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Friday, October 3, 2008


3 October 2008

What a difference a year makes. In 06-07, the Canucks finished 1st in the Northwest Division and lost to Anaheim in the Conference Semifinals. In 07-08, Vancouver missed the playoffs. What happened, and what can be expected in 08-09?

In the three seasons since the Lockout, Vancouver has only qualified for postseason play once, in the 06-07 season. They have finished an average of +.5 against the Playoff Qualifying Curve (PQC). That average is somewhat misleading, however, as 06-07 was the only season in the last three in which the Canucks have finished above the PQC (+5.5).

Of note from last season:

· Vancouver was 7th in the NHL in Goals Against/Game (2.51), but 23rd in Goals For/Game (2.52)

· They tied Chicago for the best Win Percentage when leading after 2 periods (.931)

· The Canucks were 25th in the league in Win Percentage when allowing the first goal (.225)

· Just six players finished the season with 10+ goals

· Vancouver used eleven different defensemen in 07-08
The Canucks’ woes last season were rooted in their injury-plagued defensive corps. Chemistry is just as important among defensive pairs as it is with forward lines, and Vancouver had far too many injuries to d-men to allow that chemistry to develop. This forced an already-thin group of forwards to focus more on defense, which in turn led to fewer scoring chances and/or goals for the Canucks. “For want of a nail, a shoe was lost, for want of a shoe, a horse was lost…” So went last season for Vancouver.

In the offseason, the Canucks chose an interesting route to effect change, beginning with replacing GM Dave Nonis with Mike Gillis, who chose to retain Head Coach Alain Vigneault. Team captain (since 2000) Markus Naslund and Brendan Morrison were allowed to depart via free agency, and “Johnny Canuck”, himself – Trevor Linden – retired. To fill some of the holes up front, Pavol Demitra, Steve Bernier and Kyle Wellwood were brought in. Much more will be expected of Ryan Kesler, as well, if Vancouver is to have a legitimate shot at a playoff berth in 08-09.

The Canucks’ first ten games of the season are played 9 – 30 OCTOBER. Our research indicatesthat through the first ten games, Vancouver earns an average PQC rating of 6.0 and about 12 points in the NHL standings. In 07-08, Vancouver started slow and was -1 against the Curve at Game 10. The Canucks then surged above the PQC over Games 11 – 40, putting them on the bubble for a playoff berth. After Game 40, however, injury woes along the blueline began to impact team performance, and the Canucks slipped back down to the PQC for good. Interestingly, of the 27 teams for which OGA made a call prior to their mathematical clinch or elimination, Vancouver was the last team in the NHL to be called OUT by OGA in 07-08, on 1 APRIL.

Some statistics of note for OCTOBER:
  • Post-Lockout, the Canucks are a combined 17-11-2 through the first ten games
  • Vancouver opens at home against Calgary on 9 OCTOBER, then embarks upon a six-game road trip (18-18-5 on road last season)
  • The Canucks’ record through the first ten games has fallen each year, from 8-1-1 in 05-06 to 5-4-1 in 06-07 and 4-6 in 07-08
OGA will be measuring the Canucks against their average PQC rating of 6.0, as well as against other NHL teams, in order to provide you more in-depth analysis with Vancouver’s Game 10 Report, due to season subscribers by 2PM CST on 31 OCTOBER, and available for order from ongoalanalysis.com by 2PM CST on 1 NOVEMBER. (See a sample G10R here…)

In perhaps the most interesting off-season move of all, the Canucks designated goalie Roberto Luongo team captain. While NHL rules forbid goalies to actually wear the “C”, it is indicative of Luongo’s status as both an on- and off-ice leader and the cornerstone of the franchise. Last season, Luongo strapped the team to his back and carried them to within three points of a playoff berth. In 08-09, with a healthy blueline corps and consistent secondary scoring, the superstar goalie shouldn’t have to do all the heavy lifting to get a rejuvenated Vancouver club into the Stanley Cup playoffs.

Well, that concludes OGA’s Season Preview Reports. Tomorrow, the puck drops in Stockholm and Prague, and as Sherlock Holmes said, “The game is afoot!” Check out The OGA Blogs throughout the season for in-depth analysis of all 30 NHL teams, and don’t miss our G10R’s for each team. On average, OGA will call six teams IN or OUT of the playoffs by the end of OCTOBER, and you’ll hear it first in the G10R!

Until tomorrow, Big Tex says, “Try the sweet potato pie, and wash it down with the ice-cold beverage of your choice!”

TAKE ME BACK TO www.ongoalanalysis.com

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