Your weekly roundup of what they’re saying about the Vancouver Canucks around the hockey world:
Bona fide rivals
Connor McDavid doesn’t see the first-place Canucks as a top rival for the Edmonton Oilers.
Or at least he’s not letting on as much.
The Canucks were suspiciously absent from the mind of the Oilers’ superstar on the latest 32 Thoughts Podcast, released on Monday but recorded over All-Star weekend in Toronto.
In a segment featuring linemate and fellow All-Star Leon Draisaitl, co-host Jeff Marek asked which rival team the Oilers’ stars want to beat the most.
McDavid went first.
“Good question,” he says, before pausing. “For me, it’s, it’s … Calgary, then L.A., right now. I’d say those two.”
Right now, the Flames are having a fire sale while the slumping Kings just fired their coach.
Draisaitl, who has been known to speak his mind more often, didn’t hold back.
“Yeah, L.A. and Vancouver — they slapped us around a little bit a couple times this year so, yeah, I’d like to get some redemption.”
That’s more like it, Leon. Let the truth set you free.
(Clip is at the 1:40:00 mark of the podcast)
When asked what he thought about the Elias Lindholm trade, Draisaitl said it was “a good pickup” for the Canucks.
“Good. Really good player. Obviously they’re all-in, they’re going for it so good pickup,” said Draisaitl.
Nothing from McDavid on that one.
It’s pretty obvious to any casual Pacific Division observer that Vegas, Vancouver and Edmonton are on a collision course to meet in the playoffs.
Add in the way the Canucks “slapped around” the Oilers 8-1 to start the season and 6-2 in November to go 3-0 against them so far this campaign and there’s a different type of animosity brewing between the two Canadian teams — although having the Golden Knights snap the Oilers’ streak on Tuesday night certainly won’t sit well in Edmonton either.
Too bad we have to wait until April 13 — the third-last game of the regular season — to see the Canucks and Oilers face each other again.
Never mind if these bona fide rivals meet in the playoffs.
The Lindholm experience
All-Star weekend wasn’t just about what we saw on the ice.
Beyond the flash and pizzazz, the pink puffy jackets and bedazzled brassieres, there were scores of reporters, podcasters and the like in the backrooms getting the inside scoop.
Of course, the Spittin’ Chiclets boys were there, and one of them got the goods from the Canucks’ most recent trade acquisition.
Former NHLer Ryan Whitney spent time with Elias Lindholm and his father during the skills competition, then sat down with the pair for about an hour the next night, and says Lindholm is “fired up to be in the mix right now.”
“Awesome guy, he’s super excited. I think he’s just fired up to be in the mix right now. It’s been kind of a tough go … we were chatting about, you don’t know what (Noah) Hanifin’s gonna do, you don’t know what’s going on with (Chris) Tanev, and then the fact he was mentioning when Johnny (Gaudreau) left, and (Matthew) Tkachuk ended up leaving, it was just kind of the end of what was happening there.”
(Clip is at 1:21:10)
Whitney, a former Oiler, goes on to say he thinks Lindholm is a great fit for Vancouver — “a hell of a player who is great defensively” — and is excited to see where the Canucks go this season.
“I think you’re going to see Edmonton-Vancouver in the second round and that could be the Cup final. That’s what some Oilers fans are saying.”
Co-host and former NHL tough guy Paul Bissonette also thinks the Canucks are among the best with Lindholm in the lineup.
“When they picked up Zadorov, I said they were one piece away from being Stanley Cup contenders, at least, and then they go out and do it. They’re pushing all of their chips in the middle.”
A two-goal debut on Tuesday in Carolina is a good place to start for Lindholm.
The Tocchet experience
If it wasn’t clear already, we’ve got the coolest coach in the league behind our bench.
From his hockey-royalty friends to his candour in front of a microphone, Rick Tocchet was the biggest star for the Canucks at All-Star weekend.
Everywhere you looked, there was Tocchet. Whether he was with Wayne Gretzky or the Spittin’ Chiclets crew, Tocchet was yucking it up and having a great time.
Tocchet, who always has time for the media, sat down for a 32 Thoughts segment with Winnipeg head coach Rick Bowness, who had high praise for what the Canucks’ bench boss has been able to do this season.
Bowness on the Canucks: “I love what he’s done, going in there, you see more structure, you see more compete,” he said, emphatically. “And you see them play more as a team — they’re playing for each other out there and it’s very obvious. They play a high-tempo game, they’re putting pressure on you all over the ice, obviously they can score goals and they’re doing a much better job defensively because of the structure that Rick and his staff have put in there.
“Since he’s taken over, it’s a remarkable turnaround and it’s a credit to Rick and his staff. But man, they’re a really good team — they’re legitimate, they can score, they can defend and you don’t go anywhere in our league without great goaltending and they get that as well.
“So, it’s a well-balanced team, a well-coached team and they’re going to be a tough opponent for us.”
For his part, Tocchet said he has watched a bunch of Jets games, including their recent back-to-back against the Leafs, and said Winnipeg is a really hard team to play against, praised the size on their third line and their overall defensive structure.
Pittsburgh Penguins star Sidney Crosby also had good things to say about Tocchet, when asked the Canucks’ star power at the showcase event.
“They’ve done a great job. I don’t know if people before the year would be predicting where they’d be at, and some of the seasons the guys have had. I think that’s a credit to the players obviously, but also to the people around them. I think Jim (Rutherford) and Tocchet have done a great job helping them and their whole staff. They’re playing really well as a team and individually their players been performing well. I think a lot of people deserve credit for that.”
Nobody saw this coming.
Not even the most fine-tuned model could have predicted the Canucks to be so far before the curve in terms of points pace this season.
Based on pre-season projections, the Canucks are outperforming all models by the widest margin of any team in the league. Vancouver has an average of 17.5 more points than what was expected of them at this point of the season — with Winnipeg in second, having 10.9 more points than the models predicted.
Some thought the Canucks would be good this season. But this good?
Aquilini the genius?
Some takes you take with a grain of salt.
And a shot of tequila beforehand.
Paul Bissonette says — in only a way ‘Biz Nasty’ could — that Canucks fans should be worshipping the ground that owner Francesco Aquilini walks on for bringing in Tocchet and Co.
“If you’re a Canucks fans, more than likely you’ve been critical of Aquilini and maybe his involvement with the team and how over-involved he is, but right now he looks like a f******* genius.
“He went out and got Toch. They did their research, obviously Rutherford had a lot to do with that … but Aquilini gave him the green light to take the money and go sign him and eat the (Bruce) Boudreau contract and look at all the f****** chips they’re pushing in. He’s made them a contender and you should be b**-l****** Aquilini if you’re a Canucks fan.”
We’ll let you fill in the blanks for yourself.
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