Boston Bruins v Vancouver Canucks - Game Seven

Numerous awards cannot take away the Stanley Cup sting for the Canucks

7 Comments

Life can be a mixed bag sometimes. Promotions come long after you dreamed of a bigger office. That old flame returns just at the moment that you meet your future spouse.

The Vancouver Canucks probably related to those types of feelings during the 2011 NHL Awards. Major members of their team took home some impressive hardware. Daniel Sedin fell short of the Hart Trophy but earned the almost-as-good Ted Lindsay Award. Ryan Kesler blew away the competition on his way to his first-ever Selke Trophy. Roberto Luongo and Cory Schneider shared the underrated William M. Jennings Trophy for their combined brilliance in not allowing goals while Mike Gillis received the GM of the Year award for buying all the right ingredients.

It was the best regular season in Vancouver Canucks history, one of the most impressive runs for any regular season team and a deep, dramatic run in the playoffs to boot. Yet all of those accolades can be washed away by a single image of Zdeno Chara raising the Stanley Cup far above our heads.

Kesler expressed his own mixed feelings about the highs that came from being rewarded for his individual achievements and the pitiful lows of coming one win short of the ultimate goal.

“Obviously it’s nice to get acknowledged but at the end of the day that [the Stanley Cup] is the trophy we all want,” Kesler said. “It’s still hard to swallow now, but I’m sure in the next couple of weeks we’re going to look back and realize we had a great season, and we came one game away. Obviously it wasn’t our goal to come one game away, we wanted to win.  But we did a lot of things as an organization that we’ve never done before.  We won a Presidents trophy, and we did a lot of things. Time heals all wounds, right?”

Canucks GM Gillis made a lot of great moves before and during this season. Some were small (the surprisingly beneficial trades for Chris Higgins and Maxim Lapierre) and some were big (winning the Dan Hamhuis sweepstakes), but an impressive majority of those transactions ended up being positive for Vancouver. That’s the thing about playoff hockey, though; sometimes all it comes down to is those nagging memories of one night that went wrong.

Gillis appreciated the award, but couldn’t deny the underlying truth that it wasn’t enough to fill that Cup-sized hole.

“It’s great, I guess,” Gillis said. “It’s nice, I appreciate it but I would trade it in anytime for a Stanley Cup.”

While some Canucks players or representatives seemed less dour than the others, the overarching theme was that these series of accomplishments were stained by falling just short of a championship. Vancouver is actually in a pretty solid position to maintain their high level of play going forward – depending on how much you’ve given up on Roberto Luongo, perhaps – so maybe this crushing loss will actually be assessed as a painful stepping stone one day.

That’s probably the message head coach Alain Vigneault and GM Mike Gillis are sending, so we’ll learn a lot about the makeup of this Vancouver team in the 2011-12 season.

Under Bednar, Avs won’t ‘slow the game down’ like they did with Roy

Nathan MacKinnon
Getty
Leave a comment

Though it’s hard to pinpoint just one standout from the high-flying North American team at the World Cup, speedy Avs forward Nathan MacKinnon was certainly in the conversation.

Now, MacKinnon wants that tournament success to translate over to the regular season — and he’s confident Colorado’s coaching change will make it happen.

From the Denver Post:

Is [Jared] Bednar’s system different from what the Avalanche did under Patrick Roy?

“Yeah, it is,” MacKinnon said. “Now every puck we get, we want to move it up quickly and use our speed and not wait and go D-to-D, back to D and slow the game down.

“We have very good skaters on our team, and we want to use that.”

One of the blueliners responsible for moving the puck quickly, Tyson Barrie, echoed those sentiments.

“There’s going to be no messing around with the puck, no playing around with it in our end, in the neutral zone,” Barrie said of Bednar’s system, per NHL.com. “We’re going to be pushing the pace, getting it into the forwards’ hands. We’re going to play fast and our defensemen are going to be jumping.

“I’m super impressed.”

Not utilizing Colorado’s speed was considered one of Roy’s major failings as head coach. With the likes of MacKinnon and Matt Duchene in the mix, it seemed like playing an uptempo game was the obvious choice — yet, as stated above, the Colorado blueliners were instructed to play more east-west than north-south.

That figures to change under Bednar.

In his previous stop, Columbus’ AHL affiliate in Lake Erie, Bednar led a high-octane group that had no problem finding the back of the net. The Monsters led the American League in playoff scoring en route to the Calder Cup, and did it with a talented, versatile blueline that delivered pucks to the forwards.

(Bednar also had a glut of good, young talent at his disposal. Zach Werenski, the eight overall pick in 2015, anchored the blueline will the likes of Oliver Bjorkstrand and Sonny Milano were up front.)

Needless to say, Colorado should be a fascinating team to watch this year.

Related: Keep an eye on the goaltending situation in Colorado

Pouliot’s goal is to become ‘full-time player’ for Penguins

PITTSBURGH, PA - DECEMBER 27: Derrick Pouliout #51 of the Pittsburgh Penguins skates with the puck against the Washington Capitals at Consol Energy Center on December 27, 2014 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Matt Kincaid/Getty Images)
Getty
Leave a comment

The eighth overall pick in the 2012 draft, it’s fair to say that Derrick Pouliot has yet to reach his full potential. He’s only played 56 games for the Pittsburgh Penguins, stretched over two seasons. And compared to the rest of his draft class, that’s not very many NHL games.

Granted, it’s also fair to say that Pouliot’s still only 22, and defenseman are known to take longer to develop. This year, he says he’s come to camp in better shape, with the goal of staying with the Pens all season.

“That’s the goal. I know things can change pretty quick, but I’m confident with the shape I’m in and in my ability to play,” he said, per the Times Leader. “Hopefully I can make myself a full-time player here.”

Pouliot is still waivers-exempt, so he’ll need to earn his spot. The Penguins re-signed Justin Schultz for another year, and that could be his competition.

“We have high expectations for Derrick,” said head coach Mike Sullivan, per the Post-Gazette. “We’ve kept close tabs on him all summer long, and we knew he was coming into camp in the type of shape that he’s in. … He’s a very talented kid, and when he put those two things together, we think he’s going to improve another level.”

Report: Flames talking contract extension with Elliott

NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 12: Brian Elliott #1 of the St. Louis Blues tends net against the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden on November 12, 2015 in New York City. The Rangers defeated the Blues 6-3.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Getty
Leave a comment

The Calgary Flames are talking contract extension with their new goalie, Brian Elliott, according to St. Louis-based reporter Andy Strickland.

Elliott, 31, was acquired from the Blues at the draft in Buffalo. He has one year left on his current deal, at a cap hit of $2.5 million, before he can become an unrestricted free agent next summer.

No parameters of a potential deal were reported by Strickland, just that the two sides were talking. Elliott went 23-8-6 last season in St. Louis, with a .930 save percentage.

Flames GM Brad Treliving hinted at the draft that an extension could be in the cards.

“There’s no need to rush,” Treliving said, “but maybe there is a need to look at something.”

On July 1, the Flames signed Chad Johnson for one year to be the back-up. So currently, neither of Calgary’s two NHL goalies are signed past 2016-17.

Related: Elliott wants to be ‘backbone’ of Flames

KHL announces Sobotka will play with Avangard this season

WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 17: Vladimir Sobotka #17 of the St. Louis Blues warms up before playing the Washington Capitals in an NHL game at the Verizon Center on November 17, 2013 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
2 Comments

Big development on the Vladimir Sobotka-back-to-St. Louis front — on Tuesday, the KHL announced that Sobotka would play with Avangard Omsk next season, shooting down reports of his return to the Blues as “just rumors.”

Per Czech news outlet Ceska Televize, both Omsk’s team president and Sobotka’s agent confirmed the news.

This development comes after Sobotka’s stint with the Czech Republic at the World Cup. During the tournament, he addressed problems he was having with opting out of the last of his three-year deal with Omsk.

“We’re still talking and we’ll see what’s going to happen during the World Cup,” said Sobotka, per ESPN.com. “After that, I think we’re going to be smarter. It’s been going on for five months and I’ve had enough of it. It’s my agent’s job to to keep talking and we’ll see.”

NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly confirmed via the Associated Press that Sobotka was having “issues” returning to the Blues.

A good, versatile checking forward, Sobotka fled St. Louis after an arbitration hearing following the ’13-14 campaign. He scored a career-high 33 points in 61 games that season.

The Blues have been keen to get him back in the fold.

Ken Hitchcock, heading into his final season as head coach, has talked about the “great chemistry” between Sobotka and winger Jaden Schwartz, and there’s no doubt Hitchcock would’ve like to use that chemistry in what will be his final chance at a Stanley Cup.