyond measure, because it’s an annual reminder that I cannot grow any sort of facial hair. Hair grows faster on my nipples than it does on my face. THIS IS A BAD AND EMBARRASSING THING AND YOU’RE WELCOME FOR THE VISUAL.
When I last wrote a Playoff Beard Diary way back in 2012, the Canucks got run out of their first round series in 5 games. NHL owners then decided that they couldn’t stop throwing money at players and locked them out. In retaliation, I boycotted the NHL for two full years; a #RallyBoycott, if you will. My #RallyBoycott clearly impacted the Canucks rather heavily and they did not win a single playoff game during the #RallyBoycott. First they were swept by the dirty, rotten, stinkin’ no-good San Jose Sharks, then they went and joined my protest — they refused to take part in the post-season last year at all!
Nothing of value was missed. Now that the #RallyBoycott is over, the Canucks are in the playoffs again! I guarantee they will win infinitely more playoff games this playoff run than they did in the entire time I refused to watch NHL “action”. Enough about my undeniable powers of witchcraft and sorcery, let’s get to the games.
(Side note: WTF is this new playoff format? I feel like the Denslow Cup Bracket is easier to explain. Could Calgary really get home ice in the second round despite being the overall 8th seed out west? This is the biggest bullshit of all bullshits.)
(M1) New York Rangers v. (WC2) Pittsburgh Penguins The Penguins scraped into the playoffs despite Crosby-Malkin-Fleury being the three biggest bums on the planet. I mean, seriously, Sidney, you let Jamie Behn beat you in a scoring race? What a chu. The Rangers went on a massive run to the Presidents’ Trophy despite losing Henrik Lundqvist for an extended period of time. Thank you, Alain Vigneault. AV is, like, the king of Presidents’ Trophies now. NBC has to be happy about this playoff matchup. Every game is guaranteed to receive top billing by the American TV rightsholder.
My heart says: Rangers in 5.
My head says: Rangers in 6.
(A1) Montreal Canadiens v. (WC1) Ottawa Senators White Rock, BC native Andrew Hammond went from being a below-average AHL goalie to the second coming of Jacques fricking Plante. We’ll find out, I’m sure, that there’s some sort of red pill – blue pill scenario playing out here. Lawrence Fishburne, tell us true, now… Les Habitants are riding a Price that is very Right. (Editor’s note: GROAN.) Carey is far and away the best Canadian goaltender in the world right now. Rogers has to be happy that in the first year of their massive deal, they get five Canadian teams in the playoffs. Now about those terrible voiceovers for intros…
My heart says: Senators in 7
My head says: Canadiens in 6
(A2) Tampa Bay Lightning v. (A3) Detroit Red Wings Tampa just could not keep pace with Montreal in the final two weeks of the season. The Red Wings keep their two-decade-plus streak of making the playoffs alive, but the margin of error is shrinking. The Lightning get a very favourable matchup in the first round with a depleted Detroit squad. Stevie Y won’t be quite so beloved in Motown if he keeps this up.
My heart says: Lightning in 4
My head says: Lightning in 5
(M2) Washington Capitals v. (M3) New York Islanders The Islanders were once in position to win the Metropolitan Division, but proceeded to fart away that possibility and went so far as to lose home ice in the first round. (Editor’s note: So THAT’s what the smell at Nassau Coliseum was…) The Capitals ground out a number of wins on the back of the Great 8 and look to erase the memories of recent failures. This should be quite an entertaining matchup that’s heavy on the offense.
My heart says: Islanders in 6
My head says: Capitals in 7.
(P1) Anaheim Ducks v. (WC2) Winnipeg Jets Anaheim continues to overcome barely-existent shortfalls in net and has top billing in the West for as long as they’re alive. Winnipeg is also overcoming goaltending issues and they have shown they can win without major names in the lineup, be it from injury or suspension. Please, #SoCalSucks, come true this year.
My heart says: Jets in 6
My head says: Ducks in 5
(C1) St. Louis Blues v. (WC1) Minnesota Wild The Blues won the division nobody wanted, powering through a weak spot in early March and overtaking Nashville in the final week. Minnesota has been absolutely lights-out since acquiring Devan Dubnyk, riding him hard to their own once-unlikely playoff spot. (Editor’s note: Heh heh. #HockeyPorn.) How much more does Dubnyk have left in him this season?
My heart says: Blues in 6
My head says: Wild in 7
(C2) Nashville Predators v. (C3) Chicago Blackhawks Over the final ten weeks of the season, the Nashville Predators went from unstoppable juggernaut to invisible, milquetoast enigma. The Chicago Blackhawks were doing okay without an injured Patrick Kane for a while, then reality hit. Nashville and Chicago enter the playoffs on six- and four-game losing streaks, respectively. Someone has to win this series. (Editor’s note: Or DO they? The format this year is, like, weird, dude.)
My heart says: Predators in 6
My head says: Blackhawks in 5
(P2) Vancouver Canucks v. (P3) Calgary Flames The overall 8-seed Calgary Flames look to rekindle a rivalry that has been mostly dormant for the better part of a decade. The Vancouver Canucks appear to be worldbeaters one day, and the Worst. Team. Ever. the very next day. The team that makes the least number of defensive mistakes will win this series. Advantage: nobody.
My heart says: Canucks in 6
My head says: Canucks in 7
Premature 2nd round picks… and so on
Rangers over Capitals in 5
Lightning over Canadiens in 6
Ducks over Canucks in 6
Wild over Blackhawks in 7
Lightning over Rangers in 7
Wild over Ducks in 6
Stanley Cup Final
Tampa Bay over Minnesota in 7
Conn Smythe: Steven Stamkos
@ Montreal 4, Ottawa 2
@ Washington 5, NY Islanders 3
Chicago 3, @ Nashville 1
@ Vancouver 2, Calgary 1
Pat Quinn, may he rest in peace, leaves a massive, Irish imprint upon our community, having changed the course of franchises at the professional, junior and minor levels of hockey in Vancouver. Russell and Jason discuss the big man and give him one last tip of the Pucked in the Head hat. I dig out some audio of an interview I was fortunate enough to conduct with Pat Quinn about a year before his passing. We also discuss the Canucks playoff race, in a timely, timely manner. So timely. Like, mayor of Crazy Town timeliness. Dude. Timely.
• Sofa Surfer Girl by the Orchid Highway
• Russell mails it in
• Linden, Bure, Odjick, this guy influenced a generation of Canucks
• Quinn’s hand in the Vancouver Giants
• Pat Quinn talks about Gordie Howe & Bobby Orr
• Pat Quinn memorial night at Rogers Arena
• Canucks down the stretch
• Time for a Change by the Orchid Highway
• We are professionals