C-Mac’s Report Card
I teach…therefore I grade. Gear up for the playoff ride Vancouver Canucks fans.
The Vancouver Canucks were rather Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde this season (as we discussed way back at the quarter season mark).
They started quite slowly, then went on a tear before Christmas through February, dropped off considerably in early March, then went on a terrific 8-1-1 streak to close out the 2011/12 campaign as President’s Trophy winners for the second consecutive year.
This tumultuous season has stirred a great deal of excitement and apprehension at the same time into the playoffs mix, as most of us may be initially quite unsure as to how it will all play out in the run to the Stanley Cup. But we will try and analyse it anyway.
Coach V - Focused on refining his tactics
Top 3 Developments to love about the Canucks
1. Alain Vigneault’s coaching approach this year. AV has always had a poor view of public criticism and the majority of media commentary at the best of times, and he has certainly ignored most of the flak directed at him this year.
Instead he has ignored them and focused on refining his tactics, line matching and resting his vets to prepare for the post-season. And his players get it.
They need to work and the coaching staff will strive even harder to pave the way for what is needed.
2. Cory Schneider is finally fully ready to step in if Lou needs help. Roberto Luongo is the best answer for this team at goaltender, but what a Plan B we have if needed.
3. That the team has last years’ experience to draw from and use as motivation to go one step further.
Top 3 Concerns about the Canucks
1. Will Daniel Sedin be able to integrate comfortably back into the line-up, with a minimum of symptom occurrences stemming from his concussion? He is vital to the cause.
2. Can the second line get going to provide that secondary scoring that is desperately required when defenders focus more intently on the first line? (Is Ryan Kesler playoff ready?)
3. How many bandwaggoners will suffer grievous injury continuously falling off and climbing back on the wagon?
Top Goalie: Try as I might, it is impossible to break the tie here, simply because the two spectacular netminders fulfill such diverse roles. Lou bears the weight on his shoulders of the number one job and his play has been for the most part very consistently high. Five shutouts this year put him in second place among current active goalies.
Cory Schneider was by far the best back-up in the league with a save percentage in the top three league wide. He has learned well under the influence of goalie coach Rollie Melanson and Roberto Luongo.
Watching the games and interviews provides a good measure of the mutual respect and admiration between the two stalwarts.
Top Defenceman: Alex Edler may have won the team awards, but I am in full agreement with colleague Josh Hall here at North West Sports Beat that Dan Hamhuis has been the beacon on the back line. A plus 29 rating is immense for a defenceman who plays primarily as the shutdown guy against the top lines on a nightly basis.
He also has career best point totals to boot.
Had he not gone out early against the Bruins last year, the Canucks would likely be defending champs at this juncture.
Top Left Winger: Chris Higgins has become the solution to line solidarity in the past few months. He mirrors Burrows in doing whatever needs to happen so the team can win.
2012 Final Player Grades: Chris Higgins, the solution to line solidarity
Moved to the third line, he inspires Sami Pahlsson and Jannik Hansen and Canucks options explode.
Top Centre: Henrik Sedin’s last ten games have made it beyond reproach that he is one of the elite players in the game. Despite the team funk in March, Henrik has demonstrated that no matter who is placed on his line, they will score.
In brief stretches, Mason Raymond, Andrew Ebbett, Byron Bitz and Maxim Lapierre all became red light specialists.
Top Right Winger: Alex Burrows does it all for the team. He checks, defends power plays, scores in bunches (even while shorthanded) and bleeds green, blue & white.
AV has done this team an immense favour with his constant tinkering over the latter part of the season, no matter how batty he drove the fans and certain media figures. He essentially tried to show what teams must resort to in the event of injury, suspension and situational play.
The players are now intimately familiar with one another’s game and have no excuses if they have to shift roles at a moment’s notice. Vigneault and his coaching staff are well liked among his player s for a reason because he is consummate in his preparation.
The Western Conference is as tough now as at any point in recent memory with the drastically retooled Preds, Blues and Kings, and with long term threat Detroit.
Mike Gillis and AV have made some key changes but have also focused on flexibility in how to reach their goals. Expect a tough battle ahead, but don’t say that this team has not worked to address the task at hand.
The Finals beckon again.
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© C-Mac for North West Sports Beat, 2012. |
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