The first inkling of creating a hockey blog for us started back in early 2006 when watching the Oilers improbable run towards the Cup. At the time, checking in daily at the Battle of Alberta and Covered in Oil was a requirement; their content was, without question, better then any newspaper. But since the Oilers aren't my team (nor should they be you unless you hate yourself), I went looking for a Vancouver hockey mind.
Enter the VancouverCanucksOpEd and Alanah McGinley. She'll never admit it, but she's the queen of Canucks media coverage. I have no idea how long she has been doing this, but her quality of work and her understanding of the deep rooted suffering that is at the core of all Vancouver fans is some of the best stuff out there. Paul Kukla folded her mind into Kukla's Korner at the beginning of 2007, giving her an even broader exposure at Canucks & Beyond. Since then she has covered all things in the Vancouver hockey world & has gotten to speak directly with Pierre McGuire, Keith Jones, John Buccigross (and didn't slug him either!), Bill Daly, Kelly Hrudey, Jim Hughson and contributes regularly on the Crazy Canucks podcast. I'm not sure she sleeps.
The floor is hers...
Q1. Vigneault - thumbs up, thumbs down or a strong kick in the ass?
Alanah: Thumbs down on a couple things -- I'm not a fan of his contentious relationship with his players (the public lambasting of veterans always seemed like a dumb idea to me) and defense-first hockey obviously lacks an entertainment factor in far too many games.
On the other hand, he's more adaptable than I would've thought. His intention to change to an offensive format is being realized in the preseason already. And while I don't know if the Canucks have the skill up front to capitalize, I'm more than happy to suffer the consequences of this experiment for a while, as they try to make it work.
Q2. Naslund - We'll miss him badly or he can break a leg on Broadway?
Alanah: I already miss him. His history with the Canucks is one of ups and downs, between injuries and circumstances. The past few seasons made things progressively worse, being at the center of the infamous Bertuzzi incident, and then dealing with those injuries he always tried to hide.
I don't think he's washed out, though. A new environment in a place where he's not expected to represent as captain could revitalize him. And more important than anything else, Naslund needs a coach that uses him for what he's skilled at: scoring. Let his linemates be the superstar two-way players.
I'll be happy for him if he has success. Even as much as I dislike the Rangers.
Q3. Mike Gillis - Better then Nonis or worse then a meth addict?
Alanah: The verdict isn't in on Gillis yet. I know I've been pretty critical of the guy, but it's far too early to write him off and he's facing such a serious uphill battle that I doubt anyone could do much better at the moment. But he's made some mistakes, too.
For one thing, the Canucks organization is an old school one and not a place that ever seems to adapt to change well. Yet from the moment Gillis gave his first press conference, he seemed to be laying blame on the past, rather than looking forward to things he could do armed with a fresh mandate. But when you criticize guys like Dave Nonis, you're also criticizing their entire staffs. So unless you plan on firing everyone, it's not a very politically astute choice to throw them under a bus.
Lately you could say he's paying the price for that, as he's the one on the hotseat and others are looking at his work this summer and saying, "This is all you can do? This was your great plan?"
To be fair, I doubt it is all he can and will do, but landing top-6 (or god willing, top-3) forwards is tough work and Gillis hasn't made a lot of executive-level friends in this league as an agent. So the situation must be humbling to him but he can turn it around.
At the end of the day, the NHL is an old boys club, and as Gillis makes allies, he'll score some successes.
Q4. The new captain - Mitchell, Kesler, Ohlund, Fin or a stick with a mini jersey?
Alanah: Has to be Mitchell, although it's possible Vigneault is hot on your Fin idea... a captain that doesn't talk back and yet still likes to bite off peoples' heads would probably make AV a happy man.
[Note: She answered this prior to Luongo being tapped as captain. Damn media cycles!]
Q5. Your preferred first line on opening night
Alanah: "In a surprise move, Mike Gillis has hired blogger Alanah McGinley as consultant for the team as an intermediary between the players and coaching staff, and she's here to speak to us now.
Alanah, tell us why it is you think it's important the team listen to you and just ignore whatever Alain Vigneault has to say?"
Q6. The '08-'09 record - Out of the NW basement or "With the first round pick, the Vancouver Canucks select from the Oshawa Generals John Tavares"
Alanah: Oh, crap. I don't know -- hockey predictions are a fool's game. How about a rule ammendment where finishing tops in the NW would be what permitted us to draft Tavares??
But sadly, that's not going to happen. The truth is we're going to struggle to get out of the NW basement and yet we still won't suck nearly enough to scoop Tavares.
That's just life.
Q7. Least favorite team to watch play against Vancouver and why
Alanah: Generally Detroit. Because even when Detroit loses, Detroit fans are convinced the other team didn't actually win... just cheated them somehow. I enjoy their banter, but I still think they're freakin' nutcases. :)
Q8. The absolute best part of next season could be
Alanah: I don't have the highest hopes for the Canucks, but I balance that negativity by also having a pessimistic attitude about everyone else. Perhaps the entire NW Division could just go up in flames and we win the division, anyway? That would cheer me to no end.
On a more serious note, I'm really looking forward to the Linden retirement ceremony. His sweater hanging in the rafters will represent a profound milestone in Vancouver's hockey history. I expect I'll cry when I see it. I dare any Canucks fan to not cry that night.
[Note: The Yankee Canuck staff will be too drunk to cry. We will, however, break things in his honor.]
9. The absolute worst part about next season could be
Alanah: Missing the playoffs. I'll go mental. I'm already preparing myself for the contingency.
10. Best TV or movie quote you can think of to describe this offseason so far?
Alanah: From The Simpsons Movie -
Homer Simpson: "Did I save the day?"
Bart Simpson: "Actually, you've doomed us all."
Homer Simpson: "D'OH!"
(In other words, I'm a bit worried...)
Homepage image courtsey of John Bolwitt.