#Tortz, Lineups, And an 0-2 PreSeason Already?

Ramin Talaie

Saturday Night on CBC ( maybe for the last year? ) and there are oh so many questions that oh so many Canuck fans have OH SO MANY differing opinion about. A little nip in the air, making a hoodie under a jersey once again a prevailing fashion choice for both men and women in Vancouver. Yep. Even though it is preseason, a Saturday night with hockey on nationally is upon us. We're not sorry we care so much about it here however. Whether it is a sickness, a curse, or the best thing EVER! Let's go...

It is interesting being a fan of a team that elicits so many disparate opinions about it.  I mean, let's face it, the Canucks are not the most loved team outside of Vancouver and B.C, and even within the comfortable confines, there are strong voices that sometimes barely agree.

Hell, the network that has most the games for the team, ( Sportsnet ) seems to count on their Toronto Office of Knowing Everything About Hockey. ( Did you know Doug MacLean is in the P.E.I Hockey Hall of Fame? You should! ) for far more insight and "expert" opinion than their local talent.  We have out local pre and post games always interspersed with a "panel" in a T.O studio telling us how much the team is doing something wrong most the times. It is certainly no mistake that, more often than not, that studio show will come on after Shorty or Cheech, for instance, and "correct" their ( obviously flawed ) aspersions ( damn homers! ).

Opinions are a tricky thing in Canada when it comes to our national sport. We're like Texans about football, or Brazilians about the other football, and we make no apologies about it.  When it comes to the sport of hockey as well, British Columbia can hold it's own very well when it comes to proportional excellence in the NHL.  Players have excelled at the sport in places like Quebec and Ontario, to say nothing of the Prairies supplying winners of Cups and Gold Medals up the wazoo.  Hell, ever since the game changing Patrick Brothers, there has been a "yeah yeah, we're pretty good out here too" attitude. Denman Arena was the first indoor rink out here, and a veritable palace at the time. You never ever hear about it though.  To say nothing of the forever despised fact that the Toronto Maple Leafs Hockey Club arrogantly ( and obviously, insanely ) screwed a local ownership group by claiming ( at a late hour ) that Vancouver was "our territory" during the first expansion in 1967, depriving us of three years of NHL hockey and inflicting the California Seals on the world as well. ( Read that link. Did you know Labatts was accepted by the owners in California to move them here in their first season, and was rejected? That there was a lawsuit over that until 1974? Yeah, some of us still do. Screw you Toronto and your NHL office puppets at the time. Our money wasn't good enough for you? Bastards. )  But then the Cleveland Barons and, by extension, Minnesota North Stars never would have happened either. So there's that.

There are many reasons why we each differ in that opinion, and it really isn't about right and wrong. You cheer for your regional team, ( or maybe live in that "other" city now but still cheer for your team. BCers know plenty of Habs and Leafs fans in our families and friendships, and the Annual 4PM Home Start is always like a "Homecoming" for some.... The banter is part of the game's fun.  If we can keep it fun!  At this point, regardless of the history that colours those feelings, it is more the degrees, and the uneveness of the argument.  I know some don't like Big Bang Theory, but Sheldon's explanation of the "reductio ad absurdism" argument that is prevalent in sports, politics and especially when talking to folks that don't like our particular team is a perfect reference for how most the arguments go...

However, and I am saying this without any #mathstats certainty, and purely from anecdotal and historical aspect, the Canucks elicit more "hate" than just about any team, pound for pound, in the NHL in Canada.  Now, I would imagine from the "metrics", one could research the Twitterness, Facebookie likes and hates and whatnot, factor in the national pundit factor and find a greater number of disparaging opinion about the Leafs and Canadians, based solely on how long they have been around, or the very much greater population factor.

But I am also quite sure that I cannot remember a Canadian NHL team, for instance, in my lifetime, that had gotten to the Finals, and gotten the national level of hate and negative opinion that the Vancouver Canuck Hockey Club was subjected to in 2011.  I know the Oilers, the previous team...in so long ago for them 2006......

( ...and really, we know they have some good young players from sucking for such a prolonged period of time. That's how the draft works.  Can I at least bring up the idea that maybe the #$%^ing team should not be coronated until they have proven it in the standing for at least a measurable portion of time? Is that too much to ask of the "experts"?

The fact they are the second betting fave in Canada at 22-1 for the Cup,(  with the Canucks 1st at 16 -1 in Vegas. ) just might have a bit to do with #DumbMoney in the OilPatch, but didn't a bunch of eastern teams make the damn playoffs? Hell, the Sens won a round! ) I know the T.O team sure has been talked a lot about after their own Game 7 (1st round!) heartbreak against the Bruins. Hell, the Habs finished 2nd in the truncated season just past!  #endrant)

......got so much national media love that Shawn Horcoff, Ryan Smyth, and others became set up for life with too long and too much money deals that ended up hurting their teams.  CBC never ever had all their Don Cherry's and "The Panel" questioning the valour of the sainted Oil over the Hurricanes.  And sure, I get that the fact the Oilers played the Canes, and it was a shittier TV matchup, as was the Flames team against John Tortorella's Lightning the year before.  The national puck media would brook no argument on the clutchiness of Iginla and Kipprusoff after that series either.  ( and at least those teams, and the Habs actually winning the Cup in 1993 could look back at it in colour, and after a FOUR ROUND PLAYOFF.  Your "proud history of winners" is a joke by comparison Toronto. All that power in the league office, enough to deny us a team, and your greatest triumph is shown in black and white, and came from the last time it was only Six Teams.  #Pfffhhhht.)

But I DO know that the team from the Great White North that preceded those two Alberta teams to the Finals was in 1994, and the entire country seemed to be behind the Canucks then, save for the occasional Cherry rant on Pavel Bure that we all happily ignored anyhow.  Maybe things changed forever because a bunch of drunks couldn't slow their roll , and a few police officers overreacted to their situation on Robson street, when they were overwhelmed and decided rubber bullets would surely calm everyone down. Perhaps that kind of dumbassery being cemented 18 years later, with a reaction to coming oh so close to the one thing that makes it "OK" for a fan to talk smack, the Stanley Cup made the word "riot" synonymous with our admittedly very awesome city...

...maybe that did give the Rest Of Canada a view of the city, and, by extension, the team that was less than flattering. It was certainly helped along by lazy, misleading, and sometimes just plain assholes in the national media ( read, mainly the T.O Hockey Media Mafia. Sorry guys. Enjoyed your "panel" on Fan590 though... ) who could not bring themselves to do anything but negative about the team in 2011 anyhow. Regardless of 1994.

That is OK. We have gotten used to it. We had hashtags like #EmbraceTheHate then ( and sometimes still now ) that helped with the therapy ( #lol ), and, quite simply, being the best team in Canada the last five years helped too, regardless of the last two first round exits. Best team in the NHL, says my guy below...

Don't believe me, eh? Then take it from a guy who played against the Canucks a few times over those years, one Brad Richardson, who said this...

"I can say yes, but time will tell and I hope that’s the case because that’s why I signed here," he said. "I think it’s a good fit and they did as well. The last five years, the Canucks have been the best team statistically. And I know the media here is a little crazy and gets on them when they don’t win, but being the best team in the league the last five years is a good stat to have."

...in his interview with Ben Kuzma ( still love ya Botch', but The Kooz is always a go to as well ). Now, I have detailed the same about  the previous three years in previous articles, and will certainly trust an NHL player to know about these kind of things.

Yes. We know all about the lack of a Big Shiny Thing.   No one needs to tell Canuck fans about that. But our team has been there more than yours, at least, in the last generation.  Having the Best Player In The Game ( pat pending ) certainly helped the Oilers before us,  and that '89 series certainly was awesome for any Canadian hockey fan, when the Habs beat the Flames. ( Joel Otto kicked it in in that 1st round series to get the Flames there though, you assholes! ;-), but the Canucks have certainly had a period of sustained excellence that we have no reason at all to feel shame about.

It is not just idle talk then, when John Tortorella talked about how excited he is to to coach a team like the Canucks in Canada. ( and how he can "fix it". Whole 1st presser here ) Most coaches don't come into that. Most coaches come into a situation like Dallas Eakins did.  We get the first chance to see what I am going to call #Tortz, ( when referring to the media "caricature" that has been given free rein so far this preseason, both here locally and certainly if you listen to any of the Toronto Puck Media Mafia shows they show us on our TV's now, or if you read their takes in their blogs and newspapers. )

Blocking shots has been totally overblown, for instance, and "TEH SEDINS CANZ BLOCK SHOTZ TOO" meme has been insanely funny to shake my damn head at,( seriously, it has been mentioned so often and mockingly on those "shows" on the radio that it is obvious they are trying to "punchline" #Tortz ) but it is only one part of a system that is going to require some patience and intelligence to handle in the face of what will be media quackery with any juicy quote he gives them.  Hell, just look back at how the T.P.M.M reacted to a perfectly understandable ( seriously, most the times I have seen a blow up by #Tortz on Youtube, it was preceded by a phone going off in the middle of an answer ) request, especially in light of his past.

Turn>Off>Your>Damn>Phone.  You are there to pay attention to the guys that come into the media room, and especially a coach that has politely, ( and certainly LESS than politely too, it has to be said! ) and consistently asked that phones be turned off. If the wife is going to pop, you ( A ) shouldn't be there, get someone else to cover and go to the hospital man!, or ( B ) can put it on vibrate...Hell, if you shove it deep in your front pocket, it might even make you smile as you are listening to the answers in "The Media Room". You know, the place you are at as a member of the media to ask questions of the guy that doesn't like cellies going off. Don't be a dick and do that to get clickbait and cheap pieces of video to exploit and laugh about on your "radio shows that double as TV shows now...".  K.Thx.

Botch' details some of the coaching challenges ( and has the quotes about coming to a good team I referenced above ) here, but let's not get too het up on watching from above. There was about 40-50 players the first couple games. I for one am cool with watching from above and getting a modicum of video to at least get an idea of who you have first.  Though, #Tortz is insanely smart and entertaining, so I can understand.  Perhaps I am secretly waiting for the "Full Monty" with as much anticipation as puck media both near and far.  I know that I am definitely not looking forward to the media overblowing it when it happens though.

Now. 0-2.  Take a breath folks. You too TEAM callers and ShapMasters. Your very good team has an entirely new system to get used to.  ( from what I understand, for instance, in the defensive zone, it is more of a "zone" defense, and that the idea is to be more aggressive on the forecheck and in the offensive zone. Both are different, in greater and lesser degrees respectively, and will require time. I wouldn't take it lightly that John Tortorella said his team needs a win today, as it is always good to win instead of lose. But I also understand, as an inveterate hockey fan, that these things take time to really take their full effect. I also know that a great many teams have sucked in the preseason and been there in the Finals at the end. Your coach already told you folks. He wants to give the last two of the six ( also the least ever for this team, in an Oly impacted year ) to his "probable lineup". If you are going to worry, those are the two games you can hyperventilate about if they lose!

The good thing though,  is we are starting to get some real glimpses at who might play with who, and can rosterbate accordingly.  From listening to interviews at Northview today ( Gaunce has an underrated golf game, just like his hockey game was as pundits pundited reacted to his not scoring hat trick after hat trick at the young Stars Classic ), Gaunce will play again. So will Hunter Shinkaruk. You would think that perhaps Horvat will as well. ( I'll update this accordingly here with the lineup when it is official ) Torts did say that most "the kids" will play here...David Booth will likely play on your defacto second line with Alexandre Burrows and Ryan Kesler, and I would assume that even though Jordan Schroeder is going to get to play as promised, that the new coach might like to see how Brad Richardson can play on what could be a kick ass third line with Jannik Hansen and Chris Higgins ( also getting his preseason debut after getting an impressive hat trick in a scrimmage with the same two guys on what was clearly the most "chemistry" line that day, at least )

Possible Update?

Booth out with groin tweak. Jensen in. Lines were this: Higgins-schroeder-Jannik, Kass-Bo-Shinkruk, Weise-SAnto-Sestito, Gaunce -Lain-Jensen

Update two...the numbers decrease. Go be impressive in Upstate New York now guys!

Peter Andersson, Darren Archibald, Alex Biega, Joacim Eriksson, Alexandre Mallet, Adam Polasek and Henrik Tommernes sent to Utica.

Update #3 ( and Final one ;-)

Based on today’s game-day skate, Vancouver’s lines tonight should look like this: Jordan Schroeder will centre a line with Chris Higgins and Jannik Hansen; Bo Horvat will skate between fellow rookie Hunter Shinkaruk and Zack Kassian; Mike Santorelli will be between Dale Weise and Tom Sestito; and Kellan Lain will centre Brendan Gaunce and Jensen.

On defence, Alex Edler will be paired with Chris Tanev, Frank Corrado will play with Andrew Alberts and Yannick Weber will skate with Yann Sauve.

Eddie Lack will start in goal and may go the distance. Joe Cannata is the backup.

Yes, a win would be nice, and I do predict one tonight as well.  I expect the effect of #Tortz being on the bench the first time, coupled with the strength of those two lines I mentioned above ( NVM if the Twins even play... ) and at least a perfunctory understanding of what and where they are supposed to do will overcome the Jim Ross level of hyperbole that is sure to follow our young rivals around this year ( BUY GAWD, THAT'S TAYLOR HALL'S MUSIC!!!!! AND MAD YAK IS ACCOMPANYING HIM TO THE RINK WITH A STEEL CHAIR.... !!! ), even if ( bonus prediction ) PJ, Weekes and Healy will all pick them as the better team with a probable "which team will go farther this year" topic. Hell, maybe even Don will weigh in on their side. It's all bullshit at this point anyhow...

Don does love BEE-ESK-A and Lu-Longo though.  And he might even call Bo "Knows" Horvat a "Good Canadian Kid" tonight. So, maybe it won't be unanimous anyhow.

Yep, hockey is back. Even if it is a totally meaningless game with no bearing on what either team will do this year.  Don't think that will stop us from reading and writing our own "expert" opinions about it here later. Like the rest of them, ( in the words of the late, great Hunter S Thompson ) "we are, after all, professionals". ( One of my fave recordings of Mr Gonzo here if you have 41 minutes to enjoy it ) Some perspective from Hunter. He was a football fan though.   ( Maybe if he had gotten that Vancouver Sun job in '58 as a sportswriter...it would have been hockey! )

Enjoy it while you ponder how the power play did tonight, or if someone winces after a shot block...

Peace

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