Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Should the Canucks fire Gillis or Tortorella?

There's a lot of talk these days in Vancouver regarding their coach and general manager.  Who should take the fall for the horrendous season in which the team will miss the playoffs, and do so with a pop gun offence, atrocious power play and late game collapses?

Some media (Jason Botchford and Tony Gallagher to name a couple) think that Tortorella should go, and there is some considerable logic to put behind that opinion.  You could make a case for Tortorella if you believe any of the following:

1) Tortorella's tirade into the Calgary locker room in January "lost the room", embarrassed the franchise and was a big reason for the team's 2014 collapse.

2) Tortorella's "defensive, up tempo" style of collapsing in front of your net and blocking shots has resulted in increased injuries, and lack of a transition game, stifling offence.

3) Tortorella's insistence on riding top players with major minutes wore out the Sedins and Kesler early in the season, resulting in a horrendous power play and prolonged scoring slumps.  The same tactics reduced ice time for the team's bottom 6, limiting their contributions.

4) Tortorella's decision to start Eddie Lack in the Heritage Classic drove Luongo over the edge and forced the team to start a rookie goaltender as their starter for at least 17 straight games over February and March.

All of these have some validity, and it's pretty evident that Tortorella's style of coaching has not worked well with this club.  Back in December, Torts was chewing out Jannik Hansen and Alex Edler on the bench, and calling timeouts at key moments to reverse the flow.  He was pushing all the right buttons it seemed.

Or was he?

Jannik Hansen and Alex Edler have had horrible seasons, and Tortorella cannot seem to find the pulse of the team.  Even Torts looks like he's given up.  Early season Torts would've dropped an F-bomb behind the bench.  Now?  Just a lot of looking skyward and shaking his head.  That will be the lasting image from this year.

But before you pull the trigger on Tortorella, why not consider the following:

What did the Canucks management group expect when they hired Tortorella?
1) A media fiasco resulting from Torts' actions on an HNIC broadcast? Check
2) A defensive system based on collapsing around an all-star goaltender and putrid offence? Check
3) A propensity for playing top-end forwards 24 minutes a night (see Tampa Bay 2005-2007)? Check
4) A questionable benching in a big game (*cough* Brad Richards *cough*)? Check

Hmm... seems like the Canucks got JOHN TORTORELLA.  He came as advertised!  He coached exactly as John Tortorella coaches.  The problem?  It didn't work.

Torts was hired to squeeze some extra energy out of the team.  Well, he sure did!  He squeezed the life right out of them.  In fact, it seems that Tortorella getting these Vancouver Canucks to play Torts style is akin to Michael Buble playing like Metallica.  It's just not a good idea. So let's all agree that the John Tortorella Experiment Failed.  Okay?

He wasn't able to summon the mystical 2011 Canucks from this group.  There is no stanchion, there is no dragon slaying, there is certainly no power play and no offense, and most importantly, there are no playoffs.

The John Tortorella Experiment FAILED.

So...let's fire Tortorella.  And then what?  GM Mike Gillis and ownership hire ANOTHER coach to come in and lead this group to the promised land?

Are we really going to give management a free pass on this one? They JUST CHOSE Tortorella last summer, and signed him to a 5-year contract.  They said Tortorella is part of this team's 'reset', part of the "Master Plan" by GM Mike Gillis to reinvent reset retool regroup reload re-anything but a rebuild this team.

They fired Alain Vigneault because the team couldn't score goals and blew leads late in games.  Sound familiar?  Maybe it's not Torts' fault?  Maybe it's not AV's fault?

Since 2012, the Vancouver Canucks offense has shriveled up and died, especially in the playoffs.
In 2012, 4th in the NHL
In 2013, 18th in the NHL
In 2014, 28th in the NHL.

The power play looks just as bad.  It's not Torts.

Since the 2011 Stanley Cup Final, the Canucks have scored 24 goals in 16 playoff games, and they've lost 12 of their last 14 playoff games.  But they won't even get there this year.

The General Manager has managed to trade away two franchise, all-star goaltenders for a draft pick, a prospect goaltender and a third line center.  Of course, he let a goalie controversy fester for two seasons before making a deal.

He's handcuffed himself with long-term deals (with no movement clauses) to players unfit for a Tortorella system, and found himself unable to add scoring to this team for over two years now.  They continue to get worse under his watch, all while fans are asked to patiently wait for a winning team to arrive.

What does this winning team look like?  Well, that's anybody's guess.
Gillis and the Canucks enjoy telling season ticket holders that they're building a team with a different identity, just don't expect them to tell you what that identity is.

Anyone with a brain knew that Bo Horvat, Brendan Gaunce, Hunter Shinkaruk and Nicklas Jensen weren't going to play major roles this year, and most won't for another two or three years.

In fact, let's look forward to opening day 2014-15.  Aside from Torts' former Rangers' captain Ryan Callahan, there isn't a whole lot on the UFA market this year.  So get ready for more of the same pop-gun offense.  Barring anyone riding in on a white horse, the Canucks' hopes for improvement lie with the likes of Zack Kassian, Nicklas Jensen, a rookie Bo Horvat, a resurgent David Booth, and a returning Mike Santorelli.  Really?

Here's what will really happen:

Gillis and the Canucks will KEEP Tortorella, because it's expensive to fire him and makes their decision look bad.  He will blame the colossal failure this season on injuries to top players.

Even though Jensen only got a late season audition, and Shinkaruk, Gaunce, Horvat etc. all stayed in junior, Gillis will point to Zac Dalpe, Darren Archibald, Ryan Stanton and Eddie Lack as evidence of the team's "reset", and he'll sell fans on Zack Kassian and Chris Tanev, even though Kassian receives next to no power play or top six time.

Gillis may make a major deal in the off-season, perhaps a Kesler deal.  However, given his trade record, fans should unplug his phone.

Sorry to say this Canucks' fans, but firing Torts won't help, and this team may actually still get worse before it gets better.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Canucks' Blown Leads are a Troubling Trend

A little over half way through the season, The Canucks are pretty much where most expected them to be.  They sit 7th in the Western Conference, and 11th in the NHL.  Their Corsi For %, (5 on 5, score close) is 10th, and their goal differential is 11th in the NHL.  They've endured some lengthy injuries that has challenged their depth, uncovered some gems in Mike Santorelli and Ryan Stanton, and received quality goal tending from the question mark that was Roberto Luongo heading into the season.

So, they're pretty much where they're "supposed" to be.  And yet, anyone following the team has witnessed the gut-wrenching ways they have lost games this season and wondered what the real identity of this group is.  They've outplayed the opposition on most nights, but they've given up goals in rapid succession, in the dying seconds of periods, blown leads late, and often.  

When leading after two periods, the Canucks are only 15-2-2 (.789) this year.  That's good for 22nd in the NHL.  The teams ahead of the Canucks in the West are 122-2-11 (.904).  However, before you blame John Tortorella for this mess, his Rangers were 16-0-0 last year in those situations.  Also remember that the Canucks were only 18-2-3 (.783) last year under Alain Vigneault, and also blew two games against San Jose in the playoffs while leading with under five minutes left.

In fact, there's a troubling trend for this group over the past few seasons:

Year Lead After 2 Winning %
2008-09 30-0-3 0.909
2009-10 32-1-0 0.970
2010-11 38-0-3 0.927
2011-12 32-1-2 0.914
2012-13 18-2-3 0.783
2013-14 15-2-2 0.789

These stats do not even tell the full picture however, as many leads generated early in the third period this year have also been squandered in the waning moments.  

In fact, when the Canucks are leading in the second half of the third period, they've managed to forfeit 10 points of their own, and given Western Conference teams 10 points back.

Game Time Remaining Result Points Lost Points Given
Oct. 19 vs. PIT 6:48 left SOL 1 0
Oct. 22 vs. NYI 1:12 left OTW 0 0
Nov 14 vs. SJ 1:05 left OTL 1 2
Nov 19 vs. FLA 12:26 left SOL 1 0
Nov 23 vs. CHI 15:11 (2g - 9 secs) L 2 2
Nov 25 vs. LA 2:54 left OTL 1 2
Dec 17 vs. MIN 11:13 left SOL 1 2
Dec 30 vs. PHI 0:47 left SOL 1 0
Jan 5 vs. ANA 1:27 left OTL 1 2
Jan 7 vs. PIT 0:55 left (2g - 16 secs) SOL 1 0

Funny enough, that’s pretty similar to their performance over a 48 game schedule all of last season, when they forfeited 7 points of their own, and gave 11 points back to Western rivals.  How do those numbers compare with division rivals Anaheim, Los Angeles, and San Jose this season?

Team / Year Points Lost Points Given Total
Vancouver 2014 10 10 20
Vancouver 2013 7 11 18
San Jose 2014 4 7 11
Anaheim 2014 5 5 10
Los Angeles 2014 2 3 5

If that wasn’t enough, the Canucks have also managed to give up goals in the dying seconds of the 2nd period on numerous occasions this year as well (St. Louis, Detroit, Phoenix, Anaheim, Tampa Bay).  Those back breakers resulted in a 1-3-1 record, giving division rivals 5 more points.

For some, it may not matter when these goals go in, or how these losses occur, because the Canucks are probably where they deserve to be in the standings.  However, this is clearly a trend that extends beyond the last month and a half.  The Canucks have been unable to close games for the past two seasons.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Kassian & Gagner: Reply to @mc79Hockey

When I began this blog a few years ago, I planned on posting periodically to counter some ‘expert analysis’ that I saw out there in mainstream papers and the blogosphere. After Zack Kassian’s high-stick caught Sam Gagner in the face last Saturday night in Edmonton, some journalists and bloggers rushed to put their take online for others to read. Most were very level-headed, but one particular tweet caught my eye.


Sunday, September 15, 2013

PuckWatch Daily Picks Return

As the NHL regular season approaches, PuckWatch will be here with you.  After a summer without much hockey, it's time to ramp up our daily money line picks and fantasy draft tips to ensure you can win your pool and make some money.

Here's our history of picking winners over the past four (4) seasons

OVERALL RECORD: 2207-869-349 (69.5%)
2012-13 Record: 407-181-60 (67.4%)
2011-12 Record: 828-296-106 (71.6%)
2010-11 Record: 782-310-138 (69.2%)

2009-10 Record: 190-82-45 - (67%)

2013 Playoff Series Record:13-2
2012 Playoff Series Record: 8-7
2011 Playoff Record: 61-27 - Series 12-3
2010 Playoff Series Record: Series 11-4

Stay with PuckWatch every step of the way to get the edge!

Fantasy Hockey Tips

Fantasy Hockey Tips
Sitting atop the standings by season’s end usually takes a little bit of luck. Avoiding injuries, and predicting who will have a career year can literally make or break your chances. Stick to our plan, and you’ll guarantee yourself a finish at or near the top. By following some simple principles, you can ensure you’re in the money. Let’s start with 7 simple rules to beat your friends and show up your coworkers. These 7 tricks will mean the difference between being the laughing stock of your office and the subject of ridicule, or the person collecting some crisp bills and bragging rights.