Changing Times, Dropping Dimes, and Hail To The Kings

Bruce Bennett

I have to admit, I have talked a lot of smack about the Los Angeles Kings in the past. A team that makes slashing an art form, an elbow on the first shift a hello, al on the way to playing some pretty hockey AND the greasy, get in front of the goalie, and invite more contact there brand is both maddening and beautiful at the same time.

It both terrifies and makes one shake their head in rueful respect when you see the finish and polish that goes with the edge of the line attitude that defines Big Boy Hockey.

Sorry Boston, that 2011 was something that may echo in the game of our Pacific Division brethren.  Big Boy Hockey is now a West Coast thing. They polished it up, got a better press agent to deal with the calls, and signed better signings and players at the right time to compliment some youth moving through the system that high draft picks for a while lead the way in fulfilling their promise.

There are other deep teams, and it has to be said, that while I give the Kings the due that 2 Cups in 3 years has to bring, the line is so close in the NHL.  A lot of deep teams will be doing the video breakdowns to make sure they can find an edge, because that is their job.

And because sometimes, with a break here and there, who the hell knows ? I mean, I lost count of the 2 - 3 - and was there a 4 goal leads, ( ? + ) that were brought before us like some perfect theatre that once again is the best playoffs in sports ( that can be a question for another day, and the NFL, MLB, and NBA all have their things that makes what they do special.  One only need look at the San Antonio Spurs dismantling of the Heat for proof of Excellence of Execution.  Good coaching ( which the Kings also have in the Jolly Rancher ) and knowing your role and doing it can often be the difference, as much as roster moves and spending your Cap money.

We just took the already legendary competitive crucible that makes the Stanley Cup playoffs so much fun, and such compelling and addictive viewing, and we added the bonus this year of no lead being safe in a playoff mythos where it sure seemed to be so for a hell of a lot of the times before.  Where times like the Habs besting the Bruins ( 1971 and 1979 ) became so special, because it just didn't happen as much.

The Leafs have 1993 for how calls can make the difference, and there is definitely make the case for any one play in playoff hockey, both on the ice and the discipline off, and see how the regular season and the playoffs are different.  I get it in most cases.  They have to do something about the goalie interference play.  Lundqvist got barged on goals, while Quick has mastered the contact just above the blue to draw it the other way, but reffing, and hopefully this rule, always evolve.  Our sport just went through the playoffs for everyone but the Boys of Summer, and came out with the most compelling, intense, incredible spectacle.

You just never knew, and the fans of the teams involved must have been exhausted.  I know I was, and none of the teams were ones I even liked that much ( respect, sure ) , and the eventual winner is a team that I still don't.

Just an aside, for colour.  I was looking for a reason to plug the hell out of a Canadian institution that is the Jay and Dan Podcast.  If you can get through the first bit before Darren Pang drops the wisdom ( well worth the gut wrenching laughs, I think he is about 30-40 minutes in ) that sums it up in just a few words, perfectly told as only Panger can... ...well, if you can do that here .

"Jarret Stoll, I call him Slasher, and he knows it. He's running around out there slashing everybody, like 58 times...and the one time he gets called, he's like WHAT !??!!  ".  Now, I like how Stoll plays and he does a lot of things well as a player. But he might just epitomize why they aren't all that lovable to the fans of their rivals.

But it is effective.  Again, this is nothing new. Watch any NHL Classic game in the summertime when you can find them, and the hacking and whacking is rife in the game. As is hooking and everything else, but whatevs'. #OldTymeHockey.  The Kings and their coach Darryl Sutter have found that line that defines playoff hockey from the regular season better than anyone not an Original Six team.

Our Man Zanstorm breaks it down here as to the factors that make up the winning team very well.  The nuts and bolts of the roster don't matter quite so much as the attitude, and the way they play.  Canuck fans can, and should, look at the past regular season excellence and be heartened to get back to that, with a logical enough series of things going right.  The playoffs are another animal.  But you start somewhere.  The great thing about the Canucks this year is they are like a Tabula Rasa .  The team is whatever you want it to be, given your inclination, demeanour, outlook, or whatever motivates your opinion.

One of the things that I noticed in the Kings and their success was that they had a couple top 2 lines, but Jolly Rancher would move guys up and down, use his "4th" line centre Richards as a 2nd liner regularly, in addition to making his 4th a stronger and sometimes dominant line against other teams' 4th lines.

While I am not really comparing them nuts to nuts, the way those lines worked so well was having guys that did a lot of things, but also doing the same thing that most lines have done for success so well in our game's history.  There's a shooter, a guy dropping dimes, and the other guy does a little of everything, but gets the damn puck to the other two guys.

Well, your Vancouver Canucks have two guys that we know can play well together, the Sedin Twins.  Sedinery is a term amongst the city that invokes knowing nods and favorite plays remembered.  But I see those two as the set up guys on two lines.  Torts broke them up. But he just went half way, and there was never enough coaching to help gel a team ( again, something you notice on the ice with the Kings.  Not my fave team, of course, but they are a TEAM in capital letters )...but anyhow, with Daniel Sedin just getting back to his game as a set up guy on another line, he'll stop thinking, and the shot's deadly accuracy will return.  Hey, look at Jeff Carter now. He should have won the Conn Smythe, for me.  Daniel Sedin doesn't need to really change his game, something a veteran probably would not do anyhow.  But he can focus more on being the key to a dangerous second line, and pad the assist totals will getting back to burying the puck on the power play with Hank dropping perfectly weighted dimes.  He just needs to find his Magic Shooty Spot ( you know the one, Gaborik, St Louis, Stamkos, all have that off wing spot off to the side on the PP ), get ready to shoot, and stop thinking about it before pulling the trigger.

Sean breaks it down pretty well, as usual, and I find myself in agreement with him down the line.  That includes at the end.  I am also on #TeamRetoolNotRebuild .  My opinion of the Super Scout factor ( for the first time in a long while.  There have been some great evaluators of talent here at times ( OK, Quinn and Burkey for the Twins ) , but even the guys we like to bitch about endlessly ( and sometimes with a great and right sense of rightness. Patrick White instead of David Perron. #IMeanCaman ) have put a few great players in the Blue and Green, and more around the league.

Now, for the first time in a long while, we have the unheralded ( of course, it is Vancouver ) fruition of the money spent on organization, our own AHL team, with the attendant full roster that deepens your pool of players just by the math of it all, and we have added to that a man whose dad was a lifetime scout for the oldest team in hockey.  Just by osmosis, fate, and logic, Jim Benning brings that perfect set of skills to Mike Gillis's remake of the organization.

I know I bring it up, but only because the math is inescapable.  The Canucks were, before The Year of Torts. in the Top 5 of regular season points over five seasons ( 4th ) .  That is one hell of a decent sample size, when you big picture it.  We can talk about the age, or youth of the team, the various skills of player A or B, and what we need.

But, for me, I am most excited about having a guy at the helm that has been building to this kind of opportunity, when every job he did was prepping for it, and he now has the # 6, 36, 66, ( no 96, Dalpe trade ) ,126, 156, and 186. The new, and unknown of the next two weeks and beyond are a fun time for a fan of any team that did not have success in the past year.  But, this year is kind of singular for Canuck fans, in that, in the face of that nagging sense of foreboding that seems to define our collective angst that is at the heart of a fanbase now in it's 43rd year without the Chalice, Canuck fans can and should feel pretty good about what is to come.

Let the Pros that the team has hired have the space to build their team.  They have a bunch of guys that underperformed, who will be very motivated. ( I don't remember in recent memory the number of core guys that I have seen in the clips at the mothership being at the rink working out this early in the summer. Maybe that is just my hopefullness showing through again ;-), players that will have a new coach who should be a better fit for the type of players in that core, and a management team that might be even more motivated to make a splash, make a mark, and define their team over the next two weeks.

Oh yeah, and Mr Benning still has the Kesler Chip to throw on the table.   All of that, and there is much to look forward to.

Or, blow it all up , play all the kids all the time, lose like crazy, and trade everyone. The Tank for Conor McDavid Gambit ( and STILL possibly lose the 1st pick to the ping pong balls anyhow ) , sure...sure, lets do that instead !  '-)

"We are, after all, professionals..." ( and this might be my fave interview Hunter S Thompson ever did R.I.P )

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