The Canucks online community, the Smylosphere as you will has been united under a common banner this season: Embrace The Hate. We've seen some of our fellow blogs invite detractors to write troll posts (whilst raising money for charity, another sign of just how cool Canucks bloggers can be), but what does this slogan really mean? Watching the flow of narratives since mouth-breathing freak of nature Zdeno Chara raised the cup on Rogers Arena ice in June, you find an interesting thing: Time after time, narratives about the Canucks are put out there by the media, then summarily dismantled by the Canucks. And this is what has helped me really Embrace The Hate. I find that commentators, columnists and bloggers don't get my blood boiling when speaking inaccuracies about the Canucks as in the past, simply because I know a) the Canucks will prove them wrong where it matters: on the ice and b) the good lot of them are either trolling for hits or genuinely misinformed. I don't claim to be all knowing, far from it. But I know enough about this team to know that anyone that's written off the Canucks and their ability to get back to the Stanley Cup Finals this season is in for a shock. In the midst of a streak where everything but the scoresheet points to the Canucks mired in a slump, they are Once again in the hunt for a Western Conference crown as well as the Presidents' Trophy. The complimentary pieces about the Canucks are going to start drying up, and we will see media outlets start trying to tell you that the Canucks don't have what it takes. I am here to tell you not to get angry, just nod, smile, and Embrace The Hate. The Canucks are coming. You've been warned.
The narratives that seemed to be the most common dealt with the Canucks toughness, or lack thereof. Despite anyone with a brain seeing that a combination of officials giving the Bruins trademark thuggery free reign, the Canucks trying to play smart hockey and injured players who didn't have as much battle as they normally would have, the media trumpeted that the Canucks were weak. Forget that the Sedins routinely take as much punishment as any player in the league, night in and night out. Seriously, just spend a game watching them and see how many hits, slashes and crosschecks these guys endure every. single. night. And yet even after the Canucks went into Boston and didn't back down from the Big Bad Broons, and despite the fact that the Canucks are 6th in the NHL in fights, we still get this kind of garbage from Sports Illustrated: another anonymous players poll, this time asking them which players were the softest. It's even more detestable garbage than the 'which player is the most overrated' nonsense they ran previously. What they do is reduce a professional sport being played by grown men down to a gossip session amongst teenage girls in the school cafeteria. But, instead of screaming and yelling about the 'Sedins are soft' myth that this is peddling, I am telling you to take a deep breath and laugh. Yes, Embrace That Hate. Revel in it. We know they're wrong.
I have been spending a lot of time dwelling on this lately, especially through this bizarre stretch of games the Canucks have found themselves in. By checking the boxscores, the Canucks are on a tear right now, mowing down everyone in their path, and are once again a legitimate Stanley Cup threat. Watching the games? You get a slightly different impression. But there it's not so cut and dry, either. The battle rages on whether or not the Canucks are slumping, inspite of no regulation losses in their last 10 games. There are few if any teams that would be having this kind of debate right now in the same circumstances. Yes, the Canucks have been struggling, but there's a resiliency that is enabling them to find ways to win. Even in the shootout. Night after night, this team cannot be counted out of a game. Only in Vancouver can this be a bad thing.
The Canucks are getting the goaltending that they need to be able to make an unusual streak like this happen, both Roberto Luongo and Cory Schneider have been night in and night out providing the Canucks with an opportunity to win. And when guys like Henrik and Daniel Sedin are slumping, this is a very good thing. Sure they need to win in the shootout and overtime sometimes. But it's all about the points. If you're gonna play your way through a slump, I would rather see them do it this way than the way the Chicago Blackhawks are.
The danger of 'slumps' like this, is that it puts focus on things through a distorted lens. Instead of seeing that tightening up the defensive core, Canucks fans are instead being seduced by the thoughts of trades for the likes of RIck Nash. Don't get me wrong, Nash is a hell of a player, and being mired in hockey hell down there in Ohio, we've likely not even seen how good he is capable of playing due to his severe lack of linemates over the years. The cap hit, and what the Blue Jackets would want, however make this deal simply unpalatable for GM Mike Gillis' Canucks, and once again, it doesn't address the real need. Sure the Canucks would like to upgrade their defence and if they could get Keith Ballard's contract off the books at the same time, even better. There's a need for a decision looming about Cory Schneider: try and get something for him and turn him loose, wait until the summer, or crown him their franchise goaltender and deal Roberto Luongo. It's not an easy situation by a long stretch, and it's one that could see Gillis stand pat at the deadline simply because there's no move that makes enough sense. You can't dismantle one strength to build another.
Tonight is another big divisional game against an Colorado Avalanche team that no doubt has a sour taste in it's mouth after these teams met last a few days back in Denver. Kevin Bieksa made a diving play to stop an empty net goal for the Avs, then took a sweet pass from the Stanchion and fired home the tying goal with less than a minute left. The Canucks would go on to win in the shootout, leaving the Avs to wonder what the hell they have to do to beat this Vancouver squad. It's certainly a refreshing change from the way this relationship used to be, as the Canucks used to get regularly abused by Joe Sakic, Peter Forsberg, Patrick Roy and others.
The Canucks will gladly welcome Chris Higgins back to the lineup, a little lighter but no doubt happy to be back in the lineup. Higgins' ongoing battle with staph infections took him out of the lineup for 6 games this time, thanks to an adverse reaction to the medication he was being given to treat the problem. Higgins has been one of the most consistent Canucks this season when he's been healthy, so this could be the little kickstart the Canucks need. One guy you likely won't see tonight is Dale Weise, who had hoped to return to the lineup but took a puck to the nose in practice yesterday and is questionable for tonight. One has to wonder just how many more games we will see Weise in the lineup as Mike Duco certainly looked like a better option in his slot while up replacing the injured Weise.
We all know he's a New York area team homer, but Stan Fischler out and out declared the Boston Bruins would not repeat as 'Champians' last night on Twitter, and while you have to take what he says with a grain of salt, the B's certainly looked the part, as they were dispatched 3-0 by the New York Rangers. A game that was billed as a showdown between the East's top 2 teams ended up being rather one-sided... Speaking of one-sided, the Calgary Flames laid a beating on the Toronto Maple Leafs last night with a 5-1 victory. The Leafs have now gone over a decade since their last win in Cowtown. They play Edmonton tonight and Vancouver Saturday afternoon... That's 9 consecutive losses in a row for Chicago as rookie Ryan Ellis scored the winner late in the 3rd period to lead the Nashville Predators to a 3-2 victory over the struggling Hawks. Everyone was given a vote of confidence before the game by GM Stan Bowman, including coach Joel Quenneville and goalies Corey Crawford and Ray Emery. One had to wonder if this tailspin continues whether we won't see more than just trades leading up to the deadline, some have even wondered if Bowman should take the fall for Chicago's shocking tumble of late. They've managed to stay put in the standings through this, but the teams beneath them are creeping up fast, and Chicago once again could see themselves battling just to make the playoffs when a short while ago they looked to be ready to lead the NHL... Speaking of teams creeping up in the standings, keep an eye on the Islanders. They've clawed their way out of the basement and are now just 6 points out of 8th spot. Sure they'd likely get stomped in the first round, but considering the garbage this franchise has had to endure (a lot of it self inficted by ownership), making the post season dance would be a huge moral victory and something they could build off of as they struggle to regain past glory...
KICKASS METAL SONG OF THE DAY
Homegrown Vancouver metal for you (by way of Nanaimo), Gross Misconduct released their 2nd album 'The Disconnect' in November. Mixing a myriad of styles with a heavy emphasis on technicality, Gross Misconduct have been turning heads in the underground metal press for a while now. Check out the video for 'Of Redmption' and learn more about the band at http://www.grossmisconduct.net