Canadian forward Sidney Crosby (87) and

Canucks could complete a rare run of top-level hockey in Vancouver with Stanley Cup win


On the heels of the Atlanta Thrashers to Winnipeg talk, Damien Cox discussed the idea that Canada might be entering another hockey “golden era.” That is an intriguing point to make, but perhaps the most interesting developing story is the rare two-year run of hockey in the city of Vancouver.

While it’s far too early to assume that the Canucks will win the Stanley Cup in 2011, they’re only six wins away from doing just that for the first time in franchise history. That would put a silver cherry on top of the greatest regular season in the club’s history, with a Presidents Trophy win and players such as Daniel Sedin, Roberto Luongo and Ryan Kesler earning major award nominations.

That run would be impressive enough, but when you combine the first quarter-plus of 2011 with the highest moments of 2010, it’s clear that Vancouver is having a hot run of heady hockey play that may never be duplicated. Let’s not forget what happened in the 2010 Olympics: Team Canada won the gold on its own soil in Vancouver as Sidney Crosby scored that iconic overtime goal. The Canucks’ own Luongo was in net for that gold medal win, capping a dream-like scenario for Vancouver hockey fans.

While their postseason ended in disappointment against the Chicago Blackhawks, the 2009-10 Canucks boasted some high points that this year’s team is building on. Henrik Sedin earned the Hart and Art Ross Trophies and ultimately sealed his fate as the Canucks’ captain. For all the talk about choking during the last two seasons, I’ll never forget the way the Canucks fought through a 14-game road trip caused by the Olympics.

No doubt about it, the San Jose Sharks could make a series out of the Western Conference finals with a win in Game 3 tonight. Even so, this stands as the Canucks’ best chance to win a Stanley Cup since Mark Messier buried their hopes in Game 7 of the 1994 Stanley Cup finals. It would be a memorable span either way.

That being said, if this Canucks team does manage to win the Cup, it might be time to christen Vancouver hockey’s “Gold and Silver City.”

DiMaio named Blues’ director of player personnel

via St. Louis Blues
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The St. Louis Blues named Rob DiMaio their director of player personnel on Tuesday.

He’s been with the organization for some time. He joined as a pro scout in 2008 and was the pro scouting director starting in August 2012.

He was also a scout for the Dallas Stars before landing with the Blues (one would assume his biggest connection is GM Doug Armstrong, then).

In case his nose didn’t give it away, he also enjoyed a lengthy hockey career over 19 seasons.

No doubt about it, this is a pivotal season for the Blues after multiple campaigns in which strong regular seasons dissolved into playoff disappointments. Perhaps DiMaio can make a difference in a heightened role?

Hitchcock going to more aggressive attack for Blues

Ken Hitchcock

ST. LOUIS (AP) After three straight first-round playoff exits, the St. Louis Blues have learned to temper expectations.

They have been consistently among the NHL’s best in the regular season and realize it is past time to build something for the long haul. The sting still lingers from the latest failure, against the Minnesota Wild last spring.

“We’re all disappointed, everybody can agree on that,” defenseman Alex Pietrangelo said. “It’s never easy to kind of think about your failures, but we grow every time it happens.”

Management isn’t ready to tear it all down yet.

“We play, in my opinion, one of the toughest if not the toughest division in the NHL, and we’ve finished first or second in the last four years,” forward Alexander Steen said. “So we have an extremely powerful team.”

Maybe a change in strategy will be enough: Coach Ken Hitchcock is back with a mandate for a more aggressive, even reckless, style of play from a roster that hasn’t changed appreciably.

“We’re coming hard from the back and we’re coming hard to see how close we can get to the attack,” Hitchcock said. “I think it’s where the game’s at; I think it’s where the game’s going to go.”

The 63-year-old Hitchcock is pushing forward, too, unwilling to dwell on the flameouts. Coach and players agree that would be “wasted energy.”

“My opinion is when you sit and think about the past, you do yourself no good,” Hitchcock said. “If you learn from the past, that’s when you do yourself a whole bunch of good.”

There were only two major roster casualties. Forward Troy Brouwer came from Washington in a trade for fan favorite T.J. Oshie. Defenseman Barret Jackman, the franchise career leader in games, wasn’t re-signed.

“If you were expecting 23 new faces to be on the roster this year, I don’t think that was realistic,” captain David Backes said. “We’re going to miss those guys in the room and on the ice, but there has been some changeover and I think it’s pretty significant.”

Things to watch for with the Blues:

GOALIE SHUFFLE: Just like last year, there’s no true No. 1 with Brian Elliott and Jake Allen sharing duties. The 25-year-old Allen missed a chance to seize the job last spring when he failed to raise his level in the playoffs.

TOP THREAT: Vladimir Tarasenko had a breakout season with 37 goals and was rewarded with an eight-year, $60 million contract. The 23-year-old winger is by far the Blues’ most dangerous scoring option and said he won’t let the money affect his play. “I never worry about it,” Tarasenko said. “If you play good, you play good.”

NEW FACES: Brouwer and center Kyle Brodziak add a physical element that was perhaps lacking a bit last season. Brouwer has three 20-plus goal seasons and Brodziak, acquired from Minnesota, fills a checking role. Veteran forward Scottie Upshall got a one-year, two-way deal after being coming to camp as a tryout. Rookie forward Robby Fabbri, a first-round pick last year, will get an early look. Another promising youngster, forward Ty Rattie, begins the year at Chicago of the AHL.

RECOVERY WARD: Forward Jori Lehteri bounced back quickly from ankle surgery and opens the season without restrictions. Another forward, Patrik Berglund, could miss half of the season following shoulder surgery.

TRACK RECORD: The Blues won the Central Division last season and Hitchcock, fourth on the career list with 708 regular-season wins, has consistently had the team near the top of the standings. “He is our coach, tough cookies if you don’t like it,” Backes said. “From my experience, he puts together one heck of a game plan.”