Come For The Banter - Stay For The Disappointment
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This week's round table discusses the Canucks recent road trip, taking over the All Star Game in Toronto, and whether or not the Canucks should just go for it at the deadline and try to do the thing?

Once again, it's time for another edition of the Nucks Misconduct Round Table. I toss out some questions, and the NM writers offer up their completely sane and rational takes.

1- The Canucks have returned from their longest road trip of the season, and brought back 11 of a possible 14 points with them. So, pretty good... right?

KENT: Apart from the frustrating performance in St Louis, you really have to be excited about the way the Canucks handled an extremely tough road trip. Little rest, some really good teams, and a chance for the Canucks to battle their way through different scenarios and playing styles. All of these wins are going to help the Canucks come playoff time, especially the win over the Rangers. That was such an impressive win, a literal best on best of the two conferences and the Canucks absolutely clowned the Blueshirts. And even the loss in Columbus, given the epic journey they had to go through just to get to the game, getting a point out of that? Awesome. And what did we learn? Well, we still haven't seen their best hockey yet. We're seeing that the Canucks have a solid goaltending duo for the first time in almost a decade. We know they can adjust to different game plans against and find ways to win. And we know if you eat at Panda Express, bad things will happen.

jimmi - Pretty good? Astonishing. Stunning. Canucks became the 1st NHL team to win 15 games On The Road. That was not supposed to happen. This 7 Levels of Game Hell was specifically designed by the NHL Sadists and Schedulers Department to crush the Nucks, their fans and purge the established league pecking order of these wet coast interlopers. They failed. The Nucks did not. Other than that lousy start against the Blues and the trains, planes and buses to Carumbus ordeal, it was the best extended Nucking road trip I can recall from this century.

Westy - Should I continue with the gushing of praises? This road trip was a season crusher in years past. The resurrection of the Lotto Line was something that must have been discussed during the Holidays by the coaching staff and players, and the loss in St Louis was holy sign Taco saw to bring them back. The Trifecta in the Metro area was oh so sweet and it was good to see the Canucks play rough against Buffalo.

2- There are some who don't think the All Star Game is important, and an unnecessary distraction during the season. With this in mind, is it still not hilarious that the Canucks are sending more players to the game than the host Toronto Maple Leafs?

KENT: There are elements of the All Star Game that are great. The Skills Competition is fun, and makes for great tv. The game itself? Garbage. It bears little resemblance to the way the game is played, and so you see very little realistic game action. Not that we need scraps and dudes getting laid out, but if the All Star Game went away, we'd all survive, honest.

But anyway, even though they'll have the worst jerseys ever created, the Canucks with the most players (as well as Rick Tocchet and PA announcer Al Murdoch, best in the damn biz) in their barn in pretty funny. Not as funny as the dude tweeting about Nylander leading the voting when it showed Demko was over 100K ahead, but still funny.

jimmi - I'm not a fan or viewer of the league's PR spell-binding, self-congratulatory weekend of media fawning. But, is hilarious while CoTU is burning in controversy with the most important losing streak in hockey - will be required to be nice passive/aggressive hosts. To keep the NHL's Fluff Factor fun.

Westy - I am of the same ilk as Jimmi. I do not partake in All-Star viewing. As I have gotten older and crankier, I have less interest in watching the league trying to sell hockey to U.S. viewers. I am already a customer. I did vote for the 4 other Canucks to get into the All-Star game on NHL.com....multiple times. Fuck you Toronto.

3- So... those All Star Jerseys, eh?

KENT: But at least this year, the game isn't the worst thing about All Star Weekend, it's those godforsaken jerseys. True story: when the first picture dropped on Twitter (Get rekd, Elmo), I was in the ex-SBN Slack chat and I totally called it:

Just inexcusably awful and yet so on brand. Whoever thought this was a good idea should be publicly acknowledged, so that they can forever wear the shame of this abomination. I know the game needs to grow beyond the base of angry white dudes, but this ain't it, chief. Everyone's talking about the NHL because of this, but the old adage "There's no such thing as bad publicity" is a goddamn lie.

jimmi - Special weekend, special jerseys for the special fluff job.

Westy - Saturday morning cartoon edition. It shows that Bieber's people only let him use the primary colors, because the rest are so yummy to eat. I'm not sure who thought Bieber is the typical hockey fan and that I would relate to him. I'm not sure what age cohort is a Bieber fan anymore.

4- As of this writing, the Canucks are one point out of first place in the NHL again. In a year where we hoped that they'd be good enough to compete for a wild card slot, is it reasonable for the Canucks to say "Fuck it, Let's Do This!" and go all in at the trade deadline and load up for a potential Cup run?

KENT: The work that Jim Rutherford and Patrik Allvin and their staff have done since coming on board has already done two things: 1) Addressed the weaknesses the Canucks had through free agency signings, trades and better usage of assets they already had, and 2) shown us all just how incompetent the previous regime was.

If you see someone trying to give Benning any credit for the Canucks performance this season, you need to block them. No one needs a delusional bullshit artist like that in their lives. The organization was rotting from the inside, and between cleaning house in management, getting competent pro scouting, and making on ice personnel changes that paid immediate dividends, this is all on JR, PA and crew. You know things are good when we don't complain about this team's ownership. That alone, speaks volumes.

So, sitting in first in the division in mid-January, it should be obvious: Go for it. There are some prospects/roster players that, paired with this year's 1st round pick could help add a little more defensive depth and get that 2nd line center that can make the Canucks into a legitimate Cup threat. Yeah, I know it sounds crazy, but so did the St Louis Blues going from last place at Christmas to winning the Cup in the same season. They're close, and it would be nuts to try to do more than just be satisfied with making the playoffs.

jimmi - Alvin and the Cupmonks have done an excellent job. While they botched the Bruce firing, they've been firing on all cylinders since. Congrats to them. Frannie must be happy not to get harangued on the street anymore. Or more importantly, not vilified on NM in months.

Seems Trader Al (Trader Pat?) isn't going to stop now. 2nd line center does seem the obvious goto move. But, we will see if this is the time to trade the future, mortgage the farm team and go get a rental mercenary. Or two.

Westy - I am going to disagree with Kent just for the fun of it. GMPA has done a fine job of evaluating what was left behind and then made some changes. But.......Benning did draft Petey, Boeser, Hughes, Demko and traded for Miller. Was Benning a good GM or president? No...definitely not. He choices for coach were bad...his contract extensions were bad. His FA signings....bad

GMPA is now in a position that will define how we speak about him for the next 4 years. And Petey is making this decision more stressful by not negotiating during the season. The trade deadline might be a quiet one for this team because you might not want to fuck with the chemistry and secondly, you don't want to take on a contract that hurts the team next year or 3 years down the line. I personally would let this team ride out the year. It's easier to get by in for other changes if the team falters in the playoffs. Trade a player now and the team's ju-ju might change.

5- OPEN ICE: Here's your chance to let fly with anything you like or dislike about the season so far, Canucks related or not. And.... GO!

KENT: I have been impressed with the quality of the hockey in the PWHL so far in their debut. The jerseys leave something to be desired, but it's entertaining hockey, and it's going to do more to grow hockey than anything the NHL is doing right now. I love that the Canucks and Jets are doing so good. I'd love to see those two go head to head in the Western Conference Final.

As far as things I dislike so far, officiating continues to be an issue league wide. I know it's never going to happen, but some transparency and accountability for game officials, and a complete overhaul of the player safety department are long overdue.

jimmi - I dislike the Nucks have cheated us out of the incremental improvement scenario we were promised. As well as the anxious last wildcard spot chase.

I LIKE, really, really LIKE Nucks have cheated us out of the incremental improvement scenario. And spared us last wildcard spot nervosa. Conflicted fan feelings - NM mainstay for decades - has now been warped into a new, winning era. I'm trying to keep up.

Agree with Kent, as ever, the biased game-altering beer league officiating continues to be the NHL's forte. Can hardly wait for the Violence-On-Ice section of the league's May entertainment schedule. It's a delicate balance operating a TV Playoff War with that pesky rulebook being quoted on the internet.

Westy - I can't believe the two guys above me are still complaining about the refs after watching hockey for a combined 140 years. The only consistency is the refs inconsistency.

I hate the way the way Petey is fucking with the fanbase. Vancouver fans have been loyal to many players over 52 years and they desperately want another Swede to love and cherish. And yet it seems that Petey wants more.

I love Rick Tocchet so far. He is honest in his interviews and seems to have the players respect and they have bought into team, which has really helped some individuals improve their numbers.

I hate believing that this team is really good is the regular season, but thinking they won't have a playoff mode.

The Canucks, with Elias Pettersson leading the way, are on an absolute tear through the Eastern Conference right now, and this afternoon they have a chance to put the cherry on their first ever NY/NJ road sweep with a win over their expansion cousins in Buffalo.

CANUCKS (28-11-3) at BUFFALO SABRES (18-20-4)

KEYBANK CENTER, BUFFALO, NY

1:00 PM PST

SPORTSNET

For the past few seasons, we've been frustrated as writers trying to come up with new and innovative ways to tell you that the Canucks were awful. Now, we're being put to the test trying to wrap our heads around a potential Cup run. It's a good problem to have, but we'll do our best to not get cocky about anything, lest we upset our betters. It's important, as we have been reminded this week, that we as fans know our place and keep our bloody mouths shut.

Heh.

Heading into this road trip, it had all the bearings of a win some/lose some kind of jaunt, especially after the inauspicious start to this seven game road swing in St Louis. Since then, the Canucks, faced with a gauntlet of playoff quality teams have rattled off four straight wins. And each of these wins just absolutely ring like a team making a statement that the era of soft, ineffective hockey is over in Vancouver.

With a management team that has literally done what Jim Benning told us he could do, and failed miserably at, to a coaching staff that has gotten a complete buy-in from the entire room to transform how they play the game, the Vancouver Canucks went from a potential Draft Lottery winner to a potential Stanley Cup threat in a year and a half. You know, just like Jim Rutherford and Patrik Allvin did in Pittsburgh.

It seems like every week there's something that's happening with the Canucks that is making the league take notice, and with the four wins over the last week against some of the best in the East, it's been the play of the reunited Lotto Line, most specifically Elias Pettersson, leading the way.

Over the last month, it was the Canucks bottom 6 forwards leading the way, but on this trip, it's been the team's best players at their absolute best. Pettersson, J.T. Miller and Brock Boeser have terrorized the opposition since being reunited a week ago in New Jersey, combining for 13 goals and 12 assists.

And how about the offensive contributions from the back end on this trip? 3 goals and 12 assists as the Canucks defence, led by Quinn Hughes and Filip Hronek prove the old adage: The best defence is a good offence. It's been production on a scale we haven't seen in a long time in this market, perhaps ever.

This brings them to Buffalo, taking on a Sabres team that find themselves in familiar territory. It seems like every season, they head into October with a roster that on paper should at least have them competitive, and hope that better days lie ahead. And every season, by this time, they find themselves seven points back of a playoff spot, and more likely to have a shot at a top five draft pick next season than hosting a playoff game at KeyBank.

If there's a plan in Buffalo, it's not clear apart from maybe they're playing the long con and they'll surprise everyone next year. But as for this season, this should be, especially the way the Canucks are playing right now, a long afternoon in Buffalo for the hosts. But hey, don't feel bad for them. They've still got the Bills.

LINEUPS

The following lineup was written in wing sauce and scrawled on the underside of a broken table in the parking lot at Highmark Stadium. Or it was nhl dot com, I think...

Canucks projected lineup

Elias Pettersson -- J.T. Miller -- Brock Boeser


Ilya Mikheyev -- Pius Suter -- Andrei Kuzmenko

Dakota Joshua -- Teddy Blueger -- Conor Garland


Nils Hoglander -- Nils Aman -- Sam Lafferty

Quinn Hughes -- Filip Hronek

Carson Soucy -- Tyler Myers


Nikita Zadorov -- Ian Cole

Casey DeSmith


Thatcher Demko

Scratched: Mark Friedman, Linus Karlsson, Noah Juulsen

Injured: Phillip Di Giuseppe (lower body), Guillaume Brisebois (concussion)

Sabres projected lineup

Casey Mittelstadt -- Tage Thompson -- Alex Tuch


JJ Peterka -- Dylan Cozens -- Jack Quinn


Jordan Greenway -- Peyton Krebs -- Zach Benson


Eric Robinson -- Zemgus Girgensons -- Kyle Okposo

Mattias Samuelsson -- Rasmus Dahlin

Owen Power -- Erik Johnson

Ryan Johnson -- Connor Clifton

Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen

Devon Levi

Scratched: Victor Olofsson, Henri Jokiharju

Injured: Jeff Skinner (upper body)

After a solid performance against the Islanders on Tuesday night, it's nice to see Casey DeSmith rewarded with another start today. Load management, baby! Other than that, it's status quo as the Canucks continue to stay healthy and all that. The Sabres could be without Tage Thompson today, as he's been dealing with an injury and we likely won't know til closer to game time if he's good to go.

GAME DAY CHATTER

Something to keep in mind for today's contest.

Is that good? It seems good, but we wouldn't want to come off sounding cocky...

Can't imagine who that might have been, but my guess is some guy in marketing named Dancesco Squaquilini...

GAME DAY BATTLE HYMN

With 2024 set to see some seriously kickass releases in the metal realm, New Orleans thrashers EXHORDER have thrown down the gauntlet early ahead of their album release in March with 'Year Of The Goat'. The first single off 'Defectum Omnium', due March 8th worldwide on Nuclear Blast Records, this is one of the best tracks they've done since Pantera stole their sound off 'Slaughter In The Vatican' and 'The Law'. Crank this one and enjoy a cold brew before some Saturday afternoon Canucks hockey!

Enjoy the game, everyone! Go Canucks Go!

It's the return of the 11th most popular Canucks panel discussion! Our first round table of 2024 discusses what to do about Andrei Kuzmenko, the Lotto Line, what the Canucks need to do to prepare for this thing called 'playoff hockey', and some around the NHL nonsense. As a reminder, the opinions shared are of the individuals and not the blog itself, and those of Westy and Jimmi should be taken with a grain of salt, followed by a shot of tequila and some lime. Let's go!

1- Andrei Kuzmenko has a rotating door on the ol' doghouse right now. What should the Canucks do about the struggling Russian?

Kent- There's a number of people who think that they should be exploring a trade to try and get something for Kuzmenko right away, but I'm not sure that now is the time. We're hearing both he and his agent are committed to sticking with the Canucks and trying to work through this. And it may well be that he can do that. As far as trading him, he definitely makes an attractive piece of trade bait at the deadline, and with teams already asking about him, they could use him to solidify any deficiencies as they look at a post-season appearance.

jimmi - Just last year some wanted to trade Brock as well. Goal scorers can be streaky. And when the streak is not streak we seek... trade 'em! With his 8 goals and $5.5M contract, uncertain his trade value is worth the deal versus letting him spinoff the sophomore funk, marinate in the Taco teachings and come out the other side with 50 goals and +15 next season. Or this season. That would be good as well.

Westy - Kuz was not coached last year by Boudreau. He was allowed to float around and shoot and then not come back on defense. The last games of the year were spent with Taco, trying to learn a new system and this year Kuz is struggling to realize that both sides of the system are being looked at. He will last the year in Van, just do to his contract and lack of production this year. He is also needed in case the injury....sorry, when the injury faeries show up.

2- To try and kickstart the top 6, Canucks head coach Rick Tocchet reunited the Lotto Line, and to say it worked is a mild understatement. Do they keep Petey, Boes & Millsy together, or do they have to split them out of necessity because of the need for a legitimate 2nd line centre?

Kent- Obviously the way the Lotto Line clicked on Saturday in New Jersey was encouraging, and we'll have to see how they continue to play to see if this pans out, but if they can get Pius Suter, Kuzmenko and Ilya Mikheyev rolling there won't be a need for it. Suter's been fantastic since his return, and if there's any chemistry with them, they ought to explore it for as long as possible.

jimmi - Hope Taco keeps the Lotto Line together - despite Pete disliking the label. It sure seems like Kuz will thrive being with Suter. As Kuz took the most shots (6) of any Nucks forward last game. With increased shooting percentage, increased confidence and goals will not be far behind.

Westy - Keep'em going this month, get as many points as you can against non-divisional opponents and then split them up again after Feb 21. The Canucks don't see another Pacific team until then. Save the Lotto Line for the first round of the playoffs.

3- So get this: After the season ends, there's this whole new season, right? And like, only some of the teams get to be in it, and you play the same team until one of them wins four games, then you play someone else. And there's this big trophy and everything. Anyway, it looks like the Canucks are gonna do this thing. What should they do to like, you know, be better for this thing?

Kent- Heading into this season, just to have this team compete for a wild card slot would be considered success given the way the last decade has gone. We knew, and were prepared for time and the accompanying frustration of trying to undo the damage of the previous regime. So for them to still be legit contenders not just for the top spot in the Pacific Division, and not just the Western Conference, but their first Presidents Trophy since they won it back to back in 2010-11 and 2011-12? There wasn't anyone who was saying this that wasn't taking the piss.

As far as making changes, I can't see anything drastic happening, but a better option down the middle for the second line could be worth exploring, as well as one more solid top 3 defenceman. Are they a legit threat to win it all as is? No. So they'd need to upgrade if they're gonna go for it. The question is: How much of the future are they willing to wager to do this? I might be in the minority, but I'm going to be happy with playoff hockey regardless of what happens. Lose in the first round? I'm good, because it's a step forward instead of the constant falling back down the stairs we had gotten used to with the Benning regime.

jimmi - Playoff hockey?! Such a foreign concept. And yet here we are staring deep into that free revenue hockey season played without rules. Will the Nucks make it through the 1st round? I'm with Kent on this. It's all icing on the bonus hockey season. If and it's that Nucking big IF... if the Nucks can keep playing the straight ahead Taco game - play every shift like it's their last of the season... then... who knows.

Westy - First off, I would like to say that Kent is a filthy liar. The moment the Canucks make the playoffs and then when we know who they play in the 1st round, Kent will be telling you how the Canucks can win that series. He will take his heart and hold it out for the Canucks to crush again. "Happy with playoff hockey..." Bullshit.

The question the I have, and Taco has for sure is, "Can this team really buy into a 200 foot system for 60 minutes a night?" There is a big difference in good team when it comes to the playoffs. There top scorers look to make defensive plays and special teams become even more special. The Canucks seem capable to be able to score their way into the playoffs, but it may take another appearance of "Playoff Demko" to get them past the 1st round.

4- Anyone else think Thatcher Demko's kinda not spectacular at the moment? I mean, he's winning games, but he's been giving up some stinkers over the last month. Just a hiccup, or should we be concerned?

Kent- Demko's been great this season, though his numbers have taken a noticeable dip since the start of December. Part of that could be tied to injuries on the back end that saw the defence's play struggle in front of him. But I do worry about his ability to get rest given how intense their schedule has been. And with the way Casey DeSmith's performed in his appearances this season, why not give him a couple more here and there? Yes, you want your number one starter in goal for big games, but DeSmith's earned the chance to get more than the other half of back to backs. A well rested Demko is key to success the rest of the way and beyond. Naturally, after I write this he turns in what was likely his best performance of the season in the win over the Rangers, even though he let in 3 goals. I just want him healthy and rested, and as we saw in the win over the Islanders, the Canucks can lean on DeSmith to help with this. They have the best goal tandem since Luongo/Schneider back in you know when...

jimmi - Demmers has had some meh games in the past few weeks... but if he can win a game in Jersey with a measly .840, it doesn't matter, does it? Agree that he needs his rest and DeSmith could grab a few extra wins while Demmers prepares to be Bubble Demko in that mythical 2nd season. But still... maybe Demmers needs to have his blocker re-calibrated by a goalie whisperer.

Westy - Stats first. So far Demko has the best save %, lowest GAA and highest quality start % of his career.

Demko was struggling before Christmas and the wonky schedule was beneficial for him. The last game was not his best and yet he made some monster saves against the Devils to get the win. I think Taco has stated he always has a number of games he wants Demko to play and the rest of the season lends itself to having DeSmith playing probably every third game.

5- In case you missed it, it appears that Connor Bedard is going to still be out of the lineup when the Chicago Blackhawks make their only visit to Vancouver this season on Jan 22. Should we feel bad for the kid, or is this some kind of punishment for not going full Lindros and refusing to report to the garbage organization he plays for?

Kent- I know that sounds mean, but let's face it: I am the last person who's going to feel any sympathy for the Hawks after the shit they've pulled. And with the catastrophic injuries they've had this season (along with having to jettison Corey Perry early on in the campaign), they're destined for the basement again. And that means they're sure to, like the Edmonton Oilers a decade ago, have top odds to win the draft lottery again, and be given another legit superstar that will lead them to glory down the road. There's no team as undeserving of this than Chicago, and it's because of this that the rest of the hockey world can't even enjoy a little schadenfreude over their current situation. I suppose it's sad for him that he can't play at home in front of friends and family. There was a way out, to go full Lindros and refuse to sign with this vile band of scumbags, but they chose not to take it. All we can hope for now is they lose the lottery. Also, I love that in the first game they played post-injury for Bedard, they beat Calgary in regulation. Brilliant.

jimmi - Feel horrible for Bedard. Not just for his injury, but for signing with the Fawks. That lottery win for the most shamed team in hockey still smacks of old boy slimy manipulation. But, it's the NHL, pretty much invented slimy old boys. Agree with Kent, the little Fawkers losing this year's lotto would be the best thing for hockey. Next to Bedard walking - running - away from that douche-built franchise.

Westy - I refuse to speak about that organization.

6- We're almost at the halfway mark of the season. We'll discuss the Canucks and how they've done in the first 41 later this week, but let's have your hot takes on what we've seen thus far. Who's for real? Which team is fraudulent? Possible award winners?

Kent- I am sure no one will catch Auston Matthews for the Richard trophy, but this year's MVP is likely to be Nathan MacKinnon, though Quinn Hughes deserves some serious consideration. Which teams are for real? In the East, Boston, Carolina and the Rangers are the teams to beat, while Florida and the Leafs are destined to fall flat. In the West, Winnipeg really appear to be the real deal, and as much as it pains me to say this, but in spite of their goaltending woes, the Oilers appear to have things sorted out, but they'll need to stay healthy. Vegas and LA aren't as good as their records suggest, and I'm still not convinced Colorado can go the distance.

jimmi - Awards are for losers. Or the media. Or both. Don't care about individual awards. There's only one team award that counts - the Prez Trophy. And that other free revenue one. The real teams? Winni does seem to be on track - but as we know - being #1 in the league before June is just another statistic. The Oilers are on an astonishing atonement streak. It's fun to watch a one-player team rise back up the standings, only to be swatted away in the early rounds. I don't watch eastern hockey - their nets are smaller and the hits are harder. Maybe they should form their own league. Oh wait... they already have.

Westy - I know this will come as a surprise, but I disagree with Kent when it comes to MVP. It amazes me that he lives in the Eastern Time Zone and and doesn't see the easy choice for MVP....no, not that moustached duffus in the CotU. I am speaking of David Pasternak. Top 3 in scoring with no one else on his team in that list...unlike MacKinnon who has Mikko and Makar, and he is on a team in the top 4 of the league. I won't mention the team as I would have to shower after doing so. That team being near the top is a surprise after Bergeron retired and the 1st round tanking last year. The Rangers look good as a team and it wouldn't surprise me to see them go the final. I look forward to the dismantling of Tampa if they can't get into the playoffs. As for the West...Fucking Vegas has a lot of weapons and if Colorado can stay healthy, watch out. I would love to see Edmonton bomb, but they will probably find 97 ways to get into the playoffs.

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