Friday, August 19, 2011

30 Fans in 30 Days: Artful Puck & the Vancouver Canucks

As a lead-up to the new season, here at HockeyBroad we'll both be reviewing How Teams Spent Their Summer Vacation, and also profiling one fan from each team's fandom, covering 30 Teams In 30 Days. The teams will be profiled in order determined by their points standing last season, highest to lowest, with the exception of Chicago, which will be profiled last to coincide with the date of their Training Camp Festival. 

Team 1 of 30: the Vancouver Canucks.


Vancouver had their best season in years: winning the President's Trophy and the Western Conference en route to their first appearance in a Stanley Cup Final in 15 years. The heart of Vancouver erupted in riots after the Canucks lost to the Bruins in game 7; the city cleaned up the aftermath, the players cleaned up at the NHL Awards; and the Canucks have had a short season to reorganize and get ready for the new season, no doubt with a new hunger for achieving so much but ultimately coming up empty-handed.

While the Canucks didn't have quite the same salary cap issues as Chicago had a year before, they did move a number of players off their roster this summer. Perhaps their most interesting acquisition was Marco Sturm, who only played 35 games during the 2010-11 season, split between the LA Kings and Washington Capitals. Can Sturm return to being a 30 or 40+ point player? The team's biggest loss came with the departure of Christian Ehrhoff, who joined the Buffalo Sabres. The team lost a bit of grit with character players like Tanner Glass, Rick Rypien and Raffi Torres departing the team, but like their archrivals in Chicago, Vancouver is built around a core of talented players and should continue to be a strong contender in the Western Conference.

Although Rick Rypien was going to be playing for the Jets in the new season, he had spent his career with the Canucks. His death this week stunned the league and took a gritty player with loads of heart from us far too soon.

New to team - listed on current roster (some may end up in AHL)/team acquired from: Nolan Baumgartner (Moose), Byron Bitz (FLA) (IR), Andrew Ebbett (PHX), Mark Mancari (BUF), Steven Pinizzotto (Bears), Marco Sturm (WSH), Alexander Sulzer (FLA); Owen Nolan (*PTO) and Todd Fedoruk (*PTO)
Players who appeared in games for the Canucks during the 2010-11 season that have been traded or not re-signed: Jonas Andersson, Mario Bliznak, Alexandre Bolduc (PHX), Guillaume Desbiens (CGY), Christian Ehrhoff (BUF), Tanner Glass (WPG), Evan Oberg (FLA), Joel Perrault, Rick Rypien (WPG/deceased), Peter Schaefer, Sergei Shirokov (FLA), Lee Sweatt (retired), Jeff Tambellini, Raffi Torres (PHX)

Vancouver also lost their popular AHL affiliate, the Manitoba Moose, when the NHL moved the Atlanta Thrashers to Winnipeg to become the Jets (v 2.0). The Moose were owned by True North, who also own the Jets, so they were moved to St. John's and renamed the IceCaps. The Canucks affiliated with the most obvious choice of available AHL teams in the market: the Chicago Wolves, who were last affiliated with the Thrashers. This move will provide a great deal of flavor to the newly reorganized Midwest division of the AHL, which now contains the AHL affiliates for the Blackhawks (Rockford IceHogs), Predators (Milwaukee Admirals), Blues (Peoria Rivermen), and Hurricanes (Charlotte Checkers).


To kick off 30 Fans in 30 Days, we talked to Vancouver Canucks fan @Artful_Puck, who blogs over at ArtfulPuck.

What is your history of being a fan of the Canucks?

First and foremost I am a hockey fan and appreciate all good hockey. While living in the east I followed several east coast teams for years and did not watch much western conference hockey at all until I relocated to the western U.S. At that time I decided to take a much closer look at the western conference teams and the Vancouver Canucks stood out. Yes, I am a U.S. Vancouver Canucks fan. Why? Probably because they are a team everyone loves to hate and because they have yet to win a Stanley Cup. But most of all because the Canucks have been incredibly fun to watch on their quest for the Cup. My most exciting moment as a fan this year had to have been when I attended the Canucks’ Western Conference semi-finals in Nashville and I look forward to another playoff run next season that ends with a Stanley Cup.

Which player that your team signed/acquired this summer are you most excited to see take the ice this season?

Kevin Bieksa (re-signed)

Taking into consideration your team's performance last year/recently, and any player/personnel (coaches, GMs, ownership) changes made in the past few months, talk about your team in 2011-2012: How do you think they've improved (or made worse)? What do they need to work on? Discuss anything related to your team's performance for the 2011-12 season, good or bad.

June 15, 2011 – a painful night for the Vancouver Canucks and their fans. With very little spare time to mourn the loss of their Stanley Cup dream, the Canucks quickly re-signed Kevin Bieksa in late June. This of course came as a huge relief to fans since Bieksa had played a crucial role in their advancement to the finals. By the end of July Alberts, Salo, Lapierre, Baumgartner, Higgins and Hansen had all re-signed, while the three most crucial departures were Christian Ehrhoff, Raffi Torres and Tanner Glass. What the Stanley Cup Finals taught us is that the Canucks need more size and power to accompany their speed and as a result the Canucks have signed a group of players who can add some much needed grit and strength – Sturm, Bitz, Sulzer, Ebbett, Mancari, Duco and Pinizzotto. No blockbusters. Nothing terribly flashy, but there is certainly size and strength here. With a number of players still recovering from injuries sustained during the playoffs, this group will give the Canucks some flexibility, more depth and options.

In order for the Canucks to make the playoffs this season their returning players must be healthy. Of the three most seriously injured, Dan Hamhuis hopes to be ready for training camp this summer, but Ryan Kesler will most likely be out through October and into November, and Mason Raymond will not return until December or January. Interestingly, the Canucks have signed Owen Nolan and Todd Fedoruk to PTO’s and many will be watching closely to see if they can fill some of the gaps. To be honest, I would like to see the grizzled, experienced veteran Owen Nolan added. Nolan, at age 39, still has the hunger and desire to win and his experience would be a great asset to the Canucks on and off the ice, adding even more depth. I greatly admire hockey players who can outlast many of the youngsters in the sport. Look at Teemu Selanne, Mark Recchi, and Nicklas Lidström to name a few.

Despite the criticism, Roberto Luongo’s numbers still illustrate that he is one of the league’s top goalies, but he certainly needs to improve his mental concentration in high pressure situations. At the moment, the Canucks have Cory Schneider as backup, but there is always a fear that Schneider could be traded if the right incentive were offered. Expect Henrik and Daniel Sedin to once again be at the top of NHL scoring stats and the Canucks to make the playoffs again in 2011-2012. If all goes well the Canucks could hoist the Cup ending their 41 year drought.

In addition to the Canucks’ NHL summer news they also lost their ten-year AHL affiliate, the Manitoba Moose. In May the Moose owners True North Sports and Entertainment announced that they had purchased the Atlanta Thrashers which were to be moved and renamed the Winnipeg Jets. The Manitoba Moose, now affiliated with the Jets, have moved to St. John’s in Newfoundland and Labrador, and have been renamed the St. John’s IceCaps. The Chicago Wolves, the AHL affiliate to the Atlanta Thrashers found themselves without an NHL affiliation and in late June, the Canucks and the Chicago Wolves announced their two-year affiliation agreement.

Despite the dismay by some fans – many Chicago Wolves fans are also Chicago Blackhawks fans, and there exists an intense rivalry between the Blackhawks and Canucks … yes, you get the picture – despite that dismay, this affiliation is actually tremendously beneficial to both the Wolves and the Canucks. The Chicago Wolves are well respected for being a very solid and independent AHL hockey club. They are highly competitive and they want to win. The Canucks have exactly the same desires for their AHL affiliate and they readily invested time, money and excellent prospects into the Manitoba Moose. While I was saddened by the loss of the Manitoba Moose AHL team, the merger of the current Chicago Wolves roster, Canucks’ ex-Manitoba Moose players, and their new coach Craig MacTavish, the 2011-2012 Chicago Wolves season should be great fun to watch for both Chicago and Vancouver fans alike.

And for you Illinois folks, the Vancouver Canucks present Bill Sweatt, born in Elburn, Illinois! And yes, he is on Twitter @billysweatt, so give him a follow.

Whether or not you think your team will make the playoffs, where do you predict your team will place within their conference? (1st-15th)

1st in their conference.

What was your favorite moment for your team last season?

There were many favorite moments in the Vancouver Canucks run for the Stanley Cup this past season, however one of the most exciting and mindboggling was without doubt game 5 against San Jose which ended with Kevin Bieksa’s double OT “Immaculate Deflection off the Stanchion” goal to advance to the Stanley Cup Finals. (For more on the “Immaculate Deflection” see Pass it to Bulis Sports Blog “Retire the Stanchion” at The Vancouver Sun)

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