Alain Vigneault

Five things the Canucks could do

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1. Get rid of Alain Vigneault

The easiest change general manager Mike Gillis could make. All he’d have to do is pull the trigger. “You’re fired.” Anyone could do that. Of course, it also means Gillis would have to find a competent replacement, and that’s less easy. Does he go with an experienced candidate like Lindy Ruff? Does he look within the organization? Or, is there a young, innovative mind out there — maybe an assistant in the NHL, or a head coach in the AHL — that can give the Canucks the fresh voice so many believe they need? Someone like Adam Oates. Because if the Capitals’ offense can be brought back to life, maybe the Canucks’ can, too.

2. Trade Cory Schneider and keep Roberto Luongo

There’s no question Schneider would garner the bigger return. He’s seven years younger (27 versus 34), has a far less risky contract, and his numbers were better than Luongo’s during the regular season. But is this even an option with all that’s happened (see: the Great Canucks Goaltending Soap Opera)? Does Luongo want out so badly at this point that not trading him would create an even bigger problem? Or, does he just want to start somewhere — anywhere— in the NHL? Whatever happens, one of Schneider or Luongo has to be gone by training camp. There’s no question there.

3. Trade Alex Edler

The 27-year-old defenseman only recently signed a 6-year, $30 million extension. But as any regular Vancouver observer can tell you, there are games when Edler looks like a future Norris Trophy candidate, and games when he…doesn’t. Moving him isn’t something the Canucks will want to do, but if he could be dealt to, say, Philadelphia for, say, Sean Couturier, wouldn’t they at least have to consider it? Vancouver would still have three solid veteran d-men in Dan Hamhuis, Kevin Bieksa, and Jason Garrison, plus youngsters Chris Tanev and Frank Corrado. If they buy out Keith Ballard, there would be more room to add blue-line depth in free agency or via trade.

4. Sign David Clarkson

The 29-year-old Devils’ winger is an unrestricted free agent whose toughness and goal-scoring ability could make for a welcome addition. We can probably assume speedy-but-slight winger Mason Raymond and undersized center Derek Roy have played their last games in Vancouver uniforms — both are pending unrestricted free agents. There’s also the potential to buy out David Booth, though the fact he’s injured may affect that. There will be lots of competition for Clarkson, if he doesn’t re-sign in New Jersey. So even if they do decide to make a pitch, the Canucks could hardly count on landing him.

5. Take a deep breath

What if Jannik Hansen hadn’t missed the open net in Game 2? What if the referees hadn’t whistled Bieksa and Daniel Sedin for penalties in Game 4? The Canucks were swept by San Jose, yes. They deserved to lose, absolutely. But it was a lack of discipline combined with uncharacteristically poor penalty killing that really killed them. Do you blow up a team that still managed to win its division without Ryan Kesler for more than half the season and without Booth for all but 12 games?

Gillis, by the way, will meet with the Vancouver media on Thursday at noon local time.

Hitchcock believes Blues’ Allen is ‘locked up mentally’

NEW YORK, NY - DECEMBER 08: Jake Allen #34 of the St. Louis Blues makes the third period save against the New York Islanders at the Barclays Center on December 8, 2016 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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Things were already rough for the St. Louis Blues and their goalies (particularly still-pretty-newly crowned No. 1 Jake Allen) heading into Thursday, but the Washington Capitals really highlighted those issues in a 7-3 thrashing.

Blues fans and management must be wondering, then: what’s wrong with their goalies, especially with Allen? Head coach Ken Hitchcock seems resigned to allowing him to fight through it, if nothing else.

“There’s a lot going on right now. … He’s kind of locked up mentally and he’s going to have to fight through this,” Hitchock said, according to Lou Korac of NHL.com. “What we see at practice, we like. That’s why we put him in quite frankly.”

Alex Pietrangelo did the typical deflecting thing, nothing that this is a “team” and that there are “no individuals.”

Still, Hitchcock’s longer press conference makes you wonder how much trust there is in Allen and Carter Hutton.

From Hitch’s perspective, it sure sounds like he believes that the Blues are over-correcting to try to limit “goals, shots.” By trying to do too much, they might be putting themselves in bad positions. And that might stem from a lack of confidence in the guys in net, or in the team’s work in their own zone overall.

Let’s be honest. As much as we can play chicken-or-the-egg as far as a defense’s impact on a goalie, it’s tough to explain away save percentages under .900 in the modern NHL. At some point, your team needs more stops.

With the races for the lower spots in the Western Conference’s playoff picture seemingly tightening up, the Blues don’t have a ton of time to figure this out.

Capitals shine glaring light on Blues’ goalie woes

ST LOUIS, MO - MAY 23:  Jake Allen #34 of the St. Louis Blues makes a save during the first period against the San Jose Sharks in Game Five of the Western Conference Final during the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Scottrade Center on May 23, 2016 in St Louis, Missouri.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
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If you’re reaction to the headline “Something is off about the St. Louis Blues” was “Yeah, their goaltending,” then Thursday only emboldened that opinion.

It wasn’t just that the Washington Capitals bombarded the Blues by a score of 7-3. It’s that they really didn’t need to fire a whole lot of shots on goal to get to seven.

Here’s a harsh rule of thumb: when both of your goalies play in a game and each one barely makes more saves than goals allowed, that’s an awful night. Take a look at what Jake Allen and Carter Hutton went through:

Allen: six saves, four goals allowed in 25:11 time on ice
Hutton: five saves, three goals allowed in 35:49

Allen got pulled from the contest twice, by the way. He’s been pulled from four games since Dec. 30. Woof.

Even before these horrendous performances, the Blues goalies have been shaky. Hutton came into tonight with an ugly .898 save percentage; Allen wasn’t much better with a .900 mark.

Those are the type of numbers that would make Dallas Stars fans cringe, or at least experience some uncomfortable familiarity.

Now, is it all on Hutton and Allen? Much like with the Stars’ embattled goalies, much of the struggles probably come down to a team struggling in front of them.

Even so, if you assign more of the blame to Allen and Hutton, nights like this Capitals thrashing definitely strengthen your argument. Yikes.

Rangers overwhelm Leafs, make life pretty easy for Lundqvist in win

TORONTO, ON - JANUARY 19:  Henrik Lundqvist #30 of the New York Rangers faces a shot in the warm-up prior to play against the Toronto Maple Leafs in an NHL game at the Air Canada Centre on January 19, 2017 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)
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Heading into Thursday, many were wondering how the New York Rangers will handle Henrik Lundqvist‘s struggles. Instead, the focus shifted to the Toronto Maple Leafs’ difficulties, perhaps specifically in dealing with Morgan Rielly‘s absence.

The Rangers handily won this one 5-2, at least giving Lundqvist the win. He wasn’t especially busy, stopping 23 out of 25 shots, so you can probably file his story under “To be continued.”

Lundqvist wasn’t oblivious to his team’s impressive overall play.

Really, it was all about the waves of attackers the Rangers can send at opponents and the trouble that caused for the Maple Leafs. It wasn’t the easiest night for Frank Corrado, in particular, who took a couple costly penalties.

The Rangers’ next two games come in a road contest vs. the Red Wings on Sunday and a home game against the Kings on Monday. Perhaps those matches will serve as a better barometer for where Lundqvist’s really at, as he passed tonight’s test … but it wasn’t a particularly difficult one.

So, is Mike Condon actually really good? He certainly was against Columbus

OTTAWA, ON - JANUARY 8: Mike Condon #1 of the Ottawa Senators stands at the bench during a break in a game against the Edmonton Oilers at Canadian Tire Centre on January 8, 2017 in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.  (Photo by Jana Chytilova/Freestyle Photography/Getty Images) *** Local Caption ***
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Considering their numbers heading in, many were perplexed when the Ottawa Senators essentially replaced Andrew Hammond with Mike Condon. Now many are perplexed by just how strong Condon’s often been for Ottawa.

Thursday might stand as the prime example that this guy could be better than many expected.

The Columbus Blue Jackets dominated much of the play, generating a 42-28 shots on goal advantage, but Ottawa ended up winning 2-0 tonight.

Condon already came into tonight with a solid save percentage (.915 before this shutout), and he’s now won four of his last five games. Three of his four career shutouts have come this season.

Ignoring his one relief appearance with Pittsburgh this season for the sake of simplicity, just consider his tough times with Montreal last season. He went 21-25-6 with a shaky .903 save percentage.

This marks just his 21st start and 23rd appearance of this season, so it’s not a guaranteee for future results. Still … it’s another example that goalies are as just about as unpredictable as they are crucial to a team’s fate.

More and more, it seems like Condon might just be a difference-maker, and in the positive sense this time around.