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Wearing The Belt

Posted By Luke Mirza On Apr 5 2010 @ 2:53 am In Vancouver Canucks | No Comments

Back to back division titles is something all Canuck fans should be very pleased with. ¬†Ignoring the other happenings and the potential to back into title with a Colorado loss, the Nucks took care of business with a 4-3 OT win over Minnesota. After so many years of inconsistency with the team from VanCity it’s great to have a 3rd division title in 4 years and 4th in 6 years. Since AV took over the coaching reigns he has provided a level of confidence in this squad that has proven to outlast some very good teams in the Northwest Division. The most recent season in which the Canucks did not win the Northwest had them missing the playoffs, primarily because of devastating injuries to the back-end for the majority of the season. As said during the Canucks broadcast by colour-man John Garrett, when the Canucks hired AV, the knock on him was that he was too focused on defensive strategies and was unable to relate to offense players and coach a successful offense. Having coached in Ottawa (under Rick Bowness) and Montreal (where he was a runner-up for the Jack Adams Award), Vigneault was stuck in that defensive label because that was the hand he was dealt. Upon coming to Vancouver, the team he inherited was full of holes in the forward ranks but very strong on defense and in goal. Using the tools available he managed to lead his underwhelming roster into becoming one of the top defensive teams in the league. Now with a more well-rounded, forward-heavy team he has used these new players to become one of the top offensive teams in the league. The ability to get the most out of the players is really what shows you how good a coach AV can be. Mike Gillis knew what he was doing when he decided to hang onto him and it seems to have paid off.


The last few games have been very up and down, 3-8 loss, 5-4 win, 4-3 win and none of the games have given you the sense that the defense is playing at its highest level. However, leading into the playoffs the forwards are playing a strong, aggressive style that seems to be able to solve some problems. I’m still of the opinion that Willie Mitchell’s presence is sorely missed as the primary shutdown option is no longer there. Salo obviously fills that void now and he is less relied on for points now but it’s only a matter of time before some part of his body falls off. I was a big fan of Andrew Alberts with Carolina, and earlier this week but seems his play is more often bad than good. If Shane O’Brien is ready to play and has been punished enough, he is a better option without question. On quality of the player alone, Alberts is definitely the better D-Man, but SOB knows the system and has been much improved this season over previous years. If Willie Mitchell doesn’t return for the post-season, Ehrhoff, Salo, Edler, Bieksa, Rome and O’Brien are going the be the group to get it done. Rome has transitioned into the team seamlessly and won’t cause problems. Hopefully this group of 6 can get the job done.


With roster spots being the hot topic, how can you justify sending down Michael Grabner at this point? Prior to his freak soccer ankle injury earlier in the year he was playing great. After a sub-par training camp, I was among those ready to give up on this former round-1 pick. Playing with Kesler and Samuelsson earlier in the year, he developed some chemistry and was able to show some flashes of what made him that high draft pick. Since being called up after Samuelsson’s inury he has been, in my opinion, the best Canuck forward in almost every game. His hat-trick against Anaheim was no fluke as he was constantly driving to the net and using his speed and strength to create plays for himself and his teammates. At this point in his development it makes sense that he will benefit the most from being at the NHL level. Although it’s doubtful he will keep putting up goals, if he maintains his pace and the jump in his step he will provide an energy and intensity to the lineup that will only help come post-season.


Next Game

Colorado Avalanche vs. Vancouver Canucks – April 6, 2010 @ 7:00 PM PST – SNETP, VERSUS

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