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IWTG: Canucks dismiss the Flames to end 2019 on 5-game winning streak – Vancouver Courier



It’s been three years since the Canucks last had a five-game winning streak. It came right around the same time in the season, too.

It was the 2016-17 season and the Canucks were struggling at the Christmas break. They were 14-18-3 and third-last in the Western Conference. For a team that was still refusing to admit they were rebuilding — they had just sent multiple young assets to the Florida Panthers for Erik Gudbranson in the off-season — it wasn’t ideal.

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But then the Canucks came out of the Christmas break and went on a run, rattling off six-straight wins to climb into a playoff spot. It was heady times in Vancouver. Bo Horvat helped a kid get a weiner dog! He and Sven Baertschi were starting to look like the future of the Canucks’ offence! Ryan Miller was lights out in net! Nikita Tryamkin was really big!

Alas, it didn’t last. After that six-game win streak, the Canucks won just 10 of their next 41 games, with an 8-game losing streak to end the season that crashed them down the standings and earned them the fifth-overall pick at the 2017 draft. At the very least, they got one hell of a consolation prize: Elias Pettersson.

In many ways, that six-game streak was the last hurrah of a team that needed to bottom out to admit they needed to fully rebuild. At the trade deadline, the Canucks finally shipped off a couple veterans, trading away Alex Burrows and Jannik Hansen, albeit for prospects rather than draft picks, and the rebuild was on in earnest.

Fans can expect that this winning streak is indicative of the opposite: that this is a team on the rise, and that this is the first of many such winning streaks to come in 2020. Instead of the streak vaulting them to the edge of the playoffs, it has them all the way into second place in the Pacific. At the very least, they’re ending off the year and the decade in style.

I bid farewell to 2019 as I watched this game.

  • The Canucks as a whole didn’t really defeat the Los Angeles Kings in their last game — Jacob Markstrom did, making a ridiculous 49 saves on 51 shots. You could tell the Canucks didn’t want a repeat of that performance, where they took over 10 minutes to record their first shot on goal, because they had a much stronger start against the Flame. Their start might not have been as good as Asafa Powell’s, but at least they left the blocks when the starter’s gun sounded this time.
  • David Rittich, on the other hand, didn’t even know there was a race happening. “Big Save Dave,” as Flames fans call him, couldn’t even come up with the smallest of saves against the Canucks. Tyler Myers scored two softies early on, which was ultimately the difference in the game. I’d offer up an alternative nickname, but “Rickety Rittich” sounds way too mean.
  • The opening goal came on an early power play, with the second unit going to work. Antoine Roussel, a relatively recent addition to the unit, won a board battle down low alongside Adam Gaudette, who moved the puck up to Jake Virtanen at the point. He relayed the puck to Myers, whose wrist shot Rittich never seemed to see, partly because his defenceman, T.J. Brodie, cut across his eyes right as Myers took the shot.
  • Myers added another at even strength on an even softer wrist shot. Brock Boeser protected the puck brilliantly from Brodie, then found Myers at the point. There’s no excuses for Rittich on this one: Myers’ shot was unscreened and somehow ducked through Rittich’s legs like Nate Robinson.
  • At the other end of the ice, Thatcher Demko got his first start since December 7th, and quickly laid to rest any concerns that he might be rusty after recovering from his concussion. At one point he even made an intentionally save with his mask, something he’s been known to do. It was a pretty good indication that he was feeling confident in his head health, if a little disconcerting.
  • An undisciplined penalty by Matthew Tkachuk gave the Canucks another power play and the second unit got the start. It turned out to be a good move. First Virtanen rang a slap shot from the right faceoff circle off the post, then on a subsequent rush, Virtanen’s centring pass deflected in off Travis Hamonic’s stick for his 12th goal of the season.
  • As much as it was a lucky bounce, it was also a brutal play by Rittich, who massively overplayed the initial pass with Tanner Pearson coming right up the middle. Even if it didn’t get deflected, Rittich would have left Pearson with a wide open net. Rittich was, quite understandably, pulled after Virtanen’s goal and replaced by Cam Talbot.
  • Virtanen had a two-point night, giving him six points in his last seven games. He’s got a dozen goals, more than some of the biggest stars in the NHL, like Calgary’s Johnny Gaudreau. At 5-on-5, he’s putting up points at a rate second only to Elias Pettersson on the Canucks. And yet, it’s things like this flyby in the neutral zone that drive a coach batty.

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  • The Canucks were in a good defensive position until Virtanen swooped past Mark Jankowski, just hoping to pick off a pass for a home run play. It turned an innocuous rush into a dangerous 4-on-2 for the Flames. This isn’t to pick on Virtanen, but merely to give an example of why he doesn’t always get the opportunities that some think he should, given his offensive upside.
  • You could tell this just wasn’t going to be Calgary’s night when their best chance of the first period, a breakaway for Michael Frolik off an awful Canucks line change, was nullified because Milan Lucic couldn’t get out of the zone fast enough to avoid the offside call. James Neal would have skated fast enough to get out of the zone
  • Speaking of Lucic, the best moment of the game was easily when the frustrated Flames decided to get scrummy with the Canucks’ fourth line. Lucic went after Tim Schaller and got a little too aggressive, at which point Schaller audibly said, “Relax, buddy! Relax!” like Lucic was an over-excited schnauzer.
  • The Flames got on the board on the 4-on-4 that resulted from the scrum, as Jay Beagle and T.J. Brodie got coincidental minors. Demko gave up a rare rebound on a Sean Monahan shot, and, like the Canucks at the 2015 draft, neither Quinn Hughes nor Myers picked up Rasmus Andersson.
  • The Bo Horvat line played the matchup role against the Monahan line and had a strong game, combining to restore the three-goal lead in the third period. Loui Eriksson gained the zone and dropped the puck to Horvat, who sent a shot towards the net, looking for a tip. Instead, the puck landed on Tanner Pearson’s stick and he spun around and shot. Talbot, who somehow lost track of the puck and seemed to think Pearson had passed it, left half the net open for Pearson, which was more than he needed.
  • Demko had a strong performance, but his save selection left something to be desired on the Flames’ second goal. He got turned around making the initial save off the rush and, instead of getting square to the puck, stretched his pad across the net with his back to the play, a technique goalie coaches call “oh god oh god help help help.” He tried to recover for Noah Hanifin’s shot from the high slot, but wound up in the “Marriage Proposal” pose, which is recommended for asking your significant other to make a lifelong commitment to you, but not so much for stopping a puck.
  • That goal came with a minute left, closing the gap to two goals, but that’s as close as the Flames would come. With the Flames net empty, Alex Edler sent a dangerous pass into the middle in the defensive zone, but Horvat muscled it out of the zone, then dove out to spring Pearson on a breakaway. Pearson was blatantly hooked to the ice by Andersson, which would have been an automatic goal in lieu of a penalty shot, but Pearson scored from his knees anyway.
  • That capped off a three-point night for Pearson, who has been streaky, but is one of the Canucks’ top scorers over the past couple months and is on-pace for 55 points this season. The Pearson for Gudbranson trade is a pretty nice feather in Jim Benning’s cap.


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Jones, Lawes families find support in each other after personal losses – CBC.ca



MOOSE JAW, Sask. — Jennifer Jones is two wins away making Scotties history.  

And should she win both of her games on Sunday, she’ll be winningest skip in Scotties history with seven titles – currently tied with Colleen Jones with six.

But the veteran skip from Winnipeg, Team Wild Card this year, has been playing with a heavy heart.

There have been so many times throughout this year’s event Jones has looked into the stands for her father, Larry.

He’s not there.

Larry Jones died suddenly this past May. He was Jennifer’s biggest fan and sparked her interest in the game – Larry also coached Jennifer during her first Scotties win in 2005.

“It’s been tough. I’ll be honest,” Jones said. “After we won the Wild Card game I looked up for my dad and he wasn’t there. You kind of sometimes forget. I feel like he’s out there with me. Every time I curl I feel super close to my dad.”

Sitting in the stands though cheering on her daughter is Carol Jones. Larry and Carol were married for 53 years. They sat beside each other for hundreds of hours of curling.

“My husband and I traveled to all these curling events. Every event over the years,” Carol said.

“Some tearful moments. But the curling community is amazing.”

The ‘Thelma and Louise’ of curling

This year, Carol is sitting beside Cheryl Lawes at the Scotties.

The two have been seatmates at big curling events before – during the 2014 Olympics in Sochi they became good luck charms.

“No matter who was sitting in the seat beside her, I had to get them out because I needed to sit beside her,” Cheryl said. “And I did for the whole Olympics and that’s why we won.”

Now they’re reunited and have rekindled a friendship. Losing a husband and father is something Cheryl and Kaitlyn know all too well.

Keith Lawes, who like Larry Jones for Jennifer, got Kaitlyn involved in curling at a very young age. He loved curling and was so passionate about it. In 2007, when Kaitlyn was just 18 years old, Keith died.

Now all of these years later Carol and Cheryl are providing comfort for each other at the Scotties while cheering on their daughters.

Carol Jones, left, and Cheryl Lawes have been side-by-side cheering on their daughters at the Scotties this week. (Devin Heroux/CBC Sports)

“When Carol was starting to go through her journey, and you could tell Larry was ill, I tried to give her some guidance,” Cheryl said.

“And just to be there for a shoulder to cry on.”

There have been many tears and tough days for the two. But they’ve seemed to find a new energy being in each other’s company in Moose Jaw – they’re actually having the time of their lives right now.

“I’m Thelma,” says Cheryl.

“And I’m Louise,” says Carol, laughing.

The two have been dancing around the stands to music, cheering their daughters on wildly, laughing and leaning together when rocks coming sliding down the ice.

“We’ve formulated a very strong friendship and obviously a very strong support for our girls,” Carol said.

“She did grab my knee the other day. It helps to have somebody that you can lean on when there’s a big shot.”

Joy for Jennifer and Kaitlyn

Carol and Cheryl having as much fun as they are at this year’s Scotties has eased the minds of Jennifer and Kaitlyn – to know their mothers have each other while they’re playing means everything to them.

“I texted my mom last night and asked if she was having fun because I haven’t seen her that much. She said, ‘fun? I can’t stop laughing.'” Kaitlyn said.

Cheryl Lawes, left, and Carol Jones position themselves directly behind Jennifer and Kaitlyn’s sheet, watching every shot with laser like focus, hanging on every rock. (Devin Heroux/CBC Sports)

“It makes me so happy. They have so much energy. They seem younger. They’re having a blast and that’s all I could ask for.”

Jones gets emotional when she thinks about the curling journey she’s been on with her parents and now the past decade with Kaitlyn.

“It’s my mom’s first Scotties without my dad. For her to come and see her laughing and having fun means the absolute world to me,” she said. “It’s amazing that our moms can share this together.”

Carol and Cheryl position themselves directly behind Jennifer and Kaitlyn’s sheet, watching every shot with laser like focus, hanging on every rock.

“We make rocks curl. We make rocks crash on a guard,” Cheryl says, laughing.

“Thank god for her. She’s been a great, true friend,” Carol said.

Jennifer beams when she sees her mom having as much fun as she is.

“I have a tremendous mom. She’s the best person in the world,” Jennifer said. “All I want to see is her smiling. Curling brings us so much joy in our family, but I really think it’s been an amazing healing process for my mom.”

Jones vs. Homan battle awaits

That last spot in Scotties Final on Sunday night will be decided in a semifinal game between Jones and Rachel Homan.

Homan defeated Northern Ontario’s Krista McCarville on Saturday to advance to within one game of the championship battle.

It’s been quite the last number of seasons for Homan and her team out of Ottawa. After their disappointment of the Olympics, they lost year’s Scotties final in dramatic fashion by giving up steals in the 10th end and then an extra end.

Those tough losses are valuable lessons.

“Everything you go through changes you and helps you grow as a person,” Homan said.

“We feel like we’re right there.”

Homan’s lead, Lisa Weagle, says they’ve put those losses behind them and are focused on winning a fourth Scotties title.

“The only thing you can do is learn from it. We’ve taken what we can from that and figured out how we can be stronger and better,” she said.

This iteration of Team Homan made their Scotties debut five years ago in Moose Jaw.

Homan says it’d be a fitting place for them to win again.

“We’re going to give it everything we have. If it’s good enough, awesome. If it isn’t, we didn’t leave anything behind,” she said.

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Canucks 9, Bruins 3: Still nothing like a beatdown of the Bruins – The Province



The Canucks finished off their February homestand with a thumping win over a team Vancouver fans still love to hate.

It was a near-unanimous comment Saturday from the Canucks before facing the Boston Bruins, who would be tired after having to fight hard to defeat the Calgary Flames on Friday night: sure, they’re among the league’s best, but they have to take advantage.

And they did, knocking off the Bruins 9-3 in front of a raucous crowd at Rogers Arena, posting their biggest win over the team. The closest they’ve come was an 8-5 win in 2018. And the first time since 1996 they scored nine goals.

Led by captain Bo Horvat and the Insurance Line, the Canucks dominated the Bruins from start to finish.

In a vintage performance Horvat scored a first-period power-play, helped create goals for both his linemates, picked up an assist along the way and also had a fight. It was the first Gordie Howe Hat Trick for a Canuck since Denis Pederson in October of 2000.

The Horvat-Tanner Pearson-Loui Eriksson was matched up all night against the Brad Marchand-Patrice Bergeron-David Pastrnak line and while Pastrnak tallied twice, the Insurance Line truthfully controlled play throughout.

“He plays 200 foot game and he shows up in big moments and that’s the type of player I want to be, and I look up to guys like that,” Horvat said of his matchup with Bergeron. “You want to have your best games against guys like that so I was extra motivated today for sure.”

Eriksson hit the cross-bar early and then hit the post twice before finally burying a goal late in the second period.

“We were just laughing at that, because I think it was like the second or third shift of the game, he buried one off the crossbar and you’re just like oh my god, like poor Loui, he’s never going to get one, but it’s nice to see him get one,” Horvat said.

The Canucks fired 17 shots on goal in a high-flying first period, Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask reminding onlookers more than once why he’s among the league’s best.

Second periods have been a challenge for Vancouver this season but not on this night as the Canucks scored three times. The period also featured a dust-up between Bruins captain Zdeno Chara and Tyler Myers as well as the full-on fisticuffs between Horvat and Charlie Coyle.

“I don’t know what it is,” Horvat said about his fight, the third of his career but the second against a Bruin. “I just get amped up for these games, especially in front of a home crowd it’s great and it’s always nice to get the win after that, too.”

The Bruins picked up two goals in the third, but it was too little, too late.

On top of the three goals from Horvat and Co., the Canucks also got goals from Troy Stecher, Adam Gaudette, Elias Petterson, Jake Virtanen and two third-period tallies by Tyler Toffoli while the Bruins’ other goal was scored by Chris Wagner.

Here’s what we learned…

Slickest of mitts

It was a toss-up on what was the more impressive feat in the Gaudette goal: was it Quinn Hughes’ deft puck placement on to the centreman’s stick, or was it Gaudette’s equally deft finish, flicking the puck up and over Rask’s shoulder?

Either way, it was the latest reminder that Hughes is an incredible talent and that Gaudette has come a long, long way on offence this season.

Give me the tools and I’ll finish the job

Horvat couldn’t have been any more open when the puck landed on his stick before he fired it over Rask’s shoulder to put the Canucks back in the lead on the Canucks’ first-period power play.

J.T. Miller laid a perfect pass to the wide-open Horvat, who now has nine power play goals on the season, one off his career high.

Horvat agreed, he’d never been more open in his career.

“No, I don’t think,” he replied, smiling. “I was like J.T., if you didn’t pass me that puck I probably would have been pretty upset at you so I was glad he got it to me and I was glad I was able to score it.”

Miller said he was happy that he’d heard Horvat call for a pass.

“I had my back to the play and if he didn’t yell for it I probably would have took my time since it was a power play. I probably would have just tried to get it set up but he did a good job to get in the right spot and I just tried to give it to him and obviously he did a good job burying it.”

Toffoli’s Titanic week

A week ago, Tyler Toffoli tallied a hat trick for the Los Angeles Kings at the outdoor Stadium Series game in Colorado. Monday he was traded to the Canucks.

Wednesday he picked up an assist in his debut.

Saturday, he scored twice and also picked up an assist. Seven points, three games, making headlines. Surely he’s a candidate to be an NHL star of the week?

“I’ve been in a spot like this before personally and, you know, not play the way I wanted to play before my career and I want to do well right now and if I’m doing well, that means I’m helping the team and winning games … winning games is a lot of fun.”

Loui Eriksson #21 of the Vancouver Canucks shoots the puck in net past goalie Tuukka Rask #40 of the Boston Bruins during NHL action at Rogers Arena on February 22, 2020 in Vancouver, Canada.

Rich Lam /

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Nothing like beating a goalie

Troy Stecher pointed out the reason for his great delight in scoring earlier this year was because it was the first time he’d beaten a goalie to score in some time.

When he opened the scoring against the Bruins, firing the puck from the side boards past Rask, he practically jumped through the end-glass in celebration. It’s been a trying few days for the Richmond blueliner, who finds himself in the midst of trade chatter for the first time in his NHL career, so it’s understandable why he might have been even more excited to score his fourth of the year.

That he had scored against the Bruins, the team he rooted against as a teenaged fan in the 2011 Stanley Cup Final, also was a factor in his exaltation, it would seem.

“Yeah, I threw a pretty big fist pump, like that one it felt pretty good. I want to play in Vancouver you know, I take pride in playing at home, I take pride playing for our city and I try to represent our city as best as I can. Every time I put that jersey on I definitely want to win and it feels a little sweeter when you play the Bruins, just obviously being from Vancouver,” he said with a grin.

He chuckled about the goal itself, knowing it was a shot that Rask really should have stopped.

“It’s called luck for a reason,” he said. “Honestly I was just trying to shoot far-pad, kind of blocker-side, looking for a rebound.”

He’s been a quiet dynamo on the Canucks’ blueline again this season and lately has been in a shutdown role alongside Alex Edler. A pending free-agent this summer, he wants to stay in Vancouver but if this proves to have been his final game at home in blue and green, he went out on the highest of notes.

Boston Bruins forward Danton Heinen (43) clips Vancouver Canucks goaltender Jacob Markstrom (25) with his stick during the first period at Rogers Arena.

Anne-Marie Sorvin /


In case you didn’t know…

Pastrnak is very good.

The move he pulled off to undress Jacob Markstrom on his first-period breakaway can be found in the dictionary under “big league moves.”

It’s no easy feat faking right then going left at full speed. Pastrnak added on a return move to his right, leaving the Canucks’ goalie sliding the wrong way.

It’s no surprise he has 44 goals on the season.

Markstrom laughed about the move.

“I think I went in the locker room and you know he got me in the corner,” he said with a grin. “Good play.”

Markstrom made a huge save on Pastrnak with time winding down in the second to keep the game at 5-1.

Pastrnak got his second goal on a third-period power play.

Just in case

Since emergency backup goaltenders are a topic of conversation after Toronto’s EBUG Dave Ayers got the win on Saturday for the Carolina Hurricanes over the Maple Leafs — a team he works for, by the way, raising no concerns about conflicts of interest or anything like that — the man who sits in the press box, ready to go just in case is usually UBC goalie Rylan Toth.

On Saturday it was Ben Maquignez, who is UBC’s third-stringer. He’s served in the role before, as has Toth’s normal backup Patrick Dea.





Vancouver Canucks vs. Montreal Canadiens

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LISTEN: Ed Willes joins Paul Chapman to talk about the current plight of the Vancouver Canucks.

Is the trade for Tyler Toffoli a wise move for the franchise? Ed is not sour on the deal, but having spent a lot of time watching Tyler Madden last year, he feels the kid has a lot of potential.

They also get into the injury and the issues plaguing Brock Boeser, the team MVP candidates, and revisit Sedins Week and talk about the ups and downs of the 2000s as part of the Canucks at 50 series.

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Canucks Extra: Rev up the rumour machine – The Province



The Canucks won their last game at home before Monday’s trade deadline in emphatic fashion and maybe we’re about to see some bold moves?

Is Jim Benning really done? There’s a big opportunity in front of him. It’s not a multi-year window, that’s for sure, but with Pacific Division the way it is, it’s a little insane but it’s also not unthinkable that the Canucks could make a surprising run to the Western Conference final.

They need to avoid Vegas in the first round, that’s for sure. They also need to avoid finishing in the wild card so they don’t face one of Colorado, Dallas or St. Louis.

Match them up against the Flames or the Oilers and there’s a decent chance of winning a round.z

A second-round showdown with Vegas probably goes as you’d expect, given the challenges of playing at T-Mobile, but hey you never know.

There are serious cap-induced decisions to be made once the playoffs are done and it’s unlikely the lineup will be as strong next year as it is at the moment. That’s why there’s a good case to be made to just go hard after creating as deep a group as you can right now, upgrading as much as you can, looking at an elaborate collection of moves.

The Stecher thing

Troy Stecher likes talking hockey. He likes interacting with fans and media.

He doesn’t not like being the story, unless it’s about scoring a fun goal or perhaps to gently chide a teammate. That’s his nature.

So when he was a bit prickly on Friday when asked, as he knew would come, about being in trade rumours, you understood. He also handled the whole scenario professionally.

After Saturday’s game, he was thrilled to have opened the scoring. He was thrilled he didn’t get another bad-luck goal against go in off his chest.

And he made it clear that he really hope he gets to stay a Vancouver Canuck.

The guy always draws notice from the fans.

The VGK thing

It’s been quite the thing watching them, already good, chasing defencemen because they’ve smartly managed their cap and their roster.

They’ve now won five in a row. They face some pretty mediocre opponents in the next five games.

They could win ten in a row.

And they’re likely to only get better in terms of the depth of their squad.

Watch. Out.

The Florida thing

There are so many ridiculous things about the Panthers, who lost Saturday to VGK 5-3.

There’s endless ridiculous fact that Dale Tallon sent the Knights two-thirds of their current first line — Reilly Smith and Jonathan Marchessault — in a fit of spite.

Or that they’re playing defencemen as forwards.

Or that the team that Sergei Bobrovsky *used* to play for is doing just fine with goalies making much, much less.

Or this.

How can you go on with Tallon as you GM?

The elaborate thing

I do think there’s potential for something really elaborate to happen in Jim Benning’s world.

We’ve heard about the Leafs’ interest in Troy Stecher. Maybe that brings back Tyson Barrie, but as I and others have noted, he’s actually a really weird fit on the Canucks’ blue line now.

That said, it’s really unlikely Stecher gets re-signed this summer, so you might as well use him as a trade chip. But if you move him, you do need to find someone, a defenceman who makes your defensive game better in the aggregate

With that in mind, let’s kick out an idea. This is pure speculation here. I have no notions here, have heard nothing — unlike the noise that is actually out there about Adam Gaudette or Troy Stecher.

So: how about Jonas Brodin? Supposedly the Wild are willing to move either Brodin or Matt Dumba. Brodin would look good in blue and green.

But how do you get him? Might Bill Guerin still have Jake Virtanen’s fight 2.5 weeks ago still ringing in his head? (No one tell him that was only Virtanen’s third career fight, his first since his rookie season.)

Virtanen alone doesn’t get you Brodin, but with Devan Dubnyk past his expiry date, the Wild sure could use a goalie. How about Thatcher Demko?

But of course, the Canucks have a pile of games in March. Even if they’d like to ride Jacob Markstrom hard, they’re going to need some starts from a backup goalie, so Alex Stalock, the Wild’s low-salary, serviceable veteran backup will do. (He’s also under contract through 2021-22 so you can expose him in the expansion draft.)

So Virtanen + Demko for Brodin + Stalock.

Now, you need to find a home for Stecher and if it isn’t going to be the Leafs, who else could do with? The Jets are on the lookout for D, so surely there’s a fit there.

The Jets have Jansen Harkins, who’s from North Van and whose dad Todd long ago played a handful of games for the Canucks. He’s feisty, scored in the WHL. He projects as a solid third-line player He’s just the kind of forward prospect Jim Benning and John Weisbrod love.

Plus, he’s rather cheap and with the cap challenges ahead, you need as many solid, cheap, young players as you can find.

The Madden thing

If there was a clear delineation in how Benning and his right-hand man John Weisbrod view their prospect pool, it was in trading Tyler Madden.

Most people I spoke with, scouts and otherwise, rated Madden as one of the Canucks’ top five prospects. Some even said there was a case for top three.  His development since being drafted in the third round now has most calling him a first-round quality prospect.

He’s going to play, they say and he’s going to be good.

My impression is that this is how the Canucks’ scouting staff felt too.

But it’s clear that Benning felt otherwise. His judgment about what the kid should be was made clear in his comments

“I see him as more of a winger,” he said on Tuesday. That caught more than a few people off guard, not just those sitting on the media side of the table.

Benning did see Madden play live once this year. That was three weeks ago during the Beanpot semifinals.

Madden was not good. It was, by all accounts, possibly his worst game of the season.

The war room thing

If there’s final writing on the wall to be observed about the direction going forward of amateur scouting, it’s that while the Canucks’ pro scouts are here in Vancouver this weekend to work with Benning and John Weisbrod in the trade deadline war room, director of amateur scouting Judd Brackett is not. He’s been here every other season he’s been in the role.

That just about says it all.

The owner thing

On the other hand, on top of the big win, apparently part of the reason that Francesco Aquilini took a seat in the stands for a while was because his usual box had actually been sold for the evening.

Business is ramping up.

The Leafs thing

It was astounding to watch the Leafs float around in their own end, to watch them try to make a zone entry on the power play.

They looked like a bunch of guys playing shinny during a weekly casual ice time, less a team in an organized league.

The conflict of interest thing

Just imagine the Leafs hadn’t stunk up the joint, that they’d turned things around and taken the game over and then beaten the Canes.

First, we wouldn’t be talking about the cute story of a guy getting a win in a game he really had no business being in. A CIS goalie, like the guys who the Canucks keep on hand as their emergency backups, would do better. This guy may take shots for the Marlies and sometimes the Leafs, but he hasn’t played a real game in a long time and that performance was terrible.

The bigger issue is he’s *employed by an NHL club*. That he’s the on-call emergency goalie, under a league rule, puts him in an inherent conflict of interest.

He’s supposed to play well for whomever. If the Leafs had lit him up, which you’d expect, you still might wonder if he’d given his best. If I were the Florida Panthers or the Hurricanes themselves, two teams in a playoff hunt alongside the Leafs, I’d have been furious.

It’s not quite the same as the league’s top disciplinarian having a clothing brand that glorifies hockey violence being in partnership with a number of the league’s players, but it’s still a bush-league look.

The Eddie thing

Eddie Lack won hockey twitter today.

The Canes Thing

Let’s get the first absurdity out of the way: in a week where we were reminded that the NHL’s head of discipline runs a clothing line that has players *in the league* doing endorsements for and one of them this week got off without any discipline for a reckless hit from behind, it was pretty fitting on its biggest stage, there was another case of absurd conflict of interest.

David Ayres, the emergency backup who played for the Hurricanes on Saturday and got the win, *works* for the Toronto Maple Leafs. Imagine if the score had gone otherwise. If the Leafs had won. I mean, the chances were good if they’d been able to generate any shots.

They didn’t because the Hurricanes have an incredible defence. You just never have the puck.

And so much about how they run things is because they have some of the smartest people in the room helping make decisions. Eric Tulsky isn’t the general manager. He isn’t the guy making the final calls. But he’s a trusted voice.

And the Canes are winning because they’re being smart in their front office.

The kid thing

We should all take heed of this kid. The game can wait. The chance to watch cool things only happens every so often.

See you Monday.

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