The Canucks got a great win. But that still doesn’t change the big picture, no matter how many times you tweet.

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Are the Calgary Flames kinda bad?

Or have the Vancouver Canucks just finally found their game?

The Canucks have been the better team through two games. Maybe they just were making the Flames look that good during the brutal road trip through Cowtown in January.

Things were as bad as could be for the Canucks defensively. We can see that now.

They’re playing much better and finally have a win to show for it.

Saturday’s win was surely the best performance of the season: They out-shot-attempted Calgary 69-33 at 5-on-5 (remarkably, nearly half the attempts for — 33! — came with Tyler Myers on the ice) and they allowed just one shot on goal by the Flames while killing penalties.

Offensively they continue to do good things: they’re the sixth-best shooting team by expected goals, a measure of shot quality, according to Natural Stat Trick.

All this said, the Flames have given up only about half the goals the Canucks have: 37 versus 67.


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That’s about the tight defensive game they play and, yes, their goaltender.

Their offence, as we’ve seen the last two games, consists of Johnny Gaudreau, Elias Lindholm and Matthew Tkachuk. That’s good … but they need more.

Either way, it was a good win for the Canucks, delivering on the promise they’ve shown just in flashes to date.

High-event hockey

Good news: The Canucks are top-10 in the league in generating shot attempts at five on five.

Bad news: They’re still third from the bottim in allowing shot attempts against.

Conclusion: On the ice, the Canucks are definitely not boring.

The push to come

With the ship finally, possibly, maybe, righted, is there enough runway left?

The Canucks have 38 games to play. They have 14 points.

Everyone ahead of them in the standings has at least two games in hand. The Flames — who have yet to face the Senators — and the Jets have four, the Oilers two.

According to, the fourth spot in the North Division playoffs will take 62 points. (Right now the projection shows the Flames finishing fourth, even after their loss to the Canucks.)

In other words, the Canucks now need 48 points from their remaining 38 games, 24 wins give or take.

That’s a .631 winning percentage.

Just two Western Conference teams in 2019-20 posted points at such a clip: The Blues at .662 and the Avs at .657.

Protect your stars

The NHL continues to shrug at the abuse of its best players.


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That’s a trip by Valimaki. Could’ve given Pettersson a charley horse.

Those tweets

So let’s think a little more about the Six Tweets.

Sure, there’s the obvious conclusion that Canucks owner Francesco Aquilini is leaving the door open to make a decision on management to the end of the season. We’ve said time and again that the team would be wise to be methodical in how it plans.

Rushing to hire a GM *right now* risks landing on a square that you don’t really want.

And in the world of COVID-19, it’s an even harder time than ever to pick up a new GM.

If you were interested in someone like Laurence Gilman, he’s not going to be free to leave the Leafs until the end of the season most likely.

And while at some point you’re going to need to accept your teams likely missing of the playoffs, you don’t have to now.

When the time comes, though, as we’ve said twice in this space before, you need to get aggressive in moving out players — like Brandon Sutter and Tanner Pearson — on expiring contracts that teams would be interested in adding for the stretch drive. You should also be looking to move players on bigger contracts who might be useful to another team. Think about retaining salaries to make it work.

Trade values are always higher at the trade deadline, less in the summer.

You can use those picks as trade fodder to pull players off teams who will have to leave them exposed in the expansion draft.

Sooner rather than later, it’s going to be clear that time has run out, that it’s time to think in the long run and figure out how to properly set this team up to be a contender, not just one hoping on a wing and prayer to skate by.


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The players and coaches and the fans deserve a clear plan. That’s what we’ve argued here all along.


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As for the claims that the media is reporting “misinformation,” sir, show your work. What isn’t true? You can’t just shout fake news and then walk away. That doesn’t make it so.

We talk to people all the time. We look to get a sense of what’s going on. In my case, I look to figure out what *might* happen but more than anything, I look to suggest what I think *should* happen. That’s how this works in sports. And if I get a nugget about what might be in the works in terms of trades or things like that, I try to understand what’s being said as best as I can and then relay my take on that.

And sometimes applying pure logic to the public situation leads to obvious conclusions, like there are problems with the team’s salary structure. Or looking to compare with how the team has approached the off-season in the past versus now.

Nothing is made up. This is one of the things for which Jim Benning deserves credit: He’s always willing to give his take on a situation as best as he can, if he can’t, he’ll tell us why. We may not necessarily agree with his take on the situation but you have to respect his desire to fill in his side of the story.

What seems more likely in all this is Aquilini is mad that his ship is leaky. And that should be the bigger worry for him: Why are those leaks happening? Bad stories don’t leak out if morale is good — indeed bad things don’t generally happy in workplaces where morale is good. And having good morale isn’t that hard.

Want people to be happy and your organization to be moving forward in a positive manner? Find ways to support them through the toughest period of their lives. Show good faith towards them, not just in words but in actions.


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After all this, the fact remains that the Canucks have cap problems. The head coach doesn’t have a contract beyond this season. The GM’s role remains in a perilous position because of their low chance of making the playoffs.


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Change is still possible

Of course of it is. You can’t help but wonder if Travis Green is just looking at the summer and sees an opportunity to find somewhere new. He’s a big fan of the players here and like the city and the fans.

But no fit is perfect; maybe there’s a better fit elsewhere?

It does take two to sign a contract after all.

And if Benning had been let go, it’s a brutal time to be chasing a new GM. Most of the good candidates are still under contract. Someone like Laurence Gilman likely couldn’t leave the Maple Leafs at this point in the season.

But in the off-season? Sure.

Mike Gillis is available of course, but that always seemed the longest of shots, a step that Francesco himself was unlikely to take. It could still happen of course, stranger things have happened in sports.

At the end of the day, hiring should always be done methodically and not in a rush. There are lots of smart people in sports. Find them. Get it right.

A tale of two halves

The Canucks are on this list twice, for wildly divergent reasons.


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The Buyout Line

The Beagle line actually was pretty solid.

Then again, just about every Canuck was solid.

That said, this was one of those moments that could have been so much better from Virtanen.


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He actually forces the defenceman into a bobble of the puck because of his presence, but instead of engaging physically … he just blows past.


The tools are there.

The thing about trades

I was talking with ex-Canuck Geoff Courtnall recently.

He was, of course, part of a massive trade 30 years ago that changed the course of the Quinn era.

As I wrote about some weeks ago, the 1990-91 Canucks were in trouble. Quinn fired Bob McCammon as coach at the end of January but before in his first game in charge, the team witnessed a terrible plane crash just after arrival at LAX.

The Canucks lost four of the next five games.

They were fragile mentally.

A month after he took over and in the fourth year of a five-year deal, desperate to get his team to the playoffs and secure more of a future for himself, Quinn made a pair of trades on deadline day, most notably adding Courtnall, Cliff Ronning, Robert Dirk and Sergio Momesso from the Blues for Dan Quinn — no relation to Pat and a problem in the dressing room — and Garth Butcher.

The trade was the fourth trade pulled off by Quinn since the middle of January, re-shaping the look of the team. Quinn also added Dana Murzyn from the Flames on deadline day and had added Gerald Diduck and Tom Kurvers in separate trades in mid-January, while also sending Petri Skirko off to Boston. One of the stars of the very poor Canucks teams of the 1980s, Skriko had expressed great frustrations about his relationship with McCammon.


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“Confidence is the key to success. It comes in many different ways but you know one of the greatest things that I learned throughout my career from a great coach was winners think they can and they do, and if you can instil that feeling amongst the players, you’ll just go out there and good things will happen. And I think you start to believe and that’s sort of what happened that year,” Courtnall told me. “Cliffy obviously was really motivated, he’s from Vancouver. I’m from B.C. so I was really motivated. And you know when we got here, I think, the team was in last place. Sergio was a big, tough, good forward who could score and it was like Pat had added all the pieces that they needed.”

Ronning and Courtnall were put on a line with Trevor Linden, who was in his third NHL season but had been elevated towards the captaincy, sharing the C that year with Dan Quinn and Doug Lidster.

The line, which became known as the Life Line, clicked right away.

“I think that took a lot of pressure off Trevor. And when we got here there was a lot of young guys on the team who were kind of lost, no confidence,” he said. “The biggest thing that you have to do (with young players) is really always instil support and guidance to young guys to make them become the best players that they can be.”

But as Courtnall himself noted to me, this kind of trade is much, much harder to pull off today. The salary cap alone makes it more difficult, but so do the structure of player contracts through things like no-trade clauses.


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Once upon a time, this was an easy deal to pull together. There was a bit of a motivational factor too in the threat of the trade.

That said, the way players were then is vastly different from players today. Courtnall’s son Justin played junior and pro hockey and he coached his BCHL team for two years.

And while his son is now in his 30s, Courtnall still sees in young players today much of what he saw in his son and his peers.

“I think it’s definitely different today than when I played. I think there’s much more awareness of fitness and health. And maybe the mental side of the game is much different than when I played,” he said. “It was basically you worked your ass off and if you got a break, and you believed in yourself I think that you would have success.”

Not anymore.

I asked former colleague Jim Jamieson, who was covering the team then, for his thoughts on the move’s impact.

His reply:

This monster deal swung by Pat Quinn not only added by addition but also by subtraction. Canucks management was concerned about Dan Quinn’s deleterious effect on the dressing room in general and a young Trevor Linden in particular. That the team actually made the effort after the fact to bury the detail that Dan Quinn was named one of three rotating captains that year (Linden and Doug Lidster were the others) speaks to this. 

Anyway, they felt they had to get rid of Quinn and threw in defenceman Garth Butcher, a longtime fan favourite and also one of my all-time good people, but was also over-rated for what he brought to the table at that point in his career.


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In return they got:

• Cliff Ronning — who the Blues thought couldn’t be effective at even strength — who showed he could be just that and provided the team with a reliable top-six centre.

• Geoff Courtnall, a proven top-six winger with a bomb for a shot and the goals to prove it.

• A middle six winger in Sergio Momesso, who was big and physical but also capable of scoring goals.

• A big third pairing defenceman in Robert Dirk, who was nothing special, but was tough as nails.

If I could see this, I’m sure the guys in the dressing room saw it just as plainly. The had been rebuilt on the fly. There was a palpable feeling of excitement after the deal and the team played with a new energy for the final four weeks of the season and in a first round playoff loss to LA in six games.

Of course, Pavel Bure falling into the team’s lap from Russia early the next season just kept the momentum going.

Another talking point was that this was the year GM Pat Quinn was allowed to get back into coaching by the league. There were some cynical comments by some that he waited until he’d replaced Bob McCammon before pulling a trigger on this deal that remade the club. But that’s just white noise at this point.

As an aside: I’ve got a lot of respect for Courtnall, who was a leader on those Canucks teams and was one of those rare players who always plays better in the playoffs and better the bigger the game. I still think that the team letting him walk in free agency following the 1995 lockout shortened season was a big blow to the locker room going forward.


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