RAINY AND WINDY CITY RAMBLINGS

by Ron Spence

I spent the evening of – and most of the day after – the Canucks’ implosion, traveling from Victoria to Bangkok.

And, I was dreading my reception in Thailand, with all of their paranoia over the Swine Flu.

But, the unhappiest customs guys were in Vancouver. When I made the mistake of asking them the score, they became downright surly.

The Thai customs – on the other hand – were neither concerned about the ‘nucks nor the Swine Flu.

*****

My favourite component of a playoff series is watching the coaches’ matchups. I believe that a coach can best be evaluated by his leadership and strategies during the post-season, when he faces the same rival night in and night out.

Coach V’s predecessor was quite brutal – in my opinion – during his matchups. He was up two games against Detroit and then lost in four straight in 2002, and he was up against Minnesota and let Desertdawg’s favourite series slip away in 2003.

Crawford’s best post-season series was against St. Louis in the Western Quarterfinals that same 2003 season, when the Canucks edged the Blues 4-3.

Two of the Blues were Pavol Demitra and Ryan Johnson, and ironically, their coach was Joe Quenneville.

Alain Vigneault will show what he has against the former Blues’ coach.

I would hope that he has Kesler shadow Patrick Kane, and have Taylor Pyatt and Steve Bernier do a Dustin Byfuglien on Happy Bulin.

*****

I haven’t read it in the media, but I think a big reason for Vancouver’s sweep, was the scouting of Scott Mellanby who lives in the Show Me State.

Vancouver will have been well scouted by a Vancouver resident.

When the tv cameras show Scotty Bowman sitting in the Blackhawks’ press box, he has GM Dale Tallon on one side and his old junior teammate on the other. While Bowman’s in Vancouver, he’s never without the retired stockbroker. During Detroit’s comeback win against Vancouver, Bowman’s little sidekick gave him details on the Canucks. In particular, he had a complete profile on Markus Naslund’s tendencies.

His input will have been given to Joe Quenneville for this playoff series.

*****

For those teams getting ready to open their wallets in July to sign unrestricted free agents, they should note that two of the biggest stiffs in this series are Mat Sundin and Brian Campbell. Sundin’s salary is $7,000,000 for a full season, while Campbell’s is $7,140,000 this campaign.

Sundin should follow Markus Naslund into retirement this summer.

It’s also interesting how much money Chicago has tied up in their two goaltenders, versus Vancouver’s goalie salaries. Nikolai Khabibulin is making $6,750,000, while Critobal Huet is earning $5,625,000.

Roberto Luongo is making $7.000,000, and his backup Jason LaBarbera is making $850,000.

*****

As the Canucks continue during this post-season, I have to say that I like what Mike Gillis has done with his team this past winter – Mats Sundin withstanding.

I particularly like the way that he kept his word about keeping the best players in the NHL, and not the guys with one way salaries.

And the thing that Canucks’ fans should be happiest with, is that Vancouver will be more attractive to free agents this summer.

Last July, Gillis could only attract players that he knew, or had represented in the past.

*****

Patrick Kane reminds me of a young Stevie Yzerman. I am hoping that Cody Hodgson will be the next Patrick Kane.

“He exemplifies the three things that we had clearly focused upon, which are character, leadership and skill,” Mike Gillis said. “We were fortunate enough to be proven correct in all three of those areas…His character and willingness to work are remarkable for a young man his age. We feel he’s on his way to becoming an elite-level national hockey league player and a member of the Canucks.”

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