Category Archives: Insights on Canucks

“The Great Santorelli”: Why His Recent Productivity is No Surprise to Me

van2Mike Santorelli has been the talk of the town over the last couple of weeks, as he has become a legitimate source of secondary scoring for the Canucks. Sports talk hosts wonder aloud how a guy who, during training camp, wasn’t even assured a roster spot with the Canucks  is managing to produce at a point-a-game rate. It seems no one saw this coming. . .

. . .no one, that is, except for me. I remember thinking, back when Gillis got Santorelli’s signature on a contract, that it was great for the Canucks to get a forward like him to help up front. How could I have had so much confidence in a player who is a virtual unknown? The answer is simple: “I’m a poolster.”

As a poolster, I am continually scanning the waiver wire for players who are starting to heat up, thus becoming candidates for being picked up to take advantage of a hot streak. And Mike Santorelli is a player who found his way onto my roster as a result of just such a streak back in 2010-2011. He had started his career quietly–putting up a mere 2 goals and 1 assist in 32 games over two partial seasons with Nashville–before moving to the Panthers for the 2010-2011 season. As a regular on the Panthers’ roster, he managed 14 points in the 33 games leading up to Christmas. But he came out of the Christmas break on fire, being kept off the score sheet in only one of the next 12 games.

The streak lasted until January 19, after which Santorelli only got 16 points in the remaining 37 games of the season. And he sunk into total obscurity during the next three seasons–15 points in 94 games. But his post-Christmas exploits of 2010-2011 have stuck in my mind through these intervening years, explaining why I was excited to hear Gillis had signed this guy who no one else had ever heard of. I knew he had the potential of supplying much needed secondary scoring for the Canucks. All it took to prove me right was Torts finally getting around to pairing him with a linemate the caliber of Ryan Kesler.

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Could this homemade DVD be the “Key” to a Stanley Cup Win for the Canucks??

Canucks highlights 2013 - 3The year was 2005. We had just lost a whole season to labour insanity, but the Canucks were still reigning Northwest Division Champs, with consecutive 100+ point seasons in their back pocket. I was so psyched for the new season, thinking “This could very well be the year the Canucks finally bring the Cup to Vancouver!” I even set out to burn the highlights of every game onto DVDs so that if they did indeed win the Cup, I would have a whole-season chronicle of the journey.

As we all know, it wasn’t to be. They stumbled badly down the stretch and ended up missing the final playoff spot by 3 points. Sure, it was disappointing, but my optimism wasn’t crushed. During the preseason of the 2006-07 season, when hockey debates were dominated by the question of whether the Canucks would make the playoffs, I was thinking “People, give your heads a shake! Roberto Luongo is now in the fold, so making the playoffs is a foregone conclusion!” And I boldly predicted to anyone who would listen that the Canucks were going to win the Northwest Division. . .and would even be contenders for the Stanley Cup. So, I again set out to collect every game’s highlights on DVD, just in case that did actually happen.

Well, the Canucks did regain the Northwest Division title as predicted, and Luongo did provide them with at least a fighting chance in the playoffs, sporting an impressive .941 save percentage. But the season ended a couple of rounds earlier than I had hoped. . .with Luongo’s infamous gaffe in double-overtime of game 6 against the Ducks. So, another set of DVDs that didn’t conclude with a Stanley Cup.

Actually, even if the Canucks had won the Cup in either of those two years, I would not have had a complete chronicle of the magical season, for I had managed to miss a game or two of highlights in each season. And being the superstitious guy I am, I began to wonder, “If I could finally succeed in collecting a complete set of game highlights for an entire season, maybe then the Canucks would finally win the Cup.”

In the seasons that followed, I tried to put together that complete set, but I got thwarted year after year. Sometimes, it was simply due to my own lack of diligence–like, simply forgetting to program the PVR to pick up a highlight package, or remembering to program the PVR but entering the wrong start/stop times.

Even when I was totally diligent, things seemed to conspire against me–like the time I programmed the correct start/stop times, but the TV network made a last-minute change in their programming to insert something else into that time slot. One season, I even missed a highlight package as the result of a federal election, with the extended coverage running into the time slot I had programmed for the sports news! So, when the Canucks failed to win the Cup each of those years, I was disappointed. . .but not entirely surprised.

But this year is different. This season, for the first time, the Canucks enter the playoffs with my collection of highlights totally complete. The regular-season stage of chronicle is totally unblemished! And I am going to be especially diligent in my PVR programming of the highlight packages of each playoff game. I have two trips planned during the next month, and I plan to record the highlight package for each game while away in two (perhaps even three) different time slots, to guard against being thwarted by changes in programming. . .or even extended election coverage. And I am fully expecting that the last shot of the last disc of game highlights will feature Henrik hoisting the Stanley Cup!

Canucks haven’t had same lineup in consecutive games for SIX WEEKS. . .and it’s hurting them

imagesToday, I was astounded to discover that the Canucks have not managed to ice the same lineup in two straight games for OVER TWENTY GAMES! And a comparison of their performance when they have had a stable lineup vs. when they have not reveals some fascinating patterns. For the details, see my post over at Nucks Misconduct.

Ballard as “WINGER/DEFENSEMAN” hybrid: solution to persistent problem?

imagesThe Canucks often melt down defensively when they lose a d-man to injury or ejection; think of the 6-3 loss in game 2 of the 2009 second-round series vs. the Hawks when Sammi Salo injured himself taking a slap shot. . .or the 8-1 loss in game 3 of the 2011 Cup finals vs. Boston when Aaron Rome was ejected for his hit on Nathan Horton. The solution? Have a forward who can drop back to the blueline whenever a d-man is lost to injury or ejection. And Keith Ballard could be exactly that guy! For details, see my post over at ‘NUCKS MISCONDUCT.

“Mortgage the Future for a Cup Win Now?” I can’t believe I’m even contemplating this!

images“YES! . . . NO! . . . . . . . . . . . . yes.” That was my reaction upon coming across a trade suggestion: Roberto Luongo and Nicklas Jensen for Marty St. Louis. I immediately started salivating at the prospect of a truly elite right winger going crazy with the Sedins! He is durable (having missed only 7 games in the last 10 years) and even though he’s 37, his points per game is higher this year than ever before. And, of course, it would mean the Canucks getting a significant asset back when trading away Luongo (which I was beginning to think wasn’t going to happen).

But after the initial flush of euphoria passed, some cold, hard facts came into focus. First, the Sedins need a linemate who can muck it up in the corners, and be a presence in front of the net, and that’s not St. Louis’ game. Also, St. Louis is a pass-first guy (32 assists over against only 7 goals this season), and the Sedins would be best served with a sniper on the right side. And there’s no getting around the fact he’s 37! He may be having a career year, and his current contract does run through the 2014-15 season, but how long can we realistically expect him to keep up this stellar play?

On the other side of the ledger, there is the giving up of Jensen, a sparkling gem in an otherwise underwhelming crop of prospects. Even for the immense help that a St. Louis would bring, should the Canucks further weaken an already weak prospects pool by trading away Jensen?

Then, a thought hit me. “Would it be so bad to mortgage the future in exchange for the sight of Hendrik Sedin hoisting the Stanley Cup this summer?” I couldn’t believe I was even contemplating this! But as I thought about it more, I came to a sobering realization: I MAY NEVER SEE A CANUCK CAPTAIN HOISTING THE STANLEY CUP MY WHOLE LIFE.

Let’s put this into perspective. Each of the Original Six have won the Cup multiple times, and with the Kings winning it last spring, there is now only one team from the 1967 expansion that has yet to sip from Lord Stanley’s Cup: the St. Louis Blues. But after the Blues, the Canucks (and their expansion cousins, the Sabres) are next in line for years as a franchise without a Cup win, a drought of 42 years. I’ve been following the Canucks right from day 1 back in 1970, and I’ve always thought, “Just be patient. . .it’s only a matter of time before it’s the Canucks’ turn.” But recently, it occurred to me I have absolutely nothing on which to base this belief. Absolutely nothing! For all I know, it may take another 42 years for them to win it (by which time, I’m not going to be around).

This has got me thinking, “Sure, trading Jensen away would clearly be mortgaging the future. But by the time he is ready to be a prime-time contributor, the Canucks’ current window of opportunity to win the Cup will have already closed. So, maybe mortgaging the future is a reasonable price to pay for a Cup win now.

It all boils down to this basic question: “Would you prefer: 1) a team that is in the hunt for the Stanley Cup every year, but run the risk of never attending a Cup parade down Robson, or 2) a team that does give you the parade, but then slips into mediocrity?” For years, I had not wanted the experience of Carolina fans who got their Cup, but then, were left wondering every year whether their team would even make the playoffs. But now I’m thinking that maybe being able to have the experience of seeing Hendrik skating around the ice with the Stanley Cup over his head, and of joining with hundreds of thousands of other Canucks fans for the parade, and of reveling in the fact that the Canucks have finally DONE IT . . . maybe having all that is worth going back to the days of mediocre hockey.

“Canucks blown out by Wings”: blame it on ‘Rosterjugglingitis’

imagesIt was pretty disheartening to see the Canucks get thrashed by the Red Wings the other day. And afterward, I heard a lot of talk about “end of a road trip” and “fourth game in six days”. But when I took a closer look at those four games, a different explanation emerged.

Last week, I wrote a post over at Nucks Misconduct making the case that the Canucks suffer from “rosterjugglingitis”–a malady involving a poor performance whenever a new player draws into the lineup–and that post suggested that the roster juggle (David Booth for Aaron Volpatti) for last week’s game against the Hawks may have been a contributing factor in the Canucks’ 4-3 shootout loss.

Continuing forward from there, the next game saw Volpatti draw back into the lineup to replace Jannik Hansen as he served his one-game suspension, and in the following game, Volpatti was back in the press box with Hansen’s return. This makes ‘player changes’ in three straight games, something the Canucks had managed to avoid all season. But fortunately, they were only playing the scoring-challenged Predators (who have been shut out nearly twice as many times as any other team), and managed an ugly 1-0 win.

Now, we come to the Detroit game, a fourth straight game involving ‘roster juggling’; that, by itself, basically guarantees a loss for the Canucks, despite the fact the Wings had played the night before, and had managed only one win in their last six games. But to make matters worse, the Canucks’ roster juggling involved multiple changes for the first time this season, with Kevin Bieksa down with an injury and Booth out with the flu, resulting in Volpatti and Andrew Alberts drawing into the lineup. For a team like the Canucks who suffer from rosterjugglingitis, this scenario represents a veritable “perfect storm”. . .and the Canucks did indeed get blown out of the rink.

PostMortem on Canucks-over-Hawks prediction: the “rosterjugglingitis” factor

Yes, a swing and a miss on my prediction on last night’s Canucks-Hawks tilt, but I didn’t miss by much! I’ve gone back over the data, and have discovered where I went wrong. My findings are set out in this post over at Nucks Misconduct.