Tuesday, May 13, 2003

Hockey thoughts

Colby has convinced me that a move to Olympic-sized ice would probably be bad for the NHL. His thinking through of the idea is worth reading. (Now that I have read Colby's thoughts, I would prefer that if---and I say if--the idea is tried, that it be done in some AHL franchise for a year.) Nevertheless, for the reasons that Colby outlines, making the ice bigger would seem like a bad idea.

Colby also has a brief post-mortem on the seppuku of the Vancouver Canucks in the NHL playoffs. I'm still grumbling about the Canucks' recent exit at the hands of the Minnesota Wild. Yes, Dan Cloutier let in some bad goals, but if you asked me, the Canucks' failings in the playoffs were probably due to a lack of hard work and discipline.

It pains me to say this, but this year's Wild reminds me of the 1982 Canucks. That edition of the Canucks wasn't expected to do much, but rode some puck luck to the final. I remember that they always seemed to outwork their opponents with good forechecking and backchecking. Yes, the '82 Canucks beat every team that they should have beaten. Yes, the Canucks lucked out when the Oilers were eliminated in the first round of that playoffs. But, nevertheless, everyone on the 1982 squad worked together, unlike this edition of the Canucks. So many times on TV replays I would see the current Canucks fail to backcheck, trying to use their sticks when a check would be more appropriate.

If I were Canucks coach Mark Crawford, I would try to come up with a better defensive scheme. Also, he had to have known that during the playoffs the sometimes lax checking that the Canucks dined out on during the regular season would be tightened up considerably, so alternate techniques of springing the offense should haven been tested in the regular seaon.

I would suspect that the play of the Sedins-Linden line supports what I say. Often they were better than the Morrison-Bertuzzi-Naslund line and it seemed that they worked a lot harder in forechecking and backchecking than the Canucks top line. Perhaps this is because the Wild lines that the Sedins line faced were that much worse, but rolling video would pinpoint what both these lines did effectively.


Update: Colby makes a salient point on my observations above:

He lets Dan Cloutier off the hook way too easy, I'm afraid: yeah, he let in "some" bad goals, if by "some" you mean about 12-18 over the seven games.

Well, if I were Cloutier, I would consider myself lucky to be offered another contract this summer. However, I think that he only deserves 30-40 per cent of the blame for the Canucks exit. He's the individual most at fault for the collapse, but if the Canucks had worked and played better as a unit, Cloutier's howlers would have been less decisive. Some goals that Cloutier let in might have disappeared with harder backchecking and better team play. With better forechecking, the Canucks could have outscored the Wild in one more game.

Canucks fans shouldn't let Cloutier off the hook. That said, they shouldn't think that dumping Cloutier alone would solve most of the team's problems. (I think that Colby would join me in that observation.)