Category Archives: CANUCKS – RON SPENCE

Game 9: BACK IN THE WINDY CITY

by Ron Spence

I watched the game in a liquor establishment – the Fifth St. Bar and Grill – in Victoria.

And, the cliental weren’t kind to Roberto during the first part of the game. It was as though he had been personally letting them down.

This had changed, however, by the end of the contest.

Willie Mitchell’s big hit sends a message to future opponents and Shane O’Brien was +1 and took only one penalty in a game that would have provoked his lack of discipline in the past. He has only 10 penalty minutes in 9 games – this season – and is a team best +4.

I’m still happy with the Ehrhoff trade – although he was -2 last night – and see Aaron Rome coming along – at a 6th man level.

Bieksa and Edler are horses with 24.55 and 23.58 minutes for the contest, and when they get their games this season, the D will be what I thought it would be.

Mikael Samuelsson continues to impress, as does Henrik.

I’ve enjoyed watching coach V’s speed line, but wish that Mason Raymond would focus on his defense.

I have really enjoyed watching Michael Grabner over the past three games – seeing brief glimpses in his first contest, then bursts of speed in his second and success in his third.

I had heard that he stayed out of traffic, but with Kesler and Raymond leading the charge he is willing to take hits. And, his shot is as good as it was billed.

The Chicago game was a key one for both Roberto and the Canucks – something for the captain to build on.

*****

I hope that Andrew Raycroft gets to face his former team – the Leafs.

I think that the boys would play really hard to help him win.

VS. MINNY

by Ron Spence

I used to get this knot in my stomach: whenever Brent Sopel had the puck; and when Felix Potvin and Dan Cloutier were in goal.

I now have this same feeling when Roberto is between the pipes.

It’s not a conscious reaction – it’s the result of Roberto’s suspect play – so far this season – and against the Blackhawks during the playoffs.

My respect for Henrik continues. He was only 41 % in faceoffs, but logged 21 minutes, including a minute and a half when the team was shorthanded. He played hard and looks somewhat injured.

Mikael Samuelsson continues to show his patience and scored another goal – his 4th (He now has 7 points in 7 games – but is -2.).

I am very happy with the speed line.

Coach V is giving Michael Grabner the opportunity to play his game. Led by Ryan Kesler’s grit and 11 wins vs. 7 losses in the playoff circle, they played well. Ryan had 8 shots on net, Mason Raymond 6 and Grabner 3.

Alexandre Bolduc was a good callup, and I believe plays smarter than Glass.

Both Alexandre Burrows and Kevin Bieksa had better games. Both were +2, and Burrows had 20:51 in ice time and Bieksa blocked two shots.

Aaron Rome was quicker – albeit against slower forecheckers – and blocked 3 shots, and had some good zingers from the point.

Ryan Johnson did what he does best, was 5 and 2 in the faceoff circle, but only blocked one shot.

Alexander Edler continued to play his somewhat uneven game, but logged a team high 26:50 minutes.

Steve Bernier used to lead San Jose in hits, but never touched anyone during the Calgary or Minnesota games.

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vs. Calgary

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vs. Minnesota

bernierminny

vs. Dallas

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And yet, the power forward had four hits against Dallas.

If Bernier wants ice time on the top two lines, he has to play a consistent physical game.

VS. CALGARY

by Ron Spence

In their defense, the Canucks had a five day layoff and were facing one of the NHL’s best defenses.

But still, they looked really bad for most of the game.

I wanted to note a few points based on the past two contests.

Kevin Bieksa has been terrible.

Aaron Rome didn’t have the game that he wanted – was -3 – mainly because he wasn’t moving fast enough. In a game of time and space, he was playing at an AHL level. But, I know that he has a 6th Dman’s skills and speed and just has to uptempo his game. He doesn’t concern me.

Alex Edler – -2 – improves and then levels off. That’s his learning curve and his game against Calgary wasn’t a move upwards.

Willie Mitchell was playing his usual game, but was better against Dallas than Calgary.

Christian Ehrhoff is playing better than I thought he would – based on comments from San Jose after he was traded.

Shane O’Brien hasn’t improved his game from last season to this campaign. However, in a rough game he didn’t retaliate, which is a positive sign.

Vancouver misses my man Mattias, and Sami Salo.

And Henrik, who had 2 points last night – and was plus 2 – misses Daniel. It would have been a different game had both the twins been playing.

Alex Burrows has to give his head a shake. He had mental lapses in both the Dallas and Calgary games.

Both Steve Bernier and Mason Raymond had moments when they were playing well, but didn’t sustain.

Kyle Wellwood has really impressed me in his own end. He will get his offense going soon.

I liked what I saw of Michael Grabner. He was tentative but didn’t look out of place.

Is Ryan Kesler injured?

Mikael Samuelsson has played like a pro – even, game in and game out.

Roberto disturbs me, based on the occasional lapses that I have seen over the past three or four seasons.

He has had two so so games in this young season. He can forget about a spot in the Olympics.

I think that Mike Gillis has to re-evaluate his fourth line.

In two games against Calgary – this season – they were soundly beaten by their opponents. Hordichuk and Tanner Glass were -2 last night.

It’s my hope that Matt Pettinger plays well in Manitoba and can be signed for the minimum and replace Glass who is clearly an AHL player.

To me, the plus from the Calgary game was that Andrew Raycroft had his second outing as a Canuck and I thought that he played well. Confidence is what he needs, and Roberto’s play has given him some ice time.

THE DIMINISHED FINNISH MACINNIS

by Ron Spence

“It was kind of a freak thing,” coach Jacques Martin said. “It wasn’t on a hit or anything.”

“He was just skating up the ice.”

The Ottawa coach was talking about his young Finnish Dman who had just injured himself during a 2001 exhibition game.

Eight years later, Sami Salo is still having freak injuries.

Vancouver was playing in the 2nd game of the 2nd round of the 2008-09 playoffs, and Salo unleashed a slapshot which lasered past Nikolai Khabibulin’s glove hand.

It was Salo’s 3rd goal and 6th point in five playoff games, and Salo had injured himself once again. This time, he had pulled buttocks muscles and had to leave the game only 5:35 minutes into the contest.

Sami Salo has reportedly had “thirty-seven significant injuries in a 10-year career.”

The Fin has missed 216 regular season games over the past decade.

Salo missed 22 games during 2008-09, and coincidentally, his average NHL games lost per season has been 21.6.

That’s more than 26.3% of Ottawa’s/Vancouver’s regular season games each year – with more in the playoffs.

Sami Salo had some pretty serious shoulder injuries from his 1st until his 8th season, and recurring groin injuries from his 1st until his 10th seasons.

There were also injuries to his: ankle, foot, knee and leg, and his wrist and elbow. And, there were injures to his ribs, back and nose.

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stats courtesy of tsn.ca

Another facial injury was delivered by Tampa Bay coach Rick Tocchet, who was then playing for Philly.

“Early in the first period [March 27, 2001]  Salo was cross-checked in the face…” wrote CBC.

“For his part, Salo received cracked teeth and a concussion, described by Senators coach Jacques Martin as mild that will force him to miss at least Wednesday night’s game….”

Salo’s inventory of injuries doesn’t include the cracked teeth and concussion – and Salo often played injured, which means that some injuries were never recorded – except in the ‘nucks’ records.

Sami isn’t known as a wuss.

“Obviously they have put some hardware into my face and you don’t want to start too early or work out too hard because they might shift,” Salo said. “I have to give it a little time to heal and hopefully by the end of the week we’ll know more and hopefully I can start increasing my workouts.”

He had a metal plate installed in his nose and another helping to hold together his cheekbone after an Alex Edler clearing attempt on November 1st, 2007.

Through it all, Salo has maintained a sense of humour.

During last spring’s playoffs, Sami was being cross-examined by a Chicago writer, about the nature of his injury.

“Maybe it’s just a burning sensation when you pee. You never know,” Salo responded.

That didn’t make the list, either.

*****

It was the recently retired Curtis Joseph who named Sami Salo “the Finnish MacInnis.”

WHY CODY WAS SENT DOWN….

by Ron Spence


There are a number of reasons why Cody Hodgson was returned to the Ontario Hockey League.

Had they kept the under-achieving rookie on their roster, the Canucks would have had to expose another of their forwards on waivers – even if they planned to keep Hodgson in the NHL for only 9 games.

exposede

courtesy of nhlnumbers.com

Cody Hodgson might not think that he has anything to learn – back in junior – but he must work on his skating if he wants to be a successful NHLer. The Sedins and Joe Sakic did, just to name three very good players.

cody

courtesy of sportsnet.ca

It made no sense to waste one of Hodgson’s three entry level – and thus relatively cheap – seasons when he wasn’t ready for the NHL.

With all of his bonuses, Hodgson would have been an expensive 4th liner – who sometimes sat in the press box:

newheadingcodysalary

courtesy of thehockeygm.com

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But, most important was Mike Gillis’ ongoing subtext: you have to earn the right to play for the Vancouver Canucks.

Last season the Vancouver GM sent expensive one-way contracts to Manitoba because they didn’t measure up.

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This year, Gillis has sent down three Number One draft picks to improve their games (Schneider and Grabner to the AHL, and Hodgson to junior.).

Mike Gillis wants players to be proud of their Canucks’ uniforms.

It’s not just something that players are entitled to because they’ve been drafted in the 1st round.

THIS SEASON’S NUCKS

by Ron Spence

This October’s Canucks are the best in the franchise’s history – in my opinion.

Not that I would want them facing Vancouver’s 1994 playoff squad next week.

The old axiom is that you build your team from the goalie and up through the middle.

And, if Kyle Wellwood plays as well as many of us think he will, the ‘nucks will be as strong as any team – in goal and up the middle.

forwardscourtesy of canucks.com

My only concern – with the first line – is how Alexandre Burrows will deal with his ups and downs – occasional demotions, etc.

He had an uphill battle from the ECHL, but clawing your way to the top is different than dealing with self-doubt. But, that’s where Ryan Walters comes in (Both Kyle Wellwood and Mason Raymond learned to even out their games last season.).

The second line could be really good, or just good. They have three very competent two way players. And, Sergei Shirokov will benefit from the two week Olympic break.

My concern with Ryan Kesler is one of attitude. I listened to an interview when he was asked about Cody Hodgson and he talked about himself during the whole segment. My concern is that he doesn’t over-inflate his self-importance and demand the really big money that the team can’t afford.

The fourth line is just plain solid – with an enforcer, a shotblocking PK man and some interchangeable grit players.

The third is the line that I enjoy the most.

They were the new kids last season, and we followed their ups-and-downs. Both Wellwood and Bernier were trying to re-establish themselves after Toronto and San Jose/Buffalo, and Raymond was the speedy rook – lots of flash, trying to develop some substance.

At the back end: Alexander Edler is ready for another leap upwards, and Sami found a new rung on his ladder during the playoffs – before injury.

Bieksa must continue to play tough, and Shane O’Brien must continue to play the disciplined game he evolved during the pre-season – only one penalty.

My main concern – on the D – is Christian Ehrhoff and his need for consistency – although he had the most ice time of any San Jose defenseman in their ill-fated series against Ahaheim.

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I believe that Andrew Raycroft will flourish. He has the skills, but couldn’t deal with the pressure. But, should Roberto be seriously injured, the Canucks might need some outside help.

Much of Vancouver’s success this season will depend on how, and when, coach V rests Roberto.

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And, great team or not, I will miss Mattias Ohlund.

DAVID YTFELDT: VANCOUVER’S MYTHICAL PROSPECT

by Ron Spence

I thought he’d be a cross between Nick Lidstrom and Ulfie Samuelsson – in a ‘nucks’ uniform.

He was the Swedish Rookie of the Year – in 1998-99 – and played with an edge.

“Another mean defensive-minded defenseman,” wrote Hockey’s Future, “but more in the Darius Kasparitis mold than Bonni’s up-front toughness. David has slightly more offensive upside than Bonni, but isn’t as big, or strong.”

mystery

courtesy of the Vancouver Canucks

David Ytfeldt was drafted under the name of David Jonsson, in the 5th round – 136th overall  – and was one pick behind Andrew Raycroft.

He had been selected for Team Sweden’s Under 18 team – which won a silver medal at the European Junior Cup. That 1996-97 season, he also played in the J20 Superelit – Sweden’s best junior league – for Leksand when he was 17-years-old.

Ytfeldt played another 23 games with Leksand’s J20 squad during the 1997-98 season, then graduated to their elite league squad and played in 10 contests. The Elitserien is Sweden’s top hockey league, and ranked as the fourth best circuit in Europe – after the Russian KHL, the Finnish SM-liiga, and the Czech Extraliga.

ELITSERIEN  – ARETS ROOKIE

swedish rookies

The following 1998-99 season – still playing in the Elitserien circuit – David Ytfeldt was voted the Swedish Rookie of the Year.

(Writer’s Note: Some very good players have won the Rookie award – Henrik Zetterberg, Victor Hedman, etc. I have added a column showing where these award winners played after their selection.)

Also, Ytfeldt played for Team Sweden at the World Juniors – under 20 – Championships and had 4 points in 6 games.

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The Canucks were very happy to hear that their draft pick had won the award, but he never came to Vancouver’s prospects camp.

Ytfeldt continued to play for Leksands during the 1999-2000 season – had 72 penalty minutes – and was a brutal -21 in 50 games.

Next, Ytfeldt moved to Finland – to a superior league – but had suffered a back injury and could play in only 11 games. He  returned to Sweden and went down a level to the J20 Superelit for two games in January of 2001.  Later, he returned to the Elitserien – with Frolunda’s top team – and played 9 games and went -7.

This was 2 1/2 years after he had been drafted by the Canucks, and he still hadn’t attended a prospects camp.

Hockey’s Future wrote in the spring of 2001:

“David Ytfeldt would have had a great chance to make the Canucks this past season had he attended Training Camp…If he makes the jump to North America, David will no doubt make a leap on my prospect list. As long as he’s in Sweden playing, though, he’s only a small blip on the Canucks’ radar. ETA: 2004, or never at all.”

VANCOUVER CANUCKS DMEN

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It’s interesting that Ytfeldt would leave Sweden to play in a Finnish league, but not go to an NHL camp. And, Vancouver was loaded with Swedes: Naslund, Ohlund, the Sedins. It’s not as though it would have been a difficult place to adapt to.

There was also room on Vancouver’s roster for a 5th or 6th Dman. The top four were: Ohlund, Jovo, Aucoin and Murray Baron.

Greg Hawgood was an AHL standout brought in as a filler, and Chris Joseph and Doug Bodger had seen better days. Vancouver brought in Scott Lachance as a free agent, and traded for Drake Berehowsky. Bryan Allen was recovering from injury and Brent Sopel was taking the ice time that Ytfeldt could have had.

But, David Ytfeldt didn’t do himself, or the Canucks a favour.

By the 2002-03 season, he was playing in Sweden’s second level Northern League – for the Nykoping Hockey team – a squad that was desperately trying to make it to the Elitserien. Playing against less talented rivals, Ytfeldt had 11 points in 15 games.

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The following season, he went further down the Swedish hockey ladder – to division two – and played for IFK Stromsund, a kind of club hockey team. He worked as both a player and trainer.

Then Ytfeldt returned to the Leksands area where he works in a gym and wellness centre.

He was asked a few years ago why he stopped playing?

The google translation reads as follows:

“…it was that easy that I have not had the urge to play anymore. I had simply lost the taste…I felt that there were other things I wanted to do in life than to play hockey. That was the biggest reason why I did not play longer than what I did.”

He never mentioned his injuries during this interview.

YFELTNET

So, David Ytfeldt – like Keyser Söze – is a mythical character.

The Vancouver faithful heard about him, never saw him play, and never will.

But, his name remains – on the net – battling the usual suspects who come towards his net….