Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Alex Edler's 2-game IIHF ban and Olympic ramifications

The heavy hand of the IIHF came down hard on Alex Edler this morning.  The Canucks defenceman, who was already forced to miss the last two games of the Worlds (a semi and a gold medal game), will have to additionally sit out the first two contests of Olympic play.  Though his unavailability for those opening matches now plays a factor in his eventual role for Sweden come February.

From an NHL perspective, the IIHF has a history of exaggerated suspensions.  With stricter rules for head shots and anything with the mere appearance of over-aggression, Canada's national teams often seem at a disadvantage when it comes to international punishment.  It's practically an annual tradition now that Canada's WJC team is depleted at some point in the tournament on account of suspensions.

So it is with some irony that Edler's increased ban was levied with a Canadian playing the role as victim.  But that's besides the point.  Any way you look at it, his knee-on-knee against Eric Staal was reckless.  And truth be told, given the IIHF's history, additional punishment was expected and, to a legitimate degree, warranted.  But a very large part of me protests this decision, nonetheless.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Canucks to retire Bure's number 10

Back in April, a flurry of Bure activity in Vancouver seemed to offer fans of the Russian Rocket false hope that number 10 might finally end up in the rafters. Tonight, at the Canucks' annual Summer Summit, one of the team's most lively debates in history was resolved as it was announced that Bure's jersey would be retired.

Truth be told, the Canucks' end-game with Bure's April tour of BC Children's and Rogers Arena was more-or-less transparent.  By drawing out Bure's re-introduction to the Vancouver community, Canucks brass were afforded the opportunity to test the waters for reception.  And when the Rogers Arena faithful elected to give Bure a standing ovation during his in-game appearance, jersey retirement became a foregone conclusion.

Nonetheless, the organization did an impressive job of preventing the story from leaking in the days leading up. Save for a Sportsnet tweet mid-Summit, it appeared that all there would be for Canucks Nation to discuss at this event was Luongo and Tortorella.

As far as those issues are concerned, however, the crowd of 2,000 seemed to be uniformly behind Luongo (apparently season ticket holders don't accurately reflect say, the Twitter population) and Tortorella really couldn't be saying better things in his first month of appearances.

Nonetheless, just as detractors for Tortorella remain, so too do they exist for Bure's jersey retirement. This was no slam dunk on Aquilini and Gillis' part.  The reasons for number 10 to remain in circulation (to be worn by the Trevor Letowskis and Ryan Johnsons of Vancouver's hockey world) are well-documented.  Let alone Bure's less-than-ceremonious departure, this clearly seems to disrupt the community service requirement that Gillis once declared for jersey retirement.

As Bure and the city of Vancouver continue with this mutually-ingratiating process, however, the door is wide open for the Russian Rocket to start in that regard.  A handful of BC Children's patients back in April would likely argue that he's already begun.  And without reading too much into him being put on the spot, Bure's comments tonight seem to illustrate him as entirely receptive to any charity event that Gillis might ask of him. 

With regards to that infamous holdout, if you're familiar with a similar falling out that Patrick Roy had in Montreal (just a couple of years prior to Bure's West Coast depature), then you might have some added insight to the way things have seemed to resolve themselves here.

Once the Hall of Fame offered league-wide recognition for Roy, it no longer made any real practical sense for Montreal to deny him of local honours.  Within two years of his induction, the Canadiens finally put water under the bridge and gave one of their best ever a hero's return.  Enter Bure's Hall of Fame nod last summer.  Fast forward a year and here we are.  The Canucks have granted Bure official prodigal son status.

Let it be known that I am in no way insinuating that Bure's contributions and significance to this organization are analogous to Roy and the Canadiens.  But the parallels of historical bad blood and divisiveness among fans are there, nonetheless.  So too now is the practice of repairing broken relationships and giving their superstars what's due to them.

The detractors will say what they will, but truly, the Canucks need this.  Consecutive 60-goal seasons, a Calder and yes, a Triple Deke.  For an organization that doesn't have a lot of history to celebrate, the opportunity to celebrate and recognize Bure's unprecedented achievements should be welcomed. 

Without exaggeration, Bure was the most skilled and most exciting player the team has ever had.  And as put by Gillis, his generation of NHL players yielded no match in those regards either.

So commence the mad appetite for ceremony admission and retro skate jerseys.  Congratulations, Mr. Bure.  Well-deserved and long overdue.

Monday, July 08, 2013

Farewell to Schneider, Raymond and company [Top 10 video]

Following the Canucks' second straight first round exit, a roster shakeup to any degree seemed like a strong possibility.  Indeed, led by Cory Schneider, the 2013 off-season has spurred on a bevy of multi-year Canucks, ranging from marginal cog to roster stape, who have either already moved on or are awaiting alternate pastures.

In ascending order of overall impact, they are -- Andrew Ebbett, Andrew Alberts, Keith Ballard, Maxim Lapierre, Mason Raymond, Manny Malhotra and, of course,  Schneider.  Thanks in large part to Gillis' failure to land an immediate impact player from New Jersey, none of these vacancies have truly been filled as we enter the fourth day of free agency.  Though that's a diatribe for another time.

Depending on who you ask, however, the exodus of any one of the aforementioned seven players may be welcome news.  Ebbett couldn't seem to take advantage of any opportunity presented to him, Raymond has inspired a entire website dedicated to his inability to stay upright and even Schneider had vehement detractors for his lack of success when it really counted.  Just as easily, however, any of the departing seven could and, in many cases, should be defended with equal-to-greater zeal.

So in celebration of their time here and -- as is ritual for any player dear to anybody, anywhere -- to offer a proper YouTube send off, scroll down and enjoy BTD's Farewell Top 10 to Schneider, Raymond, Lapierre and Ballard.

As should be expected, Schneider dominates this Top 10 with three of his saves included.  Ditto for Raymond.  My apologies to Ebbett and Alberts, but I didn't think anyone wanted to see footage of either of them sitting in the press box.  And for highlights of Malhotra's time in Vancouver, see the compilation put together in February.

Tuesday, July 02, 2013

Cory Schneider, prophetic Devils and opportunities squandered

"He's a number one goalie in this league... He's that good."

The above quote is credited to Czech centre and omni-Devil, Patrik Elias.  Without knowing the proper context, one might easily assume that the New Jersey forward had been asked by some draft-day reporter to assess his newest teammate.  Elias' lofty praise for Schneider, however, dates back to February 24, 2012, after the former Canucks netminder backstopped his team to a 2-1 win in New Jersey.

At a time when Schneider was still an overqualified backup, he turned aside 30 of his future teammates' shots, standing opposite Martin Brodeur.  Aptly enough, Elias finished his post-game interview by adding, "There will be 29 teams in line to get him when the time is right."

Schneider with now ex-teammates during a 2012 pre-game warmup.
Thoroughly outplayed by Schneider, the NHL's all-time goaltending great offered his opinion of his up-and-coming counterpart: "A lot of teams will look at the guy to be a next coming... The team that'll be able to grab him will find themselves a number one goalie."

Prophesy, you Devils.

It seems difficult to imagine now, but it wasn't that long ago that a trade involving Schneider was an inevitability rather than the curveball it represented Sunday afternoon.  That said, it's not as if Elias and Brodeur were speaking with great clairvoyancy, but it is interesting nonetheless to see how highly Schneider was regarded, even in the less-exposed East -- and especially within the team that inevitably acquired him.